Poetry About Dogs

Calligraphy by my friend Jennifer Baylis; verse by me. The full verse is: There is no such thing as an insignificant moment.

I was hoping it was some kind of coy euphemism, when I rolled up to part three in Mary Oliver’s Devotions, entitled: Dog Songs. Turns out, it was just as I’d feared. This section of the book includes 10 poems about dogs.

Don’t get me wrong. I love dogs. Anyone who knows me well, knows that even if I were bleeding to death on the street, I’d pause my demise to give affection to a passing four-legged friend. I guess what I’m saying, though, is that there’s a difference between loving dogs and reading poems about them. I mean, I love cats, but I draw the line at collecting kitschy cat figurines or hanging up a calendar featuring kittens in baskets. I love Ani Difranco too, but I wouldn’t put her picture on my fridge. You get the idea.

But I find value in asking myself why.

Why do dog poems cause me to bristle? And while I’m at it, what do I have against cat figurines or cat calendars? If I were to walk into a friend’s house and find a picture of Ani D on their fridge, what then?

Judgements creep in and perfume my consciousness with righteousness sometimes, and it’s a scent I do not find pleasant.

Yet, to be without judgements I reckon is impossible.

So, the best I can aspire to is to keep a close and curious watch on myself, and to breathe into the folds of what arises, in the wake of what I see.

 

 

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Not A Pretty Girl

Inspired by an Ani Difranco song that I’ve refashioned and have been playing & singing lately on the guitar, here are some of the ways my “I am not a pretty girl, that is not what I do” expresses itself:

I wear the same basic outfit every day: brown pants/green shirt; my idea of hair care involves washing it 2-3 times a week (no cutting, styling, dying, or whatever else-ing most women tend to do); I wouldn’t know how to apply makeup even if I had it; the few pieces of jewelry I own were given to me by well-intentioned people who don’t know me well enough to know I will never wear it; when I’m in a bar to hear music, I’m the girl armed with a pocket notebook and pen jotting down observational notes; I own 3 pairs of shoes: crocs, snow boots, and motorcycle boots; I’m not interested in mirroring my moves on the dance floor so as to best maintain the reflection of a sex-object; and I am not beholden to self-validation and worth (as I was when I was young) through the ability to attract a guy (or 2 or 3 or 12) – I reserve that dignity to be procured from my own well of self.

Runneth Over

I was reading the Fourteen Mindfulness trainings on Saturday morning and I guess this guy wanted to see what all the fuss was about :)

 

My cup runneth over with inspiration, information, and heartbreak for the people. I’m rather at a loss of how to reign it all in to fashion this post. Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with a wealth of different people and topics that have given rise to a myriad of emotions, thoughts, and ideas.

Today marks the last day of our local 10-day 15th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. During the span of the festival, I saw films highlighting a number of issues, including: domestic violence, the oppression of our LGBTQ community, Native land rights, coal mining and mountain top removal in West Virginia, and the plight of orangutans and loss of forested habitat.

As a representative of our Buddhist sangha and active participant in our local interfaith community, I also attended a couple of events with a retired Evangelical pastor who was brought to town by both our local Christian faith communities and the Sierra Club: Pastor Tri Robinson. Tri Robinson is a conservative, Republican, evangelical, pastor-rancher that is adamant that evangelical Christians should be working to address the climate crisis as part of their Christian calling. I attended the first U.S premier of the film showing of Cowboy and Preacher on Friday night, for which Tri was the focal subject. And last night my husband and I attended his keynote address on the university campus entitled: Creation Care and the Christian Church. Both events were simply fantastic and provided a great deal of nourishment and inspiration to me as a spiritual leader motivated strongly to help support others and care well for our planet.

And then there’s the issue of what’s been happening in the wake of the school shooting that took place in Florida recently. My 18-year-old stepson’s high school was the target of a number of threats this past week. As parents, we were alerted via email and recorded phone messages about each instance and kept well informed. On Thursday, I received an email stating that the school was on lock-down, due to a threat posed to the student body. And while, for better or worse – and probably for both – I didn’t regard the threats as being of a serious nature that would actually give rise to actual harm being inflicted, my heart broke for my stepson and the other students, teachers, and staff who were having to weather and situate themselves amid that atmosphere, however hollow and empty the threats might have been.

Over the past week, too, I met with a few different close friends and sangha members, some of whom were seeking support with a particular matter. I had the chance to experience the vulnerability of a few individuals in trusting me with their stories and struggles, which is a privilege and honor that humbles me deeply.

Yesterday, as part of my Mindful Morning Saturday routine, I watched a Dharma talk given on February 12th by Brother Phap Man, a monk in the Plum Village tradition who resides at Blue Cliff Monastery. His talk – which I watched in two sessions and finished this morning – was entitled: Healing Ourselves, Healing Our World, and focused on matters of racial discrimination, sexism, white privilege, and detrimental cultural biases.

I met with two hospice patients. I spent a day nannying for two young boys. I worked to pull together logistics for our upcoming spring family retreat, for which I serve as co-director, in charge of registration and also putting together and running the kids programming. I met with a good friend who’s offered to be my sound guy in the venue for my upcoming scary new adventure of having a CD release party and solo spoken word performance. And there’s more, too.

So much happens in the span of one week’s time. And some weeks, like this past one, involve a bit more than usual, in the realm of sensory input.

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Self-Acceptance

If we were to encounter a magic lantern in an enchanted wood that came with a directive that our 3 wishes had to be about self-improvement, most of us could easily come up with a few things right off the bat about ourselves that we’d like to change. We all have stuff that we have little to no ability to change about who we are, but we REALLY wish we could.

My longest running and most prevalent “something to change” would be the decreasing but still ongoing companion of Acne. I guess it makes some kind of sense that since I was into boys at an early age, that I would wind up developing early, too. And perhaps in an effort to teach me the graces of humility at an early age, accompanying my amply sized chest grew the red, swollen marks of acne. Through middle school, high school, and my two years of college, acne was a varying but constant presence, strewn plainly across my face for all to see and sometimes marvel at. It was my crippling weakness, my deflater of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-acceptance. And ultimately, by way of debilitating levels of agony and disappointment, my greatest teacher.

I firmly believe that every single excruciating thing that has ever happened to us has the potential to wake us up to something. Every experience has the capacity to be used for growth or deflation, depending on how we use it.

Just as every tool can be a weapon, so too can every weapon be a tool.

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Transitioning

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Here are some things I’m working to integrate into my daily life after returning home from being on retreat at Deer Park Monastery:

1. When I brush my teeth my usual tendency is to do other things while brushing my teeth (which is often quite comical, because I’ll attempt to do all kinds of things that have no business in trying to be accomplished in the midst of brushing my teeth!), so I’m practicing to stay put while brushing my teeth and not roam around the house.

2. When I was at Deer Park I came up with two new morning verses I would say to myself upon waking up each day, and I’m wanting to continue with them:

Waking up, my smile greets a fresh new day

and, when first rising out of bed, As my feet touch the ground, may I rise with intention, like the sun

3. I came up with this meal verse (to say internally to myself once I was finished eating) when I first went to Deer Park on extended retreat 4 years ago. It’s been something I’ve done at every meal while at Deer Park each January but haven’t carried home with me in my daily life, which I’d like to remedy. After eating verse:

                           This bowl (or plate) was just filled with wonderful, nutritious, delicious food.                               May I take the energy and nourishment it provides me and transform it into                                              ____, _____, and ______ on my path of practice today.

For the fill-in-the-blank spots, I list three components that make sense to me for that particular moment and time of day. So, for instance, after breakfast I might use the words: mindfulness, ease, and joy, and after dinner I might say: rest, release, and self-care.

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Developing fresh, new ways in which to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life not only helps to support my transition back into the wonderful flow of daily living but also enables me to cultivate and strengthen my seeds of mindfulness, stability, and connection. Because the journey of being human and navigating this world, which is “beautiful and absurd and small” (as Ani Difranco sings in one her songs), as always and ever, continues on, flowing as a river, perpetually shifting and changing.