Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

planning funerals (spoiler alert: not to hold for a while, hopefully) ~

I want this read at my funeral. Which I hope is many years in the future (my good news yesterday — no cancer! — certainly helps me believe that!).

I want it read because it’s what I’ve always believed, even as a small child. We really are stardust — which to me is so magic. Every piece of me — every sub-atomic particle — was once elsewhere. And will be again. The reason, I believe, that the breath is the focus of meditation practice is not only that it slows us, helps us be in this moment. I’ve done that a lot recently, breathing through pain & for others. It’s not even that it’s a ‘way in’ to our own hearts &  minds. For me — and I speak for no dogma or sangha here — it’s because breath connects every thing on this planet. And ultimately in the universe.

I’ve never understood why belief & science are cast as opponents in some contest. Science isn’t a belief system — it’s what helped us figure out the laws of mass, and energy, and how chlorophyll works. It helps us heal disease and save lives, purify water and harness the very wind. But, unlike belief, it’s never static. What was ‘so’ by the best science of a millenia ago is rarely still taken as scientific. New evidence comes to light. We stand on the shoulders of those before us to see farther, as Newton said. In faith, we believe. And our faith  may deepen, may weather. But it doesn’t get much new ‘evidence,’ as it were.

Perhaps because they are so different, they seem antithetical. But for me? This is what I thought as a very young child. That the bees I followed, flying from flower to flower, and the lizard I watched breathe blue throat in/ blue throat out, and the tree that bloomed for me late into a mad November…we were all in it together. Part of the same system. Only I didn’t have the words, then.

Nothing is made from nothing. We are what we eat, we say. And yes, we are. But we are also what we drink — water that has never left the planet, drawn from the aquifers below us, or pulled from lakes where large fish swim along muddy bottoms. And we are what we breathe — the pollen from date palm in Saudi Arabia, the gangrene of Civil War Battlefields, the lost ferns of the Paleozoic. It broke down into the stardust it was made from, and came into us. As did the sharp peaks that once capped the Appalachias, and the silt from the Nile, and the mourned soil from the barren Dust Bowl. It’s all still here.

So I want this read. Because to me, it’s as Buddhist as it gets. This is the web, guys. Not the World Wide Web, but the Universal, Ultimate Galactic, Infinite Is Just a Blink Web. And it’s us.

waiting games ~

Some time today or tomorrow, I will receive a phone call that will — or won’t — change my life. It’s not often you reach a juncture where you know that what just happened, or what happens next, is life changing. But today or tomorrow, a nurse (or possibly a doctor) will call, and let me know if I have a bad tonsil (since removed) — or something worse. I will either go forward  with healing (just FYI: adult tonsillectomies suck) or make a different set of plans.

That’s kind of humbling, if you think about it. And it makes the passage of time quite different. A definitely ‘altered’ state…It makes the tumble I took in the garden hose no less painful (you should see my goose egg!), but it’s still the whole interlude state-of-mind that I wrote about previously.

Once, many years ago, I stood in front of a wall of glass, watching a plane depart. I knew even as it left that my life would be irrevocably changed because we couldn’t catch it. Even a week later, after working w/ national authorities to have my elder son airlifted w/ others out of a war zone, life was not the same. Ripples from that missed plane kept me from joining my husband, sent me back to graduate school, turned me (ultimately) into a teacher…  The after-effects are large. Had I caught the plane? No telling, but that life would not have been this one.

And that’s what I tell myself today, as the phone doesn’t ring. By now, it probably won’t. Tomorrow. Tomorrow is soon enough. This moment is okay ~


subjective time & mortality (& tonsils…) ~

It’s been a month of contrasts: highs, lows, roller coaster turns in between. It began on vacation (hence the hiatus in posts) in lovely Oregon ~ upper 60s, creamy sunlight, roses everywhere.

Then back to Oklahoma, where temps were 40 degrees hotter (yep — we hit 117˚this month!). And then things got hectic…

A week ago, I was celebrating my retirement. A lovely party at one of my favourite downtown restaurants, full of people I’ve come to think of as extended family. Cards, presents, even proclamations! How lucky is that? Then in to the doctor to have a look at a spot on my right tonsil…

Here’s the deal: when a doctor puts his fingers in your mouth and gets this grave look? Well, I’m thinking that can’t be good…And when he says, ‘This needs to come out. Now.’ …?  You just nod. And make arrangements.

Fast forward 48 hours, and I’m recovering from an emergency tonsillectomy. LESS than a week after my retirement party. (There seems something intrinsically wrong w/ that sentence.) The doctor has made no promises, and I won’t know for sure until early this week, but we’re hopeful it’s not cancer. The C word, my mother’s generation always called it. As if to call it by name was akin to speaking the name of Voldemort, for a younger one…

In the meantime, as the doctor warned, a tonsillectomy for a grown-up is NOT child’s play… It hurts. And I’m not a brave warrior, just FYI. :) I don’t like pain, mine or anyone else’s. But somehow, I’m enduring it better knowing that this is, possibly, an interlude. This time of swilling the lovely Darjeeling tea a dear friend’s mother brought me from India, poured into a gurgling red fish pitcher another dear friend gave me… I’m managing it far better than I would have thought. Nausea (my least favourite side effect of surgery!), pain, fever… I’m managing. I’m thinking it’s the whole imminent mortality thing…

Because here’s the deal: I’ll know probably by Tuesday. And though I hope for good news, there’s always the chance it won’t be. And this is about as immediate a brush w/ ugliness as I’ve had in quite some time. Totally unexpected, not a joint replacement (done that). Not a dying parent (been there). Not the threats of unhappiness that dog much of human life on a daily basis.

Nope. This is the C word, unless it’s just tonsillitis. But I won’t know for a couple of days. So I’m glad for these moments. I am drinking my tea (carefully!). And listening to rain, when it falls (like music, if you think about it…). And living very decidedly in this interlude of pain that is, for the moment, enough. I’m thinking it’s good for a beginner’s heart…

tea and blondes: a story of hanging out ~

I’m visiting my best friend — my ‘bff,’ as my students say. So far, we’ve crammed weeks of being together doing what we love into the six days we’ve had together. We’ve gone to pick up berries (blue, black- and rasp-, not to mention Oregon kotatas). We’ve had tea, Tillamook ice cream, and tonight is fresh-caught crab (this morning’s crab pots). We’ve hit the Latimer Textile Museum (stealing the 2 most fragrant roses you can imagine, from the parking lot!), the Farmer’s Market, the Tea Room, and the shoe & jewelry store.

We motored up the coast, hitting at least 6 vintage resale shops. We watched young goats jockey for status, and courting bluebirds, while our husbands caught us fish & crab for dinner. But best of all, we just hung out.

There is not enough homage paid to hanging out. To the quiet conversations that evolve over picking crab, or sitting in the rare Tillamook sun. People need time to just be. To breathe. It’s one reason tea is a sacrament in Japanese Buddhism, and a ritual in many other cultures. Tea allows you to relax. To breathe. To just hang out. I can hang out over tea — especially w/ my girlfriends — for hours. It’s my favourite meal, the one I can’t mess up, since any time spent drinking good tea is (by definition) good. And if you add engaging  conversation, a few nibble-ish goodies, and a brilliant afternoon…? What’s better?

I wish I could offer tea and hanging out breaks to all the hectic people I know. I wish I could send them huge pots of a good black tea, their perfect cup to drink it from, and the company of someone who makes them laugh, listens to them, and loves them unabashedly. I’m sure it would cure all the ills of the world, if people would just hang out together. Preferably over tea. Taking time to breathe, to inhale the fragrance of tea, and just be. It’s my prescription for world peace: put people together over tea. And let them just hang out ~

 

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