Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Sunlight on Maple

Spring invites haiku.

Sunlight on maple.
Coral bark blazes alight.
Beckoning to spring.

The view off the deck, March 16, 2013, Portland, Oregon



Saturday Connection

We rested in the morning, CK felt like she was coming down with something. We decided that hanging out at a movie with friends, as we'd planned the night before, was still something we both felt up to doing. We met up downtown to see Terry Gilliam's new movie. Afterward we got lunch from the Bombay Chaat House cart, enjoying it in the new park downtown. The day wound up at Powell's, mostly just to have coffee, and a quick shopping trip. We both really enjoyed connecting with some new friends even though we felt pretty tired as we headed home.

For today's poem I played around with the 3 line format of a 5-7-5 (syllables) haiku. Stringing several of these sets together to evoke the experience of lunch.

Saturday Lunch

The square was filled with
Sunlight streaming sideways and
The sound of water.
With conversations
Loud & sharp, punctuated
By impatient words,
Offset by laughter
And with appreciation.
A hum of voices.
The scent of rich food
Hung in the air, enticing,
Promising delight.


Willamette Cove

Yesterday CK and I went to St. Johns to explore Willamette Cove. Our plan was to take on a walk featured in Portland Hill Walks, which we recently picked up at Powell's. The walk was from Willamette Cove to the St. Johns Bridge. We decided to call it after coming out from along the river, we'd spent a lot of extra time walking along the edge of the cove under the railroad bridge. We fully intend to do the full walk sometime soon.

The sun was shining and the wind was pretty mild, since it was in the 40s we were grateful for less wind. The day was clear and bright when we started walking at around 11:45. Very quickly we were able to get some great views of the St. Johns bridge.

We continued through the neighborhood to the Open Meadow High School, in the Benson-Chaney house, and spent some time appreciating the stunning views.

And the Oregon white oaks, which are over a couple of hundred years old and are fantastically limbed and grand in the bright, winter sunlight.

From the top of the bluffs we descended down to Willamette Cove. First we pass the reminder of the designation of this as a SuperFund site. We're headed somewhere beautiful, fragile and hopefully eventually restored.

We walked along the curved edge of land. The guidebook noted the need to appreciate, but not to play in the still contaminated sand and mud here.

The view of the railroad bridge was amazing.

Without question we knew we wanted to continue our way underneath it. Making our way along the old, concrete blocks that line the shore we headed to the railway bridge.

At the bridge we had several exciting moments. First was when the Amtrack Cascade Runner went past. I experienced technical difficulties in trying to take a picture while CK succeeded in getting people to wave at us. Then a fast moving barge and tug made their way underneath the bridge, requiring it to be lifted.

An unfortunate sturgeon in these busy waters; this dead fish had been struck by a propeller.

The extra walk around the bridge rewarded us both with a very interesting and new perspective of Portland.

This detour from the walk in the guide is what lead us to not continue on to Cathedral Park, but we had such an excellent time exploring. It was a marvelous couple of hours on a chilly, December Saturday.


Marking Time

Several of my tattoos mark a milestone in my life of some sort, mostly age related. My feet I had done when I finished my first round of Yoga Teacher Training and started practicing Zen. 2009 has seen some really big milestones for me. I finished round two of Yoga Teacher Training (an additional 230 hours). I went to two sesshins. I received Jukai and was given a new name. I started turning my steps towards the truth of myself, even though it hurt both me and others. A big year deserves a big tattoo, a big reminder of my accomplishments.

I have such a difficult time recognizing my accomplishments that maybe it takes a rather large tattoo I can look at every day will help me remember that I owe myself some appreciation & congratulations. It will be my touchstone to reality whenever my Inner Critic says I never finish anything I start.

All that in mind, I had a quite large tattoo started today. It is a little over half done after half a day with the artist. I am exhausted. My right leg aches like it has been burned (normal) and the rest of my body aches from the constant tensing to be still on the point of pain. I'm mostly lying around tonight, leg elevated.

There's interesting practice in tattoos. Really, to be done well, it helps that both the receiver and the giver are present to the art and the bodies. The body receiving, the body giving (which also experiences a specific pain of holding stressful positions and constant vibration starting in the hand). The pain keeps the receiver from straying too far from the present moment and a good artist is focused on the art. The noise both giver and receiver share. Even if you put on noise-cancelling headphones you still hear the noise inside your body. On that point, at varying levels of sharp, insistent pain, the two people stay in complete focus.

Here's what my newest tattoo looks like with all the stencils applied to my leg. In some areas the stencils wouldn't fit right, so the Sanskrit is hand drawn in with a Sharpie. Doing just this part took quite a while because there are three large lines of very straight text. These then must be adjusted to taper down the leg (this was done by Bryan already by means of hand drawing and working with the file on their Mac). Oh, and the lines should have the appearance of being "straight" around the leg. Don't forget - the lower leg is full of flat bits, soft bits, curved bits, hollow bits, bits that stick up, etc. It is not an optimal surface for this kind of stuff.

I took some before shots of my bare leg and some "in progress" shots today. Right now it is wrapped up in day-glo pink compression tape, a large bandage around the ankle particularly, and cling film. I'll take a shot in a day or two once the back starts to clear up a little.

The final product is the first three of the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Each line will be solid black at the top, fading into blue at the bottom of each line. If you've seen the tattoos on my feet, this work is being done by the same artist.

The Sutras go from 1.1 on the top to 1.2 in the middle and 1.3 around the ankle.

The way I translate these Sutras in my practice:

1.1 - Now begins the practice of Yoga.
1.2 - Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.
1.3 - With the mind settled we rest in the Essential Self

That is the beginning of my practice of both Hatha Yoga and Zen Buddhism. First we begin to practice. Practice is the stilling of all the mind-noise. When we experience the stillness of a quiet mind we experience the essential truth of the self, or of the no-self.


Bus Poem

Something I like about Tri-Met are the bits of poetry hanging in the buses & trains. It is part of a project called Poetry in Motion. Up between signs reminding you to wear headphones, give up your seat for someone who needs it, maps, advertising, etc. there's poetry. Pretty simple and it certainly falls into the category of "Small Happinesses" in my life.

Right before leaving for Hawaii I spotted this one on the way home from the office on the Number 4 bus.


Your eyes must stay open
To the color of flowers.
wherever their bright flash
Catches your gaze, water flows.

You see rain
Days after it stopped raining.
in your breath you taste
The river running underground.

Paulann Petersen
from A Bride of Narrow Escape


Consistent Appreciation

After working so hard yesterday CK and I rewarded ourselves with a lazy, wandering day. Went downtown, got coffee and enjoyed it sitting in Pioneer Square. Then off to catch The Brothers Bloom, which was excellent, has wonderful music, and beautifully filmed. We then just ambled around downtown, making our meandering way to the Saturday Market.

We even indulged in a little bit of bargain shopping. CK found a great white dress shirt with French cuffs and a blue striped tie. She modeled them for me when we got home and she looks awesome! I found a t-shirt with a pattern on it that reminds me somewhat of collage and has beautiful butterflies and dragonflies on it.

I nearly didn't try it on -- one of those moments where I pick something up, look at it and decide it there is no way something so small could possibly fit me! CK insisted it would fit and encouraged me to at least try it on. It is meant to hug the body, but similarly to the way my yoga clothes do. I was glad she got me to try it! I found a black sweater hoodie printed with a fantastic butterfly motif - just that kind of day.

It has been so busy for so long that it was wonderful to just have a quiet day together. We talked a lot about the appreciation we have for each other. She asked me if I thought we were a good team and I said yes, without hesitation. I said what was more amazing was that I felt like there is consistency; that my "teammate" was consistently a good, supportive partner.

To end a beautiful day we came up and I made up a salad from the ideas she gave me. We got to sit out on the newly cleaned off deck in the cool breeze and enjoy dinner together. I found myself looking at her while she's unaware, something she catches me doing a lot, but at times I just like to watch her and be present to my joy & gratitude.


Pubs + Portland

On the long list of things I love about Portland are pubs. Not bars, but pubs, "Public Houses", places where people gather together. Pubs serve alcohol, but they also create space for community to grow stronger, closer. During much of the day children may be present with guardians.

This evening at the Green Dragon in SE PDX there is a table full of parents who have bicycled here with their babies. Across the narrow aisle from me are 4 children sitting with their parents, playing with chalk on the tops of the tables (designed for this purpose). There are bicycle helmets on the bars and computers out everywhere, taking advantage of the free wireless network.

I looked around a few minutes ago and commented to CK that it was such a typical Portland moment. The computers, micro-brewed beer, bicycle gear, rain gear, and people of all ages sharing the space together. It is friendly, warm and noisy.

Yes, the are way more laptops since it is the weekly Beer & Blog meet up. Mostly beer, but peers helping one another with technical issues does happen. CK spent a few minutes helping YW out with a systems admin issue earlier while I sat reading messages. She's also been working on my website.

I'm not sure if it is part the weather or in part that Portland is filled with people that either stay here or move here because of the community energy here, but it is something that elicits absolute delight in me. It shows up in coffee shops, bookstores, at the grocery store checkout, the farmer's markets, the library and too many other places to mention. People of all ages sharing space, knowledge, and in a very community way, Loving-Kindness.

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Food Carts & Bicycle Rides

Another gorgeous, warm day & evening in P-Town and full of reminders as to why I love my city.

This afternoon I met some folks up by PSU to check out a new Korean fusion taco truck, Koi Fusion. I'd hoped to catch a bus on 5th Avenue, but didn't end up being able to and walked all the way up from my office. It is a good walk and with the sunny weather I was pretty warm by the time I found the truck.

There was already a decent line waiting and food being served up. It was fun meeting new people and chatting while waiting. In addition to some more tech community folks I met the owner of the Whiffies food cart, Greg, and his adorable French bulldog puppies, Maddy & Moira (oh so cute, so sweet). It was very pleasant hanging out, making the wait go quickly, and oh was the wait worth it.

In a little tray was tofu cubes seared in a nice sauce topped with cabbage, bean sprouts and served in a fresh, made-in-the-truck tortillas. I got a little homemade, vegan kimchi on the side. It was all awesome. Very fresh, very good ingredients, and incredibly tasty.

Koi Fusion tofu

I was all fired up to go to yoga in the afternoon but by the time I made it home and opened the door to the adorable site of CK napping on the sofa with Phoebe I just wanted to rest. I do feel a bit guilty about not going to yoga this evening but instead CK worked on the website for my yoga teaching practice while I wrote. I made some progress on the article I started that reflects upon the time I've kept the list of names for the Transfer of Merit for the Portland ZCO community. Finally getting going on some projects at work has helped me get writing again in general.

CK & I decided to meet up with some folks, some we know from the tech community, at the food cart pod on SE Hawthorne & 12th. There are some carts that have been raved about and it has been very popular to head there for dinner after the Beer & Blog. Neither CK or I had been to any of them and it was such a beautiful night we decided to ride over.

It was a gorgeous ride over. Warm, sunny and that beautiful evening light. I smiled thinking about myself just a couple of months before my 30th birthday. I was at my heaviest, most distracted, and most unhappy. If you had told me then that 10 years later I'd be 150 less, vegan, and riding my bicycle to SE PDX with my girlfriend I would have shook my head and laughed. Funny thing is, several times people have guessed me to be around 25. When I was just about to turn 30 I looked far older than I do now.

When we got there we were met by friends and there was some chuckling about the contrast between CK's sleek road bike and my cruiser. We got input from Dawn, a fellow vegan, and wandered around a bit to check out the offerings. CK commented a couple of times that the whole vibe in the cart pod reminded her of Burning Man.

We decided upon starting with a vegan pot pie from Whiffies. One bite each and we agreed that we were happy to NOT be within walking distance of this cart. Wow, so good. Lovely, light gravy, veggies and homemade seitan in a flaky, fried pastry. Best Vegan Pot Pie Ever.

For our second course we split some fettuccine & veggies tossed in a pomegranate & balsamic reduction. Yep, from a cart. The Yarp?! cart specializes in really tasty pasta and other dishes. The dish was recommended to us and we put in an order. When it was ready were told by Jeremy, the owner, to just eat and we'd sort out the money stuff later. Bemused we sat down and dug into a huge serving of perfectly cooked pasta, summer squash, olives, red peppers, roasted garlic, onions, and assorted mushrooms in a reduction of pomegranate and balsamic vinegar. Incredibly tasty and Jeremy was way cool to chat with. I even found myself enjoying the chantrelles!

One totally unexpected gift from the universe was getting to chat with Liz. We chatted about yoga for a bit and pies. The conversation ended with the offer of her small house in Nepal for us to visit if we'd like. Wow! I am so very touched by this lovely, entirely unexpected offer.

Then we had to ride home. Hard, especially going up the hill at first. My legs complained a lot about being asked to do this. I felt a little grateful for not doing a yoga class too since my first real ride of the year. CK gave me an encouraging pep talk while I worked my way up the hill to Alberta. We laughed all the way to the house.


Showing off Oregon

Today we slept it, which felt wonderful!


Once we all were up and showered we decided upon Vita Cafe (really like the new space) for a big breakfast and then up to the Downtown/PSU Farmer's Market. It meant we got there past noon, much later than either CK and I usually get to the market. We were not very surprised to see that some stalls didn't have as much left.

Musicians were all around the perimeter of the market and the band that was playing in the center was awesome! We quickly picked out some asparagus then looked around for rapini (none to be found, sadly). Since we hadn't found rapini we decided to get some chard. I also grabbed a small bunch of spring red onions - shining red bulbs and stiff green shoots. Some vegan basil, garlic, mint pesto was sampled and purchased for dinner later. I also got some fiddlehead ferns to try out.

CK and I picked out some more starts for the garden. She found a yellow watermelon and a spaghetti squash. We also got two types of lettuce and some red choi. Then vendor at that stall had a broken Italian bush bean (1 out of 6 starts in the tray was damaged) that she gave to us free!

The last two chocolate panini at the Pearl Bakery booth were purchased and then we decided to get a "soda" made from fresh raspberries, lemonade and mineral water. This was very refreshing and tasty. We enjoyed these while heading over to Pearl Bakery to see if we could get a round boule of their multi-grain bread. They didn't have any left so we picked out a cibatta to go with the veggies with dinner later.

Brought the market goodies back to the house and decided to drive up the Gorge a little bit since NR has never seen it. As we drove past falls we made a spur of the moment decision to continue east to Hood River. Once there we went to the Full Sail Brewery and had a late lunch with beer. Then down to the river to watch the windsurfers and kite-boarders.


Back to the house CK and I worked on the yard a bit. I planted seeds for various lettuces and greens as well as the starts from the market. Still need to find homes for 3 more of the bush beans. CK leveled out the area by the compost pile so that she can make mounds for all the winter squash and melons.

Then inside for a late dinner of grilled, baked tofu & tempeh with pesto. Chard sauteed with the red onion and a little minced garlic in olive oil, tossed with balsamic. Seared, steamed asparagus with sea salt. Plus crispy slices of garlic bread. All of it was so delicious.

Made for a long day, but it was a lot of fun showing off our city and state. I really enjoyed being able to go from the Farmer's Market to a delicious dinner later. That CK & I also managed to squeeze in a little garden time ourselves was very cool.


Friday Date Night

CK and I both work pretty hard on our various "work" projects and other things like yoga, Zen, and various connections with the Open Source and other communities like Love Based Living. It is pretty easy for us to just take a night off. Setting an official, on the calendar "date night" was discussed and tonight was our first official one.

When I left the building to walk over to Backspace I felt lighter and was happy with the warming weather, puffy white clouds & blue sky, and the sun lighting up all the green leaf buds on some trees and pink or white flowers on other trees. I was smiling at the late afternoon and as I walked past people they would smile back, regardless of who they were.

She wrapped up working and I checked email while having a creme soda. We decided to wander over to Shanghai Tunnel for a beer, mostly because I'd never been there before. This well known Portland bar, CK has been on a visit, but hadn't. It was OK, comfortable enough and people generally friendly. We played a couple of rounds of pool and decided to move on.

Bailey's Taproom was next. I think in my heart I'd never gone in since it occupied the space where Lampthong Thai once was. It was very comfortable even though it was pretty crowded with people. CK ran across the street to the convenience store to grab a bag of pretzels since Baily's only serves beer, and we enjoyed a sampler tray of our choice of beers.

We popped into Saucebox very briefly before ducking out again. I hadn't been there in years and only really had cocktails there. It was very loud, very trendy, and CK noted that it felt like San Francisco (in a bad way). Nothing on the menu really grabbed us as enticing enough to stand the atmosphere. While the staff were occupied we left quickly.

Onto looking in the window of Dragonfish. Again, nothing really jumped out at us as decent for dinner or even snacking. Sushi sounded good, as did miso, but we knew that we'd have to wait for a visit to Mio.

Since we were near Southpark we popped into the wine bar. The wait person went back to the kitchen to find out just what could be made vegan and came back with some suggestions we're going to keep in mind for the future (they offered to make risotto, fresh pizza, or linguini - any with an assortment of seasonal veggies). We ended up with their hummus, fresh flatbread, and fried chickpeas.

The wine at Southpark is always great. That's why we ended up in there, we at least knew the wine would be nice even if we moved on to eat something somewhere else. The flatbread & hummus plate usually comes with tzatziki but since we obviously wouldn't be having that they just added the chickpeas we wanted to that plate. All tallied up we ended up only paying for two glasses of wine and the flatbread plate! Nice touch on their part since quite often having some accomodation for a vegan often costs more.

The hummus was very garlicky with a nice tang of lemon and heartier than the more traditional, ultra-smooth kinds (like at Hush Hush, Nicholas Restaurant, or Habibi). The flatbread was freshly made and so tasty that we will try their offer of a custom pizza some other evening. The fried chickpeas with lemon were so tasty, lightly crispy on the outside, and with a bright, lemony burst of favor!

I felt a bit better today over all and not just because of the fun evening we had. Zazen and making myself write last night helped some. I also was able to fix something before heading downtown this morning (with the help of KE's extra eyes on my code we found a problem I was stuck on). I enjoyed myself at the Geek Chix lunch meet up at P.F. Chang's then walked over to the office for the afternoon. I felt like I caught up on a few things, which helped with starting to feel a bit more focused.