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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

mothering ~

CarolDeborahToday we sent a box to my wonderful daughter-in-law. And the grandson she’s carrying. (We included a bar of chocolate for my elder son… :) )

Inside the box were 2 blankets — one my mother-in-law made so many years ago for my  son. Carefully embroidered w/ slightly faded animals on white squares, surrounded by bright green gingham checks. Edged w/ handkerchief-fold edging. The other a nursing blanket given by one of the many wonderful aunts who have mothered me over my life.

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The picture is of one — my Aunt Carol, who still lived at home when I was this toddler, and my mother & I moved back in w/ my grandmother (& Carol) while my father went to one of his many wars.

I am so very lucky in my mothers. My blue-haired old ladies — Grandma, Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Ina. My elder teachers: Grandmother Britton & Aunt Velma & Aunt Alene & Aunt Mary. The women who watched over me as I wrote: Fran & Ivy & Jerry. Women older (I still miss Ione…) & younger & older (Shelley & Joye & Pat & Soha) and … and … and. Friends & my sisters & all the women who have saved me from despair, from grief, from losing sight of who I am and can become.

So moving up to Mother’s Day, I’m saying thank you. To the next round of mothers coming up (this is for you, Estrella). To the women who have mothered me throughout my life. And to the women who every day reach out to their friends, their children — born or chosen — and give them love.

Happy Mother’s Day weekend! I love you ~

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in a grain of sand ~

sand grains

To see the world in a grain of sand…~ William Blake

This picture is an entire poem to me. It’s taken from a great website, featuring the photography of Dr. Gary Greenberg.

What do you see when you look at these tiny grains of Maui sand, photographed under a microscope? I see jewels. And having just spent a week on Maui, much of it on three quite different beaches, I can tell you: the sand is far more like velvet than jewels. Nary a piece of tri-cornered crystal to be found. Or any beautiful red pebbles, or crystalline flower pieces.

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In fact, it all looked pretty much like the same ol’ same ol. Sand, that is. But this is what those velvety grains look like close up. And I am bedazzled by that metaphor.

You all know I’m nuts about metaphor. I would have done an entire dissertation on metaphor, had I thought of it (oh wait! I did! That’s what poetry is, isn’t it? :)). Because what metaphor teaches us is that everything connects. And for me? This single picture of approximately 30 ‘grains’ of sand is the perfect metaphor for almost anything.

Feeling like you’re one of the sheeple? That everyone follows the latest trend, and you can’t get out of the way? Examine the incredible differences here. Every one of those ‘sheep’ has beauty, individual beauty. Think you really have a clue what you’re seeing? It’s all an illusion, as Buddhism has been saying for centuries. That velvety sand actually has POINTS. And bright, vivid colours.

In other words, pay attention. Try to look verrry closely. Because what’s within the simplest things — a handful of sand — is beauty. And it’s all around us.

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poetry (again), practice, and beginner’s heart ~

poetry goes aroundIf you know me at all, you know I’m not quite rational about poetry. Of course, poetry isn’t a rational subject. And writers of it tend to not be, either. How could we be? It’s all about stories and metaphor and images and following a silvery thread through the labyrinth of the human heart… How’s that for an image?

Really, though, it’s more like the picture. It’s gears in your head, and a kind of writing machine that’s powered by your blood and thought and experience and who knows what else? Not (in other words) rational…

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But the practice of poetry has changed my life.  These days, when I find myself eaten up with anger at the injustices visited upon so many Americans — and even more world citizens — I try to write it out. Or read it out. And when I’m missing my long-gone father, or my mother, or friends half-way across the country? I focus my attention on poetry.

It’s a kind of tonglen, I guess. Certainly I try to practice poetry that way, turning my own anger or grief or sorrow (even my joys) into a form of practice. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mean that the zombie tanka I submitted last night to a journal (really) is Buddhist practice. But the concentration on the moment, the attempt to observe (even imaginatively!)…? These are components of practice. They keep me in the moment, and move me away from attachment. Well, except for the whole ‘get-it-right’ thing…lama chokyi

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That’s the beauty of practice, though, as I’ve said here, here, and here. You’re always beginning, and it’s always a fresh start. There’s not even a word for ‘guilt’ in Tibetan, a lama once told me in a session. Lama Chokyi, a translator for several monks as well as of several Buddhist texts, said that when he tried to explain the concept of guilt to the monk for whom he was translating, the monk’s eyes widened and he exclaimed: Why would you DO that??

I agree. Why do we do that?

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dancing to my own music ~

YouTube Preview Image

I love this video. I’m indebted to a FB post by the amazing Parker Palmer — teacher, philosopher, thinker, and all-’round good rôle model — for the link. And the bright spot in a day otherwise dedicated to work (and yes, I know it’s Sunday).

I love to dance. Not many opportunities these days — it’s not high on my husband’s list of favourite activities — but I have a grandson in the works, and fully intend to spend hours dancing w/ him. First holding him, then spinning each other around the room. It’s the way I danced w/ my two sons when they were small. And it works fine.

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I also love the idea that Ellie — our fearless dancer — just quietly rocks out on her own. I’ve been known to do the same. It seldom fails to garner eyerolls from my friends & family.

But here’s the deal: I’m pretty darn happy. My life is full of good things, and when the right soundtrack comes on? Who can resist dancing?? I want to grab an arm, a hand, and spin. But most of the time, I content myself w/ the solitary bebop Ellie enjoys.

You know that old song I’d like to teach the world to sing…? Well, I’d like to teach the world to dance. Each of us. To our own music, in our own inimitably amazing style. How COOL would that be??

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