Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ the Buddha

Friday, October 4, 2013

Astral Weeks & Lemon Pound Cake: The Tractor Beam of Love's Resonance

Love is a tendril of a cartoon smell that wafts out and lifts you (or yanks you) up, like a golden-white tendril of the scent of the lemon pound cake, currently baking in real time here in the peacefoodlove kitchen, in Connor's honor. Just because the boy loves lemon pound cakes. You've never seen the look of gratitude a single crumb of golden lovingkindness can elicit, until you've seen a face like that, one that says, "You made that for me?" (and he's 15, so wonder is no mean feat). 
Maybe you cook for people, and you know.

My ampersand-children (step isn't the right word) are coming, and I have a tendency to bake and clean myself into perfectionistic corners in anticipation of these infrequent visits.
In fact, it's been Astral Weeks since they've been here. 

I could write you 108 posts about this Van Morrison album. It's that beloved and it stretches across every experience I have had, in some way or another, since I was 20 years old, when I first heard and wore out the CD. 
Periodically, still, I pull it back to me--or me to it--when I need it. 

Love is a tractor beam of mutual resonance like that.
I must have needed it, because I was running around fiendishly vacuuming after putting in a lemon pound cake, getting pretty caught up in getting things "perfectly hospitable"--my biggest trap when I'm anxious about how things will go. 
Unfortunately, the very same methods you use to get you closer can be used to try to squirm away. Even your best methods can stick you!--I don't care how deeply you butter and flour the form. . .er, pan.

All of a sudden--maybe I was caught by the light or the cord or the way the smell of a cake unfolds and walks gently across the floorboards to you in a farmhouse--I happened to turn around and look behind me,  and see the cord, which had somehow twisted (or untwisted) itself into a perfect heart.
The cord, I tell you!
And don't even get me started on good-emptiness (which isn't a vacuum) and making space.

Some day, these mettāphors will stop surprising me--maybe. I don't think they'll stop spring up--or back, like a cake that's done.

And what came into my head were these lines from Astral Weeks, which apparently I have been mis-singing along with, quite ardently, for over 20 years, but only just now understand:
With your love behind you / and your eyes before you / there you go / takin' good care of your boy
I pretty much dissolved, just the way the tiniest dram of lemon juice will completely liquify powdered sugar and make icing. 
I'm pretty sure that all appliances and songs leave love notes for us to decode, but we're usually charging on ahead.
And this one said: taking care of your love isn't a zoom ahead with a Dyson and a perfect pound cake-type activity. It's a stop right here and now and here it is, the Now, iced in sweetly like being between two pieces of warm pound cake.

So I was pulled in here to the kitchen to try to recount it for you (okay quickly, with T-50 till arrival).

Could you find me?

Love will find you. It doesn't matter what you do or how hard you do it. You can't clean your way out of it, and I can tell you that you can try to eat the evidence of your own hunger for it, only to find another tender crumb you missed, on the floor of your heart.
You can do all your methods to get closer, or you can do them all to try to get away, and end up, right back around the plate. 

In silence easy / To be born again. 

Okay, not so much with the silence around here, but if you weren't born again, you couldn't hear the screaming coming from mudroom, Otto with gritty eyes from the sandbox, begging for the kind of help only you can give. Ava, crying over accidentally cutting a caterpillar in half while pruning the tomatoes.You couldn't see--or serve--the mettāphor.

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived”  Helen Keller

Friday, August 16, 2013

Breakfast Dishes Now with Boba Fett & Ram Dass: "Breackage" or Bounty?

We keep the natural guidance of characters close, and this morning, Boba Fett landed in the blackberries. 
These are probably the last of the "backberries"--those from the tree line at the edge of the back field, which mysteriously keep bearing in August.

Today after our breakfast and (I feel cleverly deemed) "A.M. That Is" meeting, everyone skipped out the door and left me with the breakfast wreckage--the "breackage."
They left to swing, chase after butterflies, and check on progress at the newly fashioned "Rabbing" station. 

To enjoy the last bit of summer, like egg quickly drying on a plate.

Explained to me during the materials request as "crabbing but with rabbits," (there's no intention to trap them), this experiment is kitchen string dangling mini carrots at various heights from tree limbs at the edge of the back field. 

The Rabbers are tied to the tree limbs with slip knots (don't ask me where they learned to tie slip knots, also called buntlines or slipped rolling hitches).

Depending on the tightness of the resulting knot (since these tighten under load), we may get information about the weight of the animal that received the meal.

I think this line of thinking is genius, by the way. 
Also, it's pretty much all we have to gauge life's phenomenon, which we usually try to do after it's passed, since we mostly miss the now of what's happening:

How tight are the knots now that it's over? How bad is the tension?
Just how big were the bites taken out?

However, these are only clues to the beast of burden that was.
The beast of burden that is is Now isn't actually a burden.

I love that there's no real intention to their Rabbing method, but to cast it out there and see what happens. 
They're not getting anything out of it--except to watch time mysteriously change a thing they set in motion, but is actually no longer in their hands. 
And, hopefully, to know the joy of feeding some being that wasn't asking to be fed, but surely needs and may appreciate the nourishment a from a shaded tree line we simply cannot see.

This is a lot like parenting. 
A lot like loving anyone, child, pet, self--human or…burdensome beast. 

The day-to-dayness of loving people and feeding them sometimes feels more feat than fête (or even Fett).
Even on the most perfect of sun-dappled, dangling days, I get myself trapped in the farmhouse kitchen--where I most love to be, but where there is so little space. As my office, yoga studio, and the whole family's HQ, it all needs to be cleaned up and set in order before moving on to the next thing.  
An endless cycle of scraping, scrubbing, washing, drying.
These are the things we do to remove the egg-yolk scrim, to unburden our plates so we can be closer to love, to become less "content-laden," as Ram Dass, who never fails to astonish me, says in his newest wonderful book, Polishing the Mirror.
We do it over and over, so we can both hold and offer more.
Drying the dishes, polishing the mirror--these are the same. 
The heart is a shining plate.

So, the research question is, do I stay inside and watch through the dulling screen of the door, feel "left" all alone to sit in the "breakage," convinced of all I have to do today?
Or do I step out into the All is well Now, into the flourishing cosmos, which has become a happy harbinger of bees?

 The milkweed is full of monarchs. 
And it's perfect swinging-toward-the-good weather (thanks, Rick Hanson, for this double-take on your eternal advice to swing for the fences).

I think Boba-fett gets kind of a bad rap, by the way. Like Darth Vader, it's just too obvious to completely disdain him (and you know I fear being obvious).
We are all after the bounty, whatever we perceive that to be. 
Maybe we're hired on for that job by the Dark Side of ourselves, but the innate goodness of ourselves and our shining, empty plate, that is the bounty.

Dishes will hunt you. Mess will hunt you. Clutter will hunt you. The end of summer and the cold winter ahead (okay, anything under 70 degrees) will hunt you. 
This means, though, you are the real bounty.

T.S. Eliot recommended that we do dare to eat the peach, and I think we should eat up all bounty as it comes. 
It simply helps us berr the weightless weight of imagined fears of the future. 

Highly recommended readings:
"The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot
Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mnemosynemon Rolls OR: Percy Jackson & The Sea of Monstrous Self-Doubt

Two weeks from today, school starts back up for all of us, and we've only done a fraction of the hopeful, absurdly noble things planned for mythical summers. Here is only one thing on that list, writ in august, disappearing ink:

"Explore Greek Mythology as a family this summer. AFTER reading Rick Riordan's second Percy Jackson novel, Sea of Monsters, and BEFORE the movie comes out in August, enlist the kids to make a Papier Mâché Medusa head light fixture cover or chandelier, with intrinsically glowing eyes and wafting, organically animatronic snakes. See sketches."

Only a partial fail, though.

Because Papier Mâché is French for "chewed paper," and I can see the way that even with more self-compassion, I still get spit-wadded up with everything I thought up, but somehow cannot execute because of time.

And, you know, mortality.

I get Cyclops-vision, you see, with creative plans: I train one big eye on the parts I didn't do (no matter how small), and completely miss the rest--all the good stuff in the periphery.
And one thing I'm learning is that there's a pretty big field of vision outside the negative--Titanic, in fact.

I didn't finish Sea of Monsters in time, but Ava chewed right through it, since she carries 4 books (one from each current series) around everywhere--but it didn't keep her from beaming, squealing in delight, and leaning over to whisper I love you through the whole movie, when all of us went to see it over the weekend. 

Sometimes, it's only important to have a beautiful, mythic vision of the structure for your days--which can feel long, and yet somehow nothing close to Olympic--whether or not they actually turn out that way.

To put things in perspective, I recommend National Geographic's Treasure of Greek Mythology. Its luminous illustrations and radiant storytelling make it a perfect breakfast or lunchtime (or while in the Charybdis-jaws of that whirlpool: "getting-breakfast-cleaned-up-just-as-lunch-is-on-the-table") read. 
You too can speak in a sibilant hiss, acting out Medusa over a plate of spaghetti, and spear imaginary foes with a three-tined fork--I mean, trident. 
You need a book like this. We all do.

Because just feeding people and loving them, meal after meal and day after day--especially on endless, steam-rainy days when you just want to Ju-ly down and cry because you're not getting anything "real" done, like painting the walls or attending to your own writing, and it's all Percy Jackson & The Sea of Monstrous Self-Doubt anyway--
IS heroic.

Yesterday at breakfast, we played "Celebrity Greek God You Most Resemble."

Ava: Mom, if you were a god or goddess, I believe you'd be "A-pro-fight." You know, the goddess of beauty and love? 

Me: Aphrodite?

Ava: Sorry, I don't know how to pronounce it, but it's true.

Awwwww, I think (for almost 3 seconds): She sees me that way! As a goddess of beauty! And she's almost 10! [Insert sickening fear and resistance to change] How long can this last?...Now wait a minute, why doesn't she see me as Athena? I want to be wisdom, not beauty. Isn't that what we're after around here? Doesn't she think I'm smart?

But Athena is not the goddess of needing to be told she's smarter than everyone else, because she's not so sure. 
She's the goddess of wisdom--which is the really the knowledge of truth, or true nature of things, applied. 
Wisdom is knowledge put to good use. 

Me: Who do you want to be?

Ava: Athena. Naturally.


It turns out this is an invaluable exercise. Keeping Greek myths handy, so you can stop and consider with whom you most identify. Who you might turn out to be, while you eat. 

Because Aphrodite is the goddess of Love.

Which is, said another way, the knowledge of beauty (and ugliness), put to good use.
Nowhere do you see it all more clearly, than reflected in your own plate.

The great dancer Isadora Duncan once said: "Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply, 'in my mother's womb, probably as a result of the oysters and champagne - the food of Aphrodite.'"

Well, I was far too afraid of all I'd read-henned, in popular mothering magazines, doctor's offices, and the Internet to go anywhere near shellfish or champagne (though I struggled with my drinking before and after both pregnancies), but you get the idea here:
Whatever the food of beauty and love is, it makes us leap and spin. It gives us the the wings--and horns, and Achilles' heels--we're each born with. 
And that sensibility passes through, umbilically. 
Our bodies and minds are corded to our parents' issues and identities--for better and for worse--you can blood bank on it.

Science currently suggests that not only can we pass on our neuroses and mutated genes, we can pass along our neuroplastic-fantastic ability to embrace concepts like goodness, wellness, and heroism, as well.

We are all hyperlinked by the motherlode of our sensibilities, and quite frankly, we're all on a collective quest here, using our senses to help classify ourselves. To see and more importantly, feel, ourselves fitting into the structure.

Down in our bones we know this, and yet it feels disturbing and "discomfortable" (as Otto says) to view ourselves as heroic--at least to use the term out loud--or as something like an epic container for a concept like love.
I deal with this daily, like a multivitamin.

Actually, with my tendencies to clinging to my wordplay and to my past, the goddess I would have identified myself with (without Ava's reframe) is Mnemosyne, guardian of memory. 

It's funny no one remembers her--except maybe by her other name, "Hey, Nine Muses' Mom."

A Mnemonic device is any learning strategy that manipulates information to help you remember--which is all mindfulness is (they're often auditory--a classic example from my childhood is Potsie's "Pumps Your Blood" song, from Happy Days), and I've always thought it funny, as a teacher, that a chief obstacle to students's using mnemonic devices is that they just read about them in books about how to learn, often without guidance.
Then, because they are naturally disinclined to understand words they can't pronounce (much less attempt to use them or their more ineffable concepts), they suffer. 
You can only use skillfully what you first understand.

I find it fascinating that Ava, at 9, will keep at it--even when she risks being wrong, or misunderstood (two things I never like to be). 
Once, she told a platinum waitress that the pie, not made in-house, was okay, but just "blonde."

She'd read, understood, and never said the word bland out loud before. 
She was just making her best guess bringing it into the world.
Which is all parenting is. Which is all creativity is. 
Which is all any of us is doing, at any given moment, trying to understand and be understood.

For some reason when you're 7 or 42, it's fun (though incorrect) to pronounce "cinnamon" as cinn-ee-mon (it makes you feel like a genie bursting out of a spice bottle, which is another set of stories). It's okay to be deliberately incorrect if it helps you remember something else correctly, I think: 

Mnemosyne: If I say it this way, out loud: "Nem-o-cinneemon Rolls," and then hand you one, all covered with sweet, homemade icing, I can guarantee that you will get it--and never pronounce it incorrectly again. And you will no longer be afraid of that particular possibility for failure--if failure is not knowing how.
But you may end up asking for cinneemon rolls:

"Please make the cinnamon rolls," they say on the weekends. 

"I'll make the icing," Ava says.

"Do you know how?" I say.

"How hard had could it be if you just show me? I already know what's in it: it's just confectioner's sugar and a little water with some vanilla extract--I looked it up. But I'm going to add cinnamon."

Probably Mnemosynneemon.

If you want to make sense of things you don't understand, you need to allow for the fact that you don't know how, and that you might be wrong. Also (the crux of the learning curve), that you might never know.
You need to be able to let down to be okay with that. You need someone you trust, holding the possibility of all the miscommunication & mishap warm and fragrant for you on a plate, nourishing you into trying.

Now why is it that I can invite some other confused, hungry soul to sit at my table, and patiently offer (and re-offer, if necessary) the plate of my own mnemosynnamon-scented goodness, yet I cannot always eat my own words?

Because, although both sides of the plate may be the same, they don't always look the same (and they definitely don't feel the same).

Maybe I am neither my beauty nor my clinging, nor the words themselves, but a pantheon of possibilities, on any given day.

Maybe "She"--that mythical Other or Self in the Third Person--is simply my mnemesis. 

I've always loved a line from Pema Chodron: "Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are."

Worldly life, then, is making friends with the myth (the many myths). 
Heroic friendship with oneself.

[licks fingers]

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lovin' Spoonful: Do You Believe In Magic Touching Science on Your Plate?

A lot of people can't stomach the word "magic"--especially not anywhere on the plate touching the word "science."

I don't have any trouble palating both; I believe there is only one good word--and it's love--it only gets parsleyed and parsed different ways on the plate.

I'm not a picky eater, but I am persnickety with my words, and as an English teacher, a mom, a wife, and most of all as a human being, I try to take care to incorporate them carefully into my communications. Because our most cherished recipes are nothing more than highly personalized forms of communication.
Recipes that are desperately seeking to incorporate and ultimately plate this one ingredient: love.

Even though, as child of the 70's, my experience with this song is directly related The Shaun Cassidy version, "Do You Believe in Magic?" was written by John Sebastian & released by The Lovin' Spoonful in 1965, and it's been adored and fought over since its genesis.
Just like love.
Magic? Can that be real? TOO hokey.  

I suggest you play this video immediately.

There is an eerie cast of Big Bang Theory thing going on here (you'll immediately recognize Howard Wolowitz, on the left). 
Magic's old, and so is this archetype: the scientist with the evolving understanding of his less-than-secret heart of liquid gold. 

My goal isn't to convince you that magic is real. It's only to convince you to listen again with fresh ears and have a look at the lyrics (which follow), which are relevant as ever today, because this song is gold. 
That's the alchemy of music. I don't have to convince you, I only have to press play--and if the music is groovy, you'll feel it. It'll make you happy in your body, a somatic belief that no one can convince you of, give you scientific proof for--or take away from you.
And ultimately, yes, that may free your soul.

You want to believe. I can feel it.
Ah so.

It's the same uncomfortable, save Tinkerbell-beseeching moment in Peter Pan or in a meditation hall, when people are inclined to open their eyes and start looking around to see if anyone else believes, too, before they jump (or stay sitting). 
And it's okay.

I had no intention of writing this post this morning. But I stumbled across this song when I was working on something else--and I will tell you it spun me from a state of disbelief in myself (and my own goodness) I've had going for the past 24 hours into a state of belief again.

I needed to see:
"How the magic's in the music and the music's in me."

So, yes. I believe in magic, and the power of a spoonful of sugar to make the goodness stay down.

PS: The label "Do You Believe in Magic?" was recorded on (or within) was Kama Sutra records. 

"Do You Believe in Magic" (John Sebastian)

Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it's magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll

If you believe in magic don't bother to choose
If it's jug band music or rhythm and blues
Just go and listen it'll start with a smile
It won't wipe off your face no matter how hard you try
Your feet start tapping and you can't seem to find
How you got there, so just blow your mind

If you believe in magic, come along with me
We'll dance until morning 'til there's just you and me
And maybe, if the music is right
I'll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
And we'll go dancing, baby, then you'll see
How the magic's in the music and the music's in me

Yeah, do you believe in magic
Yeah, believe in the magic of a young girl's soul
Believe in the magic of rock and roll
Believe in the magic that can set you free
Ohh, talking 'bout magic

Do you believe like I believe Do you believe in magic
Do you believe like I believe Do you believe, believer
Do you believe like I believe Do you believe in magic


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

All Is Well in the Cosmos: Pulling Weeds & Planting Seeds with Julian of Norwich

The cosmos has always been (not a huge surprise to myself, as a dark matter-of-fact Carl Sagan fan) 
my favorite flower.

It's now become my Official State-of-Being Flower.

I've just adopted it for myself, but since this land is your land, too, you're welcome to it.

In the kitchen garden of my grown-up mind, it was the first flower I planted from seed in my first house, in the light of a tiny 24"-square kitchen window with a claw hasp (which was the whole reason I bought that house, if I had to sum up).

That was years ago (13), and houses ago (2), but now cosmos come up wherever I am because I make sure I plant those seeds. What can I say?--they bloom well for me.

And they are facts!--my new favorite friends in living a life committed to seeing things just as they are, to reality--long, slender beautiful facts to surround oneself with: that there is a payoff to pulling weeds and planting good seeds.
No matter how scattered or random or chaotic the field may appear. The constellations are clear, as well as the relationship between effort and good fruits (or flowers).
And since I'm always stalking the wordplay, there is that too: there is the relationship between tending and cultivating tenderness in oneself.

I was drawn to cosmos then for reasons that only make sense to me now: this was before I considered myself a scientist in my own mind and in my own kitchen, before I started meditating or reading about consciousness, before I had a daughter who practically sprung from seed with the a sureness that she will be an astronaut. 
Before I realized that no matter where I am, I am and can be contemplative cooking.

14th C. Christian mystic Julian of Norwich (still mostly a mystery, and still uncanonized, for some equally mysterious reason) said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

You may have heard this quote. T.S. Eliot, whom I love, copped it for his poem "Little Gidding," (which is one I teach and is a medicinal masterpiece, even if you're not a college writing student).

I have a little group of friends and we tend to use it when things seem insulatedly insurmountable: "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." 
Maybe just an email. Just a text. But a message like that can be like a flash-rain of goodness, can buoy your drooping stem (and is a very good use of technology).

My favorite thing about this quote is that she starts with "And."
Imagine, if we all started everything we said with that word. And.

These words are said to have been directly imparted to Julian from God. 

Since God is in the details, I make a note to myself to start using this with my children, especially my daughter. I wonder what it would be like if all parents answered more of children's real questions, always some form of: will it be okay?

Will all be well?

I can't promise them or anyone it won't change because all life (Buddhist, Christian, atheist, or flora) is impermanence, but for the first time in my life, I know I can promise it will be okay.
Not just okay, well.

The great thing about wisdom (and beauty and goodness) is that you don't have to know where it comes from for it to help you.

You don't have to research it to death or find the source--to source it in yourself.

And that line is "all manner of thing"--not things, incidentally. 
That's not a typo.
All and thing.
The everything and the One.

Because really, everything is all the same. All one.

And well, well, Now.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Yeast: On the Nature of Reality, Arising & Pigs in Blankets

Munching blackberries from the back field and homemade pigs in blankets, for which we used this clearly expiration date-defying yeast in the dough, 7 year-old Otto begs the innocent question: "Mom, what's reality?" 

Less than crisp with the L's due to the dough, which is understandable--to me, but not to his sister.

Ava, 9, has an eerie grasp of the cosmos but a persistent need to draw attention to other people's limitations in order to explain it:
"It's real life, Aw-TO."  

Loooong arc of an eyeroll, whilst studiously considering a single blackberry.

Oh my. In this kitchen, overly crisp enunciation like that, paired with an accent stress reconfiguration?--generally means the conversation's going to bake up flat for the other person. 
Herein lies the entwined breadstick reality of DNA combined with several hundred thousand runs through the dough conditioner over the years. 
You see, in this exchange I see clearly my own rigid need for linguistic precision in others, usually vigorously kneaded into the faulty belief that if I just say the exact same thing over again more slooooowly--and the other person sees me doing this for his benefit (that "his" could be a pronoun, could be a husband)--he will somehow be more inclined to truly understand me.
And I won't have to alter any of my ideas, viewpoints, or tactics.

The reality is that excellent articulation still isn't clarity, and may never give rise to true understanding. 

"Reality," she goes on, "as evidenced by atoms, protons, hair strands, viruses, and dust motes--even the ones you can't see."

I brace against the dust motes-in-a-sunny-kitchen-observation, and yet I soften as I also understand--no particular enunciation necessary.

"Yes, she's right," I concede. "That's true about the unseen dust motes." Are you kidding? I shudder. Especially those little unseen things. 

Sometimes, I feel like I'm trapped inside a discarded scene from Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, one the beloved science fiction writer snatched out of her typewriter, bunched up into a paper popcorn ball, and flung from her hands, thinking, "Oh, I can't write them like that. No one will believe two young children actually talk like that. Centaurs, yes. But 7 and 9 year olds?" 
I have my own eerily attuned Charles Wallace and thorny, brilliant Meg, which I guess makes me Mrs. Wallace--whom I always wanted to be when I grew up anyway--with her own lab right off the kitchen.

"Oh, yeast is part of the kingdom Fungi," Ava says, in one of those mercilessly knowledgeable asides. "That was in my chemistry class."

"I'm eating fungi?!?!?," he flails. "AAAAAHHHHHHCKKK!" 

And then a pause and a glance at the blanketed piggy headed towards his mouth--but only a pause because fresh bread you make yourself (in any form) is good, and so there is a swallow.
"Wait--what's 'the Kingdom Fungi' again, Ava?"

Basically this fungi, this living thing, yeast, converts sugar (or carbs, more specifically) into carbon dioxide and, in fermentation, alcohols. The same mechanism that works (or in my case, as a former drinker, doesn't work) in beer and wine also works in the rest of life--especially in my daily quest to bake & take in the good.

Because I'm interested in the taproots of things, especially words, I can tell you that the Indo-European root of yeast is yes-, meaning "boil", "foam", or "bubble."
And yes is good.

This also means that yeast contributes to positive space, not negative. In art or aesthetics this refers to what's there, as opposed to the space around it.

I think I've got it a working definition for them: 
Me: "Reality is the usable space. Reality is what we can actually see."

Otto: "What about things that are too small to see?"

Me: "It's whatever and however that is for each person-however it hits your eyes." 

Ava: "Actually, your eyes turn things upside-down, but your brain corrects for this." 

I feel a sudden sweet pang of relief, and tears actually spring to my eyes for what I hadn't even had the good sense to worry about: how objects translate to images in anyone's right mind.
Yes, I feel gratitude for my brain, for going ahead and reducing complexity, doing something kind for me and not ever needing to tell me about it to get credit.
Like when you've just had a baby, and haven't considered there will be an after labor or that you'll be starving once you get there, and some kind soul (probably another mother), uses your extra key and fills your fridge before you get home.

Indeed, reality is a lot of stuff you can't see--especially kindness.

And the reality is that people love my pigs in blankets because they love all pigs in blankets--it's a universal concept: little, portable, hand-held bites of love wrapped in warm dough. There's no I, Me, Mine with a concept like that, with love.

A few years ago, pigs in blankets were all the rage with very chi-chi caterers in NYC and LA--all the big cities were serving them up even at very lavish events: a snortacious cyclone of hunger, which left vast, empty platters at every event. 
Every time.

And then it went away again. I was a child of the 70s and a teen in the late, decadent 80s--I smelled a lot of cocktail parties through the walls. 

People like these old-style "pick-ups," like cocktail meatballs and rumaki and angels on horseback and pigs in blankets because they're retro, but also because they're starving for the past--perhaps even nostalgic for foods they never had, but feel they should have had, and let's face it, little retro foods gather people over conversation.
They would feel this way about meatloaf and mashed potatoes, if they were portable.

I've made a vegetarian approximation of pigs in blankets, and they were just fine, since the key component of cocktail weiners, hot dogs sausages, etc. isn't a meaty issue at all, just a salty one. You could place a pair of Vibrams in a strong brine, and I'm reasonably certain you could replicate the effect.
Now, if I could make a vegan, gluten free cocktail weiner with minimal, earth-friendly packaging (read: NOT in the annoying plastic airtight thingie which you have to cut open and get the juice all over yourself), then I suppose I'd be in the business of business, not just observation.

I'd also be compelled to figure out, definitively, why the word weiner is so impossibly funny--for all ages. I don't know. But it is. Say it out loud.
A piece of blanket went flying out of someone's mouth.

Isn't it possible that the draw here is possibility itself? Yeast is that possibility incarnate: this could happen, given the right conditions. 
Buddhism teaches us that what comes out of our grist mills is the knowledge that something will happen and it will cause something else to happen. This is the nature of reality.

In this way, the pig in a blanket--no matter whether it's gluten-free, vegan, or chock full of nitrates and sodium--is another possible gyroscope to the now (I'm huge fan of of the gyroscope as an object of attention--especially during "washing dishes meditation"--if they can help navigate space craft, why not my life?)

I'll be honest: I shimmed this one with an almond to demonstrate the effect, but if you were here at this kitchen table and not in a photograph (and I wish you were), you'd have seen it, too.

No matter what we can ever make with with our human hands: be it for love or for hate, be it blanketed or scoped--we can only spiral back to the same old center, and central understanding:

Something will happen. And we'll just have to see.

It's what's here now that matters. 
The God of very small things, like yeast. And you can't see possibility working until you see it working--until you test it out.

And that's a wrap.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With a Little Potluck: Gathering What Paul McCartney & Sharon Salzberg Know About Interdependence

A potluck wedding in our back field, two years ago today. 
I was looking for secret recipes, for someone with experience to tuck a cookie into my hand for the unknown.

I realize now I was trying to source wisdom, which is what I'm always doing: trying to source love for love to make more, which is the only way it really goes.

"Join Us": this is what I wrote on the evites.

I thought this was clever wedding wordplay. It's also what happened.
"No gifts, just bring something nourishing to share, something only you could make," I wrote. 

Maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a farm full of hands to raise a barn--or a second marriage, one with 5 kids and two former lives combined. All these hearts joined together--you know, the big red kind, with the slings and arrows of life drawn on them in inedible ink.

We themed the day with the Wings' song With a Little Luck, which seemed like planting more guidance, from one of our most trusted sources, Paul (and Linda) McCartney:

The willow turns his back on inclement weather;
And if he can do it, we can do it, just me and you

Since we live in Maryland (better known as the Armpit of the East Coast), this also seemed like a good fit, since perfectly dry, 81-degree back field wedding days in July simply can't be bought or made. And I can make pretty much anything.

We also planted a scraggly little willow tree for the ceremony because, let's face it, I needed the metaphor: the tenacious tree that can source water from anyplace, its limbs endlessly pliant, never breaking. 
I need the metaphor, but my husband actually is the metaphor--he never breaks.

The willow counters breakage with sway; something powerless--done to it, with something it can do, by embodiment: sway.
The only tree to my knowledge that, like the Buddha, keeps straightening and expanding upwards, while simultaneously touching the ground with one limb (or many limbs), eliminating doubt with that perfect circuit.
There's a lot of doubt with a second marriage--you feel it in your trunk.
And I loved the scientific backstory: The genus salix contains an element that was well-known to ancients to reduce inflammation, cool fever, save lives. Salicin is, in stable form, salicylic acid--common aspirin.
With all sorts of mixed-family blessings and unknown fevers running high prior to the wedding, on many nights it seemed wise to plant two and call back in the morning. 
My meditation was walking off frustration in the back field, chanting my steps. Looking up at the sky's vast blue balm by day, trying to locate the north star by night. Giving up my questions to some bigger back field of awareness: Will this work out? Can I take this risk? What do I do? A July wedding in such heat?--all variations of my favorite storyline: Am I crazy?

Well, you dig yourself holes, and you plant new things. And you sweat, and you plan, and you brace against the worst--and no matter what you do, it never turns out like you think anyway. With happiness, headaches, and heat, you can't plan or predict the degrees with any accuracy.

One moment you're afraid and alone and the next, your friends are all there in your back field, bearing the subtlest gifts. Feeding and reading you morsels of Rumi and Rilke, Wendell Berry and Kahlil Gibran (yes, people still read The Prophet at weddings), in regular, soft speaking voices, barefoot under a cloudless blue sky that is capable of both holding and amplifying every word. 

With a little luck, we can help it out.
We can make this whole damn thing work out.

Each person, just being there and saying whatever arises in a Quaker-Buddhist inspired-sometimes-silence where you marry yourselves by agreeing, pretty basically, to keep being there no matter what comes up.
No matter what arises.

By the way, we didn't know too many fancy Buddhist terms back then: like "dependent arising." I didn't think of silence or of my cooking-to-get-free methods as contemplative, in those exact terms, though that's just what it is--and you don't have to either. You don't have to take on any special terms including mine to be happy and get a little bit freer. 

What you need is the paradox of a little luck, which is not luck at all: it's interdependence--the state of being where you potluck-out. 

I don't think anyone understands the concept of interdependence better than Paul McCartney. That everything--and everyone--rests in relationship to all else. 

A little luck, however,  turns out to rest on a lot of skill: cultivating love so that you can extract love from yourself, so that you can feed yourself and others: 

With a little love, we can lay it down.
Cant you feel the town exploding?
There is no end to what we can do together.
There is no end, there is no end.

I couldn't have written the story that is my actual life, which is better, juicier, thornier, and plumper than any mythical berry I've ever spied in those bushes--and I sure as heck can't quibble with Sir Paul and think I could write The End.

But I can tell you a bit about the middle parts and the Middle Way of it:

You might stop in the middle part of the joining and just observe, survey, look around and see people, perched on the rounds of an ancient cherry tree that went down by natural causes in your old life when the truth came out (I cannot tell a lie: this happened), upcycled into perfectly wide, flat stump-seating. You might see very clearly that these people are happy. 

I've started thinking about happiness as a communal meal and process, which transcends any particular ingredient.

That it's not just you and your happiness on some mythical day. Not just you happy, and you didn't do it, but you helped, and so did they--create the environment of happiness.

The palpable, interdependently delicious state of happiness.

Nobody brought that potluck ingredient, by the way, "happiness": they brought salty-sweet mouth-aching molasses cookies,
and life-is-a-bowl of beautiful Ranier cherries, and homemade, soft German pretzels,
35 pounds of hand-pulled barbecue (thanks, Mom), and simple syrups of clementine and rhubarb for Italian sodas.

Nope, no happiness--and yet, it was very clearly on the table. 

Happiness also has to transcend outcomes, for which there are always conditions (most of which are out of our control).

The figures (original 1960s Beatles Wilton toppers) may go sliding off the cake but they probably won't break--it may even be only Ringo, who was pretty stable, being seated, and in two parts (drum set separate).
There are causes for every outcome. If, say, you're really smitten with and dedicated to spice cake and cream cheese icing in July, then the consistency of your icing may change--but consistently, according to the laws of the universe. (Instead of the "The Haters Always Hate," I'm going to make a dharmabumper sticker with lovingkindness that says, "The Causes Always Cause.")

Stuff breaks and slides, straps slip--usually five minutes to showtime; it's an endless loop. Real Happiness must transcend the constant slippage of the moment. If you can remember that there's nothing all that special or showy about any moment in time, then you can relax into it (I wasn't nervous at all on our wedding day), and access the skills you already have inside.
If you can keep your cool and get some space to thread the eye of this uber-useful fisherman's needle you keep on hand with some dental floss (cinnamon-scented is nice, for calming), you can actually stop, breathe, gather your attention together, sew it up, and keep heading down the back field--go forward and marry the moment.
Thank you, Sharon Salzberg, for the simple phrase "gather your attention" and for just that particular soft way you say it in guided meditation--for inspiring me to remember that gathering attention just like fabric in a potential crisis is a very useful life-skill. A push off the shore. 

With a little push, we could set it off.
We can send it rocketing skywards.
With a little love, we could shake it up.
Don't you feel the comet exploding?

Just me and you: me-allofus and you-allofus, and the moment that really really wants to marry us.

It's not luck, friends, it's fortune. The path of the willow: a good fortune.
Watch the video-especially the interdependent interplay of every person in it. 
It's such good fun and such a good song. I wonder what would happen if people made it a practice to listen every day?

PS: Deepest love and thanks to my dear husband, for joining me--joining Us.

PPS: Speaking of interdependence, we got the chance to see Marianne Elliott and Sharon Salzberg speak together at Buddhafest--a trifecta/sweet confecta experience! Human story is more than the sum of its speakers--or its ingredients. Each of these three are beautiful resources for inner resourcing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Blueberreasoning: Poisonous Fruit in the Kitchen Sink of the Mind--& the Triple Gem Rinse

"Blueberreasoning" is the sort of thinking and overthinking--basically trying to figure it all out--that's addictive and slippery as dark little pearls, falling right through your hands into the kitchen sink of your mind.

It's just a seasonal variety of basically poisonous fruit--not accepting things right now, wanting it to be different than it is, not seeing clearly--even if  that's seeing blue and not red. There will never be another berry in July-type thinking. 

It's true I have this nifty across-the-kitchen-sink colander, and that helps with this problem to some degree. It spans the gap perfectly and holds the contents of my mind suspended, where I can rinse them to my head's content, picking them for the stones, stems & other inedible elements I've decided are unworkable.

Notice that a tool designed to help us--e.g., a sieve--can still effectively hold the fruit of the original problem--no matter how sweet it is. 

However, most tools do (at least) double duty, and this one is no exception: it's also convenient for keeping all the blueberreasoning from heading straight down into that ultimate disposal: the mashup where tongue meets head, and, bypassing the heart, creates an entirely new, unintended product which is still only more thinking.

Though my "Why have one when you can have three?" days have some years-since passed, it doesn't seem to work that way with thoughts consistently. I'm not always thoughtfully consistent with my thoughts. Not yet. 
Sometimes thinking is helpful. Say, if there's a bear in the blueberry bushes, the thought "RUN" may (quickly) occur to you--but that's a whole-body sensation, a beak to tail embodiment that tells the wings (succinctly, with no big words) to unfurl and flap fierce and far from that bush.
The thoughts I'm talking about are just in the bramble of your head, arising like gnatty, stickery, endless bushes to be plucked. 

Instead of just eating these blueberries, I'll find I'm thinking about them as individual entities, as I'm rinsing them and overrinsing them. I'm caught up in their beauty and isolated little perfections and imperfections, instead of taking them as a blue-black, mosaic whole.
And when I do this--pensive-pluck--I only feel more isolated. 
I'm wondering what to make with them, I'm stopping to dry my hands so I can photograph them, even thinking about how fast they'll go bad once they get wet and that I should freeze them so I can use them in winter, instead of just keeping my hands in it, feeling their blueberriness rinsing through me.

I don't know anyone who can eat three blueberries. The same is true with any addiction: whether it's blueberreasoning, or drinking, or thinking. 
If you love the taste, that's too little; If you loathe it, why bother?

Blueberreasoning won't get you there--no matter how sweet it feels at the time (and how utterly necessary it feels--I know, friends). It won't get you to some mythical there, but it will rob you of every purple-juicy bit of here, which is all there is.

Because I like threes of things--I always have--I make it a practice to stop and notice that number in what I'm doing, and to juice that understanding for the comfort I find in it. 
And I noticed that my son (who rarely leaves any but the most flat, odd musty berry) left these three blueberries sitting on a teeny yellow espresso saucer.

One may be the loneliest number, but three may be the one most often associated with sacred matters--Dostoevesky was fond of the number, and most people, religious or not, are familiar with The Holy Trinity. We've discussed Yoda-toed terra firma in the past, and of course the sturdy reliability of the triangle, and nothing is more stable than a three-legged kitchen stool. Buddhists are also fond of three: taking refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
I'm no Pali scholar, I'm just your source for dishtowel dharma, but I do find this practice very, very useful, and you might, too.
Tara Brach gives a much sweeter overview of this practice than I can--but here's how it works for me, in this kitchen: 

Each day, I stop, dry my hands, and recommit to giving up sweetly treacherous blueberreasoning, and I root myself in these three things:

1. the Buddha--It's possible to wake up out of the berry-blunted mind. It's actually possible to get free.
2. the Dharma--There's an ancient, wise, and well-traveled path to and from the berry bushes. There are laws to sticker-scratch suffering, and to untangling ourselves which always hold. Always. (The sky always holds--it's a promise).
3. the Sangha--there's a whole patch of people in this world dedicated to becoming thorn-free, who are not ascetics at all, but actually adore blueberries. They will help you, and actually sit at your table and trade recipes with you, and you will feel full. 

And that's all I've got for today. 
If by all, you mean that I know I can't stop at one (of anything), but I also understand that I can, in this practice, stop at three, and start again.  
Every day.

Try it--let me know if you find yourself threaping some of the same rewards.

May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be full. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

In Watermelon Sugar: The MettaSeed-Spitting Contest (Willy Wonka, Chögyam Trungpa, and "I," with recipe)

I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind. (Richard Brautigan  In Watermelon Sugar)

Well, gentle readers, if I made a practice of calling things whatever was in my mind, I'd never get the words out--there are too many in there. This doesn't mean I'm very smart; it does mean I know a lot of words, that they get in the way. 
And, mindful of this quote: it's whatever's in your mind that will flavor the way you read it. 
I may not always be able to come up with the precise word for things, but I'll trip over my tongue trying--and worst of all, render myself unable to taste anything that's happening right now, in the process. This is the danger of a crowded mind. Discursive thought closes down the taste buds before real taste can bloom inside them. 

Maybe this is one of the reasons we don't speak in meditation. So we don't inadvertently open our mouths and taste something going by, another distracting flavor we will then feel the burden to parse(ley).

I remember reading Richard Brautigan's In Watermelon Sugar for the first time when I was 20 years old.  He was one of my first exposures to metaliterature: literature aware of itself.

Notice, I didn't say self-conscious. That one, I already knew.

I notice a strange, nostalgic, war-story quality to these words as I type them.  A story about a story about myself which I am telling. "Metaliterature" sounds academically cheeky and termy and maybe snobbish and strivey, and that's not my intention, and yet--it's all of those things, and none at the same time.  

It's just a word, I say, wet-my-whistling in the dark. Metaliterature. 

Words are our best guess at naming things to keep them under some sort of control--trust me, I've been using wordplay to harness my surroundings to feel safer for years. I have generated my own private  thalamus thesaurus dedicated to feeling-synonyms, which is lovely to flip through and find just the right word to etymologize, parse, and even chant, all in an academic excursion not to feel the feeling the word embodies.

I'm actually 99% certain (without documentation), that the deepest and oldest part of our brain, reptilian and survival-oriented, is actually a storage unit for sticky letter-formations which we create in our personal limbic labs, designed to bandaid over the fear.
But then we get stuck on the bandaid, cause the bandaid's stuck on ME--the conditioning of the self; we get stuck with whatever's under the bandaid that was trying to cushion the hurt, even long after that specific wound's all mended. They don't go anywhere. Sticky protection piles mount, sometimes very slowly, layer by layer, until you can't help but trip over them every time, just trying to get by. 

I'm also pretty sure that the brain stem is, primarily, a glorified linguistic chute. It's what the words go up and flail in, enlarging themselves when you feel you're in trouble, like Augustus Gloop going up the pipe. And when you try to fight them as phenomena, as just another sensory experience--tell them No! DON'T drink the chocolate! Don't go in there!--they get stuck, instead of just passing through. I know this because it happens to me about 91% of the time (which is way down from 100%, with 2 years of meditation).
In my experience, the really big complicated and frightening words seem most apt to get stuck there--and then, building pressure, they finally push through but then, out of sight, they get lodged firmly in the lowest realm of the brain anyway, trapped two floors down from the frontal cortex where they could do you any real, reasonable good.
It's Wonka-y.

If you watch this clip, you will be fascinated. 
A little later, Willy Wonka calmly addresses Mrs. Gloop's concerns:
"Oh, the pressure'll get him out. There's pressure building up behind the blockage. 
The suspense is killing me--I hope it'll continue."

I use Roald Dahl's books with everyone I've ever taught, Kindergarten through college--especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Mostly, probably really mostly, because I learn something new about myself every single time I teach with them. Willy Wonka is the fictional character "I" most identify with. I was once Wonka for Halloween, velvet overcoat and all. I was believable. Why? Because I believed the story:
The Wonkaesque creative overload, the need to make things just because you thought them up and because you probably can. Getting stuck in the mire of your own sweet creations."Sure, you can execute every idea you ever have if you kill yourself," my darling husband says--which may be the point, killing the Self.
The driving, striving need to make EVERYTHING you ever think up, no matter who's onboard with you--or overboard, in the chocolate soup.
And, deep Oompa-Loompa truth, disguised as a song: that your creations are not actually yours, that you cannot control them--or other people's responses to them--once they take form.
They change other people. They change you. You can't hang on.
It shatters like a psychedelic lollipop.
The more you hang on, the stickier it gets, and the more likely it's going to get stuck in the pipe--because it's ALL going up there anyway.
So let go--which sounds spun-sugar simple, but is toothache hard.

I actually don't really like candy (which makes this mettaphor go down easier, since I'm not all that attached) but I especially do not like candy that is supposed to taste like fruit: meta-flavors which make you only consider the taste of the real thing, and then miss it terribly. Certain flavors seem to engender this tendency more than others. By far the worst offenders are banana, cherry, and, absolutely the worst is...watermelon.
It's meta-candy. Named for the thing it will force you to consider. And yet it's not the name itself. Or even the fruit itself.
The experience of tasting the meta-candy forces us to say its name and consider what it's not, but you remember what it is because you tasted the real thing at some point in the past:

If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.

Cosmic Now and Laters are legendary for producing this effect, by the way.

That is my name.

Think of all the names we give ourselves to describe ourselves in every single moment but this one, kind and more often, unkind!: I use butcher when I'm harmful or cruel, baker when I manage, in the end, to pull together the recipe for forgiveness and plate the love, candlestick maker when someone shares that something I've said has been helpful, pointing them back to their own ghee lamp in their particular chocolatey darkness. 

That space in which we don't know is really important. 

That's why I gave a lot of space to that line.

Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.

If all we are, as the Buddha said, is at the result of all we have thought, well-- I am exactly the result of all of these thoughts.
A brain stem clogged with Gloop designed to protect us, which has now outlived its usefulness?  Isn't that the the be all, end all?
This insight rains down-up on me, Roald Dahl-style:

Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! 
The great big greedy nincompoop!
Augustus Gloop! So big and vile
So greedy, foul, and infantile
Come on!' we cried, 'The time is ripe 
To send him shooting up the pipe!
But don't, dear children, be alarmed;
Augustus Gloop will not be harmed,
Although, of course, we must admit
He will be altered quite a bit.

And it will alter you, these understandings in the body, if you let them. Only the trick is, that you don't have the kind of control you think you have, once it's set to go off in you.
What do you think meta-bolism is? 

Still, we try to control it. We forsake the experience of living, of picking what's there growing wild, in favor of scrabbling to find the word to describe the experience. 
Thinking about your own thinking has a stuckness to it, but here's the transformative piece (and this works for anxiety, fear, anger, ____ [insert whatever you're working with]): 
If I am thinking about my thinking, then I am not my thinking.
Just let that sit on your tongue a second.
If I am not my thinking, then there is a space between myself and the thinking. I am not that.
It's the ____-ing  about the  ____-ing  formula that makes this particular recipe for suffering.
In a way, we are all writing about living, for example, every time we tweet or update our Facebook statuses.

Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—“Sorry for the mistake,”—and you had to do something else.
That is my name.

I'm doing something different when I meditate (meta-tate).

I wouldn't call metaliterature my "primary area of interest"--or even a possibly dissertation topic--I would just call it what's happening here right now.  That's the definition, in my mind, but still it's not its name.
That's why it's mettaliterature: the words that bestow circular, lovingkindness back on the writer.
It's self-reflective and washing out as rain (for me) and transformative for everybody involved. 
I'm a person writing about my own thinking, about my processes, about my cooking. But mostly, it's a story about a story. It's a lost nursery rhyme, a hopscotch chant, in Oompa Loompali.

Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.

We make up the words we need. We set our "terms"--do you see? 
The methods maven in me has come to see that I no longer care what its called (well, okay except when I really do, being so attached language), I just care if it's useful. Does it work?
Ava came up with the term Ivyprofen to cure poison ivy (maybe it works on strhives).
What is behind the word, behind the naming, striving, hiving, the incessant hiding from the thing itself?

That is my name.

Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There as something near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.

Lowercase r realization. Garden-variety, transformative aha.

That is my name.

It's just a big loop. This is story about story, in one way or another: reading, writing, considering. It's a feedback loop. So, here we are: in this kitchen, in a metaphorical eatback-feedback loop. 

Now, if we just kept suffering, endlessly, if there were no possibility, even melon-thin, to transcend the suffering, then that would be saṃsāra: the over and over birth-death-life of absolutely everything--literally and metaphorically.
However, the Buddha was clear that there is way out of these realms--six, with different samsaric flavors--of suffering. 

For today, let's just consider the human realm. That's where Willy Wonka and yes, I, have Brautiganed us. 
A big part of this human realm suffering is…intellectual stuffing--not to mention the passion of creative stuffing. Right now (and this is in addition to six other books, which is just plain-yogurt-silly, isn't it? Who could digest all that at once?), I am reading The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology, and let me tell you that Chögyam Trungpa's got me, completely cuts through me, like a melon knife:

"Passion is the major occupation in the human realm…There is a heroic attitude, the attempt to create monuments, the biggest, greatest, historical monument. This heroic approach is based on fascination with what you lack…The intellect is most active in the human realm. There is so much going on in your mind as a result of having collected so many things and having planned so many projects.The epitome of the human realm is to be stuck in a huge traffic jam of discursive thought [emphasis mine]."

Mettathud & Sweet Melon Spit.
There is an effortlessness, a simplicity, and a dancing game to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche's teachings which is very sweet and easy in the mouth. Also a rascaly, seed-spitting contest quality--maybe at you, at times (and that is also Wonka-like). But that's all fine because you're outside on a warm day in the sunshine, and you don't mind because they're seeds; it's not like they really hurt when they land. They're not hard. And if you (I!) could just stop taking yourself so, so seriously, you'd relax and seed it's all meant with love and with fun--with JOY, And you can just run over to the spigot and hose off before you go back inside to your pristine and dark house.
If you want. Any time you want to go back in the cave--I mean--house.
We ALL have watermelon seeds stuck to our skin anyway, drying and clinging to us, that we don't even realize have been spit from somewhere/one/thing else. So get over it. We all look equally silly. The trick is to Buddhist seed-spitting contests is to be completely aware of this and 1) not prefer to look any different, and 2) understand that although it's not really a contest, you still have to play your part.

Slowly, the wheels go round and round,
The cogs begin to grind and pound;
We boil him for a minute more,
Until we're absolutely sure
Then out he comes! And now! By grace!
A miracle has taken place!
A miracle has taken place!
This greedy brute, this louse's ear,
Is loved by people everywhere!
For who could hate or bear a grudge
Against a luscious bit of fudge?

The cogs and the blades of my blender start going. A non-recipe comes to mind. I don't know why this method works for me, but it does: transform the words to food, transform my own suffering.

You don't need a fancy NutriBullet or a wordy recipe for this. I promise.

Just blend freely, upwards and out:

watermelon, cucumber, ice, lemon (gentle basil twist)

Forget anything added. Forget the sugar (I did). You don't need it. You just have to let go of thinking you need that specific ingredient. That's the thing with methods.

You can do it yourself, said the Buddha.

Do you know what I love most about melons? They taste like clarity sounds. And clarity carries you forward, up, out of the vortex.
It gets you unstuck. By grace. By absolute, sweet, succulent grace.

Ava, age 9, has a list of research questions she's generated on the "experiment fridge" (the one in the mud room), and one of them is "Is watermelon classified as a succulent?"
She asked this again today.
"If it isn't called one, it should be. It's what it does."
A succulent carries water inside itself, and so, transforms itself, by nourishing itself.

"Across the desert lies the promise land."--Willy Wonka
And it's a succulent.

That is my name. That is.

That is mettaliterature: in reading ourselves with love, aware of the Self, we are freed.

An acknowledgment and a Fun Fact Bonus!

Acknowledgement: Speaking of seeds and of finding the words, I was deeply moved and influenced by a talk titled "Clarity and Freedom Can Illuminate Our Relationships With Others" I heard via Dharma Seed, given by meditation teacher Gregory Kramer. It was a limn-line for me, for which I am grateful. It plumbs the depths of not only language, but the urge to communicate. I loved it. It was meta-utlity, at its finest. He goes into the heavier, geeky stuff I love--the physical ways sound transmits in the body and through it, but most of all, he talks about this urge to vibrate, to communicate. Willy Wonka might have understood his wish for the tension and suspense to continue, in the context of Kramer's words: "Without tension, there's no vibration…No seriously, it's hilarious, but it's also remarkable."

Fun Fact!: I would highly recommend reading In Watermelon Sugar today, if you read it in the past, especially if you're a big fan of dystopian lit and counterculture. If you do, you will notice that central to story's tension is the grasp and hub of this particular commune…called iDEATH.
iKnow. Crazy wisdom, huh?
In Watermelon Sugar was written in 1968.

That's just the prescience of mettaliterature, connecting the shell of the words to the timeless, maha moment for Us.