Saturday, March 29, 2008

Working On My Book Past Midnight...

I am working on my book. I have to be serious now. I'd almost forgotten how serious the writing of a book is. I can't play with centered text that meanders down the page as if it had nowhere else to go. I am sitting in a room a little too cold, there is only one light on next to me, the six parrots and four dogs are asleep and Coco the love pug is snoring, Babs the wee little deaf black girl is on the double cushion bed like the Princess and the Pea. Moe is stretched out on the couch and Sampson is attached to my body as per usual.

I am sitting in an oversized chair just like the self portrait of me at the top of this page, eyeballs rolling behind glasses, books everywhere around me. What are the books? An odd conglomeration...

* The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work," by Kathleen Norris

* Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting The World, by Claudia Pierpoint

* Hunab Ku: 77 Sacred Symbols for Balancing Body and Spirit,
by Karen and Joel Speerstra

* The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand,
by Jim Harrison (His book, Just Before Dark, is among my top ten favorite books...)

* Holy The Firm, one of my favorite of Annie Dillard's books...

How can you not be blown away with prose like this?

"Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors, at dawn fast over the mountains split."

* Journal of a Solitude,
by May Sarton...

While I have read and reread all of Sarton's books, taught them, and in the end, would become a dear friend of May's and she mine in the last years of her life, I had no idea, though I loved her books, how prescient was the reading of those books and the actual meeting of May. I wasn't just reading those books, I was reading the outlines of my future life, the one I'm living now. Alone, writing, a dog at my side, filling the feeders for the
wild birds, gardening, and writing, following a strict routine that does not waver. And I deal with my own demons, as all writers must, as May did, but her books keep my steady on my course...

* Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home, by Sue Bender

While I read and loved all of her books -- Plain and Simple; Everyday Sacred; and Stretching Lessons; it was the second of her series of three that changed my life, set me on my ear, and altered my DNA radically. I have read it so many times I've lost count and I bought a second copy. I bow to Sue wherever she is. Namaste dear Sue.

* And last but not least by any means, the book I have long called my writer's bible, Earthly Paradise, the collected writings of Colette. It was published in 1966, 12 years after her death, an auspicious year for me. I was born in April of 1954 and she died in August of the same year. I think our souls brushed shoulders as I came in and she went out. I adore her, she is my Muse. I have read and reread this book so many times, studied it, clung to it, slept with it near me, carried it from here to there, that it has been glued and reglued and I hope Colette would forgive the copious notes in the margins, the tear stains, the pressed pansies from my garden between the pages, the indelible mark she left on my soul.

Robert Phelps wrote the introduction to the book. I have always loved one of his descriptions of her that paralled my own heart so closely I have quoted it often in my writings (credited of course), tattoed it on my heart, and worn it like an invisible locket that I could touch to ground myself when nothing else made any sense. Phelps wrote:

'But she knew -- perhaps the word is 'trusted' -- that to be born sentient and watchful is a daily miracle: that the paradis terrestre, the earthly paradise around us, is as wondrous an index of heaven as any we shall ever know; and that to abide here, even as an exile, for seven or eight decades, is a blessing -- because it is a chance to watch, 'to look for a long time at what pleases you,' and to find 'un mot meilleur, et meilleur que meilleur, a better and better word,' with which to secure it for others.

'And when we, in turn, watch Colette watching, we realize that, along with love and work, this is the third great salvation, or form of prayer, which we have been given. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of his lost innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes his self-consciousness is relieved. He is less corrupt. He is very close to that state of grace for which Colette reserved the word, 'pure.' "

There is so much more. I could write pages and pages of quotes and how each moved me, but this says enough. I am re-entering the purification ritual called writing, where all the dross and flowery prose must be cut away, realizing that life itself offers enough. And if I don't write about the wider world where wars take place, where the news is born, where tragedies occur, it is no less important that I write about the early narcissus in a cobalt blue bottle blooming on my desk and perfuming the room, that I have a teddy bear of a dog lying, always, on my person, with 2 other pugs and a big black dog around me. It matters that I write of a wee little boy who calls me Grandma, and it matters that my mother, at nearly 82, is dying, here three years after she was given but a few weeks to months to live, and we have watched the gradual deterioration right alongside her indomitable spirit.

It matters that I wear a grey parrot on my shoulder all morning as he sips the foam from my latte, talks to the big white bird we've recently taken in, and sits on her cage with her talking, even though he is dwarfed by her, this cockatoo is a shy, gentle, loving bird, and she has found a permanent home in a place that she is no longer afraid, with 11 other animals who have found the same. This, too, matters.

I think it matters that this Catholic raised girl turned Buddhist can meditate and minutes later reach up and touch the St. Francis medal on her neck. I wear a St. Francis medal, a beautiful dragonfly, my totem animal as well as the meaning of my last name, Libellule, in French, along with a Buddhist mindfulness bell and a mala for my rounds of silent meditations. I pray to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, along with Mary Mother of God and all the Goddesses of realm, to the angels and my special guardian angels , to my spirit guides and animal guides, and if all of that makes no sense to anyone but me, let it be known that my eclectic spirituality serves me well and I don't apologize for it or feel the need to explain it.

That the woman I love, and that I love her so deeply, would confound pretty well anyone who knows me, bothers me not one whit. She and I understand, and that's all that matters. It's no one else's business, but I celebrate my love for her every day of my life even as I go around the daily rounds of the cottage and weave my dreams and do my fiber work and plan my future life.

I would rather tell you that beside me here are 2 fountain pens, 3 quill pens from Paris, pen cartridges and 3 bottles of ink along with a very large sketchbook. This is more important to me than who I'm going to vote for for President. Oh, I'll vote, but still in all I'll live my little life no matter what happens. I will spread seeds of love wherever I go. I will love animals and children and flowers and others, and while becoming Mama Maitri is not something I planned on, I have taken on the mantle and try to serve it as best I can.

Sometimes I need to sketch out what is inside of me and then the words come. Sometimes I am designing the cottage that is in my heart, a small but unusual cottage that meets my needs. Sometimes I am just staring off into space writing my book on the air currents. How the words fall onto the page is beyond my imagining but it all seems to come out in the wash.

And so as I sit here in the weesmas, now, on Sunday morning, in a quiet cottage with sleeping animals, more at peace than ever, I am warming up my syllables so that the book I write might have resonance as well as something tangible to hold onto. Tonight I am laying my words out on paper like Sampson lies on me. My pug has taught me how to write.

That's all for now. I'm off to chase dangling participles.

Maitri, about to open a bottle of ink and dip a quill pen in it, watching in fascination as the ink drips onto the page. My ink, my blood. It's time to open a vein...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Work Spaces, Inside and Out... Shapeshifting ... Turning A Corner...

"Dillard wrote the second half of her Pulitzer Prize-winning Pilgrim At Tinker Creek in a second-floor, cinder-block room with a window that overlooked a tar-and-gravel-roof and parking lot. "Appealing workplaces are to be avoided," she maintains. "One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark." In this writer's cell she kept her fielder's mitt (for afternoon softball games), some books, a bag of chocolate-covered peanuts, two or three quotes taped on index cards, a dozen different-colored pens, some piles of big index cards, and her messy yellow legal pads. One day she shut the window blinds and never opened them again.

More recently she set up shop in a tent in the yard of her Cape Cod house."

~ On Annie Dillard, from Journeys of Simplicity, by Philip Harnden ~

The pen you see above is my real fountain pen. It is a red Waterman
Phileas Fogg and I've had several over the years. My favorite pen is the pen I call "Big Mama," and she's a huge Mont Blanc I've had for decades now. She was my dream pen and I finally bought her at half price. She stays at home because she has to be filled from a bottle and can be messy, and she feels safer at home. Like I do. I have lost a Phileas or two because I have a penchant for writing in café's and used to write nearly daily in one. My favorite way to write is with an old fashioned quill pen and I have many that I have collected over the years and hordes of bottles of ink. I don't have a fielder's mitt, but I do have lots of journals and my favorite notebooks, Moleskines...

I like the old fashioned caf
é writer's way of doing things. Hemingway's A Moveable Feast is one of my favorite of the thousands of books I've read in my nearly 54 years, and it was he that taught me how to eat oysters and lose myself in a notebook in a café. Today I still write with fountain pens in notebooks, but I have fallen the way of the rest of the world and my iMac is here on my desk, and my new "Plum Blossom" Dell notebook computer is here beside me, ready to take into a café and write, or write in a chair with a pug half on it and half on me. Or a parrot on my shoulder. Annie Dillard didn't have any of those, but I don't have chocolate covered peanuts either. We all find our own way to write.

I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, and like to work in my little cottage which is very colorful, what with rooms in every shade imaginable, countless books everywhere, fiber and fiber work projects, bright, colorful and homey feeling, old vintage quilts, and yes, 6 parrots, four dogs, 2 beta fish, and a partridge in a pear tree. Actually right now they are all asleep, the room is quiet and dark, just a little desk lamp on here at the computer, and I love this time of night. It is 9:25 p.m. and I am settling in for a night of reading, writing, and fiber art. Currently I am finishing the Spirit Bowl I showed you in the last entry, and I am also making a very large, long serpent for my 4 year old grandson for his May 1 birthday, made on a giant and very beautiful serpent spool-knitter made especially for me by my dear friend Noreen Crone-Findlay who makes all of my spoolknitters, crochet hooks, cord makers and more. You will see pictures of it in the next entry which I will be getting up in the next couple of days. It is made entirely of recycled clothes and scarves from my wardrobe that are wearing out but bright and colorful, even very worn pashmina shawls cut in long strips! It will be a "Raggedy Ann" kind of serpent and I am loving him already.

No, I could not work in a cinder-block room, bare and grey, nor in a tent in the back yard. I have been musing about how our work environment affects us as writers, how it shapes the work, both inside our bodies where the imagination starts to bubble up to the top turning from images and vague prose into words on a page. I am a great lover of Dillard's work and have pretty well all of her books, but I think our writing reflects our chosen writing spaces. I love hers, and mine feels comfortable to me.

I have been thinking a lot about this because I am working on a book long in the works, after 30 years of writing for magazines and newspapers, and having written a number of books that didn't sell, mostly novels, sigh, it seems that non-fiction is more my fort
é, and having been asked by many to write about life at Dragonfly Cottage and how it evolved, as well as my life as a writer and a fiber artist, living in a little cottage filled with animals, surrounded by gardens, and pretty well cut off from the world, I have turned back to my serious writing after a long hiatus. I have been thinking a lot lately about why it has taken me so long to begin to write seriously again, and I believe I know the answer.

In 1999 I left a 25 year marriage and was separated for 6 years before the divorce. I had been a stay-at-home mom, homebirthing, homeschooling, breastfeeding forever, you get the picture, and we were and still are a very close family. My ex-husband and I are very close. We just had dinner, all of us together, at our middle child's, mother of our grandson, for Easter. But I didn't just leave the marriage. I left the marriage/came out as a lesbian all at once. Coming out was also a long time coming, and not until my children had either grown and gone or very nearly. After a few rocky relationships I have lived alone for years now, in fact most of the last nine years I have lived alone. I fell through a rabbit hole and in midlife, only having known married, heterosexual life, I was shaken to the core. I was out of the marriage as well as the relationship I left it for in the blink of an eye and sat there in shock wondering what had happened. A hurricane had blown through my life. I have been shapeshifting for years now, upside down, inside out, cocooning, flying, crashing and burning, and now, quiet and content to live alone, I am thriving in this little world of my own making, and I work peacefully in this cozy, colorful space. I like the quiet. I like a snoring pug on my feet. I have my latt
é in the morning with my beloved grey parrot Henry on my shoulder as I am organizing my work for the day.

What I realized was that amidst heartache, loss, and confusion I had turned more to my fiberwork, out of my head and into my hands, and retreated to my solitude to heal, and truly, having come from a childhood that taught me that being alone was the safest place to be, and animal companions were my best friends, in a way it would be natural that I would move, as a mid-life woman, into what was most comfortable for me, and working from home suits me very well.

In the lonely years I got very involved in the internet as well, and found that I spent more and more time on the net because I was lonely and it was a wonderful way to make friends and feel a sense of kindredness with many lovely spirits, but then turn off the computer and sit in my silent cottage when I needed to. Trouble was, I got so into blogging (several) and more, my real writing got farther and farther away. At one time I maintained 15 lists and a large internet community and, an avid reader all of my life, I barely read. I clung to my computer life as if to a life raft in a stormy sea, and in the last couple of years have been waking up to the realization that what I loved best, what best defined me, was my writing, and reading, and today I am spending far less time on the net and working on my book, reading books, caring for my animals and life at the cottage, and I am finding a new kind of peace, a peace that passeth all understanding, for the first time in years. I am in love with a woman who is currently working far away, but my animals are great company. I love my children but have only one here, but she, her wonderful partner, and their son, my only grandchild, live near and are my special delights. And my dear friend Jeff is in and out all the time, and I have lovely friends near and far, but mostly I have fallen back into the world of words, with fiber art on the side and throughout my days to help keep me calm and centered.

I have turned a corner. I have found my true self, 54 years next month, in-the-making, and I love mid-life and growing into my wisdom years. I am more comfortable in myself than I have ever been. I keep this one blog to keep me centered and to keep track of myself and my life. To find out what I am thinking, often a surprise, mostly a way to solidify, by nailing words down on paper or here on the computer, feelings that are rising but moving slowly from amorphous blobs inside of me into concrete words that help me see who I am. This is my form of journalling these days, and it is serving me well. And I love the blogging community, all kinds of blogs, from cooking to gardening to fiber work to animal rescue/animal companions, and so much more.

So now I am finding my way and it feels both significant and timely. I have picked up my fountain pen and notebook, my computer at my side, books all around. I have come home, and it feels good. I have come home to me...

Time to put on the water for tea and read before bed, pen and notebook at my side, and, having settled back into my own true skin, I celebrate this decade that has given me the gift of learning who I truly am...

Love and Blessings to All,


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Emptying... Beginner's Mind... Spirit Bowls... Sangha...

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!" "Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"

~ Ancient Zen story ~

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few. ~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind ~

I am becoming, once again, the empty cup. Returning to my Zen studies and daily meditation, I feel the overflow spilling out and I can breathe again. In, out, in, out, I breathe to the sounds of the mindfulness bell meditation from Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village in France, the bell's resonating gong sounding every few minutes to bring you back to your breath when your mind has wandered. Even my animals go to sleep or close their eyes when I meditate. They feel the calm. 45 minutes in the morning, 90 minutes before bedtime, listening to Zen audio books/lectures/retreats throughout the day from many of my great teachers, some whom I have studied with in person, some I have studied for thirty years through their books, tapes, videos and more. I listen while I do my fiber work, with short meditations built into the sessions along with my teachers. I am finding emptiness, my heart is opening, I am feeling calm, peaceful, contented ... I am finding grace.

Among my most important teachers are Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chödrön, Ram Dass, Shunryu Suzuki, Jack Kornfeld and Natalie Goldberg. I studied with Natalie twice, once for a long weekend a year after Writing Down The Bones came out in 1986, 22 years ago, and for a week-long retreat in Taos, New Mexico in 1990. I hadn't planned on that one but Natalie called and asked me to come and it was a pivotal time in my life in many ways. I fell in love with Taos, with New Mexico. I walked around as if in a daze, touching down on something deeply spiritual I was awestruck and silent as I drank in the beauty of the mountains and mesas and even the mud. In 1990 the workshop/retreat was in February and it was mud season. I lived in the country and knew to bring my mud boots. The mud was so deep and rich and delicious it almost sucked the boots off of my feet, but I was entranced. On our time outs I would walk alone, down the lane from the Mabel Dodge Luhan house into the little town of Taos. I wrote in cafés, walked up and down streets where hitching posts for horses still stood in front of old stores, stopped in bookstores to buy postcards to write to family and friends with beautiful pictures of this majestic land, and as many books on New Mexico as I could carry. I have longed for New Mexico ever since. It is my spiritual home.

About now you may be asking, why Natalie Goldberg? Isn't she a writing teacher? Well, yes, and a very good one at that, but, well, my experience was a little different. I had been teaching journal writing classes for several years that were very like Natalie's Bones, and had been a professional writer for many years, but never had I fallen so in love with a book, never has a book (and I've read thousands by now...) had as great an impact on me as Bones did. And the reason was, not just because it is a magical book on writing, and Natalie a wonderful teacher, but I remember Natalie saying that she wanted to write a book about Zen, but the only way she could do it was writing about it through a venue she knew, writing. I was a writer, and after reading Bones I knew, I understood so much more about Zen than I had as a single practitioner for many years because I never lived in a town with a Zen center anywhere close. I read and studied everything I could get my hands on, listened to tapes, but Zen writings are very esoteric, enigmatic, and while starting you on the path of enlightenment, a single
kōan can take you a lifetime to grasp, if even then. I still grapple with "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" I've thought I had it figured out countless times, but like looking through a kaleidoscope, when one slight turn renders a whole new view, a kōan, at different times and places and spaces brings up possible answers, different answers, all the time. I will likely die one day still wondering about that kōan, and so many others, and I love them.

So Natalie has been one of the great teachers of my life, and she taught me a wonderful new way to look at writing, and a whole new understanding of Zen because she wasn't esoteric, she wrote in a simple yet profound way so that in the end I was a better writer and a better Zen student. I came home hungry for more, and spent the next six months studying with Charlotte "Joko" Beck every Monday night in hour long phone sessions. She would leave me with a question that I would ponder, meditate upon, and write about for the week, and we would discuss it the next week. She, too, wrote two very wonderful, down to earth books on Zen that helped me along enormously. I am still writing today with these two teachers at my back, as I keep my pen moving across the vast expanse of the notebook page.

Zen and writing are now inextricably interwoven for me, and it has permeated my whole life. I live Zen, I breathe Zen, my fiber art has become more and more Zen as I move more and more back into Beginner's Mind, and as an intuitive artist who never follows a pattern but is led by the work itself, all of my fiber work is one-of-a-kind, and quite often nobody is more surprised than I with what comes out. I love what Natalie wrote in Bones about Beginner's Mind...

When I begin teaching a class, it is good. I have to come back to beginner's mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing. In a sense, that beginner's mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey and with no maps.

And so it was that in the last several month when I returned to meditating and studying Buddhism more deeply again, my heart opened up wider, my work became more intuitive and the pieces, piece to piece, vary in shape and form and meaning, and, as in the title of Natalie's follow-up book after Bones, Wild Mind, my writing, my fiber art, my life, have cracked wide open and like a shooting star taking off like a rocket, as my mind flies after ideas, trying to keep up. This has been the case with the new piece I am almost finished with, what I call a Spirit Bowl, and have begun to think of as a meditation bowl. Empty, it is beautiful. Often people gaze at a lit candle to focus on when they meditate. These bowls I am making can be a focal point as we empty our mind, so that our mind can stay focused on our breath and the empty bowl before us, bottomless, empty, silent. The teacup does not overflow, and we open, once again, to a whole new wide open way of looking at the world, our work, and the world around us.

Here is a picture of the Spirit Bowl in process. If you look back through several entries you will see the process of me handspinning the nubbly yarn, plying it, and starting on this piece. Now, it is almost finished, and then I will felt it for durability, and it will last far beyond my own lifetime.

This Spirit Bowl is made of my own handspun yarn and
pink/purple boucl
é handspun and kettle-dyed yarn by village
women in Uruguay. The wonderful hand-carved sunflower
crochet hook was made by Noreen Crone-Findlay. I use her
hooks exclusively because they not only feel good in the hand
and are wonderful to crochet with, but the hand-carved wood
lovingly made by an incredible artist, makes me feel closer
to the earth, more rooted. I am an earth-mother at heart. I
live as close to the Earth and her creatures, plants, nature
as I possible can...

Finally, I have been thinking a lot about Sanghas. A sangha is a spiritual community, and important in the Buddhist traditions where, coming together with your teacher and fellow students you learn, you study, you meditate together, you communicate, and as in the fellowship in many churches, the community gives one a sense of belonging.

My solitary practice, by default, has fit my life very well in these years past the raising of my three children and the end of my marriage when I have come into my fullness and true purpose and essential being. I live very like an anchorite, seldom leaving the cottage, but working from early morning until late at night. Where then is my sangha?

My sangha begins in the cottage with the dozen animals I live with, six parrots, four dogs, and 2 beta fish. It extends to my family, my dear friends, those that read my writings and buy my fiber art. The people I know in animal rescue are part of my sangha as are all the countless people I have met over the internet and formed deep friendships with that I didn't know was even possible. Beyond that it extends to the wider world. The whole world is my sangha, even if I seldom ever leave my humble abode.

I believe that in the coming years I will venture out into the world a little more because when I took the name Maitri, legally, in 2005 after my divorce, I pledged to live a life of loving-kindness and compassion, in my work and in my life. It is a life of service, whether getting my animals fresh food and water first thing every morning, to sharing my heart through my writing, my fiber art, and my relationships. The time is coming when I will venture out, just a little bit, to do my work and spread loving-kindness beyond my little cottage world.

I am beginning now, in very small increments, by beginning to go, perhaps a couple of times a week, to a caf
é to write on my new laptop, a wonderful gift from a dear friend in support of my writing as I write the book about life at Dragonfly Cottage, both the website started nearly a decade ago which set me on a path somewhat like Alice through the looking glass, and the cottage that I live in which would grow in unimaginable ways, and become the center of my life, my work, my peace, my happiness.

Too, I plan for a simpler life, and that, too, will be a lifetime journey, but I am a simple woman at heart. A hearth tender, gardener, wanting only the small life that I have created. I live in a kind of child-like joy, even on my worst days, there are glimmers. Today it was picking the first tiny narcissus that now perfumes the whole room. Life is best lived with simple pleasures at the core. Here is my little narcissus, a farewell gift to you...

Even the tiny flowers are part of my sangha...

So I bow to the divine in you as I say Namast
é to one and all, and if you are here, reading, you are part of my sangha. I send you love and blessings from my home to yours.

I bow to you with my little sangha of 12 animal companions all around me. I wish you well on your journey...


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Love Is Everywhere, Even In My Morning Latte...

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. And if you look for it, I've got a sneaking suspicion that love actually is all around.”

~ From "Love Actually," movie ~

This morning, after feeding all of the animals, getting dogs out and in and the morning chores done, I puttered into the kitchen to make my protein shake and my morning latté, and then slowly puttered (... and I do mean slowly ~ badly swollen feet, purple toes, trust me, you don't want to know!) back to my desk and as I was sitting down I looked at my latté and after a moment of being thunderstruck and full of awe, I laughed out loud, grabbed my camera, and took pictures. Some magical entity had drawn an espresso heart right in the middle of the fluffy foam. I make my latté the same way every day, I don't try to do anything fancy (the pugs and the parrots aren't impressed...) so this heart appeared in the middle of the foam all by itself and all of a sudden I was filled with waves of love throughout my body. What an absolutely stunning way to start your day!

So I settled in with my
latté, surrounded by notebooks, pens, books, fiber work, pugs, parrots, Moe, and the fish all around, going back to sleep after a rousing start to their day, and as I sipped my magical love potion I got flutters, thinking of someone far far away whom I have not been in contact with for some time and who is very close and dear to my heart and I felt melancholy, but in that way that is a kind of lonely sadness laced with sweetness, and then I came across the quote, surfing about online, from the movie "Love Actually," and it was so perfect for the way I was feeling I grabbed it and put it just above the photo of my miraculous morning coffee. Now, I am swoony and romantic by nature, so you can just imagine how this set my mind to travelling all over the place while my heart bounced hither and yon and I couldn't stop smiling, even while my feet were propped up, slathered with arnica gel, and wrapped in ice packs.

So I sat here sipping and dreaming, and thinking of my guilty new secret pleasure which is a blog I started and made a closed, private blog to keep a journal of the life I am envisioning for myself, when I am able to move into a larger cottage, with a wonderful fenced yard for the dogs, room for a large cottage garden and a potager (A French kitchen garden, just outside the kitchen door, where vegetables and herbs for cooking are grown.) A big kitchen to cook in, oh, so many things. And I will move in and be happy to have it be spare at first because I like to decorate finding treasures at flea markets, junk shops, thrift stores, anywhere that has vintage things (not, mind you, expensive antiques, no, the things I love could have come out of your grandmother's attic...) and I just sat here, adjusting and readjusting pillows and ice packs, sipping my latté, and dreaming. I am an incurable romantic. Love slipslides in and out of my vision of my future, for the one I love is far far away, working, and I must leave her to her work while I forge on building a life here. I am a stalwart romantic on my best days, and then I sit down to a huge latté cup with a heart smack dab in the middle of it, and my knees go a little weak...

Love. And so many kinds of love. This afternoon I babysat my little 3 1/2 year old grandson. He is a truly magical child, a wee little boy with pale blond curly hair, huge eyes, the face of an angel, and a personality to match. He is so sweet and loving and we squeezed and kissed and talked and he patted my wrist which I broke a month ago and it is still in a brace, and he was most careful and concerned about my feet. He is very gentle with me, and just to hear a tiny little person call me "Grandma," well, I suppose one doesn't think much about it until it happens, but a grandchild is such a special kind of love and I was also present at his birth.

To see your child give birth to her child, well, it is the most miraculous thing there is. Rachel was born at home with both of her grandmothers in attendance, and I was with Rachel and Jeremy throughout the labor and at the end my ex-husband who is very dear to me, and our eldest daughter and younger son were all present to see Rachel give birth to Lucas. We held hands and cried while Jeremy held Rachel in his arms and the midwife caught the baby. The hospital had a wonderful birthing room and Lucas had barely had his first breath when we called out to Jeremy's dad and brother to come in and both sides of the family were there revelling in the enormous, unbelievable swell of love in that room. I still can't get over it.

Rachel went into labor the night of April 30, my 50th birthday, here at my family party, and through the night it got hard and she called me, and later Jeremy called and by 8 in the morning they called to tell me that they were on their way to the hospital and I never threw clothes on so fast. I got there right away and never left the room until nearly 10 p.m. that night when my daughter gave birth to a wee tiny boy and gave me the best birthday present of my life. Lucas was born May 1, so our birthdays are forever linked. This year we will be 4 and 54 respectively. It almost takes your breath away how fast time flies. And today as I was leaving to come home, I left behind Rachel and Jeremy and their tiny son playing in the front yard on a beautiful, nearly spring day, and oh, it tugged at my heart. What a beautiful little family they are. Rachel and Jeremy are amazing people and wonderful parents. I'm so proud of my lovely daughter and Jeremy is like a son to me now.

So, so many kinds of love, and some nearly inexplicable. I am thinking of Jeff. Jeff and I met roughly a decade ago through our love of birds, and it has been quite a journey. He is more than a best friend, he is truly a brother. We are both gay and he has a partner and a beautiful home and large family of animals as I do. We met because we were bird people. Today, there is no one closer to me, no one who knows me better. And the many things he does for me since I am alone here are just unimaginable. He is so good to me, and we love each other dearly. My beloved Blue and Gold macaw Maya, whom I handraised and had for a year, has been with Jeff since the summer of 2000. That bird is so bonded to Jeff it is a beautiful sight to behold, and a year and a half ago I hand raised an African Grey parrot for him. If you've been reading my blog you know that my newest rescue resident, Blossom, the Greater Sulfur Crested cockatoo, came here from Jeff's where he gave her everything a girl could ask for, but his other cockatoo tried to attack her and she became afraid of the other birds, always screaming, and, well, the rest of the story is here below, but now Blossom lives here with me and is proving to be a real soul mate.

Jeff and I talk on the phone several times a day and the bond between us is amazing. He is a miracle in my life and I love him dearly. So, so many kinds of love. And my friends near and far, all of my children and their partners or spouses, even a shy little wild cat that comes around, I feel such tenderness for. I have given her food a few times, but daren't do it too often because I can't take her in. Other neighbors have fed her too and there is a valiant effort to catch her so that she might be vet checked and a loving home found somewhere, but here as everywhere, sadly, there are feral cats and kittens wwherever there are people nearby. And they are so hard to catch. But we just keep doing what we can.

I started this post this morning and now it is very late here. I am surrounded by sleeping birds and dogs, pugs snoring and snuffling here and there, big Moe asleep on his bead, and Sampson, my little velcro pug, is on the ottoman here that my feet are resting on and will sleep with me when I go to bed shortly. He is such a funny little pug-a-lug, always wherever I am, as close as possible, and when I nap he in on my person somewhere, sound asleep. This little dog was badly treated and there was a time they doubted he'd make it. Now he is loved to pieces and has found a Mama who won't leave him (They don't call me Mama Maitri for nothing! Ha!). Even big white Blossom-Bird is asleep under her covers. It is eerily quiet and I am very tired.

To live with an open heart, to be willing to risk being hurt because the alternative would mean not feeling that warm river of love running through your life and days, well, it's the only way for me to live, and today my morning latté was a jumping off place into a day of taking inventory, taking stock of all of the people I love and who love me, and I feel very rich indeed and very blessed. Some people read tea leaves. My messages seem to come in an oversized mug with a giant latté in it. I wonder what it will tell me tomorrow?

I am about to go brush my teeth and make the last round of the night in the bathroom and turn out lights and join the rest of my animal companions in a peaceful night's sleep, but I will not be alone as I go about my last of the night chores. A little fawn pug will follow me wherever I go, and then run ahead of me excited to go to bed. He waits for me to get settled in and then he curls into the crook of my knees for starters, and I feel a warm soft boy beside me, soon to be snoring softly and drifting into the land where pugs dream. I don't have to count sheep, pug snores lull me to sleep, and I reach down and rub his soft wrinkly face and silken ears as I slowly drift off myself.

What a truly lovely day it's been. I feel so blessed. I wish you all love in abundance, rivers of love running through your lives. Sweet dreams. Tend your tender heart as you would a beautiful garden, and pass the love on to everyone you meet. Go back and read the quote again at the top of this entry from "Love Actually," and carry it with you in your heart. No matter what else is going on in the world, if we don't have love, we don't have anything. Love will lead the way.

Sampson and I wish you goodnight...


Sunday, March 2, 2008

First "Maitri Love Basket" finished and up at etsy, and what I'm working on now...

You can click on the picture above to go to the etsy listing and see
more pictures of the finished product!

These baskets are very special to me, and as I said below, they are not named for me, but for the Buddhist teaching of maitri, loving-kindness and compassion, first for Self, and then for others. We cannot give from an empty cup.

I will be making a series of these, no two alike, but they take a long time to make and I will be making other things so that I alternate the kind of things I make for more diversity in the shop. There is a long entry below with the bag in process and a number of pictures of the making of the first bag in the series along the way.

Now I am working on my first "Spirit Vessel" which will be felted when I finish. Work is slow-going for me with the broken wrist, but at least with crochet I mainly just have to use my good hand. Thank God I didn't break my right wrist!

Below is a picture of the first Spirit Vessel, the bottom, made of a yarn I handspun creating nubs along the way. I am using a handspun wool boucle up the sides, and in the picture you see one of my favorite crochet hooks, a gnome "Gulliver Hook" made by Noreen Crone-Findlay. These are the hooks I prefer and use and I have several and they are just magical!

So onwards and upwards I go. And where I go from here, I don't even know!

Blessings to one and all,