Monday, June 15, 2009


erased, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

This weekend Ted and started Andrew Weil's EIGHT WEEKS TO OPTIMUM HEALTH. We've been interested in the program for a long time, but weren't inspired to actually DO till it was recommended on Tim Ferris's (always interesting) blog. Week one is pretty simple. You eat broccoli and fish once during the week (which we do anyway), walk five times (ditto) and breathe consciously, i.e. meditate, for five minutes a day (Now that's an area I need to work on). Oh, and you also buy yourself flowers. Not too onerous, even for a habitual resolution breaker like me.

Keeping with the program, we' d started off on an energetic hike through the woods when we wandered into an old cemetery. Well, that was it for the walk. How could we not be stopped by history, by the stories cut in stone, and the infinite mystery they left behind? At times, those who occupied "our" world n seem like a distant rumor, but in the cemetery, they reclaim their names, their sacred alliances and beliefs , the tragedies that swept through their lives, and their own own ultimate release from them. In the shaded serenity of the cemetery, I was reminded of something I'd recently read by Anthony de Mello: "All mystics, no matter what their theology, are unanimous on one point: that all is well, all is well."

flora, age 3

Though the oldest "occupants" were born in the eighteenth century, the first stone we came upon was that of FLORA, AGE 3. Flora as been dead long enough that lichen and decay have begun to erode the three-word biography recorded on her stone, but not so long ago that some living person doesn't still remember her or at least her story. I paused for a minute to wonder who.

soldier of the revolution

We found soldiers from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the graves of young women (who had presumably died in childbirth) and were buried with their infants, and far too many markers for young children. Though their lives ended long ago, my heart still clenched when I encountered JOSEPH who lived for one year, four months, and eleven days, and for the family who numbered his days. However, I was also surprised by the number of nonagenarians the cemetery contained. It seemed that those who survived the perils of youth-- war and childbearing, and lived long enough to build up an immunity to the contagious diseases that claimed so many frequently achieved a ripe old age. Then again, neither the soldier and Christian patriarch above, nor the Temperance advocate below could have imagined a time when fish were less than abundant off the coast of Cape Cod, or when concerns about mercury or other contaminants made people afraid to eat them. Natural wholesome food, a life of vigorous activity, strong community and spirituality weren't something you had to read a book or make a resolution to acquire.

wine is a mocker

In addition to walking and eating broccoli and breathing (always a plus) I've been trying to learn a new song every week. As I've said here before, my voice has been known to scare cats and startle babies, but I still think Pete Seeger was right when he emphasized the importance of singing. For everyone. Even off-key divas like me.

He said it better than I can:

"Songs are funny things. They can slip across borders. Proliferate in prisons. Penetrate hard shells. I always believed that the right song at the right moment could change history."

To that end, I have begun my quest for the right song. This week it was this one. Sing it and remember that all is well. All is well.

Any suggestions for next week?


rdl said...

I love that song! fish, flowers brocolli, walking and breathing - i think i can do that. Great post!

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Smile with the rising sun...

Bob Marley and the three little birds on the doorstep totally rock!

Every little thing will be all right...

Yer awesome Patry!


Patry Francis said...

R: So now there's three of us doing the 8 weeks! (p.s. not surprised that you love that song.)

Laura: Bob Marley was definitely a man who "sang the right songs. Love to you and Fred.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
So happy to read from you and of your vigour and focus.
Three Little Birds - the first song I listened to when I fell in love for the first time so many years ago. Kia kaha Patry!

Patry Francis said...

kia ora, Robb: A beautiful song to fall in love by. No wonder your love has lasted!

Lisa said...

So happy to see you back here! And I am not surprised to learn that you can be as mesmerized by a walk through a cemetery as I can. Sounds like you're on to a good wellness program. I have to find one of those...or some kind of program ;)

Dale said...

(o) Hey, Patry. xoxo

musingwoman said...

Learning a song a week is a wonderful idea!

And I just realized, I don't own one Bob Marley CD. That really must be remedied soon.

deb said...

Good to "see you" here Patry. (as always)

LOVED hearing Bob Marley this morning; great way to start the day.

May I offer this up as a recommendation for a song for ze repertoire? (cat stevens/yusef salam - 'don't be shy' ...)

Patry Francis said...

Lisa: I am an old cemetery walker from way back. There was one near my house in Brockton when I was growing up; and I was so intrigued by what the stones revealed and the secrets they kept that I still remember some of the names. Seems like a morbid preoccupation for a kid, but I never saw death there. I saw stories.

Dale: Thanks for being here. xo to you.

musing: With your love for music, I bet you have some great suggestions...

deb: It is a great way to start the day. Bob tells us not just to get out of bed, but to RISE UP! For me, that feels like a huge difference. And thanks for a great song. I had never heard it before, and it is indeed lovely.

robin andrea said...

I like the idea of learning a new song every week. Here's a song my twin brother sent to me the other day. I wonder if you listened to it way back when. It reminded us of our younger days when we were full of hope and the world was a constant delight.
How Have You Been

Deirdre said...

So glad to hear all is well with you.

I like the idea of buying flowers every week. I go through bursts of flower buying and then forget to keep it up. Grocery store bouquets are my favorites and cheer my house easily as well as something from the florist.

Sherry said...

It may not be what you had in mind, but I'm enjoying a hymn project at Semicolon. And memorizing a hymn to sing is never a bad idea.

marja-leena said...

How inspiring this is, Patry! Walking, eating right, breathing, history, singing.... Now I feel like getting back on track with my own program since taking time out with travel... which was good for the soul too! More walks are what I need though I blame the heat for making me lazy :-) I'll be thinking of you on my next walk, or when I sing in the shower.

Zhoen said...

I've always found silly better than pointedly cheerful or inspiring.

How about Logroller's Waltz?

Patry Francis said...

robin: Oh, yes, that song does bring back the those times back. Though it is often misunderstood now, I remember what that song captures--the great generosity of spirit, the curiosity, and yes the delight.

Deirdre: I don't know if you have a Trader Joe's nearby, but they have great flowers--and dirt cheap. that's where I plan to go tonight

Sherry: I love hymns and spirituals, and frequently find myself singing them around the house, especially very old ones from childhood.

marja-leena: Now I will have to return to your blog and find out exactly where you've been traveling. I've been kind of grounded in the last couple of years, so I could use a vicarious vacation.

zhoen: Thanks for inspirng me to look up the Log Driver's Waltz, a song I never heard before. It might be silly but it made me want to leap up and spin.

Tish Cohen said...

This struck me "Natural wholesome food, a life of vigorous activity, strong community and spirituality weren't something you had to read a book or make a resolution to acquire." How strange humans have become that we have to work for his now.

Funny you mention this song, I've been singing the chorus from Lullaby all week...

Everything's gonna be alright

Maryanne Stahl said...

yes! breathe, walk, eat, sing and bless yourself with flowers!

I love growing flowers. they are essential to life.

pohanginapete said...

I've thought for a long time that music is one of the most powerful influencers of mood. However, the trick is using music to help you towards the mood that's best for you; unfortunately, that can be difficult because it's so tempting to choose music to match the mood you're already in. Choosing upbeat music when you're feeling low can be hard, but the rewards are great: I'd have to be feeling particularly perverse not to feel my spirits lift on listening to Charlie Parr's Jesus at the Kenmore (on the album 1922, for example.

Great to see you back, Patry :^)

Melanie Margaret said...

Good to read your post this evening!
School's out this week. We would love to walk with you sometime :)
Sending you lots of love!
I have to go...I hear Maggie singing in the shower!

Anonymous said...

To quote the Doobies, music is the doctor!

Here's one that always reminds me all is well:
The Riddle

Thanks for another great post, Patry.

alaine@éclectique said...

Lovely post and you've given me the push to go and walk this afternoon - it's freezing out there!

One of my favourite things to do is wander through a cemetery, read and wonder.

Patry Francis said...

Tish: I can just imagine you singing Rockabye! Peanut dust notwithstanding, you always remind me that All is Well.

Maryanne: I get the sense that your life is all about those essentials.

Pete: Somehow Charlie Parr was new to me. What a revelation! I spent a long time rectifying that through your link this afternoon. I agree that a cheerful song can lift your mood, but sometimes an all out wallow in your misery blues song has the same effect on me.

Melba: Yes, we must walk soon! (No, not soon--next week.) And when we do, maybe Maggie can sing me her song from the shower.

Mary: This is probably the best question I've ever asked on the blog because it's introduced me to so much great music. I'm pretty sure I heard that lovely song before, but it's been a while, and I never listened so closely. P.S. I love your Adrienne Rich quote.

Ladybug: I was about to whine that it is unseasonably cool here, too, but then I realized you are having your winter there. Hope you enjoyed the walk!

Sky said...

i love wandering around cemeteries and reading the headstones, finding families, interpreting stories that the names and dates and inscriptions seem to tell. we need to find some good cemeteries here in the pacific NW. i want to visit the one denise levertov is buried in, not far away in dowtown Seattle.

I have been so totally stuck on the catchy tune and beat of that Jason Mraz song "I'm Yours." nothing profound, just fun and perky.

so glad to see you around here again. wish it were in person!

i just learned that i cannot comment here if i enter this site from a FB link. i am allowed to read, but it will not accept a comment. had to go out and come back in the old way to leave this!

Annie said...

So happy to see a new post :-). I missed you. I love that song and I live by the words, all is well. xoxo

MB said...

It's not exactly upbeat but it's pulled me up and out many times nonetheless. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it online to listen to, but Van Morrison's The Mystery is a perennial favorite of mine.

So nice to see you back here and know that all is well!

MB said...

Ah, sorry. Here's the link that got cut off.

Perfect Virgo said...

Good to hear from about your plans and motivation. Enjoy your walks and your music, I know I do!

Patry Francis said...

Sky: What a cool song! Hunting all this music down, I discovered, and lost half a day in wonderful music. (Well, I guess "lost" is the wrong word.

It's interesting how even cemeteries have a regional character. If you visit some old ones in Seattle, I'd like to hear what they're like.

Annie: That spirit comes through your posts and even your comments!

MB: I followed the link, but couldn't actually hear the song. I'll keep looking. Van Morrison is always worth the effort, and I love the title.

PV: My walks are pretty tame next to your long bike rides and runs, but it feels so good to get out there!

Anonymous said...

So joyful to see your post tonight! I check every night, looking for your thought-provoking words
It's delightful that your spirit is so buoyant and blessed that you can walk and listen and sing and love the flowers in their fleeting beauty.
God bless you, dear Patry!

Ancient Reader

i beati said...

wow that buying flowers I could do easily .. I also juice fresh organic veggies and take ip6 this was a most interesting post

Anonymous said...

Someone seems to be buying flowers for Flora, even if they are weeds. Lovely account of your walk through the graveyard.

Patry Francis said...

Ancient Reader: I hope you know how much your wonderful comments and regular visits mean to me.

ibeati:. We juiced for a while, but had a cheap juicer that bounced all over the counter and splattered everywhere. Enjoy your flowers!

Peter: I, too, was touched by Flora's flowers. Though I didn't see the link between hers and mine, the connections are always there

Becca said...

Patry, I'm glad to hear that all is well with you. May the summer continue to bring you good health and good times.

I'm fascinated by visiting cemetery's and reading hisoric headstones.

Loved your song choice for this week...

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

Patry, am I too late to suggest some songs?
Here are three vintage ones which I find irresistibly conducive to dancing - do they have the same effect on you?




Amber said...

Love this post. ;)

This song was written for his mom ,when she beat cancer. ;)


Tinker said...

It's been so long since I heard that song - too long, I think... If every little thing will be alright - then maybe the next song might be, "Don't worry - be happy.'
Glad all is well with you, Patry - hope you're having a happy summer!

Carla Murphy said...

Great to see another post by you Patry!!

Dollar to Donuts I have a worse voice then you - but I remember a time that I photocopied the words to Amazing Grace from a hymn book & taped it to my bathroom mirror. Ha - I tried to learn it every morning as I got ready. That was years ago and it's the only song I know by heart (and will sing out loud when no one is around).

Loved reading about the tomb stones. I love what you do with words girl!


Michael's Sister said...

The message "All is well" is one that would have resonated with my late brother Michael. You wrote eloquently about his blog, One Foot in Front of the Other. There is no gravestone to memorialize him, but his spirit lives on in his work. One of the things I've done since his passing is gather his poetry into a single volume. I've posted it on his blog (along with slide shows of his journeys in Japan). All is well. And I hope you continue on the path to wellness. Oh, and thank you for introducing me to 3 Little Birds. Valerie

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
Wishing you well and hoping the music is still resonating within you.
Kia kaha.

tinker said...

Hope you're having a happy 4th of July!

Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

What a wonderful finding ... walking through the woods and encountering an old cemetery. I was visiting a friend in Dunstable MA, and took a walk through country roads and came upon a small family plot. The stone of the patriarch (the oldest of the stones) actually had a huge tree growing in front of it so that you had to peek around the tree to read the inscription. I can't remember whether or not the other stones faced the same direction. Now that's an interesting thought. Turning ones back on the rest of the family. Or did the family turn the stone around to face away from them?

paris parfait said...

Oh yes, lovely song. I was thinking just yesterday that if I were ever kidnapped and kept in isolation (one of my biggest fears, stemming from early days in the Middle East, when many journalists were kidnapped), one way to survive would be to sing.

So nice to see your post. And Andrew Weil is brilliant, in my opinion! I try to follow his program and hit at least a few of his top ten healthy foods, i.e. tomatoes, blueberries and salmon. xo

Lorna said...

bob Marley has never done it for me---I don't know why. I should feel uplifted by his music, but instead I feel like I'm listening to Muzak. On the other hand, I was very moved by your commentary on the gravestones---I worked at a cemetery and funeral home for a while, and was often more uplifted than saddened.

Fred Garber said...

Patry...good luck with the 8 week deal! I have a couple of songs that I listen to all of the time...Billie Stewarts " Sitting in the Park", Los Lobos's "La Pistola y El Corazon" and their "Will the Wolf Survive"...also anything by Brook Benton or Nina Simome.

Russell CJ Duffy said...

Morbid of me perhaps but I enjoy wandering around churchyards to spot the old graves and the names engraved.
Their is one in Rayleigh, a town some six miles from where I live that has a sad family grave where all the members died within a couple of years of each other. Not that long ago either; (early 1800's or late 1700's can't remember). Such tales can be woven about these graves.
Fabulous post!

S L Cunningham said...

When I taught at George Stevens Academy in Blue Hill, Maine, there was a cemetery just up the street. There, you could find headstones that dated back to the 1600's. It was fascinating to think that an entire community's history over generations of time was buried there. A history teacher and I worked a joint project with our students. They did a rubbing of the gravestone on paper, and then did research on the individual whose name was on the stone. They would next write a paper based on what they learned of the individual.

colleen said...

How's the breathing, broccoli and signing going, Patry? I sang along with Bob and imagined singing with you. I wonder what his tombstone says.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

I'm a cemetery lurker and ponder over the stones wondering about the people, especially the children. So sad, because they had no medicine and they would lose several children, have another batch and lose them too. How easy our lives are in comparison.