TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT IN LOVE, NATURE & ART

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finding suññatā in Lucknow

dhamma footsteps

16maya3POSTCARD #249: Lucknow, North India: A short flight from Delhi brought us here, hired car to the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A vast space of nothing but polished marble flooring – no trees, no earth left uncovered. Two and a half acres of marble paving rising in a gentle slope, with some monuments and an avenue with hundreds of life size elephants carved in stone.

The panorama of it, an oasis-mirror-like flatness as far as the eye can see; a heaven realm… hold that thought, from two thousand five hundred years back in the distant past, comes rushing towards us now, into present time, 2017, the Buddha’s First Noble Truth – as valid as it was all these centuries ago.

‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, yes, I was wondering what that bad feeling is, gnawing away at the innards… the urgency of the human condition applies to everything I can possibly…

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A Barn in Winter

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Bare branches
yearning towards
turquoise sky
with fast floating
sunlit white clouds
white above
white below
the snow
hides the land
of insects
and mice
and moles
and snakes
and in the vernal pool
next door
turtles sleep
in their hernaculum
while frogs lay
dormant in the mud
I sit in sleepy
surrender
glad to be
in our little hideaway
in the woods
of our young dreams
wondering
if we will all
awaken
to another Spring.

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A Procedure

 

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A brown bag
so fragrant
full of presents
and the smells
of India
crammed full
with treasures
fills me
with such desire
I inhale deeply
and go “under”
falling into the ether
of the subcontinent

Machines beeping
the anesthesiologist
himself an Indian
calms me down
speaking softly
plumping my pillow
a routine exam
so much kindness
as he pumps
anesthesia
through my veins

I awaken
fresh from the arms
of Mother India
in the land
of Morpheus
as I lie before
a wide expanse
of grey sky
over the Hudson
and see God
as boats drift by

Beep… Beep…

Oh to always
see the sky
and the river
and God
and to breathe
the intoxicating
smells of
the India
of my dreams.

all that is born

A wonderful post, close to my heart, from Tiramit at Dhamma Footsteps.com

dhamma footsteps

img_3877POSTCARD #244: New Delhi: Early morning light, people wrapped in shawls, long scarves bound around the head and tied under the chin. Dark faces, eyes looking out and they see me for an instant in a diamond eye-lock as I struggle to look away. They look with curiosity; I think they see me as one of those lost in maya, not in the real world for them, I’m living in a dream. They might laugh to themselves, but not in a hurtful way – I’m pretty sure they see me as a naïve person, like a grown up child, dependent on support mechanisms I pay for with an impossible wealth, as far as they’re concerned, removed from everyday values. They’re right, from where they stand. It’s true, and I’m in awe of them, their existence is unreachable. The actuality of their lives, I know nothing about. My ongoing practice…

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The ER

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Chest pain
shaky and
light in the head
go to bed
awaken
at 3 AM
pain in chest worse
down the arm
in the neck
nausea
to wake my husband
or not
decide not
decide to lie there
and see what happens
but first
write him a note
of my undying love
which he finds in the morning
when I am surprised
to find myself awake
husband says to the ER
NO
urgent care center
OKAY
doctor there says ER
despite finding a normal EKG
I say NO
husband says YES
another taxi
to hell
get sent to “geri”
and wait
sitting on top of
sick people
afraid husband
will catch something
I in tears with fears
of being in this
overcrowded, overheated,
festering inferno
with screams
in the background
a man lying on the floor
after an hour or so
can take no more
tell husband
LEAVING
he says
OKAY
even he is spooked
I will never go back
not there
and this supposed to be
an advanced country
how dare we look down
on the developing world
with our pants down.
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When the Snows Come

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My husband and I sit in our living room with all the little still-intact dairy barn  windows showing flakes falling as if we are on ship at sea in a snowfall.  Except for the high ceiling the living room has the feeling of a ship cabin, our converted dairy barn, and I think it is most beautiful when the snow is falling.

The glass doors at the pentagon of the far end of the barn gives us perfect view of the suet bird feeder.  The bird feeder in winter is our television.  We watch male cardinals, bright red in the stark white, feed and contend with the beautiful, bullying blue jays.  And the more modest and gentle little juncos and sparrows touch our hearts with their humility.

Like many barns, ours was built near the road so we do get some traffic noise.  But in the meadow out back beyond the marsh and stream, we are far removed from the road and from all.  And when it snows, it is so beautiful in the quiet, looking at the animal tracks and feeling the spirits in the nearby now-graveless graveyard.  Our secret little piece of Paradise.  And to stand there in the silence, in the virgin white, and see the abstract patterns of the snow on the surrounding hundreds of trees is Divine.

Christmas card 2

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Postcards from the present moment – a new book from tiramit

A wonderful book, the beginning of a series, by my friend, Tiramit, at dhammafootsteps.com. Take a look…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

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Thralldom

POSTCARD #39: Chiang Mai: Coming up to Chiang Mai from Hat Yai was done in two stages, with the stopover at Bangkok, as we did going down. It was the same thing, the other way round. Everything already seen, but occuring in reverse order and the hassle and stress we experienced on the way down got cancelled out on the return journey. Like a video on fast-rewind, it stops at the beginning not the end and the memory of ever having gone or been away is erased.

A short trip, six days only. The point of it was to visit Jiab’s youngest brother and his wife and their new-born baby – a truly amazing child with a wonderful smile. It was a bit like the Three Wise Men following the star to the stable where the baby Jesus lay in the manger – not really like that… there was Jiab…

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The Trees of Winter

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Every year what budded in autumn blossoms full blown in winter– my love affair with trees.  Trees that were drop-dead gorgeous in their fall colors are now bare, with the exception of evergreens and a few stray deciduous trees that refuse to relinquish their leaves.  Now the trees are stripped down to their souls and their souls sing a siren song to the universe.

The tops of trees lift my spirit; brushlike they paint the sky the baby pinks and blues of mornings,  and the majestic magentas and violets of day’s end.  Each tree has its signature shape against the sky, like a fingerprint or a snowflake, similar yet each unique.  Some treetops in their bare state are shaped like a fancy coiffure; others look like wrought iron filigree.  On distant mountains, against the snowy ground, some look like stubble on an old man’s unshaven face.

It is the colorful winter sky showing through, and showing off, the bare branches that woos me.  The bare curvaceous branches are stark, dark lines against the bright of day and the inky sky of  night.  These resplendent creatures are living lines that explode.  Branches tangle like the lines in a Jackson Pollock painting.  Others  curve in the sensuous lines of a Brancusi sculpture.  Buxom tree trunks stand strong surrounded by their dead blossoms and their burgeoning offspring like a Renaissance Madonna. In truth these trees are not like art at all.  Rather art imitates them– their beauty provides the timeless inspiration for artists, writers and poets of all ages and styles.

Trees not only inspire, they themselves are paragons of diversity.   One look out of a car window while driving on the Taconic and one can see squat pines alongside towering majestic firs, birches interspersed with maple and oak.  And together the different brown and tan barks interspersed with evergreens create not only a mosaic of contrasting colors, but display an example to inspire humans to live together in peaceful unity.

These beneficent beings carry the heavy, dark grey clouds of winter.  When it snows the tree trunks become canvases for the abstract patterns of windblown-snow, while the serpentine branches are outlined in white.  In ice storms their branches become chandeliers, each enveloped in glassine ice.  While in the melancholy of a winter rain, the branches become oiled skins of snakes weeping to the ground below. And finally, in the night sky, the branches hold the stars in their arms, those with leaves holding them in their hands, as they nurse the moon.

All trees,  no matter what their species, age or height, stand tall in proud humility, their arms reaching up to the Heavens to our Creator in prayer–  soft-spoken beings of peace and tranquility towering over us, while the little creatures race around distractedly below.

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Reaching for the Stars

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“I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree… a tree that looks at God all day and lifts her leafy arms to pray.”  The opening lines of the poem,“Trees,” by Joyce Kilmer.  Indigenous peoples through the ages have talked of tree spirits and trees as wise ones.  Trees are striking as they permanently lift their arms to the Heavens in seeming prayer, day and night in communication with the Creator, their outstretched arms reaching for the stars.

Reaching for the stars.  The image calls to mind a dance of the Kalahari Bushmen who were featured in the movie “The Gods They Must be Crazy.”  The Kalahari, the last men born of the Stone Age culture according to Laurens Van Der Post, have no sense of individuality and so share all they have. They have a dance of gratitude which Van Der Post describes in his book entitled “A Mantis Carol”: “I never see their dancing without feeling deeply moved and utterly irreverent and blasphemous because of our own incapacity for acknowledging what life will give if only we will let it in.”  And then there is their dance of the “great hunger,” a dance that says we do not live by bread alone, a dance at life’s end fraught with longing, with arms outstretched taughtly towards the Heavens as they reach for the stars.

My grandfather reached for the stars.  He came to the United States, a 16-year-old peasant stonecutter from the mountains of Sicily, knowing no English.  He wound up carving the Lincoln Gettysburg address at the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  While working on the Gettysburg Address he studied English at night school.  I remember him telling me how he was the laughing stock of his fellow stone cutters because, inspired by Lincoln’s words, he carved his initials at the top of the monument, “A.L.” for Anthony LaManna (and, of course, for Abraham Lincoln), followed by: “Attorney at Law.”  Working his way through school, he actually did eventually become a VA lawyer.  He reached for the stars and touched them without ever forgetting where he came from.  And he was childlike as he took care of me, as we danced to records on the victrola or as he played the mandolin and sang to me.  I always think of him with a tinge of sadness, for more than anyone, he taught me to reach for the stars.

Reach for the creator– that is what the trees say.  At this time of year I yearn for the days of childhood in which God seemed close.  This yearning fully ripens each year at Christmas/Hanukkah when the people brighten their houses with festive lights.  It is a time of year in which we light up our hearts and look to the heavens and sing songs of love to a babe born not so very long ago, or in which we give thanks for the oil to light the lights of the temple for eight days.  We are all really seeking the love that motivated the Kalahari Bushmen to do their dance.  We are seeking a savior, and yearning for the Light in this overlit, commercialized, complicated world in which the inspiring simplicity of the Bushmen, the peasant, is rapidly disappearing.  And the trees touch my heart in their upward reach for the Heavens.  For at this time so many millions of them are sacrificed as they have become our Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes, to be discarded after the holidays are over.

May we experience this holy season with a simpler yearning, not for presents and parties and hoopla, but with our hearts full of gratitude, taking lessons from the trees, from the Kalahari Bushmen, from our ancestors, and seek Love, in whatever form it takes in our souls.

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Blessings of the Winter Solstice

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Christmas and Winter Solstice blessings to all those who have visited Moonside and especially to those to whom I was unable to respond due to physical or mental illness, a HUGE THANK YOU!!  

And to all… may you feel the joy of Christmas no matter what your circumstance, color, creed or faith and be blessed by health, happiness and peace in the New Year!

Love, Ellen

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