Sunday, October 25, 2020

This Is Not the End of the Story

Back from a rough retreat. Isolation on top of isolation. Ha! I felt very supported. The forest was beautiful as were (was?) the doe and her yearling which I saw almost every day. 

We do take our baggage with us wherever we go, y'know? Deeply buried family stuff came to the surface and it was intense.  I don't really wanna write about it here, or not yet anyway. Letting it settle. I spoke with my teacher every other day and that was most helpful. Boy o boy, our sorrow and grief. This human experience is surely a wild ride.

A few friends and I are going to keep each other company for election night-African peanut soup, biscuits, some kind of dessert with birthday candles for Judith and pillows to scream into if necessary. 

Maya and I talked about Bend, Oregon. Could we move there? How are property values? Could she go back to the Bay area to cut hair twice a month? Milo will be launching soon so she can contemplate what's next. Bend is beautiful and importantly, farther north from California. 

I listened to a Dharma talk with Jack Kornfield while I was on retreat. He said something that stuck with me. "This is not the end of the story." All the mishegoss (Yiddish for crazy) we are currently experiencing will change and morph and become...something else. It's a universal law. The children know. The young activists know. They are thinking and working and building community and a new world because we are on the brink of, we don't know. 

The metta prayer:

May all beings be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.

May all beings be happy just as they are.

May all beings be healthy in their bodies and their minds.

May all beings  have ease. May all beings be surrounded by compassion. May all beings be free. 

I say this every day. For myself and everyone else. Everyone. No exceptions. (That's the hard part) It is what I can do. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

 What do you do with a broken heart? After years of silence from my swim buddy, we reconnected and our swim mornings have been the happiest I have felt during this terrible year. I asked Clark if he would house sit for me while I went on retreat and he agreed. I leave tomorrow. 

I should say. I spent several hours at the ER yesterday with my old friend gut pain. I got worked up (after 7 hours) and was told I have nothing to worry about (?) While I was there, I asked Clark to go to my house and feed the critters until I got home. My little cat decided to pee on the bed...and why? Perhaps she was having another bladder infection. Clark and I talked about the possibility of needing to take her to the vet and strategies to do that. He slept here and I drove him home this morning. Our plan was to swim the morning I was leaving and then I would drive him to my house with his stuff so he could work and live here for 2 weeks. 

Well, citing my recent illness and the cat, he wrote me a text to back out of his agreement to house sit. He was feeling dread and unease all day. The text came tonight and I'm supposed to leave at 10 in the morning. So I scrambled to find another solution. Randy the incomparable dog sitter agreed to take Felix. My tenant and I have a complicated arrangement with her and a few of her friends to take care of the kitty.

I was flabbergasted. I was so shocked I couldn't even react to his text. My response was 'wow'. Just wow. 

As I write this I can see all sides. He doesn't really understand my deep need to be on retreat. His anxiety may be as bad as mine. He couldn't talk to me in person because it was too scary (I've done that).

Still. I feel so sad. I feel like he broke up with me as a friend. Maybe I was too needy and everything is so awful right now that we're all flailing and trying to find some comfort. I just can't feel any anger. I feel disappointed. And hurt. I expect others to behave the way I do. How silly. It's good to learn who we can really count on when things are rough.

How do I forgive him? Do I forgive him? I'll be gone and I can use this as "an object of meditation". 

Well, I wrote it out here so maybe I can start to release it. 

He even suggested that we could meet to swim tomorrow morning and talk about things. Nah, I don't think so. 

As a PS, while I was sitting in the ER, a friend I know from sangha texted me that he was in the neighborhood and we could have tea. I told him where I was and he asked which ER (big city) so I told him. About an hour later, he texted that he was in the ER waiting room. He waited for hours with me and drove me home. I didn't ask him to. He just showed up. Thats what we can do for each other. We can show up. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Laughing Otter ad Cerulean Silkie


Yes, we have named ourselves. Without this activity and this beautiful companion, I wouldn't be getting through quite so well as I am. We meet at eight AM, when the other swimmers hit the water and I wrangle myself into my magic suit and Clark goes in, as you see, in his trunks and we swim out to the buoy and then to the beach over yonder. And then back. 

We have to touch the buoy (which has a small picture of David Bowie-har har) and then we swim off with the ducks and other swimmers. The feeling of the water, the cold on my hands and feet and face, the small waves and the gray sky enclosing us. We are alive, swimming away from trouble and fear. For a little while, we are free of everything except the sensations of breathing and stroking and breathing. 

This is pure beauty. 

Sunday, October 04, 2020


Yes. I did it. I bought a wetsuit and I've been swimming every day in the lake. In October! It's the most glorious experience ever. Clark and I go together because you know I can't zip the damn thing up. It's so tight and the zipper is in the back. 

Harriet Tubman-only one missing piece. And that was my Sunday. Retreat in a week, yeehaw. 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

What needed to be said was said. Trevor Noah, I believe, said it best. I still wonder about how we got here. But my Black friends and Black folk in general are not surprised. We were founded on slave ownership and genocide of First Nations people. Our wealth was built on the backs of enslaved human beings. Our guilt and shame is vast and unacknowledged. And some of us believe we have every right to our white supremacy. Built on nothing, built on air.  

I didn't watch the 'debate'. Even thinking about it made my stomach cramp. I knew it would be awful. One more reason to get out the vote, emigrate to new Zealand, ask for help. 

We hate to ask for help. We're the USA, goddammit. We can do it ourselves. We're independent. We make the rules. We set the agenda. 

Except that our bluster is hiding our soft belly. Where we are vulnerable, scared, tender. We fear aging, sickness, death. We endlessly distract ourselves with stuff, things, you know what you individually do. It has been clear to me during the smoke, pandemic isolation, BLM protests that much is being asked. And we've figured out who and what we care about. All the chaos has brought us down to the finest point. We see more clearly. The little acts of random kindness. Yesterday on my dog walk, I passed a 'little mask station' someone had erected on their lawn. Masks pinned to a small vertical post. Each mask in a baggie. With a sign-Please help yourself. 

Poor POTUS. What a miserable life he has. Fawning children. Indifferent wife. Sycophants all around him. I can't, in this moment, hate him. He's merely a symbol of our darkest and ugliest secrets as a nation. Like all autocrats and dictators, he sows despair and disaster wherever he goes. What a burden. It's pointless to expect compassion and kindness from someone who has no interest in accessing those things. 

I do fear for our future. For those who come after us. On a visit with a new mother yesterday, she plaintively asked how she could have brought her new son into this mess. Anguish, heartfelt anguish. I reminded her to look into her baby's eyes, to stroke his soft skin, to revel in him every day as he grows and changes. Such a beautiful, heart breaking and impermanent time! 

I'm not suggesting that we ignore the crisis (how could we?). But we are seeking the good, in ourselves and in others. It is there. For dinner last night I had blackberry cobbler that Kenny's mother made. Kenny, my pandemic friend and neighbor. Kenny's white beard. His dogs. His steadiness. He's living with AIDS and a heart condition. But he offers to shop for me every week. We lend each other tools. 

And we can look over our suffering world with the kindness of boddhisatvas. It is said that Quan Yin hears the cries of the world. Let's be that. Let's be the change we wish to see.