My Favorite Things

I responded to a friend’s internet challenge, to post a list 3 positive things a day. When another friend started as a result of my challenge, I committed to an additional seven.

Here’s the first batch of positive things, and I hope they brighten your day.

josh waiting 1

Day 1:

  1. I’m grateful to my son who mowed the yard even feeling crappy and in intense humidity — it was a pleasure to drive down the street to home.
  2. I’m happy that I knit. I could give all 21 slots with a knitting related post.layout2_r1_c2
  3. I’m with Kim that cats make me smile. The world is better place because of our feline companions.

Day 2: 

  1. My garden has given us fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini, as well as lots of Tomatoesonvine2basil.
  2. I am lucky enough to have a granddaughter.
  3. Evenings are getting cooler in Asheville–so much less need for AC, and more chance for open windows, bird song, and breeze.

Day 3:

  1. machine-bestI appreciate breathing…all through the night. I got a loaner C-PAP machine and sleeping is true rest again. What a joy!
  2. I woke early this morning, and one of the first thoughts was “what am I grateful for?” — I attribute that lovely waking to this challenge, which has re-focused my mind on the positive in life.
  3. I’m grateful for metaphoric and literal “off buttons.” There’s a time to walk away from drama and ugliness (as well as a time to act) and knowing when that it lifts a weight and frees the mind and heart. That’s a miraculous thing.
  4. –Oh, and a bonus 4) — I’m grateful it’s Friday after a good week at work.

Day 4:

  1. beautiful bird croppedBirds — when I step out my back door each time I leave the house, there are always birds there — in the trees and scrub, on the feeder, winging by. Bird song and that exquisite flash of upward wing never fail to make my own spirit soar. What a gift that is, through good and bad times, just a bird can make me smile.
  2. Jon Stewart is always guaranteed to make me laugh. He reminds me (in a good way) of my late husband, Dennis, who also could always make me laugh.
  3. barilla3Good Gluten-Free Pasta is no longer a contradiction in terms. There are several mainstream brands making gluten-free versions and this puts some old favorite dishes back on the menu.

Day 5:

  1. zen051Celebration (1)Friends! I could leave it at that, but especially the unexpected close friendships of adulthood. Good friends laugh and grieve with you, make meals, trade favors, secret jokes, and masses of understanding and acceptance. God Bless Good Friends.
  2. With said friends, we drank a bottle of cheap (3.99) red wine that was good!
  3. There’s a new produce stand in my neighborhood. An enterprising older man from the Islands, or even perhaps Africa (lovely lilting accent, gracious and warm manners) has taken a vacant building and desolate lot over — he’s put up a large roofed area and has tables and tables of beautiful fresh produce. I stopped for the first time yesterday and bought 4 tomatoes for $2! We talked about things for a bit and then he gifted me with a giant organic tomato and wished be a great evening.

Day 6:

  1. I love the way Facebook helps reveal social connections and make them visible in ways I never paid attention to before social media. The spread of this lovely challenge and the interesting variations it has taken fascinate me. Like an old-fashioned game of telephone, spreading the message changes the message and the messenger.telephone game (237x136)
  2. When I stop and think of it, I realized I have been much loved in my life — many of those have left the planet now, but the love doesn’t go away. It lives in me and my memories and I can continue it on by loving others. What beautiful magic that is!
  3. It’s Monday morning and I feel no dread or sorrow or anger at the prospect of going to work this morning and the rest of the week. That’s a blessing — if you’ve ever experienced those feelings in response to work week, you know. It’s also a privilege to have meaningful work in a pleasant setting with good co-workers. It’s one I pray every worker can have. When I center myself around the thought of how blessed I am to have that, I feel the glow of gratitude and joy seep through me and a smile spread across my face.

Day 7:

  1. Gorgeous George

    Gorgeous George

    Pretty much the whole internet agrees with me that kittens and cats are an endless source of fascination: more personality and energy packed in those springy bodies than can be contained, so it leaks out in extreme cuteness and apparent wisdom. When I need to laugh, a silly kitten attacking something harmless with such zeal can always do the trick. And isn’t it great that there’s no prescription cost, or anything….

  2. It’s the last few days of August and I’m not dreading September. Between world events and personal losses, the 9th month had assumed a pretty bad rep in my mind. This year, it’s pretty much just another month — I’m excited to see fall arriving while I mourn the loss of fresh tomatoes and basil. I see the sky lightening in the morning a few minutes later each day. But I don’t want to take to my bed with the covers over me! There’s a song “Wake Me When September Ends” that used to match my feeling, but now it’s just a song again. Since I loved September and its promise of autumn and new starts, I’m grateful to have it back.
  3. Sisters. I have only one official sister, who I love and adore and hope to continue laughing, playing, cooking, knitting, arguing and hugging for decades yet to come. I also have several sisters of the heart that joined my inner family over the years, and they too are a whole bouquet of graces.


With special thanks to Kim for starting me on this, I say with joy, And So It Is.

Revisiting an Old Favorite

Sometimes the important things you read as a teenager or young adult make you wince when you come across them again years later.

I was (big surprise) browsing in an antique store this past weekend and came across an old favorite that didn’t disappoint me forty-five years after I first read it. In fact, I bought the inexpensive framed poster and just need to figure where to hang it. Anyway, I thought I’d share this and see how it strikes others, whether it’s an old friend or a new:

Desideratagreen road

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
woman singingBe yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

brigitTherefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

As always,

Blessings to All

The Books that Form Us

kindle pictureSome of my old favorites have recently become available on Kindle!

This has given me the opportunity to revisit them, at least their descriptions on Amazon, and begin rebuilding my library of youthful favorites electronically.

The warm memories I have of my junior high school library’s fiction shelves… The 10′ length of tall shelves was crammed with fiction — even some paperbacks, which was rather avant garde for a junior high school library in 1965. scent of water

There was a surprising range of titles, too. Some of the authors became lifelong favorites: Pilgrims’ Inn and The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge; False Colours (the first of dozens I read) by Georgette Heyer; The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter; Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein (which led me later to Stranger in the Strange Land from the local book store), and the sturdy Miss Marple mysteries of Agatha Christie.

farnham's freehold

The importance of early books on our world view can’t be underestimated. Who I am is in part a reflection of the early readings. The rebel who seeks beauty in nature and spiritually from daily life; the woman who believes in trying to live up to her own standards; the curious lover of miscellaneous knowledge. The glimpse into difference and sometimes alien ways of life, and the workings of mind and heart transcending those differences are still as fascinating to me at 60 as they were at 12. Libraries — both public and public school — are critical avenues for exploration and growth.

The two most important things I learned in all of my public schooling were how to do simple research and write a coherent sentence. Google may have replaced the card catalog as the tool of choice for finding things, but nothing will ever replace the ability to share thoughts and feelings through the written word. false coloursKindle, paper or audio — books teach us and entertain us, deepen and enlighten us.

The reading we do in our youth leaves deep imprints that can last a lifetime. In the frightening and rapidly changing world of politics and public services (who ever thought the mail would be jeopardy?) let’s not allow libraries to fall to the budget axe.

We can’t afford a generation without the intellectual and ethical mooring provided by good books. Some savings just cost us too much, and leave us the poorer. I can’t imagine who I would be, or what my life would have been, without the influence of my teenage reading. My parents gave me my love of books, but libraries opened the door to the amazing and fascinating variety of fiction, poetry, history, and science.

Long Live the Libraries. May they always prosper.

Gee, I feel like heading to Ft. Lauderdale… Oh wait, it’s only Spring Break!!!!!

I’m done. Finished. On time. Every single assignment. All week ahead, with nothing but time to knit, read books, knit, get some laundry done, knit, meet friends for a drink, knit.

……After this week, we come back for only another month (something a little screwy with that schedule, isn’t there?). Then it’s time to start the planning and deciding and juggling schedules, funding, priorities for another semester.

Actually, I love it all. Even the deadline pressures, the moments of “what the heck does that professor want!” or “that can’t be right!”

I’m going to recommend going back to college in your later years as a comical, self-deprecating Fountain of Youth. You’re buoyant with excitement, with the newness of the challenges, the changing semesters, and humbled by the energy of the young, the certitude, and the sweet, sweet callowness.

Just Another Tarot Tuesday

Joyful Participation in the Sorrows of the World

Wow! The tarot does it again. I’ve been very closeted and cocooned the past months (as you can see from the lack of blog posts). Not depressed, but detached, floating a little, extremely internal in my focus.

Today I made the choice to try opening more to my own experience, and letting in connection and engagement. “Easy,” I thought. “I’ll just start with a Tarot Tuesday. No sweat, a simple way to reconnect….” Yeah, right.

Participation is the card I drew, first shot. That’s telling me. This is a beautiful card, with a great deal of power imbued in the graphic of the double dorje. The directness of the commentary appeals to me, and the sense of focus and intensity of the card itself. It doesn’t just speak of participation, it launches you into it, willy-nilly….

From the Osho Zen Tarot:
Have you ever seen night going? Very few people even become aware of things which are happening every day. Have you ever seen the evening coming? The midnight and its song? The sunrise and its beauty?
We are behaving almost like blind people. In such a beautiful world we are living in small ponds of our own misery. It is familiar, so even if somebody wants to pull you out, you struggle. You don’t want to be pulled out of your misery, of your suffering. Otherwise there is so much joy all around, you have just to be aware of it and to become a participant, not a spectator.aaa

 Philosophy is speculation, Zen is participation. Participate in the night leaving, participate in the evening coming, participate in the stars and participate in the clouds; make participation your lifestyle and the whole existence becomes such a joy, such an ecstasy. You could not have dreamed of a better universe.   •  Osho Zen: The Miracle Chapter 2
Commentary:
Each figure in this mandala holds the left hand up, in an attitude of receiving, and the right hand down, in an attitude of giving. The whole circle creates a tremendous energy field that takes on the shape of the double dorje, the Tibetan symbol for the thunderbolt.
The mandala has a quality like that of the energy field that forms around a buddha, where all the individuals taking part in the circle make a unique contribution to create a unified and vital whole. It is like a flower, whose wholeness is even more beautiful than the sum of its parts, at the same time enhancing the beauty of each individual petal.
You have an opportunity to participate with others now to make your contribution to creating something greater and more beautiful than each of you could manage alone. Your participation will not only nourish you, but will also contribute something precious to the whole.

Meeting a Commitment

Nearly six months ago I made a commitment to myself and my coach to walk with her to the riverside at our final coaching retreat. This past week I met that commitment. By many standards it wasn’t a long or difficult walk, but for me — at this time in my life — it was substantial. So, on a hot early summer morning, my coach and I, hand in hand, heading down the path to the river. 

Not all experiences that have the potential to be landmark ones live up to their hype. This one did. In quiet beauty the woods and fields welcomed us as we walked. We stopped for a vivid, iridescent blue dragonfly. We gazed at an old barn through a field punctuated by two small trees dense with deep claret leaves. We listened to the hiss and burble of a creek tumbling down the same hill just out of our sight. We shared the space with shaded ferns, tiny mushrooms, wild jasmine and blue and yellow butterflies.

It was hot, I dripped sweat, body parts alternately ached and throbbed. I felt safe and beloved with my coach. The river beckoned and delivered on its promise of cool shade and clear, mountain water dancing over  rocks and through patches of sunshine. An old wooden bench gave me welcomed rest and time to savor the accomplishment.

We practiced a tai chi exercise called the four flowers — and I learned the first pattern which was chrysanthemum.  We felt the breeze, heard the far off deep rumble of a tractor and the high floating song of a bird.  We returned up the steep and rocky path to the lodge. I felt satisfied, and both exalted and exhausted — a heady combination.

Thank you Wendy, for being a skilled, compassionate coach, and a loving friend.

 
Take Me to The River
 
Take me to the river.
Take me by the hand and lead me from under
the comfortable arbor of my fears.
 
Take me to the river.
Walk with me, stumbling, on a new path,
still fettered by the stony present.
 
Take me to the river.
Talk with me about the shape and texture of the future,
blooming, blooming,
like a chrysanthemum in the sun.
 

It’s Tarot Tuesday Once Again!

Clinging to the Past

Well, that will learn me! I haven’t been back to my blog site in a month, and thought, “how lovely, I can re-enter easily by drawing a tarot card at the Osho Zen Tarot  site!” So what do I draw, this:  Yuck!  I don’t like it at all.  Which is probably just why I needed to have it pop up for me. 

One big question that runs around in my mind is, what’s the difference between remembering and clinging? If I think about people and events gone by, and I have good or bad feelings in this moment because of my thoughts, is that clinging to the past? 

Maybe it’s about recognizing that it’s my thoughts in the here and now about the past that are causing the feelings I have. I’m having the feelings right now, after all.  But, feelings slip away after being felt, and new ones, and new thoughts and sights and sounds take their place.

There’s where my opportunity to cling or release comes. I thought my thought, remembered my memory, felt my feeling… now, what’s next?

Struggling to bring my blog into my present is what’s in front of me at the moment.  This wonderful on-line journal has served me so well!  I hope it’s been even half the pleasure for y’all as it has for me.  I’m not closing up shop — but rather dusting things off, ready for a new season of sharing. 

So, thanks for the memories yet made, and the thoughts and feelings not yet experienced — future, here we come.

 

From the Zen Osho Tarot commentaries:

These tenses–past, present and future–are not the tenses of time; they are tenses of the mind. That which is no longer before the mind becomes the past. That which is before the mind is the present. And that which is going to be before the mind is the future. Past is that which is no longer before you. Future is that which is not yet before you. And present is that which is before you and is slipping out of your sight. Soon it will be past…. If you don’t cling to the past…because clinging to the past is absolute stupidity. It is no longer there, so you are crying for spilled milk. What is gone is gone! And don’t cling to the present because that is also going and soon it will be past. Don’t cling to the future–hopes, imaginations, plans for tomorrow–because tomorrow will become today, will become yesterday. Everything is going to become yesterday. Everything is going to go out of your hands. Clinging will simply create misery. You will have to let go.

Osho The Great Zen Master Ta Hui Chapter 10

 Commentary:

The figure pictured in this card is so preoccupied with clutching her box of memories that she has turned her back on the sparkling champagne glass of blessings available here and now. Her nostalgia for the past really makes her a ‘blockhead’, and a beggar besides, as we can see from her patched and ragged clothes. She needn’t be a beggar, of course–but she is not available to taste the pleasures that offer themselves in the present. It’s time to face up to the fact that the past is gone, and any effort to repeat it is a sure way to stay stuck in old blueprints that you would have already outgrown if you hadn’t been so busy clinging to what you have already been through. Take a deep breath, put the box down, tie it up in a pretty ribbon if you must, and bid it a fond and reverent farewell. Life is passing you by, and you’re in danger of becoming an old fossil before your time!

Magic Happens

I’m sitting here, listening to Phoebe Snow sing, “Merry Christmas, Baby” (from an album called Winter, Fire & Snow). It’s heartbreakingly beautiful. She has segued into Sinatra, then onto another and another.

The music of Christmas works. It creates and expands the magic that belongs to the season. So in spite of sorrow, poverty, loss and pain, there is magic. Lots and lots of magic to be found. In the simple, in the profound, the spiritual and the comfortable. Christmas Is. The magic lives.

Merry Christmas to you.

Just Watching

I have a magic box that Dennis made for me nearly 40 years ago. It says “You’re Standing on a Bridge, Watching Yourself Go By.” The drawing and quote are from the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass. The box, naturally, is a little the worse for wear. The lettering obliterated in places, the edges of the fabric cover frayed.

I keep little treasures inside. A special letter from a friend. A spike of lavender, a feather, some bits of jade, amber and seashell. A photo of my son when he was six. There’s a button with the Sanskrit symbol for “aum” and a star-shaped, handmade Christmas ornament. All meaningful and full of memories.

What I treasure most though, is the moment of “ah-ha” that the box first brought me when Dennis gave it to me that long ago birthday. Was I really just standing on bridge watching myself  go by? At age 17, I certainly thought I was the prime player in a very important drama. But I never thought of myself as the audience, the director, the star and the author all at once.

As I re-embrace some of the concepts of mindfulness and presence I first learned as a young hippie (gentle laughter here), I realize how embedded that ability to step back and see has become. It’s hard to take yourself too seriously when you make that inner move. It’s also hard to be too critical, too harsh, or unforgiving, when seeing from that broader perspective.

All the sorrows, all the fears are swiftly brought into a clearer focus; seen for the fleeting emotions they are, embraced in the moment, and released to the next. After all, under that bridge I’m standing on is a swiftly flowing river of moment-to-moment-to-moment. And I’m watching in delight, amusement, compassion, and eagerness. . .what will flow by next?