The Only Number I Still Remember

873-8480 you were an awful lot of eights on a rotary phone.  873-8480 I recite you over and over as if you were a chant, a mantra, a line from the movie Rain Man.

873-8480 I dialed you my whole boyhood to talk to Grandma Ruth.  I loved to talk to Grandma Ruth.  873-8480 restore my heart, deliver me, heal me, save me.

873-8480 you are the only number I still remember in this strange new world of the mind handing over information to technology.  If the global server crashed tomorrow, would we know who we are anymore?  Would our minds begin to strengthen again?  Photo albums, cameras, address books – sales would skyrocket.

873-8480 you lived on the truck route corner, the clatter and grind of jake-brakes vibrating the roof of the double-wide trailer home, moving the blades of the Dutch windmill pumphouse half a degree clockwise.  

873-8480 the covered porch where she taught me how to shoot pool, played the old 45’s, had a martini and talked about Paul Newman.  873-8480 the carport with her little yellow Porsche near her garden with the climbing string beans, the crystal bowl with peanut M and M’s beneath the lid, the little animal figurines along a ledge near the front-room ceiling: duck, whale, llama.  “Isn’t he the darndest thing?”

873-8480 the carved wood shapes of naked girls set into cupboard doors in the bathroom, made for her by a retired Army man, an ex-boyfriend who lived in an RV, Carl I think his name was.

873-8480 do you remember how she always kept Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer?  It explains her way of being in the world, how she lived: “a little bit of everything, kiddo”.    

873-8480 she called the couch a Davenport.  She called bratwurst Oktoberfest Sausage.  She read me Dr. Seuss.  She loved braunschweiger sandwiches with mustard and sliced raw red onion.  She called Richard Dawson the kissing bandit, wished bankruptcy on Wheel of Fortune contestants when they got greedy, went skydiving at age 72, called me on my birthday to tell me she had decided to commit assisted suicide through the Death With Dignity Act.

873-8480 hand me that box of tissue I can’t take it I’m vulnerable my heart might give out.  You’re a seven-number combination key on the lock-box in my memory bank.

 

 

Many Rhythms

You have known many takers, known many givers, walked many pathways, crossed many rivers.

You have known many husbands, lovers and wives.  You have died many deaths, lived many lives.

You have been a seeker, you have been a finder, you have found the forgotten and remained a reminder.

You have worn many costumes and fanned a few fires.  You’ve tidied the mess and untangled the wires.

You have been the wild, been the idle, swung up in the saddle and borne the bridle.

You are the gardener as well as the flower.  You are eternity and also the hour.

You have written the song, invented the singer.  You are a happiness giver, sadness bringer.

You have climbed the wall, slept on the floor.  All this you have done, and more.

All these things, I too may be.  All these things, I too might see,

though it’s true we come from different places, though we look through eyes on different faces.

Many roads, one destination.  Many rhythms, one vibration.

 

Path of Least Resistance

Water takes the path of least resistance.  A tree, a leaf, a human, all possess a central artery to supply fluid to channels, veins.

We are cells, tissues, bone, blood – but mostly water.  This world is our body and our body the world.  The sky and sea are our minds.  Clouds and waves, our thoughts.

A glimmer of clarity, a fresh clean insight, a burning brightness leaves me feeling as if I looked at the sun.  And by “me”, I mean “you”, I mean all of us.  I mean the place of stillness, the one we keep inside, a source of renewable energy waiting to be accessed, directed.

The world will simply go on being itself in all its change and sameness, and we must eventually go on, away from human reflection, through the gate that only opens from the inside, moving out of the field of linear time into the river of eternity, along the path of least resistance. 

Spiritual beings, living in physical bodies, in a material world.

Chogyam Trungpa’s Saddle Analogy

I just love this passage from Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chogyam Trungpa.  To arrive at this place he describes, within one’s self, must be to arrive at a place of deep, deep peace.      

“In the saddle, as long as you have good posture and a good seat, you can overcome any startling or unexpected moves your horse makes.  So the idea of the saddle is taking a good seat in your life.  

You belong here.  You are one of the warriors in this world.  So even if unexpected things happen, good or bad, right or wrong, you don’t exaggerate them.  You come back to your seat in the saddle and maintain your posture in the situation.  

The warrior is never amazed by anything.  If someone comes up to you and says ‘I’m going to kill you right now’, you are not amazed.  If someone says they are going to give you a million dollars, you think ‘so what’.  

Assuming your seat in the saddle at this level is achieving inscrutability, in the positive sense.  It is also taking your seat on the earth.

Once you take your seat on the earth, you don’t need witnesses to validate you.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

 

 

Lavender

I don’t know who was doing the witnessing –

the lavender plant, or me.

I only know that its divine presence shone forth,

that in its presence I moved closer

to an experience of the sacred.

So, rather than passing it by, I stopped.

I stopped and spoke to it.

Not an audible speech, but a soundless one.

The cathedral whisper one uses

when one recognizes divinity.

I danced with the lavender too,

but not the dance of the body, no,

the motionless dance of the witness,

the acknowledger,

of awareness at rest in itself,

of recognition.

 

A Letter to Grandma

Dear Grandma Betty,

I hope I can maintain an honest assessment of who you were, and not get too wrapped up in memories seen through the milky windowpanes of linear time’s narrow corridor.

You wore your heart on your sleeve.  You told it the way you saw it and made no apologies.  You were born on July 31st.  You repeated yourself an awful lot, and passed that particular trait on to your son (my dad) and your grandson (me).  You liked taking people out to lunch.  And you liked to talk…….a lot.

I remember meeting you for the first time.  The pine boughs were swaying in the wind and it was summer when you came to the little house with the wood stove in the Oregon countryside, where my mom and I lived for 4 years and I rode my bicycle to school.  Your voice with its syrupy southern accent – and your spirited personality – seemed so huge to me that I thought I felt the house shake through the soles of my worn-out sneakers.

But the biggest parts of you were your heart and your stubbornness.  I didn’t know anything about you yet back then, but I could see right away that you were ruled by your heart, because of the way you were so kind to my mom.  I was protective of her, and so I watched, and I listened.

It must be nice to have set down your suitcase of earthly burdens, grandma, but I miss your stories.  I miss your grouchiness, your laugh, the way you pronounced hurricane ‘herrican’.  The way you always used southern colloquialisms like ‘he was mean as a snake’ or ‘that girl would argue with a fence post’.

Sometimes a weariness comes over me when I think of loved ones lost.  There are so, so many.  And yet in a way, they’re all still here, they’re all….close.  So I’ll say to you what I’ve said to them all, in one way or another, over the years:

to all those I love, and have loved, on either side of the transcendental veil – may my love be a lantern to help light your way.  And may yours help me light mine.

Recipe

Life is the approximation of cooking, not the exactitude of baking.  It’s a messy project, not a calculation, more art than arithmetic.  There are an infinite number of ways to proceed.  Be curious, consider the methods used by everyone you meet and, in doing so, find your own way.  Develop your recipe and never hesitate to share it.  To keep it secret is to become the dragon.

Let the road of experience season you, but beware of hardening, callousing.  Do your best to stay soft and tender.  The residue of clarity yields a suggestion of radiance, unmistakably luminous, but be careful not to become a prisoner of your insights.  Bondage exists in so many forms.        

Contemplate what is transcendent of the dimension of thought, the realm of polarities, the field of duality.  May your love be a light in dark places.