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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

the magic of seeds…

the author's

the author’s

Seeds are a GREAT metaphor. Unlike gardens… Well, maybe gardens work for some folks, but they don’t work for me when people use them to talk about multiculturalism. Hello, I GARDEN.

At a verrry prestigious fellowship I once received, I sat at a table w/ a lot of pretty traditional academics. There were a few of us (thank you, universe!) who weren’t so traditional (re: hidebound). We were women, and/or black, and/or in disciplines that had to do with cultures very unlike our mother cultures.

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This made us more suspect than I had anticipated.

I don’t think I’m naïve. But when people are faculty in fields like philosophy, or religion, I expect them to be … well, more open-minded than closed-. So when we began to discuss the white bread environment of our university, and the white guys said we needed to be more like a garden? The C list (that’s what the five of us called ourselves — note that we weren’t even the B list!) spoke up immediately: So who are the slugs? And who are the unseen but critical earthworms? And who are the beautiful (but kind of useless) roses?? And what about blackspot?? We ALL gardened, and knew that metaphor far too well.

quilt3

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But gardens are pretty, and guys (even white guys) can garden w/out threat to their…privilege. Not so w/ the metaphor the C Listers preferred: Alice Walker’s quilt, the unsung art of nameless women over the centuries. Each piece formerly a working piece of clothing, now stitched next to another, every piece critical to the whole fabric of the quilt top. Like this one pieced decades ago by my great-grandmother. I know, looking at it, that every cloth fragment has a story — much as we do. And every piece at one time provided an important service: dress, shirt, pants, blanket…

I also know that quilts seem like ‘women’s work.’ While gardens are a bit more gender-inclusive. My beloved brother-in-law is one of the best gardeners know — up there w/ my old ladies, who could grow green in asphalt, I swear. Greg has transformed a north Dallas suburban pancake into an ad for Southern Living: garden rooms opening tantalisingly just beyond a corner; a brick path leading beyond your eyesight; water trickling down a wall. And butterflies and birds everywhere.

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Me? I’m planting seeds this year. I don’t many years; I buy local baby plants, and tuck them under their own soft quilt of dirt & mulch & leaf mould. But this year, I wanted to dream big, as well as return to my childhood (you can do both, you know!). So I bought Heavenly Blue morning glories and white moonflower, traditional Southern passalong plants, handed from one gardener to the next in the line.

And this summer, as they bloom? I will think of possibility. Of small deeds that grow & blossom. Of beauty that springs from darkness. And of growth. What better metaphor for beginner’s heart?

 

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what feeds you?

via UK Telegraph

via UK Telegraph

This is a miracle tortoise. I’m not exaggerating: it survived THIRTY YEARS in a locked storeroom. With no water (so far as anyone could tell), and no ‘real’ food.

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Given, a vet told the family (who were totally blown away – who wouldn’t be??) that red-footed tortoises can go up to 3 years w/out eating. But THIRTY?

What did she do for those 30 years, locked away in the room of broken junk? How did she survive?

And of course, being a poet — always seeing metaphors & signs & omens & portents — I thought: what feeds me? What can I survive without? And what is essential? Because I’m thinking water is pretty darn critical, even for a tortoise (the landlubber member of the turtle family). But so is love. And for me, I need beauty almost as much as bread.

So here’s my question for you (one I’m still considering): what do you need — what must you have — to live? What is your emotional/ spiritual water? Think about it…. I am.

 

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my own Amtrak writing retreat

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Everyone who knows me even slightly knows I adore trains.  They’re my favourite way to travel. Because a) you don’t get airsick (or carsick). And b) you can just sit…and write. It’s this tiny world where all that exists are you, the window on America (or France, or Holland, or Belgium, or Thailand, or wherever…), a dining car, a comfy seat, and writing time.

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The older I get, the more time I have. Ostensibly. But it doesn’t really work that way. I seem no less occupied than I was when I retired almost three years ago. Given, I now have far more control over what I spend that time on, but it still seems in too-short supply. It seems I have to fight to make time to write — a blog post, a letter, much less a longer piece.

So a train, where I can’t run errands, or clean, or weed, or do laundry? It’s like a magic threshold between behind-me and before-me. I can just be in the ‘now,’ as Buddhists say. And that now, for me, is usually a place to write.

amtrak texas eagle

via google

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Saturday my elder son is coming to visit, and to pick up his car. When he leaves Thursday for home in Virginia, I’ll go with him. To reconnoiter possible houses, to look at real estate. And when it’s time to return to Oklahoma? Here’s the excitement: I’m taking a train! My beloved’s suggestion — that I take a TRAIN halfway across American east-to-west, and then halfway north-to-south! WHOOHOO! Two full days on trains! From Virginia to DC to Chicago to Texas to Oklahoma. How cool is that??

Love is a funny thing. I don’t love my beloved because he buys me writing retreats on trains. I love him because he’s imaginative — because he knows me well enough to imagine an adventure for me. One he knows I’ll adore. One where I can write! How well he knows me.

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So in a week I’ll be readying to have a road trip (18 hours) with my elder son. That alone is a gift: time to talk, to

via google

via google

visit, share meals and the journey. As our ‘kids’ become parents themselves, this kind of time together is as rare as natural alexandrites. And as subject to the vagaries of light. For both of us to have free time, and to have reason to spend it together? It’s been four years, at least — and that time too was a rarity.

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Later this month, after a road trip and a grandson’s 2nd birthday, and a sojourn with son & DIL & grandson, I’ll be sitting in a comfy seat in the lounge car, writing as I look for America. Talk about the perfect exercise in beginner’s heart: what’s more contemplative than 2 1/2 days of quiet writing? The last time I took a train was a trip from Portland to LA with my younger son. We sat in the observation car: he reading, I writing. It was heaven.

I suspect this will be, as well. And I can hardly wait!

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gifts that need no wrapping

via google

via google

I have had the best day EVER. Full of FB messages, notes, a poem, gifts… I may be the luckiest of women.

First? Both my wonderful sons called. Even from far-off Kuala Lumpur, younger son stayed up late to call this morning. And elder son called later, even w/ a stomach virus.

My nephew wrote me a poem!!! This almost- son, who has borne the wrath of lectures (he once told my son he’d rather be beaten than hear me lecture him!), wrote me the sweetest poem for Mother’s Day.

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My beloved daughter-in-law sent me a magazine-worthy picture of my grandson, wearing a shirt that proclaims him the superhero I know him to be.

My niece sent me a hand-made card, full of love.

Former students posted touching FB messages — thoughtful reflections on our relationships that left me teary.

My sister-in-law, in for a short visit, gave me a beautifully sentimental card, as well as … paint brushes & sticky notes! (I ADORE sticky notes, and Jan knows I scrapbook & journal daily.)

One of my sisters also posted a touching message on my FB page, complete w/ a picture of me, with my mother.

via google

via google

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These are gifts beyond measure. What price can you put on the respect of students you love? Sisters you’re best friends with? Friends who are like family?

What is there in our lives more important than the people we love? What’s more valuable than knowing they care for us, too? And knowing you have had some small impact on someone you admire and respect? Wow. Better than a gold bracelet!

The ripples from the gifts I’ve received today are their own quiet whirlpool, spiralling out from these various generous hearts to mine, and on from mine to the people I love. Like origami, they unfold into larger surfaces. Like love… well, they ARE love. Gifts of love as tangible as ribbon.

Today, as you walk through your weekend, take a moment to think of someone you’d like to thank. Send them a card, write on their FB wall, email them. But take 5 minutes out of your day to make their week. Heck, maybe even make their MONTH. No gift you could wrap will be more dear. And none will have larger consequences. I promise.

Previous Posts

chocolate, and my own #AmtrakWritingRetreat
The first leg of my 2+ days on the train. Despite getting up at 4 in the morning (& not sleeping well before that!), I couldn't sleep on this first ...

posted 2:25:47pm May. 27, 2015 | read full post »

more on the home front ~
Today was 'look at houses' day. Funny how pictures bear so little resemblance to the real thing. When I taught, I used to give my students postcards from ...

posted 2:36:27pm May. 26, 2015 | read full post »

hunting for home
Looking for a house is hard. Looking while recognising that this will be your long-term home -- not a rental, not a summer vacation -- is ...

posted 5:40:03pm May. 25, 2015 | read full post »

living through the unexpected (with equanimity?)
 This is how we spent two hours Friday: lined up to cross the French Broad River bridge. TWICE. (I've been calling it the French Bread River Basin since then; ...

posted 10:32:07pm May. 24, 2015 | read full post »

road trips
You see differently when you're on the road. Something about the ribbon of highway before you, the enclosed space of the car, the forced closeness and the ...

posted 9:36:21am May. 22, 2015 | read full post »

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