Friday, December 29, 2006

With a Moo Moo here and a MU無 MU 無 there

One of my favorite stories that Thây (Thich Nhat Hanh) tells is the one about "cow releasing".
It goes something like this:

It was the rainy season. The Buddha and his followers were in the forest at Vaisali, seated at the base of a great tree. The Buddha was about to give a teaching (a dharma talk) to his monks. They had just finished their midday meal. Long slants of sunlight shone through the grove of tall mossy trees.

Suddenly, a farmer came running through the forest, shouting. As the man approached the sangha, he cried: "Have you seen my herd of cows? Have you seen my cows?" Frantically, he explained his troubles: "First, my entire sesame crop was eaten by caterpillars and now my cows have run off! I must be the most pathetic man on earth; I should just kill myself." The Buddha replied: "No, we have not seen your cows." Pointing in a different direction, the Buddha suggested that he try looking there. The farmer ran off, hurriedly searching here and there and yelling: "Have you seen my cows? Have you seen my cows?" After the farmer left, the Buddha turned to his bhiksus (monks), smiling. He said: "Bhiksus, do you realize that you are the happiest, freest people on the earth? You have no cows to lose."

I like Thây's commentary on this story. He says that it's time to practice the art of "cow releasing" when we have too many projects, when we are pulled this way and that, and when we become frantic over a lost object. "Cow releasing" "...helps us to let go of our cows, the cows of our mind and cows we have gathered around us" (p. 27; The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation).

* * * * * * *

A few days ago, I had an opportunity to release a couple of cows. I had placed my now unused bionic arm brace on a closet shelf along with my starter sling (a flimsy piece of nylon made in Mexico that cost $60 in the hospital!) and the fuzzy padded sling strap that came with the brace. I'd worn the brace for about 2 months recently after falling off my bicycle. Now, I no longer needed the brace. So, I put it on a shelf where it took up space. I wasn't sure what to do with it. The fact that the brace cost about $120 and that it had that special flying dial made me think twice about discarding it. But, seeing the brace there whenever I opened the closet, I began to think that having it around might create a future situation in which I would have to wear it again. On the other hand, if I saved the brace, I'd have one handy in case I needed it. Thus, my thoughts went 'round, ad nauseum. My acquisitive mind wanted to grasp, hold on to, and not let go of this thing that no longer served me. Before falling off my bike, I never thought of falling. I didn't observe thoughts of falling off my bicycle, of brace wearing, or of broken limbs. Since my fall, these thoughts occasionally appear for brief moments, usually while riding. I gently acknowledge these fears and they quietly disappear. In the end, I decided that keeping the brace for a later date--just in case--is like waiting for something to happen, and contributes to its creation. So, I released that cow. I donated the brace to Casa de Los Niños along with a few articles of clothing I no longer wear. Someone else who needs the brace will make use of it (and might even discover the magic dial). I'm through with it; my arm is healed. I let it go with a "moo-oo" and a MU 無 .... either is right.

MU 無 from the Japanese (derived from the Chinese) is a term used in Zen which roughly means no-mind, nothinglessness, or nothing.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

teapot no. 5 - Chinese Tearoom

Fountain pen ink and Lyra Rembrandt polycolor colored pencils in a Moleskine Volant journal.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

100 more teapots!

Teapot no. 4 tea land

Teapot no. 3

Teapot no. 2

Teapot no. 1

* * * * * * *

It's official. I have embarked on another 100 teapots. I had thought to do 100 architectural structures, 100 mandalas, 100 different cactuses, or maybe 100 humans.... However, my natural inclination leads me again and again to enjoy breathing and being over a cup of tea. I enjoy the preparation of tea, the color and form of the teapots, the tea releasing its full flavor in the proper temperature water. If you practice anything deeply, you can know everything, touch everything. A good tea host in the Japanese tea ceremony, for example, invites the guest(s) to share a moment of peace over a bowl of freshly whisked green tea. Discussion in the tearoom may include poetic or stylistic elements of the calligraphed poem hung in the tokonoma (special tearoom altar), admiration of the seasonal chabana (floral arrangement), the glaze, shape, and style of teabowl, as well as discussion of the potter, the poet/calligrapher of the poem, and other bits of history. A tea host must know history, poetry, brush calligraphy styles, pottery, chabana, and be fluid and fluent in the art of tea. I'm not a tea host of the type I just described, though I've had the opportunity to host Japanese tea and be an invited guest in an authentic japanese tearoom.

I enjoy simple tea. I like taking the time to prepare my tea in small teapots: Japanese green teas, Chinese and Taiwanese oolongs, green, white, and yellow teas, pu-erhs, and Indian teas. Making tea slowly, I really taste the tea, my surroundings, my companions, and my breath.

All this to say, there are mandalas in teapots. And, some teapots are little architectural wonders. So, here are the first four of my second set of 100 Teapots.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yuki barked!

Yuki barked this morning to be let out. Two good things--that he has energy to bark and wanted to go outside! He fell over when he barked, but no matter--Yuki barked. Yay, Yuki !!!!!

In the midst of chaos

Monday, December 18, 2006

More on Yuki

Hello from Yukiland, where I've been for the past 10 days. Yuki voluntarily moved out of his orange healing tent with the lavendar towel (I'm told dogs don't see colors, though). Yuki seems to be feeling much, much better. He lifts his head on occasion and smiles. My friends/neighbors Estelle & Joe gave us some cooked liver that Yuki really liked. We went for a short walk yesterday, down the easement road and almost one full block before he wanted to go back. I have to coax Yuki to go out as his vestibular disease makes it different for him to walk now. He pulls to the left and circles around sometimes, but he's not collapsing as he was prior to receiving treatment and medicines. He's actually pooped twice now (I'm sure you wanted to know this detail), helped by eating the liver pieces, and his vomiting has stopped. No barking yet. Besides the obvious head tilt and pulling to one side when he walks, Yuki's lack of barking is another wellness indicator. I hope all he needs is to adjust to his condition and/or as he heals that his strength will grow and his voice will return.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yuki update: Yuki's healing tent

Yuki seems a little better today. He ate about two tablespoons of chopped chicken and drank a little water. He still wants to be inside sleeping and doesn't move much or bark at all. He does not want to walk around inside or outside. I'm hoping he'll improve even more. The blood test results were negative for valley fever and tick fever and all his organ functions are normal. The veterinarian said it may be simply "old age vestibular disease" which may or may not improve with time. Yuki certainly has a lot of loving friends who care about him (and me and Jesse). Thank you for your kind emails and healing wishes/energy!

My new art venture has launched!

These are the preliminary photographs of my boxed sets of greeting cards and prints. I have begun to sell these cards and prints. Both prints and cards are reproductions of my original watercolors from the 100 Teapot series. Both the print paper and the cards & envelopes are of fine ivory cardstock, very smooth, like hot pressed watercolor paper. The prints are 12 x 14 inches with an image size of 8 x 10, the paper has four deckled edges, and they come in limited editions of 150, signed and numbered by the artist (me!). The cards come 8 in a box with 8 envelopes (2 each of 4 paintings) and there are 3 completely different boxed card sets. They come in a clear plastic box with a gold cord.

Anyone reading this who may be interested in more information on how to obtain these beautiful cards and prints, please contact me at this email address:

I plan to have a dedicated website devoted to my art venture in the near future.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


Yuki is not well. He is barely walking and when he does walk he stumbles, walking around as if he is drunk, collapsing on his right side. Not eating, not drinking. Not barking. The diarhhea started Friday night, then vomiting on Saturday. I'll take him to a veterinarian tomorrow. Poor Yuki. Please bark, Yuki. If you have it in you....

This is what we looked like today, as I worked at home. Jesse on her table, Yuki at my feet.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Drawing again--Yay!!

I drew this with a cheap, leaky Schaeffer fountain pen in a homemade journal. Since my arm has been healing I have not been drawing very much. Now that it is pretty much all healed and feeling great, I am relearning how to see/draw.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Life

This Thanksgiving I am especially grateful for the functioning of my two wonderful arms. But not just my arms. I am grateful for my whole body, mind, and for the earth on which I live. My amazing heart pumps blood day and night to all the parts and organs of my body. How often do we give thanks to our hearts? To the sunshine? The rain? The clouds? The ocean? The mountains, desert, lakes, our eyes, nose, toes, heels??
Thank you, heart!


Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote or said:

Just to be is a blessing
Just to live is holy


Here are a few more things for which I am grateful:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Back in the saddle

It's Sunday and I’m at Raging Sage Coffee House on Campbell. I rode my bicycle here, the first time I’ve ridden since falling off my bike on September 22nd, about a month and three weeks ago. I rode more slowly and cautiously than usual, without my usual speed and flare, aware of how my left hand and arm feel on the handlebars. If I exert too much pressure on my right hand and arm I feel pain in the elbow area sailing down to my wrist. They say if you fall off your horse, you need to get back on. Get back on and keep on riding. No matter how many times you fall. With all the long bicycle journeys I have taken--solo and pair rides up and down the switchbacks between Flagstaff and the Verde Valley; from Flagstaff to Alaska through the Kluane Wilderness, British Columbia, and Yukon; throughout mountainous Japan; within Hong Kong; from SW China to SE Tibet; from Monterey, CA to Flagstaff, AZ; from Northern Illinois to Northern Minnesota, over icy passes, through windstorms so strong it was hard to pedal, through heavy dust storms that required covering my nostrils and mouth with silk cloth in order to breathe--I have fallen off my bike only twice. The second time was my recent fall and was quite unspectacular as far as falls go; the first time was twenty years ago in Kyoto. I was riding with my friend Doug, both of us side by side on our mountain bikes on Kitayama-Dori in the northern part of the city where we both lived. Our handlebars got tangled like deer antlers as we rode along talking and laughing. I slid under a parked car, with only millimeters of space between my forehead and the top of the underside of the car, so Doug said. I was lucky. And just as I did after my recent fall, I attempted to get right back on my bike, but Doug led me to the curb to rest awhile. He went back to the house to get my friend Kate, a massage therapist, who was studying shiatsu at the time with a local anma. Kate returned on her bike to apply gentle acupressure to my body as an aid to the release of trauma. The next day, I went to the hospital with my gaikokujintourokushou (aka, ‘alien registration card’) and was treated by a doctor, x-rayed, and given an elastic protective brace to wear on my collarbone which had a hairline fracture. All for the equivalent of eight dollars, and I was an alien without health insurance! Could it be that the Japanese government looked the other way for those of us who were native speakers of English, knowing we provided a much needed service with our English teaching? Even though I had little knowledge of language teaching pedagogy or second language acquisition at the time. Or, it could be that the Japanese health care community treats fairly those in need. Simple as that, no questions asked about one’s immigrant status, legal or otherwise. I don’t really know. I know that I was treated quickly, cheaply, and well. Voters in the recent Arizona election voted against providing healthcare to illegal immigrants. I subscribe to the idea that ningún ser humano es illegal (Spanish for ‘no human being is illegal’), which means (to me) that all should be cared for equally well. However, I could better understand the logic in temporarily ceasing to systematically treat “illegal aliens” if a provision had been included to 1) improve healthcare for “legal” US residents (and by improve, I mean universal healthcare for all) and 2) if it could be proven that providing health services to “illegal aliens” prevented delivery of healthcare to legal residents. I don’t think condition número 2 could be proven. More importantly, I believe we humans have a responsibility to help our fellow beings (human and nonhuman) without discriminating. Why else do school children in America grow up repeating the Pledge of Allegiance, which promises freedom and justice for all? It doesn’t say for some or for Americans only; it says, for all.
So, today I got back on my horse and somehow ended up here.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Recent photos

Today I am typing with both hand/arms without any pain for the first time since September 22nd--when I fell off my bicycle. The othopedic doctor I've been seeing says my thin little arm/bones are healing more rapidly than some "big men" she sees with similar radial head injuries. I was hapPy to hear that for a few reasons. The first being that she told me I now had to be careful: "at your age you are losing estrogen." That was a weird thing to hear since a lot of people usually think I am in my 20s or 30s, never in my 40s. I tend not to believe in the traditional age correspondances anyway; they usually don't correspond to the way I live my life. Though research findings may show lower levels of estrogen and loss of bone density in "middle aged" women as they age, other factors ought to be considered when typing someone by her age. For example, I am flexible in my body, physically active and limber, and the foods I eat sustain my healthy body. I eat a lot of tofu, miso, seaweeds, legumes, whole grains, green vegetables, and tea. A little dark chocolate now and then helps, too. The second reason my rapid healing progress makes me happy is that it may have to do with the schedule of homeopathic remedies that I have been taking (prescribed by a homeopathist) for mending and strengthening of broken bones, specifically: Arnica, Bellis P., more Arnica in lower dosage, Symphytum, and Calc. Phos. The third reason is that I am right-hand dominant. I do a lot with my right hand (art, writing, cooking, etc.) and need to have my right arm to ride my bicycle. I still cannot press down with much weight on my right arm or lift anything heavy, so I will have to wait a bit more to get back on my bicycle. But soon!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fall sunset & split pea soup

Matzoh ball Mountain

I was born on matzoh ball mountain
between two ridges
where once a year the rain came down
in golden, icy chicken soup balls
and I opened my mouth to the sky
inhaling bones and all

My translucent wings were gold from the beginning
and from the beginning I knew how to fly
I dipped and looped, soared and sailed, floated and twirled, slowed and stopped
looking, seeing, smelling, tasting, listening, imagining

What do you see, when you see? Do you see?
How do you see and Who do you see?
Do you see me?
Are you really listening? Are you really there?

Me? I stir the soup.
I draw, I write, I speak
telling stories with my hands
like two sea otters floating happily on undulating waves
singing, dancing, playing

My life,
so like the butterfly whose flight does not go straight
--from point A to point B—but flows
as a song, a poem, a river, the life cycle of a plant,
the journey of sun & moon

A star I am: Stern, born of die Sterne
in the valley of the roses, Rosenthal
it’s in my bones, you know,
the ones I inhaled on matzoh ball mountain

‘Tis the bones that make the best soup
in between the ridges
where I gather to plant,
scattering gold as I fly

~Nicole Raisin Stern
14 October, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

mi cena de anoche

Hoy escribo mi blog en espanol, uno de mis lenguas "segundas." Desafortunadamente, los tildes no se aparecen cuando uso

Comi verduras cocidas al vapor, el tofu salteado con salsa de soya, ajo, y cebollitas verdes; y arroz jazmín; cacahuates con sabor thai (con chiles, hojas de lima, y hierba de limon); y bebi un vaso fresco de agua con rodajas de lima. Muy rico, saludable, y sencillo preparar con mi mano izquierda.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Left-hand glass painting

Painting and drawing with my left hand is definitely not as much fun now that my right arm is temporarily out of commission. I painted Yuki & Jesse on glass with acrylics with my non dominant left hand on Saturday or Sunday. My first time painting on glass. In the bottom view, I held the glass painting up to a window.


This is a mooncake some friends and I made last Saturday at a moon viewing party. The moon cake filling is made from sweet red bean paste (azuki beans) with coconut flakes, Chinese wolf berries, pumpkin seeds, and cashews. The outside (cake/bun) is made of mesquite bean meal ground from mesquite beans. We pressed the mooncakes into a wooden form carved with the Chinese characters for the harvest moon. We watched the moon peeking in and out of the many clouds while eating our dinner under the ramada at the community gardens.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Not My Radiant Head

The diagnosis for my right arm is: a fractured radial head. The radial head is the end of the radius (the smallest of the three bones of the forearm). So, after being in a plaster cast for three days, I now have a bionic arm brace (below). The dial mechanism is what I use to fly over the desert. Actually, for transportation, I've embarked on a new adventure--riding the public bus. The doctor said no bike riding and that it will take about three months for the arm to heal. In three weeks I go back to the orthopedic doctor for a check up and some physical therapy. In the meantime, I can fly over the desert.

This meal is a left-handed breakfast. Not much different from one of my right-handed breakfasts except that I used a spoon for the rice--using my chopsticks left-handed is still a little awkward--and no grated raw ginger or daikon on tofu slices, since it's too hard to grate and slice left-handed.

A recent house guest.

Drying my sandals on the eastside of house after the rain yesterday.

Monday, October 02, 2006

teapots no. 99 & 100

Teapot 100 was made on a piece of "magic" paper on which you draw with a brush dipped into clear water. While the brush strokes are wet, the image appears; when the strokes dry, the image disappears. Anicca--Pali for impermanence. Everything changes.

teapot (group) no. 99: these teapots were the models for most of the set of 100 teapots, the rest came out of my imagination.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

teapots no. 95, 96, 97, & 98

teapot no. 98

teapot no. 97

teapot no. 96

teapot no. 95