Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


A little autumn haiku

What my mind came up with when I was trying to settle it into the silence of zazen at Great Vow Zen Monastery on Sunday, November 9, 2008.

Geese flying overhead.
Wild messengers calling out,
"Winter comes, prepare!"


Festivals, Evangelicals, gardens, and Mom thoughts

I've had such a nice couple of days! I'm trying to allow for one day of the week where I don't get an entry down and that is fine. So far it turns out to be Saturday night. Makes sense as that night I've often had a busy day and either all of us are up late hanging or CK & I are over at her flat or out. Either way, in late and it seems far too late to try to and write too.

Yesterday we all got up. I had nodded off again and woke up at 8:30 when AM called up to me. He said he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be able to join CK & I volunteering at the main gate of the annual Waterfront Blues Festival. A volunteer organization associated with retirees and employees of my company work together every year to process donations of money and food for the Oregon Food Bank. Since both CK & AM had expressed interest in going I suggested we all volunteer. After our stint we could enjoy the festival for a little while.

I was a little frustrated with AM who was suffering a headache he thought from sleeping downstairs on the futon, next to Bodhi's crate. CK & I had said we'd sleep over at her flat so AM could sleep upstairs, but he'd wanted us to be at the house and not driving home late after fireworks (and drunk drivers). I thought we needed to be downtown a full 30 minutes earlier than we were expected so I was feeling rather anxious as CK was still sleeping! AM ate some breakfast and felt well enough to go, CK got ready and AM discovered I was wrong on the time!

We managed to get downtown, find our group, and get dispatched to our jobs for a few hours. AM stood at the gate end dividing entrance from exit and helped security get people in through the correct gate. CK and I stood out in front of the gates handing out festival programs to people arriving. The sun wasn't out much so it was not as bright nor hot. One of the volunteers brought a bubble gun and filled the area with bubbles between trucking boxes of food from the gate to the truck.

The only thing that made for a day of practice was an older man with a younger one who were handing out pamphlets for "Jews for Jesus". A Jewish friend of mine had once told me about this group and how angry they had made her during college. She had realized that anger stayed with her beyond college and colored her impression of a lot of Christians. We'd find out later, watching the group leave in a van, that they were associated with the evangelical Apostolic Faith Church. Having that history in my background I immediately felt myself closing off to these people and watched the reaction of judgment I felt welling up in me.

The older man tried to engage both CK and I. I could feel anger rise up hot in me when I heard him say to CK that she didn't have an open mind because she wasn't willing to listen to what he had to say about Jesus. I strongly felt the urge to jump in and berate him and tell him to just shove his religion. After some moments he would try to engage me. My telling him I practiced Zen gave him just a pause before launched into my listening to the way of Christ. I tried to just breathe through my desire to tell him I'd tried that way and found it overrun with unethical men. I finally turned to the approaching festival-goers and told him that my job was to be handing out programs. He didn't try to engage CK and I much after that. AM would later note how he too had been fighting the desire

Later I would over hear him telling the younger man how he had to push past the resistance people put up. How to just make people take the flier. How to ignore what people were saying about having a faith and insist they listen to this evangelical message. How to get in front of CK and I so people would think they were getting programs, just get the fliers into peoples hands. "You've just got to do it anyway, just get in there and make them listen." I would hear him say.

When I talked about it later with CK about how angry and judging I was. How I tried to be compassionate in frankly turning my back on that man. Perhaps turning my back to him and focusing on the task assigned to me was the most compassionate act since it took away the danger of my engaging further, possibly vocalizing my anger. Compassion is the key here; CK noted that what was lacking in the way this man engaged people. She actually had a copy of the flier they were giving out; rather poorly drawn and some message about a truly "cultured" person was following the path of Christ. I found the flier to be very disingenuous.

What's strange is that when I try very hard to think from that man's perspective I wonder if he does people he's being compassionate. That he believes we're all going to go to Hell and by forcing us to Jesus, "Saving" us, he is doing an act of love. I just don't think any way that tries to use what I see as unethical methods to be a real act of faith. At times I feel like the evangelical Christians are using a "quantity" approach and the "quality", the true cultivation of deep faith, isn't as important.

We all would reflect on how the way in which Zen makes Dharma available, but does not take a stand on most topics, does not proselytize is something that attracts all of us. There is such deep, deep truth in this. Each person must find a Way. If they are forced, coerced, or done through a less-than-clear message than how can the Way be true?

We were all relieved when they finally left the festival gate.

After our stint we strolled around having some food (not truly worth reviewing) and beer. Listened to some music and enjoyed each other's company. Afterwards AM dropped both CK and I over at her flat. We should have made dinner. I'd eaten very little during the day, especially not much protein. We ended up doing other things instead and then dozed off. CK had said just before falling asleep that she felt weird -- somewhat of a code that some memory or emotion may have triggered.

I had tried to stay awake. I dozed off myself after seeing that she had taken her arm off her face and was sleeping. I woke up a little while later feeling disoriented as I very rarely nap and a nagging feeling of unease hit me. I tried to get up to check the fridge, sort out stuff that had been tossed aside, and felt rather unwell. CK awoke and saw that I wasn't feeling well. She assured me that she was fine, just over tired and drowsy from having beer.

We soon realized our respective blood sugar levels was crashing! Neither of us are diabetic or hypoglycemic, but following a fairly healthy vegan diet means that our blood sugar does drop pretty low. Both of us tend to not like the idea of eating when it gets pretty low, which isn't very helpful when all you need to do is eat! We tried to get together enough to go eat something but couldn't think it through very well. I finally said I was making tofu sandwiches, since all the ingredients were on had. We ultimately got to making salads topped with grilled tofu. Once we sat down and ate we were feeling better. We listened to a recent This American Life and a story from David Sedaris' newest book. Then ended up crawling into bed and falling hard asleep.

We were able to sleep in a little bit this morning, I finally got up a little after 10AM to shower. CK made me toast and a smoothie (which I usually have a little of to go with my toast). Then we went to my yoga class. She is going to take it this summer along with trying to go with me to Joy's class on Wednesday's. Afterward we went to my house and picked up AM. After lunch and shopping we worked in the garden. AM & CK worked on stripping the lawn out of the third raised bed and I worked on getting all the tomatoes caged, sprayed down the cucumber & summer squash with a neem solution, and did a little weeding & dead-heading.

DW came over and hung out with us. We made some tofu burgers for dinner and sundaes for dessert. DW really liked the shirt I picked up for her at Paranada while on vacation. She told us about the plans she's making to travel cross country for a while. I thought how I never had the chance to travel like that when I was young. I immediately had students loans after getting out of college, very large ones. I was rushed off to college right after high school. I paid for all my books, took out loans, and was generally broke. My parents didn't help at all except for a little bit of money once in a while. My mom also had a real insistence that if I lived with them at all I follow her rules; I cannot even imagine her ever supporting me in just taking off from the "real world" to travel around the countryside taking odd jobs!

Some strange odd things about Mom popping up this week. The memory of her trashing my room, sometimes just because I didn't fold clothing in my dresser drawers the way she insisted. Or that I just shoved stuff into the drawers, even if they closed completely and the mess inside wasn't seen. She'd just dump everything all over my bed and across the room. Emptying drawers, the closet, clearing things off of dresser tops.

It popped into my mind while making the bed at CK's flat. She had once commented on how I almost always make the bed. It made me laugh to think of this thing I do now, not over done, just really neatening the bedding, was such a war ground with my Mom. Then tonight thinking of the way she tried to point me, direct me always. I really would never have gotten support to leave and had I left she'd have told me I couldn't come back. She practically forced me out of the house when I started dating Anthony, even though I wasn't ready to live with someone. If I hadn't been pushed out I'd likely have never married him, then divorced.


Fireworks and Thumbprint Cookies

I'm finally getting to my post for the 4th on the fifth since just now the house is settling down.

Attempted the chocolate thumbprint cookies from Vegan with a Vengeance and found that the recipe didn't really work the way it was described in the cookbook; luckily I've done a bit of baking. I opted to put the very batter-like cookie dough into mini-cupcake paper liners and I ended up with something that was rather like a brownie. CK doesn't care much for jam and there are strawberries & cherries in season, so I put a few chocolate chips in each "thumbprint" and then pressed either a half berry or cherry in each brownie/cookie. They looked lovely and tasted delicious. Unfortunately we forgot to take a photograph of them, although we did discuss that we should take pictures of the dishes I make.

So running late I made it over to CK's and she did the driving out the Clatskanie. We listened to Gigi, Mimi at Dalo's was playing her when we had dinner on Wednesday after yoga, and then some of David Sedaris' new book. We got out the Great Vow just before meal chanting began and enjoyed the afternoon there very much. We ate lots of food, walked around the property, played mancala, talked to people, and then made our way back home.