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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

anger and feeding the hungry and what the…?

food-stamps

via occupy.com

Would someone explain to me what is wrong with feeding the hungry? I can’t think of ANY faith or wisdom tradition that doesn’t ask its adherents to feed the hungry. And to take care of (not libel and humiliate) those of us who are less fortunate.

And yet people who are, ostensibly, America’s leaders, continue to liken those who need help to wild animals. Witness the most recent name-calling and superior attitudes. I’m not giving the name of the US Senate candidate, as she deserves no free publicity. If you’d like to do as I did, and go to her FB page to acquaint her with a few of the facts of food stamps, here they are (courtesy of Feeding America and others, as noted):

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  • In my state — Oklahoma — nearly half of all SNAP (food stamp recipients) are children: 272,000;
  • “76% of SNAP households included a child, an elderly person, or a disabled person. These vulnerable households receive 83% of all SNAP benefits.” (Feeding America)food bank
  • “83% of SNAP households have gross income at or below 100% of the poverty guideline ($19,530 for a family of 3 in 2013), and these households receive about 91% of all benefits.” (Feeding America)
  • “The average SNAP household has a gross monthly income of $744; net monthly income of $338 after the standard deduction and, for certain households, deductions for child care, medical expenses, and shelter costs; and countable resources of $331, such as a bank account.” (Feeding America)
  • In Oklahoma, “[a]ccording to The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Oklahoma SNAP fact sheet (hat tip to OK Policy), almost 44 percent of all SNAP benefits go to working families.” (This Land Press)
  • Food stamp usage at military base commissaries has more than quadrupled since 2007, hitting a record high; “[n]early $104 million of the $6.2 billion in total revenue the commissaries brought in during fiscal year 2013 came from food stamps.” (thinkprogress.org)
  • Again in my home state, “59 percent of all public school students” qualify for free or reduced lunches. “In the Oklahoma City school district, the figure is 83.5 percent….Oklahoma is the fourth-hungriest state in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” (newsok.com)

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grapevine, blue zones, and everyday practice

garden2This is my unruly garden. To be fair, it’s mostly unruly because I forget it. I get caught up writing/ cooking/ drinking tea/ just vegging (and not the garden kind), and the day is gone. And I actually quite like gardening.

Well, maybe that’s not totally true. Sometimes — like w/ exercise? — I like ‘having gardened.’ War on grapevine definitely fits in this category. I HATE grapevine, at least in my garden.

This obviously isn’t grapevine. But since I spent much of yesterday & today wrestling w/ the blasted parasite, there’s only torn up places to photograph. While this view — of clematis behaving nicely — is far more enjoyable. grapes2

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Still, as I try to look at my entire life as a practice field, I’m learning to value things I can’t stand. Like pulling grapevine out of the walled garden. An aside: the garden is actually walled like an English garden — sigh — but it is up high, w/ fence on three sides, and wall on the other.

Grapevine will NOT die. I’m sure there’s some kind of important lesson to be learned from that, but all I get out of it is that I have to keep pulling it out. Digging hasn’t killed it, nor has chopping it, pulling it down, nor ignoring it (that REALLY didn’t work).

blue squareSo I’m trying to see what lessons I can learn from these daily chores. Not (as I said), from the grapevine’s rampant growth, but from having to put my WHOLE WEIGHT into pulling on it. And no, I’m NOT kidding. I have grapevine (despite years of war between us) that’s 4 inches across!

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This, I tell myself as I’m leaning into a hard pull, is blue zone activity. This is making me stronger. I’ll sleep better tonight. I still hate grapevine. But  I’m beginning to learn its  lessons, and every so often? I can see it as practice. These days, it ranks up there w/ my recumbent bicycle. :)

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tonight’s dinner is brought to you by

roasted cherry tomatoes Tonight was supposed to be leftover roast chicken w/ salad. But I found cherry tomatoes at the market, and it seemed like a good day (grey, damp, gloomy) to pretend it was summer. Especially since it’s supposed to get down to 44˚ tonight!

So instead of salad & chicken, we’re having roast cherry tomatoes with garlic, fresh parmesan, & basil on linguini. Salad with croutons (leftover morning toast makes GREAT croutons!) for a side. Probably chocolate gelato for dessert. I probably should call it all attachment, but I don’t think it’s the dangerous kind…:)

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Cooking is one of the most Buddhist of activities I know of, next only to writing, for me. And maybe tea. Because it’s about that fine line between focus (the recipe) and creativity, or flow, or whatever we call that impulse to do it better. Plus, it has to be done with love — we’re firm believers in hippie macrobiotics in my family: love in/ love out. And all the details matter: whether the food is sustainably grown, if it’s organic (important for us, but we have that luxury). Not toooo much meat (for me: the rest of my family would like roast daily!). So cooking turns into contemplative practice, the way I do it.

I’m happy with that. It reminds me that what we have to do is make everyday living our practice. Tonight? I’m contemplating a great dinner, and then a good book. The kind of practice anyone can get in to!

 

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writing, beginner’s heart

Pen on journal page

photo the author

Writing is my practice. It took me a long time to recognise this, and even longer to accept it. It didn’t fit my (preconceived!) notions of what ‘practice’ looks like.

But over the years, I’ve come to realise that writing — which I do daily, and multiple times daily, at that — is not easy for others. In fact, it paralyses a lot of people. (and why is that??)

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So: I write for those who can’t, don’t, won’t. I write to be a voice for others, as my beloved mentor poet Carolyn Forché said, a ‘witness.’ I write everything from letters of recommendation — an art form someone should acknowledge! — to blog posts. :) I write poetry, non-fiction, lesson plans, book reviews, eulogies, emails of consolation, thank-you notes and lists and political rants & manifestos. I write alot.

I write about women, mostly. But also men — after all, I’m happily married to one for decades, and the mother & aunt of several others. Not to mention dear friends, my father, my uncles. I write about all of us, our tattered beginner’s hearts.

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grapes2

photo the author

I guess I write the way I try to breathe, when things hurt: in tonglen. Focus on what hurts, and breathe for those who share that pain. Make it easier, by sharing, taking to ourselves what is wrong, and trying to send out love.

It sounds sooo hokey! But that is why, I’ve come to realise, I write. Particularly this blog. I write for all of us who often can’t (including, paradoxically, my own self). When I have no words for what I’m feeling, I can write about someone else, or the birds outside the window, or today’s horrific battle w/ grapevine (I think it’s winning… :( ). And through that, I come to peace.

How cool is that? And isn’t that what practice is all about, anyway?

 

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