Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Ólafur Arnalds with friends


Clark and I are going to see them next week!!!

Nancy and I went to The Marriage of Figaro on Saturday. What a blast. I feel semi-normal going to see things. Of course we were masked. 

Music is essential. 

Much love

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

 Dear friends-

Today Diane and I hiked Oyster Dome in Bellingham, about 1 1/2 hours from Seattle. Sunny day, about 5 miles, incredible view at the top of the Sound dotted with islands. However, we, um, took the wrong trail back to the car and ended up WAAAAAYYYY far from the car. So. 

As we neared the road we were not supposed to be on at the end of our hike, and realizing we were lost, a young man ***Johnny*** was just ahead of us and I asked, "would you be willing to drive us to our car?" Without hesitation, he said yes. 


Our angel with the beautiful blue eyes from Ketchikan who is currently working in a nursing home. 

Thank you Johnny. We ended up hiking 8 + miles on our old legs. But the view 


was pretty spectacular. And you saved our bacon. We love you forever. 

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Dear friends-

Studying with Roshi Joan this weekend and just weeping a lot. You know, the kind where the tears just leak out. There are too many things to list so I won't. I know you know.

A bit ago, I got a message from DoorDash telling me my delivery would be a bit late????? I responded that I had't ordered anything from them??? and perhaps they had the wrong number. A while later, a young guy came to my gate with a large vase of flowers from my daughter for mother's day. Ha! He apologized for spoiling the surprise. I was so flummoxed I didn't tip him. Oops.  

Saw an old woman wearing a pussy hat when I walked the dog. It's that time again. Will be writing letters to strangers again to get out the vote. 

We are in the grip of Mordor, I'm afraid. 

I'm angry and sad. 

Meanwhile the garden continues to be extravagantly gorgeous. Nature don't care what we stoopid humans get up to. Still no hummingbirds. I'm worried about them. 

While practicing a death meditation, Felix came in and breathed loudly and fragrantly in my face. He just doesn't let me get too serious. Because he's a goof.

Much love, comrades. Keep up the good fight and love one another fiercely. 

Beth

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dear friends-

While at the pool today, I hopped into the water just before the swimmer in the other lane got to the wall. Thinking that she was swimming slowly, I'd have time to get ahead of her (always a jostle in the pool with multiple swimmers in a lane). Well, she zoomed by me in the water in time to yell at me at the other end of the lane. I was 'very rude', cutting in front of her. I apologized profusely but she harrumphed off. So I spend the next 20 minutes feeling like a shithead, I mean, how could I be so thoughtless etc. I waited to be sure she'd be gone from the locker room and I got into the hot tub when my fav life guard came over and told me he saw everything. I did nothing wrong. He almost spoke to her but didn't want to rile things up. 

Whew! Tempest in a teapot! 

I think we don't know how to be around people anymore. I surely don't. My feelings are so easily hurt. As my parents always said, I'm too sensitive (whatever that means). 

Anyway, spring here is cold, wet and beautiful. I've planted a tree peony and more azaleas. The apple trees are covered with blossoms and the dogwood is blooming too. I saw one of the cold water swimmers at the pool and she swims year round. She says the water is getting close to being 50 degrees. People, that's too effing cold. 


 My brother rescuing ducklings from a storm drain in Peasant Hills California. He says the mother duck was walking round and round with her 2 babies and when he looked in, there were about 10 ducklings trapped. He moved the grate and plucked them out. My brother the hero. Our father would have done the same thing. 

Haven't seen any babies yet at the lake but two of my three birdhouses have tenants. Chickadees. 

Love to you all. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

 Today is my death day. One year ago, I started a One Year To Live study and here we are. Next week we are born again. This morning I opened this message from my older daughter and sat crying in the food co-op.


Happy death day mama. 

I’m so glad you will be reborn today xoxoxo


Epitaph  - By Merrit Malloy


When I die

Give what’s left of me away

To children

And old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry,

Cry for your brother

Walking the street beside you.


And when you need me,

Put your arms

Around anyone

And give them

What you need to give to me.


I want to leave you something,

Something better

Than words

Or sounds.

Look for me

In the people I’ve known

Or loved,

And if you cannot give me away,

At least let me live on in your eyes

And not your mind.


You can love me most

By letting

Hands touch hands,

By letting bodies touch bodies,

And by letting go

Of children

That need to be free.


Love doesn’t die,

People do.

So, when all that’s left of me

Is love,

Give me away.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

 Still unseasonably cold here but the flowers persist. I haven't seen any hummingbirds at all. Wonder where they are. 

Going to work in the greenbelt this morning. We'll be clearing blackberries and ivy. There's a downed tree over the trail, don't know how that will be resolved. There's an abandoned (I think) homeless encampment too so that will be an issue. I walk through the greenbelt all the time so it's time to give back.

Been very busy with clinic. One of the midwives got sick so I stepped in, went to a birth, have done a bunch of home visits and worked an extra day of clinic. It's fun to be with my clinic 'family.' I don't know any other folks who are so funny and cynical and caring, all at the same time. I am reminded that I spend so much time in silence, being in a noisy clinic full of yelling kids  and pregnant women is quite an adjustment. I'm also reminded that the midwives and the office manager are my friends. I care about them and their lives. 

The kaffer lily is blooming, always does around Easter time. As I write this, I looked up the definition of 'kaffir' and found that it is an 'extremely offensive word for a Black South African.' Great. Well, let's give it a new name, k? Any suggestions? 


It has a nice fragrance. BTW, I've had this plant since 1976. Got it as a wedding present.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

 It snowed (!), then hailed and rained and then the sun came out. The garden is gorgeous right now.

And this is just one tree flouncing her flounces.

Waiting on mothers at the brink of labor. Tomorrow Clark and I will eat delicious food, wear blue hats and watch Moonstruck with Cher and Nicholas Cage. It's pretty much a perfect movie. Because 1) Cher and 2) demented Nicholas. And NYC and the script and accents and the whole thing. 

It always helps to walk around in my neighborhood. There's the vicious doberman where we cross the street so he and Felix don't have a snarling dog argument. There's the fish market with crabs piled on top of each other in tanks. As much as I love crab, I just can't seem to eat them anymore. There's the neighbor with the wild assortment of ceramic elves, frogs, sheep, the baby Jeezus etc. as a tableaux. There's the woman with the beautiful garden and the view of the lake. 

I was thinking about Elizabeth's Sophie today. I met her in LA. The famous Sophie. She radiates love. I don't know how to explain it. She is present in ways most of us aren't. 

The chickadees and juncos are feasting on the seed I spread out for them just now. I haven't seen the hummingbirds lately. Maybe they're tending to their families. 

I just finished a book called The Chimpanzee Whisperer: A Life of Love and Loss, Compassion and Conservation. It's about a Hutu man from Burundi who survived the war and found himself caring for chimps in protected reserves in spite of his third grade education. Because of his great heart and kindness towards the primates most closely linked to homo sapiens he has traveled the world and spoken at the UN and met (of course) Jane Goodall. Oh, and he has bunch of kids, both his and adopted. He is everything Putin and Bezos and half the congress are not. He's a mensch. A good person. 

The thing is, when the Dalai Lama meets anyone and I mean anyone, he treats them as his friend. I'm just not there. 

The last retreat I attended was a deep dive. There were over 200 people on the retreat. I like to think there are many of us who are doing their best to be ethical and kind and generous. Every one of us counts. 


Thursday, April 07, 2022

 Two things happened today that made me cry.

1.  The first Black woman was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

2.   The hot tub at the pool opened. 


Both are occasions for radiant joy, 

Sunday, April 03, 2022

 On another retreat. With 

this guy.

He's German, multiple PhDs, many books, many languages including Chinese and Pali. His books are dense and in person he's funny, kind and wise. I'm enjoying spending time with him and the class of 200+ people on Zoom. 

Spring is well and truly here. The magnolia tree down the street is ridiculously gorgeous. Massive. Covered with flowers. Tiny lettuce and spinach greens poking up through the dirt. 

Much love and kindness radiating all around, dear ones.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Keith Urban performs "Higher Love" | One World: Together at Home


I told my child I've been listening to Keith Urban and she said, oh mom, NO. I told her I'm officially an elder and I can listen to whatever the fuck I want. 

It's Sunday and pissing rain. The dog is a muddy mess. 


Just out of my recent retreat...


May we realize that this earth is sacred and live accordingly.

May the suffering arising from oppression, hatred, and fear be righted and remedied.

May all those in the grips of insecurity be released to the safety of understanding.

May those weighed down by grief be given over to compassion.

May those lost in delusion find relief in the path of wisdom.

May all wounds to forest, rivers, deserts, oceans, all wounds to the earth be witnessed and healed through our right action.

May we work for the ending of suffering from consumerism, the climate catastrophe, war, economic disparity, racism, sexual violence, and the abuse of children.

May those in refugee camps and prisons find their way home, with our support.

May those who are alone or abandoned by friends and family, and those who are unsheltered find a safe and loving harbor in community.

May we have deep time in practice with each other and in the solitudes, to be taught by sangha and by silence, so that we have the courage and equanimity to be a source of love and wisdom for all beings.

May we all have the health, wisdom and energy to serve in the years ahead.

May all awaken and awaken others.

Roshi Joan Halifax

Thursday, March 17, 2022

 Dear friends-

I am now functioning after my first week of chaplaincy training and boy howdy. It was so intense to be in that container (as they say) for 5 days. Partly I was having trouble keeping up with note taking and the language. My practice is Vipassana and the training is coming from Soto Zen with all sorts of other things thrown in (systems theory anyone?) So to say I was running in place would be putting it mildly. Well they warned us. By language I mean the expressions and buzz words which weren't familiar to me. Kinda like learning a new language where I have some understanding and can make the mental leaps. I was so tired each night...

I have already let go of a few commitments. I just won't have the time. Plus I have papers to write. I'm sitting here procrastinating because I partially wrote one paper yesterday and need to finish it before tomorrow night when I go back into retreat for the weekend. 

Roshi Joan Halifax is remarkable and wise and tough and loving. Even though she's in her early 80's, she was present for most of the classes and she taught a few of them. 

Now I have to figure out how to use Slack, an online platform for groups (ug) and record all my various meetings, classes, book reviews, etc etc for the year. I bought a paper year calendar that is folded up on my desk because using the calendar in my phone just isn't useful. If I survive this year, there's another year and a big paper to write. My Dharma teacher and friend reminded me to stay in the moment and don't future trip. Sorry, can't help it. 

BTW-ever notice how some words we use came right from the hippies and the 60's? Tripping and freaking out, for example. 

Also BTW-I finished Michael Pollan's latest book, Your Mind on Plants and I wrote him a little email thanking him for his work and his obvious concern for the earth and us. And he wrote back!! How cool (60's reference or maybe the beats/jazz?) is that???

Love you all forever.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Watch a Breathtaking Monarch Butterfly Swarm

 Today I was in the Apple store at the SouthCenter mall (don't ask) and one of the clerks, a young man, had a kaleidoscope of butterflies tattooed on his forearm. (Yes, a bunch of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope.) 

Lovely. A young man beautiful enough to have visible butterflies. There are so many lives worth honoring.  

Monday, February 28, 2022

 I don't understand what is happening in the world right now. A friend of my daughters is thinking about going to Ukraine to fight with the Ukrainians. He has no military experience. None. 

Gawd.

In other news, we saw a coyote in the back yard this morning. No wonder Felix was barking.


Monday, February 21, 2022

Remembering Paul Farmer, a giant in the world of public health

 Dear friends-

On Thursday my grandson flies up here BY HIMSELF.  I have that darling boy for 24 hours before his mother arrives. I am hoping to get into some trouble before she gets here. I'm not sure what kind but we'll think of something. Maybe we'll go to Tiger Mountain or even Mt Rainier. So sorry I have a bum leg and am hobbling around. Maybe I'll just take drugs and be out of pain for the day. Not the wisest course of action. We could just lie around and eat cookies and brownies and grandma's granola. And play with Felix. And talk about stuff. I'm still thinking about his Xbox and Grand Theft Auto which he put me in charge of so he could pee. He gave me the controls and I managed to crash into trees, other cars, cliffs and I even became airborne which is when I lost the driver. She just sort of fell out of the car and met her untimely end. If any of you have tried XBOX, I wish you luck. When Milo returned to the scene of the carnage, he managed to acquire another vehicle by stealing it and then he proceeded to run red lights and in general break the law in all kinds of ways. We laughed so much. 

I begin more trainings soon. The chaplaincy program is coming right up and I just got the syllabus. Uh-oh. It's many pages and much studying. There must be 100 books listed. Fortunately we only have to do 8 book reports. The final project is 30 pages plus footnotes. Not to mention 100 hours of volunteer work. I'm already doing mucho volunteer stuff but I don't know if any of it counts. Plus I'm not 'supervised'. I might look into 'death doula' work at the local hospital. There's probably a training I'll have to do. How will I fit all this in? I have so much unstructured time right now. I think that's about to end. 

Ah well. 

There is blue sky out there and Felix is staring at me as usual. It's gonna get cold here pretty soon. Hopefully no snow. 

May we all be safe and warm and happy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

 

Dear friends-

My brother Dirk called on Valentine's Day to tell me Dave had died. He was our older brother, the first to get out and go far away. My parents told him his biological mother was dead. He was 5 years old. When he became an adult, he found out that had been a lie and he searched and found her in Florida. They had an adult relationship until she passed away. 

Who does that sort of thing?

There is so much more I could say about his young life but I won't. It was hard. He was treated with much cruelty. I adored him. He was in high school and I thought he was an Adonis. I'm sure he was, now that I think about it. 

He was in a memory care facility. For the past year and a half, he no longer recognized his wife of 57 years. She sounded relieved. She said he had been a good father and a good husband, a good provider. 

We all knew he hated our parents, probably until he died. Maybe he was able to let it all go so he could go too. 

I hope he is free now from his pain and suffering. He had love, he had joy. He built a life in spite of the cruelty he endured. 

Bless you Dave,

Love, 

Beth

Friday, February 11, 2022

 Dear ones-

Life has gotten busy. Lots of sitting practice, chaplaincy starting in a month, my family coming to town for my birthday (hooray!), groups I facilitate, whew. 

And my dear Sara's mother died so she was in Texas dealing with everything and we were catching babies and seeing mommas in the clinic and I'm about to take three days of call, oh boy. 

Makes me think I should finally retire...how long will I say that, I wonder?

Spring is starting to spring here. Daffs, crocuses, buds on the daphne and Japanese maple. The lake is only 40 degrees so no swimming yet although I know Clark is watching the temps closely. I can hardly imagine squashing into my wetsuit and getting into water so cold my hands freeze. 

Fridays at the pool they turn on the water slide for the last 10 minutes of our lap swim. All us old, infirm etc folks climb up the long ladder and jet on down  with much squealing and yelping. Very satisfying. 

Well, I must go and find a reading for the meditation tonight. 

May you all be well and safe and filled with joy.

Monday, January 31, 2022

 Dear friends-

I have a new tenant. Her name is Emily and she is a partner in the midwifery practice. She's young and bright and full of energy. She remembers way more than I ever will. Or could. Our 'boss' Sara has left for Texas to disconnect her mother from life support. We are scrambling to figure out the call schedule and the patient shuffle. Poor Sara. Such a heavy burden. Her mother was her guiding light. Her mother and I are the same age. It's so interesting to contemplate, our demise. When? And how? 

Dealing with some aches and pains which have not kept me from the swimming pool, thank the baby Jesus. I have visited a nice young PT who has me doing exercises with stretchy things. Humbling. The aging body and mind. 

I'm wondering if there is a person or persons who could advise me about heating this old house. The gas furnace is looking geriatric and only heats the front of the house, the living room and kitchen. The back of the house has electric wall heaters that are mostly inadequate. I have solar panels and could have some monstrous healing system back there because my electric bill is nominal. I wear my coat in the house and heat my bed with a mattress warmer (yummy). Still I feel very 17th century with bundling up in the house. Judith lives on a houseboat and that's cold! She's always got her down coat on. 

I'm grateful for the cold. Especially when I think about the dreadful heat we had last year and will again.

My children and grandchild are visiting for my birthday in February. I am beyond happy about that. I have traveled back and forth to California numerous times and now it's their turn to visit me. The only thing I want to do besides cook and eat and hang out is go to the Korean spa for a few hours to get scrubbed and massaged and soaked. And eat Korean waffles roll-ups (divine). 

This might be an appalling post but such is my life. 

Last week:




 

Monday, January 24, 2022

 Dear friends-

Thich Nhat Hanh died on the 22nd, in his home temple in Vietnam where he became a monk at 16. He was 95 and had had a stroke in 2014. Photos of him being greeted at the entrance to the temple, a small old man in a wheelchair who could no longer speak, were beautiful and bright. I'm sure he was tended to around the clock as a revered and beloved teacher. His nickname, Thuy, meant teacher. 

I have been crying a lot. It surprised me, the depth of my grief. And then I recall what my life looked like when I stumbled into a small dark room where people were meditating. I was so sad and vulnerable and fragile. It was 1995 and I was involved in a lawsuit a family had brought against me and my partner for a baby who was damaged. It doesn't matter the details now. We were released from the suit after two horrible years of lawyers and depositions and endless paperwork. But my/our world collapsed. Every day was full of dread and fear. Would I lose my falling-down house I had just bought? Would I ever work again? As they say in Buddhism, the eight worldly winds were blowing from every direction, knocking me down over and over. 

The small dark room held a community of people who were following the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk who had opposed the Vietnam war and had been expelled from his country. He was a friend to Dr King. He established centers all over the world to teach mindfulness and meditation,  to bring peace and happiness to others. His message was one of engaged Buddhism. 

In that dark room, I finally breathed fully for the first time in what felt like months. I didn't have to tell my story, I could just be. I went week after week, involving myself in the community. We eventually bought a house that we turned into a Dharma hall. Our teacher, trained by Thuy, came from her rural home to offer retreats and Dharma talks. 

I remember how silly I was, how I wince at the ways I misbehaved, not fully understanding the gift I had been given, to begin to comprehend my tangled thinking, my reactivity and the ways that I was contributing to my own suffering. 

Almost 27 years later, I can fully grieve for the little monk who worked tirelessly to bring gentleness and love to all of us, to teach us to love ourselves without reservation. 

"Even when the cloud is not there, it continues as snow or rain. It is impossible for the cloud to die. It can become rain or ice, but it cannot become nothing. The cloud cannot become nothing. The cloud does not need to have a soul in order to continue. There's no beginning and no end. I will never die. There will be a dissolution of this body, but that does not mean my death.

I will continue, always."

May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free from their suffering.


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Free write with Betsy

 The question was, "What is worth saving?"


Compassion is worth saving, for myself, for others, for the small and large lives all around. When I think of the exhortation to preserve life, not to kill, I am confronted daily with what that means. Does that mean the ants that are already appearing by the back door, making their trails to the kitchen where there are crumbs, drips of honey, errant bits of onion and broccoli from dinner. They like honey best, always looking for sugar. I am too, always seeking sweetness among the troubles of a life.

Ants have a queen somewhere. I envision her on a tiny antish throne, her loyal, inexhaustible subjects working tirelessly and selflessly to bring her the fruits of their industry. Do ants have a soul? The theological pundits would probably say not. But what do they know. The engine of an ant, the spark that animates them also animates us. I'm not sure about the soul thing? Does having a soul put us on a hierarchy of importance? To whom?I recently heard a talk about the father, son and holy ghost. The holy ghost mystifies me, always has. Then there's the triple goddess, the three faces of women, the triple jewel and so on. 

But back to the recommendation to not take life. This winter my house has hosted a plethora of tiny winged bugs. I couldn't figure out their generation. What was the point of origination? Not the compost bucket. Not a dead critter the cat brought in. (Reminds me of the dead robin under my bed but that's a story for another time.) These wee beings were on the window sills, on the bathroom mirror, by the stove. And they were fragile. I could take out a legion of them with one swipe of my sponge. 

Here's the dilemma. I am taking life, their life. They may have families, a culture (music, literature?), a purpose in the grand wed of life. And are they less important than polar bears, or orcas, or trees? Do I let them be, to live and die as we all do, as we all must?  

Saturday, January 08, 2022

 This morning very early I awoke and baked a little squash, made two breakfast burritos with egg and beans and cheese and spinach, threw in some yogurts and a loaf of homemade bread and a jar of apple butter and went down to the public market and saw the monk standing with his begging bowl. I bowed to him and gave him all the food and he sang a prayer of gratitude and wonder. 

I told him when I am cooking for him,  I do it as mindfully as I can. I remember I am cooking and serving the Buddha, as the example for us all to fully awaken from our dream of life. He is the stand-in for our purest desire to be better people, to help and serve and be kind whenever we can. I told him all that. He reminded me that there are bad monks and I'm sure there are because we're all human and we are capable of terrible things. It takes courage to show up every day and be a good person, not an asshole person. I have some ways to go because of anger and sadness and disappointment but it's always good to make an effort. 

It is very early in the morning to go meet the little monk. It's almost like this secret and weird thing I am doing. It's part of my spiritual practice. 

I was very happy to see he was wearing actual shoes in the rain. He reminded me that in Asia, the monks go for alms in their bare feet. Quite impractical in the PNW, indeed. 

Much love.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

 



Felix and I visited Kubota's garden yesterday, 20 acres of gorgeous Japanese landscaping that is 100 years old. 

Happy New Year everyone. 


Like ants we are happy

As long as we carry a load bigger than ourselves.

                                                              -Rumi