Books and Birds

The clean-out continues.  A friend says we should knock out one wall and create an open space – kitchen, dining room, living room – one space.

I sit in the living room comforted by a wall of books, and wake this morning feeling what they mean to me.  They hold memories and are easily seen and accessed.  They beckon, titillate, and calm.  Each book offers entry to another world, perception, space, time.

I think of Abraham Lincoln walking through snow to bring home books to read by the fire.  A Kindle may be named for fire but doesn’t offer that.  

The birds continue their song and my ears perk all the way along the eustachian tube to my nose, lungs, heart and feet.  The air vibrates, the ground.  I hear flight, vibrate inside.

Grateful, I wonder if gratitude is like a bird, singing and fluttering the air we share.

I read that Love is an energy, not an emotion.  It’s the tissue of life itself.  Oxygen enters through a wet surface and the heart moistens when we feel love. 

Thornton Wilder in The Bridge of San Luis Rey wrote, “There is a land of the living, and the land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survivor, the only meaning.

And so it is! Let the bridge be long!

From Sausalito looking at Mt. Tam

A low, low tide looking at San Francisco from Sausalito

Expanse

It is said when someone dies we lose a library.  A friend passed away Monday night.

I reflect on his gifts, on what he leaves.  He was a gatherer and creator of community.  He loved to cook and garden and offer those gifts, bringing together the wider community we share.

I read these words of Simone Weil, To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. I think of how he was rooted, and now, physicality dropped, essence expands and soars.

I’m still cleaning out “stuff”, perhaps will be until I pass.  Today, going through papers, I read Etty Hillesum, who in 1943, was deported and murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp.

She wrote: Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell.  And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day.

My small wren friend continues to tend to her nest.  I think of what it is to be one of her eggs, so cared for within the shell, and soon there will be tiny chirps as walls pecked through, drop away, and tiny beings learn to fly through air, fragrant and clear, and buoyed with plant and animal exchange.

As Jack Kornfield says: Those who are awake live in a constant state of amazement.

May we all live amazed.  

Wren friend is flitting and hovering as she watches me

May Day

This morning I’m listening to one bird in particular who is a joyous eruption of chirps and song.  Last night we realized there is a nest on the lamp next to the door down below.  One year a nest was built into the dryer vent.  Another year a nest with eggs rested on top of the electrical box.  With the pandemic, we didn’t drive the outside car and when we opened the hood to charge the battery, there was a perfect little nest, now empty.  This year the nest is right outside a door we use daily, but it seems we’re cleared as safe.  

I think the critters have a sign like hoboes used to mark a place for food.  Our Welcome Here Mat is out.   

Steve sits on the deck down below at night and a skunk or two wander by, an opossum, and sometimes raccoons.  Certainly the squirrels are year-round residents, and at night Steve listens to an owl as he exchanges calls with two other birds.  

Life here is peaceful.  

I’m reading Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins. He shares his family move from San Francisco to Hay-on-Wye in Wales, a town with forty bookstores.  

When my book group went to England, we went to Hay-on-Wye, “the book capital of the world”.  We spent time in Bath in honor of Jane Austen, and time in Stratford on Avon for Shakespeare, and there I found Tolkien’s Father Christmas Letters.

Books and birds delight this first day of May.   

The California poppies are in bloom

Gifts

I rise early this morning, and go outside to see the early morning alignment of four planets.  Stars are sparkling through the redwood tree like Christmas lights, and then across the southern sky, I see a shooting star. 

Crickets are chirping and soon the birds begin.  

Yesterday we were at the Children’s Discovery Museum with our grandchild – another gift.

And not just a gift of our grandchild, but the gift of children exploring, climbing, playing, sharing. 

It’s the last day of April and tomorrow is May 1st, May Day.  As a child, on this day, we made baskets and filled them with candy and flowers to hang on neighbor’s doorknobs to celebrate the longer days.

I’m still going through paperwork from the past.  I come across my certificates for “graduating” from chemotherapy, and then radiation.  Both certificates are signed by the nurses who cared for me.  I give thanks.  

May we each feel and fill with delight like May baskets. May we savor what sings around us on earth and in the sky.

The Golden Gate
Looking across to San Francisco
Scented Coyote Bush with Ladybugs
The Big Climb
The Builder
The Musician

Gathering

I’m going through my journals from my trip to Nepal.

As we were preparing to leave the Everest area, and fly out on a plane from Lukla, Celeste shared with me this quote on Emerson’s definition of success.  Certainly she lives it, and I consider it too, this day, a weekend sacred and celebrated with gathering, connection, and a pause to reflect.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of Success:

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. 

Spring

Beauty
Circling

Enchantment

I’ve been with my grandchild who is now two years, five months.

Months count at his age, spinning joy along to three.   

I’ve been a dragon, both friendly and scary.  I’ve been The Reluctant Dragon of Kenneth Grahame fame, spouting poetry and wrapping a delightful little being in giggles and hugs.

I’ve been with the purity of  presence, each moment full, spacious, empty, all at one time.  It’s an expansion of sensory awareness that requires a landing into a different view of time. 

I’ve been reading 4000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.  He writes of time as experienced by a child, non-linear time, and so now I balance on rings wired with the wonder of childhood, the delight of feeling my feet bounce up and down on the ground as my head lifts with birds singing in trees overhead.   

Because I thought yesterday was April Fool’s Day as the days run together when with a little one, we planned to play a joke on daddy.  I would say I was taking Grandson home to live with me, and Daddy would be sad, and then, we’d shout “April Fools”.  Well, Little Guy got so excited with the joke that the lounge chair he was sitting on folded up with a pounce, and there he was sandwiched between.  By the time we got him out and hugged all hurt away, the joke was forgotten which worked since it was the wrong day.

Now today I’m with the beauty of seeing with the open embrace of a child.  I watched him water the plants with a teeny-tiny cup, the water shared equally, and he did this over and over again. The equal sharing was very carefully measured out and he ran back and forth for more water until each plant had enough.

 I, too, am watered with love, presence, gratitude, and shared care.

I offer the words of Ajahn Brahm from “In Brief”.  

Too long I was told that the spiritual path is dry and intellectual. That wisdom is cold. But I have seen with my own eyes that in the hands of great masters, wisdom is warm and full of humor.

My Great Master shows me this.

As Gary Snyder says, Nature is not a place to visit. It is Home. 

Burgess Park
Outside the Library in Menlo Park
Wings of Wisdom
Nurtured by Community
Evening treat for Oma and Daddy

Return

My head just cleared.  I’ve been dealing with a horrible cold and cough.  It has encouraged mindfulness, though not an open, expansive mind but a rather small mind as nothing much can enter and move through.  My focus has been on breath and the effort involved when air and mucus seem to battle for space.  I’ve been given an opportunity to notice how I receive and utilize air.  

I’m grateful to feel “back” and yet perhaps there is a place for the break for an even greater appreciation of ease in breath.

I’m with ease in the words of Meister Eckhart: If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

Outside the Good Earth grocery store
In our yard, Redwood and Pittosporum mingle!

Bearing Witness

Is it enough that we see what’s happening in Ukraine, watch pain, bear witness?

I’m with choice these days and how much we step in with change.  In our small personal world, my husband and I are looking at change.  I could say we have complete openness in this choice but age, health, and being near our children are factors.

The book City, written in 1952, is by Clifford Simak. I re-read it periodically as I’m intrigued with how he foresaw that our houses might become complete enough that we wouldn’t want or need to leave them, and then, we couldn’t when something invited us outside.  Friendly robots would take care of logistics and the house would be a container for whatever screen contact we might need.  

We came to this house located on Coast Miwok land in 1978.  Jeff was just four,  and Chris turned one. The question becomes are the house and land holding onto us, or are we holding on to them.

I’m going through books, letters, and cards  beginning to clean out what is here.  What do I need now?  What container do I build for my nourishment and fulfillment, and perhaps it is seeing people in Ukraine that has me even more aware of fragility and the preciousness of contact in what I choose.  This moment, this moment, so “it”, so full of my life and the lives of others.  

Books I’ve collected are on solitude, nature, poetry and the importance and essential nature of silence.

What pulls me now, and what comes is William Carlos Williams, and a red wheelbarrow and cold plums.  

Traveling

We drove, well, Jeff drove us down to Palm Springs yesterday.  We tried to avoid freeways.  CA is an amazingly beautiful and geographically and politically complex state.  Palm Springs is a dog-friendly place so dinner last night was here.  We were seated and each dog presented with a water bowl and duck treat.  We’re living the good dog’s life now, and every day of course. Gratitude swells.

The life of two rescue greyhounds