Monday, December 24, 2007

bag ladies

it's the day before Christmas. I am used to Christmases of great heat, sweltering in the summer warmth. Or some Christmases of snow, in Germany and here is my new home. This year, the weather seems ambivalent, it is mild and sunny today. So Christmas has no specified weather any more.
it is my birthday today, something also lacking specifics, except of course the simple one of age. 52, i will tell you unashamedly, and with some shock. I don't feel that old, whatever feeling a certain age should mean. Though my face is creased where it used to be smooth, and my hands wear more skin than they know what to do with, and arthritis in my thumbs sometimes jolts me with pain, and the little hair i have is no longer truly brown ( or red or yellow - I used to dye my hair a lot!). I am slower, tireder. But still, a part of me is fixed at some point that is timeless....
my mother always said I was the best Christmas present she ever received. In fact, I was meant to be a sagittarian, not capricorn, but in a habit I carry to this day, i was late. So late, the doctors swore I would have to be induced, but after Christmas, and then i decided to be born. My mother had the ambulance make a detour en route to the inner city hospital where I was born: she wanted to see the magnificent Christmas tree, rising high amongst the city buildings of Sydney, sparkling with tinsel and lights, in Martin Place. Like me, my mother was quite a romantic, and Christmas brings that out.
My first Christmas gift was from Santa, me not yet a day old, a blue teddy bear, whom i loved until an adult, when he was lost somehow whilst i travelled overseas. He was my protector, I even wrote a poem about him as a child. I was filled with great fear at night, and somehow his presence in my arms really comforted me. The great Kuntazangpo, the primordial wisdom Buddha, is blue, and sometimes I think, if a child, an infant were to call forth from her newborn heart that protector, perhaps a blue teddy bear would be the form. My name is an abbreviation of that great wisdom deity, so I am reminded of his presence every day. With gratitude.
When I was a day or so old, my mother heard a baby screaming in the nursery. In those days babies were kept together in a room, and brought to the mothers at feeding time. Perhaps that still happens, i really don't know. There was some great event happening in the hospital, and all the nurses were off the floor - a multiple birth or something. Anyway, no-one responded. my mother could not bear the sound, she said she knew it was her very own child. She slid from bed in her thin nightgown and ran down the hall. I had wedged my head between the rungs of the cot, and was screaming in pain and fear. She rescued and comforted me, as she always had and always will. This is the sharp penetrating immutable love of a parent for a child.
In Buddhism we are encouraged to reflect on that love, and to consider that in the endless shifting waves of time and space, every being has at some time been our parent. And therefore this love is the foundation of every connection between each and every one of us. But we forget, just as in later years, I forgot this burning love of my mother and sometimes spat anger at her from a twisted mouth. But ultimately the love is not affected, it is constant. And that is the most wonderful gift to be reminded of, that we can always offer each other - birthdays, Christmas, any and every time.
As a child I celebrated my birthday on August 16, my great-grandmother's birthday. My mother thought it unfair that my special day was always buried beneath the Christmas gifts. At some point - perhaps 13 - I shed that August date. Now I barely celebrate at all. The sun rises and sets as it does every day.
So here we are, Lucky and me, two old bag ladies who have found each other in the Arizona wilderness, each a little eccentric, each a little grey. And we wish you a wonderful Christmas, vibrant with friendship and love and the certainty that none of us is alone; that wherever we are, however we look, how many nights have passed since we were born, we are linked together in a luminous sphere of immeasurable compassion and loving kindness. That is truly something to celebrate together!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

raw tenderness

The sky is leached from rain – the blue washed to grey, which caresses the mountain tops with a fine mist. The earth has relinquished its firmness, and allows itself to be shaped by the water, the road is a stream, and the anticipated support of the ground to your feet is questionable. All is fluid.
I sit in the office with our hairless rescue Lucky at my feet, curled on her blankets, encased in a sweater. Although we haven’t put the stove pipe into the woodstove yet, is is dry and not chilled like outside. She hears her friends and cries, not understanding that she would be miserable to the bones if she went down to the run. Warm chicken broth appeases her, she loves her food!
So much can happen without journeying anywhere. Weather, emotions, thoughts create and re-create our world. My trip to DC was wonderful; I met committed, caring people who, just like us, want to make this planet a better place, by awakening compassion for animals as far and wide as we can imagine. From all faiths, walks of life, locations – all of this was irrelevant, when it came to this common goal. This is the depth and breadth of what we share, even when we forget.
The last couple of weeks have been full. I have had the chance to glimpse into the past of this sacred valley, and to glimpse inside my very heart, and to begin to know there is no difference. I am surrounded with the history of a people who vanished centuries ago, and I am surrounded by people who know, love and care for each other at this moment. There is a continuum of compassion and kindness that is reflected in the hollow of the hills, and whispered by the wind: today howling, throwing rain at my window, to wake me up. In the valley or on the mountaintop, I know. Even when I don’t.
Jetsunma is here on retreat, a blessing for all. Today I was feeding my beloved finches, and there was a break in the clouds, a moment of sunshine. I searched for a rainbow, but there was none, or none that I saw. And I realized it is not about the searching, or even the seeing. It is about the certainty the rainbow is there, visible or not. Just as for distant friends, whom I cannot see or embrace, but whose love never ceases to penetrate my heart, and bind them with me in indefinable ways. Even their apparent absence is their presence in my life.
I am not a teacher, but I rely on one to look beyond what I see or think I know. Through her I receive blessings that may have names or forms, and which I may know with my heart, or not. The blessings are there, either way. For this, for the earth, for the sky, for the raging storm and the stillness, and for those who are a light in the darkness, I give thanks.