Oct 182014
 

wpid-Christmasdecorations-2014-10-18-15-17.jpg

(December 8, 2013)

Five years ago, this was how my house looked at Christmas. In fact, I have a blog post exactly five years ago tonight, with the same photo. Nancy and I moved into our new home in July 2008, and our first holiday season was an opportunity to put some lights up. This was one of the first and best photos of my house as landscaping was being installed, and we were relaxing into our new home. You can see the tree through the windows in the middle of the second floor.

Fast forward to now, and it has been four full years since any holiday decorations have been up in my home. I’m a little shocked, I just realized this today. Three years ago, Nancy was very weak and we were trying to figure out what was wrong…there was no room for tree or house decoration. Two years ago, she was in the ICU, and Christmas was the last thing on my mind. To be honest, I don’t even remember Christmas two years ago, although I know I got together with her family. Last year, I couldn’t deal with the intensity of my feelings, and did no decorations.

But now it’s different. This is my house, and I will be here through the holidays. I’ve been digging into the boxes of Christmas stuff, and found the lights we put on the decks four years ago. They are up again as of tonight. I am now decorating my home.

(October 18, 2014)

I have kept these lights on every night since last December, and few see them, as the street traffic after dark on my dead-end street is almost nonexistent. But I see them. I’ve kept the lights on all year, without really knowing why. As I go back into my journal, and read this unposted entry from last December, now I know. It’s like lighting a candle in memory of someone, in celebration. Every night the lights go on and remind me this is my home, the one Nancy and I created together, that is mine now. Let the lights illuminate the setbacks, the cedar siding we so carefully finished together in the spring of 2011, the railings we drilled and installed, the beautiful architecture that Art Chartock designed and Rich Dowd and Bob Hartwell implemented.

I often light the candle in the entry way and burn incense when I get home. At 7pm it’s dark, but the marble buddha that dominates the entry space gets honored as often as I am capable. Anyone walking by can see it. I love my home so much. I can’t afford to live here the rest of my life – Marin property taxes are too high – but I do so enjoy being here while I can afford it. Let the light shine every night.

 Posted by at 3:17 pm
Oct 162014
 

Ishikawa homer

Fireworks are detonating in San Francisco tonight, as the SF Giants win the National League Championship, and go to the World Series. WOOOO-HOOOOO! Let me make my feelings clear! It’s especially sweet that Travis Ishikawa’s homer ended the game. He has been a workhorse all year, and there is something perfect about him finding such a memorable and delightful place in the history books of the game.

But like all things, there is learning here. How ecstatic I feel, how delighted, going to sleep with a smile and anticipation of baseball next week with the Giants in the Series, the Ultimate Baseball Experience. First let me paint the depth of my attachment.

When I was 11 years old, in Tucson, Arizona, my soon-to-be-stepfather Leon saw my interest in crystal radios and offered to help me set up a 1932 Philco shortwave radio in my bedroom, stringing an antenna on the roof and connecting it to a good ground. One Sunday we accomplished the setup, and oh my god, I could play with this thing for hours listening to radio stations from Canada, Argentina, Russia, and the BBC in London. Meanwhile, I lived a thousand miles from the nearest professional baseball team, and the playground was pretty evenly divided between Dodgers and Giants fans. Sandy Koufax, Willy McCovey, Drysdale, Mays…the arguments were lively and fun.

And then I discovered that regular AM radio stations would “skip” off the ionosphere after sunset, and I could receive KNBR broadcasts of Giants games. The games would start at 7:05 (Arizona didn’t do daylight savings, so the time was the same in SF), but that was before summer sunsets. Around 7:30 in September, I and some friends would be in my bedroom, where I would turn on the bare radio chassis, watch the tubes warm up, and listen to the hiss at 680 kilohertz. Tuning around back and forth, we could tell there was a carrier signal, but could not hear anything else. And then about ten minutes after sunset, the magic would happen. “zzzzhhhshshhshshhhhh….and Mota is on first with one away. The pitcher winds up…and it’s a ball, high and outside…” The announcer would emerge from the white noise like an audio apparition, unheard one moment, crystal clear the next. We were enchanted more by the game of course, but in retrospect, I loved the way the Heaviside Layer (now I’m dating myself!) would enable long-distance communication on the medium wave bands. The oil-filled capacitors on this (35-year old radio, now 75 years old!) leaked a bit, so after an hour the chassis would start to smoke, and we would have to open the window to clear the smell. No matter, it was Giants Baseball.

(Little side note – a couple of years ago, a neighbor up in Lassen, who bought the summer cabin from my parents in 1994, told me that this radio was still in the rafters of the tool shed, pulled it out, and gave it to me. So I have it again, all 40 pounds of tubes and transformers, along with acorns and a half pound of dust in the chassis!)

Fast forward 45 years, and I’m still enchanted by the radio. Jon Miller and the crew at KNBR are fabulous announcers, and I prefer listening to their broadcast over going somewhere with a TV to watch. Tonight was awesome, a bottom-of-the-ninth walk-off 3-run homer to win the pennant. I am so happy on many levels, how they won, how classy the Cardinals were as an opposing team, who hit the homer. It’s a great game, baseball, and the Giants thread runs deep in my soul.

Which brings me to attachment, looking and what this is and why I let myself attach and ride the roller coaster of victory and defeat, joy and sorrow, at something so ephemeral. It is after all, just a game.

If we are here, to do great fulfilling things, to go on hero’s journeys, to take on practices or caregiving or success or failure or build families or create companies or travel and see everything we can find…well how wonderful is that? It’s all ephemeral, we cannot take any of it with us when we die. The wonderful game tonight, the winner and loser, will fade into memory just as everything else does.

But that does not invalidate the joy, which arises from desire. Incarnation is a gift, not a prison, and we get to experience the delight of embodiment as well as the pain of loss or change. I love the Giants, and that love and joy and sorrow when they lose and energy hanging with other fans, cheering and booing…well, it’s all wonderful as long as I don’t take it (or myself) too seriously. For me, one difference between attachment and desire is keeping a sense of humor about it.

WOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

wpid-firewors-2014-10-16-22-13.jpg

 Posted by at 10:13 pm
Aug 232014
 

wpid-ThereconfiguredcaravanleavingGrandRapidstrimmed-2014-08-23-18-15.jpg

Ah, home. The word means something different when we are days or weeks away. A driving trip to a distant place makes home far away, and I had lots of time to contemplate as I journeyed back with my Canadian flotilla. Here are some numbers: 6138 miles total on this trip, and the return took four and a half days. I drove 600 to 800 miles each day, except for the final leg from Reno on Saturday, when I got home about 1:30 in the afternoon.

Preparing for the trip, I had too many boats. It was possible to carry two kayaks and a canoe on top of the boat trailer and the Jeep, but not desirable. And I really had no place to use a fast, slender, tippy wood canoe in California; that’s a vehicle for Algonquin territory. Fortunately, my friends Urs and Verena wanted one, love canoeing, and so it’s now tucked away at the Mirror Lodge. And I have a great reason to return.

wpid-UrsandVerenawiththecanoe-2014-08-23-18-15.jpg

It’s been something like 18 years since I’ve driven this far away, and there were a few surprises about the trip itself. One is learning all over again how wide the corn belt is. Half of Illinois, all of Iowa and most of Nebraska, something like 800 miles of pure cornfields. The other surprise was encountering 33 construction zones along the way. Michigan alone had 11 of them, and my friend Brian’s daughter Katie told me “Michigan has two seasons, winter and construction”. Boy, was that the truth. I had to deal with three severe detours and several 30-mile stretches of single-lane traffic because of all the roadwork. At least the work suggests that our economy is improving, and that we are investing in our infrastructure as a nation.

I was surprised to see wind farms in every single province and state. Ontario, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Nevada, and of course California. Energy was a theme for this trip, there were signs of the energy economy everywhere.

wpid-WindfarminNebraska-2014-08-23-18-15.jpg

There were trains too, both heading east and returning home. I must have seen a thousand oil tank cars in Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, and more coming home through Wyoming. Fracking is a huge industry. This is eastern Wyoming, climbing into the Rockies at 6000 feet, just one of the 50-odd trains I saw on the trip.

wpid-AnothertrainineasternWyoming-2014-08-23-18-15.jpg

Overall, the trip was flawless, the Jeep was rock-solid, the weather was fair, there were no problems bringing the boats across the Canadian border, and…I didn’t get any speeding tickets. The Jeep never even needed a quart of oil. Amazing. What a great vehicle (Jungians, you can smile here. Jen and I bought the Cherokee together; it bodes well for us :) Here we are on the Bonneville Salt Flats on a rainy day.

wpid-Bonnevillesaltflats-2014-08-23-18-15.jpg

For much of the trip home, I was musing about solitude and overview. The journey out with Jen was connected and fun; a shared adventure that was never boring, spiced with both silence and great conversation, ease and spontaneity. Travel home was completely solitary, except for my first night with friends in Michigan, and the people I met in gas stations and motels and restaurants. The huge vistas invite reflection. I spent a lot of time considering and meditating on various parts of my life, relationship patterns, how we bond in partnership and marriage with another, and the qualities of that bonding. I’ve gained an almost visceral understanding of how we connect with the people we love. Tibetan meditation teaches how to notice a thought or feeling, and rather than dismiss it (Therevada) or bring compassion to it (Mahayana), just become still with it and let it flower and deepen and inform us of it’s truer nature. I had 50 hours for such contemplation, and took advantage of it.

I loved Nancy deeply, and I don’t doubt that she loved me as well. But I never really felt loved, our relationship was more competitive and fraternal than well-joined and respectful. We bickered, it was not good, I’m accountable for that as much as she. It’s a pattern we finally broke only a few months before she passed away. There is a fine book, A General Theory of Love, that discusses bonding theory, and I read it after Nancy was gone. Quite illuminating. I don’t think she learned how to bond well at an early age. Not her fault, it just is. But I’m happy to be engaging in relationship with someone who can connect like I do.

More generally, I’ve been feeling deeper into samsara, the way that we create our own pain and misery through attachment. Attachment is joyous for those of us who do it well, but it’s ultimately painful, as we always eventually lose whatever we are attached to. I built a lovely house and home with Nancy, and now she is gone, and one day the house will be gone too. I love Jen quite profoundly, and one day that will also end. So the blessing and curse of incarnation is attachment.

Enjoy it while you can. I love my house, I love Jen, I love the journey. It all ends. Love now.

 Posted by at 6:15 pm
Aug 182014
 
the roxy road

Today is transition day, I’m feeling a ton of things, and letting something shift inside. Punctuated by Roxy Music. Al and Kathy have put us up in a delightful cottage on their property on Duck Lake, and this has become my base of operations as we picked up Miss Powassan and put her in the [...]

 Posted by at 11:33 am
Aug 142014
 
serendipity

We’ve arrived, after five-and-a-half days of easy travel, beautiful scenery, and happy coincidence. Our overnight stays have been in three hotels, two campgrounds and with my sister Camille in Idaho. Along the way, we’ve experienced a lot of trains, a fantastic bakery in Reno, a wonderful family dinner, more trains, booming oil economy in North [...]

 Posted by at 10:54 pm
Aug 022014
 
prelude to transition

In a few days, I’ll be starting a two-week road trip to Ontario, Canada.This will be my first long driving trip in years. It is also a journey that will mark a deep change. I’m going to Canada to scatter Nancy’s ashes. There it is. And…I need to pick up some boats. And fishing gear. [...]

 Posted by at 6:14 pm
Jul 272014
 
another comment on the mideast

So much has happened this week in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, or more properly, Judaic and Islamic influence in the area. So many have commented, it seems like everyone around this conflict has gotten spun up into their polarization. It’s painful for me to watch. The pain is in the polarization, the [...]

 Posted by at 4:51 pm
May 312014
 
urban turkey trot

My mornings and evenings have been punctuated by some all-American sound and action for the last couple of weeks. My house seems to be home-central for a flock of wild turkeys. The action starts right around 6am, with a parade. This morning the parade started just up the street from me, and proceeded apace right [...]

 Posted by at 10:21 am
May 082014
 
love and fear and fearlessness

I had a whole epiphany the other day, sitting with a glass of wine, and I can finally put it to words. Fear is not present. Funny expression, you can read it a couple of ways, especially from inside the buddhist practice of learning to be present. I actually heard the phrase a year ago, [...]

 Posted by at 6:35 am
May 032014
 
las camelias

I have adored two restaurants in the last forty years. One is the Pacific Cafe in San Francisco, a haven of west-coast seafood since I was a young teenager. The other is Las Camelias in San Rafael, a Mexican restaurant on Lincoln Blvd. that has been a part of my consciousness since I wandered in [...]

 Posted by at 10:27 pm