letting go

An Element of Blank

“Pain—has an Element of Blank—
It cannot recollect
When it begun—or if there were
A time when it was not—

It has no Future—but itself—
Its Infinite Contain
Its Past—enlightened to perceive
New Periods—of Pain.”-Emily Dickinson

An Element of Blank

by Carmen H Gray

I am enlightened to perceive

An Element of Blank

Meaning, I have been split open

My atomic number is zero

There is no simpler existence

Than to be enlightened to perceive

An Element of Blank

I live on that plane

Smack dab in the middle of

Between the periods of


Where I am enlightened to perceive

The next layer, the next level

Of intangible, undeniable ranges of


And that is the great secret

That creates a sense of cessation of








“At the center of your being you have the answer-you know who you are and what you want”-Lao Tzu


by Carmen H Gray

Mariquita, was it only by chance

That your silently bright presence

Compelled me to glance

In a momentary way

As you traversed the mirror

Above the piano display

Your crimson shell of resilience

Facing toward me

The delicate vulnerable brilliance

Of your underside reflecting

How you have taught me

That not everything needs protecting

And that each moment captured

Is the sum of it all

Only fragments fractured

Gleaming in flight

Signifying the meaning

 Of travelling light



Love Holds Anger

“You know how big love is? Love is big. love can hold anger; love can even hold hatred.”-Alice Walker

Love Holds Anger

by Carmen H Gray

My heart is so big

It can consume your anger

And his and hers and theirs, too

Give it to me

I will pump it through

The dark velvet territory

Churn it and spin it

Reshape it

And give it back to you

Melted, fluid like honey

To drip through your

Pretty fingers

Too elusive for you

To hold any more


Infinite Night

Acquainted With the Night

by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-by;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

Leaving the Infinite Night 

by Carmen H Gray

The nightingale enchanted me

With its songs of ecstasy

The sweet sadness of loss

Enveloped my heart

I sank deep into 

The infinite night

Where I could only feel

What I could not see

Where I could scarcely hear

The faint echoes of yesteryear

I held myself captive

In the comfortable pain

Until the sun asked to rise

I, unopposed to the light

At last stepped out 

Of the Infinite night.



Over a meal, a relative asked, “so is everything back to normal?”  I nodded my head resolutely while my son sitting next to me shook his head emphatically and said, “no.”  “What do you mean?”  I asked him.  “It will never be normal again. Things have changed.”

No truer words were spoken over the holiday.  What a wise observer he is.  I ruminated on this for a few days. A simple example: after breaking my wrist, it will never be unbroken again.  It will be healed and usable, thanks to surgery, modern medicine and time, but it will always be the wrist that was once broken.

When your life has been held captive by disease or trauma, the world still continues pressing forward.  It does not pause for you.  So many things you previously worked hard to accomplish have atrophied during that pause.  If you are lucky to be a survivor, you are a remnant of who you were before, but you are also much more than your former self.  You have to rebuild some parts from where you are now and now can take a long time.  Now can be in this instant or it can be several months or years away, depending on your acceptance and actual realization of what is.

For example, now I see how painful it is.  Now I understand (from a mother’s point of view) how it feels to be left behind, excluded, have parts of yourself lost.  “you’re not strong enough to be back doing this yet,” a sympathetic school counselor says.  “you missed out on too much of this class to be back there again, we’ll just put you in a different one”.  So dismissive.  Words thrown around carelessly (to one person), but carefully chosen (to another).  But it is all true.  You missed out, not because you chose to miss out, but it doesn’t matter. The outcome is the same.  You missed out.  Life put you on a different path.  You had to pause for life, but it didn’t pause for you.  Life is a vigorously flowing river.  You have to move where the current takes you, but you can learn to be one with the energy.


Waking Up

19346_1202288097446_6059319_nMy two babes before they were teens…hanging out at the creek on a sunny, winter day.

Having a child who just got cleared of cancer a few days before Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to be really authentic with each other at events on both sides of the family.  There were honest conversations, there were speeches of gratitude, redemption and an exchange of healing words.  Because you never know when you will have the chance again to revise your words and create a different reality in your life.  Perhaps it takes everything to be nearly burned down to wake us up from living superficially.

Ava took this shot holding a piece of sea glass in Puget Sound, the day before we left to come home in summer, three days before we discovered her tumor. 


cancer, living, time, writing

The C-Word Revisited November 23, 2014 8:28 p.m.

When the cancer journey began, back in August, I posted about the C-word. Amazing friends of ours “bombed” us with love and took the c-words from my post that I wanted to imagine instead of cancer when I thought of Ava and propped them up on sticks coming out of the basket of gifts.  I placed the words in a vase with bamboo that still sits on the kitchen windowsill.

Everyday I would see these words looking back at me and I’d repeat them in my mind, even when I was not feeling them.  Especially when I was not feeling them. Every morning when I’d wake up and go into the kitchen to get the day going, there they would be.  Every night when I found myself glancing out the kitchen window, there they were.  Words that I wanted to write into a reality instead of the one we were confined to at the beginning.

I believe that words are powerful.  What we say reflects how we think and what we think becomes who we are on so many levels.  Choose carefully.  I know I’ve regretted some things I’ve said-we all have.  The beautiful thing is, we have a multitude of opportunities to revise and redeem our words.




“No experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Returning to the Ordinary world feels surreal.  So many lessons learned.  So many lessons yet still to learn.

living, moments, writing

Las Orugas Monarcas Oct 14, 2014 8:34pm

I am seeing life through new eyes, just like Ava.  I think we shared an unspoken first moment of “we need to give back” right after the diagnosis.  It’s like my friend, Susanna Sharpe mentioned, you just feel this deep need to do more for others after cancer.The other day before I headed to the hospital to be with Ava, I stopped by Half Price Books to grab something to read (not like I have a stack of books already needing to be read!).  While I was there, I could hear a woman having a very loud conversation with her companion over the store phone.  I looked around.  Everyone was just ignoring her, not making any eye contact.  It reminded me of the time in San Francisco when we were on a bus and a woman was complaining loudly about feeling ignored and my son, Pierce, gave her his seat and locked eyes with her, listening to her frustrations and nodding at her.  Telling her, “I know”. Just affirming her feelings, which changed her composure.  Something we don’t really do much for each other.  People just get louder and more frustrated when they feel they are not heard.Something about her compelled me to linger nearby as I made my purchase. She left the store with her two kids and was walking toward the Goodwill.  I followed her and saw tears on her cheeks.  I called to her, “I only have five dollars to give you.  I wish I could give you more and I know you haven’t even asked for it, but I just know you need it.” She looked at me with kind eyes and she cried more.  She hugged me.  I’m sure we were quite a sight to passersby.  This tall six foot woman and petite me telling her,  “It’s going to be okay”.  We parted our separate ways.  Who knows what troubles she was having, who knows what troubles anyone you see is having.  We only have each other.  We have to be our brother’s and sister’s keepers.  I know this now more than I ever knew before.

Today at school in the gardens a few of my students found some monarch butterfly caterpillars.  They cried out, “Mira, maestra, mira las orugas monarcas!” and showed me four fat yellow and black striped caterpillars.  Always a source of surprise and excitement, witnessing the stages of metamorphosis in nature.  A blessing, really.  We are so busy we often don’t pay attention to these important things, but children do.