Saturday, May 30, 2020

I'm not ignoring the hideous fuckery that is the current state of affairs. Another Black man murdered. A man pretty much like my neighbor who hosts barbeques for vets every summer and has a couple of grown kids and a sick sister and an amazing collection of restored cars and a pear tree in his yard that he lets me pick. A regular guy. A guy who drags his DJ stuff out to his porch and blasts Motown to the street on the weekends so we can dance. I've given him jam and fish and banana nut muffins. We talk about the world together and we do agree that we're scared of the virus and the president.

Or my next door neighbor who is Mexican and sold this house to me. He has a brother who lives two doors away and they have twin girls who were little kids when I moved in and now they're teens. He lives with his elderly parents but they're in Mexico and there until it's safe to come home. He owns a restaurant and he asked if I'd make masks for his workers so I did and he brought me burritos and enchiladas. I share jam and tomatoes and cucumbers with him and his family. And we talk in the street.

Or my neighbor a few doors down who has AIDS and had a heart attack a year ago and has a pacemaker. He's grown a long white beard and he looks like a skinny Santa. He has two big friendly dogs and his yard is immaculate. He's been shopping for me and bringing me the Sunday NYT after he's done with it. We have a divided road down here in the south end and usually the strip is mowed but not this year. The grass is up to my waist. But this neighbor got out his lawn mower and mowed at least a quarter of a mile by our houses. Looks great. He comes over and mows the tiny strip in front of my fence. Just because. I have baking tins to return to him on the counter. And he brings me warm cookies.

Next to him is a Chinese family and the grandma has been carrying around the newest member of the family in a sling on her back. Or she's pulling two young children in a red wagon down the street. They have chickens in their back yard.

Since the pandemic, we are friendlier and kinder to each other. We are keeping track of each other. We are watching a homeless encampment ebb and flow down the end of the street, wondering what to do about the ragged men and women who are sleeping in their broken down cars and RVs.

Sometimes I wish the president would disappear forever, I don't care how.

Sometimes I concentrate instead on the multitudes of kindnesses that I am so fortunate to enjoy from those directly around me.

Gratitude that we are all healthy right now. Compassion for those of us who are not healthy. Gratitude for a roof and food and family and love. Gratitude that it is raining and I don't need to water today. Gratitude for strawberries and the small shoots of the peas.

Despair and gratitude, coexisting in my heart.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I got my teeth cleaned yesterday.  We will pause here for a moment of silence.

They took my temp, they made me wash my hands, they were PPE'd to the gills. Everything was covered in plastic. BTW, I love my dentist. He's a good man and he takes care of his employees. They stay with him.

Anyway. About 15 minutes in, I realized that my hygienist was the first person to touch me since March 17th. Well, she leaned on me a bit and put her gloved fingers in my mouth. But still.

On my walk yesterday, I finally met Leticia, the woman who has the most beautiful garden. She took me into the back yard and O, she can see the lake and the mountains. She has a fountain. And so many flowering plants.

Here she is. And they bought that house in 1995 so she's had time to get it right.

Now this is my garden and this is my elderberry. What a beautiful plant she is. My gardener friend warned me that this girl would get, ahem, big. Lord. I should try to figure out how to make elderberry syrup.

In the 80's today. A bunch of us old swimmers met in the pool parking lot to get caught up.  How can we break into the pool? Should we try under the cover of darkness? As soon as the lake is bearable, I'm getting in...and swimming to the other side. Nah, kidding. I'd be killed by a jet ski. Anyway it's a a mile and a half wide.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Spent the last two days in 'retreat' with a few Buddhist teachers and 37 participants. And I must say. I am feeling fortunate to be able to do this, to have the $$ to afford to pay for a retreat (paid pre-covid) and to immerse myself in the teachings, specifically the Eight-fold path which constitutes the Fourth Noble Truth (there will not be a quiz). As you know, I have studied Buddhism for many years and I still feel like a rank beginner. My mind still wanders, I still think evil thoughts, I still overeat and am lazy and so on. But as I heard a teacher once say, 'I 'm a little less reactive than I used to be.' Perhaps that could be arrived at just by getting older. I like to think it's partly because of my practice.

My practice has also put me in the way of some remarkable people: Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Analayo, Ma Kamala, many beautiful nuns, my dear teacher Adrianne; all people who  have dedicated their lives to offering a way out of suffering.

Forgive me for sounding like an advertisement for a spiritual practice. No one has to join. I merely sharing my gratitude today for my good fortune.

My gall bladder is still pestering me. Before covid I was contemplating getting it out. After 55 years, I've had enough. It has certainly taken a back seat to more pressing concerns, ha! The surgeon called me in mid-March and we both said-nah, not now. I hear that hospitals are allowing for elective surgeries but, um, I'll wait. Mostly, it doesn't hurt, just feels like pressure. Sigh.

My swimming pool ladies who I miss like crazy are having a 'wilding' in the pool parking lot  next Monday. I can't wait. I'm gonna cue up Steve Winwood's Higher Love.

And then there's this-the perfect answer to our current lives:

Saturday, May 16, 2020

My tenant is  crying, sobbing really.

She's not asking for help but it's hard not to respond to her. She's lost her job. Her relationship has ended. Listening to her, I hear the cries of the world, all of us in isolation and fear.

My friend Teresa and I are in the midst of our on-line childbirth class, focusing on mindfulness. Teresa's background is in secular mindfulness, mine is, well, on the wisdom of the Buddha. As we teach our students to begin to embrace the present moment, I send love and kindness to my tenant. May she find her way out of her suffering. May she be held and healed.

May we all be filled with the light of lovingkindness and know the grace of compassion.


we've got nothing
our bucket is empty
crows fly south every evening
over Beacon Hill

time rolling on
while we mutter
behind our masks

tulips give way to lilacs
then rhodys then stargazers
in other years
we're too busy to notice

but now
it's a shock to wake up
one more morning
no cough
headache or heat

just the cat on the pillow
dog by the back door
amazement that we're still


Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Well, then.

The day cleared up after a bit of rain. I worked (!) all day on Zoom with clients because our dear Abby, one of the midwife/naturopaths has taken off to California. Her father died suddenly on Tuesday and we are all bereft without her. And we don't know why he died. Whatever the reason, we are collectively sad for and with her.

I got called back in to work (virtually) and offered to be backup at births if need be. I'd only go covered in PPE and sit away from the action with the computer recording the doings. And I'l help clean up. Apparently they had 8 births in 7 days last week. It's slowed down this week but hey, it's only Tuesday.

The rest of the week is more Zoom meetings with clients. I've been wanting more work, but not like this. I must say, it's given shape to my day.

Felix is getting a real haircut tomorrow, praise the baby jesus. I cut off his topknot and tail fluff and he looks really terrible. I'm not kidding. His head looks all small and his body just looks...weird. The groomer is out in the boonies and does one dog a day. He'll be bathed and clipped and shaved and combed. If you even want to know about poodle maintenance, feel free to ask me. It's a real thing. Why didn't I just get a normal dog? Oh yeah, the shedding and drooling. I'm more of a shedder and drooler myself.

Time to walk these old bones into the sun, which shines on all of us sinners and saints alike.

Monday, May 04, 2020

I continue to wonder at the fuckery that is our current reality while living here on this little island called my house and garden. Daily walks with a mask, making masks, meditating virtually, dancing virtually, face timing my children, having new relationships with my neighbors, etc etc. And feeling lucky that I don't have to go to work, I can stay here and work from home which is, in itself, a weirdness as a health care provider.

Teresa and I are starting a mindfulness childbirth class in a few weeks. A few hours on Thursday night. On Zoom.

Nancy's birthday is on the 8th so I'm thinking to do a drive-by and blast Stevie Wonder's birthday song on my car speakers. She's getting NY city bagels FEDX to her and she says my name is on one.

Going to take the living room apart and paint it. Even the fireplace. Spending so much time here, it's just too damn dark in there. Dark beamed ceiling and ugly fireplace brick. Gonna switch it up. My buddy Beth has been here working with me in the garden. She's a house painter and I may get her to do the ceiling cuz it will be a bear. I can do the walls and trim.

I haven't said so here but for the last four weeks I've been taking a poetry class with a guy who is not what he claims. Each week he laid out a theme and then told stories about himself which were, frankly, unbelievable. He has claimed to be friends with the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, John Updike, Alan Ginsberg (!), Gwendolyn Brooks, Ted Hughes and so on. Conveniently, most authors he cited were dead. In addition, he claims NA heritage which  was refuted on Google by several NA authors. He even had an award rescinded for a YA novel after it was discovered that he DID NOT have a  PhD from Cambridge  or whatever he claimed. I even wrote to the organization that promotes his class and they sent a nice email back saying that he had written a blog for them for many years and don't believe everything you read, even if it is in the New Yorker and The Guardian. They offered me my money back. But I decided to stick it out for the community of other participants. And here's where I get snarky. His poetry is shite, the folks who participated were also shite writers. Having been in a few writing groups with serious critique and good writers, this was not it. I applaud anyone who wants to do art, we all have that impulse. We all have something we're good at. Could be bread or our garden or our friendliness...

Anyway, I did not get what I was looking for in a writing community.  Fakers are everywhere and people seem to get away with anything these days. Next time I'll be less trusting and do my research first.


Speaking of poetry,  I ca't write for shit right now and I'm ok with it. I remember writing a poem about Abu Ghraib after seeing those horrifying photos. I had to give myself several weeks before I could write anything about it. And what we're experiencing now collectively and the enormity of it, the disproportionate way it is affecting the poor, POC communities is, of course, business as usual but I am mute.

I have picked up my book or whatever it is. After transcribing many interviews, which is awful btw if you don't type very fast, I am now writing from each voice. Because it is about trauma, I have to stop and take breaks, which is why it's taken me so long to get to it. But the moment is now, trauma is our current reality.

Spring is helping; each day new flowers open, new seeds germinate in the veggie garden. It's warm enough to sit outside and watch the birds and the clouds in the sky and contemplate mortality.

May all of you be well and safe and maybe having blueberry pancakes.