Sunday, 31 July 2016

Struck me funny

Shouted down to my soon-to-be-18-year-old son, who wanted me to make him a snack: "You're an adult now! You can pour your own bowl of Froot Loops!"

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Expanded Thoughts While Reading Jack Kornfield

I've always believed that you best serve others when you are in good form yourself. You can't pour water from an empty bucket, and you aren't as able to be helpful to others if you are struggling yourself. So I've always promoted taking care of yourself as important when taking care of others. But maybe my view has been too shallow. It still pushes the idea that "you" are separate from "others."

In Bringing Home the Dharma, Jack Kornfield notes that we are all interconnected in the world and there is no "us" and "them." Now I've heard this before, of course, and understood intellectually that we can't see others as different from ourselves. But he takes it a step further and asserts that since we are others (oneness), when we care for ourselves we are taking care of others. In other words, if we are truly part of the world, when we care for the world we are caring for ourselves, and when we care for ourselves we are caring for the world. We are not separate from the world we want to help. If we feel compassion toward all sentient beings, that entails---obligates---having compassion for ourselves. It isn't a matter of selfishness or self-sacrifice. It's all part of the same thing. We don't feel guilt for tending to our own needs, because it's inherent in tending to the world's needs. If we still see ourselves as separate from other people, then it does risk becoming self-serving. But if we approach it from a stance of loving-kindness toward all beings, it changes the very nature of it.

Which puts a deeper twist on the scripture "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Not "Love him as much as you love yourself." But "Love him because he is yourself. And you are him." The "as" takes on a different meaning.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Anti-Corporate Slogans

At 4:30 this morning, as I dragged myself out of sleep to face another commute to work, I had a sudden idea for a small business: T-Shirts, mugs, mouse pads, backpacks, etc. imprinted with a selection of anti-corporate things such as the following:
  • A picture of someone rock climbing, with the phrase "The only upward mobility I care about."
  • A picture of someone fishing on a peaceful lake, with the phrase "My liquid assets."
  • A picture of a healthy Longhorn bull wandering in a meadow in the sunlight, with the phrase "This is my kind of bull market."
  • A beautiful treehouse with a rope ladder temptingly dangling down, and the phrase "This is the only ladder I want to climb."
  • A basket of deliciously plump, juicy berries and the phrase "My Blackberry."
  • A lovely sailboat on a lake, with the phrase "I'll be on my cell sail."
You get the idea. Think they'd sell?

They sounded like good ideas at 4:30.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A Trip to Webster's Falls and Tew's Falls

Discovered a gem not far from our house. It's been tucked away there all along and I never knew it! We don't have to travel the world to find wonders; they're right in our own backyard if we take the time to look.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Silence of the Lamms

I spent another couple of hours yesterday facing down my loom. It's almost tied up and ready to dress. (Doesn't The Naked Loom sound like an English pub?) I just have to sort out the misbehaviour of the lamms, which insist on hitting each other, and it will be time to put on the warp. The physics of it makes sense to me now and I don't find the whole thing quite as intimidating as I once did. I can actually envision myself making something on this someday. Placemats, tea towels, scarves...My ambitions aren't grand. Though apparently I have been given the "work horse" of looms that is capable of making anything from lace to carpets and tapestries.

I recently read a bizarre little book by Martha Beck in which she talks about casting your thoughts out into the universe and drawing toward you the things you need and want most. How basically you don't have to strive and struggle, but you let the magic of the universe provide. The things you require or desire will just appear in your life.

Well, it was worth a try, I supposed, so as I was reading I projected the thought, "I want to make a living doing something I love." I didn't do it the right way, according to her instructions, which involved "dropping into Wordlessness and connecting with Oneness," but the thought was there, anyway.

About a week later I was offered this loom. Now ordinarily I wouldn't see anything marvelous about it, except this is the second time in my life I have been offered a giant floor loom for free. Does this happen to everyone? I think not. And one of my best friends in my twenties was a weaver. That's three times a loom has nudged my life. Actually, four: I have a distant Scottish ancestor who was a weaver. I can take a hint. I accepted the loom. When I told Jette about it, she laughed and said I was meant to weave.

Will I make a living at it? I doubt it, though I could see it possibly supplementing the income. Jette makes a living at it, both by producing and by teaching. But I do think I will fall in love with it. I find treadles and heddles are the last thing I think of before falling asleep and the first thing I think of when I wake up. Maybe once it's strung up and ready to use, I won't be quite so obsessed.

There will soon be a lot of clanging and thudding in my house, but don't be alarmed---it's just the universe knocking at the door with a delivery.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Garlic Harvest

My house is filled with the most lovely aroma as the garlic cures. My best harvest yet.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The Categorization of Artists

Martha Beck says, "Bad artists ignore the darkness of human existence. Good artists often get stuck there. Great artists embrace the full catastrophe of our condition and find beyond it an even deeper truth of peace, healing, and redemption."

Which explains to me why I detest the bland, sweetness-and-light fluffy stories many other women seem to enjoy, but also hate the dark and depressing "life is horrible" literature that seems to make it to the best seller lists. I fear I may never be a great writer myself, but at least I think I can recognize great writing. It's the stuff that changes you, makes you feel hope, and lifts your burden while giving you credit for the challenge you've come through. It helps you grow and then recognize your growth.

Having said that, today I met a truly great artist, Jette Vandermeiden, a woman who has gone through some seriously difficult challenges and losses and has emerged on the other side of them as a joyful, generous being. You look into her face and see genuine peace and happiness there. She has found her place, undertaken meaningful work, surrounded herself with beauty, and discovered how to pass her hard-won knowledge and skill along to other seekers. She spent two hours with me today giving me hope and perspective and igniting a little spark of inspiration. I simultaneously felt both that I wanted to get to know her and that I'd known her forever.

As a thank you I sent her a copy of my latest book, a pathetically humble offering but mine own. Will my journey lead to my becoming a great artist? I don't know. But today was certainly a step in the right direction.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Learning New Things

I am still putting together this contremarch loom I was recently given. There are so many pieces and cords and strings...I find myself humming "The thigh bone connects to the hip bone..." as I crawl around under it, trying to sort out the tangle. It's as if a gigantic kitten had been given a big ball of yarn and a pile of lumber. It would be easier to put together a BMW.

I recently filled out an application for something that asked me what kind of approach I take when I learn something new. I think in my younger years, I would have responded that I read instructions whenever I am tackling something unfamiliar. I learned by reading. I've never had much success learning by listening. I don't have the memory capacity. Now I think I've become more of a visual learner. I have talked to members of the local weavers' guild and invited one to my home to take a look at my mess. I'm arranging to go visit someone with a similar loom so I can see exactly how hers is set up. And there are - I'm learning - YouTube videos for everything under the sun.

I am struck by how friendly these women are that I'm meeting, and I'm touched that someone would give 2 1/2 hours of her evening to help a stranger. I look forward to joining the guild and meeting a new social circle. There's something appealing about learning such an ancient craft that hasn't changed fundamentally in hundreds of years and requires no electricity.

Here's the loom now, nearly sorted.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Gentle Reader

I have noticed a man who rides the subway with me every morning and evening. He is young, blond, and bearded, with the sides of his head shaved. He wears construction gear, with great clomping dusty boots and a reflecting safety vest. He carries a big blue cooler which I assume holds a gargantuan lunch. He looks like a coureur du bois or maybe a Viking. And this giant, rough-looking man always has a book in his hand. It isn't fluff, it's always hefty literature, and he is always so engrossed in his reading that I don't yet know what colour his eyes are; he never looks up until we reach our station and he has to jump up and go.

I have no idea who he is, but I can't but instinctively feel kindly toward him. Anyone who devours books that intensely is someone I want for a neighbour.

Monday, 11 July 2016

First Harvest for the Food Bank

This week we were able to provide fresh vegetables for the first time for the food bank...garlic scapes, callaloo, kale, lettuce, and cilantro. Everything else got a late start and may or may not perk up in time for a decent harvest, but it's a start, anyway.

Meanwhile in my home garden, we're getting peas, beet greens, lettuce, kale, broccoli, basil, radishes, and lamb's quarters, and we're about to get green beans. The rhubarb and asparagus are done. The squash are cute things the size of tennis balls. And there is a tiny cluster of blueberries I'm hoping I'll get to taste before the birds get to them. Next week will be garlic harvest, the absolute best-smelling time of the year.

I can't imagine living life without access to fresh vegetables. That's my motive for gardening for the food bank this year. I couldn't face a diet of canned peas and creamed corn, and I hate to think any of my neighbours would have to.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Proofreading and Memory Loss

Finished the final proofs for The Governess, due out in October. Waiting to hear back on the latest manuscript I just submitted. And working on the next, which isn't due for a while yet.

Am I the only one who has a hard time keeping my characters straight? By the time I've finished book ten, I've forgotten the names of the characters in book nine. I'm pawing back through the pages trying to remember what colour the heroine's hair is. I think of a nice turn of phrase I want to use, only to remember I just used it in the last book. I pull out an old piece of my writing and have no memory of ever writing it. Or I think of something to say and then wonder if it's original or if I actually read it somewhere and someone else wrote it...

The curse of short-term memory loss...

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Sharp Look at our Society

In the newspaper an editorial asserts that the phrase "All lives matter" is a "morally offensive utterance." Someone should alert the Buddhists, who have for generations asserted that all sentient beings are important, and that all life is precious and worthy of respect. If we really held this belief, it would lead to treating all people equally regardless of race. Isn't that what we want? I don't know how others are reading it, but I take this phrase to mean "Let's look beyond our differences and figure out a way to value all life." But I guess it's politically incorrect to say so.

Does anyone else see anything wrong with this or is it just me?

Friday, 8 July 2016

Carrying Water Part Two

My friend Penny came to help me haul water to the Salvation Army food bank garden this week. We would relay back and forth between spigot and garden with watering cans so neither of us had to walk the whole distance with a full can. Ordinarily it takes me over an hour to do it and it's back-breaking work, but with just one person helping, it cut the work in half. We were done in 30 minutes and I could still walk upright at the end.

It's amazing how much help it is if even one person chips in. It really drove home to me that everyone's contribution is valuable and has an impact, even if they may think they aren't contributing much or making a big difference. If you are ever prompted to do something for someone else, carry through and do it and don't let any feeling of inadequacy stop you. My mom always said never ignore a charitable impulse. You never know what impact even a small gesture will have.