Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

the people on the bus ~

I’m still learning this whole ‘retirement’ thing. Don’t get me wrong — it’s GREAT! But when September rolls around, I feel like I should be going back to teaching. But at 9:00 a.m. today — and every weekday —  ‘my’ bus leaves w/out me. When I think about that, I feel… well, not exactly abandoned, but certainly out of the loop.

For the past several years, I rode to work almost every day on BOB, the Big Orange Bus. I learned to know the  regulars, made friends w/ many of them, became close to various drivers. Watched students start school and finish, even entering graduate classes. It’s a family unlike any other, the bus family, and the people on the bus are what make it that way.

I’ve often thought of the bus as the ultimate metaphor: you don’t choose the other passengers; you only choose how you meet them. Some become inexpressibly dear — Bus Carol, about whom I’ve written, comes immediately to mind. Others deepen your life ~ Jerry the driver, who greets each of us a long-lost friend. The beekeeper principal who’s now faculty. The almost-minister who decided on research, instead. Others test your patience: the guy who snored so loudly we worried he was going to keel over. The homeless guy who turned out not to be homeless, only very dirty and very drunk and very clueless. The three girls in the front who talked SO LOUDLY.

I miss the bus people. Even the loud girls in front. It’s the way with things we take for granted, our every day lives. Buddhists know: nothing lasts. Only change is always just around the corner. So pay attention. Even the everyday is fleeting ~

 

problematica -

problematicaThis thingie is a problem, for scientists. A sedentary, plant-like animal. Cambrian era, so not a really pressing problem. But a good metaphor. I know!  I know! Soooo many things are…

So I just learned that there is a whole category of these weird things that don’t fit: problematica. Really. Thingies (that’s what we call them at my house) that defy categorisation. This is my life, folks.

Ask me what I think on anything more complex than breakfast, and the old heart/head kick into boxing. Or is that kick-boxing…? At any rate, take the current situation with Syria. I don’t want the US to be the world’s cops. The engaged Buddhist in me, however, notes (as a friend has) that we shouldn’t stand by idly & shrug when someone offs more than 100,000 human beings.

And then my head kicks in again, and I wonder why we only seem to care about the Middle East…? Could it be that pesky fuel stuff? When Rwanda was imploding, we stood by. It took a major political upheaval to get help for the Bosnians, who were massacred by the Serbs. Sudan, Congo…There’s a long list of folks we didn’t rescue.

In other words? Syria isn’t easily categorised as help/ don’t help. It’s messy. Problematica, you might call it. And I think just knowing that even scientists — dealing with objects long dead — can’t figure out which box is for what, is a huge relief. If you study this stuff all your life, and still go off on whether it’s a plant or an animal (and yes, I know it’s not as easy as it sounds), then I can relax about so many of the moral questions that vex an engaged Buddhist.

Whew.

praise for everyday love affairs -

Photo_042709_002

There is nothing special, really, about these flowers. I grew them in the side garden — roses & sage. Easy, really. They come up every year, like clockwork. Perennials do that.

But I never take them for granted. Each spring, when they reappear, it’s a small miracle to me. And each time they rebloom, through the summer and into the fall, it’s another. The everyday magic so much a part of our days that we often take it for granted.

I saw a skunk on the road at twilight half a block from my son’s new home. Crisp black & white, it looked far more beautiful than dangerous. And last night, a cicada was so drunk on summer that he flew right into me. A bit startling, but still funny.

This poem by Billy Collins — whom I confess to adoring, not a popular stance among academics, I assure you — reminds me that we need to pay attention. And that I’m hopelessly attached to my life. To tea with my nephew and his girlfriend yesterday — gluten-free ginger scones, and Devon cream and the house tea and cucumber & salmon on crackers. To roses and the fledgling finch at the feeder. To the wide circles of the neighbourhood hawks. To the way my grandson ignites in smiles after his nap.

To new music and the way the yard looks after mowing. To the thrum of frogs in the evening. 2012-05-28 16.24.27To the luxury of time and nothing scheduled.

Your life is, I promise you, equally rich. If you just take the time to fall in love again. Here’s Billy Collins to remind you how ~

Aimless Love

~ Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

a child’s Labour Day: Right Livelihood -

right livelihood etcLabour Day isn’t a Buddhist holiday. :) Although it seems to me to embody something critical to Buddhist thought: respect for our daily work. ‘Right livelihood’ is a basic tenet of Buddhism: that you will harm no one with your work, that you will contribute to society, and that you will grow in awareness. So Labour Day — which celebrates the workers of the world, and what they do for all of us — seems a good time to consider some challenges with ‘work’ in  America.

Almost half a million children under the age of 18 work as farm hands in the US: 400,000 to be more precise. Some are as young as 6 years old. And it’s the “most dangerous work open to children in the United States,” the Centers for Disease Control’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says. There’s danger from heat stroke, machinery, and pesticide poisoning, just to mention a few threats.

How is that? Why do we still let young children work at jobs that risk their health, even their lives? “On average, 113 youth less than 20 years of age die annually from farm-related injuries (1995 -2002), with most of these deaths occurring to youth 16-19 years of age (34%).” That’s according to the CDC, which certainly collects the statistics.

Recently, when changes to the 1937 exemption for agriculture’s child farm worker 2use of child labour were proposed, the outcry was loud and long. Certainly farms autonomously owned & managed by families — and despite what the US Dept of Ag says about 98% of farms being family owned, the truth is that 75% of American food comes from 6% of American farms, according to a 2007 census. That’s not what most of us think of when we think of family farms.

And the death of any child is grievous. All deaths sadden, even those of the elderly. But to see the potential of a child cut so early? That is — for me, at least — a deep loss. And it certainly isn’t part of Right Livelihood.

Today, as we enjoy this Labour Day weekend, think of this: all we have to vote with, ultimately, are our actions and our $$ (which are a kind of concrete taking action, when — and where — we spend them). Take the time to look up what you eat, what you wear. Don’t buy from companies or producers who violate Right Livelihood. It’s not that big a deal not to shop at WalMart, or buy from Taco Bell (both of whom violate fair labour practices. And it’s even trendy, these days, to know where your food comes from. But that’s only a little part of it.

Use what power we have, each and every individual one of us. Vote for Right Livelihood, and life, this Labour Day. You might help save the life of a child.

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