Cho and Jules
Lately I’ve been walking with Liam on a leash.
I noticed (for the last few years…I can be slow) that Cho takes his walk with us in a wide arc. It dawned on me that he might be avoiding Liam who goes after Cho’s neck and then Cho easily outruns him. When he gets far enough away and Liam has given up, Cho stops and eats grass.
As I said it’s taken me a while to notice that Cho spends most of his time eating grass. Typically he runs a few circles around us and then he stays a distance away but is always with us.
So now that Liam is leashed, Cho almost heels! He does his run and then he hangs with us. He even comes into the dog gate with the rest of us – Guinnie, who is always on a leash, Jules who follows behind my heels and Liam who until recently has been free to jump at all our necks at will.
My lesson is that Cho doesn’t really want to be far away. He really wants to walk with us and when I lessen the pressure on him, that’s exactly what he does!
Cho and Liam (leashed)
Guinnie and Liam
Purdah. Rich muslim women behind screens looking out. They are cared for. They wear rich clothes. They are fed. They bathe. They smell good. Jewelry everywhere. Make-up, hair. And this is what they call themselves: frogs in a well. For they cannot be in the world.
How much can be seen? Not much.
But imagination can run. Hope cannot.
Fantasy is fed. Willingness is not.
It is an old story. Women behind screens on a high balcony. Women with bound feet.
In my own life my mother said. “the more respectable you are the less you do.” She was horrified that I would want to change the oil in my car, shop for myself, wash my own hair.
The flip side is not opposite.
I spent some time listening to women say they were nobody without taking care of someone else. They were free to move. Free to drive and shop, read books and write. But they identified themselves by who they take care of, whose wife, whose mother, whose friend.
And still others who seem to only care for themselves. My mother looked like that sometimes. She preened and had “admirers” who sent flowers, she seemed to think only of herself. Once while visiting me we separated in Cambridge, MA. She got lost while I did an errand – too plain for her. When I couldn’t find her I went to the chi chi- est shop and there she was. Salespeople all around, sitting having a cup of tea. She looked at me, said, “What would I do if something had happened to you? How would I get home?”
Indeed, I worried about that too.
My point here is not to expose my mother’s peccadillos but to the larger issue of how we are who we are and how we treat ourselves.
Not knowing how to get home is not a good idea. Not knowing how to be without a project also not life-provoking. And that crosses genders.
How fully we each reach out to ourselves and what we say is crucial. The body is eavesdropping on the mind constantly – not just checking in from time to time. What you say about yourself to yourself is duly noted each time, no exceptions.
My lovely wife danced a dance many many years ago with the title “Frogs in a Well,” I don’t have a clip of that but her newest solo, “Speak,” is handy to me. In it she explores the consequences of autism – of our godson trapped in a speechless form for now – I can say freed to a speechless form for now as well. I believe they are equal. There is nothing that is good or bad but thinking makes it so. My good friend Marcus Aurelius said that a long time ago.
Speak – performed at Lincoln Center.
Cats give balance. Maybe they throw things so out of whack that you go for it and laugh. That’s what happens to me all the time. They are so there, so scratching and jumping and finding/burrowing/opening/basically destroying that I throw them out the door. Ten minutes and there is a baby bird where I threw them out. Then I have to find them to save the rest of the bird population and not be one of those people they write articles about whose cats are destroying the ecosystem because they kill birds for fun.
So I get them in and then it’s time for bed and they get so cute I think my heart will break and I get lightheaded with their perfection even when I trip going up the stairs on the carpet they’ve shredded and fall up the stairs on my knees into fresh throw up.
Sometimes the middle of the night
Is your friend
And it’s not just when you
Might be asleep
Sometimes the middle of the night
Takes just what you need
And gives it to you
And it’s all you need
Sometimes in the middle of the night
Is when the Night Blooming Cereus
Looks you directly in the eye
With its piercing presence
What more is there to want
In the middle of the night
Than the thumbscrew of your heart
Telling you you’re loved
Here and now and forever.
That’s when you can see the blue
In the corner and that’s where
The orange directly opposite is completely understood.
It is a privilege and opportunity to speak with many people who share with me their most intimate and life-threatening thoughts and actions.
“I was going to , but I didn’t.” “I didn’t think….” “It didn’t occur to me.” “I just thought…..”
These phrases often precede an action that did not take place. An act of courage, an act of compassion, an act of honesty: all what I call “mini suicides” because they are preceded by years of entrainment, of squelched purpose.
Often the perpetrator is a well-meaning boss or parent. Perhaps someone who doesn’t want you to be let down. Who wants to protect you.
How often do I hear of a friend, relative or parent who has undermined a step to a leap of faith by offering a zone of comfort at just the time when a push was needed.
These are small steps taken to entrainment, to living within the system. System of what? Our own making, laid down for us by generations. And we accept the help in that moment and let ourself go.
It’s usually not as clear as the difference between a Brahmin or an Untouchable. Often a barely detectable expectation, a look, a nod. Sometimes as obvious as, “I’ll only pay for this and not the other,” and we think we can’t get what we want so we take the offering. It’s a deal.
Not choosing where he sits, our Buddha is looking at dandelions right now. Everyone is, I think, who does not use Scotts weed killer. I marvel at his surroundings. They are mine and I appreciate them more than I can say. Gentle countryside, calm water and old barns are high up on view lists for many. As I took these photos I noticed that behind his ear, the Buddha has had a visitor, now birthed and gone.
What creature I do not know ventured to give her baby a safe place and a generous spirit, for what else can this statue signify. Mind you I don’t give the insect credit for seeking generosity, that is a given to any creature of the universe. The safe haven takes some doing and the insect in question won on that front too.
What’s more to the point is the future the insect choose. She chose to give life to life. She gave what she had. And the beauty of her hour here will have another day.
And the Buddha will keep watch.
Spending time with my horse Sanne the other day I am struck by how he holds light. Not just his dark-forelock shining with rain falling but how his eyes catch and reflect light. How they bounce the light through him and back to me.
His soft lower lip can rub with me tenderly, separate the finest grasses, pick up the tiniest grain – of sugar, oats, whatever is in my palm.
Today it is herb balls – a treat made for horses without sugar. He loves it when I whisper “Hilton’s Herb Balls.” I kind of hiss at the end.
He is not just a push-over, he has standards, and willingly makes them known. But he is not looking for trouble. He is not ready with a story or justification. He is ready to stand his ground and find out what is here, now.
And he is capable of fierce attention, his eye soft and full of what is.
When I was in the formative years of my twenties, twenty-one in fact, Marshall McLuhan published his ideas about how what we learn, see, hear is influenced by its packaging. And, in fact we often don’t realize what the “package” is or take it that seriously.
I had found that out with men who took my grounded bookish-overthinking self and would twist their words to sound like something I wanted to make out with. I found it with women who went to the library before going on a date.
Those are just the ones I know, there may have been others…
We all look for what we want. I always told myself the editor or the gallerist wants to find the next popular book/painting/illustration as much as I want to be it. And when the roles have been reversed I find that to be true.
In the last couple of years I have happened to have in my family two twenty-somethings looking for answers – as Guy Noir (aka Garrison Keillor) says, “looking for the answers to life’s persistent problems.”
Like me, they are making their mistakes. And like me they will live with them. Unlike me they came to this country at the ages of seven and ten with a lot of living in them. Certainly by the time I was ten I had mapped out a life plan for myself that I followed until I was eighteen when it ended and my ten year old self had not conceived of time after. The intervening years had been spent dodging my alcoholic and suicidal family day planner.
No matter how good or bad it looks to the inside or outside eye, I knew it well and was adapted. This is not the case for my tender Nepali children. While I can’t explain everything – or anything much – by facts, it remains to say not being born here gave them a lot of adjusting to do in a short time.
Every child in every country is tribal, is habitual, is judgmental in some way. Every family unit has its own ecology. What is in each one of us encompasses and transcends our environment, our heritage. We may map our world but maps tend to be flat and sooner or later we come to an edge. How we engage in that discomfort is often defined by our connect or disconnect with our self.
As a parent I am torn asunder by the thunder of my children – all of them; biologic and adopted. They have all entered, signed in and my heart sees no boundaries, no passports or certificates.
All of us enter this life in our individual way, each is defined by our individuation. All children are possessed of the ability to hurt creatively, some are positioned to pierce all motherly flesh.
This is Mother’s Day coming to us. We are each of us destined for love, we are each of us mothers.
Love is not the flat map, love is the wrap. It is connection and harmony. And it’s vulnerable to everything human. And it is everything human. And it is all there is.
Happy Mother’s Day. Happy Letting Go, Happy Taking In. The sun will shine no matter. Might’s well take the message and let the medium go.
Yesterday I decided to weed. It rained a little and the weeds came out of the ground a little easier, the heat broke and I was happy to be a little wet.
In the practice of choiceless awareness the Buddha taught to look at everything equally. Not to linger over what pleases and avoid what doesn’t, but to give everything an equal attention.
So there I was perched to pull (kill), having chosen a day more comfortable than others to do this job. I often think I use this teaching to avoid any yardwork at all.
Without excuses I was defenceless against the strong, green dandelions and other nameless weeds on my path and terrace. They were even encroaching on my statue of the Buddha.
I approached him. Grasses sprouting around his back, dandelions at his front and dead, cut grasses in his lap. Those were easy but as I began to pull and tear the living greens from the bricks around him I remembered discrimination, choice, truthfulness – also part of the whole picture.
Grace is a blessing to action. Grace is the Dalai Lama when asked if he killed mosquitoes, saying, “one comes and lands and bites, the second comes, but the third…” and his hand slaps the imaginary mosquito.
We all have our limit(s)! And so my hands are sore and still a bit dirty, the stones and bricks have more of a shape and the prospect of being overgrown is stilled for another moment. Moderation, the Golden Mean and I are back on track because I think it will be a while before I kneel to this task again.
I didn’t see this little guy before I looked through my lens. (S)he is very tiny and just the right color to miss. The fly wrapped in spider webbing I saw on the petal later didn’t see her either.
The spider has to pretty much be in the moment. We expect that of spiders. And flowers – and you know what? I took that photo yesterday. Today the petals are all but gone – the one with the wrapped fly is there – and the spider is gone. Dinner for one for one day, maybe two. It’s a magnolia so what’s coming next are leaves, flowers all gone.
The leaves are deep green. I’m going to be looking for a greener spider in the coming days. I bet I’ll find him.