A Moment

It’s Monday morning, a new week, and I’m awakened at 4 by my cat needing to go out.

I rise to meditate with intention to surrender to the current situation.  I believe that when we surrender, we are held like a baby, rocked. Buoyancy is our rock as we lean into movement grounded in stillness, in support.

When we were cleaning out our basement, I came across a treasure trove of journals from 1993.  I haven’t felt ready to go back through them, but since I’ve now exhausted every mode of distraction as I shelter-in-place, today I open to some pages from November, 1993.

I had returned from six weeks in Nepal, four of them in the region of Everest, Khumbu, and was struggling to adjust to the abundance and busyness here.  I found it disorienting that people who had so much didn’t seem as happy as people who had so little. Perhaps it was the closeness to death there, and nature.  Their feet knew the ground, and of course a constant bowing and saying “Namaste”, “I see the spirit in you, and therefore in myself”, also helped.  

Wanting to understand and integrate my return, I walked with a friend to Tennessee Valley Beach and we talked.  She grew up in the Bahamas on an island where there was no electricity, no phones. She spoke of the earth and nature, and said people who are close to the earth, who are farmers, are warmer and more generous people.  She said the people on her island are religious and aren’t into material things. She said, “as you accept natural reality, you begin to understand other human beings as people, and you understand what it is to live, love, share”.   She said the White House and our government do not set an example or model. That was 1993.  

She then asked, “How can we survive?  How can we make it better for our children?” 

In Nepal, I learned to be comfortable with silence, to wait.  After all, I’d returned from a small room where I spent a week with a gecko who was my friend and companion.  We were together, but didn’t speak.   

My friend answered, “We can love and pray. Science and religion are now connected.  The mind is healing.” 

She continued: “People here expect things to be handed to them but happiness is within. We are made to reach out and help each other.  True happiness is when you help someone.”

I sit with that now.  We’re seeing that in action.  People are helping each other, seeing and feeling connection even as, or maybe because, we are isolated in place.

What matters right now, this moment? 

Perhaps being with what comes, right now, this moment, is the answer.

I loved quotes then, as now, and this gem anchors this portion of my journal.

Thich Nhat Hanh: 

“It is with the capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace.” 

“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.  Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

And so it is!

Peace!

Connecting as we Shelter-in-Place

In Mill Valley, we howl at 8:00 each night.  Someone has designed 8 styles of t-shirts and we’re voting on which one represents us best.  

In the Castro area of San Francisco, a man plays the bagpipe each night from his roof.  His mother inspired the idea when she reminded him of the legend that the Pied Piper of Hamelin, a town in Germany, piped during the Black Plague to drive away plague-infested rats. 

We now have a yeast shortage because so many people are baking their own bread. 

What’s the San Francisco solution to a lack of yeast? Sourdough bread. It carried us through the Gold Rush.

A man in the Bernal Heights neighborhood in San Francisco has thumbtacked baggies of sourdough starter to a telephone pole. 

The attached sign reads: “FREE SOURDOUGH STARTER. His name is ‘Godrick.'”

I’ve now learned from a neighbor that it’s easy to start your own starter though it’s best to receive a well-used and aged gift. We humans are resourceful, and respond to a challenge, so here we are sheltered-in-place with time to think of how to give and share, and people are joyfully doing that.

Coming to Presence

It’s raining, so again today I’m wrapped in cleansing support.

Even so, my heart is heavy. Though I comfort myself with knowing I and my family and friends are currently safe, others are not.  I embrace the immensity of what is going on.

We share a boat as we balance the up and down movement of ocean waves, the spread of a virus and fear in the air.   

I read that college classes on Zoom show the differences in our lives, so one person may call in from a vacation home in Maine while another is struggling to help keep her family business alive.  If all of this is about how we meet what comes, and an attitude of Is That So?, then I suppose a rounded expansion can hold it all, and yet, helping hands and hearts are needed now as we feel the importance of each one.  

I keep seeing the image of Heaven as a place where people use long-handled spoons to feed each other, and Hell as a place where they starve because they don’t.

The Toastmasters Club which I was part of for many years is now meeting on Zoom, as is my Sensory Awareness community and one of my book clubs.  I’m aware that yes, it helps to see each other on a flat screen, each of us in our own environment, but we are missing the energy exchange that occurs in person where our hearts literally reach out and energetically touch.

It’s said that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component is made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent).  The numbers are disputed but I think we all know the visceral response we have to some people, and perhaps the power of the non-verbal helps explain how one person can contradict himself and utter nonsense, and still be in office.  

Today is Palm Sunday.  I remember walking out of church with a palm frond when I was young.  It’s Holy Week, a time of introspection and celebration for some. Passover begins Wednesday evening.  However one celebrates the blossoming and expansiveness of Spring, it will be different this year. Different, and yet heart connection is still there, even through screens, and I must admit I’m craving more touch, and yet, here I am, able to cultivate intimacy with myself, the movement and processes I am.   I can welcome, follow, and be with the breath as it moves through and around me. I welcome this guest.  

On another note, I read Heather Cox Richardson each morning as she summarizes the political situation of the day before.

Today I read:

In an interview on the Fox News Channel on Monday, Trump explained his objection to Democrats’ efforts to appropriate billions of dollars for election security in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. “The things they had in there were crazy,” he told the hosts. “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” On Wednesday, the Georgia House Speaker, Republican David Ralston, echoed Trump. He opposed sending absentee ballots to the state’s registered voters because the effort would lead to higher voter participation. That would “be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.”

They are saying out loud what scholars of politics have known for a long time: the Republicans are a minority party. They win by keeping their opponents from voting, or by making sure their votes are undercounted. 

A democracy is in crisis if the majority of its people do not support the party in power. We can manage a glitch or two, but a systemic perversion of the government through manipulation by one group or another will destroy our faith that our government truly represents us.

The times are precarious, requiring each one of us to be awake.  Buds are opening their petals to sun, birds, and bees. Trees are spreading their branches, many with newly opened leaves.  Fruit is forming, and so are we.  

It’s time to cultivate even deeper, more expanded intimacy within ourselves and this world we share.  Come to the present of presence, each moment, each breath!

And now I’m going to make blueberry muffins, as I digest what my son tells me about my five month old grandson who has discovered his shadow. What a treat!!

Sun and Shade

Coming to Quiet


I make a fire in the fireplace, sit down on the couch with a book, two books.

My stomach is full; rain pours down, and a cold wind blows.

It’s as though we’re on our own little island here, and I read this from The Summer Book by Tove Janssen, and think yes.

“An island can be dreadful for someone from outside. Everything is complete, and everyone has his obstinate, sure, and self-sufficient place. Within their shores, everything functions according to rituals that are hard as rock from repetition, and at the same time they amble through their days as whimsically and casually as if the world ended at the horizon.”

I read about anchovies in Brian Doyle’s book, One Long River of Song.  I learn that we don’t know much about anchovies but we know that their noses contain a sensory organ that no other creature in the world has.  We know that “sensory complexes in their heads also form dense nets in the cheeks”. We don’t know why.

We don’t know exactly what they eat.  

We know that their “hearing is perhaps the sharpest of any marine animal”, and perhaps that is why “they manage to swim in darting collectives that twist as one astonishing creature”.  

I watch the flames in the fireplace as I consider how sheltering-in-place, if we have a place to shelter, puts us on an island, even as we vibrate with a similar rate of connective response to a virus we don’t see or yet understand.  

Though it’s still daytime I light candles, savor flame inside and out.

Masks

I haven’t yet worn a mask.  I’m rarely out so I haven’t needed a mask to protect myself or others.  I’ve been isolated now for over two weeks so I think I’m “clean”, and I want to do my part in this crazy world we all share. 

Yesterday I learned how to use Apple Pay as my local grocery store is requesting it as a way to pay without touching anything.  I probably don’t need to venture out for another week.  

I feel unnerved somehow, and this morning The Lone Ranger comes to mind.  Of course his mask just covered around his eyes and wouldn’t have fooled anyone.  It certainly wouldn’t have kept the virus away.

I’ve never used a mask.  In 1993, when I was in Kathmandu, my two friends used scarves to cover their mouth and nose but I wanted to breathe it all in.  I still have the two scarves I bought there just in case. When we were in the mountains, in the evenings, we wrapped the scarves around our necks to absorb the smell of wood smoke and bring it home with us. 

I see from youtube I could make a mask with those scarves and two elastic bands, though I gave the bands away when I went through chemo and had no hair. Hmmm!

I feel discombobulated this morning, feel like crying, and I balance that with some strange need to keep a “stiff upper lip”.  The news is dire, and yet this is news we all share, so we bond in support and find humor in creative ways, even as a few take advantage of the situation.  

We love the show Foyle’s War, and are considering watching it a third time.  It shows ethics and bonding through the hardship of war, contrasted with those few who use a tragic situation for their own ends.  

Today’s lift comes again from One Last River of Song by Brian Doyle:

“Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.”

“The biggest heart in the world is inside the blue whale.  It weighs more than seven tons. It’s as big as a room. It is a small room, with four chambers.  A child could walk around in it, head high, bending only to step through the valves.  The valves are as big as the swinging doors in a saloon. This house of a heart drives a creature a hundred feet long.”

We know little about the ten thousand blue whales on the planet, but we know the “animals with the largest hearts in the world generally travel in pairs, and their penetrating moaning cries, their piecing yearning tongue, can be heard underwater for miles and miles.”

“No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.”

We all churn inside, and now I think of making butter from cream, which leads me to buttercream and chocolate cake.  I have the ingredients, so maybe today is a day for cake. May we all be well and remember what we can do with “our own two hands”.

Hold and cherish with our own two hands!




Circling, Circled

Because people have planted Milkweed, the only plant on which Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs, Monarchs are coming back.  I remember them from my childhood in Iowa, and I love them here where I am now. I circle in time and touch.

One warm day in February we were at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove.  When we arrived, we could see butterflies closed, at rest in the trees. Then, the warmth of the wakening day reached them and we were surrounded by fluttering wings.  We were circled by butterflies.

I’ve with that today as I consider rivers of connection, rivers curving before their flow to the sea.

Brian Doyle wrote that “This lush, troubled world, so ferociously lovely, so plundered and raped and endangered, is itself a seething river of divine love.”

I pull out my well-worn copy of Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.  

“Never in his life had he seen a river before – this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again.  All was a-shake and a-shiver – glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble.” Mole trots along the river, “bewitched, entranced, fascinated”. 

Then Mole sat on the bank, where the “river still chattered on to him, a babbling process of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea”.

And with that, I come to the last stanza of Brenda Hillman’s beautiful poem, “Some Daybreak Stanzas for Our Daughters.

One doe scratches an itch on

her back, jaw moving counter clockwise,

her smart nose reaching far into 

the dawn.  Her fawn spots merged

with sunlight long ago and will

circle the tree forever. The perceiving

mind is restless but can surround

the infinite stress of human love.

Lanterns in Our Lives

Lungs

Yesterday our beloved cat Bella was in pain.  As she lay on the carpet in the sun, I watched her breathing which seemed shallow and she was lying in a strange position.  If I touched other than her face, she howled. I took her to the vet. The pain was in her hip. He gave her a shot and home she came, and we lifted her onto the bed and she’s still resting now this morning, healing.

I’m with the breath, remembering watching my mother breathe when she was in the ICU, and thinking of how she waited for and watched my first breath.  Now I was doing the same with her, concerned each breath might be her last. 

Breath is caress.

I’m so aware of my lungs these days, front, back, and sides, so grateful for their functioning, their embrace within the basket of my ribs.

I’m wanting to re-read children’s books: Wind in the WillowsWinnie the Pooh.

I want to return to simpler times, and yet, my husband reminds me we lived, as children, with the threat of nuclear war, and then, there was Vietnam, so yes, and yet, this feels close and personal, ingested with every breath.

And so today as I wait for the sky to come to light, I sit with the words of Pema Chodron.  

You are the sky.  Everything else is just the weather.  

Looking up through Maple tree leaves around 3 in the afternoon