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Archive for the ‘Obsessions’ Category

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I’ve heard it said that “life is fired at you point blank.” These days, I am learning more about this and more about my capacity to respond and my tendency to react…my ability to surrender; let go and my tendency to cling…my attachment to “expert/ all-knowing/ controlling mind” and the possibility of non-attachment in “beginner’s mind.”

When something has to give, I let go of blogging. I think that altogether I’ve missed maybe four days. Yet, I carry the sense of “what-has-this-day-been-about” in my belly…musing; reflecting.

In this holiday time, I notice that my energy is very much about doing–working, baking, shopping, decorating. I also notice that there is something that is changing about how I do “doing” and the pleasure of simply being present while managing multiple “to do’s” in my own head.

There are four kinds of cookies that generations of women in my motherline always baked at Christmas. The tricky ones are the Scottish Shortbread which require 20 minutes of kneading and the Sand Tarts which must be rolled paper thin. I  remember my mother making dozens of each and us devouring them–I also remember her swearing–rolling pin in hand–frustrated by cookie dough sticking, burning and generally being difficult to handle. She was taught that only way to roll the dough thin was to have it very cold…which meant you really needed arms like Popeye because it was so stiff. She tried rolling between sheets of wax paper–only marginally helpful. Still, somehow, she got them construction paper thin while her mother managed to get them tissue paper thin.

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the morning, I rolled out three trays. At first, I found myself tackling the dough–dominating with my rolling pin and struggling a bit–in the mode doing what needed doing. Then, something in me settled; relaxed; let go. I rolled gently and only a little at a time and stayed present and patient and remembered that my motivation for doing this in the first place was the pleasure of watching people enjoy eating them and the deep sense of connection with years of tradition. I thought about my own daughters baking them for their families and friends in the future. I thought about how so many family traditions fall by the wayside…and how those that we carry on nourish and nuture the soul.

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“Organized???”

Yikes! Time is flying by. Last night suddenly it was 2:30 in the morning…I was doing dishes and cleaning up after a round of cookie baking. And, I didn’t write my blog–there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I love this time of year. I frequently resolve to be more organized–have yet to pull it off…many a Christmas eve, my husband and I have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning.

I promise to take some pictures soon. Forgot my camera today. Maybe, I’ll even pass along some recipes…

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On Wednesday night we drove to the City to hear a lecture by Joseph LeDoux. Unlike some recent trips to Manhattan, everything just flowed…traffic was light; we parked on the street almost in front of our destination–the Tischman Auditorium at NYU’s Vanderbuilt Hall. LeDoux is a premier neuroscientist–his focus is on fear conditioning, the “synaptic self” and what he calls the “emotional brain.” Interesting material to say the least. Even better–he followed the lecture with a performance of his band, The Amygdaloids. They call their music, HEAVY MENTAL and feature songs like, Inside of Me, Memory Pill, Mind-Body Problem, etc.

I must admit, I am increasingly curious about the brain–and about memory as I watch my father decline mentally. His short-term memory is non-existent; he is forever misplacing things and endlessly frustrated. I have my own versions of this experience: I go downstairs only to wonder what for; I don’t remember names like I used to and I now understand why people do crossword puzzles–I often “know” the word, but can’t think of it. As I meander into the next decade of my life, I’m armed with Omega 3’s and servings of salmon; vitamins, trace minerals, organic foods.

I’m hoping that I’ll be like more like my grandmother, who remained sharp and alert into her nineties. The last time I saw her, she was sitting in an arm chair in the nursing home. Her hair perfectly white with every hair in place; she had on a Doncaster tweed suit, spectator pumps and pearls. She was reading the financial section of the Wall Street Journal, as she did every day–watching her portfolio.

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A few days ago, I was “tagged” by my blog friend, Brian. I’m sometimes a little slow on the uptake and I’m always up for a good game…here’s how we play:

*These rules must be posted before giving you the facts.

* Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

* People who are tagged write their own revealing blog about their eight random facts and post the rules. At the end of the blog post, you choose eight people to tag and list their names.

* Remember to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

That said, I’ll fill you in on obscure and random facts about me:

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  • For five years, I lived without indoor plumbing and, part of the time, without electricity. I did have phone service off and on (long before the days of cell towers). In the pink adobe on Ella Drive, I shared a party line with several Latino families; and there was always the pay phone by the Post Office.
  • On August 15, 1965, I was one of the 55,600 people at Shea Stadium…most of them teenage girls…who were there to see The Beatles. I took the LIRR with four of my high school friends–the cars were jam packed with screaming pubescent adolescents, covered with Beatles pins, Beatle hats, Beatle tee shirts, dolls, you-name-it. The conductors threw up their hands in dismay and never collected any fares.
  • I’m embarrassed to admit that I got 2 “D’s” as an undergraduate. One in physics and one in German. I don’t know what possessed me to take either of these courses.
  • I was arrested once, crossing the border at Vancouver. My 1960 Volkswagen Bug was impounded; I was strip searched, terrified and detained for five hours. I’ll never forget the sweaty Customs Agent sitting beneath a huge poster of Richard Nixon with a gram scale on his desk and a DEA reference book the size of an unabridged dictionary. Next to the gram scale was a plastic baggy of dried peyote buttons that vaguely resembled dried organic apricots. I “bought” my car back for the $200.00 that my former husband and I had between us–I seem to remember that they returned the peyote out of frustration and two months later, I got a letter saying that all records of the event had been expunged. Translation: $200.00 in the pocket of the sweaty Customs Agent.
  • I secretly dream of being a hip-hop dancer.
  • I once hitchiked from Santa Cruz to Albuquerque…during that era, I was a belly dancer.
  • My not-so-secret dream is to spend time in Wales. I hope the Welsh version of The Rosetta Stone is good–I’ve never seen so many consonants lined up together…and I thought German was difficult! To say, I get up early every day would be, Codaf yn gynnar bob dydd. Or, I’ll get up early tomorrow is, Codaf yn gynnar yfory.
  • The great irony of my life is that I lived with suicidal ideation for years. As soon as I had kids and especially now that I’m closing in on 60, I really, really, really want to live for a long, long, long time–of course in healthy state of mind, body and soul..I might add that I want the same for everyone I know and love.

Tag…you’re it…Sara, David, Kathleen, George, Terry, Skip, Katherine, Bill!

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This morning I awake from a vivid dream. I am in an unfamiliar pottery studio, examining some pieces that have just come out of a kiln. I’m preparing to do a firing. I look at the kiln; I’ve never used it before–it’s nothing like the one I actually used for 13 years of my life. I find myself assessing the situation–hmmm. Checking the burners; deciding whether I need to build a “bag wall” to baffle the flame; wondering how to adjust the flue; thinking about cone packs; looking to see if the shelves are silicon carbide and can withstand high temperatures. I’m aware that I’m afraid. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around who has much experience.

Later, driving to Croton to catch the train, I reflect on the dream. I remember all the years of sitting at my wheel day after day; my on-going dialogue with the clay; the instant feedback with regard to my being centered. I remember learning to let go…to let go of my attachment to results; to deeply surrender; to accept, accept, accept.

I created and scrapped thousands of pieces in those 13 years…some never made it off the wheel head; some never made it through the trimming process; some didn’t make it to the bisque firing; some were fired to cone 10 and met my standard. Those were wrapped, packed and shipped to galleries. And some came out of the kiln and were smashed into a million pieces by me in a fury of disappointment and rage.

I remember noticing–the hotter the flame, the smoother the glaze–to a point. I was young; innocent…wanting to burn through life…thinking I would always be a potter grappling with artistic expression, quality and craftsmanship. I thought life was simple and that I could master centering, acceptance, surrender and non-attachment. It’s been almost 23 years since I made my last piece…centering, acceptance, surrender and non-attachment continue to be my practice.

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One afternoon in early March, I took 40 pictures of a single rose. I lost myself in the light and the angles and the possibilities–the shutter speed, the macro adjustment. Today something similar took place.

Because I do a lot my work on the telephone, I have the privilege of working at home. On beautiful days, I put on my headset and sunscreen and lounge on my deck. Now with wireless, I can sit in the shade with my iBook. I am a very lucky woman.

This afternoon, as daylight faded, the wind kicked up–the weather report predicted that a “cold” front would be moving through, followed by the possibility of rain and then cool dry air. Suddenly there was a shower of maple wings–the most perfectly aerodynamically designed seedpods helicoptering in platoons and landing gracefully all around me.
I admit, I got a little carried away…

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PS…Regarding yesterday’s post–I can’t say that I completely understand Atisha’s Mind Training Slogans…they just bend my mind into a pretzel which I think is probably a good thing…However…these I think I understand…

[from] Point Seven
Guidelines of Mind Training

52. Don’t misinterpret.
53. Don’t vacillate.
54. Train wholeheartedly.
55. Liberate yourself by examining and analyzing.
56. Don’t wallow in self-pity.
57. Don’t be jealous.
58. Don’t be frivolous.
59. Don’t expect applause.

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I have to say that there are days when I am just at loose ends. I start out with the best of intentions around creativity, productivity and the like and then for one reason or another, things go south. Today, the landslide started with a phone call at noon time…the rest of the day was backlit by sadness and confusion.

Tonight, I stay for meditation after hatha practice. Sitting on my cushion, the tears come…nameless really…just a diffuse and profound sense of loss. Yesterday, I finished reading The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I was overcome with grief at the end…it is an enduring look at rightgeousness, religion, belief, relationships, nature, the earth, indigenous people and so much more…this, too, I’m sure contributed to my being at loose ends.

Coming home, I think about Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun and student of Chogyan Trungpa, the Tibetan meditation master. At times like this, I tend to gravitate to “the practice”…searching for some tried and true method of balance and centering. As you may remember, I love instructions and cryptic advice from great spiritual beings…

In her book, The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron has an Appendix of Practices. It includes The Mind-Training Slogans of Atisha. Perfect. Here are a few of my favorites:

Point Six: Disciplines of Mind Training

23. Always abide by the three basic principles.
24. Change your attitude, but remain natural.
25. Don’t talk about injured limbs.
26. Don’t ponder others.
27. Work with the greatest defilements first.
28. Abandon any hope of fruition.
29. Abandon poisonous food.
30. Don’t be so predictable.
31. Don’t malign others.
32. Don’t wait in ambush.
33. Don’t bring things to painful point.
34. Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.
35. Don’t try to be the fastest.
36. Don’t act with a twist.
37. Don’t make gods into demons.
38. Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness.

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