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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

this moment, this memory

the author's

the author’s

There are moments that you recognise — even as they are happening — are perfect. You breathe as deeply as possible (especially if you’re a Buddhist!), because nothing lasts. And certainly not perfect moments. This is a picture of one such moment.

What’s better than a beach peopled with family? What’s more beautiful than the ecstatic happiness of a two-year-old, secure in the love of his family? And who could possibly predict just when these moments will fall into your heart like shafts of light…?

Whatever this moment holds for you, know this: it will never come again. Good or bad — content or sad — we can’t step backwards into happiness. My advice? Breathe deeply. Enjoy.

 

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orchid lessons

the author's

the author’s

Warning: this is another of those metaphors that seems profound to me. But may not to anyone else… 😉 As my beloved points out, they don’t work for him.

Because today, as I watered my orchid terrarium, I noticed: there are buds! That little stem of green bubbles, held by a pink orchid clip, is buds! And I have done nothing lately to deserve them. They are total largesse.

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Here’s my epiphany, brought to you as metaphor: I did prepare the terrarium well. It had held other plants, which had struggled, and it pretty much looked like a plant graveyard. Sooo. I gently discarded the poor has-beens, scrubbed out the terrarium, washed off the pieces of wood, and rinsed the gravel in the bottom. Then I put it all back together, w/ some pieces of orchid litter — more commonly known known as bits of wood & peat moss and very loose planting medium. My sisters donated two orchids ~ one sickly from neglect, the other in fair health. I planted them and pretty much forgot about it, watering only when I watered the other plants on the étagère.

Here’s the secret, as it is w/ most things that blossom & bear fruit (literally or figuratively): that laying of foundations. The prep! I didn’t just stick ’em in to the dirty, probably diseased terrarium w/ the dying plants already there. I made sure the terrarium was clean, free of debris & disease. I found orchid planting mix. And then I settled them in w/ gentle love.

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the author's

the author’s

Now? They’re blooming! And they are sooo pretty! Which leads me to…. The coffeepot. (Bear with me…) I just descaled our amazing new coffeepot. It pretty much thinks for itself: grinds the beans, just enough to match however much water you pour in, and then beeps you when it’s done. But it still takes maintenance. Most things do, if you’re going to be able to continue counting on them. Descaling took about as much time as setting up the terrarium for the orchids. So that’s today’s lesson: if you want stuff to do well, you have to work at it. You have to lay a good foundation, and then you have to do the required maintenance. If you do? You get orchids! And incredibly good coffee.

I’m thinking…this is what my whole attitude needs. To be cleaned up, freed from struggling thoughts that really should just be tossed out, and replanted. Then maintained regularly. Yup. That’s my next project, right after I stop oohing & ahhing over the orchids. Oh! And have a cup of tea (the coffeepot is still full of vinegar…)

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Ramadan, and the wounding of blessings

via wikicommons

via wikicommons

I love the idea of Ramadan, as I’ve written before. I like the idea of doing without (although I am nooo good at it!), to remind us of our many blessings. I use that term w/ some trepidation, as most Americans associate the word ‘blessing’ with a divine gift. I’m using it more in the original sense — infused with bloody marks to escape wrath and bad luck.

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Blessing derives from the same root as the French verb blesser — to wound. So that a blessing is a kind of wound, a gift that brings with it pain. For me, it’s the pain of knowing my  luck (and often it’s that alone: privilege conferred by birth, really) isn’t universal. A kind of offshoot of survivor guilt, in an oddly sympathetic way.

Ramadan reminds not to dismiss that unease, because it connects me to the real world. Each year I hope to participate, in my  Buddhist journey. Islam has become so vilified in the West that the many wonderful charities and actions of the faith are lost to most Americans. Ramadan — so much like our Lent, and far far more onerous — is only one. Muslims will be observing this holy fast for another week and a half, until the Eid al-Fitr breaks on the 16th of July.

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via flickr

via flickr

Right now, as I write, Muslims across the world are attempting to fast in hellish conditions: long days of sunlight (fasting is from dawn to dusk, more than 16 hours in some places) and temperatures consistently above 100° F (one day it hit 112.64°; another 108°). Despite the Prophet Mohammed’s insistence that to fast during travel, illness, or extreme circumstances is as disobedient as not to fast when life is normal, many devout Muslims — like many devout followers of other faiths — seek to follow their will, not religious text.

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This breaks my heart, but also inspires a kind of head-shaking awe. I can’t comfortably go a day w/out food for my physical! To go a month, w/ only small meals after sunset? Wow. And even young pre-teens attempt this. When was the last time you heard of tweens in the US getting down for Lent?

So here is a heartfelt shout-out to my friends keeping Ramadan, and I have several. It’s an observance of faith that inspires me, and I’m grateful for that. To stop for a moment, and consider the many many in the world so very less fortunate? What a blessing. Wound though it is, as well.

 

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celebrating what’s right

via google

via google

For some reason, if you’re not unconditionally in love with America, you’re not considered patriotic. In fact, I’ve been accused (more than once) of being anti-American.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the same way that those who love you know your foibles best, I am all too well aware of America’s imperfections. The news is full of them on a daily basis.

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But I’m also proud of her many many accomplishments, which are amazing. Most of us can vote. All of us can go to school, free! We have roads to faraway places that used to take months to travel to — I remember hearing my grandmother talking about coming from Texas to Oklahoma in a wagon. Wow.

We have the most beautiful country in the world: the Pacific Northwest’s green & silver rivers, the grasslands of Oklahoma beneath its endless sky, the blue mountain ridges of Appalachia. The deltas and islands that float on water. The birds that flicker like their own small fireworks through trees. Deer and bison and fox and wolf. Bear and mountain lion. Raptor & songbird.

And everywhere, the still-living dream of success, however you define that: a higher education, a dream job, a home. Yes, there are flaws in all these scenarios, for many Americans. But it remains a good place to live, and a good place to work to make better.

This Fourth of July, take a moment to list what you love about America. Even if you’re often exasperated with her, I guarantee you the good things will far outnumber the not-so-good!

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