Winter Writing

Winter, the air was as dry as unbuttered toast.
Ice formed from any moisture and hung onto any thread.
Children were bundled so if they fell
it would be face up
so they wouldn’t suffocate,
their identities unknowable behind scarves and hats pulled low.
Until a Chinook
when they threw off their stiff winter clothes
and ran in their socks and shirt sleeves
in yards of mud,
no, not ran, but hopped
like new little toads with tails abandoned,
this way and that,
with the randomness of joy.
And when it was over
they came home dressed in other children’s winter clothes.

rio, 2019

Say my name!

rioonbook

I’m Rio, most of you know that already, but it wasn’t always the case, so I am very happy to see my name listed on this wonderful book. I am sorry that I was unwell and couldn’t attend the launch, but I am so proud to be included with these women, many of whom I met at Sister Writes. They inspired me to push beyond my comfort levels and share a bit of my history. And they continue to inspire me to write with their brilliance.

and of course the cover…

coverbook

Doing the Next Thing

I am in that weird place in life when I have lots of time to just observe things. I see when the wheel on the wagon is wobbling but it’s not my wagon.

Not any of it is my wagon.

I just try to appreciate every moment and applaud every success. “Yay!”

Crazy people, cruelty and all the other painful things humans can perpetuate on each other, hatred, confusion, obscuring the way forward; It is a crazy time. Maybe it is always a crazy time.

I find zazen, sitting staring at a blank wall excruciating, but preferable to action often because I don’t know what I can do in the face of so much suffering. I know I am probably getting my practice completely wrong. I imagine Bodhisattva cringing. I remember teachers telling me not to talk about my practice outside the Dokusan room…

The other day the bus was so full the driver told us to try to get on at the back door. It looked impossible and I was the last in line. All these backs towards me, every shade of skin a human can possess represented before me, me, covered in liver spots and freckles. For the doors to close, fat, thin, male, female, shy, brazen, tall, short, young, old, we had to smoosh together.

“Well, we are all good friends now!” Laughter and smiles, people looking over their shoulders at me in the crush, somehow making room for me where there was none.

That was enough.

It is never a personal Titanic on which we arrange the deck chairs.

A Small Painting And Some Thoughts About Complaining* About Stuff

IMG_20190709_202213_297

I know I am running the danger of becoming another boring senior who uses a blog to go on about her grandchildren BUT I am actually going on about painting my granddaughter!

See?

I can’t afford to buy a lot of gifts but I have oodles of art supplies so I make a card instead of buying one whenever there is an important birthday. I think a 1st birthday is significant so here it is, complete with sparkles and sequins.

I have a hard time getting started on a painting and yet once i get going I really enjoy it.

It’s always nice when things work out.

But About Complaining About Stuff:

What I want, and how things are do not always agree. But there are so many things contributing to everyone’s inability to do “their absolute best” all the time, not the least of which is how they are treated by others. Paying attention includes sometimes just calming down, and appreciating that “when all is said and done” isn’t it great that we are alive, and at the same place, at the same time?

I guess that’s why I like babies. They’re like (the best) tourists, happy to be here even if they are occasionally confused or uncomfortable, just enjoying the ride.

I mean, air conditioned buses? Whenever they show up, they are wonderful! I can ride one to a library and use the WiFi, watch a movie or show or do research, even have a nap and escape the heat, with my grandchildren!

See how I did that?

*this is not referring to actually speaking out where to not do so would mean doing harm. 

 

Polishing the Mirror

It was crowded. Two trains went by, out of service. Everyone looked straight ahead while a man further down facing perpendicular to the bulk of the crowd was yelling something political.

I decided to walk towards him. I’d been thinking about how scared people are now. Nobody is talking but there are ‘crazy people’ yelling all over the place. I didn’t know if he was one of them but I walked towards him passed all people with earbuds in, attached to iPods and smartphones listening to what they chose instead of this man yelling.

The train came before I got too far along the platform and I joined the throng getting on the train. I don’t know if he got onto another car. I put my earbuds in and selected the e-book I had downloaded from the library. It is called “Being Mortal”.

I wrote the above a long time ago. I was afraid. I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone up to him. Do people who yell in public places want to be heard? Do they even believe that they CAN be heard? But I was frightened and even a bit angry that he was subjecting us all to his ranting.

I am still learning how this machine that puts itself together as ME works and one of the cogs is anger, another is fear.

I have written many angry entries in journals and diaries and then made a ritual of blacking them out or deleting them. But I have missed the point of my own life in doing so because I was afraid my anger would turn me into a weapon, some sort of terrible uncontrollable force.

But I am not a weapon. A weapon is something you pick up to do harm to others. A human being is a Buddha whether or that human being is suffering due to contracted emotions, habitual behaviours or galling misunderstandings, regardless of whether or not they have realized it.

I like to think that I have always run from confrontation, but I have at times in my life become so angry that I have put myself in the path of confrontation even knowing I would probably suffer harm. But I was never a weapon and neither was the person who harmed me. It is a delusion to think that we can become weapons or targets or hammers or nails, but it is true we can suffer and cause suffering and in that state of congealed anger, pick up a weapon.

Anger comes as energy that can turn into action but if I try to delete it or deny it, the whole machinery of my being becomes stuck in all sorts of physical problems or worse, it gives rise to dangerous exchanges that benefit no one.

The purpose of Zen practice is to realize awake awareness as oneself and this includes being aware of anger and fear.

If we are aware we can make choices.

Being a student of Soto Zen Buddhism I can choose to direct that energy into compassionate action. If i recognize that I am afraid I can also recognize others who are fearful and in loosening its hold on myself open the possibility of the same for others. If I am angry, I can learn to see it arising and to appreciate its energy and learn how to direct it towards polishing the mirror, exerting myself to examine delusions and to realize compassion, to lean into actions that build instead of actions that destroy.

But to ignore or suppress fear and anger rather than taking each moment of recognition as an opportunity is an impediment and can only lead to more suffering. (This can be applied to all emotions that cause us to hide or become deluded as in  “Love Hurts”, love that is misdirected or misunderstood.)

So I will endeavour to be aware of what I would rather not realize within myself and not let anything fester or congeal into a sense of problem that gains momentum.

And even in realizing all of the above, I must sit zazen, every day and not fall into thinking that dust will no longer accumulate on the mirror.

And even after all that:

https://youtu.be/8T-Z1WoFXkk

I Said it Out Loud: I am hanging up my red rubber nose.

wilftiger

ROAR!

I was out in a social environment, drinking a beer, chatting. In reference to something, someone said, “Oh yes, you are a clown aren’t you?”

Having said out loud that I was retired made it true. But it has been a long time coming. First off the fact that parents started telling me that clowns were “scary” and they would prefer that I not dress up. (I think I am way more scary without my clown makeup but hey, if they don’t want clown face I don’t do clown face.)

But I also started to notice how physically demanding it was. I love talking to the kids about what they imagine they are becoming as I paint their faces, or just seeing their level of commitment as they patiently wait as I apply the paint but there are many younger people who have steadier hands and stronger backs.

And I have grandchildren now. I am so lucky to get to see them as they grow into this world. I think now I need to spend my time doing what I can to see they continue to have one.

Clownlaughing

It’s been fun.