on oneness and being

For a short while last night, trapped between sleep and waking, I could not remember where I was, and for a few moments I also could not remember who I was. From there I fell into a series of fast, detailed dreams about being back in school—all grades simultaneously, from first through graduate alike—and passing by in-crowds of each with every person in them still signaling in all the ways common to such gangs that I did not—and would not ever—belong there.

So this is what it feels like to return to myself, I thought, deeply unsettled but unafraid. To stand on the foundation of my being sans identity. There was an inexplicable emptying of the busy, frantic world, an opening up on spaces of wonder unmet heretofore, and I felt the pace of my own stranger soul being honored. And trusted. And, too, for the first time ever and without effort or forethought or planning on my part? Known.

And then the small dog who has kept steady company alongside me these last eight years shifted, roused, and raised his head to check on my wellbeing, and I instantly remembered—first, where I was, and next, who I was, and then the familiar settled back in as a warm blanket swathes a chilled body on a cold night far from home.

Hours on, I awoke to a sunlit morning feeling more refreshed than I can remember ever having done. A deep sense of being only a being still abides, even now, far from sleep, and I have an unshakeable knowing of an essence always present in my self, but never before encountered in quite so literal a manner. The emptying remains. I cannot describe in words how comforting this is. There is a whole universe that partakes not of our hope|fear-entangled selves, and we do not exist merely in or of it: we are it. The one of all that is.



on happy, no matter what

Amidst a slew of news and happenings over the last week (four of which qualify for the crazy-bad category and four more which simply cannot fit anywhere but in the crazy-good sector)? I look around every day to find myself teary-eyed joyful and teary-eyed sad, usually at precisely the same time (no sequencing afoot) and guess what: I am happy. Period. No matter what.

Fascinating, that. Happiness was never all that big a goal of mine. Since childhood, I’ve always been a lot more focused on the thing I was trying to learn right then. I suppose I went about my first three decades figuring happiness itself to be an odd duck and unhappy if pursued by anyone, but especially me—not at all equipped with duck-hunting genes. About ten years ago, that laissez-faire attitude morphed into near desperation to make a contribution before I die, to do something that would make a good difference for somebody else, to lay myself out and use myself totally, completely up in service to something besides my own personal desires or needs. It became an obsession almost, with every single decision run through the hopper of valuable contribution or no? And it fueled long hours of work toward a path sure to let me do that . . . which turned out to dead-end in a carbon steel-mortared brick wall.

Only having hit it full force, and then having taken a few steps back and knuckleheaded it again at high speed (three of the crazy-bad happenings of the last week forming said wall)? Only then did I raise my weary head and lay one beady eye on forever and erupt in happy laughter at it all. It was as if a great old soul was standing next to me and said, “hannah, when will you ever accept that you do NOT belong in these lines of endeavor?!! Seriously, dear, do we need to break your nose or something next time?!”

And I laughed, and still am laughing today, as miracles and nightmares keep erupting all over, and much of what I thought was solid disappears while stronger firma terra materializes all about and without my least assistance. And in such a space I know that the crazy-bads are honestly not a whit different from the crazy-goods, because when you come down to the puppy’s nubbin on things, I am just a little human being in a great big world. For however long I am breathing, I shall breathe and be to the best or worst of my abilities in that moment, and the second I do not? I know not a smidgen of what comes next. One thing I know for sure: Hell’s already my friend, because love—unconditional, wide hearted, and unceasing—leaches even the worst crazy-bad times of their furies and has proven to me, over and over and over again already, that every hell carries heaven in its innermost heart. So I am happy. Period. No matter what.



on miracles and goodness welling up all over

Someone I had never met before gave me a gift this week—noticing something with which I have long struggled, an expensive need for which all my efforts and funds have not yet sufficed. He offered his skill and resources and kindness, clearing time on a busy schedule and providing the services I have been unable to procure on my own, and then refused utterly my attempts to recompense him for any of that—stunning me into silence and teary-eyed wonder ever since (and long ahead, without question, for I shall carry this one to my grave). What a miracle! I thought, in one long pause and many since, and then I noticed something lovely taking place. All my worries and angst over every little other thing fell gently aside, like snowflakes finding lower branches on a mountainside of wonder. Over and over, the thrill of this gift and ones before and the ones before those going back to infinity have patiently lined up for my attention. No one has to be kind to another being ever. When it happens, it is a miracle.

When I sat down to compose my thoughts for a thank you and this post, though, I realized yet again—for the nth time compelled by more evidence thusward—that I have for years lived in a space of goodness welling up all over. Even in my darkest hours, I have stumbled into grace repeatedly. It has always been easier for me to give than receive, yes, and I have often struggled alone and feeling friendless at least in part because I did not know how to do anything else, but receiving brings deeper humility and a nearly unbearable lightness of being. In the hard edges of now—what with inequalities deepening on every hand and economies no longer reliably offering even the hardest and best-trained workers a steady living and feeling personally assailed thus far too often—it is easy to feel weary and to doubt whether there will ever be a level playing field again. Or simply a field.

And then someone comes along and notices a need and reaches out and, if the shame of having needed anything can be set aside even for a few moments? I walk in grace for good. Knowing not just to bone but to marrow of soul that I belong to all that is.

In the last month I have had the extraordinary good fortune to have enjoyed the hospitalities of three dear friends and one former stranger. Food and lodgings shared, places to work in peace and beauty  (first a historic schoolhouse and then a historic house, both of which make my whole being sing with wild joy just for existing!) while I wrestle a gut-wrenching set of stories to the page, time to be in company and alone, conversations on our lives and concerns and hopes: these came to me from three friends who helped to make this month of research and writing possible. Without their assistance, none of it would’ve happened, for on my own I would’ve fallen far short of the resources required. And then came the stranger, who helped with not just a tooth, but a slew and the associated, unresolved issues with them, relieving me so much that the pain of said mouth no longer makes the least impression. And then he spoke of providing dental care on missions for people who otherwise would have none, and I realized yet again—for the umpteenth time and then some—that the ‘haves’ in this society are often just like the ‘have nots’ in this one thing that so many of us share. And I came home and found a way to give a little bit of my resources to someone in the fight of his and his community’s life, facing down ebola half a world away from me and with me having not a single usable skill for that fight? And I remembered, from this month to forever.

What I keep finding is that nearly everyone I meet is looking for a way to help, to render assistance, to make things better, to lighten another’s load. No matter how small our offerings might be sometimes, we still find our ways to contribute, to extend the resources we have been given to those who have greater need. If I had to make a list of all who have helped me here? I could not finish, were I given another whole lifetime and no other tasks to fulfill. So the good that comes to me, as ever, I will appreciate for good, turning back every thing I can lay my hands on to keep such grace moving in the world. Widening our connections, our senses of belonging to each other and to all that is: our little lives steady miracles that feed these deep springs of goodness welling up all over: willing at last to receive as well as to give, for it is in both that we find ourselves one.


With special thanks to Randy Burba, John Neely, Christine Sullivan, and Beth Hahn—for every last thing.

And with a prayer for healing to all who are presently assailed.


on wellbeing and all beings

From where does one’s sense of connections to others arise? Might it be hardwired into us in some manner or place to which the conscious soul is denied access? From where does wellbeing and simply being come?

I have never been able to separate any sense of my own wellbeing from that of the suffering of all beings alongside—now, all yesterdays, all tomorrows. I cannot extricate myself from the plight of even the least creature among us: the small ants who reliably, and moments later, show up to slake their hunger on crumbs that have fallen aside on a counter or their kin who are crossing the sidewalks on which I am walking; a rattlesnake or raccoon or skunk run over on purpose by a passing motorist and writhing in pain, sometimes still in the middle of the road; a horse or dog beaten or starved or tied outside in rain or shine, sleet or hail; a child or adult going hungry or without a home while others alongside them luxuriate in fine meals and homes; a yellow-jacket and nest-mates desperate to make a home above the back door and, in most houses, being repelled with toxins; a family of woodchucks maligned unfairly for borrowing a tiny unused piece of bare underground for a nest; a bear killed for mauling an impertinent tourist and all others just like it losing their habitats to our greed; whole communities displaced by missile strikes (from actual missiles and economic ones); vibrant trees being cut down before their time because a windstorm toppled one and the village got worried about trees, and me standing next to the grand old maple that shelters my home time and time again, embracing its rough, moss-etched bark as a mother would a child and promising to stand between it and the tree-cutting crew to the bitter end and if one day it falls on my house, so be it; the children of tomorrow who will have only our wreckage (and far fewer of these grand trees) to play in, if we adults do not heed trees and the such better than our capitalist wallets and stat; the elders who are consigned to institutions in the long years of their lives, “too healthy to go ahead and die,” as one of them told me years before he finally did; the young and old alike who are cut down by bullets and racist economies and slurs long before their time.

No matter the source of the suffering or on whom it is laid, it feels personal to me, as if it were happening to my dearest loved ones, the few souls I have known better than all the rest. I weep for other parents’ children as I would for my own; I weep for adults precisely as I do for children (knowing all too well how the child remains within and on deck, even in the most aged); I weep and rage against unnecessary pain and anguish and loss, afar and close at hand alike. Time is no gallant healer for me either, for I study the long past, and its people and beings breathe again for me and, far too often, I weep for them, for their struggles and their joys. Some would say (some have actually said, in fact) that this is deeply arrogant on my part, this feeling for all bar none. That may well be so.

All I know for sure is that I never feel a moment’s relief from the need to do what I can on all fronts, even if that often means doing little more than bearing witness and not turning aside to the entertainments of forgetting. I don’t forget, you see, even when I do revel in the gloriousness of being alive, even when I have fun or laugh, even when all about me personally would appear to be not just fine but better than that by a long shot. The skin of my soul is too porous, it seems, and serves as no barrier to all that is.

But I am unclear as to how this happened, only that it has been with me since I can remember, the first instance of it one that has been repeated time and time again since: staring out of my child’s eyes to some adult or other child behaving in a cruel manner to some child or animal and, compelled by fiery rage at such injustice, launching myself into the fray to fix it. Plenty of times I did—or at least helped—but plenty of times I failed, too. Then there were the years when I myself was assailed and didn’t lift a finger to stop it, because I was aiming for a higher good and wound up contributing instead to a great multigenerational evil. And, of course, there are all the myriad sufferings for which I must stand mute and undone, utterly incapable of doing one thing except not turning away to unknowing. Perhaps how this happened is moot. Perhaps acknowledging the trait is enough to make it more manageable somehow.

Perhaps it is my life’s singular, early and enduring gift to me: this keen awareness that I am one with all that is, bar none, and thus to disown anyone else’s suffering–even to help ease my own? Would be to deny my own humanity. Would be to no longer exist. And so I embrace trees and do my deadlevel best not to step on ants and stop to assist injured animals and give every last thing I can to those who are in need. And it may be arrogant, but the moss-etched tree bark tells me that this, too, is being. And with this comfort I can and do abide.



on prayers we still send when words fail

Words fail as I hear from people on the ground in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea who are losing friends and neighbors to ebola now. So many are already stricken or gone, so many more are ill and facing death alone, and too many must stand forward still with nearly no protection or care from the ravages of this disease.

So little, too, can be done by unskilled and ill-heeled people like me, from afar and caught entirely flatfooted on this, with next to nothing but small donations and prayers to send. Even my prayers are wordless now, for I know not what to ask for, except that: please, somehow, ease their suffering, support them in their anguish, grant them whatever measure of peace and comfort and kindness can be had. Please bless their families, all who love them, their friends and neighbors and communities. Please grant succor to all in the maw of this virus that wreaks such havoc with our humanity and our only ways to show that we care. Please give strength and courage to those with skills on the ground, and fill their coffers with the resources needed to get in front of ebola and soon.

And, too, just on the off-chance that there can be any lasting transformations from all of this? Please let the vicious inequalities that underlie and drive the mortalities of ebola and so many other diseases disappear from the face of this earth, vanishing in a rising wind of understanding that—no matter where or who we are—our lives are fully intertwined and therefore we cannot afford to let some of us suffer so that we can carry on unimpeded.