On the Brink of Everything: An Early Morning Meditation

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 6:12am
Photo by Chris Ford

On the Brink of Everything: An Early Morning Meditation

Last Friday, in this space, my friend and colleague Courtney Martin posted a column titled “Reuniting with Awe.” It painted an exquisite picture of how her sixteen-month-old Maya helps her see life’s wonders through a toddler’s eyes.

As I began reading that essay early Friday morning, I was mesmerized by its opening line — “My daughter is on the brink of everything” — because that’s where I am at age 76. I’m frequently awestruck as I stand on the brink of the rest of my life, including that part of life called death which I can sometimes see from where I stand.

I’d be a pants-on-fire liar if I claimed to be awed by all that comes with old age. Courtney writes about her daughter scooping “haphazard little bits of cottage cheese into her mouth” then applauding herself between bites. My mealtime storyline does not include applause. At dinner last night my wife grinned, pointed to her chin, and said, “You’ve got food on your face again. And on the back of your hand.” Reaching for a napkin, I grumped, “I was saving it for a snack.”

Courtney writes that when she takes her daughter out for a walk, Maya bounces “with the delight of freedom” and “quickly swivels around” to make sure her mom is following. If I bounced and swiveled while out on a walk, I’d land on my keister and need to be schlepped to my doctor ASAP.

Children skip stones near the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.

(Chris Ford / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

Speaking of my doc, like many people my age I live with a couple of challenges to my health that, praise be, pose no imminent threat. But when you suddenly become “interesting” to your physician after boring him or her for many years, it gives you pause — especially as you watch more and more family members, friends, and colleagues die. Yet it’s because of the diminishments of age, not in spite of them, that I often find myself in awe as I stand “on the brink of everything.”

The morning Courtney’s essay was posted, I woke up (an awesome event when I consider the alternative), I paused on the edge of the bed to gather my wits, then made my way to a room I visit once or twice a night. It’s winter in Wisconsin, and the east-facing window was filigreed with ice. The horizon behind the bare trees was aglow with a crimson sunrise that, seen through the tracery of ice, turned the pane into stained glass. For several minutes I took in that scene if I were admiring a great cathedral through a rose window.

I went downstairs, turned up the thermostat, and began heating water for coffee. Twice-warmed by the whisper of the furnace and the hissing burner on the gas stove, I was thrice-warmed as I read a handwritten letter thanking me for a book I wrote 15 years ago. “That book,” the writer said, “saved my life.” As I laid the letter down, I recalled all the early mornings in times past when, driven to get on with my writing, I failed to pause long enough to look out on the loveliness of an awakening world.

I’ve always been an obsessive writer, and, before age slowed me down, my rush to write sometimes kept me from seeing the beauty around me. Part of me regrets that fact. And yet, back then — focused laser-like on surveying and mapping what’s “in here” to the exclusion of what’s “out there” — I was able to write something that helped a stranger find new life. Looking back, I’m awed by the way embracing everything, from what I got right to what I got wrong, invites the grace of wholeness.

(Chris Ford / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

When Florida Scott-Maxwell was 85, she wrote in The Measure of My Days:

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done...you are fierce with reality.”

That’s how I feel when I’m able to say:

“I am that to which I gave short shrift and that to which I attended. I am my descent into darkness and my arising into light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears and my hopes.”

Wholeness does not mean perfection: It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.

The teakettle whistled and I filled the French press with boiling water. As I waited for the coffee to brew, I booted up my iPhone, went to the On Being site and read Courtney’s essay. By the time I finished, I had begun to brew this piece, aware of how much had already awed me as I stood on the brink in this early morning hour.

Every hour I stand closer to death than I did the hour before. All of us draw closer all the time, but rarely with the awareness that comes when the simple fact of old age — or a serious accident or illness — reminds us of where we stand. I have no wise words about dying and death. I’ve watched loved ones die in fearful anguish, others in joyful anticipation. How I will travel that last mile, I have no idea. As for death and its aftermath, I’m not privy to reports from the other side. But I’ll know I’ve made it to Heaven if I can get early-morning coffee there, and I have reason to believe that’s a possibility. I’m told they can dark-roast coffee beans in The Other Place.

What I know for sure is this: We come from mystery and we return to mystery. I arrived here with no bad memories of wherever I’d come from, so I have no good reason to fear the place to which I’ll return. And I know this, too: Standing closer to the reality of death awakens my awe at the gift of life.

(Chris Ford / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).)

Last Friday morning, that gift included seeing the world at sunrise through a rose window; reading a stranger’s generous letter alongside a friend’s evocative essay; possessing the physical and mental capacity to make coffee, climb the stairs, and start working on this piece; and having a laugh with myself about coffee roasted in Hell and served in Heaven. How could I abide my own gravitas without the leaven of humor?

Courtney says that her daughter “approaches the world with only one giant, indiscriminate expectation: delight me.” Like sixteen-month-old Maya, I want to approach the world with only one expectation as I stand “on the brink of everything” at age 76.

I’m old enough to know that the world can delight me, so my expectation is not of the world but of myself: Delight in the gift of life and be grateful.

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Parker J. Palmer

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

Parker, thank you for this touching post. I'm sitting here in Buffalo, New York drinking my morning coffee. Dan

What can I say? As I've turned 65 and struggle with vision and energy issues, I love this piece. Embrace it ALL. Be grateful. See the world through children's eyes. Thank you.

Thanks Parker - it feels so good to laugh out loud in the morning!

Thank you for your thought-provoking words. Life is so busy we rarely allow ourselves this gift. So thankful for these reminders.

"Looking back, I’m awed by the way embracing everything, from what I got right to what I got wrong, invites the grace of wholeness."

Thank you for this delightful read. I was waiting for a phone call about a project I have been working on and I was nervous, expectant, and tense in my body. Just reading your morning meditation brought me back to the moment of being alive and grateful and you know what...I just got the call I was waiting for! Good morning indeed.

Thank you (and Courtney) for articulating what I have been unable to: I stand at the brink of everything. On my walk the other night, tears welled up at the site of melting snow, patches of green, and cool - not biting - air. Everything becomes beautiful with the realization that one's experience of it - however many days left - will and won't be enough.

Parker, your musings this morning made me smile. As a woman just a wee bit older than you, I recently had my first book published. It covers my journey through many deaths in my family and ultimately coming to a sense of peace. My motto...you're never to old to start anew.
Thank you.

Thank you for your insights Parker, as always you give me an opportunity to slow it down and see and question what I am on the brink of!

life is the greatest gift..enjoy and look and see

Brings a tear to my eye as Mr. Palmer's writing often does. Yes...the brink of everything. This morning I felt irritated at how dark it still was due to Daylight Savings Time. But I decided not to turn on the Today Show and to instead open my screen door so the noise accompanying our morning could be that of birds instead of news. And there they were singing away. And then the sky started to change colors, beautiful cotton candy pink and purple clouds. I soon felt grateful to have changed our clocks this past weekend, to be awake and able to witness such a glorious new day. Thank you from the depths of my heart for the reminder and delight.

Powerful. Thank you, Peter Parker.

Oops. Parker, forgive my septuagenarian slip of calling you by the wrong name. Sigh.

Not to worry, Barbara. In fact, there are some teenagers who call me "Peter Parker" with some regularity, since that's the "real" name of the superhero Spider-Man! So I guess it's kind of an honor! Me, I'm not so crazy about spiders, but to each his or her own, right?! Thanks for your kind words.

I love the comparison of a toddler's delight to ours as we age. It should be what we aspire to.

This has been presented to me at a point in my life where I find myself searching for meaning and questioning the relationship that exists between life and death. I find comfort in moments like this where the universe, or perhaps God, attempts to 'answer' such questions. The notion that I "stand on the brink of the rest of my life" is absolutely beautiful and has sparked something within my 'being' that cannot yet be defined, but that I know is integral to understanding my 'self' in this world...thank you :)

This essay is a perfect expression of how I feel! I, too, am on the brink of everything at 62 years young. I now choose to live my life with the joy that only comes from indulging in the activities and people that I love. I, too, think about the transition that will inevitably find me. Thank you for this beautiful expression of life.

I have been "on the brink" for some 97 years, and the expectations of what life holds for me each new day are what have kept me eager and hopeful through the many years of my life. The past is remembered with delight and thanksgiving, but the future is a wonderful package waiting to be opened, explored and gratefully appreciated. I weathered a few years of despair when my beloved companion in life left me behind, but my children and extended family - and dear friends - have lifted the darness and renewed my faith that each new day is mine to relish and rejoice about! Thank God for these daily glimpses of what the future has in store for me! And for the insights which you, Parker, have helped me find still in my life,

Thank you for your story, Lois, and for your kind words. I'm always on the lookout for mentors and exemplars of how to walk this path called "aging," and it's clear to me that I have just found one in you! These words of yours should be written on the wall: "The past is remembered with delight and thanksgiving, but the future is a wonderful package waiting to be opened, explored and gratefully appreciated." I don't know when your birthday is, but in anticipation of that glad day, please allow me to be the first to wish you a Happy 98th! Many blessings, Parker

I'm happy for you, but I wonder what someone would do who did not have children or extended family to help them through their despair.

Thanks, Parker. Your writings have meant so much to me over the years and have added greatly to the wisdom I have been able to pass on to my own students. Isn't it awesome that we can come to this age and still feel that we are "on the brink of everything"? My God continue to gift you with insights which you can share with us.

This reading is "gift" to me this morning as I walk through a week during which my retirement will be announced. I've always lived with the forward pull that the 'best is yet to be', and, thankfully, I have felt this means here and now - not then and there. I am confident about the future, not because I know what it holds for me, but because I know God holds me. Thank you for this post.

What a great reminder to look up and around you while you can...thank you for this wonderful essay.

What a good thing to remember - delight in life and be grateful.Without having my own children or grandchildren and seldom have a chance to engage little ones, but three weeks ago, I adopted a small rescue dog - an 8 year old abandoned and abused creature. I made the commitment to him as my Lenten practice this year. It is amazing to watch him reclaim life, rediscover tenderness, and learn to trust again. He played last night for the first time, with tennis balls, and pranced to the door when it was time for a walk. Sometimes it isn't clear which one of us is the teacher and which the learner. He is reminding me to delight in life and be grateful. Thanks Parker!

Thank you for the reminder to reflect and appreciate. Lovely piece

A few years ago, I went through chemotherapy for breast cancer, after 52 years of almost perfect health. While I tolerated treatment well, there is no escaping the war that is suddenly happening, and the fact that every growing thing within you is being destroyed. I no longer wonder what it will feel like to be old, or to wonder about the number of my days. Even feeling wonderful now does not erase the brink of everything perspective. Having developed a fierceness with reality, I find I must face it as it is in its entirety. Delighting in the arrival of strawberries or an unexpected call from a friend, stunned by the thoughtlessness and self-absorption of everyday life. Do I have chemo-brain, or has my mind rebelled, refusing to focus on that which distracts me from fierce reality? Given my expanded capacity to teach, your essay somehow brings me to confirm the latter. Thank you for this honest work.

Thank you so much for this piece. It touched me deeply and brought a smile and a few tears....poised, on the brink...
After all my explorations in Life so far, at about 45, I am enjoying being a little child all over again, for most parts of the time....yes, you are right....about delighting in the gift of life and to be grateful...that's when you see magic everywhere!

Thank you for a great read. After the hustle and bustle of getting my 7 year old off to school this morning-though being awed by her curiosity of this world along our walk to school-it was a fitting start of my day as I sat on the front porch drinking my tea and contemplating the stages of life as well.

Your last line is absolutely perfect. Thank you for helping me keep things in perspective.

This is my favorite piece thus far by Mr. Palmer. I'd recommend to him a wonderful song sung by the Argentine singer, Mercedes Sosa, called "Gracias a la Vida" the first lines of which translate as "Thanks be to Life which has given me so much." That song has meant a great deal to me as does Mr. Palmer's work.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I just wrote a halfway presentable reflection for you, and the whole thing vanished! Not to worry. I will try to laugh it off. Yes, I'll laugh and remember that I, too, am on the brink.i am 88 years old,considering every day a gift. Come, let us away and try to help someone who is hurting or give food to someone who is hungry. Life is good, especially as viewed from the brink.

Dear Parker, thank you for your insight and wisdom which has warmed my heart and encouraged me in hopefulness. Bless you

Thank you Parker. Insightful as always and reflects some of my own thoughts on the aging process in the creative arts. I also love the first photo, as it reminds me of the Boundary Waters we both so love. Many blessings, Friend.

Simply hearing the name Parker Palmer I am transported someplace calm, wise and truthful. He speaks to my inner core. His words describe what I often am too shallow to identify. His perspective and composition guide and companion. Blessing and grace. Michele

Thank you. I get it.

A touching reflection, per your style, Parker. With two hands together.

Mr Palmer, your words absolutely glow! Thank you for this wonderful high-five to life!How beautifully you marvel at the whole sentient experience...the aroma of fresh coffee, the scenic wonders outside your window, and the participation in a toddler's delight, are all gifts that make each moment seem eternal. Your writing is an instrument of love in the way it draws us readers into greater awareness, enjoyment and reflection.

LOVE LOVE LOVE this: "Wholeness does not mean perfection: It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life."

Thank you Parker..for articulating a "knowing"with in me...and putting it into words..I'm always amazed !

Thank you Parker, for another word on wholeness. With this latest bit of writing you are still saving lives, mine included. Many thanks.

This is absolutely beautiful and so much in my thoughts, as I am in this stage of life with gratitude for what has been in the past, and what I am still able to do. Well said, Parker!

I turned 50 last year, am still waiting to achieve menopause, and I have this anxious yet excited feeling that I'm on the brink of something really awesome and amazing. It doesn't feel as if my life is half over, it feels as if I'm about to begin again!!

I had spent this morning with a dear friend whose illness has taken so much from his life. Each day there is another symptom and another illness to face which has taken his strength and mobility. My heart broke when he said "I am so thankful for my dreams where I can still play golf." After reading your post - I am reminded that it is important to greive what we cannot no longer do and to delight at the wisdom and peace that comes with age.

I have trouble believing you when you say, "I’ve always been an obsessive writer, and, before age slowed me down, my rush to write sometimes kept me from seeing the beauty around me." Anyone who writes knows that writing connects the beauty within us ever more firmly to the beauty outside. I am convinced that those hours spent in writing and reflection made you more able to perceive the world with wonder and so were very well spent.

Parker, Your words always strike a chord with me, but today's reflections seemed particularly poignant. Thank you.

Thank you for reminding us. Today our Midwest world started in a deep fog. One of my students looked up from his writing and said, "It looks like a soft painting outside." We all looked with awe. We are graced with moments.

Being broken open seems to have made me very, very receptive to yours and Courtney's essays. My wife and I are still in the middle of this terrible sadness at leaving our home of 15 and 19 years respectively. We are stepping off into some kind of mystery and we pray that as painful as this has been, we will learn something wonderful about ourselves and this life. Thank you for your timely post.

Thank you for a wonderful reflection. I stand somewhere between the awe of my 6 month old grand daughter, my 78 year old husband and 94+ year old father. I have been gifted with the wonderment of each day, each moment, and expect to stand "on the brink of everything" because each moment of my life is new. I hope I can always live in awe of the new dawn! Thanks. Melissa

Thank you Parker and Courtney, my wise teacher mentors for reminding me that every day we all stand at "the brink of everything", to see the world through the eyes of a 16 month old. I love that wholeness is not perfection, but embracing of that which is also broken. Thank you Parker.

Came at a good time-mopey about having COPD; It cleared my eyes as the heat cleared the frosted window...

Reading your beautiful essay, I'm overcome. More moved than I can say.

Thank-you, Parker. As I work with my seniors in a yoga class (and contemplate my own 64 years), I revel at their energy, spirits, yearning to learn, humor and acceptance of all that has encompassed their lives to now. Each person displays a renewed ability to live in the present moment and a striving (not without stutters) to greet each day with honor and gratitude. This humbles me.

As my father used to say quite often before he died lucidly at the age of 95: "Life is an instant between two eternities." Therefore, we really need to "juice" each moment we are given here. My husband and I also "juice" our fresh ground dark-roast morning coffee :=}

A tender, wise reflection from a dear sage who lights our path. Thank you for bringing us to the brink of everything. It occurred to me how you and Courtney's baby both see through a child's eyes--And the kingdom is for those who live like little children. In awe of everything God given. Both life and death. Thank you, your words nourish!

Thank you for this warm message to reflect on as Ihave my morning tea. This year I turn 70 and feel only gratitude that I am still here and enjoying the gift of life this far along.

it is so wonderful to see life as we grow older with the insight of a little child. Oh I see life at 84 with a closer walk with our Lord God. Sometimes I free a peace beyond words. Thanks so much for your insights!

This is so lovely for so many reasons, not the least being the warmth and mutual delight you and Courtney take in one another. But also because at 71 I couldn't agree more with this feeling that here, too, we can feel ourselves to be "on the brink of everything," and that this heights the simplest pleasures enormously. This morning on SF's classical music station the "dj" was introducing something by Brahms and said it was from late inhis life -- an 'end of life' piece, in fact, one of a number of short pieces of which Clara Schumann said something like "I can never get over how much of both tenderness and passion he can combine in one small space." The pieces were all "rhapsodies." The idea of composing rhapsodies at the end of one's life might at one time have seemed strange to me. No more.

When I read your reflection I needed to share with you that I saw a documentary-film, Seymour in NYC- yesterday which is about tenderness and passion in music.

This is one of the best posts ever. As a person who works with and is passionate about hospice and end-of-life care, I appreciate Parker's point of view. And, as a grandparent raising and having custody of three beautiful grandchildren, I enjoy Courtney's perspective as well. I live and work with those who stand at the brink of everything. It's a thrilling view.

I love your way at looking at life and death no answers just grateful to be and I'm in awe at others who process and see so much good in this world. Thank you!

Thanks for your writing. Yes 68, and retirement is a great place to be, taking the time to express ones self is even greater.

As I read through your soul soothing piece ,Parker, I felt able to embrace my own aging process. Thank you. Writers such as you and Courtney allow those of us who are not so eloquent with the pen to express our own innermost joys and fears. Thank you.

I stood on the brink of everything when at 46 I suffered a stroke. As I recovered physically, walking was new again, drinking liquids was new again, even the ability to type this reflection was new again. I remember actually commenting how fun it was to experience the small things of life as new again at my age.

But the brink was too scary for me so I back away from it toward the safety and comfort of the life I had know. I found part time work, then I found full-time work, they I sought and received a promotion. I was doing it all again. Safe in my familiar life, I didn't have to face the realities of the loss and fear that I had experience. You see, Superman doesn't have to fear the brink because he's too busy fooling himself and other that everything is okay - nothing has change.

Now at 51, my life is filled with the daily struggle of masking my lingering cognitive and emotional disabilities. And I long for the brink. There was a peace at the brink that I was too afraid to succumb to at the time. I will now edge my way back toward the brink by retiring from full-time employment this July.

My hope is that by ceasing to rely on self for safety, security, and meaning that I can rediscover the peace of God that I glimpsed at the brink.

You speak my mind Friend. Even though you have a score of years on me, I have you beat on the nightly trips. But then I also take the occasion to go down two flights of stairs and feed the wood stove so the house we be cozy in the AM. Will you be going to NYM?

Thank you Parker. Your words are a lovely refection and a gift to the soul.

Dear Parker Palmer,
Your early morning meditation became my morning meditation on two mornings
during the past few days!
I finally get to say to you: THANK You for that very special gift!
With your words and chosen images you rekindeled awe in me through little Maya!
At our age we can truly say:"I am awe struck standing on the brink of the rest of my life."
Having reached the years that bring much loss among friends and loved ones,
I treasure every day,every hour,every moment and only can feel so very deeply grateful for all that is given,for all that was given and for all that will be given!

I just love your realistic discription of your early morning you shared with all of us who were privileged to read your words.
You remind us to embrace everything,as we look back at our own journey:
everything from what I got right to everything that I got wrong:
All invites the grace of wholeness indeed!

May your new year hold much joy for you,much sunshine along the way,
and may you be blessed with good health,
be often reunited with awe,standing on the brink of everything!
With much gratitude for all you share,enriching the lives of so many!

Tis true. To embrace my brokenness and go forward allows me
a freedom to enjoy everything on the brink of adventure.And
I dare to go on: always with my faith in tow.

Thank you so much. I love your writings, and this speaks right to where I am. At 73 I know that brink, and much as I grouse about the diminishments, I find myself savoring each day as never before, and peek at the horizon with more curiosity and interest and less fear.

"Delight in the gift of life and be grateful." Such powerful words. Even as we age, there is something to be in awe of. Thank you, Palmer, for this beautiful piece.

Thank you for this gentle reminder -- it comes at a time when I am in the process of downsizing my home and wondering where, at my age, should I go to live during this next stage of my life. You have helped me remember and appreciate that I have health and many good options, and I'm going to try to just relax with the process and delight in what comes next.

I really try to make every attempt to find joy and delight in the many little things that go overlooked. In times when the death of a friend, the distance of a loved one, or the general trials of life threaten to overtake the delight, it is always words like yours that remind us of the light, wisdom, and beautiful simplicity that are this lifetime, sometimes separate from and sometimes enmeshed with the trials.

Thank you Parker-- you're thoughtful and accessible writing always make my days lighter-- your words inspire me-- my first temptation has always been throughout my very long life; "Why can't I do it/live a life like Parker?"and I realize how absurd and unwise this is--
I grew up in a very poor family in NYC, was a Catholic Brother( monk )for 11 years, was in therapy for 25 years and 12 Step work for 20 years, have a great gay partner, am an out and proud R Catholic-- and go the local Quaker ( Friends) meeting on occasion. And even say the rosary! How could we be SO different! Yet I am drawn to your words-
to your eloquence- and I know ultimately we do share a common humanity and we 're all along for this thrilling ride called LIFE-- and that old age is really a great equalizer.

I just came from a classroom experience in the Introduction to Philosophy class I teach at a local college. I sat down at my desk and read your piece and the comments others have rightly made in response to your insights. I wish I could say my classroom experience was as fulfilling and positive as was the article and the responses, but I'm afraid that is just not the case. I asked the young adults who comprise the class one question, "how should we live?". The classroom responses and the lively discussion that ensued were a bit more discouraging and even alarming than the picture painted by contemplative scholarship and wisdom in the article. I am reminded of the great divide between those whose lives are focused on a contemplative, spiritual involvement with reality and that predominant number who, for various reasons, are not. I would hope that contemplative, philosophical thought and an accompanying, concerted spirituality would be the norm for human beings, but - again - that does not seem to be the case. Plato saw a natural difference in people and believed that people are different in the way we think and in what we do. He believed this sort of difference is natural and necessary. After that class and this discussion, I think perhaps he was right. Not everyone will or can see things the way you have painted them in this article. To me that is sad. But the same question faces me that I posed to the class...should we all be able to do so?

I don't know what I find more uplifting, Parker...your delightful, insightful words...or others' reflections on them. All moving...what a sense of community! Thank you all.

Linda, thank you for putting into words what I too have experienced through Parker's words and the community of readers. Grateful!

Again I share so much with you. I am on the brink at 78. Often I awake with humor, my motto wake up laughing. I love my coffee and muffin. The grandchildren are a total delight and look and remind of my young ones when they were young. Poetry and Jack Kornfield are my AM meditation and your thoughts and reflections. thanks lmuch

I loved this piece by Parker Palmer! I shared it with others and they enjoyed it too. We are inspired by the thought that we're on the brink of everything each day.

Beautiful Truth...

my two year old grandson is making real the lesson of all the great religions. Love, trust and laughter is the meaning of life. He is still warm, like a pie,only recently coming from the oven of Gods love.

Mike Otten.

Parker, I'm a huge admirer of yours (one of my goals has been to read everything you've ever written) and I loved this piece. “I am that to which I gave short shrift and that to which I attended. I am my descent into darkness and my arising into light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears and my hopes.” Beautiful.
I offer my own early morning relections in return:
An Ordinary Day
Greet the morning as if accepting a prize
Watch your slippered feet move like loyal soldiers
See your hands conduct the day’s tasks as if a symphony
Wash your face as if it’s a tender child’s
Prepare your meals as if feeding royalty
Walk as if moving to music
Speak as if your words mattered
Attend to others as if delighting in them
Sleep as if all shall be well.

This was very good. I enjoyed and agree. I also am looking at the "other side", but am not afraid. God has been good to me.

Yesterday I attended the memorial for a beloved family member who left us on March 9th. At 90, some said, he had earned a rest, but mostly I just heard how much he will be missed. Along the way he played many roles with consummate grace and a delightful sense of humor: WW II RAF bombardier, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, community member, friend, community member . . . and delight in the gift of life was the "basso profundo" throughout them all. His whole approach was exactly what you remind yourself to seek, Palmer. Everyone at the memorial understood this at some level, and it helped alleviate what otherwise could have been an occasion riddled with nothing but sadness.

As Dag Hammarskjold said in his journal Markings "For All that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!"

Parker, thank you for this wonderful reflection. I loved watching
my children discover their world and was doubly blessed to share the
experience again with my granddaughter. To live "on the brink of
everything" is the best advice I've heard. I also love the quote you
included by Florida Scott-Maxwell. Thank you.

Delightful and meaningful. Comes at a perfect time for me - and for my Mom who stands a bit closer to the 'brink of everything' than you. I think reading this will delight her to the point of laughing out loud, as it did for me. Thank You, Parker.

So honest and plainly stated!

Very beautiful piece and so well written. Thank you for sharing this.

Beautiful writing.

Aging Parker Palmer

"Delight in the gift of life and be grateful." What a statement! The best thing about aging is having the joy of rediscovering joy - and you've pushed me there again! Thank you, thank you!

I am on the brink of retirement. This is my last full week of being a teacher. It feels wonderful. I love the edge of this old life and ready and looking forward to each new day. I loved your essay.

Now 87 and soon 88. There is comfort in living this long and wonder "why me" when many of my friends took and early out.


What an invitation to awe! Thanks, Parker. I needed that.

Delight me...or not. And I will endeavor to delight in it all.

Your words of wisdom resonate with me. With the deep sadnesss and dread I feel as we look to the new president, there is a delicious sweetness to each day that doesn't hold immediate disaster. I know that we must take action as best we can to try to avoid destruction of the planet, but having done that, we've no choice but to let go and cherish the moment. So while we are on the brink of a terrifying unknown, we live in poignant joy for the gifts we still have.

I am a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who stand for "Working for Wholeness in a Fractured World." My father was raised in the Quaker tradition. I am privileged to have reached 82 years of age, and I was delighted with your reflections on being on the "brink of everything." I am who I am through the highs and lows that have brought me this far. Thank you for your beautiful words of hope.


lovely reflections. Life seeing every moment like you never seen it before.

I turned 84 last week, and yesterday my son who lives in Kathmandu (I live in CA) offered us a trip to Nepal next October. He made the plane reservations (and paid for them) .
As I make travel insurance calls, I wonder if I am tempting fate.
Chutzpah? Optimism?
It's definitely an incentive to use these nine months (hmmm!) to get into the best physical condition I can attain for my own sake, for my son and for the trip.
Thank for your poetry, inspiration, deep reflections and honesty.

Reading your column is always a big gift I offer to myself. I would like to thank that part of you that was so focused on writing, because that is where you saw the beauty at that moment and what has brought you where you are now.
Deep gratitude to you, your work, and myself whom I always discover through your deep words.

Thank you, Parker. I've been thinking about forgiveness this morning; about how lack of forgiveness fixes us to a static place. The act of forgiving, then, is a generative act that rejoins the journey forward. These musing have primarily been about my own family and children. As a teacher, too, forgiveness is essential to begin each day anew, with hope for what it will bring. For me, the most difficult thing is self-forgiveness. Embracing my failures as well as my successes has not come easy or naturally. It is a constant practice. Your piece has reminded me to make intentional space for that process. Thank you.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful reflection. We had a snow yesterday and across the street from where
I live, there is an island of sorts with banks on either side. I looked out the window and saw the children who
lived in the area sliding down these little inclines and having a wonderful time. It brought me joy to see these
children enjoying the snow when the older you get, the less you like the snow.

Oh, man, this is so fine. I, too, am 76, living in awe of life and creation, wondering how I will die, founded on the bedrock of Love and Mystery. Life is good; Love created me as Love; I am enough.

Thank you, Parker. My own observation of toddlers leads me to believe that what delights them is to learn something new and to know how it fits together with what they already have in their little osmotic brains! With every delight comes another synapse or twenty. Yes, I guess that's what makes me a teacher -- I love to see that delight in children of all ages.
What I struggle with in my own retirement and being on the brink of everything (love that thought!) is how to marvel at the fact that it takes my own mind longer to traverse all the synapses I still have to make up for the obvious loss of one or twenty. But yes, I am grateful that my younger brain built many synapses connecting my most precious memories.
My mother recently died at age 99. In her last few years she worried about not remembering all her great-grandchildren's names and which grandchild they belonged to. Their pictures were all on her wall. I assured her it was enough to know they loved her and she them. How could she remember them when she saw them so seldom, and then all together and all busy opening Christmas or birthday gifts?
Already I have learned not to feel bad if I can't hear every word when the family is together. I revel in the sounds I do hear, knowing that this is my cacophony, and I love it. My daughters tell me they love to see me smiling so much. I'm just trying to build extra synapses...

"How could I abide my own gravitas without the leaven of humor?" So grateful for that!

I can relate fully in my 82nd year

sharing...so lovely. I enjoy your work immensely...and am grateful I discovered you. God Bless you Parker

I loved this piece as I do all of your work. As I was forwarded this to my son who is a prince of imagination (I pronounced a PHd in play upon him at age 6) because now at 32 he still finds that sense of wonder in nature. It reminded me of Rachel Carson's A Sense of Wonder. I, too, have more aches and pains and heartache now, so it's a wonderful reminder to put my child eyes before me. Thank you!

Thanks for reminding us of this piece, Parker. In January of 2017, I'm aware of an increasingly looming darkness in the world. Your thoughts remind me not to ignore that and to have the courage to live life as the gift that it is. I don't want to ever forget that no matter how challenging our times become.

I love how you balance against the love and awe in the child. I love the rose window in the morning. I too am hoping for coffee in heaven, but also a library and time to read all the things I didn't get to read and want to, and more. Thanks for the beauty of what is imperfect but whole!