Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Repainting an Old Weaving Bench

Working with "throw away" items has become a passion of mine this summer.  I'm building benches from old wood chairs and Restore lumber, painting "flowers" on the bottoms of clear plastic bottles and stacking Goodwill glasses and plates to make some "vertical interest" in the garden.  This picture is the top of an old weaving bench.  I'm fascinated with aboriginal dot art and have combined a very simple form of it with dragonfly images.  We call our main house "Dragonfly House" and so it seems fitting.  I also hope the spirit of the dragonfly will drive away some of our mosquito hordes! HA!

Spring Birds of Northern Michigan

The arrival of the "spring birds" is almost as welcome as the flowers on our land.  I love this picture Mike (my husband) snagged.  We've seen the square holes of the Pileated Woodpecker all over the 50 acres, but this was the first sighting of the bird. 

I enjoy taking pictures of birds--especially when you catch them in a-typical poses.  Here, a Mourning Dove does her morning yoga.

The Baltimore Oriels have enjoyed half-slices of orange, as well as the Hummingbird feeders (yes, we've had hummers, too).  Even on the cloudy day, they add a dash of sunshine to life.

The Red-Headed Woodpecker awed us with his bold color.  He's been a lovely addition to the "nature TV" display at the feeder this Spring.

This is the most exciting bird of the spring--we had THREE of these lovely Indigo Bunting males at the feeder for a few days.  They may have moved on--haven't seen them in a few days, but wow!  what a treat when they were here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ironwood Cactus: a Poem

I have found a peace, working with my hands.
This brush-stroke, that bit of glue,
pushing back dirt for a plant or seed,
gathering eggs, patting a goat on her head.
I wish you could see inside my mind,
the not-enoughness, the not-lovable enough,
not-wealthy or healthy enough.
that has driven and broken me.
I’m gluing and painting myself back together.
And if sometime, I need you more than seems
even ironwood cactus statues need
twine and goop and a gentle hand when
one arm or the other falls completely off,
giving into gravity after years and years

of shaking its fists at the sun.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Cedar and Restore Art

I enjoy working with natural objects, creating art from them.  But I also like functional art--bird
feeders, benches, a trellis for the garden.  Here are some items I am working on!

 This is a walking stick I am making for myself, using    aboriginal dot art.  Each old bough scar becomes the center for an explosion of color, reminding me that "Every new beginning is the death of some old beginning."

 I have a fetish for clay pots, neat old wine glasses and mugs--so I decided to "indulge" the fascination at the local thrift stores and make my finds into vertical interest feeders and planters.  

 Here is the dot art again--this is a huge 20 lb stone for my front garden. I sealed it with a spray acrylic, high gloss.  It's beautiful in the sunshine.

 The colors didn't show, but you get the "picture".  I traced the wood borer lines in color of red and black and made this lovely hanging for the deck.  

 These bottles were all found in the dirt on the property.  I love the rust.  It makes a very gentle sound in the wind--not so "metallic" as most wind-chimes.

 This is a project I am really excited to begin--a $4 chair, a $5 chair and a $2 chair, used boards from the Restore in Alpena. It will all be painted one color, planters on each end and then painted cedar sticks rising behind, all rendered in blues and greens.  I'll post the finished picture.  :-)

So what is lying around your life that could become something new, giving "junk" a new beginning?

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sample Chapter of Easing into the Dhammapada

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Great Idea #2

Hatred Cannot Overcome Hatred

I once read that some people can only see beauty when it is there in front of them, while others can take any situation and create beauty. It’s a different kind of awareness, a deeper seeing and presence, that often allows beauty to bloom from seemingly ugly experiences, spaces and individuals.  The saint makes holy where-ever they dwell because of the consciousness they embody. In a very real sense, they call on you to see what is possible and beautiful in yourself.
We live in a world of violence.  Even in our sports, we laud victory over another.  The Dhammapada points out, however, that the truest victory is always the one over yourself.  Once you no longer harm yourself, you are less likely to harm others.  Once you struggle with destructive habits, you are able to be compassionate with the habits of others.  Once you realize that much of violence arises from people who are seeking happiness just like yourself, you will open your heart.
The Dhammapada uses your own awareness and experiences as a fertile garden to grow compassion for others.  Gradually, as you awaken, you begin to understand that usually when you do not harm others, you will not be harmed. You feel deeply that everyone fears punishment and death like you, so why would you punish or kill? You begin to see that gentle speech really does “catch more butterflies than vinegar” and that when you hate people, you are really separating yourself from the real joy of living.
“Those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins” (verse 222). The image is powerful, and for the false charioteers, nothing less than a wreck is waiting to happen.  The whole body is at your disposal to do good—this thing you call the physical self that can smile and hug and bend over and help; this speech that can edify and uplift or drag down and condemn; this mind that can be clear and kind or clouded, driven and aggressive; this breath that can flow without effort or be tight, choking, or rough; this intuitive self can be aware of the beauty as well as the garbage that is around you; and this lightness that is the joy, your birthright that knows even in the midst of conflict, evil and defeat, “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well (Julian of Norwich)”.  In the end, peace really is your choice, one you make moment by moment.

Poetic Response:

A mob has been seeded into Facebook posts,
with words like
They and Them and Him and Her,
soundbite micro-realities mixing
with the rush of false intuitions,
illusions heated in little silver children’s spoons,
the flames media-fed and blue-screen hot,
and thundering
word by word by word
full color aura
into the pupils of millions of eyes.

Questions to Take You Deeper:

1.      Do you believe, way down deep, that if you do not harm, you will not be harmed?  Why or why not? What attributes do you need to refine to live a life of no harm?
2.      Can you recall a time when your compassion for another diffused a difficult situation in your life?  What concrete ways can you practice compassion? Choose one and “try it on” for a period of time.  What differences do you notice in your life?
3.      How does “mob mentality” show up in your life?  How does cultivating awareness help you keep your balance in charged situations?
4.      For one day, choose to practice gentle speech.  How do YOU feel at the end of the day?  What did you notice about how others responded to you?  Did you know that in some monastery and retreat settings, folks are asked to not talk about anyone unless they are physically present?  Try that practice for one day and jot in your journal or share with others what you learned about yourself.
5.      How does non-harming feel in your body, this sense that you are filled with awareness and goodwill to all?  Be concrete!  How does your body feel when you are afraid, angry or confused?  Again, be as concrete as you can. Do you think being able to recognize physical states can help support your desire to be compassionate?

Reference Verses
  1. 3, 4, 5, 6 (Hatred cannot overcome hatred)
  2. 98 (saints make holy wherever they dwell)
  3. 103-105 (victory over yourself, rather than others)
  4. 117-118 (awareness of evil habits)
  5. 124 (no harm comes to those who do no harm),
  6. 129 (everyone fears punishment and death like you do)
  7. 131-32 (do not strike at those seeking happiness and you will not be struck)
  8. 133-134 (gentle speech)
  9. 137-140 (the pain that comes from harming the innocent)
  10. 197 (live in joy, never hating those who hate)
  11. 222 (“those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins.”)
  12. 231 (use your body, tongue, mind for doing good)

Sample Chapter of Easing into the Gospel of Thomas

Great Idea #7

You are created to Stand in the Middle of Relative and Ultimate Reality

The character for “man” in Chinese stands for the idea that humans connect heaven and earth. This same sort of placement of humans in the Gospel of Thomas occurs over and over again.  It’s an incredibly rich concept, and if we broke it down to more modern language, we could say that humans are also made to connect relative and ultimate levels of reality.

So, what do these terms mean, “relative” and “ultimate”? Jesus was essentially using the term Kingdom of Heaven (which is a feminine noun in Aramaic by the way) for ultimate reality, and your sleep-walking mind caught up in bills, time, calendars, work, family and all the many ways you divide or ignore reality is what Jesus calls the Kosmos and Eastern religions would name Samsara or “the wheel of conditional suffer” or other such terms. The two are superimposed upon each other in a way—both always present, both always “reality” and your job is to be able to switch from one way of moving through your life to the other “lens” effortlessly, eventually getting to the point where you can hold both at once. My husband has contacts like that—one can see objects at a distance, the other can focus on objects close up and his brain actually can “choose” what it needs to see.

These concepts are important because, like Mike’s contacts, functioning in relative reality means you get your bills paid, hug your kids, and don’t run red lights. Having access to ultimate reality means you always have a healing context for your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and the like—part of you is timeless, vast, unending and eternal.  It’s like having a fight with your friend, then walking outside and gazing up into a sky littered with stars and recalling the constellation chart saying “you are here” and our sun barely shows up on one little arm of our galaxy.  One doesn’t negate the other—the pain of the argument is reality and so is the idea that the argument is held in a giant bowl of infinity where you can imagine millions of other arguments and make ups going on just on this planet alone.  That moment of anger is also a possible moment when you can connect with all that ever was, is and will be.

Your senses can both help and hinder your development of holding both relative and ultimate reality—they can be your “evergreen” gates to the Kingdom of God or they can draw you ‘round with impressions and input that blur your ability to grasp the wider and deeper vision of life.  Your mind has to learn to take in the information of the senses and then be aware enough to “see” or “hear” both.  It’s why even in the Bible, Jesus kept insisting “those who ears, let them hear.”

Like the idea of the Eastern Guru, (a term that means “light bringer”) the Gospel of Thomas points out that you often begin to see glimpses of relative and ultimate reality in your spiritual teachers. They serve as your first models.  It makes a great deal of sense that early Christians would call Jesus “the son of God” because, like when the Buddha was asked if he were a god, his disciples and followers caught the scent of ultimate reality in him.  It was a rich metaphoric way to describe how it felt to be in his presence.  The Gospel of Thomas not only brings this to your attention, it tells you that all beings can be like Jesus.  We were all created to “stand” up into the world, holding both relative and ultimate reality—not just one person.

Poetic Response

I will never fully be family—
he and his children by another woman
draw lines in the sand,
and while I might toe the grains,
give salt to salt,
they are not mine and
I am not theirs.
I see him in them--
this gesture,
that laugh.
50% of all marriages end in divorce—
100% of all lives end in death.
And so, I bear such little tragedies
nestle them with a light-hearted
in a much larger

Questions to Take You Deeper

1.      Identify examples of relative and ultimate reality.  When, if ever, do you first recall looking at life this way?
2.      What other ramifications, “good” or “bad”, suggest themselves to you when you consider that reality has at least two levels?
3.      Why do you think Jesus taught so much in nature and used so many agricultural, celebratory and intimate family gatherings for his parables and teaching moments?  How do such environments help convey relative and ultimate reality?
4.      Do you think naming ultimate reality “the Kingdom of Heaven” or the “Kingdom of God” “weights” one kind of reality over another?  How do you get beyond this “either/or” language? In what way is a human teacher important in this work?
5.      What ramifications does the practical understanding of relative and ultimate reality have for the dying process we must all face?

Reference Verses
·         L 11 twoness and oneness—holding both
·         L 15 finding the source, unborn, the true Father
·         L 17 intuitive mind, getting beyond dualistic mind (as guarded by the senses)
·         L19 senses as the gateway (when used correctly, they are “evergreen”), living out of ultimate reality
·         L 30 the unity beneath the varied individuals…early Trinitarian language
·         L 43 holding relative and ultimate reality in our spiritual master, and later, in all of life
·         L 49 the Source named as feminine and the beginning and ending (timeless) for those unified. Kingdom is not a realm or physical place
·         L 50 The Kingdom is not what we expect to find.
·         L 56 seeing only relative reality is seeing a corpse
·         L 59 paying attention to the Source now means you can be conscious when you die. 
·         L 61 Salome and the bed—Yeshua bluntly tells her she alone must be filled with light—it cannot be given to her
·         L 69 there is no “you” to be persecuted
·         L 72 am I here to divide? Jesus asks
·         L 75 only the single one enters the place of union
·         L 77 split a piece of wood, I am there…
·         L 87 getting beyond the relative reality of the body and living from the soul
·         L 106 transform two into one, all things possible because you are all things

·         L 108 mutuality of teacher and student

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