Saturday, July 30, 2005


Tonight I went to Poetry & Potluck Night at Zen Desert Sangha (ZDS). All who come are invited to share poetry, read from a favorite book/author, sing, show & tell something, or play an instrument, etc. I decided to make and bring a puppet show. My idea for the puppet show comes from the story of the Emperor Who Wore No Clothes. I haven't written the script yet. I made one puppet who has two different looks depending on the hat s/he wears. In the first conical hat, the puppet looks like she is a cross between a Shinto priestess and a Heian period aristocrat.

When the little pill box hat is put on, the puppet becomes a man from Africa who, someone at ZDS said, "is from the United Nations". He also has an optional outer robe (below). Just goes to show you, we are people of many hats.

Other treats tonight: David played his bass, a huge cello-like instrument, but much larger than a cello. We all examined his beautiful bow made of horse hair, with inlaid mother-of-pearl and silver on the shiny orange toned wood. Diane and her husband displayed the earthtone quilt they have been sewing and Debbie read us her poetry. I also played my Native American cedar flute and Joe played some Kalimba (aka, 'thumb drum'). I've always liked show & tell. My favorite subjects in school were show & tell, lunch, art, P.E., and recess. Yay for recess!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Life as sand mandala

I woke up from a dream in which I was a sand mandala. The sand painting was finished; the grains of sand were being swept back into the earth, carried on the wind. I woke up taking a conscious breath in and out, then a big breath in and out. I looked at the sky: a beautiful blue with just a few small cloud puffs over the Catalinas.

I thought yesterday about an art happening that evolved a few years ago down in the rillito. One day in February, I began to move stones and boulders to create a rock garden on the expanse of dry river sand. I scavenged pieces of drift wood and twigs and iron rebar to make Japanese gates called torii (等り). Yuki hung out down there with me as I played.

Everyday, I spent my mornings moving rocks and creating new formations in the garden before going to teach pottery. Each day, I brought pieces of my hand made pottery to the garden, little offerings. In the evening, Yuki and I would again walk to the rillito. People from the neighborhood began to congregrate there, sunset walkers mostly, many with their dogs. Everyday, I found surprises in the garden: rounded spiral rock paths had been carefully placed, shiny stones were laid out in a pattern, glassy beads and small tin bells appeared hanging from one of the torii gates, a miniature shrine had been created beside a large boulder. Some items seemed to have disappeared only to appear in another spot, and some items found new, temporary homes with an admirer/visitor to the garden. The garden was no longer "mine".

There were no rules, yet everything that was placed was a natural found object from within the rillito; no one used plastic (with the exception of my pottery pieces, the seven-inch kami--paper--streamers I sewed around the torii, and some jute). People continued to visit, making the rillito rock garden a destination to walk to and a place to play and create with their whole bodies. It was never crowded, though, and always felt peaceful and playful. My idea was to work/play down there until the monsoons came and washed it all away. What happened was a little different.

One day at the end of May, I walked down there to find the rillito rock garden had been torn apart, vandalized. At first, I felt disappointed that I was not going to see everything float away and would not see moist, grainy river sand the next day where the garden had been. And, I imagined the energy of the ones who broke everything. Then, I let go of thinking. I could not control a perfect 'flowing' outcome. The end came differently then expected. Actually, so did the middle. I set out to move stones, to move my body, and to play at something that delights me (building things). I never expected that a community would come to meet it and that it would playfully engage many individuals.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Real Work

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

~Wendell Berry (Collected Poems)

* * * * * * *

I'm going to put a new category on my CV called The Real Work.
Duties: being baffled and singing.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

昼ご飯 hirugohan

These are the dishes from my lunch today (昼ご飯 = lunch). I ate rice with furikake (ふりかけ = sprinkles of sea salt, seaweed, and sesame seed) and some strips of kim (Korean seaweed), chilled silken tofu with oshoyu (おしょう油 = soy sauce), a bowl of steamed kale drizzled with olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and Li li xiang oolong tea from Seven Cups Tea House here in Tucson. It was a delicious lunch.
おいしい (oishii).

After lunch I went on a walk with Yuki to a stand of plump cholla along the rillito. Plump and healthy from all the Spring rains and just waiting to be sketched. I saw a few little pink flowers on the cholla, but I didn't paint them. I also saw bees moving inside the flowers. We were able to walk in the middle of the day because it is cloudy today--woohoo! Relief from the summer sun.

On our way back, I saw a big bird flying from the tamarisk brush down in the rillito to a perch in a tall pine tree on the path above.

At home I consulted my trusty little bird book and found an illustration that looked like it, so I think it was a turkey vulture.

I'm having fun putting Japanese into my writing now that I figured out how to use that feature on my iBook.
楽しい -- tanoshii -- fun!

By the way, the Japanese graphic on my July 13th Pea soup entry has nothing to do with pea soup. I just wanted to see how printed plastic packaging would look scanned. The package is お祭り花火 (omatsuri hanabi) which means 'festival fireworks'. These 花火 (hanabi) were sparklers that I lit in the backyard on Fourth of July. Swirling them around was also very 楽しい。The word hanabi is 楽しい, too. It is composed of 'hana' 花 which means flower and 'bi' 火 which means 'fire'. So, 'fireworks' in Japanese is 'flower fire' 花火.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

One with the heat

"A monk asked Tozan, 'Cold and heat descend upon us. How can we avoid them?'"
"Why don't you go where there is no cold or heat?"
"Where is the place where there is no cold or heat?" the monk asked Tozan.
He replied, "When cold, let it be so cold that it kills you; when hot, let it be so hot that it kills you."

* * * * * *

"When in a hot place, become one with the heat. When in a cold place, be one with the coldness. Don't resist, whatever it is. When cold, shiver. When hot, sweat."

~Extracts from Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, pp. 41, 42.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sand storm

Yuki and I had a little adventure tonight while out walking in the neighborhood. We got caught in a gusty, windy, dust storm! I had planned our walk so as to arrive back home when the torrential rains would be released. I was imagining laughing as the rain soaked our bodies and the fresh smell of creosote filled our lungs.
All afternoon I watched the huge white and gray monsoon clouds form in the sky. At first, the warm wind blew strongly, and we walked slowly, so I could practice my walking meditation (Yuki was doing his sniffing meditation). Then the wind picked up.
It whooshed through the dry eucalyptus leaves, tearing bark off the trunks. Clusters of pale yellow mesquite pods shook loose to the ground. The sky was darkening behind us, so I decided it was time to head back. But what I thought was a blanket of rain rolling towards us turned out to be a sand storm.
The air was so dusty and gritty that we had to crouch behind a wall for awhile to let it all blow by. Yuki was getting hit face on from the higher blowing gusts, as well as from the grit and dust being churned up from the ground. At least I have the protection of eyeglasses and could use my free hand to shield my face; Yuki just has his delicate white eyelashes. No wonder camels have long eyelashes.
Here's my new motto: "crouch behind a wall and let the grit go by".

Distressing thoughts

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night tossing and turning with troubling thoughts of Laura Bush. A few days earlier I’d read an AP article from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, with the headline, Mrs. Bush Seeks to Empower African Women. My first thought was, "Really....Laura Bush?" How is a privileged white woman, who is neither Muslim nor African, going to empower “African women”? And, what a big assumption it is to imply that all African women are the same!

The First Lady was traveling in Africa with her twin daughters, giving speeches and visiting hospitals, schools, and orphanages in Rwanda, Tanzania, Capo Verde, Zanzibar, and South Africa. The article said that she would visit a Muslim school in Zanzibar that had received one thousand US dollars in seed money from the President’s $15 billion in aid package (Oh, look, world, the US will even support Muslims).

In her speeches, Mrs. Bush stressed the importance of equality for women in such things as voting rights, involvement in politics/government, and improved literacy for girls and women. All good things, I agree. Yet, troublesome coming from a woman whose life experience bears little resemblance to that of “the African woman.” Laura Bush has a ‘here’s-what-you-need-to-fix-it’ approach (the strong helping the weak, broken one) rather than a service approach that sees the other as equal and identifies with the other’s suffering and joy. Even so, I am glad that the G8 meetings produced billions of dollars in pledged aid and debt forgiveness for Africa.

In another article I read of Mrs. Bush’s visit to a Rwandan cemetery to 'pay tribute' to the hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Hutus who were killed (eight hundred thousand, I think). Though the report said she hardly showed emotion, she said she was “moved.” She later asked Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, what we could do to prevent other genocides from happening. Good question and an ironic one. She also never publicly mentioned Darfur. Cherie Blair, wife of British PM Tony Blair, accompanied Laura Bush to Rwanda. She was quoted as saying, "I am very moved by what I have seen, also distressed that the world looked on while it happened.” It seems that we are all looking on while people are being killed and raped in Darfur. It could turn into another Rwanda.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Pea soup

I just finished a late dinner of thick split pea soup and some 梅入りこんぶ茶(ume iri konbucha), a delicious hot drink made of kombu seaweed and salty-sour Japanese plum.
I left the university area tonight after sunset. On my way through the university on the bike path, I heard the unmistakable sound of Native American chanting along with deep rhythmic drumming. I rode to the source, a group of Native American chanters, seated on the grass between the new student union/bookstore and the Mountain Avenue parking lot. There were seven men seated on chairs in a circle around a big drum all drumming and chanting in unison. Standing on the grass near the circle, four Native American women blended their higher voices with those of the men and the drum. I stopped a while listening with my whole body, smiling.

The chanting was so familiar and welcoming. Already, I had had a wonderful afternoon and felt so happy and contented, yet there was even more joy. Even more.

Today, all day, I enjoyed the rare summer treat of clouds covering the sun. In the late afternoon, big cool raindrops landed on my skin for the minute or so that it lasted. Later on, I saw orange-y pink clouds at sunset. I also studied and wrote (translation: I worked on my portfolio). And, on my late afternoon jaunt at epic café, I had a fun conversation about education, bilingual education, and things Asian with a retired UA librarian, followed by a spontaneous visit to the clay studio of one of my former pottery teacher colleagues--where I again met the librarian. After that, I happened upon the chanting and was…well… enchanted . No wonder chanting is part of healing way ceremonies; it makes us whole.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Evening cool

It was 112ºF today (44.4ºC).

Yuki & Jesse sprawl out on the ceramic tile floor to stay cool. Yesterday, on not quite four hours of sleep, I bicycled the 5 miles to the university when it was 105ºF. Today, I stayed in all day until the time desert animals should be going out--at dusk.

It's amazing how cool it feels--even at 100ºF--after the sun goes down. It's now 98ºF, and delightful, at a quarter to eleven in the evening. Jesse is outside romping about, still alive; she hasn't gotten eaten by a coyote yet. Tonight, after making myself study at epic café for a few hours with an icy lemonade, I ate outside on 4th av. I ate two yummy tacos at Martín's (comida chingona) with cool cups of horchata, savoring both the after sunset darkness and the flavors.
I shared a mosaic tile table on the sidewalk with a young surfer-looking dude. Turns out he's from Southern California originally, did his doctorate at Berkeley, and is currently a UA optometrist conducting research on astigmatism amongst the young O'odham population. He told me the O'odham have one of the highest rates of astigmatism in the world, probably genetic.
In other news, I read that Lance was wearing the maillot jaune after day one of the alpine climbs.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Me, sketching

Here's a watercolor sketch I did today. I was sitting on a low wall outside in the shade under tall palm trees next to the university area Starbucks. The Starbucks is in a 1940s adobe. I sat between pigeon droppings as I sketched, feeling the sweetness of the hot decaf grande caramel macchiato that I'd recently finished. I decided to scan in this drawing as if one of the pigeons was looking down on me sketching.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

HapPy Birthday, Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso - Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom

In honor of the 70th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
here are some lines from Shantideva:

The Bodhisattva Path

May I be the doctor and the medicine,
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.

May a rain of food and drink descend
To clear away the pain of thirst and hunger,
And during the eon of famine
May I myself change into food and drink.

May I become an inexhaustible treasure
For those who are poor and destitute.
May I turn into all things they could need,
And may these be placed close beside them.

Without any sense of loss or attachment,
I shall give up my body and enjoyments
As well as all my virtues of the three times
For the sake of benefiting all.

By giving up all, sorrow is transcended,
And my mind will realize the sorrowless state.
It is best that I now give everything to all beings
In the same way as I shall at death.

May I be a protector for those without one,
A guide for all travelers on the way.
May I be a bridge, a boat, a ship
For all who wish to cross the water.

May I be an island for those who seek refuge
And a lamp for those desiring light.
May I be a bed for all who wish to rest
And a slave for all who want a slave.

May I be a wishing jewel, a magic vase,
Powerful mantras and great medicine.
May I become a wish-fulfilling tree
And a cow of plenty for the world.

Just like space
And the great elements such as earth,
May I always support life
Of all the boundless creatures.

And until they pass away from pain,
May I always be the source of life
For all the realms of varied beings
That reach unto the ends of space.

Friday, July 01, 2005

My month in review

It’s been about a month now since I left the watery ocean world of Monterey and came back to the dry and mountainous Tucson desert. I remember my first wet winter in Monterey (2003-4) when it rained so much I thought the wooden houses might swell up and float away.

Today, with not a cloud in sight, the sun burned all day, reaching a high of 111ºF. Currently it is a cool 100ºF. I stayed inside all day today until sunset time, just like smart desert animals do. But unlike unencumbered lizards, snakes, coyotes, and white-tailed rabbits at dusk, I wielded two leashed and excited dogs tonight as I walked with Sadie and Yuki on the grass at Himmel Park. In the relative coolness of nightfall, people were out in the park playing Frisbee, playing soccer, doing tai’chi, walking with their dogs, and playing tennis.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I love the simplicity of road trips. On our way back to Tucson, I had my new vehicle packed with all my stuff. I made it comfortable for Jesse and Yuki. As a cat, Jesse had the run of the place. Yuki had only the passenger seat to curl up in, as I, too, had only the driver’s seat. So, we made frequent stops to stretch and move as we made our way down the coast. I decided to take scenic Hwy 1 for most of the way down to San Diego. Yuki and I walked around at almost every vista point along the highway.

The elephant seals were especially fun to watch—and smelly—hundreds of them were laying close together, inching on top of each other as they basked in the sun on the beach. I also enjoyed looking at sea birds and other sea creatures through my binoculars. I saw what looked like two breaching whales, but I’m not sure. They may have been two elephant seals, in which case, they appeared to be dancing.

I brought my camping gear, including my little Whisperlite cook stove, planning to cook meals like I did on my way up to Monterey in July of 2003. This time, it felt simpler to eat the raw foods I'd packed: Asian pears, carrots, snap peas, and several pb&j sandwiches. For tea, I requested hot water for my thermos at McDonald’s. I enjoyed drinking the tea from one of my little ceramic teapots when I stopped.

Our first night (5/26) we slept under oak trees in my tent at El Capitan campground near Santa Barbara. Yes, Jesse likes to sleep in my tent. So does Yuki. I bring Jesse’s litter box in there and Yuki’s water bowl, which they both use, and we are quite cozy in my 2-person dome.

In the morning, I put Yuki and Jesse inside the Isuzu while I was washing up, but discovered when I was ready to take off that all the doors were locked with my keys inside. I saw the keys dangling from the ignition. You’d think after twelve years together that Yuki would be able to read my mind and have the dexterity to just hand me those keys dangling so close to his head. But, no, he was just looking at me. Luckily, I had rolled down the window about 2-3 inches for Yuki & Jesse. Unluckily, unlike my former little Geo Metro, the Isuzu windows are power windows and could not be budged simply by pushing on them. I tried to fit my arm in the crack, but could only make it as far as my wrist. So, I asked the white-haired man camping in the space near mine whether he had any wire or even a wire coat hanger to try to lift up the inside lock. He said he’d look. In the meantime, I walked down the other way and came upon a VW bus family. After I described how big the crack in the window was, they lent me their little boy. They thought he might be able to get his arm through if I lifted him up. Even his little arm was not small enough to reach through. He told me he was in second grade and that they were camping but didn’t live there. He seemed very independent, and he had long hair past his shoulders. Soon, the white-haired man returned with some light gauge wire, which he had fashioned into a fishing hook. He tried to get the lock up, but wasn’t hitting it. I tried and got it right up. Yay! We were on our way.
If the wire hadn’t worked, I would have called AAA; I have a membership.

The next day was another fun day of driving. I listened to dharma talks the whole way down: Pema Chodron’s “Awakening Compassion”, Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Ultimate Dimension: Teachings on the Avatamsaka Sutra”, and Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, and stopped at ocean overlooks whenever I could. It was Friday of Memorial Day weekend and as I approached the Los Angeles area the traffic got noticeably heavier. I decided to drive through LA instead of stopping to see my cousin. In Encinitas, I took a rest from driving to enjoy one of my favorite gardens. The garden is built on a cliff overlooking the ocean on the grounds of the Self- Realization Fellowship. There are many varieties of flowering Asian plants, alcoves and benches for contemplating the garden, a small cactus garden, and lushly vegetated koi ponds with big gold, red, orange, and white speckled koi. I took Yuki for a walk in the adjoining Guru Park, named for SRF founder, Paramahansa Yogananda (Autobiography of a Yogi). In the park, while Yuki enjoyed sniffing everything, I did a shortened version of all the exercises I had been doing with my Monterey Senior Center exercise buddies. Moving my body like that from head to toe is a great way to stretch out after long hours of sedentary driving.

We drove ‘til late that night, about 70miles from Gila Bend, and stopped at a dark pullout where some other cars and trucks had parked for a rest. I parked under a tamarisk tree in a sandy area and made a comfortable bed on top of all my stuff inside the Isuzu. I slept until dawn.

We arrived at Darci’s in the afternoon on Saturday. Yuki and Jesse met Sadie, Darci’s 2-year old wolfhound, golden retriever mix. The three of them sniffed each other, watched each other, and moved about the house together without any trouble right from the beginning. It was amazing.
In the early evening it actually monsooned. An auspicious beginning to my stay in Tucson.

There is no time, really. We live, doing things and moving through space. Months pass, moments pass. If I reflect on what I do during a specific period of time, I see that I do a lot. While I am being and doing, I don’t think that I am doing a lot at all, so it is always surprising to me to uncover all that action. I once wrote a prose poem entitled, “If I was tagged like a bear” after realizing how much I do--how much we all do--in a single day. I'd need a radio transmitter attached to my body to actually remember everything, every move, every glint of sunlight that moves me, every person I smiled at or talked with, etc. It’s too much, really. It’s the same with this month in review. There’s too much for me to tell. So I will end here, now. And elements or episodes of this month will merge into next month, into another entry, another conversation, another story, ‘cuz that’s how things flow: through space and time; always in transition. But one thing’s for sure: there is only this moment, now. Life is only available in the present moment.