weapons and trust

 Reflection  Comments Off on weapons and trust
Oct 072015
 

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Six days ago, a young idiot with multiple automatic weapons killed nine people in Roseburg, Oregon. As we are all reeling from the insanity and pain of this tragedy, it struck again a half-mile from my home. Steve Carter, a beloved teacher and counselor, was killed on a trail I’ve hiked many times, his dog shot also, apparently by three random young characters who stole his car and drove to Oregon.

The first event was horrific, of course, and I along with most of my friends immediately called for stricter gun control laws, licensing, something to keep automatic weapons out of the hands of unstable people. The second event had an opposite effect on me: I went and checked the automatic weapon I have in my house at 1:00am on a restless night, because I felt very afraid.

Most of my friends do not know that I was a competitive target shooter for six years, firing well over 100,000 rounds slowly and deliberately at harmless paper targets, capturing some medals and championships. I’m comfortable with guns in most forms, and even had Army ROTC training with fully automatic weapons in my teens. Once upon a time, I went hunting in the southern Arizona desert with a friend, killing several harmless rabbits and quail, then took them home and ate them. Once was enough, and I have no appetite for hunting ever since. However, I have inherited a variety of rifles and shotguns that I keep stored away, and I do have a classic Colt Model 1911 .45 automatic that I purchased for target shooting almost 40 years ago (all legally registered, by the way.) The Colt is an “antipersonnel device”, a gun designed for shooting people, even though it makes a good target weapon.

So here is the first conundrum. When I am afraid, I want to have the power of a gun at my disposal. Yet I am buddhist — with vows to avoid killing anything — and a liberal who would put legislation in place to improve society and reduce death by gunfire.

Meditation has given me the space to see much of how my ego operates. My fearful reaction is an ego response. When I breathe and meditate, I can dissolve the fear and regain a sense of balance. The power of a weapon is not needed, the universe is a good place, and the random act of three (possibly drug-addled and/or otherwise unbalanced) characters does not mean that I am in danger, or need the power of deadly weaponry.

But most of us don’t practice internal stabilization like that, and so the fact that Americans cling to their guns is not a surprise. I can easily feel the place where I want to do that, dammit. So the first conundrum just is, and I would be happy to insure or publicly declare or be tested for my weapon safety…but I’m not sure I am willing to just give up the Colt. Perhaps I would, but my ego would want to know that the measures around surrendering weapons were effective, so that others surrendered them too. Perhaps I’m not as good a buddhist as I thought I was. The part of me that creates safety, part of my core complex, still exists after decades of meditation. Hmm.

The second conundrum is about privacy and government. It turns out that the alleged killers of Steve Carter were identified by convenience store cameras and a random photo taken by someone else in the area. And the stolen 2003 VW Jetta had some kind of tracking ability, that enabled authorities to follow it to Oregon. When it’s revealed that our mobile phones keep a record of their location, and law-enforcement can access this info, we get all freaked out. When this capability is used to find the suspects, we are delighted.

Both conundrums are about trust. If I trusted my elected officials to have logical discussions and do the ‘right thing’, I could relax. I so admire the Australians, who have successfully done this; the Ozzies destroyed 20% of the guns in the country, and saw suicide rates plummet by 57% and homicide by 42%.

We do not trust our government, perhaps we haven’t been able to since the Nixon debacle more than 40 years ago.

We are not a nation divided about ideology, we are divided by trust. Here we are with a black president who is by all economic and social measures doing a fabulous job, unable to trust. AM radio pundits continue to pour venom about how bad ‘Obamacare’ is, how immigration is destroying us, Republicans create fake Benghazi investigations to change electorate opinion, and congressional action comes to a standstill, requiring the Supreme Court to deal with the backlog. Americans who trust the governmental process seem to be Democrats, those who do not seem to be Republicans.

As a person, I’ve had to heal my own trust issues to let go of weapons. As a nation, we must do the same. And it would really help if our congressional leadership and our media started consistently behaving in trustworthy ways. The Supreme Court is making good consistent decisions (not that I always agree with them). The president is exhibiting good, consistent leadership. It’s time for Congress to do the same. Then we can start to address our insane addiction to weapons.

 Posted by at 6:29 pm

ttitd

 Geek, Reflection  Comments Off on ttitd
Sep 092015
 

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Ah, That Thing In The Desert. I’ve been smiling and contemplating our seven days at Burning Man, wondering what can I say about such a well-photographed and commented event? It was my first time on the playa, and we had the good fortune to stay at VW Bus Camp, in Mz. Parker, the white Westfalia you see just right of center. It was also our longest trip in her, and there was much to enjoy about the camping as well as the event itself.

The Westy is a special blend of self-contained luxury and rawness, a cozy place to retreat for a drink when the wind whips up hours of dust storms, as we had on two of the days. It is also a comfortable, lockable base of operations, with remarkable carrying capacity. We were able to bring not only the big white shade structure, but a small table, camp chairs, a ladder to make it easier to put stuff on the roof rack, two bicycles, spare gas cans, and something like 28 gallons of water weighing a couple of hundred pounds. The load totaled over half a ton, including our food, wine, clothes, solar lighting and other gear. Add in a few hundred pounds of passengers, and Mz. Parker still carried all with that gracious glide over the land that every VW bus embodies. The bed was very comfortable with an extra layer of foam. Extra reflective insulation on the windows kept it temperate inside through 80-degree days and 35-degree nights. We cooked on the built-in stove, washed dishes in the sink, and evaporated the wash water out in the dry desert air, like everyone else there. In order to leave no footprint on the desert (and avoid making a muddy mess!) everything needs to come in with us and leave with us, so every bit of water we could evaporate made our return trip lighter.

The quality of our camp was astonishing. Most of the 35 other VW buses had been to Black Rock City multiple times before, in fact, VW Bus Camp has been around more than 25 years. I loved our neighbors, who were nearly all experienced burners, living varied, mature and interesting lives out in the world. Many in our camp are BRC Rangers, the local volunteer corps of law enforcement & universal assistance, and other types of volunteers. There were also county sheriffs and semi-military Bureau of Land Management types, carrying sidearms. Unfortunately there are people who will steal stuff, so every camp has it’s own vigilance and awareness of strangers. Indeed, someone nabbed my hydration pack, then was confronted by an alert camp-mate while trying to rip off a bicycle. Fortunately, my pack came back to me – nothing lost – but it’s a sobering reminder that any city of 65,000 will have criminals.

And then there is the artwork, the art cars, and the Temple.

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Here are a couple of short videos I took that give a flavor of the experience. Night time on the open playa…

…and the Temple burn on Sunday night, watched by perhaps 30,000 people in a huge ring.

The whole week was a sensory bath. Sound was ever-present, there were places to dance all over, and except for an hour around sunrise, we heard dub in the background all the time. People wore all kinds of cool, eclectic stuff, or perhaps nothing, so every journey was a sensual and visual delight. At night, every person and bike and vehicle was lit up, so that we could move without colliding in the pitch darkness.

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It is remarkable that so many people can come together, and generally bring kindness and sharing and fun to each other. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes this possible, and have come to some unexpected conclusions. On the surface, you see a lot of technology, LED lighting, solar power, all kinds of vehicles. But that is just the beginning.

First, there is nothing for sale except ice and coffee (at least officially!) All are encouraged to bring things to gift and share, so the community spirit is very strong, and we often greeted strangers and stopped to meet folks wherever they are and whatever they were doing. We got all kinds of cool surprises: camp stickers and magnets, food and drink, decorative clothing items. We gave away dinners and tequila and mechanical assistance and massages, traded email addresses and contact info, participated in great discussions with people that knew a lot, had great skill and experience. There is no internet or cell service, so many layers of modern life peeled away within hours of arrival. This is, after all, basically camping in an inhospitable place, so we felt essentially interdependent. Juicy.

Second, the speed limit for all vehicles is 5 mph, and other than the art cars, you either walk or bicycle everywhere. No driving. So the community is a throw-back to a time before automobiles, where a journey across the community takes a while, and it takes hours to go out on the playa to view the artwork. This means that most folks spend significant time locally, get to know their neighbors and neighboring camps, and tend to frequent the clubs and events and places to get a drink that are nearby. Our own camp ran The Leopard Lounge, a bamboo-sided bar and rest stop where anyone could stop by and get a shot of tequila and a foot massage, and I spent an hour or two there each day, offering what I could, and laughing and sipping with complete strangers.

Alkali dust is everywhere, and very hard on feet, hands, noses and eyes. We arrived on Tuesday last week, and had major afternoon dust storms on Wednesday and Thursday. Fortunately, we came prepared, taping our windows and vents shut, sealing up the Westy. We also came with Bag Balm (mostly lanolin, great for dry feet), eye drops, and vinegar to make soothing washes that neutralized the dust. I did repair work with the Balm on several folks whose feet were taking a beating from the playa, and enjoyed sharing something that was new to most. But the dust also forced us to huddle in our camp, rest, talk, and value times when we could go out and explore.

The combination of technology, free exchange, slow travel, and barren environment creates an ecologically sensitive, fertile, connected and creative space. Absolutely remarkable. Modern urban planning is attempting to do this by intermingling living space with businesses, like my own downtown Fairfax. However it just does not happen as long as everyone has a car, and needs to drive somewhere to work or dine or visit friends. I wonder what our lives would feel like if we could give up cars and money. It’s not going to happen without some horrible holocaust, but it was wonderful to drop into such a different world for a week. We will be back next year. With Mz. Parker. And I will be volunteering somehow, somewhere. I love that all our technology enables us to strip so much away and do this together. With ice and coffee.

 Posted by at 5:33 pm
Aug 092015
 

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I am fascinated by our impact on each other, partially because it is the only form of permanence that we have, and partially because it is so close to the heart of incarnation and karma. So I was moved to tears when I read (yet another amazing) obituary in The Economist…for a cat. Go to this web page, and check it out. Tama, the vice-president of a Japanese railroad, died on June 22nd at the age of 16.

Moved to tears, wow. Yes, the Economist has great writers, yet this cat touches something deep in us. I’ve found blogs about personal journeys to meet Tama, countless photos, news articles and videos.

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Everything in the obit might be written about one of us, and in fact when you boil our lives down to their essence, it’s a lot like this single page of prose. We move through life doing what we do – sleeping, wearing some funny stuff, and in this case rubbing up against the legs of people – yet know not anything of our impact. Tama became a symbol: generated livelihoods for people near and far, resurrected a train line, and created some level of delight and fulfillment for thousands (or millions, who knows?) of people traveling distances to see her. She broke gender and species barriers in Japanese management. Inspired an entire world of train decor. Now there appear to be non-human stationmasters all over Japan, including cats, dogs, and even a goat.

It is easy to dismiss this story as a reflection of Japanese culture, and yes, there is that quirkiness about the Japanese that perhaps all of us, not Japanese, find fascinating. But why would a simple obituary about a cat touch me so deeply?

Maybe it is my secret fantasy that one day after I’m gone, I will be seen and remembered in this way, having a rippling impact on the people around me that shifts the economy, cultural attitudes, train decor, and gets reported on the evening news. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be the obituary on the back page of The Economist, like Nelson Mandela or Allen Ginsberg? Some form of permanence, having a lasting impact on the world? Perhaps I could have a planet or comet or nebula named after me forever, lasting longer than ancient Arabic star names. Humans or non-humans, in ten thousand years will still be referring to me by name, even if their pronunciation is wrong.

This is illusory of course, as all of these things, the train, The Economist, my house, my body and everyone who knows me will be dust. In ten thousand years, or perhaps a hundred or a dozen, the alphabet, and surely Childers, will be erased by an asteroid striking the earth, or techno-linguistic shifts beyond our wildest imagination, or a gamma-ray burst that sends the planet back to the cockroaches.

I wonder why ‘permanence’ and ‘legacy’ stir such feeling. When I sit still and reach into what I feel, it is vast and divine and good. My life falls into refreshing perspective when I remember my tiny, transient place in the universe. Sitting outside on the deck at midnight, watching for the occasional Perseid meteor and contemplating the stars and planets, I find that same vast, divine, good sense. It’s so much the opposite of what my ego wants. My tiny self wants to be remembered, and my greater self is enormously content to relax into vastness.

This is Refuge. Palden-la and my other teachers ask, “what is it that truly gives us refuge?” We seek refuge and comfort, deeper meaning in all the toys of our ego, the people and things we love, the causes we support, the legacy we create. Yet all are transient, and true refuge only exists in that which is transcendent. I realize now, when I gaze into the night sky or the eyes of a contented cat, I see the Buddha.

 Posted by at 4:24 pm
Jul 142015
 

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Today has been one of those beautiful, synchronistic days where I seem to have gotten all the pieces in place to feel precious human existence. We turn so easily away from death, thinking and worrying about all the mundane details, our mortgage, what our relatives or neighbors think of us…the honest truth is that death and loss keep us more present, more in a state of gratitude and kindness.

In the Tibetan buddhist realm, each day of my practice begins with the ‘four thoughts that turn the mind towards bodhicitta’, and my day is sharper and more delightful and kind because of them. The first thought is that human existence is rare and wonderful, and the second thought is that it will end soon. Wups, you’d think that such a thought would be depressing, but actually it’s quite the opposite – if today is my last day, what will I do with my time? How will I treat others and myself, how will I feel about each moment of sunlight, each vision of moving clouds or trees or burst of color?

Struggling with my daily practice for months, I had a dream last night that brought them into a new focus for me. I can feel how my practice is a way of nurturing myself on a very deep level, and so this morning I easily found the hour to do ngöndro. The four thoughts were clear and penetrating, my heart felt open as I practiced, and the rest of the day flowed so naturally that I got much accomplished, supported co-workers, found stuff by accident that Jen and I need for Burning Man. At dinner this evening, I received a comment from a friend that gave me new insight into my heart and my love for both my partner and myself. My life is mostly free of tension and anxiety these days, as I view my experiences through the lens of precious human existence.

I am totally blown away to come home this evening and find out that one of my longest lifetime friends – not a close friend, but a presence for 40 years, since high school – just passed away last week. I had not talked to Randy Jonsson, pictured above, since before Nancy passed, even though he lived only a few miles away. I don’t know any details, I know he has left a grieving widow, and that they had a deep and caring relationship. I feel so sad that he is gone, and also sad that I have not been in touch.

Randy was an eternally cheerful and upbeat man, passionate about his partner, filmmaking, boats and scuba, wilderness, raw milk, and god knows what else. Now he is gone, and I can only remember him, his voice and his juicy zest for all that he loved, and allow his memory to remind me each morning of precious human existence. Perhaps that is the most important things we can learn, again and again, when we lose the people we love.

From Tara’s heart rainbow light shines forth throughout the six realms and the bardo,
Enveloping the deceased one, Randy Jonsson, wherever he is,
Purifying his karma, and infusing him with Tara’s radiant blessing.
His form becomes brilliant spheres of light and dissolve into Tara’s heart-mind,
A realm beyond the cycles of suffering, a realm of absolute purity and bliss.

 Posted by at 8:53 pm
Jun 072015
 
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Samantabhadra close-up, with his consort Samantabhadri

I’m learning some remarkable subtle lessons about how we all engage with each other, about our desire, and about karma. This is a happy coincidence of changes on the outside, a teaching I received yesterday, and my buddhist practice. I say coincidence, but really, is there any such thing in an existence where every thought and action has karmic consequences?

This little story begins with conversations that I’ve had with Jen over the last few months about our future together, and what kind of life we want to create for ourselves. We both desire more flexibility, and the first step has been to look for ways to work from home more. We’ve talked about consulting, individually and together, and we’ve talked about where we want to live, both short-term and long-term. So I’ve been setting an intention for more flexibility in my work.

A month ago, I learned that the company I work for is being acquired. The public company Lyris will be dissolved, and a new email marketing/software organization is being created…as a virtual company. Everyone works from home. I have the opportunity to become an architect in the new organization, working with others on a global basis. This is delightful, and exciting for me, as I worked from home for years at Sun Microsystems. So lesson #1 is to remember, yet again, that intention is a powerful force. I’m not responsible for the Lyris acquisition of course, but I am accountable for my desire, and it’s my choice to be receptive as this opportunity shows up.

So I will be working from home soon, within a month perhaps. I remember when I started, back in 2003, that I would spend days seeing no other people except my wife, and I had to force myself to go out, meet friends for lunch, take hikes, do whatever I could to engage with life away from my computer. A challenge when working from home is creating contact with others, and avoiding isolation. The tools are better now, Skype video chat and Google hangouts make it much easier to see and interact with co-workers. However, there is a curious issue with virtual tools.

Have you ever noticed how eye contact is almost impossible over video? The camera and the image of the other person may be near each other on the screen, but you cannot look into the camera at the same time as you look at the image of the other person. So video conferencing feels a little surreal, like we are 90% in contact, but never fully connected.

I’ve been practicing eye contact for many years, and like most of us, direct eye contact can feel a little frightening to me. There are workshop exercises around this, and gazing directly into another’s eyes for minutes at a time is a very intimate experience. There is research demonstrating how intimate connection (and even long-term relationships) can be created by a combination of increasingly personal conversation topics, and periods of prolonged eye contact.

Yesterday at a buddhist teaching, a group of my friends combined some very specific meditations with direct eye contact. The result for me was startling; I could track feelings of fear and excitement as they arose in the moments I am gazing into the eyes of another. This is a direct experience of attachment and aversion, the Third Noble Truth. And a profound learning became available as I released my feelings and placed my attention directly on the experience of meeting another persons’ eyes. In that moment, I had no awareness of phenomena, of my other senses, I became completely present for the connection between the two of us, if only for a moment.

I don’t know what this is, and I cannot describe it. I encourage you to take a few minutes with a friend or a loved one, and try it for yourself. If you are like me, you may feel intensely uncomfortable at first. Remind yourself that there is no harm possible, try to notice the thoughts and feelings that arise, and put them aside for a moment. You will find something deeper, and perhaps divine, beyond.

We experience this all the time, as we look at each other throughout the day. We only meet eyes briefly, yet those brief moments enable us to connect in ways that are important, even with our co-workers. As I move into a job where I work from home full time, I will miss this contact, and feel sad about the loss. At the same time, I’ve learned something new as a result. And I deeply appreciate this insight.

 Posted by at 10:33 am
May 292015
 
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A normal weekday on Market Street

Pigeons, horns, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust, roaring construction generators. Knots of people walking quickly and determinedly, often gazing into a smart phone, or lost in a private world of sound from earbuds. A man yelling at the top of his lungs “TREAT BLACK VETERANS BETTER!” Trash jewelry and tacky artwork sold on sidewalk tables. Six unfamiliar languages. Tourists walking around in shorts, on a typical foggy 55-degree summer day. People going through trash cans. No one meets my gaze. Except for the people who immediately ask for money.

I grew up in this city by the bay, a place that is so familiar I can tell a story about something that happened to me on every block of Market Street. Now I’m making new stories, but they aren’t as pleasant. Both San Francisco and I have changed a lot in 40 years, and I find myself teasing apart the details.

The city is more vibrant in many ways, with the influx of tech and millennials. More and better restaurants, interesting bars, youth and vigor and money and higher rents. More bicycles and motorcycles and skateboards. Fewer people wearing suits and heels. It’s more crowded now than ever, with more than 840,000 residents, 200,000 more than in the ’90’s. When I got here, there were lots of people with long hair, including me when I came back from college. Back then, people smoked dope publicly, and the gay scene was a thriving, unique visual and cultural feast on Polk Street and in the Castro. Cars, buses and trucks burn cleaner now, so the pervasive smell of auto exhaust is much milder. And many buildings and sidewalks have been renovated beautifully, stone walls cleaned of diesel soot, less trash in the street.

I on the other hand, have been living in Marin for almost 30 years, and love the open space, the quiet at my house, the clean air, and the way folks will meet my gaze and smile and greet. I know all my neighbors, unlike my years of living in the city. I like the parts of me that enjoy the quiet and smiling at people, and I feel resentful that contact in SF is generally rewarded by an outstretched hand.

After two full days of this, I did something rare for me, I indulged in retail therapy. On impulse, walking past Goorin’s on Union Square, I ducked in and found a linen cap, something I’ve been keeping an eye out for since the new year. They had exactly what I wanted, in my size, and the friendly salesperson and I agreed that the cap looks great on me.

As I walked down Geary towards the bus that would take me home, earing my new possession, I realize that I look a little iconic, wearing this, and muse how nearly everyone in SF has a look about them that defines who they are in some way. This has been true as long as I’ve lived here, and feels more pronounced in the city than any other place I’ve been, except perhaps Paris or the French District of New Orleans. In the early ’70’s it was color and bell bottoms and jewelry; now it’s unique hair and tattoos and piercings and shoes.

And hats, a minor but ever-present element of style. I’m the only guy I see on my walk today wearing a cap like this, although I do see a fedora, knit and baseball caps, and a few hard hats at the construction sites. I feel somehow more comfortable in my iconic identity, as though it’s an accommodation that creates some space between me and everyone else, without having to withdraw into numbness. Perhaps this is an essential element to life in San Francisco, where my senses are bombarded so heavily that I have a hard time staying open and receptive, smiling at strangers.

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Goorin linen cap, a little injection of personality

 Posted by at 1:38 pm

love and fear and fearlessness, part ii

 Reflection  Comments Off on love and fear and fearlessness, part ii
Jan 232015
 

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I’ve been reading theoasisofmysoul, catching up with the last month of Ara’s postings, and there are some profound topics he opens. This man has been wandering on a BMW motorcycle for a decade since his son passed away. We share a deep wounding, a love for BMW airheads, and a life in the west. I look at his bike and sidecar, and can feel the part of me that would drop everything I do and everything I’m attached to, and journey as he does.

Spirit is his dog, who wears a helmet that says “Bite Me”. Ara wrote recently:

… I realize, still baffled, that I was wrong. I do have fear. I have the fear of losing Spirit which I know will happen some day. It is reality. I also have the worse fear of them all which is to Love. The real Love towards a person, meaning a deep relationship, a Lifetime one. I do Love my Friends, Mother Nature, good food, riding, photography, writing and more, but that true Love scares me, puts fear in me, the fear of, if it ever happened, losing again a true Love. It is not like I meet a possible companion everyday on this path of ours, but the anticipation of the possibility of losing a true Love has instated a fear in me. So much for living in the now.

He sees this great truth also: fear is ‘not present’, it’s all about the past and future. But we’ve responded differently to our loss, as I am so delightfully feeling love and being loved now, three years after loss.

I originally wrote a long thing, about what is the same and what is different between Ara and I. Then a friend happened to share this poem with me today. This says it all, much better than I can.

You left me and went on your way.
I thought I should mourn for you
and set your solitary image in my heart
wrought in a golden song.
But ah, my evil fortune, time is short.

Youth wanes year after year; the spring days are fugitive;
the frail flowers die for nothing,
and the wise man warns me that life is but a dew-drop on the lotus leaf.
Should I neglect all this to gaze
after one who has turned her back on me?
That would be rude and foolish, for time is short.

Then, come, my rainy nights with pattering feet;
smile, my golden autumn; come, careless April,
scattering your kisses abroad.
You come, and you, and you also!
My loves, you know we are mortals.
Is it wise to break one’s heart
for the one who takes her heart away?
For time is short.

It is sweet to sit in a corner to muse
and write in rhymes that you are all my world.
It is heroic to hug one’s sorrow
and determine not to be consoled.
But a fresh face peeps across my door
and raises its eyes to my eyes.
I cannot but wipe away my tears
and change the tune of my song.
For time is short.

-Rabindranath Tagore

Fresh face peeps across my door. I cannot but wipe away my tears and change the tune of my song, Jen. Je t’aime.

 Posted by at 8:44 pm
Dec 072014
 

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This evening is my first completely solo time in my home in ten years. It’s a little startling, because it came about quickly through happenstance, like a random collision of pinball events. Since December 2004, I’ve always had a cat (and most of the time my partner!) sharing my home space. Tonight Jen is out with a friend, I won’t see her for a few days, and my faithful and sometimes whiney companion, Edwin P. Hubble, is spending the night at the vet with a urinary problem. So it’s just me, and the frogs in the nearby creek.

Hubble, shown here after a hard day of texting, was acting strangely this morning. Both of us noticed it, and finally around noon we figured out that he hadn’t peed in the litter box in a couple of days. Fortunately, the San Rafael Pet Emergency Center is a great resource, helping me in the past as I lost Hubble’s brother Chandra, and my mother’s elderly and sweet German Shepherd, Sheba. Today they were great yet again, catheterized and caring for my friend. He’s doing fine, and I should have him home tomorrow night. Hopefully some diet changes will prevent this from happening again.

It’s odd to be completely solo at home, even for just a day. Two years ago, I wrote here about how my life had pared down to just my cat and myself. Now I’m pared even further to just the essential me, and I am rather surprised at how different my house feels, even though Hubble (aka “The Black Avenger”) is mostly a lurking and invisible presence. It’s honestly wonderful to experience a little time with absolutely no relationship responsibility. Don’t get me wrong; I love being in relationship, and my time with Jen is treasure time. And I’ve experienced it while traveling by myself, of course. But it’s oddly freeing to have this sensation in my own home. I remember a little more than ten years ago, after separating from my first wife, how rattled I felt while completely by myself. It was excruciating, to be honest, and I could not sit still with myself for more than a few hours…had to go out, do something. After Nancy passed, Hubble has been a constant in my life, a partner always happy to receive affection, responding by draping himself on me, or shoulder-diving into my arm and hand. I can feel more clearly how he has helped me navigate my grieving, the shifts in my psyche without her.

Honoré de Balzac wrote “Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine.” I’ve lived a relationship with that quote for decades, used it to rationalize my feelings, helped me deal with my incapacity for pure solitude. But I notice that the quote is no longer true for me. How wonderful here and now is. Floppy cat, good. Fabulous partner, more than good. Tonight, solitude is good.

And the frogs sound outrageously alive and cheerful.

 Posted by at 6:28 pm
Oct 182014
 

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(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 may not live here the rest of my life – Marin property taxes are so 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!!!!!!

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 Posted by at 10:13 pm