Succeed Immediately

Yes, those were the words: Succeed immediately. Was that possible, or even desirable?

Sudip’s father died. When I heard about the Medicine Buddha Puja in his honor, I decided to attend, though I wasn’t sure what a Medicine Buddha Puja was.

The ceremony was held at a Tibetan Buddhist center in a Boston suburb. Driving there, I missed a turn my phone instructed me to take. As I was trying to find my way back to the main road, I turned a corner and saw the moon— huge and full and beautiful— rising above an empty parking lot. Continue reading Succeed Immediately

Nothing (or a Dragon)

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Living in the city, weeks can go by without sight of the horizon. No panoramic views. A lack of vastness in which to feel inconsequentially small.

I grew up on the coast of Maine. As a kid, wading in the cold shallows, looking out across the Atlantic to where the ocean met the sky, I imagined England was on the other side of the horizon, the same way I believed that if I dug far enough in the gray sand, I’d fall through to China. Continue reading Nothing (or a Dragon)

Still in the Chair

Here we are again. Up against a deadline. Self-imposed, yet honored. By oneself for oneself.

When the task is complete, I’ll touch the top of the Daruma doll, a birthday gift from Maggie.

Every week since, a new post. It’s not that the roly-poly doll, a likeness of Bodhidharma, gave me the idea; rather, it’s become a touchstone, a geegaw of encouragement.

Every week, good or bad, another post. In fact, the badder the better. I’m breaking up with perfectionism. Consistency over quality. Just do it, the Swoosh instructs. Continue reading Still in the Chair

Why I Dislike the Term “Path”

I get annoyed when someone says, “I’m on a spiritual path.”

If someone says, “I have a spiritual practice,” I’m interested. I want to know what the person’s practice consists of and how consistently it’s practiced. When did they begin to practice and how has the practice changed over time?

I’m not against paths. As a devout walker and hiker, I appreciate well-marked trails. I’m grateful for those who cleared and maintain the pathways along which I tread. Though I love the thought of­ bushwhacking, my poor sense of direction (and having got lost in the woods after dark) has convinced me of the usefulness of  paths, as well as maps. Continue reading Why I Dislike the Term “Path”

RBG and the Bugs

I walk to the law school library to see if the Ruth Bader Ginsburg memorial is still there. It isn’t. Only a few fresh bouquets where all the photos, notes, drawings, flowers and candles had been.

Sitting at a picnic table, I wait for something to happen—a scene of some sort. Big drops of rain begin to fall. Not many, but enough to make the ink run on the notebook’s lined page. Not enough to make me run for cover. Not yet. Continue reading RBG and the Bugs

Love Letter to a Lamy Safari

You can’t tell, but I first wrote these words with a fountain pen, a Lamy Safari with a black plastic body and a fine steel nib.

I bought the pen online in late April, during COVID lockdown, when friends were sewing masks and baking sourdough bread. Writing with a fountain pen seemed like an equally old-school endeavor, something that required supplies and a bit of know-how. Continue reading Love Letter to a Lamy Safari

Stalking the Present Moment

I am trying to learn from the cat. We’re outside, on the second-floor porch. It’s a late summer morning. I’m reading: book in one hand, cup of coffee in the other. I look up and see Lula watching the birds in the neighbors’ yard below.

Why can’t I be more like her—more here, more now—engaged with what’s actually happening rather than the thoughts in my head? Continue reading Stalking the Present Moment

Alda’s Mirror

“Is there anything else you want?” my father asked.

There wasn’t, but I knew that no was not an acceptable answer.

“Take anything,” he insisted.

This was 1999. We were in the garage attic of my parent’s house, going through the trunk that held my grandmother’s belongings—my father’s mother, Alda.

I never knew her. She’d had rheumatic fever as a child, which left her with a weak heart. Alda died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1936 when my father was 10. He couldn’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick.

Some pink Depression glasses—a few juice glasses and several larger water glasses—were wrapped in newspapers in a pile next to the trunk, ready for me to take home.

I picked up the girl doll with the porcelain head and cloth body. She was big, about two feet long, wit eye lids that opened and closed and dark hair that felt human. She wore a green velvet hat. If the hat were life-sized, I would have wanted it. Continue reading Alda’s Mirror

Do Selfies Spoil the Present Moment?

When we got to the top of the mountain, I didn’t take my phone out of my knapsack. But my hiking companion did. To document our being there, at the modest summit, on a late August afternoon.

She asked me to sit on a rock ledge; I complied. She took my photo. I complied again when she turned the phone’s camera inwards and photographed us with our heads together. I politely offered to take her picture, then centered my friend in her phone’s video display with the surrounding valley as background. I tried to keep the radio towers out of the frame.

The whole process took five minutes at most, minutes more concerned with remembering the present moment than being in it. Continue reading Do Selfies Spoil the Present Moment?

You Just Saved $16

The library reopened gradually. First, the lime green tape that had blocked the mouth of the book drop was removed. A few weeks later, an email announced that library books requested online would be available for pickup. Patrons were required to make a reservation, then show up, masked, at a table outside the library, where a masked librarian would hand over the goods in a brown paper bag. Getting a book had never felt so dangerous. Continue reading You Just Saved $16