S: Entropy and Light
FC: Entropy and Light Eric Aadhaar O'Gorman
1: That you are reading this now means that I have died. That I am writing this now, ahead of time, is part of the act of letting myself go. A good and solid friend a while back generously agreed to look after and wind down my online presences once the time came, and it is by her good grace that you are able to read this now. Thank you for that, Olga. | The idea is that this post will be updated with details a little later, you know, about the funeral and such, but that this is the last ever post from me. It and the rest of this blog will stay here, for posterity as it were, until such time as entropy works it levelling charms, and this thin skein of words falls apart and returns to the Great Background from which it emanated. It's that I wanted to say goodbye, and to thank you, is all. Between finishing this post and my leaving we may have 'spoken' some more anyway, you may have shared a little piece more of the journey; borne witness to days that only now lie in your past. And for that, if that is the case, I am sorry. That is the other thing I want to say, that I am sorry for being that guy who did this in your life and you watched on and were made sad because suffering just does that to people and ... yes, I am sorry for all that. I ask forgiveness for the hurts I have done you, in whatever way I might have, including the hurt that having to let go can sometimes bring. I am sorry. It might be important for you to know that I feel like I've had a really great life. Also, that I feel like I'm having a pretty great death too, as things go, and that means I carry no ill will of my own. I cannot now really pinpoint the moment I realized that I really had no regrets left, and there was no-one left to forgive in my petty wounded ego; that I had been, for some time, already set free. Hallelujah. Let's say it again: Hallelujah. | As I continue to dissolve as a self, even with each letter I type a bit more of the me-ness crumbling off and subsuming into the Everything-ness, I am still aware that my great fortune in life seems to come down to two things, separated by what might be a near-universal habit of mind. Nature and mankind. I am thankful to both in equal measure. | If you have read my blatherings here and elsewhere online the last couple of years you will have some idea of my understanding of things spiritual, of my approach to the Sacred. My observation is that man constantly seeks to return to nature, as if there has indeed been some catastrophic division set up between what we see as ourselves and what we see as Everything Else, spirit included. | The Last Post Sunday, July 8, 2012
2: For what it's worth, I believe that man is evolving in a good direction, and during my life I have seen more and more evidence that man is - albeit slowly and haltingly - making his way back to Oneness. Hallelujah some more, for that. Certainly, it is a theme that has defined my journey into death, if not my whole life. Today death might be on your mind a bit more so than on most days. Let's celebrate that. On the way to meet my death, I have had great fears. There was terror and anguish and pain, there was grief and lament and years of losing, incrementally, bits of life along the way. Yet every pain ultimately only brought me more goodness. More contentment. Deeper experience of the stuff of life and heart and spirit. More love. And you have been there, reflecting Godhead (and me) all the while, playing your own special role in Nature, growing alongside, living your life. Thank you for sharing it. Lastly, it may be important for you to know that in life I got to know how much I was loved. Thank you for showing me your love, and helping the universal love find its way to me through you. My only remaining aim in life, as I let things go, was to be a conduit for that love in the world. I hope that somehow I have brought into your life just a little bit of the immense loving kindness that I have experienced. There is just one thing left to say: Thank you, and goodbye. | Some Practical Notes: My funeral details will be posted here soon enough, along with the words I plan to have spoken on my behalf at the funeral. It will be as natural a burial as possible, most likely at Northam Cemetery. Please do not send flowers. If you wish to contribute, the gofundme account for my natural burial will remain open for a week or so only now, and you may if you choose make a donation there. Any funds in excess of my funereal needs will be used charitably, well and wisely, for the benefit of the earth and all who travel with her. If you simply feel you want to say a word or two, please just comment below, or if it is a more private message (intended for Meeta, for example) please do so via Olga (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am sure she will make an easy way for you and for a short time only will do me and Meeta this great gift of going in-between. If you are attending the funeral, please dress as if you were going out for a lovely lunch or something like that; don't be afraid of colours, or celebration, for it will be a celebration of life as much as a ritual of its passing. Please bring with you a spray of foliage; a small branch of twig of leaves from a favourite tree or shrub, or any plant that speaks to you along the way; of the right sort of size to act as a fly swisher or a fan. This will be used in the ceremony, so hang on to it. If you wish to attend but cannot and would like to participate in my passing, then maybe consider a small ritual of your own. Find yourself a suitable little branch of leaves, a beautiful quiet spot with an outlook on something natural, and meditate on the life that runs through you. The life that runs through your being from crown to footsoles, that courses through your switch of foliage, that extends around the planet and is the very same energy with which you and I are connected. Meditate on the Oneness of you and I
3: and everything, and if you are moved to do so, bring your memories of me to mind. Then take your fan of leaves, and swish me away. See my spirit rising up before you as if a wreath of fragrant smoke, and fan my spirit back home. Guide my spirit upward and outward, fan me away, and let me go. Dissolve. When you are done, return your little branch to nature as best you see fit; fire, compost, or just left gently on the earth under some trees. And say a prayer for yourself. Perhaps the one below. And also, have a wonderful day | Great Spirit, whose voice in the winds I hear, And whose breath gives life to all the world. Hear me. Before you I come, one of your many children. Small and weak am I. Your strength and wisdom I need. Make me walk in beauty. Make me respect all you have made, My ears to hear your voice. Make me wise that I may know all you have taught we people, The lessons you have hidden in every rock. I seek strength not to be superior to my brother, Make me able to overcome my greatest enemy, myself. Make me ready to stand before you with clean and straight eyes. When life fades, as the fading sunset, May my spirit stand before you without shame. (adapted from Chief Yellow Lark of the Lakota, North America). | Well, yes. Just well. Saturday, June 30, 2012 | Wow. Well ... weird and weary, woozy but yes, well. Wired,wandering and wending with no vested intent but vaguely westward. Wonderful, in its way. This is me just reflecting myself as it gets onto 48 hours since my last feed. A few half-cups of kefir is all, to settle the stomach. Seems to help things be smooth. The mind mainly slickly moves to match my body, or perhaps it is the other way around. Spirit; it is centred, so it seems, which is enough.
4: Calling Time Wednesday, June 27, 2012 "Last drinks please, ladies and gentlemen; it is time." The emphasis was always squarely on the last word in this sentence I have called out in bars late at night on more occasions than I care to remember; "... it is time." Very often tapping my wristwatch held aloft, for those doing their thinking solely visually at this stage. I'm calling last drinks on life today (Thursday, my time); as of tonight my feeds will all have run out, and the only thing of any caloric value I will imbibe is a little kefir if I need it tomorrow and the day after as my stomach gets used to being empty. Last drinks. It's time. The end of counting is nigh. So in some ways it's all about time again. I'm sure that my journey into the nature of that very stuff, the actual experience of time passing that we call life, will continue to change right up until there is no more of it in the sense I know and measure a breath at a time in this busted old broken-ass body; the vessel of me that St Francis of Assissi used to disparagingly refer to as 'Brother Donkey.' Why now? I don't know. There are a hundred reasons why now is the right time, but it's not their force put together as an argument that makes this right. It is not any single main thing, nor has there been some irrevocable tipping point reached; this is not a flailing bid to avoid being pushed by some circumstance, and nor is it a desperate attempt to reassert at least some control over my own destiny at any cost. There is an element of every feeling in this moment. Perhaps one of the more compelling factors is that there really is no reason against it. It is most certainly not the 'wrong' time to die. It is just time. The right time. I say this grounded firmly, sound of mind and spirit, and believing myself to be clearly interpreting what is right in a Divine sort of sense, as well as a mundane one. That this decision is as much guidance from Godhead (whatever, etc) and my 'self'. And now you know too. | The only thing that isn't slower now is the rate of change. That's rather the reverse, my body is shutting down faster now, a pace is gently picking up. So I shan't stay here writing long, I'm off to stand while standing is still something I can do, in the patch of warm sun, doing what it does, late on this beautiful day. Live your moment well too.
5: I've known for a few days, but needed to be a little more inward with things about it before letting the bigger world in on it. You know, special moments with Meeta, and practical considerations like getting advice on medication changes and so on from my doc were important things for example. What happens next? I don't know. Physically for me, I have some idea of what to expect and I shan't burden you here with details or speculation for it's all only probabilities anyway. You can google things like life expectancy without nutrition and then guess wildly how my particulars will fall into the bell curves of probability and prognoses. It's measured in weeks and days, not months and weeks. That's a good framework, if you need one. Will I keep writing? How will you know when I'm gone? To the first question I'd say probably, a little bit. I don't know. Maybe not. To the second I can tell you a few things: You know I have arranged with one special friend to look after my online affairs upon my demise (and I am thankful for this every time I think of it) and she will put up a blog post here that I have pre-prepared, and post a link on Facebook, etc. At least, that is the plan. Then later there will be funeral details as they become firm, and then one last post including the last few words of mine which I am having read at the funeral, so that those unable to make it can read that too. The blog will stay here, until entropy eventually claims it too, is the plan. The funeral? Of course you are invited, if you wish to pay your respects in that way. I do not expect that many of you here shall make it of course, living as my social circle seems to all around the globe (what a world, eh?) and my having long ago shed a face-to-face surrounding of many friends and acquaintances, as once I had. You will be able to RSVP via the blog post later, I am sure my online 'oops buddy' will make proviso there etc. It will be a natural burial, almost certainly at Northam Cemetery (in fact I can see the very plot from my balcony here, a few degrees East of the roof of my house) a few days after my death. I shall be wrapped in my favourite natural-dyed alpaca/llama wool poncho from Bolivia, in a new type of non-toxic recycled cardboard coffin, unembalmed, all of that. That is the plan.
6: I | Please do not send flowers. Meeta will look after the floral stuff for the day, and if you are attending, you will see that I ask you later to bring a spray of leaves or a small branch from your garden or a plant you love nearby to hold ans use on the day. More on that in time, nothing needs your attention now. If you wanted to pass a message on to Meeta or the others of my extended family, the blog post comment section will be open once the post is up, and any messages you leave will be able to be seen by others. My oops buddy will make arrangements for anyone who wishes to send something more | privately; see the post on the day. For those who do wish to contribute the natural burial fund will remain open for a little while now only (see link above to the right), and any funds received in excess of need for the expenses of my interrment will be used wisely, well and charitably for the good of the rest of our planet, be assured. After all, that's what this is all about isn't it? Going back around. Honouring the cycles. Giving back to nature. Letting the entropy be equal to the light in our hearts and minds. So that's it folks, that's all I wanted to say right now, so everyone knows. Good night for now, then. I trust this message finds you peaceful and well, and that your life today has extra love in it. Thank you for having been here thus far. Thank you for being here now. | Reality? Check. (Notes from TWATEOTU #6) Saturday, June 23, 2012 | The days have been passing peacefully up here in my hermitage, my Last Place. It's been another of those times of limbo; a sort of holding pattern as I circle about waiting for the landing. It's a strange and timeless land, this near-death place. Since coming here this last time I have had several neighbours come and go, to whence I know not in most cases. We mainly seem to die at night and very often certain classes of fellow inmate at the Ward At The End Of The Universe seem to choose to head home at the very last minute. To make sure they're really, really dying now and have the ambulance deliver them there so they can breathe their last at home. Since I first started visiting here, I'd say maybe one in five or six choose that sort of option. Not me, of course, as previously mentioned. Despite there being so many beginnings and especially endings here, time however seems to stand apart so much of the ... time, now, for me at least.
7: Partly, we can put that down to my physical state. I am like treacle, glacially sticky as I ooze down my own mortal gravity well, as my gut and indeed my whole carcass (you'd think of carcass too, as in an abattoir setting, if you saw me in the actual flesh, as I do in the mirror) slows down and pulls inwards and inwards. The pain increases, and because I dislike too much pain, so does the dose of painkiller, and around and around we go. The drugs slow things further, eventually causing more pain. I recall that was always a key assumption of The Plan, and it seems to be working out more or less accordingly. You might be tempted to think that I am deeply self-involved and meditative all the while, introspective and preparing for what lies ahead, doing all that spiritual 'work' that we all know we ought to do, and in part of course this is right, I am. But also, not so much. The banality of simply drawing breath is also important. Watching the football, even though I can not know how my team will finish this year (tantalisingly top of the ladder as I write, hooray!), and even now falling into new mundane, oh-so-mortal habits of doing. I notice that I notice 3:00PM coming up on weekdays for example, for there is one of those SAHM-targetted cooking shows on then that I quite enjoy. It's just some guy who is pleasant company for half an hour and whose approach to cooking I quite enjoy. Irony? Who, me? But yeah, it's a habit that I have, to remember it's on and decide whether to watch. I usually do, unless there are visitors. And having done so a few times, I have formed a new attachment. That is the way of just living though, isn't it? We attach to everything we touch, like toddlers | learning the world through our mouths over and over, everything goes in and gets eventually, somehow, slotted home into some unthinking category. Not as if I have anything else I need to be doing at 3:00. But I have no fear of attachment left in me. I see them fall off me all the time, new and old alike. It's like all the glue on my exterior has been magically dissolved,and it takes only the merest waft of breeze for even clattering old monuments to the habitual and life-defining to slip away and disappear forever. Effortless, and not needful of my attention or time, for the main. It would be disingenuous to pretend there wasn't also a habit of pressure on myself to do this 'right' though. I might use that time far better more consciously meditating (or praying), cleaning up my mind some more, doing the rituals and practises that pass for my own syncretic version of religiosity. I feel deeply the truth that so much of my lifespan has in many ways been a missed opportunity to be more prepared with death, and thus, more engaged with living a great life. Beat myself up? No, not any more. I have just decided that daytime cooking shows are as sacred a possibility as and spiritual practice. What my mind does while watching such TV pap is a most interesting thing to observe, and I do a lot of that, almost as an outsider. Just look back at me. The pressure, of course, is simply another tricky little way of my ego asserting its supposed right to existence as an 'other'. Silly bloody way to build a species if you ask me ;-)
8: I love that guy. Me, I mean, when I step outside of myself and look at me I love him, myself. It feels slightly different from when I feel it when I am more totally 'in' my body. There is something important there. It is also undeniably wonderful to leave a body which has chronic aches for a spell. Makes you appreciate the value of pain when you come back in, as well. So, TV, DVDs, (I have over the last 6 months or so watched every episode ever made of Upstairs, Downstairs, would you believe, and loved every minute), reading when my eyes and hands let me do so easily and lately audiobooks. Music, so much music, but that blurs the lines - I use it very consciously for soulwork also. Plus messing about online. This is the filler I do to Occupy Mind Street, but unlike in the protest movement's sense of occupation I just like to give it (the mind) something to get distracted with so I can allow other things, the roiling cauldron of change underneath all this mighty mundanity, to bubble and steam as it needs to. To get out of my own way. | What I have found, is that stuff is getting done without my doing a thing. What I mean is I am aware that all this ravelled self, these billions of miles of threads that have woven the me I think I am today need to get loosened so help me slip out of the world here as peacefully as I can, which is really my only aim in life. I used to think that it would require my attention consciously, once upon a time. In fact, I thought such thoughts and held such beliefs incessantly for decades. But then I discovered that daytime cooking shows can also allow the space for enlightenment to creep in around the edges. That you don't even have to have good intentions; it just happens when you let yourself step aside. And every now and then, to have a ramble like this to see things out in front of myself is just the ticket to checking this reality, that everything in life, and thus vis-a-vis death, is of equal importance. Check. There are no major news announcements today, nothing of import to report, although there is plenty changed underneath, of which I will speak at some length when the pot next needs some attention. For right now, the simmering continues within, all energetic with heat and dense with mortality, all the while another full frame of me soars about, just circling, looking at this great wide landscape of me, of place, of time, and just letting go of looking for a landing place. For I know it is near, and that I shall recognize it when it hoves into view. Peace and contentment upon you, dear reader, and thank you for your company this evening.
9: Every Day I Make New Life Thursday, June 21, 2012 A little while back I posted something about all the 'lasts' there have been. You know, doing this and that the last time, and how little import such thoughts seem to have compared to how much we all (I think) suppose there should be attached to our 'last-time-evers.' | One of those things I did for the last time was start a batch of kefir.I make kefir from starter sachets. They make these by spray-drying kefir cultures, called grains. I make organic cow's milk kefir a litre at a time, and the first litre of a new batch is always a little bit exciting. They are all a teeny bit different in either consistency, aroma, in all sorts of ways really, and this is how you'd think it ought to be with a natural process. Temperature and time affect it, as do factors like how often I agitate my fermentation container, and how often I open the lid and let it breathe etc. Then of course, there is the variation caused by environmental bacteria - that introduced from the air, and from me, as I make and handle it all. | To make the next batch, you just use a bit of the previous batch as a starter, and add another litre of milk. A batch can take from 12 to 24 hours to ferment, I find. They say the sachets are good for 5 or 7 generations, after which time the colonies of bacteria and fungi (there are somewhere between 20 and 50 different organisms that make an average kefir culture) have change more into a yoghurt than a kefir, those bacilli like the acidophillus strains being more aggressive. The milk also clabbers at some point, which is to say it starts to separate out into curds and whey. I just shake it back together again, which it seems to love, and then the clabbering stops, seemingly never to recur. | What I've found though, is that with a bit of listening, a bit of kefir-whispering and paying attention to the subtle changes, it is not just good beyond those 7 generations, but it seems to tend back towards a more complex, rather than less complex, kefir after a point. Grains start to form of their own accord. Environmental bacteria get a look-in, much of which naturally will be directly back from my personal microbiome, that multibillioncelled 'other' me whose cells outnumber me, and which makes up as much as 10% of my mass. It becomes a very personal kefir. This batch has met Meeta too, as she's helped me prepare a feed or two using it, so it has gotten added goodies from her; most or many of which I probably share already. So I decided when I moved out of home up here to hospice ... oh, and I have to tell you something about that too, I'll come back to that ... that I'd make a fresh batch of kefir to take with me, and it's a really fine batch in every way. The title of this post is misleading, as really I only make a new batch every 2 to 3 days on average, but the feel of the title is right nonetheless, and if not taken so literally, then ...
10: It's a wonderful meditation on life, the simple art and act of kefir making. Possibly one of the most simple and direct ways of communing with the cycle of life and consumption of life we can do. I think of it more as farming than anything else; husbanding a herd of microbiota to thrive and have the best possible life they can have, that I may feast of their offspring and even more importantly the by-products of their own deaths. It has become a holy little thing, this humble plastic flask (BPA-free food grade etc etc) of whitish liquid that comes out of the fridge to keep me company from time to time, prompting me to give it a little shake or not as the mood strikes, or memory kicks in. Slowly changing hue and ever-so-gently pushing out the sides of the flask as a moderate gas pressure builds up, undoubtedly a living thing. It and the blends that Meeta brings are still all of my subsistence, materially speaking. Today, I had a half a minute of wistfulness as I started up another batch that shortly it too, would die, but it felt nice. I feel like I understood something about ancient urges to take companions (wives, horses, soldiers etc) into death with you. It would be a bit like taking a talisman of this 'other' me, my microflora self. Haha, perhaps like the legendary Chinese court eunuch's testicles in a jar. And this, I note, is my very first attachment to any projected thought about an afterlife. I really have never clung to an image-projection of What Next Looks Like in that way before. Odd, but cute I guess. I mean, of course the kefir has soul. Kefir will be the last sustenance I take, I'm almost certain. The last food in life I came to. Seems right. Anyway, about that leaving home thing; yes, I'm not going back now. For one thing, I'm not sure I'd manage the steps. But more importantly it's just time. That thing inside we call home (and it's interesting that my second-favourite t-shirt at the moment is a cartoony big happy-looking snail) has detached enough from the house. In one sense, I left it too long to go back. Even just in this last, what, two weeks is it? three? that I have been here I have changed too much for the house to fit me. And also, I have no real desire left to go back. I do miss the dogs but they still visit me. As for Buckley: Well, cats are ... cats are OK like that I find. I experience animal telepathy with cats, and always have. I just assumed all my life that this was normal and when I discovered as a child that apparently it's not a mainstream view I sort of just shut up about it. I mean, 'cat people' know anyway, and so do cats, so what does it matter? So Bucks and I, we're OK. So I'm glad of that too.
11: Ham Steak. Meaning of Life. Etc. Monday, June 11, 2012 This was unexpected. That there should still be weird food cravings popping up and triggering reminiscences, moods, and so on is not surprising at all of course but that I should find myself seized by a fierce craving, as of yesterday, for something that would never have even made it to a 'top few-hundred' list of my past favourite foods from any time period is odd. Especially as I'm also doing it in my head with pineapple, which I once used to assiduously remove from pizza or any such cooked or meaty environment. Pineapple? Yum. Ham? Yes, sometimes I used to be partial to a bit of cured pig, especially in that modern Anglo-Aussie seasonal Xmas ham way of things. Ham is after all related to bacon, that most notorious of gateway fleshes for former carnivores. Other foody items have popped up to spark a memory, spin me around for a while in reverie of something that turns out in my present hyper-connected-to-something state to have a revelatory and profound meaning for me, (NOTE to self; consider making a list, could be interesting) but none with the force of ham steaks. Grilled, with pineapple, and maybe a few starchy vegetable extras. Then the penny dropped. Long Pig. I'll back up a step. Naturally, I queried myself when the thought of ham steaks being delicious, toothsome and desirable, deeply, to my own fleshly being, down to the very ache in my bones, sprang - flooringly powerfully - from whence I know not. Had the thought as earlier; I never really liked ham steaks much anyway. They remind me somewhat of my father; he liked such things, and as a food I associate them with him. Maybe they were served on special Dad-treat occasions during my childhood. Certainly, again as was the modern tradition in the second half of the 20th Century in these parts, the Man Of The House was also Meat Master, including Lord Of The Annual Ham at Xmastime. It was a role I was aware of, tucked away in my future-self psyche down what was even then in early childhood a dark and uninviting passageway; the route down which I married young, and took my kids to see the fireworks for the year 2000 at the Sydney Opera House, imagining it as an already-worn family ritual. One day I would be The Man, in charge of things like Meat, and especially the sacred Ham, in my own House. The house that carried the name of my father. Truly though, even then I knew that wasn't going to happen. Ham steaks are different creatures entirely from, say, common or garden-variety sandwich ham, the kind you find cheaply the White Person world over and best disguised between industrial-grade white commercial bread and butter. Different too from the other end of the scale, the gourmet offerings from particular regions or locales, the finely sliced perhaps slightly smokey variety one may find layered in a lovely croissant with some good melted cheese. See there's a thing that would have made a top-fifty list for me, right there, a good quality ham and cheese croissant. Not only a classicly satisfying combination of all the flavours the Western palate has been raised this last hundred years
12: to crave, but one which features for me in so many happy times. It sits in a wonderful place in memory. Maybe top twenty-five even, thinking about it. But no, this is about the essential ham steak. Despite the varieties of ham available to mankind, the ham steak is pretty much a sameish thing. Pineapple is a classic combination for it in no small measure because the digestive qualities of the pineapple are perfectly attuned to assist the body in rendering that fats and proteins in the meat available to us, but also because it's one of the few flavours one could put beside the salty immensity of an inch thick chunk of cured fatty pig leg and not be completely overwhelmed or simply clash horribly. Some would argue that the latter is exactly the case anyway. It doesn't really matter how you cook it or what ham you use, a ham steak is a commitment to eat. It's already been through a whole lengthy process of becoming tasty, delectable cured piggy and now you're going to insult it by adding more fat (probably) and grilling it. | There is just so much wrong with this picture it's hard to know where to start. Or even where to look. This photo strikes me as a classically Australian idiosyncratic expose. | I wonder, would a ham steak on the smokier end of the flavour spectrum be good grilled, smeared with a dab of quince paste, then topped with a sort of tapenade paste of finely chopped kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes and crumbled goat's cheese? Cracked black pepper, fresh at the end. Crusty but light wholemeal loaf, with butter. Side dish of warm green bean and beetroot salad. Just a thought. But no, it's still the hunk of grilled ham, with pineapple, and the commitment of slicing into it with a knife and fork repeatedly, chewing and swallowing hunks of it until it has all been consumed. | For I do remember now that ham steak is something that was difficult to finish. By the end, it was just too intense. That much flavour is fine, but when it's an amount of meat normally associated with uncured, relatively bland cow flesh - a beef steak for example - I seem always to have felt some regret at having started in on a ham steak, those times it was a choice I made, at a BBQ, or something. Maybe if I had liked the pineapple back then, I don't know. Yes, I'm still starving. My actual weight seems more to be in conversion than dropping so much. What I mean is that my muscle mass is declining even further, but I'm retaining fluid in places, bloating and so forth. My diet has changed a little, with Meeta making my blends from a wider variety of things. My relationship with feeding continues to change and morph apace, and I find myself less and less wanting it. I am wedged in now; I cannot any longer feed any more than I do anyway, and my overall mass maintains its inexorable direction. Exactly what I'm putting in seems less important now by a huge degree, compared to only a week or two ago when I had the urge to cleanse and purge somewhat. But seriously, ham steaks? There just isn't enough history there for me personally to explain the depth of this one. I asked myself and did some semi-scientific postulation about what nutrients my body might be codedly signalling me for in the face of this starvation diet, and naturally one can make a case for protein, fat, salt, even the sugar. Maybe because it's such a dense flavour packet some part of my imagination is seeking magic fuel bullets with massive caloric and micronutrient impact ... nah. It just doesn't stand up. The penny did drop, though. And it's related to what my body craves nutritionally. I am wanting to eat my own self.
13: Long Pig is a term variously attributed to any one of a plethora of erstwhile (or perhaps even present-day) cannibalistic cultures who also made use of porcine flesh in their diets; most probably from the Marquesas Island area in Polynesia. It refers to human flesh, as it is said that the closest taste and texture match for we human folk is pig. And a ham steak is about as visceral and potentized a form of pig you can get. The pineapple only adds to its power. I am, very simply, craving beyond any food stuff now, I am craving the very fabric of my own flesh, for what the body recognizes at its deepest layers. The animal craves its own existence, carnally. Makes you wonder a bit more deeply about what exactly goes through the heads of people who find themselves suddenly, outside of any cultural context, faced with the question of eating a fellow person to stay alive. | (It's a moneybox. Geddit? ;-) | Penny dropped, a nasty dead and dull thud as if edge-on to a softwood kitchen table under a heavy cloth, the image and desire immediately began to ebb away, mercifully. But not before some bizarre clashes of imagery erupt startlingly, too floatingly surreal to attempt in words for you here I'm afraid. A 'you had to be there' moment or several. :-) What made the whole ham steak thing come upon me I cannot say. Can't recall a trigger anywhere. But I can tell you when that penny dropped; watching a program on TV about young women starting out, or contemplating, new lives as nuns. I shan't bother to explain. Anyway, thanks as always for bystanding in that special and supportive way you do. I'm glad that is over now. Because I really, really, don't like ham steaks. Never really did. Yet for a good twenty-four hours roughly, give or take, ham steak became one of the Most Important Things In All Creation. To me, that is. Cheers.
14: Custard Tarts Friday, June 8, 2012 | In my life's experience, there are two sorts of custard tarts. There are the Australian bakery-stock type, similar to the above, with their thin almost biscuity sweet crust and solid-wobbling canary-vivid yellow filling, dusted by the merest hint of what is at least generally referred to as nutmeg. And then there are those made by people who care, infinitely more subtle, varied, and satisfying to the senses. | All my life I've loved both these creatures, but for very different reasons. The industrial-quality tarts did duty for decades as a fill-in fuel source between regular mealtimes, often when I'd missed a meal, as a fast-to-eat sugar/fat/protein hit that fills you up for a while, and usually extremely cheaply too; an important factor in so many of my life's years. The choice of custard tart over some other sort of cheap bakery type item does relate to the other type of tart though, in that when you're plowing through the centre of your cold yellow mass straight out of the display fridge you are reminded of the existence of actually fine and magnificent gourmet custard tarts, albeit elsewhere in time and place, but there now in your mind nonetheless. One can momentarily transport oneself; 'upgrade' one's custard tart experience, perhaps, for just a moment. But also the joy is simple; luscious mouthfeel, sweetness, and the special satisfying heaviness that only comes from a cold custard. The finest of custard tart experiences, with the artisan variety, can be transporting in their own rights. I am now taken back to the finest custard tart moment of my life, early 2000s, NSW town of Bateman's Bay, we'd just moved there. How we came to be in Bateman's Bay is quite a story in itself, following a great unravelling series of seeming misfortunes and blunders, and it would be fair to say that when we arrived there we were not in exactly the most tip-top, resilient and sparkling shape. But it's a truly beautiful part of the world, and I had secured employment, we had a house to live in ... things were looking upwards now at any rate. | As I always had done, I made it a priority to discover the bakeries of the new town, and uncovered a fair-sized alfresco cafe/bakery that made and served a most eclectic array of baked sweets and savouries, doing a roaring trade to complement all the seafood restaurants in this coastal resort destination town. | These custard tarts were only small, definitely no larger around than a CD, But tall-sided in a puffier pastry. And you could see that the custard filling had been baked to a just-perfect consistency from the browned blistery layer caramelised on top. A gourmet baked custard tart must hover in its consistency right on the tipping point of the egg just starting to scramble, you want that almost-splitting textural delight on the tongue. The nutmeg had, and I saw it happen with my own eyes, been freshly grated on to the tarts. Everything about them was just right. Yes they were expensive. Yes we were so broke. But food is great like that. Sometimes food has that magical quality of enhancing a certain experience, of boosting a moment in time into the stuff of great and joyful memories, the recollection now of biting gently into the first tart I ever purchased from their counter that day. A half-cloudy sky, seagulls, the beautiful water's edge, and cashed-up enough to indulge in the very best that life has to offer. | I doubt I'd have remembered that day at all if not for that custard tart.
15: Inevitability Remains Monday, June 4, 2012 | True. That's what inevitability does, it remains. That's its job, to remorselessly, incessantly, be there as a future certainty. But it's an overused feeling, the feeling of inevitability, for only one thing consistently proves inevitable in human experience, doesn't it? | My last post had me running ahead of the curve somewhat; counterintuitively buying time (time to think, choose, act, etc) by hastening my physical demise consciously a little. It seemed I had found starvation point, the caloric intake at which I was comfortable enough, just, but still not noticeably losing weight. But weight is a funny thing, especially when it's 50kg hung on a once-6ft frame. I say "once-6ft" because I am somewhat bent and hunched now; even the discs of my spine are compressed tightly by this maddening disease. Weighing in today, full after a whole bunch of water, a feed, and with swollen ankles intactly swollen, I am a couple of kilos down. | That and the weakness, and I am brought back down immediately to my inevitability. This illness is taking mIt was painful, but also exquisitely beautiful. Two of the most wonderful, loving friends anyone could have hoped for in life, whom I have known for something like twenty-five years, and shared a great deal of time and heart with. What I did not expect was that in the tears after they had gone, I would find wracking sobs turn to laughter and utter joyousness. I was crying out great sobs of complete gratitude and happiness that I had met them, loved them, known them, and been known by them. And the letting go became easier. The memories aligned such that even the uglier ones, the things we all might once have regretted, said, done, not said, not done, all those things, they ... they just became part of the joyous whole. It was fabulously grievous, it hurt like anything. But it also filled me with love and happiness, and when it all calmed down enough, I felt a little bit lighter. A little bit more cleansed. Thank you both; you know who you are. And thank you again, dear reader, for bearing witness once more. y life, or put another, less combative way, I have no choices really anyway. Still, it was nice to have a few days there where I could sit and feel more empowered to choose my moment, as it were. But now ... no such luxury of illusion. My stomach and GI tract generally have already adapted to the new volumes and experience tells me that there can be no reversal. This won't stretch out. I can't feed any more than I do now. That is to say, already it transpires that I cannot feed enough. That's fine. I still plan on choosing a moment to stop. Choosing is totally the wrong word, actually. What I mean is identifying, yes, identifying the moment. Being There for it. Making it something concrete, acknowledging it as a passing. As a Moment. Remembering now (and thank you O Big Everything for reminding me so clearly again) that I have no say in its inevitability, of course. I said a goodbye today. It was my first "I'm never going to see you again" moment. (I shall insert the lack of inevitability disclaimer here just for form's sake however; you never know). I don't know that I'm going to have much left to say from now on. Maybe. Maybe not. Time, after all, waits for no man. Wherever you are as you read this, whatever else is going on, please just take a single deep breath in and hold it for a moment, and as you let it out, just feel a bit loved. And remember you can do that anytime.
16: Event Horizon. And It's Beige. Friday, June 1, 2012 3 cups of rolled oats, soaked overnight. 50 grams or so of almonds or sunflower seeds, soaked with the oats. 3 kiwifruit. About 60ml of olive oil. Blended with the soaking water and a little sea salt, water added up to 2 litres. | This along with a bit less than two cups of kefir per day lasts me four days. About 450 calories per day. I have discovered my starvation point, and this is it. Any less than this and I noticeably suffer, get weak and incapable, etc. This is survival rations now; the brutal calculus of my survival. And it's a totally love/hate thing. It's taken me a while to settle here in what I now think of as my cell, in the sense of a monk's cell, my exit room. Part of it is that my nature was not letting me properly rest until I had settled something about the question of weaning off from food. Basically, I had to find this exact point. It is my bear, you know, like with the old Inuit woman in the story. It's the Thing. The line, switch, button, beyond which every increment is anti-body. Destructive. It is the event horizon. The other thing in the room here with me. You could just say it is death, even. Now it and I can sit together properly, and look at each other. I feel now a sense of arrival, and indeed even a sense of being welcomed warmly. It is one of the main reasons I had to leave home, in the sense of my house, to do this. There was such horrendous grief and sadness and terror when it came, when it happened, when I first properly saw it. But I had help, and comfort, and Meeta helped me through it. Little doubt there is more like that to come, but also now I see so much more than that. I sit there, hands slightly trembling, concentrating on the task of pouring the thinner-than-crepe-batter beigeness into my syringe, utterly adoring, feasting, genuinely worshipping this scant concoction of life energies, of sustenance. It is my nectar, the one remaining thread by which I stay alive here, and how could I not love that? Food, in the final analysis, is life. Everything is either eating or being eaten. Food or feaster. And it stands in the road of where I'm headed, by the power of my attachment. There is the rub. But like I mentioned, the terrors and the lamentations this time passed, and in the wake came cleansing, and more truth. It is a brutal calculus now, because it has come down to a single-line equation. The one that asks the question how long will I hang on? It's an easy one to overthink, the drawing of lines about where my own 'will' starts and ends and where I intersect with inevitables and circumstances so it is such a massive relief to find this space. I can answer this question now, I know it. It's a question asked of a part of my being that is inexpressible in words. For it is about complete surrender; surrender of words as well, you see. That's it now.
17: Me, comfortable and relaxed in my room here. I feel secure now. I can see clearly my immense attachment. My sheer animal instinct to hang on. And the burden I have accumulated of life's suffering, as if to balance that somehow. I have given myself freedom, is what I'm trying to say, I finally realise. I am allowing myself to simply be here with my attachment, to sit and look at how much it is my being wants to hang on to life. To meditate on that liquidy beige that is the one last thing. There is no pressure, I am fine and supported to be here because for the first time I totally trust that the timing is actually all completely perfect. It is still hard to do at times. It does still hurt and I am sometimes afraid. But I feel safe with that. Me here, in my cell. With the door to the world outside. There are birds. Loving the beige going in. And just looking at that. | Until I find that moment of final surrender and step irrevocably into the event horizon. Until then, it seems that comfort will mainly be my companion, for which I most immensely, humbly, grateful. I hope your day is a good one too. | Ritual Timing (Notes from TWATEOTU #5) Monday, May 28, 2012 | They come at dinner time, quite often, other peoples' visitors. I only really noticed it this evening, the correlation. Sometimes family members will come to help feed a fellow traveller here on The Ward At The End Of The Universe; very often it's the last and only thing they can meaningfully do for them. I guess I missed noticing this timing thing because my own relationship with mealtimes and rituals of food has become so estranged from the average these last few years. | It's great that visiting hours are so flexible down this end of the hospital, and it couldn't be this way if we weren't an effectively separate wing from the main wards, although after regular hours we share the same single entrance and exit. It means that family and loved ones can come and go as needed by their own circumstances and feelings, and not be bothersome for those elsewhere needing a more defined period of clinical rest as they recover, or recuperate. Things we don't do much of down here. Often, whole family groups will converge and share a mealtime. It happens regularly that the person who is the ostensible reason for their visiting is not even a part of or included in the event; they may stay asleep or otherwise in repose in their room while the tribe mill about and perform their rituals of food sharing and bonding in the common room. I wonder what they make of me, sometimes. There they all are, the whole cast of characters displaced from the
18: Or in the late mornings, as the visitors of others gather around that other ritual food time, when I come in with a plastic cup and a spoon and a syringe. That might be difficult for some folks to watch I suppose, but I do not feel insensitive to their feelings or needs. It merely is what it is when I pour some boiling water over a spoonful of coffee and a smearing of my home-brought medicinal herb butter and fill the cup up with kefir from my stash in the fridge, stir, plug in and tube-feed it right there leaning by the sink just like I'd do in my own home. Clean up. Shuffle back out. I nearly never get commentary, and am seldom even kindly questioned. I guess it's just too outside the norm to fit. And any visitor here is by simple virtue of being here not in their usual social headspace. What would you think, seeing this, in the absence of any information than what your eyes shows you? It's such a great leveller though, the presence of dying. I never feel like I'm really intruding on their grief or privacy or group space, because in large part there is no territory that can be claimed here. The ownership of space is necessarily even more deeply transient than a hospital ward not because of quick turnover of patients or anything suchlike; rather because of the relative finality of relinquishing such space as we clients inhabit (and thus claim by proxy for our visitors) while we are still breathing the air here. There is often slight awkwardness; although one encounters precious glimpses of emotions and personal depths rarely displayed or allowed in public it never seems to rear up as an issue or a problem. Even in great distress there is this overlaying code of acceptance. Of sharing, of egalitarianism, and above all of the desire for peace. That's it. A desire for peace. In the face of what can only really be defined by a passing observer, like the visitor of another, as impending death, the thing that underpins any interaction is that single basic assumption: That we all in the end just want peace. Peace be with you. | Sunday barbecue and transported against their instinctive preference to a place of pilgrimage and reverence, to an afternoon or evening of familial duty, making the strange world of death and dying with its pinging appliances and its encouraged quietude somehow all their own by spreading plates about a large table and performing one of mankind's most ancient and essential rites of togetherness. As I shuffle in, cachexic and bent but smiling, nodding to each and mouthing hellos in a way that I hope indicates I cannot speak and do not wish to intrude; little red plastic jug in hand I make my way across the scene to the fridge and measure out some liquidy beigenesses from flasks and add some hot water from the kettle. Shuffle slowly out again, carefully concentrating on not spilling things. It's clear I am a client, not a visitor. What different things must they all think - if any pause to imagine my life at all, that is.
19: New Old Hand (or Notes from TWATEOTU #4) Sunday, May 27, 2012 OK, well, I'm here now. It's taken a few days to settle my head in properly this time, because this time it really is very different. Almost identical to any one of the dozens of times I have previously come to stay at respite in terms of how I packed, what I brought, what had to be done behorehand, but then it's the teeny differences that give the game away. For this time I have not come to stay a spell at respite; I have moved to Hospice. I arrived on Thursday afternoon as planned, carrying the same bags I always carried, into the same room they put me in whenever it's available, 8D. It's at the end of the row of four more-or-less identical rooms on the wing, and is wonderful at this time of year because it alone of the four gets late afternoon sunlight streaming in. It also tends to be the quietest, being furthest from the common kitchen/dining room. Really, just like home. In fact, now, it is home. | The thing that feels most different now is my sense of comparative self when I consider my neighbours, of whom there are currently two, both women. I'd not really consciously noticed it before, but previously I'd tend to assume that my neighbours would more likely than not be leaving - permanently, that is - before I did, as I expected to return home as my next thing. Now I have no such assumption whatsoever. At one point yesterday afternoon, as I lay half-dozing and half-listening to another round of Loud Talking Family Continually Trying Very Hard To Quieten Down The Kids From Squalling, Really, Sorry, We're Trying, I was suddenly seized by a maddeningly itchy curiosity to know my neighbours' prognoses. | I know, horrible, right? In the middle of all this profound realness, bathed in the sidelight of our humble ward's proximity to the glow of the Other Side, my ego still wants to rank itself longevity-wise against its peers. Pathetically habitual. It didn't last long, but boy did I notice its fierceness as it arose. It was the part of me that looks to know the pecking order; nothing more sinister than that old social habit. We all do it, scan the entire proximal human landscape with our finest sensor arrays and seek to position ourselves in an internal landscape that matches pleasingly with our self-perceptions/delusions if possible just so as we can be comfortable making human contact. But seriously, playing who's sickest? Sure, I'm sure it's natural, it's just that I never looked at it before. I was always in some ways still just a visitor, with all the usual disclaimers about certainty in life in place as usual. Now I realise I am in fact one of those folks whose names I'd see repeatedly over the months. In, out, back for longer or shorter ... then here for one last visit. Sometimes those last visits would announce themselves symptomatically, and you knew from the sound of things - or sometimes from the giveaway presence of a tidal wave of family - that it would be a short stay. Other times you just knew they were here "until." I am now here "until." Of the three of us, I am the "old hand." I'll keep y'all posted.
20: Lasts and lasts and lasts... Wednesday, May 23, 2012 So it's official, tomorrow I essentially relocate to Hospice as my home for the final run. I'll come home some days for visits (probably nicer to see visiting friends at home too) but tonight will be my last night asleep in my bed. My. Last. Night. The last couple of days I have tried to really go into this feeling of doing things for the last time ever - with the background proviso that nothing is ever certain etc etc - and yet have failed to experience any truly profound poignancy or even sense of great loss about it. When you know you're leaving your home for good, there are so many, many lasts you never thought of before. The thing is, it just doesn't seem to matter now. | The view from my armchair. Nice, eh? That's my Echinocactus grusonii in a pot. It's my favourite plant, so Meeta brought it up. Soil from home, and all that. I have had it since it was smaller than a golf ball. | Maybe one day it will grow up to be a big fine specimen like one of these, eh? | I guess doing things 'for the last time' is something we mainly experience in the past tense, as we look back at a moment and identify it as the last time we did X or Y and know that in all likelihood we'll not be X-ing or Y-ing ever again. That can give rise to nostalgia, wistfulness, longing even, probably because we can instantly lament such a loss - it's gone. Then again, maybe it's just practice. Or attrition. It could be that as my illness and journey has been so incremental and inexorable, with me having to lose and let go of one ability or experience after another, over years, that I've just worn down all the sticking-up lumps and bumps of care and attachment - that my plane of interaction with this stuff is smooth at last - or that I've simply become super-efficient at the process through practice. You know, that old 10,000 hour rule. Spend enough time at something and it becomes innate.
21: I think for a loss to be truly painful you really have to want not to lose the thing in question. That's probably it. And stepping out a few paces, turning around and looking back at myself, I see a guy who wants to lose this stuff. Who is ready to just stop caring about little attachments like the comforts and familiarities of home. It's a wonderful little house, and we have made it a loving home. But it's not right for me to do my end-stage dying here. It simply isn't. Home is a thing one carries within oneself anyway, I often feel. Home is that thing I have made up of Meeta, our house and garden, the things we habitually do together and for each other, and of course the animals. The physical stuff is the stuff I see as going now. And to do the next spiritual step, I must leave home, in a sense greater than just the physical. That's a good way to describe it today, actually. Dying is where we leave behind the substitute Homes we create here in Life, to return to the Home that encompasses All Things. Leave the small and re-enter the big. | So now as I notice myself noticing 'lasts' I am getting a wry chuckle going inside. Friends have asked is it deep, is it depressing, is it joyful, is it ... all sorts of thing they have asked. The answer is yes to all, it is all those things. But each lasts merely a fraction of a moment, long enough only to be noted. There is no lament. There is no grim clinging. There is no resentment or even childish grumpiness. There is just a silly little laugh at myself that I could have spent so many decades on this planet actually caring about some of the minute and inconsequential things my life got all filled up with. So pity not the letting go. I'm not really going to miss doing the dishes, really. | Lastly, speaking of lasts, it's also time for the last run at raising enough dough that Meeta has as unstressful a ride as possible with my funeral arrangements. The fund has gone well, and indeed much has already been spent towards making things easier post-mortem. But if you can spare a dime, or are (or know of) a secretly wealthy benefactor who can help with more than a little change in these in-parts-difficult financial times, it would make me very, very happy and grateful. Here is the link where you can contribute. And I can let go of this thing too, at last. Thank you.
22: Calamari But first, The Plan; a little necessary update Where I'm at presently is home, which is nice enough. Lovely to be back here after the long hospice stay, but alas that too shall pass. And pass soon enough. But the Plan as at now is that really I'm about to leave home as home, and be far more at hospice (I shan't be calling it respite any longer from now, I think) than here. Come here for day-stays and such, but get myself a 'permanent' room Up There. For as is the way of all of existence, things have changed some more. The details are unnecessary and sort of irrelevant, once parsed and passed along; the effective outcome is to bring my final line of crossing that much closer. The line beyond which I do not take nourishment - eat - at all. Food will all be gone, and by that action, so shall I be; just a little while later. Explicitly, I am reducing even further my caloric intake, but cleansing as well as I go along. Much like one feeds one's escargot a cleansing diet before their planned ending (heliculturists refer to it as 'purging') I am cleansing the old insides too. This may vary but right now it's the Ayurvedic standby of brown rice, mung beans (sprouted before cooking), supportive herbs and spices, ghee and maybe one type of vegetable only. | It struck me afresh the other day that food is how we are made. It's what we're built of. My entire life is due to food. And it seems entirely fitting to look back on my life through the prism of food, precisely because of the means I face to meet my end - the end of food. Here's what I think I'm going to do. I'm going to take those fleeting memories or inspirations I still have about food, about specific food ingredients I think, and use that as a point to take me on a story through wherever it leads me. And write it here as I go. I think we might all like a bit of that, mightn't we? Not like I could burn it or put too much chili in and you'd still have to be all polite and say "oh, no, really it's very tasty ... " eh? :-) | Tuesday, May 22, 2012
23: So, calamari. I LOVE calamari; specifically meaning food made of the (usually cooked) flesh of squid. It holds a very special place in my memory too, because it sits as one of my very first 'special' foods. You know, special as in a luxury choice rather than a basic staple. In my case, battered fried calamari rings instead of the then-much-cheaper slab of fried fish with our Friday night fish & chips. I understand this is a bit of an Aussie thing though. I would again suspect our Italian and Greek waves of immigrants for blessing our shores with the revelation that this marvellously tasty morsel is even edible, let alone deliciously so. I have eaten it more ways than I could count and can settle on no one favourite dish. It's also one of those foods that is embarassingly easy to cook just right, yet is so heartbreakingly often ruined by clumsy cookery. And less-than perfect calamari is a dismal offering let me tell you. There is little else in the world as disappointing as tough, rubbery calamari when you were all set for a tender scrumptious mouthful of bliss. My reverie on this textural delicacy was triggered by one of those humdrum daytime cooking programs targetted at the SAHM demographic, so there was not much fancy going on compared to the evening time foodie-first offerings. Simply fresh squid, washed and cleaned, tubes sliced nicely, dusted in flour and dropped in hot oil. DONE. That is all it needs. To get all cheffy though, the guy made a lemon aioli, basically a lemony garlic mayonnaise. Now normally, I am of the opinion that the ubiquity of the fish+lemon pairing in modern cookery is nought but a fad outlived its time. Deeper down I think many | people use lemon to mask the 'fishiness' of many types of seafood, protecting their coddled, narrowed palates from any subtleties or nuances arising from the flesh itself, especially when we're talking about the battered stodge that passes for most Australians' fish intake. To me, the lemon just kills most fish. But with calamari, it is almost the perfect accompaniment, in moderation. Yeah, I missed calamari. I'm over it now. As a little kid it did make me feel grown-up and special to choose the calamari (and to call it calamari, not just "squid rings") and later in life I would as often as not take the gamble in restaurants that they'd get it right and order something like a chargrilled baby calamari salad. There is something about eating the baby calamari that is just very, very honest. It's a terribly explicit thing to do, to put the entire tube and tentacular array of a baby beast in your mouth, like you were some apex predator monster-of-the-deep (oh, wait, um ... ;-) and risk angering the Great Mother Squid next time you go to sea, or something. I cannot recall the last time I had calamari exactly, but it was in Bunbury, takeaway from the fish & chip shop, and I enjoyed it. Thanks, squid. | Do you like squid? More importantly, who would win a fight between a giant squid and a big tractor? :-)
24: No man left behind.(Notes from TWATEOTU #3) Saturday, May 12, 2012 One of our number departed early this morning; I heard her go. Well, not exactly. What happened was that I awakened, unusually, at just after 7AM feeling completely perfect, fine and refreshed, and even my room seemed full of light. Except the sun wasn't properly up yet. Then I heard it, what could only be the sound of the daughters I have come to know a little in the shared kitchen reacting to their mother's NOW finality. I stood for a moment, paid my silent respects to my erstwhile neighbour, and went back to sleep. By the time I left my room at 10 the room was empty, cleaned and changed, the whiteboard by the door erased too, all the people drained away to other places. | I'd been seeing clues. This lady, I'd been told, really liked her sweet foods, and one of her daughters was bringing in treats of chocolate cake, and jellies, and icecreams, and ... they were starting to pile up a bit in the fridge, untouched, the last three or four days. There is a sense of camaraderie down here on the ward, most especially amongst the clients. Although we do not converse generally, I fancy that we consider each other from time to time, and that there must be for each of us at least some sense of a kinship of the dying. So I figure my other remaining neighbour, she who was previously nameless but whose whiteboard has lately sprouted both a single name and a childlike drawing of a 'nanna' face, felt the loss of One Of Us in some way too. And now she is doing That Breathing Thing, and the numbers of quiet new visitors are growing as the day goes on. Word must have gotten around that the time is soon. Meditating on time the other day as you do, simply noting just how much of my life involves knowing what time it is - a glance at a clock happens so frequently - yet having no good reason to know, the wall clock in my room suddenly threw itself off the wall to its noisy death in shards of cheap plastic and machine parts six feet below. Just like that. Now I can no longer glance at a clock and have to consciously look at my watch. I discover it only takes that little bit of marginal discomfort and effort (tight long sleeves in this weather and dodgy hands means no casual wrist flick glance, I have to drag the darn thing out and down and remove any sunglasses because I can't read the screen through polarised lenses) to entirely change my behaviour. I just hardly ever look. Timekeeping was just like so many other things, a dance of habit, of empatterning, of rhythm and tesselation. Grown-up version of rocking oneself in the cradle, I suppose.
25: Time down here on the ward does not match time outside anyway. If you are very gentle with yourself, if you can carefully breathe off all the accreted layers of preconception and belief about How Things Are, you can detect time running in different ways for different folks down here, we clients especially. Some of the old-hand nurses see it quite clearly. It is they who make timely phone calls to gather family members, etc. Apparently, my observed time has changed lately too. Still, I enjoy the idea of our little corps of dying comrades down here on TWATEOTU, that we operate to that (US Maries Corp I think) creed of "No Man Left Behind." By which I mean "all are welcome to join the death space, unjudged. You shall not be left out alone." I suspect that by the time I go home Monday, I might be leaving an empty ward though. And that's the other thing we all have so poignantly in common: No-one can say for sure. | After The Fall; A Story. Wednesday, May 9, 2012 OK, so here's a story. Story, as in fiction. If there is such a thing as autobiographical fantasy fiction, I suppose this is it. I've toyed with 'outing' this story for quite some time now, partly because I do not know if it is any good as a piece of writing, but more because ... well, with some fantasies once you speak them they can never come true. You'll see what I mean. Right then. (Breathes in, breathes out.) Here starteth the story: | It's such a quiet and beautiful place out here, but the sky plays funny tricks on you. Driving all those miles across the flatlands, the big blue seems to swing between being a cool wedge above you, almost oppressive, as the tall whipcane and dense shrubs press close to the road, then suddenly it splits completely apart like the pages of a book falling fully open as the taller scrub rhythmically clears, and you can see forever – the heavens now a majestic, immeasurable lightness all around. I'm glad we came. Then you come to the gorge, another sudden thing. There is no warning, no real incremental change in the complex patchwork monotony of intertwined tall scrub and flat low desert grassland; you just, well, you reach a carpark. And there it is. That arching infinitude of sky now plays another trick when you step out of the van and walk to the edge; you can feel it pouring in to the massive cleft – you can almost imagine the potent air rolling about the chasm of ancient fossil beds and red rocks like a second river above the silvered thread of water that runs far below, the sometimes-mighty Murchison. It's like the sky has vertigo.
26: I wonder what B's thinking now. I bet it's something like “What will I tell her?” or “How will I tell her?” Maybe not. Maybe he's not thinking much at all just at this moment; just letting it all sink in. It's very early in the day after all, and we sat up late last night around the campfire not saying much, just enjoying the peace and the sky, so maybe there's some thought like “Well, it's not like there's any hurry to sort it all out now.” Probably though, underneath it all, B's really pissed off at me, as well as sad. I would be if it were the other way around, but I know that he knew that I knew that he knew that this moment, or something like it, or even totally different but with the same end result, could have happened at any time on one of our trips. It does not strike me as especially odd that I find myself unable to read B's thoughts; nothing new there. It does strike me as odd that I find myself here at all though. I am dead, after all. B must feel so incredibly alone right now, out here at the edge, looking down unseeing, knowing that somewhere down there my torn and useless body lies silent and still – I wonder if he can only imagine it whole, or if he has more horrendous visions, you know, of parts and flesh and bones sticking out and such. Of course, he is in no real doubt about what has actually taken place, he is as sure as anyone could ever be right now, but to have this burden placed so brutally on his shoulders, to feel this loss, this hurtful love, and undoubtedly some sense that he must now do the right thing also, well, it's not something one could ever take lightly. I may not be able to read his mind or his heart, but I can still feel, I notice, and I do feel for him deeply. And too I feel deeply that he will do what's required, in his own way, perfectly. Such a friend, even now. It's funny, as I got sicker and slowly more and more limited, the 'Lotto Dreaming' changed. You know, most people have it; the instant set of answers to the questions of what you'd do first if you got a large lump of money suddenly. Better house with leafier views and more quiet, that stayed. Philanthropic ambitions towards helping my fellow-travellers and our planet stayed. But things like new cars and travel plans changed a lot, as it became obvious that I wouldn't even be | able to drive a car soon. I'd let go on motorbikes already, as it got too dangerous riding my last bike. But the urge to travel did not abate, as I've always loved to move through the landscape, and seek connection with the earth and her people in different places and ways. Nature travel, that's me. And when I thought of travel, I thought sometimes of travel as a couple, and other times of travel without her. I'd imagine special places experienced together, a refreshing of our loving bond in the cathedrals of the world away from civilization, in the forests and on the coastlines. And equally, of visiting such sacred places as just me. But I'd need a travelling companion for that, either way. There was always going to be a clear first choice, old friend B. So you can imagine my delight when a little money did come our way, and my weird joy that it was, in perfect reflection of the modus moriendi currently expressed in my illness, not an extravagant sum but instead just enough to do a little more with life. Improve the house a little. Upgrade the car a little. Do a little travel. Importantly, not to have to concern ourselves with the usual bills and such for a few years if well-husbanded. Just the right amount, really. So re-started my adventures with B. We used to live in the same town and once were thick as thieves, living an oddball bromance as extrovert cafe-culture cognoscenti, doing life as art and damning the consequences, he the errant artist and me the young gadabout musician. Japes and scrapes, beauty and abandon, all that romantic stuff without the homoerotic undertones. Times changed but our connection only deepened, even when we moved apart. We found ourselves in the same city again later on, and began a new chapter of our odd and intense little friendship.
27: And again, apart. Always there for each other in spirit, if not fleshly available. We had the sort of friendship that spawned its own culture of in-joke and innuendo, language and the transcendence of language, and the sort of mutual respect that can only come from knowing precisely what it is about the other that really gives you the shits and which you judge so harshly, acting it out, and getting over it. Letting each others' sleeping dogs lie comfortably, whilst not transgressing our own moralities and ways. Where you can spend the whole day being an asshat if you need to be, and knowing that your friend will see straight through it, and be OK anyway. Then there was the thing about The Road. We'd often hatched great dreams of travelling adventures, many times designed around some artistic notion or endeavour or event but mainly just for the fun of it. Thus is was that we started our first little trips together. It worked out that buying a decent older large campervan with a view to re-selling later on, or maybe giving it to B at The End, was going to be smarter than hiring. And then you can have fun with fitout. Ours had an annexe attachment too, so there was a whole extra canvas room where B would usually sleep, unless he slept out under the stars, which happened a lot as we chased fair skies whenever possible. The first shakedown trip was a blast, all full of laughter and giggles and good weather – and enough space for he and I to properly see how well I was able to manage this and that, to adjust to a new relationship reality. For as much as we were equal friends, there was always underneath the issue to be settled, of transactions. He was driver, and in a large way carer. Contributed no money. I covered our costs and was essentially looked after. Decisions were mainly mine, based on where I wanted to go and how much travel I could manage on any given day. It took time for it all to be OK, for the power dynamics to go away. For us to feel out and accept the unseen edges, those things that need to go unspoken so often; like exactly how much monetary freedom there was, and wasn't, when it was only one of us doing the paying. Forests and beaches and the wonderful nostalgia of sitting in a sidewalk cafe, the two of us as of | old, in what amounts to eccentric dress and style most everywhere we go, especially when I have my coffee in a “small jug, double shot espresso, a dash of cold milk” through my feeding tube. All those years spent idling, 'contributing culture' as we liked to say, in a cosmopolitan port city, now writ small and a little gentler, but no less close and alive, in small towns along the way. Parking the van in a fine quiet spot in the bush nice and early, making a fire and not talking until tomorrow, as the stars come out and wheel about. Driving down “that road there” because it looks like it might be a more fun way to get close to our originally intended daily destination. Some days not having one at all. After all, at every moment, for me at least and often poignantly for B I'm sure as well was the underlying knowledge that this would likely be my last time here. My last time anywhere, even. Right at the outset, I had laid it out: my illness might rear up and suddenly make me very ill, threatening to kill me, and possibly doing so in a quickish fashion. That was fine by B, naturally, in theory. But what to do in such a moment? I had to be explicit, to feel safe. If it was a case of creeping 'unwellness' then we'd manage it in real-time, and head homewards if possible. Hospitals were to be a very last resort. In all other cases, there was to be no panic, and no resuscitation. I may for example begin to choke on my own secretions and be unable to clear them. It would be ugly to watch me drown, but there it is. One of the whole deep meanings of our travels for me was to live out the dream of “at any moment,” and to walk a meditation on “in any place.” B needed to be OK that he might have me die on him at some point. Typically, he allowed that he might do the same. Snap. Philosophical intent notwithstanding, we had forged through the years a most loyal trust, and with this sprinkling of sunlight, this little explicit commentary, it was recharged and avowed afresh. He would be my friend as I died too, and I his, if it came to that. We would allow each other choices that included not being 'saved'.
28: We used to be such talkers. Then as my speech got harder and harder and eventually all but disappeared, we fell more and more silent together. B was still happy to ramble and be heard on whatever topic took his fancy, especially when he'd had a toke at the end of a day's driving, and I was happy to listen and nod and enjoy. It rather polished my own habits of speech really, the difficulty of it. Timing was impossible, so I became a speaker (using my text-to-speech program on my smartphone mainly) of one-liners. Zen-like utterances. Pithy witticisms. Such speech tends towards the surreal, really, and after a time it became a habit of the mind, to think in shorthand as well. That's what led to me one day mentioning, as we drove, that “An accidental demise would be just so much neater, all things considered.” I watched B's face as he took this in, his eyes ahead on the road, poker face in place. I caught just the slightest micro-flash of twinkle before he abruptly and expertly flinched at the wheel, wobbling our van alarmingly for a moment, then bestowed upon me his beamiest and most mischievous, loving smile. It said “I'm with you, brother. I get it.” The details we once would have chatted about, back-and-forth, for hours, enumerating all the practical, emotional, personal, omenological any and all the reasons that a sudden death would trump this agonising lingering that had become my life, and just as importantly, defined so much of the lives of others. One other in particular. Oh, the relief to know that she is free of the attrition at last. The wind blew quite hard last night for an hour or two, enough to polish the top layer of dust around the campsite and remove all yesterday's foot prints and scratching, if not the tyre tracks. So what an observer from up here would see, surveying the scene from above, is very little, in terms of clues. Footsteps fro the van to the fire and back, a few times. A dead-end trail to the edge of the scrub, still the odd droplet splashmark at the end of it, under the shrubs, if you were to look closely. And two sets of footprints only leading from the fire to the edge of the gorge; one of which of course is B's. | He squats on his haunches, curling in upon himself a little, sobbing gently now. Again I am keenly aware of just how much I feel for him right now, feelings clearer and stronger than those I had only yesterday, when I and my body were all of a piece. The hurt is profound, and I am sorry. I feel no remorse, I am not sorry for what has happened, but I am sorry for B's pain. I wonder if I will see her again now. I do not feel pain for her. Perhaps because this is not yet real for her. It's right there, right up close in his face, you can see the lines and ridges reflected in his glasses. Stands up at length, stretches a little, wipes his eyes and drops his hands heavily to his sides. B looks out and up, far away, then his gaze slowly, slowly lowers. From the horizon, the opposite side of the gorge, down through the strata of fossil layers, back in time, playing along the sparkling kinks and bends of the river, down to his feet. He breathes in slowly, deeply, knowing he is not thinking this all through properly, but that it doesn't matter, this is right. Breathes out. You can see the tingle of fate about him, you know this is one of those moments where lives turn and gyre into their new directions. Watches himself as if from above, as if from where I am, pushing one foot forward. Shuffles it out to the side, and then in one-two sweeping motion erases the five letters written there in the sand with a stick, in clear hand, only very recently: “I fell.”
29: Entropy Ensues (Notes from TWATEOTU #2) Monday, May 7, 2012 When mention is made of what is often referred to as "the Law Of Entropy", more correctly known as the Second Law Of Thermodynamics, people tend to gloss over the important first part and simply reduce it to "Entropy tends to always increase". Now it might well be that such a statement holds true, but the law itself clearly explains that "The entropy in any isolated system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases." So we're talking about closed systems, something around which one can put some sort of boundary, and of course it is an eternally open philosophical question whether such a system might ever be said to exist, or conversely whether it might be that the entirety of Everything is indeed a closed system. Then there's the fudge: " ... almost always increases." Why not always? Surely a Law must be universally applicable to be held up as a Law? Well yes, but this is a special case as we're talking about the forces of chaos, that dynamism from which order spontaneously seems to arise and into which order seems almost always destined to decay. Anything can happen with chaos, and entropy. | You may recall my application of the scientific method to form an hypothesis explaining why I always get delivered either exactly 15ml or exactly 17ml of my PRN pain medication. It was dependent not just on the (to date consistent) personal preference of each nurse, but a factor of the pairing of nurses who brought me the dose. Remember that nurses themselves had shown they were consistently either '15' or '17' deliverers by personal nature: That if I got two '17' nurses, I'd get a 17ml dose, if I got one of each type, I'd get a 17ml dose, and only if I got two '15' nurses would I get a 15ml dose. Never over, under, or in between. Chaos, or perhaps entropy, has reared up and spoiled the neatness. You might have read about the 'observer effect' in quantum and particle physics where the actions of the observer inexplicably affect the outcome of the experiment - maybe such a thing has happened here, for in the last 36 hours or so things have shifted. Twice I got a 15ml dose when delivered by a '15' and a '17' nurse. Different '17' nurse each time, but same '15' nurse. I have counted, and it seems there are on rotation some five '15' nurses. Looks like what we have here is a rogue 'Alpha 15', one whom the other nurses defer to in this matter at least. Her place in the social hierarchy, and in the professional hierarchy too, would seem to add weight to this notion. One of the older hands here, and universally loved and respected by staff and patients alike, so it seems. Then this morning ... unmistakably, 18!
30: As a kid, I was not especially tidy, at least according to my mother. But I have always tried to cultivate tidy habits of mind, and enjoy my own internal games of applying tesselation and rhythm to the minutiae of the everyday. Somewhere along the way I became a physically tidy person too, you know the sort about whom one's work colleagues actually make comment on the state of one's desk. The sort that maddens his wife through a sometime inability to simply | walk past a messy and (to my mind) potentially hazardous array of dirty dishes and kitchen rubbish, having compulsively to tidy it to a certain standard. Just a little CDO (that's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder arranged alphabetically, the way it *should* be lol) you might say. That's why noticing such patterns in life as the 15/17 things tickles my fancy, it connects with a deeply-carved pattern with which I engage in the world; that of seeking patterns consciously. Increasingly though, it's the breakdown that interests me. Because every single judgement call I make on it is, ultimately, exactly right and exactly wrong. Every pattern that pops up proves, when seen from a different viewpoint in space or time, to be also a signal of the dissolution of some other pattern. Chaos and order simultaneously. I realise that these two forces are not even really things; they are entirely relativistic. Nor do they really turn me on. What I'm seeking is the heart of entropy, which is tempting to view as akin to order emerging from chaos (temperature tending ever more towards sameness) but then when we step back, we know that difference cyclically emerges from sameness. Somewhere in there, in between the tendency to order, and the tendency to disorder, through a mechanism that is half entropy and half - well, way back when I started this blog I thought I could do no better than describe it as 'light' - is the line that divides life and death, I think. From the perspective of someone alive, anyway.
31: They say you are supposed to go towards the light. For me to get there it seems like the path leads through the darkling lands of entropy, ripe with humus and the squelching substrate of metamorphosis underfoot. Recall the light in a deep forest,late in the day. How sharp those swords of sunlight slanting beneath the branches, sparking in your eyes and giving shape to the gentle air with its freight of dusts and creatures of the bteeze, all ultimately giving in to the inexorable logic of gravity and their own place in things. Sometimes in the morning as I lay not yet fully awake I like to imagine I am in a bed made up of the forest floor. I imagine my blankets as a soft, warm layer of earth and turf, my bedhead a mighty tree, my head resting on a buttressing root. There is a gentle light, and butterflies. Maybe a browsing kangaroo. Quite often I also see half-buried an old skeleton of some small animal, the bones so starkly designed compared to the random clutter of the leafy forest floor. It feels so welcoming and safe and ... grounded. There, deo volente, and happily, go I. | Notes from the Ward At The End Of The Universe, 1. Saturday, May 5, 2012 | Max was gone when I arrived this time. Down here in the satellite ward, our little 4-room hospice and respite wing, we each have a whiteboard outside our doors. Usually it will have the occupant's name, and it might have a message such as "PLEASE limit visitors to 3 at a time" or some other such caring admonishment. More often the boards are decorated by loved ones, especially the kids, with drawings and notes, and hearts, like a giant 'get well' card, except minus the 'get well' bit. | Max had been here I think nearly 3 months, and in that time I'd not met him. We don't typically meet, we clients (that being the preferred term to 'patients' these days), except perhaps by accident and through strange channels. Immediate neighbours get to know each other's television preferences for example. And it's not done to ask about other patients, especially down this end of the building. Max's whiteboard did not tell me his surname, but said in one place "Max The Music Man" and in another "Max The Muleskinner" and featured a particularly bad drawing of a guitar, all anatomically incorrect, surrounded by hearts and "love you grandpa"s. Max was old but not very, and had some disease that was killing him incrementally. He did not seem in much pain. Of course, with just these few clues the temptation is to run wild with speculation as to who Max is, what amazing things a musician/muleskinner might have lived to do and see, but here ... what I am seeking in connection is a small and simple feeling-out thing. Like an auric touch, or something. Max had many visitors, but more and more wished he didn't. That last time two weeks ago I noticed, on my peregrinations past his door, shuffling to and from the kitchen, he would usually be just sitting on the side of his bed, back turned, staring out the door. I understand he did not go home. Or rather one might say he went Home.
32: I'd gotten used to Max, the faces of his regular guests making tea in the kitchen. There's an odd combination of distance and immediate intimacy when someone like me - clearly a client of The Ward - meets someone else's guest. They are already vulnerable and in an unusual place in life's journey, and of course the rote greeting is something along the lines of "how are you going?" but here that almost never gets asked up front. Instead, a lovely thing happens, aided and abetted by my inability to speak anyway - we just look at each other a bit, and look away, and maybe stand a little too close to | each other, and let our non-verbal talking do the talking. So much gets said in that little kitchen in the silence broken only by the burbling pump on the fishtank, or the whisper of a kettle boiling. Quite a profound sense of connectedness can be had by two strangers in a room standing inappropriately close, touching shoulders, leaning back against a benchtop and contemplating the fish together, in the face of All This. I think people become very aware of how they are projecting outwardly in such times and places, and I like that I can 'converse' with people on that level. I liked most of Max's guests, apart from a couple of pushy men about his own age. The sort who hadn't really been such great friends through life perhaps, but now feel they have some role to act out, some agenda of their own to salve at Max's expense, and which he suffered through with grit and strength if not with perfect grace. They were not available to me on the regular human bandwidth we use in The Ward. Shut off. Oh well. Sometimes, clients are nameless, according to the whiteboard at least. Next to the soft-feeling Kathleen with such gorgeously-gentle visitors is one such nameless older woman, arrived today or last night, accompanied by two women younger by 25 or 30 years, perhaps daughters. Maybe there are no whiteboard markers handy today; after all there was a conference down the hall yesterday. But then, there's another phenomenon I have noticed over this last year or more - the Nameless tend not to be here for long. My sidelong glance (this is allowed under the Unspoken Rules Of The Ward, as long as it is done with respect and love; we can always pull our curtain if we do not wish to be seen) would tend to confirm this expectation. You can see the weight on her face now, and the distinctive gibbous aura of waiting on the other two women that I have seen so many times on the loved ones of those Close To It Now. | I've said it before but it's a privilege to be here, to have had such a time to sit with all this wonderful end-stage reality. Not all the deaths I've sat through here have been good, or easy, they've all been different of course, and probably half of the clients like myself go home rather than Home at the conclusion of their stay, but it's the life here, the nuances and flavours of how people are in the teeth of it all that I love. It's true, I am romantic, and always have been to some degree, on the whole death thing. That's a discussion for another time perhaps. But here's to Max, one of my longest-term neighbours. I understand from things overheard in passing and from the things I felt that he was in the last weeks eager to go, and I am glad for him now.
33: Going home is still something I expect to do for now; I am not worsening so rapidly that this will likely present much of a problem. But already I am looking at that time when I shan't. I wonder if I'll know in advance, whether I'll be leaving home knowingly One Last Time, or whether events will just transpire that way. There is always the Space Junk option, of course (and if you are the prayerful kind, if you believe in intercessionary thoughts and so forth, that is the one thing apart from sufficient day-to-day comfort that I would ask you to pray for - hurtling space junk and a spectacular fiery demise. Yes, seriously.) In the meantime, it's a beautiful, perfect showery overcast autumn day. I'm going to go and breathe some more of it. | There are two types of people ... Wednesday, May 2, 2012 We've all heard some variation on the riff, where someone starts out "look, there are two types of people ... " Some are deep and weighty: "Those who cannot do what they are told and those who can do nothing else" (Cyrus H. Curtis), frivolous "Rolling Stones people and Beatles people" (I think there was a deleted scene in Pulp Fiction where this was discussed by Mia and Vincent at some length for example) or somewhere in between like "Those who are willing to work and those who are willing to let them." (Robert Frost). But my favourite comes from Edward A. Murphy, yes, he of 'Murphy's Law' fame, and it's "Those who divide people into two types, and those who don't." | In my little world I've noticed a clear divide amongst my legion of caring nurses here at hospice. It's a little thing, but I think probably a telling one, and there really is no grey area on this that I have observed. I take painkillers, and the reasons for this are mainly a) pain and b) as I have mentioned elsewhere, I value the side-effects of the opiate classes of drugs in smoothing my path and assisting me to welcome death with more grace and openness. Some would call the later drug-seeking behaviour, and if you think that fits, I'll wear that. I in no way intend to demean or cheapen the lives and experiences of those who suffer such labelling (my many friends with gastroparesis for example for whom agonising attendances to the emergency room are too often treated with scepticism about the genuineness of their all-too-real pain, especially as they know so much about painkillers through hard-won experience) nor that of addicts living through their challenges.
34: So there are two kinds of nurses - those who bring me the minimum charted dose, and those who bring the maximum. It occurs that I could always ask for one or the other and see what happens, but I'm far more interested in seeing how it goes when I don't. And the pain is OK. So is my sacramental progress, just btw. Once, I would have asked them, the nurses I mean, interestedly and in a way so as not to raise any hackles, but now ... well I suppose it's a part-testament to the times I am living that I vastly prefer to leave it as something to toy with only, to allow there to be some great deep meaning and to not care whether I get it or not. It's like having come full-circle with philosophy, in a way - I reached a while back the full understanding that nothing was ever able to be known (including the supposed fact of my own existence) with certainty, hence, philosophy as a way to get at the 'meaning of life' is hopelessly inadequate. Now, it's become a fun pastime again. Now there is nothing resting on the outcome, I guess. Everything is increasingly freighted with vast and deep potential significance, yet totally random and unfathomable simultaneously. Without the counterweight of certain mortality, I doubt we could stand the perspective for long. Like Douglas Adams' Infinite Perspective Vortex. powered by nothing deeper than a small piece of fairy cake :-) | I do not know what each of my many nurses thinks, of course, but there's such a clear split (and it's entirely consistent, no nurse has yet demonstrated a change in behaviour to date) that it seems to carry some meaning. My 'PRN' (from the Latin pro re nata, 'when necessary') painkiller is charted up by my doctor as being 15-17mls PRN (it's a liquid suspension) and the nurses bring it to me in a 20 ml syringe, all ready for sending down my tube. Exactly why it's been charted as 15-17mls remains a mystery, but there it is. Not like there's a massive difference. Those 2 mls though are over half a centimetre apart, two whole big lines on the side of the barrel, and it's easy to be very, very accurate with this stuff. So here's the thing - it's always either exactly 15ml, or exactly 17mls. Never 16, or just under 17, or a bee's dick more than 15, nor above or below the limits. Now it surely says something that I think I have worked out that those who bring me the larger doses seem in general to more enjoy the act of giving, to be less worried about my pain, to be more accepting and trusting of me to self-manage my situation than those who bring the 15ml doses. Totally subjective, and skewed by all manner of worldview preconditions I bring to the game, no doubt. And there's another layer. With these heavier and potentially abusable drugs safety protocols mean that two nurses have to do the sourcing and delivery, checking my name band with my record, making sure the right patient | gets the right dose etc etc. And who those nurses turn out to be is pretty much random - 'my' nurse (usually) for the shift who answers my call bell, and whoever else has a spare minute (haha, those who work in hospitals know full well there's hardly ever such a thing). And a rule has developed, a Law Of Nature as it were: If one of the nurses is a '17ml' nurse, the dose will be 17mls. It will only be a 15ml dose if neither nurse is ordinarily a 17ml nurse. So the larger-dosers tend to be dominant actors, doing the preparing and being the one to hand me the syringe.
35: Just a thought. | Patchy (Title) Thursday, April 26, 2012 | That's how it's been of late, uniformly patchy. Reliably without rhythm. Random, you could even say, but less predictable. A few days back the whole thing, all of life, was about fading. My being was consumed with the whole energy of fadingness. At the time I figured maybe when you get two major systems of one's self - in this case my body and the part of my cognitive self that has discipline, focusses and concentrates on stuff - more or less attuned to the same frequency, like the frequency of fadingness, it becomes overwhelming and you can go deeply in there. | I remember weeping at the understanding in my cells, in the feel of my marrow, that fading is what I now am. The weeping time passed, and I was OK with it. Saw myself still me enough, just fading all the time. Fading became less a thing and more a point on the compass - part of the quadrant my path leads into, as least as far as I can see in this light. | Then it changed, we entered another patch. This was a moment of searing love and kindness, directed everywhere, and I was simply radiant for a little while. Only a little while. Like a recharge break or something, in between these fossil layers of accreted self I traverse backwards now, seeking source. Life did its bumbly thing, a jumble of smallnesses of emotion, tiny patches of once-normality now permanently shot through with this new light, this fadingness, rendering every little thing potentially nostalgic, and thus new again in my heart. I got tugged around from patch to patch for a while.
36: Today though, I had visions. I awoke looking forward to a session with Robyn in the afternoon, our amazing friend and bodyworker. It's hard to pin down what it is she does when we have our sessions, but she uses Bowen Technique, massage, is skilled in things like Trager, is a master reflexologist ... a hands-on healer in other words. We seem to mostly do my feet these days as the rest of me has such little flesh, and because I love it. It worked out to be mainly head and feet today, and whole new things happened. A while back a Buddhist friend, on hearing the news, reading my last post, was moved to write me "Don't be afraid when the visions start" and I tucked that away in my memory, for it seems in my experiences in living and dying to date that the Tibetan Buddhist way of thinking is extremely close to the money with what is happening in my dyingness. I have great respect for their knowledge tradition. So when the visions started, I had this friendly admonition there and it was fine. At first. I saw myself as an energy body from the outside - this is not a new thing at all for me, but the clarity and 'place' I was seeing from were radically ramped up and different - and as with the realisation a few days before of fadingness, I got a deep draught of deathness, and a sudden flooding tide of visions I cannot in any way describe to you except using nonsensical mashups like 'white textured depth' because the visions were as much felt and sensed with every part of me as they were seen. Importantly however, they were seen. A question arose against this marvellous and entirely unscary background then - what if I get afraid? I was suddenly afraid of being afraid and doing all sorts of panicky things. Afraid of chickening out, as if I had some sort of choice ultimately anyway. Afraid that when the next watershed line to cross came up for me, the next step in letting go, that I'd prove driven by fear more than love. And I could see and viscerally feel how the fear pollutes my being. It felt utterly fucking devastating, and I'm not sure I've ever been that scared. And yeah, I have had some scary shit happen in life too. This feeling and the energy patterns around it nearly swamped me. Robyn knows me very well and we have a trust that says to her "do | what you feel I need without fear" and she facilitated my going into it all very deeply. Got me stable and grounded enough to get to the car before going home, topping up quickly on some food (I'd barely fed anything all day) and essentially surrendering. Passing out, in a way. Love conquers all. Meeta was just there for me, and I felt that 1% feeling. It's the same 1% of your being that (for most of us who have survived and even thrived from the experience) kicks in when you take something like LSD that remembers to tell you that you can't really fly. But in this case, it was that you cannot be drowned in fear when there is love. So it was safe to go into it, and I let go a second time into the maelstrom. I let myself be that weak and terrified and beaten. Judged, found wanting, without courage or spine, a creature of base reflex only, clinging like an amoeba at whatever environment sustains it even one second longer in life. Devastated at the thought that I might after all be completely devoid of spirit, a shell, an utter mortal with nothing beyond my animal senses and hard-wired physical drives and fears. Not connected. Just a gaping wound in the skein of my own consciousness, raging with sensation at the dying of the light.
37: And all that. And it was, you know, OK in the end. So that patch passed, but not without passing on its baton of learning. What I have now to adorn the fading sideways light is a little monument to all the fear I have learned in my life and what it at heart rests on; the simple cellular panic of not finding breath. I have a new respect for that terror, but know something about it now. That love actually does overcome. Even if that is a conceit of the desperate ego, a lurching fistful of balm against the horror of Not Being Here, it is true. It is true for I have experienced it as such once, and thus, might again. So the fear has been more deeply felt, and it is still there, but that's, well, OK. I know it for what it is now. OK. And one thing I do not doubt, is that love is here. So that's how I've been. And you?
38: To everything; turn, turn, turn Sunday, April 8, 2012 There's been something I've not been saying explicitly the last week or so, for several reasons, but it's time now to properly, clearly, out it. I thought that writing this next line would be easy, but instead I find myself explaining to you how it isn't. And I thought my usual blunt approach, the raw and obtuse foil to my more baroque and wordy stylings with which you are all surely familiar by now would carry the day, yet I hesitate. Fear? Naturally. But of what, precisely, I must first resolve. I see now I have already prevaricated in the very title of this blog post. Ah yes, that's probably all it is, vanity again - just not wanting to be seen as an overly dramatic or self-indulgent attention seeker - a wanker. Pfft. Too late for that now, eh? So here it is, the line that should have been birthed a paragraph ago: I'm actively dying now. Active, as in making very conscious choices that will hasten my ending, and now, as in ... well, as in now. Here is a short story, as a way of trying to explain how this has come to pass, and what it all means. | Consider now an old Inuit woman, nearly toothless and almost blind, sometime not that long ago, living much as her ancestors had done for generations in the frozen North. She has lived a long and love-filled life, with all its ups and downs, and the signs of it all show clearly on her beautiful face. Various extended family members these days take turns chewing her food and placing it gently in her mouth that she may swallow, and helping her with the minutiae of everyday life in the communal igloo. Being an elder member of the clan, she is perhaps even more greatly loved and respected by all, and it never needs saying that as long as she wishes to live that everyone will make every effort to ensure she's as comfortable, happy, and involved in life as possible. She can no longer do so many things now - cut up the seals or fish brought in, stitch the sealskin clothing, or even help much with the very young children, as would normally be her due. Life is hard in marginal lands, and she knows full well she is a burden on the limited resources available, in a scheme to which she has less and less ability to contribute. Not that anyone minds in the least, they simply acknowledge the burdens involved as part of their life's sometime inevitables, and she knows this also. Her world, perhaps like yours or anyone's, is made up as much of others as it is by her internal goings-on, and the older and wiser she has gotten the stronger and deeper the bonds and empathies with her family and communities have grown. She knows they are concerned about her, that they are that bit more vigilant to her strange night noises, attendant to any minor changes, always wanting her to be as well as she can on her way closer now, closer now, to dying. She knows how much she is loved, and knows how much her love is valued by others too. She knows they feel her pains, and already in their own ways are grieving her impending death.
39: In the igloo, sitting around the small stove, it can happen that many hours pass wordlessly in a comfortable companionship, with people doing little jobs, or playing small games, or dozing, and in one such lengthy silence our old lady rouses herself slightly with a little shake of the shoulders; just enough so that she knows she is in everyone's attention for the moment, and simply, softly says "It's time for me to go outside now." There is no doubt as to the meaning here, and there is no great commotion either. One by one, tearfully, the family members come around and press in close, and whisper things of fond memories shared, of scraps of life and love, offering blessings and gratitude, sensitive even now not to tire her out too much. For they know and fully accept that her existence has changed in just these past few moments. Our old woman has crossed a line inside: Her experience of All - her own self in body, mind and spirit - and those things that complete her; the way the world is reflected back to her, the way her life ripples out through others and her experience of their hearts and souls too, has passed a divide. There is no inside/outside differentiation, you see – the feelings and needs of her kin and her spirit surrounds are just as real and valuable to her as her own, and in the quantum of her experience of life, the mode of carrying on is now no longer right. It is neither a selfish nor a selfless act. It is not a sacrifice to the greater good of her family, but it is partly that. It is not a wish to avoid further suffering, but it is partly that. It is not just the result of long and clear thought and meditation – though yes, it is partly that – but importantly it is just as much the result of an Intuition. A message, a voice, something Divine, it is pointless trying to name it – just the sure knowledge that it is time now. She will shortly leave the igloo, alone, one last time, to walk a little distance away while she still can – this is important too – to find a good spot to just sit, and wait for the bear that will come and return her being into the great cycles of All. | I crossed just such a line very recently. The details are more personal and close to my protected home-ness place than allows me to feel right about sharing here, but when it came, I can tell you it was very clear. The line has been there in my future, as a near-certainty of experience for years now. I've seen it there and thought long, thought hard, softly, fleetingly, and every which way about it on this journey, and I always did have a sense that I would know it as a moment, a line that once crossed was going to change me in some way deeply. I can tell you what that line is, for me. It is a line between a life whose mode is to go on living, enjoying what great things that being alive has to offer, even as I grow and increasingly accept the inevitability and looming closeness of my
40: death, with an eye for quality of life, and some expectation of continuance involved at its core, to a life where quality remains important, but the focus is less on quality of life and more on the qualities of death. A life that invites death in now, actively. I have lived long enough, and the lingering part has become too long, yet it is not quite 100% time to step off the edge; that is another line I shall probably come to shortly. It is time to take steps to hasten the end, and I have begun the process. I am truly sorry if I am causing hurt by doing this, but something I have come to accept as I connect with those loved ones near and far is that there is pain anyway, with empathy of my condition and direction. This is perhaps just a different, and much shorter, form of pain I offer out to the world, and for which I take responsibility. So I am sorry. But I am also, quite unequivocally, bathed in the light of a far greater freedom than I think I have ever known, having crossed this line, and I suspect this might radiate out to you as well. That would be nice. This is about that hard-to-communicate concept, the quantum of my experience. It involves things like my relationship with notions of home, and partnership with my wife, relationships with people and animals etc. I cannot see my wife's needs and desires as any more or less important than my own, and I know that she needs setting free too. I need to leave things like 'home' increasingly behind too. And that's OK. I get that there will be people whose personal morals and worldviews will cause them to judge me unkindly or wanting in some variety of moral fibre - so be it. I am sorry for bringing you another confrontation with your judgments, and can only hope that this is somehow right and good for you in the overall scheme of things. I truly have no ill will to any of you who think unkind or hurtful thoughts towards me in this. It's OK. It's sort of almost inevitably human anyway. You may be wondering about details now, about what it all means in a day-to-day sense and it's only fair to be frank with you. This is my last Easter, certainly. Beyond that I cannot give you a date. But I can tell you my plan, all my own choices of course, but made with the blessings and support of those closest by and dearest to me. | Bluntness again, then: I am invoking the assistance of another plant sacrament to those already helping me so greatly in body, mind and spirit, to help me on the way – the dark sacrament of Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy. Not the poppy or raw opium itself; rather its pharmaceutical and legal derivatives. You see, I have been living in constant pain of one or another sort, and using a pseudo-opioid that is quite the odd drug, in that it actually also 'blockades' all other opiates from doing much of their job, including their cognitive and mood effects, which is why it is often used to treat addiction. But it never really fully worked for the pain, and besides it is time to embrace the sacrament properly – I want the full effects now; even the bad ones. It is time to give up the constancy of pain; a now-outdated sacrament in itself, but one I thank for its lessons, perhaps fittingly at Easter time. Opiates (except for my old weird pseudo-one) are notorious for slowing digestive actions. Their use was directly contributory to my last hospitalisation emergency those many months ago now. I was trying to live on, trying not to lose weight, to enjoy life, to be normal but ... no. I am reminded of Zen master Yoda's sage wisdom from The Empire Strikes
41: Back; "Do or do not - there is no try." I did learn a great, great deal from that time (the time of opiates, but from Yoda also), and much about the nature of myself and death. I understand the sacrament now, and its appropriateness and spirit. I'm not meaning to euphemise drug-seeking, I truly do mean it when I speak of sacrament in that my worldview has it as axiomatic that nature (and by extension, through our agency, even science) provides us all around with the things we need for our journeys in life, and a key part of our spirituality on this earth has been through the use of powerful plants. They work with us in more ways than brute chemistry, of this I am entirely sure. What I want is for my gut's inarguably impending shutdown to happen faster now, and what I want is also to have support and assistance in spending more and deeper times facing the blank at the end, meditating on Nothingness, on absence, on death, and this is precisely what the energies of the opiate world turn towards. It's a shame this aspect is so overlooked in our dealing with this most potent gift, and the problems that result for so so many people. But then, we abuse so much that is sacred in nature, do we not? | And I'll be spending increasing amounts of time at hospice, away from home. This helps my experiential desires well; to have some peace and to be less burdensome on Meeta, in a way it actually makes us closer. Eventually there will come a time when I do not go home again, I think. It is most likely I shall die here, in respite. This very room, even; 8C. Next to Max, who has attained today his 'last goal' – his 74th birthday. Happy birthday Max. OK, so, this is my plan, as much as there is one. I have switched drugs, and already things are slowing. I can see that for the moment about three feeds a day is all that is comfortable, and that's fine. I will of course lose weight as this carries on and diminishes. There will be pain regardless, discomfort, unpleasantness of sorts, to varying degrees along the way, I accept this. More pain than I am OK with I shall ask the sacraments to help with, and thus the cycle intensifies. My several symptoms will change and worsen, and new ones will doubtless emerge. I am already having a little trouble with some new things. You can see how this will go. At some point, accident or incident notwithstanding, I will most likely cross another line; the one where it is time to disengage from nourishment altogether, and possibly fluid too if that feels right, and from then we know my life will be measured only in weeks or days, not months. For those who may wish to see me hold on tighter, or adopt a fighting pose and kick on, I am sorry for that pain of yours. That is not my way now. I accept you may see the world entirely differently; all I want to do here is show you what mine looks like, that you might have a chance at understanding. Of course there are options for living longer. They are just not right for me, of this I have utterly no doubt.
42: I do not know how much or how deeply I will keep up my conversations out here in the public light, I know my non-Facebooking wife is most fond of ribbing me that it will be “probably right up until the day you die” and for all I know she's right. Maybe not. I truly do not know how this will go. But I do know I will be spending more and more time 'in'. Please do not think that me sharing less means I love you all less, or that my incremental disconnection – my detachment – betrays some lack of good will or gratitude for you. Yes, you, personally. I hope you know I wish to speak to your heart. I am grateful beyond measure for this life and all that I have experienced, and so very much of that, more than you can probably imagine, is changed and made better, deeper, fuller, more right, by your having been in it. By your being in it now. I will understand if you have to leave me early, turn away and not watch. That is fine; there are no 'shoulds' left. If you wish to reach out to me, I will respond as best, as graciously, as fully as I am able. Please do what is right for you in terms of this thing, whatever that is. For that is what I am doing, even though I know it may precipitate pains for all of us. Thank you for witnessing this far. So now you know. Here I go. If anyone wishes to assist in some way with the practicalities of my situation, the very best way is a contribution to my fund for a natural burial. It is my preference if possible to go back to nature bodily somehow - we have no polar bears here to perform this grace and sky burial is alas illegal here. Thank you. | www.gofundme.com/My-Natural-Burial