From Blossoms

Prompt: The poem is called "From Blossoms" by Li-Young Lee
Here he is reading it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApMG6YQb6OI

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Photo by Janelle Curlin-Taylor (altered by Kim)

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Flowers

I had an idea that Rich might bring a prompt about flowers. Thinking about flowers, I had a flashback from about 50 years ago. My aunt Reggie, my wife, and I walked by some flowers in Reggie’s garden. She went totally ape over these flowers as she pointed them out to us. She started exclaiming how they were so beautiful ... And she started jumping up and down like gorillas do when they meet a long lost friend. Or when a dog jumps all over her long lost master. I had never seen any human so excited about anything. I am kind of a dead beat and often say to myself, “bah humbug.”

Isn’t that what Ebenezer Scrooge would say in that Dickens' A Christmas Carol?

My grandkids started calling me grandpa no fun, until I adopted the name myself and took the fun out of that.

Reggie's excitement about the flowers was especially poignant because she had experienced a couple of tragedies. Normally our family didn’t do tragedy. Experience tragedies, that is. One of Reggie’s sons turned out to be severely disabled and then Reggie had a surgery that limited the use of one side of her body. And yet she was all there, like a cheerleader, telling that flower how beautiful she was and how much joy that flower had given her. Joy to die for, as the curious expression goes.

I was in a store the other day and the free sample lady gave me some chocolate and said it was to die for. I said that if you died you couldn't taste it. At first she tried to object, but then she looked at me and said, “you're right... It is something to live for.”

I was jealous of how Reggie could get so excited over a flower. Part of me thinks that one thing is just as beautiful as another. I decided one semester in college to photograph the ugliest thing in my life. It was a beige coffee cup from the vending machine in our art building. Finally I started to make beautiful images by cutting it up (which I took as cheating a bit). The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts owns one of the prints. But never did I jump up and down over that not-so-beautiful cup.

My painting teacher at the time, who was a great influence on me, claimed his greatest discovery was that corners pick up dirt. He would get excited about that idea. I never saw him excited over flowers.Though Indian turquoise jewelry tickled his fancy.

This takes me to the sirens that sang so beautifully that they'd lure the sailors into the rocks. Do flowers do that for some? Some find peace in flowers. Reggie, on the other hand, found ecstasy. I don't remember the flowers themselves. But I sure remember Reggie, and marvelled at her enthusiasm for these flowers of hers. Here’s a documentary on Reggie: http://jklabs.net/million.html

P.S. After everyone read their writing about flowers, and two women complaining that their lovers had been so inept at giving them the right flowers, and another saying that she and her girlfriends give each other flowers (because men don’t have a clue?)… I scooted over to Central Market to get my wife flowers… only to find that there was a power outage, and CM said I could come in, but could not buy anything. A week ago my wife had bought herself flowers and pointed them out to me, saying “look at the flowers I got from you.” I had the combined thoughts that I was glad she was getting what she wanted… and a little guilt that I wasn’t the one to get them.

P.P.S. Easy to please a woman? I asked her what kind of flowers she wanted today. She said carnations. But by the time I got to the store this morning, I wasn’t sure what she had said. So when I came home, I told her I couldn’t remember if she had said carnations or what. She said “carnations, but that she didn’t like all carnations.” So I took a picture of the ones “I had bought her last week” that were starting to wilt. She also said there were some other flowers she liked, but she forgot their name.

P.P.P.S. We did an exercise the other day at a Zen temple. We each took three minutes to describe a gift we had received in the past. What was surprising was that it was not the gift that had really touched us, but really it was the connection that had formed with the giver. The gift itself of little consequence in the interaction. What are we really saying when we pick apart the gift?

Kim Mosley

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Childhood Furniture

Prompt: Think of a piece of furniture or an item from your childhood/young years and write about it or let it write about you.

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I was very sickly and confined to the couch.  The couch was large as a house and had many rooms where I could seclude myself.  Sometimes a doctor would visit and listen to my lungs wherein dark waters sloshed.  When I was very still I could feel the tiny waves they made.  The doctor brought the medicine and I breathed it in through a mask while the noisy machine fed me through tubes.  I remained sickly for some time.  My mother vacuumed the carpet everyday while I received my treatment and this sound soothed me, her machine having a conversation with mine.  Presents were delivered to me to make me feel better but I was too weak to open and enjoy them.  When left alone, I retreated into the furthest rooms of the couch.  Where was my father?



There was a place called outside that I could see through the windows, but I was not able to go there.  The green waving things seemed friendly enough, but the light was too bright and harsh, and the dark seemed full of fearful things that I did not want to think about.

The couch was mine alone, unless my father was home, in which case I had to share.  Sometimes he would fall asleep during the day, with a thin quilt pulled all the way over his head.  He looked like a mummy.  I would quietly sneak over to where his head lay and listen to the strange sounds rattling around in his mouth and throat and chest; I imagined the bones of small animals were dancing in there and I worried he might choke.

I grew up into a big man, but I have carried with me the sickly little boy that I was, always providing for him the familiar comfort of a couch with many quiet rooms.  Despite the largeness of my frame and the strength in my limbs, I am still that boy, wondering where my father would go when he was not mummified on the couch, and what were some of the delicious foods served at my mother’s table, and when exactly did I grow up and shed my sickness, and how much of it remains dormant in me still, and what happened to the dark, magic waters that I could hear moving inside me?

Am I perhaps at this very moment asleep and dreaming on the couch, conjuring this world that I inhabit?  Did I slip into one of the moving picture shows on the big black box and forget to find my way back out?  Am I still there on the couch, too weak to raise my arms, delirious with noise and medicine and wanting, imagining that I grew up big and strong and capable of walking on fire without getting burned?

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My couch is big enough for a family and I will make a fine father someday.  All the provisions we need for a good and happy life are right here in the folds and recesses and secret compartments.  I’ve amassed a small fortune in loose change and so we need want for nothing.  We will have a comfortable life.  We will host many wonderful guests.  We will live happily in a cuddle-puddle and no one will be forced to eat broccoli if the smell of it makes them ill.  All will be welcome on our family couch and no one will be turned away for arriving in an unshowered condition.  On our couch there will be room for all beings to find a seat that suits them; all honored and even the dishonored ones will find comfort and ease when their weary rumps come into contact with our cushions.

My couch is your couch.

We’re all couched in this life, together, so don’t be shy—just grab a seat and settle in next to me here.  Pull that lever right there by your feet and see what happens—ha!  I bet you didn’t think a couch could do that!        

—Ryan Stennet

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Ordinary Miracles

Prompt: Ordinary Miracles

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The miracle isn't walking on water, it's walking on the earth.
 — Thich Nhat Hanh

The TV tells me of the miracle
 of modern manufacturing.  I look.
The first one rolls off the line, perfect.
 The second one just like it, the third
is boring, the fourth not a miracle

The sorcerer's apprentice waved
 his master's wand, the broom grew arms,
picked up the bucket and started
 to fill the basin, a miracle.
A second, a third, and so on.
 The miracle turns ordinary.


A miracle by definition isn't repeatable.

These are not miracles.  Now each tomorrow
 is not a day we've ever seen before.
Each person, dog, tree we meet
 is a miracle that will not be repeated.
See that in every person, every rock & tree,
 everyday.  Each a miracle.
Seeing that is a miracle.

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     Eames Rocker

What is style before it is hip,
before it's part of a school, has a name?
When it's affordable, but innovative, before
it's Mid-Century Modern and authentic
vintage competes with authentic reproduction.
I came out of the Eames Studio, built
of fiberglass, rather ordinary metal, two
wooden rockers of solid, commonplace wood.
I sat family, company, small children
two at a time.  Turned over
I was a tank, a submarine, inspiration
for B.C.'s bird riding a turtle.  I've
lost count of how many times
I've been moved, tossed in on top
of a trailerful of clothes, books,
other furniture.  Somewhere along the way,
imperceptibly, the surface coat's worn off,
the wooden rocker cracked and repaired,
the children, one then the other left me
upright, just a chair among adults
without the imagination to turn me
over into a tank, a cave, anything
other than a vintage Eames rocker,
too hip to discard, too fragile to be used,
too far from affordable & innovative, too
worn to be the museum display for
Mid-Century Modern!

— Jeffery Taylor

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Tables

Prompt: A list of types of tables

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     Operating Table

At surgery number four, the anesthesiologist said, "You're almost seventy, we ..."  I thought, "Wait, I just turned sixty-five. What do you mean, almost seventy?"  He continued, "... are going to drop the memory drug."  Oh, I thought it was the chemo messing with my memory.

So they hooked me up and wheeled the gurney down the hall.  This is where my memory usually ended.  The aide elbowed the door switch.  I realized this is why the switch is so far back, a gurney's length, from the door.  The doors opened their funny way, one inward, one outward, and we continued on into the operating room.  He lined the gurney up with the operating table and asked me to move myself onto it.  I'm sure this had happened every operation, but I didn't remember because of the memory or twilight drug.

Lying on the operating table, a memory came back, "I've been here before", but no memory of which surgery it was.

When I was settled, they strapped my arms to swinging leaves of the operating table and swung them out of the way.  Only then did the anesthetist nurse say
they were giving me something and I was out.



     Log Tables

For most science and engineering students in the 70s, two items stayed with you through school: a slide rule and a Chemical Rubber Company book of
Standard Mathematical Tables and Formulae.  Both cost \$30, a significant expense in those days.  The CRC Handbook came with a sheet of gold foil to
emboss your name on the spine.  Log tables were needed for some calculations with logarithms where more precision was needed than you could get out of a
slide rule.  Those and the differential calculus formulas were the sections I used.  As I found my path, I switched from straight electrical engineering to
the computer science option and used them less and less.  Instead I increasingly used The Art of Computer Programming.  When I graduated and moved
from job to job, both sets of books went with me to show I was a real engineer.  Only after retirement did I donate them to the library.  The subject area switch, the advent of affordable calculators, and improved programming libraries had made them superfluous.



     Circular Table

My first jobs were in the Silicon Valley.  Much of our joint eating out was at Chinese restaurants.  Occasionally there were enough of us and we were well
known enough that we were seated at one of the banquet tables. They were big enough for 8--10 people with a lazy susan in the middle so serving platters
didn't have to be passed, just the whole thing turned.  But people were impatient or didn't want what was in front of them.  Serving platters were still passed, jumping ahead or behind in rotation.


— Jeffrey Taylor

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A Happy Birthday / Counting Backwards

Prompts were "A Happy Birthday" by Ted Kooser and "Counting Backwards" by Linda Pastan

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Physics of Acceleration

It’s the physics of acceleration I mind,
the way time speeds up.
But of course to go through that barrier
at the end of life we need
the momentum to carry us through.
Those who don’t, stall without the traction
or momentum to carry them.
Months or years on the cusp, not
a pleasant place to be. Then
comes the slow grind, digging in
deeper and deeper until they find
the solid footing necessary
to push through.


Progress

Ken says, “Oh, that won't happen.”
I ask, “Can you prove it?”
Ken was younger, faster, but prone
to bogging down short of the goal.
Slow is faster if you don't have to stop
or backtrack.


Zanshin—Perfect Finish

I will ride this day down into night
continue the work though
there is not light to read, there
is light tunneling through the thin places.
Just because work/motion is ended
take care not to fall into laziness.
Let your stillness be impeccable.


Watershed Moments

There are watershed moments.
From the other side, seeing back
is difficult. Memory is often
thin, lost, or hazy.
From the pass you see
both and compare. Maybe
decide to return,
the old appears fairer.
Or proceed into the new, simply
because it is new, unknown, unwalked.
From a mountaintop,
you see many watersheds.

—Jeffery Taylor

The Dance of Anger


War

Red star, bright star;
So very near—so very far away.

What life awaits you on the morrow?
          What color are your dreams?

Can you see me now—a reflection

          in your glow?
               a spark amidst your flame?
My light is pale, your urgency brilliant!
     Don't let me lose control,
For my blood is your life.
Within me lies your creation, your destruction.

               What color are your dreams,

Red star, bright star?

—Paul Causey

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In all the 25 years I’ve known Drew, he still surprises me sometimes. When he was instructing me to do writing exercises about my dad, he noted how long he thought I been angry.

I’m not sure that I felt anger as much as confusion, fear, and ultimately frustration. I remember when I saw my first therapist during college—an intern I didn’t have to pay—I remember telling him that I couldn’t remember ever feeling angry, really, truly angry.

I never let myself. It wasn’t “productive.”

Years later, when I saw another therapist, she tried to make me feel okay being angry; she encouraged me to feel the feelings.

I’ve learned that no one can give you permission for that; it has to rise up within you.

It was years even after that that I started to feel angry. My anger is so tinged with sadness—for myself and for the unformed role models who couldn’t take care of themselves, much less me.

And when it came down to it, when my father was dying last year, any anger I had was replaced by intense compassion.

Seeing another human suffering, mentally and physically, as he was erased any inkling of being angry. It was not the time to yell, point fingers, make him understand all the things he did and didn’t do, not the place for scorekeeping or retribution.

My job in those last hours we spent together was simply to be present. There was no room for anger. There was no space for anger. There was no time for anger.

I was overcome with sadness for his state. The frustration with which he grunted and recoiled from the too-salty puréed food and the lack of cooperation from his hands in spooning it were palpable. Unable to endure more, I excused myself from the table. I walked purposefully down the hallways, around three corners to a pair of chairs set in a nook. I watched myself as I had since entering this building, purportedly to help my aunt with my dad’s paperwork.

I’d immediately dashed beyond the door to my father’s room to the common area where Bryan and I organized his paperwork and I covertly read the will I’d been written out of. Then I knew that any interaction that we’d have was pure; it wasn’t because I’d get anything out of it or owe him anything.

I pushed myself to walk by his room again, and I caught a glimpse of white: white hair, pale skin, white blanket, white sheets, beige hospital bed.

The tension in my body was great, but the fear was subsiding. I was in control. I could leave at any moment, whenever it became too much. The parts of myself pushing and gauging my tolerance were keeping me safe.

I told my aunt that I thought I could walk in, could see him, could maybe have a conversation. My uncle announced us when we came in.

Over the hours we spent in the ensuing days, we were physically closer than I could ever remember.

I sat at the foot of his bed. He’d lost so much weight that he didn’t fill it. We didn’t talk a lot. I showed him a video of our dog. He liked the idea that we had a dog. I told him a little about my job. But we didn’t talk about anything important, anything that mattered.

That’s for the best.

My anger is mine to deal with just as the sadness that his anger dissolved into was his.

As I approached the pair of chairs in the hallway, I released the tears that had been building for so long: for myself as a child, for the father I had, and for the one that I didn’t.

—Lori

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The Dance of Anger

A dance is a poem in space
Instead of words—bodies
Instead of rhyme—gesture
Instead of meter—flow

When many bodies join
The Dance of Anger
Their movements become
A "movement"
A movement that can
Bless or curse the world.

Bodies Gestures Flow
Expressions
To call upon The Lord of the Dance
Or to spin mindlessly out of control

The Dance of Anger
Narration with bodies
Tells a story
Too powerful for words.
A vessel for the Spirit
Creation or chaos?

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor

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The Danger of Anger

The dance of anger is
awesome to behold.
If you ask the dancers,
"What are you seeking?"
They will reply, "Justice", but justice
has two faces:
restoration or retribution.
Which you choose leads
to what leads,
you or the anger.

Choose one and you lead,
anger provides the energy.
Lead well and you can
transform an injury
into a partnership,
a force for peace.

Choose the other and anger drives
you deeper where there was already
pain. The Chinese say,
"Before you embark
on a journey of revenge,
dig two graves."

Choose well.

—Jeff Taylor


Sensitivity to Words

One of the major symptoms of the general crisis existent in our world today is our lack of sensitivity to words. We use words as tools. We forget that words are a repository of the spirit. The tragedy of our times is that the vessels of the spirit are broken. We cannot approach the spirit unless we repair the vessels. Reverence for words - an awareness of the wonder of words, of the mystery of words - is an essential prerequisite for prayer. By the word of God the world was created.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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In a class on Buddhism, one of the teachers was a Jōdo Shinshū pastor. He explained that when teaching the children the First Noble Truth, they expressed it as "Life is a bumpy road." Several years later I read that the literal translation of the Pali word dukkha, usually translated as suffering or dissatisfaction is "bad hole," referring to a poorly made cart wheel. What a fascinating metaphor.

Compassion is Latin for "to suffer with," or as Bill Clinton said it, “I feel your pain.”

Coleman Barks, in a recorded reading of his translations of Rumi, told about an English teacher who, on the first day of class, jumped up on his desk and said, "Young men, I love words." I also love words, sometimes for their roots or
original meaning, or sometimes just for their sounds. The German word for auto exhaust tailpipe is auspuff.

In English, a windfall is a tree blown over by the wind, bringing the fruit (and wood) within easy reach. The Japanese equivalent is a duck that walks in the door, a meal that does not have to be hunted down. A great windfall is a duck that walks in the door with a green onion over its shoulder. The most popular way in Japan to cook duck is with green onions.

Spirit in Greek and Hebrew is the same word as breath or wind, and it's feminine. In English, the feminine has been lost from the Divinity.

In India, the Bodhisattva of Compassion is male. In China, it was initially male but soon an existing Chinese female deity (Kwan Yin) was co-opted. Is this a transgendered deity?

Rumi says God's first language is silence; all else is poor translation.

Zen claims to be a teaching beyond scripture and words and has the largest body of written works of any religion.

Words are wonderful, powerful, and at the same time, limited. They must be respected for all three.

—Jeff Taylor

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Sounds of Trees

Can you tell
the species from
the sighs of
the pines, the
rustle of hardwoods?

Does it matter to anyone,
except a botanist,
an academic, the arrogant
know-it-alls?

The poet struggles
to find the words
for what
is wordless.

—Jeff Taylor

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Reverberate the
Ethers
Verifying
Elemental
Respect
Emmitting
Non-Judgement with
Compassion is
Equity exhuberantly expressed.
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Wonderous
Order
Responding to the
Divine with devotion
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Verifiable
Earth-Wear
Syntactic
Symbols
Eliciting
Love
Simply & sanely
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Suprise
Piety
Is
Really
Innocent
Thinking

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In The Beginning

In the beginning was the Word
and I am told the Word was
God/is God.
How is this verifiable? I can observe
that I recover from wounds inflicted
by sticks and stones.
But words can be used to pierce
my very soul, can lead me to the
loss of meaning. And, well there
you are, plowshares bent into
swords, crushing my vessel asunder.

Viktor Frankl wrote words, "Man's
Search for Meaning,"I can use to
guide my return.
To the root of Word which is Love,
As it was in the beginning and
It always will be....
Once the carnage is ended, and
I caringly lift away weighted thoughts
of hate, cease it in all its forms within
myself. My recovery, rediscovery
of the Word may be the revival of a
Loving World without End. Amen.

—Martha Ward

How Does Life Live?

by Kelly O’Brien (For full experience: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/opinion/how-does-life-live.html)

How does life live?
Can girls be robots?
Why is fire called fire?
What is winter?
Why do we have to sleep?
How many dogs are in this world?
Where do ants come from?
Why are some things special?
Why do (don’t?) worms have faces?
Why is (the) sun in my eyes?
Why does everybody not like pink, just black?
What do princesses do?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Do girls have vaginas?
Why do boys cut their hair?
How do you make water?
Why do you like beautiful things so much?
Why do you pick flowers, and then they die?
Are you old, Mom?
Why are the leaves falling down?
Will I have another birthday?
Why doesn’t everybody know me?
What are you talking about?
What’s a conversation?
Why do people laugh at me?
Why is she mean?
Why are you on your phone?!
What happens when I don’t like you, Mom?
What is mean and nice?
What is kind?
Do you love me?
Why are kids small?
Where did you find me when I was a baby?
Why does the heart beat?
Why do my feet sparkle?
What’s bacteria? Does it hurt you?
How does food turn into poo?
How do you be a mermaid, Mom?
Why can’t we see angels?
Can you turn me into a fairy?
Do blue butterflies…eat parts of the sky?
Do worms cry?
Do bugs die?
Why do the birds fly away?
Why are we humans?
Why do we eat animals?
Why do trees just stand there?
Why is it night time when trees when people are awake?
Why does the earth move?
What is atmosphere?
Do (did) God make the ocean?
Where does the sun go?
Why is the world so messy?
Why do we all have cars?
What is a molecule?
What does extinct mean?
What is power?
What is history?
Why are we gonna die?
How do people get killed?
What is fragile?
When did the world even start?
Mom, why are we starting again?
What is history?
How does life live?
HOW DOES LIFE LIVE?!

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PARTS of the SKY

Do Blue Butterflies eat parts of the sky?
One of many endless questions from a young 
Child, seeing the butterflies patterned

Blue on blue.

For me the question conjures up Escher,

The artist/printmaker.
As a child, he was curious how a shape 
is both a space and a whole, each fitting 
within the other. 



Escher repeated a single shape
without overlapping creating
a tessellated puzzle.

Like the Child’s view,

His puzzle defined an endless horizon 

of blue butterflies eating parts of the sky.


What is Fragile?


A breath in, a pause, breath out, pause.
Like a sonata of sensemaking of the
Surrounding small moments, each,
Last for an eternity.

Promises pushing against
one another, like seedhead.
Which will be the first to fall to the earth, slip into a
small crevice, there die a seed, birth a flower,
A flower with its seedhead, pushing against
One another. Which will be the first to fall
to the earth?

—Martha Koock Ward

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Slantwise

What is the secret river?
Do rocks direct us?
Is there ever a stopping?
Do we all travel?
If I follow, is there a place I am going?
The last way, steps lost into canyon, can it be found?
When the mist swirls on the side of the cliff, is that it?
Is there any way to go on?

Sarah Webb

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What is kind? What is fragile?

Kind, separate from nice, recognizes our common fragility.

Kind wraps us in a soft understanding, a willingness to listen.

A desire to quiet our own minds to hear what's on someone else's

A sharing of a load, a burden, time

A slowing down until you can feel what it's like to be that other person

Heart beating, breath breathing

What it's like to be yourself

—Lori

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Why

I can't figure out why it has taken me 70 years to figure out how insufficient our answers and explanations really are. Kids ask why and they are curious. And then they go to school and are given answers. I read the other day that the only facts are in our minds. But they don't tell us that in school, did they? We are fed answers sufficient to quell our curiosity.

An exception to this was when I had a color theory class where the teacher wouldn't tell us stuff. He'd grunt or shrug his shoulders when we'd ask him a question. He’d ask us to look harder and to find out on our own. He opened us up to the exploration of color, reminding me what Matisse once said, “I’ve spent all my life playing with color.”

What is a kid asking for when they ask why? Do they want to know the answer, or are they just saying, “Look at this…isn’t it awesome?”?

There a joke in my family that I ask a lot of questions, and worse, I expect answers. And not grey answers like my color theory teacher would say or not say, but black and white answers. When my aunt Reggie was a beginning psychotherapist, she'd give me answers…just the kind I thought I wanted. So when I’d ask something of my sister, a psychoanalyst, she would always answer, “Ask Reggie.” Unfortunately, when Reggie became old and wise, her answers became less binary and much more confusing…and rich.

So what should we do with kids questions? What can we do to encourage their curiosity even more?

William Blake wrote "never seek to tell thy love... Love that never told can be. For the gentle wind does move. Silently Invisibly" That seems about another form of answers. Think of when someone asked you if you love them. Isn't it always when the relationship is dissolving? So they need to clarify. They need to make an experience into a fact. And from there it goes downhill. Silently. Invisibly.

My grandson asked me the other day, holding up a piece of parsley at his school’s Seder lunch, “Who made this?” Unfortunately, I gave him an answer. I could kick myself. There are so many questions I could have asked him, like who does he think made it, or why was he asking the question, or what else in the world is he curious about who made it, or how might he find out who made it. I was not curious about his curiosity and for that I failed him. Maybe next time I can do better.

Kim Mosley

Memories

The severity that can be present in Zen is so opposite of my temperament, but since it
was the first meditation experience offered to me (by my friend Flying Clouds when I
was 18) and since I never forgot it (though it was one of the most wretched 30 minute
periods I ever spent), I knew I would return, and thus came back again 20 years ago.
Maybe I knew it might give me something I might not gain otherwise. I love the utter
simplicity of Zen, its essential nature, the invitation to “just sit”, and go deep inside.
Often the best scientific theories are the ones which explain the facts with the greatest
economy and simplicity. Zen is like that: no frills, no labyrinths of explanation, only bare
experience and the ability to watch it quietly. For someone like me, so ruled by moods
and emotions, it is such a gift to deep below the ocean, or into the limitless Big Sky,
where emotions just float away, and everything changes except the light, or the water,
the fundamental mediums of existence.

As a child, I knew that light spoke of the Absolute for me. And all of my life, I have
dreamed of water- springs, brooks, turquoise seas, hot pools carved in the stone. I
remember Flying Clouds telling me a dream about the time she taught me to do Zazen.
She was in a stone church, very simple, and she went to the side of one of the
foundations. There was a trickle of water there, and she started to dig in the sandy
ground with her hands. As she dug, beautiful clear springs began to come into the
church, and she was filled with joy. It was her dream, but she gifted me its image, which
has stayed with me always.

I remember my childhood in the Hill Country, the dark cold house so full of anger and
sadness, where mice got eaten by snakes coming up through the jagged floorboards,
where hope could die if left there long enough.

But I also remember the outdoors, the massive live oak trees with gnarled roots, the
pungent tang of the juniper and its red bark strips which birds used to weave little nests.
I remember the scent of chinaberry, honeysuckle, old roses, and lilacs, left behind by
the old settlers who came before us. I remember the brilliant light that lit up the fields
and turned the grasses to shades of gold and copper. I remember the circular swimming
hold down by the old bridge, shaded but with rays of sunlight hitting green water, the
schools of minnows and little mud catfish, the golden enclosure of the limestone. I
remember how the water in the brook was clear and babbled over the flat limestone and
sparkled in the sun. I vaguely remember bog plants, sedges and little white flowers, wild
onions with their pungent scent, tiny pokey little rain frogs that could be caught in the
boggy areas. And sometimes fat velvety little tadpoles in the water.

I remember playing with my brothers, not really together, just in quiet company- rather
like in the Zendo. We were deeply connected, but also deeply solitary, few words
spoken, but together in our immersion in this beautiful sylvan world.

Nature always had its dark side, however. The black snakes in the limestone crevices,
the carcasses, the half eaten frogs left by a predator, the crushing droughts that killed
the flowers and dried up the creeks to isolated, sad, scum-filled little waterholes and
trapped minnows. It was all there, but if one could float and accept, the world held us
and brought a sense of life going on. Not necessarily a single life, but life in the all of it.
We might not continue, individual frogs and fish might not continue, but life itself in
some way would continue.

—Elayne Lansford

The Prize

“I have a tape of a Tibetan nun singing a mantra of compassion over and over for an hour, eight words over and over, and every line feels different, feels cared about, and experienced as she is singing. You never once have the sense that she is glancing down at her watch, thinking, “Jesus Christ, it’s only been 15 minutes.” Forty-five minutes later she is still singing each line distinctly, word by word, until the last word is sung.

Mostly things are not that way, that simple and pure, with so much focus given to each syllable of life as life sings itself. But that kind of attention is the prize.”

-Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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The Prize

“That kind of attention is the prize.”
What is the competition?
How many prizes are given out?
What if the struggle is not
against another, against nature,
against scarcity, real or imagined.

If the struggle is against ourself,
there is enough
for everyone.


Michelangelo or some other sculptor claimed
not to create anything but merely
to remove the stone surrounding, revealing
what was already there all along.
The nun has removed, discarded,
chipped away all distraction
until all that remains is
pure, simple attention.


There is time enough to do
what needs to be done.
Do not hurry, but
there is no time to waste.


Reciprocation

“Mostly things are not that way,
that simple and pure, with
so much focus given to
each syllable of life as life sings itself.”

Or maybe it is
giving each syllable of life
that much focus unwraps
a life simple and pure.


Taizé at Mercy Chapel

Taizé at Mercy Chapel—
there are instruments
to set the pitch, nothing more.
We sing four lines, maybe eight,
over and over. Time loses
its significance, the small orchestra
invisible beneath the press of voices, hundreds strong.

We sing, more than once,
less than many, no matter.
We sing until our voices warm,
are held, entranced
by songs, words repeating, forgotten,
still sung, it's the song that lifts,
not the words.

—Jeffery Taylor

Let It Go

Prompt: Let It Go by Danna Faulds

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The sadness and grief have hardened me; 
the laughter and love soften me. 
The space between them is empty, 
ready to accept the next fleeting moment, 
to hold it briefly, 
and be forever changed.

—Lori H.

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Riding the Wave's Crest

To ride the wave,
you must catch it,
paddle or swim hard,
match direction and speed
to arrive in style.

Or wash up on the beach.

—Jeffery Taylor

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Invaders


Bunches of small pink bunnies beat
Their drums, relentlessly, wrecking
The wall of my R.E.M, bringing me
Crashing into awake.

The search for the long sought lands
Of somnambulant Shangri-La foiled, again.
How am I to attract Delta & Theta into
The labyrinth of my greying matter
With all that racket being made?

The government has invaded me, too!
Launching drones of Daylight Savings Time
Obliterating legions of sleepy eyed Sandmen,
Who are armed only with buckets of dreams.
Each stumbling, defenseless, against
The glare of the blazing sun.

Wailing Smart Phones and iPad screens scream
“Wake Up! You are Missing SOME THING!”

—Martha Ward

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It takes so much energy for me to not let it go, yet I hold on with dear life, as the expression goes. It has a life of its own. It could be the pristine surface of a new car. It could be my ability to climb walls when I was 20. It could be any number of things that went away on their own. The scroll in the zendo tells me that everything changes. Holding on tight doesn't really keep things from changing. It just prolongs that change a little.

I had to meet her dad to take her to the prom. He didn't want to let go. How I would love to meet him now, learning that 50 years ago he may have been the primary person responsible for splitting the atom at the University of Chicago. But then it was just a dad who couldn't let his daughter go. And now she may still be held tight by her dad, long ago deceased, who won't let her go.

I was thinking about letting go of my stories. Which one should I start with? How about the one that I can do anything by myself. That's a joke. So many tools were given to me that enabled my survival and my happiness. People for thousands of years worked their tails off so I could type on this ipad. And so many people went way beyond the call of duty to nudge me on. So I'll let go of my thought of being self-reliant. 

I could let go of my story that I'm any better than I am. When I goofed up today and forgot to give the chant card to the head student, I was embarrassed. Someone might have noticed that I wasn't as good as I wanted them to believe. I screwed up, as I do most days in one way or another. Major screw up ;). Yet if I let go of me being any better than I am, then I would just look at my major screw up as indicating I'm just a beginner.

I could let go of the fact that I know anything at all. In ancient China, if you said you've seen a painting, that would mean you could replicate it from memory. So what have I seen, even of my own work?

Let go of friendships too? Why do we think that friendships are forever? Maybe some are, but others change or die. Is that ok? It doesn't matter. Everything changes, right?

I read yesterday that both men and women speak an average of 16,000 words a day. I wonder if I should let go of the idea that I said anything other than to express a lot of confusion. How many of those words were needed? How much more would I have learned if I had shut my mouth and listened? I must let go of the idea that I have something to say. And maybe convert that energy into having something to hear...or even just to be.

When my father was dying he was very brave, yet he had a lot of trouble going to the other side. My sister was yelling at him over the phone, telling him he didn't need to hang on—that he could let go now. It was as if he was holding onto a rope holding himself hanging from a branch on a cliff. He couldn't let go, even knowing that he also could not hold on.

I realized last night that holding on is much harder than letting go. Maybe I think I'm a loser if I don't hold on tight, even if it does little good. What can I let go of next? How long can I hold the rope, anyway?

Kim Mosley

Connections

“And in the case of superior things like stars, we discover a kind of unity in separation. The higher we rise on the scale of being, the easier it is to discern a connection even among things separated by vast distances.”
― Marcus Aurelius,
Dem Bones

Toe bone connected to the foot bone
Foot bone connected to the heel bone
Heel bone connected to the ankle bone
Ankle bone connected to the shin bone
Shin bone connected to the knee bone
Knee bone connected to the thigh bone
Thigh bone connected to the hip bone
Hip bone connected to the back bone
Back bone connected to the shoulder bone
Shoulder bone connected to the neck bone
Neck bone connected to the head bone--
Now hear the word of the Lord.

We read the quote and the song, both about connections, and then we went outside for a thought experiment, which was

Sit as long as you need outside, noticing how things are connected. You may write as you look or you may look and then write.

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I listened to a dharma talk last week about emptiness by Norman Fisher: Prajna Paramita. He spoke about how we and the objects around us are empty of an essence. We can call a chair a chair all we want, but all that it is, for the time being, is some apparent collection of impermanent objects that will support us, should we want to sit on it. And what is an object, either from a Buddhist or modern physics perspective? Is there really anything there?

He said that “we only exist in relation.” So my face exists only as a conceptual relationship of its elements (nose, eyes, skin, etc.). And my body exists as a name for an another assortment of elements. We exist in our minds as we relate to one another.

There is something there in the way we are connected. I wondered, when I went outside and looked around, how I had not noticed that "everything is connected" is not a theory, but rather an observation. The sidewalk is connected to the ground that is connected to the bamboo that rises up into the sky, touching the clouds that are touching the moon. So how many things are there if they are all interconnected? And is the past, present, and future connected in the same way?

We do not create this connection in our minds. Rather, these things that surround us are touching each other. We touch each other, either on a friendly day or a mean day. We don't like all our connections. But, like it or not, they are connections which are special and very real.

I didn't like the role I was playing in my dreams. Who makes up these dreams? I asked. And why am I the same person in my dreams? How am I connected to that stranger who lurks in my consciousness?

My grandson, age four, has been telling his mom his dreams. In the dreams where his mom has a role, he asks his mom in the morning how the dream was for her, believing wholeheartedly that his mom must have had the same dream as he, since she was a participant.

I had an art teacher who would tell us that all space was variation of densities. This really challenges the idea of separate objects. Another art teacher would tell us that there are no lines, only edges. The way our language structures reality, for things to be connected, they need to be separate. We don’t say that an apple is connected to itself. But it is connected to its stem, as it is to the hand that holds it. We look at our fingers. Yes, we have ten little Indians... But where do they stop and our palms start? Are they separate?

Giving seems pretty goofy sometimes. We give as if we are separate. But if we truly separate, we would have no need for one another. We get satisfied when our friends have their wishes fulfilled. We get disappointed when our friends are lacking in what they need. But in the sense they are our friends, like our fingers, we are, in the end, one and the same. And some believe that the divine permeates it all.

This morning I would like to talk about prajna paramita. The perfect wisdom the Buddha opened up to on this morning. As we were saying, wisdom means the wisdom of emptiness. Completely seeing and truly knowing that all dharmas are empty. So let’s see if we can investigate a little what this actually means. So when you hear the word empty it might give you a sinking feeling. Maybe the word sounds a little bit chilling. Maybe it gives you this creepy feeling that nothing actually exists. That everything is an illusion. Could that really be what emptiness means? Well, yes, sort of. Everything is an illusion. Nothing exists in the way we think it does. As a fixed entity with its own being. And when you study the emptiness teachings, that is exactly what they say. What are things empty of? They are empty of any own being. So nothing has its own being. Everything depends on everything else for its being. You depend on everyone and everything for your being. Without other beings, clearly, you are not here. Your parents for a start… And everyone else who feeds you and takes care of you every single day. The sun, the earth, the air. You completely are dependent on everything. All by yourself there is no you. And you have no being of your own. None at all. You only exist in relation. What happens when you really understand this point. You feel grateful. Of course you do. Gratefulness is the feeling of emptiness. Every minute. Thank you, thank you for this life. So this is what emptiness is. There is no you alone, only you in relation. It means if you look for yourself closely you will not find yourself. The more you look the more you’ll find there is nothing there. And this is definitely the case. If you look for your face you will not find your face. You’ll find nose, eyes, cheeks, eyebrows, skin, and so on, but no face. It turns out the face is empty of anything other than the word face, a concept upon which we put some feeling. And it is empty of anything of the various parts that we put a word on and say face. But then if you look for the nose and the eyes the same thing happens. It turns out that words such as nose and eyes are just concepts.

—Norman Fisher

Kim Mosley

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A Conversation About Dreams


The talk turns to dreams.
Kim says his grandson dreamed his mother
was walking with him.
When the boy woke, he asked her,
Did you see the mouse? What did you think?

We are so alone in dreams, says Sarah L.
My children sleep and they cry out.
I don't know what trouble they are facing
and I can't go in and help them.

Yes, I think, for the child in the dream,
the running is real.
A chasm opens in front of her
as monkey creatures scrabble at her legs.
A monster steps heavy through the night,
his breath closer and closer.

Maybe a friend is there in the dream,
standing beside her, or a mother,
but the child is the one who decides.
She must run away—and she does,
thrashing in her sheets.
She must lift the sword heavy in her hand.
We learn to be heroes this way,
turning, lifting the sword.

Sarah Webb

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Connected

part of each other:
—the left shoelace is the same lace as the right shoelace
—branches slant and twist, each in its own way, all of it oak

reaching each other:
—the walkway flows into the sidewalk, which flows into the street, which flows into the cross street east, which flows to Lamar and on to the world of roads
—water splashes down into stones

the same as each other:
—leaves scatter over limestone and cactus and gravel
—our minds know the night garden

in a pattern with each other:
—twigs fork from the branches, branches from the oak
—stones in the pavement, large and small
—our bodies and our pens

mingling:
—rotting leaf and dirt and cactus root and the little animals of the mulch
—porch lights and streetlights and car lights, lights on the oak, on the Buddha, Christmas lights

uniting:
—left hand and right hand press each other in gassho
—we read each other what we have written and laugh

coming out of the same underlying force:
—all of us, all of everything
—the ache in my heart says, apart, apart, one and apart

Sarah Webb

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The Water That Connects

Metal bowl setting on a bed of rocks.
No, they're connected by flowing water.
They are a fountain of metal and stone.
The pump that drives the connection
is connected to the city power grid,
that's connected to the wind generators out west
driven by the subtropical jet stream
coming off the Pacific.

The stone Buddha watching over the fountain's
connected to the historical Buddha
2500 years ago, half way round
the world.  It's all connected,
the farther you go, the farther ago.
The 2 million light-year away
Andromeda galaxy is showing
its 2 million years younger self
in our night sky.

—Jeffrey Taylor

Do Something New


The assignment was “Do something new.” l tried to sign up for piano lessons—free as part of a research project at University of Texas... but I'm sure they will reject me because I was honest in the application, saying stuff like I have an information processing disorder, attention deficit disorder, was not one who listened to music and didn't do a lot more stuff. I'm sure I'll end up to be a reject even after meeting the requirements of wearing a hearing aid and being over 50.

And then there is the thing of assignments. Ugh. I hate assignments. When am I going to do assignments? I wasn't going to be busy when I retired. I was going to just roll out of bed and wonder what I should do.

Trump said that the government could only add a program if it eliminated two. I eliminate one program and add two.

The assignment was “Don't read pages 98–102 in the biography on Gandhi,” but I read the pages anyway—and as a 12-year-old, I was rewarded with some juicy details about Gandhi's mental wanderings.

About an hour ago, I panicked a little. I had pangs of guilt—deep dirty guilt.  I had made up this assignment and then not done it. Thankfully, I then I remembered that I did do something new this week. Something that I'm ashamed about, but I'll share it anyway.

I'm a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. But I've lost my status (temporarily) because I've gained ten pounds since a year or two ago. I think I might have cheated to get the lifetime certificate... which was a charm for a charm bracelet and a postcard (above) from one of the leaders. I wore a lot of heavy clothes when I first weighed in and then lost a few pounds. I say I might have cheated, because now I don't remember whether it mattered what I weighed in the beginning. It is getting down to your ideal weight that is the goal. And now I’ve learned that getting there is not the goal—that staying there is.

In any case, I'm back now, recording everything I eat and trying to stick to 26 points a day, which is what worked for me before.

I think they suggest not weighing yourself every day. So, taking “not weighing” as the assignment, I did the opposite, compulsively weighing myself each morning and logging it on my iTrackBites app. One day I'd behave myself and gain weight, and the next day I'd eat bbq chicken and lose weight. So what I did new was to eat more than 26 points since there appeared to be an inverse relationship between how much I ate and the weight I gained. I did that for a few days and got completely satiated, and, unfortunately, gained a few more pounds.

Whoever wrote that book Calories Don't Count was from another planet—a skinny one at that.

Today I was pretty hungry around lunch time and didn't have any food around. I stopped by Natural Grocers and bought a package of four muffins that looked pretty innocent. In the past I would count them as two pointers. This time I made the dumb mistake of scanning the barcode to reveal the truth. I thought to myself that this was ridiculous to waste my time scanning because the muffins seemed to be made by some Ma and Pa organization. But no, I was wrong. A muffin turned out to be an eight pointer! I had only eaten half, and saw that a portion was half a muffin, at four points. Any reasonable person with a little self control would have stored the other half for a rainy day. But, no, I felt guilty for misrepresenting the muffin in the past and ate it all.

So I had three left. I stopped by a friend's house and gave her one. Did I tell her it was an eight pointer? No. Did I feel guilty because I didn’t? Yes. But if I had, it would have ruined the idea of a tasty gift.

And besides, you don't gain weight from one muffin, do you?

Something new? Well, I also decided that whenever we do the same old in a new way, that's something new. And maybe it is more new than the unchartered waters of newness.

Kim Mosley

P.S. Just received this piano class rejection (I’m sure this rejection was a gift from Heaven):

Hi Kim,

Thank you for filling out our project questionnaire! Unfortunately, you do not meet the qualifying criteria for our study. If you would like for us to keep your information for any future studies, please let us know.

Sincerely,

XO