I can still smell the ocean

When I was a child in the early 70s, this is what it was like to go to the beach at Galveston.  The waves would roll back, there would be a brief pause, then thousands of these tiny shellfish would wriggle to the surface.

Technically they were edible, but they’re only about a quarter of an inch long so you’d have to have a lot of time on your hands to prepare enough for a meal.  We just loved the vibrant colors and the motion.

They started disappearing in the 80s, and they’re pretty much all gone now.

There’s a huge, constantly expanding “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi, caused by fertilizer and pesticide runoff, and I assume that zone finally expanded large enough to wipe them out.

It’s a pity.  They were a joy.


An aside:  Mom used to pack Chips Ahoy chocolate-chip cookies for our beach trips, and they would become soft and salty in the humid ocean air.  I sometimes buy a bag at the grocery store, but they are crisp and fresh and don’t taste right to me.

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Living in the Maha-Mantra

They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but that hasn’t been my experience. My moments of loss and fear are the times I feel most alone.

I’ve read more religious texts than most, from all the major religions and quite a few of the minor ones, and they’ve helped make me a better person, but faith just isn’t the protective armor for me that it seems to be for others.

This has been a rather robotic existence since I lost my mother. I’m doing all the things I’ve always done– exercising, praying, eating nice meals, writing letters– but I’m not taking any joy in them. I just do them out of habit, and out of fear that if I stop moving I’ll never start again.

I’m trying very hard to live in the present. The past is gone, the future looks bleak, so if there’s any time to be happy, it’s right now. Still, I’m struggling.

There are people who depend upon me. I have responsibilities. I can’t let them down.

Hare was the creative force, Krishna was the enjoyer of the present, Rama was all about duty. I suppose I’m tilted heavily toward Rama at the moment.

“When you feel there is an unfair burden on your shoulders, that’s just the way it is sometimes.” ~Forrest Gump

That quote makes me smile. I wouldn’t say I have an unfair burden; people have helped me in the past, now I’m helping people in the present. That’s just the way it is.

Rama, Rama…

Still

I visited Mesa Verde with my Dad one October, and my most vivid memory is a simple, quiet moment.

As we sat among the ruins, for just a few minutes, there were no sounds at all. No electric motors hummed, no tires droned against pavement, no distant thump from a stereo; no human voices or airplanes overhead. It was perfectly still.

A hundred years ago, this would not have been unusual.

Now there are people living their entire lives without ever having this experience.

And it’s a lonely world, I know…

I stayed awake most of last night worrying.

There should be a word for the worries that plague a person at night but dissipate, like a murder of crows, when the sun comes up.

I worry about being the last one left.  This is just such a strange world, new souls coming in and old souls popping out; it’s like being stranded in Grand Central Station.

I suppose the best strategy would be to enjoy the presence of whoever shares your bench without becoming too attached to either them or the bench.

That’s especially difficult at two in the morning.  It’s hard to think of your life as a bench that empties, one by one, until you’re the only one left, staring at your ticket.

It’s a little easier when the sun is up and the flowers are blooming, when the sparrows are hopping around under the feeder,  fragrant incense is burning on the mantle, a warm cup of coffee is in your hand.

But just a little.

Full lyrics HERE.

Everything Changes

“Everything changes.” ~Shunryo Suzuki

My Mom died three weeks ago, on the night of the 19th.  She was 82.

I miss her. She was my closest friend. We talked daily. Many times the highlight of my day was sharing with her the things I’d seen and done, and hearing about her day.

Everything she did, she did with passion.

She liked to buy cheap, ugly garden gnomes at Dollar Stores and repaint them into something extraordinary and lovely.

She loved to garden, where her greatest joy was coaxing a nearly-dead plant obtained from the clearance rack of the local hardware store into to a full, vibrant life. She loved the plants that took years to bloom, and she loved the little rain lilies that were only pretty for a day, and you had to pay attention or you’d miss it.

She was one of the first to be on the Internet, back in the days when you had to buy the CompuServe software first, and were then assigned a string of numbers for your email address. We emailed each other every single day since the late 80s.

She walked a mile every sunny morning, did yoga twice a day, and balancing exercises every afternoon.

She was learning Spanish, a skill she used to talk with the grounds crew at her apartment complex. They always had the biggest smiles on their faces when she asked them about their days.

She had been a math teacher, and enjoyed working calculus problems for fun. She told me once her favorite part of teaching was the “Ah-ha!” moment, when a student–in a flash– suddenly understood.

She bought herself an iPad several years ago, and enjoyed playing logic games and reading books on the Kindle app. The only reason I bought one was so I could be her Tech Support.  Now I don’t use mine for anything.

Every day she wore an angel pin and a peace pin.  Her apartment is filled with tiny angels she collected over the years. She wore a medallion depicting the Virgin Mary, and had a small Mary statuette near her and a rosary around her neck when she died.

She protested Bush’s Gulf Wars for years, holding an anti-war sign on street corners.  (We live in East Texas; this was not normal here.)

Her favorite charity was one benefiting Native Americans, but she gave to them all.  Her compassion made her a soft touch.

She was my father’s primary caretaker, a task that is now on my shoulders.

My father doesn’t accept change easily. Last week I got a lecture on how the shot clock has ruined the game of basketball, and please don’t get him started on Douglas MacArthur– he’s still angry.

I don’t want to be like that.

They always give the example of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but I’m sure there are quite a few caterpillars that aren’t at all happy about it. “Damn it! I used to really enjoy munching on leaves and growing fat. I don’t want to suck nectar through a flexible proboscis, I want my chewing mouth-parts back!”  It wasn’t a transformation they chose, it was just something that happened.

So, here I am, and things are different, and I have to find a new way.

Mom did leave with something more valuable than jewels: she set a good example.

And I’m lucky to have known her so well for so long.

Shhh…

One time a relative stopped by the house– I’ll call her “Kathy,” because that was her name– complaining that her life was seriously out of balance and she didn’t know what to do.

I suggested she sit quietly.

She immediately burst out into loud, sustained cackles, because the very idea of sitting quietly was so patently absurd to her.

We live in a world that never gives us a quiet moment. Cell phones, radios, television and movies, angry talk shows, gaudy billboards; they all seem to be conspiring to keep us distracted and occupied.

The pursuit of happiness is making us all miserable.

In the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, by the way, it was worded “the pursuit of property.” Americans have been brainwashed to believe those are the same things.

They aren’t.

Kathy continues to be miserable, drama and chaos surrounding her like the winds of a hurricane.

And I still believe if she would just sit still, she could change her life.

And I believe that if enough of us just sat still, we could start a revolution.

We could heal this planet.