This morning, I did yoga then meditated on the patio behind our house. Our garden is exploding into blossoms: lavender, crimson bottlebrush, blood-red blooms on the rhododendron we got for a wedding present. The other day, I spotted our first hummingbird this season, dipping its beak into purple sprays of salvia. I sank into a deep squat on the warm stones, hands in prayer at my heart, my pelvis wide and open. I felt my seven-month baby, our second child, kick inside my belly, at the spot that martial artists call the hara,the body's energy source.
The garden was also in full bloom last year at this time, when our first child, Sierra, died. My husband and I just commemorated her first birthday, which was also the anniversary of her death. We spent the day alone together, with the phone off the hook, making an album with our pictures of our daughter's brief and beautiful life. In the photos, she is a swelling bulge in my belly. The pictures show us hiking in the Rockies; doing yoga in our living room, my belly huge as I lift into a headstand; sprawling on our kingside bed.In the last set of pictures, taken a few days before she died, Lou and I are kneeling together in our garden, surrounded by an explosion of irises, purple and salmon-pink. His arms are wrapped around me, his hands resting on my bulging belly. We both look radiant with joy. As I looked at the pictures, it made me both sad and happy to see how much love our daughter created--and swam inside--during her nine months with us. The day after we made the album, I called my dear friend Jill, a yoga teacher in Sebastopol. A few years ago, her brother Henry died of AIDS. He was her best friend; they were roommates in San Francisco in their wild 20s. She sat with him while he was dying, matching the in and out of his breath with hers, until he stopped breathing. "My baby was here. Now she's not," I said to Jill. "I just keep asking, 'Where did she go?'" "The day after Henry died, I took a shower in his bathroom," she said. "I kept looking at his razor, with a few hairs still on it. I asked the same question." Our grief is not unique, we reminded each other. It's easy to believe, when death strikes close, that we have been singled out for suffering. But, in fact, everyone lives with death and sorrow. Every one of us has lost or will lose someone beloved--unless, of course, there is no one we have allowed ourselves to love, which is an even greater tragedy. In the Bhagavad-Gita, the warrior Arjuna asks the god Krishna what the greatest mystery of life is. Krishna responds, "That all around them, people see death; yet they do not believe that they will die." As Jill and I talked, I felt the new baby boy inside me begin to kick. He thumped a couple of times, then rolled over, pressing his small, firm back against the inside of my belly. I put my hands on top of him and pressed gently back. And I asked a different question: "Where did you come from?"
Much of the time, I forget the vastness of the mystery I live inside. I
make my "to do" lists, send my e-mail, buy carrots, go to FedEx, fret about credit card payments. I forget that I am living in this astonishing world where people I cherish vanish into the void, and new people come tumbling out of it, crying, inviting love.
Zen teacher Kozan Ichikyo wrote this poem a few minutes before he died:
Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.