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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

good days and big sky mind

clouds-in-blue-sky-2Buddhism teaches that everything changes. Annica, the absence of permanence and continuity. It all goes away — good, bad, indifferent. The clouds move on; the sky remains.

This is more comforting on a bad day than a good one, I assure you. And today was a pretty good day. My chapbooks came! At least the first printing — I wanted to take some with me to a retreat this weekend, and my wonderful publisher (Kattywompus Press) worked overtime to make it happen.

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That’s the other reason it’s a good day ~ I go to a writing retreat tomorrow!chapbook cover 1

There are few places more stimulating and still relaxing than a writing retreat with nice people. And these are some of the nicest — teachers, from a National Writing Project site. I get to spend ALL WEEKEND at lovely Conception Abbey, in Missouri, talking about other people’s writing. While eating home-cooked food, surrounded by lovely gardens. It’s even going to be cool and rainy!

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I know this won’t last. But holding my chapbook in hand, thinking of the months I spent working on it, anticipating arriving at the Abbey tomorrow? I’m thinking I’ll enjoy today while it’s here. Right now, the sky is pretty darn brilliant. And the Oklahoma sun is that rare honey that’s usually long past by now. A good day. Even if it won’t last.

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grammar, and other things that have taken their proper (less important) place

grammar

via Google

I’m finishing up the editing details on a short essay. So of course I did grammar check. Now note: I teach writing. So I’m well aware of grammar. But, as a poet, I’m also aware of style. And style trumps formal grammar.

For instance: don’t begin a sentence w/ ‘And,’ as I did above. Nor should I use fragments. Even for rhetorical emphasis. :)

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What’s even funnier than the stuffy pedantry of grammar check is realising that I don’t care. As Tulsa’s once-upon-a-time Grammar Hotline (if you called the paper, or the university, with a grammar question, they transferred you to me :)), that may be heresy.

But it’s true: I am confident enough these days that I don’t care what grammar check tells me. I know the rules. Ergo? I can break them when I choose.

via Southern Poverty Law Center

via Southern Poverty Law Center

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Don’t do this at home.

Seriously, though:it’s a kind of Buddhist mantra, if you think about it. Know what’s  expected, and then decide if that’s appropriate. If it suits the time, the context, the need. Like I once heard a Unitarian minister say (and he might have been a Buddhist, as well — some are): don’t let ersatz tolerance be your excuse for not getting involved. “Tolerance’ may sound good, unless you’re tolerating injustice. Hate.

Letting people get by with horrible behaviour is not tolerance. That doesn’t mean you have to whack them (although I’ve often wanted to!). It does mean we’re thinkers — we’re supposed to question. Questions lead to well-thought-out answers (if we’re lucky, and think long enough…).

Like grammar, it’s a question of style. And mean doesn’t work for anyone.

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stardust and tirade exhaustion

image Some days, it helps to remember that we’re all stardust. Really — what we’re made from is cosmic. And that counts for something, surely.

So when it’s 96 degrees the first days in June, and the air conditioner is busted (1st world problems…), and I forgot to pick up stuff for a dinner I’d actually enjoy, and my arthritis is killing me, and the new air conditioner is going to cost THOUSANDS we didn’t budget?

Stardust. Each of us. All of us. Everything. Even the hot air I’m breathing.

That’s pretty cool, when you think about it. A guaranteed chill-out for what ails me. Maybe you too.

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the children are still hungry

hungry child

via Google

In a country where we throw away edible food to the tune of 133 BILLION pounds annually, we still have 1 in 6 Americans hungry. And 1 in 4 of them are children. Little kids — like my adored (and well-fed) grandson.

You read those figures correctly: “In the United States, 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten.” As for the 1 in 6 Americans? “As of 2012, about 50 million Americans were food insecure. This was approximately 1 in 6 of the overall population, with the proportion of children facing food insecurity even higher at about 1 in 4. One in every two children receive federal food assistance.” (Wikipedia)

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FIFTY MILLION Americans. One-FOURTH of all our children. And we’re cutting the safety net. For children, America. For our children.

As my grandson picks up his Cheerios in one hand on FaceTime, and his cheese and veggies in the other, mashing them into a delightfully colourful (but nourishing) mess, I think of other parents and grandparents, with hungry babies in their homes. I wonder how many of them watch as children cry. dorothy parker quote

When my grandson’s uncle — my younger son — was in first grade, his teacher visited with me about how many of the other children in his class came to school hungry. This was before many schools had free breakfast. In a ‘good’ Oklahoma neighbourhood, 3/4 of his classmates were eligible for free lunch. THREE out of FOUR. What’s ‘good’ about that? That’s TERRIBLE. This is America, land of opportunity, folks. NOT the land of ‘the opportunity for children to go hungry.’

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And yet my home state, Oklahoma, just this past month voted to further cut tax revenues. Further cut benefits, further cut education. And we never did expand Medicaid so that the working poor could have access to health care. If you’re poor in Oklahoma, you’re basically just hosed.

via Google

via Google

All of this is bad enough. But somehow, sending little kids to bed hungry strikes me as one of the worst of these many insidious evils.

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I donate to several charities, most of them environmental or hunger-related.  Because first, you need a healthy planet where we can live, breathe, and eat. And then? We need to feed our most precious resource: our children. And then each other. Because otherwise, it’s all just lip service. If we let our children go hungry, we do NOT care about them. We care about money.

And that’s not enough for me. It leaves me hungry. For social justice.

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