Wren and I went to town today for PT. I’m grateful to be learning about the nervous system, and how to help heal a long-ago yoga injury in my low back from the bottom up with some nerve ‘flossing’ exercises, and from the top down with some neck exercises. While we were in town, we stopped to bring a little love to a friend who gets out even less than I do. She hadn’t met Wren before, but I was not surprised at how quickly they took to one another. We sat together outside, and between Wren cuddles, I read her poetry to her from the four wonderful chapbooks we made over the years, years ago. I was moved all over again by the beauty of her words, which I hadn’t read or heard for a long time; and I was moved by her vivid response as she completed lines with me, laughed in recollection, and appreciated our connection. I’m grateful for this time with her, and the perspective it gave to both of our lives.
I’ve been pondering the value of Connection for a few days now. Both Covid and Mindfulness have changed my understanding of connection. As most people around me ‘move on’ with their lives or return to pre-Covid ways of being my sense of connection in my community has shifted. At the same time, mindfulness has expanded my sense of connection with people in general as I practice the Four Immeasurable attitudes, wishing happiness and well-being for all, and working to reduce suffering of others as I’m able. I feel less seen by a few nearby, and more understood by many afar. I’ve learned that meaningful online connections can be cultivated authentically with old friends and new, that I can make a positive change in people’s lives from a distance, and that all nourishing connections are worth sustaining. Of these, my connection to the natural world is bone-deep and paramount; and my connection with my innermost self is stronger than its ever been.
So many of the things in my home represent connections with dear people, past times, beloved places. Even a simple breakfast is loaded with connection. Setting aside the larger interdependence involved in the technology of a Kindle and all the humans and resources necessary for it to exist at my breakfast table, there’s the connection I feel occasionally to my sister-in-law when I remember that she influenced me to buy a Paperwhite: “I know you like to sit outside and read,” she said, “so that would be the best Kindle for you.” And what am I reading this morning on my Kindle Paperwhite? Foster, recommended by my most literary friend Sarahbelle, and so I feel connection with her as I open it up.
Acknowledging gratitude for all the interconnections that brought coffee beans into my home and enabled them to be ground and brewed, I feel special gratitude for the unique mug I drink from which symbolizes connection with two wonderful women in Florida, one who hand-built the mug and one who gave it to me. Those connections flare in awareness each time I use the mug. The connections among plants and humans that brought flour, salt, water and sugar into my house as ingredients in the toast and jam are many and far-flung: The sourdough itself traces back to one friend I haven’t seen for years but connect with in my heart every time I use the starter, and the sour cherry jam reinforces my connection with two dear friends the next mesa over. The plate is an anchor to Amy, whom I never fail to think of when I pull it from the handmade cupboard that links me to the Wood Monks who built my kitchen. I’m grateful for connection in all the ways it manifests in my little life.
I’m grateful for a day filled with loving connections with friends old and new, from down the road to Hawaii to the east coast. I’m grateful for Zoom Cooking with Amy, Instagram Edition. Tonight we opted for simple and quick, and prepared two recipes we’ve seen on Instagram. We started by halving and scoring some small potatoes as the butter melted in a sheetpan in the oven. We grated parmesan and tossed in spices of our choosing, mixed those with the butter in the pan, then pressed the potatoes cut side down onto the yummy goo, and cooked for about half an hour at 425℉.
While the potatoes cooked, we of course mixed our martinis, and then chopped leeks into one-inch lengths, and seared them in butter.
This monk is pissed off! Bottled water in Tibet these days: He’s tying together plastic, pollution, greed, and climate chaos, with his personal experience growing up in Tibet in the 70s and 80s, when you could dig fifteen feet underground almost anywhere and be rewarded with pure, fresh water. Tibetans would have laughed at the idea of paying money for water! These days, he gesticulates, bottled water everywhere. The best thing you can do for the planet is stop buying bottled water. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring, delightful–miraculous, actually…
I’m grateful that I can be watching an actual Tibetan Buddhist master (who is 7500 miles from the roots of his tradition, and is actually present at the Yoga Tree down the road), from the comfort of my recliner twenty miles away, on the screen of a foldup super-computer. I’m grateful for the Yoga Tree and the Creamery, and all the other people in this valley and everywhere who make it possible for these monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery to travel to small towns with their ancient wisdom. It’s amazing that I am receiving profound teachings from a representative of a lineage going back to Gautama Buddha 2600 years ago. It’s technology, among many other things, that enables this astonishing connection. And it is technology, and our insatiable desire for more and better of everything, that has led to climate chaos.
“We all have responsibilities to be more content with our life and try to protect Nature as much as we can,” he continued, after explicating the six primary delusions of attachment, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt, and wrong view. We need to do the inner work to understand these issues, he taught, and from our balance will flow more balance for the world. A couple of people pointed out that we need to do something now, we don’t have time to rely on doing inner work.
“Recognize interdependence. When self-cherishing is reduced, cherishing of others will grow…. Start from yourself and then teaching your family, friends, near and dear ones,” he explained, “and one becomes ten becomes a hundred… like the coronavirus, this too will spread,” he said. It was a hopeful image, this goodwill for the planet and commitment to the well-being of all creatures great and small spreading exponentially like a virus, until, in my imagination, even our governments, our policies and laws, entire cultures across the globe begin to truly reflect the interdependence of all life on earth.
He concluded the lesson with this pearl: “Die without remorse, and your next journey will be great and fortunate.” I just wonder, where do we come back to in our next life if we’ve destroyed our species and much of the planet? Meanwhile, I’m just grateful when I can live one day without regret.
Today, I’m grateful for the fullness of Sunday morning, all this beauty and adventure in the first hour awake. I’m grateful the day unfolded in peaceful ease, a little yarden work here, a little homework there, some housework mixed in, and a couple of zoom visits, including cocktails with Miss Sarah Belle: I’m grateful that the universe threw us together by chance 32 years ago and that she opted to open her great heart and mind to me. And, I’m grateful that I finally saw the mama phoebe pop her head up out of their fortified nest after he sang to her from the top of the birch tree. Life’s simple pleasures.
This morning I finally tried out the new vacuum I bought myself for Christmas, and it didn’t work. I did all the troubleshooting steps, but each time I started it the brush roll spun for about three seconds before stopping with its red light on. A bit annoyed, I mean I was finally ready to vacuum and the sun was blazing so there was plenty of power to run a 1300 watt appliance for awhile, I called Shark tech support. An hour later I had a new vacuum on the way after Yokine declared it was “clearly defective.”
He determined this through an app that let him use my phone camera to see what the problem was. I had tried it out a dozen times with various adjustments, and each time it took only a couple of seconds before the brush roll jammed. While Yokine was watching, naturally, the vacuum ran smoothly across the rug, no jam, no red light. “You’re magic!” I cried, and he laughed. We’d already gotten chummy after I inquired about his name, which I hadn’t understood the first time he said it.
“It’s a traditional Japanese name,” he said. “You… are you Japanese?” He didn’t sound Japanese. “No, Jamaican,” he said laughing. “I guess my mother just heard it and liked it.” As if it weren’t magic enough that I was talking with a vacuum technician in Kingston who could see my floor dirt. Well, then I put back on a piece I’d taken off, and the red light came on again. “I’m not magic,” he said a bit dejectedly.
I could have been frustrated at ‘wasting’ an hour of my morning when I had plenty of other things on my to-do list, including vacuuming the house which now isn’t gonna happen for another week. I’m grateful I was able to choose to be pleasant and treat him like a human being who had to work on Christmas Eve, instead of gripe self-righteously as I might have done some time ago. I asked him about Christmas in Jamaica, and how they’re doing with Covid, and was glad to hear that it’s “not so bad as in some other countries. We all did what our leader told us to do,” he said. Ha! Then we talked about US presidents a little bit, and had some more good laughs.
It was kind of hard to hang up when the call was over. We wished each other Merry Christmas, and told each other to stay safe and well. I’m grateful for the sense of genuine connection I felt with this stranger thousands of miles away in the tropics on this single-digit morning here, and for the technology that enabled our cross-cultural communication. I’m grateful for my friend Marion, whose poem came to mind in a surge of emotion as Yokine and I shared well-wishes before disconnecting; I wanted to tell him “I love you.” I felt it but I didn’t say it like Marion did.
“Only Connect” – E.M. ForsterA glass of wine in bed and Wendell Berry
on my lap. But I answer, and
it’s Lamar, calling about protection
for my credit card. “You can protect
your credit, ma’am, for just 70 cents
per hundred dollars. Can I sign you up?”
I like his young, black voice. As though
it’s a possibility, I calculate
on my bookmark, quickly. “I can’t
afford to be protected. You know?”
Lamar clears his throat. In the brief silence,
I ask, “Do you have credit card protection?”
He half laughs. “No credit card.”
We both laugh. “Hey,” I say. “Wendell
Berry doesn’t have one, either.”
“Yeah?” he says. “Is that your dog?”
“Nooo! That’s a very good writer!”
We laugh longer this time.
“Well … Thanks for your time. … Uh,
if you should want details on credit protection…”
“You take care of yourself, Lamar. I love you.”
“Yeah, Ma’am. Thanks. You, too.”
I hang up, aghast. “I love you,”
I hear myself say! I look down.
A line of Wendell Berry looks back:
“That I may have spoken well at times
is not natural. A wonder is what it is.”