March 2014

un-nested

HummingBirdNest
18 March 2014
Empty-Nest
24 March 2014
Skeleton-Nest
29 March 2014

I used to laugh at a joke with a Priest, a Pastor and a Rabi arguing about “when ‘life’ begins.” The first two responses are predictable and the punch line comes from the Rabi who argues that “the beginning of life is when the kids are out of the house and the cat and the dog have died.”

It is incomplete. I’ve lived this; the empty nest, the building of a new one far away, it was great, but now. . .

. . . when one’s life partner dies too soon, always too soon, something breaks, shatters, sends bleeding shards in all directions, hews and hacks out chunks; cleaves rifts unrepairable. The joke turns on its head and destroys more than one ever thought possible and yet live.

Ironically as she was dying my life force grew – mystified by a growing hunger, physical, sexual, adventurous, I thirsted for life. Unable to turn the tide and infuse this energy into her, it continued to grow in me. And then, those infinitely gentle last moments, like a wolf-pup trying to growl, her last breaths, then silence, peace, stillness. Hours later her open mouth, of its own accord, closed into a divine smile and so remained until I left her body three days later to be cremated.

The crack widened as I turned my back and walked away. It began when I reached the parking lot, the ‘noneness’, my pieces began to break, the bleeding shards exploded, landed.

Returning to our home in Singaporean from my last trip two weeks ago, Mila, our angle-house-maid on her weekly visit, showed me a new Hummingbird nest, with two eggs in it, built high in the bamboo branches on our bedroom balcony. Though I’d been home for two days already and spent hours writing beneath it, I’d not seen it. I was overjoyed, became cautious, changed balconies for my writing and watched from a distance. Two days of storms and high-winds now assailed us. The plant and nest thrashed back and forth in the wind and torrential rains. The birds were gone. In the calm of the next morning, I climbed on stool to check – any empty nest, delicate, small, built with care and soft stuff – even Dominique’s long black hair – was in its fabric. It was a joy to behold, yet terrible in its gaping void. Bereft.

Over the last week, many birds have come, and I return to check. There is no nest; only a bare skeleton of what once was, the fabric, her hair, gone, perhaps to be used in a safer place, away from such winds and rain amplified by the height of my 8th floor perch; without the barren man living between worlds and I chose to believe to more fertile grounds.

Is this not recycling at its greatest? And subtle guidance for the path: there is no nest, though the skeleton remains, the fabric must be reused, distributed, shared and new nests built by all of us.

Garçon : « Eggnog » avec une assiette de petits biscuits s’il vous plait !

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The Ides of March

SQ15 – flying from San Francisco to Seoul and continuing on to Singapore

The cycles are completing and the season’s changing. 15 years ago today I began working for a large US multi-national; a technology provider in the Seattle area, which was dominating the world with its products and growing at exponential rates as it achieved its existing mission of “a PC on every desktop.” This cycle soon ended when the internet bubble burst about a year later. Growth (of the stock price, not the company or its market penetration) ended and the company mission changed.

I had never considered them as noteworthy, was leery of their products, though used them extensively and I was curious to see what might transpire while in the company. Might I make it better? I had been challenged by 6 of 8 interviewers to describe “what do you want to do here”? Such wonderful empowerment in that question and not a question I was ready for, though a question which has lived in me for the past 15 years. On this day my cycle in the oceanographic sciences ended. I’ve held various jobs in the company but the focus has almost always been the same: the essence of the company’s new mission – “to enable people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential” with my own added twist of doing so with harmony and through more harmonious human relations in all that we do.

I had a technical role which focused on enterprise management and the company’s engagement, development and use of standards. The external-facing aspects of my role I loved. The internal ones were hard as the development environment was hostile and challenging. I used to joke with my counterparts from our competitors at the standards meetings how much nicer they were than those I worked with at home. I had my work cut out for me between this and 3 adolescent children at home still struggling to adapt to the United States as they were pulled in various directions by the turbulent growth and change within themselves and facing discrimination and prejudice for the first time, now that they were in “The Land of the Free.” How sickeningly ironic… I had the best companion and partner one could ever hope for in my wife. It was hard, it was new, it was exciting. Today, it is difficult to imagine that that was 15 years ago, so much has changed and yet also so little…

This has been a year of milestones. I entered my 50th year, my daughter her 30th, my wife’s soul left her body after an 18 month journey with cancer, I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary alone with my daughter and son-in-law, 4 years completed in Singapore and now my 15th anniversary with the company. What’s next?

Given the all-pervasive, engulfing and sometimes intrusive nature of the ‘large organization’ into one’s personal life, the blurring of the lines between personal and profession so prevalent today and the impact of one’s profession upon one’s sense of identity, this last milestone carries more weight than perhaps I would have chosen it to. Given that I am now alone its weight seems heavier. At the same time, it is also liberating as if yet another cycle was complete. 15 is a good number.

My sense of identity, though encroached has also been deeply enriched through living into the power of this mission, which now is indeed my own. Is it still theirs? At the same time my identity has also been shattered from the opposite side with the departure of my mate. I find myself in a period of redefinition, with an odd and sometimes troubling attachment to my new social status of “widower” – an identity I resent and abhor yet also to which I cling. It is real and undeniable and a reminder of the finality of our mortality and the end of that cycle. CTO is good one too – but that’s my job, not who I am and it does not capture my mission stated above. What am I? Who am I? What have I become? Why am I here? What is my purpose? It’s as if I were starting over – is that sustainably free? Is it having my cake and eating it too? What an inordinate cost… Or is it just the cycle of Saṃsāra…?

HummingBirdNest

A new Humming Bird Nest discovered in the bamboo on the balcony when I reached home in Singapore

Garçon : une assiette de lait chaud pour le chat noir qui traine au soleil sur le trottoir et un whiskey-double pour moi s’il vous plait – c’est mon anniversaire de boulot – et je ne bois plus. . .

…les nuages sous l’avion pleuvent des larmes géantes sur le Pacifique qui est colérique avec ses veilles vagues d’hiver maintenant frôlé par des nouveaux vents du printemps. Pourquoi on l’appelle « Pacifique ? » . . . les saisons changent en perpétuité, un cycle fini, un autre commence…

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