Galway Kinnell died this week at 87, in his home in Vermont. His death was the same day as the birthday of my best friend from first grade, and the birthday of a student who just had her second baby. It is the anniversary week of the death of my friend and mentor, Angeles Arrien. Birth and death. They are the same door.
It is not morbid to feel death close by. All of creation comes from the dark. The presence of death has an awakening urgency, calls us to our destiny, prompts us to "live the life you would love to look back on". (John O'Donahue)
Here is the first stanza from Galway Kinnell's poem, "Another Night in the Ruins":
In the evening
haze darkening on the hills,
purple of the eternal,
a last bird crosses over,
‘flop flop,’ adoring
only the instant.
It was less than a year ago that my exhibit, in concert with Galway Kinnell's poem, Another Night in the Ruins, opened. I did not know that he had leukemia. It is a testimony to his generosity, and how he persisted to the end in reaching out and bringing poetry into the world. It is a confirmation of how quickly the moment flies– and how grateful I am that I seized the moment, and received his permission to create these paintings in honor of his poem.
It causes me to reflect on how often we stop ourselves from reaching further than we think we can go– how I almost stopped myself, wondering what are the chances of hearing back from a famous poet? And then came the delight of his hand addressed letter. Now he is part of those heroes, the ancestors who leave us footprints. HIs absence evokes a strong sense of his presence. His voice lives, and provides inspiration (fromSt Francis and the Sow):
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
What a phrase, self-blessing! Where are you stopping yourself? What will you do today to shape the life you want to look back on?