Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A New Relationship

            It wasn’t mine to begin with.  It was left in the Temple kitchen by daughter who received it as a present and couldn’t take care of it.  It did not flourish under my rather haphazard care.  In fact, I almost killed it. 
But a friend took it home with her, nursed it back to health and returned the orchid to me.  A lot of fuss for a house-plant, if you ask me.  While I am an enthusiastic outdoor gardener, I have a strong bias for vegetation that takes care of itself (e.g. hosta versus roses.)  The only indoor plants that survive my care are the ones that thrive in conditions of extreme negligence.
            But I am determined to do better this time.  So I actually read the instructions on “zygopetalum culture” my friend printed out for me.  They begin with the assertion that these orchids have been ‘successfully grown’ for more than 100 years.  Then, after mentioning the ‘ease of cultivation,’ the missive continues with detailed recommendations about light, temperature and humidity, air movement, watering, and fertilization.
            I began to lose faith at the end of the first paragraph when it cautioned: “all aspects of culture are interrelated and must be considered as the group of requirements.”  I read this to mean that if I get one of the variables wrong, the orchid dies.  But it was the detailed watering instructions that pushed me over the edge.  “Zybopetalum never want to dry out, nor do they appreciate constantly wet medium.”  So that means I have to figure out when it needs water before it gets dry but after it ceases being wet.  How am I supposed to do this?
            Nonetheless, I have decided to try a make a relationship with this exotic plant anyway.  After all, I’m kind of fussy too.  I need food and water and exercise and work that keeps me engaged.  I need to be talked to and touched and appreciated on a regular basis.  But too much of any of these things is not good and mostly, I just expect others to know what I want and need.  So I guess we have a lot in common.
I’ve named her ‘Zygo’ and she already has buds. 
I’m trying to set small goals for our relationship.  My first one is to keep her alive till the blossoms come.  If we make it that far, who knows what will be possible for us. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Pushing Trees

Yesterday I spent some time with a young friend at the Temple.  He was more interested in going outside than in sitting with the other children at the family service.  Since he wasn’t old enough to be clear on the whole ‘wearing shoes when we go outside’ thing, I put his shoes on him and mine on me, and we went outside.
            He immediately headed for the brick walkway and was delighted to trundle down the slight slope leading toward the further back. His little momentum carried him faster and faster until I grew concerned that his little legs would not be able to keep pace with the rest of him.  On his part, he appeared utterly at ease with this edge of out of control and was not particularly interested in holding my hand.           
We stopped at the gazebo and I explained about gazebos and sitting and relaxing.  He was willing to sit still next to me for a brief period.  I continued talking to him, but he’s not yet much on using any kind of words that were comprehensible to me so just gazed around.  When I sang ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,’ he turned and looked up at me with suddenly quiet interest.  But one song was enough.
            We kept heading back to the wild part of the grounds.  Reaching the place where the brick walk abruptly ends, he was undeterred and headed straight off into the sticks and weeds.  It was slow going for him.  A couple steps and being tripped by a small branch on the ground.  A couple more and being fooled by a slight incline.  None of this seemed to bother him or be a ‘problem.’  I offered my hand through the treacherous territory and he, after a few falls, nonchalantly accepted.
            Eventually, we came face-to-face with the trunk of a maple tree.  He reached out his small hand and touched the bark with what I imagined to be reverence and curiosity.  I followed his lead.  He put both hands on the tree.  Me too.  The lively gray bark palpable to us both.  We stood there for a few moments with our hands on the tree. 
Then he stepped his little feet slightly back and began to push the tree – making low grunting noises and saying something unintelligible.  He would try for a little bit, then stop to gather himself.  And it was at this point that I understood his words for the first time:  “I can’t push it.”  He repeated this mantra over and over.  Sometimes it sounded just like an observation and sometimes more of a complaint.
            I joined with him in the pushing.  It was a big maple tree.  Straight up for fifty feet or so.  But we kept on pushing and he kept on saying ‘I can’t push it.’  After  a while I suggested that the tree probably wouldn’t move and encouraged him to look up and see how big the tree was.  He was uninterested in the logic of the situation and kept pushing with undiminished enthusiasm. 
            It was a grandfatherly treat for me to be with this young person.  For me, the Temple grounds became wild and new.  His full and unmannered presence invited me to join into the re-creation of this astonishing world. 
Pushing the tree was both a crazy and a wonderful thing – like so many other things in my life.  On the balance, it seemed to be a perfectly reasonable way of spending a sunny autumn afternoon.
            Eventually my attention wandered and I showed him that we could walk around the tree.  He seemed content to let it go and make our way back to the Temple to join the other children.  Though I suspect he would eagerly throw himself back into the pushing if he ever sees that tree again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tender Heart Sesshin

The official photo from the retreat we completed on Sunday afternoon.  Such a blessing to do this work of waking up within the support and company of others.  Thanks to everyone who came and everyone who supported to make this possible.  And special thanks to Harriet who took the photo!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hearing Voices

            I was minding my own business the other morning – just tidying up the gardens near the side-walk with no one else around - when I heard someone say to me in a sing-songy voice, “Why won’t you let me love you?” 
Since God does not yet usually speak to me in such a direct manner, I looked around for the source of the question.  All I saw was the backside of a sweaty woman jogging by wearing earphones. 
I was both relieved and disappointed she didn’t seem to be talking to me personally.  But then I realized that she was obviously a secret messenger – so far undercover that she herself did not even know she had been chosen to carrying this message to me.
            The rest of the day, I’ve been contemplating her question: “Why won’t you let me love you?”  I take it mostly as an invitation to receive something that is already here.  What if this is the question from the leafy stillness of the trees?  From the flat humility of the sidewalk?  From the shushing sound of the passing cars?
            I consider the possibility of relaxing my heart long enough to let in what I have been longing for all my life.  Of course, I don’t really know how to do this, but even in the imagining, something slips in.  I see through, for a moment, the ancient delusion of separateness. 
I smile in recognition of my silliness and go on with my day.