Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tonight is for Giving

The moon reached full at 14:14 today, a Blue Moon, and met with a partial eclipse. Just a few hours before that, I was on a massage table collaborating in a year-end balance and clearing that sent me home just plain happy. Simply happy. Through and through happy. Not jubilant; just quietly, spring-in-the-step, singing a tune under the breath happy. I've missed this plain and simple happiness; my recent weeks have been...frustrating, and trying, emotionally. But I am told that this decade which is ending... momentarily, completes an extended difficult period and...well, better days are coming! There's a place for the dark and the light, of course. I have not tried to hurry the former away from me. I ride the waves, no matter how precipitous. But I confess to feeling some relief as I sit here on a wave of gratitude tonight. My New Year's Eve is, at least in part, typically about looking forward, to discover--to create and unfold--what lies ahead. Tonight, however, I feel more drawn to looking upon rather than beyond what is in my midst. The past handful of days, I have been flooded with living memory after living memory--moment upon moment--of my time in Ireland. Art hanging in Merrion Square, hurrying arm in arm with my beloved past Oriel Gallery on the way to the IFI, brown bread and a cold Smithwicks, taking the bus to meet Anthony for our adventure in Westmeath, and nearly missing the stop but for the driver calling for us. The lilting accent, all around: "t'anks loove," and "shut oop" and "wearld" for world and "honest to God" and "f'ntastic!" Two cups of tea after dinner with much dark outside lighted by the twinkle of our humble little ficus-turned-Christmas tree, decorated with dried orange rind slices hung on kitchen string, and some red beads and balls we found at the dollar store in Polish town, and a cardboard cutout star fashioned for the top. And oddly, the sound of the fire door closing with an echoing slam in the basement of the Alliance building where I would take our recycling every week or so--even the smell of the underground 'car park': it all returns to me, comes alive again, unbidden, pulling on my heart strings. The fuschia in hedges, forests of holly, the Twelve Pins, Roundstone, stiff winds. Walks home from Donnybrook, Ranelagh, Ballsbridge. The 'funiculi funicula' rhythm of the DART passing the Gasworks countless times day and night. The steam engine and whistle of the Santa train and our trying, trying, and trying again to capture it click! The chime - ping - of the elevator as it reached our floor. Clematis, heather, gorse. A 20-something brass quartet playing carols outside of Bewley's on Grafton Street Christmas Eve. Sitting down inside with Marek for a long cup of tea. Newgrange and the marvel of it, continuing to amaze me with the precision of its design, the accomplishment of its purpose year after year after year, for 5,000 now, and counting. Oooh, I cood goo on and on, loove, trooly I cood--honest to God. But there is more than there; there is here. Cleo sated and sleeping peacefully beside me in an open position, warmed by the radiant heat of fire. Cleo whose right leg wouldn't quite work this morning so that when she walked, she turned a tight circle. Cleo who looked at once troubled and nonplussed by this. Cleo who soaked up the Reiki I gave to her tonight, which I know by now means that tomorrow she will walk just fine. Cleo who for all I know will cross over this new year, who I may not have the privilege to stroke--soft, soft--to soothe, to love come next Christmas. Cleo, my "heart kitty" who has taught me so much about Love. And not far from where she sleeps rests a book of French poetry, and tucked inside it is a card covered with abundant good wishes for my new year sent the 22nd of December from Paris. It has been making its slow and gentle way to me since then, arriving on this, the last day of a most exceptional year. It is passionate, heartfelt, pure, this poetry, and between it and the card's sentiments, I was moved to tears. Then moved to write, all this, to speak of my wealth. Never mind tomorrow; tomorrow will come soon enough. Tonight is for giving. Giving thanks. To Sees for the butterscotch under the tree. To Gene for the exchange that has allowed me to repeatedly open the Reiki channel on his behalf. To dwell in the purity of that offering. To give and receive all at once. To enjoy the gift of his hands in the three smooth ceilings upstairs. To Anne for this beautiful, blessed laptop that serves me every day, providing ease and comfort and convenience--and portability!--to every moment I sit with it. And for this beautiful book which I will devour with a reverential presence and pleasure. For the wholeheartedness in the giving. To Anne for my daily light in Dublin that brought me through the winter in good form, for the wonders and delicacies of Stockholm, the magnificence of Provence, the sparkle and chic and amitié, en famille, à Paris. For two of the most extraordinary, unforgettable years of my life. For superb wines "Cherry!," for Montmartre and her fine French bottes that Brian called sexy on me the other night. For guitar I can sing to, for hands that gave and gave and gave and continue to tenderly give. For the Bank of Ireland debit card left out on a weekday on the table, and the echoes of "Oh, but you must, you must..." in my ear as I took it for the shopping. For Prosecco and lamb and mint and Christmas pudding with hard sauce all enjoyed with relish. For walks at Howth and Sandymount, across Stockholm and les Calanques. For chocolate and honey, olives and crevettes. For always coming back, to talk through, to walk through--whatever it took. For family, delight and play, for comic notations on the calendar of days. For slideshows, for Metros. Saint Chapelle, et fleurs si belles! For profoundly companioning countless moments, over countless days. For the riches of love, laughter, light-filled eyes and smiles. Side by side on this train or that bus or this cab or that plane. For listening, following, for living true. I am forever indebted to you. And for Aina's gifts of presence of hands of light and of love. For my sister's meeting my confrontation with concern, and what else but all her heart. For my brother's steady pulse, at the ready when he's needed most. For my mother, her living long enough that we could come to know and love one another so much. For her sharing a moving moment of crowning glory in professional achievement--live--and her hearty congratulations. For an enchanting, classic, gentle little snow to walk out in this last day before First Night. For snow balls and winter light. For the perfect carpet to bring warmth and welcome and a grounded willingness to the healing room. For Tibetan bowls and wood fires, pate and Sofia. For the pain of loss and the promise of dreams. For friendship and romance, the "dream bed," the new pants. For trifle and truffles, taxes and tussles. For candlelight and this full-moon night. For wisdom and innocence, knowing and foundering, pause and progress, radiance and darkness. That all roads lead to joy and love infuses them. For grace-filled now and now and now, and what's to come: blessed be. Blessed be. Blessed be.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Some time ago, I resolved that I must have been food deprived--starved--in another lifetime. All signs seem to point to that anyway. I stockpile food. I buy--you name it: mayonnaise, maple syrup, milk not when they run out, but when they run low. My pantry is full. My freezer is full. I could be trapped here for weeks and be fine. In fact, before leaving for Dublin for a year, I had to stop shopping a couple of months prior to try to bring down the supply. It was a creative endeavor and its own adventure to work with what I had in the fridge and freezer and cupboards. Even with all that motivation and diligence, I never got them close to empty.

I'm not saying I have "food issues." I'm not an over eater. I'm not overweight--if anything, I'm a little underweight these days. But there's definitely something that has me accumulate stores like this.

There are other clues. The butter wrappers: I had a lover once who left me, in part, because I saved butter wrappers. Who would really believe that it wasn't a matter of frugality? But in actuality, it's a matter of laziness, really. When I bake, which is not infrequently, I find it a total bother to cut a piece of wax paper and get out the butter or oil and butter it to grease the pan. I find it so darned convenient that the butter manufacturers, as a byproduct of their packaging, have done this for me! But in all honesty, there are other "butter wrapper" sorts of clues that cannot be explained by laziness and convenience.

I use good spatulas often. Pans and bowls are swiped all-but clean with them before they go into the sink for washing. The other morning, I watched with amusement as I collected the crumbs from cutting the Panettone to toss outside for the birds. I actually stood there, paused with the crumbs in my hand thinking "just throw them away already!" But I couldn't do it. I knew the birds would enjoy them, would eat every one.

Which is to say, I guess, that I have a "thing" about waste. Same lover, and mutual friends knew, after they'd host us for gorgeous, elaborate dinners, how I would react when they tossed anything left uneaten (and I mean in the kitchen, not on the plates) into the trash. So, shamelessly, I developed in no time a reputation for being the leftovers gal. I'd wrap the food (food, you see, not trash) up and take it home--even if only, in the case of nice fish or meats, for the cats to enjoy.

We had discussions about it. "I don't like leftovers," one would say with a grimace. "But the food has served its purpose," the other would assert, arguing that anything left was no longer the remains of a dinner but the waste products of putting on a dinner. I was not convinced. I love leftovers! To me they are home-cooked meals that I don't have to take time to cook. (More laziness, perhaps?)

Rarely are foods left to spoil in this house, and usually it's because they've shifted out of my view in the fridge and I forget they're there. Otherwise, I am conscious of what's opened, its lifespan, and of enjoying it before its expired. What does get past me (excepting meats or dairy) is not wasted either, however, as (surprise surprise) I'm an active composter. These foods get put to work making beautiful dirt! "Back to the earth," I say sometimes as I add them to the pot. What's not longer good for me is great for the gardens. I like that.

Ultimately, I don't think my habits and tendencies are so much about waste though as they are about appreciation. Let me get to the tea part, and maybe you'll see what I mean. This was supposed to be a short entry about a cup of tea.

Last night I opened a new box of Organic Chamomile tisane, sniffed a bag and with a soft "mmmm," dropped it in a china mug to pour a cup of comfort, simple joy. The thought--more a feeling than a thought--I had as I did so, adding a dab of miel d'acacia, surprised me. The words that came with it were something like, "Because I can, while I can." I felt regal, rich, privileged, a distinct awareness that the day would come when I wouldn' enjoy...such a cup...of lovely tea. Which is all to say that in an instant, I was acutely aware of the privilege of having a body, of being alive to have this tea. How many cups remain for me?

I climbed the stairs to a warm, soft bed where in utter comfort I drank it in, sip by sip--the tea, and all the rest.

Perhaps my "food thing" predisposes me to such a moment, I don't know. I do know that it feels primitively pure to appreciate the fruits the earth provides for my body. And I know that in doing so my spirit is fed as well.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I drafted the following entry over a month ago then forgot about it until today when it resurfaced--at the perfect moment, I might add. Yet again, I am humbled by and grateful for its message. It is good to be reminded of how far I've yet to go, of how perfect peace is always within reach.

I'm halfway through leading a Tao of Journaling class in Brookline. Since the focus of the class is Journaling more than it is Tao (it's a writing class, not a philosophy/religion class), we spend just two brief sections of class one and class two talking about the word, the concept, the nature of Tao. I offer various "definitions"-- representations in words of Tao. I've seen it translated literally as "The Way." My personal favorite is this: "The way It does it."

Benjamin Hoff took a playful approach to writing about this subject in his book,
The Tao of Pooh--a delightful book to check out if you haven't seen it. I refer to this line in class two:
From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness.
Simply said, with a Taoist approach to life, one aligns oneself with--accepts--what is. No railing, complaining, pushing against...anything that crosses one's path. I happened upon two stories this morning that stopped me in my tracks for how they so exquisitely, purely and completely embody this Way.
An Afghan woman told the reporter how many wars and violence she had experienced, during her entire life. Then, with shining eyes, she added: how great that one person can experience so much in just one lifetime.

An Austrian farmer said: this stomach cancer is a gift from God. He warns me that my death is near, so I can arrange everything before my time comes.
Lest we forget that circumstances neither steal nor grant our happiness. "Shanti" comes to mind. It is a Sanskrit word I have seen translated as "The peace that passeth all understanding."

Shanti and hail, you great teachers, you ministers of Peace! Bless you for the gift of your example, your humility, your inspiration, your great Love. Humble thanks.