Friday, October 29, 2010

Claire's Pocket

Claire’s Pocket
Purple jack 
blue marble 
crumpled tissue 
marker top 
white ribbon 
piece of cracker 
baby gorilla 
Belle’s yellow slipper 
a small stone 
a withered dandelion 
a tiny blue book covered with stars
a note to grandma 
an invitation to a birthday party 
a self portrait

Happy 11th Birthday, Claire! 

May your pockets always be full.

ps. What's in your pocket, reader?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Caught By Surprise

Part 1
The *tugging started at noon. They had stopped for a bite to eat at the Yankee Doodle Diner, newly renovated. It was crowded with old people. He ordered coffee, toast, eggs over easy, juice. She had pancakes and orange juice. She was hungry, famished. She was afraid to eat too much. With her last baby, she’d thrown up halfway into her labor, dry heaves that wouldn’t stop. She reached across to his plate and wiped up some egg with a piece of brown toast. Her husband ran his long fingers through her hair. 
"You want my juice?" he asked. 
She nodded, picked up his glass and swallowed it in one gulp.

Part 2
The wave crashed on her. It pressed her face into the sand, small stones cut into her knees. Salt water burned her nose. It had happened so fast. She thought she had time to get to the shore. It caught her by surprise.

(Ode to laboring & birthing Claire)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Gazing Thing

There's so much I want to say about this baby, Quinn Claire. Like how I felt holding her, amazingly happy, or before that, how I felt driving on Rt. 2 past my alma mater, Goddard College, joyful, then on to Duxbury to my cousin's house on the mountain. 

Snow flying, sunshine, country roads.

My week in Vermont surprised me. I'm still making sense of it. And I'm grateful for every piece of it. Even the night(s) I was up late in my tiny room, watching Jon Stewart clips on my computer, shoving Goldfish in my mouth. Oh, the things that go on behind closed doors...

I was going to drive straight home to PA last Friday but I'm so glad I didn't. As soon as I met her it was apparent that spending time with Quinn Claire was necessary to the recovery of my lost mojo. 

Babies appear to know little of the world, since they're so brand new, but to me, they are all-knowing. I'm happy around them, especially the ones that fall asleep on my chest, riding the waves of breath. 

Quinn Claire curled up like a puppy in the crook of my neck,

pure bliss.

Then there's this gazing thing.

[*read Not Nearly As Nervous]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Uniquely Yours

TRY: Seeing your life this very day as a journey and as an adventure. Where are you going? What are you seeking? Where are you now? What stage of the journey have you come to? If your life were a book, what would you call it today? What would you entitle the chapter you are in right now? Are you stuck here in certain ways? Can you be fully open to all of the energies at your disposal at this point? Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else's. So the path has to be your own.

- from *Wherever You Go, There You Are 

Here's the Tuesday offering...take a few minutes and try sitting with just one question. See what bubbles up. You might be surprised. I've been getting my ass kicked lately, thinking I know where I'm going, then something spins me around, and I land, freshly facing myself. Again? Yup. You gotta love it...

This Being Alive-ness.

[I know I love you; turkeys, clowns, yellow smiley-faced, shiny, open-hearted people!!!! Tuesday shout-out to the newest members of our tribe! We're heading towards 100! Sail on!] 

xo b

*written by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dropping Like Feathers

Kerry wrote, "Enjoy re-nesting and making sense of it all." 

Re-nesting = take Claire to bus stop, make oatmeal, kiss Michael goodbye, do laundry, sweep the kitchen floor, worry, watch red and yellow leaves trickle to the ground, dropping like feathers outside my big window. Write.

Personally, I find making sense of things to be a full-time job. Yet, often, in the midst of my work day, I discover there's no sense to be made. Better to sit with all of it, watch the trickling and floating leaves, simply allow.

Hey you! Give your readers something to hold onto, something concrete, something they can take to the bank?Enough with the falling leaves and the bus stop! Who cares about the laundry?

[This has been a message from your sponsor.] 

Fair enough. Whatever you do this week,

Do not drill holes in concrete.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For My Girls

Claire and I were driving home from her friend's birthday party when we pulled up behind two guys on motorcycles at a red light. One was wearing a leather jacket with writing down the back; his own personal bumper sticker. Maybe Claire will miss this one, I thought. But then she leaned toward the dashboard and read it out loud, very slowly.

If you can read this, the bitch fell off.

We looked at each other, feeling the hit.
Claire said, "Screw you, buddy!"
That's my girl.
"Do you think I could just tap him with the car?" I said.
"Can I say something out the window? Please, Mom?"Claire said.

There was no tapping, or yelling out the window.

A Sunday prayer for *my girls.

Be peaceful warriors in the world, yes. And may you always trust your bullshit meter; it won't ever steer you wrong.

(jesse. elizabeth. claire.)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Own Bed

Which way should I go?


I am stuffed with stories and overflowing with gratitude, but too crazy tired to do anything but feel the deep joy of my own bed.  

Thanks for staying with me on this being alive road trip.

xo b

Friday, October 22, 2010

Today's Multiple Choice Question

"To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night follows day, thou 'canst not then be false to any man."

-William Shakespeare

Shakespeare before dawn? Go figure. But I'm wrestling with strong feelings about this retreat experience. Feeling reactive to how some things were done, and how I might've done them a bit differently; like lightening up the schedule and changing up the way the writers shared their work. Maybe having an open day for an artist's date. There was an awkward crammed feeling for me at times, especially in the evening hours when my own energy wanes and slows down. It was too much, for me. Maybe that's why I feel so spent, so ready to go home. 

In my pre-dawn churning, this came up:

Listen to your self. It is your guide, your true compass. Ask yourself, what do I need in this moment. What do I want to do or say? Then trust the answer that arises. I believe it will not steer you wrong.

My stomach hurts. It feels like I've been dissing my own needs. There's been an underlying fear (on my part) of questioning the structure and the process of this retreat. And the push and pull of don't want to rock the boat, but then I want to tip the mother on its side. I'm not the leader here. Be a good team player. Will you still like me if I speak up? Does speaking up mean I'm being mean? Disrespectful? A pain in the ass?

Here's today's multiple choice question.

I am willing to hear (and use ) my voice... 
a) rarely
c) often
d) always

Like yesterday's post, there's a quality to this that's got the what is she talking about, head tilting thing going on. Maybe I should wait and sit on this. Maybe I should just post a photo of me by my car and with a note, going home. Sweet, maybe, but not the truth. This idea, this practice of trusting myself, heeding my own call, is up. 

So, how would you answer today's multiple choice question? 

How will I?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

None Of Those Things

The word, retreat, sounds relaxing, doesn't it? It certainly can be. I've had some relaxing moments here, no one to tend to other than myself. No cooking, no cleaning, no feeding the cat. No bus stop in the morning with Claire. I mean, I've spent a week, writing, meditating, and spending time with other writers. How hard can that be? It feels absurd to say, this week has been a lot of work, but it's true. 

I'm shot. Whooped. Ready to go home, giddy about my own bed.

Here's a very short paper on what I learned on this retreat: 
Do the work. 
Be gentle with yourself.

Does it sound easy to you? It's not. I'm easily distracted; it's tough for me to settle down. This work can be funny, uncomfortable, light, squirmy, warm, deep, delightful, sad, lovely, scary, easy, dreamy, dopey, freeing, mysterious. 

And then, none of those things. 

You're tilting your head. 
What on earth is she talking about? 
I have no idea. 

Be gentle with yourself. 

*Read: Karme Choling

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Comforting Hand

Like roads and rivers and paths, I have always loved a good porch. It’s like the house, or place behind me, has my back, so I can sit in full openness to what’s in front of me. When I lean back, I lean in. Eyes open. Porches help me to expand and relax at the same time. Porches are places to sit and watch the world. 

A place to practice gathering yourself? 

Perhaps this is the message, the agenda-less agenda, of meditation. And this writing. The practice itself, whatever it may be, has my back. I can let my guard down when I feel this hand on my back. I can be gentle with myself. I can relax.

It's like my husband's hand, cupping my head; a comforting hand.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Make An Offering

Offerings, Susan said.
Begin your practice with an offering. 
It could be your honesty, your tenderness, your tears, your sadness, your worry, your vulnerability, your courage. 
Offer something up each time you sit.
Offer something up each time I write.
What is it that I am offering when I write, speak, stand on stage?
My honest take on the world. Not my nice take, or lovely take, or mean take, or sad take. Simply my take on the world. This is my offering. And, not in a small, sniveling, ego mind way do I offer it up. Not like a “I’m so great way and let me show you the way” take. It feels more like putting a few things on a good piece of china, or maybe an old wood cutting board, or even a napkin, or my bare hand, and saying, here. This is what I have to give today. This is what I’ve noticed about being alive today, And then maybe, you’ll tell me what you’ve noticed. Or we can just sit and listen to the rain on the roof, or the kettle whistle, or Dad’s feet shuffling in his bedroom upstairs.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Simply Being Human

"Meditation is based on the premise that the natural state of mind is calm and clear. We must first slow down and experience our mind as it is. In the process, we get to know how our mind works. We see that wherever the mind is abiding - in anger, in desire, in jealousy, or in peace - that is where we are also abiding. We begin to see that we have a choice in the matter: we do not have to act at the whim of every thought. We can abide peacefully. Meditation is a way to slow down and see how our mind works. This has nothing to do with religion or a spiritual path. It has everything to do with simply being human."


Day Three of my retreat: this is the Shambala Shrine room where we practice "simply being human".

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Karme Choling

This is *Karme Choling, a Shambala Meditation Center surrounded by 700 acres of mountain forest in northern Vermont where I've come to spend a week deepening my writing practice and learning to meditate with the fine writer/teacher, Susan Piver. 

My journey from Pennsylvania began on Thursday afternoon with a stop-over in Portland, Connecticut where I spent the night with Nan, dear family friend, in her 19th century home. That night, I slept in Nan's girlhood bed, tossing and turning with anticipation and anxiety for the second leg of my trip on Friday. 

Hugs all around I headed north on 91 through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and into Vermont. The sky was clear but as I drove north the weather turned; rain blowing horizontally, winds pushing the car, road signs like scarified pavement, caution/ strong crosswinds ahead, ponding on highway. Ponding on highway?

I drove and breathed, ticking the miles off while listening to Garrison Keillor tell tales of Lake Wobegon. It's just rain, I told myself, followed by whose idea was this to leave my family for a week? Vision quest, my ass.

Finally, Exit 18, Barnet/Peacham. Off the exit, a half a mile up, I turned onto Patneaude Lane, crossed over a flooded bridge and drove up the dirt road. Dear God, what if I get trapped here?

Karme Choling rose up to greet me. I parked the car and promptly wept with relief, head on steering wheel. 

You can go home if you hate it.

By dinner I felt the shift, over the "new kid at camp" syndrome, I was laughing with new friends and settled into my room. Before bed, I stood outside under the night sky and thought, SeeYou can do this. Hell, you might even enjoy it.

"Mom! Dad and I are capable," Claire told me on the phone.

Me too.

(imagine a small tent over the "e" in Karme and the two dots over the "o" in Choling)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Road Trip: Rounding Up

Why not round up to $220? 


Okay, so then, let's say, $367? 
Or $7, 841? 
How about $10, 001?

curiouser and curiouser...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Road Trip

I'm heading out on week-long road trip, solo! Yikes!
It's Vermont or bust!!! I've got everything but the kitchen sink in my car. I'll be writing from the road. Stay with me.
xo b

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not Nearly As Nervous

This is Quinn Claire Jackson, the newest member of our large, lively tribe. She was born on September 7th, two days before my birthday. This was no coincidence; she knew exactly what she was doing. Clearly, the child arrived as an early birthday present for me.

I had two wishes this year. The first, to practice with deep kindness, the art of tending to myself, and allowing others to tend to me too. I figured all this tending would be like a booster shot for me go into the world and spread the peace. [Unless you litter, then I will kick you.] 

Wish number two: peace on earth. 

Imagine people all over this crazy spinning earth,*arms wide open, smiling, maybe even waving to each other. It would make getting out of bed in the morning so much less worrisome, don't you think?

Hold that image.

This is a belated shout-out to Quinn, for spreading the peace thing right out of the starting gate. Just looking at you makes me feel not nearly as nervous

Welcome to this being alive, Quinn!

ps. Quinn's lucky parents are Sam Jackson (my cousin) & Kerry Litchfield.

* read Arms Wide Open (Sept. 9, 2010)