Deborah J. Haynes

What I Know

I am in Jamestown, sitting on broken ground among the nine tall willows on a cool morning. Wind, purple finch, rushing water just over the crumbling berm.

How often in time past I have lain here upon cool marble, listening to the world. How often I have lain on the stone gazing up at the willow branches and sky above, the lovingkindness prayer pressing into my back. The stone was found in four fragments, which I placed together again on high ground. How often I have lain among these Sisters, finding solace in This Place. How utterly changed it is.


How utterly changed I am.

What do I know?

I know the vicissitudes of grief. I now understand in my gut how deep grief may linger when there are compounded losses. I don’t care about the house, nearly repaired. Let me say it again. I lost all of my stone tools, marble sculptures, and uncarved marble, plus most of my historical art. I lost the meditation cabin, and everything in it—sacred objects, thangkas, and more. I lost the circumambulation path, the garden, the perches—those seats I had constructed over the past 15 years for pausing on my daily meditative walk. I lost the community that supported David after the onset of his dementia. I lost the possibility of carrying out the post-retirement vision of a contemplative and creative life, developed over years. The land itself is gone, denuded. Where is home? I do not know where I belong.

I know the angle of repose: how earth falls down into the massive hole dug for our new septic field. Sometime in the next month we will have a new, complicated, septic system that will cost upwards of $20,000. Building the rock wall that will stabilize this raised structure redefines “earthwork” for me. Without that wall, the angle of repose could erode the entire construction. The creek, should it flood again, may easily do the same.

I know the truth of impermanence, about which I have written so much. Everything changes, always. As that wise old gestaltist Barry Stevens said, “you can’t step into the same river twice.”

I know faith: faith that aging, illness, and death are natural; faith in the process of healing; faith in the dharmic path I am walking; faith in my resilience.

Right now, what I know is not enough.

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