Friday, March 17, 2017

Word of the Week - 158

Jeong Kwan, a South Korean Buddhist nun, is featured in an episode of the series, Chef's Table.

Word(s) of the Week:  TEMPLE FOOD

I will allow the links and the chef herself to tell what moved me so deeply about this program.  The most I can add is that my own sense of rightness about the world, a world in which peace, beauty, devotion, ceremony, sacredness, generosity, stillness, attention and love not only exist but are valued, perpetuated, feels greatly affirmed.  If you, as I, have felt estranged from long-held truths,  please permit yourself this accessible period of restoration.  And the pure art of vegetarian meals, called simply temple food by the chef.

This will take you to a New York Times article about Jeong Kwan.  Here is a recap of the series episode, available on Netflix.

To find the show, it is Episode 1 of Season 3 of CHEF'S TABLE, however you watch streaming programs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Word of the Week - 157

Art by Lisa Kaser.

My family of origin was not much for saying, "I love you."  I actually cannot remember it being said to me or among the five of us as my sister, brother and I were growing up.  We siblings say it now, yes we do.  The words are spoken between me and my friends, me and my son.  Anyone who reads this blog or any FB posts knows that I love lots.  Lots of people, things, weather, states of being, colors, creatures and love itself.  I had a rubber stamp made, small, simple, that urges, "Fall in love with everything."

I was already thinking of this phrase for Word of the Week when last night I dreamed - for about the nine-hundred-and-forty-seven-thousandth time - of an old beau.  In the dream I had to turn down an invitation to be his date at a car show, his yellow dream Chevrolet beckoning, as I was already going with someone else.  The someone else said, "You know how much he's in love with you, don't you?"  My answer was, "Yes, but he won't do anything about it."  (Please excuse me for I know the dreams of other people are generally tedious.)  The dream caused me to ponder more than four decades speckled with memorable, treasured blurts of affection.  We are not growing younger, just like the rest of you.  I grapple with the still-adolescent parts of my mind that think saying those words to a man who has been a friend, uniquely, to me for more than half my life has to be "going somewhere."  What a twit I can be.  It has always been somewhere, everywhere.  It is a gift, as my sister might say, "A pearl beyond price," to have people we love, even better but not required if they love us back.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Word of the Week - 156

All paintings by Stephane Dauthuille.
Word of the Week:  INCOMPLETE

I look at the art of Stephane Dauthuille, the heads or limbs of his richly-gowned women existing just outside the paintings' edges, and I do not wonder what is missing.  I have no feeling that what these works say to me is an incomplete message.  They speak fully.  We are each allowed to interpret as we will.

The notion of a life in which nothing essential is missing is relatively new to me.  Any of us of moderate means is capable of wishing for material goods or circumstances that could, we believe, make everything better.  Depending on your definition of better.

A heart or mind that chases after the unattainable allows a sense of lack to cast shadows on what actually IS, obscuring, diminishing what we have.  Contentment is not a product of merely having but of the awareness of and gratitude for what is present.   As I write this, it sounds simplistic.  Of course, everyone knows that, I chide myself.  I can't say that I've always known it.

As the only story I can tell fully is my own and though I may write "we," what I mean is me/I.  Historically, my greatest sense of incompleteness involves my relationship with myself, with a notion of insufficiency in every nameable category.  Becoming our authentic selves, allowing that to be not only enough but desirable requires such traits as acceptance, faith/trust, the willing suspense of doubt and continually reviewing the situation.

I assume of others as I do of myself that we are all works in progress.  I once believed that meant an endless striving to be somehow better than I was.  I had no idea there could be something succulent about being miraculously ordinary, ordinary meaning just me being me.  To be fully who we are,  treasuring that profound and unique state without apology or asterisks to indicate missing parts, ah, there's a challenge.  Within the boundaries of human life with its sorrows, we seem to have the option of being not only happy but complete.  When our mother passed, my sister described her as dancing in heaven with her mother, now restored to two good legs.  In the realm of spirit, measured by the heart, I believe I have what I need, two good legs and a great deal more.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

Word of the Week - 155

Portion of "Window in Collioure" by Henri Matisse, 1942
Word of the Week: TIPTOE 

My thought for the week:  I'd rather not walk where I feel the need to tiptoe.  I am at home in art, in beauty, in poetry, color, music, laughter, all foods for the senses.  I find strength there, bedrock wisdom, grounding.  For whatever life has planned, I am better for leaning into what provides enduringly solid footing while acting as a timeless balm for my soul.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Word of the Week - 154

Illustrator Pablo Auladell and friend.
Writer/artist Edward Gorey as puppeteer.
Word(s) of the Week:  INNER CREATURES

Various sources tell us of our inner beings, the ways they inform and shape our lives.  Inner goddesses, the inner child, inner chef, inner entrepreneur.  I wish for us each to claim our inner creatures.

My creatures are closely tied to the inner child, their gifts the ones I wish she'd had to provide a greater sense of safety and of self.  My inner octopus, a master of camouflage and squeezing into tiny hiding places.  Tentacles, essentially eight additional brains, would have sensed when conditions required caution.  I cannot imagine an octopus behaving recklessly.  My outer child/teenager was a puzzling combinations of timid and foolhardy.  The creature's ability to move swiftly yet with the languid grace found in water-dwellers speaks to my inner mermaid.  The sense of becoming weightless, certainly less gravity-dominated in water still calls to me.

My inner bear, considered a light hibernator, enjoys long winter naps while being able to awaken and take part in Christmas festivities and a winter birthday, neither of which require actually getting dressed.  An especially thick, warm bathrobe could transition handsomely between cave and civilization and would, of course, have roomy pockets to carry foraged treats back to the nest.  There might also be an inner tortoise capable of hibernating more deeply.  The three which were family pets spent their winters in a well-protected location packed with dry leaves, hibernation by concierge.

There is probably a spot at which a spirit animal and inner creature intersect.  The attributes of totem forms supply what we most need: a moth, a crow, a fish and my most frequent visitors, parrots.  We live in one of the Southern California neighborhoods inhabited by flocks of wild Amazon parrots.  They roost and cavort just outside our windows.  At times their squawking drowns out conversation.  We invent dialogue for them, their loud exchanges sounding like accusation and complaint.

For at least the past 10 years or so I have identified with the story of Ferdinand the Bull, realizing that my activity of greatest comfort is a metaphoric smelling of the flowers, sidestepping conflict, declining to engage in rivalries, feuds, stink talk in general.  With the goal of a quiet mind and quiet heart, I follow Ferdinand's example, growing still as I celebrate beauty wherever I find it.

In another post, we may contemplate inner fictional human creatures.

Wishing you blessings of all the Animal Gods.  (Thank you, Rebecca.)  xo

Monday, February 6, 2017

Word of the Week - 153

Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware.
Word(s) of the Week:  A WIDENED MIND

I picked Jimmy Corrigan as this week's poster boy for his "smartest kid in the world" title without any connection to his story.  If interested, please read the article at the link, above.

And I will also use myself as a stand-in for the rest of humanity, speaking of my experience, trusting that it is more universal.

A closed mind in a hamster wheel, a spinning treadmill from which I would never escape IF I stayed there without allowing in light, air and other possibilities.  I can suffocate myself with narrow, pinched thinking.  I, and I assume many of us, am not the best judge of my better aspects.  Too often I fail to find any finer points when I bolt the doors, pull the blackout curtains and burrow into my obvious and plentiful, as I believe, shortcomings.  This happens most often under stress and when tired.

With some rather limited experience of meditation, I know how a quiet mind feels, what it says - or doesn't say.  The agitated mind is a liar, perhaps out of malice, perhaps simply from fatigue.  It, in my case, has compiled evidence of insufficiency in pretty much all areas.  Viewing the documents in the case, my spirits sag lower still.  The evidence is so compelling.

But wait!  Put the focus elsewhere, like, say, sinking into an interesting movie or book, seeing the world with a refreshed perspective.  It actually feels as though louvers have opened in my temples, allowing refreshing breezes in, letting stale notions escape, certainly thinning the noxious gasses they produce.  With a brain open to the winds and the world, I feel so much more connected to all that is not me.  I gain a sense of being part of a vast and benevolent entity in which good thoughts prevail, in which "thank you" becomes a mantra, in which unseen hands are joined in fellowship.

A widened mind is not so much the product of being really smart as it is about being open.  I thrive on ideas that are not just self-generated.  Like when somebody forgets to change the water in the fish bowl, things grow slimy, murky and, let's face it, deadly.  I remind myself, or outside forces remind me, to unlatch the windows, to grab the broom and sweep away sour opinions.  Perfection is neither a reasonable nor attainable goal, but expanded thinking is, a practice that lets me see myself as more than I seem.  We are here to be, I believe, the best versions of ourselves, something we find through being connected to each other and the infinite in which we dwell.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Word of the Week - 152


My maternal grandmother was a battlefield nurse in World War I.  When, in her 60s, she became ill she was admitted to the Veteran's Hospital in West Los Angeles.  Long before freeways went from Pasadena to those far reaches, my father drove our family over one night a week so my mother and I could visit her.  Dressed in my Easter suit, I passed for the minimum age allowed to call on patients.  On one of our visits, she was not in her bed nor anywhere to be found around the ward.  No once could tell us where she might be.  We were apprehensive, as she was nearly blind and had recently lost a leg to diabetes.  We waited beside her bed as they screened a movie for the women.  I think it was something with Elvis Presley.

Eventually an attendant wheeled her back and I'm sure we hissed our questions at her, trying not to talk over the movie.  Where have you been?  We were so worried.  Etc.  Her calm response was, "I've been out cheering up the sick people."

I think of her often, as I knew her and as the young Gertrude Holden of Boston, sailing to France after graduating nursing school at what was then Peter Bent Brigham Hospital.  In addition to "cheering up the sick people," she was known to have said on numerous occasions, "It isn't Boston but it IS Massachusetts," both of which I have borrowed and quoted all my adult life, probably to the annoyance of those who have listened to me the most.

The thought of her, of her ability to find something of value in what to many of us would seem worthless, the model she was that told me no matter what, if we draw breath we have something to offer others, helps me at times when I begin to sag or doubt.  If we are without words, we can listen.  We can offer a hand to hold.  We can refuse to be discouraged.  We can whistle, we can sing, we can be very clear about what matters most, about what is our truth.

I know that hospital ward, which once felt so cavernous, which I would swear reached into distant and shadowy corners on our night visits, would no longer appear so large.  I remember the relief my mom and I felt as we caught sight of her, seeming to return again from the battlefields, from very far away, her face, her spirit beaming.  I hope some of her lives on in me.