Learning with Trees

I love books, books I hold, and paper comes from trees, though a friend just sent me a card made from elephant dung in Thailand.  It’s beautiful.  Who knew?

When we moved here forty two years ago, there was a redwood tree in the yard.  It was about twelve feet tall.  Then the trunk began to divide and it rose as two, and now it’s a beacon in the neighborhood.  

A child of this tree has begun to rise even closer to my home, and my husband says it should come out. I can’t bring myself to do it.  It’s rising up rapidly, probably four feet now, a pet, a friend.

When my sons were young, they each received a redwood sprout at Scout-a-rama.  We planted them, and as they grew, I bought bigger and bigger pots.  One never rose higher than a few feet, but the other began to tower over our home, and clearly needed to come out.  I saw so clearly how we can’t know what will nourish one being, and not another, or maybe it is that one is meant to grow, and one to squat, each knowing enough.

This morning this poem by Jane Hirshfield comes to me.  It guides my day.

Tree

It is foolish

to let a young redwood

grow next to a house.

Even in this

one lifetime,

you will have to choose.

That great calm being,

this clutter of soup pots and books–

Already the first branch-tips brush at the window.

Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.

jane hirshfield

Childhood Inspiration

Today I learn this from Writer’s Almanac about Roald Dahl, author of children’s books.  

One of the few things he enjoyed about his childhood was that the Cadbury chocolate company had chosen his school as a focus group for new candies they were developing. Every so often, a plain gray cardboard box was issued to each child, filled with 11 chocolate bars. It was the children’s task to rate the candy, and Dahl took his job very seriously. About one of the sample candy bars, he wrote, “Too subtle for the common palate.” He later said that the experience got him imagining what a candy factory might be like, and from it he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).

Think back and enjoy the mingling of present and past.

Sun Rays

My world just brightened as the sun pried its way through fog and smoke.  We’re still warned to stay inside, and yet, there is a lift and lilt to the air this moment, where I am.

This morning,  I’m counseled by this poem shared today on Writer’s Almanac.  

I delight in knowing that earthworms have taste buds “all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies”, and then, I come to the last line, ah, yes.  

Feeding the Worms

by Danusha Laméris

Ever since I found out that earthworms have taste buds

all over the delicate pink strings of their bodies,

I pause dropping apple peels into the compost bin, imagine

the dark, writhing ecstasy, the sweetness of apples

permeating their pores. I offer beets and parsley,

avocado, and melon, the feathery tops of carrots.

I’d always thought theirs a menial life, eyeless and hidden,

almost vulgar—though now, it seems, they bear a pleasure

so sublime, so decadent, I want to contribute however I can,

forgetting, a moment, my place on the menu.

“Feeding the Worms” from Bonfire Opera by Danusha Laméris, © 2020.

Reading books is my guiding light these days, balanced with dips into the news.  This piece on NPR is sobering on how once again we’ve been duped.

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/897692090/how-big-oil-misled-the-public-into-believing-plastic-would-be-recycled

To counteract that, I suggest reading Gerald Durrell’s wonderful books The Corfu Trilogy: My Family and Other Animals. There’s some wonderful home-schooling advice, though most of it is conducted outdoors which is still iffy here these days.

In reading Niall Williams book, This Is Happiness, I set intention to become more of a “self-appointed Judge of Existence”. From the book:

“On the bicycles Christy and I came up where Patsy Phelan in his three-piece suit sat on a small carpet on his front wall.  Patsy enjoyed the privilege of stillness, most days did absolutely nothing but breathe and look and hear and smell the world turning. A self-appointed Judge of Existence, at noon he went in for his dinner, then came out again for the second sitting.”

I set intention to enjoy the privilege of stillness, reception, and sitting with the play of Light.

A Rose Comes Forth

Focus

I’m reading Niall Williams book, This Is Happiness about life in Ireland in a small Irish parish as electricity comes to a place unchanged in a thousand years.  

I’m enchanted, and as I read into the night the foghorns never stop.  I don’t recall hearing them so clearly and perhaps that’s because smoke is sitting on top of fog.  That’s why it was so orange in the Bay area on Wednesday, and then, yesterday was gray and we went from thinking we were living on Mars to considering what it might be like to live in a nuclear winter.  My solar powered lights aren’t getting enough power and watering is stopped. We’ve gone from considering air conditioning to running heat.

This morning I’m with Rilke’s words:  The inner – what is it?  If not intensified sky … “

We’re certainly invited to consider our inner right now, as we continue to isolate and stay apart.  I’m with what the sky invites, both in and out,  as I wait for light which may or may not come.

In opening to this moment, I feel myself unwinding as though I’ve been mummified.  Each unwrapping taps me awake, which reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven”.

He wrote it when his young wife was suffering from, and dying from, tuberculosis.   His wife, mother, and brother all died at the age of 24.  Different times, and yet, these times we’re living in certainly require a journey within to what guides and leads us on.

Edna O’Brien says of Emily Dickinson’s poems that they are “about solitude and the corridors of the mind.  They last forever.”  

Leaving the corridors of the mind for a moment, people are hungry.  

The number of households the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank distributes food to has doubled since before the pandemic.  They’ve gone from serving 32,000 households to 60,000 every week.  Before the pandemic, they distributed 855,000 meals per week, and now they give out 1.3 million meals per week.  

There are many levels on which to focus these days.  

Choose the level and nourishment you need right now in honoring separation and connection, in and out, light and dark.

Light comes. I look out, on fog.

Morning at 6:50 where I live

Kindness

Cheri Huber is a Zen student, teacher and writer.  Each morning I receive a Peace Quote.

Today, this comes:

Ingredients for a Satisfying Life

1. Dedicate your life to something you consider worthy.

2. Celebrate your contributions.

3. Have That Which Animates as your most intimate relationship.

4, Know how to give your attention to what you choose.

5. Keep your word to yourself.

― Cheri Huber

I answer the questions for myself and feel great peace as I reflect and claim my truth and trust. I suggest it as a kind thing to do for yourself.

Cheri Huber says: “Being kind to yourself lets you be kinder to others – and that just might be the finest gift you can give to the world.”

I agree.

Living on Mars

Well it’s not quite living on Mars but it’s 10:30 and still dark with only a red glow.  I keep taking pictures trying to capture it but it can’t be captured.  It’s a feel, a disorientation, a focus on not understanding. 

What is going on?

My phone keeps ringing as people check in.  What should we do, and of course there’s nothing we can do, not right now.

My ten month old grandson calls on FaceTime.  His light blue “onesie” says “My parents are voting for Joe.” His smile, laugh, and clapping hands lift and light my heart.

Yesterday I watched Carl Hiassen interviewed by Dave Barry.  I then downloaded his new book Squeeze Me to my Kindle and stayed up until midnight reading the whole thing.  

A friend shares that when their power went out on Sunday with the temperature way over 100 degrees, they took their laptop into the garage and sat in their electric car with the air conditioner on and watched a movie.  It was like being at a drive-in, and, of course, with the pandemic, drive-ins are back. We’re being creative as long and as much as we can. We rejoice and celebrate to balance fear and despair.

A few weeks ago an 85 year old friend fell and was unconscious before she was found.  Her memory is sketchy at this point and yet those who visit her, only a few, so as not to overwhelm and overload, speak of her happiness, innocence, and joy.  

I read of her light, and how she, a major meditator, doesn’t remember what meditation is, but she does remember prayer.

My husband’s brother had Alzheimer’s and when we went to visit him in a beautiful place with a garden, I felt we were with the Angels.  I sat at a table outside, and a beautiful, older woman, seemingly very frail, and yet that fragility was deceptive as she was strong enough to take my hand and trace patterns on the table.  We sat together and she led me through a world, her hand and mine.

I’m with that now.  I don’t know what it means that I look out the window and it’s dark, and I see the houses across the way have their lights on as do I.  I don’t know what anything means right now but I do feel the angels moving their wings even though it’s now 10:45 in the morning and feels like night.  

I’m with what guides me now, the feel of gravity under my feet and my sit bones on the chair. I rise in response. I’m with the words, “A moment is a moment” and “It’s how we meet what comes”.  How do I meet this moment, and the next, like a ball rolling toward me that I catch and toss and roll, movement carrying me along, connecting a rhythm and ribbon of trust in letting go and receiving what’s mine to learn now, and now, and now.

What’s mine to learn as I sit, though it’s day, looking out at night?

“Smarter Every Day”

I’m sure that most of us consider it a worthwhile goal to aim to be “smarter every day”. This is a fun video on what it is to ask a question, and then scientifically, mathematically, and physically answer the question.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Well, this man lives the questions and with enthusiasm, community, connection, and perseverance, the answers come. Enjoy!!

Integration and Expansion

Last night as I lay on the deck looking up there was only one star above me shining its way through the smoky haze.  I felt as though the world was small: one star, friend raccoon rummaging a nightly exploration below the deck, two cats, trees, and me.  We were held in one embrace, and of course, that’s always true, but it was so intimate, and is with me this morning as I reach to understand the complexity of this world.

I want to be Thoreau in his little cabin but my world is wider than that.

When one has a grandchild, views any young child perhaps, one sees past and future combined in an innocence one wants to nurture even as we know each child comes with his or her own gifts, and there is an honoring of ancestry on both sides, branching out like branches on a tree.

For some reason after waking, reflecting, and meditating, I begin my day with Heather Cox Richardson.  Her words are sobering again today.

https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com

I’m also with a poem by Rio Cortez and this quote from Claudia Rankine:

Blackness in the white imagination has nothing to do with Black people.’

I want to understand and perhaps this poem by Rio Cortez gives me a clue.  

Driving at Night

For Laquan McDonald

I think it’s quails lining the road but it’s fallen Birchwood.

What look like white clouds in a grassy basin, sprinklers.

I mistake the woman walking her retriever as a pair of fawns.

Could-be animals. Unexplained weather. Maybe they see us

that way. Knowing better, the closer they get. Not quite ready to let it go.

Copyright © 2020 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

Evening

As it cooled this evening I placed a blanket and pillow on the deck to watch the stars come out. A person in the valley plays a song each night on his or her horn for the 8:00 howl, the howl of gratitude for essential workers.

This is the song played tonight.

Perspective

It’s Labor Day.  We honor our workers and unions, and this year, there’s an added focus on gratitude for essential workers.  The 8:00 howl began here to thank essential workers, and it continues.  

Yesterday, the temperature topped out at 109 degrees, which is a wee bit rough, as most of us don’t have air conditioning because it doesn’t get hot where I live though with climate change, that’s beginning to change. We love our fog, but last night someone decided to have fun with the heat, and at 8:00 blared out Jingle Bells.

Wet and stinky with sweat, I started singing “Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh …”

Today I read Garrisons Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac on the Blitz in England. 

Along with other events in history, it puts the pandemic, fires, politics, and heat in perspective.

The Blitz began on this date in 1940. “Blitz” comes from the German word “Blitzkrieg,” which means “lightning war.” Germany had successfully invaded France, and now Hitler was determined to conquer Britain as well. The German Luftwaffe, or air force, had been engaging the Royal Air Force for a few months, but without much success. Hitler changed his strategy: rather than focusing on military targets, he set out to crush the morale of the British people through relentless attacks on its major cities.

The first wave of bombers — 348 in all — hit London at around 4:00 in the afternoon. The Luftwaffe primarily targeted London’s docks on this first attack, but many bombs fell in civilian areas as well. Four hundred and thirty people died, and 1,600 were seriously injured. The fires that had started as a result of the first wave of attacks served as beacons for a second wave that hit after dark and lasted until 4:30 the next morning. But Hitler’s attempt to crush the British spirit had the opposite effect. Winston Churchill said: “[Hitler] has lighted a fire which will burn with a steady and consuming flame until the last vestiges of Nazi tyranny have been burnt out of Europe.”

Journalist Ernie Pyle reported from London during the Blitz. He wrote: “It was a night when London was ringed and stabbed with fire. […] The greatest of all the fires was directly in front of us. Flames seemed to whip hundreds of feet into the air. Pinkish-white smoke ballooned upward in a great cloud, and out of this cloud there gradually took shape — so faintly at first that we weren’t sure we saw correctly — the gigantic dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

“St. Paul’s was surrounded by fire, but it came through. It stood there in its enormous proportions — growing slowly clearer and clearer, the way objects take shape at dawn. It was like a picture of some miraculous figure that appears before peace-hungry soldiers on a battlefield.”

The attacks of September 7 were only the beginning. The Blitz continued for 76 consecutive nights, with the exception of a single night of bad weather. Bombs fell on London, Liverpool, Manchester, and several other cities in England and Wales. All told, some 43,000 British civilians died by the time Hitler called off the Blitz in May 1941, and more than a million homes were damaged or destroyed. The Blitz cost the Germans most of their air force, however: they lost most of their airmen and hundreds of planes.

http://www.garrisonkeillor.com/radio-categories/twa-2018/