Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives

armadillo interlude

There is absolutely no serious reason for me to post this goofy clip of dueling armadillos. Except that I’m sick of the sequester, the shutdown, politics, and mean hateful people. Sometimes, you just need a break. Plus, armadillos are one […]


Yes, America, there IS a rape culture

When I first read the story of Daisy Coleman’s rape, I was so horrified and angry I didn’t notice where she came from. It was only after I read it a 2nd — or perhaps a 3rd time — that […]



I wish I could say I took this picture. But I will say that the hawk sitting on my deck rail looked at me just like this before it flew off. I heard it call while writing at my desk […]


happiness and our marvelous brain

I usually say the aim of life is to be happy. Our existence is based on hope. Our life is rooted in the opportunity to be happy, not necessarily wealthy, but happy within our own minds. If we only indulge […]

mammograms, gratitude, and ordinary life

Today was a good day. Even though — in part because of? — I had a mammogram. An aside: no woman in her right MIND enjoys a mammogram. But as the sister of a 13-year breast cancer survivor, I’m so […]

the 2nd best and most important job ever

Two of my favourite things — actually four, if you include the ‘zen’ and ‘pencils’ as material objects… :). Teachers & poetry. And if you include social activism on behalf of teachers? You have knocked that homer out of the […]

tea and sympathy

This has NOT been a good week. It’s gone steadily downhill since Monday… But it’s taken a turn for the better, and it’s all because I did a shamefully easy good deed: I lent 1/4 jar of molasses to my […]

the blame game, compromise, and windows

Yesterday I overdosed on politics. I read blog after article after news piece after FB post. Ugh. I was left more than slightly nauseous, and wondering how American politics came to such an ugly place. Of course I have my […]

accents, stereotypes, and get over it

At my niece’s wedding this past weekend, we all lapsed into Okie-speak: y’all, huh?, yep, et al. We were all family, and no one was judging us. Which isn’t the case lots of times. Saying just y’all in a meeting […]

Oklahoma breaking bad

I have no idea what to put as an image for this post. It’s a subject very difficult to ‘picture,’ as the search for images only reveals the profound decay of users — ‘before’ & ‘after’ pictures that somehow seem […]

someone else’s road

I need to remember this. It’s easy to forget, as we move from middle age into elder-ing. That’s my term for what seems to be happening these past couple of years: nieces, nephews, former students, younger colleagues & friends — […]

theories: empirical and not-so

Total science nerd here. I  adore science. Really — every year I buy the Best Science Writing 20-whatever. Or else my husband gets it for me as a present. If I had my life to redo, I’d probably be a […]

mouthy middle-aged white chicks…

I freely admit I’m a loudmouth. AND political, to boot. Not to mention an engaged Buddhist, and a wannabe Unitarian. Which is to say, a total bleeding heart liberal with a big vocabulary. (As distinguished from a knee-jerk liberal — […]

hungry children and politicians

I have never understood letting children go hungry. Children are our most precious, irreplaceable resource. NOTHING trumps feeding children, and certainly not politics. The American government — in the guise of the Republican house — just voted to let children […]

sorry doesn’t fix things …

 A former student reminded me of an exercise I used to do in class. It involved wadding up paper — a guaranteed student pleaser. Each student would wad up a piece of paper. No other directions than that. Some would […]

Dear Education Reformers:

I’ve spent much of this month  listening to teachers. Their stories break my heart. Because these are teachers who are voluntarily seeking to improve. And they are exhausted, folks. Bone-deep, brain fugue, blank-eyed exhausted. It’s all they can do to […]

what helps…

Remember the old Beatles song? The one that begins When I find myself in times of trouble…? It’s Let It Be, from the white album. And while Mother Mary isn’t my default for times of sorrow and trouble, poetry is. […]

suffering, and letting go…

Buddhism assures me there will be suffering in life. That pain will come (and go). That change will as often be for the worse as for the better. But as a generally optimistic person, I usually ignore this.  (I know […]

tragedy, anger, and Buddhism

Sometimes terrible things happen. To people you love. And you can’t fix it. And you lay awake at night, with your head spinning. Thinking in looping tangles. Mazes of why why why? A refrain of this can’t be happening… There’s […]

in memoriam…

There is little left to say about the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Except that many died, and we lost a kind of global innocence. When tragedy struck, I took refuge in poetry, ultimately. Because there is also little that […]


I don’t know what happens when we die. After, I mean. I don’t believe in heaven — but I don’t believe in hell, either. I have no idea if we reincarnate, although many Buddhists do believe in reincarnation. I only […]

what teachers know: a thank-you

Despite retirement, I still get to work with teachers. And yes, I said ‘get to.’ Because teachers are — unconditionally, uncategorically — the nicest work group I know. FAR nicer than ministers, doctors, lawyers, dentists, salesmen, engineers or even scientists. […]

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’ […]

problematica –

This 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 […]

praise for everyday love affairs –

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, […]

a child’s Labour Day: Right Livelihood –

Labour 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, […]

worker bees and labour unions

I am a worker bee. Never been a real ‘queen’ of anything (don’t tell my husband & sons — they might disagree). Even when I was a director, I did the trash jobs: paperwork, payroll, receipts and mileage and complaints […]

humility, gratitude, and keeping on…

It seems almost a sacrilege to write anything about the “I Have a Dream’ speech. What is more compelling? I’ve used that speech so many times to teach writing, to teach how to marry passion and political practicality. My students […]

more everyday magic (on the road) –

This is what you see when you leave home: familiar scenes (twilight, for instance) with new eyes. Because everything old is new again, on the road. It’s trite, I know. But when I travel, everything — even pizza, which I […]

a bit of good news, for a change –

This is what corporations ought to be like. As an engaged Buddhist, I know that often how I spend my $$ is my best  ‘vote’ for social justice. For corporate responsibility. And believe me: if we had a Costco in […]

making your own space ~

Staying with my son & DIL means a smaller bed. And believe me, my beloved & I have not shrunk to fit. We’re used to a king-sized bed in deeply air-conditioned comfort. Here we have an attic fan and closer […]

prizes, raises, and affirmations –

 I recently learned that one of my essays made the finals for a creative non-fiction contest at a national literary journal. Whoohoo! The same day, I heard from my younger son that he received a huge raise. Another whoohoo! My […]

Buddhist prayers, invocations, and tachyons…

There is, apparently, a ‘discussion‘ going on between Buddhists who believe in prayer, and those who think it’s a term best left to other faiths. Since many Buddhists don’t believe that Buddha was a god (you can be a Buddhist […]

home repairs, medication, and beginner’s heart…

When I visualise a beginner’s heart — at least my own — I see this picture. Because when your heart is open, sometimes it gets bumped. And as it grows — and you’re not aware, often that it has — […]

square sisters and common ground…

I have three sisters. People who know all of us well — a small number (we tend to overwhelm in large doses!) would say we’re not much alike. We would agree. But we also can give you countless examples of […]

a happy (normal?) childhood…

To paraphrase one of my favourite authors (Tom Robbins), “It’s never too late to have a normal childhood.” And I just realised — really! — that I did. When I was little, reading stories of normal American children, they lived […]

London and Palestine and Toad Suck Park…

 I drove to London today. And to Palestine. And right past the turnoff for Toad Suck Park. If these clues leave you going “hunh?” then you haven’t been to Arkansas lately. We’re doing a family road trip, moving my son […]

to bravely go…

I hate war. Hate. And there isn’t really much I use that word for, at least not seriously (I hate ticks, for instance, and mosquitos, but not like WAR…). And I actively dislike that my tax dollars go to support […]

time for laughs –

Normally, this could be our dogs. I plead guilty — our dogs are very… indulged. But with the grandson here, and his attendant entourage (Mom, Dad, Silas-the-dog and Rufus-the-cat), one of our dogs (the dysfunctional one) is at my sister’s. […]

laps, luxuries, love –

My grandson slept for three hours in my lap yesterday afternoon. Slept my legs into their own nap. Slept through phones ringing, dogs barking, and the afternoon sun waning. Wrapped snugly in his swaddling cloth, he might have been another […]

self-love and the Golden Rule –

Most religions have a version of the Golden Rule: love others as you love yourself. Treat others as you would be treated. Do unto others as you would be done by. Here’s the catch: It means ZIP if you don’t […]

no comment –

I’m working on it, Snoopy. Trying to remember that putting what’s important to me ‘out there’ (out here?) doesn’t mean I have to engage to people who aren’t respectful in their responses. But sometimes I’m the one who forgets to […]

the arts, public funding, and redemption –

I’m fairly certain that my son’s violin was the reason he stayed in school. That and orchestra. Oh, and photography, later. And maybe the Simpsons Club, during free period. In other words, not academics. Not English, per se, nor science […]

grown-up sons and baby boys –

When your own baby — never mind that he has two master’s degrees, is happily married, and moving all the way across the country — has a baby, it’s weird. Wonderful, but weird. Just sayin’. There’s a kind of disconnect: […]

a contagion of plain ol’ kindness –

I’m sure everyone knows that the Dalai Lama says his religion is kindness. But you may not know it’s highly contagious, kindness (so is meanness, for that matter, but we aren’t going there). The graphic shows what happened, in a […]

The grandson is coming! or, adventures in family life –

Today my grandson comes to stay for a visit! And we’ll be together for … weeks! Oh — and my wonderful elder son, and his super-cool and wonderful wife, and Silas-the-wonder dog, and Rufus-the-cat-with-attitude. Because we are doing a caravan/move […]

cleaning house ~

When I was a little girl, I was completely smitten with Louisa May Alcott. And while Little Women was wonderful, I was possibly even more enthralled by Little Men. The character of Nan — wild romp of a girl, always […]

Engaged Buddhism –

The venerable and much-beloved Thích Nhất Hạnh has written out 14 precepts (think: instructions) for those of us interested in engaged Buddhism. None of them is horrifically difficult, in itself (well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by […]

struggling for beginner’s heart ~

I saw this today, and flinched. Literally — a kind of internalised wince that shook me. I have been so angry lately … There are signs from the universe (I really do believe the universe talks to us — but […]

Dharma Day ~

July 22nd is Dharma Day for observant Buddhists. There are three ‘jewels’ in Buddhist tradition: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha is the easy one. Sangha is the community on the Buddhist path with you, as I’ve […]

nieces, & soulless bastards ~

The Virginia gubernatorial candidate from the Republican party says my niece has no soul. My lovely niece, who is intellectually brilliant, wise and funny, and as kind and good as dawn. Because her partner is another woman — another lovely, […]

race & gender & class, or, how Trayvon Martin died for our sins ~

When I recently posted a blog concerning white privilege on my FB, a long-time friend & colleague asked, “At what point do we quit beating our chests?” Here’s my answer, and a warning: it’s long. But I did cite resources! […]

feeling and judging ~

A friend’s blog featured a quick&dirty Jung personality test (the four traits test, some folks call it). I move back & forth on it, but usually I’m about where this one put me: INFJ. A moderate Introvert (which is far […]

tattooed women & liminal spaces ~

I ‘got inked’ with my younger son when I was in Portland last month. He asked, and I was charmed. I already have one tattoo — a small Chinese character for ‘ink,’ almost unnoticeable on my inside right ankle. This […]

my own sangha ~

I don’t have a true sangha — that community of Buddhist believers who  journey with you along your spiritual path. I have fellow travelers, certainly, and I’d like to think my approach to belief is eclectic enough that my ersatz […]

simplify ~

A friend posted the following on her FaceBook page, and I’m shamelessly stealing. The list comes from ZenHabits, and is longer in its original. Worth a stop by. 9 Rules for a Simpler Day 1. Know What’s Important. Take time […]

what’s wrong w/ the Martin/Zimmerman ‘trial’ ~

It’s not okay to kill people. Ever. It’s sometimes necessary, but it’s never okay. We grieve — even when execution is, as the Dalai Lama said about the death of bin Laden, the only way to avoid more deaths. We […]

Ramadan Mubarak ~

We’re four days in to Ramadan today — that holy month of Islam that always humbles me. I spent years in Muslim countries, observing Muslims who live their commitment to compassion for the poor. From the moment a white thread […]

letting go, tonglen, and what we can’t fix ~

My cat is dying. And my dog is crazy. Really. I wish I were kidding. My cat is nowhere near as old as other cats — only 13. I have friends whose cats lived to 19, even 20. Mine is […]

what writers do ~

Sometimes, when people ask what I do, and I say ‘I’m a writer’ (especially now that I don’t teach fulltime), they look puzzled. Well, actually they look completely flummoxed. How can that be a JOB?? And just what the heck do writers […]

the blues ~

Sometimes I get incredibly blue. Blue as in indigo, deep and dark and find a hole to crawl into. Today has been one of those days… It began — as far too many days do — with aches & pains. […]

Sunday runaways ~

We found a dog today. She was romping in our driveway as my two sisters and I loaded the car to go to breakfast. Friendly as a politician, she came up and promptly rolled over for a belly rub (warning: […]

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

My 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 […]

life budgets ~ or, the rocks in the jar…

If 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 […]

changing job descriptions ~

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, […]

more bees ~

  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 […]

motes and logs: or, what we don’t see…

On the plane coming home from a weekend writer’s conference, I sat next to a very nice woman from Austin. She was unbelievably lovely, soft-spoken with a sweet Southern drawl. We talked, as passengers in tiny seats sharing breathing space […]

death of a blue jay ~

I don’t want to tell you how much of our retirement fund goes for bird seed. Not to mention bird feeders, suet and the containers to put it in, hummer feeders (and sugar for it — we make our own […]

the pressure to conform ~

I’ve always been insatiably, even dangerously curious. As a child (a pink-cheeked blonde, whose mother too often made her wear pastels…), I took apart lamps, rewiring them (and only rarely shocked myself). I slept with a taxidermied squirrel, because it […]

a relatively restrained rant about education ‘reform’ ~

My grandson is only a week old. I can’t expect him to do much of anything yet. Eat, eliminate, emote. That’s about it. No amount of trying on my part will enable him to do what even a one-month-old can. […]

that was then, but this is beginner’s heart ~

This picture, by Craig Mahoney, reminds me that children don’t need to learn beginner’s heart. (Not to mention that Bill Watterson is a genius. ) Beginner’s heart is a large part imagination — the ability to think that a tiger […]

surfaces ~

I love this cartoon. It seems the perfect argument for skepticism. Of course, Buddhists have warned about illusion for centuries. There is, for instance, no meaningful separation between me and you, although you sit at your desk and I at […]

baby love, and the perpetuation of the species ~

Buddhism has little to say (at least that I know of) about grandmothers. In fact, I can’t think of a religion that does. Why is that? Surely somewhere in human wisdom traditions, someone has considered grandmothers? Because it seems to […]

Vesākha Puja Day (and making merit) ~

Although May/ late spring celebrations in Buddhism go back centuries, it was only in 1950 that the Buddhist world agreed to celebrate Vesākha Puja together, on the full moon day in the month of May. In other words, May 25th […]

the love of a teacher ~

Just yesterday this post-apocalyptic scene was a school, where children sat at tables, learning. Where teachers sat with them, facilitating that learning. Hours later, a tornado turned that normally noisy scene into hell. Moore, Oklahoma is familiar with tornadoes. Two […]

bees, and going with the flow ~

I’ve always wanted to keep bees. Perhaps it’s my Uncle Russell’s fault, although I’m pretty sure that my fascination w/ bees predates Uncle Russell’s beekeeping days… More likely it’s from reading the French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre as a child. And […]

art festivals & beginner’s heart ~

Art festivals rock. Really! Tents of cool trinkets to explore, music, junk food (although really: who considers locally  made chocolate gelato junk?), kids with painted faces… What’s not to love? This week is Tulsa’s MayFest weekend. An old festival (as […]

grand-nephews & grace ~

My grand-nephew is a hoot. Named for my younger son, little Noah is funny, drop-dead cute, and tons of fun. A great companion for a Friday adventure. So today, when he arrived w/ his grandmother — my younger sister — […]

days of youth, death, & disconnection ~

I just heard that an old and very dear friend died. It was last year, but I only heard today. Some of you probably knew Larry Megill — especially those of my local friends. He and my dear dear friend […]

three-step practice ~

First, come into the present. Flash on what’s happening with you right now. Be fully aware of your body, its energetic quality. Be aware of your thoughts and emotions. Next, feel your heart, literally placing your hand on your chest […]

MIL/ DIL/ beginner’s heart ~

So, Mother’s  Day I just leaned into, & enjoyed. Lived in the many blissful moments of family, food, and affection. My sister, my niece & her fiancé, my nephew and his girlfriend, my wonderful husband, and calls from both sons. […]

all my children ~

I adore kids. Especially babies, but really? I like any age. And I always have. Even when I told my mother I did NOT want to get married (who would?? ), I told her I wanted kids. “You can’t have […]

for Ione ~

Once upon a time, a brand-new mother moved half-way across the globe. She knew no one, and hadn’t a clue — although she had a lot of books — how to raise her baby boy.  Her husband was very busy […]

mothering ~

Today we sent a box to my wonderful daughter-in-law. And the grandson she’s carrying. (We included a bar of chocolate for my elder son… ) Inside the box were 2 blankets — one my mother-in-law made so many years ago […]

in a grain of sand ~

This picture is an entire poem to me. It’s taken from a great website, featuring the photography of Dr. Gary Greenberg. What do you see when you look at these tiny grains of Maui sand, photographed under a microscope? I […]

poetry (again), practice, and beginner’s heart ~

If you know me at all, you know I’m not quite rational about poetry. Of course, poetry isn’t a rational subject. And writers of it tend to not be, either. How could we be? It’s all about stories and metaphor […]

dancing to my own music ~

I love this video. I’m indebted to a FB post by the amazing Parker Palmer — teacher, philosopher, thinker, and all-’round good rôle model — for the link. And the bright spot in a day otherwise dedicated to work (and […]

day #28 of National Poetry Month ~

I’m the kind of traveler who immerses herself — as far it’s possible — in the history of the places I visit. I want to know about the ‘actual’ history — who, when, where, why. But I also want to […]

day #25 of National Poetry Month ~

Last night I walked a metaphor. Staying here on Mauie, with a close friend, at her mother’s house is certainly cool enough. But an inward journey? Under a full Maui moon? Pardon the pun, but celebrating the rebuilding (& ‘reframing’) […]

day #24 of National Poetry Month ~

It’s hard to keep up a routine in Maui. Even w/ every good intention, I have yet to pick up my journal. And despite how much I love my iPad, it’s impossible to upload certain images. But in honour of […]

day #23 of National Poetry Month ~

Today is my father’s birthday. He would be 96. It also happens to be Shakespeare’s, which should probably be more important (he’s a LOT older, for one) to a poet. But it’s not. I looked for poems about fathers, which […]

day #22 of National Poetry Month ~

I confess to a huge crush on W.S. Merwin, begun long before I met him at a Nimrod Literary Journal weekend. His work is amazing. He’s a Buddhist from way back. And he’s trying very hard to restore & save […]

day #21 of National Poetry Month ~

Even though it’s a bit briskish today (as my Aunt Bonnie would say…), you can tell it’s spring. The bees are working their fuzzy striped butts off. And there are fat peony buds in the walled garden, ready to burst […]

day 20 of National Poetry Month ~

The poet Mona Van Duyn is another favourite. This is one of hers I hadn’t known previously — I actually was looking for another poem when I came across it. Being a sucker for bees (my first name, as many […]

day #19 of National Poetry Month (‘we must love one another or die’) ~

All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie… Today I tried to eat my lunch beneath a TV set blazing with the latest tragic news from Boston. From Watertown. From hatred. No one knows why the bombers […]

day 18 of National Poetry Month ~

Today is Poem In Your Pocket Day. Just a big FYI. It also was Poetry for Peace Day at a local community college. I was lucky enough to be a reader, along w/ several talented student poets and a couple […]

day #17 of National Poetry Month ~

Poetry always helps me with grief. With rage at injustice, with loss. With all the sorrows — as well as joys — of human existence. Today’s poem is for the many victims rippling out from the horrific centre of the […]

day #16 of National Poetry Month ~

As we enter the baseball season (for real addicts, that began with the spring training season!), I thought I’d share one of my very favourite poems. While baseball isn’t a great love of mine, I do have fond memories of […]

day #15 of National Poetry Month ~

When I was 19, I gave my mother a book of poetry. Even then, it seemed to me that poetry was the best thing I could offer my loved ones. It was a book academics & serious poets would dismiss […]

day 14 of National Poetry Month ~

I grew up moving. And losing things — as the Elizabeth Bishop villanelle I posted earlier reminds us, the art of losing isn’t hard to master. Except, of course, it is… Yesterday two of my sisters finally emptied an old […]

day 13 of National Poetry Month ~

Having spent many years teaching at the ‘higher ed’ level (re: college), I feel qualified to say that the system is sick. Fattened on the blood of adjuncts, centred far too often on the desires of faculty and a profit-driven […]

day 12 of National Poetry Month ~

I’m spending this week w/ the most wonderful professionals in the world: teachers. Yep. Teachers. We get a bad rap these days.  But nowhere will you find men & women more committed to the future of America: our kids. Who […]

day 11 of National Poetry Month ~

I am a sister. Sometimes I feel like I should preface that statement as they do in AA: Hi. My name is Britton and I’ve been a sister for all but a scant three years of my life. I don’t […]

day #10, National Poetry Month ~

Seamus Heaney — Nobel Laureate that he is — doesn’t get the attention in popular poetry circles that folks like Dickinson and Frost do. And yet he’s a wonderful poet — a people’s poet as well as a poet’s poet. […]

tea & memory: day #9 of National Poetry Month ~

If you’ve read any of this blog, you know I’m nuts about tea. Crazy, obsessive, elitist (and possibly boring) on the topic. Poetry, too. I have almost as many tea ‘cookbooks’ as favourite poets. There are six tea sets in […]

day 8, National Poetry Month ~

During my master’s, I was besotted with the poet Robert Hayden. I read every one of his poems, all his prose, the critical biography on him, and the few scholarly articles available. I still think he is the most under-appreciated […]

day 7, National Poetry Month ~

 There’s a tendency to think of poetry as not much fun. Unless you’re a total nerd/ geek/ dork… Or (as I heard said recently in a venue I would never have expected to hear the term) a pointy-head. Re: intellectual. […]

day 6, National Poetry Month ~

 Elizabeth Bishop is another poet who is easy to love. She makes her art almost invisible, effortless. Like those invisible zippers that hold the pieces together… This is a poem I return to again & again. It’s a villanelle — […]

day 5, National Poetry Month ~

One of the earliest poems I remember reading that voiced opposition to the war in Việt Nam was Denise Levertov’s ‘What Were They Like?’ I read it years ago at a reading of poets who had influenced the readers. I’m reading […]

day 4 National Poetry Month ~

A friend asked me what my month of poetry has to do with Buddhism, with beginner’s heart. I wanted to yell EVERYTHING! But I didn’t. Instead, I gave a rational response about the need for words when we have none, and […]

day 3 of National Poetry Month ~

One of my favourite poets died a few years ago, in 2007. Her name was Maude Meehan. She was an amazing woman, as well as a heckuva poet. She was a worker for social justice from way back: worker’s rights, […]

Day 2, National Poetry Month ~

Today’s poem is one of my favourites. It also changes American poetry (arguably). It’s Ezra Pound, of course — that contentious, controversial poet who went loudly nuts during WWII. But this is the quieter, Asian art-influenced Pound. The poet who […]

National Poetry Month!

On my Facebook page, I’m publishing my own poems daily — one by one, each written or revised or at least revisited for this month I love. But here, I’m going to link daily to a poem important to me. […]

green grass, blue sky, sun like honey ~

Spring is about growth. It’s full of religious celebrations that predate paper: Passover, Easter, Holi, the Spring Equinox, Makha Bukha, Bahá’í New Year, and many more. For me, spring is also about children. It’s about egg hunts — a leftover […]

talking about books: a tale of hope ~

I spent an evening earlier this week with more than 30 women, in a lock-down facility, talking about the dancer Isadora Duncan. Part of an Oklahoma Humanities Council book group initiative, partners are provided with books and a list of […]

holy days, fire & faith ~

It is Good Friday.  It is Holy Week. It is Passover. And other faiths, too — more individual, more isolate — also bear witness to death and redemption. In California, a dear friend still mourns the death of his beloved. […]

the world is not broken ~

I’m working at letting go of perfection, the idea that the world is ‘broken,’ as Naomi Rachel Remen says.  Stop to consider this: the world is NOT broken. The people who shout at cars that take their parking places? The […]

message in a bottle: imagining a reader ~

Last month I wrote a poem for a funeral reading. The deceased wasn’t a friend — he was my sister’s dear friend’s brother. So writing the poem took some time, as I’ve noted elsewhere. Of course, all poems — most writing […]

quest & journey & story & hope ~

This is the season of the story. Because at the heart of every faith — within the faith of every heart, nestled like a growing bird — is story. Sometimes one (an empty tomb, the vengeful hand of a god […]

against choices (& lives…): when religion becomes political ~

Today my state House of Representatives passed two bills that will cause only grief & pain for as many as 1,000 young Oklahoma women. The state House has seen fit to make judicial bypass — the avenue by which minor […]

patience (or the total lack thereof) ~

I’m sadly short on patience. I kept thinking that age & maturity would make it bloom in the totally inhospitable garden of my now! now! now! personality… Well, I’m older, but NOT a  lot more patient. Sigh… There are certain […]

anger, misunderstanding, & the cycle of suffering ~

I hurt my husband’s feelings tonight. In return, he hurt mine. None of this was intentional. It was, in fact, an object lesson in avidyā, the misunderstanding of reality, or even the self. It doesn’t matter what actually happened. Suffice […]

here’s to the sounds of music ~

Music, poetry, art ~ they have (at various times) saved me. Sometimes quite literally (really). Kept me from driving my car off the bypass. Kept my heart from breaking and my breath from stopping. Now that my life is gentler, […]

intimate murder & political opportunism ~

My sister is very lucky. She has been in two abusive domestic relationships, and she survived each. Once, when she ran across the street to my grandmother’s, crying & half-dressed, my great-aunt Bonnie attacked her pursuer with a broom: this […]

adjacent to the possible ~

A friend introduced me to a new term: the adjacent possible. What a rich phrase — a field for dreaming. The term comes from theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman, who talked about what might happen in biology to precipitate life. But […]

one week into Lent ~

It’s a bit more than a week since Lent began. But the vaguely lighter feeling that modest sacrifice generates is still warm. And I don’t feel particularly ‘without.’ Perhaps I should have picked something more important… In the past, I’ve […]

technology, non-attachment, and feeling flaky ~

Sometimes I have a hard time understanding the difference between detachment & non-attachment. Detachment is not a Buddhist virtue; non-attachment is. But when technology becomes my framing metaphor? I get it. Believe me, I get it. I had an important […]

teachers, ‘my kids,’ & lovingkindness ~

This is a photo (of me) that one of my students photo-shopped a couple of years ago (no, I wasn’t really wearing a troll mask…). It went out on our class listserv. A private joke — well, not toooo private, […]

a case for poets ~

When you think of people who are useful, poets probably aren’t high on your list. After all, who needs poetry? (Well, I do, but that isn’t typical, I realise ) And yet, when there is sorrow, or great joy, or […]

a cat, a ribbon, & meditation ~

Why can’t I focus on my meditation like I focus to play with my cat? Sitting in my chair, pulling a red bookmark ribbon sloooowly across my lap desk, I watch as she pounces. I pull the ribbon through her […]

time & transience ~

Yesterday, we thought we might be godparents to a skein of goslings — tiny yellow-grey fluffballs hatching from the goose we hoped was nesting, not resting, in our front yard. (Note: Canadian geese — at least in our neighbourhood — […]

Lent for Buddhists & non-Christians ~

You don’t have to be a non-Christian to be a Buddhist. Or a Unitarian. There are Christian Buddhists (some famous ones, in fact: I think of Thomas Merton). And (probably) Christian Buddhist Unitarians. But what can Buddhists get from Lent? […]

Year of the Snake ~

I love Chinese New Year. And Buddhist New Year (and they’re not the same, just FYI). As a child in Việt Nam, I would tag along with Chị Bốn, our amah, to her family’s farm, or to temple. There would […]

re- framing/claiming my mother ~

My mother would be so happy: TWO pink things came in the mail for me. Although orange & red were her favourite colours (w/ lashings of turquoise), she loved for me to wear pink. When I was a little girl, […]

just for grins ~

I love foxes. And I love goofball humour — I am my parents’ daughter. So this seems particularly appropriate ~ As for how it ties to Buddhism? Think about it for a moment: it’s on the same wavelength as the […]

tea (again) ~

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I drink alot of tea. I like everything about it, except the colonial exploitation thingie… And I confess: I love the whole ritual of tea and tea time. When I’m tired, […]

living in the web ~

My younger son called me today, asking if I would be in the Northwest early May. The Dalai Lama is speaking in Portland, he told me. On environmentalism and interfaith.I was thoroughly crushed to have to tell him no, I’d […]

friendship, funerals, & the bus people ~

Today is my friend Carol’s memorial service. It will be held in the chapel where I was married, on the campus where Carol, her husband , and most of my family — including my husband & I — went to […]

grieving for Carol ~

Once again I am wishing I believed in an afterlife where I would reconnect with people who leave me too soon. Leave irredeemably. Permanently. That hard word forever. But I don’t. Once again I wish I had had more time. […]

time — that queen of bees — flies ~

If time were a bee, she would be the queen these days. At least for me. These days, she is slower than the frenzy of summer bees, storing up for winter. She is less hectic than early spring bees, tending […]

Sofía the sparrow, Barney the blue jay, Fiona the finch, & others ~

One thing you learn when you draw birds: you’ve never reallyseen them previously. How different each one is. I thought I knew the birds on the deck — I can even distinguish a few from each other. But I recognise […]

words of encouragement ~

A woman I’ve never met made my day yesterday. Actually, she rescued from the the flu blues, as well as a bad case of the Eeyores (woe is me… life is sad…eat worms…). Not to mention a spiralling why do […]

a ray of sun, a flat grey cat, and winter ~

Sophie the cat came to us about 10+ years ago. So she’s an elder cat — well-versed in the wiles of felines. She knows that when I’m sitting at the breakfast table, and the mid-day sun is slanting over the […]

after the holidays: writing your way back home ~

It’s all done — the build-up of lists & wrapping & shopping & cooking. The family from out of town have departed, or (if you’re that family) you’re home again, and back to work. You’ve written (maybe even already broken? […]

resolutions, birds, and new beginnings ~

This year’s holidays brought many gifts — some the kind you unwrap, others less tangible. An Amazon gift card — how intangible is that?? — morphed verrry quickly into a book on drawing birds that I’ve been eyeballing for weeks. […]

for love of boys: a letter from a friend & colleague ~

A friend sent me a note after my previous post. Her husband, she said, had grown up in a family  that substituted isolation and alienation for love, hard ‘discipline’ (most of us would call it verbal abuse) for compassion, and religious […]

thoughts on hope, and healing, and making a difference ~

It is the season of peace, of good will to men. And yet it seems to me as if the world has gone a bit mad. A young man — barely out of HS — murdering little ones. An older […]

tea & girlfriends ~

In the kitchen, ginger scones remain on tray. A triple layered server still holds peppermint bark and chocolate biscuits. Various leftovers decorate the dining table. It’s the night after the annual Girlfriends Holiday Tea. I started this years ago — […]

tragedy, great sorrow, and the breath ~

I have nothing to say after a tragedy of this magnitude. My heart hurts — I have to catch my breath, thinking of sending a child or children off to school, and never seeing them again… My mind races: what […]

a soul story ~

This week’s UU Weekly has a piece on the baby Jesus. We know very little about the historical Jesus, as the essay notes. The Christian Bible is the source for most of our Jesus history, and it’s not necessarily an […]

wake-up call (and a peaceful Rohatsu to you, too!) ~

Tomorrow is Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu ~ the celebration of Siddhartha Gautama’s enlightenment, the transformation of the man into the  spiritual teacher we know as the Buddha.  I’ve written elsewhere about Bodhi Day, here and here. But it bears repeating. […]

material girls: or, how a nice Buddhist girl found happiness giving Christmas presents ~

I love presents. Getting them (of course!), but also buying them, wrapping them, giving them. I like French ribbon in loopy old-fashioned bows. And shiny foil paper. I like looking for tiny ornaments — feathers, vintage tags, a candy cane, […]

day 30 of Thanksgiving month: all you need is love ~

This isn’t the newest picture of my wonderful husband, nor is it my earliest. But it’s one I like, as it reminds me how much we have in common. When we metmany years ago, on a blind date, that wasn’t […]

day 29 of a month of Thanksgiving: sons

This is my favourite picture of my two sons, whom I adore. And for whom I give thanks daily. They are grown men now, my two blond children, and will shake their heads at their mother posting a picture of […]

the 28th day of Thanksgiving month (vertigo & other blessings) ~

I woke up in the middle of the night to a room awhirl. Seriously awhirl, as in the bed might well have been on a crazed merry-go-round. Needless to say, it was not a pleasant evening. Vertigo and I have […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

day 21 of the month of Thanksgiving (a man who buys you diamonds for no reason…) ~

When I married my husband, we had zilch money. We got married quickly, so that I could go to Algeria with him, where his company had transferred him. Actually, we thought we were going to Morocco. A story for another […]

day 20 of a month of Thanksgiving (war & peace…) ~

As pictures of wounded children — and tiny body bags — cast long shadows across international media these past few days, I am so very grateful to live in a country free from war within our borders. I am grateful […]

day 19 of a month of Thanksgiving: old friends ~

Today I’m grateful for old friends. Perhaps because I moved so much as a child  and a young adult, I have very few friends from my adolescence. And none, really, from my childhood. No one who knew me in elementary […]

day 17 of a month of Thanksgiving: libraries ~

I’m exceedingly thankful for libraries. AND for librarians, who rank up there w/ superheroes (& heroines) to me. From my first foray into the bookmobile (travelling books?? what magic!), to the Việtnamese American Association Library around the street from us […]

day 16 of a month of Thanksgiving: medical technology (& insurance) ~

Despite what it may look like, this is NOT a torture device. And it’s not really a toe screw (which IS  an official instrument of torture).  Nope, this is what I’m grateful for today: my newest in a long line of weird […]

day 15 of Thanksgiving: everyday moments ~

the curve of a tree limb against blue sky a patch of yellow asters spangled with blue & black butterflies how fresh-ground coffee tastes on a cold damp morning the smell of November roses This is the kind of thing […]

day 14 of Thanksgiving ~

Today’s a bittersweet thank-you. A poet I love dearly — Jack Gilbert — died yesterday. Gilbert was one of the (many) poets who helped me shape my own craft. But even had I not also been a writer, I don’t […]

the middle of Thanksgiving ~

For many of us, Thanksgiving lasts a month. Each day I use Facebook to share something for which I’m grateful. It may be as small as the sunlight that hits the deck chair exactly right on a brisk fall day, […]

still learning from the student ~

 And no one exists alone….We must love one another or die.   ~ Auden A dear former student just posted a line of Auden to my FaceBook: We must love one another or die. It’s from the poem “September 1, 1939,” one […]

the changing face(s) of America ~

A note after the election (long, so be warned): Eight years ago, when Bush was re-elected, I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe the American people would voluntarily re-elect a man I saw as so divisive, so […]

comic relief ~

It’s been a looooong election season. Perhaps now we can move beyond our (ostensible) differences to our similarities. And almost everyone I know finds dogs verrry easy to love. So I offer you this: my two dogs — Pascal (foreground) […]

spiritual beings…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.    ~ Pierre Tielhard de Chardin Sometimes I wonder if all of the religious differences in the world are not summed up in this […]

conspiracies (and what we don’t agree with) ~

I saw a post on Facebook that said we all will have computer chips inserted under our skin if Obama isre-elected. Riiiiight….Right up there with the allegedly secret Muslim wedding ring he wears, and the death panels, and the liberal […]

naked hearts & sticks & stones ~

I am as tired of this election as anything in a long time. My heart is battered, bruised, held  together some days with tape and string. Even my ears hurt… What happened to truth? And to the civil discourse that […]

listening to incense ~

Sometimes when you’re stressed, what you need to do is two simple (and at least partly practical) things: light a stick of good incense, and clean out a drawer. Seriously, it’s that simple. I don’t remember where I heard the […]

of bullies, and victims, and what the rest of us can do ~

Bullying… It affects all of us — the bullies, their victims, and those of us who see it happen. Culture tends to frame it as an axis: bullies on one side, victims on the other. It’s not that simple. Amanda […]

homophobia & the American Family Association: rewriting the teachings of Jesus

As I learn more about myself — middle age will do that to you, if you pay attention — I realise that standing up for the voiceless is one of the strongest reasons I’m such a loudmouth. (And yes — […]

un-learning (when Buddhism & Unitarian Universalism conflate) ~

I don’t go to church much. When I do, I go to All Souls Unitarian Universalist, the largest UU church in the world. In Tulsa.  Tulsa. Today I went to see my nephew officially welcomed in to the congregation.  His […]

poetry time, or, when names are poetry ~

“…in Micmac … some trees ‘are named for the sound the wind makes when it blows through them during the autumn, about an hour after sunset when the wind always comes from a certain direction. Moreover, these names are not […]

looking to breathe ~

I sometimes pretend I’m a calm person…:) But during an election year, as a ‘bright blue dot in a very red state,’ it’s hard. People I know, even like, are filled with fear and loathing. They aim it at my […]

it’s just school/ work/ a relationship…NOT LIFE ~

I had a note from a former student today. This isn’t unusual — I’m fortunate to have contact w/ many of my wonderful former students. But this was a bit different. It was a thank-you note. Because of you, it […]

time like a river ~

I’ve always been short on time. At least since I was small.  Then, there were summers. But even as a child, being the eldest meant watching sisters (and they know how easy that was!), or walking the dog, or washing […]

back to camp ~

A room of more than 40 women, aged 18 – 75. Or more. Talking, laughing loudly, yelling in delight over a good hand of cards… This is Camp Waluhili, and the Becoming an Outdoor Woman weekend workshop. There are well […]

follow the Yellowstone road ~

At the Mammoth Hotel in Yellowstone Park, elk have forgotten that they are wild. They  graze on the tidy front lawn, sometimes causing traffic jams in the parking lot and the adjacent streets. Tourists have to be kept from walking […]

the consequences of our actions ~

An old friend sent me a blog post from the Wall Street Journal today, noting that it was about the restriction of free speech. I’m not sure I agree that it is, or that what is discussed — the decision […]

take one poem & call me in the morning ~

I’ve written recently about how politics is personal for me. So is poetry, but it doesn’t come out the same way. And lately, as I become increasingly aware of the futility of trying to get people to see both sides […]

America hates teachers: the new normal…?

I’m fashed, my Aunt Bonnie would say. From the French ‘fâcher,’ to make angry, or offend. It’s an old Southern term — probably been around since French settlements. It isn’t just ‘to get mad,’ however — at least not the […]

‘it’s just stuff,’ or, the important things ~

A very nice man hit my little bluebird car Monday… <very sad face> It was an honest accident. He wasn’t moving when I began backing out of my parking space — he didn’t even have his back-up lights on when […]

a ‘sunny’ disposition: love, warmth, & beginner’s heart ~

I absolutely adore sunlight. Don’t get me wrong: I also love rainy, foggy, and cool wet days. Not sleet, so much, or ice (especially on roads!). But the sunlight — it make me want to stretch out like a lizard […]

red state/ blue state ~ what-to-do state…?

Here’s the thing about sanity in an election year: We always have it. They never do. And yes: lately that seems far too often to be the point. We are always the ‘good guys.’ They are always the bad, or […]

bees, chocolate mimosas, and attachment ~

If you’ve read this blog more than a couple of times, you know I’m crazy about bees. Actually, about most wildlife (and yep, bees qualify). Starting next month, my patient, long-suffering husband & I are taking a beginning beekeeping class. […]

anger, patience, and putting out fires ~

This is me mad. I’m only half kidding: I have a terrible social temper. Meaning, what gets me mad is social injustice, and/or the will to ignore it. There’s one problem: I’m always the one defining the term… Anger is […]

sore throats and bad attitudes ~

Some days, you wonder why you keep throwing yourself into the fray. You email a friend, or he emails you, and together you whine about the total futility of it all. ‘It’ being, of course, convincing the bad guys you […]

meeting in our good intentions ~

While on vacation, I kept having what my elder son & I used to call baby enlightenments — epiphanies, a Joycean scholar might say. But targeted towards growing, finding balance. Some were brought on by the way I think (metaphorically): […]

teachers & bodhisattva vows ~

A comment on an earlier post, from Dasha, reminds me why teaching is so much more than test scores. Why the teacher may be, next to immediate family, the most important person in a child’s life. And why teachers are […]

revisiting microagressions and social justice (and what white people get out of both) ~

 I spent most of June this summe, in a graduate Institute with teachers of all grade levels (k-university), in several content areas, and from varied backgrounds. The seminar lasts for three weeks. During week 2 we discuss cultures: what each […]

a garden, a scholar, a couple of hours ~

Something there is about a garden… Particularly a Chinese garden. With a Chinese scholar’s room overlooking the quiet courtyard, a row of clean brushes awaiting the writer’s hand. Each turn is another perfect vista, an image to be sketched, framed […]

fresh starts, sharing stories, and the view from here ~

While I was awaiting news these past few days, I thought a lot about beginnings. About the new school year, about fresh starts. And I thought how lucky I am that this has turned out be a ‘reboot’ and not […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Previous Posts

beginnings, and the inevitability of change
This has been the time of beginnings, which often appear -- at least at first -- as endings. Like the dandelion tuft above, which looks like the end of the ...

posted 4:48:10pm Nov. 30, 2015 | read full post »

of outsiders, refugees, and the sound of hearts, breaking
Perhaps it's because I lived so many years in places where I was the 'outsider.' Perhaps it's because 10 of those years were spent in Muslim countries. Perhaps ...

posted 6:01:54pm Nov. 20, 2015 | read full post »

connection, and the web, reprised
Buddhists believe firmly in connection. We don't always see eye-to-eye on other tenets -- reincarnation, the divinity of leadership, vegetarianism. There are ...

posted 3:38:54pm Nov. 18, 2015 | read full post »

happiness is...
It's true. You can DECIDE to be happy. I promise. And it doesn't reaallly take a whole lot of effort, despite what cranky people may think... There's a ...

posted 1:20:52pm Nov. 12, 2015 | read full post »

After any death, there is (at least in all the cultures I'm familiar with) a ceremony. In our case, Mom's funeral. It was definitely a family affair: my ...

posted 1:53:20pm Nov. 10, 2015 | read full post »


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