Posts Tagged ‘Impermanence’

Why oh why

August 26th, 2009    -    21 Comments

Why I practice. Why I write. Why oh why.

The road traveled

August 18th, 2009    -    7 Comments

Spying the untouched package, realize this is the last doll.
Watching her take a bath, realize this is the last of childhood.
Counting the days until deadline, realize this is the last draft.
Lifting the carton from the shelf, realize this is the last Mint Chip.
Tasting the grounds in the cup, realize this is the last coffee.
Facing the shrinking summer, realize these are the last lilies.
Remembering everything, realize this is the last regret.
Nearing the horizon, realize this is the last stretch.
The color! The color!
This is the road traveled.
None traveled less, none traveled more.
Everyone travels the same, alone and yet never apart.
Hello, traveler.

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Yield the floor, take the sky

August 13th, 2009    -    14 Comments

August feels like a lost month. Slow boiled, a pot left on the burner and forgotten until a quicksilver memory sends you back to find it pitch darkened and empty.

And so my daughter, my sweet little, is 10. It is different at 10, you know. That extra digit on one side. The roundedness of zero. The empty whole of it.

“I don’t want to grow up,” she sighs on every day but her birthday today, when she didn’t say it. She doesn’t need to say it. It is the lyric we all live our lives by, and now she does too. The going is always gone.

Once I would have called it bittersweet. But I don’t taste too much the bitter any more. It benefits us both that her mother is ancient, so long and well-lived. I’ve lived forever! A hundred years or more, and the last hundred years were the best 10 years of my life.

I don’t want to grow up either. I don’t want to expend a minute of energy nursing myself: my make believe dreams and unrealized aspirations, the tug, the rift, the tides. I don’t want to become anyone else, or even more of myself. I’ve yielded that floor, scuffed and rutted.

Instead, I’ll take the sky. That sky!

Happy birthday baby girl. The world is yours.

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Rules for waiting, and a giveaway

March 15th, 2009    -    32 Comments


Spoiler alert: Blame it on the early stages of a woozy flu, hormone depletion, sleep deprivation, or the dark bluster of the Ides. This post is somewhat post.

The other day I was talking to my friend Amy Tiemann on the phone. On the phone, that’s right. How very 1.0. And she and I were in mutual agreement that life in these times can be summarized as follows: “How can people live in this world without going insane?”

Ain’t that the truth? But it’s not a new thing. More like an awakening to the way sentient beings have always been. These days the race to the next next next next new thing seems like a 75 rpm refrain. Rpm? How vintage! Everything is in an accelerated state of obsolescence. We cannot get to the next thing fast enough. As though it leads somewhere else, somewhere other than here.

Newspapers? History. Banks? Yesterday. Jobs? Obsolete. Conversation? Over. Time? Out.

These days you read a lot in these parts about Is the Blog Dead? I’m old enough to remember when that question was leveled with far more gravitas as Is God Dead? It’s spelled differently but it’s the very same question. It’s a kind of intellectual diversion from the real question; the only question there is which is Am I Going to Be Dead?

Or as I ask myself, Am I Going to Be Dead before I Twitter?

This is the kind of chatter, or should I say tweeting, that just exhausts me. I’ve been present at far too many revolutions already. They last a blink, a nano, before they crest into the oblivion beyond. Oh ye of unrelenting enthusiasms, aren’t you tired yet?

***

I’ve been reading far too much about Jane Fonda. I can’t quit. Ever since I read this profile in the Times about her brave return to Broadway at 71, and picked up on the fact that she was chronicling every inch of the ascent on her daily blog and Twitter. I’m obsessed with her, and it looks like she shares the obsession. Fonda is the icon of obsession for my generation, but she always seemed to hold herself at a remove. She always seemed to immerse herself in the great matter and the real questions. You can now read that in her dotage, for instance, she dotes on a dinky fluff-dog. You can read about her self-doubt and insecurities and think for a minute she’s just like us. Then you see pictures of her A-list BFFs: Redford, Tomlin, Hanks. “Oooooh I am so happy. I’ll twitter during my breaks.” She never stops, even though of course one day, and relatively soon, she’ll stop. In the meantime, she’s miniaturized herself, at least in my view, into 140 characters. To say that she is connecting with other people in this self-directed way is to say that these people from another story in Sunday’s paper are “making love.” Nothing could be farther. (Made ya look!)

***

Last week I had a disturbing and provocative dream. My husband, daughter and I were groping our way, on white-knuckles and knees, up a Sisyphean incline. It seemed we were going somewhere. Inching forward, sliding back, defying gravity. Ah yes, to the beach! At the peak of this grueling pitch, you could see the endless sky and ocean filling the horizon beyond. The massive swells and darkened depths. My husband and daughter hurried ahead, carefree. I had reservations. Gripping a paper shopping bag, I was anxiously collecting things you might think you need for a day on the sands of life: snack crackers, juice boxes, water bottles, seedless grapes, string cheese. I was desperate to fill my bag. Not yet, not yet! As I clutched after snack wrappers, my family disappeared into the downward slope. Just then the sea rose up to a perfect, towering vertical tsunami like the height of the stock market in October 2007. Everyone, everything would be swallowed by it. Everything would go.

This was no day at the beach. This was the answer to the unspeakable question.

Also last week I got an unexpected delivery in the mail. A special book, Rules for Old Men Waiting, a debut novel 23 years in the making, sent from a bygone friend. This friend is an elegant and erudite fellow from the old school. Someone who has illumined my life with intelligence and manners. I haven’t heard from him in awhile. The note with it said, “I just finished this book and thought of you throughout. I found it be richly told, wonderfully crafted and lovingly profound. That’s you.” Maximized in 140 characters.

I’m reading it now. And when I finish it, I’m going to return the favor to someone who has made it this far, on white-knuckles and knees, to the precipice of this post. I’m going to share the wisdom I’ve been given, the gift of true friendship, a living connection, with one of you. Because that alone is what keeps the world sane.

Leave a comment and take your prize. It is bittersweet fulfillment to know this chance won’t come again, and to let it go.

Update: The book has gone to Kelly, who has a short time left in a long wait.

Zen stimulus plan

February 24th, 2009    -    11 Comments


Get up when the alarm goes off. Make your bed without a second thought.

Walk your child to school. Notice the sky, the buds and the berries. Let the sunlight and fresh air dispel the mood of sullen reluctance.

Greet her teacher with a wide smile that imparts your trust and respect.

Walk the dog. The dog knows the way.

Say hello to your neighbor sweeping his sidewalk. He is nearly recovered from that terrible train collision. When he asks you for some good news, say, “Rain is in the forecast.”

Let him tell you about the groundcover seeds he’s about to plant. Laugh that between the two of you, you’ll keep the nursery in business this year.

Visit Jim’s blog and donate a couple of dollars to rebuild the far side of the world. Extend the domestic rescue and recovery to Mongolia, where English is still revered as the language of liberation, and learning it is an act of love.

Using what’s at hand, make dinner.

Drop by the grocery store for extra cheese from California, Wisconsin and Ohio.

When the checker asks if you found everything, say yes. Then ask her how her day is going, and mean it.

Clean up the kitchen without complaint, because one day soon you may need the rain gutters cleaned.

Day done, go to bed. Don’t waste a minute of this wondrous mind to self-criticism, worry or distraction.

Rest easy, knowing that tomorrow won’t bring any more than you can handle, or any less than you absolutely need.

5 reasons to stay calm in turbulent times

February 13th, 2009    -    6 Comments


It’s that time of the month. No, I don’t mean that time of the month. It’s the time of the month when the savings statements come. I hate to even get them, let alone bring them in from the mailbox, and when I do, I toss them aside hoping they will get lost, which is what we all probably do in these times, that is if we still have these times.

Eventually I compel myself to open them. I actually put it on my to-do list, “3. Open envelopes” and then one day, like today, I open them.

It’s a good practice, really, for facing life as it is. It’s just not a practice that I would pay this much money for.

So opening up the envelope where a certain bank tells me that I spent $50,000 of my IRA last year learning to face life as it is, out comes a glossy newsletter bearing the headline, “Five Reasons to Stay Calm During Turbulent Times.”

I don’t buy their reasons anymore, just like to don’t buy anything anymore, but there really are Five Reasons to Stay Calm During Turbulent Times, and this is what they are:

1. You don’t need a college fund. Your kids won’t even want to go to college. Because there won’t even be colleges. There won’t even be jobs. There will just be the Facebook 25 Things About Me meme. And everyone will be famous.

2. You don’t need to eat. It’s not good for you. Researchers have proven that a starvation diet is the best and only way to extend your lifespan, and the time to start is now, so you can look forward to being hungry forever.

3. Money is overrated. Indeed it is worthless. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Now are you happy?

4. You can’t take it with you. You can’t even go anywhere. Don’t believe those ads for low airfares. Click on them and you’ll find out it still costs $600 for a round-trip ticket to a place you don’t even want to go. Like your in-laws. So just stay put and start starving and be happy.

5. You don’t even have a time of the month anymore. What turbulence?

One size fits all

January 27th, 2009    -    25 Comments

In case you thought my life was any different than this.

I was fuming. I spend a lot of my time fuming. Because of my husband. Know what I mean?

You don’t pay attention, I say.

When I fume, he does too and the cause of it, from what I gather, is this:

You pay too much attention, he says.

Neither of us is right, but both of us have our reasons. Reasons are a big problem in this house, but they usually get rinsed out in the wash.

Except lately, I haven’t been doing his wash for him. I don’t know how or why. I just stopped. He has the most clothes, wearable and unwearable, the most laundry, washed and unwashed, of anyone in the house. I think one has to do with the other.

My reasoning goes like this. Perhaps because he hasn’t – oh, in the last 13 years – had a weekly face-to-face with his laundry pile, he unduly cherishes his wardrobe, and unduly dismisses the meticulous task of caring for clothes.

Can I donate this to the rag pile, he says.

Trying to be helpful, he holds up a single pair of old socks.

Just throw them away, I instruct. He doesn’t like to give away worn out or outgrown clothes, and you know how I feel about that. He likes to buy new ones. I noticed last week he was sporting a handsome new sweater of a dense weave.

I picked it up while I was at the mall, he says.

I have a judgmental eye for those kinds of things. A judgmental eye for all kinds of things. I see that his old sweaters are stretched out and threadbare, but they are still crowding his drawers and closet. Still filling the hamper with to-dos.

Are you doing your laundry, I say.

He’s put a small load in on Sunday before I could start the heavy lifting. A few important things along with the new sweater.

I actually love to do laundry. Rather, I love to finish laundry. The clean, warm, folded, fresh scent of accomplishment. I just wish there was money in it!

Let me put it in the dryer, he says.

He is being responsible, cheery, chastened after one of my harangues. Washer cleared, I start my own load. About 30 minutes later, I open up the dryer to empty out his stuff. One glance at the surviving swatch of sweater and I turn it inside out to read the label he hadn’t.

Hand wash cold, it says.

Only some of you know what unexpected encouragement I took in finding those three words. Those three little words. Not because of what they meant about him: that he hadn’t paid attention, but because of what they meant to me: to take heart and keep going. To keep washing, drying, rinsing, and writing. To have faith, because I now have a new sweater that fits me perfectly!

It only cost $25, he says.

Priceless.

Quietly study this

January 15th, 2009    -    21 Comments


The deadlines are past, the chance has run out, but you should quietly study this. The dinner is cold, the time has gone, but you should quietly study this. The bills are due, the check is late, but you should quietly study this. The clothes have shrunk, the socks have holes, but you should quietly study this. The market has tanked, the airplane has sunk, the world’s come undone, but you should quietly study this. The day is done, the year barely here and yet gone, everything yes everything disappears, but you should quietly study this.

Quietly study this and let go.

What a brilliant sky.

The teaching of the grandmother sycamores in my backyard.

When girls collide

January 14th, 2009    -    6 Comments

When your daughter’s new doll is 18 inches tall, and your new daughter was 16 inches tall, the brief span of Daddy’s Girl fits entirely around the length of an American Girl. Are they one or are they two?

(Mommy saved her baby clothes, and her baby didn’t save a trace.)



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