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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

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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spring springing

front walk spring 1 Spring done sprung. At least at my house — witness dogwoods, Japanese maple, my mother’s azaleas. I am sooo ready.

The azaleas, as noted, came from my mother’s home, before she moved in with my sister. They weren’t the colour I would have chosen — although I love the Hershey red, now — but they were Mother’s, and each spring they remind me of her. Of the gardening I learned from the women in my family. And also that when I transplanted these azaleas, I ended up with heat exhaustion. Seriously. Hot June weather, BIG azaleas (probably 8-10 years old, even then). Dumb gardener.

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My life is sooo like that: tackle a project with great enthusiasm, and watch it (NOT me) triumph. I can’t remember how many times over the years I’ve jumped into something only to whack myself HARD uppaside of reality…

pinewood derby car

photo the author

It doesn’t seem to have taught me much about jumping, although most times I do learn about whatever whacked me. As in: it’s probably a good idea to drink a LOT of water when you’re outside working hard, and it’s a 100˚ humid Okie day. Or, no; I’m not able to lay paving w/ only the help of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old. And don’t forget: there’s a LOT of sanding to get a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car ready for paint. And there’s the graphite that someone probably should have mentioned. I don’t think either boy ever won anything until their father returned from overseas! (Not to mention that most folks did NOT glue the weights to the top of the car.)

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Still, I’d rather be a jumper than the kind of person who never tries. I think. :) I’m still prone to that leap of faith — and I guess, all things considered, it’s a faith in both the universe and myself. It’s probably not going away any time soon: it’s been my MO since I was a kid. Even though I was only 9 at the time, I remember taking a lamp apart, put it back together, and then plugging it in. It didn’t blow up. Later, I rented and drove a motorcycle. I did get terrible motorcycle burns, AND gravel rash from dumping it, but I survived. And still later? I gave it a tune-up from the manual. And then there’s the time I stuck my hand in a killer whale’s mouth…

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via Google

via Google

That kind of (blind?) faith is still mine — although age has tamed it ever so slightly. Now it’s more agreeing to be on a board when I know nothing about boards, or how they operate. :) But I don’t think I want my faith domesticated, that wild urge to just do it! I’ve learned to accept the rolled eyes when I pass out from heat prostration, the quiet silence when I turn up with weights glued to the top of the car (they’re supposed to be underneath, just FYI). And even though I still hate having my learning curve public knowledge (as an old friend & mentor once teased me), I’m learned that learning is about failure, as much as success. As one of the board members told me just yesterday: it’s not screwing up, Britt; it’s learning.

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If you don’t know how something works, ask. You learn that way, even if it’s unnerving to feel like the ignorant one in the room. Chances are, someone else doesn’t know it well, either. And my friendly board member also noted that sometimes new and ‘ignorant’ is good: you may have new perspectives, new ideas, that actually rejuvenate and make things better.

So I guess my faith isn’t blind so much as large. :) And that’s good, isn’t it? To have limitless faith? Even if sometimes it means you do it kind of…wrong? After all, the azaleas bloomed anyway. As they do every year. And that’s enough for today.

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rain, rain

rain

via Wikicommons

It’s raining. The gardener in me is happy, but the sun-loving reptile? Not so much.

Most things are like this, I suspect — good news/bad news. And not even ‘bad’ news. Just inconvenient, or gloomy, or … dampening. :)

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Lately, whenever I sit down to write, or even think about writing, I bump up against attachment. Upādāna is the Sanskrit and Pāli word: “clinging,” “attachment” or “grasping”, although the literal meaning is “fuel.” And that’s pretty much what attachment is: fuel for the wrong kind of fire.

rainy window pane

via Google

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Today, I’ve already written in my gratitude journal, trying to overcome the sense of grey cobwebs clinging to me. I’m a total sunbird — seasonal affective disorder is no joke to me. Even though these misty days are beautiful, in their own way. Which is what I’m trying to focus on, letting go of my attachment to cool sunny days. :)

So I’m getting ready to feed the birds, which always makes me happy. And I’ve mailed a bright red envelope with a card thanking my elder son & daughter-in-law for a wonderful visit. Plus I made my husband a HUGE breakfast — chicken sausage, eggs, toast w/ slatherings of butter & jam. Not to mention this post, and cleaning off my desk, and all the things you can do to move through Upādāna.

In other words? I’m working on happy. And will settle (happily) for content.

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