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I’ve loved this poem for a long time. Linda Pastan’s idea of an almanac of last things inspires me in a way that a “bucket list” does not!

The Almanac of Last Things
From the almanac of last things
I choose the spider lily
for the grace of its brief
blossom, though I myself
fear brevity,

but I choose The Song of Songs
because the flesh
of those pomegranates
has survived
all the frost of dogma.

I choose January with its chill
lessons of patience and despair–and
August, too sun-struck for lessons.
I choose a thimbleful of red wine
to make my heart race,

then another to help me
sleep. From the almanac
of last things I choose you,
as I have done before.
And I choose evening

because the light clinging
to the window
is at its most reflective
just as it is ready
to go out.

I know there are folks who don’t want to contemplate the end of life, or any sort of loss, before they get there. For them it drains joy from the present moment.

For me, it’s the opposite. Every reminder that there will be a last this and a last that — including a last moment — deepens my gratitude for this moment and helps me “be here now.”

So a “last thing” has several meanings for me. It’s among the last things I want to give up. It’s among the things I want to be holding with gratitude and grace when my last moment comes. And it’s among the things I will need to let go of at the end, so it’s important that I appreciate it fully right now.

P.S. The ocean and the full moon are in my personal Almanac of Last Things. Both of them say life in a big way to me. And both are on the long list of blessings for which I can only say a heartfelt “Thank you…”

These are the days of the endless summer
These are the days, the time is now
There is no past,  there’s only future
There’s only here, there’s only now

Oh your smiling face, your gracious presence
The fires of spring are kindling bright
Oh the radiant heart and the song of glory
Crying freedom in the night

Chorus:

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one magician
Turned the water into wine

These are days of the endless dancing
and the long walks on the summer night
These are the days of the true romancing
When I’m holding you oh so tight

These are the days now that we must savor
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
You’ve got to hold them in your heart

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been longing to see.
Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence
is in every small contraction and expansion,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as bird wings.
Rumi

In honor of the 46th anniversary of our love commitment…

With a hammer and nails and a fear of failure we are building a shed
Between here and heaven, between a wait and the wedding
Or as long as we both shall be dead to the world
Beyond the boys and the girls trying to keep us calm
We can practice our lines ’til we’re deaf and blind
To ourselves, to each other, and it’s
Fall, not winter, spring, not summer, cool, not cold
And it’s warm, not hot, have we all forgotten that we’re getting old

With an arrow and bow and some seeds left to sow, we are staking our claim
On ground so fertile, we forget who we’ve hurt along the way
And reach out for a strange hand to hold
Someone strong, but not bold enough to tear down the wall
‘Cause we aren’t lost enough to find, the stars aren’t crossed by a line
And why fall hard not soft into
Fall, not winter, spring, not summer, cool, not cold
And it’s warm, not hot, have we all forgotten that we’re getting old

And it’s fall, not winter, spring, not summer, cool, not cold
And it’s warm, not hot, has everyone forgotten that we’re getting old
And it’s fall, not winter, spring, not summer, cool, not cold
And it’s warm, not hot, have we all forgotten that we’re getting old

Aoife O’Donovan (pronounced EEF-ah)(born November 18, 1982) is an American singer and songwriter. She is also the lead singer for the progressive bluegrass/string band, Crooked Still, and a member of the female folk-noir trio, Sometymes Why.

On Tuesday, January 31 at 7:30pm ET/ 6:30pm CT/ 8:00pm MT/PT/HI/AK tape delayed (local time). This exclusive concert event will be broadcast LIVE from the House of Blues® Boston and brings together four string virtuosos: world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, legendary Bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, acclaimed bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin wizard Chris Thile and guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan. While each artist is a prominent figure in his own music sphere, they have come together as a unified ensemble on a most remarkable and organic cross-genre project. The music feels both new and familiar – it’s composed and improvised, uptown and down home, funky and pastoral and above all, uniquely American.

This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.
O praise the Lord of heav’n: praise him in the height.

Praise him, all ye angels of his: praise him, all his host.
Praise him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars and light.
Let them praise the Name of the Lord.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
The Lord himself is thy keeper: the Lord is thy defence upon thy right hand;
so that the sun shall not burn thee by day: neither the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: yea, it is even he that shall keep thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in: from this time forth for evermore.
He shall defend thee under his wings.

Be strong, and he shall comfort thine heart, and put thou thy trust in the Lord.

Psalms 118: 24; 148: 1–3, 5a;
91: 4a, 11; 121: 5–8; 27: 16b

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Joan of Arc

I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. And then it is gone. But to sacrifice what you are and live without belief, that's more terrible than dying.--

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Beannacht

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

John O'Donohue, Echoes of Memory