the days of knives and blossoms

tuesday 13 march 02007 10:21am

i always thought that they were cherry blossoms. in my mind it was always cherry blossom season. last week wendy told me that they are plums; the plums come first, and the cherries later.

as the weather has warmed and the blossoms return, i find myself highly aware that i am looping back over the days when my life began to narrow/expand into preparation for surgery last spring. and just as i have found with the anniversaries of deaths and births, there is integration to do. the echoes of the knives call to me. the scar changes, the numb places shift, sensations flow through the tissue, the mind.

as i gathered information for my taxes it became necessary to sift at last the files i made at the time of my surgery so that i could find the medical bills. everything was there, tenderly sorted in the earlier phases, jumbled together at the end: the letter i wrote to the friends who were taking me to the hospital explaining what would happen there, all of the notes from the pre-op appointments, notes that my loved ones took when they spoke with the surgeon before i woke, sheet after sheet of permission that i signed away (oh the trust!), the little chart of what i swallowed when after i got home. the records begin in my handwriting, and then i see james', and then others i do not recognize, as hands stepped in to help me have what i needed to know.

it was good to have reason now to hold these things again in my hands. to decide what to keep, what to shred, what to recycle.

i want to thank you again for your support. it's still helping me. as i do to the longterm work of integrating that experience and this disease into who i am, the support that you gave me in those crucial days echoes out and as time loops around i find it again, waiting for me, your love, and the care you gave me then holds me now.

sunday 2 july 02006 8:43pm
what does not show

the surface scar is small, a clean knife line
haloed by staple-dots

inside, the window they made
was much larger

she said the corner of the inner stitches
was an inch out
and an inch up
from each end of the incision

another line
runs up the middle
where she split the center seam
of my belly
almost to my navel

lately, at night, i can feel this
knitting, i hope
beneath unblemished surface skin

the wounds within

feel strung too tight
and burn.

thursday 29 june 02006 1:32pm
post-op visit with my surgeon
3838 california street

the first thing she said
right when she walked in

i had a dream about you

she paused and reached for something on the counter

i was in your belly again

i felt her curled in me so snug
the baby i will not have

(my teacher, angela, saying
i have all of my children inside me)

and for a moment wondered when she had been there before
-- again, she had said --
then realized what she meant, her hands her mind
inside me.

i don't know why i have those dreams.

this woman cut me open with a knife
split me up the middle like a fish
cleaned me out
wrapped my organs tenderly
in tissue designed to prevent them from scarring
and sewed me back together
layer by layer of my being
with her bare hands

i have been split open and sewed together
by the hands of a woman
who barely knows me

what a gift to have a surgeon who dreams of me
and says so.

the day she removed my staples
she brought her three year old son
who ran about the room while she freed me

today she put her hand inside me
tenderly, the first thing i've had inside
since she was in there last, the first thing
inside me this new life

and she hugged me before she walked away.

saturday 24 june 02006 5:51pm
in bed

a week in this bed
time has come unknit
mind spun loose, wide

the gentle spat
of rosepetals falling
on the mantel

the arc of healing

beloved friends and family,

thank you for your support. thank you for the flowers, phone calls, prayers, poems, and all your loving hands. my healing is sublime, and i feel healed by your will and efforts as much as my own.

i apologize for having taken so long to write. if i have missed returning your phone call or email, i apologize. i am doing my best to be kind and responsive, but it is only the past day or so in which i have felt that there was more of me present on this plane than out in the other planes of being, healing. i am beginning to feel myself come home to roost once again. i feel reborn. i am so grateful to be alive. what else can matter? we are alive, together, today. ahhhhh.

i have been in a state of ecstatic surrender since the morning i awakened for surgery; singing and smiling. at no time have i buckled miserable or sad; every moment has been a joy to exist, to be so well cared for, to be healing into greater health. surgery went well and healing unfolds with astonishing rapidity and slowness. every moment holds new wonders, and i watch the flowers, so many flowers i was sent, blossom and then fade; i lay in bed and watch the peony fall apart into everything.

one of the beautiful things about this surgery is how small it makes the world. my desires and the tasks before me are so grand and so simple. i want to sleep without pain. i can get out of bed by myself! though it was beautiful to rise always in someone's arms. in the arms of strangers, the arms of james, the arms of my friends. i decided to love everyone at the hospital. i learned every face and name and greeted every person who entered my room with love, and i was therefore surrounded at every moment by love. every hand that touched me was love, the plastic tubes were love, the portal to my innards was a gift of love from someone who barely knows me and wants me to feel better. people i do not know made sure my temperature was right, and that my blood had oxygen, that my blood pressure was right, that the tubes drained correctly. every time the nurses pulled a piece of tape from my body, they apologized for the pain. i have an abdominal incision and they are apologizing for pulling the tiny hairs on my arm or my thigh!

thank you, again. i am feeling more energy each day, each day i am able to stand longer, eat more, think more clearly, stay awake longer. i am still spending a tremendous amount of time in bed, sleeping, or in a healing place between sleeping and waking... i feel you with me, every moment.

kristie dahlia home

the flowers of my healing

a glass box of water with pink lilies, twisting roots, and a floating gardenia. it came days in advance, and sat on the table beside my bed. the beauty and the perfume sweetened my dreams and cleared my heart.

on the way out the door to my healing circle, she said, she spontaneously snipped the last black iris from her garden. i left it on the altar when i went to the hospital. when i came home, the petals had curled and dried, and the plumblack ink had spilled beautiful droplets onto the golden wood floor of my studio.

lying in my hospital bed, just an hour or two awake again after the surgery, a knock. and a man with a round glass vase, and round flowers: pink fist-sized peonies, little white hydrangeas, purple blossoms on spikes. a gift from the one person who i had visited in this hospital before coming myself, on the day that her daughter was born. i stood outside the door and heard her daughter's birth.

another knock, and another stranger bearing burgundy dahlias with brilliant yellow tulips.

and then friends began to come, blossoms in hand. orange tulips with sharp yellow tips like flame. fat dark pink roses mixed with something like a tiger. fresh lavender grown on the farm that grows my food. a riot like the fire between us: orange roses, orange and yellow tulips, something ivory in threes. orange tulips! more! round ones now, almost a ball, and some quality that makes me long to pop them into my mouth. something with a face like a daisy or a sunflower, fat and red and yellow, with different purple spikes, fuzzy ones. lavender from the garden where the iris grew. a fat peach rose from her garden, and a jumble of little white ones with yellow pollen on their faces.

and the peonies. oh, the peonies. they came the first day, fat, pink, nearly as big as my head! the second day they shined, just as pink, the petals a bit more lush and open. the third day the pink grew paler, mostly, but brighter at the tips of most of the petals. the first night at home, on the mantle, i swear to you they were glowing in the dark. then they turned peach. then golden. finally, they were ivory with orange flame at the tips. for days i lay in bed, so quiet, in the healing place between sleeping and waking, then sleeping, then waking. the air was warm, the windows were open. i never played any music. i just listened to the sounds of my neighbors, and the soft sound as hunks of petals fell, the peonies

falling apart into everything.

the final flower: me. cleansed, new. shining with your love as brightly as these blossoms.

i offer the blossoms back to you:

may you be free. may we all be free. may we blossom and burn. may we spill our ink upon the ground. may our existence be given in love and service. may we fall apart

into everything.

saturday 10 june 02006 8:28pm
advanced health care directive

i do not want life prolonged in ways that would leave someone in this body that isn't able to live in joy and ease, and you with her in joy and ease.

i want as many of my organs and tissues as can possibly benefit others to be shared with others.

i do not want my body to be embalmed.

i want my final remains to be cremated. james knows what i wish done with them next (this is what we both want), but in case this should somehow fall to you: i would like my ashes placed in an open bowl at my memorial service. i would like like anyone who wishes to do so to take a spoonful of these ashes, on condition that what is taken is to be scattered. i will not be kept in jars. bury me in the earth, throw me to the wind, dissolve me in the ocean; eat me if you will. anyone at the service who wishes to scatter some should take some of my ashes to scatter. anything remaining should be scattered, too. give me back to everything. set me free.

friday 9 june 02006 12:12pm
letter to a friend

there will be thousands and thousands of days on which we are dead. really. millions and millions of days in which the organization of this consciousness will not cohere (or so i think at this point) and our energy will be butterflies and redwoods and strange consumer goods and boogers.

today we are not dead. right now i just come back to this. whenever the fear comes, whenever the grief comes, i say: today i am not dead. today i am alive. and it's scary and complicated and everything else, but it's a chance. it's the chance i have.

we could toss aside our lives and build new ones. all this is ephemeral. and yet it is the stuff of living. happy days will follow sad ones. pleasure will come after the pain, and then pain again, but we are alive, and conscious, and this is a gift. a burden, too, because we think we are alone, we think we are in pain, we think we are not part of the whole shining goodness of being.

you cannot be separated from the divine whole. you cannot be alone. i, for one, am every single day thinking of your endless bravery, and your beautiful belly, and feeling a great fondness for our soon-to-be-matching scars, and so much relief that you will be reaching out for me and holding me when i go under and give myself to the knives.

i love you. i hear you expanding.

you are beautiful, sister. you are perfect.

you are the most adorable curl on the cheek of god.

the pain will pass.

kristie dahlia

monday 29 may 02006 8:58am
if i die

The Sun. May 2006, Issue 365. page 47:

After undergoing surgery, G. wrote, "Were we always aware of our mortality, nothing would get done, because we'd be looking into each other's eyes and saying 'I love you' all the time".

Valerie's letter from V for Vendetta:

I don't know who you are. Or whether you're a man or a woman. I may never see you or cry with you or get drunk with you. But I love you. I hope that you escape this place. I hope that the world turns and that things get better, and one day people have roses again. I wish I could kiss you.

Bhagavan Das:

It is good to remember god every moment. If you cannot remember god, remember death. Because death will take you there.


on my wrist is tattooed a small feather. for death. for india, who went first. to remind me that in the face of death, laundry and money do not matter. only love matters. the feather says: be light, little one. live lightly.

i thought that i should write a letter. i thought i would hand it to leah before surgery and ask her to keep it in her pocket until i came out of the operating room; only to give it to james to open if the worst came about. then i thought that the letter had to be to her, too. then i thought i better write to everyone.

i'm not going to fuss over this for hours. i'm going to say it quickly, and then i'm going to water the plants. something like this:

beloved, i am not gone. we cannot be parted.

i am your breath, your heart, i am you. you are me.

do not make a monument to me and close your heart. make our love a foundation to stand upon, and go higher. love more. your love does not betray me; it expands me. there is only one of us, and it is all of us. love us.

every moment of this life is a blessing. thank you. oh, thank you.

there is only life.

i am right here.


friday 26 may 02006 1:36pm
loving the knife

there are three different kinds of masses in my belly. it is wise now for me to accept the knife, so i have accepted the knife. i surrender.

i prepare, i prepare. i cleanse, i sit, i breathe, i weep. my heart feels pretty clear about all this, and my mind, and for months now i have been diligently attending to the body. it shines, it glows. i am ready.

there is only one question that i had yet to solve for myself: how can i love the knife? how can i *love* the knife? not simply surrender to it. i feel surrendered to it. how can i love it? embrace it? invite it into me to heal as well as curing me?

last night my beloved kate truka wrote to me, and sent a poem as she often does with her words, and it was this. rumi, oh, rumi:


The soul of this community is coming
toward us, the sun on his forehead,

wine jar in right hand, stride by
stride. Don't ruin this chance with

politeness and easy promises. The
help we called for is here, the

invitation to join with great souls.
Any place we gather becomes a ceremony

on the approach to the Kaaba. Meaning:
pass quickly through your being into

absence. The self of your name and fame
secures you with a new knot every moment.

Personal identity is a sheath. The
creator of that, a sword. The blade

slides in and unites: worn covering
over bright steel, love purifying love.

and this, i think, is what i needed. i will just let the knife be love. and welcome it. and remind myself again and again that this body is not me, though it is.

i am just a pattern, the knife is just a pattern.

sunday 21 may 02006 8:41am
sunday morning thoughts

i was sitting at helen’s kitchen table when i saw these words. it was years ago, now, and they have been rolling in my head ever since. for a long time they were posted on a a little card at the edge of the door. they were attributed the buddha, and there was a phrase about how remembering these was good:

i do not know
i do not have
i do not understand

such comfort i find in this. such comfort.

the most important things, i do not understand them. i cannot understand love. time. the nature of my consciousness. the nature of existence. the nature of desire. how does my mother know when i am weeping? why doesn’t my father speak? how did he feel the green light in his heart? why does the smoke rise without pattern?

i want to kiss the whole world. every plant, every stone, every person. i want to look everything in the eye and ring with the glory of its being, so that i am dissolved in the knowing of it, no me just rrriiinnnnngggggggg.

this is the endeavor of my days. i try to dissolve. then i slip quietly through the streets on my bicycle, and sing to people, and ask them to breathe with me, and to feel their bodies, to feel the universe. my vocation is the reverse of a lullaby, a sweet song in which i try to cajole the world to wake up, wake up, wake up.

come play!

monday 8 may 02006 10:18am
waiting for the biopsy

i was walking home from class, listening to jens howling "i'll come running with my heart on fire" over and over and over, and i paused in the sun. the whole morning was ticking toward 9 o'clock when the doctor's office would open and i was, frankly, alternately beside myself with terror and utterly at peace. i paused in the sun as i walked up my block and i thought, "in 30 minutes my whole life could change. right now might be the last half hour in the-life-before-i-had-cancer." i closed my eyes and soaked up the sun, slowed my breath, and listened to jens howling about his heart. i thought "ok. if that's the way it shall be, so be it. there will still be sun, and this breath, and this song, and i am here, and that is good."

but that was not the way the world turned, at least not in the reality where i am blessed to live. hallelujah. thank you. thank you.