Beginner's Heart

imageToday I joined my sister, brother-in-law and sister -in-heart for walk through the Dallas Arboretum. This is a picture of the Fern Dell, not far in from the entrance.

Liz — my sister’s best friend — used her membership to get the four of us in to the Arboretum. Now, I LOVE arboretums. Not much more beautiful, in my none-too-humble opinion, than beautiful informal gardens. Unfortunately, I’m not a long-distance walker these days.

So when I saw this lovely little pond, wearing a ruff of pink & white caladiums, beneath crape myrtles and Japanese maples and more, I was smitten. The others had to go on w/out me — I sat myself down on a bench to the side of the path and breathed. Seriously — for several minutes, I just inhaled the damp green-water&dirt fragrance.

There’s research I read relatively recently that says that being outside, in an environment like this, is better than Paxil. As good, in other words, as prescription anti-depressants. Just sitting beside the dell reminded me to breathe deeply. To chill, as we used to say. Although in 90-degree Dallas heat, it wasn’t easy. Then a breeze came, and I took out my watercolour pencils, and began to draw & write. imageThis despite the fact that — as you can see — drawing is NOT my best skill!

But here’s what happens when you look at something beautiful long & carefully, with enough attention to attempt to reproduce it on paper: you see it. Maybe unlike we see most of our lives. You see tree boles, and try to understand the red/gold/green of Japanese maple leaves. You notice where light falls and shadow lurks. You wonder exactly how to capture — if it’s even possible? — the silvered greygreen of shimmering water.

All of this takes time, when I could have been walking w/ my family. However, my contention is this: we NEED silence, and the contemplative attention that comes w/ writing a tanka, sketching nature. And we don’t have to be ‘good’ at either — we only have to practice. The way Buddhists speak of ‘your practice.’

Days like today, I realise that my journal is a large part of my practice. It’s certainly a record of it, at the very least: full of sketches, usually of trees in some form or other. I’ve learned to take at least my small tin of Aquarelles (watercolour pastels), although when I have the room (and know I’ll have time) I prefer my watercolour pencils. Often I tuck a watercolour brush in, as well — although I’ve learned that if I sketch w/ ink, it’s not a good idea to try to blend my watercolours… 🙂


I knew enough to begin w/ just the pond area, leaving the ribbons of caladiums for the 2nd drawing (still unfinished). And I didn’t even attempt to draw the dell filling w/ mist from the watering system. I’ll need to be a few more years along before I have that kind of bravado! But in the meantime? I spent almost 2 hours sitting. Breathing cool damp air. Focusing on one thing at at time, trying to distill beauty.

How beginner’s heart is that? Think about it — maybe you need some watercolour pencils…? Just for incentive…?



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My horoscope this week (and yes — I do read it!) says I should be generous w/ friends & family. Give! it says. Both gifts & compassion.

How fun is that! So — I bought my sister a trinket as a hostess gift, since I’m going to stay w/ her & her beloved in Dallas this next week. And I plan on taking her — and her beloved, and her BFF — out to (wait for it!) TEA. And we gave presents to another sister (her birthday is today!), and my nephew (his birthday was Saturday). It was so much fun!

But there’s something I will receive in return, my horoscope promises (along w/ telling me what to do , it told me why): generousity will ‘balance my karma.’

GREAT! Because who the heck wants out-of-balance karma, right??

Seriously — while it’s verrrry fun to receive, it’s also wonderful to give. My two other sisters, and the niece who knows my Dallas sister best (I have a LOT of sisters, folks, so don’t worry if you’re confused — sometimes so are we), all think she’ll love my trinket gift.

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And I know she’ll love going to tea — who doesn’t? Her BFF is a fifth sister — one of several the four of have adopted into our women’s web of connection. My BFF is like another sister to me, as are my sisters-in-law. Giving any of them presents is, admittedly, hit-or-miss in terms of what to get, but it’s always fun to try to figure out just what they might love.

So yep, along with kind speech, service, and compassion? Of course generousity (and the rest) renew humanity. 🙂

But they also renew us, those of us trying to send kindness, generousity, and compassion into what sometimes seems like a void. Especially lately. And if you’re in ‘service’ — say, teaching 🙂 — it’s beyond hard, as there are very few opportunities to fill your own depleted bucket of joy, of love.

So here’s to balanced karma, and the ineffable joys of giving. If you’re feeling down? Give. Whatever you’re good at — a present, a compliment, a hug. Each renews all of us. And that’s not astrological whooey, I promise.


good health

The heart rides around in a body. Consider the mind the charioteer.

I’m not always a good caretaker of my chariot, this body I run around in. I do better some weeks than others, but I still don’t rock this w hole health thing. I don’t eat enough veggies, I know — although I like them. I do eat a lot of fruit. And I’m not nearly active enough.

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So the stuff at the top of this post? Well, let’s just say I do breathe deeply. And I cultivate cheerfulness. And I’m absolutely fascinated by life. But the whole eat lightly? I had strawberries and pound cake w/ whipped cream for dinner the other night, folks!

I don’t have answers to people who ask how to live more healthfully. I know what to do (move more, eat more veggies, meditate), but I don’t always … do it.

How do we make the step — I don’t really think it’s a LEAP, although it certainly can feel like it — from thinking/ knowing to doing?

Like most of life, it almost certainly begins w/ small steps. The fruit smoothie w/ organic fruit & yogurt I make us for breakfast most mornings. The move towards fewer and fewer meals including meat, and that meat pastured and/or local. Eating more veggies — easy in the summer, when ripe tomatoes are a meal in themselves, whether made into bruschetta or sliced w/ basil & mozzarella. So it’s not like most of us aren’t trying.

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But that moving thing…It’s a LOT harder when you have arthritis, and your passion is writing. Which is NOT particularly ambulatory. Which means I have to learn to accept assistance, lower my ‘standards’ — I used to be a runner, for cryin’ out loud! — and let go of that NOT being okay.

An  analogy that works for me is juggling. Right now, I can manage 1 ball all the time. I’m usually good w/ two, although every so often one falls. But three? Wow. That’s a skill I have yet to master.

But I’m working on it. I’m working on it. And it will be wonderful when I finally get it right!


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via flickr

Some days it’s harder than usual to calm. To remember that the mind is really just a space where thoughts (& feelings) come & go. But this is the basis of my wisdom tradition, and I know it’s true.

So on days like today, when I’m trying (hard) to breathe through the small chaos of everyday life, it helps to watch the Oklahoma sky. Because when you watch, you realise: clouds move FAST.

And today? When the clouds in place are full of gloom? That’s a good thing. But sometimes — even when my big sky mind is vivid, cloudless blue, I pause: clouds move fast.


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Nothing serious is obscuring my sky. Not really — just another pointless shooting, another racial incident, another reminder that my life is one of incredible good fortune and privilege. And that I need to find more concrete ways to pay that forward.

No, my younger son is readying for a very well-planned world tour. My elder son is finishing up the first week of his new semester, happily recounting plans and new syllabi and schedules. My DIL and grandson are well, and my husband is recuperating in great shape from surgery.

Still, I worry. And worries, like clouds, can take over fast if you let them. Instead, I’m trying (hard!) to just watch them. Breathe through the movement, and watch as they pass. Because they WILL (and do) pass.

I just need to remember: big sky mind, Britt. Clouds come, clouds pass. Only the sky remains.