Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

day 26 of the month of Thanksgiving: the threads that bind ~

Today I’m grateful for the ways lives bump into each other. Because it’s all connected. At least that’s what Buddhists think — you, me, the screen where the letters appear, the chocolate I bought at Target, the  leaves blowing against the front door. I know that, but I don’t always remember.

Until a former student’s father emails me, writing that his daughter told him I do writing workshops with teachers. That was my day job when I taught her, and she remembered. And told her father. Who remembered. And who then wrote me, asking: would I conduct a writing workshop for his district? Because he’s a superintendent of a consolidated school district, and Common Core is here & now, and they’d like to do some writing.

I sent him a note, ccing the people he should contact, and thought about webs. Thought about how my life overlaps like the coloured leaves in piles on the ground outside. And where did this start? With a student in a writing class.

It might just be what I tell friends: Oklahoma is a very small town . :) But I suspect it’s that universal web (no, NOT that one… :)) at work. What we do is one node; who we are another. And each of those nodes is connected with everyone and everything we encounter. So that ultimately it’s all that huge webby thing ~

How I teach is the result, certainly, of my work in professional development. But I never think of my students seeing that. And I don’t really believe my student thinks of it that way. What she saw was only one element of a web of linked people and causes and learning, manifest in her classroom. But she took it home, and shared it. From the node of the classroom, her writing, my teaching, she extended the web into her home, into her father’s district.

This comforts me, even as I wonder how I’ve screwed up at times (the arrogant, brow-beating math teacher I yelled at in a meeting comes to mind…). But this time, I must not have screwed up. Or my wonderful former student surely would not have recommended me to her father…

 

day 25 of a month of Thanksgiving: cousins, aunts, & uncles ~

More years after the taking of this picture  than I’d like to admit, my aunt Carol is still teaching me things. As is her husband — my uncle Jim — and their three daughters. Today, for instance? They reminded me how lucky I am to have such a great extended family.

Even though I grew up as a third culture kid — first an Army brat, then an expat brat, then an expat adult — I’ve always been close to my extended family. Perhaps because my mother & I spent my first year-plus living w/ my grandmother and my youngest aunt — Carol of the picture — and perhaps because I stayed with aunts & uncles throughout my childhood, they’re each  very dear to me.

So today, celebrating a BIG birthday for my uncle Jim, it was hard not to find myself remembering this picture of Carol with me as an infant, and many others, some existing only in memory: Carol & Jim taking me for a long weekend to their home outside of Tulsa; Carol, Mother, & me going Christmas shopping; my aunt Joyce making my 6-year-old birthday cake; my aunt Lettie hosting family Christmas at her elegant home.

Today I’m thankful for the many memories I have of my cousins, my aunts, my uncles. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had today — far too rare! — to hug one of my aunts, and to have, just for a moment,  a vivid window into my own childhood. And to be given, too, a look at the young children of my three cousins.  How very short the years have been… hours instead of months.

It’s a good month for family. And to give thanks we have them ~

 

 

 

day 24 of Thanksgiving month: seatbelts and nieces ~

My youngest niece (I have a bouquet of wonderful nieces :)) walked away this morning from her mother’s totalled Honda. Anne was wearing her seatbelt. So this my BIG thank-you today: Anne and her seatbelt.

Buddhism, as the Buddhist writer & thinker Stephen Batchelor notes,teaches that life is impermanent. And it doesn’t necessarily include an afterlife. Many secular Buddhists believe that one trip is all we get, while religious Buddhists talk about an almost Hindu concept of Nirvana, and reincarnation. The Buddha pretty much dismisses the question, noting that this life is hard enough. Shouldn’t we pay more attention to the suffering here & now?

My day would have been very different today had Anne not been wearing her seatbelt. Full of suffering, and w/out the consolation many Christians have of afterlife. I have no clue what comes next — if something created everything, my feeble human life is probably not capable of understanding it… As it is? Anne has a mild concussion and no car. A very small exchange for her life.

Let’s each try to remember that every day is a gift. Every breath full of life, every moment possibly beautiful. Sitting at my nara wood desk, typing on a keyboard at a flat screen monitor unimaginable only one son’s lifetime ago, I am so very thankful for this day. And the fact that Anne is still in it…

day 23 of a month of Thanksgiving: just quiet, lazy peace ~

I did right at zilch today. I didn’t cook, or get ready, or clean, or entertain. I didn’t vacuum or change the sheets or do holiday cards. There were leftovers (cold pie for breakfast! whoohoo!), and all they required was making cappuccino in the a.m. and iced tea in the afternoon.

And the day was perfect.

There is grace in just being still. Sitting in a chair and listening to dogs snore softly. Sitting at a table overlooking autumn leaves, while birds flutter against the sky. Sifting through those leaves for scarlet Japanese maple leaves, just to hold them to the light and watch them catch fire.

These are the treasures of gentle days. Autumn seems the time of year when they’re most likely to turn up: unexpected but always welcome. Despite having accomplished nothing, I feel as if something important has transpired. As if I’ve ‘done’ something of significance. When it’s just been a quiet, peaceful day of brisk weather and warm sunlight.

I’d wish for more of the same but I know that’s attachment… :) So instead I’ll be grateful for my single perfect day ~

 

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