The One Year Anniversary

Ok here we go. It is the anniversary of Michael’s death. In meditation I felt the warmth leave his hand all over again and watched his last breath disengage him from the last vestige, his body. I felt Orien, unbelieving and a bit in shock, as I pronounced what she was seeing also. This time last year friends were outside in a circle and some remained inside with me meditating.

I have done with it though. I have experienced such wonderful grace and peace today with the meditation I did with Vita. It took me through the landmines of the grief bombs, through drifts of thoughts, along body tensions and pressure and back out to the nectar of Love and Compassion and Connection with Michael and then with another friend who died recently and another friend who is at risk of dying from the cancer he is living with.

Being on the far side of death isn’t a problem, I think, I sense such sweetness there. It’s all this other stuff we, the temporary survivors, are left with. Michael’s death was “easy” by comparison to most others’ and even though this year was the hardest of my life many other people have it far, far rougher.

Comparing hardships is not what I want to do though. It’s just to share the gratitude for the energetic universe.. where all the emotions and awful hard realities come into a perspective that is really beyond the calculations of the mental brain.

It has been a week alright– Our 13th anniversary was rocky with grief bombs exploding in inopportune moments. I went to the End Zone, sports bar, scene of our football watching dinner last year. The place was practically deserted and I had dinner and wrote in my journal until my friend Laurel came and she helped both distract me and extract me. My biggest regret was that I could not recall what Michael and I talked about on our way there and back home– our last chance for lucid conversation.

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Each day of the week I replayed the year-ago corresponding day. I went up to Mt. Shasta on Wednesday and camped til Friday at Panther Meadows below the old ski area where we used to ski above where the road is closed off in winter and where we always camped in the camper, at Bunny Flats. The camp ground was full and I shared a site with a Canadian woman whose birthday is exactly 6 months from me. I felt it was auspicious to have my opposite there to balance me. On the first night though I didn’t sleep at all and it really did seem like one of those “dark nights of the soul” miserable experiences. In the days though I hiked, or rather meandered, with Selkie on the trails nearby. I took myself to a movie in town, like we used to do. On Friday, I climbed the ridge to the wilderness boundary, where we used to ski down with him gracefully telemarking and me fearfully making wide shallow passes and kick turns while Michael patiently waited for me. In the stiff sweet wind I let go more of his ashes, which blew off toward the East. (And I send love to his family who I have not heard from for months…I know their thoughts are with him today too.)

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It was poignant and for barely more than a second the musk of him showed up in the fine oxygen of the 8000 foot breeze. I’d reviewed and reexamined all that I could recall about the week of his death and really found peace in the pure mountain air, where he had originally wanted to climb down into a crevasse and pull down his rope when he first considered what his death would be like.

Tonight was the Blood Moon, total eclipse and harvest full moon. I spent a long time outside maneuvering to get good views of the moon. I am exhausted with this day now but I actually enjoyed myself tonight. Amazing grace to have survived this week and have the treat of the eclipse to oogle at and wrap up the fullness of this difficult year.

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I survived my wedding anniversary!

IMG_7843 A very uneven day. Crying at the physical therapist’s. Not being able to organize my thoughts. Going to a meditation class instead of the yoga class I’d planned on and finding it helpful. Then in the evening going to the End Zone and crumpling under the truth that I can not recall a single thing we talked about in the last lucid times we had together driving over there and driving home before the pain hit. Having Laurel come and distract and extract me out of there (Thank you!) Then coming home and reading our wedding album vs some of my journal articles about how difficult it was living with Michael in some ways, at some times.

At this time last year we were in the ER waiting room and he was in agony. I don’t want to remember more tonight. My Love will last this life time… “You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.”

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Our Anniversary that isn’t

I have felt a huge weight all day. I haven’t been able to organize myself to follow through on anything. I did find this file I compiled last year at the time of Michael’s death… it is too much but I’m afraid I will lose it again so here are what people said at his death, said about him, video and audio clips… everything. It is a hodge podge and long and I apologize—- I appreciated re-reading all this today though. It is a Love Gift.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RU2fpA2258M Michael speaking at City Council.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoI4WJB1Aa8 M at Beale

Mathilde Rand’s Around the US on straight vegetable oil video–http://youtu.be/0R7yth6CIwg

Nancy Wiegman’s interview with us– http://kchofm.podbean.com/?s=chris+nelson

evening rainstorm over here at my house followed by an exceptionally bright gold to copper to salmon clouded sunset. Paul O-B

He must have passed shortly after I left.  I had needled “Yintang” for spirit/mind calming associated with 6th chakra  and  Shishencong (the 4 wisdoms) which surround the crown chakra to open his chakra and release his spirit. Ilona K

I was calling all angels all day, they are there now with you in the house, I saw them. I smiled and waved at them and Michael was standing there.

At the top of my road I saw a rainbow and I thought of Michaels appreciation

for beauty and nature and i thought of you and Orien still surrounded

by angels. they are in the room even though Michaels is off canoeing

or hiking to the heavens by now. Luisa G

Allan and I were out walking in the woods when he passed – the fresh breeze and turning leaves in the oaks, the moist soil and cedar filling the air. Joni S

I was in a place here called Garden of the Gods this afternoon.  A beautiful place with incredible natural rock sculptures.  While walking the trails I could not help but think of Michael. Warren N

While I was in Spring Creek in Oklahoma at this time, a pair of very rare Yellow Billed Cuckoos flew over my head. Everything stopped as I witnessed beauty in flight. Now I know why. Donna B

He’s effortlessly breaking trail into the purest of snow. Rocky P

Smart, handsome, stubborn, talented, creative, adventurous, so many skills and so much knowledge go with him to wherever he is…  Laurel Y

My heart aches!!! I was thinking of you so very much while on the Big Island, especially while touring an absolutely wonderful farm on Friday, 9/26 – run by a dear couple that reminded me soooo very much of you and Mike!!

Soon going to head out, take a walk and light some incense for Michael at Benzaiten, (Japan) a beautiful shrine in a nearby park that is a place of refuge for me… Patricia M

weaver weaver, weave his thread whole and strong into your web. Healer healer, heal his pain, in love may he return again. Travel well Michael. Ruby P

Michael was one of the most ethical, strong and generous man I have ever known. You will have access to seeing him at the city council meeting when he testified about the banners. Maureen K

I will NEFR forget Michael & his gentle soul of a man & passion for social & environmental justice. Dan N-T

Emily announced Michael’s passing at the Weaving Women’s Wisdom gathering on Sunday

I immediately saw Michael’s face smiling  so big! up above seeing all those lovely women

sending him on!!!        That’s how i will remember him. Diane S

He lived a very rich life and im sure he is exploring every nook of wherever he is now. Jamie L.

This Saturday’s Vigil is to honor Michael with Chuck’s leading us through the old protest songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and then our falling  into a silent vigil to  contemplate what peace could be on this earth if Michael had his way. Linda f

He will continue to be an inspiration. A true activist who taught me a lot about putting words into actions.

last night as I danced I heard Bruddah Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo’ole)’s version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World…and I envisioned Mike moving through unbounded beauty, surrounded by love and light. Stacey W

There is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…. Jackie G.

I’ll never forget Michael at Beale speaking to the guards as we faced each other across the line. They had to listen because they were there guarding the entrance from the peaceniks. Michael talked about his military experiences, and how the government lied to him then, during the Viet Nam years, and “they’re lying to you now”. He was very eloquent and, I thought very persuasive. I wondered what they said to their wives when they got home about what they learned that day. It had to have an impact.

I played two for Michael, “Tribute to Peader O’Donnell” by Moving Hearts and “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin

The one thing that always shone through was the love and care that you had for each other. What a remarkable gift. May it sustain you through the pain and grief it will always be there in your heart OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA

Lee R

Mike was the best messy fix everything man there ever was. Hjalmar H

Do you not look for me here,
For I am not here.
But you can feel me when the wind blows
And you can see me when the vines leaf out
And you can sense me when the grapes are crushed
And you can see me smiling when the sun rises
And you can hear my laughter when the birds sing.
So do not weep for me.  I am everywhere.

From “An Independent Woman”.  By Howard Fast

In time, you’ll find a resting place for your sorrow,
one you can go to in thought if not in body,
And come away from strengthened.

From “Matters of Chance”  By Jeanette Haier

Deb D

Thank you so much for contacting me about Mike’s passing. My wife Nola (also a classmate of Mikes) saw the notice on face book yesterday morning. Our thoughts and spirits were with you and Mike all day. Even though we have never met, I feel we know you to some extent through Mike and the Veggie Voyager book Mike sent us.

I am not sure how many memories of his high school years he shared with you, but I feel you might enjoy a few of mine that have always created a special place in me for Mike.

We played football together at Lincoln HS for three years. Mike and I were only two of three sophomores that made the varsity team our first year. Mike played middle line backer and I played right side line backer shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

Mike and I were on the HS swim team for three years. We both thought swimming was a little too much work so we became the team divers. We had no coach so we taught each other through trial and error. Ouch!!!

We shared many years camping as boy scouts and explorer scouts. I expect this is where Mike and I, along with others, found our first love of the great outdoors. We affectionately called him “Bwana Mike”. We camped at local scout camps and in the Quetico Provincial Forest north of Ely, Minnesota—a very sacred place.

Mike was one of the first in our class to have a motorcycle. It was a Honda 150. He and another close friend, Steve Hamann, were the adventurers on two wheels. I envied them because my parents would not let me get a cycle to join them; too dangerous they said. Mike upgraded to a Triumph 650 his first semester at UW-Madison and we had a few hair-raising rides on that machine. Mike was my foundation for my love of motorcycles and the open road. Forty years later I bought my first Harley-Davidson and continue ridding with Nola as my passenger. We rode the Canadian Rockies, Glacier Park, Little Bighorn and the Black Hills last summer; 3,100 miles in ten days. Mike enjoyed hearing about that trip.

In the fall of 1965, Mike and I, along with other HS classmates, attended the University of Wisconsin as freshmen. I always thought college would be a breeze for Mike because of his HS academic success (National Math Scholar). He was very bright and resourceful as you know. He was a walk-on for the UW football team but decided after a few weeks that there was way too much time and emphasis on football at that level and not enough on academics and enjoying life.

I was with Mike when he made one of those life altering decisions we all face along the way. During that first semester at UW, Mike and I shared a class near Bascom Hall. I was studying engineering and I think Mike was too. We were walking to that class on a crisp winter morning. It had to be some time in mid-December because the sky was crystal blue, there was a pure white snow cover and we were bundled up against the cold. As we approached Bascom Hall which sits on a hill on campus, we both noticed how beautiful Lake Mendota looked down over our left shoulder. It was frozen over with a fresh white snowfall covering it, against the brilliant blue sky. Mike remarked how beautiful the lake looked. I agreed. He said “I should be cross country skiing out there rather than going to class”. I agreed but said we needed to go to class. Mike said he understood but said he had made his mind up about something he had been thinking about. He said he was thinking about dropping out of school and joining the army. I said that would most likely mean Vietnam. I thought he wasn’t serious but he was. He said he would enlist and become a Green Beret. He then said “Dan, you go ahead to class. I’m going back to the dorm to get my skis and go out on that lake”. He did. Several weeks later he was enlisted and on his way.

After that, my contact with Mike was limited mostly to HS class reunions every 5 years or so. It was always great catching up with each others life adventures. In fact Mike’s were so unique and fascinating that I always seriously encouraged him to write a book–“Adventures of Bwana Mike”. In spite of the limited contact over the last several years, I always considered Mike one of my true friends. I always enjoyed his company and we learned from and appreciated each other. I will always be grateful for Mike taking the effort to find me a year and a half ago so we could renew our friendship.

every time I was in his presence I thought, “This is a fine, fine man.” Bob S

I can’t remember whether I first met Michael cleaning up Comanche Creek encampments, stuffing envelopes for a referendum, distributing door-hangers on election morning or during one of the many other local issues he was involved in.  He was always there, helping behind the scenes.

When I look around my house and yard, I’m surrounded by the many improvements Michael made for me and I remember that he always really listened to what I wanted.  Sometimes my ideas weren’t very well-thought through and he was always tactful in the ensuing discussion.  Susan M

I always appreciated his quiet contributions to life in Chico and often wished I’d had the skill to join him on the snowy slopes. Jon L

I will never look at used veggie oil the same way or pass a creek without wanting to wade in and haul out some trash. Debbie V.

10/6 Donna B told me she was in Ok where her daughter’s ashes are buried and she was walking by a very beautiful clear creek when two cuckoos flew over at about the exact time as M died.

I do remember my many conversations with Michael about making a movement based on non-violence.  For example, I certainly remember conducting a workshop in Children’s Park with him (along with Bob)…and this was when there was a spy taking the training!   John M

So sorry to hear of Michael’s death. He was truly a mentor, but with such a quiet and gentle do as I do approach. I appreciate that he lived until he died and shared his learnings and adventures until then as well. My heart is sad, and yet so grateful for the life lived, and the lives touched, by this man, mine included.

~ Maria Peyer, Longview, Washington

Michael was a mentor and individual who gave love, concern, empathy, compassion, knowledge, strength, and more to many!! He was taken from us too young and will be deeply missed. May his spirit be free and at peace. May Michael’s friends and family know that people throughout the world have been touched by Michael and will continue to draw inspiration from being able to know and interact with him; how fortunate we have been to cross paths with Michael.

~ Patricia McGahan, Tokyo

Julian and I so appreciated Michael Pike, since he was such a sweet and generous man. Our hearts go to Chris who has been absolutely wonderful in caring for Michael.
And we look forward to hearing about him being honored at this week’s Peace and Justice dinner. Michael was the embodiment of both peace and justice, and his spirit will remain with those who know him.

~ Grace Marvin, Chico,

Michael was an amazing man. Knowing him for last 20+ years has been an honor. He was the epitome of a man of the earth, so connected and rooted, like a towering Valley oak. His work and love for the land will live on through his community and those who he affected. Thank you, Michael, and rest in peace.

~ Laurie Feldman, Los Angeles, California

Michael is an inspiration whose memory will keep his causes and passions alive for us all.    Jane Martin, Chico,

Michael Pike was our handyman for years. He helped us on numerous small projects cheerfully and competently. He was a good man – one of the best, as well as a great environmental activist. Commanche Creek was protected as a result of his good work (among others). Roger C

https://www.youtube.com/?v=RU2fpA2258M M at City Council on Military Heroes Banner discussion.

Am so thankful the CMHs vote went the way it did. They wrote their own demise by insisting they could do no less than a year. Inflexible, entitled attitude. I kept picturing Michael addressing the council in his full green beret regalia- and prayed the other councilors wouldn’t fold. Tammi R

He was one of the strongest men I knew. I remember his tales of Baja for 3 months straight, no shower, no fresh water, board sailing the waves every day; same the Columbia Gorge. What a MAN. Tina M

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Womens Campaign to Guatemala Reunion and then Home

IMG_7828 (Another thing lost is youth.)

6am and the light just a muddy orange in the darkness. Oncoming lights are brilliant and shattering as cataracts are developing in my eyes.

Katie and I left Lara’s this morning after a 4:30am launch. What a weekend it was! Being with those Women did my heart Good but also leaves me a bit emptied out. Now I don’t have that to look forward to anymore… The Women’s Campaigns to Guatemala 1992 and 1994.

When we first went there was civil war in Guatemala, more exactly, there was a war against the indigenous people and the human rights civil sector. In the act of bringing material aid to women’s groups we found ourselves in the middle of solidarity, even acting as a protective shield for some at risk organizers. They were heady times at Casa Cami and the rural areas were wrenched by consuming poverty… we went out and soaked up the lives of those suffering terrible conditions, in Cuchuopan, Mirandia and on the Mexican border with refugees. We learned something about helplessness in the face of overwhelming need and about witnessing and the simple joys of dark humor and companionship. It changed our lives- Lara became a midwife and Katie became a nurse practitioner. It inspired me to return over and over to Guatemala to provide women’s health care. It kept Amy, Lynn, Valori and Laurie honest and engaged in the struggle for human rights and healthy living. I’m sure it is why Linda stayed in Oaxaca instead of moving north. We’ve lost track of Maria, Courtney, Sunita and Xemina but saw many photos of them and others- Georgia, Marissa, Flor de Maria, Aura’s family, Rudolfo and Frank this weekend– they and we are back in a circle. For me the beautiful faces of the children, who, if they survived, are themselves parents struggling with poverty now were perhaps the most poignant. So worthy of joy, health and well-being!

We are all well fed, most still complaining about unfair things about life or overwhelmed and hurt by things beyond our control, beyond what nurture can really heal… only time and direction. Time like I have known, gnarly time.

Last night Lara, Katie and I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant and The Green Bay Packers were playing and I felt that old twist. Michael, your team is winning. Michael did you see that pass? Michael should I watch this for you even though I don’t know what is going on? Where are you?

The old refrain.

We did talk about death and I did tell some of the things I learned because they are transferable “skills” to the next person but really, do we learn from any one else’s experience? I followed Anthony Peyton Porter’s loss saga (of his grief journey after the death of his wife,) while Michael had cancer like a blind woman following a string but it didn’t really help.

I’m in Sonoma, waiting to see another friend from a different special subset of my life. Another great group of women once upon a time set out to try to prevent Fetal Alcohol exposure in our county and this woman, Kathy Page was our guru. She became friends with Michael and I and I’ve missed her like I missed those other women… all our lives sprinkled out across the west but none of us really connecting on a regular basis… itself a kind of loss.

Tomorrow leans in to today. I am melancholy as I look at a long drive home but it WAS delicious being with my old friends, eating, laughing, some crying (although not me,) and hearing stories and making reflections. I miss them already. I also miss that younger woman I was in the photos. The chasm stretches again and honoring and vulnerability fall back into the space between where I am this early morning and where I am going.

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Others too

So others have been dying too. Luisa’s mom and Heidi’s Jimmy and Shelly’s sister. I have no right to hold any stage on this issue. I’m going to end the blog after Day of the Dead… just get me that far.

A woman who has breast cancer and liver mets, who has decided not to seek treatment said, “I don’t want to trigger your grief.” Can you imagine being that thoughtful and sensitive when you are facing it yourself so clearly?

Was I a little resentful when I saw one of M’s chemo nurses having a great time somewhere? Geez!

Do I have any way of commemorating the one year anniversary without thinking about those difficult days? Before this I could do the “this time last year” thing with the warmth of good memories. Now we enter into the time of difficult memories that I don’t really want to revisit. They hang there like discarded clothes left out in the rain on pegs, distorted and colorless. I don’t want to take them down to look at but maybe some will break though in the next two weeks.

I have a plan that is completely but vaguely outlined.  I’ll go to the Endzone (9/22- the day it was absolutely confirmed that he was actively dying and our 12 wedding anniversary,) even though it will be a Tuesday without football (I don’t care about football but it would be good if there was football.) Then I’ll go up to walk on Mt. Shasta for three days, camping as I wander. Then I have to come home to reenter the world for our Campaign Nonviolence event at the hands on Sept. 26th. Then, the next day… the one year anniversary of his death I’ll either pull out all my photos and have a day of silence alone or maybe some friends will come by for a circle… I don’t know if that will happen.

The pain is not there right now. I was grateful for the day… it was cool and we had sprinkles. I was supposed to work but found out last night I didn’t have to… like a kid I felt like I was playing hooky. A no agenda day… although I did sneak in a meeting. Yesterday we had a fundraiser for winter shelter for the local homeless people and that was really fun and today I helped with clean-up. Certainly not an exciting day but I felt no pressure from my own relentless inner driver and that was good enough.

I hate that other loved ones are dying and that Michael is slipping away as other friends go through what I did with that excruciating pain of loss. It does no good to ask why this gathering tide of souls is being swept off the shoals of life… the only meaning in it all is personal- to live honestly with mortality without forgetting or letting one’s mood be soured by it… maybe making the whole birth to death thing like a big, crazy beautiful and grateful period we know we can’t keep. I no longer hold any patent on it and although I know I’ll never really give up missing Michael I’m going to close the window of my thoughts that has to express about it all the time… after.. after I get through this next little time that has the big hurdle in it.

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Labor Day Trail

My thoughts have skipped and skimmed since I woke this morning. We are stardust, we are golden… how can we organize the people to make peace with justice a priority? What about this and that and that? Not exactly shot out of a canon but definitely ADD. Two friends on their last hoorah with prostate cancer. Pinched by the upcoming anniversary of M’s death and all the little things– like car complications, cost of dental work, what the city and PGE are up to. Aughhh!

I want to get my thoughts to focus on Michael… see, that is the difference… other things are intruding on my relationship with his memory and my grief. That is good?

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Anyway, this time last year, (and I won’t be saying that for too much longer…) we went to Tahoe then up the Rubicon (you can’t imagine doing this drive in a cab over camper if you knew the rock strewn road—it was crazy,) to a beautiful little lake known only to the ORV folks. After we got back down off that treacherous drive we camped at the Gold Lakes Basin on the way home and that was our Last Hike. Michael tired easily but walked with his usual grace, the relaxed walk of someone built to travel indefinitely by foot power. I have been experiencing his body as it was again in my mind’s eye. His long hands and feet, his back, making love and intimate stuff, his face. Just as I put the photos away before I left on my Amtrak loop and haven’t put them back out again, perhaps I’m putting some more of him away inside myself. I still feel so imploded by his loss when I allow myself to acknowledge it.

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A young woman who grew up here at Riparia is getting married soon and I’m getting a card signed, collecting money and getting her gifts together from us… in the doing of that I pulled out the album from our wedding and read what Michael wrote to me with today’s eyes. He loved me. I am just stalled in my tracks to think that someone loved me, someone I loved too. What are the odds? Maybe we just bend in toward love and willed ourselves to be beloveds.. We often disagreed and felt like the other was far away but I think that love remains and is still out there somewhere carried in the vessel of the universe… subatomic particles of love and longing bumping up into my conscious mind or being sent out by me. Marriage, on one level, isn’t just til death do us part.

The Labor of living, marrying, the loved one dying, then coming back round again to examine it all from a lens clouded by forgetfulness and only the singular focus… what will it be like in a year or five and will I be alive in ten? A subtle current flows through all this, of anticipation and a creaky sort of tender emotion, like fear but more like surrender and even a touch of hope.

Trails continue without the footfalls.

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