Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Off to Manton, California tomorrow. Unaccountably nervous. Me and Felix. He needs heartworm medicine which the vet today didn't have... there's a Costco on the way to the lodge so we'll be stopping there to fill the prescription. This trip has been very costly, between the car shite and the dog so I better enjoy myself!

AND I got a ticket to Burning Man which is a scant month away, another road trip and I have to get it together with clothes and food and a crappy bike to ride around on the playa. As soon as I return from Manton, I'll start planning that trip. Sheesh.

O the trials of this first world person!!

The day I return from Manton, I'm teaching the Dharma for a friend in the evening. The topic is translated as suffering or dissatisfaction. And tanha which means 'thirst'. Thirst for things to be different or things to stay the same. Meanwhile the neighbors are making a terrific racket with a power washer and a hummingbird is at the feeder.

I've lost 7 pounds without trying. Or rather without weighing myself at all for a while. I'm eating so much less. The last retreat reset some kind of inner clock.

So I'll take some Dharma books with me and my computer and write something about dukkha (suffering), rehearse it and then speak without notes. That's how I roll.

Friday, July 12, 2019


Snake

a loop of cold lightening
hangs from the lowest branch
as she looks up into the dark
coiling and uncoiling
she lifts her airless body skyward

at the top
a mother bird scatters
chirps anxiously from a nearby tree
chirps chirps chirps
into the silence

at first I thought to stop this story
from going forward
snake unhinging her jaws
to consume an egg
or a chick

I would get a stick
lift the snake away from the nest
restore my version of order
kindness

what of the snake and her children
she is doing what she does
to survive
find the pulsing life

dragonflies
baby birds
frogs

who decides who lives
who dies
what is the right answer
is there a right answer

do you love the snake too?

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Well, I did it. I borrowed money from a credit union who underwrites loans for solar panels and installation and they're gonna be here in September to install. My neighbor gave me permission to top his (ug) arbor vitae 5 feet. I mean, really, they are so tall they are growing higher than the roof line.

Then I'll have a low-interest loan payment for the next ten years, if I live that long.

And I've done my bit for global warming.

AND

My car is getting fixed all up and shite, I'm spending money like I have some. New tires, air filter, new battery, oil change etc. And I need new struts soon (whaaaaa) but I'm saving $ (?) by not flying to California. Maybe. It's the annual Mount Lassen/Manton trip and I'm bringing Felix this time. Me and the dog in my wee car. We're camping a few nights. I hope his nerves don't keep him up and woofing all night. We remember the CBD fiasco so I won't be trying that again. He'll have a blast once we get there, kids to play with and the pond to swim in.

But. I went to a new shop (to me) called Revolution Repair owned and operated by gender fluid folks. Trans men and women, old fashioned lesbians and the like. It was glorious after my time with the dealership shop. They took all day but they were so nice and thorough and did extra stuff like sprayed peppermint oil on my engine to deter rodents. I'm going back there, for sure.

Speaking of rodents, my tenant and I have seen GIANT rats in the garden and they are digging giant holes. Sigh. So Joey, the fabulous girlfriend of my tenant, is buying traps that electrocute them, not so Buddhist, I know. But ew.

Ok, I just saw a tiny bug crawling around INSIDE my computer screen. I think it might be the beginning of the end when the bugs and rats and blackberries take over and humankind becomes piles of bleached bones.

My 'roommate' returns from a conference today. She has three more weeks here and then she returns to New Orleans. And my house will be all mine again.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Today was busy with meetings and meetings and a gathering at my house to discuss (what else?) the dharma which means the way things are, the law of the universe, the teachings of the Buddha. I actually had a realization this week with a definition of dependent co-arising. I won't try to describe here but it helped to understand a bit more the relationship between our actions and their long range ramifications.

In simple terms, we effect our world by how we move through our world. Anger begets anger. Kindness begets kindness. We may not see the immediate results but it is there.

I recently saw a documentary called 'The Biggest Little Farm' which was filmed over 7-8 years on a 200 acre piece of property outside LA, in the midst of their terrible drought. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfDTM4JxHl8 The young people involved brought the land back from the desert by learning (sometimes) hard lessons about the nature of life. Pests, predators, ill animals, all came into play as they learned the balance of nature; brutal, exacting and persistent. They fed the soil and in return, the soil fed them, literally. Without pesticides, without shooting the coyotes (!), holding their anger, frustration and sorrow for the way things are.

We humans are too made of the elements and as we forget that, we perish. As I sit here in my little house, I look out at the trees and the bird feeders and the holes in the lettuce leaves and I think about the way I want everything to look, to be and I'll never be rid of the bamboo in my side yard or the blackberries that threaten to climb into my garden from the greenbelt. That plant is hardy! I do appreciate the berries for making jam but they prick and bite so care is always important.

In a few weeks, I'll be driving through the drought affected California scrub. It is a wonder to see what does live in a dried out area. One of the things the movie makers did was install an infrared camera on the perimeter of their property to try to figure out what was out there beyond their fences. Coyotes, raccoons, cougars, a badger, a weasel, owls, all sorts of nocturnal critters invisible in the daytime. So much to wonder at, what we don't see. The wide world is still full of magic.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I met a friend yesterday for a dog walk and a Dharma chat. The Buddha encouraged his followers to hang out with Kalyanamita- literally spiritual friends. When I hike with Holly, we talk about the meaning of co-arising or causes and conditions. Rachel is on a journey of discovery which includes her study of deep trauma, Judith has a steady sitting practice and holds her own pain with grace. I am so grateful for these friends who are studying and probing and questioning the causes and remedies for suffering.

I feel that those of you who read here are also deeply practicing and deeply living your lives; with your passions and disappointments and thoughtful investigations into the nature of existence, all existence.

The babies flow on and on. Parents do the best they can to raise their children with the least amount of harm. I remind myself that most of us do a pretty good job. The news cycle is full of aberrant parenting because the good parents aren't 'news'. My neighbors are raising their twin girls with the grandparents living next door. They have learned to ride their bikes under their grandmother's watchful eye. She tells me 'bonita, bonita' when she watches me water my garden. Their little white dog runs from house to house.

When we were done with our walk, Glenn asked if I wanted to meditate in the park. We found a place surrounded by flowers and sat on the grass. Eventually it began to rain, very softly. I could feel the drops in my hair and on my skin. As first I thought we should move or stop but I remembered that the Buddha instructed his followers find a quiet place, sit under a tree and meditate. We could hear children playing in the playground and there was some large machinery nearby but we continued to sit, the rain gently blessing us.

Right now the house is still. The dog is at my feet, the cat is lying in a patch of sunlight. Gratitude flows through me.



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.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypHZbtqSU48

Go. Now.

See this movie, produced by Spike Lee. It will heal you and give you hope.

My friend Nancy and I went tonight and the theatre was full of church going folks who hollered and clapped and 'um-hum'd' and when we left our feet did not touch the ground. And Nancy said this is the medicine that drives out the poison. And she's right.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Such good fortune to be close to this beautiful urban forest. Where Felix and I go almost every day. Someone in labor tonight and I'll be getting a call so better go to bed. Saw babies and pregnant mommas all day. Tired, very tired. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

For being so wee, hummingbirds are pretty fierce. They don't share at the feeder and they 'chirp' very loudly at one another to move aside.

In spite of that, their flashing magenta and green startle my heart.



Time to visit my pea patch. At least there is no roaming chicken to dig and eat my starts.

 
Love after love 
The time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other's welcome,
 
And say, sit here, Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
 
All your life, whom you ignored
For another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
 
The photographs, the desperate notes,
Peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

                                      Derek Walcott

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Posted: 17 Apr 2019 12:00 AM PDT
Michael Lavers
WILL EXULT OVER YOU WITH LOUD SINGING
That’s my dad, I say, pointing to the man in the photograph
with thin grey hair reflecting river-light.
And that’s my mom. My arch of nose, my chin.
I’m talking to my children, talking the way I do
about things that are not lost, that are still here,
knowing that it’s no use, that time and decay
do not obey language; that the dumb flesh of a tree,
for instance, doesn’t care about Samantha,
which word my son, ten years from now,
will carve into it;
doesn’t distinguish between the pain of his love for her,
and any old pain: woodpecker, beetle, axe, frost, flame.
* * *
Once, when I said she could not play
with a dead mouse, my daughter wailed so loud
I thought she might break.
This was in Great Falls, next to a riverbank
wafted with small blue moths. We’d strayed
from the playground near an overpass where people
seemed to be sleeping or hovering around fires.
She yelled Mine, astounding even herself, as if at the end
of the scream she thought there might be nothing left,
nothing of her,
nothing to listen to in this world.
* * *
The sad mechanic exercise …
—Tennyson
My mother was finishing a master’s degree
in psychiatric nursing, writing a thesis
on gambling addiction, on people who wear diapers
so they can stay at slot machines for hours,
even days,
and when we asked her if we should try
to get the last course waived and the degree granted
before it was too late, she said nothing,
as if keeping new and hidden counsel
with herself, or with someone not present.
And my father,
dead ten years later of a heart attack
in the bathroom of a movie theatre—the ticket-taker
panting out that sad mechanic CPR—he must have felt
a terrible silence growing inside him, or a noise
too loud to hear, the crashing stillness after
a long inertia, the indifference
of that small wet machine suddenly reluctant to bear
for one more second
the weight of his body. As if the soul
at the end of a long journey
finally stepped through a door and put down its luggage.
Thinking, maybe, if he listened hard enough
he could make out
why stars had lost their willingness to dazzle,
or where they were going—through what dark nimbus
or invisible crack—and why without him,
why so fast.
* * *
Once as a child I drove a hammer’s claw into
the trunk of one of the small maples
lining our driveway,
peeling bark away in strips as thick as fingers
to the underflesh, the soft wet honey-gold,
tinted a bit off-pink, off-green.
It was like being, or imagining that I could be,
everywhere at once, light
right there in the palm of my hand,
made still and, well,
mine,
in ruins. Light’s unsingable psalm,
a thing outside
our sad economy of come and go.
A brief end to stagnation, briefly glimpsed.
My father was angry, but mostly bewildered.
He stared for a while, then said only
that the hammer wasn’t mine to take, and that the tree
wasn’t mine to do whatever I thought I was doing to it.
And what are you doing to it, he said, and I said
I don’t know.
* * *
Poor flesh, love says, baring her teeth.
Poor agitation of heat, of stars, shaking and far away.
Van Gogh in the final letter to his brother Theo:
Well, my own work,
I am risking my life for it and my reason
has half foundered because of it—that’s all right.
It’s true no metaphor can save us, store us
like gravel in the cheek of Hallelujah Creek,
Creek of Unclottable Light.
But that’s alright.
Why not exist, at least for each other,
in love and thickly streaked and made to end,
believing if not everything at least
one of the minor prophets, maybe,
Zephaniah: he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
* * *
That’s my mom I say to my kids,
that look she has like mine, of somebody enduring
happiness, expecting grief. And that, I say,
is her diploma, framed and hanging on the wall.
This is your breakfast, bananas and toast and jam,
our one life, ours in the only sense
that matters, something that we make … make what?
Come forth, I think,
like stars, all flicker and distance, prodigal and dim,
but not so dim that if they vanished
we would not weep every night,
or stop trying, though we knew we couldn’t,
to describe them,
to remember.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Dears,

Just streamed a Netflix series called 'Special', written and acted by a gay man with CP. It's wonderful and funny and poignant and all that.

Did I say funny? And gay sex and swearing...

Each episode is only 15 minutes and I can tell you, it'll leave you wanting more.

More please, Ryan O'Connell.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

About to take the dog out for our daily walk. Danced with wild abandon last night and today I feel...fine. Hard to get up from my cushion after meditating but hey, still moving.

I told my friend Ryan last night that I'd totally date him if I were much younger and straight. He laughed, thanked me and we danced together on the floor, rolling around. There was one guy last night who wore very tight black shorts and a shirt. Last night he took off his shirt (um, eww) and wriggled in front of the mirror for an hour. I was chastising myself for being so judgmental but really I was having the age old argument with myself that women don't do that in public but men can. Harumph.

Feeling lonely lately. I so cherish my solitude and quiet. Often I don't listen to music unless I'm playing the piano. Just incidental sounds from airplanes, the washing machine, occasional barks from the dog.

But.

Loneliness creeps in and  I feel a well of sadness that lives in my psyche. I've been investigating it and finding the same dichotomy: needing significant time alone and wanting companionship. Friends are great. My various communities are nurturing. The Dharma reminds me that we're never really alone...but there is it. Loneliness washes over me. I so relate to other elders who populate the hot tub at my local pool, their need to talk, to relate, to be touched by the hot water. Indeed, it's a regular social whirl over there. Folks come just to sit in the tub. They don't even get in the pool.

So I sit with my lonely self. I don't usually descend into self pity. I continue to dive underneath the feelings to see what's there. And from there I can find comfort for those feelings, that abandoned child, girl, and woman who finally has the luxury of time. I say that because I think I spent years trying to get here, with working, raising children, having intimate relationships. I was always reaching for....myself. Now here I am.

As a line in a book I am reading right now has said, "Who am I?'

Who indeed.

Friday, April 05, 2019

I sponsor two young women in Alanon. Alanon is a program for family and friends of alcoholics and addicts. And in my case, mental illness and suicide. You who read here know some of this.
Today one of my sponsees called to tell me that she resisted stealing a pack of printer paper from her son's school which led to a long discussion of honesty.

There is the precept in Buddhism which says that we 'undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not freely offered.'

Ah yes. The small and the large. We concluded that honesty can be tied to happiness. I once went to a big box store for gardening stuff and realized that I hadn't paid for a pair of clippers, about 7 bucks. I went back into the store with the clippers and paid for them. The clerk was surprised and said the store wouldn't have even known.

I would have known. A far cry from my youth when stealing was some kind of subversive act. And perhaps the clerk thought about the woman who came in and paid for a pair of clippers because she was honest..at least that day.

More difficult are interactions with others. Do I steal time and attention from my friends? Do I hijack conversations by calling attention to myself?

I think about the times I've been robbed. While I work to forgive the thieves and to let go of the objects they've stolen, I'm also aware of the vast economic disparities that creates desperation.

I think about the times I've lied, exaggerated, and obfuscated. Honesty encompasses all of life, it seems. To say what we mean, to speak plainly, but with kindness, timeliness, and humility. How often do I watch my mouth so what I say is not going to hurt others?

Honesty feels positively old fashioned.

Listening to Mozart's Requiem right now. May spring bless us all.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Spring

Bach outside the light rail station:
A baby born in the car on the way to the birth center:
Glorious 100 year old cherry trees on the UW campus:


Saturday, March 23, 2019

Just home from an afternoon performance of Romeo and Juliet with a Deaf Romeo and Friar. They had other actors 'speak' while the Deaf actors signed. Clever and moving.

And it was beautiful and I blubbered all the way through the second half.

Gawd.

Shakespeare is so wonderful to listen to. 'What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun.' I chose to ignore the fact that their romance was about 24 hours long and she was 14. At least he was underage too.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The crows are making a racket outside. I came home from a dog walk and stepping out of the car, they were swarming and yelling. At first I looked high into the trees. Then I saw this:
A Cooper's hawk methodically tearing off the feathers of a fallen crow. I moved closer and she stared at me without moving. The crows are hollering all around her as she dismantles her dinner, one feather at a time.

My house is on a ridge and every morning the crows in their hundreds fly north. Then in the evening, they come back. I think they roost 10 miles or so south of me. They stream south, in two's and three's stopping to sit on wires or a tree. I like to think they are going to work in the morning and coming home at night.

Just before I took Felix out I had been reading The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman. And I watched this     

So a day spent with crows. And Cooper's hawks.

They are smarter, much smarter than we know.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Got the newest copy of The Sun today. The editors have made a real effort to diversify the magazine by publishing writers of color and including photos of POC. One article is a photo essay of homeless folk living in California.

I saw a few of my favorite homeless people today. It has been sunny and warm the last few days and I've been thinking about them enjoying the warmth after all the really cold days we have had here. Seattle is growing at such a clip, apparently the mayor and the city counsel has approved a 26 story apartment building in a neighborhood near my house. At least it will have affordable units.

Every time I hand a homeless friend a dollar, I am reminded that we are the same. We want to be safe and well fed and loved. We want to be sheltered. We want to be seen in all our beauty and complexity.

Tomorrow I go visit a new baby. I delivered their last baby and I was their wedding officiant. Just part of the family...

Sometimes I am astonished by my good fortune.

In a few days, this wonderful child of mine will be 44 (!) My home born baby girl.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Now and again, when the news is particularly bad, I find myself weeping. Christchurch, New Zealand-I think we can only stand so much before the grief, disbelief and sorrow spills over. A friend and I saw a movie 'Capernaum' tonight, filmed in Lebanon with astonishing 'actors' especially a child. But the poverty, brutality and despair were wrenching.

She turned to me and said that she can't see movies like this one, at all. So we made a deal-only comedies, light hearted dramas and beauty. Like Mary's chickens. Then we had drinks and warm chocolate chip cookies.

Still broken-hearted. Still on the verge of tears. The challenge to stay open and soft in the reality of the harshest incidents. Not to harbor revenge fantasies, or hatred and anger. Our collective shadow is rampant in the land.

At dawn, the humming birds come and sit on the back porch. The sky, streaked with pink and gold, behind the songbirds at the feeders. Such a small act, to keep those wild creatures fed. In service to their lives, the continuation of their feathery lives.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

That's right. I spent the last several hours working on my book. I have downloaded all the transcriptions of interviews I've done, I've located all the articles I thought would be useful and I figured out how to get everything off my external hard drive. And I wrote part of a chapter. The dog has gotten up, exhaled his fetid breath on me and gone back to lying around. It's time to take him and myself to the park so he can have a reason to live his dog's life.

I am leaving all the piles of paper on my desk to remind me that time waits for no (wo)man and anyway, why not. Secondary trauma anyone?

Bless all you writer types out there.

XX beth

Friday, March 01, 2019

Just watched a video of 44's jokes and funny comments throughout his presidency. What a sweet, smart, beautiful, sane, wise and thoughtful man he is. I miss him so much.

https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/president-obama-the-legacy/comedian-chief-obama-funniest-moments-president-n690166

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Today

Dears-It's my 69th birthday.

And guidance is interesting. In my working life, I've been a guide for families as they welcome their newest members. It's so hard being a parent! Nothing can prepare us for the rigors, the anxiety, the fierce love that is pulled, sometimes wrenched from us. And the long arc of parenthood falling into grandparenthood for some of us. The leaning back into received wisdom, the eye to what is and what isn't important after all. Love and acceptance, showing up, telling the truth to the next generation. I have spoken to my grandson in ways I would never have to my children. I am less attached to being liked by him. I am interested in being an anchor, if he needs one, because I am trustworthy and I love him, no matter what.

But today, as I consider my own mortality and the mortality of all I love, including everything, I am reminded of the 5 Remembrances: Old age, sickness, death, ceaseless change and the fact that all we 'own' are our actions. How do we conduct ourselves in old age. What does it mean to be old. This old face and body, the encoded reason for the death of this body, these cells. Unknowable right now but there, the dark angel awaits us all.

A brilliant morning in Seattle, clear blue sky with sun and birds. A bit of Mozart. Tea. The dog always game for whatever comes along. I think a walk in Discovery Park, a huge waterfront park with lighthouse and numerous trails. We can easily spend a few hours there.

I am listening for the voices of my dead parents, some guidance for old age. I remember my mother sitting on the couch knitting a yellow sweater which I never saw her wear. I remember thinking she might be making it for me (no). Each time I saw her, she looked smaller and older. It was always a shock. When you see someone occasionally, the changes are dramatic. I think that was the generation that never talked about real things: menstruation, sex, childbirth, aging, menopause. I learned it on my own. And decided to talk to my children about all of it.

What does it mean to be old, to get old? My desk holds a few photos of dear ones who have died. Gone before...I have time I haven't had before. Just being off call now is amazing. I just...noticed that I was no longer on the call schedule. What a relief. And is there some diminishment there? Some feeling that I'm no longer needed as I was. How egotistical. I've alway maintained that we midwives are interchangeable although our families remember just who was there and give that person special attention. We want to be special to someone.

I know I'm rambling here. Still putting it down and it is mysterious to me. We are exhorted to rest and relax, go on vacations, put our feet up, etc when we are old. But why? If our bodies and brains still work, why go into that kind of slumber? I sit and watch the young midwifery students conduct prenatal visits and they have heads chock full of facts and figures. I step in where there is a problem; a mother is depressed or angry, a family is in distress for some reason. I am less interested in the check list and more interested in the interplay, the mystery of connection and love.

And maybe that is a gift of the old. It's what we learn and study throughout our lives. A distillation of the ten thousand joys and sorrows. The deepest kind of compassion and equanimity.

Where there is love, there is life.
                                                   - Gandhi


Friday, February 22, 2019

Ug

Finally, this has happened. Organized religion, no matter what flavor, can cause tremendous harm. If you wanna read all this, please do. It's been a long time coming.... X Beth

February 20, 2019 Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Ethics and Reconciliation Council Statement Regarding Noah Levine 

Noah Levine was authorized in 2006 by Spirit Rock Meditation Center and Jack Kornfield as a fully empowered Theravada Buddhist teacher “to teach the Dharma of Liberation, in the Lineage of the Elders.” Although Noah Levine has never been on the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, Mr. Levine has taught at Spirit Rock and Jack Kornfield led Mr. Levine’s teacher training and is his authorizing teacher. Today, we, Spirit Rock’s Ethics and Reconciliation (EAR) Council, in consultation with other Senior Teachers and the Guiding Teachers Committee (GTC), have unanimously, indefinitely withdrawn Noah Levine’s authorization to teach. Separately, Dr. Kornfield has withdrawn his authorization for Mr. Levine to teach, and, following the Buddhist tradition of Sanghadisesa, will allow this to be revisited in years ahead, should Mr. Levine demonstrate a significant transformation.

In March 2018, we learned of allegations of rape, sexual harassment and other misconduct against Mr. Levine. Although he had not been scheduled to teach at Spirit Rock, we indefinitely suspended Mr. Levine from any potential teaching at Spirit Rock, pending an investigation by Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS), the organization founded by Mr. Levine and on whose Board he sat. On August 25, 2018, ATS publicly reported on the outcome of their investigation, finding that the preponderance of evidence showed Mr. Levine likely violated the Third Precept, ‘to avoid creating harm through sexuality.’ Based on these and other findings, the ATS Board, its Grievance Council, and its Teachers Council announced that Mr. Levine was permanently removed from teaching under the auspices of ATS. In addition, the ATS Board announced that ATS would close and cease to exist as an organization. The Spirit Rock EAR Council thereafter conducted its own investigation, a long and careful process of collecting information from numerous sources in order to determine Mr. Levine’s fitness for teaching. The sources of information included meetings with Mr. Levine, interviews of witnesses and a review of extensive documents. We interviewed several women who have alleged harm, staff members of ATS and another organization Mr. Levine founded, Refuge Recovery (RR). We watched Mr. Levine’s public talks and read his statements. The EAR Council also reviewed the federal court lawsuit by the Board of RR against Mr. Levine and the responsive lawsuit filed by Mr. Levine. The EAR Council shared the information gathered with the Guiding Teachers Committee, the President of Spirit Rock’s Board, and Dr. Kornfield. The interviews and extensive reports we reviewed are gravely disturbing, detailed, and similar in nature. They show a pattern of behavior that raise critical concerns regarding Mr. Levine’s adherence to the Spirit Rock Teacher Code of Ethics. The EAR Council investigation revealed repeated breaches of the precepts of nonharming by Mr. Levine; delusion about the accumulation of harms caused; a lack of willingness to accept responsibility for his actions; confusion regarding the ways his actions reflect cultural and systemic conditioning; and a failure to honor the explicit instructions of his respected mentors. Mr. Levine’s misapprehensions and delusion have led him away from the wisdom and compassion necessary to be a teacher of the Dharma. It is important to note that the EAR Council followed the EAR Council Grievance process (outlined here), including meeting directly with Mr. Levine twice to provide him with a full opportunity to offer information to dispute the allegations. The second meeting convened the GTC, Dr. Kornfield, and the EAR Council to provide Mr. Levine an opportunity to be heard and respond to questions from a group of senior Spirit Rock teachers. The meetings furthered our view that Mr. Levine could not perceive the harm he has caused or was purposely deceptive. Either possibility is deeply troubling and led us to conclude that Mr. Levine cannot be trusted to uphold the minimal requirement of a Dharma teacher – to do no harm. Even in the absence of the initial allegations of sexual assault, Mr. Levine’s behavior has otherwise been so troubling that we would have reached this same conclusion. It is the unanimous view of the EAR Council, Senior Teachers, and the GTC that Mr. Levine is no longer part of the Spirit Rock teaching lineage, no longer enjoys the support of its teachers, and may no longer claim any association or connection with Spirit Rock or Dr. Kornfield. We further recommend that Mr. Levine cease all Buddhist or meditation teaching and dedicate his energy to the rehabilitation of his own heart.

Mr. Levine’s repetitive and continued behavior, outlined by multiple sources, would be completely inappropriate for anyone, let alone an individual privileged to be an authorized Spirit Rock teacher. The EAR Council was established precisely to interrupt and prevent Spirit Rock teachers from causing such harm. These findings coexist with our knowledge that Mr. Levine has been of substantial benefit to tens of thousands of students, particularly those recovering from addiction. Many practitioners have only experienced benefit from Mr. Levine’s teaching, and we know a deep sense of dissonance can arise given the force of our conclusions. For some, valuing what they have received from Mr. Levine may lead them to dismiss the concerns enumerated here. We certainly do not wish to erase the benefit that many have received, and indeed, the value of the Dharma endures beyond individual personality—but that benefit cannot blind us to the fact that Mr. Levine has become deeply alienated from bedrock values of the Buddhist path: self-reflection, accountability, compassion, and wisdom. Spirit Rock remains committed to serving the larger addiction recovery community, and helping all those impacted by Mr. Levine, positively and negatively, to find refuge in the teachings of the Buddha and at Spirit Rock. If after a period of years in which Mr. Levine demonstrates a profound spiritual and psychological transformation – and a clear commitment to humility and non-harming in all spheres of life – we might consider revisiting this decision. The Buddha offered the possibility of radical transformation to all who practice his teachings, without exceptions. This radical transformation, however, depends on wise view, wise action and a clear recognition that the forces of greed, hatred and delusion have been transmuted. May Mr. Levine find his way towards this transformation…. We acknowledge the pain, suffering, and profound impact for all directly and indirectly involved. We offer our deepest care to everyone whom Mr. Levine has harmed. Spirit Rock’s withdrawal of Mr. Levine’s teaching authorization expresses our concern and sorrow at the widespread harm that has been created. Should you have any information you wish to share with Spirit Rock's Ethics and Reconciliation Council, please contact us at EARCouncil@spiritrock.org. For general questions, please contact Communications@spiritrock.org

May the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha remain our refuge.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Baby Callan is safely here and home with his parents.

Such relief.

I'm still in my bathrobe and it's 2PM. We had clinic all day on Saturday and it was crowded with mommas and babies until 8PM. Dang, I was tired at the end of the night.

Snow is melting finally. Last night I made almond flour cookies and hosted a meditation circle in my living room as I do every Sunday night. Sweet.

I must go outside and see the winter sun, watery though it is.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
-- David Wagoner
(1999)

Friday, February 15, 2019

For Ali's baby boy



May you be safe and protected from all harm and danger.
May you be happy, just as you are.
May you be healthy. May your body and your mind be well.
May you live with ease and comfort. May you be surrounded by love and compassion.
May you be free from your suffering.

Love always,

Beth

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

I drove (!) to my friend's house today to drop off the baby quilt. She didn't want to see me, too many feelings on the eve of meeting her son on Friday after losing her daughter in 2017. Oh, my heart aches.

On Friday I'll light candles and send wishes for safe passage to her and her babe. And her husband.

Tonight I'm attending a writer's gathering at the library sponsored by Hugo House (named after Richard Hugo, a local poet).

I've written here before about this loss. The mother's grief, the father's grief is incomprehensible. What to do with our grief, those of us who cared for them, the midwives and doctors and nurses? I have come to that terrible shore on my knees, willing the pain to pass through. It will never go away. It gets easier to hold it and care for it.

The thousands of stitches and hours I spent on the quilt was a way through. I once read about a pioneer woman who said that her hopes and pain were all stitched into a quilt. As she said "what that quilt knows about me..." And women back then made quilts from clothing of the dead. Lordy. A way to put grief to use.

The snow is melting, revealing broken plants and ruts in the earth.

Healing and broken, all of us. Healing and broken.

Monday, February 11, 2019



She's waiting for me in the morning to put the feeder out. I bring it in after dark so it doesn't freeze. We must have 18-20 inches out there.

I walked with some neighbors, helped folks out of snowbanks, righted garbage cans and threw snowballs for Felix.

Every driver (WTF) was a guy, fishtailing up and down the hills. What's so important you gotta  drive your Hyundai without snow tires AND STOP at the stop sign? People who grew up in snow don't drive in this sh*t. The only woman we saw was the mail carrier and she had chains. Duh!

I feel like I've been in the house for eleventy thousand hours. And I didn't even watch the Grammys. Sheesh.

I'm reading and writing instead. Reading Tommy Orange's book, There, There. It's so good. And listening to Mozart.

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I've done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden: and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

                                                     -William Stafford

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Dears, It's deeper and deeper. And quiet. No traffic. No planes.

Felix ran after snow balls yesterday. He would bark, leap in the air and then wonder what happened to his ball when it hit the ground. Silly dog.

The humming birds are ok, I think. I bring in their feeder at night so it won't freeze and hang it out again in the morning.

It is still snowing.

Between being sick and the weather, I will complete a quilt I've been working on for my friend who lost her baby in 2017. She's due in a week or so. Hand stitching is what I do. It's a meditation.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

We're supposed to get another foot of snow so we better get dog/cat food and people food for the duration. And freezing weather. The poor hummingbirds. Their feeder keeps freezing.

A kindly neighbor left me some instant hand warmers on my windshield.

Speaking of windshield, there was ice on the INSIDE of the window after I got all the ice off the outside of the car.

Sheesh.

At least I'm at work. The topic here is the situation of someone who goes into labor during the, uh, armageddon storm. I have chains but scary hills to traverse and a wee light car. As someone who grew up in deep upstate New York winters, I have a healthy respect for bad weather, which most of my fellow citizens don't understand. It's nothing to fuck with.

I've spun on ice, I've been overturned on highways and I've front ended trees. Ice is not even for walking really. And I'm a good careful driver. Folks around here don't get the hills, the cold and what their cars are able to do realistically.

Therefore, we are praying to the birth goddess that she don't stir any pots until we're out of the weather, literally. Otherwise, we're sending ladies to the hospital in an ambulance (at least they have chains).

And it will give me another week to cough in the privacy of my living room and establish that I have exhausted all Netflix and Amazon Prime that was even slightly decent and I'm down to watching questionable series or listening to Dharma talks I've already heard.

Oh, and the cat pooped in the shower. I have been so neglectful in my illness.

This is how it begins. Lordy.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Saturday, February 02, 2019

You know you're really sick when:

You can't tell if it's 7 in the morning or 7 at night.
Food is tasteless, no matter how much you usually enjoy it.
You call the naturopath in your office and ask her to check on you periodically to be sure you haven't died.
You wish you had died.
You think you might still.
You step on a pile of dog shit in your bare feet while coming into the kitchen. It wasn't his fault. He hadn't been let out due to the aforementioned time confusion.
Um, and that was COLD dog shit.
You toss kleenex on the floor and by morning, there is quite a pile.
Your counters are clogged with Vitamin C, lemon juice, Nyquil, immune tincture, etc etc.
Your optimism has disappeared that 'this time' you weren't going to get really sick and it would just blow over after a few days. HA!
Your intercostals ache from coughing.
You get in the hot tub DURING THE DAY and who the hell cares who sees you.
You are streaming all the Harry Potter movies, and that's about 19 hours, folks.

I will probably live this time. I tell you, it was touch and go last night. You know, that dark night of the soul when you wake up to heave yourself out of bed to pee and cough and you think that one of these times, you'll just give it up. Let Jayzus take me in his everlovin' arms. I'm still here and on to the 4th installment of HP.

I'm sure this has nothing to do with visiting my lawyer to get my will and advanced directives re-written. Nothing at all.