The Gift of a Life

This Life

by Karen Kassinger

The silence waiting my awakening
has been steeping through the night.
It has its own scent, palpable and enfolding.
The cradle still rocking, the bough 
unbroken, even as sounds enter
the stillness of the morning.  The bough
is bending into a new season of greening.

I am awakening into a life that has been steeping
for eight decades. The days are as savory and satisfying 
as Lapsong souchon, redolent with memories
of the joys and sorrows of living in family, 
of working in the world, of being present
to the living and dying, of being at home on this earth.
My cup is filled with gratitude for sweet solitude,
for the gift of a life long enough to have become kindness.

Invitation for Writing & Reflection: Describe a time of deep silence and solitude for you. In the midst of that “steeping,” what was revealed that seemed hidden before? What truths did you uncover even if the silence felt difficult at first?

Karen Kassinger lives in Athens, GA.  She has just entered the ninth decade of a life that has held her as a wife and mother, and now as a widow.  She lives in a solitude that she cherishes, as she does the rich friendships that are also part of her life.  Shortly before midlife, she entered nursing school.  Her years as an oncology nurse gave her the gift of herself.  Karen was born into and carried by the river that is the Christian tradition, but in recent years she has found herself being shaped by the understandings and practices of Buddhism. Both traditions continue to teach her that everything she needs to grow into fullness will be found in the life that she has been given. There is enough. In an earlier season of her life, Karen was a maker of books.  She now finds herself drawn to writing, just as she, having always loved listening to Bach, is now learning to play his music. She knows herself to be a beginner in both realms, but that is only the living out of her Benedictine mantra, “Always we begin again,” and the intention of her Buddhist practice to have always a Beginner’s Mind. If she were to write her obituary now, she would say simply, “Karen was given a long, rich life.  She grew into knowing happiness.”