Thursday, October 16, 2014

This post is for a Tree

I should know what kind it is. A fir tree? Douglas? Sitka spruce? I will find out soon.
Every morning I step out of my bedroom to the deck and look north. There against the blue sky is this Tree. It is no. 1 on my list of "things that took me too long to learn to love".  I have lived in this house for 30 years and I've seen the Tree before but I have never really stopped to thank the Tree for being there. I have not thanked the homeowners who haven't chopped it down. 

I am learning to cultivate a relationship with the Tree so these days, first thing in the morning, I say my silent offering of gratitude for its Being. My gaze this morning turned from the Tree to the contour of the hills surrounding our valley. The hills are still tree-lined and thank goodness, can't see houses on the ridge. Bringing my attention back to my Tree, I wonder if it feels too alone without siblings nearby. Sure there are other trees in the neighborhood. In fact, an overgrown pepper tree to the east of the deck covers the house right behind us. And next to it is a bay laurel tree.

But my Tree is majestic as it stands alone against the wide blue sky. I imagine that it would make the best Christmas tree if there was a ladder tall enough to reach the top and hang lights on it. But there isn't because this tree is just too tall. I don't know. Maybe 300 feet? Anyway, it doesn't need lights. She is grand just as she is.

I wonder how many crickets, birds, and other insects my Tree gives shelter to. In the quiet of the night I hear the crickets and their psst psst psst.

How to translate this awe and wonder in my classroom? Last week a student said "Sure, I'd like to have a relationship with other living species like animals, fish, bears...but a mountain or stone? Nah. A pleasure to look at maybe but I don't think they are animate." Well, the acknowledgment is the beginning of a new way of seeing. I have 6 more weeks to work with them.

I will ask the Tree what to do with student T.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

This post is for Penguins

I must have watched the PBS program on penguins three or four times now. There is something about seeing creatures in a landscape where there are no other inhabitants. There is only the ice, the ocean, and the bare mountain. No human beings. No buildings. Well, of course, there is a camera crew doing the filming. They even have penguin robots loaded with camera that is why we can see them up close.
We watch them cradle their eggs. We watch their courtship and mating rituals.

In one scene, a penguin whose wife hasn't arrived yet from her migratory journey, starts pecking at the penguin robot and makes flirtatious gestures. Then the wife arrives and becomes jealous and so she starts pecking at the robot until it topples over.

But why this fascination? After all, all I'm looking at is a flat screen. There is no depth perception. No reciprocity between myself and the penguins. I turn off the sound of the male narrator and I notice that now the the distance between me and the penguins is even greater. But I can close my eyes and visualize myself being in the Antartic with the penguins. There is a quickening of the pulse as the cold air touches my skin. The tense shoulders loosen up and I let their penguin sounds sooth me.

I long for this sensuous connection to the other beings of the Earth: the air, the sun, the penguins, the terrain, the mountains...

Every morning, I walk out of my second floor bedroom to the deck overlooking a tall fir tree standing alone against the blue sky. I am so grateful that the neighbors that hosts this giant have tended to it.
On the railing of the patio is a twenty-five year old honeysuckle vine that we planted to honor my grandmother. I greet her every morning.

All these meandering thoughts....I hope the penguins know that I am thinking of them and I praise them for being.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

This post is for Lauren

I am paying attention to your fb posts. I am taking notes of your smart questions. I appreciate the seriousness of your quest to have some good answers to wrestle with.

How can a young second-generation Fil Am who has never been to the homeland decolonize and re-indigenize? ...Whose connection with Filipino culture is tenuous and fraught with questions and the answers can only be glimpsed in fragments and very incoherent most times. . . How to appreciate or claim a culture vicariously?  How to ask permission to appropriate? Can we create our own culture with what is borrowed from the bits and pieces of the homeland culture that we are able to access?

These are the same questions I had when I started this journey.  The research methodology of pakapakapa (literally groping your way around for the answer) is quite ingenius (and indigenous!), you see. We are natural researchers in that we  know how to ask questions, we know who to ask, we know where to look, where to show up, who to listen to, who not to bother with.  We trust our instincts - our pakikiramdam - and we are intuitively guided from all directions by our dreams, signposts, metaphors, stories, and yes, tsismis. We know how to lean into or keen into something when our synesthesia kicks in. This fusion of the senses is a quality of Pakikipamdam - a very sophisticated sensing instrument that is honed by a participatory sense of self and a practice of radical presence.

So this is what I see you doing, Lauren. You are asking the right questions. You are showing up. You are building community. You are creating culture along with other kapwa on the same path.

What does this Land ask of us? those of us who are settlers? And how is this Land connected to the homeland across the Pacific Ocean? How do we stay connected? How does our life here impact the lives over there?

The Earth is alive and it is dreaming us. What are we to make of this dream...assuming we even know and feel that we are being dreamed?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

This post is for Lily

A traditional Buddhist prayer:
For all the harm I have done to others
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I ask for forgiveness.

For all the harm others have done to me
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I offer forgiveness

For all the harm I have done to myself
Knowingly or unknowingly
Through ignorance and confusion
I heal these wounds with forgiveness.

Like I said in our circle, I didn't realize how much I needed to be with you at this time so that we may transform our siblinghood into even deeper and richer dimensions. The last six weeks are almost miraculous in the way that I have been tested, reassured, loved, forgiven, nourished, and healed by your presence at this time.

I marvel at you:
    your light heart and bursts of laughter
    the seriousness of your intellect
    the color and splash of your wardrobe
    the intensity of your workout
    your compassion for others
    your courage and fighting spirit

For these gifts, I thank You. I love you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

This post is for Will who misses my posts

You are on my mind often even though the whispered moments of intimate story-sharing have been few. I say few only because I can never get enough of the stories and I keep longing to hear more. And yet I also feel as if we need not speak too many words to know what is below the surface of the stories. We read and love the same authors and that has been a comfort and a reassurance that we do not always need words to understand another.

You have been to places I've been hesitant (or afraid?) to enter and it makes me wonder why I am not as able to dive deep into the Mysteries. Although I'm drawn to those places intellectually, my feet haven't taken me those portals. A part of me is longing to do so and a part of me is satisfied in knowing that there are many paths we can take.

What is this path? After being on this path for so long, the question comes up again: what is this about really? The answer seems to be: It is still about coming Home and staying Home. They say Home is in the Heart; Home is the homeland; Home is the earth; Home is the cosmos. It is all of these, of course, but there are just too many memes and cliches (esp. on social media) that renders it bland and flat sometimes.

Maybe I'm just getting old and moving on and letting go. In letting go, I delight in young folks like you. You are wise beyond your years. Your journey from grief to love has been a gift to me.  There is a lot of grief in letting go but, like you, I am learning that it is not about Me at all. It is about the goddess trapped in the human body in need of liberation. What a gift it is to see someone thru that lens of the Sacred!

I am sitting under the apricot tree in the garden as I write this. The breeze is gentle and the cicadas are singing, the crows are cawing. Someone is hammering at a log in the distance. The frogs in the creek delight in the small pool of water after last night's little rain. An aphid just landed on this keyboard and before I could think twice, I had already wiped it off. Sorry.

This morning I walked barefoot as I cleared the autumn leaves in the garden. The Buddha sits under the dogwood tree watching over our house.The gardenia and sampaguita blossom that I placed on the Buddha's lap have dried up.  Another smaller Buddha sits atop our water reservoir by the front door cradled by dried twigs and leaves. Some say this is called earthing - the act of drawing in the energy of the earth thru the soles of our feet.  Whatever name it goes by, I just know it feels good and peaceful to appreciate this dwelling place.

The last time you were here you said something like this: "someday we will all live indigenously as the people who have lived in this valley have done before." This is why you like Ursula Guin's Always Coming Home because this is literally the valley she refers to in her fiction. I think this will be my new home work: to learn how to live as if that indigenous future is here already.

Robin Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass), Potawatomi author, calls it the shkitagen that would kindle the seventh fire that might still save us if enough of us find this way of being today. You are one of those folks, Will, and I feel so grateful for knowing this about you.

So you see, I am glad that my heart skipped a beat and scared me. The heart is calling me to a place of quiet now so that I may learn to let go of what has worked (or hasn't) before and to learn how to live small and beautiful while the Stories we have shared take on a life of their own - like trickster stories perhaps, or as sagely ways of knowing.

This post is for you, Will.