Monday, May 29, 2017

MEANWHILE Back in the Amazon Rainforest...

Check out Part III – Art & Craft – of my series about a recent cruise on the upper reaches of the Amazon River in Peru. It's on my travel blog, El Viajero Contento.

Friday, May 19, 2017

THIN SPOTS – Close Encounters With Eternity

Recently, the mother of my dear old friend, Charlie, died. She was an incredible woman, smart, civically engaged and, at 97, still living independently. As a minister—ordained when she was in her sixties—and someone with a life-long passion for music, it came as no surprise that she’d orchestrated much of her own beautiful memorial service.

Some time before her death, while discussing that eventuality with her minister,
she had noted some of the most important aspects of her own, personal spirituality. Among them was her belief that human beings—at least those of us open to the possibility—regularly encounter “thin spots” in the self-made barrier between our largely-mundane daily busy-ness and other, more transcendental realities.

She felt it was her job, as a minister, to encourage people’s awareness of those convergences, because, among other reasons, they are good places to find God.

          If I could choose between this state and 
          deep sleep, I’m not sure I could tell you 
          which I’d pick.

The other night, perhaps facilitated by that posthumous sermonette, I encountered one of those thin spots in my consciousness.

I’d already had a unique and memorable night. Unable to sleep for some reason—
I seldom have that problem—I’d been lying there, resting quite nicely, though acutely aware of my surroundings, my body, my thoughts. It wasn’t that anything in particular was on my mind, nor even that I was unable to turn off my thoughts;
I truly wasn’t thinking of much more than how amazingly comfortable I was, both physically and mentally.

Instead of any sense of urgency or frustration with not being able to sleep, I just felt utterly at peace. I remember thinking, If I could choose between this state and deep sleep, I’m not sure I could tell you which I’d pick.

Now, to be honest, I can’t say I might not have drifted briefly off to sleep now and then during the night, but it sure didn’t seem that way.

            A tear—a real, cool, liquid tear—
            rolled down my cheek.


Then, some time in the wee hours, I was suddenly aware of a presence. Not a flesh-and-blood presence, but a presence nonetheless. It was my dad. (In the 20 years since he died, I’ve had just one other significant connection with him, so I knew right away this was something special.)

We talked. I don’t remember saying anything out loud, but we talked. My “voice” felt real and true, and his…well, it seemed completely spontaneous, by all ap-
pearances his true voice, not one of my own creation.

So I asked Dad some of the questions I, because of both my reserve and his, had never thought to bring up while he was alive. “What were some of the high points of your life?” I asked. Without hesitation, he said, “You and your brother.” A tear—a real, cool, liquid tear—rolled down my cheek.

“Were you happy as an old man?” I asked. “You and mom seemed pretty detached by then, if not downright fed up with each other.” He replied, “Oh, you should have seen us when we were younger! When we got married, we were happy…and we were in love. Back then, we could talk, we laughed, we were affectionate...or as affectionate as conservative, German Americans could be (he winked)—we shared dreams…”

“Yeah, but were you happy during your final years, after you sold your homes and business?” I pushed. He thought for a few seconds. “I guess it was a different kind of happiness, the kind that comes from fulfilling a responsibility. Once I got your mom situated where I knew she’d be looked after, and sewed up some financial matters, I figured I’d fulfilled my purpose. I kind of let go.”

     In a kind of role reversal, I felt I’d taken 
     on the role of parent, and he was the child.

Dad and I talked for quite a while. I filled him in on my life since he passed away—during much of which he smiled and nodded knowingly, as if he already knew. I had to catch myself a couple of times running on about myself and tried to turn the conversation back to him. After all, I told him, this was about him.

He disagreed, but I guess that’s one reason this encounter was so amazingly special; in a kind of role reversal, I felt I’d taken on the role of parent, and he was the child.

I told him how proud of him I was…and am, and how much I love him. And how sorry I am that I wasn’t able to express that pride and love more overtly while he was still alive. In one of Dad’s patented responses—usually issued when the rare mention of love came up—he said simply, with that familiar, twinkly-eyed smile of his, “Ditto!”

Finally—I don’t know if I eventually did drift off to sleep or if it happened consciously—we said our good-byes. But not before I made him promise that he’d come back. He promised…and I’m waiting...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


See the new series about my Peruvian Amazon River adventures at my travel blog, El Viajero Contento.