22 July 2008


I wrote a hokey poem a few years ago. It wasn't long after my husband had died. I realized that the reason some of us cling to the idea of life after death is not because we're afraid of dying, but that we can't tolerate the notion that we'll never again see loved ones who've passed before us.

Even now, I hope like hell that my husband's spirit is intact. An entity made of his karma, his memories, his energy, his ki 気 . I want like hell to join him when I die. But the intellect in me is doubtful. The intellect in me realizes that we're not a collection of disparate entities, but that we're all parts of a whole. Something I've called 'pudding' when describing it to anyone who'll listen.

When we dip our spoons into a shared bowl of pudding, we don't see its ingredients, let alone the subatomic particles making them. We see one homogenous blend of creamy and sweet.

But if we were small enough…waaaaay smaller than sugar crystals, and moles of lactose, smaller than even the subatomic particles making their carbon and calcium atoms...there’d be miles and miles, millions of miles of space between even the quarks and neutrinos. They would seem like separate entities. Certainly from that size, we wouldn’t even be able to tell that they were connected in any way.

I often wonder what our universe looks like from the perspective of someone much larger. Are we part of a tree? A dog? A teakettle? Something we can’t even name or fathom? To someone much larger than we, there is no separation between galaxies, let alone continents. And species? Or Plants, Animals, and Minerals? No more so than the creamy goodness dished out in our spoons. These are designations important only to us in our wee, tiny universe. (Did you know that if the earth were as small as even an orange its surface would actually be smoother than that of an orange?)

I'm rambling. I know. I guess I'm considering the fact that even if my husband's spirit isn't sitting here with me right now, it doesn't matter. He is still a part of this world, just as we all are, tree or dog, roach or fermented grapes, dead or alive. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Everything changes, and change is everything.

p.s. When I find the hokey poem, I'm going to add it to this entry. There's parts of the poem I still like, even if the others make me groan.

edited 23jul08 - I have found my hokey poem...at least what must be its latest rewrite, dated april of 2004. And of course, as you can read, it's not a poem at all. It's prose...there's poetry in it...in that it might be regarded as poetic, but it's prose nonetheless:

All My Relations

One early morning I was watching clouds floating across the Missoula valley, drifting apart and reforming, and I thought to myself...that's how it all moves.

Are we ghosts
boxed in eyes and ears
waiting for gods
to cut the tape?
we're the odd stones
collected and stacked,
till we tumble
back into the path;

or the rain
rushing crimson
through the legs of buffalo,
falling back to the earth
when sparrows weep;

or the spirits who
pass the caterpillar's lips
to whisper into the mouths
of waiting trees;
or the grasses and
the deer
who lend us their grace, till we pass it on
to hungry beasts
and shiny beetles.

Like clouds in a small valley,
we touch one way
and then another,
never separated.

Never lost.


Still editing...I have decided to try this in first-person. I have given it a new entry, and its own illustration: here


betmo said...

where we have been makes up part of who we are now- hokey to you still has great meaning- and it may mean something to someone else :) i know what you mean about the whole universe thing. i have been thinking along similar lines too. for me, death isn't as much what i am afraid of for me- i won't know- but it is the overwhelming sense of loss that i won't have loved ones near me all of the time. my mother's health is frail and it is more the pain of not sharing with her that causes me pause about death.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're not a fermented grape right now Catnapping :)

Catnapping said...

Betmo: That's what gets to me, too. The notion of loss.

When I was a little girl, my father's mos in the military was one that kept him "frozen" at the Beale AFB. When the Air Force was wasting millions of dollars reassigning most of its personnel, there were men in a few spots whom they had to keep in place, so while many of my friends had to leave their homes every 13 or so months, we stayed put.

Kids I grew to care about would up and leave, never to be seen again. Sure, I knew they weren't dead, but that didn't matter at the time. The grief was the same.

I still get depressed at the sight of a moving van.

Anon: If I was gonna be a grape, I'd wanna become a Tawny Port. I love the taste of that stuff. It's sweet and nutty. My grandmother always claimed that ports were the wines of winos...but I always loved the taste and the body of port. Damn. Sometime this year, I'm gonna have to get me a glass of port.

Thomas Paine said...

I didn't find your poem to be "hokey" in the slightest way.

I very much appreciated it, and the article as well. Some of your best work -- and that is saying something!

Catnapping said...

Thomas: Thank you. I still kinda cringe when I read it. I see parts that are good. I guess I should actually work on a rewrite, or redo it as an essay...a poetic, metaphorific essay.


Archaeopteryx said...

I'm not smart enough to recognize good poety, but I know what I like. Your poem is moving. And biological. I like it very much.

And the drawing is awesome.

Anonymous said...

I like your pudding metaphor, Cat. And the poem ?Maybe a little tweaking will set it the way you want it, but I think it reads evocatively as is.

Anonymous said...

Catnapping, your added poem went down like a well fermented Port :)

tsduff said...

Thank you for posting your musings. I relate. Lately my own musings have taken a step down the same paths, although not as beautifully presented as your poem (nothing hokey about it!). I too am linked to a thought of life after death in hopes of seeing my husband, my mother, my young nephew... again. Thinking of the intellect side of reason, I'm put into a quagmire of doubt rather than hope, so mostly I just try not to think about it for very long. Your analogy was very good - with the earth and the orange, the pudding so to speak; in some ways it helped me to visualize things with a greater scope and perspective.

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I do not believe that poem is hokey. The picture that comes to my mind is similar to one already filed there that was created years ago when I read something written by Dan Millman.

Likewise, your thought did not seem “rambling” to me. I have followed that same progression of thoughts down the trail many times and usually shrug my shoulders and say to myself, “I wish I knew for certain, but I don’t.”

Blessings, dear Cat—and lots of hugs and smiles and kisses.

Anonymous said...

I like your feathers in the picture. Do you like my hair? BWARK!

King Jack

ValGalArt said...

this made me cry! i sure do miss my ratty boy :( you wrote a very beautiful piece.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite quotes is the first two lines of this poem. Loss and love and life after death can be overwhelming to think about sometimes. In the end I think we simply have to choose, to believe or not to believe, to cherish hope or live in that dark place without it.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~Emily Dickinson

Laurie said...

Anything but hokey to me.

Your poetry and prose is witty, intelligent, touching, and profound.

I am so glad you visited my site since now I know where to read some very fine musings.

Galatea said...

Dear Cat,

What thoughtful essay on continuity. I really enjoyed reading your mind.
And your poem is really beautiful. I would not change one word, except the typo* I spotted...and even go so far as to undo the crossed out lines at the end. Pure poetry. Thank you for writing it. It was a pleasure/treasure to read.

~ Galatea

*There is an extra "the" in the last line here:

We are the rock that powders
to become part of our bones
till we crumble
and sweep back to the the path;

Catnapping said...

archaeo: biology is always good.

dinah: pudding is always good. but not as good as biology. (unless it's chocolate.)

tsduff: i'm hoping that in the end, it's all true. all of it. that however each of us perceives and interprets it, that's how it will turn out for us individually.

jack: colourful!

nick: kissing and hugging is almost as good as chocolate.

valgal: ratty boy is such a cutie. there are times when i've been certain i could feel tom's arms around me when i was crying for him. so i'm betting ratty boy is visiting you, too. sittin' on your lap...lazin' around in that bed.

bookbabie: i can think of nothing more frightening...more final - than the loss of hope.

laurie: thank you. i think i must have followed your profile page from somewhere, but i can't remember whose blog i was visiting. it's amazing how round about we get visiting each other.

galatea: i'm so glad you spotted that typo. it's probably been there since 2004! i'm glad you like the poem.

Borut said...

Well said…
Amerindian seers, who claim to be able to see the world at energy level, say an immense blackness which they liken to an Eagle is the origin of all… Innumerable sun-like rays referred to as the Eagle’s emanations come out of the Eagle, crisscrossing the universe… Human beings, when alive, are said to be like tiny vine lice (forgot the exact expression) attached to the said emanations. When we die, the energy parts of us start on a return journey towards the Eagle - to a seer this appears like a swarm of fireflies ascending the night sky …

laughingwolf said...

gotta agree with much of your observations; conclusions you've reached, i have, too

and no, it's not remotely 'hokey'

blessings to you and yours....

trinitystar said...

Found your artical of Continuity very interesting.
Perhaps we are part of it all ... it is only self that makes the separation.
We all feel that sense of loss and if we will see those that have gone. The feeling is real. In our hearts we feel that there is more to the Universe ... the answers are within. Yes, some our unfathomable ... hugs for you

Gawpo said...

That poem kicked me right in the cloud, Cat. Really clear voice in that. Good, good, good one, that poem.

Renee said...

Who is to say it isn't intact? It doesn't hurt us to believe whatever makes us stronger. No one knows the truth so who says it can't be what we say it is.

I liked the rewriting of your prose of the I (maybe because I feel like it is me).

I am sorry to hear that you lost your husband and yes, I know that it was awhile ago, but I am still sorry to hear it.

Love Renee

artandsoul said...

So, how can I contact you?? Just botf?



Betmo sent me the link to your blog; now I have it on an rss feed.

I so enjoyed my visit - everything is lovely.

As I read through this post, it reminded me of the movie, MIND WALK - I bought the DVD; have watched it over and over - they discuss the 'pudding' there in great detail.

Then again, quite possibly you've already seen it; Sam Waterson (sp???) was 1 of the 3; can't recall the names of the other man and woman, but all were exceptional.

I'm glad Betmo has such good taste. Diane