Category Archives: Play

August Break: Day Ten

Yesterday, I bought myself flowers. The name on the wrapper was “salmon babies.” I love having fresh flowers in the house, especially on my writing desk. They are a constant reminder of how beautiful life is, but also how short and fragile. The Buddha said “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” And yet, I was feeling so guilty about the money I was spending ($9.99 plus tax) that I almost put them back.

This week is sadly the last of the summer session of Mondo Beyondo Dream Lab, and yesterday we got our final secret mission: buy yourself flowers. I didn’t read the email until after I returned home, still feeling guilty and shameful about the purchase, the indulgence. When I did read it, I cried–every message I received from this course made me cry. I’m not exaggerating: every one, every time.

The theme of the course was rest, play, and kindness. It was all about practicing self-love and self-care in areas I’ve previously avoided, ignored, rejected even. The permission, the invitation to allow these things to manifest in my life, to actively cultivate them filled me with gratitude and joy, overwhelmed me with tender sadness and relief.

I bought myself flowers, and felt bad about it, and then the universe sent me a message: caring for myself is not selfish, loving myself isn’t something to feel guilty about, rest isn’t lazy, play isn’t a waste of time, and the abundance and joy I welcome into my life won’t diminish anyone else’s share.

Day of Rest

I have learned a lot from my dogs about rest and play. This is most likely because everything dogs ever do is either play or rest. Think about it.

Walking = Play
Eating = Play
Cuddling or Petting = Rest
Waiting = Rest
Training = Play
Work = Play
Riding in the Car = Rest or Play, it depends
Rest = Rest
Play = Play

Rest and play, play and rest, rinse and repeat. This is the entire life of a dog. They do not waste their time on things like thinking about the past or future. It is always now for a dog.

Dogs are utterly comfortable in their own skin and fur. They would never ask “does this collar make me look fat?” or turn down an extra treat because they feel bad about their thighs. They don’t pay someone to dye the white hair that’s developed as they’ve gotten older, they don’t have anything waxed or painted or sculpted (unless the stupid humans decide their ears should be a different shape), and they don’t cover anything up. In fact, they are happy to walk around basically naked, wearing the exact same thing every day with no concern for fashion.

Dexter of the gray hair, resting after playing.

They make due with what is, are perfectly and absolutely happy with it, whatever. A small rug or pile of dirty laundry or spot of dirt and grass can act as an awesome bed, a sock or empty water bottle or stick make great toys, and walking everywhere barefooted is the perfect mode of transportation. A tennis ball found left at the dog park or frisbee abandoned on the beach are the best thing e v e r. That walk that you’ve taken or food you’ve eaten twice a day every day of your life is cause for celebration, every time.

Dexter and Sam know how to play.

Dogs don’t have regrets or guilt or shame. They typically don’t worry about what someone will think about them or wonder if they are cool enough. If they feel any bad feelings, it’s only for a brief moment and then it’s over, and straight back to rest or play. They don’t dwell on things, obsess or agonize, think about how they wish they’d done better, judging and bullying and smashing themselves to bits.

Dogs are models of self-love and self-care, having a sense of the natural rhythm of a day, the best and right mix of play and rest. Even when it can be annoying to be working and have my dogs bugging me for attention or a play break or a walk, I have learned to trust their instincts, to take the break they request. They usually know better than I do that it’s time. They ask for what they want, are who they are, and I want to be more like them.

Sam telling me it’s time for a break.

Wishcasting Wednesday

from jamie’s post

What do you wish to delight in?

I wish to delight in things that are alive, that make me come alive and feel wide awake: color, strong feelings, flowers, trees, green soft grass under my bare feet, birds and insects in flight, soft animal bodies, fresh and luscious food, movement, music, song, dancing, books, someone telling the truth and being brave even when it’s hard and even when they aren’t sure if they’ll be able to, the constant dependability of the waves and the sunrise and breath, things hand and heartmade, friends, long conversations, open hearts, laughter, his smile, the way he looks at me, the wag of their tails, a deep sigh, love, love, love. Even hard goodbyes, because if you love someone so much that their leaving unhinges you, and all either of you can do is look into each others eyes and cry (but you are looking, seeing, fully present with that person and that pain), and when you hug that last time, you don’t want to let go, it means that you’ve loved, and are loved, and I want that.

I wish to delight in the wisdom, gentleness, kindness, and strength of my highest, best self. She has such power, is filled with such love, and speaks to me with such confidence and clarity, knows how to be and what to do, carries the truth. She sometimes sends me messages through this blog, telling me secrets, encouraging me, telling me she’ll never give up, no matter what. She whispers to me in my dreams, in moments of stillness, by way of my intuition and through the beat of my heart. She knows what’s best, has every answer to every question that will every arise, and all I have to do is listen and trust her. She’ll never lie, never try to trick or manipulate me–she loves me.

I wish to delight in rest and play. I know I say this over and over, but my current approach to life–mostly work, work until I can’t possibly work any more–isn’t sustainable, and is certainly not motivated by love. I want love and joy and mindfulness of the present moment to be as necessary to me, as lovely and desirable as work, task, and toil.

I wish to delight in time and space. I want to be in the moment, experience and appreciate who and what is happening, show up with the confidence Susan Piver describes, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

I wish to delight in my physical sense of taste and movement, in my senses. This is a direct connection between myself and reality, the most vivid and immediate way in to the present moment. Eating, moving (“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.” ~Osho), breathing in air and scent, listening and looking at the whole precious world, taking it all in, the beauty and the brutality, experiencing it, even in moments of rest and stillness, connected and aware that I am alive.

Something Good

1. Before and after of a mess. I realize that this is really only something good for me, but I still wanted to share it.

before

after

2. Got my shirt! It fits and it makes me smile.

3. Peonies. I don’t know why, but I am obsessed with them right now. I am planting at least three or four bushes when we redo our front yard so I can have them on my writing desk the whole season.

4. Obi’s rose bloomed. I’m not sure what kind of rose bush this is, but the smell and color is intense, and each bud has about 1000 petals. It grows next to one of Obi’s favorite places in the yard, by the back fence in a spot where he could see both the front and the back.

In the last months that he was alive, every time a new bloom would burst, I’d wonder which would last longer, the rose or Obi. I took a picture of him next to that rosebush during those last nine months that ended up being the picture I posted on Facebook the morning he died. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time in the backyard lately, but I have been missing that boy like crazy.

5. I can no longer, another great post from Christa at Carry it Forward.

6. The (Fearless) Love Essays by Judy Clement Wall. They’re here, they’re here! I can’t wait to read my copy. And Judy so wants them read, she’s offering them at variable pricing ($7 suggested), so if you can’t pay, you can still download a copy–because that’s how she rolls!

7. An excerpt from Patti Digh’s Commencement Address at Guilford College:

Carol Sanders…writes… “Follow the idea that calls you. As you start on your own life’s passage, follow the idea that makes you wake in the morning without an alarm, that calls you to scribble ideas on napkins and scrap paper and to lose all sense of time, that makes your heart beat faster at every corner with the endless possibilities.”

Yes, please!

8. Cultivate Your Play Ethic by Hannah Kane on Scoutie Girl.

9. Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott. One of my favorite quotes from this is “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.” Amen.

10. The 3 Most Important Questions by Vishen Lakhiani. Holy crap, this is gooooood. Watch it, do the practice, do it now.

11. Summer Manifesto. I love this idea, want to write one–way better idea than my summer to-do list.

12. 27 DOs + DON’Ts for being a badass woman from Justine Musk. Listen to this woman, she’s a badass.

13. Call Your Girlfriend Robyn/Erato cover by Lennon & Maisy Stella. I loved the original version of this song, but I loooove these girls. They were on the Today Show, or some similar morning show performing this week. I want them to come to my house and sing me to sleep every night.

14. Infusing Play into Mundane Tasks from Leo Babauta at Zen Habits. I like the way he thinks.

15. Joan Didion on Self-Respect on Brain Pickings.

16. A Girl and Her Room: Portraits of Teenage Girls’ Inner Worlds Through Their Bedroom Interiors on Brain Pickings.

17. This quote from Geneen Roth:

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.

Amen.

18. Good advice for those attending the World Domination Summit with me (and hundreds of other people) in July.

  • A Story of Yes, from Andrea Scher on Superhero Journal, posted last year but still relevant, (she’ll be presenting again this year).

19. Live the Questions: Jacqueline Novogratz’s Advice to Graduates. Another commencement speech, another post from Brain Pickings.

20. Rilke on Embracing Uncertainty and Living the Questions on Brain Pickings.  Sorry for yet another, but this site was on fire this week.

21. Message from your Inner Pilot Light: When you choose to numb out – whether you numb out with TV, sugar, alcohol, drugs, smoking, or busyness – you dim my light. When you’re brave enough to face the truth, you’ll feel me glowing in the center of your chest, warm, steady, increasing in strength. Are you willing to face the truth without numbing out? With me, you’re safe to face anything. I’m right here.

22. A special offer from Susannah Conway. You already know how much I love this book, this woman, and this is a really great offer from her. Class starts tomorrow, so there’s still time!

22. Telling True Stories with Laurie Wagner, class starts on June 18th. I took the first round of this class, and highly and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Bonus something good: As someone who lived this era (the 80s) and loves a good musical almost more than anything, if this movie works, it will be so friggin’ awesome!

Full Strawberry Moon Dreamboard

From Jamie’s post: “The Full Strawberry Moon, the Full Honey Moon, the Full Rose Moon, what evocative names for this luscious, sensual moon. As we began to gather our supplies and images beneath the new moon, I invite you to consider the question, ‘What would I love to delight in this month?’  Let this moon set you free to dream with wild abandon, to bust through any barriers that have been in your way. Fill your dreamboard with whatever stirs your spirit and catches your soul – without censorship. Let yourself experience the luscious abundance of this moon and fill your dreamboard to overflowing. Let the pictures drip off the sides of the page.  Run wild with your dreams under this full Strawberry moon.”

What would I love to delight in this month?

freeing the mind
freeing the body
sweet dreams
fresh living

breathe
tucked in
easy, enjoy
drift off

something beautiful is happening
summer in motion
make every day a celebration
be gentle

journeys and destinations
get up
go
run
breathe
work it out
stretch it out
get out there

it’s life
a crazy happy life

The image of a person diving in to the water, diving in, jumping in and being submerged, immersed in life. At some point, there’s no more preparation or planning to do, you simply have to jump, (or walk away, stay stuck and numb).

Peonies, for some reason I’m obsessed with them right now, they are so full, lush and tender.

Water color paints, a flower wheel of blue. I am painting a bit, trying to stretch my creative boundaries, move beyond my comfort zone, and the blue is for the ocean, the beach, where we’ll spend a month this summer. That’s also why the book case, nightstand, all in white and blue, because there will be much reading and rest.

A woman napping in a boat, movement and rest. These are two things I crave, hunger for, would love to delight in, caring for my body, being in my body, moving and resting my body.

Typewriter and hands making an offering. These are both the same, the writing and the offering, my tender open heart, sharing it in the hopes of easing suffering.

And a strawberry–strawberry moon.

An Ode to the Backyard

the sky over my backyard

This post is Judy Clement Wall’s fault. A little over a week ago, on her Zebra Sounds blog, she wrote a post that was an ode to hiking. In a related post a few days later on her A Human Thing blog, she wrote about places of solace, and asked readers to share theirs in the comments. This led to a conversation between Judy and I in the comment thread about my love for the backyard, where I said “someone should write an ode to the backyard” and she replied “you should.”

Okay.

sam and dex in the backyard

An Ode to the Backyard

My whole life, from the very first house I remember living in (we moved there when I was still a baby), the backyard has been a place of solace. I find comfort and relief there, safety and peace. Almost everywhere I have ever lived, the backyard has been my favorite spot.

According to me, a good yard needs four things:

  • Lots of green stuff, (bushes and trees and grass and fruits and vegetables and flowers and at least one Lilac)
  • A privacy fence
  • Chairs and a good mix of sun/shade for sitting
  • Dogs

obi (oh how I miss that boy) and dexter in the backyard

The first yard I remember was magic. We lived in a small house (by today’s standards, but the same size as the one I live in now) with a huge yard, almost a full acre. In fact, the yard was so big that when my mom and dad sold that house over twenty years later, they sold the “garden” as a separate lot and someone built a house on it.

I remember a huge cherry tree, plums, lilacs, a weeping willow, maples, birch, pine and fir, and a hazelnut. When I was in the second grade, a forester visited our class and gave us all Douglas Fir seedlings. I planted mine in the corner of our yard, years later buried my hamster underneath it (apparently my second hamster, my dad informed me a few years ago–the first one had died and he’d replaced it because he knew I’d be upset). The last time I saw that tree, it had grown to over 25 feet tall, and made me feel small, old and so young all at the same time.

I remember pink roses, purple irises, tiger lilies, bluebells, and in the garden raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. There was a long slopped hill that we attempted to sled on when it snowed (which wasn’t often or much where we were in Oregon), and a long, wide field of grass below that saw many a football and baseball game. Our patio was a big enough stretch of concrete for both a basketball hoop and rollerskating. There was a family of Quail that lived in our backyard, came back year after year to have their babies, protected from the neighborhood cats by my dad. Quail babies are still one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen in my life, running in a line behind their Mama.

I remember my favorite spot, under the biggest maple tree. I would take a book and my green blanket and sit for hours under that tree. When I looked up, this is what I saw:

it was magic, it was medicine

Over the years, Eric and I have shared a few backyards, (we moved 12 times in the first 10 years we were married).

our very first backyard

this one was so small, I “mowed the lawn” with a pair of grass clippers

The backyard we have now, at the house we’ve lived in for 12 years, where all of our dogs have lived, is one of my favorites. When we were looking, we kept telling our realtor how important the yard was to us, that we planned on getting dogs, that it was in fact the whole reason we were looking for a new place (our condo had a patio but no real yard), but I don’t think she really believed us until we picked the one we would buy. She kept showing us nicer houses with little to no yard. When we picked this one, she said “I guess you were really serious about the yard being more important.”

obi at six months old, the first boy to enjoy our yard. i’d give just about anything to see him back there again…

the current residents, “helping” the mom garden

why the backyard needs grass

We live just a block away from an elementary school, so during the day, while they are at recess, our backyard fills with the sound of kids playing.

Because our neighborhood was built in the early 60s, there are lots of mature trees. In the early morning, this time of year, the sky is filled with bird song.

the view from my chair

succulent garden on the back step

There’s a Jeb Loy Nichols song called “Heaven Right Here” that is its own ode to the backyard.

So I’ll just take my time
And relax my mind
So I’ll stop – slow down
Watch the sun go down

Come on over to my yard
Sit around and let your troubles all disappear
Come on over to my yard
‘Cause right now heaven’s right here

raised beds, lilacs along the fence, a gifted garden of flowers, and a chipmunk we adopted after he was abandoned by the previous owners

sweet boy tomato plant

Maybe it’s because there is farming in my blood, encoded in my DNA, that makes me want to pick, plant, dig, and tend the earth, and this gives me a place to do so.

Maybe it’s because I love dogs and they love being in the yard, playing and lounging, rolling in the grass and chasing squirrels and barking and peeing on stuff.

Maybe it’s because I love to read and it’s a quiet, comfortable place to do so.

Maybe it’s because I am an introvert who loves solitude, being alone, but also loves nature, would rather be outside and barefoot.

Whatever the reason(s), I love a good backyard. It’s a place to retreat, to rest and relax, to read, to play, to listen, to be calm and still and quiet. It is my place of solace, magic, medicine, a living meditation on the preciousness of life.

Wishcasting Wednesday

from jamie’s post

What heights do you wish to reach?

In the Shambhala Buddhism tradition, “there is a developmental process for deepening and furthering authentic presence…called the warrior’s path of the four dignities,” (Shambhala Training Glossary). One of the four dignities is the Dragon. Sakyong Mipham Rinphoche describes the Dragon this way:

The dragon’s confidence is prajna, deep wisdom based on knowing how things are. The dragon knows we’re always trying to project a concrete world onto a fluid process, mistaking our ever-changing experience for a self. Like the elements, this kind of wisdom doesn’t need to be propped up. It is a direct experience of reality, empty and ungraspable.

As the wisdom of the dragon destroys our illusions, we begin to understand basic goodness, the unconditional purity and confidence of all. With this view, life itself becomes our source of energy, and the enlightened world begins to appear. The wish-fulfilling jewel of wisdom and compassion are liberated, and we can play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.

I wish to reach the heights of the Dragon, to soar in the sky, gentle and wise, above all my illusions and confusion and suffering, to “play in the blessing and magic of our everyday existence.” More specifically, if I had to guess, that might look like this:

  • Doing work I love, work I’d do anyway, for pay. To spend my days writing, making art, practicing yoga and meditation, engaging with amazing women, studying and serving. I would make a loving living, with the same quality of benefits and pay I have now. I’m not going to rush or push this, don’t need to force what I love to pay my bills, but I think that eventually it’s possible, and that I would be of more value to others, be more personally satisfied if this were how things were.
  • Yoga and Meditation Instructor Certification. These practices have meant so much to me, been so helpful, that I want to be able to share them, teach them, and want the proper training and wisdom to do so ethically and safely.
  • To reach my optimal physical strength and health, quickly and without obstacle. Resting when I need rest, practicing loving self-care, enjoying moving through the world in this body with minimal pain, breathing, walking, hiking, headstands in yoga, running, playing, eating, being nourished.
  • To be in a position to give, to help, to decrease suffering in the world.
  • Published and paid writing. Again, I don’t necessarily want to strip the joy from my writing by making it too work-like, but I also think there’s value in being recognized, validated for that work in these tangible ways. I don’t have a specific idea of what this might look like, but it would make me happy for my books to be a physical manifestation in the world, to be held in people’s hands.
  • Confidence. To manifest the funny, silly, brave, confident, open-hearted, generous, wise, gentle, kind, and creative women that lives deep in my heart. I want everyone else to know her like I do. They don’t all have to love her, I know she’s not for everyone, but I want her to be seen, to be known, to be realized and embodied, instead of a secret I kept, instead of a quiet whisper in the dark. To be confident in the way Susan Piver describes it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”