Monday, January 31, 2005

Nothing Special

"Endless Day" May River 1994

f you continue this simple practice everyday,
you will obtain some wonderful power.
Before you attain it, it is something wonderful,
but after you attain it, it is nothing special.

... So to be a human being is to be a Buddha.
Buddha nature is just
another name for human nature,
our true human nature.

Thus even though you do not do anything,
you are actually doing something.

You are expressing yourself.

You are expressing your true nature.

Your eyes will express;
your voice will express;
your demeanor will express.

The most important thing is
to express your true nature
in the simplest, most adequate way
and to appreciate it
in the smallest existence ..."

"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" - Shunryu Suzuki

Thursday, January 27, 2005

What I Really Want To Do

1. Spend a month rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

2. Design and build a log cabin in the North Carolina Mountains.

3. Finish the stupid novel I’ve been writing forever!

4. Sing a duet with Joan Baez.

5. Spend a month in silence at a retreat.

6. Navigate the Inter- coastal waterway.

7. Hike the Appalachian Trail.

8. Spend some time in Ireland and see all of Europe.

9. Publish a book of my poetry and photography.

10. Learn to be younger as I get older.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Rachmaninoff’s Opus, 34 #14

In Graceful Presence (writers Meredith and Akilesh) Meredith writes on Light and Love and has this to say regarding the natural rhythms and relationships that quietly exist and surround us:

"There is not a time or season that light does not pour gently upon us. However, we are in an intimate and constant relationship between lightness and dark. Light illuminates dark, yet retains relationship with dark. Natures cycles, from night to day, from womb to birth, sorrow to joy, winter to spring light is always in relation in a dual nature with dark. In this, the sad/joyful heart, and again, love."

These are beautiful, reassuring words and they put me at ease with the very reading of them. It is only when we forget the great truth found in the natural relationship between light and darkness, and the forces within each of us that we become confused and thrown off- center.

Trevor writes in The Sound of Diesel Musing of waiting for perfection and that there is no more perfect moment than this very moment right now- no matter what the circumstances:

"See, I believe that physical existence/life is to be embraced, created, and lived, not overcome....I believe this world is of Divine Order - we are here for a reason: to experience life with all its pains, joys, sensations, relationships, and apparent tangledness. Life is for the living."

Both Merideth's and Trevor's thoughts have been lingering in my head for the time being and started me to think about something I've been wanting to write on (how seasons collide, lives collide- and yet, we continue on with the pleasure and the pain of existence.) This morning, while listening to Rachmaninoff's Opus, 34 #14 it all came together for me in a poem.

The words of Meredith and Trevor, the aching of the violin strings, the warm weather we were enjoying here that has disappeared with a cold snap, and thoughts on what we can hold on to and what can never be defined...all found a home in my thoughts and formed these words. Thanks M & T for your words and thoughts....

Winters Reemergence
Graying clouds are surrendering
yet, the damage has been done.
Even the crocus and ixia are mystified,
how can I lie
saying I am otherwise?

Vibrato string,
you too know of the
false hope in Winter,
how seasons are lulled,
how love springs from a petrified heart
and is nurtured,
tenderly cajoled into blooming-
Oh, sweet music of the soul,
you know
sing me this
song out of time.

Cold comes the morning,
icy fingers gather in,
there are no sighs in defeat,
the crocus could not stand
such a selfish kiss,
the green fades to loam-
this yearning aberrant
for understanding,
for empathy,
for being
other than
as I am,
as you are,
as all must be.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fear and The Creative Process

This morning my thoughts are on Marianne William's words regarding fear and our true identity.

I'm learning to step back and observe my fear of the writing and creative process. I know that when we are doing what we are meant to do with our talents we feel light as air and all things come together in Divine Order. I also trust that even when the creative juices aren't flowing and when I get in the way of the creative process that this too is all a part of Divine Order.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous...

Actually, who are we not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us: It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."

Marianne Williams

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Holly Haiku

Holly Tree by River's Edge

Holly Haiku

Evergreen's red eye
Perpetual spirit bloom
Laughs at winter's wound.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Thank You

I am a slow learner. Just when I think I can sufficiently rise above certain thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes I am almost invariably confronted with a circumstance that teaches me…. “the lesson continues- different day, same chapter and verse.”

I believe all souls have one life lesson to learn, which we asked to learn before entering our earthly bodies. I believe I know what my life lesson is. Patience. I’m not the most patient person you’ve ever come across. I have my moments…but, I lose my patience at the most inopportune times and under the quirkiest of situations…and I know better. Our spiritual leader at Unity Church says if we can think of people or circumstances that push our buttons we know two things: we have buttons that can be pushed and that we are students of those people and circumstances- the button pushers are the Master (the teacher will appear when the student is ready.)

So, here’s to my teachers- my Masters in disguise…I recognize you and honor you.

Thank you, my dear son- all of 10 years old for teaching me patience in the light of your perfect being. Messy rooms, sloppy hair, moments your actions seem to make me late out the door in the mornings and to karate and Cub scout practice….you too are learning and growing. I cannot totally control your actions…only my reactions. In eight years you will be gone to collage. How trivial these things are in the scheme of it all. Thank you for teaching me the lessons of patience.

Thank you, dear wife- my companion of 15 wonderful Christmases and 11 years of marriage. When your actions don’t meet with my expectations, when your words sometimes leave me utterly confused, when your spiritual pathway is found on the flipside of my spiritual map - I know you still love me unconditionally. I want you by my side when we’re both in our 70’s, relaxing on the front porch listening to Led Zeppelin and RUSH with the grandkids. Thank you for being strong in the face of life, for being my friend and for teaching me the lessons of patience.

Thank you family and friends. For the moments of downright complete befuddlement when I fail to understand that you too are going about learning life’s lessons as best you can. Thank you for your love and for accommodating my selfish ways. It really is all about family and friends. I do love you and I am learning that what I think is important for you isn’t necessarily correct. Thank you for teaching me patience and how to love more openly and in broader terms of endearment.

Thank you bumper to bumper traffic, both to and from work, and all you people who just can’t drive. Thank you for teaching me that the highway department is never going to get around to building TOMMY’S LANE and that I just need to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Thank you Weezer and Mr. Frodo, two cats that have it all. For your waking me up in the night with either calls for food or the outdoors or with the retching sound of hairballs regurgitating onto my ivory carpet. Your warmth, affections and complete devotion to us are enough to warrant your odd and often annoying behavior. Thank you for teaching me to take a deep breath, exhale…and remember the lesson of patience you are teaching.

Thank you clients that call and ask for the seemingly impossible. Thank you for teaching me it’s all in the follow-up and keeping with the attitude that “the impossible just takes a little while longer to accomplish.”

Thank you dial-up modem and hopelessly obsolete HP computer for showing me that …well, I’m working on this one.

In the words of Alanis Morissette:

“thank you India
thank you providence
thank you disillusionment
thank you nothingness
thank you clarity
thank you, thank you silence...

the moment I let go of it was the moment
I got more than I could handle
the moment I jumped off of it
was the moment I touched down.”

Monday, January 17, 2005

I Have A Dream

Photograph by Flip Schulke/Corbis
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring." And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California! But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee! Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,
"Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

ON PEACE (1964)
"Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Choosing That Which We Seek

A close friend emailed last night with news that his younger brother is being deployed to Iraq soon. In March of 02, before the Iraqi war started my friend and me took part in the peace marches held in Atlanta. I was a vocal critic against the war even advocating civil disobedience in an attempt to stop the rush to war. Now, I struggle with the reality of US policy and my conviction that all things are in Divine Order. I haven’t spoken out against the war for some time. Part of the reason is my 10 year old son’s best friend.

His father is a Lt. Col. in the Marines and is an engineer of the Marine’s recruitment efforts throughout much of the country. I consider this person a friend and our two families interact most everyday through school drop- offs and activities, karate practice, Cub scouts, sleep- overs, and cookouts. We never talk about the war although he knows I stand against it and why. While watching Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 911” and the two Marine’s efforts to enlist recruits I realized that no matter how much I detest such methods- my friend makes his living, pays his bills, takes care of his family and saves for his retirement by how well staffed the Marines are.

I still hold to the notion the war is wrong, that we rushed to war ill prepared and that young men and women, brave soldiers whom I hold the up most respect for and support 100 percent, are dying needlessly… and innocent Iraqi civilians are dying needlessly. All of this could have all been avoided….but, it wasn’t.

Where does this leave me now? How do I reconcile my detest for this and all war and violence; my desire to speak out against such atrocities, and my belief that there is a reason for everything and that Divine Order ultimately will be made clear?

For now I let the questions-be. I hold Peace, reconciliation, and non- judgment as best I can in my thoughts. Perhaps one day there will be answers for us all. I know there is the possibility that there may never be one equally acceptable answer suitable for all. I know that I must be the Peace that I seek- and that should we all choose Peace in our hearts, there will be no more wars.

Right now, I choose to be that which I seek. I hope my dear friend and his brother choose Peace in their hearts as well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Making Sense

May River Inlet 1994

My wife and me spent New Year’s Day with my brother (in-law) Buford Lost in Real Life canoeing the shoals at Landsford canal on the Catawba river in upstate South Carolina. Buford is an avid photographer and writer who defines himself best in clarity when he’s in nature and the outdoors either paddling on water or camping. Buford’s not a ‘team player’. He tends to steer his own distinct course in this world unafraid of what others may think. I like this about him. I rediscovered my love of photography from his stunning camera- eye and his ability to capture his world clearly and in such natural beauty. He’s the brother I never had and he teaches me things through our multi-layered conversations and his poetry, through his love of white-water and calm water paddling, and his graceful use of the camera.

Our conversation on New Year’s Day turned to the nature of photography as we both snapped pictures on the banks of his little island getaway in the middle of the Catawba. We both remarked how it sometimes takes snapping 20-30 pictures to uncover the one or two that are the treasures- the ones that speak of what we see when we lose ourselves looking through the camera-eye.

Through photography and writing I’m learning it’s easier to make sense of this world by not confronting life’s challenges and questions directly but through bypassing the head-on brick walls of “why?” and taking the side roads of the creative process that ultimately lead to answers I can live with. I’d much rather spend an afternoon writing, paddling, or taking pictures when I’m frustrated or disillusioned than curse the darkness of my confusion. This meandering and almost deserted pathway is much more scenic and blissful than the clogged thoroughfares of ‘massive rationalization.’

Sometimes we take a picture and when it’s developed we wonder what inspired us to capture this image in the first place…it makes no sense to us. Then, along some distant future we come across the photograph again and for the very first time, it makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Everywhere- The Bodhi Tree

Buddha under Bodhi Tree in Waikiki, Hawaii

I am walking, my search- block by city block,
I am climbing, my pursuit- the mountain peak,
I am laughing, my joy- what makes least sense,
I am dreaming, my vision- pure, untainted,
I am loving, my devotion- seeing into heart,

All I do, I do in the shade of my own Bohdi tree-
Where ancient roots cast verdant emerald thoughts,
Expanding ever more towards realization
Of self, of Self.

Only a seed of God sprouts God-
Where do I not see a place unsown?

"Mind precedes all things;
mind is their chief, mind is their maker.
If one speaks or does a deed
with a mind that is pure within,
happiness then follows along
like a never departing shadow."
Dhammapada 1

Monday, January 10, 2005

Happy Birthday Joan Baez

Joan Baez in concert, Charlotte, NC 1998

Yesterday was the birthday of Joan Baez- Happy Birthday Joan.
Words can only say so much, but...

Thank you for standing strong in the face of uncertain times
Thank you for courageously shining your light of compassion
Thank you for willingly taking the road less traveled
Than you for singing the songs no one else dared
Thank you for growing younger through the years
And thank you for being you and for being with us.
We are all part of one great family,
And together, we are singing our song of hope.

Friday, January 07, 2005


People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, others may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight.
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, others may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough.
Give the world your best anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

attributed to Mother Teresa

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Higher Light of Understanding

Evening over Water

Monday, January 03, 2005

Resting In The River

New Year's Day on the Catawba River

"Resting In The River"

The Zen master Ling Chi said that the miracle is not to walk on burning charcoal or in the thin air or on the water; the miracle is just to walk on earth. You breathe in. You become aware of the fact that you are alive. You are still alive and you are walking on this beautiful planet. That is already performing a miracle. The greatest of all miracles is to be alive. We have to awaken ourselves to the truth that we are here, alive. We are here making steps on this beautiful planet. This is already performing a miracle.

But we have to be here in order for the miracle to be possible. We have to bring ourselves back to the here and the now. Therefore each step we take becomes a miracle. If you are able to walk like that, each step will be very nourishing and healing. You walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet, as if you massage the earth with your feet. There is a lot of love in that practice of walking meditation.

Beginning the day,
I see that life is a miracle.
Attentive to each moment,
I keep my mind clear like a calm river.

Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

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