30 December 2011

One of These Mornings

Dear You Know Who You Are

I'm about to disappear.  Again. 

You don't need me -- or if you do, neither one of us is aware of it.

Last time I unFriended you, you sent me an email to flatter my stage work and let me know that unFriending you broke your heart.  You said "I want you in my life."  You used those words. I saved the email for awhile as proof.  Proof for who, I wonder?

Anyway, there's never a time for us to get together. We make dates and you break them.  Every single time.  You broke the date in the last 12 hours leading up to meeting time.

I am a confused voyeur, witnessing your FB conversations with others about how great last night was. Yes, I unsubscribed from your feeds and deleted you from the list of folks who can view my updates

but I'm getting to be like a bird lately -- flying with a light load

a light List

There's your name. We live spittin' distance apart and you break every date we make. It's not the date-breaking that's working my nerves. It's me leaving your name on my FB list just so you can see it there. Yeah, I know:  better women than I would just ignore you.  I'm odd that way.

Best wishes.  Every bright thing for your life. I am not angry; I just don't get it and I'm gone now.

29 December 2011

Facing Down the Dog

For Sojourner in the 21st Century, 2011 has been a year of making the acquaintance of well-fed, badly behaving dogs. Back home in the Midwest where I was raised, we woulda called these animals "spoiled."
In 2009-2010 I was still living in the South where, for the most part, dogs lived at the end of a long chain in the back yard. Back home, that arrangement woulda looked about right.

I don't want a dog on a chain in the back yard.  I don't want a dog looking shame-faced with a mouthful of my shoe or the sofa in his/her mouth.

Here's hoping that 2012 either settles me in my own space -- likely without a pet of any kind --
or brings more shared spaces and house-sit assignments 
where dogs and humans live together more peacefully.

Signs of Mastery

I just read a draft of one of J_______'s newest poems and I am bowled over by the mastery of craft she achieves in a "draft." My son designed a "mock up" promotional brochure for me not long ago and I was amazed by the professionalism of his "thrown together" work.  A short conversation with a small circle of Fools the other day evoked tears of laughter and joy, warmed my heart, opened my eyes, inspired an artistic notion and renewed my spirit. They are very good at what they do, including

Aware of our judgments, we seek to meet people where they are through the arts, education, advocacy and accompaniment. (from their Mission Statement)

All three of these wizardly entities have been steadily honing their crafts for many years, showing up (as far as I can see) nearly every day, putting in time.  Now, every time and everywhere they show up to do the thing they do, something beautiful appears. It might seem that simply applying oneself consistently over time raises the quality of everthing overall. 

It may be true.

But, where "beauty" is concerned, the mistake in that perception is apparent in the frequent displays of slip-shod workmanship, near-fatal oversights and burnt-out insensitivity among "professionals," service providers, educators, artists and others who, for pay or not, show up nearly every day, putting in their time. Examples are abundant.

Beyond simply applying oneself, "diligence" is the alchemical process:  


1.  constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken; persistent exertion of body or mind.

Word Origin & History

mid-14c., from O.Fr. diligence "attention, care," from L. diligentia "attentiveness, carefulness," from diligentem (nom. diligens) "attentive, assiduous, careful," originally prp. of diligere "value highly, love, choose," from dis- "apart" + legere "choose, gather" (see lecture). Sense evolved from "love" through "attentiveness" to "carefulness" to "steady effort."
Showing up every day, putting in time will produce....well, something or other.

Showing diligence, putting in attentive, careful time, paying dues (due diligence), where the object of interest is valued highly, loved....chosen

brings one closer to divine perfection.

I'm looking for evidence of diligence in my own life.  What am I doing with unmistakably more mastery today than 10 years ago?

27 December 2011


Last night I dreamed I had a premonition I was about to receive an email with "Pumpernickel" in the Subject line announcing my mother's death. I convinced myself the premonition was not to be believed since anyone informing me of my mother's death would not let me know via email.

When I remembered the dream today, the whole thing felt like an episode from a sitcom -- confusing and not really all that funny.

26 December 2011

Getting it Right

One must take off her fear like clothing;
One must travel at night;
This is the seeking after God. – Maureen Morehead, In a Yellow Room

As it appears in epigraph to Ahab’s Wife or, The Star-Gazer by Sena Jeter Naslund

25 December 2011

On Christmas Day

I am stuck.
There are things on my mind that I want to write about but only if I can write well--flawless, clear, strong, beautiful.  Without that assurance, I have, for months now, been unwilling to show up here -- or anywhere else -- and put "pen to paper." Unwilling = afraid.

Today, the discrepancy between my fear and the fearless creativity I encourage in my students (what students?  Just one of the many news items I am not writing about...) is bothersome. Today I'm talking to myself the way I talk to the kids:  Perfection isn't real. Imperfection is more interesting and more fun. Often it takes doing a thing badly for awhile to get good at it. Process matters more than product. Blah blah.

I've developed an appetite for flattery and compliments. Not just for the blog but for everything. I've come to believe that I'm good at everything I do. Exceptional, in fact. I think I'm smart and fluent and perceptive and wise. 

Ego at work.

I want more space.  Space to fail.  To flounder.  To figure shit out. 

Luckily that space is free of cost and I don't have to ask permission. 

05 December 2011

Time Steps Forward

Your eyes gaze unblinking at me. This photo is the wallpaper for my computer desktop.
Hello little girl!  It's very late where you live.  Are you asleep? 
I imagine you are asleep. And dreaming...but you don't know what a dream is.

I am looking at your picture and searching for myself, some little evidence that you came into the world through me.  Through my son who came through me. I am looking for a trace of my own face.

You don't even know that I exist. You are dear to me even though I have never seen you.  
Hello little girl!  Welcome.

11 October 2011

Where I Find Myself

I spent 3 hours creating a blog post earlier today and managed to lose the whole thing.  It was an ambitious post:  a good amount of strong, clear writing and lots of hyperlinks and images.

I was upset. I just could not believe it was gone. 

A cigarette craving sat up and screamed inside me.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  My hands went from clenched fists to helpless wringing and back again.

The "pain body" writhing and roaring and flailing.

Five hours have passed since I wrote the last sentence and here's some of what happened between then and now:

Suddenly, my attention went to my breath 
[why?  how?  Spiritual practice.]

In breath
Out breath
Time disappeared
"I" was standing somewhere else;
somewhere outside the eye of the storm of my frustration.

I looked at my hands

I felt fear
and anger
coursing through my body, into my fingers.
Into my eyes, my tear ducts.
Fear and anger and shame rolling through me like a fast river.
My throat was tight.  My mouth was dry.

There was also some other pain not clearly or primarily expressed in the body. Something more like cognitive barbed wire. Some conclusion or question my mind kept returning to....and resisting. 

I didn't want to accept that the writing was gone. 

The cigarette craving was a distinct pang but it was weak and went quickly out of existence.

I prepared and consumed two quesadilla and stood in the sun for a few minutes and played a computer game for half an hour.

Then I got my keys, retrieved the piano music bag from the truck and walked down to the Abbey Cafe to check out piano possibilities.

The sun felt very very good on my skin 

It felt very very good to be walking
to be outdoors
to have sun on my skin

I stopped in front of a house where I heard live piano music and a young woman stepped out onto the porch.  We talked for a bit:  she is the young mother of a 5 year old girl and a 7 or 8 month old boy. She is looking for a piano teacher for the little girl.  It was a sweet exchange and I hope I get to meet the little girl. (I will house-sit here for one more week.)

The Abbey Cafe is a large open room. It's part of a church so, perhaps, it's a converted fellowship hall.  There's a piano in this room but I would never play casually in a public room this large at this time of day. The clerk suggested 6 to 8 p.m. or 7 to 9 am would be good times if I wanted fewer people but I was welcome to play at whatever time I preferred as long as another artist had not reserved the room or piano.

There's a grand in the sanctuary. Some very friendly young men ushered me there but a meeting was in progress so I could not play. 

The young men offered to abandon the room where I found them in conversation to allow me to use the old upright against the wall. It was extremely warm in the room; a single oscillating table fan provided not-much cool. 

The sustain pedal was dead but I figured I could do an hour of Bach WTC.  

A young man in a wheelchair came in and asked if he could listen to me play.  His name is Tim and he sat with me for awhile -- sometime talking when I wished he were silent.

To my surprise, the sostenuto pedal actually had some functionality. Depressing it in synch with the sustain pedal sorta worked...  I was sufficiently encouraged to actually attempt the Faschingswank and two Chopin nocturnes.

I'll go back tomorrow around 6 and hope to play either the grand or the spinet in the cafe.


I created a blog post and lost a blog post and created a blog post....   The first item on my Facebook wall today was a poem that now seems a very nice way to end the day and this post:

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop

08 October 2011

Theater of the Oppressed, Part 1

“Theater” was the people singing freely in the open air; the theatrical performance was created by and for the people. It was a celebration in which all could participate freely. Then came the aristocracy….some persons will go to the stage and only they will be able to act; the rest will remain seated, receptive, passive…
…the barrier between actors and spectators is destroyed: all must act, all must be protagonists in the necessary transformations of society.
--Augusto Boal, in the Foreword to Theater of the Oppressed

25 September 2011

The Tolle Web Meditation

 It's been awhile since privacy and >60 minutes of computer access came together for me.  Where to begin?

On a short walk around the neighborhood, I came upon a dead raccoon.  My reactions as near as I can recall (not in chronological order) were:
  • Gasp. Eyes open a little wider and immediately look away.
  • Rapid data collection during the gaze:  mouth open, eyes closed, blood in mouth, a few teeth visible, four legs...
  • Stomach lurch.
  • Low-grade confusion. Some fear.
The carcass was less than 10 feet behind me when I began to wish I'd looked longer...wondered about the fear that rose up in me...thought of people I know who would have snagged the creature for an art (or other) project. 

It was the blood in the mouth.  Yes, I'm sure:  it was the blood in the mouth that triggered mental activity, generating mostly unconscious gruesome thinking ----> creating Fear.

I am developing some theme-based workshop series:  liberation, forgiveness, surrender, to name a few. It's exciting to think more deeply about this work that has mostly just been fun up till now.  To sit still and look closely and begin to discern the philosophy and intention underlying my work.

I've been mostly working in the staring-at-sky-through-trees and scribbling-in-an-ever-present-notebook modes so far.  This weekend, I've opened a couple times and shared my ideas with another person. (I'm 'out of town' and there's been more social activity than usual.)  It's a little like disrobing ... Sometimes, I wish I had not shared.


wonder why I chose to share.

My life situation includes some very rocky fields and drippy caverns right now. The Power of Now teachings are like finely honed, master tools in my hands. 
Or a carefully etched map whose finer details are gradually becoming visible to me.

This afternoon Tolle will lead a mediation online. I went to the website and registered to participate. I'm curious to see how this is done.  

I was also ... searching for a word...  "hungry" comes closest.  "Hungry" to meet others whose lives have been transformed and illuminated by PON wisdom. 

Yes, ego is a thread in the hunger. Ego jockeying to maintain identity and a place at the table.  Who else is reading the teachings, practicing presence? Am I doing it right? Where is the rest of the tribe?

So-called "simple truth" becomes complex as I look at my life in its light.  See the shadows?  See the places where my life is transparent and the places where it is opaque?  See where it reflects light and where it refracts light and where it absorbs light?

"Being" is a complex idea that exists as a persistent immutable truth. It embraces, permeates and sustains

my life
your life
transparencies and opacities
reflection, refraction

all of these ideas occur against the backdrop
of Being.

9 minutes till the web-meditation.  Time to queue up.

03 September 2011

The Sweet Girls

I was walking down Church Street in Santa Cruz and I thought I wanted a cigarette.

Of course, I didn't really want a cigarette so, after stopping for a minute or two to stare at a most unusual crack pattern in a stone wall

I calmed down enough to decide I wanted a maple creme doughnut instead.

I heard harmonica music and started walking toward it.  Two little beauties perched on a flower box playing their harmonicas.

I snapped the picture
the sun came out
I bought a couple local-grown peaches instead of a doughnut.

I just love this kind of sequence.

19 August 2011

So Beautiful or So What?

So Beautiful or So What
I’m going to make a chicken gumbo
Toss some sausage in the pot
I’m going to flavor it with okra
Cayenne pepper to make it hot
You know life is what we make of it
So beautiful or so what
I’m going to tell my kids a bedtime story
A play without a plot
Will it have a happy ending?
Maybe yeah, maybe not
I tell them life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what
So beautiful
So beautiful
So what
I’m just a raindrop in a bucket
A coin dropped in a slot
I am an empty house on Weed Street
Across the road from the vacant lot
You know life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what
Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant
How we seek out bad advice
How we jigger it and figure it
Mistaking value for the price
And play a game with time and love
Like pair of rolling dice
So beautiful
So beautiful
So what
Four men on the balcony
Overlooking the parking lot
Pointing at a figure in the distance
Dr. King has just been shot
And the sirens long melody
Singing Savior Pass Me Not
Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant
How we seek out bad advice
How we jigger it and figure it
Mistaking value for the price
And play a game with time and love
Like a pair of rolling dice
So beautiful
So beautiful
So beautiful

18 August 2011

Presence ~ Power ~ Now

My life grows in




Over and over the sensational thought comes:

How  did I miss this?  How did I not see this before?

Enlightenment:  not as a place finally reached or a level finally achieved.  More like a mirthful "duh"...realizing I was "there" all the time. Like discovering God was sitting right next to you the whole four hours you were wailing and gnashing your teeth, on your knees, beseeching "Please, please come..."

Yesterday morning I overheard a bit of conversation between two young women at a nearby cafe table. I was meeting a friend of my son's for the first time, a young woman new to the area with some pressing issues in her life situation. I was primed for listening and primed  to play the elder sister adviser.

In the eavesdropped conversation, I heard my own words from 25 years ago; the voice was different but the inflection was almost identical. What a breath catcher!  What an attention grabber!

Before I knew it, I was standing at their table..."Excuse me. I hope my interruption is not obtrusive. I just heard one of you say something that I said, almost verbatim, many years ago. This moment feels like a chance to take the hand of my younger self and share guidance...  Like a friendly time-warped 'pssst'..."

They were both extremely gracious young women. As our conversation unfurled in shimmering strands, they invited me to sit.  I declined because another young friend was waiting.  We shared a powerful, vibrant few moments more together before I finally took my leave and joined my son's friend. Judging from the temperature of the food on my plate, I was detained longer than I realized. The encounter happened outside of Time.

Later, as I was pulling away from the curb, one of the young women ran out of the restaurant and across traffic to ask one more question and ask for contact information.

In contrast to the singular nature of Now and Presence,

the not-Now has a million faces and gimmicks.  A popular egoic strategy lately, as I spend more and more time in Enlightenment looks something like this:

In my temporary guest lodgings, I share communal space with a middle-aged woman, her elderly father and several little dogs. One morning, I woke up to find a pissy mood bumping around inside me, looking for something to attach to.

As I drifted into wakefulness, I tried unsuccessfully to get clear on why I was in a bad mood.  Was it the elderly father?  Was it the dogs?  Was it jealousy or self-pity or arrogance?

Over and over I mentally approached a possible/likely notion but the closer I got to it, the less distinct it became. It was as though the bad mood could only exist in an unlit, shadowy, unexamined corner.

I didn't want to change the bad mood or understand it or heal it. There was no judgment. I just wanted to see it clearly and call it by its own name -- rather than allowing it to masquerade as me.

By the time I sat up and put my feet on the floor, there was nothing.  Nothing but the vast unruffled light-drenched vibrancy of Now.

And by the time I stood up, mind was frantic:  This is crazy! Freedom from mental suffering cannot be this easily achieved. Wait a minute!  Let's look at this again...there must surely be some perfectly good grounds for misery...  For several minutes, for example, from edge of bed to bathroom...through peeing, teeth brushing, face washing....I swing between Being and trying to get a closer look at that bad mood.

Finally, I decide to let it go and return to Now. But before I can take a full deep breath -- usually a reliable device for returning to Now -- my mind panics again.  Yikes! What was it Tolle said? What chapter contained the instructions for return?!  Damn!  I don't remember my way back to Now!

There, in the mirror. My eyes...  I catch my eye. Eye contact reminds me

There is the noise in my head and there's the One who is the awareness of the noise in my head. The one who looks out/in at me through the baby's gaze in the mirror.

In that instant, I am home again.  On the other side of the glass. I am God again. It is Now and I am free.

15 August 2011

In the Baby's Gaze

I am living somewhat nomadic again. Living in places and spaces where I do not receive mail. Sleeping in places and spaces where I receive mail and my stuff is in cardboard boxes.

New keys coming and going on my key ring. Learning security codes and lock-up procedures that I won't need this time next week.

Being introduced to people who are "neighbors" to you and "strangers" to me. Struggling to formulate a response when they ask "Where are you from?" or "Where do you live?" [Note:  That isn't true. I don't struggle. I pull out my old standby:  "The Earth is my home."]

Cooking less and eating simpler because I'm negotiating someone else's kitchen, i.e., "Where do they keep their spatula?" vs  letting the apple and granola bar in my backpack be dinner tonight.

Talking less because most of the humans around me are in a hurry on their way to their usual places...and I am passing through at a decidedly more leisurely pace. There just doesn't seem to be enough time to say everything we need to say.  So we say little.

And talking more because stories about travel and new places and new things always seem to take longer to tell. And I always seem to be drinking wine or Cosmopolitans while telling the story.

There are momentary lapses in geographic orientation. Some mornings I wake up and for a full 5 seconds have no idea where I am. It's a very trippy feeling....

There's also the incomplete familiarity of driving down a street, in a town where I once lived,  but unable to find my way to Point A, B or C from where I am. Ten years ago I could have driven the route with my eyes closed.  Or, perhaps I did, which is why I can't find my way today.

My lifestyle is nomadic again and I am feeling like Sojourner.  Feeling somewhat how I felt when I started this blog.  For one thing, sojourning still brings out the "reporter" in me. I become very observant and want to share my observations.

Earlier today, I stopped for gas at a station I used a lot last year. The cashier on duty was familiar to me. She is a middle-aged blonde woman who has always seemed sullen and impatient. Today, she seemed different when I went in to leave my debit card as security on a fill-up.  When I returned to retrieve the card, she was absolutely beaming.

Making full-on eye contact and wearing a big smile, she asked "Have you seen "The Help"?

"No," I replied.  "I read the book last year.  Have you seen it?"

"Oh, yes!" she was bubbly now. "It's great.  I loved it.  I saw it with my girlfriends.  Go see it!  It's great."

"Well, I'm half-hearing the controversy...  I know there's quite a bit of controversy surrounding it..."

"Oh, pi-shaww!" She handed me my receipt and made a dismissive gesture. "Just go see it.  It's great."

Day before yesterday, a forwarded email offered links I could follow for "a Black perspective" on 'The Help'.  I did not follow any of the links.

Two or three times in the week before, Black friends confiding about current struggles in their lives pointed to how White people contributed to their hardship. Each time the conversation turned that way, it felt like I was entering a lucid dream. Like I could see and hear things but knew my fingers would pass right through if I tried to touch or grasp anything.

I've experienced some thought and feeling reaction to recent "race talk" and the social buzz in the air around the film "The Help" (which is just more masked--or unmasked--"race talk").

But nothing lasted long enough to trigger a blog post. The thoughts and feelings didn't gain traction in my mind and pretty quickly floated away.  Forgotten until the next mention of the movie or some other race-tinged comment by friends or media. 

Today "disinterested" seemed like the right word. I am not interested enough in my thoughts and feelings about race and racism and etc. to share them with the world through this blog. I am disinterested.

But when I did a Google Image search on "disinterested" --thinking I would blog about my disinterest -- I did not like the results. The faces in these pics looked sad or pissed or bored or repulsed.  None of those faces looked like my face.

I stood before the mirror in this room where I slept for the first time last night. I thought about race and racism and media and controversy and I stared at my face.  I watched my face while I thought about race and racism and media and controversy.

It was my eyes that my eyes kept returning to. What's in those eyes, I asked myself. What is that look? 

The words "baby's gaze" came to mind.

So I Googled "baby's gaze."

The images in this post are some of my favorites from that Google harvest.

Sojourning...with a baby's gaze.

That is the practice.

05 August 2011

Beyond Naming

Brain Storm by Thomas Dodd
A few minutes ago I noticed I was grinding my teeth.  "What's going on with me?" I wondered.

What seemed at first to be "anxiety" turned out to be more like sadness or guilt on closer inspection.

Some very good things have happened today and, as far as I can tell, they are happening without any effort on my part.  So the unconscious chatter in my mind ran along the lines of  "Undeserving!" and "You lazy piece of shit!" and resulted in teeth-grinding and a general feeling of malaise.

Wow (again).  Ego is relentless....  Tireless in its efforts to weave a dark, dramatic cocoon for me to live in.

Of course, that's like saying "My lungs are relentless about oxygen intake!"

Lungs do what lungs do, eyes do what eyes do and ego does what ego does -- create suffering.  

It was when the message began to shift from "You worthless piece of shit" to "I feel bad; I need a cigarette" that a little bell rang inside me. One of those mindfulness bells that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about.  

"Wait a minute....  I don't need a cigarette. In fact, I actually don't want to smoke.  Who said 'I need a cigarette?'"

Just because I think it, doesn't make  it true.  
Doesn't make it false, either. Just makes it a thought.

A few days ago I was returning from a rich three hours at piano in the home of a generous acquaintance.  The Bay Area A.M. fog was just beginning to lift; the sun shone high and strong. It was another one of those situations -- good things happening without my control or contribution. 

Within minutes, my thoughts turned to self pity:  "I don't have a home with a piano...my mother didn't encourage my artistic yearning when I was young....I lost too many years trying to be what she wanted...I'm out of time now to make my dreams come true...how pathetic!--an old homeless lady begging for practice time on somebody else's instrument..."

I  was feeling bad. "What's going on with me?" I wondered.  

I looked at my thoughts.  I became aware  that I was believing my thoughts, i.e., taking my identity in that moment from the stream of thought.  "Oh, this is how I feel...this is who I am."

"No" said the wise and loving heart of Practice.  "That is not who I am.  That IS what I'm thinking but it is NOT who I am."

It is true:  awareness of Thought as Thought automatically removes identification with the thought. It's not that I stop thinking what I'm thinking. It's more like I abandon the thought and become Awareness.

If I think of my life as a house, it's as though after an eternity of staring at the floor and feeling cramped, I have recently looked up and discovered that there are no walls or ceiling, no doors to lock or blinds to draw... There's nothing wrong.  Nothing very good (or very bad) is happening;  things just are the way they are.


01 August 2011


Sitting in the sun
eyes closed
following my breath
because my hand cramped and I had to lay down the guitar
and that scared me

I was freaking out, imagination running like wild fire
thinking about
hating myself for years of neglect

and I went
my attention went to my breath
breathing, the journey of breath in my body.
Almost immediately, I touch Life Source, Presence
the undefined Now.
Just from going to Breath.  To say "placed my attention" implies too deliberate a gesture. It is more like acceptance or surrender.

Acceptance of everything:  my thoughts
the sound of a distant helicopter overhead
and my thoughts about the sound
of a helicopter approaching overhead.

Surrender to Now
whatever that is.

Ego resists. And I surrender to the resistance. And the resistance disappears, as gently as darkness disappears in the presence of light.
But it always returns.  Ego persists in resistance
and I surrender again
when resistance surfaces again.
It is astounding, how ferociously ego resists complete surrender to unmediated Now consciousness.

A child frets in the garden next door.
An insect buzzes in my left ear.
The sun is extravagant warmth on the back of my neck.
I surrender. I accept.

I am in the "out beyond ideas" field that Rumi speaks of.
With God, out beyond ideas of God.

In that moment, flooded with awareness of the vastness of the cosmos
I feel a breeze playing against my cheek and open my eyes; the treetops are rippling in time to the breeze and I think of how a honeybee feels the subtle undulation of flower petals against its wings.
And suddenly I am a honeybee and the tree is a flower.

This amazes me for a moment -- and then it is no longer amazing.  It simply is.

And then, in an instant the whole thing is gone:  the perception, the amazement....

Back to Now

31 July 2011

Dream of the Gypsy Baby

I dreamed I returned to my dorm room and found a small group of gypsies at my door -- two women and a small girl.  The child was no older than 2 or 3 years. She carried a knapsack.

I invited them in and offered them something to drink.  The child went immediately to a cardboard box stashed between my bed and the wall. She started pulling out kitchen tools like spatulas and measuring cups and whisks, the kind of stuff that would strike a kid's fancy.  As she loaded them into her knapsack, I remembered the gypsies had visited before. I was surprised and impressed that the child still remembered where the box was.

One of the women scooped the child into her arms and pulled away its clothing to check for bowel movement. She scooped the soft, coffee-brown matter from the child's bottom with her hand and began to roll it like clay into a ball. Her gestures were quick and deft and I was, again, impressed. I noticed how the process of rolling seemed to dry out the shit, changing its consistency. I thought you could use this stuff for so many things when it's dry like that.

28 July 2011

Friends of Ego

Every time I stop smoking, the "real deal" zooms into crisp, sharp focus.

I come face to face with the Ignored, Denied, Postponed, Feared, Disguised, and Compromised; and heart to heart with My True Love.

The smoke clears, the latch lifts and all the quiet dirty secrets that usually sleep in the basement, drag themselves upstairs and stand stoop-shouldered around the kitchen. They stare at me and at each other with desperate, innocent eyes.

There's no violence. No screaming or pleading.

Just everybody standing around looking at each other in the light.

"Now what?" hangs in the air around us.

In the past, I'd launch into action: retrieving extra chairs from the other room and taking drink orders. Doing my best to make everybody comfortable in advance of the long night and hard conversations ahead.

This time is different.

This time, for the first time, I realize that this isn't even my house. I don't live here.

26 July 2011

What it Takes

I don't get it.

In the modern era, acquaintances request that I remember
  • never to call before 10 a.m. except every other Thursday and holidays
  • use their land line number for calls on the weekends
  • they have a cell phone but they do not text
  • they are sensitive to scent so don't wear or use inexpensive deodorant, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, lip balm, soap, or laundry detergent (cheap brands are almost all scented)
  • also don't wear anything I wore on a day when I was using or wearing inexpensive deodorant, lotion, shampoo, etc.
  • always take off shoes in their house
  • don't serve them any foods containing gluten or dairy or meat or alcohol or peanuts or sugar or flour (and dinner invites must be scheduled between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., weekdays only)
In the olden days, even friends didn't require this much maintenance.

21 July 2011

A Mind Space

My writer muscles are loose and sluggish.

The process of writing has always provided a cool-breeze clear view into my heart and mind. So that's what I think and feel about that!

The process of blogging almost always provokes questions, mostly around the voyeuristic and exhibitionist nature of the medium. So here's my heart and mind....and YOU are watching... What are we doing?

Over the last two months, I have embraced the ideas set forth by Eckhart Tolle. The concept of "the watcher": being present in the moment with the awareness of an observer, watching my thoughts. Without judgment. Without feeling. Breathing and watching. Tolle calls it "the power of Now".

It is a space and orientation that is always available. For weeks now, I am either leaning into that space, or inhabiting it, or sensing it from one of the various frantic, far-flung exiles my egoic mind creates. There is no going back now; no forgetting how it feels to detach from identification with my thoughts.

Breath holds the key. Noticing breath and then following it and then merging...as though breath was breathing me.
Thoughts disappear. Without thoughts, there are no words. Without words, there is no writing.

Tolle points to using the mind -- rather than being used by the mind. This part of the practice does not come as easily for me. It is, of course, just another desperate trick of ego. Some sinister delusion that casts me out, alone, isolated and undeserving; what Tolle calls "pain body."

I resist using my mind because I have doubts and judgments and fears about the worthiness of its product. Actually, doubts, judgments and fears about the worthiness of my self.

Typical ego madness.

Today I'm blaming it on California. I get this way when I'm in California. I feel a familiar loneliness, remembered from when I lived here in the late 90's. It's like an old coat.

I have been cast in this year's production of Tandy Beal's "Here After Here". Most of the cast performed in the show's premiere. There are a few new dancers and, as one of four actors, I am the new member. After three rehearsals, my fellow actors' vague memories of blocking and lines are becoming remembered stagecraft.

I am the new kid on the block. It is fun. And strange.

In rehearsals, I multi-task: making notes on a printed script, experimenting with delivery, listening to Tandy's direction, memorizing blocking, learning names.

Tandy's most frequent "note" for me has been that my voice is faint and feathery too often. I've responded to that feedback with increasing insecurity about speaking; my voice and diction sound odd to me. I feel awkward in my body.

I have listened and obeyed Tandy's direction without comment so far, believing that she and everyone else in the room know the show better than I.

And they do.

And I am a performing artist. An actor in this case. And the actor brings something.

Last night I sat with the script and spoke the lines aloud, varying speed and color and pace. I began to see the outline of my character. I'm feeling it.

It feels like waking up. Like using my mind.

I want to be 80% off book by this Sunday's rehearsal. It will be fun to move around the stage with hands free and full of curiosity about the art we are making together.

31 May 2011


One of the things I love most about piano study (and, today, Bach in particular) is the progressive, seemingly unending "opening" that occurs. Almost every practice session holds a surprise, a revelation. Something to see/hear for the first time, even when I've already spent months with the piece.

Today I discovered a harmonic line of sustained half notes "hiding" in a passage of Fugue #10 (from the Well Tempered Clavier, Book 2). I have practiced and dissected these four measures for weeks and thought I knew them inside and out...and yet...

How are relationships like musical compositions? How are relationships unlike musical compositions?