the darkness is inside the house

You wake up and as you roll out of bed

you face the dark.

Your heart sinks

and asks

can we stop?

can we not move


But now,

with years of facing the darkness

you now have the strength

the knowledge

the power

to remind yourself

reassure yourself

comfort yourself

(yes it’s comforting)

The darkness is not really outside.

Well, maybe some of it is.

But the heaviest, the most pitch black darkness of all

is inside.

Because it’s always there.


Reclaim your light, and wash off the darkness

Today was a crisp, beautiful, sunny afternoon and a good time to revisit Lake Michigan.
I washed off some of the darkness I’ve had to glance into, and reclaimed the light.

Reclaim your light. Shed the toxicity: you don’t have to carry it just because it was brought to your door.


death is real

Our last photo of Yeti with Ghost, just 3 hours before he died.

When you love, you feel pain. Again and again.

My cat died Thursday evening. I held his dead body, stared in horror at his glazed wide-open beautiful eyes, struggled to hold up his limp neck. It occurred to me that his is the only dead body I have held since my parakeet died in 1977 and my kitten died in 1987.

Death is an awful presence.

I’ve been sad all weekend. It gets worse when I cuddle with Ghost, and I wonder, is he sad? Does he miss his brother? His only species friend? My heart breaks all over again.

Today I hauled myself to an academic lecture at the Northwestern University MENA lecture series. Though not directly in my scholarly area, it turned out to be fascinating lecture about the history of medical practices, medical teaching, and practices of bodies/cadavers in colonial Egypt.

My mind didn’t wander once. But as Dr. Khaled Fahmy spoke about the dignity of dead bodies, the weight of Yeti’s body returned to my arms.

Death is not something you can prepare for. It is not theoretical. You can read about it, and pray about it, but it is far beyond all of those things. Death is real.


the certainty of death

I am grieving all of the world. Wildfires and destruction in Australia, hate in India, crackdown in Kashmir, fear of new wars, Iran.

And Yeti. My cat.

Yes – it’s weird to be grieving one cat in these terrible times.

But listen: Yeti was alive.

He dropped & died in seconds. He fell, gasped, and was dead.

We can die in one SECOND.

How would we live if we were truly certain of this?


I am You and Me and Us

We used to joke about how Ghost was always the more attractive of the two. Yeti was lanky, a little clumsy, not as elegant as Ghost.

But now that Yeti is gone (it hurts to type that), I realize that Ghost isn’t the same Ghost now.

As my daughter put it, we’ve lost not only Yeti but Ghost-and-Yeti.

Humans, pets, creatures don’t operate as individuals. They function together and create something together.

And if I may, human cultures, racial groups, tribes, and nations work the same way.

Together, we are Love and Majesty.

We ourselves will not work if we try to eliminate each other.

We need each other to be, to live, to survive, to love.


Farewell, Yeti (2014-2020)

June 30 2019: “I had a moment where my heart burst into a prayer for Yeti – ‘May Allah bless you with a good life and health’ – and I felt cosmically connected, and I felt him purringly turn toward me and my praying heart.” This was soon after he had stopped eating for some time, and was dangerously weak.

My kitty, Yeti, a long-haired white cat, suddenly died today.

He wasn’t the strongest cat, and had a bout of serious illness earlier this year, during the summer. We had a road trip planned, which we canceled. But at that time he rallied, and went back to normal.

Today, I went downstairs for something. When I re-entered the living room, he was sitting there by the door, watching the door. As I entered, he suddenly got up, fell sideways, gasped a few times. And died within seconds. It was like he waited for me to be there before he died.

Yeti loved to engage with me personally. On this occasion, as I stood by the chair, he jumped up on the edge of the chair, made eye contact, and then offered his head for a kiss.
He did love sitting on paper, bags, placemats …
The night before he died, I found him cuddling with his brother, Ghost. Ghost was resting almost on top of him, unlike their usual snuggle pattern.
he did love to watch over me.

Happy new year/decade. Please no inspiring triumphalism

Hi inspirational celebrities:

If you struggled & got success this New Year or New Decade, congratulations. But know that your struggles and successes are yours. Please don’t give us “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps (like I did)” or “Pursuit of Happyness” lessons.

Don’t ask that we – regular folks who aren’t in your position – find meaning/hope/lessons for ourselves in your stories. It is exhausting to try to do so.

Not to take away from your achievements, but we don’t live in a meritocracy.

So don’t strengthen the narrative that Every Triumph is potentially Everyone Else’s Story.

It’s one of the worst stressors of a stratified society.