Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

the whole ‘gentle’ thing ~

I’m pretty good at truthful, all humility aside :). In fact, sometimes I have to remember to temper it w/ the Buddha’s whole ‘is it appropriate? is it necessary? is it timely?’ context. I’ve learned how to say ‘No, those jeans are NOT flattering’ very carefully. The only times I flail are (of course!) when I’m trying to be truthful w/ myself — that’s far harder. And not so much because of the ‘hard’ things we need to learn, but often I forget to temper my own self critique w/ the mercy I would extend others.

I’m sure you don’t do that…

I’m also pretty fearless. Unless it’s a high place, or painful. And even the pain isn’t so much fear as avoidance. High places, though? They leave me quivering jelly. I always feel like I might just jump to see if I can fly…

But the gentle thing? I’m not good at that. I remember apologising to my older son once, saying he deserved a more nurturing mother. He reassured me that having a mother who would fight for him w/ the principal was also good. Thank heavens! Because that’s the mom the boys had. And still have.

I’m okay if you’re a bee, or a bird inside the house, or even a bat circling the fan in the upstairs bedroom. I can coo to you and work patiently to free you. But if you’re a student w/ a catastrophe? My MO is usually laughter — try to get you to laugh, even as I hug you. For some reason, I don’t speak fluent human gentle… only bug, bat, & animal gentle.

So this FB meme felt targeted when I saw it today. Reading it, I’m reminded: I need to be more gentle. Even if it’s difficult. Because gentleness is, like mercy, what leavens fearlessness and truth. And don’t we all need that? A little lightness of being…? It might even help with the self-truthfulness…

six unlikely things (before breakfast!) ~

I started this blog so I could learn about love — the Buddhist idea of it, the kind that inflects and colours every action. Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa kind of love. Impossible love ~

Yesterday I realised: I’m getting better at it! I found myself brimming with love as I drove to the Saturday Farmer’s market. I reveled in loving my husband, still sleeping soundly in his bed behind me. But of course, that’s easy — a given. So I noticed that I love the way early morning sunlight gilds the Arkansas River as you drive beside it, down Riverside Drive. And I love that my niece got up early to keep her promise to herself to run 4 miles yesterday. But again, those aren’t hard things to love — beauty, family.

So I reached a little deeper. I love the way the guy who sells me peaches  & melons & figs is happy to see me (I’ve been buying from him since he first set up shop several years ago). I love the dogs that snuffle each other as their owners eye berries & flowers & eggs. I love how it feels to put the top down on my car, and bask in the bright sunlight that will be incandescent in only a few hours. And again, I stop, because this is all EASY. How hard is it to love people who are glad to see you? Or playful dogs??

So here it is ~ my final list of 6 impossible things to love before breakfast:

  1. A middle-aged woman in a pristine Mennonite cap, briskly discussing her blackberries for sale.
  2. A would-be dogfight between a cock-sure mixed breed and an unimpressed Golden Retriever.
  3. Snow cones I don’t buy, in flavours like espresso, and cream soda (all natural!).
  4. The fact that my sister wanted me to join her for breakfast enough that she texted me at 6:30 a.m. Like I would be up reading a text at 6:30 a.m.!
  5. How even cranky drivers don’t really matter when the top’s down and the wind is blowing (great lesson, this one!).
  6. That smiling at someone who is obviously (and audibly!) having a bad day makes you feel good, even if it does no apparent good for the still-unhappy recipient.
Now it’s your turn. Help me out here. What are the six things you loved before breakfast today? Think about it — it’s beginner’s heart in practice. And that may be number 7…:)

the guy in the airport: a lesson in lagniappe ~

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I travel to the  Portland, Oregon airport a lot. My older son & his wife live in Portland, my younger son in  Lake Oswego , and my best friend in Tillamook. It’s one of the nicer American airports I’ve been in: clean, full of light (even in the grey rain of Oregon). Great bookstores (Powell’s, of course), great coffee (Coffee People), nice people. And sometimes, a little bit of lagniappe.

Like the time I saw the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus. Waiting at my Southwest gate. And humming! Or the time I ran into a colleague from long ago & far away — more than 20 years ago, 1/2 way across the continent.

But my favourite is walking in to the Portland terminal, from check-in, to see a young man playing cello. Cello! Not a guitar, or even fiddle. But cello ~ warm breath of an instrument, dark honey in the ear.

I stood mesmerised for minutes, just listening. These days air travel is a royal pain, but the Portland airport is better than most. You can even do real shopping at either Powell’s or The Real Mother Goose. But that day, I just sat in a happy haze, slightly drunk on cello music. I think I even called someone, to share the serendipity.

The whole city is like that — full of happy accidents that you have to be there for. A new experiment (always successful) at the Farmer’s Market, in one of the bakery stalls. Beer flights in the hotel lobby, for free. Free hot chocolate samples at the chocolatier down the street from the hotel.  And always, music.

Lagniappe – that little bit extra you don’t expect. I’m taking that as today’s lesson in beginner’s heart. Give more than folks expect, and do it with a grin. Like the guy in the airport, playing his heart out. So gifted ~ and unexpected ~ that the old man also watching began to ghost-fret his own cello, eventually engaging the younger man in an animated conversation about technique, composers, and serendipity. And lagniappe.

 

 

**Happy Birthday, America** ~

I adore fireworks. And although Americans associate them w/ the Fourth, I grew up in places where fireworks might happen on any holiday. Where there are large Chinese communities, there are often fireworks. For seasonal festivals, for New Year’s, to frighten away evil spirits and bad luck. Generally good things to have around!

It always seems fitting to me that we celebrate Independence Day with fireworks — symbolic of the fiery Revolution, of our hot-headed politics, and just so darn incendiary!

When my sons were little, they would make the run (with their father :)) to Arkansas to pick up fireworks not for sale here in Oklahoma: BIG Black Cats, cherry bombs (beloved of so many boys, & girls, of all ages…). We always spent the 4th at the lake, w/ my wonderful in-laws. We would drag the porch chairs out to the stairs overlooking the drive, and Glen & the boys would light fireworks in the black country night. All day the preview — Black Cats & smokey snakes and the loud BANG of whatever the boys could blow up — would have the family dogs sheltering in the kitchen, under the breakfast table.

After our hamburgers & watermelon, it was fireworks time. For me, the 4th of July is inseparable from the smell of gunpowder, charcoal, and cooked beef.  The taste of salted watermelon. We must have celebrated 20+ Fourths w/ my in-laws before Dad died and  Mom moved into assisted living.

But things change, as they do in this country celebrating its 236th birthday. And it’s very easy to focus on what seems to be ‘lost’ ~ I hear people doing this daily. Especially in an election year! We haven’t bought even a sparkler since Mom moved out of the lake house. The only loud explosions I hear startle me — they feel too close, not celebratory (we also hear gunshots sometimes…).

Despite the lack of gunpowder, there were hamburgers today. No watermelon, but a pyramid of fresh sweet peaches, and a platter of Cherokee Purple tomatoes. It’s still a hot Oklahoma July day, w/ explosions in the distance, under a clear blue sky.

This year, we plan to go to my sister’s place, which overlooks the city’s fabulous display over the river. It will be different, but still good. I figure someone else will be lighting the fuses, and someone else will do the cleanup the next day. And no, there will be no Roman candles, no Black Cats, not even a snake. That’s okay w/ me. I’ll be focusing on the palm shells, and spider lights, and chrysanthemums, and peonies ~ blooming incandescence…

I wish I could convince myself ~ and others ~ to do this w/ the birthday girl. Let’s celebrate the enormous beauty America offers, instead of worrying that things aren’t how they used to be. There are so many things that are right. And surely, on her birthday, we can all agree on that…?

 

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