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Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Death, being aware of the reality of.

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 at 7:48 pm

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I mentioned Pema Chodron in a previous post, and in our move, I was reintroduced to a set of cards (there are 60) that I bought a few years go, each of which has a little thought for the day on how to cultivate compassion which has a side benefit of cultivating happiness. I put these on my new desk. Each card has a gold front and one fairly cryptic line, as in the first one in the set that says:

“First, train in the preliminaries.”

If you turn the card over, you get Pema’s very succinct and clear commentary. For this one, she says:

“The preliminaries are also known as the four reminders. In your daily life, try to:
(1) Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
(2) Be aware that the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
(3) Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
(4) Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don’t want does not result in happiness.”

The point in her commentary that struck me when I read it was the one about death. Because I’ve had a lot of prolonged illness in my immediate family, I was never much afraid of death; it always seemed preferable to having some horrible, debilitating disease. And I always thought that I was quite the enlightened genius for feeling so unafraid of it. But since having my daughter, fear of death hangs around at the edges of my consciousness almost all the time. My primal fear is of something happening to my daughter, which is so unimaginable it’s hard to even type. But also I fear something happening to me or my husband. How much we’d miss with her if we were gone and how much harder and sadder her life would be if one of us weren’t here for her. Being reminded that death is inevitable is so difficult now. I know it’s good to be reminded, though. I know it builds strength, like a good set of pushups. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

The forest for the trees.

In Uncategorized on April 13, 2009 at 10:05 pm

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Our new house is so lovely that I have almost already forgotten how painful the move was last week. And though the house is, as I say, lovely, what really makes where we live so unusually delightful are the grounds. Our house sits with 3 others on a bit over an acre of land that is bound on one side by a meandering creek and on the other by the skeleton of a long-abandoned greenhouse. There are redwood trees, cedar trees, cherry blossoms, a man-made pond. The front deck is spacious and open, and the French doors that lead to it mean that, at least in the dry season, it’s a whole other room. In fact, our daughter has already eaten two almond-butter-and-jam sandwiches out there on our picnic table, as well as experienced the magic of Paas Easter Egg dye.

Being tucked away here in the trees, it’s still a bit disconcerting to venture outside our tall wooden fence and down our little dead-end street where the most urban of settings imaginable can be found. I know one day, hopefully soon, I’ll get used to the louder cars, more abundant trash, and general “foreign-ness” of our new neighborhood. I would like it to become just that, our neighborhood, eventually. I look forward to this becoming our home, in addition to being where our lovely house is.

Rhetta and the old black man at Peet’s.

In Uncategorized on April 4, 2009 at 8:52 pm

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My best friend Rhetta and I had plans to meet today at The Container Store to get some stuff for our respective new homes. She was late, which was a good thing because The Container Store is pretty overwhelming and if you have the desire to be more organized but not so much the skill, it’s easy to get in way over your head in there and buy all sorts of things that are not really going to help you get organized, but will actually just make your house more cluttered because the stuff you bought didn’t work (the cutlery tray was too wide for your drawer, the baskets didn’t fit on the shelf like you thought they would). Anyway, it was nice to have a half hour by myself to stay focused and get what I had come to get. When Rhetta did get there, my basket was already full and so she handed over a 25% off coupon (something having to do with Oprah?) and we beelined it to the register so I wouldn’t get sucked into justifying any other purchases. Our plan was to then go on a hike with Clementine (my Border Collie) at what I hoped was a decent trail nearby. Since neither of us had been there, we needed a backup plan, so Rhetta yanked her iPhone out of her bag and started researching while I drove us to Peet’s Coffee so she could get an extra-dry cappuccino to take the edge off of a bad night of sleep.

While I was talking to a friend I ran into at the coffee shop, Rhetta leaned against my car, still furiously working the iPhone. A few seconds later, she threw her hands up and let out a growl. I saw her walk over 10 feet or so and lean into a bright blue Ford Fiesta parked in the handicapped spot. She chatted for a minute then leaned back out, laughing and doing a little “oh, you go on now” motion with her hand and then lean back against my car. When I asked her about it later, she said when she got all frustrated, the old black man in the Ford Fiesta had called over to her: “Don’t let it get to you, baby.” And because Rhetta is Rhetta, and because Rhetta is southern, she couldn’t help herself from going over and chatting him up a bit. I don’t know whether it was a sweet old man calling her “baby” or the extra-dry cappuccino, but her mood brightened up quite a bit after that.