Lament: bowed heads

(Collage, April 2020)

It started with a bit of whimsy
red rock earth where I first met desert,
animals and exquisite birds stopping by
with an ancient Mayan adding voice.

Burnt matches standing vigil,
matches that light my morning candle,
their presence stirring sadness in me
heads bowed…

a trail of tears over the ages,
lament for cut-up desecrated land,
a border wall 60 miles south,
this global pandemic,
people suffering.

We light candles to remember,
to not forget someone or something,
this virus burning through the world,
the ongoing suffering of nature without voice.
It is not just one thing.

Shucking peas on a July day…

Outside beyond our farmhouse front porch
under the shade of tall walnut trees
I hear the plunk of round green peas
falling into the Tupperware bowls on our laps
making their own percussion music
as our fingers rhythmically
pop the smooth green pods open
and discard the shells, whop, plop
my mother and I sit in lawn chairs
shucking the morning’s harvest of peas.

I can’t remember the specifics
of our talking, chatting,
a mix of conversation and silence
and oh yes my mother hummed
as I often do without knowing
oh so revealing if we had
some recorded snippets
from decades ago.

I imagine we talked
about common daily things
but it’s a stretch to remember.

The tone was peaceful and calm
with the sound of horse and buggy
rolling by, neighbors driving into town perhaps.

I wish she could have shared her wisdom
under this shade tree, just slipped it in
growing out of simplicity, pain, family,
but some words of hers were hidden away
like that white cotton handkerchief most
Mennonite women tuck in their bras
bringing out when needed
to wipe a sweaty brow
or comfort a crying child.

I listen between the lines
to hear her gentle wisdom
hearing it in the silences too.

Midnight wake-ups

I stumble to the front porch
slowly opening the heavy screen door
hoping to dampen the noise as it open
and settle onto the rattan loveseat in the cool dark quiet. 

I am enveloped in the huge space of quiet dark universe
with starlight and moonlight shining on the ground
the open desert landscape stretching out wildly
in what we call a front yard. 

In the distance the hoot of an owl
followed again by long silence stillness
broken later by the far piercing cry of a coyote
to the south, a minute later another one joins in
and I listen to that mesmerizing chorus
then all is quiet again, this stillness,
and I hear the call of the owl.


I sat today with an older woman
age 85 recounting her sadnesses
her head leaning forward
shoulders heavy
barely any pauses
in her litany.

As our hour goes on
I ask if she’d like some conversation
“yes but first I need to tell you more…”
perhaps that’s what is needed,
to speak, to be heard
and so I listen.

As the hour is ending my mind wanders
glimpsing a memory of my friend Norie
crawling under the table in the hospital
to hold our friend’s feet during a time of darkness
the needed medicine for that day and other days
I wonder… and ask the woman if I may touch her feet.
She is startled and says yes.

I drop to the floor and place a hand around each ankle
holding her feet silently, my head bowed.
She goes silent and then I hear her sob
“no one has touched me for years”
we hold this silent pause.

The hour is over.

Pamela Dintaman, 2017
Reverie… paying attention to what pops up, mind wandering,
an important part of the process of listening.
Credit to August Cwik’s workshop Nov 2019 for this understanding of reverie…
Sometimes we are diverted to or distracted by something else during a session,
but we can realize it IS connected to the conversation.
Images, thoughts, feelings, books, myths, flotsam and jetsam–
that pop up can be the compass to the work
and the things we sometimes ignore in ourselves,
in a conversation, in a therapy session.
It is actually when we get into theory
that we are farthest away from experiencing,
it is a form of distancing–rather than
entering into that space of healing.
“Let the imagination be the eyes of the heart.”

I am waiting…

                                            (inspired by I Am Waiting by Lawrence Ferlinghetti)

I am waiting for silence
to descend and bathe my soul.

I am waiting to lie down on the earth
and feel the warm soil under my body.

I am waiting to be refreshed
like water running down over my parched skin

I am waiting for vibrancy
for energy to gurgle up within me.

I am waiting for pieces of my life
to come together in surprising ways.

I am waiting for NO pain in my body
to dance freely with no constraints.

I am waiting to pick up the pen
and write about what’s important to me.

I am waiting for music to again come out of me
bringing forth healing vibrations and sounds.

I am waiting to scream loudly and tear my hair
to let loose my frustrations and sorrows
wailing with the endless tragedies
of children, women, men, earth, earth’s creatures.

I am waiting
to become
more and more
of my self

step by step.

Pamela Dintaman, March 30, 2018


October Reverence

October Reverence                                    October 4, 2014 (some names are changed)
     busting out of four walls

June, Anne, Nadie,
opening themselves to sun
like sunflowers making effort
to turn faces toward light
light that moves across the skies all day
and fades at evening time.

This morning I anticipate visiting June,
yesterday hearing her condition is changing.
Perhaps we’ll talk of this next step as a deep meditative state
that she has long searched for and spoken about.
But as I gather my things for the drive
I hear that she died last night.

I collapse on my bed

Today she will follow the sun
freely without her oxygen tether
flying now with the agility of the butterfly
darting in and out of my yard outside
she’ll travel places I’ve not yet been
but can only glimpse.
I shed my tears into my love
his ready and soft embrace.

I accompanied each of these women for a brief time
finding delight as they search for light amidst darkness
each one finding some meaning within their four walls
I love pointing towards the markers each is discovering
but not always seeing, and watch her nod and sigh, “oh yes.”

Anne, the queen of reverence* I call her,
which makes her faintly smile,
the phrase inspired from a book she gave me,
she feels discomfort needing someone to help her stand.
I see her the day it progresses to needing two people
way too hard, she says.
They love you, Anne
and she turns her face upward and begins
to accept their physical strength as mutual love
as she wraps her arms around their necks for the lift
leaning into them now feeling it as love and embrace
the kind that is present and real within these four walls.

Nadie no longer walks outside in nature, her life teacher,
she believes nature can teach her about death too
she tells me this as she struggles with end of life questions
well how does one hear from trees and wildlife inside four walls
we look around… I inquire about the three fabrics hanging there
a quilted gift from her sister shows grandmother Moon
tribal wisdom says grandmother watches over the women.
A red Sun Dancer crown is tacked up next to her bed
worn recently by the woman who dances on her behalf.
The appliquéd turtle in front of her bed
carries the entire world on its back, creation itself.
We brought the whole world into the room that day
or rather it was there all along
grandmother moon and the Sun Dancer and the turtle
watch over her and take her to those places
teachers of death and life.

The last time I saw June
she showed me her sketch of the story chair
where so many spun stories throughout the nine decades of her life
I saw that worn chair each time I visited.
June loved to meditate and draw
wanting to use all her energy for her search
and yet needing to respect her breathing, her limited breath.
Life culminates in breath and no breath
and then freedom
bursting out of the four walls.

I put my car keys away and decide
not to make any visits today
I wash my hair, I write these ramblings
I feel the sadness, and ponder what it means to be reverent
in the midst of the things life brings me.

Pamela Dintaman

*Reverence “…people receive countless opportunities to be reverent before whatever is set before them. Sometimes it’s a wedding, sometimes a funeral. It could be a sunny spring morning; it could be a cancer ward. You don’t get to choose the event. You only get to choose whether or not you will be reverent.” Kabbalah: A Love Story, by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, pp 82-83


Grief Haiku


I introduced myself as chaplain to a patient’s wife in the hospital, a man who came in for a minor problem. We briefly talked…When I met her the next morning, he had died unexpectedly during the night. Our brief interaction the day before opened up a safe space for her grief. Later I had to create some haiku and a “grief” collage for my own process.

Walk into the woods
Surrounded by large darkness
With shapes barely seen.

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