Life Is For The Living

My dwelling place
is an assembly
of people on display
held still within such things as:
artwork, rocks,
bookmarks, socks
and, in one delightful instance,
a stuffed goat.

Objects are more than
inanimate things
taking up space,
collecting dust.

When surrounded by items
made or gifted by cherished hands,
linked to a heart big enough
like certain mountains
to summon their own weather,
what other outcome is there
than to feel held by the same tribe
of loved ones that cradle you to sleep,
firm in the knowledge that
life is for the living?

Work worth doing

There ain’t just one way
one catch-all setting
for being “woke.”

There’s a gradient scale
on which we all fall.

It ain’t a matter of
whether we are woke or not woke,
it’s a matter of where we are on the scale.

It’s about knowing no matter where we are,
we will always have further to go
more work to do.

There ain’t no end game
to woke-ness
no end of the line.

How can we possibly think
that in the span of one human being
exists the possibility
of tending to all the important matters
that would benefit us all in transforming?

Understanding, healing, support, and advocacy
are needed for so many threads that comprise
our global landscape:
our homeless population;
those with mental illness;
the health of our environment;
animal cruelty in slaughterhouses;
our LGBTQ+ community;
our BIPOC community;
justice reform;
young single mothers;
inner city youth;
our working class poor;
abuse victims;
those who are differently abled;
those we are sick and suffering;
our elderly population;
those who have the disease of addiction;
refugees in need of a safe place to land;
abandoned and neglected children…

Let us not declare our self “woke.”
Let us not shame others for not being “woke.”
Let us instead lean into the fortitude
of our human family
and focus and commit our own self
to the work we’re called forth to do.

Let us know our work

do our work

and work hard

at work worth doing.

This is me…

This is me not knowing what to write; knowing only enough to know that I should just start clacking away and see what happens; knowing that if I allow my current state of I don’t feel like writing to continue that I’ll suffer more for it.

This is me amid a much longer process of inner recallibration than I would prefer, wishing I could just be onto the next thing already – whatever the thing is – with this clunky awkward exhausting stage behind me as something I could point back to and say I came out better for it in the long-run.

This is me, a usually very decisive, action-based dame, being un-nerved by not knowing what the heck comes next in the book of my life.

This is me being antsy & agitated on my meditation cushion in the mornings  (but at least still sitting); missing my time spent as a hospice volunteer; missing my time spent as a super amateur drummer for a local African dance troupe; missing spending time with my friends; missing gathering people together for the sake of helping to foster the building of community; missing the attending of music shows; missing the places I used to go and realize now I took for granted pre-virus; missing….

This is me wondering if I have what it takes to actualize my husband and I’s shared long-held vision of building a mindfulness practice center here in our much beloved home state of Montana.

This is me wondering if perhaps I could use a long stay at Deer Park Monastery, my home away from home, to help me refuel and re-hydrate and re-balance.

This is me wondering what my future holds, as I step back and away from certain roles I’ve been invested in for a long long time.

This is me wondering what comes next.

This is me, being human.




Poem of Sunday Morning

In honor and ending celebration of National Poetry Month here in the U.S, a poem I penned just this morning:

On Sunday morning,
during a time when pre-covid
I would’ve been gleefully
lounging about intentionally doing nothing,
I took to my vehicular steed
and made my way slowly down
Johnson Street
en route to fetch groceries
ahead of the masses at the market.

Near 7th Ave,
I came upon a bird in the road.
When I drew closer,
the nondescript winged being
turned into a handsome mallard duck,
with green plumage shining
famously in the 7am sun.

I came to a stop,
as he clearly was both
not in a hurry to cross
nor was he bothered in the slightest
by my 4-tired presence.
And for the quick shutter flash
of a hot second, I was bothered
by this obstruction to my
privileged right of way passage.

Then, I thought better
and declared joyously:
“And why shouldn’t I stop
for this grand creature?!
He is on royal parade
and I am fortunate enough
to be his only witness.
Oh happy day,
that I should be afforded
such riches as this sighting!”

Once he was out of my harm’s way,
I carried on to the store,
where I loaded up my cart
with masked face such luxuries as
butternut squash, basil, lasagna noodles,
and a sweet pastry to gift my dear husband
when he woke.

On my way back home,
I thought nothing of the mallard
when passing by the spot
we crossed paths
just 20-minutes before.

Still, he nestled into my heart’s memory,
where I will cherish him
until the end of my blessed days.


Deer Park, Day 13

A bit of impromptu found-item Nicole art at DP

Thursday February 20th, 2020
Day 13

Warm sunbeam sitting
Belly full body rested
Birds singing in praise

Nearing 5am (tearoom)

If we’re not interested in life and in people, there’s little hope and chance for developing the sort of happiness that isn’t dependent on external graspings. If we’re not interested in life; captivated; intrigued, it’ll be a rough go. If we’ve already got it all figured out that life sucks, people are stupid, and the world is doomed, no new information can come in to change our experience. Without interest, we are stuck with our current mental landscape, and the chances are good that it’s pretty brutal in there. Interest, curiosity, openness, and inquiry are all needed in order to grow and transform. Rigidity is a death sentence for making spiritual progress. Rigidity shows itself in the form of standing in our own way.


8:34am (Big Hall)

Lone sitting in the BH. Basking in a sun ray. Savoring, savoring.

This hall creaks and cracks and stirs, if you take notice. Perpetually shifting and settling into itself, just like the rest of us.

My body is doing surprisingly well for having slept part of the night on the hard tile floor of our room with only a sleeping bag for padding and cover. Mike got in late from the kitchen tile repair, around 11 or midnight, as I recall. I had left the bathroom light/fan combo on so as to muffle the sounds of my humming neighbor on the other side of the wall so I could fall asleep. When Mike came in, I woke up just enough to be unable to fall back asleep, on account of someone snoring on the other side of the wall. To remedy the situation and get back to sleep, I figured I had two options: pop into the vacant room next door or lie on our floor with my head as far away from the snorer as possible. Directing my head away from the shared wall wasn’t enough though. I had to situate myself so that my head was practically nested inside the bathroom door with the fan on (which meant the light was also on). It wasn’t ideal but it worked. I’m rather like the princess and the pea when it comes to my sleep environment. I’m a light sleeper and wake easy. Usually, if there’s a hint of light or a small sound, I’m up. Fortunately though, I’m not so princess and the pea that I couldn’t sleep on the tile floor with my head inside a bathroom with the fan running, so there’s that.


12:38pm (roomside)

Before I lay down for my nap, I want to capture this while it’s fresh. My walk from Clarity Hamlet just now, was educational. I experienced in action how effort-filled walking is more taxing and laborious when I focused on how much further I still had to go. I am so incredibly tired and ready to nap and the walk up the steep incline back to my room felt a hundred miles away. Every time I looked ahead at how much further I had to go, I was exerting more mental energy and each step felt heavier and heavier. But when I stopped focusing on the distance left ahead or the steepness of the set of stairs I was traversing; when I simply focused my attention down on the ground, on each step one at a time, the heaviness and fatigue were greatly reduced. It became effortless walking instead of effort-filled walking. I vacillated back and forth between these two for most of the way. Tiredness and weariness weakens my resolve and ability to concentrate my practice energy, so I kept sweeping back into effort-filled walking. But then I would take notice and swing myself back into effortless walking for a spell. By the time I was in the homestretch – the last steep hill to traverse from the Dining Hall to the next tier up where our room is – I was walking as a free person.


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Please Don’t Wait

Please, Don’t Wait

Dearest of friends,
sweet acquaintances,
kind strangers,
people I will never meet or know:
Please, don’t wait.

Don’t wait for the “right” moment
(whatever that flippin means)
to be caring and kind and full of splendor.

Don’t wait for someone to give
you approval for who you are
in this magnificent and heartbreaking world.

Don’t wait for all the stars to align
before you make good on the promise
to live a good life.

Don’t wait to do the thing,
whatever the thing is.

Don’t wait to tell that gal or dude
that you’re wild about them,
even – and especially – if you’ve
been partnered with that gal or dude
for hundreds of years.

Don’t wait to roll up on a crowd
of gathered people and extend your heart,
like an open palm waiting to be filled
with something you never want to let go of.

Don’t wait to move in the direction
of a calling only you can hear and feel.

Don’t wait to start.

Waiting is death
to possibility.

To wait is to die:
tomorrow, next year, decades down the line,
still waiting.

– a poem, penned by me, just now


Home is at once:
where I lay my head to rest each night –
the dwelling place that holds the shelving which holds the books I’ve collected;
the town I am cradled in and the people that I share my breath with
on a regular basis, who all gaze out and see the same mountains I do;
the state my town resides and the landscape, cattle, barbed wire,
and boots on the ground that spread from border to border;
the stomping grounds of my birth and raising,
where I fell down the basement steps in a rolling walker
when I was a baby on Lemon Street and slow danced with boys
at school dances in the gym of Log College Middle School;
and the inner world I carry with me like a snowglobe
and can shake up and make it glitter rain wherever I go.

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From One Poem to Another

This morning, my friend Chris sent me this poem, which inspired me to write my own poem.

To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work headfirst
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


by Nicole Dunn

I want to invest in people
who can keep up with me
or lead the way;
who aren’t intimidated by how I show up;
who don’t feel it necessary to cut me down
in order to make them self feel better;
who have strong backs
and soft hearts, like me.

I want to associate with people
who know what their work is – and do it;
who don’t consider it bad ass that I
ride a motorcycle or play drums like I meant it;
who make it no big deal that I do what I do;
who can grow and shine their own light
and not shrink or shirk away
in the presence of mine.

(NOTE: The “strong backs and soft hearts” is based on a core teaching of Roshi Joan’s “strong back, soft front.”)

New Fridge Day

Yesterday, I watched as two dudes from Best Buy hauled our old 14.2 cubic feet Hotpoint away and replaced it with a shiny new 18 cubic feet Insignia.

The decision to replace our fridge didn’t come easy. My husband and I do not subscribe to the consumeristic driven philosophy of “get a new one even if the old one ain’t broken.” We tend to run a thing until it’s last sputtering breath and even then we hesitate to make new purchases.

Our Hotpoint wasn’t broken down. Sure it was gross from age and could only be cleaned to a certain extent. Sure the door shelves were held on by duct tape. But it worked swimmingly. The thing of it was, the oldness of it meant that it was a menace to society, by which I mean: it was not a good earth-caring citizen. I remember reading years ago that if a household was going to replace a certain large appliance in an effort to make a more eco-minded upgrade, old refrigerators were highest on the list in terms of having advanced in technology to the extent of it being wise to get a new one. So we finally pulled the trigger, after literally years of talking about it.

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My week in poems

Penned this morning: 10/17

It’s safe to fashion poems
about birds in flight
or on perched parade.
It’s safe to cover such topics
as accentuate the earth,
the sky and the uprising of varied landscapes
in their wild glory.
And don’t get me wrong,
I write script about all of these
marvels with great pleasure and frequency.

But I am pressing now in another direction
alongside the birds and sky,
one much less safe and cozy.

One that pushes the envelope,
urging an important inquiry
to form on my lips,
and on the tip of my writing pen
amid the candle flame flickering
in the early morning darkness:
where is the middle ground
between angrily amping up
and letting go in heart heavy defeat?


Penned on 10/16:

Things are changing
and I am no longer interested
in sparing others hard truths
at the expense of my own.

There is a price to pay for silence
when words are what need
to be ushered forward.

There is a toll the body
accrues when niceness
overrides honesty.

Hang on, dear ones.
This is going to be a bumpy ride.


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