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

returning home

 Buddhism, Nancy, Reflection, Travel  Comments Off on returning home
Aug 232014
 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

the roxy road

 Nancy, Reflection, Travel  Comments Off on the roxy road
Aug 182014
 

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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 water Friday, toured the lake, and polished the day off with an excellent dinner at the Old Mirror Lodge. Nancy and I had our wedding party there in 2006, and it was very sweet to come back, visit with friends and owners Verena and Urs Bärtschi, see table cloths we left there after our party, and see how good the lakes and the Lodge and other properties are looking. Some businesses have closed, so the whole area seems a bit subdued since my last visit in 2009, but maybe that’s just me.

The Jones cabin is in pretty good shape, after four years without guests. The dock has some damage from winter ice, but is still quite serviceable. The stairs need to be leveled, but the inside of the cabin seems undamaged, although mice have left nests everywhere. The canoe and kayaks are there, and so is my camping and fishing gear and a lovely piece of art that Kathy gave us for our wedding.

It rained all morning Saturday, so we stayed in and enjoyed the cottage. Jen flew out of North Bay in the afternoon to meet her sister in New York, and I have entered the solo part of my journey.

Turning off Highway 11 at Trout Creek, onto 522, I turned on music. Tried Fleetwood Mac for a few minutes, but that didn’t feel right. And Roxy Music seemed perfect. Loud. Very loud, in fact. Remember “Avalon”? Sink into it.

I could feel at the time

There was no way of knowing

Fallen leaves in the night

Who can say where they’re blowing

As free as the wind

And hopefully learning

Why the sea on the tide

Has no way of turning

More than this – there is nothing

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I am unwinding Nancy as I drive. 522 from Highway 11, the final 40 minutes to Duck Lake. Nancy always insisted on driving it as we completed our four-hour journey from Toronto each summer to arrive here. Now I get to do it alone. This is no longer her lake, or our lake. It’s mine.


My heart has flown away now

Will it never stop bleeding

Alone, I can feel the Nancy-sized hole in my heart, and my eyes are wet off and on all day. I’m not really crying, or even feeling sad – although I am sad that Nancy will never be here again. I feel surprisingly connected to this place, just as I have always felt coming up here, and I was not expecting that. Being here without Nancy feels much like it did with her, restful, quiet, heart-opening. Ah, I’ve arrived. Here is my destination, the Crowthers cabin, with the lake in the background.

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…and Miss Powassan (under the green cover) and my canoe, resting at the dock, with the Crowther Navy.

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* * *

This morning dawned bright and clear, the first warm and sunny day since we entered Canada four days ago. I sat and meditated, then Kathy and Al and I took Nancy’s ashes out into the center of Duck Lake in Miss Powassan, and scattered them with a bowl full of clipped wildflowers. I held the ritual from inside my Vajrasattva practice, which is all about purifying karma. So strange and mysterious to see each hand-full of her ashes fall into the water, and sink into the depths, trailing a cloud. I spoke the Tara prayer as I returned her to the elements. I was slow and deliberate. This is not-Nancy – I believe her spirit is in motion elsewhere – but it is the final physical remains of an incarnation, a very specific and special person that I and many others still love.


All the world, even you

Should learn to love the way I do

I was lost, can’t you see

Through the long lonely night

Heaven knows, I believe

You can take a chance with me

The jewel box where I’ve kept her ashes was surprisingly light in my hands as I removed it from the boat. And there is a lightness in my heart as well. A commitment is fulfilled, as is our marriage vow. I am delighting in the day, as I tend to chores, register the boat trailer, and pack for the journey home.

 Posted by at 11:33 am
Aug 022014
 

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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. And perhaps say goodbye to a lovely part of the planet that came into my life with her. If you are dialed into Jungian symbology, it’s a lot that’s all happening at once. So this posting is the first, the prelude to the dream, so to speak. I will write more as the journey progresses.

Port Loring is a small town, surrounded by lakes and rivers, an hour’s drive to the nearest supermarket, and the cabin is only reachable by boat. I think I traveled there seven times with Nancy, flying to Toronto, driving 4+ hours, then putting our boat in the water and motoring across Duck Lake to the cabin. It was a journey not worth doing unless we stayed at least a week. Opening the cabin was a full-day task, with a quarter-acre of vegetation to whack down, a ton of household goods to unpack, beds to make, lots of cleaning. We got married there, we rested and entertained friends and did craft projects and cabin maintenance. I became quite skilled as a plumber because of the Jones family cabin, and got tons of practice piloting small boats, towing water skiers, kayaking, picking berries…there was always something to do. No TV or cell phone service, few radio stations, intermittent phones and electricity.

The last time I was there was 2009, although Nancy and her sister Janet were there in 2010. No one has been to the cabin in four years, and I don’t know what I will find. Dock damage from the ice for sure — it was a nasty winter, and the lake had many inches of ice all the way across. The property will be overgrown, but the annual robin’s nest in the porch rafters should have chicks by the time I arrive, and I hope to find our canoe and kayaks in good condition. Miss Powassan, the 16-foot Giesler cedar-strip power boat that we bought in 2006, has been safely stored, and recently serviced, ready for the water. I hope to have a day to cruise for hours down the Pickerel River system, through a half-dozen lakes, and see all the lovely places one more time.

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Sunrise from the cabin, absolutely quiet except for the occasional loon call. Below is the view from Miss Powassan’s cockpit, cruising the lakes on a cloudy day with showers.

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Trip planning has been a pleasure, as we will drive through Idaho, Yellowstone, Montana, and east through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie and into Ontario. Friends have been kind enough to let me stay at their place on the lake, so I don’t have to open the cabin or find a motel. We will dine at the Old Mirror Lodge, with longtime friends Verena and Urs Bartschi, who hosted my wedding party. This will be bitter-sweet, bringing Nancy’s remains to their final resting place, and releasing that most important part of her from my life. It will also be delightful, to be in this pure and beautiful place once more, and share it with Jen for a couple of days. I’m looking forward to the whole journey, even as it feels odd to return without Nancy. Duck Lake was always Nancy’s home, the one constant in an ever-changing life as an Air Force brat. And so it will be again, as her remains join the geology.

 Posted by at 6:14 pm
Jul 272014
 

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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 finger pointing, the images of death and destruction. You are wrong, no, YOU are wrong. I will spare you the details, which you can swim in through the media.

This conflict has been going on for more than two millennia, back and forth. It was a Judaic region before Islam and Christianity were born, and something else before that. And so, like so many of the parts of our world where civilization has deep roots (Tigris and Euphrates valley, aka Iraq)…history provides many claims to the turf. But it’s more intense since 1945 (or perhaps that’s the media?) Watch the epic movie “Exodus”, and it seems so logical that the Jews would flood back there after millions were killed during the 1940’s (not to mention pogroms in Russia, Poland and Germany for centuries before that). Read James Michener’s fabulous book, “The Source”, and the flow back and forth through the middle ages and the Ottoman Empire makes more sense, and has depth. Oddly, this book, which was written some 50 years ago, offers hope that Arab and Jew, Palestinian — Sephardim — Ashkenaz might co-exist well. After all, they all love the land. It also documents how the resident Palestinians vacated what is now Israel in 1947, as Egyptian and other Arabic forces tried to dispel the new Jewish state. Jews were fleeing Arabic lands too. Then there was the Six-Day War in 1967. I’m old enough to remember some of the savage things the PLO did. In some ways, they invented terrorism.

I find it fascinating that some liberal friends and media (and I am quite liberal) seem to think the Israelis are the bad guys. There are no good guys here, this particular round of violence was kicked off when three Israelis were murdered. It doesn’t make any difference if it was Hamas or rogues or a new secret organization that did it.

There have been some times when the two (or three or perhaps four) sides have been close to peace. But no, the hatred is ugly and fueled by testosterone. Missiles, tunnels, fighter-bomber missions, the iron shield. Fake posts about joyfully killing children. So much suffering, so much poisonous negative karma. Even Yassar Arafat came to the peace table. You want some insight? Read about Moshe Dayan. Testosterone takes us into war, and into initiation. This is a man who had more reason than most to polarize, yet found room in his heart for co-existence.

So now more than a thousand people are dead, mostly Palestinians. Two militarized societies, pounding away at each other. Thank god we reincarnate. How else can we learn that this is the source of our pain?

 Posted by at 4:51 pm