Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ the Buddha

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