Today would have been Ezra’s 43rd birthday.  The weather in NYC is the kind he liked the least- wet and unseasonably warm, yesterday’s snow melting into gray city slush.  I imagine he would have spent the day in his shop, determined to make something beautiful out of it.  In imagining this, I feel his distance.  Not his absence, as I have felt so intensely over the last two and half years, but the space-time between then and now, him and me, us and this.  I suppose that’s what happens after some number of moons and trips around the sun, especially in relation to a traveller like Ez.  But I have struggled to make sense of this particular flavor of pain, much less move through it with any grace.

The other day I saw my friend Marilyn for just a few minutes and she sensed the struggle.  She told me that movement and change- whether painful or pleasure-full- are not just facts of life; they are its essence.  Trying to fix the flux, avoid the pain, or hoard the pleasure is both futile and crazy-making.  Marilyn sent me the book that had recently reminded her of this: The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts.  I found the following passage especially helpful:

“When … you realize that you live in, that indeed you are this moment now, and no other, that apart from this there is no past and no future, you must relax and taste to the full, whether it be pleasure or pain. At once it becomes obvious why this universe exists, why conscious beings have been produced, why sensitive organs, why space, time, and change. The whole problem of justifying nature, of trying to make life mean something in terms of its future, disappears utterly. Obviously, it all exists for this moment. It is a dance, and when you are dancing you are not intent on getting somewhere… The meaning and purpose of dancing is the dance.  Like music, also, it is fulfilled in each moment of its course.”

This is something I think Ezra understood without the slightest effort.  It’s how he lived and died.  I’m grateful to have been reminded of this truth and of Ez in its light.

Meanwhile, the dance goes on…

ozzie-ezzieOswald Ash (left) and Ezra Alder (right), born on November 2nd, 2016 to dear friends, Caroline and Sarah.
violet-and-broLogan Ezra Nanney (with big sister Violet Ryan), born on December 12, 2016 to my brother Tripp and his partner, Leslie.

24 Replies to “43”

  1. I like the fact that Ezra’s name has found a home with your friends and family. Very sweet. He did seem to be larger than life.

  2. I always followed the blogs that Ezra made they were always full of love and laughter and when he was ill that never changed, they were still the same but they also had his strong will and determination in them. He was and always will be a strong bright guiding light that will never dim but grow stronger. And to you Hillary keep strong and keep the love that you have close to you he will always be there a ray of sunlight in the morning or a bright shining star in the night always looking down on you and always by your side. Sending you and your family love and raising a glass to Ezra. Xx

  3. Is it strange to still think of someone I’ve never met? I don’t know, but I do and I have. I’ve taken care of and lost dear ones in the past year to cancer and Ezra was often on my mind. I thought of him when I saw a friend with beautiful wooden bike fenders, when I chose my countertops in my kitchen because he had helped me with the particulars of certain woods when I asked, and when I cook foods that he made me think to make from his blog. I’m glad you posted today and I’m thinking about you and hoping for warmth (literally and figuratively). Much love…P

  4. Dear Hillary,

    Thank you for sharing. My own 9 month old daughter, Miya Zoe, is named after my best friend of life, Zoe… who passed two Augusts ago after a long journey with breast cancer. I love the photos of the babies that carry on Ezra’s name!

    Very recently (like in the last three or four days) Miya has been totally taken by the photograph on my wall of your dog, Putney, that I bought online from Ezra several years back (It even had me pausing to try to remember Putney’s name, which I did after some effort). She says hi to the doggy (as I call him) every morning in the hallway. It has made me think of how helpful Ezra’s writing was to me when my own dearest was losing ground with cancer. It has also made me wonder how it is in your home without him there. Your post was timely, to be sure. I also forgot that his birthday is two days after my friend Zoe’s. She would have been 40 on the 16th.

    I sometimes wonder if it is strange that I have two photographs purchased from a man I never met, if only because I am so familiar with the parts of his story that he allowed us all to hear so intimately. I also wonder at the similarities in how I perceived Ezra to be from his writings (and yours) and how Zoe was. She lived purely in the moment, embracing each one as if it was her last. I will always aspire to be more like her in that way.

    In her spirit I write to you from far away (we live in Switzerland now for almost two years, far from slushy NYC) with a feeling that moves me, in this moment, to attempt to connect some kind of cosmic dots back to you. I hope I don’t overstep by writing this. I simply wanted to share that over here in our little corner of the world, we still have a bright reminder of his light… I hope that is comforting in some way.

    Wishing you ease and peace.

  5. I just recently found the photo I bought from him. My thoughts are with you. I have been an outspoken supporter of hospice since I followed yous and his story for so long. I imagine that is a good thing.

  6. Hillary,
    I look at the prints I bought from Ez every single day…and I think of you and wonder how Putney is, too. We never met; I didn’t know him personally and yet I do think of him frequently and randomly, sometimes perusing his site where more of his beautiful photographs are on display…

    I also had to absolute pleasure of sharing a moment with Glen, when I went to his shows this fall…he told me his Song of Good Hope was a favorite or maybe he meant it was inspired by Ez, not sure, but I guess what I’m trying to say is whether it’s looking at his photographs, reading a passage like the one you shared, or listening to music that I find to be so absolutely awe-inspiring, it reminds me in unexpected moments, of that essence that Ez lived by, so effortlessly….it’s hard to describe, but I have tried to live in that same way, though it does not come nearly as effortlessly.

    I so love that those babies are carrying on his name and memory, and I hope that you continue to make your way through this process, learning to grapple with the distance… you have such wise and supportive friends to share books like the one you shared here, and I wish you nothing but peace, now and always…

    Sending love from Chicago.

  7. Hillary,

    I’ve read Ezra’s blog for a very long time. Every time December comes around, I think of you two. My heart hurts for you. Sending love from Florida.

  8. How wonderful of you to share your thoughts, feelings, the special passage from the Watts book and especially, photos of the precious babies who will share Ezra’s name. These are gifts, presents for this particular “present” time, gifts for Ezra’s birthday, as he would have wished, particularly photos. You articulated the “distance” well and, as grief has no expiration date, each happy and painful reminder that Ezra isn’t here is still a gift, to Ezra and to you.
    May you continue to share when you feel like it– feel the community that is here to support you and send love, comfort and hope as you move, dance, live, thrive, do, be, as you are able. Love, joy, peace.

  9. Hello Hillary,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. So personal…

    Here in Copenhagen, we are thinking about Ezra every time we listen to Glen, and there is almost never a week without Glen’s music in our home.
    We also got into a habit of topping a beer with some burbon, after watching one of Ezra’s brillant cooking clips.

    All the best for you

  10. ciao hillary
    sometimes,and tha’ts the time( unfortunately),words is absolutely useless.
    i am sending a big hug and a smile form italy.

  11. Nice to hear from you. When in New York a couple of times each year, I often reflect on Ezra and the blog. Be Well. BLR

  12. Dear Hill,
    thank you for sharing this bitter sweet post. Despite we never met personally – I live in Germany – Ezra influenced me quite a bit. E.g. I decided to buy a dog after I saw all the fotos of Putney. Luna, my dog, is a former street dog from Spain and the best dog in the world. Hope you and Putney are doing well. Have a nice Christmas, Olaf

  13. It’s really strange, but I was just thinking about Ezra either yesterday or the day before. Then I find your message in my inbox today.
    I didn’t know Ezra personally, but perhaps we have some sort of connection on some level? I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that his chronicle of dealing with and dying of cancer, touched me greatly.

    Please Be Well, Hillary.


  14. Hillary,

    Though I never met Ez (I should have. I just live in MA).. he gave me some great advice via email I’ve saved all this time and look back on as a reminder. He told me to beat the universe at its own game, to laugh at all I was going through. He said once I give in, I’ll be free. I kind of feel like the Alan Watts piece is similar. Being in the moment, giving into it, because that is all there is.

    I love the way Ez’s name is memorialized in others names. How sweet.

    Thank you for checking in with us. I did wonder how you were, esp around Christmas. Its a hard time for many.


  15. I read Ezra’s blog from beginning to end while I was going through chemo for rectal cancer. I didn’t realize until about half way through that he had already died, only a month before I had found the blog. It was through his clear, detailed descriptions that I decided to ask my surgeon about irrigating, which is really life changing if you have a permanent colostomy.

    But what struck me the most about his blog was the incredible love and strong bond the two of you had. I find myself thinking of you, more than Ezra and how much it must hurt to lose someone you were so close to. I, too, have lost family members. My brother when I was 7 and my mother when I was 13. I have learned the lesson about the dance many years ago. There is no “making sense” of life. There are only choices and consequences beyond your control. Loving Ezra, being with him, was a choice and cancer was beyond your control. I have come to understand that life is a succession of moments, some of pain and some of joy. You pay for the moments of joy with the moments of pain. As the pain heals, you can appreciate the moments of joy all the more.

    You are so lucky to have ever had such an incredible bond with someone else. Some live an entire lifetime never having experienced it. You will treasure those moments as life goes on. There is no need to “let go” to the memory of a moment of joy. That really is the meaning of life.

  16. Hillary, thank you for your writing. That whole space-time thing, that distance thing, that particular flavor of pain: Yes. It’s a kind of pain that’s so difficult to convey. That kind of brutal, cruel distance that nobody asked to have. I dearly hope that you are finding the least rocky path. So lovely how Ezra’s memory lives in countless hearts and in the names of children. He, and you, touch so many lives, even of strangers. Please keep sharing.

  17. Thank you for continuing to post, Hillary. I can imagine the pain that joins the writing, and I am glad you do it. Fuck cancer.

  18. I was reading through the comments and saw someone mention Putney – and I had a little laugh. That dog made me smile. Ezra made me smile.

    In the last few years I have started to change my long term life. Instead of sitting and working in front of a computer all day at home, I’ve built a simple workshop out the back in our ginormous shed and started tinkering. This year I am going back to uni to study teaching so I can teach design, engineering, woodworking and metalworking etc to high school kids.

    Ezra isn’t the reason I am doing all of this – but he was one of a few that planted a seed.

    Much love and thoughts.

    (actually it occurs to me I don’t know how Putney is? Still jumping?)

  19. Hi Hillary, so pleased to see this post. I think of Ezra and his amazing love for everything in life and the beautiful photo captures of you and Putney and his cancer journey. It made me sad but then I would laugh because Ezra would want that. And he sure had a humorous side! I treasure my pill flask and prints. Happy reminders. The babies are adorable. Wonderful names. Thanks for keeping this blog going. Take good care. Much Love, Robin

  20. I have this blog bookmarked on my favorites. I guess you already know that Ezra has touched the lives of so many people that have never met him. I hope that you keep this blog going…

  21. Hi Hillary,

    I just wanted to share with you that I am thinking of you today. I think of you and Ezra often, especially as I interface with the new Gibney studios in Lower Manhattan. Formerly DNA, that space and the essence of life, holds such special weight; so many friends and great times surrounding movement, and especially Ezra, his work, his class, his music, his teaching, his life. I consider it my golden dance era here in the NYC. Though circumstances ebb and flow as much as feelings come and go, the moon waxes and wanes, I want you to know you are loved beyond forever by the Creator of all that is beautiful and good. I am here for you if you ever need an hear or a friend or a friendly cuppa joe.

    Thinking of you,

  22. I came across Ezra’s blog shortly after I lost my wife, Jovette, to Cancer and drew inspiration from his and your words in that dark time. Years later,I have found a new form of happiness which cannot and will not match the completeness(I’m not sure that’s a word, but if the best expression I can come up with to describe) that I had with Jovette, but does keep me moving and has led to me transforming my leadership at work in a fundamentally positive way. Recently I have been reflecting a lot on my life with Jovette and sought out this blog again and have been reworded with more authenic and inspiring words. Thank you for keeping this alive and Take Care.

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