I’m reading a book I suspect I will re-read as soon as I finish it, Lewis Richmond’s Aging as a Spiritual Practice. Like another book I finish, then lay on my table to re-read for the umpteenth time (Rachel Naomi Remen’s Kitchen Table Wisdom), each time I re-read a page, it blooms differently. The way my roses are a vivid peach in the cooler fall, and a pale apric0t-flushed white in the heat of August.

What hit me like a skillet pan epiphany was an anecdote about one of Richmond’s spiritual mentors, who had a bowl of pebbles on a shelf. When asked what the pebbles were, the mentor said, My life. Each pebble represented one week, to the average life expectancy of 80 years. And as each week finished, Richmond’s friend threw away one of the pebbles.

the author's
the author’s

Wow. The utter material simplicity of that gesture, those pebbles in a bowl, shook me like a gale force wind. So I did the math: how many weeks are left for me until I turn 80? And what if I don’t even get that far? What if I only have … 20? Or even 52? Perhaps only the few beautiful rock-weeks I’ve collected in this bowl a friend’s daughter once made for me?

I immediately ordered the gemstone chips above — hundreds of tiny 1/6″-3/4″ gemstones I can cradle in a bowl for my life.  What’s left of it. I will never know how many actual weeks I have left, but I will see them as they pass, and perhaps it will make me more conscious of how often I let them fall like chaff instead of irreplaceable moments I could fill with memories through my fingers.

Today, friends are preparing to lose a baby. This is not a week they will want to remember. So I will bear witness to their grief instead, and choose a black heart stone for this week of loss & mourning. It’s not my own shattering heart grief, but I can breathe for them, and place this dark heart of a stone in another bowl for time behind. ‘Horizontal time,’ Richmond calls it: that which we pretend flows past us. Instead of the ‘vertical time’ that is where we always are, breathing. Being. Learning, still, how to live and love.



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