Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Our Journeys Intersected

“You channeled that painting.” Amy said, looking intently into my eyes. 
We were standing in our kitchen after she came home from a remarkable experience at our gallery. I thought about her words, and wondered “Did I?” Then remembering how the image felt like a baby needing to be born and I had to give birth, I said, “Yes, you are right.”

I have seen images in clouds and made paintings of landscapes with clouds resembling flying geese. I have photographed heart shapes in the formations of clouds drifting over the horizon. Last summer I responded to a yearning to make a large painting that included clouds forming a heart above our terrain—and included two horses, grazing peacefully under the symbolic heavens.

A few days ago Amy came home from work and told me of a remarkable interaction which occurred. A couple arrived to the gallery and within moments revealed some events that had led them to her. The woman, Cyndi, explained they lived in Colorado and she had been browsing at an outdoor rummage sale and saw my book, A Heart Traced In Sand. I wrote it after my daughter Naomi died at age nineteen. It has won two awards and found its way many places. She was immediately drawn to it because of the heart on the cover, and explained that ever since her 11 year old daughter died she had been surprised seeing hearts in strange places and thought the symbol was a sign of love sent by her angel. She took the book home and while reading the story was astounded that our daughters shared similar fates. Each had the same rare form of cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.

The book deeply moved Cyndi for our shared narrative.

When she came to Santa Fe with her husband Jim for a get-a-way, they somehow found my gallery to connect with me.

“They are returning to the gallery tomorrow to meet you.” Amy said. “Both loved the painting with the heart in the sky. He said it was too expensive and they found another one they liked. But she really loves the heart one.” 

The next day the couple arrived again and I felt warmth immediately. We talked at length about our shared experiences. I learned that their daughter Maggie took 7 months to die before passing away six years ago. Naomi struggled two years and left this world 20 years ago. Like me, Cyndi wrote a book. When little Maggie learned she was terribly ill and might not live, she started a journal. Her mother helped her be brave and know that life goes on after death of the body. The journal became inspiration for the book. 

After Maggie died, the parents started a charity in her honor and have helped many terminally ill children be able to receive hospice care and die at home among loved ones.

When it came time to decide on a painting, Cyndi looked longingly at the heart painting. We talked about the symbols; her attraction to the heart in the sky and also the horses. "They are spirit beings and represent freedom and power." I said. 
"We own horses." she said. 
Meanwhile Jim stood in front of the little landscape painting of sunflowers. 
I felt they should have the big piece and decided to come down considerably on the price. They looked at each other knowingly, took a deep breath and said, “We will take it.”

I knew it belonged to them from the time it began in my own heart.

“Today is the anniversary of Maggie’s death.” Cyndi said. 

How remarkable that our journeys intersected in such profound ways.

Interestingly, for the last week I have been totally absorbed digging into Naomi’s journals and diaries, and going through photographs and artwork. Soon, A Heart Traced In Sand, Reflections on a Daughter’s Struggle For Life, published in 2001, will become available as an eBook. The eBook version will be able to include examples of her original works, thoughts and historical family photos from her beginning to end.

“Yes,” Amy said, “the painting came from spirit and and arrived to them by spirit.”
I feel the truth in what she says.

In every heart there is a deep sorrow, one that edges in like a whisper on a cold night. The delicacy of a person who is outwardly strong is as delicate as a rose before a frost inwardly. —Naomi Boone, from her journals, age 16

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Fists Against The Wall

Last weekend was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the notorious German concentration camp in Poland where in just two years over 1 million innocent people were put to death: men, women and children. The anniversary comes and goes each year and there are memorial events at the former killing grounds that attract fewer and fewer survivors and many visitors. For some reason, this year I began reviewing more about what happened. In high school, during a period when I read dense and important world literature, I also read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, (1245 pages). It is mostly forgotten in my mind after 50 years. 

Amy saw that I was studying and getting emotional about what had happened. She pulled a book off of her bookshelf, a small hardback. Saying nothing, she put it on my dresser. Within a day I had begun reading Night, by Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016). "In Night," Wiesel said, "I wanted to show the end, the finality of the event. Everything came to an end—man, history, literature, religion, God. There was nothing left. And yet we begin again with night.” ( In the above picture, he is in the second row, seventh from left.)

Simultaneously I looked online at pictures of the holocaust and the Nazi perpetrators. Photos of mothers and children being herded off boxcars to take them to the gas chambers, of skeletal forced laborers in horrid conditions, of despicable ghettos imprisoning isolated Jewish populations before being wiped out. I found myself getting angry and researching what became of the Nazi commanders, then seeing them hanged and thinking, “It serves you right.”
A page from Naomi's journal

“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.” 
Primo Levi, (Italian, 31 July 1919 – 11 April 1987)  Auschwitz survivor

I grew up in a non-religious household. No mention was made of God or religion. My father worked hard as a social engineer, alongside Robert Kennedy and Sergeant Shriver. HIs time was spent constructing solutions to injustice and implementing them. Once when a teen-ager and I had recently found God, he quoted Karl Marx to me: “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” I took exception, noting all the good that has come from Christian charity and the spread of principles of equality and love.

At nineteen I became a Baha’i, a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. Established by Baháʼu'lláh , (Persian, November 12, 1817 – May 29, 1892) in 1863, it initially grew in Persia and parts of the Middle East, where it has faced ongoing persecution since its inception. 

A beloved Baha’i prayer by Abdul-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah includes the exhortation, “I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life, nor will I let trouble harass me .” But what if life itself is cataclysmic without hope? What if there is no pleasantness to enjoy? 
Certainly there were those in the concentration camps who had seen their loved ones marched to the gas chambers, had felt the sting of smoke in their eyes from the furnaces incinerating bodies, and lived without hope in wretched unthinkable existence. Some, like Job’s wife might have thought “Curse God and die!” They are forgiven. Wiesel himself, after surviving the death camp spoke in an interview: “Some people who read my first book, Night, they were convinced that I broke with the faith and broke with God. Not at all. I never divorced God. It is because I believed in God that I was angry at God, and still am. The tragedy of the believer, it is deeper than the tragedy of the non-believer.” (See )

When my beloved daughter Naomi fell victim to cancer at seventeen, I had to watch her endure her own holocaust. Dreadful pain spread itself in her body. Doctors said she had little chance to live and she began torturous chemotherapy treatments, locked away from the world at large. Many times, during my own “dark night of the soul,” I found myself thinking, beseeching, how could a loving God allow this? Alone, I beat my fists against the wall and wailed. 

Naomi had to meet her own point of no return. Many times in fact. Did she not wonder perhaps if God had forgotten her? She once said, “I hope not to die a slow, painful death.” But that is exactly what God had in store for her. That was her fate. She fought hard for life, weeding out any semblance of negative thinking that might interfere with her healing. Yet the slow, inexorable death march toward the gas chamber continued. At one point, exhausted, she sought to take her life and be done with it. Like in the Jimi Hendrix song, Castles Made of Sand, where he sings: 

There was a young girl, whose heart was a frown,
'Cause she was crippled for life, and she couldn't speak a sound
And she wished and prayed she could stop living,
So she decided to die
She drew her wheel chair to the edge of the shore, and to her legs she smiled
"You won't hurt me no more"
But then a sight she'd never seen made her jump and say
"Look, a golden winged ship is passing my way"
And it really didn't have to stop, it just kept on going.
And so castles made of sand
Slips into the sea, eventually . . .

One fateful evening in Santa Barbara, California, Naomi swallowed pills, arrived to a lonely beach and walked into the Pacific Ocean to drown. She was saved when she saw a stranger walking and her conscience would not allow her to take her life in front of an innocent person.

She went on to live another seven months before dying at home with peace in her heart. Just before, she had a dream of being on a blissful cruise. In feeble handwriting she managed to write it down on a scrap of paper.

A number of times during the ordeal I found myself down on knees praying fervently for help. I could see the innocents being herded toward the ovens, clutching their little ones and asked, “Please help.” Several times the veils parted and to my surprise I saw angels, in complete tranquility, smiling. Over in a flash, I thought, “but how could you be smiling?” 

After Naomi died, we bathed and dressed her in her bed and put a ring on her finger. It is part of the Baha’i ceremony for the deceased. The ring says: “I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate”. 

And this is my belief, that this life is a sort of veil and it is lifted when we die.

For those millions who died during the holocaust, the experience was inscrutable. 

Death reaches us all. Some are born and live but a few moments, others longer, but in eternity, this life is but a blink of the eye for everyone.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,

nor did I look at anything,

with no other light or guide

than the one that burned in my heart.
This guided me

more surely than the light of noon

to where he was awaiting me

— him I knew so well —

there in a place where no one appeared. 


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Full Of Opportunities

“This world is so full of opportunities that one can hardly keep up with them all. Life is so beautiful; I cherish it and want to be able to see every part of it.”

My daughter Naomi wrote these words in her journal when she was seventeen.  This was at the beginning of her intense, two year struggle with cancer that ended with her death.
As with so many of her thoughts she wrote during that period, they hold wisdom, especially since life turned cruel and painful for her but did not dim her love.

Now, nineteen years since Naomi’s passing, I find it useful and transformative to use the word “opportunity” as a mental concept during activities. Especially in situations that might be annoying or perhaps I don’t relish.

Here are recent examples:

I am sitting at the wheel of my car, stuck in traffic or at a red light that seems too long: Thanks for the opportunity to wait peacefully.
Cleaning debris and trash out of the back of my van: Thanks for the opportunity to do something simple and use my body to make the environment better.
Obey the Baha’i fast, abstaining from food or water from sunrise to sunset for nineteen days: Thanks for the opportunity to strengthen my will and offer my body joyfully to my Lord during these special hours.
Doing the paperwork to file my taxes: Thanks for the opportunity to be organized and see my transactions spanning the last year.
This practice can be used for everything—from doing dishes, to cleaning a yard, being in a crowd, lost, at the doctor—anything.

Almost any occasion can be turned to advantage when we see it as opportunity.  Naomi did. Even her end was an opportunity. Having lost her battle to win the “acres and acres” of life she so longed to have, then suffocating as her lungs failed, she said to a friend who stood behind her wheelchair massaging her shoulders, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.” Naomi took her last moments as an opportunity to give thanks before leaving her physical frame forever.

Sunday, July 01, 2018


The nineteenth anniversary of the death of my nineteen year old daughter Naomi is nearing—July 5, 2018.

After she died I thought of the meaning of the number nineteen. It is made of the numerals 1 and 9; the beginning and end of all single digits. It includes all the rest of the numbers, so symbolizes unity. Adding one and nine makes ten: 1 + 0 equals one. Oneness.

It was not an accident that Naomi completed her life at nineteen. I often thought she was burning through lifetimes rapidly. Like a shooting star, she shone brilliantly through intense experiences, shedding brilliant light in a short burst before suddenly disappearing. Naomi burned the dross of existence through intense suffering and redemption. She said, “Hardship is something that will make us stronger. I don't know if I have complete evidence of this, but I think that in every situation there is good in it.”

The day we went to a doctor and he gave us the terrible news that she had Ewings Sarcoma, a virulent cancer, I realized this world is shifting sands and not permanent, yet I wanted with all my being to know we could trust her life would continue here on earth. It seemed impossible to think otherwise.
Knowing she had cancer that most certainly would destroy her, the first thing Naomi did on arriving home from the medical clinic was to make a beautiful drawing using colored pencils. A serenely peaceful figure garbed in a beautifully embellished blue gown seems to be listening in meditation. A halo is around her head and her hair streams in rivulets like sun rays in all directions within the orb. A SPIRIT being stands upon a butterfly wing at her shoulder within the halo, seeming to talk to her. A necklace around her neck holds a feather. Behind, two seedlings are growing and blossoming. From below, a tender green shoot with leaves and tendrils grows up and out of the top of the picture. No sign of fear in this artwork, only peace, light and signs of Divine guidance.

And this is what Naomi became before kissing life goodbye and embarking on her journey in the next world.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

True Wisdom

The greatest thing you can do to cultivate true wisdom is to practice the consciousness of the world as a dream.  -Paramahansa Yogananda

In 2008 while I was traveling for one year around the world, life became THE DREAM. It was a subtle shift in my consciousness. As I relaxed into my new role of adventurer and observer, I realized how fluid life is—and how obstinately hard my consciousness had become with years of built up mental formulations. I determined to let go and be in flux. I shook off notions of nationality, race, wealth—all the usual prejudices that are obstacles to oneness. The more I let go, the more I realized the world is phenomenal, fluid—and ever shifting sands.

If the sound of waves outside my door kept me from falling asleep, I laughed at how accustomed I had become to silence at bedtime. If I found myself in a crowd of strangers in Africa, and I was the only white person, I delighted how the kaleidoscope of human colors before my eyes shifted radically to ebony. Deep in the blackness I went "clubbing" with new acquaintances in Nairobi; dancing all night. Some people must have thought they were dreaming to see me, just as I knew I was in THE DREAM experiencing the night, the African milieu, music and being lost in it.

In Rome, I missed a long distance flight because I was confused by the 24 hour clock. My plane was scheduled to leave at 01:30. I arrived just after noon, and at the ticket counter was told the flight had left 12 hours earlier at 1:30 AM. I was shocked and breathless for a few moments, but realized how THE DREAM had unfolded with a major surprise. I became observer and even laughed at how I stumbled and hurt myself.

During youth, occasionally my young mind would wander into zones that made me question “reality.” Then youthful angst would set in, and fear of being mentally ill would arrive. After all, aren’t we supposed to be on firm footing in the world, knowing from where we come and where we are going?

When, in the spring of 1997, I found myself in a cancer clinic with my oldest daughter, Naomi, who was seventeen, the surroundings seemed foreign, nightmarish. We did not belong there and I was confused. After waiting, a doctor came to us and announced with considerable concern that Naomi had a very large tumor in her hip and it was malignant. The cancer most likely had spread to her lungs and maybe brain. I sensed being in a dream. Reality had shifted so radically that I clearly perceived we were in an unreal world because in essence, we were okay, safe, protected in SPIRIT; even eternal. But death was all over us. What was real?
Six years previous to that episode, while on a family vacation in Oregon, I had a powerful dream that shook me to the core. When I woke I was devastated. The vision was full of mesmerizing and beautiful imagery, spiritual throughout, but I woke with a start when an arrow, sent by a spirit being, pierced the heart of a child next to me. The imagery and symbolism had been profoundly spiritual up to that point. What had happened?
The day at the cancer clinic, standing next to my child when the doctor gave his report I felt an arrow pierce my heart. How are the worlds bound together? What is “reality”? (For more about Naomi and I on our spiritual journey, see my award -winning book A Heart Traced In Sand)

After my extensive traveling I retained a sense of THE DREAM but it tapered off. Perhaps I needed flux. I needed uncertainty, mystery, enough constant change to keep me off balance. I began missing it enough that I have tried to cultivate the sense permanently.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Love Like A Shield

“Be safe,” “Safe travels”, “Take care”, were frequent Facebook comments when the post about my upcoming travel to Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia arrived on the platform last weekend. I recently said the same thing to my daughter Sarah when she set out in a blizzard to go ski in Colorado. I wished her to take care so as not to come to harm. If I could I would envelope her with love like a shield.

I understand others concern behind the words, and am grateful for the sentiments. In part there is precautionary warning because life has many uncertanties. In fact, when I told my brother I was going to Mexico he said he recently cancelled his trip there with his Mexican girlfriend because it is alarmingly unsafe. A Mexican friend of mine, an undocumented worker who I have hired occasionally for years also warned me. When I said, “I am going to Mexico Sergio!” he looked into my eyes for a second and smiled, then looked down at the ground and said, “Don't go.”
Buddha boy at Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Christmas 2015

It reminds me of 2008 as I prepared to journey for a year around the world. I knew I wanted to visit Egypt. As the day approached to fly to the middle east, I had some dark thoughts because Islamic extremists from Egypt flew the planes into the world trade towers. I almost changed my plans but went anyway. Now when people ask what is my favorite place in the world, I often mention Egypt.

External threats are apparent on the news. But what of threats from the inside? Years ago I remember seeing a news article in the local paper about a woman and her sick daughter. A photo showed them together in their living room. The woman had a long syringe in her hand and forlorn look. She had to inject her daughter with medicine to relieve pain. I felt pity that these two lives had become so narrow and miserable. Little did I know that within a few years this scene would play out in my life. A serial killer lurked within my daughter's body. No one knows how long this beast stalked her, but it grew and made itself known, wreaking havoc. Within two years of our discovery of cancer, it killed Naomi. She did not have to set foot out of her house. The danger was within. (A Heart Traced In Sand).

I believe everyone carries malevolent germs and organisms that given an opportunity can cause death. Our body holds them in check. My cousin went to Cost Rica, picked up a germ and died of spinal meningitis within weeks of returning home. Early in life he had leukemia and almost died. Furthermore, our brains and nervous system are highly tuned. People can become unhinged, mentally “ill”. Quality of life is severely diminished from trauma. How many are on prescriptions?

I learned when Naomi fell ill that there is no safety in life. We assume there is, but there is not. So I will go on my work/adventure and realize that anything is possible. Even death. But my body knows that already. And I do not want to live without thrill and discovery. That is worse than death. During her time of ordeal, Naomi always looked to the positive, to beauty and light as powerful allies that would enable her to overcome.

I leave January 11. The US State department lists travel warnings everywhere in the world. (See International Travel). There are many places in Mexico with warnings, but the place I am going is without apparent peril. From there I go to Ecuador for a month. I had planned to go to Bolivia for a world-class carnival but could not get a place to stay. It is so popular that people make bookings a year in advance.
Another time maybe.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hardships Can Make Us Stronger

Hardships can make us stronger. I do not have complete evidence of this, but believe that every situation has some good in it.  
-Naomi Boone, (Jan. 11 1980 - July 5 1999)

When my daughter, age seventeen, wrote those words in her journal, she had been diagnosed with cancer and given little hope of remaining alive. Naomi gathered her resolve and reached for an uncertain future. 
During the next two years she was to endure extreme hardship. Like coal under intense pressure, she harnessed the good, became strong and brilliant as a diamond but vanished, leaving a glimmering trail of stardust in her path.

With the recent election, I am feeling the same apprehension and grief come back.  My beloved America is torn and seems to be fighting itself—much like the cancer cells that tore apart my daughter's body.

Our current crisis has “some good in it” and can “make us stronger.” America is at a moment of truth. Our healthy cells must unite, recognize the unhealthy usurper ones and overcome them. Healthy cells cooperate and work for the good of all. Unhealthy ones simply take and multiply savagely.

Ultimately America must be altruistic, benevolent, kind, strong, patient, just, honorable. Furthermore it needs to have the well being of the planet at its heart and eschew being self-centered.

Another thing: the election being “rigged” is true. The system is broken. Too much vested interest, money and corruption holds sway—and has almost since the beginning. Why do we have a two party system? It needs to be remade. America is in peril. A new body politic must arise that is not based upon opposition but rather unity.

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Be Lovingly Present

During my recent trip around the world I had nothing more personal to me than three little framed photographs I always kept near. The portraits are of `Abdu’l-Bahá, Naomi Boone, and Paramahansa Yogananda. All three are abiding now in the angelic realm.

 `Abdu’l-Bahá (Persian/Arabic 23 May 1844 – 28 November 1921) was the son of Bahá'u'lláh ("Glory of God"; 12 November 1817– 29 May 1892) , the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Naomi Boone (Jan. 11 1980 – July 5, 1999) is my oldest daughter who died of cancer when she was nineteen. Paramahansa Yogananda (Bengali, 5 January 1893– 7 March 1952) was an Indian yogi and guru.

I am especially privileged to have been with Naomi and walked by her side in this world. I wrote a book about our journey together (A Heart Traced In Sand) and used her own writings to reveal her soul. Naomi started writing in diaries at the age of twelve. In addition she left volumes of drawings, paintings, some sculptures, and scribbled affirmations she made during her sufferings. At one point in her last diary, she was upset that she was getting worse, not improving. As she vented, she had the thought that someone would be reading her words after she died. She hated the notion because it was fatalistic. She wrote that she would rather burn her diary. I am glad she did not.

Naomi suffered tremendously before dying, but strove not to let it show. An active athlete in High School, she was on the track and field and cross-country running teams. She was in the Ski club, German Club and went to Germany. She began having difficulty with her leg, and we discovered she had bone cancer. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs as well. The tumor in her hip was very large and expanding—fracturing her bone. The treatments were horrendous. Her hair fell out, she was on crutches, was isolated for spells in hospital rooms . . . constantly hooked up to machines. Meanwhile she was attempting to finish high school between treatments, and applied to college.
She underwent a bone marrow transplant—doses of chemotherapy so high it destroyed her bone marrow. It also destroyed her immune system. Once when she sneezed, her nose bled and would not stop bleeding for three days. A specialist had to be called to constrict the blood vessels in her nose. She was given back stem cells that had been harvested from her earlier, and her bone marrow revived. She was accepted to an art college, and graduated high school.

All along, she fought hard and made every effort to live normally, even taking a job. The cancer retreated but came back and killed her. She had said that she did not want to die a slow agonizing death, but this is what happened. Her leg was terribly swollen, she could not feel her foot, was in intense pain, nauseous, and suffocated to death when her lungs filled with fluid. Yet, just the day before, she managed to say to someone massaging her, “I love my body, it has been so good to me.”

Remarkably, Naomi seldom complained and actually was more concerned for those around her. I barely left her side for two years. After she died, someone said we were like twin flames, and I know that is right.

My life has not been gentle since my father died two years ago, then my wife and I divorced, my first wife died, and then my mother passed away. I have felt sorrow, loneliness, pathos and more. Yet, I have not been blind to the good that occurs and my many fortunes and blessings.

I take solace in her words, and when I feel tired, or that life is unjust, or empty, I remember them. I have taken sentences from her writings, some just before she died, and written them here:

Healing! Loving! Knowing! Wishing! Hoping! Being! Enjoying! Living! Mending! Giving! Praying! Sending! Shining! These gifts of life are what make it possible to fight so hard to keep it.
This world is so full of opportunities that one can hardly keep up with them all. Life is so beautiful, I cherish it and want to be able to see every part of it.
I want to show God that I have learned much and feel I deserve acres of life to unfold for me. I love this life and I want to be here for as long as God allows. I trust that God knows my love for life and the happiness it gives me.
I am chi. I am full of the life force, full of the flowers, trees, the smell of lavender and roses, the feeling of the wind blowing against my face as I run, and the wonder when I go snorkeling and see the other world! That is only a little bit of what the life force is. I am chi, that life force.

It seems there is no way of knowing that everything will be okay. The only thing I can do is trust in God and the power I have within.
Sometimes I am afraid that I might die. It is not that I am afraid of going somewhere else, it is that I don't want to and I am not ready to leave this world. It is not death I fear, It is losing life and people.

As of now, I let go of my fears and troubles. In their place I let God do the work. I let light and energy, wholesomeness and happiness enter my soul. I know everything will be alright because God is with me no matter what.
I am filled with a wonderful sense of happiness. It is an indescribable sense of utmost freedom and joy. When I am in touch with it I just think, Oh, God, thank you for this beautiful body and life. I have learned how to use THANK YOU throughout everything.

Everything is important and nothing is important; everything is illusion back to God. Everything is already accomplished; you just have to bring your consciousness to it: Divine order is always in place. There is no place to go and nothing to do.

In every heart there is a deep sorrow, one that edges in like a whisper on a cold night. The delicacy of a person who is outwardly strong is as delicate as a rose before a frost inwardly.
May I be protected from internal and external harm. May I be healthy and strong,
 May I be happy and at peace.
May I care for myself joyfully.
God is with me, I just need to give it all to Him.

Hardship is something that will make us stronger. I don't know if I have complete evidence of this, but I think that in every situation there is good in it.

Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart.

Dear God, I want to tell you that I am thankful for my remarkable body. The joy in my soul has helped my body know how strong it actually is.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

A Life Of Its Own

Traveling in THE DREAM has a life of its own. All experiences are essential and woven together, and cannot be labeled or isolated by the dreamer. They unfurl like a flag in the wind, ceaselessly changing shape. When I arrived in Sanur, Bali, I spent the first night in a hotel near the airport, since my arrival from Cambodia was after midnight. The next day a short taxi ride brought me to a homestay I had booked in Sanur, in a densely populated neighborhood not far from the beach. The hostess from Finland met me, along with the Balinese owner of the house who lived with his family in the rear. Cia, the Finnish woman showed me around and I put my things down in my room. Immediately, I felt a bit sick to my stomach, and when alone, went in the bathroom and vomited. I realized that something was amiss. The room was windowless, and had a shallow light, peculiar smells were in the air, the furnishings were worn and drab, and I felt unsettled.

Cia is a short woman and underweight. She drinks and smokes, and I soon learned that she is battling lymphoma cancer and has large tumors on her neck. Her mind is bright, and she smiles readily, but there is a darkness settled around her. I discovered that she cannot eat because it causes her pain, but drinks beer and smokes cigarettes.

I never had the thought of leaving, and spent seven days with her. I didn't feel comfortable in my physical circumstance, but I am not physical. THE DREAM brought me to Cia, and I came to appreciate her and could relate with her because I lost my Naomi to cancer and walked with her for two years through the valley of the shadow of death. Cia has been living in Bali for five years and has a wealth of knowledge about the island and its culture. She speaks at least four languages, is an ardent animal lover and takes care of them wherever she finds they need help. Three cats and a dog have found her and stayed to live with her. She is pragmatic and accepts her condition in a matter-of-fact way.

One night at dinner she mentioned she was trying to make a doctor's appointment for the next day. I told her I would go with her so she would have company and not feel alone. Her eyes opened wide and she stared at me and said, “But you are on vacation, you don't want to do that!” I looked back straight in her eyes and said, “Yes, I do.” Her jaw dropped, and looking even more intensely into my face she said, “I believe you.” And then she started to cry, and apologized. Later I told her that the two years I spent in close communion with Naomi, by her side through all her medical treatments and living with her in foreign cities, was the best time of my life. “We were burning the candle at both ends.” I said.

I left Cia a couple days ago and THE DREAM put everything in place for me. I found a lady from Bali who is renting me her car. Anne, a young woman from Finland who is a friend of Cia's has given me the keys to her bamboo house up the coast in a place that Cia wrote on her list of places for me to visit. I am now in the bamboo house, making paintings, visiting nearby villages, swimming in the sea, taking photographs, and continuing creatively.

Cia said, “There is a reason we met.” We will meet again. I left a few of my things with her so must return before leaving for New Zealand in about a week.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Bitterness

Naomi Boone, age 18
"I love my body, it has been so good to me." These were among the last words my daughter Naomi Boone spoke as she died at age nineteen. What is remarkable about Naomi's exclamation is that it came after a grueling two year battle with cancer.

I had been an intimate witness to her suffering. As soon as Naomi entered high-school she immersed herself into meaningful activity—joining the German club, the Ski club, and in sports running track and field and cross-country. When her cancer was diagnosed, she had been painfully lifting her leg into her car to drive to school. The verdict was grim for her survival.

The next two years were full of pain, exhilaration, uplifting victories and dreadful defeats. Naomi had expressed that she did not want to die a slow, painful death, but this is what fate had in store for her. In the end, she was forcing herself to eat, she could not walk, and was attached to an oxygen tank. Her lungs were full of disease, so that she suffocated to death. How was it then, that her final words were, "I love my body, it has been so good to me."

Naomi formed a special relationship with her mortal form. She knew that her body was in a life and death struggle, and she developed a tremendous compassion for it. She cheered it on, begging and supplicating, caressing and loving it. She saw her terrible conflict with cancer as an epic spiritual battle of light and dark, and she firmly planted herself on the side of light. As the disease gained the upper hand, and the life force she loved so dearly could not save her crippled form, she remained loyal and praised her troops for such a brave fight against insurmountable odds. Not a trace of bitterness.

When I meet tests, and get frustrated, I think of Naomi and her walk through the "valley of the shadow of death."

23rd Psalm, The Book of David

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 
 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 
 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lovingly Present

Today is the tenth anniversary of Naomi’s death when she was nineteen years old. She is a touchstone for my life. Her spirit inspires me to live to the fullest with joy, and care for all living beings. At the cemetery, her mother, step-mother, uncle, a friend and I all gathered and laid roses on her grave, remembering her, and read passages from her journals. She had such remarkable strength and devotion, and was precocious as a child, starting her first diary when only eleven years old. Later, as she was struggling for her life, she wrote: Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside of yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart. To read more of Naomi’s writings about life and death, go to:
I am leaving for Thailand this Tuesday, July 7. I will be there for about two weeks, then go to Vietnam for another two weeks. I have friends in both countries, and I am considering moving to one or the other because the cost of living is low and quality of life is high. Here in the USA I am not earning enough as an artist because of a soured economy, and my cost of living is high, so that I am spending my savings. I am not worried, but neither am I stuck in a rut. I enjoy flux and trust that I can be homeless and happy . . . I can live where the wind takes me. I can be creative anywhere.
I recently finished a new art piece. It is a mixed media diptych on canvas attached to board. I used encaustic (hot wax) as a medium, and enjoy the process, although it is difficult getting a handle on it. The wax must be hot in order to be fluid, and as soon as it cools, which is immediately, it hardens and is impossible to work with. So I have to use a heat gun and hotplate to keep the process flowing. After I return from Asia, I will continue producing new work in this fashion and make a collection.