Oh, so THAT’s grace.


Man, this week. All the emotions. ALL. OF. THEM. Just me? Or you, too?

I keep coming back to that Leonard Cohen lyric about the crack and the light. You know the one. Objectively, sure, that makes sense. I can dig it. In practice, though, ouch.

This week I felt crack after crack, ache after ache, opening after opening. “Ah,” I’d think, “that’ll be the end of it.” And then the next day, more. There’s always more, it seems.

It finally dawned on me, though, how to explain weeks like this, how to best describe what was happening. And believe me, the word that came to mind surprised me, because it’s not a word I’m used to using or even believing in the existence of. It’s a word I’d even say I sort of mock, a word I feel gets overused and distorted. When I made myself be quiet and still and clear, though, I kept coming back to this word, despite my intellectual objections.

I am skeptical. I am hard-headed. I am an unbeliever. And yet.

That word is grace. This week — grace. These emotions, this revisiting of the past, this reevaluation — grace. This pain — grace. This grief — grace. The opportunity to feel all of this, to sit with the emotions, to be here and present to process them — grace. The knowing that it’s not over yet and I have more work to do — grace.

Spending hours last Saturday talking in person with my little brother, who doesn’t live near me and I don’t often see, about our father’s death (which happened well over two decades ago) — grace.

Having a long, honest, vulnerable talk with my mother the next day — grace.

Unexpectedly finding a copy of something my father wrote right before he ended his life that I thought was in a box hundreds of miles away — grace.

The hawk flying by my screen porch, low and slow, letting out a short quiet whistle, as I drank coffee out there alone the other morning — grace.

Having the chance to talk deeply and freely and then do yoga with a wise friend this week — grace.

Coming across a book I’d never heard of but needed to read right this very second — grace.

Sitting in meditation for 20 minutes a day, every day, as I have been doing for weeks now, and finally feeling my breath, knowing my breath — grace.

All these and more, these sly little moments of coincidence, day after day this week, when I thought I couldn’t take more — ha, I see you, grace.

Now, sure, I could call this “the universe” or maybe even point to my own intuition as behind these things this week, but for whatever reason, those weren’t the words or terms or explanations that came to mind. So, grace it is.

Just one of these things on their own and I wouldn’t have thought much. But every day this week, they just kept piling up. These beacons. These totems. Impossible to ignore, improbable though they were.


I thought grace, if it existed at all, would be so lovely and pain-free. Like a nice little pat on the head. An easy release.


Grace is the the push, the nudge, the shove, even, to move you out of comfort and into growth. Grace is kind of a bully, to be honest, but maybe for only those stubborn like me. I had to be yelled at, in a way. It wasn’t enough to send one signal. For me, grace needed a barrage.

Fine. FINE. I may feel like a petulant teenager about it, like the teen girl who lost her dad at 14, but I swear I’m listening now. I’m open. I’m paying attention.

I’m certainly not pretending to be fearless.

I’m scared. I’m alive and I’m me so of course I’m trying to over-analyze and control everything. I’m anxious.

I’m fidgeting, wondering what grace has planned next.

Because I can tell it’s something.

“Impermanence mocks us.”

A little something in honor of (sort of), the Day of the Dead.

“Impermanence mocks us. Our efforts — to learn, to acquire, to hold on to what we have — all eventually fail us and come to naught. This is the final and controlling paradox: Only by embracing our mortality can we be happy in the time we have. The intensity of our connections to those we love is a function of our own knowledge that everyone is evanescent. Our ability to experience any pleasure requires either a healthy denial or courageous acceptance of the weight of time and the prospect of ultimate defeat.” — Gordon Livingston, M.D.

“The Snow Leopard” Inspires and Enchants

In writer and naturalist Peter Matthiessen’s beloved nonfiction work The Snow Leopard, we’re transported to the far-away land of the Himalayas, as he joins biologist George Schaller on a quest to study the rare blue sheep of that region. Both Schaller and Matthiessen hope to catch a glance of the elusive and near-mythic snow leopard, as well, as it stalks and hides among the hills and valleys of this harsh terrain.


The book traces, in detail, their journey and their struggles over a more than two-month period in late 1973 in this remote part of the world that, back then, was largely unknown and unexplored by Westerners. And while it indeed catalogues their trek through cold and ice and through high altitudes that left them breathless, this book is also much more than a pure travel or adventure story.

Matthiessen’s wife, the poet Deborah Love, had died just months earlier from cancer. As a couple, they’d begun a quest of their own into Buddhism in general and Zen Buddhism in particular. So, in addition to the physical nature of his journey through Nepal and the Tibetan region near China, Matthiessen was on a spiritual journey, as well, in this land of ancient Buddhist temples and practices. He left behind his 8-year old son to make this trip, where he hoped he might find some true understanding into impermanence and the ever-changing nature of reality.

Just as the actual hiking and camping for months in the desolate, high cold left Matthiessen exhausted and dirty, so too did his soul-searching. Though he was inspired by the many of the calm attitudes of the Sherpas and porters around him, all of whom came from that area, he nonetheless struggled with his own dark feelings of anger and frustration. It’s not easy to climb mountains, and it’s not easy to plumb the troubled depths of your heart, either. This book, which won the National Book Award (two actually!), beautifully bounces back and forth between these extremes, which is why it still resonates today.

Matthiessen, who died last year at age 86, was fascinating. The only writer ever to win the National Book Award for both fiction and nonfiction, he also started The Paris Review, in part as cover for his work spying for the C.I.A. in Paris in the early 1950s. He would go on to establish himself as an early conservationist and free thinker, turning out work that reflected this larger view of the world during his long career. If you’re new to him, The Snow Leopard is a good start.

(Originally published here: http://msbusiness.com/2015/06/book-biz-this-classic-story-of-the-himalayas-endures/)

Be the tree. 

“Be patient, do nothing, cease striving. We find this advice disheartening and therefore unfeasible because we forget it is our own inflexible activity that is structuring the reality. We think that if we do not hustle, nothing will happen and we will pine away. But the reality is probably in motion and after a while we might take part in that motion. But one can’t know.” — Paul Goodman