December 20, 2001
Since we planted all the new trees to screen our view of the new neighbor, Werner has taken over the job of disposing of Buddha’s kitty box. Every couple of days he carries out the ‘load’ to fertilize the new trees. In this morning’s heavy rain he was thinking of all that cat poop breaking down and percolating down to the roots. As we discussed his vision while the coffee brewed, I said to him, "And when the wind blows the new trees will meow." We realized that it is this kind of thinking that one needs for haiku. It is the ability to take an event or action, extend it beyond actual eye vision to carry it to its illogical logical end and then put this into words is one aspect of writing a haiku.
Then as we sat at the breakfast table, the oatmeal and granola under stewed apples all consumed, we were staring at the candles before the dark storm clouds over the sea. Suddenly Werner said he could see circles of light around the flame. Before I could see this halo, I remembered how Christmas cards used to show candles with a circle of radiance above the candle. In my mind’s eye I then could see what he was actually seeing around the candle. He told me to look indirectly, as one does when scanning for auras, and sure enough I could see a perfect circle beyond the flame. As I looked, the halo would come and go and then suddenly it got much bigger! The whole top of the candle was encased in this shimmering golden ball of light. We realized that everything has this halo around it so that each thing extends into the things around it. And the sea! how often have I felt we live in the sea above the sea? The dampness, the smells, the spray of the waves and even the fogs move over us in waves the same as the surging waters beyond the shoreline. If one was practiced enough in vision one could always see that this finer portion of each bit of reality hooks all things together. Then we talked about thoughts – how they are ‘things’. Energy that has manifested. What a lot of energy each of us is using each nano-second as our thoughts create our existence! Even sitting still and dreamily staring at a candle we are busy creating. No wonder we never want to die. What a place of power we are sitting in. What a golden opportunity to change the world simply by the thoughts we pour into it each second of each of our lives! Whew! Overwhelming.
We have made it halfway through the dark times. Hallelujah! From tomorrow on, the world will get brighter and brighter – at least the sun part, if not the condition portion. The sun will spin on its apogee and consent to return to us in the coming days. What a joyful thought! We have entered the Blessed Season of the year. I send Solstice Greetings of Joy, Happiness and increasing Light to Each and Everyone! And may all your thoughts come to create peace and joyfulness for you and those around you who you touch with a ball of golden light just like the flame of a candle.
December 19, 2001
I was living in a huge old house that was more of a compound than just a house. Actually it looked a lot like the old adobe Spanish missions. I was preparing to take a shower when I noticed a small group of men had come through the gate and were looking around at the store rooms along the outer perimeter. I quickly walked up to them to ask them what they wanted and they said they only wanted to look around. I told them this was not a public place, I had not invited them here, and that I wished for them to leave. As the group tightened together when they started to walk back out the entrance, some of the men were embarrassed that they had mistakenly walked into a private place and others were angry that I was so determined not to let them stay in my space. I was surprised how calm I was about just observing their various reactions and how secure I felt in what I was doing.
I went back inside, took off my clothes, turned the water on in the shower. For some reason this shower was not working properly so I gathered up my clothes and walked to another one. Here the water came out plentiful, hot and steamy and I was eager to get into it. Just then I heard giggling and laughter behind me. I turned, with my pile of clothes still in my arms, to see five or six women coming into the compound. I turned off the water, but without dressing, I walked toward them.
They had scattered around a room where the tables were laid for a large dinner with elaborate silver candelabra, rows of crystal glasses before each setting – it looked as if it was prepared for a big celebration. The women meandered around the tables looking at the china and silverware as if evaluating how much it cost or correctly laid. Some were bold enough to swipe olives or nuts which had already been set out in bowls. That was just a little too much for me. I called out in a loud voice, "what are you doing here?" which made some of them jump because they had been so busy looking they had failed to notice my arrival on bare feet. One rather small, mousy-looking woman came toward me, and I felt I knew her slightly but could not think how. So I asked her what she wanted of me and why had she come. She just stared at me as if I had bad manners to ask. Another woman beside her spoke up and said, "Don’t you recognize her? She is famous." Then I remembered that I had promised to meet this woman some day but I had no idea it would be like this – with me naked and needing a shower and intent on a celebration. I wanted to speak to the woman, to ask her to sit down and make herself and her friends at home while I finished dressing, but I wanted to address her by her name but for the life of me I could not remember her name.
December 18, 2001
Last week brought my Christmas letters to my children. When I wrote them, I thought of putting them in my blog and then felt they were too 'loaded' to make public. The passing time has distanced me from the emotions in which they manifested. Heidi is my oldest adult-child. In summer she plans to make a three-month solitary hike with her 8 x 10 camera along the Sierra Mountains. John Muir righteously named them the Range of Light - the perfect place for a photographer.
Lately I have been thinking of you as my teacher. How, even as a baby, you had to teach me how to be a mother. How you took on the tough job of being the child who raised me. I could not have asked for a sweeter, more gentle instructor. Your job was not an easy one and I made many mistakes – oh, so many mistakes. But still, even into adulthood you loved me with your unconditional love and loyalty. So many times when I was surprised by your inability to blame me for my errors, or hold me responsible for damaging your life, I wondered what great gift I had been given in you. You seemed to have taken on a faulty memory just so you could not remember how deeply I had hurt you in so many ways so you could continue to love me with the complete force of your person. You have no idea how often you filled me with gratitude for you and whatever guides us that in taking on the job of teaching, you were also teaching me about love.
As you grew into womanhood, you became the business woman that my personality failed to develop. By watching you, by following your example, I saw what it took to be successful. And I was proud of you as I am learning to be proud of myself as I now attempt to do the same. And now I am watching you turn your back on your business success to develop the artist in you. I am seeing how you do this, how much work and commitment it is, but I see it can be done and I applaud you at every step. I admit that I quake when I think of you making the Sierra trip, but I have every confidence in you that you will succeed. Seeing how you live and work, as I could do on the Hawaiian trip, showed me how cautious you are, how committed to the right combination of safety and staunchness and this tells me that you will succeed on this summer’s trip also. I hope you will consider me as part of your back up crew.
We are cautioned not to be proud but I am so proud of you that I understand completely how this can be a ‘sin’. Even when you were a baby I was so proud of your smile and your clear shining eyes – the warmth and love that you spread in your presence like a fine fragrance. As a small girl you were so beautiful it was a constant joy to see others’ amazement as they looked at you. As a teenager, instead of growing obstinate and resentful, you only became a bit quieter, more interested in your guitar and flute and put your thoughts down in your singing poems. A mother could not have asked for such a wonder.
You found love, stayed on the course when the trail was rough, but did, I think, pick a very fine man to be the father of your children. I watched you being a mother yourself and saw again where I had failed and you succeeded. I was so impressed with your ability to have a family and be a business woman. And your children are both a credit to you and to Ray and marvelous additions to our family. Great kids you have! and I am proud of all of you.
I am filled with love for you and want to be the best I can be for you, but in these past few years I have been sensing that you feel a need to pull away from me, to establish your own self as a woman – to stop this continual education of me. I suspect that when I try to ‘be good to you’ this only makes your job harder. There is also the natural fear that one will grow "old and turn out just like Mom!" and no woman ever wants to do that! I know the fight against that feeling.
We are alike in so many ways it is almost painful, and yet, at the core we are very different because you are my teacher. You are far out ahead of me in whatever you do. What I am and what I do are already in your past. Year for year I will slip back and away from you until you are completely free and your own adult. I accept the reality of this thought and I totally accept your need to be in this path. I do not see the distance, whatever it becomes, as something that separates us from each other or the love that we have shared. That remains, resolute, in volute, complete and untarnished until we decide to try another life of lessons together.
I could never release you from being my child, because that is not my gift to give to you because you never were my child. You were my teacher and example of how I should grow-up from your conception. Please accept your freedom from me to be yourself. I can never stop loving you as we are bound by a connection we have tested many times in much more critical situations and I have seen again and again how boundless (without boundaries) your love is. Again you have taught me this. By my saying I am giving you freedom you seek (which you have always had!) I will learn by your leaps and bounds only that much more and faster. I offer you only my thanks and my blessings and of course, this huge cloud of love with which we cover each other.
May this season, in celebration of love and increasing light, bring you the power to accomplish, in style and grace, all your dreams for the New Year. Blessed BE my dearest girl!
Your photo, "Silence in Time" grows, with each passing day, more dear to me. You have captured some part of our lives together in this image – an age I delight in returning to with and through you. I feel I have you even closer to me than ever before while I have this picture. It is a photo of you! You are that deep! older than these dwellings, and wiser than you know. Thank you for recognizing the mystery of us that is in this place.
December 16, 2001
The other day I received this story from Ed:
In current Japan certain masters of arts are declared national treasures, as a form of recognition and support. When I was in the Rhode Island School of Design a friend, who had gone to Japan to study with their premier wood-cut artist, told me that the master demanded the students get the very best supplies, the most expensive chisels, inks, papers, flawless woods. Everyone groaned under the initial request, understanding that this teacher wasn't kidding, and there would be no classes if it wasn't followed. They learned eventually to appreciate his respect, because then they had to value their own efforts. But also, they knew by reputation that if he himself made one cut and found a flaw, or it simply didn't feel right, he would stop and discard the (expensive) wood. Wasteful , yes, he would say, but it would be a greater waste of valuable time and talent on a fruitless effort. But they asked, how do you know? He answered smiling, that is why you are a student. Once they caught him cutting into a block with the cheapest chisels, they thought he'd put aside for the children's classes. Asked about the apparent conflict he said that it was always important for the beginner to start with the very best, otherwise how could they know how it felt when their own talent was given a chance to talk to them. But a master could use the poorest tools and still get the best result. In this same way a pianist can squeeze something out of a marginal upright, but may insist his three-year-old students sit before a full grande, to understand how it could sound when it all fit together. Also in the same vein, a sword master may take the sword from a student who is repeating a mistake, and by a few moves himself correct the flaw, just by altering the sense of what is possible. This kind of work, especially, is an extension of consciousness.
The story hangs before me like my own breath in frosty weather. I keep trying to see how it applies to me. I drag out this idea and that one, testing them to see if this kind of thinking is what I want to apply to myself.
I recognize the inherent rightness of the wood-cut teacher’s premise – that especially learners need the best materials so they can recognize how it feels to accomplish an art. I also recognize that in order to give oneself the very best available materials is a huge hurdle for one lacking in self esteem. To get to the point to say, "If I wish to do thing, then I deserve the best materials." one has to overcome such voices as "I am just trying this art out to see if I like it.", "this is only a hobby for me, I don’t need good tools" or "I am happy making-do with what I have". All of these statements have resided in my head at one time or another. Yet, I absolutely know the importance of having the proper tools and supplies for not only any success of a project but for the feelings of adequacy and control while doing the work. I easily think on the studio which I am renting. The electric wheel that needs repair because at the top speed – for centering, one can actually stop it from turning with pressure! and how one has to fight against this problem when the full concentration should be given to the mound of clay and its manifestation. I think of the kiln that asks for repairing because the fire brick has broken away allowing the heating element to bulge out and hang too close to the load. Woe to the pot that is placed too close to this spot by some student. And I think on the table here at home where I work – how it wobbles so badly that when I roll out slabs or coils I have to use one hand to steady the table so the tools don’t all jump onto the floor. While it is fairly easy to think of these examples, I am sure that Ed has given me the story, especially when I read the last line, not with my clay work in mind but some facet of my life where I have not allowed myself to have the best available atmosphere for the development of my soul. What is lacking here? Or what about my daily life prevents me from completely being the person I could be? Which tool is broken or too cheap? Why does this story follow me even into my blog? I am sure it has a meaning for me which I am willing to continue to worry like a bone, but I am wondering what it means to you?
December 12, 2001
Christmas may be coming for others, but for me, the real excitement is Solstice. Each cloudless morning shows me a sun straining to reach the southern most part of the sky even as the darkness lingers one more minute. The shortness of the days is now tenuous – as if there was a knowing that this cycle cannot maintain itself much longer. Already the feeling of change is gathering on the horizon. These short days will not last much longer and the sadness and urge to weep that they bring will soon shift, wobble and fade away. It is like a great pain with codeine on its way. Before it is driven unconscious, the pain makes one last valiant effort to conquer – the table standing on three legs before it topples. For someone who dreads the six months of diminishment, this seems immanent victory. Each day won from dark, from clouds, from the confinement of rain is a gift of such purity, grace and excitement, I feel I am falling in love for the first time.
Since starting the process of unplugging myself from the umbilical cord of Christianity, Christmas seems to attract to itself so many negative aspects. Disappointments about getting a desk lamp instead of the fluffy sweater I was sure would make me attractive, my Grandmother dying during Christmas dinner, my own failures to give gifts up to the expectations of my children roll into a knot of anxiety for which I have never found the proper sword. I have tried ignoring Christmas by taking a holiday, but there one is totally surrounded by others running from the very same ghosts that only make my own situation more pitiful. I have tried throwing myself into a Martha Stewart holiday and I can do that very well and enjoy it exceedingly. The trouble is: one negative comment, one failure in one small area erases all the joy I have so carefully piled up with the coordinated wrapped packages, matching the tree decoration, which echoes the gifts.
I do enjoy Christmas music. Right now and for the past month I have Handel’s Messiah daily just behind my computer screen. On the tape deck by my chair is Midnight Christmas Mass sung by the Monks at the Christ in the Desert Monastery. The other day I got down my autoharp, tuned it and enjoy playing Christmas carols just at sunset, the hardest part of the whole day for me. When I am home alone I play the songs of a child’s Christmas: Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Up on the Rooftop, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Puff, the Magic Dragon.
Since it was surely the strain of moving the couch myself to make room in our first house trailer for the Christmas tree that precipitated Heidi’s birth, it has become a tradition in the family and now hers that the tree must be up by the 10th of December. After getting Buddha the cat we knew the delicate handmade ornaments from Germany would have to be forgotten, even the birds I have used ever since baby Hans ate a small glass ornament would only tempt this cat-cat to climb the tree. Thus, we decided to outsmart him by putting only lights on the tree. He watched in total concentration as I laced the wires back and forth and secured each one loosely to a branch. At dark we turned off all the lights to better enjoy the spectacle of the newly lighted tree. As we sat there holding hands in the glow of the Christmas tree, a line of the tiny lights rapidly stretched across the room in the opposite direction. By the time we had stumbled to a light switch, there stood Buddha panting over the string of lights he had ripped off the tree. Not having ornaments on the tree made it no less interesting to him. Our Christmas tree was our personal gift of a cat toy to him. I was so glad to get that tree, now nearly stripped of needles in daily rations, out of the house.
Last year we decided to get a potted tree, to save our karma from the violence of a cut-down tree. As we walked around searching for one we found they were all so expensive, we thought we could afford the karma better than the dollar drain and we wondered how important being politically correct really was. Then off in the corner of the nursery I saw a huge piney palmy tree that attracted me as if with a call. I was shocked seeing the tag because it had such a tiny price. A Norfolk Island Pine came home with us. In order to enjoy it longer we set it outdoors by the patio door. Then one warm afternoon I got the idea of decorating the tree with stars and angels made from the straw of the meadow. Ah, here we could have our tree in peace! Protected from Bu with only the wind and weather to consider the situation was perfect.
Over summer the tree seemed to be really happy on our patio. I thought of it as the watchdog of our plants as it towered up to look over the railing and around the corner of the garage to see who came in the driveway. This year when I put the decorations on it, (Thanks Caran, for the Mexican tin – I spayed them with sealer), I sensed that it understood that it was our tree and that in this dark month it would not look silly with shiny ornaments but was a small statement of hope that the sun will return, that the glitter will change to spring warmth and summer growth again.
December 10, 2001
Happy Birthday Heidi!
Forty-four years ago this child made me a mother. She had no easy job! Kicking and screaming, I was still a child myself at twenty. All of her life everyone has spoken of Heidi’s incredible smile. She came into the world to conquer hearts with a treasure of prior knowledge all packed in her smile. Her head was more a perfect ball than any fruit which seemed even more round with her wide-opened eyes. Only minutes old she knew how to make them dance with lights across the stage of her glorious smile. While wrapping her in the first blanket, the nurse stopped, turned to the rest of the staff, and said in awe, "Just look at the smile on this child’s face." It took her a few weeks to get her gurgling laugh out just the way she wanted it to be (remember she was also trying to train me at the same time) but it remains her most undeniable asset.
In grade school her heritages of teeth and jaw did not match but she accepted the pain, discomfort and steel-bridge look of braces without a whimper. It was the best investment our family ever made. What a gift to give a girl with such a smile – it was an honor to be part of it.
As a teenager she had to save some of her smile or everyone in the town would have fallen in love with her. Behind long blonde hair, a charming shyness, a guitar, and her poems she tried to hide. She even used a camera as dodge, lodge and refuge – a trait that continues today.
If her smile was not so bright, so hearty, so overwhelming, it would be a smaller loss when she has other things on her mind. As it is, she twists all of us around her little finger – we will do anything just to see her smile.
Since the birth a daughter to Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako of Japan on December first, I have been working on a tanka to honor her. Today, on my own first daughter’s birthday, while watching that pink glow above a morning sea that Heidi so loves to photograph, I came up with one more version:
a jewel over the sea
another bead on the sacred
necklace of Amaterasu
Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001.
Continue reading at:
December 9 - 1, 2001
November 30 - 11, 2001
November 9 - 1, 2001
October 31 - 21, 2001
October 20 - 11
October 1 - 10, 2001
September 21 - 30, 2001
September 11 - 20, 2001
September 1 - 10, 2001
August 22 - 31, 2001
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August 9 - 1, 2001
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