Monthly Archives: January 2013

Day of Rest

reading

A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe. ~Madeleine L’Engle

There is more than one pile like this scattered throughout my house. Books I got for Christmas or my birthday, ones I’ve ordered for myself, others that I remembered and recovered from a shelf because I was gripped with a sudden longing to read it for the first time or again.

I started A Path With Heart almost 20 years ago, when I first got interested in meditation and Buddhist philosophy, but only made it through the first four chapters. It has sat on the shelf for so long that although the cover is a deep soft pink, the spine is faded to gray. It has waited for me all those years, and just now I feel finally ready for it.

reading03

Most of the books in these piles are as of yet unread. I am a bibliophile, a writer, and an avid reader, but I haven’t been able to keep up. As I mentioned in my dreamboard, I am hungry for reading. I am trying to go to bed a half hour earlier to give myself more time for it. And today, on this day of rest, I promised myself an hour or two of reading.

I thought this would be a short post, a quick point about the preciousness of reading, my intention to do more of it, but then I remembered a literacy narrative I wrote years ago, and have revised over the years since, and I am compelled to share part of it with you here, now.

Books have been an essential and enduring part of my life. Initially, they were bright colors and mysterious pictures, objects that I tried to understand through how they felt in my mouth or the sounds I could make by tearing the pages. Later, I was mesmerized by the way my mom turned these colorful squares into story and song. Eventually I understood that the letters, what had seemed to be accidental groupings of the ABCs that she taught me to sing meant something. The stories were there in the letters. And finally, my mom revealed the most amazing thing of all, that what she was doing, this act of magic was called reading, that she would teach it to me and I would eventually be able to do it, all… by… myself.

my favorite book as a kid

The first book I remember is Boo Who Used to Be Scared of the Dark. It was written by Munro Leaf and published in 1948. I don’t know where the book came from. My mom could have bought it at a garage sale, or my aunt and godmother Cecilia, who was a reading teacher that lived overseas with my uncle who was a pilot in the Air Force, could have sent it to me. There is a blurry, faded spot inside its cover, at the top corner of the first page, where the price was penciled in and then erased. It’s old enough that I know it didn’t come to me new.

I wasn’t old enough to read, in fact I was barely old enough to talk, so my mom read Boo’s story to me. I know it was a favorite, because when we got a cat, shiny black and skinny, I named it “BoBo,” which at the time was as close as I could get to Boo. Boo wasn’t even the name of the cat in the book, but rather the little boy who lived with the cat. Boo, a blue-eyed, blond haired little boy who was afraid of the dark, (and bugs, mice, frogs, snakes, thunderstorms, and dogs —practically everything), until Alexander the cat, his best friend who wasn’t scared of anything, taught him not to be.

“What are you laughing about?” asked his mother.

And Boo said, “I’m laughing because I’ve learned never to be scared in the dark again.”

Then Boo’s father saw Alexander sitting on the bed.

“Why, Alexander,” he said, “what are you doing up here out of the kitchen?”

And Alexander answered with the only word he ever said when grown-ups were around and that was just—

“Meow.”

I don’t know for sure exactly what it was about this book that I liked so much.  I know that I was scared of the dark as a kid, so maybe this book reminded me that there was nothing to be afraid of. Maybe I liked the idea that animals would secretly talk to kids. Maybe it was the illustrations, brightly colored and vividly drawn. I was too young and that was too long ago to be sure why, and yet, when I look at it now–the spine torn, the edges of the pages dirty and smelling of mildew, the corners of the cover worn away–I can tell it’s been loved. It is nostalgia in physical form, keeping its place of honor on my adult bookshelf along with the novels by Margaret Atwood, plays by Shakespeare, scary stories by Stephen King, scads of science fiction and fantasy novels, a small library of books about writing, a collection of memoirs and various books on Buddhism. I see it there and I value it. My eyes pause on its cover, Boo smiling and Alexander with a bright red ribbon tied around his neck, and I remember. I long for everything that it represents; innocence, childhood, family—a simple story that is repeated again and again, a story that you think will never end.

I vividly remember those first innocent days of stories, the hope and dreams that they inspired. As I sat in the painted tree house loft inside Mrs. Heilbronner’s 2nd grade classroom, the walls faded away, the tree turned real, and I became a part of the stories I read. I used every extra minute to read everything I could. I would start with the book at the left end of a shelf and work my way right, reading every one. Sometimes, I recognized things from my own life in the stories I read. Other times, I learned about things that I never could have imagined. Because of books my world was limitless. I could go anywhere and be anybody.

annefrank

As a fourth grader, I read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl for the first time. When she made her first entry in her diary, Anne was four years older than when I first read it, but there was something about Anne’s voice that seemed to come from inside my own head. She was so much like me. She loved books and movies, had one older sibling, wanted to grow up and marry and have children and to be an actress or a writer, she was independent and stubborn but also sensitive, she felt like no one who knew her really knew her, that no one saw her true self. She wrote in her diary because “I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart.”

I identified with Anne’s isolation and her hope for the future. And even at that young age, it was becoming clear to me that for every person like Anne, full of hope and possibility, there was another full of pain and anger. And at times, all four qualities could crowd inside a single person. We all suffered, and intentionally or not, we would cause others to suffer as well.

I’ve read this book many times over the years. Every time, I brace myself for the disappointment that I think will come because I never believe that the actual book can possibly match my precious remembered experience of it. I expect that it won’t be nearly as moving or meaningful—but it is, every time. And every time, my heart breaks again—that we as humans can be both so wonderful and so horrible.

We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become. ~Ursula K. Le Guin

Please excuse me now, kind and gentle reader–I have a hot date with a book or two.

#SmallStone: Day 27

Flight

flockofgeese

Somewhere outside the park, a series of loud cracks, the echos of a shotgun. A flock of geese who just a moment ago were happily resting in one of the baseball fields rises in collective flight, that of both kinds–floating in the air with wings spread wide but also fleeing.

flockofgeese03

The sound of their honking, loud and panicked and fast, excites the dogs, both of them pull and strain against their harness and leads, wanting to go faster, to chase, to catch up. When the geese are directly overhead, the force of their wings against the cold morning air makes them sound like a swarm of gigantic bumble bees.

flockofgeese04

Full Wolf Moon Dreamboard

From Jamie’s post: “The wolf reminds us to connect to our hunger, to notice what desires are calling for our attention. Our dreamboards can help us bring these desires to light and to being! This is an invitation to not just notice our desires but to begin the important work of tending to them, stepping into what we can do to honour what we know of our dreams. What a beautiful way to begin the year.”

The Full Wolf Moon asks “What are you hungry for?”

fullwolfmoonboard13

I am hungry for home, for beauty, for rest, for play,
for companionship and time alone, for comfort and joy.
I am hungry for books, for reading, for learning and dreaming.
I long to relax, open, deepen.

I am hungry for friendship and laughter,
to connect, to tell the truth, for tribe, for play,
to find comfort and joy in these things.
I long to relax, open, deepen.

I also hunger for elements of nature.

When you step out into the wilderness,
you must give yourself over to nature.
Respecting its power and unpredictability,
you must give yourself courage,
while remaining humble and awake.

I am hungry for trails less traveled, for space.
I long to relax, open, deepen.

I hunger for love, wisdom, and kindness.
I long to stay awake, to practice, to feel free.
I am hungry for life.

P.S. I find it curious that the one thing that didn’t come up, that I wasn’t hungry for is food.

#SmallStone: Day 25

Yoga

mainstudio

At the beginning of yoga class, a large man who makes me uncomfortable, who I “don’t like,” who bothers and bugs and irritates me, set up his mat right next to mine. I felt myself tense up, my jaw and shoulders tight, space closing in on me. I did not want him next to me, felt like he was going to ruin my practice.

Then I remembered all the messages the Universe has sent me this week about judgement and criticism, about dropping my agenda, letting go. This is yoga after all. If I can’t practice non-judgement, non-attachment, compassion, and gentleness here, then where?

So I did. I forgave myself for my ugliness, my nastiness. I allowed space for whoever was in the room, whatever would arise. I remembered my aspiration for this practice, set an intention to be kind. I took a deep breath and let it out. I relaxed and I surrendered.

Gratitude Friday

theboys

This post started as a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Running. You heard that right, and no this isn’t a joke. I am grateful that I am alive, healthy, and my body is up for it.

runningshoes
2. Clarity. About the help I need, about where to focus my energy, time, effort. I had an awesome coaching session with Andrea Scher this week, and her ability to see, her compassionate and clear vision, always surprises me, touches me, inspires me.

3. Good things happening to good people. People who have been working, trying so hard, suffering and struggling and loving as big as they can stretch, people who deserve it, people I love, people who inspire and support me.

4. Sleep. I’d like even more of it, but I’m grateful for the rest I do get, and that it’s usually easy for me, there’s no struggle involved, that I can surrender to it.

5. Laughing with Eric. Only he’ll understand this, but this one is for you, Mr. Salahub: “This is designed to hurt. This is designed to hurt.” I’m so lucky we find the same things funny, can so easily make each other laugh.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. This time has taught me so much about being present, about gentleness and play, about love.

bigdlittled

#SmallStone: Day 24

Morning

bed

I don’t wake up for the alarm, which is a light that gets progressively brighter instead of a sound, but rather my sleep is interrupted when Sam jumps up and over me. With a single sloppy kiss, I am all the rest of the way awake.

The moon is so bright it’s like someone left a light on. Long black shadows flood through the back windows the whole length of the house, making it look like I’m walking through a forest, but it’s really my kitchen. I go outside and try to take a picture of the moon, but I can’t capture it, not even close. Either the flash goes off and flattens everything, or it doesn’t and it’s all a blur.

As I’m getting dressed, ready to go on our walk, Sam is on the bed watching me, touching his nose to each item of clothing I put on, lying on the rest, both hurrying me and slowing me down.

As Sam waits for me to finish getting ready, he hears the rattle of tinfoil from the kitchen. He cocks his head to one side then the other, raises his ears, trying to decide if there might be food involved, if he should leave me in favor of a possible treat.

As we cross the river for the first time, a group of Forest Service workers train on the cold, dark, hard ground that’s part baseball field, part empty space. The sky over their heads is starting to change colors, shift to soft pink, bluish lavender, and deep fired orange. I almost trip over the dogs staring up at it. The sky will shift its pattern so many more times before it’s done that every time I look up, it’s a whole new sky. I don’t have my camera, so I know that later when I tell you about it, you’ll just have to trust me, and that there won’t be words to explain how truly glorious, how brilliant, amazing it is. And the dogs don’t care, or don’t understand, so they won’t back me up on this.

On our walk, Dexter decides we should go around the ponds backwards. All the way around, he tracks Friendly Fire (a small man with two huge Huskies, when they run at us he yells “it’s okay, they are friendly” and the resulting situation is never friendly, so we have nicknamed him “Friendly Fire”), whose car I’d noticed earlier in the parking lot so I’d been watching for them too. Dexter keeps his nose to the ground, and marks all the spots that need marking, every once in a while stopping to look up, around, ahead because he’s sure we are getting close.

“Can we go to the little dog park, Mom?” is the translation of the pause and look Dexter gives me when we get to the other side of the east pond, a place where a shorter trail breaks off and banks up a small hill into the trees. I say what I say most days (and especially this morning, because he had a bloody snot when we played last night and that makes me cautious), “not today, let’s go this way.” And as always, even though he knows what I’m saying (at 9.5, he understands many, many words and phrases for a language he will never be able to speak), I have to repeat it three more times, “not today,” until we are all the way past where we could turn and he gives up.

On a spot of trail where we can’t really turn around or get out of the way, a man with two dogs who we haven’t yet nicknamed gets too close to us. I am straining to keep the dogs as far from him as I can, walking as close to the edge of the trail as possible, holding the dogs both on one side, the one farthest away from him, but he doesn’t get it, doesn’t move or give us enough space, and Sam lunges and barks, Dexter strains at his harness as a deep quiet growl starts low in his belly and the hair on the back of his shoulders stands up.

The baby cow at The Farm is almost as big as his mama now. He sees us, bucks and runs. Sam is on his hind legs barking, but it’s because of a squirrel. He hasn’t even noticed the cow, and Dexter ignores him, more curious about Shambhala Jim (my friend Jim who I first met at the Shambhala Meditation Center, who walks the park and the ponds some mornings too), who we’ve been following ever since we came out of the trees. Dexter knows who he is, recognizes his hat and his walk from far away, sometimes before I even see him, and this morning he wants to catch up with him, keep track of where he’s going.

We cross Shields and return to Hanna Farm, our neighborhood. As soon as we do, I feel myself relax, not having realized I wasn’t already. And yet, I hold some tension, some anxiety until we got closer to home, until I know we are going to safely make it back. Every walk, especially those that start in the dark, are a trip into the wilderness, into the unknown.

#SmallStone: Day 23

The Sky

eddyjanuarysky

On the way in to my paid work office, I notice the sky, showing off the way it does. The trees drop their leaves and stand naked in the cold just so it can be seen more clearly. It’s why buildings have windows. It might be why we have eyes.