Sunday, September 21, 2008
"Simplifying the externals allows us to cultivate a rich inner and outer life. A cluttered existence may keep us busy, but busyness doesn't mean that we are fully engaged in what we are doing. Usually, just the opposite; we feel busy because we are neurotically active at things that don't matter much in the long run. It does little good to be successful in a business that requires sixty hours of work a week, while the simple pleasures of home life are neglected. A complicated person can simplify life in that simplicity find a deep articulation of values. Complicated lives often do the opposite: they show to what extent the person is lost in the busyness of the world."
As I put together my list for the week, my challenge will be to see the spaces between the items and try to flesh those out a little with some self-care, some rest, some time sitting on the cushion, making art, dreaming, breathing.
Sunday night: how long have I been anxious on this, the starting line of another week?
Thursday, September 18, 2008
"Rainer Maria Rilke said, 'I live my life in widening rings.' It may well be useful to note the expanding of the circles in which we live, but it is also important not to lose the sensation of cycles, which may be painful to anyone living in a culture dedicated to the extending line. Maybe in life we never really develop, but only expand the rotations that give us our firm identity. Maybe we should expect always to get into familiar trouble and to repeat both the glorious and the defeating themes that are imbedded in our soul."
Being a teacher enhances my sense of the cyclical nature of life: the beginning of the school year is marked by tremendous excitement and anticipation. It is all new, and the possibilities are tantalizing. This year could, after all, be the best year ever. At the same time, I embrace the familiar-writing children's names on my class lists and smiling as I remember their faces, pulling out the clay tools, sharpening the pencils, writing on the board, reading for the millionth time Where The Wild Things Are and holding a group of first graders in the palm of my hand....the old, beloved things come back in yet another new way. And, of course, my old challenges of staying present with my heart, being mindful and resisting the tsunami of the tasks of the day, are familiar refrains.
The changing of the seasons seems to magnify this awareness of the cycles and circles of my life. I look at last year's pictures of the colors of the leaves and then, walking up the familiar path to the beach the other day, I notice that the bushes are already turning red. Out of the whole row, only one so far-the leader, I think. I know children like that.
sending peace your way.
let's stay soft in the middle of it all.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I have a friend who is so organized and on top of things that I am not only impressed but also a little envious. As I wade through the many tasks involved in launching the Queen Mary of a new school year I notice that my old friends, aversion and distraction, want to come out and play, and staying with the developing of lesson plans, the tedium of typing up art orders and the challenge of bulletin boards is difficult, to say the least. I love the opportunity, with time off, to let the day unfold, lighting on this interesting thing or that like a butterfly, unencumbered by To Do lists. It is the attitude of play, and the fertile ground of creativity. Yet Mark seems to thrive on listing and completing tasks, and he accomplishes a great deal on any given day. He is the person for whom this quote was invented: "If you want something done, give it to a busy person."
He calls his system his "Buttberry", and he has used it for as long as I have known him. It is a daily printout of his schedule and list, organized by day in a table, and he folds it up and puts it in his pants pocket, ready to whip out for reference throughout the day (when he puts it in his shirt pocket it becomes a "chestberry"). I am working on my own version of this nifty system, though the corrections and editing of this printed document are what keep me delighted; the rebel in me loves to make changes and cross things out. I guess the important thing is that I am somehow paying the mortgage, calling the plumber and remembering that dentist appointment.
Another friend, a victim of our hideous economy, has lost her home through foreclosure and now has moved to a much smaller place, an apartment in Zeeland, and is staring at boxes, the content of which is so precious to her, and wondering where in the world to put it all. She can't find anything, feels cast adrift and a stranger in her own digs. She is trying to piece it all back together after this storm that has totalled her home base. Where Mark's life is characterized by order, my other friend faces the complete lack of it.
Another visit to Mike the occularist last Friday to remedy a slight "toeing-in" of my prosthesis, giving me a vaguely goofy gaze. I wound up wading into unfamiliar waters with him and I am still pondering all of that. Although I generally welcome the unusual and surprising encounter with others, I was unprepared for this one. One's attractions are so individual and irrational sometimes.
Dear friends, I hope that all of you are moving into this new season with passion, as the temperatures cool down and the uniform green gives way to the subtle unfolding of the riot of color that always signals that we are once again approaching the month of my birth.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
The drizzle couldn't dampen my spirits as I headed downtown this morning. The farmer's market was humming despite the rain, with clusters of bright umbrellas moving up and down the walkway. I love the Windmill Restaurant and their delicious veggie omelets and divine homemade wheat toast. If you have never visited the Windmill, you must go and eat there. Although I preferred their old orange and maroon booths to the new, more muted tones, it is a warm and friendly place and usually bustling with locals and tourists alike. Downtown would not be the same without it. Another favorite place is The Bridge, staffed by volunteers and providing a place for artists from all over the world to sell their wares and for us to find beautiful, unique and affordable treasures. They sell fair trade coffee and other goods, beautiful handmade sweaters, lovely ceramics and wood carvings, fabulously ethnic jewelry and bags galore ( I love that word: galore.) I fall in love with things there, such as a tiny teapot from Vietnam, carved from soapstone, of an ox with a tiny man on the back with a book in his hand. One of a kind things. The Bridge's business is booming and this means good karma for Holland.
Another wonderful place is Reader's World, a place I have been frequenting for 38 years. When I was in college there was a great little counter in the back where you could get coffee.
I also got to see Karla today, and her good news is that she will be renting the back part of Treehouse books during Nov and Dec, so all of you Karla fans can buy her nifty stuff once again, just in time for Christmas. Her old shop is now occupied by Favorite Things, a great consignment shop with fab vintage stuff.
Recently I got some new glasses, the first since my my surgery. I walked into Globe Vision and was greeted by Bob Schultze, a lovely man who is not only warm, friendly and fun but also possessing a great eye. He helped me to find the fabulous frames you see in the picture and I just love them. This is a great place to go, full of not only beautiful frames, but art, music and the occasional offbeat customer who engages you in a rousing discussion of Buddhism and physics and then sends you a poem.... Michael, I promise to write you back someday. I have never recieved anything quite like that communication and I loved it.
Mike made some more adjustments on my eye, which was toeing in a little and making me look ever so slightly feeble...apparently as the socket heals it also changes in shape sometimes and this makes the prosthetic shift around. Mike told me that they are working on robotic eyes now...imagine.
love and peace and Obama to you.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The month of August flew by without a word written on this blog or in my journal. As I flipped the calendar page, I turned my attention to my work as an art teacher, as I do every August. The black-eyed susans are my cue that fall is coming and there are things to be done.
Summer Arts Camp was a glorious experience, largely due, of course, to those involved, particularly my gifted and dedicated Hope students, Allison Fisher and Cassie Thomas, both seniors preparing for a career in education. Allison had the energy to rally students to explore theater games, body percussion, beat-boxing and dance, while Cassie planned and led wonderful art projects using recycleable materials and endless patience and resourcefulness. Our campers were delightful kids, as all kids are, and it was just a great time. Thanks to Lorma, Andrew, Tenina, Judith, Derek and Marilu, the awesome Arts Council staff, for their smiles, help, brainstorming, coffee, access to the treasure trove of stuff in the basement, and patience as campers swarmed upstairs and down.
Then, of course, the Olympics, the Democratic Convention, and the first day of school....this makes 50 of them for me (first days, not Democratic Conventions) , and I still have trouble sleeping the night before. I am so happy to be with my colleagues and students again.
The thing that has me heavy-hearted today is the politics. I am horrified to hear some of what is out there right now. I wonder if there will ever be peace in our world with such mean-spiritness being applauded.
Anyway, it feels good to be writing this...more later....
love and peace to all of you out there...