Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

wonder, and loving strangers (even mean ones??) ~

imageMy grandson — one month old, today! — cries when I hold him. A LOT of the time. It’s embarrassing. Not to mention depressing. I do NOT have this grandmother thing down. Tonight my son & DIL are out to dinner. I have Trinidad. And after a devastating explosion of screaming, he finally let me rock him to sleep. We’re both exhausted…

So what do I do when he cries? Well, I practice beginner’s heart. Really. I think love at him, try to breathe through my spiralling heartbeat, and rock him gently. Listen to my son & DIL for advice about what works for them. Try to find m own way. And it’s HARD.

Not because I don’t adore my grandson, obviously. Just today I watched him as we sat outside, in the misty Portland morning. His large eyes followed the watery sunlight, full of wonder. That’s a whole other lesson

No, it’s hard because I want to fix it. I want to save the day. Make him happy. Instead, I can offer him a bottle of mother’s milk. But he’s way smart enough to realise that I’m not his mother. Or his dad, a close second. And Mom & Dad are  what he wants. He can go from a sweet puddle on his mother’s lap, or a smiling coo in his daddy’s arms, to a stiff howling monkey prince in mine, arms & legs whirling. Again, talk about embarrassing…(and did I mention depressing?)image

Digression: My son says I like everyone. But he’s crazy :). I do NOT love everyone. No way, not even close.  I do try to have compassion for them. Even the mean, horrible ones (knowing even as I write this — who am I to judge? But I do. I think people who want to cut education and the arts and help for the less blessed are mean-spirited. Cut war, folks. Cut your salaries, if you make more than $200,000.00 annually. Who NEEDS more than that??

See? I just go off…

So today’s post is about how I work on that. Because it’s HARD. Even HARDER than being calm for Trinidad, and not taking a baby’s vagaries personally — just trying to be there, and learn. And I forget ALL THE TIME. What helps most — with Trinidad and the world at large — is tonglen. Breathing — both for Trinidad and for folks I can’t stand. Remembering (in the case of my beloved grandson) that he will grow, and that I’m NOT his mother. I am only who I am, and  sometimes that’s just not what’s needed. :)

imageAs for folks who make me crazy? Who can’t stand my beliefs, whose values war with my own? Well, I can’t stand them either. So I think about how that makes me feel. Because when I breathe for others, what happens is that I really heal myself. Ideally I’m healing all of us, breathing in the pain and dislike and fear that feeds on polarisation. Breathing out compassion, peace. Balance.

With Trinidad, it’s hard enough. Not because I don’t love him enough ( :) ). But because of my own ego, my fears, my baggage. So when I hold him, and he howls, I breathe. Deeply. Steady. Reminding myself that I may not be what he wants, but I can still be here. Full of love, breathing. I think that’s excellent beginner’s heart ~

life budgets ~ or, the rocks in the jar…

imageIf you haven’t heard the story about the rocks in the jar, you only need to know that the big rocks go in first, or you can’t put in the pebbles & sand. And that the big rocks are what we value most. For most of us, that’s family, friends, our interests.

My husband — now that we have a bigger jar, as it were (retirement lends itself to the BEST metaphors!) — are thinking about rocks. Think of us as geologists, in a way: trying to figure out which rocks are which, and which are most valuable. Certainly our family is high.

So is financial security, of course. And right now, we’re trying to figure out how those two will intersect, as my elder son, my daughter-in-law, and their weeks-old son plan to move across the continent. My younger son will stay in Portland, where I suspect he will remain for a long time. We’re still in Oklahoma, smack-dab in the middle of nowhere, so far as our sons are concerned. :)

Apparent digression (that connects, I promise): I came out to Oregon to see my new grandson. But also to see my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my BFF (who lives about 90 minutes from Portland, in the cheese capitol of America — Tillamook). It’s not cheap to fly anywhere if you start in Tulsa. And if my family & BFF aren’t all conveniently located in one-stop flight tickets, it becomes even more expensive… Here’s where the budgets come in.

I will do without a lot to see my sons and DIL and grandson. Folks expect that, and we budget for those kinds of ‘rocks.’ There’s space in both the life jar and the budget jar. It’s harder for some folks to understand that I also will budget to see my BFF. And it’s not because she’s my only girlfriend: I have three amazing sisters, two wonderful sister-in-laws, and other dear friends who live closer. But none of them is Pat. So  we have to budget $$ for me to see Pat. AT LEAST a couple of times a year! :) image

Because friendships need ‘feeding.’ They need tea, and watching dumb movies together, and sitting in the front yard ruining your dinner w/ good Tillamook cheese and grapes. They need sufficient time for there to be ‘quality’ time. And you have to make sure that happens.

Years ago, the project I was working on was talking about planning a classroom syllabus, or schedule. And we said something that has stayed with me since: if your class schedule doesn’t show it, you don’t really value it. You say you value writing? we’d ask them. Does it show up in your daily schedule? Because if it doesn’t, you don’t. You only pay it lip service.

There’s a lot of ‘lip service’ paid out in the world today, especially in terms of what our real values are. If you say you care about others, and you do nothing concrete to help them? It’s lip service. And going to a Friday/ Saturday/ or Sunday ‘service’ is just lip service. Where are your $$ going? Where does your time go? And your words — do they reflect those values?

imageLately, with this transformative gift of time to think, I’ve been thinking about rocks. Wondering what it is I want to fill my next 15 years with. Because my mother had Alzheimer’s, and my father senile dementia, I know my jar may be  a bit smaller than others. Or maybe it just may crack earlier?

Whatever the image you choose, I’m thinking hard about what I will spend my time, $$, and energy doing. What my core values are. My perfect husband, my incredible family. My best friends. Healthy living so I can enjoy them longer — and fully. :) Writing is another rock, although certainly not as large a one as friends & family. I heard the Buddhist poet Jane Hirschfield say that she gave up poetry — gave up writing — when she entered the Buddhist monastery where she spent several years. She said she didn’t know if she’d ever write again, and that was okay. Some days, watching my grandson stretch his arms out to the world, or a Western blue jay circle me warily, or the drifting play of sunlight over grass, I understand. Writing is not a big rock. These others? Oh yeah.

So in my journal, I’m going to make a pie chart w/ my aquarelles. Bright colours. And then I’m going to draw a jar, putting brightly coloured rocks inside. Rocks with words written on them, like the one in my garden that says breathe. Maybe I’ll even start with that one…

changing job descriptions ~

image

Have you ever watched a new baby? Seriously observed one? Focused on the wide eyes drinking in light (pre-birth is a bit dark…), the mouth twitching towards milk, the tiny fingers curling around support.

Like most things in my life, watching a new baby seems a quintessentially Buddhist endeavour. It’s beyond illuminating. :) Everything is for the first time — even if it’s not. Mom appears and disappears. Dad materialises and fades. Other loving adults (and the occasional well-intentioned dog) nuzzle and murmur and generally love  you. But you have no context for any of this. It’s all as fresh as the first spring leaf unfurling in the watery spring sun, or first love. Fresher, even.

I have a new name. And a new job. Name: GG (code for Grandma Gildersleeve). Job: grandmother. Job description: rocker of baby Trinidad, cooer to baby Trinidad, singer & hummer to baby T. Changer of etceteras, soother of dreams, giver of occasional bottle. Unconditional lover of T.

In other words? I’m watching a newly minted human being learn how to be in this world. Each action is learned, except for his rooting instinct. Digestive issues make his face furl into purple effort, while a song sung softly elicits intense listening. A different position in the lap, a new person to smell while she holds you? All unsullied by familiarity.

We take our routines for granted. But once upon a time, the world was as new as the birth miracle: another human being becoming part of this whole crazy quilt of life. And for my grandson, it’s still like that. Sit outside, where the pale Oregon light falls in stripes across the grass, and Trinidad is mesmerised. This is what it means to ‘be here, now.’ Trinidad can be no other place. This moment is what he has, what he is learning.

It’s a lesson I too am trying to learn, a memory I want to imprint. I am trying hard to add ‘seeing through your eyes’ to my  changing job description. It may well be the making of my beginner’s heart ~

 

more bees ~

image  So it’s bees again. AND poetry. Because really ~ why not?? What’s more  like June than the hum of bees, their own gently busy music? The poetry is what comes of watching, good Buddhist contemplation ~

Here’s John Ciardi’s poem, “Bees & Morning Glories”:

Morning glories, pale as a mist drying,
fade from the heat of the day, but already
hunchback bees in pirate pants and with peg-leg
hooks have found and are boarding them.

This could do for the sack of the imaginary
fleet. The raiders loot the galleons even as they
one by one vanish and leave still real
only what has been snatched out of the spell.

I’ve never seen bees more purposeful except
when the hive is threatened. They know
the good of it must be grabbed and hauled
before the whole feast wisps off.

They swarm in light and, fast, dive in,
then drone out, slow, their pantaloons heavy
with gold and sunlight. The line of them,
like thin smoke, wafts over the hedge.

And back again to find the fleet gone.
Well, they got this day’s good of it. Off
they cruise to what stays open longer.
Nothing green gives honey. And by now

you’d have to look twice to see more than green
where all those white sails trembled
when the world was misty and open
and the prize was there to be taken.

 

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