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Courage on the Rocks

Shay, my niece’s 36-year-old fiancé, reached down from the rocky incline above me. I was stuck, afraid to move. “Grab my wrist,” he said calmly, cheerfully. “Put your foot there.” I saw where. I grabbed and stepped and he hauled me up. My legs, which were not strong enough on their own after surgical rebuilds, suddenly had a memory of their former mountain goat selves bounding up similar inclines. Up we went, step by step. My legs struggled but slid into play. A rhythm, a flow. Shay’s abundant strength poured through his arm into mine. It ignited my determination to not give up, not slough off. No. Reach. Try. He imparted physical courage and this reawakened the fiery field of courage in which I have lived my entire previous life. It is part of who I have known myself to be. Hip replacement surgery had tamped this down. Surgery is traumatic, even though we are asleep when it happens. The body, however, remembers. I found myself wandering around with some crucial sense of self missing. Post-surgery, being methodical and reasonable has been a choice, but on a subtle plane—where we don’t consciously choose—I didn’t trust myself. I hesitated instead of putting my foot firmly down. I cowered in solitude where I didn’t have to fight, or be seen. I had stopped letting the blood of gravity and the breath of space surge in me.  

In the struggle up those rocks, a great medicine occurred. A person helped me and everything except the steps, the tumbling slippery gravel, the clasped wrists disappeared. I was awkward, perhaps even pathetic, but I didn’t care. I got to the top. New warmth flowed through me. I came back into my courage. Since that day, I’ve stepped up my training. I’m methodical and patient. And courageous.


Aging gracefully is not my lot. I don’t have time and energy for it. To age gracefully connotes the appearance of being untouched by the process of living—code speak for looking young, unravaged by living, not creased by pain or soured by disappointment. Appearing to have escaped decline and unsightliness may comfort others. They think, “Ah, age. It’s no big deal.” Really? I don’t think so. There’s death, the game changer, coming down the pike, and there’s breaking and mending and the medical gauntlet. There is also this strange, darkly potent grief of knowing you have only one quarter or so of your allotment left. 

Personally, I need my energy to scramble up the rock face. I need my energy to recover my equilibrium after having my thigh bones scooped out and metal stitched in. Aged gracefulness, like youthful prettiness, distracts from living and from feeling one’s way. Living is just as vibrant and just as painful as it ever has been, though perhaps different. The timbre. The quality. The touch between this and that. We continue to search and learn and strive until the last breath. 

I will admit, however, when a dark potent grief visits I can no longer see anything else…

So this happened…

The fog comes in thick waves. The trees are still. The birds fill the yard with song and skittering and the bunny trundles into the Bowers. The grasses are still.

Yesterday I felt abandoned by ‘society’, that is neighbors and friends who are supposed to distract me—in my mind that is their role—from existential grief. I was suddenly flooded with the sense that I am three quarters through my time. Not so much that I am frail and all that. I find that sort of loss uncompelling since I cannot feel my young, strong self and so am not plagued by comparison. No, the feeling was that I have only a measure of time remaining—the way one sees that the  once-full tea tin has only a quarter pound of tea left. This dark wave separated me from the late after noon beauty. I wept. 

I spoke later with my friend Bill. He told me his moment of impact wasn’t grief. When I asked how he felt, he struggled unsuccessfully to characterize the emotion. The rift in one’s own space-time continuum is confounding. Was mine grief? Partly. I think I cried because my confusion was so utter and so deep, it jumped up and cut open my skull. 

Today, I watch the dun-colored bunny, creature of compassion. Fog quells the fever of my realization. Ravenrock is a place of peace where truth erupts. Such a sword is solitude. It slices and I bleed. After, purged of pent up unseemliness, my soul unbinds. From my perch in the morning chair, a day sits before me unsculpted, fog covering over all but close steps, close minutes. The hand pump in the counter makes a ‘tuck’ sound, digesting water and air after the morning sluicing. My pen scratches. Silence.


Feeling Beauty
When I was young I was numb. Photos of me at that time show a beautiful young dancer, but that was mostly the outside. Now, riddled full of scars, I can feel. In my practice, I feel beautiful. Lines of motion arc through me. They feel beautiful, and I feel that movement sculpting beautiful forms in my flesh. Unearthly hoodoos. With age, we know more but knowing more doesn’t mean we can solve what is unsolvable. It certainly doesn’t mean being able to control what is uncontrollable. In age, we lose control. The time is gone. Just really gone…And losing control, or letting go of the impulse to control, is the central work of spiritual path. It is the out breath to every in breath. 

As the saying goes, Let That Shit Go.


A new website is just about ready to launch! My writings will continue and you can look forward to articles about practices, food, things we like to wear, and more to inspire and enliven your Path. Thanks for being with me ~




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    10 Comments Post a comment
    1. Riena Ouellette #

      Hello Dunya,
      I enjoy your writing style; full of raw truths delivered through symbolism and metaphor that can be applied in both specific and generalized ways to so many concepts we perceive in our experience. I love thinking/processing in this way, where a concept is both simple and complex at the same time. Your writing feeds my thought processes.
      Thank you

      May 5, 2019
      • Riena, thank you for such a thoughtful appreciation. I’m so glad it feeds you. Nothing better! Yes, fog. Such a common metaphor, yet as I sat in it as a damp, cool reality I felt it in and on my body (so not a head moment.) Palpable. Always a good baseline.

        May 5, 2019
    2. Deborah Koziarski #

      Always so moved by your writings. Thank you for sharing
      your art and beautiful insights into our very human journeys.

      May 5, 2019
      • Thank you, Deborah ~ Many facing palms to you. 🙏🏻

        May 5, 2019
    3. Powerful, Beautiful, Dark, and Compelling. And very very real. I have thought of this often; having reached the time when our memories seem far greater then our futures. I am impressed by the gut wrenching depth of your expression. Thanks for sharing.

      May 5, 2019
      • Thank you, Catherine, for these treasured words. 🙏🏻🌹

        May 5, 2019
    4. Karleen Koen #

      I always thought of aging gracefully as accepting it, and in the acceptance was grief, rage, wonder, and fear. I think of aging gracefully as stepping up to the baggage of life’s experiences that are yours and seeing past them, not dwelling in the complainer or blamer though visits there are inevitable. I think of it as moving fully in all your pieces that range now between your girl and your elder. I think of aging gracefully as not dumping your grief and rage at the inevitable on those around you, as if it’s their fault. I see it as opening more and more to an inner light because the outer, both one’s body and one’s life, is shortening in its scope.

      May 8, 2019
      • I love your thinking, Karleen. No doubt. I just would never choose the word ‘graceful’ for it. I guess I consider your definition as ‘aging vibrantly.’ Or, better yet, living vibrantly. The word ‘aging’ is often a dismissal.
        Thank you for your powerful words.

        May 8, 2019
    5. Adelia Ritchie #

      My dearest Dunya, “letting that shit go” is never easy but at almost 72 I’m learning that it all begins with living in the moment. As you say, waking up to an unsculpted morning is the best I could ever want. It’s mine to create or to just let be. I’ve lost my fear and actually look forward to some of the advantages of old age, e.g., asking for what I want or need (even demanding when necessary), doing (or choosing not to do) all those things I never had time for in the early years, being amazed at how beautiful my body can be with all its bags, sags and droops, loving being alive to do it all again one more day. And more. I’ve relaxed into knowingness and fearlessless, and thinking about the endgame as a long rest, well deserved. My body is still strong and agile–not like it was once, but so much more so than the majority of humans on this planet. I am grateful every day that I can still dance, still run, still garden, and that I have all day today to do it in. And maybe tomorrow too! I understand this fear, having had a few emergency medical happenings, but the most recent one ended all fear. I realized that, when the time comes to choose death, it will be like deciding whether to have a Coke (stay “here”) or a Pepsi (cross over). When that time comes, I think we will know and make the right choice. I hope this makes sense. I’ve had the fear and didn’t like living in that fear. I’ve lost it now and feel so much freer. I do hope I can come hang with you soon. I want some more hammock time! It has been much too long. Love & hugs – Dee

      May 8, 2019
      • Dee, this made me cry…
        I love you and miss you…
        Come visit soon.

        May 8, 2019

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