Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Trying to take this series a little further.  What will emerge?

Made this for Theo's school auction:
  Visible and invisible help.  Friend I admire bought it.

Made this book for Dora's school auction:
It's all about what they learned when they became Native American tribe members and had to deal with the first white trader, increasing white settlement, and then forced relocation to reservation land.  Here's Dora's page.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Accounting for this life, again

Glacier lilies, late summer.
Enamel plate print, 8/11

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down the dulcimer.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Sitting in circle this September morning I located myself again. The first things my teachers have said upon coming back together for yoga and meditation have been reminders to open, to be aware, to remember that going inside is a connection and not a withdrawal.

But then, they speak of fall and the time for going in with fondness, and an implication of being ready to rest, where I, allowed to whisper "wait" to summer, would continue to go out. I'd feel the spring of my feet off the diving board and slide into the light liquid lake water, surfacing to breathe in rhythm with the turning of my head; I'd go onto the windy mountain trail and walk, then sit, with the 20 kinds of wildflowers I have to look up in a book when I get home; I'd grip the racquet and tie my shoelaces firmly before tracing swooping patterns in the air at the tennis court, which radiates the mid-afternoon heat. So I am listening hard to make sense of what they say. They all say it is time.

The speckled deer grazing with two fawns in our yard, which is now fenced (how do they come to be here again?) says so. She looks at me from 10 feet away, and says so, frightened and yet fearless in the truth. She says so again.

As does the crowded school hallway, although the children are in their classrooms, it's the parents who don't want to leave who mill about, trying to capture with shaking fingers the wispy tips of hair their babes have cut for the start of school, these aging youngsters who have carelessly turned 8 and 9 over the summer or will soon, this weekend perhaps, or this Christmas, which will be here tomorrow.

The kitchen at 6:45 am and the brilliant harvest moon in a purple sky at 8:45 pm say so. I haven't seen the kitchen this early of the clock all summer, although if I had it wouldn't have required the ceiling lamp turned on.

The brown grass, waiting for rain. The pumpkins turning a bright, raucous orange in the garden. The raccoons in the plum tree at midnight (chased away by steve) and again at 2 am (chased away by me). A truly fruitless chase. For us, anyway. Ha! All of them say the same thing, once I listen.

Dora says so, telling me, the first day of school, that when I heard her room door open and close at 5:30 am she was getting those little battery-lit tea candles set up to meditate. Indeed!!

So I found myself, incredibly, resoundingly, fortuitously, in circle. I listened to my teacher say "feel the vibrations on your skin, feel gratitude for this, your body." I heard it, the opening, the sense of the goodness of the work irrespective of pleasure, pain, the ease of it or the difficulty...there it is stretched out like a cat with every life accounted for, how does she do it? Each life fully lived leads effortlessly to the next, says she. Purrr.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Book. Or, a book. By Me.

Because I hope it won't be the last.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Todos Santos

The clean fire of spaciousness. Only myself, only here, only now. Putting my face to my shins, sitting in circle, in yoga, at dinner, at the fire pit. I am feeling my way through not belonging, belonging, being a wave, being part of the ocean.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


This early morning I wake with that same feeling of unnamed dread I've had before, this time with words: there is a very great grief coming. At first it seems it could be attached to keenly experiencing the sequence of "last times of doing" in this house as it is, as we discuss our plans for rebuilding. I have not lost my very great attachment to things. A house is a big thing.

Quick leap to darker, wider reasons. In fact, a very great grief is here, can be here, every day, every moment. That disappointment, harm, even death may come to my children or others whom I love. The conflict I feel between anything I could possibly do and the great workings of the world--like the death of Bin Laden, the clash of belief and world view that caused the war machine to necessitate his death, the incredible focus and energy that was poured into readying men and materials for such an end. The death, indeed perhaps the life, of any girl and boy in Pakistan, the country in which I was born. In all countries and wrinkles that don't even belong to countries over the face of the earth. All the ways we misunderstand, misconstrue, misapprehend. All the mistakes I have made and will make. All the change that has already come and gone, always. Many of the poems I've learned by heart stream through my mind, watching woods fill up with snow, margaret's goldengrove unleaving, and especially the thrush's ecstatic song shared on the bleakest winter evening.

These are sorrows constantly in and of the world, from which I cannot protect myself or any child. There is no sufficient preparation. And yet. Sometimes I do feel joy instead. And neither the joy nor sorrow are my personal domain. They flow through all like an underground river. If I grieve more in winter did not Demeter before me? When I can't remember what it felt or smelled like to lift a sleeping baby...when I feel a widening distance from my 12 year old child, when I can't remember how to create or to whom I belong, it is winter inside.

In an opening, I can change my position: it is an exchange, not a cartoon flat on the page in which I am pinned without escape by a gravity-bound weight. This is information, this is a window, an update on the world's grief, mirrored by me in microcosm, and I am alive to feel it. It's nebulous doom is true but not the end, sharpening as it does the countering love. Light.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Is the world speaking through us? Can it speak through the muffling distraction of material possessions, all of our talk, the news, the anguish of war, the cacophony of "entertainment?" A moment of remembering and discovery at the same time. Dissolve the edge between ourselves and that which we think is other. There is no room for trust or lack of trust.

Water skeeters feel the thought of the water, the life of the air, the wood, the water, water, water; they are not close and yet they know when another moves, when the trees move and shake their water to the ground and the whole still water quivers, like the flower petals, still, yet quivering with purity, with color, with white circling messages of love, release, opening, closing, opening. Inside the surface of the water, sky.

The mind is just another sensory organ. Without concentrating on an object, without any form of motive, influence, or compulsion, can my mind give full attention without any exclusion? Meaning is only in the mind. Openness is in everything else.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Sacred Pause

Theo and Dora at preschool ages, 2005
I had a moment of insight and clarity after meditation class this morning. What a surprise, right? But I've been feeling so low I almost didn't go to class.

We are reading Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. She talks about our collective tendency in this culture to believe that we are deficient beings in need of fixing, which sets us up for a lifetime of trying too hard to be "perfect," and, inevitably, failing.

I know a place that gave respite from this delusional perspective. Montessori Country School, and the directors and teachers Patty, Karla, Sue, Meghan, Kasia, Liisa, Cindy, Lydia, Julie, Melissa and Emily. They created this completely rational and incredibly beautiful world within our crazy external reality that was based on a countercultural trust and belief in the true Buddha nature of our children. They did not need perfecting! They were not required to measure up to some external standard of learning or, more importantly, being.

They were treasured for their existence just as it was. They were welcomed without an assumption that they must change in order to belong. They were welcomed with the belief that wholeness and goodness and intelligence was their innate essence, and upon being shown a loving way to express that essence they would naturally fill an important place in the community. No one keeping score. No competition encouraged because every one is on his or her own path. No one had to "get ahead." There was time for it all. What a heartrending relief.

There is a tangible difference that any creature feels in being allowed to be. It's this allowance of the "sacred pause," which might happen anytime during an activity or between them, during which time one can sense the life streaming through, notice what one is experiencing, decide what one might do next. How many educational institutions allow this magic to happen? Certainly not very many traditional schools have built-in room for this kind of self-awareness.

We used to get it just being kids and having big chunks of time with nothing to do. Kids these days have precious little of that. And that is to all of us a far deeper loss than I want to consider. Nothing less than the building of a whole soul, navigating difficult moments, opening to the suffering and joy, learning to relate to the world outside, is happening during these moments. One could argue that this is the true education, because all future success depends on there being "fertile ground for wise action."

Ajahn Buddhadasa calls these interludes of natural or purposeful pausing "temporary nirvana." We touch the freedom that is possible in any moment when we are not grasping after our experience or resisting it. He writes that without such moments of pausing, " . . . living things would either die or become insane. Instead, we survive because there are natural periods of coolness, of wholeness and ease. In fact, they last longer than the fires of our grasping and fear. It is this that sustains us.
~Radical Acceptance

My children's preschool experience to me in looking back was full of so much of the spiritual feeling of safety and love and being held that I am beginning to understand from a more intellectual aspect now. How blessed we all were to receive it, even though we couldn't understand it fully.