Thursday, December 25, 2008

birthday greetings

at two weeks old

Birthdays are a strange phenomenon. They imply great significance, for it is the time when each of us hurtled into this human life, on a journey whose real beginnings none of us understand, and for which we often feel ill- equipped to undertake.

My sister Kate's 4th birthday

The first few years of our lives, birthdays are more for the family surrounding us than for ourselves, we really don't know what its about. A home video of me on my first birthday shows me tearing paper off a gift, without any understanding that this was a process leading to a surprise; the paper tearing was clearly exciting enough!

With my mother getting ready for my party

But somewhere in those early years, the magic and pleasure of birthdays seeps in. The specialness, the celebration and excitement. Birthdays are anticipated with excitement and joy, perhaps parties are planned, gifts secreted away from inquisitive eyes. Cake and candles mark the transition of time.

with my father, same day

Further on in our lives, particular birthdays are seen as culturally significant. 18, 21, 30, 40 - these are years where, even if in between there has been little acknowledgement of the date of birth, people will often celebrate the passage of life.
Personally, i have mostly been ambivalent if not cautious about birthdays. Born on Christmas Eve, my special day was buried in the furore and excitement of Santa Claus' visit, and summer holidays. For this reason, my mother chose my great-grandmother's birthday (August 16) as my day of celebration and parties. But even that was more for her gregarious nature than my painfully shy one. I remember so clearly one particular party where I played in the yard on my own for most of the time, feeling overwhelmed by the group. And cutting the cake was a nightmare of spotlight exposure.

picking flowers in our garden on my birthday

My mother wanted me to have a big "Twenty First" as my siblings had had (a significant rite of passage in Australia). I refused, mainly because I was quite rebellious at that time, and refusing any request of my parents was the order of the day. As I have mellowed with age, I am sorry I was not gracious enough to allow her this joy.

Now, having freshly 'turned' 53, birthdays have no great impact. Yet still they mark the passage of time in this life, and of that I am conscious. There is less time ahead than behind. Just as at the moment of birth, I am still uncertain of what this journey will bring or entail.

2 weeks of age. My mother has written on the back "looks very like her". Funny, really, to think there was an idea of me even having an identity or look at that age. Looks like who?

Not me, not any more!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Family Snaps

These are some snapshots of the family kind, taken when I borrowed a camera for 10 minutes today, so all posed. The only one who truly co-operated was zeusie-katz; everyone else acted like i was going to do something hideous to them.
Until the treats came out!!!!
Wildfire, the gorgeous shiny black girl with golden trim, was adopted by me from AR last year (as was Maddie, the other "sweater girl"). Wildfire was completely unsocialised and feral; I did not get to touch her for 2 months, she always ran in the yard and hid truly like a terrified wild thing; she slept outside, couldn't get her near the door.
It amazes and heartens me now to see her so integrated in the pack, and happy to let me pat her. This is the power of the dog whispering method.
Anyway, this is the full membership of Lucky's pack (see the post below for more). She seems content to be here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Good Fortune and Lucky

It was hovering around 40 degrees outside, when I came in - soaked to the skin - from walking the rescue dogs. It was not a whole lot better inside; 48 in the kitchen, 52 in the main room. Drizzle has threaded the earth with the sky in a soft damp gauze since yesterday. The ground is soft, in places flowing with a rich brown stream. Surprisingly - or not, they are very resilient in nature - the dogs were sprightly. Only one, the thin shy Mimi, just arrived from Taiwan, stayed in her house, refusing a walk. I feel badly for them in the cold and wet. But mostly they played and barked and generally carried on much the same. Until after their meal, when silence descended, everyone curled in an igloo.
My hands were icy, feeding the dogs was a challenge, the spoon hard to grip in unresponsive fingers. Jeans, shoes and socks were degrees darker than when the day began, the colour re-defined by rain. Two waterproof jackets had kept the top half pretty dry, and i was not aware of the damp cold so much until I got home. Then I could not get changed, or carry in wood to light a fire, quickly enough.
But I was joyful. It had not rained heavily as we walked, Kamil and I and dogs together. Sliding a little in the mud, laughing.
I realised yesterday how fortunate I am. This remembrance eludes me most days. I want to stay in bed, or watch videos or fiddle on the computer. Its not like compassion for others runs through my veins; would I do this every single day if it was not laid out before me as a gift? I do not know. There is nowhere else in this word I want to be other than in this sacred Valley, but there is resistance to the tasks that living here involve.
Jetsunma has reminded us that compassionate activity is an expression of our spiritual path. There is no division between the aspiration and expression of our prayers, and the choice and commitment to lead a life of compassionate service to others. In fact, it would seem to me, that it is through the action of compassion that the intention of our prayers and practice will be realised. Wisdom and Compassion are the essence of awakened mind, we cannot know one in our hearts without recognising the other.
As I look out from the hill where we walk, the valley and mountains like a banquet before me, I realise that here is the source of accomplishment, the entire path. There is the magic and mystery, the potent sacredness of the land itself which has whispered to me, moment by moment, year by year since I first had the privilege to be here. I know this land is more than I can comprehend, it is a realm of pure potential. And now, through the kindness of the dogs we have saved from death, there is the opportunity to open my heart and embrace compassion, daily.
This is it, both sides of the coin, and only through the grace of my teacher, can I be here. Like it or not (and some days definitely not), it is a supreme blessing to have the path offered in this way.
But of course it is not just here, that is the delicious nature of the Vajrayana path. It is everywhere, where each and everyone of us finds ourselves. The entire path will always be available, in whatever setting or circumstance we live. It's about turning our hearts and minds to see it, know it, engage in it - prayer, devotion, compassion. There is never a moment, nor a place, when this possibility is not present.
I forget this mostly, my thoughts and emotions wear me down, distract me. I don't see clearly, even here, right in the midst of it. I'm not pretending to have any deep insights or recognition. Yet it is there, always, and sometimes if we glimpse inside our very own hearts we will know it.
As I write this, 6 dogs and one cat are curled on various beds and furniture in this humble cabin. Six dogs - one of whom is snoring. And that would be Lucky! Yes, for those of you who read this and who are her fans, Lucky moved in with us a week or so ago!! I had been worried for her hairless body as the days grew colder. She lived in our bunkhouse, but had become the only resident, so a fire would not be tended. I decided to bring her to the cabin where I stay.
It went brilliantly from day one, I could hardly believe how she slipped right in to the family with barely a murmur. I am proud of my 5 who accepted her so readily. The first night she stayed in the kitchen, but her reticence was over pretty quickly. Day 2 she claimed the small couch as her own, and now freely moves from dog bed to dog bed, and sometimes my own! She loves being in a pack. Mostly we walk together, but one day I left her behind. She howled loudly and mournfully the entire time we were away - it ricocheted through the whole valley; when we got back she was at the gate, wagging her tail wildly that we had returned.
Ostensibly it is a foster placement, but already i feel my reluctance at the thought of her leaving. A good friend of mine, on hearing this, said "Well, Lucky was always one of yours, don't you think?", and I think of the karma shared between her rescuer Ms Wu, who scraped this dying dog off the streets of Taiwan, Lucky herself, and me, that she should now lay curled up in a blanket on the couch by my side.
I promise photos. I don't have a camera, but will borrow one. I want you to share in the joy of Lucky's life. Proof that the chain of loving-kindness and compassion is free of geography, and ceaseless. We are the chain, both a link and its entirety. We just have to be willing to live it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

wrinkles of life

I suspect no-one is reading this blog anymore; there is nothing to read. Like waiting for a much anticipated phone call that never occurs. At some point you give up and move on, and perhaps even forget that you ever waited.
I am sorry I have stopped writing, i enjoy it very much. It is pointless to offer explanations, that is like trying to define life and its perpetual movement - there is so much that could be said, and mostly it has no significance.
But for anyone glancing in, here is what I think is one of the worst photos of me, ever. Mary and Tom came by, Mary always camera-ready, and she took some shots when I was with the rescue dogs. The pictures of the dogs are much nicer! And it has nothing to do with Mary's skill, as she just won first prize for photography at a show. No, I really do look like this.
It is an interesting contemplation, actually, to see one's face and recognise that the bloom of youth and beauty really has changed. Evaporated, dissolved. It is inevitable and it surely is one of the foundational Buddhist teachings that remains so hard to embrace, deeply and with clear understanding. Nothing is permanent, and youth most definitely not. However we may see ourselves looking from the inside out, our outsides will wither and decay.
I recently connected with the school in Australia which I attended from age 6 to age 16, ie my entire school life. That is a lot of years to spend with the same group of people - actually longer than I have been in the USA with this Sangha. So names and faces are branded in my memory. As an "old girl" (ie graduate of that school), I am now able to access a website where photos of my school life flash before my eyes. Me, at 13 years old, fresh faced, head full of dreams. I recognise the girls around me so acutely. Realising that whatever we thought or planned, none of us had any idea of what would befall us, what we would do or experience in our lives. I look at the pictures of the current students - they all look like we did, however unique we may feel, there is also a sameness, a rhythm of life that repeats itself again and again. Then I look at the reunion snapshots, some from my graduating year, some from women now in their 70's. All of us went to the same school, grew in a sense from the same foundation. Had dreams and inspirations. And all of us will look in the mirror and see change etched in our skin.
Death is inevitable, for all of us. I do not say this to be maudlin, it is just that seeing my youth on the screen, doing a virtual tour of my school - much of it the same as nearly 40 years ago - reminded me that this is the ebb and flow of existence. Whatever I imagined my life would be like as I sat with my friends in the schoolyard (and becoming a Buddhist nun was not on the chart!), does not matter. It is the life I have lived that I have to come to terms with, it is the choices I make now that will determine the future. And it is true that the invincibility of youth will at last and finally dissolve into the passing from this existence.
In the meantime, there is much to be done. Always. I imagine most everyone knows that feeling. And there are moments of joy, to be cherished. And those that we love to support us. Here are two beautiful photos taken by Mary on the very same day.

my beloved Nyima

a kiss from Madelaine, the AR rescue I adopted last year

Monday, September 15, 2008

smiling on retreat

photo by Konchog

A snapshot from retreat...carrying the sacred texts on the Buddhist Holy Day, Chokhor Duchen. A beautiful ceremony, where we followed HH Karma Kuchen Rinpoche, and the other revered Tulku and teachers, around the perimeter of the retreat land. Accompanied by the sound of conch shells and other instruments, and melodic voices chanting.
Ani Miranda is in front of me, Ani Alyce-Louise behind. It was a wonderful, joyful event.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

recognising the sacred

Most people reading this blog were probably, like me, born into a culture that does not have Buddhist roots. Maybe even into a sub-culture or family where religion or the sacred was not given a high priority. Perhaps we went to church, or had some exposure to faith and God, but perhaps it was not inscribed in our being, our daily life. Or perhaps it was, but as we grew old we forgot that which we cherished when young. I would say for me it was a mixture of all of these things, a continuously shifting relationship with the sacred.
Having spent one month in a sacred environment, where every moment is lived within the context of faith and honoring the divine, I am reminded of the contrast with so much of the ordinary world. Retreat with His Holiness is an extraordinary experience, because its as if the angle of the axis has shifted, and perception of the world adjusts, expands. Although common daily activities repeat themselves (sleeping, waking, eating, cleaning, laughing, talking, working), they are no longer the focus or framework of the time and space in which you exist. They are peripheral to the real life of retreat, which is recognising and responding to the sacred which is both within and beyond each and every one of us. Of course, this sacredness is always there - it is who we are - but retreat provides the context and rhythm for allowing recognition to arise.
This year I had the great good fortune to be Co-ordinator of Holiness' Temple. Of course, I flinched and complained as well (it's a big job, and I can be a lazy person), but what an amazing blessing to work with a dedicated team of retreatants to keep the Temple clean, to prepare for teachings and empowerments, to assist in empowerments. The Temple is the foundation of retreat activity, so to care for it is to honour the source of countless blessings.
One of the greatest rewards for me is the chance to work closely with HH monks. Kind, relaxed, humorous, devoted, hard-working, tireless - they are an inspiration to me, and I learn so much from them, directly and in a more subtle way. Observing their posture to His Holiness, the Temple, the Dharma, each other. There is no question, their devotion is seamless. Recognition of the sacred is not something assumed, it is who they are.
This exposure is, for me, a great gift. As I work to learn a new way of being, to incorporate deeply the meaning of the Buddhist path in my daily existence, to uncover that which I truly am, still hidden in layers of habits with no real meaning or value, it is refreshing and expansive to be in a place where there is no doubt, no hesitation. At retreat the sacred is evident and everywhere, the separation diminishes, the wonder and joy erupts and spills into every breath. Certainty and courage fill the cells of the body.
At the top of this post is an image of a Stupa, a sacred Buddhist monument. It is not such a familiar sight in our western world, although they are now scattered in places across the globe. This one is in Sedona, Arizona, and is exquisite. The image of Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, who vowed to help all who prayed to him, looks out across the rugged red rocks.
Like every Stupa, it is filled with sacred items, holy texts and relics of immeasurable value. It was consecrated in a magnificent traditional ceremony, and is a beacon of purity and peace in a world of war and decay. It holds a special place in my heart, as money I inherited from my deceased parents helped contribute to its being built, a great blessing for them. And a diamond and silver brooch my father gave my mother many years ago is attached to the tree of life, which runs through its centre.

This Stupa, as pure and sacred as it is, is in danger. The land on which it sits has an outstanding loan that must urgently be paid off or potentially be lost. Who knows what the outcome of that loss would be, it is unbearable to consider.
So I ask for your help to save that which is sacred, although not in a form we may easily recognise. That is the dilemma we face in our lives, of recognising the breadth and depth of the sacred within or around us. It may take look unfamiliar to us, seem foreign and beyond our understanding. Yet that does not diminish or destroy its inherent qualities of grace, of kindness, of compassion, the qualities of our hearts. If we honour the sacred, we honour ourselves and all beings. We honour a future of peace.
At retreat I was exposed to the certainty of the sacred, and its power. This Stupa is a reflection of that certainty, and is a gift to our world. Please help preserve that which is precious, as unfamiliar as it may seem to us. Although not of the culture in which we were born, it arises from the pure culture of awakened compassion to which - ultimately - we all belong.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

the gift of kindness

If anyone has been looking for me, you may have thought I have fallen off the edge of the world. Perhaps I did. It seems the edge of the world is not as solid or fixed as we once imagined.
Hard to explain my silence. Not that I have been silent at all, as anyone who sees me during the day will confirm. But the appearance of my life has a different rhythm, and I have not yet found the space for writing this blog. I have been working more with the rescue dogs, often leaving me tired after the heat of morning walks, and the computer is in a small office that I share with someone, so the mental space from which words are drawn has seemed less accessible.
Even now, I will not say much. I am writing this in MD, in a household of nuns, all of whom have retired for the night leaving me - on AZ time and wide awake! - in a quiet space where words can flow. Tomorrow I leave for 1 month retreat, a welcome blessing for which I am most grateful.
I apologise for anyone who may have looked for new posts and found the cupboard bare. And most especially for those who asked questions of me, and found a reply of silence.
Lucky is still here - I will post photos on my return. She is blossoming; growing quite a lot of hair - liberally sprinkled with white. She spends her evenings inside and her days in her yard. She has an air of contentment. We are getting a few more dogs from Taiwan in late August - Ms Wu has managed to keep them thus far, but their time has run out, and this is their last opportunity to live. You can see them here - that is BaiBai on the home page.
The question was posed as to how one becomes a Dakini? I am no scholar at all, and this could be a bigger answer, I am sure....
A Dakini is a female wisdom being, who has accomplished the state of awakening, and is a display of pure wisdom and compassion. They bring the activity aspect of the Dharma alive in the world.
To awaken to this state, one engages in a path of compassion and wisdom, of living a life committed to loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. Someone like Jetsunma, who is considered a Dakini, has in the past accomplished the pure qualities of awakened compassion, and so comes to this world for the sole purpose of bringing benefit and ending suffering.
Tara's Babies rescue, created by Jetsunma, is such an activity. It has certainly provided me with countless opportunities to change, to grow, to soften and open my heart. I still resist, habits run deep, but there are moments, such as with Rosie above, when I am deeply grateful for what I am offered.
Rosie was a local rescue in AZ. At our Sanctuary I was terrified of her, would not work with her. A pitbull/rottie mix she can be ferocious at the fence, and I fell into stereotyping her, despite others telling me what a sweet dog she is. No way!
Well, she moved to MD when I was there this winter. While her yard was being built, she had to spend quite some days in a crate, and there was no-one to walk her. I had no choice. Stiffly, fearfully I took her out. Then I fell in love. Allowing myself to relax and breathe, I discovered there was nothing to fear. She is a loving, beautiful, obedient dog, who flinches sometimes, clearly having known abusive wrath in the past.
My last night there she slept in my bed, cuddled like a teddy bear. I was sorry to say goodbye. She is still yearning for a home, and will make a most loving and faithful companion, if you know anyone searching for such a dog. Contact us at
Rosie taught me much in those couple of weeks, about fear, about assumptions and judgement, about offering and receiving love. About softening the heart and trying to see the world through the eyes of someone in need. For me, this is the preciousness of the Dharma I have met through Jetsunma. It is about learning to engage with the world with qualities that are both simple and immense.
The study and the traditional foundation of teachings are critical to deepening and opening the mind, hence the great blessing of retreat. But the essence is to live, to be, an ever-deepening river of kindness and compassion - aware, responsive, courageous. We can learn this from the wise words and examples of those whose lives are always a reflection of thse qualities. But it is up to us to translate - with our hearts and our actions - every moment of our lives into a gift of kindness to the world.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

distinguishing light in the dark

Jetsunma teaching
at Dakini Valley, Fall 07

Recent weeks have seen me elsewhere; i went to Maryland, where my teacher Jetsunma resides, and our main Temple is located. I had the wonderful good fortune to stay in a room at the Temple itself. The Prayer room there, resplendent with multiple altars, sacred images and magnificent crystals that must have lain in the earth for eons, is rich with the precious energy of prayer. Our prayer vigil for world peace has been unceasing for over 2 decades: for every minute of every day - the full 24 hours - someone has been engaged in prayer dedicated to the end of suffering. When I think of what my life looked like over 20 years ago - very, very different than now! - and all the gazillion things I have done in that time, it is grounding and inspiring to realise that for each and every moment I wandered here and there, someone was steadfastly in prayer to bring benefit. A constant stream of quiet kindness and devotion to still the troubling seas of our ever-changing world.

It was a turbulent time in some ways; a lot is going on in the world and therefore in my own world, as each reflects the other. Yet it was a refreshing time - not the retreat I had anticipated! - but deeply enriching and fulfilling. I was joyfully blessed to be present when Jetsunma taught. It was lovely to see my dharma brothers and sisters, and share time in both prayer and laughter. The landscape was new for me - the nakedness of winter; I had only been to MD in summer before. The starkness of bare trees against blue sky was wondrous. I spent many, many hours walking in our 65 acres of the Stupa and Peace park, following the winding trails though forest, from stupa to stupa. For these interludes I have 10 rescue dogs to thank: some of our rescue babies followed me to MD, arriving a week after me. So my retreat was more active than I had planned, but every footfall in the forest silence, every curve of the path, every view from the rises and descent to the waterways was a pause in the chaos of life. Some moments - like standing at the top of the wooden stairs leading from the yellow garden to the white late one afternoon - took my breath away; standing still, the distance between this instant and the next vanished and I was as naked as the trees, my breath became prayer, there was nothing but the vastness of display.

Over a month, of course, every emotion and reaction - high and low - was evident in my mind. But something precious emerged. A much deeper, profound awareness of my relationship with Jetsunma and the purity and power of our Palyul lineage clarified within. This year will see the tenth anniversary of that moment when my heart recognised Jetsunma with such potency that my entire life shifted, and I asked her to accept me as her student. In that decade I have received countless blessings from her - some overt, some not. Each and every one - each and every breath - has shaped my life and my world, not always without struggle, but never with regret. These last weeks re-defined, refined, clarified the intimacy and potency of her presence in my life, this world. It is both empowering and humbling, and the gift of my life for which I am grateful beyond measure.

Returning to Dakini Valley was a coming home in many ways; I am trying to live each day remembering that flame in my heart. The landscape here embraces me with such timelessness and quiet magnificence that my heart splits wide open. Every day joy spills out, and echoes across the hills. I owe this Valley much, because it has nurtured me and taught me for seven years now; may I re-pay the kindness with love and care for its every aspect, and for all the creatures to whom it offers refuge. We only have this one life to offer, nothing more, nothing less. May mine be a reflection of the compassion and wisdom that Jetsunma never ceases to display.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Surrender and Defeat

I have been in a state of defeat the last couple of days. Which is not the same as surrender. Surrender is a place of strength and courage, of willingness and certainty. A cavernous heart open and vulnerable and welcoming. Fearless. Defeat is huddled on the armchair, overwhelmed and stuck. Eyes and mind shaded to beauty, potential. Even the magnificence of the sharpened blue sky cascading over the landscape is ignored. Bleakness within and without.
I could list the (tedious) reasons for this state of mind. Better still, probably many of you who know me, or something of the current circumstances of my life, could write the list for me. It is not a new list, it is worn and tattered, tea and peanut butter stains and snarled bits of lint caught in the wrinkles are evidence it has been shoved in pockets and laid on the table time after time. Life after life. Always with a sigh.
Possibly, however, your list will be incomplete. Because only I and my teacher, and those with clear hearts so pure and open they have no boundaries, know the inside out of my habits. Carried around, sometimes mournfully, as a precious definition of existence. Precious not meaning good or of value, but a refusal to abandon.
People often say how busy they know I am. Am I? Actually procrastination is an old friend. Whenever Jetsunma mentions the poison of slothfulness in a teaching, I wince. Combined with resistance, also familiar, it is a neat little package for wasting time. And feeling rotten about it.
This is not a sackcloth and ashes confession, or a solicitation for assurances of good character. Self-honesty is simply a method for exposing that which ultimately hides the truth.
Part of the dilemma has arisen from the sense of not living purely by the truth. That the apparent display of who I am, what I represent is not always in accord with the situation. This is not a reference to ultimate truth or reality, merely the day-by-day activity of my current habitation. Its uncomfortable to live in even a moment of half-truth about who you are or what you do. Although not uncomfortable enough, I guess, to provoke me to mindfully and consistently engage in pure view, which would help clear up the problem once and for all.
Yesterday the potency of mindfulness was brought to my attention. It is an accurate and sharp sword to slay confusion. It is so easy to look at the list, or the people around me, or the weather and mud and lay blame for the quirks and foibles of my life. To create an enormous mound of inconsolable reasons and let it landslide over the heart, barely leaving space for breath. Defeat seems inevitable. Yet not wallowing in the mire, and instead becoming aware in the moment, which is nought but potential, is more powerful than imagination allows.
In a teaching on fearlessness (Shambhala Sun March 02) Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said that as warriors embarking on a path of fearlessness, "We begin to feel that the we are dealing with a rich world, one that never runs out of messages." Recognising these messages in every moment of mindfulness allows apparent defeat to be the foundation of true surrender.
Yesterday was long and hard, I was tired, unwell, in pain and overwhelmed by the enormity of tasks before me. In the afternoon, a gift from a dear friend arrived for Losar, the Tibetan New Year. The white tube clearly did not contain a sweater or a pair of socks. A Dharma item, a poster perhaps. Sludging home through the mud, I reminded myself, whatever it was, it was arising in my mindstream, and to take heed of that blessing.
Opening the package, I wept. It is an exquisite thangka of Hayagriva. I have made many prayers to Hayagriva, the deity of pure speech, that my writing and speech should arise from pristine compassion and be of benefit. His statue, blessed by HH Penor Rinpoche, is centrepiece on my altar. He is an aspect of Chenrezig, the great compassionate one, whom I love dearly. Most amazing of all, my friend later told me, this thangka was one of several Dharma items bought in Taiwan, and chosen by Dragmar Tulku Rinpoche- himself recognised as an emanation of this deity. This is an indescribable treasure to appear in my life.
So there, amidst the rubble of apparent defeat, rose the warrior in my heart. A tangible message in just one moment of one day. In a sense, nothing happened at all, except a softening of the brittle shell cocooning my heart. Allowing the rawness of potential to take shape. A wild, ferocious powerful potential, on a single inhalation. Followed by a teardrop, merging silently with the ocean, invisible in the vastness. But moist, fertile. Defeat became surrender; it probably always was. There is no good or bad, there is only this one single moment of everything. An open heart will know this, and welcome every moment mindfully, tenderly, with joy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008



Eloquence is erratic. There are some for whom the poetry of expression never falters, but I cannot include myself in that group. And yet it is never absent, because the language of the divine is inscribed in every heart, it is the blood in our veins, the ink in our pens, the tears that fall on the darkened earth, longing. Like everything else, it is who we are - every one of us, searching to describe the content and images of our lives. Although there is nothing to describe, yet still we insist. We should just be, live. With the courage and certainty of the truth of compassion.

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
Oh! How i wish he'd go away.
(apologies to Norman Lear if my memory is awry)

It is not about the fleeting pretence of shadow, elusive. What is it about? Probably nothing, which is everything, and that is the bewilderment that we share.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

words in the dust

Australian sandstorm
photo courtesy

The earth remembers a time when its full soft heart bore the imprint of all that could be, when the textures and colors of present and past were not fixed. Perhaps that time is now, the moment of every moment.
I realize I know so little and understand even less. I have witnessed a footprint embedded in rock, the dance of potential reflected in the shape of the clouds and the stone at my feet. Who says it is not possible to bear witness to the unfathomable. We do it every day.
I received a letter from a friend I have not seen for many years, written in a language I no longer speak very often, yet is still in my dreams. We met in a city encased by a wall, carved out of time, where the buildings and people still remembered a war, bullet holes freckling the sides of the streets. It was a long time ago. Or perhaps not at all. Now the history of war has been replaced not just once, and new enemies shaped out of hatred and fear. The past and present reflect the same pain. Shaping a future of sorrow.
My friend and I have aged, though a decade still separates us, as does the ocean. But the sky has held us together, despite time and space.
My eyes softened, moist, as I read her words and she shared a glimpse of her life and family, other friends, still in that city, knowing that although paths can shift and separate and lives reflect a thousand facets we may never see, we all share a heart, we all share a birth. And we will all share a death. There is so much the same in our differences. This is what we offer each other. As solace, as support. For courage.
I am not sure I know what friendship is, as perhaps I once did. Perhaps it doesn't matter. Our lives collide, and we share our days with people we may not call friends, and yet they populate the space in which we define ourselves. And others, removed from that daily sphere, still send ripples across the stillness of our hearts.
My hair was bleached white, or dyed scalding scarlet. Now I wear a shaved head. Really it shows that appearance is all in the blink of an eye, even as I cling to it as a definition of self.
Memory is a room filled with shadows, that I try to recall, to sharpen. And I do. Is there yearning? For what? For nothing but a remembered fiction of what I believed was fixed. My life has proven that to be untrue. Nothing is. Even the idea of peace is elusive.
I write because it is an expression of that which I cannot define, the words are the sound of the swollen creek, relentless in movement. Never still. Sometimes a person, a moment, evokes in me the wish - the need - to be that stream, the sky, the cloud, reflected on paper.
Yet the paper will age and crumble and be swept by the wind and dissolve in the earth with the pounding of rain. And there will be nothing. Just the stillness of potential, future and past, and the shape of the earth as it clings to the sky, defining each moment through the eyes of all who behold it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

a request - or two

This beautiful image comes from Lama Kunzang Dorjee in Bhutan. Magnificent, isn't it. May your year be as clear and vast as a pure heart of kindness.
As you know, I had the honour of signing the religious proclamation for compassion to animals on behalf of Lama Kunzang Dorjee. You can now go on-line to read and sign it. I urge you to look and read what leaders representing many, many faiths wrote together...united by the common cause of making this world a kinder, better place for us all, by recognising the plight of animals and - most importantly - taking collective action to change the way we think and act. Whether you are aligned with a specific faith or not is irrelevant - the foundation of this process is simply a heart of caring and compassion, and the power that a thousand - a million - such hearts beating together can generate. It is a huge vision, and a potent one. Please look, and let others know.
On a much more mundane note, I am hoping someone can help me out. I rely on a computer - who doesn't, although I will absolutely confess that a computer for me is a very fancy sort of typewriter, which allows me to transform my thoughts into words on paper. Which, as a writer, I love to do!! But so much better than a typewriter ever was (I wrote a novel many years ago on a typewriter...all that white-out, sure was a drag!)
Anyway, the computer I was using, kindly donated to our animal rescue, died...and the technician said it is not worth fixing. The one I am using now is actually Jetsunma's, for the use of which I am extremely grateful. But as everyone reading this knows, when you have no computer, it is hard to communicate. In fact, out here, Internet is a lifeline.
So my more computer-savvy friends said to me.... "Ask! People who are in that world of computers upgrade all the time". In fact, I know this to be true, because someone I know was just given a fabulous looking laptop which apparently is 6 years old, but works like new... it had been passed along by a friend of a friend etc, simply because of an upgrade.
So here it is: if any of you, or someone you know, has a laptop which has been superseded by a bigger, better, faster one, and for which you no longer have use, please consider me. All I ask is that it not be a clunker (like the original Apple I laptop I still have with me, must be over a dozen years old, is so slow and antiquated, but has all my fiction writing on it. It uses floppy discs only, how's that!).
I need to have wireless ability, and enough memory for storing lots of photos and word documents. The applications I use are just word and fiddling with photos - you know, making flyers for dog adoptions etc. Nothing fancy, other people do that! So not too old, or slow, as long as its in good working order, yet it doesn't have to be your super-dooper top of the range.
But a laptop would be lovely, because I could sit at night in the warmth of the log cabin where I am blessed to live, surrounded by 5 dogs and a cat, all cosy and calm, and work, rather than here in Jetsunma's unheated and uninsulated library where, as the clock moves towards midnight, my toes are gradually freezing. In 2 pairs of socks!
Well, there it goes -- out into the ether. Email me at if you think you can help. It truly would be of help, both personally, and for the rescue animals, whose voice piece I need to be.
And either way, may each and every one of you have a rich and abundant year!