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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart Archives

rain, rain

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. Lately, whenever […]

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reflections on mortality

Nothing like a nervous day at the doc’s to make you realise your life is very good. Not that I needed reminding… But it still serves as a bit of a wake-up call. You know: what the heck are you […]

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you don’t always get what you want…

I’m raising bees! Today I went outside to check on them, and the brilliant blue/ green/ yellow & black of their bodies glittered as the females laid multiple eggs in the tubes of my mason bee house. The newer one […]

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when Buddhism and Christianity were THIS close

Most of the time, I confess, I think of Christianity as a violent religion. Beginning w/ the Crusades, various holy wars, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, Nazi Germany… It doesn’t appear to have read the New Testament, and […]

form, poetry, and the empty cup

I spent the day researching obscure poetic forms.  And it was enormous fun — thinking about what to pour into those elegant white cups of structure. Along the way, I wrote this poem for my sisters (the least structured of […]

poetry, structure, and creative beginner’s heart

Last night, discussing structure and writing with my elder son, I said I couldn’t write w/ too much structure. That writing is — for me — a discovery process. Structure, I told him, can actually kill my ideas. Later, as  I lay […]

what a difference a day makes (and other ways I wish I was like my grandson)

My grandson burnt his hands Sunday. Not horribly, but badly enough that he cried inconsolably for hours. Today? He’s his usual sunny self: slapping the Cheerios on the highchair tray, pulling my hair, and laughing at nothing at all. Why […]

the poetry of every day

It’s easy to forget that every day holds poetry. Especially if you’re hectic: packing, moving, cleaning a new house, unpacking… Soothing a disolocated dog, holding a curious baby. Eating out of cartons while you locate the dishes and pans. All […]

what poetry gives us

Today’s poem is actually a three-fer. I’ve been writing to prompts from NaPoWriMo, one of the national sites for National Poetry Writing Month. The poem today is written from yesterday’s prompt, which asked writers to do a riff on a […]

in praise of short poems

I grew up on haiku. It’s popular in school classrooms now — fast, and relatively easy to teach — but I don’t remember there being a lot of my friends who learned it as children. My familiarity with it — […]

quilt pieces and a poem for beginner’s heart

It wasn’t that long ago that I realised how many of the poets I love best are Buddhist. They don’t make a big deal about it (most Buddhists don’t — I’m kind of an anomaly, blogging from a Buddhist/ Unitarian/ […]

poetry, seeing, and connection

I adore poetry, as anyone who knows me knows. Actually, you don’t even have to know me — you can just be sitting next to me on a plane (I’m often reading poetry), or standing by me in a bookstore […]

the impact of ‘thoughtlessness’ (and the importance of teachers)

Today, following yesterday’s post about research, I was reading the National Endowment for the Humanities bi-monthly magazine, Humanities. In it is an article about NEH-funded research on political theorist Hannah Arendt. And it underlines the importance of the critical thinking […]

teaching research, or, why some folks hate universities

For several years, I taught research to college students. At a research university, no less. I taught ag majors, English majors, business majors, music majors, phys ed majors, design majors, art majors, history and econ and chemistry and engineering and […]

random and more random

Today is one of those days when I don’t think. Really (and don’t tell me you don’t have those days). It was all I could do figure out breakfast (cappuccino and left-over chicken; don’t judge me). So today’s post is […]

time and distance

I’m working (hard) on a chapbook manuscript. Which is to say, I’m going over work I did — some of it a while ago — line by line, word by word, space by line break by punctuation mark. I hate […]

daffodils and drowsy spring

I love the first daffodils. In our front garden, they’re multiplying like spring rabbits — pheasant’s eye, narcissus, tiny jonquils, large trumpeted King Alfred, double Winston Churchill, and many more. They bloom between the canes of last summer’s Joe Pye […]

mourning a mentor and friend

It feels like my world is losing important pieces, lately. A death here, a death there, a third one just behind them. A lot of friends, colleagues, and the family of both have taken wing. Elsewhere. Wherever the dead go. […]

friends with tea (pots) and books and music and…

My friendship with my dear friend M is the product of technology, for which I’m very grateful. M started a book group several years ago, and we all talked books online. I’d met only one of the group f2f, as […]

International Poetry Day!

Poetry — the breath of love, life, grief, terror, justice. And more… We woo with it, grieve with it, celebrate and commemorate and just plain live with it. All around the world today, poets and readers and appreciators are joining […]

for love of a book

I’ve loved books since before I could read them. I vaguely remember chewing on a cloth book my mother or aunt gave me, but it may only be a family story. I do know I read early, and with gusto. […]

cutting boards, character, and throw-away culture

This cutting board cost me $15. On sale, sure, but all it needed was some TLC and it rivals my other cutting board/ chopping block, which cost more than 5x that much. Because this cutting board, when I bought it, […]

making your own spring

Today, a long line of my old ladies would tell you, is a dreary day. Nevermind that we need the inch of slow cold rain. And yes there are a few bent-necked daffodils in the front garden. But the birds […]

seeing what might be there

I saw this on FB the other day, and was mesmerised. Not simply this photo — I’ve taken several similar ones myself. But by what happened next. Jarbas Agnelli saw music, notes on a staff. I do too, and have […]

time runs away from us

An old and dear friend lost her husband yesterday. Walking together to his work, she must have watched as he fell to the ground with a heart attack, his second in two years. He was dead by the time they […]

the crime of poverty

It shouldn’t still be happening, but it is: modern day debtor’s prisons. At least in Alabama, where writer Jacob Denney’s story for the Southern Poverty Law Center takes place. A young man, first victimised by a shooting, then hit with […]

the mortality of cats

At her best, my 14-year-old cat Kali is doing great. She can still jump (most of the time) onto my desk to eat the snack I fixed (NOT for her). She usually maneuvers the leap from the coffee table to […]

a miracle of starlings

Actually, it’s called a murmuration of starlings. Possibly, as Dylan Winter, the narrator of this amazing clip notes, because of the murmuring of wings. Whatever the source of the name, the actual sight — even reduced to the size of […]

belated thank-yous

I love writing letters. REAL letters, on stationery, with a pen or rollerball, and the (futile) art of keeping my handwriting legible. Thank-you notes are my favourite. Unfortunately, sometimes I’m forgetful (well, actually I’m often forgetful!). And formal thank-yous — […]

blue days and runaways

Do you ever want to run away from your life? Your ‘precious, human life,’ as the Dalai Lama reminds us…? Leave the whiney dogs that will NOT go outside when it rains, the cats that throw up in front of […]

working back in

The problem with living in the moment is when the moment kind of…well, let’s just say some moments are better neighbourhoods than others. Right now, mine is pestilent. As in, still flu-y. So in the spirit of beginner’s heart, I’ve […]

on flu break

This message is brought to you by the miracle of modern medicine, and the unfortunate strain of flu NOT covered in the flu shot. And yes, I’ll still get the flu shot. The doc swears it would be lots worse […]

modern medicine and everyday miracles

So remember the scratchy throat I was fighting? The beautiful grandson who was spewing germs as he laughed and climbed me like a mountain? Flu. Yup, flu. Thank the universe (and modern medicine) for Tamiflu. Not only do I have […]

viral moments and metaphors

Those oddly shaped, colourful objects are teethers. My grandson is teething. And (gross-out alert) he’s also blowing mucous in large quantities. Some is the result of teething — we had hoped it all was. But my aching bones, need for […]

sons, and daughters, and grandsons, and love

I’m one of those weird people who is happiest when giddy with loving folks. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, since I get considerable flak over it from family (are you high on happy pills??). But it’s true, if […]

Humanities, and what makes life worth living

I spent two days this past week w/ humanitarians. Now, they wouldn’t call themselves that. They would say they’re worker bees, if they said anything at all. Not folks to tout their own horns, humanities board members. And especially not in […]

writing, travel, and trains: a hopeful love letter

This meme is sooo me that my niece posted it to my FB page. And just in case you’re wondering, it’s NOT too much to ask! But it does seem to be a lot to get. However, I’m applying for […]

why it seems like open season on my cousin’s grandsons

My cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race — their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be […]

friendship and the art of loving

As one of four sisters, I’m used to the envy that twins with love. At least when it comes to sisters. So it’s okay w/ me that I’m not the sister each of the other three loves the best. Because […]

leftovers and ‘after’ days

 Yesterday we had a lovely evening — friends came over to celebrate African American History month with a sharing of various African American artists & authors. I cleaned and cooked before it all began. I made this beautiful lemon icebox […]

30 Days of Love: ‘calling in’ and room for compassion

“Calling in” is a new term for me. During the 30 Days of Love project, I’ve learned several new things — vocabulary is only 1 piece of it. I had to go to the original article, after reading today’s prompt. […]

30 Days of Love: creative love and red-shouldered hawks

I love my neighbourhood. Today I saw a hawk twice, with its mate one of those times. Saturday I saw a vixen fox. Her mate loped across our front yard, in broad daylight, around Christmas on a bitter cold snowy […]

30 Days of Love: take a deep breath

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is about the sacred pause. The breath, in other words. Breathing in <> breathing out. Buddhist & yogi Teo Drake reminds us that mindfulness needn’t be limited to sitting and following the breath. Just […]

30 Days of Love: standing shoulder to shoulder

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is one very close and dear to me. It asks that we find out more about the Muslim communities living in our towns and cities, the Muslim Americans who work in offices with us, […]

30 Days of Love: prisons and opportunity gone missing

America loves prisons. “Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit […]

30 Days of Love: Inclusion

Inclusion is a big deal to me (I know — so many things are!). Perhaps because I grew up on the outside, often looking in. Maybe because my family is pretty polyvalent. And maybe because it IS important. Every voice […]

30 Days of Love: a military tradition of service, and what we owe

This is my father, who served in three wars: WWII, the Korean War — from when this was taken — and the Việt Nam Conflict. He served in multiple theatres (China, Korea, Việt Nam, the Battle of the Bulge, Germany, […]

30 Days of Love: radical love…?

Today’s 30 Days of Love prompt is to embrace radical love: the idea of trying to love the people with whom you disagree. This is, as I’ve noted elsewhere, hard for me. It’s hard for me (darn near impossible… sigh) […]

30 Days of Love: in praise of a mother-in-law

Today’s prompt from 30 Days of Love is to think of someone courageous, someone who deserves recognition for his or her  actions, even his or her life. Not simply because it’s her birthday, but because she has been like a […]

30 Days of Love: flotsam, jetsam, tanka, and learning the story

Today’s prompt for 30 Days of Love is to write a haiku, a 140-character tweet, or a six-word story. In it, we’re to reflect on our own story.This, I’m thinking, I’m ready for. I’ve been practicing. Digression: I’ve been thinking […]

30 Days of Love: cleaning out drawers and lightening the load

I love to cook. And I love tools. Ergo, I have a LOT of cooking stuff. Cram-jammed drawers full. The same goes for coffee paraphenalia, tea accessories, and various things I no longer even recognise. Not good. I have to […]

30 Days of Love: RIP, Pete Seeger

I have always loved, admired, and respected Pete Seeger. As a musician, as a social activist, as an influence on American folk music, he’s one of my heroes. He died last night, and the world will be the poorer for […]

freedom of (and from) religion

As I’ve mentioned recently, freedom of religion is a big deal to me. And that freedom doesn’t mean you get to worship your mainstream religion in public and I don’t. Or that you can discriminate against me — even harass […]

30 Days of Love: ‘love’s austere and lonely offices’

Today’s post is short but sweet, and courtesy of one of the best poets I’ve ever loved: Robert Hayden.  At times in my life I have been without words: desperately lonely, or bitterly angry, or lost in one of those […]

30 Days of Love: drawing birds, getting it wrong, and compassion vs. love

This is not a great goldfinch sketch. BUT…. it’s measurably better than last year’s birds (see below). Because I’ve spent a YEAR drawing crappy birds. And they’ve grown slightly less wretched each month. Here’s the kicker: you have to be […]

30 Days of Love: blending faiths

In keeping with the 30 Days of Love project, I’m thinking about how it works with my own beliefs, with Buddhism, specifically. As many faith traditions do, they intersect in many productive ways. Engaged Buddhism fits well with the theme […]

30 days of love: hot curlers, love, and doing for others

As a reptile lover, this picture seems the perfect example of giving a hand. Or a foot, or a sucker. Whatever. Sometimes help isn’t this noticeable. You don’t have to save a friend from a life-threatening situation to be helpful. […]

30 Days of Love: family, race, and what we can do

As part of the 30 Days of Love project, I’m using many of the prompts offered on the  blog site for the posts here. This week focuses on family, among other things. Family and race and community, in general. I […]

30 Days of Love: or, why would we want to be multicultural?

As a little girl growing up in Việt Nam, I was the odd one out. Blonde in a sea of glossy black hair, dead white dot in a warm brown tapestry. But even before, living in Tulsa & then San […]

ponytail memories and silver linings

As a young child, I had very long hair. I wore it either in braids, or in a ponytail; it did look quite a bit like the tail of a Shetland pony. Long, blond, and constantly in motion. I wasn’t […]

horoscopes, adversaries, ball chairs

True confessions: I read my horoscope. Almost every day. And weekly, too. I check out what’s in the paper, and then on Wednesdays I read Free Will Astrology to see what it says. This week, it says I might want […]

memory, elephants, friendship

You may already have seen the PBS video on Shirley & Jenny, two elephants who never forgot each other. It’s not recent — at least 10 years old. But it was new to me. Elephants have totemic significance in my […]

a message from a fellow First Amendment follower

A friend sent me a blog post from a blogger I don’t follow. And what Mr. Lake had to say (he’s the blogger) had to say resonated deeply. I’m the kind of person who donated money for free speech during […]

goldfinches, titmice, and wrens: what’s your pleasure?

The goldfinches have (finally!) arrived. They’re going through about a feeder of thistle seed every couple of days. My sister, looking out the breakfast room window onto the 1-2-3-4-5-6+ feeding and water stations, wondered aloud what this costs us monthly. […]

Quakers, foxes, Buddhism, and beginner’s heart

Even before I did a graduate paper on the Quaker preacher Elizabeth Ashbridge, I’ve been fascinated by Quakerism. The idea that the Divine is knowable to each individual, w/out the mediation of text or preacher or church, is a deeply […]

Say what? West Virginia isn’t as important as Chris Christie’s shenanigans?

Okay — so it’s politics and soapbox time (you can tune out now, if engaged Buddhism doesn’t fit your needs today — I really get it). Sunday, NO ONE spent time on the disastrous West Virginia chemical spill. 300,000 American […]

small breakthroughs

After whining so piteously yesterday about New Year’s resolutions, and laying new habits in place, I had one of those days when the bad habits were sooo much easier to forget. I know the sneaky devils will be back, but […]

resolutions, and good habits

So: why is it soooo hard to form good habits, and so EASY to lapse into bad ones?? Doesn’t it seem that good intention ought to count for something?? Sheesh. I’ve been back on the recumbent bike since New Year’s. […]

more drink metaphors

When’s the last time you gave yourself a present? Not something you ‘need,’ or even something you lust for (like a new pair of shoes, or a fountain pen, or…). Just a small treat. Not even edible, necesarily. This holiday, […]

coffee and chocolate and cream and…multiculturalism?

I’m drinking what America should BE right now (bear with me: it’s metaphor time). Coffee from Africa, rich & fragrant. Chocolate from South America. Cinnamon from Saigon, cayenne pepper from who knows where, and milk from an organic farm coop […]

axe handles, poetry, aging…beginner’s heart…

I’m reading an old issue of American Poet. They tend to pile up, kind of like my New Yorker issues. Things that come frequently, or have intellectual density, often get lost under doing dishes, exercise, feeding birds. The necessary acts of […]

talking about faith, hate, and civil discourse

On a FB thread a friend began, there’s a discussion of homosexuality, race, and gender. My friend is not tolerant: he lives his beliefs. An aside: I don’t really like the word ‘tolerance.’ It always reminds me of the stuff […]

poetry, politics, and beginner’s heart

If changing the world is your fight, it will exhaust you. But if it’s just your way of being, it will be effortless! So promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate. ~ Buddhist Boot Camp This is […]

farewells, and a goodbye belief

I’m not good at goodbye. Nor farewell, nor see ya later. Nor any kind of leave-taking. HATE them. Too many moves as a kid. Too many folks I’ll never see again. Buddhism is the ultimate goodbye belief. You know: the […]

remembering the Christmas Truce

Tonight, I wish you magic. I wish you peace, love, & joy. I wish you the kind of unexpected miracles that happened a century ago, in the middle of a war. When men reached out across the line of fire, […]

Warning: Grinch alert

 So — you’ve been notified: I just hit my Grinch wall. I am heartily SICK of cooking, cleaning, wrapping presents, and the whole shebang. I want to be on a beach SOMEWHERE WARM, w/out ice bending my beloved trees to […]

giving really IS more fun (well, most of the time…)

This is our Christmas tree. And so far, I’ve wrapped all but maybe three of the gifts beneath it. By hand. With love & thoughts of each recipient. Because that’s how Aunt Bonnie taught me to do it. Along with […]

peppermint bark and merriment

Hi, my  name is Britton, and I L♥VE food. Well, I love good food. I’m not interested in crappy calories; only the best! And over the holidays? I’m in (as my Aunt Bonnie would say) hog heaven! Although they’d have […]

permission

In a FB thread discussing art, anarchy, and writing, a friend & colleague reminded me that many people he works with want to know ‘the rules.’ They won’t write — he’s a teacher of teachers — unless they have a […]

So, what colour is Santa? Or Jesus, for that matter? And why the HECK should this be on the news??

I tend to go off, as we all know. And a newscaster from Fox News (I won’t name her, but you can find the article here; she doesn’t deserve more publicity) just lit my fuse. Santa, she says, is white. […]

tea with Grandmother (and others)

Tea is a friendly drink. It doesn’t jazz you like coffee. I can have it in the afternoon, for instance, and still sleep that night. And if — like me — you’ve collected/ inherited/ been given tea wares for many […]

meatloaf and dishes and errands and family…

This kind of holiday doesn’t just happen… Nor does a big-ass tree, replete with crystal icicles, the last remnants of childhood ornaments, and a couple of true heirlooms. And the gifts beneath, wrapped in foil and French ribbon, sprinkled w/ […]

Happy Bodhi Day!

Today 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. […]

Remembering Nelson Mandela, and his shifting place in American history

The world will miss Nelson  Mandela. A man who saw that forgiveness was as large a part of revolution as upheaveal. A man who brought good to a nation riven by wrong. A man who was not afraid to love […]

just who are you calling average…?

A friend & former colleague recently posted a blog entry where he wrestled with his (mild) obsession w/ being ‘the best.’ He’s very good at anything he turns his hand to: technology, teaching, parenting, music, running. And those are just […]

cancelled flights, family nights, and (eventually!) Thanksgiving

It all starts w/check-in. That’s the beginning of any air travel, right? But wait! For us, it began with ice all over the car. A LOT of ice. And an AWOL ice scraper. We should have known it was a […]

bad choices & (broken) beginner’s heart

There is a slice of meringue pie in the fridge. Calling to me. It may well speak some formerly unknown language that sounds now a bit like mother tongue. I shouldn’t eat it, but it’s not such a big deal. […]

family, socialism, and Thanksgiving conversations

Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK! And we’ll be having a LOT of family over for the big celebratory feast. As I’m sure many of you will. And if you’re like our family, not everyone is … well, in accord on lots […]

tranquility terrorists

I adore The Onion. Especially in pieces like this, framed and coloured in absurdity. To ‘target all Western suffering…’ How cool would that be? So here’s my post for today — a bit of humour, a LOT of wishful thinking. […]

listening

I am learning to listen from my grandson. (And if my son his father tells you it’s ‘indulging him,’ disregard.) I am learning to pay attention to cues — both verbal and non-verbal. And remember: at a scant six months, […]

tea with plastic spoons…

Today I made my tea in a mug, on a cutting board, with a plastic spoon. Big deal, huh? Unless you know me, and know that almost every day I make tea in a pot, on a tray spread w/ one […]

meditation and sons and technology

I’m not very good at meditating. I get started, then something ‘comes up’ — life, usually — and I fall off the cushion. Soon months have gone by, and I’m not meditating. Sigh… But the point in meditation process is […]

day 13 of Thanksgiving (in praise of laundry)

I HATE doing laundry. I once told a friend that I would remember my child-bearing years as piles of dirty laundry. Really dirty laundry: hockey socks & pads, football jerseys, cutoffs from camp, towels that ended up mildewing under the bed… […]

the month of Thanksgiving

During November — which I think of as the month of Thanksgiving — I give thanks each day for one of my many blessings. Today it’s my grandson, with whom I am (of course!) besotted. I’m sure this is true […]

remembering the HUMANS in the HUMANitieS

I spent this past weekend in the company of humanists. It’s a word that’s come to have a negative meaning, and I’m not sure why. The word itself simply means to have a deep concern for human beings, for their […]

sharing stories

When you go to a national humanities conferences, you hear a lot of stories. Stories of the past (especially in Birmingham, 50 years later…), stories of what-if, stories of maybe and possibly and even stories about stories. And when you’re […]

the proper study of human beings…

I’m going to Birmingham tomorrow! And my posts — if I break free to make them — will be from there for the next few days. I have the IMMENSE good fortune to be part of the Oklahoma delegation to […]

no one loves a complex story, or, what no one is telling you about the Affordable Care Act

This is by way of good news. It’s also a counter-narrative to all the horror stories about the Affordable Care Act.Because once a journalist, always a journalist, I guess. And someone needs to put some honest facts into the conversation, […]

saving wasps, and other unloved creatures

I rescue wasps.  Even the big ones. Even yellow jackets. Even though a nest got in to my hair when I was a child & stung me sick. I also brake for squirrels, mice, and anything running across the road. […]

rape culture, reprised: how can we undo it?

Since my earlier post on the Daisy Coleman case, I’ve received many emails from women (& men) who wander — as I do — how to undo rape culture. How do we fight it? And I confess: I don’t know. […]

the candle and the mirror

When I was young, and my dreams as new-bright as clean copper, I believed I would set the world on fire. Somehow I would change what was wrong — poverty, ignorance, social injustice. There were, after all, so many of […]

All Hallows’ E’en

This is my dog, Pascal, wearing the devil horns my niece Sandra bought him. It’s appropriate — Pascal is rascal of the first order. But it’s a far cry from what I grew up thinking Hallowe’en meant. Sure it meant […]

everyday glitches and first-world problems

It’s not a big deal, really. Just email. Not my life. And yet…. I HATE it when my email screws up! Allll my hard-won calm goes right out the window. And it doesn’t help that today is the day I’m […]

on Facebook and civil conversations

I love the idea that there’s a civil conversations project. Officially, I mean. Because it’s what I’ve been trying to foster — despite my lapses into ranting about racism & social injustice — on my own FB page. Today, I […]

cloudy days and keeping busy

Sometimes, when it’s grey and what my grandma would call ‘dreary,’ it’s hard to get motivated. While I don’t mind rain at all — especially when it’s been a bit dry — I make sure that we buy the ‘daylight’ […]

appearances (seriously)

If I was a cat, this would be how I appear to most folks. Seriously. The thing about being an aging blonde, w/a strange sense of humour, is that no one TAKES you seriously. Of course, that was true when […]

plain ol’ human (loving)kindness

This is a picture of the last day of the last undergrad class I taught at OSU. You won’t get the joke, so I’ll tell you. Bear with me: Every day there was a note in our classroom saying, Please […]

(just??) breathing

Today’s meditation focus was why do I do this? Really.  Why sit? Why watch my breath? Why let noises come & go, feelings rise and fall, in rhythm (if I’m lucky!) with my breath? Why on earth would anyone take […]

Nimrod Saturday!

This is the weekend of the Nimrod conference for writers. AND it’s the ‘prequel’ to National Day on Writing. What serendipity, huh? The NDW’s theme is ‘write2connect,’ as I mentioned yesterday. And all day today, that’s what I did: connect. […]

writers’ weekend

This is a picture of an issue of my beloved Nimrod. It’s also (warning! self-advertising!) an issue I especially love, and not simply because I’m included within the pages. It’s one of my favourites because even when I was very […]

waiting (impatiently!) for the National Day on Writing

Sunday is one of my favourite days at any time — it’s the day when, if you’re working as a teacher, you’re (ideally!) caught up with your grading. Your household chores are sorta/kinda done. You can relax. Maybe. But this […]

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 […]

hawk!

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 […]

Buddha dogs and learning about love

We have two dogs — both goofy-looking French bulldogs. The elder, Pascal, is sick. Turns out that despite being ‘guaranteed,’ AND xrayed, he has dysplasia. As well as a pinched nerve in his lower spine. He’s in a lot of […]

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 […]

no, love is NOT enough

 “In this world where everything will not turn out okay, where the anything that is possible is not in our hands, the real deal is to, nonetheless, look deep into who we really are, and then from that place, reach […]

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 […]

after…

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 […]

Happy fish cake …

Today is my nephew’s birthday. We’re all going out to dinner. And although only a couple of us are involved in that decision, it’s taken HOURS. Which leads me to: Why are human beings so weird?? There were only TWO […]

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: […]

race in America, and the dilemma of forgiveness ~

I’ve never cared for Paula Deen. Didn’t watch her on TV more than once or twice. Didn’t buy her cookbooks. Don’t even care for her kind of cooking, these days. I also think that people need to NOT use the […]

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 […]

Previous Posts

what poets do
I'm always trying to explain to people 'why poetry?' But today I found a poem that says it far better than I can, and by one of my favourite poets ~ Lawrence ...

posted 12:22:13pm Apr. 16, 2015 | read full post »

day 15 of National Poetry Month
Yes, it's tax day. But it's also the mid-point of National Poetry Month! Whoohoo! Today, I thought I'd share with you some gems -- haiku. It's a form ...

posted 6:57:23pm Apr. 15, 2015 | read full post »

keeping bees...
One of my grandson's earlier words was Bee! My phone wallpaper is a bee, and there are bees on my jewellery, on cups, on various elements of my ...

posted 2:59:22pm Apr. 14, 2015 | read full post »

the intersection of then and now
I've had a lot of different jobs in my life, as have many people. But I've also had several 'careers': jobs where you invest time & education to ...

posted 4:47:37pm Apr. 13, 2015 | read full post »

catching up on poetry
Each day of this month I'm writing poetry. (You ought to try it -- really. It's a LOT more fun when you aren't being graded!) I'm also reading poetry daily -- my own, that of others. And whenever April comes, I wonder how these habits got away ...

posted 1:21:10pm Apr. 11, 2015 | read full post »

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