Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Writer Meanders Through The Days ~ The Profound Weekend That Lingered...

The lovely roses I cut on the morning garden walk, out
with the dogs. A combination of antique roses and
David Austin English Roses with my favorite Austin
rose, 'Heritage,' hanging over the front...

Such a perfect rose, she deserved a separate vase.
This is 'Pat Austin,' one of my David Austin English
roses. Isn't she GORGEOUS! And very fragrant!

My favorite rose of all time. This is the antique noisette

rose 'Crepuscule.' A great southern rose. Tight buds open a
deep apricot becoming softer and softer to a butter yellow
tipped with a pinky peach. This is an amazing rose, with a
lovely fragrance...

I started this entry on Sunday. I had canoodled around, and gazed at the stars deep in the weesmas (the wee small hours) during the night before. I sipped my latté early Sunday morning and watched the grass grow. I wandered around in the garden, deadheading here, snipping off dead wood there, watching the dogs romp, pulling weeds and singing Amazing Grace loudly as I went. All of a sudden I looked up at a neighbor on his balcony looking down, coffee cup in hand, mouth hanging open in disbelief, at this Goddess shaped (My preference in describing my... ahem... not petite figure...) woman, huge latté cup in hand, pruners in the other, flower basket over my arm, long flowing caftan and shawl and big clod-hopper Crocs, my favorite shoes which I have in several colors (Imagine: Goddess as Bigfoot.), singing loudly, cutting roses (and talking to them as I went) and laughing at one big black dog and three puglings larking about. I can't imagine a nicer way to start a Sunday. I think I sent my neighbor reeling in shock and dashing back into his apartment for safety. Some people have no idea how to live and be happy. Sigh...

I was in a good mood because this morning's
latté message was beautiful. Perfect for a holy day. I may not sit in a church pew, but God is in my garden, in my animal's eyes, and apparently performing miracles in my latté foam. This morning's latté picture/message changed 3 times right before my eyes, leaving me with a sense of awe and wonder. It started as a perfect heart, drops of blood, so to speak, dripping off the bottom of the heart. It then morphed into a rather lopsided heart and you could watch it shapeshifting right before your eyes. Here it is "mid-morph..."

Within seconds, as I carried it from the kitchen to my desk, it morphed into a human's face and the dots looked like teardrops. All of a sudden I felt this enormous surge of love. The human heart, so fragile. If only we could remember what tender beings we all are, each and every one of us. If only we could remember that when we look into the eyes of the person next to us, and everyone we meet. I got pensive. I canoodled some more. I was not getting this entry written, although I had taken the pictures and uploaded them onto the page. All I could do was look at the pictures, a wordless canvas, and wonder what in the world I had to say that might have any value at all, and then I remembered that that was judging, and I didn't need to do that. I just needed to write what was in my heart.

It had been a very deep weekend for me. Quiet, and all alone with my animals, I spent hours on Saturday and hours on Sunday listening to a book I had downloaded from (my new passion, as it is so nice to listen to a book while I do my fiber or other artwork). This particular book moved me deeply and made me cry. The story would likely affect anyone this way, but I had a special connection to it that, when I first read the book years ago, made me weep. The book was Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg.

Not only had I studied with Natalie twice as I have mentioned here before, and I have all of her books and tapes and she has been my teacher via her work for more than 2 decades now, this particular work was about Natalie living through the death of her beloved Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi. First of all, you cannot have read all of Natalie's books and not formed a dear relationship in your heart with Katagiri, but, and she speaks of this in the book, she taught a workshop in Taos in February 1990 and immediately left there to go back to the Zen center in Minneapolis to be with him as he died. She didn't make it. He died just before she got there. As if that weren't enough, I was in the workshop she mentioned. The last day of the workshop she sat cross-legged on the desk at the front of the room, her whole body slumping, the sadness in her eyes near unbearable, and she told us that Katagiri was dying and she was leaving this workshop to go to be at his deathbed. We, who loved her as our teacher, and felt we knew Katagiri through her books (And I had read his book as well, the beautiful Returning To Silence.) were devasted for her. That was the last time I ever saw her, but I never forgot that frozen moment in time. Katagiri dying while she taught us that whole beautiful week long. The week I fell in love with Taos and had a mystical experience there, found my spiritual home, with the mud nearly sucking the boots off of my feet I walked the little town of Taos, stopping to write in little cafe's, writing fast and furious, my heart breaking over the thought of leaving, never realizing that as we, Natalie's students, were there having a profound learning experience, she was doing a stellar job just getting through it as her teacher lie dying far, far away.

I put a quote on my blog yesterday, thinking of this weekend of listening to this book again, and crying through parts of it, and being awakened again to this kind of pain and loss. My own mother is dying. My best friend's nephew just murdered. You never know, when you see someone on the street, what their life is like. Smile gently, and say a prayer for them in your heart. You've just no way of knowing what they are walking toward. So I put the ancient quote by Philo of Alexandria on my blog yesterday (on the right side, a good ways down...).

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."

It is so easy to forget this. When we are having a hard time, another person can aggravate us easily, but remember, kindness trumps everything else. You will never lose anything by offering a gentle smile or a kind word. We are all fighting a great battle.

And so this weekend I sat crocheting, or doing other silent pursuits, listening to Natalie, spellbound. Long Quiet Highway was her third book. She has written many now and I have read them all. But I, like many others, consider this memoir to be her best book. And to hear her read it aloud -- over 8 hours -- and to realize that twice she cried while reading it (This was discussed afterword in a wonderful interview with the Sounds True interviewer.) made my heart clutch. I had heard it too, although it was barely audible and I'm certain many missed it. That wasn't just a book, it was a journey through a great loss, and a tremendous awakening for me on so many levels at this time in my life that it just blew me away.

And so rather than update this blog over the weekend as I'd planned I did the chores that keep the cottage going, and cared for the animals, and cherished my time in the garden, and looked to images in my latté foam for wise council, and for a great part of the weekend I was simply silent. I moved about doing what needed to be done. I spoke to no one, no phone calls, simply my animals, nature, Natalie's words, and it left me feeling ever more deeply the preciousness of the lives of those around me, those I love dearly, one I love so much that is so far away it cuts like a knife, and I pray for her everyday, and then I looked out of my window and saw an elderly man carrying his trash to a dumpster and almost cried. My heart was so wide open the Grand Canyon could have fit inside of it.

Luckily, pugs and parrots keep you grounded. Unfortunately Blossom, the innocent and very beautiful cockatoo who is now part of our family has picked up some rather unseemly language from Henry, my potty mouthed grey parrot. (I've NO idea where HE got it.... sigh...) Just as I sat here feeling as if my heart would explode, Blossom dropped a toy and let out an "OH SHIT," as loudly as she could. This jolted me awake!

Maitri, smiling numbly at the camera trying to pretend
like she is not raising a bunch of hooligans and heathens...

And so the days have gone along and I have started this entry many times over and just couldn't do it. The experience of living through last weekend with Natalie, her voice, her book, her wisdom, her big open heart, bigger than a midwest prairie, left me changed, and once more there was a turn of the kaleidoscope and my whole world shape-shifted again.

It's good to stay awake. It's good to feel your feelings, to have deep, profound weekends, to have birds to make you laugh, and roses to remind you of the beauty in the world and good coffee and silence and things to do with your hands to take you out of your head. My fiberwork saves my life, keeps me afloat. It is the perfect companion to my writing and all too intuitive, inward nature. And if there's any chance I'm about to drift off again a wee small girl, the tiniest but most stubborn pug in the house, will set me straight. Babs just came up to me and said, "Get off of the computer this minute. I want a treat." There's no way I can argue with a face like this. Laugh, yes. Kiss, oh, you betcha. But argue. Never. I've no chance of winning...

She's actually a very sweet little peapod,
and I carry her in my arms like a baby and
smooch her to pieces. But when she means
bidness, she means bidness!

Smile gently. Live your life. And be kind, always be kind...




Waterrose said...

Your roses are beautiful and I wish so much I were in your garden smelling them. The quote was so perfect. We all look at others who seem to have not a care in the world, but there seems to be very few people who do. Thanks for sharing your weekend.

nanjodogz said...

The roses are lovely -- how nice to go for a walk with your dogs and pick some beautiful flowers!

LizzyT said...

What a wonderful piece to read. It reminded me of my mum and dad's garden all those years ago when I was growing up. Neither of them are with us now, I miss them. My mum was so proud of her roses, they were beautiful.

rskirk55 said...

Your roses are beautiful and a perfect post for your wonderful blog. I read it daily and embarrassed I have not commented before. Great job, you provide a bright and comforting spot in each day. Thanks. Steve Kirk blogs on aging and seniors at

Laura said...

Gorgeous roses from your garden. We have tulips up here, no roses for awhile yet.

Julia Ward said...

You're making me homesick for the farm. Old grandmother tea roses and the smell of honeysuckle vines outside my bedroom window.

Beautiful post!



julia ward - a BLINDING heart - a writer's blog -

Cindy said...

Your roses are gorgeous! I had to laugh at the picture your story gave me- your neighbor observing your morning...You remind me of my mother's friend- she just lives life happily and joyfully and doesn't give a hoot what anyone thinks of her.

Susan said...

What beautiful roses. Isn't nature grand - it creates such beauty. I just picked some sweet smelling roses and have them sitting on my computer desk.

I love the way you write. Thanks for your beautiful blog!

Grumpus said...

"I see God in my animals eyes" -- that sums up the beauty of animals! I am looking forward to reading the rest of your site.

Roses and parrots. In an ideal world that's how I'd live the rest of my life :-)

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