One Day It Stopped

Love in the time of the coronavirus

A Facebook friend posted this poem three days ago. Asenath Avinash is also a bodyworker. Her place of employment is currently closed, but if you love this as much as I do, you could ask for her when they reopen. http://www.workwellaustin.com/

It’s a good reflection of the shift in the narrative many of us are experiencing now.

And we looked around,
and we saw ourselves,
and it was so funny, so strange
to recognize, not the selves we had
built, but the ones that were buried
out in the long backyard of our lives,
forgotten, rusted, decomposing,
presumed lost, presumed even
never to have existed,
but there they were, just like the
canal-bottoms in Venice,
waiting for us, never having gone,
never having left,
and the miracle
was being able to see clearly
what was already there.

The miracle was how quickly
the pollution vanished,
and our eyes healed,
and we looked out on a world
that was fresh and different
and we saw that businesswomen
were really poets,
and that scientists were really prophets,
and that we were all vulnerable
and worth protecting,
and that toilet paper
was a kind of false security,
and that all our systems
needed a pause and
a fresh start
and that most of us
were really, very tired.

And we rested,
and our children wondered
what is happening right now?
and we couldn’t answer.
We weren’t supposed to
touch anything
or do any work
or go anywhere,
and it felt that we were
being shown something.

So we stayed at home, and
we mowed the tall grass
and listened to birds
and gave thanks
for the garbage collectors
and the grocery clerks,
and we organized our closets
and made pots of nutritious soup,
and the introverts
turned their cameras on
and taught us
how to make crafts,
and the musicians
picked up their instruments
and walked out
their front doors
and sang in the streets,
and nothing stopped them,
not cars, not fear, and no one
thought they were lunatics,
in fact, we thanked them,
we came outside to listen
standing far apart,
and feeling our interconnection.

We understood
that something so profound
was taking place,
and that if it went on
long enough, the fireflies
would come back
into our yards
and the ladybugs
and the milky way.
The earth herself
was waking up quietly,
or rather, we were,
and we saw that maybe
we didn’t need so much
after all, maybe
in this new world, we’d find
new careers
or they would find us
if we let them,
and we wanted to
stay put and be still and
feel it out
moment by moment.
We didn’t want to touch it
with our clumsy hands
or make plans or
disturb anything,
and so we just watched it
breathing softly
and steadily
like a precious newborn.

And we knew that,
at some point,
it would probably start up again,
which was confusing,
because, yes,
we did need money,
or so we had always believed.

-AAvinash, 3/24/20

Glenn Close reads Neruda’s poem “I Like for You to Be Still”

love how poetry feeds my soul. enjoy this sunday bonus.

Ruth Reichl’s delicious deviled eggs recipe

My favorite food writer is Ruth Reichl, former food critic of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, editor of Gourmet magazine, book author (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic and Sapphires, Not Becoming My Mother, and more) and a wonderful tweeter to follow on Twitter.

Her tweets are poetry, jewels of sensual delight. Here’s a recent one:

Late spring. Damp green grass beneath my feet. A flock of tiny yellow birds. Local strawberries, so sweet, drenched in thick Jersey cream.

Doesn’t that make you want to hang out with Ruth, wherever she is? She’s so present, so alive, so appreciative.

She wrote about how to make deviled eggs, and I learned several things:

  • Fresh eggs do not peel well. Get farm or backyard organic eggs from free-range chickens and let them sit in the fridge for a week before hard-boiling.
  • The term “deviled” was used starting in the 18th century to refer to spicy foods, such as deviled eggs and deviled ham. They are also called “stuffed eggs” and “mimosa eggs”.
  • If you want perfectly centered egg yolks, store the eggs on their sides.
  • Bring cold water with eggs in it to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat for exactly 12 minutes.
  • After cooking, immediately chill the eggs in a bowl of ice water to prevent the greenish tinge on the outside of the cooked yolk.

I made deviled eggs yesterday, before I read this article. They are so easy and yummy in summer! I use store-bought mayo (made with olive oil—Ruth provides the recipe for homemade—click the link above) and topped each filled egg with paprika and exactly three capers.

Below, two eggs are store-bought organic, and two are from Hal’s backyard chickens. Guess which is which? Also notice the greenish tinge on one of the yolks. That egg must not have cooled quickly enough!

My granddaughter, who turns 12 today, has a shortcut to get deviled egg flavor without the work: She peels a hard-boiled egg, cuts it in half, and smears a little yellow prepared mustard on it. Pop it in your mouth, and voila! Quick and easy!

my personal guesthouse

i’m typing this post with my right hand, cradling my laptop in my left, because my bee-yoo-tiful purry, furry cat mango has claimed the real estate that is my lap — no room for the laptop.

cat love is so good. mango, i love you! and yes, i know it’s not quite unconditional love like a dog’s love, but i am so grateful for it. the furry orange prince mango comforts and soothes.

i am grateful for every bit of love that has come my way, ever. when i think of all the streams of love energy (affection, attention, positive regard, laughter, eye contact, smiles, support, kindness, help, teachings, advice, loving touch in its many forms, love from a distance, and countless other ways), that have pierced my energy field in all my years of life on this planet, whether i was aware of it or not, i am especially humbled and full of gratitude for being part of this 7 billion strong tribe of odd-looking, ungainly (especially compared to cats) mammals called human beings who love.

maybe not all the time, but we humans do love. we. love. we love.

love rules the emotions. it conquers all. love > fear — someone recently gave me that bumper sticker celebrating her recovery from cancer. thank you. it’s very handy to have that reminder.

when a relationship changes direction, as i recently experienced, i become a guesthouse for all the emotions passing through, the feelings stirred from having taken a risk and opened my heart to someone i really, really liked a lot, and then needing to find a way to change my way of relating.

i’m actually not sure of the distinction between really, really liking someone a lot and loving them. loving seems to be the scarier word for some, so maybe fear is the only distinction. not for me. i use the word love a lot.

i realized early on that i wanted to love this man, that it would hurt me not to open my heart. sometimes you just know that you need take the risk. you see who they are and where they’ve come from and what it took to get here, and it moves you. you look at their face and can see their young self shining through, and you adore that self and the current self struggling to find the light and sometimes finding it.

i’m glad i opened my heart, even though hurt is one of the horde of emotions flooding through the door of the guesthouse today, along with appreciation, respect, admiration, fear, sadness, doubt, relief, grief, dismay, disappointment, pride in both of us for coming to this conclusion and moving through with it, deeply grateful for time and space to process on my own and for him knowing i’d need that, vulnerability, gratitude for having been seen/heard/felt and for all the laughter and loving touch.

and a sudden hindsight about a comment that i puzzled over, more awareness of how i relate, recognition that i wasn’t looking or ready for this and that’s okay because i will be more awake the next time love knocks, that mental penetration to truth that i enjoy so much when it happens, awe that two people can manage to communicate at all about anything that really matters, understanding that he and i have really different values about certain things, recognition of both our foolishness and our bravery.

and feeling shot for unwittingly bearing a message that scared him, a lot of compassion for us both, eye-rolling exasperation about some of his expectations and thinking, some real anger, recognizing a man’s gonna do what a man’s gonna do, seeing foolishness (and not just his), remembering how much i looked forward to seeing him and realizing it wasn’t enough time to really jell, tragic, managed, dogged fix-myself-ology, hope, perspective, acceptance, happiness that it happened.

and excitement and anticipation about what amazing new relationship could possibly come next and what i now bring to the table for having had this experience, great insights into timing, awareness that this experience is cooking me in some great mysterious way, respectful for whatever he might be thinking and feeling during this time, a bit of worry for him, hope for him, a desire for him to succeed too, wanting to let go of wanting to fix anyone or anything, and a beautiful vision of a new and different relationship between two amazing people who really, really like each other continuing to be present and open in a friendship that contributes to each other’s lives and benefits all sentient beings.

i don’t know if that will happen, if that’s my idealism, or if baggage, shadows, or egos will get in the way, or even if there’s mutual interest. but it’s my fantasy, and i get to have it.

i don’t usually post such personal writing, but this topic of love and change is so personal and universal. may this writing benefit you, and all sentient beings.

my heart chakra already feels so much better for having written this, for greeting all those guests, and the traffic through the guesthouse is already slowing to a trickle of visitors whom i can spend quality time with.

as within, so without. here’s the original poem by rumi.

The Guesthouse by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Poetry, reciprocity, feeling absolutely useless and enjoying it

I used to post poems I liked to this blog, but I stopped a while back and removed them (well, all except for Shoveling Snow with Buddha by Billy Collins, widely available online).

By the way, Shoveling Snow with Buddha is a wonderful poem to read in August when it’s over 100 degrees. Just saying.

The major reason is that poets are often impoverished and yet the best ones give us the beautiful gifts of lifting spirits and expanding worldviews, maybe shifting our  identities for the better, touching our hearts and souls.

Somehow they manage to use words, which are a left-brain tool, to convey right-brain experiences of intuition, wonder, and new associations.

Every poem available online is also available in a book, and when you buy a book of poems, the poet makes money. They don’t make money from having their poems published online.

Buying a book of poems reciprocates the poet for his or her talent, sweat, and generosity. They need to eat too. (I think Billy Collins is doing pretty well, though, and I have bought a handful of his books. Billy, if you disagree, please let me know.)

I still subscribe to Panhala, which sends me a daily email with a poem in it. Each poem includes the poet’s name and the printed source — so you can buy the book or find it in a library, if you choose.

I have a hunch that Panhala, even though it posts poems for free, probably steers more people to poetry in general, to particular poets, and to buying poetry books than anything else online. Joe Riley does it as a labor of love. No advertising, just poems, photos, and music.

Today’s Panhala poem makes me want to make an exception to my rule. It’s by David Ignatow, is titled For Yaedi, and is from New and Collected Poems, 1970-1985.

It’s a short poem, and I’m going to only quote part of it.

…When I die
I want it to be said that I wasted
hours in feeling absolutely useless
and enjoyed it, sensing my life
more strongly than when I worked at it.

Thank you, David Ignatow. Thank you for that poem. I love that sentiment. I find myself longing for some hours to waste. I’m so used to being productive, to forging ahead, to getting things done.

My shoulders tight, especially my right shoulder, which seems to be where that forging ahead energy resides in my body. 

I got my grades in massage school, and I’m doing so ridiculously well that I realized I could afford to slack off a little. I stayed home half a day, turned in an assignment a day late, and made 80 on a quiz. So there.

Thoughts have been swirling about finishing the work on the trailer, big expenses coming up (tuition, car repairs or replacement, finishing the next four months of massage school), dwindling savings, finding work, and this intensely hot drought that seems to be unending.

I am going to set aside several hours tomorrow to waste while I sense my life strongly. Maybe a little shaking medicine, sitting, breathing, yoga, toning, journaling, walking — no, wait, that’s useful. I’m going for useless.

Hmm.

I think tomorrow is the day to let my feet lead me. They’re already telling me they plan to take me to Barton Springs.

My hunch is that I will probably have more resources to draw on to solve my problems after taking a useless day than I would have if I had a useful day.

I’ll post the outcome on Monday.

The completion of our birth

Today the first lines of this poem took my breath away, and as I read on, I continued to be astonished at Stephen Levine’s truly gifted way with words.

Read it here on Panhala.

Repost: Shoveling Snow with Buddha, by Billy Collins

Just for the fun of it, because of the big east coast blizzard, I’m reposting a poem by Billy Collins, from his book Picnic, Lightning.

Shoveling Snow with Buddha

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok you would never see him doing such a thin … Read More

Leaving a job, embracing the unknown

How much change do you need or seek?

I need a certain amount of change in my life, and I’ve worked in an environment for the last six years where people often stay in the same job for decades.

I gave two weeks’ notice at my job on Monday.

I once worked at the same place for eight years, although that job involved promotions, various managers, and several reorganizations. In my current job, I have done the same thing for the same manager for six years. I’ve liked working with her. She hasn’t been perfect, but I’ve felt comfortable with her supervising my work. She’s a literate technologist, and I appreciate her. Now she’s retiring, and I’ve come to see it is also the best time for me to leave.

Even though giving up a secure job brings insecurity, I feel strongly that I did the right thing anyway! I feel exhilarated and insecure, free and scared and adventurous.

I’m excited about the new opportunities I have — to work in a health food store, to work in a garden center, to spend more time with my granddaughter, to catch up on my reading, to devote more time to improving my blogging, maybe travel a bit, take some workshops that intrigue me.

To rediscover my own biorhythms instead of those artificially imposed by an employer’s needs — yippee!

And of course as I’ve mentioned before here, I’m selling my house, planning to downsize into a vintage trailer, and have been accepted into the Academy of Oriental Medicine of Austin with a summer start date.

I am witnessing doors open — like being asked if I’d be interested in teaching an “old men’s” yoga class!

I notice a kind of shedding that accompanies leaving this job. My mind feels sharper and more resourceful. I feel more alive.

I am not who I was six years ago. Dang, but I have done a lot of yoga since then, substituted for my teacher, and finally trained as a teacher.

I’ve taken two levels of NLP training and presented on NLP topics, with plans to do more and some coaching again.

I finally read all the Carlos Castaneda books and discovered some great poets and took up the pennywhistle.

I’ve traveled to Maui twice and discovered West Texas.

I’ve been in and out of relationship a couple of times.

I’ve been a support for my daughter while she’s gone to nursing school.

I’ve been an integral part of my granddaughter’s life.

I’ve worked hard on several health issues with a lot of success.

I’ve made some friends at work and gotten kudos for my work.

And of course, I started meditating and started this blog.

Really, I cannot count all the changes I’ve made while working in this same steady job. The job has made it possible for me to grow and change, and now it seems I’ve outgrown the job.

I’ve come to accept that truly, life is change, that change is the key characteristic of life. I walk towards it now.

Poem about expanding your awareness

The gift of poetry: Anticipate the unexpected. Imagine the unimaginable, and don’t make it so dire, if I know you at all. What if gravity didn’t exist? And what if you were much, much larger in spirit than you think you are? What if you contained universes?

I’m liking this Robert Bly poem, Things to Think, a lot. Here’s the link to it on Panhala: http://www.panhala.net/Archive/Things_to_Think.html.

Most of us think too small too much of the time. Be large for a day.

Four noble truths, four practice principles

These are the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths:  

  • Life means suffering.
  • The origin of suffering is attachment.
  • The cessation of suffering is attainable.
  • There is a path to the cessation of suffering.

Restated as practice principles by American Zen eminence Charlotte Joko Beck:

Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering;
holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream;
each moment, life as it is, the only teacher;
being just this moment, compassion’s way.

Each Sunday at the end of zazen and service, we repeat these four practice principles three times. It took me awhile to memorize these lines, and now I think of them often, especially the last two lines, which ground me, open me, and deepen me.