A story of enduring love between two authors with a deep interest in poetry, Beat literature, Zen, art and music, and includes poems and passages written during the heartrending experience of Alzheimer's, care-giving, and death.
The spread of dementia ever widens. I think of four close friends – two in California and two in Oregon just now suffering
from acute memory loss. I especially think of the journey of their caregivers
and others right now witnessing the steady brain decline of their loved ones. I
so understand what those losing memory and those caring for them are going
through. It can be a sad, lonely journey even when support is offered.
Ultimately, it’s the moment-to-moment care that becomes intense and sometimes
unbearable in the sadness it holds. If this any consolation, know you’re never
alone in whatever you may be experiencing. Find moments where you may pause,
breathe deeply, and reconnect with what’s at hand, your breath, or the feel of
your patient’s touch, something just then to remind you that all is not lost.
That however easy or difficult – the moment with a close friend, a loved one,
can never be repeated. In “Wife, Just Let Go,” I’ve tried to share these
thoughts and moments when we tend to be so focused in having things to do that
we forget the presence of those we need to do those things for, and thus forget
to tell them words they never tire of hearing, words that heal: simply, “you’re
Robert Briggs on an excursion with Ted Bagley (photo by Ted Bagley 2015)
Sharing this Newsletter from Sharp Again Naturally. The Foundation is doing some remarkable things to bring the latest news and finds for preventing and healing Alzheimer's Disease
A must-read for all!
On July 11th Sharp Again Naturally (SAN) held our annual fundraiser, the Sharp Again Soirée, at the CV Rich Mansion in White Plains, NY. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Harold Williams’ inspiring story of recovering his memory, which illustrates the very essence of SAN’s mission and message. This was a celebration and an evening of fun, connecting, and learning more about Sharp Again Naturally. Proceeds from the evening will support future projects such as developing educational videos and webinars, a physician database, and a day-long conference. (You can read more about the event and see pictures here).
Our feature story this month about healthy fats is by Allan Warshowsky, MD in Rye, NY who started his career as an OB/GYN and now specializes in functional medicine. The different types of fat in our diet have been much debated over the past several decades, and Dr. Warshowsky’s article, along with the Q & A from Priscilla Warshowsky, CHHC and Myra Oney, CHHS about eating out, clarify which fats help to maintain a healthy brain.
Coming this fall, we will be making a number of presentations in the Westchester area (details below) as well as at medical and dental conferences. If you are interested in having Sharp Again Naturally speak to a group, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are contacted every week by individuals and family members who have been told there is no hope for their memory loss, and we are getting them the help they need. Support Sharp Again Naturally by spreading the word that dementia and Alzheimer's can be prevented and often reversed using natural approaches. Your voice matters!
Enjoy the rest of the summer! Lisa Lisa Feiner Board Chair, Sharp Again Naturally
Eat Healthy Fats for a Healthy Brain By Allan Warshowsky FACOG, ABIHM
Alzheimer’s disease is primarily the result of increased brain inflammation. This has been referred to as “the brain on fire.” To maintain our brain health and cognitive abilities, we need to make dietary and other lifestyle choices that will reduce inflammation and put out the fire. Maximizing healthy fats in the diet optimizes brain health.
There has been much controversy about which fats to include in a healthy diet that would help us to avoid or reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s or other chronic diseases of aging like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers, osteoarthritic conditions, autoimmune disease, and cognitive decline.
Not All Fats Are the Same
Trans fats are the synthetic fats we find in our food that are often identified as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Naturally occurring fats and oils found in food are further categorized as:
fish oils (deep sea cold water fish)
saturated fats, found in coconut, grass fed/finished red meats, and deep sea cold water fish
mono-saturated fats, found in In olive oil
polyunsaturated fats, found in soybean, canola, cottonseed, corn and peanut oils
Saturated fats are the least flexible and are therefore solid at room temperatures, while polyunsaturated fats, being the most flexible, are liquid at room temperatures. Read more...
Q&A: Eating Healthy While Eating Out
Priscilla Warshowsky, CHHC, Myra Oney, CHHC
Take Healthy Eating Habits on the Road
A healthy lifestyle takes planning and a consistent routine for shopping and preparing meals. An impromptu meal out with friends, extended family or coworkers is also good for the body and mind because it is a great way to relax, socialize, and sometimes try new foods. But when eating out derails your healthy eating habits every time, you may want to consider some of the suggestions below:
Q: When I attend group social events, I often eat and drink more than I should. What can I do differently next time?
A: This is a common problem because the food and beverages seem to be within arms’ reach the entire time. Do not say yes to every passed hors d’oeuvre offered to you. Instead of the food circulating, make sure you’re also spending time walking around and socializing. If it is a seated dinner, ask someone to switch places with you for a bit so you can talk to people at another part of the table and you are no longer sitting in front of your own plate or glass. When you know you have had enough, you can avoid further temptation by taking the salt or pepper shaker and using it generously on the food that remains on your plate to resist the next bite. Read more...
The Sharp Again Soiree We had a beautiful evening and it was a great success. Mentalist David Levitan entertained guests during cocktail hour, which took place in the mansion with its lovely adjacent gardens. Throughout the evening, there were opportunities to bid on silent auction items donated by generous supporters, the 50/50 raffle, and Wine Pull. In the ballroom, guests were treated to dinner and dancing, with music by the Bad Art Band. For more pictures click here.
Enable us to continue this work:MAKE A DONATION to keep spreading the word that dementia is a treatable disease, and it’s never too early or late to begin taking care of your brain. Go to www.sharpagain.org/donate or send your contribution to PO Box 713 Larchmont. NY 10538
Sharp Again Naturally is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
In the spirit of peace and harmony, the sharing of “Wife, Just Let Go,” continues. Announcing another book event coming up in June in Los Angeles. Chado, the Japanese Way of Tea has always been a pillar that has held me up during years of intensive caregiving and still holds me up in grief especially as the 3rd anniversary of Robert’s death approaches. Please join me for a book discussion/tea ceremony at the beautiful Shoseian Teahouse in Glendale, CA on June 17, 2018. (See event post.) Please spread the word to your friends in the LA area and contact me if you need further information. The momentum for the book is ongoing.
Shoseian “Whispering Pine”Teahouse
West Mountain St., Glendale, CA91201
We invite you to a Book Discusion and Tea Ceremony by Diana Saltoon, a
teacher of Chado, “The Way of Tea”.
Author of Wife, Just Let Go - Zen, Alzheimer’s and Love
June 17, 2018
2 PM – 4 PM
Book Discussion and Tea
Saltoon will discuss her book, how Chado was a pillar during her years of
caregiving, how the practice of Chado is beneficial not only in times of ease
and joy, but also in times of suffering, hardship and loss.
Those attending will be served
traditional sweets and a bowl of matcha.
the demonstration, the afternoon will be open to further discussion and
questions from the audience, taking place in the historic Shoseian “Whispering
Pine” Tea House, one of Glendale’s “Hidden Treasures”.
Thanks to Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood, CA, for a successful book event of “Wife, Just Let Go!” last Thursday. Many came – old friends and new and thanks to them for a lively discussion and purchase of the book. The positive response to “Wife, Just Let Go” is encouraging and inspirational and promises another event on a return visit to Los Angeles this summer. Now in UK enjoying a visit with my brother and family, and reuniting with dear friends. The weather here is reminiscent of Portland, OR - clouds and rain with sunshine on the horizon and warmer days to come. Yet, with all this travelling I’m reminded by Hakuin Zenji that: “Coming and going/we never leave home.”
“WIFE, JUST LET GO: ZEN, ALZHEIMER’S, AND LOVE” HOLDS LESSONS FOR US ALL
The main reason Alzheimer’s is such a merciless disease is because it eviscerates memory, thereby disabling not just everyday cognitive function (e.g., pull on your socks before your shoes) but also the intimate connective tissue of relationships. So it is doubly poignant to read in Diane Saltoon-Briggs’ book “Wife, Just Let Go: Zen, Alzheimer’s, and Love” that her late husband, Beat-inspired “Ruined Time” author Robert Briggs, retained not only his love of poetry but also his ability to reflect upon and celebrate aging — even as he “steadily lost the ability to converse.” It is one of several moving elements in her slim memoir recounting how she strived to be a living “memory bank”
for the intelligent, dignified man
who’d made her feel safe and beloved since their first meeting in San Francisco in 1977.
It’s a very personal book. The “Zen” in its subtitle references the meditation practice they’d shared for decades; scenes of meditation and tea ceremonies depict quiet respites from Alzheimer’s onslaught, and illuminate the quality of their life in artistic communities in California, Oregon and New York as much as Briggs’ poetry readings with his jazz trio. More than anything, Saltoon’s poems and recollections show how the couple relied on creativity to stay connected as the disease eroded Briggs’ mind and body. As many caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s can attest, that was a true achievement. “We never lost the ability to communicate emotionally,” Saltoon writes, adding, “the creative process in the brain, however limited by Alzheimer’s, remains accessible.”
Her heartfelt pieces bracket poems and prose written by Briggs throughout his life; in the three years before his death in 2015, his thoughts became more nonlinear yet retained surprising insights. The surreal “gifts” the disease grants include, to Saltoon, “Awareness, Acceptance and Appreciation”; to Briggs, the realization that “blue sky … seems bluer wherever I am.” Poetry and music, especially jazz, continued to stimulate him; this was a man who’d once declared, “Jazz is to music what poetry is to knowing.” When he could no longer write he still gripped a pen and paper like comforting emblems of identity. Toward the end, when clocks were incomprehensible puzzles to him, Saltoon notes one of his enduring lessons to her: “Time is of no consequence … It is just the moment that counts.”
— Bliss Bowen
Diana Saltoon discusses “Wife, Just Let Go: Zen, Alzheimer’s, and Love” at Diesel Bookstore (225 26th St., Ste. 33, Santa Monica) from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 5. Free admission. Call (310) 576-9960 or visit
LAUREN SAPALA is a writer and writing coach in San Francisco. She has a very active blog that nourishes, heals, sparks and empowers the creative flame of anyone interested in improving their writing. Her interest in Wife, Just Let Go, led to a recent interview now live in her blog. The interview provoked answers that had me go deeper into my own understanding of how and why the book got written.
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: DIANA
SALTOON-BRIGGS TALKS ABOUT WIFE, JUST LET GO: ZEN, ALZHEIMER’S, AND LOVE
One of the main topics of Wife, Just Let Go is
your beloved partner’s struggle with Alzheimer’s near the end of his life. This
is a disease that has gained much more widespread publicity in recent years.
Have you found that people have reached out to you specifically because of the
way you so honestly treated your experience as the partner of someone with
Alzheimer’s in the book? Have you heard from others who have gone through
Even before the book was published,
people would ask me how I managed as his care person at home for all those
years. Since the publication of the book this outreach has intensified. I’ve
had some book events and even a workshop where I’m able to encourage questions
and discussions from others going through similar experiences. I keep getting
more queries about my experiences and positive feedback on the book from other
care persons and hospice workers, especially those who’ve lost loved ones
through Alzheimer’s and feel alone in their grief. I share with them what I
feel was so important for me in my journey with Robert: holding the memories he
was losing as he struggled to write and continued to write in his last years.
Filling in that loss and above all, placing a great faith in love – something I
learned deeply from him during those years. Then of course there is the grief.
I recently published an article on my blog about grief that has no time
constraints. The redemption is in knowing that, as a cloud that temporarily
obscures the clarity of the sky, the emotional upheaval too is temporary and
ultimately the heart is cleansed by tears expressing a profound love.
I was very impressed by how
streamlined Wife, Just Let Go is as a memoir. So many
essential, beautiful memories were captured in just a few pages. Was it
difficult to choose which memories to include? Did you enlist the help of
family and friends or solely follow your intuition about what to include in the
The idea of a duo memoir was suggested
by a friend who thought Robert’s essays needed to be expanded if it were to
become a book. Another friend, Noah, a long time tea student of mine and
somewhat adopted as a grandson especially when we returned to Portland from New
York, was drawn to Robert because of his own interest in writing. He suggested
I include some kind of introduction, poems I’d written, and parts of the
journal I kept during the years of caregiving Robert. Some of the memories of
how I met Robert, the work we did together, the travels we took, came to mind.
Each memory seemed to unfold naturally as if in a film of our lives together.
Noah came one night and we laid out all of Robert’s essays, spreading them on
the floor in some kind of order. As I looked at them it felt natural to
compliment his essays with poems and compositions I’d written that harmonized
with his writing. The memories came, woven in with the text, as if Robert
himself was present and aiding this effort.
You also mentioned the ARTZ Foundation in the book (Artists for Alzheimer’s
I’m Still Here Foundation). Can you tell us a little more about that?
ARTZ – Artists for Alzheimer’s, is a
foundation in Woburn, MA that encourages creativity in patients suffering from
memory loss. I needed help when Robert was still alive, trying to find a way to
publish Robert’s essays. At that time Robert kept them in a white binder – he
called his “white book,” tentatively titled: Unexpected Joys and Trials of One
American Life: Turning 83 and Beyond. I found out about ARTZ and contacted
them. The person in charge was most interested to learn about Robert and what
he was doing. He had a few suggestions about publishing but wisely mentioned
something the Foundation had begun – encouraging art and museum experiences for
Alzheimer’s patients. He recommended I contact MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art
in Manhattan, NY, who was offering Meet Me At
MOMA series for Alzheimer’s patients and their care persons.
The events take place once a month and are facilitated by highly trained Museum
instructors. Essentially it’s a way to engage dementia patients accompanied by
their care persons – mostly family members, encouraging them to express their
spontaneous reactions to the paintings they were viewing. The comments elicited
when we were present were amazing and even enlightening and prove that the
creative part of the Alzheimer’s brain is still active long after memory loss
and debilitation. What was most rewarding about connecting with ARTZ was
learning about the I’m Still Here Foundation in MA and their President John
Zeisel’s book I’m Still Here that presents a whole new
philosophy of Alzheimer’s care and points out the various “gifts of
I was fascinated by one of the
passages in the book from your partner, Robert, in which he talks about aging.
Specifically, he says, “Even so-called ‘uniform’ aging differs in men and women
or even people of the same gender. People’s individual responses to their aging
differ as well…we have to pay attention to our own self and what it’s telling
us.” What are your thoughts on that?
So much of what he says resonates with
me. I feel aging is an individual thing and much of it depends on our
attitudes, practices, and eating habits. For me, this is what it means to “pay
attention to the self.” To realize what we can and should not do or consume by
listening to feedback from within. The word “chi” is Chinese and it means the
fundamental energy that comes from the Universe and the ways we interact with
this energy flowing in and out of the body and mind. Awareness, active
participation with this energy, is essential to the vibrancy of our age and for
healing and health. Exercises are helpful – especially in the arts of Tai Chi,
Qigong, Yoga, etc., that teach us how to flow with the energy. This centers on
the breath and how we breathe is most important towards increasing and
expanding that energy. Breathing deeply from below the abdomen for example,
enhances the “chi” of each person. Robert mentions measuring life with seasons
– being at one with nature. This is what measures our aging – not the years we
have. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, each season brings a new view to
experiencing life. We become age-less when we experience life as it is – with
what’s unfolding, present in each aware moment.
You mentioned your practice of the
Japanese Way of Tea a few times in the book. Have you found the lessons from
this practice to be helpful during times of difficulty and intense change in
It has been and still is one of the
pillars that hold me up in my life. Chado – The Japanese Way of Tea brings
peace and integration to anyone immersed in its practice. The principles of
Chado – harmony, respect, purity and tranquility – are fundamental ways to be
if we’re to experience peace with each other and nature. Making a simple bowl
of tea mindfully, focusing on each step of the procedure, brings a clear and
present mind, a mind of no hindrances. The heart is quiet and spacious. The
training of Chado is one of awareness, discipline and concentration similar to
Zen practice. It never fails to ground me and bring clarity and peace. Above
all, it does the same for others engaged in a tea gathering, however simple or
elaborate. Sharing tea with Robert was one of the finest things I could do with
him when things became difficult and transitions of all kinds entered our
Where can people find out more about
you as an author?
How can people support Wife, Just Let Go and
efforts to increase Alzheimer’s awareness?
By spreading the word about the book
and recommending it to others and to bookstores. Perhaps visit their favorite
bookstores and have them order the book to make it more available to the
public. They can also contact the Alzheimer’s Association wherever they are
and mention my book as anew way of viewing caregiving. Meanwhile, if
they have a copy of the book and find it helpful, they can let others know and
perhaps gift a book to someone intensely involved in caregiving or suffering
the grief and loss of a loved one. They can always order a copy through my
blog, through PayPal as well as Amazon. Posting reviews will also bring more
awareness of what it can do for others. When I wrote the book, I just wanted to
get Robert’s last works in print. Now his words have become a true gift for me
to share with others.
Diana Saltoon-Briggs has traveled extensively, studied yoga, and in the
1970s developed a program that dealt with modern stress. Her interest in Zen
led to a study of Chado, The Way of Tea, as a Zen art and received a
certificate of Chamei from the Urasenke School in Kyoto, Japan. Diana became a
teacher at the Portland Wakai Tea Association in Oregon before moving with her
husband, Robert Briggs, to New York in 2011. They returned to Portland, Oregon,
in 2014. A member of Zen communities in Oregon and New York, Diana continues to
give presentations, classes and workshops on the Zen Art of Tea. She is the
author of Tea and Ceremony: Experiencing Tranquility (2004), The Common Book of Consciousness (1990), and
Four Hands: Green Gulch Poems (1987)."
I'm deeply grateful to Lauren for this interview. Here is the link to the interview on her blog: