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Archive for October, 2009

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…you know the sprout is hidden inside the seed.
We are all struggling; none of us has gone far.
Let your arrogance go, and look around inside.

The blue sky opens out farther and farther,
the daily sense of failure goes away
the damage I have done to myself fades,
a million suns come forward with light,
when I sit firmly in that world.

– KABIR – (trans. Robert Bly)

Autumn in the Hudson Valley. This morning a blizzard of yellow leaves storms into the yard. Such an elegant, graceful letting go. Dancing toward the dark; toward the frozen; toward the time of sorting seeds from the harvest. I love this time of year. It is the time of root vegetables; rich creamy soups–parsnip apple; gingery butternut squash; cauliflower with potato, cumin and coriander. It is the time of pies and crisps; of hot morning cereals; of reading by the fireplace. It is the time of walks in the woods ablaze with color. The faint smell of smoke in the early morning, the smell of moist leaves and oak and locust drying in the woodpile.

I am in the autumn of my life. Officially, one year away from “early retirement” age. The thought boggles my mind–unimaginable! Now is the intersection of life experience and wisdom; now is the cornucopia of a bountiful harvest; now just is. Gray and white hairs, wrinkles, sagging skin tell a story so different from how I feel–strong, balanced, joyful, inspired, excited and filled with gratitude.

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life is a garden,
not a road
we enter and exit
through the same gate
wandering,
where we go matters less
than what we notice

– BOKONON –

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Five days of silence can change the interior landscape. There is no place to hide. The mind is a whirling dervish that slows and stills. What initially resembles a cell phone tower receiving multiple conversations becomes a clear quiet lake. The reflections there are not distorted and have no context…what is, what has been, what will be simply is, has been and will be. There is nothing extra; no footnote or interpretive analysis…no because…no cause and no effect.

This may sound abstract. Let me simplify. The man in photo above is my husband. We have been acquainted for over twenty years…sometimes knowing each other deeply; sometimes unwilling to be that vulnerable. I’ve concocted various story lines over time about him, about me, about us…now, out of silence, I see, feel and know that nothing can tear or mend the fabric of our loving.

FOR WHAT BINDS US

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down —
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest —

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

– JANE HIRSHFIELD –

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AUTUMN WAITING

Cold wind.
The day is waiting for winter
Without a sound.
Everything is waiting—
Broken-down cars in the dead weeds.
The weeds themselves.
Trees.
Even sunlight
Is in no hurry and stays
For a long time
On each cornstalk.
Blackbirds are silent
And sit in piles.
From a distance
They look like
Something
Spilled on the road.

– TOM HENNEN –

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INTO OCTOBER

These must be the colors of returning
the leaves darkened now but staying on
into the bronzed morning among the seed heads
and the dry stems and the umbers of October
the secret season that appears on its own
a recognition without sound
long after the day when I stood in its light
out on the parched barrens beside a spring
all but hidden in a tangle of eglantine
and picked the bright berries made of that summer

– W.S. MERWIN –

Recently I received a note from an “Inner Edger.” It was a kind inquiry–checking to see if I was okay; looking for a fresh post. I was both touched and inspired. I responded first by posting and then with a personal email of thanks for the concern. Below is a portion of the response to my email.

Your words and heart and path truly seemed to touch others in an important way. Why will you not post on a regular basis?  Can that be part of your posting? We all have lots going on…..but connection to others, known and unknown, is like a ripple in a pond.

I hope you will try to find to keep up your connections to the “Inner Edges.”

It’s so true. We all have lots going on. We are preoccupied in so many ways. Not long ago I looked back through my blog and was surprised by how much I had forgotten about my own life. Small moments, captured in a photo or a poem. Things that mattered, since faded and replaced by now, and now, and now. Knowing that perhaps those moments can touch another human being often fails to occur to me. So thank you, Peggy…thank you for urging me on and reminding me that we are all connected by visible and invisible bonds. I’ll do my best!

PS…to stay current, you can click the RSS feed in the URL box…

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The two Zen Masters in my life sharing a moment and some Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Snacks. My father and my grandson. Both so completely in the present. Both entirely captivated by the here and now. Each living his own koan practice.

My father posits, “When did I get here?” And, “How long will I stay?” Last week, earnestly serious, he asked, “When did I die–what year?”

Dashiell pauses to examine the lint in the corner; to turn the piano stool like he’s steering an ocean liner; to stomp in a puddle; to listen and talk with the frogs in the pond; to exclaim “fire truck” when the very faintest semblance of a siren–barely audible–sounds in the far distance.

Daily my father is loosing command of his memory. The moment is simply the moment without context. Whenever I visit him, I am barely out of the parking lot when my cell phone rings. His questions always predictable: “How are you and where are you?” And, “How come I never see you anymore?”

Dashiell is building memory; busy cataloguing and naming objects and experiences. He’ll sometimes soften his gaze…musing and say, “Pop-Pop…track-tor…” And then, because he is growing up with a dog and knows the command, “Come!” he’ll say, “Pop-Pop, COME!” as though he fully expects Pop-Pop to round the corner of the living room driving the green John Deere tractor with the yellow seat.

Sometimes I am able to tap a memory line with my father. It’s a bit like Morse Code…tap, tap, tap. No response. Tap…Tap, Tap. Tap…Tap…Tap. Ah, yes…2203 Wright Avenue, Greensboro, North Carolina. Yes, I remember! The white clapboard house perched on a small hill. The bay window and the black shutters. The brick patio and rock garden in the back. The 1948 round black Plymouth coupe in the driveway. Mr. Staley’s truck garden with tomatoes and shiny eggplants between our house and the corner. Yes, yes…I think I remember that…for now…for now.

A MOMENTARY CREED

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

– W.S. MERWIN –

The photo above was taken by my daughter Sara during a recent visit.

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It is 5:20 in the morning. A slight mist, cloudy sky, balmy moist air. I am climbing the path to the Chan Hall. I have no idea what to expect. We gather outside in lamplight and silence. We awaken our bodies with movement. The Dharma teacher gives a short talk. We are savoring the question, “Tell me who you are.” My mind runs wild and begins to unravel.

For five days we sit in silence, we work in silence, we eat in silence, we listen in silence, we walk in silence, we drink tea in silence. We do not write. We do not check email or voicemail. We are unplugged from the familiar and compelling electronic hum of daily life. We live in variations of the question…who am I when I eat…who is eating…who am I when I walk…who is walking; who is sleeping; who is showering; who is sitting; who is chanting; who is thinking; who is not thinking?

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At 9 o’clock each morning, the sun is above the ridge. Our Dharma teacher invites the bell and my whole body vibrates, resonant with sound. His morning talks provide clues…bread crumbs or small white stones, glistening in moonlight, on a path that winds deeper and deeper into a dark forest…he invites a shift from intention to attention; he speaks of thoughts as sheep that can be placed in their proper pens…can we let thoughts come, let them be and let them go?  He talks about our essential nature as being the dot in the center of a circle…the circle being defined by the outer edges of all of who we are and all of who we have been. We are invited to examine which stories of self we are favoring; and what happens when we tell the stories that we’re pushing aside or avoiding. We are invited to consider repentance. We must look deeper and inhale our question; allow it to circulate in our blood and live in our bones. This is inquiry. We must drop getting this right; we must drop answering properly. The whole story requires paper, ink, a reader and a writer.

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When invited to pay attention, I notice that there are two Christmas ornaments on the tall spruce by the fence line. I notice two indigo Morning Glories opening on the way to breakfast and shades of Lavender still in bloom.

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I look up at the crystalline sky on our last morning. It is very cold and the stars seem brighter and somehow closer. My mind is quiet. A sparse thought–more an image or idea of a shooting star forms. Immediately a star burns its way to the horizon. Everything seems both ordinary and miraculous. Even the dish towels and aprons that we hang to dry after meals are beautiful to me.

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Before going into silence, we are asked why we have come. I say that I have come to empty and to fill. I don’t know what I mean exactly. Yet as we complete the closing ceremony, I am both empty and full. Empty of what? Empty of a separate self. Empty of the romantic fiction that has funded the burden of my resentment. Empty of resentment. Empty of perfection and the lack of perfection. Empty of the cold place that put conditions on how I wanted to be loved. Empty of the cold place that avoided loving others unconditionally.

And full of what? Full of joy and gratitude; light and dark; peace and silence; clarity and breath…suspended in awareness of the present moment.

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The small ruby everyone wants has fallen out on

the road.

Some think it is east of us, others west of us.

Some say, “among primitive earth rocks,” others, “in

the deep waters.”

Kabir’s instinct told him it was inside, and what it

was worth,

and he wrapped it up carefully in his heart cloth

– KABIR –

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