Om Mani Padme Hum

As close as coffee is to my waking body, Quan Yin, or Avalokiteśvara, is to my waking spirit. I have a long history with her. As a child I had a friend who would “fly in” from various parts of the world to play with and comfort me. I was chided, punished, and thoroughly teased and humiliated for my “lying” and occasionally humored for my imagination, but I refused to deny my “imaginary ” friend.

Once I was looking through a large encyclopedia like book with a librarian, I was in fourth grade, that is the one detail that is clear, because the teacher who had sent me to the library to “be rid of my nonsense” was Mrs. Coons. I am certain I was being forced to look up and verify some piece of argumentative or informative trivia I had spouted to the class. This was a favorite punishment of mine, I really didn’t care if I was humiliated for being wrong or ignored for having been right, I got to spend an hour in the research section of the library learning and reading.

Going back to that day I have no recollection of what book we were using or what we were looking for actually, but the book was one that required adult supervision, being rife with full color illustrations of nude paintings and sculpture that had newsprint blanks paper-clipped to the page to save our poor impressionable minds from seeing the same parts we all had or saw on others in our living quarters of poverty.  What I do remember is that as my guide through this pitfall packed tome turned one of the newsprint covered pages, I saw her, my friend, perfectly depicted in a watercolor. I was old enough by then to know better but I blurted out, “I know her, that’s my friend!”

“Impossible,” the frustration and disdain in her voice wasn’t even colored with concern, as she slammed the book shut, “she is some mythological creature from Vietnamese culture.” In hindsight her choice of geographical placement was certainly colored by the war America’s sons were fighting. In that outburst, I declared myself a liar and possibly a budding communist and heretic and lost one of my few allies in that school, but I couldn’t help myself, I did know her.

If she had said “Tibet,” or “China,” or “Korea,” I might have found the  name of my friend more quickly, but it would be the 1970’s before I would learn that her name was many but in the form I knew her she was  Kuan Yin and was the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Mahayana Buddhism has been calling me for years, I have read sporadically, meditated, attended events and listened to talks from the other branches of buddhism but certain Dharma is not to be learned without a teacher.  For 2016 I have found a center to study, meditate and learn from those who practice. My best description is that spiritually I can play the instrument of compassion be ear, but I cannot yet read the music.

I am the bard of old who can tell a thousand stories but has not mastered the art of the alphabet so the stories fluctuate with the telling, and he longs to write them down so they can go out and benefit the world.

It was a difficult decision but I had reassurance from the universe that I had made the right decision. I am a great believer in signs and when I first drove up to the Kadampa Clear Light Center a cat (a species not known for welcoming behavior towards me) jumped through my open car door window and settled warm in my lap, and a crow lit on the center roof and cawed at me, in Phoenix, where crows are rare. So yeah, think this is the right place for me to be and I look forward to sharing my adventure this year.

Please feel free to comment with questions, ideas and thoughts on my musings from your own path. Buddhism like the pure light of most spirit paths is the circle that takes in the good. All paths remain of equal validity to me, nor can I trod one that asks other than full respect for all living things.

Listening to “Songs of Kuan Yin” a collection I picked up in 2008 from my much missed record store in Tempe, reading “Transform Your Life” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and “Bodhisattva of Compassion” by John Blofeld.

Feel free to donate as well. I am working slightly less than full-time right now and moving once again means added costs so welcome but not desperate and note on your donation if you want it to be used for medical bills, living expenses, ongoing Random Acts of Kindness, or still gonna make it happen when health allows hike through of the Appalachian Trail.

Mostly, thanks friends for reading, I appreciate truly being seen and heard most of all.

Namaste.

 

I’m around the corner from anything that’s real; across the road from hope

One step closer to knowing.

My second Sunday in a year-long commitment to attending meditations for World Peace at Clear Light Buddhist center, 50 to go before I change my direction again or recommit to this path for another year. And so much of what I have learned in my life is coalescing and today I can truly bless those who have helped me by directly or indirectly, intentionally or through neglect, hated, harmed or abandoned me.

I have been hiding safe, for a while, a small ship on the shore, hoping to make my story someone else’s tale, wanting an easier way out of the river than riding the whitewater to its end.  I was foolish to try being anything else than the adventuring, authentic me, so I have slipped back into the torrent and I am letting the currents carry me this time instead of fighting the floods of change

Today, I am truly grateful today for all the teachers of my life, for my truly public education, the people talking next to, over, around, without and about me in schoolrooms, libraries, churches, synagogues, temples, auditoriums, subway stations, department stores, television screens, corner pubs, restaurants, public parks and private museums; from you I have learned the language of illusion.

I am grateful for all the girls who talked behind my back and the ones who ridiculed me to my face, to the girls who pretended to be my friend to use my homework, or my comb, or just my presence for the day. I am grateful for the boys who called me ugly and the ones who thought me sexy and catcalled and leered, and especially the ones who dated me once, then pretended I didn’t exist. You were some of my best teachers. You taught me to persevere, that all things will pass in time and that every table turns, then turns again.  Just like the solution in one of my favorite Geek movies, you taught me the only way to win the popularity game, was to not play.

I am grateful for my body, for the cut knees and bruised shins, my calloused, clumsy hands that shimmied up trees, my too big feet that pelted all pell mell as I dreamed I was the wind,  and after every fall,  got back up and ran again. The same body that now scarred and age-stiffened sits almost still and breathes, only breathes.

Learning the language of reality.

I am grateful for all I am and all I have.

Today I own every scar, every bill, every illness, every bad choice, you are me as much as the blue eyes, the awards and praise.

And I embrace all of us in clear, pure light.

namaste.

Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine…

I am reading collected Archie comics while listening to Mumford and Sons and realize their album is just too perfect as a lead into today’s blog. Maybe not the composers intended meaning, but look carefully at the lyrics of half the songs on “Sigh No More”, and hey, totally the soundtrack to discuss some radical Zombie literature longing to bite into your imagination. Forget watching Walking Dead reruns, crack open a book and let your brain do the devouring of these unexpected zombies.

First up is the collected “Afterlife with Archie,” replete with all the classic Archie comic’s tropes and conflicts while incorporating a new closeted lesbian couple, the out but not yet completely accepted gay Kevin, a little V.C. Andrews style brotherly love, comments on class conflict and lots of great action, this is artistic and storyline perfection brought to us Eisner winning artist Fransesco Francavilla and Harvey award winner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. Volume one crushes it, volumes 2 and 3 are also available.

My second favorite is a little harder but not impossible to find out of print 2005 Holiday book by Christopher Moore, “The Stupidest Angel.” The humorous and heartwarming tale of terror, like Archie’s apocalypse, begins with a misbegotten act of kindness for a little boy by the same Angel that brought us Moore’s masterpiece “Lamb.” I know, I know, Christmas is dead, it’s January, resurrect it for a moment just for this novel and you won’t regret it.

My third undead recommendation is also the third in the entertaining alternate history, steam punk style Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest. “Dreadnought”, is my favorite book in the series and stands well on its own. Part mystery, we travel with Mercy, a civil war nurse with ties to both sides of the conflict.  If you are a completest start with the Seattle-based “Boneshaker” and just know the story gets better and better. Atypical zombie origins and an impeccable storytelling make these books hard to put down, so maybe you will want to snag the Audible recordings, masterfully narrated by Wil Wheaton and keep the story going on your commute.

My fourth and final book feast is a series you have seen orbiting the science fiction circuit in 2015 due to its recent adaptation by the SyFy channel. “Leviathan” is the fist novel in the Expanse series. Like the Clockwork Century novels, the zombies of James S. A. Corey’s universe are just one cog in an intricate machine of terror, mystery, betrayals and unexpected heroism.

Try any or all of these cold, creepy corpse crawlers this January.  Snuggled up in your bed or favorite chair with a steaming cocoa, a tempting toddy, or a spot of hot, sweet tea, let the dark month of January crowd and scratch outside your windows, after all, they are just stories and you are still safe.

Aren’t you?

 

Sometimes I wonder if I am ever gonna make it home again..

As I mentioned a few days ago, my word for the year is accountable. I like this word and how it is already shaping my responses to things. I like the left-brained rationality of the word. Accounting makes me think of delicious rows of arabic symbols in red and black columned neatly tallied, summed, balanced. Balance is a critical component of accountability, but balance in life is so much harder to find than even the most complicated bookkeeping.

Or is it really. I have chosen to believe that in the past. But suddenly I see this year stretching forward with a clear-cut balance sheet.

What are my assets? 365 days of 24 hour days, each hour replete with 60 minutes made up of 60 seconds each.

And me.

That’s a lot of assets, how will I spend my time and energy?

Things on the debit side always include the Renaissance Faire; this year, no opening day, and two visits at the most. Also I will be stepping down from my position at Phoenix Comicon, totally psyched by the new leadership for Outdoor Programming, (TJ is the Best) and I will still be a support worker, but odds are pretty good my attendance will be minimal or non-existent. Also no new Legos or Build a Bears or Books or Games or other things that cost money, require storage and dusting; much of what I have already accumulated will continue to shed off because each of these purchases represent hours of work first to acquire then to upkeep.

New items I will be investing in include Peace of Mind and World Peace. Yup, I plan to spend time I have freed up to attend training at the Kadampa Center and revitalize a neglected meditation practice.

Lot’s of the “things” that have been my focus in the past will be slipping away as I focus on transforming my life by controlling the only thing I have control over, my mind.

I am full circle, house sitting for the woman who first helped me truly see that I had no control in my life at all. Once again I am homeless for all intents and purposes, I am seriously in debt, both physically and financially overdrawn, and more clearly alone.

Not in the feel  sorry for me, I am so aloooooone way, but in the I am the only one who can face my demons and truly find a new path for myself.

In 2016, I will be the wind, not the balloon.

 

P.S. For the record, yes, Joe and I are over. If you already know why, cool, if you don’t, you probably won’t. Yes, I still have an amazing job, although missing an entire week of work means my level of broke just reached 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.

Will I be OK, sure there are currently no up front co-pays required for my medical care, and I have a new place to live on January 15 and barring another crisis, will have all my move in fees. I will be out of Tempe completely by the 30th. Still kind of eastside, though.

No worries guys, the universe has me in its loving hands, I trust the process, everything will be OK.

I will leave my heart at the door, I won’t say a word

Here goes my annual music augury.

Sort of like doing Tarot with your Ipod or other MP3 player.

I Ask: “Tell me what I need to know?” and then I push random play.

This is what I get:

Cover: “All I Ask” by Adele

So I am single again, and just a few days ago I felt so broken and confused, wondering like so many singers of the blues, what if I never love again? Then the dream of so many years ago came back to me so clearly that the only way to really move forward is to let go of the past I grasp. So yeah, this fits pretty well as a cover.

Cross: “You’ve Got A Friend” by Carol King

I sat still and closed my eyes and let the light fill me and put out to the universe to show me my real friends and my correct direction. And as always my Lady of Compassion heard and answered; a patient friend was there with Miso soup and a listening ear. A trip to the Buddhist Temple brought me a warm greeting from a cat and an unlikely crow and even my first ride on the light rail.

Behind: “Why” by Tracy Chapman

Why are the missiles called peacekeepers when they are aimed to kill?

Why is a woman still not safe when she is in her home?

Love is hate, war is peace, no is yes…..

Somebody’s gotta answer….

So let’s just say this is a pretty perfect song for what’s wrong in my life. One thing 2014 and 2015 have taught me is that love shouldn’t hurt and I have a right to feel safe, respected, cherished and if I don’t feel that where I am, it’s not my responsibility to change them or how they behave, but it is my responsibility and privilege to change my location.

As to world peace, I can’t raise the level of the ocean, but I can warm my little circle and I almost forgot that again. So back to peeing (if you don’t know the story, no worries, I will tell it again I am sure), I mean meditating.

Beneath: “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carol King

So a little musical augury puts my love of love at the root of my situation, passion is my Achilles heel. That is true, so I guess its a good thing that I am embracing a little less pleasure centered approach to living because I won’t, won’t, WON’T be here again.

Above: “Live Here With You” by Dusty Springfield

If wishes were horses, we’d all have a huge feed bill.

Before: “Bye Bye Bye” also Dusty Springfield 

I sure get discouraged, when I think of what a fool I’ve been

Well, yeah, moving on….LOL

Self: “You’ve Got A Friend” in Me by Randy Newman

Well I guess I just need to realize being a toy loved by a child beats being a real superhero.

But doesn’t the universe realize, “I am Mrs. Nesbit!”

“Tell me the hat looked good, I know the apron was a little much, but tell me the hat looked good!”

LOL

I find it pleasantly humorous that as I decide to embrace a year of serious study of the teachings of Buddha and dedicated practice of letting go my illusions and attachments that this song comes up as self.

Maybe, if anyone is interested I could go through the whole amazing analysis of how Woody goes from ego driven love to compassion or how Buzz has a perfect existential crisis.

What?

No one is actually interested in hearing my in depth philosophical treatise on “Toy Story?”

K.

Next.

Family and Friends, Externals: “Back When” by Tim McGraw

So if there ever was a set of lyrics that fit the world I dream of its this song. I want to sip tea on a back porch, have doilies on my chair arms, feel safe and happy in a community of people. Yup, this song is also perfect.

Hopes and Dreams: “Rose Gold” by Pentatonix

Because we are all superstars!

Final Outcome: “Love in the Dark” by Adele

Yeah. Some choices can’t be unchosen and forgiveness is not permission. Some things broken can’t be repaired.

 

So anyway that was kind of fun. Tomorrow I may actually do a post that makes sense.

Namaste.

 

“I only wanted to have fun…learning to fly…Learning to run.

Sometimes a particular album or artist will be so incredibly connected to a time or person I can smell the perfume, taste the first brush of lips, hear my name whispered against the nape of my neck. Other music will transport me to places I haven’t been yet, make me dance, or laugh, or sing along even if I don’t speak the language.

Rare artists sing my heart, speak a pain I can’t name, or shout a love I won’t acknowledge with a voice that would transfix me even if all it made was unintelligible sounds.

Adele is one of those artists. She is modern Dusty Springfield, my twenty-first century Joni Mitchell, with any luck she will become a British Ute Lemper. Her “25” seems customized to close my 2015. My favorite song is “Million Years Ago,” hence the title.

2015 was the seismic after shock and tsunami wave from 2014’s lifequake.  Like any natural disaster there have been soul searing smiles of service and fortune, there have been tears and major losses, and things right now may look pretty shattered but I am still standing.

I survived at time only because my roommate or my friends or family held my head above water when my own arms were too tired to swim.

Just as important to 2015 were the times the universe used me to serve others; my nursing and CPR skills got a complete workout this year(once in the middle of a movie, I still can’t watch Melissa McCarthy, but that’s a story in itself) and I spent time in Washington supporting my sister’s family through Ben and Marilyn’s deaths.

There are also so many highlights and moments of pure joy and laughter.  I had an unforgettable road trip with my friend Cathy, which included meeting an award-winning gastronomical artist and snake closed ghost towns.  In Washington I visited with Debbie Macomber and saw the Yarn Shop. I had HighTea at the Camelback Biltmore, the tea was incredible, the food tasty but there are no adequate words for the tea Sommelier’s level of awesome.

I even fell in love again, unwisely as ever it seems, in 2015. Not as intensely or recklessly as with S in 2014, more like a slow slide into a new comfortable life. I got to believe for a bit that with everything and everyone else shifting away,  at least this time I actually had love and safety.

I regret none of 2015. Considering the physical, mental and emotional toll of my illnesses, bad decisions and betrayals of 2014 I am okay with having survived and learned a little bit more about me and what I can and cannot do or be, but especially who I actually am. My song for 2015 was Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind,”  and I am happier with myself than I was 365 days ago.

But I need to rebuild more lifequake resistent physical, mental and spiritual structures, and that I have not done. I am still a nomad in this world, my financial and physical worlds are just as debris and debt filled as last year this time, and I am in worse shape than ever.

The good news is that my word for 2015 was “Present” and I was present for others, and I still am, in ways I never was before; by making life not about me and being present for you, one word has changed me enough that I can’t wait to see what this year will bring.

My word for 2016 is “Accountable.”  I am holding myself accountable for me, my choices. Now that I have finally learned not to take you personally, I am going to finally learn to take myself seriously.

Namaste and Happy New Year.

 

I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

This is a blog I wish I never had to write, my words are inadequate and my emotions still quite chaotic, because this is a blog about rediscovering my extended family while burying the nephew who connected us.

I am winding up a trip to my older sister’s home in Seattle, actually in Silverdale/mailing address Bremerton. I fly out on Wednesday, 14 days after arriving.

I was picked up at the airport by my neice Janai and taken straight to the funeral home where my nephew Ben and his wife Marilyn lay so very still in matching coffins, pieced back together after ending their lives with a handgun.

Janai is the oldest child. When I think of her I think of strength, courage, and outspoken bravery.  I gave her a book, when she was a girl, called “The Paper Bag Princess” because I knew even then she needed to know it was OK and wonderful to be your own hero. One of my first memories of her is at 3.5 years old I brought her a present with her name spelled wrong which she clearly noticed and quickly corrected. She was strong and bright and already competing for attention and nurture with her adorable baby brother, her parent’s demons, and a one-size-fits-all cultural model of womanhood that,  naturally, didn’t fit.

One of the pronounced injustices in the midst of all the unfairness that surrounds any death, but especially suicide, is the burying of her amazing achievement of becoming a home owner. She had just finished buying her first home and the grand move-in on Saturday Sept 17 occurred not with balloons and food and all her family, but once again, like so many of her amazing achievements, in a rainy day of tears under the shadow of another family members crisis.

The thing is Janai would never say this, because she has that innate ability to not personalize life’s mean tricks, but I saw it, and wanted so badly to have the right words to tell her how proud I was of her. I didn’t have them and instead I bought Taco Time, and discussed my sister and how she was doing, and went to the Funeral home.

I am not good at this, I don’t want to get good at it, but every day I have been here, I wish my gift of words extended to grief and my gift of empathy came with instructions on how to tell someone what I see. But Janai (with an I), if you are reading this, you are my hero. Please know that I do see you, and I think you are wonderful, and no matter how you choose to express yourself, I will still listen and love you. You have slain more than one dragon in your day and here you are again, sword in hand, leading the charge.

Next of those left behind to be hugged was Seth, three years younger than Janai, I remember him best as the impossibly certain child. With a fairly eidectic memory and an imagination to make up the yet to be encountered information, he was “born knowing everything, honest” or so he told me as a young boy full of his own importance. Since I remembered him thusly, I was unprepared for the anguished, hollow man I hugged outside the viewing.  His comportment was a man handsome and sure of himself sans all  juvenile bravado, but the pain in his eyes was puppy like and palpable, and I could tell that the only glue holding his world together right now was his own need to be there for his family and the love he held for his own wife and child.

That was his brother in there, lying still in a coffin by his own choice, the one he fought with, played with and most recently spent way too much money playing Heroclix with; the one he beat at video games and sometimes even lost to, the one he geeked out with, the one he protected, his baby brother.  There were no answers, not even right questions, just pain. I looked in his eyes and knew how I would feel if Diane ever succumbed to her own demons.

And JJ. Brother of another mother, he got my next hug. His was the loss of his other self, the arm he hugged with, the mouth he laughed with, the completion of his thoughts.

Ann, wife of Seth, looking put together on the outside, with her heart bleeding quietly behind her eyes was helping Soren, their eleven year old son, manage this incomprehenssible event while also managing “Mom” and all the friends from the 19th Hole and the Comic shop and high school and, and, and….she was the eye in the storm of crying people.

That was the thing, the goodbye was spread out over a few days and a few venues and those who loved them and wanted to be able to find that one string they could pull in the warp or the weft that would make this all disappear numbered in the hundreds.

All of them asking aloud or in their heads, “How could they have done this? Why did this happen? What if I had…….?”

And the universe only answering with more things to take care of and days to face as we wake to the reality of their death, because these are the questions we ask in any death, in every tragedy and the answer of the universe is always the same.

“This is what happened, now what will you do with your pain?”

But it is too early for any of us to even hear that question yet, let alone try and make an answer, we are still in shock and our ears and hearts are blind, deaf and dumb with the pain.

I had hugged so many people but my feet slowed down as I approached th next part, the hardest part. Watching me some might have thought my hesitation was about seeing the bodies, facing the physical end of denial that any of this was real in the peacefully posed bodies of Marilyn and Ben, but it really was to brace for facing Ben’s parents, my sister and Scott.

We are not meant to outlive our children, no matter how that occurs it is devastating, a hurricane in our lives. To lose both a son and a daughter to the demon of drugs and depression, for Marilyn was a daughter to them,  was an earthquake of epic porportions and the tsunami was yet to arrive.

Diane and Scott looked broken that evening, I had no words, but tried to pull off a little of the pain with my hugs. I haven’t done much these two weeks except be her arm and her driver to go places. My sister is a bit of a miracle having survived brain surgery for a bleeding hemangioma with some memory issues, seizures and headaches as her only long term cost, and like everyone she needs a little help now and then, in her case its just a little more externally present, and with this added pain I think just being here helps keep her a littel safer.

So I have cooked a few meals, done a few batches of dishes, colored a bit with her in coloring books, helped her run errands and visit the graves. Pretty much given the only answer I currently have for the question we must answer in these kind of circumnstances, maybe the only answer there ever is to grief.

I am present. I love you. This sucks.

I may be going home this Wednesday  but my love is still here.

I love you, please don’t leave.