Shoot the moon


Tomorrow we leave on a family vacation. Georgia and I fly to meet my husband at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It will be momentous for several reasons. One, we will all be together. Two, we will (fingers crossed) watch the fruit of my husband’s labor launch into unknown worlds. And three, afterwards we will do what all national heroes do.

Amid all this, the good Zen folks in Cocoa, Florida have invited me to come over on Sunday morning and talk.

And because of all that, it seems a good time to speak a word about a topic that for me is downright unspeakable. Since some people think I have something to say about “Zen parenting” (not that I do) they naturally want to press me for some advice on “Zen marriage.”

Gag.

I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about marriage. I can’t tell you anything you don’t know about relationship. Except perhaps this: true relationship is not based on desire or feeling, not on dreams or goals, but on proximity. And it seems few marriages have very much of that these days. No one is in the same place at the same time.

Discovering unknown worlds requires my husband to travel about 50 percent of the time. Since I’m exaggerating, I shouldn’t be so stingy. Make that 60 percent. To me, it seems that everything happens during that margin: things break, babies fall, fevers rise, tires blow out, bronchitis thickens into world-class pneumonia, a little girl grows up. The known world keeps going. Sometimes, my husband comes home to a resentment so chilling, so deep, that it takes days for me to see clearly. Not that we have days.

He is not a religious sort, not a spiritual kind, but rather sentimental and secretly superstitious. No matter what hour of night he lands at LAX, no matter how staggering his exhaustion through multiple time zones, he always stops on the way home at a funky landmark called Randy’s Donuts near the airport and buys two: a frosted, sprinkled kind for Georgia and a plain cake one for me. Mind you, this is usually about 10 or 11 at night that he does this, after 8 or 12 hours of travel. Gone 7 days and he takes the time to stop for a stupid donut? This is me, stiff and brittle, screeching silently into my pillow as he tiptoes into the darkened house.

For all the lessons my daughter gives me in open-heartedness, in acceptance, my husband gives me more.

And so, tomorrow, all his outer searching and all of my inner searching comes together in the most ordinary way. Orlando. And on this eve, I realize that perhaps he is a hero after all. Not for managing forays to faraway planets and stars, but for managing to return, again and again, to an even more foreign and hostile place. For coming home, over and over, to a new and dangerous world – our house – with nothing more than a donut.

Which, in the end, I always eat.

Mummy may I?


Yes, you may.

One hand clapping


Wendy, meet Shawn. Shawn, meet Wendy. Everyone else, meet yourselves.

In the inexplicable synchronicity that governs all cheerios on this road, two of my main mommas have elected to post interviews of me today. This perfectly curious incident comes just when I need it most: when I lose sight of the only thing that matters. The bottom line. The end-all. The whole of it. We’re all one and the same.

Oh I know we’re different. Wendy is an artist and mother of Satch, the heart snatcher. Shawn is a writer and wrangler of the uber twins, Jadyn and Liana. But read their blogs–read anyone’s– and see that we have the same desires, the same dilemmas, the same questions, the same aspirations, the same fears, the same tears. We have the same chaotic days, the same tortured nights, the same achy breaky heart, and the same boundless mind that contains every little thing.

Today, of all days, let them prove to you that we have one life. I’m going to keep telling you that, even though it is pert near impossible to believe. It doesn’t matter if you believe it. One click and you’ll see for yourself.

In deep gassho.

Yummy scrummy


Enough about me. I’m going to write about somebody else writing about me.

About a month ago I happened upon this essay by Dan Barden entitled “No More Aching to be an Artist” in the May/June issue of Poets & Writers magazine. I’m not qualified for either of those job descriptions so I’d never read the magazine before, but I found it on the rack at Borders. I flipped through the first pages until I found . . . ME. This guy, a real writer, a real writing teacher, wrote about ME.

Well, enough about him.

All ye who twizzle yourselves between parenting and some “other” creative endeavor, read Dan’s story as a treat. And know that sometime, without the slightest wish or warning, out of the wild blue goodness, somebody can come forward and hand you a yummy scrummy.

Leaking away


The sound you hear is the sound of my level head drip, drip, dripping away. It has puddled in a spreading pool on the patio. It is seeping up from underneath the parquet floor. It has muddled into the unmistakable morass of a household catastrophe. It shouts SLAB LEAK.

Two little words, and with it, walls crumble.

For those of you with the incredible good fortune to have a life other than mine, this means that when the house was built, they put galvanized steel plumbing pipes into the concrete foundation. A good recipe for ruining my day sixty years later.

I am staring into the undernethers of a total household re-plumbing job, and I am doing it alone.

It started months ago as an inch-wide water stain in the corner of the dining room. No big deal. I moved the furniture to cover it up. No big deal. Then it spread into a creeping shape the size of Afghanistan. No big deal. Then it started to seep out from the foundation and lounge all day and night in a wet spot on the patio. No big deal. Then the plumber came and told me to sell my firstborn. No big deal. Then he said it would take five days to fix and wouldn’t include repairing the gashes in the walls or bathroom tile. No big deal. Then I remembered relatives are coming to visit next week.

No big deal, my husband says. It can wait. He says this from a secured, undisclosed, undisturbed location out of town. The relatives coming are his.

The sound you hear is the sound of my dying hope of rescue, my fleeting wish for a different ending, my sweet dream of salvation, leaking away. I’m calling the plumber and getting started today.

Enough already


My life is one continuous mistake – Dogen Zenji

This is a picture of the season’s first water lily from my backyard pond. It seems ubiquitous, doesn’t it? A pond and a water lily? You never see one without the other. In truth, a water lily blooms only in the full sun of summer. Specifically, it only blooms under the shadowless midday, high-heat summer sun. That means it blooms for way less than half a day during way less than half a year. Its bloom is so rare, as a matter of fact, that I had to hold up this post until I could actually get a photograph of any one of our two dozen water lilies in bloom.

Now, would you call that bloom rate a success or a failure as far as flowers go? Would you call it a mistake? A half-measure? A near-miss? A critical success but a marketing failure?

If it were anything other than a water lily, say if it was your life’s work, or your life, you probably would judge it. I know I would, and I do. By output, uptake, download, click through, sales rate, tally mark; by any weight or number, my life is one continuous mistake. This is the burden I bear as I write this; this is the atlas unshrugged.

My life is one continuous.

Several weeks ago I started this blog, just as several years ago I started to write. I started both of these things as I know all writers do: for themselves, or more precisely, for itself. We, most of us writers, write for its own sake. We write because we must, because it is what we do. The words come from someplace else. We are merely the conveyers. We don’t quite manufacture, but rather more accurately, supply our product, like the ice cream man, or the Tupperware lady. The ideas, the inventories, build up, and then we take them to the streets and sound a tinkling tune; we put on a little word party and invite readers into our own home. Of course, there are hardly any ice cream men or Tupperware ladies left anymore. More failing propositions.

I started writing this for myself, and now I am chased once more by the numbers. I look around and see other writers, other bloggers, more skilled, I daresay even expert at the tags and the rankings, the rings and the pings, the views, the ticket-taking, and the turnstile. And then I catch myself. This post is my way of catching myself from falling that way again. Falling into my judging, measuring and weighing mind, my discursive, ego-screaming mind where nothing ever blooms enough.

My life is one.

Look at the water lily!

Hand wash cold

I recently ordered a set of samue. Samue is a style of street clothing for Zen monks. This tiny piece of printed rice paper came tucked into the garment. I have no idea what it says, and for that very reason, I find it quite charming.

I imagine it could be laundry instructions. Maybe it says “Inspected by No. 12.”

It reminds me that, with only a change in perspective, the most ordinary things take on inexpressible beauty.

Sit down


You might have to sit down for this. I’m going to take up the question I’m asked most.

How do I teach my child to meditate?

You might have to sit down because of the question I’m asked least.

How do I meditate?

Everywhere I look I see people – well-meaning, helpful, good-hearted people – trying to get kids to be still, be quiet, slow down and pay attention. What a noble and mostly, lost cause. Still, it’s got to be worth the effort, particularly in light of how far we’ve let things get out of hand. Another day of TV, another night of TV, another video game, another trip to the electronics superstore, another this, another that. Our kids are disordered, addicted, adrift. We turn our backs for what seems like a minute and a whole generation is lost.

So I have to wonder. When people ask how to teach their children to meditate, are they really asking, “How do I get my child to stop bothering me?” If so, then it’s easy. We already know how to do it, and we do it far too much already.

If the question really is, “How do I teach my child to meditate?” then the answer is easier still.

Sit down for this. Just sit down.

What’s not there


Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there – Miles Davis

Today is Mom’s birthday. She would have been 74.

Yesterday I was sorting stacks of Georgia’s drawings and cards from the very beginning, settling on a new round of keepers, and I found some letters Mom sent in her last year.

We received Karen’s letter today, so I thought I would send a quick reply.

She was a letter writer, a dutiful letter writer. She did this with the diligence of stenography, the now archaic art, which was one of her perfected disciplines. She documented things unarguably well.

Dad and I went out and ate Mexican food on Wednesday night.

Sometimes my sisters and I giggled about the chronography of her letters: the litany of meals and miles, temperatures and rainfalls.

On Thursday, the 11th, I have another chemotherapy. I can expect aftereffects.

She did not adorn; she did not dwell. She did not linger over the things that can never be expressed.

I include some pictures.

They were snapshots of the baby shower her friends had hosted after Georgia’s birth, a treat to sweeten her numbered days.

They aren’t very clear. I thought I would include them so you can share the experience with me.

Oh how I do. How I still do!

She remains my first and last teacher. Everything she never said grows clearer all the time.

Dog days


It is summer now. Will I ever stop crying?

Not for the reasons you think. Sure, summer demands an adjustment of time, energy and expectations. It has its own rhythm; it has its own pace; it has its own flavor. It is immensely full. And although there is an illusion that time stands still in the summer, it’s just not so. Everything goes and grows, leaps and falls and my job is simply to . . . weep.

Saturday was Doggie Day here in our small town. Georgia went to the park with her dad and our dog Molly to run a few loops through the canine obstacle course. So impressed was Georgia with her own masterful handling that she came straightaway home and conceived her own summer enterprise: Doggie Daycare Training, her own dog school, offered every Saturday in our front yard on a training track concocted out of a laundry rack and empty boxes. She drew a flyer, she set the price, she meticulously realized a scheme out of nothing but innocence and self-confidence. And then her dad, motivated by love, stammered a word of caution, dealt the mortal wound of a well-meant doubt, and she fell all apart.

When I came home after all of this had happened, she approached only slowly to show me the poster of her abandoned proposition. Without thinking, I nodded. “Looks good,” I said. Her look of incredulity riveted me as she double checked:

“You think this is a good idea?”

And then it all came back, every moment of trembling dread, watching her wobble toward the stairs, teeter toward the slide, totter on two wheels while I had nothing but my breaking heart to clutch and hold, watching and trusting, letting her go, letting her fall, and dusting her off when all was said and done.

We copied the flyers. Her daddy took her around the block to put them on telephone poles.

“Listen up for the phone!” she called back to me as she headed out. She was twelve feet tall.

These are the dog days of our summer. The risks are greater, the flights are farther, the falling is as hard as ever. I weep even before they’ve begun.

And as instructed, I listen for the phone.

Way station


I have an unusual backyard full of old and unusual things. Sometimes when I find out that people need help, that they are struggling with fear or illness, anxiety or worse, I say, “I’ll go into the backyard right now and say a service.” And I just open the door, step into the garden and say a chant, which is a prayer.

It’s the least I can do; it’s the most I can do; it’s the only thing I can truly do.

Then I come back in and empty the dishwasher.

Lately it seems I hear those kinds of things a lot. I hear about women, my friends and sisters, strangers and soulmates, waiting for their children, waiting for the news, waiting for arrival, waiting for a turn, waiting for health and optimism, waiting for benevolence, waiting for a safe haven, waiting to start again.

This is who hears all of that. This is Jizo, a kind of Buddhist guardian of women and children and travelers (because aren’t we travelers all?). She is in my backyard, she stands watch and hears prayers. She does this for you, because who else could there ever be?

Take comfort today. Take comfort always.

Wheels


We’ve had an ambulation revelation. Georgia can ride a scooter. Georgia can ride a scooter to school. It’s not that hard; all she has to do is this:

Puhlease, pooleeze, pleese, pleez, puleeease, Mommy, pppoooleisze, pouleise, pleeease?

She leaves me no edgewise as she straps on her helmet and pops atop the hot pink ride. We set off down the slope with me at a galloping stride just to keep her in sight.

The car! The driveway! The curb! The crosswalk! The bump! The thistle! The nub! The wisp!

I squawk nonstop warnings as her wheels squeek on ahead. And I smile, glad to see that the farther she goes, the smaller she looks in her baby bicycle helmet, Princess backpack and Hello Kitty anklets. In truth, she’s already outgrown all those things, but I’m glad that I get one more private viewing, one more one-man-show.

Her school won’t allow the scooters to stay for the day, so I take the wheels and wobble my way back up the hill. I’m pumping up the homestretch when I see my husband’s car approach. He slows his pristine, all-electric, pride-and-joy to a stop and rolls down the window.

“There’s nothing I won’t stoop to,” I say by way of explanation. He thinks I’m complaining, but I’m not.

Life story

Thank you for your blah blah submission. It isn’t a blah blah fit at this blah blah time.

(In case you think some of us have it any other way. Have it any easier. Have another chapter and verse.)

Blah.

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