Monday, June 24, 2019

Dears-

The weather here is beautiful, cool and sunny. I'm in a funk but this morning I went into my studio and threw some colors on canvas. Now the long awaited dog walk and a trip to the pea patch to weed and water and harvest.

A few nights ago I went to a reading by Ocean Vuong for his new book, "On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous." I'm still in a state of wonderment. I have his book of poetry, "Night Sky With Exit Wounds" after encountering his work in the NYT. I taped them to my kitchen wall. You know when you read something that makes the landscape tip and suddenly the trees and sky are unfamiliar and you've entered a new reality? His work and his Q and A after he read!!! Please look for him on youtube.
My silent retreat was transformative. Sitting with nuns who have given their lives to the study of the Dharma, how to explain the warmth and kindness of their regard for all of us? I'm still mining the work I did in that week. It's taken me a while to 'come back' or maybe I've stepped over a threshold into some new understanding.

My little cat just caught and ate a spider while I was sitting here.

Being with the mystery today.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Garden bounty. The lettuce has slugs and the strawberries are sour but they grew in my pea patch and I'm grateful. Going on a week of a rotten cold with an impressive cough but going to work tomorrow in spite of it all. Taking cough syrup and throat lozenges and if it gets too bad, a percocet to keep the cough away. On Friday I leave for a week in the forest to sit with the Vipassana nuns.  I offered a ride to someone on the ride board and when I said 'the nuns' retreat' she said, 'whaa?' Oh dear. well, we'll have a few hours to chat on the way there.

In the West we don't really understand the concept of monastic life...well the Catholics have monks and nuns but in the East, the monastic community is an integral part of everyday life. You see robed men and women everywhere, in the open air markets and walking on the streets. And they go on alms rounds with their bowls. Every household supports the monastic community with food, shelter, clothing and medicine. In return, the monks and nuns offer the teaching of the Buddha freely, all who ask. It's a major renunciation, leaving everything behind to live in a monastery and be dependent on the generosity of the surrounding community. A tradition that has been going on for more than 2600 years. Unfortunately, the wealth is not equally distributed. Nuns are more often neglected and will disrobe because they are unsupported. In the West it is even more dire. There are a few nun communities on the West coast with women who grew disenchanted with the obvious misogyny of Eastern monasteries and have planted themselves in small communities in California. We who live out here have the benefit of their deep practice and humility. I've had the good fortune to sit with a number of remarkable women over the years and this retreat will be no exception.

It's just too bad that the larger community is largely unaware of the plight of Western (and Eastern) nuns. The patriarchy is a mean and powerful bastard. 

So the young woman I am picking up Friday morning to drive to the retreat will be 'treated' to a lecture. Or maybe I've gotten my righteous indignation out of my system and we will have a quiet discussion of the nuns' situation...

The teachings from these gentle, wise women is truly a rare privilege. Let's hope I'm not still hacking and snorting with this everlovin' cold.


Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial day redux

At the Un-National Monument along the Canadian Border

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed—or were killed—on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.


William Stafford was a poet who spent time in prison for his pacifism during the second world war. He wrote a poem every day, even the day he died. When asked if a poem he had written didn't rise to his standards he said, "I just lower my standards." He was a mentor and friend to Naomi Shihab Nye. When I stood with Women in Black in downtown Seattle during the Gulf war, I held a photo of Stafford. 

Friday, May 24, 2019

Not waxing rapsodic

Ok. So.

Annie, who doesn't hike, suggested for out last day together that we go for a hike. I'm game, you know me, a regular hiking fool.

I carry the 10 essentials (thanks for asking-whistle, compass, space blanket, waterproof matches, extra clothes, sunscreen and sunglasses, map, firestarter and first aid kit) in my hiking backpack. Extra water is important too. I'd add to that, protection from bugs-stay tuned. Of course, I'm 3000 miles away from my trusty backpack. 

We drive to east Jesus, way up in the North country, almost Canada, passing beautiful lakes and creeks and occasional fishermen/women. Arriving at the trailhead, there were quite a few flies and I turned to Annie and said, 'bug spray' and she said, 'nope.'

Ahhh so we started out gayly enough but these bastards:
began tormenting us by swarming and landing on our faces, necks, hands and anywhere else they could bite us. We were sweating and swatting and at one point I felt something warm on my face and it was blood. And no 10 essentials. We prevailed and ended up coming back down the trail on our butts because it was so slippery and wet. No matter. The insects were merciless. At the trailhead we lost our minds and COULDN'T LOCATE THE EFFING CAR. We went down road after road, becoming more and more disoriented. When I had one bar on my phone I called 911 and got a ranger. Thanks to the lawd for GPS tracking. He got us out of biting insect hell but I gotta say, I have the worst bites on my hands and the back of my neck. I couldn't sleep that night because every time I closed my eyes, I saw swarms of horrible flies. 

My sister doesn't hike so she doesn't know about flies between May and July when everyone sits around on their screened-in porches and watches the sunset.

I'm still scratching.

As a Buddhist, I revere life. Most of the time.  But I'll certainly squash a black fly in a heart beat. They are tiny dicks. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

The North Country

Me and Katrina, my oldest friend. We were young mothers together back in the 70's. Her son Jared just opened a restaurant in town (delish!) and Katrina and I didn't have enough time together. Not at all. We didn't even get to the 'what happened to so and so' before I had to leave for the northernmost point in New York State to visit Anne, my sister. Gotta come back. 
The Raquette River in Potsdam. Just off there was a dinky farmer's market with three youngsters playing their fiddles.
The Episcopalian Church on the banks of the river. 
The (very white) momma and her baby.
The view from my sister's back porch. There are orioles at the bird feeder, peepers as night, bird song all day. During the night there was thunder, lightening and rain. The moon came out brilliant and round behind the clouds for a few minutes. During the day we went to the Birchbark Bookstore back in the woods. The fellow there has a series of linked rooms, more like a labyrinth really, crammed with used books. At first they're alphabetized in sections but the farther back you go, it's more helter skelter. The shelves are all nailed to birth bark trunks. Wow. And he has an outhouse. 

There are Amish farmers here, in their horse drawn buggies by the side of the road. There are wild turkeys and deer. Deep wet woods from tons of rain. Lots of bugs.

Today we're planting starts, going to the gym (complete with country music!) and hiking? kayaking? We stayed up watching Iliza Shlesinger on Netflix and falling off the couch laughing.

Tomorrow we'll cross the border into Canada across the St Lawrence-told you she's far north. We're gonna walk the canal, visit the National Gallery of Canada and have high tea at the Chateau Laurier-fancy!!!

I grew up in this State, south from here in Syracuse where Katrina and I met. I am feeling nostalgic as we drive through the little towns here, the clusters of beautiful old homes, many build of limestone and brick, with add-on screened-in porches, gingerbread curlicues, some in good shape and many in disrepair. According to Annie, the folks around are quite poor. Small farmers can't make a go of it and are working at convenience stores and gas stations to make ends meet. The winters are brutal with lots of snow and gray skies. Very cold. I remember when spring arrived when I was a kid. Suddenly, it seemed, the air smelled of mud and there were buds on the trees and trillium at the edges of the forested areas. Here there are clumps of trillium everywhere. Along the river where Annie lives are small homes and mostly elderly folk. Annie knows everyone and watches out for people, the next door neighbors, the recently widowed gal she stopped to talk to yesterday.

When I think of Seattle, I feel the burden of the masses of people who live there, the masses of folks who are crowding the highways and jostling for affordable housing. I feel the burden on the land and water, the greedy reach for luxury and comfort and the suffering of the natural world that is being pushed out by massive housing construction everywhere. It's quite a contrast.

Here, the wind up clock is ticking and one of the cats is snoring. Sparky has a bit of a weight problem but we're working on it.

The day begins with red wing blackbirds in the reeds, calling to one another.


Thursday, May 09, 2019

Dance

This is Clark, surely one of the most magical people I know. He disappeared for 2 years and then, poof! appeared again with green scarfie things to twirl around while dancing. He sings and makes altars. I love him sooooo much.

Sometimes there are people who you are so grateful to have met. You love them right away and you take them back no matter what kinda trouble they've gotten themselves into. That's Clark. No matter what. You love them while they're trying to learn how to love themselves.

You just love them through everything.

Monday, May 06, 2019

I know you are wondering what is going on here. The family is burning the cord to seal it, twisting and burning. The baby is on the momma under the pan. Quite effective. I saw it the next day.

Then there's the family with a goat who sleeps on a dog bed in their room.

I tell you. As long as I live, I will not have seen everything as in: "I've seen everything..."

Enjoy the day. It is beautiful here. I attacked the laurel and whacked it WAY back. It likes that treatment. It is plotting to come back even stronger than before. I can hear the leaves and trunks whispering even from here.

If you are wondering what exactly the cauliflower pizza crust from TJs tastes like, I will tell you. It tastes like a soggy saltine cracker mash which has been formed into a pancake and after it's cooked, the edges are slightly crispy. A delivery method for sauce, fake sausage and cheese. Not an incomparable NY style thin crust made of WHEAT. Nope. There are some things that just can't be substituted.

If you  haven't watched the Netflix Knock Down The House, please help yourself. Four women, running for Congress, including the sparkling AOC. All of them deserved to win, only one did. But bless them for trying and for showing us what courage and vulnerability looks like.

To facilitate a Alateen meeting tonight. Another group of awesome people.