Receiving What We Really Need

Yesterday’s email brought one of those bolts from the blue, a wise remark that illuminated thoughts that had been lurking, half-seen, in the shadowy parts of my brain. “This occurrence,” wrote fellow writer Jane Kirkpatrick, referring to the strange electrical storm in Richard’s brain that sent us home two Sundays ago instead of off on a two-week residency, “took you from your lovely cabin… but sent you where you could receive what you need.”


Oh, yes. The events of ten days ago, scary and deeply unsettling as they were and are, have indeed sent us to where we could receive what we need. By that I don’t mean Richard “needed’ to experience days of hallucinations, benign as they were, or the inability to recognize faces, or that either of us “needed” to hear today’s news that the MRI of his brain reveals inflammation, and that his neurology team is going to check him in to the VA Hospital tomorrow for tests, beginning with a spinal tap. But right now, today, he clearly needed to be here in Denver being cared for by the wonderful crew at the Eastern Plains VA Medical Center–bless you all!–not at that heavenly sounding but remote cabin.

And I needed to stop and reflect, which I’ve been doing. Where these strange and frightening events have sent me (at least in the metaphorical sense) is to thinking about how to live my life in a “residential” or “retreatful” way. I’ve let my days become too cluttered with “shoulds,” too frenetic, too busy. I want to make every day more like I’m on a writing residency, except right at home, as part of how I live and work and love.

As a start on that, I wrote up a short list of words to remind me of what I’m aiming for:

I don’t mean I want to join a religious order (I am allergic to organized groups, like Groucho Marx, I don’t care to belong to any club that would have me as a member), but I do want my spirituality and my reverence and love for life to infuse my every day. So what I take from whatever has happened to Richard is that it’s a strong message to reconsider how I’m organizing my life and find ways to deepen my days and make them even more about doing what I love and believe in–being the change I want to see–in every moment. 

As for Richard, I believe, crazy as it may seem, that his bird hallucinations were about the Earth he loves–the birds he watches for all the time–trying to get his attention. Prominent among his other hallucinations were left-turn arrows, the curving white ones you see on highway pavement, but these were on every hillside, on gravel roads and pastures and road cuts. I take that as a strong suggestion that he needs to turn off the road he’s got himself on, wanting to press his art to generate money to contribute to our slender household income. I keep telling him that he should just focus on exploring that art, finding what he has to say, and the money will follow (eventually!). 

(The photo above is one of his sculptures, a gas firepit carved from a ton-worth of native granite boulder, with the flames enclosed in a hand-hammered steel bowl filled with gray glass. It’s a piece as warm and unique and inspired and beautiful as his life.)

That reminds me of one more word to add to my list of words to live by. Maybe it’s the most important:


Always loving.

This one is for you, Richard, and for all of the friends and fellow writers and family members who are out there sending us love in these trying times. Spread that love around. Pass it along to a stranger. Salute the community of the land where you live with love. Pat a rock. Live as if you’ve been given a precious gift, because you have: life. Use it thoughtfully, mindfully, reverently. With love.

Bless you all.