Good Morning

Traveling along highway 299 near Willow Creek, Matt and I came upon a roadside artisan bakery. Everything (oh, yes, carrot muffins, lemon muffins, almond tart, peach jam, fresh coffee in a Mason jar all partaken under a shade tree) tasted so good.

BakeryCorinne
Corinne’s Roadside Bakery, Humboldt County

Like bees to nectar, folks gathered on Corinne’s deck and we took time to learn each others’ names–Viola, August, Donna. We heard about their adventures as medicinal marijuana farmers, shell weavers, drummers, yoga teachers, travelers….We wondered at what we choose to do, what chooses us, where we end up and how sometimes there is no “why.”

Stories and sweets. A few people, many hats. Good food and good byes. Good morning.

di-vorce

Some poems, like some people and some animals, take awhile to find a home. arena was published in elephant journal Saturday after five years and nine submissions. I wrote it in response to the strain I’d see in some of my middle and high school students whose families were in the process of splitting. Sometimes change is thrust upon us and everything becomes unsteady for awhile.

Our Animal Presence

At Summer + Sanctuary at Ratna Ling in the mountains of California’s Sonoma County, we gather at 7:30 a.m. to sit in meditation together. Even as thoughts splash their oily paints on the dark canvas of our morning minds we are in fact meditating. Only moments–nanoseconds, I believe–of awareness are experienced. Maybe those fragments of time are the negative space of the mind’s composition, wherever paint doesn’t land.

In those fractions of time I feel fastened to the broadness of animal presence.

“Come into animal presence,” Denise Levertov writes. “No man is so guileless as/the serpent. The lonely white/rabbit on the roof is a star/twitching its ears at the rain.” 

Sometimes as I “sit,” images of pets loved and lost pass through my mind, the easy breath of their ingenuous resting. My ears open to sounds of doves’ calls and finches’ songs. My skin shivers under the kiss of breeze.

In The Soul of All Living Creatures, Vint Varga combines stories of his work in animal behavior with insights into what other creatures can teach us by their responses to their environments. Animals offer us means to connect our intellectualized, machine-dependent human selves with all that surrounds us and upon which we commonly depend–water, air, earth.

“Instead of running on automatic, relying on words to convey to others everything we think and feel, the animals right by our side can remind us of the other ways to express ourselves….As we accept how we convey our thoughts and feelings beyond words we use–through the tone, pitch, and pace of our voice as we speak; our postures, gestures, and facial expressions; the ways we look into another’s eyes (or don’t)–we more fully relate to those in our lives. And as we communicate with clear intention, while being mindful and sensitive, we more fully embrace our human nature.

Why meditate? To fasten ourselves to the beautiful world of which our lives are a part. And carry that sense of connection into daily dealings.

Start now. Stop where you are. If you’re in a chair, sit to the forward edge of the seat and settle your feet solidly. If you’re standing, feel your feet steady and supportive beneath you. If you’re sitting on the ground, prop yourself with pillows until you’re comfortable. Feel the length of your spine from tailbone through neck. Let yourself ease into the animal presence of your body, eyes closed or almost. Keep company with your breath for a minute, or five to ten full rounds of inhalation and exhalation. Breathing with the rest of earth.

 

Seeking

Sometimes you do find what you were seeking. I wrote earlier this month about a quest for the ghost flower, Monotropa uniflora. With the help of a botanist and access to private land, we found it growing among Douglas fir in Del Norte county.

I'm in the orange helmet, looking.
I’m in the orange helmet, seeking.

The plant doesn’t need sunlight and can grow in dark places.

You find it in shadows and nooks. As our leader, Bianca, said, “You have to use your ghost flower eyes.” Once you spot one cluster, the others seem to appear. This is a reminder to me that what one chooses to seek determines what one finds.

Traveling poems

Two new poems published today in elephant journal. Photos by Matt Weiser.

Visiting West Virginia

The online version loses the line breaks. Here’s the poem with the correct line breaks, if you’re curious.

Listening to BBC World on the Car Radio Long after Bedtime

The online version loses the line breaks. Here’s the poem with the correct line breaks, if you’re curious.

You are

You are a being of boundless, limitless wealth.

I read this crossing under the freeway heading back to my apartment at the end of the morning dog walk yesterday. The words were printed on a piece of white paper stuck to a pole at eye level.

As I waited for the light to turn green ahead, the statement raised five questions and a reciprocal statement:

Who knew? Why not? Whose to say? Where are you? Where am I? Let’s go.

Thank you.

Sukhasana + Xingche

Appreciating leisure…

Living in Seclusion in the Nanyue Mountains

To dwell in noble solitude has been the goal of a lifetime,

So from now on I will live my life here on this mountain.

I have seen through the illusions of this dusty world

And am no longer embroiled in this floating existence.

There are stalactites that one can suck whenever one likes

And wisteria flowers that can be pulled down as one pleases.

Heaven and earth make up a space so great and so vast,

Who really appreciates the leisure to be found therein!

– Xingche, from the poem “Living in Seclusion in the Nanyue Mountains,” translated by Beata Grant

Note: previously published in Daughters of Emptiness: Poems of Chinese Buddhist Nuns (Wisdom Publications, 2003);  reprinted with permission of the press

Pair with: sukhasana

Speak: The poet ends her question with an exclamation mark instead of a question mark. Enjoy!

Consider leisure.

 

Synergy

A poet seeks to combine meaning, sound, rhythm and space into a cohesive structure.

In yoga, we conceive of the body as an organized whole and explore shapes with it, investigating how muscle, bone, fascia, breath work together.

Both practices, poetry and yoga, remind us that everything is connected.

Scientists know this, too, that one thing affects another. We live together in a web, a net. Biologist Mark Winston writes in Our Bees, Ourselves, about the disastrous effects of combined pesticides on the busy insects we rely on to pollinate our food crops.

“Honeybee collapse has been particularly vexing because there is no one cause, but rather a thousand little cuts….The real issue, though, is not the volume of problems, but the interaction among them. Here we find a core lesson from the bees that we ignore at our own peril: the concept of synergy, where one plus one equals three, or four, or more.”