Wednesday, October 9, 2013

view from my boat

As I wind up The Gift of Practice, I have found myself returning again and again to the stark, simple, straight-to-the-bone teachings from the Zen tradition. Perhaps it is this season of emptying ... leaves, daylight, my garden, myself ...

Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink.”  

Perhaps it is my growing intimacy with daily routines. Staying at home to work has me finding a rhythm in writing, creating, doing the laundry, putting away the dishes, figuring out what to make for dinner. The pairing of the two - home life and creative life - results in a kind of mirror reflection.  Each showing me an angle into the other that I had never noticed before.

There is a sense of absurdity within housework.  I dust (erratically, I admit) only to see dust motes settling slowly back upon momentarily clean surfaces.  The laundry basket is never empty; the cycle of clean to dirty to clean is a continuous one.  Same thing for meals and dishes and grocery shopping.  It is all necessary work but no lasting satisfaction for it is never complete.

Then there is my other work - my real work as I have come to regard it - which I commit to in the spirit of building or contributing to something greater.  What exactly is that something greater?  A discourse or conversation with community?  A body of work mapping out my existence? My journey depicted on paper (and computer screen) as a guide for others?  For myself?

What I am coming to recognize is the gesture of defiance in my art making, a denial of the brevity and transient nature of my time here. The words, the objects all standing like rows of soldiers guarding me from the eventual erasure of, well, me or this concept of me. I know ... heavy thoughts on a Wednesday afternoon.

But here is the flip side - the positive of inhabiting a steadily sinking boat - which is acute awareness of the value in each moment, each gesture, each swipe of the dust cloth, each meal shared with family and friends. It's not the elusive state of a perpetually clean house, full pantry, finished painting, well-thought out essay that drives me forward.  Perfection is an illusion and even if it existed - even if I experienced it -  would I cease from future efforts?  

It is a dance I do while knowing I am sinking in each moment, rowing closer and closer to the middle of an ocean I will never cross.  Crossing, arriving, finishing ... that is not the point.  I don't know if there is any point, although it is comforting to believe in one.  Rather than casting about my navel lint for a belief, I ask myself "What do I know?" 

I know I am here ... filling the time before my girl returns home.  I know I am preparing this house - our home - to welcome her and my husband as a retreat from their busy days. I am attempting to do so with full attention and care. I know have people in my life I love so much it would be too shocking to my system to contemplate the depths of that love and gratitude for their presence in my life.  I know I do not know how long my boat will hold up - so while I have this time, I want to see things as clearly and as truthfully as possible.  Each moment is a gift.  I want unwrap the moments and honor their beauty and magic.  The satisfaction I seek is not in completion; it is found in perpetual engagement, connection, and unfolding.

Now I'm aware that I alone am in the vast
of the sea
And cause the sea to be the sea.

Just swim
Just swim.
Go on with your story.



  1. love this last - thank you

  2. oh.


    everything you just said.

    love. xo

  3. "The satisfaction I seek is not in completion; it is found in perpetual engagement, connection, and unfolding"

    This, Yes...loving you .. Karen

  4. ~such depth and beauty in all your words that have been written in the previous posts...i am sitting in awe of your strength your truth and your openness...allowing yourself to freely speak of all that has been happening in your days...a window that you have opened to allow us all to be more apart of you and your journey through this world...thank you for being such a beautiful spirit...looking forward to catching up around here...much love light and blessings shining brightly upon you and yours~