I met this girl named Sana (as in “Sam”). Well, she’s not a girl, she’s a woman, like me, 59, but so much paler than me, kinda whispy . . . like the sound of her name. She had recently moved to Crestone, Colorado (gosh, I wish I could do that) from Cincy. We had been friends on and off for ages. But now she was gone.

Sana to Calarada.

When Sana was here, for years that girlfriend of mine had a bunch of rough stuff running through her like a herd of buffalo, and gettin’ worse so she had to take stacks of pharmaceuticals and go to doctors like that was her job. What could I do? Just be there for real heart-to-heart hugs and let-it-out tears and still long, real hugs. Well, Sana had been sick with so many things all at once, you couldn’t help but think she was being groomed for something in the Universe, something she would uncover in herself—a way to help the Universe.

But she told me how flippin’ hard it was. So alone, adrift of all other like-minded kin but me. And as we both knew: no Sangha or sangha (like-minded Buddhist) community near.

We were real intimate so I knew she had fibromyalgia beating and defeating her physical strength—not to mention the deep morning body-wide ache, both aspects lingering in and out in the day; 2 hip surgeries since late 2007 and another one for her bloody neck coming up, supposedly, on August 19, 2011; bipolar disorder whacking her worst than ever—since spring, like the whacking whacking dusting of a rug, hanging out back on the clothesline, the dust being bopped out of it so violently; cervical dystonia treated with Botox. Before Botox her face was full of grimacing contortions she couldn’t control. Nor could she, progressively, control the involuntary yank of her chin down to a tremor. O Sana Sana . . . as one doctor said, You’re a mess.

She told me, Sana whispered, that her lower back hurt her all days most days. She could only slouch on her daybed or be flat . . . ALL DAY . . . but life had to go on. So she sought out healers and friends who gave of their gifts to her of Ayurvedic consultations, of nourishing soups and breads, and a mother who inevitably brought a gourmet meals-on-wheels nearly every evening. Sana had been this way since last October and here it was the first week of July, the zenith of it all, it seemed.

Yet she had not been hospitalized. That was a triumph. She tried with all that she was capable of each day to practice Dharma—true practice. What if she hadn’t begun to understand the Buddha’s method for happiness, and his teachings about how to live in a suffering world?—ultimately to be capable of helping others. This made common sense to her. Finally, a true method, step by logical step method as tools to skillfully employ in a rough world. If she hadn’t experienced all this for 11 years, she would be either long gone or drunk daily. So this mad for a very important commonality between us, i.e., we’d been each other’s sangha community. The Third Jewel. The nurses who care for you and your spirit.

Yet she was gone . . . for about 2 months now. She’d decided to live in Crestone because a wonderful Dharma teacher and author was there: Reginald Ray, founder of Dharma Ocean Foundation. She had heard his online excerpts of teachings and found a profound affinity with his voice, his timing, his humility, his thorough, unbiased scholarship. So she moved to a state that had medical marijuana. Of course I called and said O Sana Sana, what’s it like?