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Miriam Sagan: In Flux

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 17.12.2022.

October 23, 2022

Yellow apricot leaves scattered on the grass. A bit of rain. The huge cosmos flowers, that took all summer to grow, are blooming purple on long stems against the back wall.

I’m reading useless books about death. I can’t relate at all to the “you are not your body” approach. Of course I’m my body—or it is me. I’m other things, too. But I’d never claim “I’m not an American” or “I’m not a Jew” or “I’m not short” because I am. Again, these things don’t sum me up, but simply denying I’m something just seems silly. I’d never say “I’m not from New Jersey.” The Jersey Girl in me is strong. Luckily, there are also other parts of me, so I have ways to express myself besides just saying: fuck you.

There is also the deluded view that death is “special.” That near death experiences are unusual, or mean something about the so-called soul, or existence after death. Do I experience a spiritual self as detached from the physical? No, I do not. It might feel distinct, but it isn’t. Decades of meditation—actually 48 years—have shown me that my own ideas, impulses, feelings, even states of consciousness are neither fixed not necessarily correct. Like everything, the self is in flux.

Does this help me? It certainly does. I may suspect I’ll be dead soon enough, but I do not know. I may think I can try and be happy—but actually every word in that sentence, from “I” to “happy” is mysterious. And I’m not under pressure to cure or solve or rectify anything in my situation—not my cancer, not my attitudes, nothing.

Perhaps I actually am a Buddhist! But of course that changes from moment to moment too.

I think I have more acquaintance with death than many folks in my cohort. The first corpse I saw was my roommate when I was 21 and in the hospital. She was an elderly Black lady who was unconscious, and then dead a few days later. We never met.

But in some profound way I did meet her. I didn’t wonder then who she actually was or what kind of person.

I do wonder now.

About the Author: Miriam Sagan is the author of over thirty books of poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her most recent include Bluebeard's Castle (Red Mountain, 2019) and A Hundred Cups of Coffee (Tres Chicas, 2019). She is a two-time winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards as well as a recipient of the City of Santa Fe Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts and a New Mexico Literary Arts Gratitude Award. She has been a writer in residence in four national parks, Yaddo, MacDowell, Gullkistan in Iceland, Kura Studio in Japan, and a dozen more remote and interesting places. She works with text and sculptural installation as part of the creative team Maternal Mitochondria in venues ranging from RV Parks to galleries. She founded and directed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College until her retirement. Her poetry was set to music for the Santa Fe Women's Chorus, incised on stoneware for a haiku pathway, and projected as video inside an abandoned grain silo in rural Itoshima. Her blog is Miriam's Well--


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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