Sunday, October 21, 2007

snowball dancing

And singing!

Snowball the cockatoo has been featured in national newspapers and on network news. He lives at Bird Lovers Only Rescue sanctuary in Indiana.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

monastery nights

I love this long poem...but as I read it on the Poetry Foundation website (one of a list of "ten religious poems worth knowing") and reached the bottom where it said that it was printed with permission of the publisher, I realized that I never get the permission of any publishers. Oops.

In lieu of having permission, here is the publisher's website, along with my opinion that it is well-worth visiting.

Monastery Nights ~ Chase Twichell

(from Dog Language)

I like to think about the monastery
as I’m falling asleep, so that it comes
and goes in my mind like a screen saver.
I conjure the lake of the zendo,
rows of dark boats still unless
someone coughs or otherwise
ripples the calm.
I can hear the four AM slipperiness
of sleeping bags as people turn over
in their bunks. The ancient bells.

When I was first falling in love with Zen,
I burned incense called Kyonishiki,
“Kyoto Autumn Leaves,”
made by the Shoyeido Incense Company,
Kyoto, Japan. To me it smelled like
earnestness and ether, and I tried to imagine
a consciousness ignorant of me.
I just now lit a stick of it. I had to run downstairs
for some rice to hold it upright in its bowl,
which had been empty for a while,
a raku bowl with two fingerprints
in the clay. It calls up the monastery gate,
the massive door demanding I recommit myself
in the moments of both its opening
and its closing, its weight now mine,
I wanted to know what I was,
and thought I could find the truth
where the floor hurts the knee.

I understand no one I consider to be religious.
I have no idea what’s meant when someone says
they’ve been intimate with a higher power.
I seem to have been born without a god receptor.
I have fervor but seem to lack
even the basic instincts of the many seekers,
mostly men, I knew in the monastery,
sitting zazen all night,
wearing their robes to near-rags
boy-stitched back together with unmatched thread,
smoothed over their laps and tucked under,
unmoving in the long silence,
the field of grain ripening, heavy tasseled,
field of sentient beings turned toward candles,
flowers, the Buddha gleaming
like a vivid little sports car from his niche.

What is the mind that precedes
any sense we could possibly have
of ourselves, the mind of self-ignorance?
I thought that the divestiture of self
could be likened to the divestiture
of words, but I was wrong.
It’s not the same work.
One’s a transparency
and one’s an emptiness.

Kyonishiki.... Today I’m painting what Mom
calls no-colors, grays and browns,
evergreens: what’s left of the woods
when autumn’s come and gone.
And though he died, Dad’s here,
still forgetting he’s no longer
married to Annie,
that his own mother is dead,
that he no longer owns a car.
I told them not to make any trouble
or I’d send them both home.
Surprise half inch of snow.
What good are words?

And what about birches in moonlight,
Russell handing me the year’s
first chanterelle—
Shouldn’t God feel like that?

I aspire to “a self-forgetful,
perfectly useless concentration,”
as Elizabeth Bishop put it.
So who shall I say I am?
I’m a prism, an expressive temporary
sentience, a pinecone falling.
I can hear my teacher saying, No.
That misses it.
Buddha goes on sitting through the century,
leaving me alone in the front hall,
which has just been cleaned and smells of pine.

Monday, October 01, 2007

autumn garden

Well! I wasn't "here" very much over the summer. A lot of my word energy over the past few months went into plain old talking, and all my writing energy has been going into taking notes in meetings and study groups and seminars, email letters and online conversations, curriculum creation and work projects, and the rare teeny tiny comment here or there or elsewhere.

But now it is autumn (here is a longer piece on autumn, which also includes some beautiful quotations I gathered from various places), and it's time to sort through what's been harvested from the seasons of overflowing abundance, culling and polishing that which is worth keeping, and letting go the rest. Autumn in the Taoist 5-Phases perspective is the season of beauty, and inspiration, of grief and letting go, and appreciation of what's precious.

Today I'm moved back into the blog realm to commemorate the passing a week ago of a sweet friend and colleague, Steve Habib Rose, who was a dear friend to hundreds of people around here, and all over the world.

Habib was also a devoted and masterful networker and neighbor. In January, some of his close friends convened a gathering to celebrate and honor Habib in a unique way -- by discussing in council our experiences of Habib's gifts and talents, as a way of helping him to discern next steps in finding his own right livelihood. Around 50 people came together for a potluck meal in the community center that evening, and then sat in a big circle to hear and share experiences of Habib's work in the world. So many people related stories of Habib helping them to find work or housing or community by listening to them with with exquisite kindness and attention over tea or lunch, and then introducing them to just the right person or organization, or giving them information or a place to sleep or some other valuable thing. In one story, Habib gave a friend a camera so that the friend could document his peace-mission trip to Iraq. Habib and his beloved wife Elaine got to sit and receive all the stories and appreciation. Then we broke into smaller groups to brainstorm and collate more connections and possibilities and suggestions for Habib's job search. I think that as a job search modality it was clarifying and affirming and somewhat helpful, but certainly the greater value of the evening was the opportunity to lovingly and fully celebrate a friend who has given so generously to so many people. Many of us saw friends that night whom we hadn't realized also knew Habib, he moved in so many circles.

There are many reflections being posted at WISERearth, in the discussion group called "Habib's Garden."

Habib grew up Jewish and then converted to being a Sufi Muslim as an adult (and his wife is Buddhist). He received the perfect Sufi name from his teacher: "Habib" means "friend" in Arabic.