Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

The skies these past few weeks have been curiously drowsy. Odd, Spring-like conditions have prevailed. That should come as no surprise, considering the climate in general, but it makes for a moody situation. We scatter straw across the yard to absorb the mud. The stage, jutting out from the porch, is surrounded by a pale yellow straw beach, giving it the quizzical appearance of a tropical desert island. But the air is damp and cool and the sun barely shines. Last night, however, the stars were holding court. A front brought a cooler dryness and the muddy straw is exhaling. The sky was clear enough for me to see the Milky Way from the street of our city suburb. It is a poetic moment for the season. The clearing sky, the fresher air, the brilliance of the stars all inspire the moment with hope and dreams.
Most afternoons recently our yard would have Nick (9) swinging, Kaiya (9) hanging, and Jordan (3) climbing, while Jasmine (2) runs in tight circles around it all, nipping and yapping. Occasional appearances of the sun would lure us out only to usher in the clouded gloom, which seems desperate for our attention. It is as if our attention is deliberately directed to the gloom. It is easy to feel the gloom, but to really heed it is another matter. With a little less self-pity and a little acquiescence, the attention shifts.  I look out and see the boon of mud.
The mud is magnificent. It has a dark, fudgy firmness. It clings well to heel and toe, then falling in dried shards around the house. Either the mud wants to come in from the gloom or it wants us to go out. Both, of course. There is a story of a boy who comes to honor Buddha with gifts. Having nothing, the boy makes a mud pie and prayerfully presents it. The gift is received with a blessing and the boy is reincarnated as the great king, Ashoka. There is more to the story, and others can explicate its significance to Buddhism. But to me, this New Year is offering us the rich earthy mud, filled with potential for new life.
So I offer you good wishes for the year ahead. May 2012 bring many blooms from the soil of 2011.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Not Enough Room?

The Small House
adapted from a favorite Jewish folktale
Jacob was a farmer and Sarah was his wife.
They worked hard together to live a happy life.
They had a couple chickens, a good old dairy cow,
and a cranky, stubborn mule they harnessed to the plow.
The only thing that stopped them being happy with it all,
was the feeling that their little house was much too much too small.
They visited the Rabbi, an elder man and wise,
And told him of their trouble and asked him to advise.
After thoughtful meditation, this is what he had to say:
“If you will do as I instruct, I think there is a way
to make your house a place of peace that happiness will bless.
But tell me am I right to think you have some chickens, yes?”
“We have some chickens, yes,” they said “what would you have us do?”
“Take the chickens from the yard into the house with you.”
“Bring the chickens from the yard into the house, you say?
We honor age and wisdom and will not disobey.”
So straight away they went and brought the chickens in to nest.
But instead of getting better,  they were very sorely pressed.
The chickens squawked and scratched about, they laid eggs everywhere.
The noise and feathers were enough to make them tear their hair.
So once again they went to seek the Rabbi for advice.
He said, “I see a way to make your situation nice.
You have a cow for milking, yes?” “We have a cow for milking, true.”
“Go to the field and take your cow inside the house with you.”   
“Go to the field and take our cow inside the house to stay?!”
They thanked the Rabbi for his advice and later on that day
The house had chickens laying and a cow chewing its cud.
The walls were nearly bursting, the floor was turned to mud.
The noises, smells, and other things were enough to drive them mad.
Once more they sought the Rabbi to seek advice he had.
“You say the chickens and the cow have made your home a mess?
But there is always room for more. You have a mule, yes?”
“We have a mule to pull the plow, we keep him in a stall.”
“Then take him in with all the rest, one roof will cover all.”
“Take the mule into the house with cow and chickens too?
We do not understand but we will do what we must do.”
Now the crowded little house had the mule ushered in.
Mooing, clucking, braying, made an awful din.
There was no room to sit, no place to build a fire,
The rafters shook, the air was foul, the floor became a mire. 
The hapless couple groaned and cried “we cannot take this life!”
And once again they asked the Rabbi to save them from this strife.
The Rabbi lit a candle and poured them each some tea.
“You’ve endured a lot of suffering, this is plain to see.
“One last suggestion I will give, it should not be too hard,
“Return the cow out to the field, the chickens to the yard
“Return the mule to his stall, then clean and fix and sweep.
“Then see if you have room enough to get a good night’s sleep.”
Once more they did as they were told and to their great surprise,
The house that once was much too small, was now the perfect size.
How often even now, just as it was before,
when our want is keenly felt and we lament at being poor,
we think that having things will even up the score, 
only to discover: having less beats having more.

Good words

My stepdaughter, Kaiya, is enjoying Rachel Roberts' Avalon series. Here is a recent quote that we find meaningful and inspiring. Enjoy

There’s an old saying: “The darkest hour is always before the dawn.” I believe that to be true. There are times in our lives when feel alone, face trouble, or feel scared by the darkness the world can sometimes force upon us. It’s these times that true courage can be tested. We must never give into despair, even when it feels like the night will never end. You have the magic with in to meet any challenge and carry on. A new dawn will always shine its way into your heart. 
 –––– Rachel Roberts, Dark Mage