A Time For Every Purpose

“I have rejected things with nothing so strong to replace them, and I am floundering.” So I wrote to my Zen teacher twenty-nine years ago. And, in the way of the cycles of life, twenty-nine years later, I find myself at this point again. (As an aside, this appears to be where we are at as a country, also.) We humans build up our internal infrastructures, relying on their existence for our sense of meaning, forgetting that infrastructures, too, get outdated and need to be refurbished. Life demands growth, and growth is change.

The realization that what worked for us in the past no longer does, is part of a natural cycle of growth. But just because it’s supposed to happen, doesn’t mean it feels great. As a matter of fact, it often feels so un-great that people have developed stock coping mechanisms. Some buy the little red sports car. Some throw off their partners for someone younger, some abuse alcohol and drugs—all to avoid feeling the pain of growth.

What did my Zen teacher write back to me? “If you are floundering, then just flounder” adhering to the Zen teachings of just experiencing your life without attachment.

No stones are left unturned in our lives (try as we might to keep them face down) because we are growing, thinking beings. A time of questioning beliefs, priorities, and values comes to everyone.

I forget sometimes, because it is so damn scary, that the best course of action is to sit right in the middle of it, just experiencing (and not reacting to) those feelings. The floundering, like the curve in the road, brings us to the next place in our lives.

IMG_1456

Advertisements

A Little Something Called Self-Responsibility

There is something weird going on this week. Nothing is running smoothly. The propane company, after 8 years of filling up the propane tanks on schedule, now can’t seem to fill up the correct tanks. They have filled up the shop tank twice now, and left the house tanks unfilled. Not a good thing in the middle of winter. I even put a big sign on the shop tank that said “NOT this tank, the tanks at the HOUSE” with a big arrow pointing toward the house, and they STILL filled up the shop tank.

Then just this morning, a whole passel of ice fisherman glibly trespassed across our property sliding their sleds 10 feet from our house and when Richie told them it was a private pond, they said, “So call the police.”

What is going on here? Is the repugnant presidential campaign persuading people that incivility and incompetence are acceptable ways of behaving?

There is a little something called self-responsibility. We all have power and that power is the power to behave decently. Let’s try that for a while and see where it gets us.

Image converted using ifftoany

Image converted using ifftoany

The Yoga Room at the Airport

Did you know that Chicago Midway airport has a Yoga Room? Flying back from Tucson on Wednesday, my layover in Chicago was extended due to the delayed departure of my next flight. What to do? I was tired from not sleeping well the night before and my lower back was sore from sitting and stress. Dejected about the delay, I walked around the airport and tried to get some exercise. Then, underneath a sign for Gates A through whatever, I saw “Yoga Room.” What? I followed the little sign to a hallway and then a door and opened it….

into another world. Now I am not one of those really devoted yogis, but I do like my five stretchy asanas as well as sun salutations and here I found myself in a quiet, clean room with a wood floor, a wall of mirrors, a flat screen TV playing soothing music and showing peaceful nature images, and a basket of yoga mats. This was wonderful! I selected a mat, and began to do my poses. I was the only one there. The airport noise faded, the quiet and calm took over, and my back eased into relaxation. After 20 minutes, I was ready to head to my gate, refreshed.

If you’ve got a layover at the Chicago Midway airport, I really recommend the Yoga Room, even if you don’t think you’re a yoga person. Because everyone can do the savasana pose—you lie on your back and close your eyes.

photo-3

The Firebird

I am in Tucson now for a bit, and the other day I decided to try to do a watercolor of the mountains at sunset. With their vast swaths of deep blue shadows it seemed, visually, like a simple image to capture. I retrieved my travel watercolor kit, 3 x 5 watercolor block, HB pencil, and squishy eraser and walked to the park where there was a view of mountains beyond the highway and power lines. I balanced my cup of water on the rough and not terribly flat surface of the wall, poised pencil over paper, stared at the mountains hard and tried to look artistic, rather than suspicious to any passersby.

When I opened up the watercolor set to begin painting, I noticed that the popular colors—and the colors I would need—were mere scraps of paint clinging to the sides of the pan. Oh well, I thought, it’s only a 3 x 5, surely I’ll have enough paint for that. I unsheathed the tiny travel brush and dipped and dribbled water into each cake of dry paint. But when I started painting, I quickly realized that brush was way past its sell-by date as my husband is fond of saying. It had lost its spring and now resembled, more than anything, a tiny dispirited scrub brush. I plodded onward, painterly speaking, but the deep dark blues of the mountain shadows looked anemic on my paper. I let the painting dry before folding everything back up, because sometimes a painting that I think is awful doesn’t look so bad, given some time and space. (This one didn’t, so you’re not going to see it.) I had began my disappointed trudge back to the house when a flash of hot-coal caught my eye. I stared. What kind of bird was that? Much too red to be a cardinal. Disappointment forgotten, I followed the bird from tree to tree, weaving from one sidewalk to the other. I certainly looked suspicious now, but I needed to see that bird. Back at the house I went on the internet and learned that it was a vermillion flycatcher.

Vermillion–now that’s not a word you hear too often outside of painting. It’s a pigment, made from ground cinnabar and it’s a brilliant, nuanced red. The saturated color of the vermillion flycatcher contrasted, in my mind, with the anemic colors of my watercolor attempt to capture the rich beauty of the mountains–and my dissatisfaction about it.

And then I got it. There is transcription, and there is the thing itself. And that firebird had just reminded me not to forget to rejoice in the thing itself.

Minera_Aratiri_17-11-09_57_scp