Honoring the Space as Object

Ah hah! Learning about natural-looking spray tan, cute t-shirt tricks, and magic moisturizer brands is fun, and as I wrote before, nicely distracting from terribly serious matters on my mind as of late! BUT, since consciously deciding to linger in a ‘clean slate’ sort of space, I want to be careful not to fill that back up too quickly. It’s not time to shop for all those brands and gadgets Influencers say are must-haves, like Paula’s Choice exfoliant, yet!

Instead, it’s time to peel some of the attention away from Beauty You-Tube, toward Cleaning You-Tube, and Zero-Waste You-Tube!

I know, how glamorous. πŸ˜‰ But really it is all the same thing… playing and experimenting to find what feels good, what elevates daily life.

One thing people might be surprised to know about me, is that I did a fair bit of apartment cleaning when young. It was a natural second or third job to pick up, because I grew up doing a lot of general cleaning of what was not at all an easy house, what with its old cabinets and counters, terrazzo floors, and pine walls. When I began cleaning for others, it surprised me how few people knew how to clean their own spaces, or found satisfaction in doing so, and therefore, how large my own bang-for-buck could be. There would be so much appreciation for something I hardly thought about at all, and more money than average for 2 to 3 hours of work.

It was spiritual work, too. At the time I was fairly religious, often meeting my clients through church, and would spend the cleaning time also singing or praying. That was an early imprint for me actually, the sound of my great-grandmother singing and praying as she worked around the house, so it was a natural pattern to fall into that I didn’t think much about at the time.

Image result for snow white cleaning"

Then, how did I arrive to the place where I found myself at the beginning of this year, madly scrolling through cleaning service companies online? I don’t know. Everything had just slipped. I looked around and felt the weight of things not cared for well. This is a feeling I think many people try to fill with shopping, and maybe a tendency I was quickly falling into as well, but buying new things only distracts for a while when what you are really going for is the cumulative contented feeling of daily care. That’s something – that something in you – can feel regardless of the status of a surrounding.

So, for the third time in my life, I asked a service in to help.

It felt great to arrive home with things done, everything smelling nicely (usually I can’t smell any difference, since I’m immersed!) but I can’t say I felt in the end, that it would be worthwhile to spring for such regularly. Rather, I’d rather learn some new space and cleaning tricks, adding on to my 2020 Resolutions!

I guess I feel, why not. I’m still staying busy, but turning it just a little more inward.

Some little things I’ve learned so far:

1 – As with wardrobes and beauty, cleaning methods become outdated. THE TWIST is, in our time, most methods need to be updated BACKWARD. In many instances, we can learn more from our grandparents and even great-grandparents’ generation, than from our parents’, because the availability of newer and newer and shinier and shinier things that last shorter and shorter periods of time, is the wave most have ridden. I know that in my own upbringing, even when we were struggling financially, buying generic groceries or second-hand clothing was just not done.

Maybe sometime I’ll write about the odd balances I grew up with in terms of status and outward impressions, versus the reality. I was thinking this morning about how often as a teen friends would dress me… how I wore a borrowed top to take my 11th grade school photo, a borrowed dress on my first real date with my later-to-be (first) husband… and how when I ran into a friend in college she said to me, “I never realized you were poor like us.” I hadn’t either, actually.

It was one of the things that I loved about that same husband’s family – that it was the reverse. They shopped in thrift stores and skimped like a family just coming out of WWII, but they also took trips and traveled to see one another, kept up the family camp retreat. Not that there weren’t downsides to their way of life too, but in our time of growing consciousness about the effects of mindless wastefulness, there is much to learn and appreciate from their model, which I have and do.

Of course, there is a lot to glean from both, which I hope my children find better ways of living than I have so far. BUT, I’m working on it, as you see.

Anyway…

By the third video I gravitated toward, I realized my apartment was full of terrible chemicals that had always felt like compromises, but which I thought I couldn’t do without because I’d never seen it done any other way. I mean, when I use straight bleach to clean things, I’m likely to feel ill for days afterward, but I still use it! Or did. I’m going to try to forego bleach from now on, in favor of baking soda, castile soap (my new obsession), vinegar + essential oils. So far various combinations of these ingredients are working better than fine, but you have to use the right instrument, or leave things soaking a bit longer. Another big tip is: don’t give up too fast!

(Isn’t it interesting how all these cleaning tips are also life tips? Funny how that works. πŸ˜‰ )

2 – Beware even of brands that use eco-friendly labels! “Greenwashing”, a term I learned from You-Tuber and environmental scientist Shelbizleee, is everywhere!

A few years ago, a friend began to sell Norwex products, and most of them have been fantastic, eliminating the need to use lots of paper towels especially. Still, I somehow categorized in my mind that daily tidying and deep cleaning were different, so the Norwex products have come in alongside my keeping the others mostly. They did make a significant dent, since so many of their items need just water to work, but I still fell into a sort of self-satisfied complacency.

Phase II is about putting products using eco-friendly labels (a standard that is NOT regulated in the US), under a more powerful microscope!

“Let it go… let it go…”

3 – On a site called Clean My Space, I was reminded that gathering all the tools in one place cuts down time, therefore cuts down the tendency toward procrastination. This goes for anything, but I’m terrible about it. My toolbox consists of a battered Prada shoe box, and you can find random cleaners in every cabinet that I have to go on a scavenger hunt into each time.

This falls under the category of “I already know that!” I just don’t DO that. πŸ™‚ Maybe you don’t either?

There’s more, of course, but I’ll end at the importance of:

4 – Basking in the feeling of completion at the end! We’re all too often on to the next thing, but one way to be motivated to do things well and to finish, is to pause and appreciate having followed through when you do it. This may be especially important for tasks, like cleaning, which others do not usually see, which there is no fanfare for.

I, like a lot of people, find inspiration in Japanese or French going against the grain when it comes to what is thought to be refined or beautiful, and when I really stopped to consider what it is, that quality… I found that appreciation, dwelling on the whole context rather than one part that may feel to fall short, etc., has a lot to do with it.

The term wabi-sabi, for instance points to not trying to hide injury or imperfection – to acknowledging the full life of an object once it has set out and become part of the world, not giving up on it so quickly. Everyone has seen the photo of the tea cup repaired with gold (a technique called kintsugi) that actually emphasizes the broken places.

Recently, I added to my reference saori weaving, which is the technique of weaving remnants and scraps into a piece, or constructing the entire piece from threads broken away from their original purpose.

The main thing is, in the new context, the sense becomes that those fragments have already always been in the right place. Spending time to make it so, is perhaps paradoxically, still important.

Photo from American Swedish Institute, advertising a new class.

For me this means honoring the end point, declaring, by finding flowers for the cleaned space, or lighting a candle, or putting on music… something to respond to/thank the environment, and the one (now previous you, also part of the environment) who offered their (imperfect, broken) resources and time.

The Blank Slate

As you see, bolder formatting is temporarily gone from this site. I’ve stripped it down while making changes, but also to symbolize my current state.

In meditation this morning, the theme of faith arose. Unkind thoughts were present – an argument I’ve been having with someone for as long as I can remember… feelings of injustice, betrayal, silencing. But, rather than get deeper into the argument, I could see how it had affected my trust levels in relationships, and how much of ‘me’ it had defined.

I would say, “I’d let it define”, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It is more like, my quest to resolve or escape it has, both knowingly and unknowingly, defined key interpretations.

As can happen in meditation, I could experience the argument as an object of attention, one of various, a wheel spinning off in the corner somewhere, bigger or smaller, taking up more or less space. And I could ask, “Help me let this go.”

Who was I asking? Who was the I, asking? Worthwhile questions, but distractions in this context, because more important is the asking itself and the imagining… the feeling of the possibility of that wheel no longer spinning so fast, defining so much.

I think this imagining, at the point at which ‘I’ runs out, or intersects, is faith, and where across religious/spiritual disciplines and schools of thought, there may mustard seed sized agreement. It is a bit like a blank slate itself.

REALLY SHALLOW STUFF

Okay! So, after several deeper posts about coming to terms with loss and the complexities of relationships, I thought to share some REALLY SHALLOW STUFF, truly skin-deep! Sound fun? I hope so, since that is what is about to happen. πŸ˜‰

The other day I shared that my biggest antidote for over-thinking and malaise these days, is taking on a rather physical job. It has been the kind of decision that ends up being a surprise box of interesting effects health-wise, and in my case, turning my quite inward orientation —> outward.

All day I ask, “What can I do for YOU?” And, I love that.

However, being outward every day *does* continually expose a lot of the ways I have been, not just behind-the-times in terms of physical presentation, but honestly neglectful with things like make-up and jewelry specifically. I used to spend a lot of time as an ultra stylish avatar named Eliza, channeling most my whimsy into her, but even she would often settle into her typist’s default mood!

Eliza, attending a gathering in Second Life

Many of us become stuck, style-wise, inside the era in which we come of age, but for me, I think I became stuck in my mid-90s reaction to the BIG 80s LOOK AT MY HAIR AND BRIGHT COLORS AND SUPERSIZED EARRINGS AND TINY WAIST AND HIGH HEELS… a gentle hangover that has lasted now a very long time. To that end, I settled into a mostly clean face (minimal make-up) and straight hair look, usually with variations of black and white clothing and flat or simple shoes.

Actually (and this will tell you how easily-influenced I can be!), I think I entrained upon Vera Wang after seeing an early interview with the designer in which she was wearing a simple pair of black pants and black top. She credited her simplicity of focus on herself, at least in part, for her great creative inspiration with wedding gowns. She seemed quite Audrey or Jacqueline, to me, IOW: timeless, as though style was a decision one could make once for themselves and be done with it. πŸ™‚

[Aside: A moment ago, I searched “Vera Wang simplicity” to see if I could find a photo of her look now, only to find Simplicity is the name of her dinnerware. I also read an article in which she praises comfort as her guiding style principle, but it is the sort of comfort that includes car-priced jackets. ;-)]

What I’ve realized now, is that updating my look, at least in small ways, can no longer be an idea that passes through a few times a year. Also, playing with ideas in this way, test-driving them out on the road, is becoming pretty fun. I’ve gone from scoffing at the very idea of Instagram “influencers”, thinking of them as just swimsuit models hired for events like Fyre Festival, to watching endless “7 Tips” type videos from YouTube stars like Shea Whitney.

Shea’s all about luxury, has a closet the size of my entire 3-bedroom rented apartment, and seems to spend more in handbags per month than I have for clothing in the course of oh, five+ years(!), BUT, she’s entertaining to watch and gives lots of genuinely good advice for people in just my predicament.

My next thing will probably be SPRAY TAN. πŸ˜€ Hear me out …

Back in those 80s I mentioned before, we would do horrible things to our skin, like sitting out in the blazing Florida sun for hours wearing baby oil, or sitting under sun laps with Sun-In all over our hair. Going back to school after the summer, or even a long weekend, without peeling skin on nose and shoulders, was even (at least for my silly peer-group), somewhat embarrassing!

Image result for 80s fake tan ads

Then came the 90s, and news that doing what we were doing was sure to not just age us before our time, but actually KILL us, which pushed many out of tanning beds and off the beaches unless we were donning hats and 30 SPF. Companies started working harder to perfect spray tans so that we didn’t have to be orange to be sun-kissed (some <ahem> public figures haven’t gotten this message yet), and it was then that I began to spray tan my legs lightly as a really good substitute for the nylons we were also beginning to go without.

Somewhere along the way though, spray tanning technology became really high-quality, which felt like a crossroad: either I was going to have to begin to spend money to have it done right, or just forego. I forewent. Which was FINE, especially since back then I didn’t have the thinning skin beneath my eyes that can give me a sort of happy skeleton look under the kind of lighting they use at work, and the family cellulite hadn’t yet struck with force.

Spray tan is such a shallow topic isn’t it? But, doesn’t it feel fun to be so frivolous, at least some of the time? If so, there’s probably more to come, on things like dry shampoo and 5 day hair wash fasting, peppermint puckered lips, and tucks and buttons. I’m planning on doing a lot of happy experimenting, including with my writing here. πŸ™‚

One Day

I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.

Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).

Choiceless, in a good way.

I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.

With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior:
weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day);
eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and,
putting my ethics into practice.

That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…

In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.

Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).

Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.

DesignAquatica

As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”

And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.

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

(Coleman Barks translation)

There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.

I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?

And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?

https://www.facebook.com/walkofftheearth/videos/10157204768545357/

The way you sip your tea…

I’ve been working a lot since my grandfather died, keeping occupied, a la “Don’t look down.”

It isn’t exactly his death which has been scary to me at some deep level, but what his stepping out of the way reveals about what remains… what a life might amount to and mean to others. Or not. His absence is limitation in my life–so many things that now go away. But it is also permission–to stop hiding the wine and gin in the apartment, to ask myself what should be written, now that it won’t hurt him to do so.

Walking a tightrope is hard without fanfare. “Keeping busy” means answering “Just fine” a lot, because who has time to hear the whole of it anyway…

Yet, it must matter in the Big Scheme of Things, especially when what seems my very personal, almost entirely unexpressed, pain, comes back, reflected through the lives of those whose stories did eventually find expression, those who were eventually seen.

My incredibly edited life bursts the bounds of interiority this way, becoming 99% subtext, and Art not my own.

To lesser or greater degrees, this is true for all of us, as it was for Judy Garland, the newish film about whom I watched today, weirdly, just after I’d come across a clip of Elizabeth Taylor during an interview. In the interview, Elizabeth said people loved her because the highs and lows of her life, the near deaths and public sorrows, deemed her a survivor. Was Judy a survivor? I’m not sure.

Still, I need to reduce that subtext proportion. Maybe that’s why I keep trying to write about him, but not exactly him. I keep searching within the details of moments, for where to dwell, what to deem the truth of things–looking for the beauty I know is there, without applying unneeded gloss nor extra scuffing.

What I’ve found so far, is that his life is not just his life; his story is not just his story, but also mine, just as much.

Which is quite a thing to say.

Onward.

The 16 year old car I’ve been sharing with my son has had it… its very latest expression of resistance being the driver’s side door, which only closes after a 5 part dance of pray, jiggle, shake, pull, and slam. This, on top of the finicky gas reader, the loud whistle just slightly different from the one we’re used to, and the crackled melting seats. The time to let go is now–yesterday actually–but I’ve been hesitating.

For most of my childhood, my grandfather owned an auto body shop. Occasionally, we’d drive up to see him work… a mostly frustrating visit for a child outside of going to a restaurant at some point during the day, because there just weren’t many safe places to play. There were, however, interesting things about: typewriters, rolling stools, and calculators which made receipts.

For quite a few years, he lived right there behind his shop in the air-stream trailer we traveled in to see my Great-grandfather for what would be the last time. It was in much better condition than most of the the cars and boats he endlessly traded and worked on.

Once, he tried to talk me into turning an air boat–the kind that glide through the Everglades–into a houseboat!

Image result for air boat house boat
He must have imagined something like this.

It was just the sort of project to lodge in his mind as a next big thing, alongside hydroponics gardening and online stock trading– things which for months or years he would beat the drum about, hoping someone in the family would seize and run with the idea.

He was right about computers though, encouraging what he saw me go toward naturally when given one, although he could be impatient about my bearing (real) fruit (money) in some way.

He always thought I should start a blog, but not like this one.

See the fruit factor, above. πŸ˜‰

He liked to tinker as though getting away with something. Whether intricate work like watchmaking and sewing, or larger-scale mechanics and real estate, very little seemed all the way right. Yet, in that not-quite-right-ness was a choice he was consciously making … a rebellious streak in an otherwise devoutly-intended life.

I‘m a little like that too. πŸ™‚

Unlike me, my grandfather believed in formulas, and in sayings, such as “There are only two reasons people do things: fear of loss, or expectancy of gain.” I couldn’t glom on to this, nor most of his formulas actually, no matter how oft repeated. I would think, “That’s a problem, if true.”

But sometimes, later, after he’d gone, I would ask myself whether his formulas were true, of me, and determine that they not be. So, in an upside-down sort of way, his became great advice

We worried about him a lot in the last years. We worried when he insisted on driving the bartered cars up and down the coast, often breaking down at least once between one point and the next. We worried that he thought rest stops were good places for naps; he felt that by looking as though he had nothing, he was safe from thieves. It was because of his own serious need of towing service that he always kept an AAA membership, adding my name to make sure I would never be stranded.

I feel a little stranded, now.

Which is what tipped the scales today… got me thinking too deeply. Because of the state my car is in, I signed myself up for AAA this morning, then spent the rest of the day trying to shake deep and unreasonable anger… some at him, for worrying us with his maddening ways of thinking and infuriating priorities. And then, for going on before everything could make sense for the family, so that we might mourn his passing together without the second-arrow-suffering so common as to be cliche’.

Suffice it to say we haven’t escaped that.

The membership was a little thing, but represented so much. When I received email confirmation for the account, my first thought, bizarrely, was, “His mercy endures forever.” I’d renewed this for myself, but in his name, in a way…

After all, it was my grandfather who taught me to drive, in a tiny Chevrolet he stored for a man who lived in another state. I practiced for hours, circling cones he picked up somewhere and placed around the bowling alley parking lot across from the shop. He also taught me to play tennis, to fish, and to drive a boat. The very first time I saw a cruise ship was from what I realized then was his tiny boat… one which had seemed so large to me just the moment before.

I’m thankful I got the chance to express my appreciation to him directly many times, but I’m thankful for the other, difficult things, too. He could mostly handle having honest conversations about things we clashed about, because if a discussion became too heated, we’d both stop rather than risk deeply hurting (or god-forbid losing) the other.

Not everyone can do that.

But as to why I have avoided changing cars like the plague, aside from it being better for the environment not to constantly upgrade… It is a feeling that just has so much baggage for me: fear of being fed bad advice, vulnerability at the mercy of others to follow through at their end in a trustworthy way. Who will make sure it will all be okay?

Step one: A Big Cry…

(done)

Step two: Catharsis? Yes, please.

Winds

Deep loss is so revealing.

Although through meditation practices and commitment to examined living/examined mind, it is possible to live with a great degree of open-awareness, nothing quite shows up ‘who you are’ like loss does. Thus I’ve found losing my grandfather to be a place of deep vulnerability, more like an inverted mountaintop than one offering some great perspective – a stripping away rather than any gaining of insight.

Even having ample time for preparation and reflection, I was just so unprepared for how alone I would feel each time I remember he’s gone.

Some heartbreak is due to the way my small family has handled things, in essence closing me (and my children) out of the process, not necessarily out of maliciousness, but their own pain and exhaustion. Most of it is simply the childish wish that things (“everything from all time”) could have gone differently had I just been more this that or the other. There was so much he wouldn’t let anyone do for him, so many ways in which his independence and stubbornness set the stage for confused reading of intentions, for fragmentation.

Yet I always knew that he loved me, and that he would be there for me if I were really in need. I suppose growing up often means losing ‘that person’. So many great books have this theme of transformation post hollowing out.

But may I say, I’m tired of transforming…

And when I look around, I don’t see others called upon to ‘transform’ quite so much…

So what can I do. I’ll turn my heart toward conscious appreciation… for the way I got to witness and be part of his having a kind of second wind at the end, going out with and leaning on friends, smiling more than I’d seem him do in a very long time. He learned to easily say “I love you” after withholding that phrase for most of his life, and to listen to the whole sentence when someone said “I love you”, to him.

I think that he was able to survey the whole of his journey at some point too, that the end result was a life in which he had provided foundation and rescue for 3 generations of our too often struggling family… a life where he had, however unsteadily at times, ‘been there’ in ways only he could have been.

I keep waiting for him to show that he’s still there in some way. The day of his passing I felt the strange ‘off page’ sensation of a conversation, of permission asked, of the need to say a blessing. I wrote what amounted to a prayer, that he would experience forever the freedom and joy of knowing… complete ease. Other things. It was less than an hour between my pouring my heart out, of gesturing that I could let him go, and the text my mother sent of his passing.

Since then I’ve kept myself so busy, and my body so full, that I’ve been able to mostly squash down the sadness, except on those nights when I wake up with tears streaming down my face… except when I encounter someone else who has just experienced a loss and our losses bump into one another… except when, like today, I determine to let the feelings flow wherever they will.

Actually, I’m able to write a little today thanks to a quiet moment I found while scrolling Instagram and sipping coffee during a beautiful sunrise. George the dachshund settled in on my legs and fell asleep so heavily that I couldn’t bring myself to shove him off, so I scrolled, and mused, sometimes gazing at the white gauzy curtains that resemble those from my childhood.

I remembered vividly, once as a teen, having a hard time trying to change myself/my life. My grandfather pointed to the oak tree outside the living room window of our house in South Miami and told me how he’d seen it grow from a small shallowly-rooted tree that could hardly withstand a summer storm, into a deeply rooted tree that withstood strong hurricanes.

It gave me comfort beyond anything else he might have said, because the example was so tangible. . .

Sometimes, lately, I feel like I’m back there again, but the tree isn’t in quite the shape he promised it would be… needs some tending to become a better shelter.

stop means go

A family of cardinals has been visiting the little second-story balcony of our rented apartment since February. Only one wears the bright red that clearly signifies *cardinal*, with the other three more brown-toned, often fluffed and lively in their chattering. One of the brown-toned cardinals sports bits of orange too, as though going through a protracted transition phase. I can watch them for hours on end, delighted.

Setting out seeds and creating a rather lush space filled with plants and places for them to perch on has attracted a lot of my attention over these months, along with blue jays, doves, and mockingbirds into the space. An especially daredevil black and white cat whose whiskers frame his face into a quite pompous expression also finds his way up high, lounges about, observes the goings on below. I’d bring him in but for the vehemence the mere sight of him brings out of my loudly barking dog.

Just a few days ago, a tiny ladybug flying high in the air and landing onto the large floppy leaf of what we always called an Umbrella, caught my eye. (I’ve since learned the tree also goes by the name of Octopus, thanks to the blooms it shoots out, which look like red tentacles.) The sight was so unusual that I noticed a tangibly different texture of attention occur in me, a deeper stopping of spontaneous appreciation. It felt like a question mark rather than a simple noticing, but no question formed.

It may have been a signal, and a more significant gift than I was aware of at the time, because when I arrived home after work yesterday, the entire tree had been removed without notice, instantly replacing our treehouse-like view with the neighboring complex’s unbearably uninteresting parking lot. I handled it better than I would expect myself to, strangely.

What this means for our humble but wondrous menagerie is hard to say, but I hope that I’ll be able to somehow mimic the shade for a while.

I do wonder if the signal given is that it is time to Go.

Zeroing In

So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”

Basically, it’s a check up.

In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.

It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.

Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!

The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.

Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.

I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.

Citipati- graveyard deities that represent perfect awareness and death, dancing.
Mongolian Citipati Statue c.1830

At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.

But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.

This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.

I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.

Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…

Don’t answer that

It’s been a while, but I need to write. About loss this time.

Maybe I’m always writing about loss. How to reconcile with losing. Losing to those I was taught we should not be losing to especially, justice weeping endlessly.

Losing to time. Constantly losing to time.

Losing to the weight of expectations, and to paralyzing confusion. What is goodness, and how am I always just ‘a little off measure’? How does that ‘little off’ translate into such wonky catastrophes? How big is my blind spot anyway!?

Trying too hard. Not trying hard enough. Not surrendered. Not playful.

What am I rambling about?

About driving him up the coast when he didn’t want to go. He wasn’t ready, and feels betrayed. By time, by us, by God I think, although he wouldn’t say that aloud. What choice was there? Is there now?

Is there?

I think, “If I hadn’t followed my heart about that ‘back there’, I might have afforded to follow my heart more closely this time.” But Is that true? Life brings us all to our knees occasionally.

There’s no good time to relinquish the illusion of will, but I situate myself on the boundary.

For days, I’ve been beset by oranges, and by the scent of citrus. I sparked this I think, telling a story of a teacher who smelled like orange blossoms, and the purchase of some oils.

Then came the cardinals – a family of three making my balcony their own. Their insistent chirping is more like chattering, so I find myself arguing with them about the other side they are said to symbolize.

There were also three deer today (very unusual!). And two odd lizards.

It all seems so thin.

Which is fine, more than fine, but does it have to be so hard?

A little scraggly, busy finding shade from the intense heat!
I love the way they come as a family, at least the last three days in a row.