Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

a ‘sunny’ disposition: love, warmth, & beginner’s heart ~

I absolutely adore sunlight. Don’t get me wrong: I also love rainy, foggy, and cool wet days. Not sleet, so much, or ice (especially on roads!). But the sunlight — it make me want to stretch out like a lizard on a flat rock and just bask…

It’s no wonder, then, that to have a ‘sunny’ disposition is a compliment. No one made a song called ‘You are my thunderstorm,’ even in droughts…

When I was a college student, my two old ladies — Grandma & Aunt Bonnie, who lived together only a few blocks from my dorm & later college apartments — used to call me their sunshine. “Here comes our sunshine!” Aunt Bonnie would say when I came over (practically daily!). I loved them dearly; they were my lifeline while my parents lived overseas. I would sit in the tiny living room, on the scratchy horsehair sofa, and feel as though the room was full of sunshine. Not mine, but theirs ~

Something there is about love: it warms almost physically, like the late  fall sun on the deck this afternoon. I’m thinking that’s what it means to have a sunny disposition ~ to offer love easily, to all of those we meet. That kind of accepting, joyful love relaxes us the same way the September light leaves me drowsy & happy.

I’d like to believe that Grandma & Aunt Bonnie could feel the heat of my love for them, as I felt warmed and comforted by theirs. I’d like to believe that I brought them as much happiness as they did me. But somehow, the love we take seems always more than what we feel we make…

 

red state/ blue state ~ what-to-do state…?

Here’s the thing about sanity in an election year: We always have it. They never do. And yes: lately that seems far too often to be the point. We are always the ‘good guys.’ They are always the bad, or at least the sadly misinformed…

Don’t misunderstand: I’m NOT non-partisan. Not when to be a “moral” person means to deny women access to choices about their own bodies and lives. Not when it means to enjoin from a pulpit the death of people unlike you. I need to get that up front, as a disclaimer. This is defiantly not a neutral plea. As a woman, as a teacher, as an American, politics is personal. Especially this election.

But as a kid growing up in the 60s & 70s, politics has always been personal. It’s always been about real people, not simply ideals. I became political – as many of my generation did – with the Việt Nam War. But saying that invokes adolescent dissatisfaction and rebellion. That wasn’t the agenda for me. I grew up in Việt Nam, and the people dying had names & faces. They were our cook, her husband, the amah and her family in their small village, farming. They were the beautiful students at the Việtnamese American Association, who spoke French & Việtnamese to me when I walked up to check out a library book. Later, they were my boyfriend, an African diplomat’s son, who was run off the road in the South, for driving an expensive motorcycle while black. Or a girlfriend, who drove off to an abortion in an unmarked car, hiding in the floor so no one would see her.

Even as a child I read. Everything. I’ve always been a closet scholar, well before the doctorate came out of the woodwork. I want to know how everything works, the why  of the two-year-old taken to extremes. My father & mother would talk about anything – politics, religion, world events; anything except ‘personal’ things – in front of us. And I listened.

The point is that I had a rich resource context. I could look stuff up: in home encyclopædias, at the library, at the Việtnamese American Association. I could ask my folks, or the big kids on the bus, or the house help. And I did. I wanted lots of sources, even then. I wanted to know what everyone thought – that all their voices be heard. I didn’t think of it that way then, but even as a young child I knew that what Daddy thought would be very different from Chị Ba, my sister’s amah. And both vantage points were necessary.

I questioned, even as a child. Perhaps one big difference between a red & blue. Every blue I know questions everything. Reds? If it’s faith, usually not. And faith bleeds, for most of us, into all we do. Me? I questioned even faith. Continue Reading This Post »

bees, chocolate mimosas, and attachment ~

If you’ve read this blog more than a couple of times, you know I’m crazy about bees. Actually, about most wildlife (and yep, bees qualify). Starting next month, my patient, long-suffering husband & I are taking a beginning beekeeping class. I’m very stoked… :)

In the meantime, given the changes in local climate (a LOT hotter & drier — today it was 107˚, and it hasn’t rained but drops in ages), I’m replanting a lot of our yard. We’ve always had a habitat-friendly yard: no insecticides, lots of feeders for birds, and many butterfly plants. But bees don’t always ‘get’ butterfly plants: they lack the long tongues that make the tubular flowers work for butterflies.

Anyway, I’m in that lovely gardening stage called ‘dreaming.’ Looking at catalogs, combing websites, and re-reading the zillion books I have on gardens, bees, habitat gardening, etc. It’s a great summer pastime.

A few years ago, one of the nurseries I buy from featured something called a ‘chocolate mimosa,’ basically just a dark-leaved hybrid of the usual Southern mimosa. Now, if you’re a Southerner (and Okies really are, despite what Mississippians think…), you either love or hate mimosas. My sister’s best-beloved calls them ‘trash trees,’ but she still managed to talk him in to one. I adore them — their pink feather flowers are one of my favourite fragrances, and they’re a boon for bees, hummers, & butterflies. Couple that w/ a lovely red-brown, chocolatey leaf colour? You’ve got an impossibly wonderful combination.

The only catch is that this is a  HYBRID. Meaning, somebody ‘invented’ it. And so it’s terribly expensive. Rats. And remember — we just retired? Wellll, my own best-beloved isn’t too excited about totally re-landscaping. Or even buying one $100.00 tree (well, the smaller one is less, but who wants a teensy treeling??).

Friends, this is Buddhist attachment in its purest. :) I am sooo attached to this tree idea. And to the replanting of the garden and yard… And of course I can ‘justify’ it (it will save water! we won’t lose plants! it will feed wildlife!), but at least I’m still sane enough to realise: it’s attachment. Pure & simple.

That doesn’t mean I don’t still dream of my re-designed, newly planted beds… W/ the (totally NOT cheap) wooden hive to one side, and a small water feature to provide 24/7 water… And echinacea, and buddleia, and coreopsis, and.. and… and… Bees. Lots of happy, drowsily humming bees.

I do think there ought to be something to do about this other  than get past it, though. Any great ideas? How do you combat attachment? What are you attached to these days?

anger, patience, and putting out fires ~

This is me mad. I’m only half kidding: I have a terrible social temper. Meaning, what gets me mad is social injustice, and/or the will to ignore it. There’s one problem: I’m always the one defining the term…

Anger is not Buddhist. It’s not Christian, either. In fact, few religious faiths find a helpful rôle for the debilitating state. So I’ve been reading on how Buddhists are supposed to deal with anger. Note: Buddhism is far more polyvalent in ‘ways’ to work, to do work. There are different systems of Buddhism, just as there are different systems of Christianity or Islam, or Judaism. But none embrace anger.

There’s a great saying in Buddhism — I can’t remember where I learned it, but it helps sometimes: If you can’t change it, don’t bother w/ anger. If you can change it, don’t bother w/ anger. In other words? Do what you can — then let the anger go. If you can’t fix it — or don’t want to — then don’t get angry.

Soooo much easier said than done. I’m not good at letting things go.

One of the things Buddhism teaches us is to learn our own natures. Who am I? Who is this ‘me’ that gets angry? And why? In my case, anger is an armour against the pain of an unfair world, and unfair playing field. It’s penance for the many privileges I’m privy to. If I can make it a little easier for someone else, then my own charmed life seems less unfair. And all my advantages a bit less guilty…

Pema Chodron says the antidote to anger is patience. And I’m sure that’s true…. if I could just get a handle on patience…:) But the antidote sounds as hard to practice as working w/ the challenge… Sigh… Maybe that’s why I’m still a beginner…

 

 

 

 

 

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