Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Yesterday I translated a Dutch film of a woman from Curaçao who's been on welfare since coming here in the early nineties. She has three children, one of them a severely mentally disabled teenage boy, who is unable even to use the toilet.
It was an interesting job. In the process of doing it, I indentified with her as a mother trying to raise children in The Netherlands with virtually no support from the native population.
I've said before that coming here has helped me to better understand what it's like to be a minority, and what it's like to be discriminated against. I guess that's a valuable lesson in itself that I should be thankful for, but it still can never subtract all of the lonely hours I've spent here, or the depression that's been its result. I'm a lot stronger now, even though my strength hasn't translated into acceptance here on the "home" front.
There was an article last week in the NRC Handelsblad (the most reputable Dutch paper, that uses as its model the New York Times) about research done by an English expat. He found out that most people who come to Amsterdam to work leave after only a few years because they find the social climate too harsh and unaccepting. This goes even for people who do their utmost to speak the language, and to "fit in," and "integrate." Even people, unlike me, who earn a lot, live in Amsterdam in a nice house, and have respectable careers end up feeling shut out of the Dutch culture. It leaves me wondering if there's much hope at all. They all wind up in expat groups, like so many, complaining about the Dutch. How familiar.
About a year ago I decided to combat my isolation by becoming an acestic. I decided that there had to be another way of breaking through the boundaries of my life, and I knew that it wasn't going to come from the outside. In the end, I have to become responsible to an internal self that isn't reliant on other people's reactions or acceptance, which isn't very forthcoming at all. There are some very nice people out there, but the little time we spend together has never been enough to sustain the vastness of the loneliness I feel when the warmth of their presence has gone.
In Zen, solitude is wisdom. Solitude, loneliness and isolation aren't the same things. Solitude brings with it a sense of peace and tranquility. Isolation is turbulent and disparaging. Isolation is unbearably stressful and can lead to various psychological ailments.
I keep reminding myself that I am grateful to the pain I've experience because it led me to what I am doing now, which is following the vajrasattva path of Tibetan Buddhism, and it is a source of learning.
I haven't come that far on the path, but when I am meditating consistently, I am more positive, at peace with myself and the world around me.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Mulling a bit as I'm prone to do about the many things I've given up, in the midst of the drift that forms my thought, it occurred to me while walking away from one of the Lama's teachings, that, yes, this is something I can do! Quite simply, it's my failure, or my perception of my failure, that's brought me to the varjayana path.
That was one of the many small epiphanies I've had since the beginnings of my studies with the Lama.
I knew when I saw the Lama speak at the World Museum in Rotterdam several years ago that I had to study with him. It was only an inkling, but I knew then that it was the path I had to follow.
Tibetan Buddhists refer to "obstacles" on the path. One of my obstacles was a lack of funds. We're constantly out of money. So I put it off for several years before actually beginning. I couldn't really pay for the course at the time.
Of course, very few Westerners are truly materially impoverished. It's usually a matter of a little frugality, and suddenly, you're surprisingly well off. I don't want to give the impression that we're poor.... We spend money accordingly, and then it's gone....
There really is no way back. When I think of going "back" to the person I was before I started on the varjayana path, I realize that I have to keep going. We make things so complicated for ourselves, because we're complex beings with multitudes of depth, and great powers being spent in all the wrong ways. This is what makes the path such a difficult one to follow. To begin with, I must start by getting to know my own mind, and by developing kindness. This is something I tend to misconstrue with my judgment of things. When I think of kindness vulnerability comes up as an issue for me.
I knew I had to do something. After spending years looking outside of myself, looking for the cause of my frustration outside, blaming, feeling the brunt of people's reactions to me in the form of rejection, and internalizing it all, in turn reacting in a negative way, I knew I had to stop. I knew I had to examine myself, to look inward rather than outward. Still, I need continual reminders, or I slip back into my old habits.
The change that I seek can only occur through meditation. It doesn't come out of a book, and doesn't take the form of words, spoken or written. It takes place in the form of heart wisdom, and the method is meditation. This wisdom is accumulated through daily effort. This translates into diligence in practice, or devotion.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Studying Buddhism has had as its result greater mental stability, and also less writing activity. Minding myself, my mind, my actions, trying to be a better, more positive person is a full-time job, requiring continuous effort. I've read a lot, and listened to a lot of teachings online of the Dalai Lama, and others. Meditation is the key to all of this soundness of mind, something I haven't been doing very consequently of late. That's why I'm here, but I'm not sure if I have anything to say at all.
Let's see. There's wisdom realizing emptiness, which derives from a deeper understanding of the law of dependent origination. We are all the result of a beginningless beginning, with an end in site. There's the truth of impermanence, which simply means that everything is in continuous flux, and will all eventually come to its end. This includes the most solid and stable of things, like mountains, or diamonds. Keeping this all in balance, it's important to remember to be joyful. Joyous effort is a true key to being Buddhist, not something I've mastered yet, but I get it.
There are things we've got to let go, like grasping at the ego self. All suffering stems from ignorance, which is all based in ego, and grasping at one's identity. Likewise, it's best to find a middle-way, somewhere between grasping at the self, and aversion toward self and others. Grasping, attachment, aversion.
Watch yourself, watch your actions, thought, speech. Be mindful of this all. Try not to harm others. Don't push yourself. Don't go beyond what you can. And love. Love is of utmost importance. It all starts with self-love. For one who cannot love himself cannot extend love to others, which is the pen-ultimate goal of the varja path. Love for one and all, indiscriminate, understanding, to allieve the pain of the world.
Friday, September 12, 2008
With the wish to free all beings
I will always go for refuge
To Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until I reach Highest Enlightenment.
Enthused by compassion and wisdom
Today in Buddha's presence
I generate the mind of compassion
For the benefit of all sentient beings.
For as long as space remains
And as long as sentient beings remain
Until then may I too remain
To dispel the suffering of all beings.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Pema Chödrön: The question is how to help people, no matter how desperate their lives are, to realize that they are worthy to live on this earth, that they do not have to feel inferior or be ashamed of themselves. And the question is how to help people to get smarter about what causes suffering to increase and what causes it to decrease.
There is a famous saying that from great suffering comes great compassion. Well, from great suffering can come great compassion, or from great suffering can come great hatred. Maybe someone like you could really work on that message right there. From great suffering can come great openness of heart, a great sense of kinship with others, or from great suffering can come hatred, resentment and despair.
bell hooks: But it isn't an automatic thing. It isn't because you suffer that you will have compassion. In the past people have felt that this is some kind of reward for your suffering, that you will have compassion.
Pema Chödrön: People need a lot of support for suffering to turn into compassion. What usually happens to people when they don't have teachers and guides and the support of people who care is that great suffering leads to more suffering. You have mothers who don't have the money to care for their kids and on top of that they get completely lost in drugs, not to mention that their kids are getting into deep trouble. So the nightmare escalates and escalates.
The fundamental question is not whether there is or isn't suffering. It is how we work with suffering so that it leads to awakening the heart and going beyond the habitual views and actions that perpetuate suffering. How do we actually use suffering so that it transforms our being and that of those that we come in contact with? How can we stop running from pain and reacting against it in ways that destroy us as well as others? This is a message that people can hear, but they have to hear it a lot, and with great heart, and from people who really care, not from somebody who is just passing through to make a few dollars.
That's why I love the lojong teachings, because the lojong slogans are accessible. Basically, they teach how we can take difficult circumstances and transform them into the path of compassion. That's the kind of teaching we need these days, that difficult circumstances can be the path to liberation. That's news you can use.
Excerpt of an interview from Shambala Sun
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
One thing which I haven't pointed out is that a genuine or ideal practice of each of the perfections must be complete; it must contain within itself all of the aspects of the other five perfections. For instance, in the case of the practice of patience, while remaining in the state of patience and tolerance, encouraging others also to do so is the practice of giving or generosity. The second is basing your practice of patience and tolerance on honesty and sincerity, which are aspects of ethical discipline involved in the practice of patience. The third, of course, is patience itself. The forth, which is joyous effort, refers to all the efforts which are involved in maintaining patience and tolerance. The fifth is that when you engage in such a practice, you maintain a single-pointedness of mind and the ability to focus on whatever you are doing and remain single-pointed. Mindfulness can also be included here, which is the aspect of concentration and single-pointedness in one's practice of patience. The wisdom practice is your ability to judge what is appropriate and what is inappropriate as well as what is required in a given situation. These are all faculties of wisdom and intelligence that are a concomitant part of your practice of patience. This could also include the wisdom of realizing the empty nature of phenomena, if you have it. This is the same in the case of the practices of all the other perfections, such as generosity: within the practice of generosity, all of the other perfections must be complete. And the same is true for ethical discipline, and so on.
--HH the Dalai Lama, Healing Anger
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Recently went on retreat in the Hollandse Biesbosch.
As it turns out "retreat" doesn't mean kicking back in the outdoors, chanting and meditating. It means a rigorous schedule of early morning prayers, eating, twice daily teachings, two hours long, plus workshops and helping with food preparation or cleaning. I sat on the floor for a total of about seven hours each day.
We had plenty of downtime, it's true. The island was small, and there weren't vast paths to traverse, but I did manage to get my running shoes caked in mud. Leave it to me.
It was a bit overwhelming at times being so close to everyone, but also joyful and fun. I got to know a few exceptional people.
The Lama was very supportive. He advised me to enjoy myself, to be open to people. He taught us about cultivating bodhicitta, which means compassion. It all made complete sense to me. The Shantideva texts stand out as being especially profound.
In short, I am becoming a happy person. I am becoming more aware of who I am, my actions, and the impact of my actions. I am developing a greater understanding of human emotion, where it comes from, and the benefits of patience and loving kindness.
It's all very simple, but it comes as a revelation to me. I guess you could say that if I hadn't left where I was and come here, if I hadn't suffered what I have, I might never have come to realize these truths. I am still learning, and I have a long way to go, but already, after only a few short months of studying with the Lama, I am an infinitely more stable person. I have broken bad habits I've been stuck in for years. I am not depressed or desperate anymore. It's all quite interesting.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
It's sort of a bumpy road, and I'm not sure that I really want to write about it just now, but I suppose I will say something.
Meditation is THE wonder drug for our century, and for all time. It is the ONLY cure for mental illness and anguish. If I compare myself now to a few months back before I embarked on my meditation journey with a Lama, it is utter transformation. Literally, I have spent many years of my life in the throws of a suicidal depression. I struggled. I read. I was desperate. I was living in extreme isolation. I was at the end. I was scrambling for help, and I wasn't getting any at all.
Then I went to the Lama. I started meditating. I read regularly about Buddhism, and meditation techniques. I listen to Matras on YouTube, and to talks by the Dalai Lama.
It is a true wonder, and it's possible that it is quite literally saving my life.
When I am true to my meditation, practicing daily without fail, my moods are stable. I am happier. My previously obsessive thoughts of ending my life disappear miraculously. I am a kinder mother. I smile. I laugh.
Meditation is a true wonder. It is the key to transformation. It is the dream I've been dreaming all my life. It's what I've been waiting for, and it could be a silent revolution, the more it catches on.....
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Usually content to feel inspiration from the pure sound of a mantra, I stop myself at looking up a translation. But of course words have more power when you know their meaning. My husband was so inspired by this song he looked up its meaning, and then added the song to his telephone. Here's a translation of the Gayatri Mantra I found:
Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life,
Remover of pain and sorrow,
The Bestower of happiness,
Oh! Creator of the Universe,
May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light,
May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.
When I was eighteen I started to teach myself Sanskrit out of a book, but life in all of its permutations led me off my true path. Now, twenty years later, I am beginning once again to discover my Buddha nature, which I believe is my true nature. It's taking me back to the pure stream of thought I experience as a child.
A prayer for myself, and for everyone in the world who has diverged from her/his true path in life: May we all realize our true natures, and not stray again. Let the radiance that results from the compassion gained by our quest be an inspiration to others.
Monday, July 7, 2008
I was happy but happy is an adult word. You don't have to ask a child about happy, you see it. They are or they are not. Adults talk about being happy because largely they are not. Talking about it is the same as trying to catch the wind. Much easier to let it blow all over you. This is where I disagree with the philosophers. They talk about passionate things but there is no passion in them. Never talk happiness with a philosopher.....
This morning I smell the oats and I see a little boy watching his reflection in a copper pot he's polished. His father comes in and laughs and offers him his shaving mirror instead. But in the shaving mirror the boy can only see one face. In the pot he can see all the distortions of his face. He sees many possible faces and so he sees what he might become.
--Jeanette Winterson, The Passion
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Proof that the United States hasn't lost it's presence in the world entirely is this 1970s American station wagon parked in the Jordaan (an old Amsterdam neighborhood). They still love us, let's face it.... ;-)
Sort of a dull photo, but the old car stood out so much in this posh section of town, I couldn't resist making a record.
The lighting is great, though. It illuminates everything so well. This new camera amazes me. Even when it looks too dark to the eye to shoot a photo, the camera absorbs the light so well, and so brilliantly, even night photos turn out well without the use of flash.
Listening to my IPod, I forgot to turn down the Prinsengracht Wednesday night in Amsterdam, and ended up wandering around, instead. I was still early once I got to the café I was headed to, so it didn't matter in the end.
At one building, the doors were open to this odd horse statue wearing a black biker's helmet. I like to take photos as inconspicuously as possible, so I usually do so very quickly. The subject matter is a bit of a disappointment here, and my spur-of-the-moment decision to include the mirror of a motorcycle was also a bit off.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Friday, July 4, 2008
I took this photo at the Catherijne Convent in Utrecht, which is a museum in Utrecht specialized in midieval art and artifacts. It actually looks a bit like me, I realized just now.
Okay. What strikes me today, just now, is the conundrum I've allowed forth in my life the past years. It doesn't make sense to me at all anymore. There's no reason for it. With all of the possibilities I have. It's a total waste of creative energy to live in confusion. I'm constantly waiting for my life to begin, preventing the beginning myself by not starting anywhere. Or by starting and then putting everything to a halt.
Last night, or several nights ago, I got this image of myself laying in a bath full of congealed jello, a straw stuck in my mouth for air. The jello was green, in case you're wondering.
Tomorrow I'm turning a page. Instead of these whining entries, I'm going to actually DO something again. I'm going to start living and thinking and breathing again, rather than sitting crooked in an airless shell complaining about things. In fact, there's nothing stopping me from doing and writing all kinds of things. Nothing at all but imaginary walls. I've been putting them in front of myself for years, and it seems ridiculous just now when it's clear that I'm totally and utterly free. I am officially breaking free! :-)
Thursday, July 3, 2008
"Borta bra men hemma bäst"
A Swedish proverb meaning, "Away is good, but home is best."
Which begs the question: Where is home? That's a concept quite lost on me. Is my home here? Am I away from my home? When I'm in the United States, am I away, or have I "come" home? Theoretically, of course, this is my home, but why do I feel like I'm not at home? I feel like I visiting, as if I'm waiting to "go home," wherever that might be. Constantly waiting, waiting. Why can't I simply live, instead? There's a string holding me. I can't let go. Why allow other people's presumed judgement of me control how I feel, think, react. Why bother at all? What about the law of dependence? We/I live in the world. On whom am I dependent if people ignore me in my daily basis? This makes me aloof, but does it can it make me dependent when there's nothing being provided, other than a lack of....
The Netherlands is known for being flat. Flatness has its own charms. The North Sea is so flat, it seems to stretch on eternally. It's like an endless plane. There are times when I can appreciate the absence of incline here.
There are actually a few hilly regions in an otherwise flat landscape. This photo was taken in the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the highest point in The Netherlands this side of Limburg. It's an incline created during the ice age. We sat on a bench with an actual vantage point down with a view on Utrecht, I believe. I took a series of nature shots on our walk there....
They say it takes two or three years before you see a real change in yourself through meditation. I've only been practicing for a few months. The past few days I've gotten up before six, which seems to work out best. I'm not exactly fresh in the morning, but if I don't do it first thing, I find that I'll keep pushing it back in my day until I'm so tired I tell myself I'll do it the next day.
Problem is, I don't think I can wait another three years. I think, what am I supposed to do? Bide my time, while away for another three years, until suddenly everything clicks in for me.
I guess you could say that I'm a perfectionist. I want things a certain way. I want to be a certain kind of person. I want to live in a certain city. But none of my conditions have been met here. I'm stuck. There's nothing I want. I don't like where I live.
Years ago, twenty years ago, in fact, I was working at The New York Public Library being trained by a woman who was leaving for Arizona. I think she was going to University there. Her advice to me was, never move anywhere for a man. It's sort of a golden rule for women. And I broke it. And so, here I am, stuck, trying to figure a way out of my regret and bitterness. At times in the past ten years, many times, days and weeks and months on end, I've been so despondent, I haven't known what to do with myself. I have to accept everything. The loss of my education, alienation, everything. No matter what I've tried, I haven't been able to change these fundamental facts of my existence here. I am a prisoner in Schiedam, and no matter how much I howl, wail, scream, argue, persuade, it doesn't change a thing, because the Dutch are the clay people, unmovable, and heavy.
Buddhist advice goes: Don't do anything a wise man wouldn't regret later. Still, here I am, building up more regret by the day. Even as I sit here writing this, I am building regret for the words I write.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Rotterdam is known for its architecture. So I thought I'd bring a photo of one of the newest architectural wonders its brought to the fore. It's in one of the new, trendy, over-priced waterfront areas they've been developing the past several years, the Lloyd Pier.
It struck me, as I walked passed it yesterday, that the copper-colored metal structures jutting out of it on one side reminded me of jail-cells. I decided I should photograph it, and walked passed again with my camera later in the day, and it struck me that the structures don't look like jail-cells, but that they're enlarged welder's helmets! How original!
It's the new Rotterdam architecture at its best.
Today I'm wearing my white ruffled Agnés B shirt, some tight shorts, and a lycra shirt underneath the ruffle shirt.
On the way to the kids school in Rotterdam this morning I saw a group of Spanish-speaking women walking toward us. One of the women, slightly older and larger than I, was similarly dressed. I realized then, the addition of a black studded belt, large turquoise beads, and fish skull earrings, formed a quintessential Mexican-Spanish "Cha Cha" look, and then I thought, well, why not identify myself in this way? I hadn't thought of it when I put the clothes on this morning. I just thought, well, this is nice for a hot afternoon. Very anti-Anglo, anti-Calvinist of me.
I don't think it's a fashion approved of by the ladies at the staid, stiff-upper-lip school. Call it paranoia, but I could swear I noticed some of them recoiling away from me. But I suppose this is something they'd do no matter what look I threw on.
In one of the few really attractive neighborhoods in Rotterdam, and one of the poshest, you can visit De Belasting en Douane Museum. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you guessed it. It's the Tax and Import Museum, and it's no laughing matter....
Since we pay lots of tax here, we get a museum to honor the millions of hours spent laboring for the government, and, of course, the Queen herself.
Leave it to the Dutch to actually make tax paying LOOK sexy. Note, the banners featuring young, hip, nubile types. It all makes for a fun-filled day out.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I took this photo almost a year ago in the Prinsenhof in Delft, which is where Willem van Orange, the man the Dutch call "The Father of the Fatherland," was shot somewhere back in the the 1600s. It's been my habit here to post photos without any direct commentary on the subject, but to use them as a backdrop for whatever I was writing about. I've thought of writing so many different things these past months, but have stopped at the thought of writing....
Monday, June 30, 2008
This is a fascinating series of lectures on the Buddhist "Noble Truths" I've been watching recently. While I do somehow have an intrinsic/instinctual understanding of what he's talking about, I couldn't explain it to you. If you have the time/interest, I highly recommend watching these lectures. They are of profound/essential interest/usefulness. It's remarkable how much "it," Buddhism, or the Buddhistic way, answers, the solutions it provides, the clarity it imparts on existence is truly profound. I'd have to say now that I liken myself to a spinning top on the path of the Buddha. Now that I have tasted, within a few short months, even the partial liberation from suffering, the profound glimpses of happiness, that my small beginning has provided me, I intend on continuing, full circle.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I took this photo in an old house on the island Marken, in North Holland. It was shut off for most of its history from mainland Holland by harsh waters until a road was built in 1957. They've managed to maintain a lot of the old traditions, and still often wear traditional clothing.
I thought of this photo as a tribute to the topic "home," which I stated I would write about this month, but could never find the time.
Other than posting random video clips, I have neglected this blog. I made a commitment to post everyday during the month of June on the topic "home," but I didn't ever get a reply that my effort to sign-up went through, and the topic of "home" is often a painful one for me, so I avoided writing anything.
Several hours ago someone wrote expressing interest in one of my photos, and it occurred to me that there just might be more than a few people out there actually reading what I write, so here I am! Thanks to everyone for reading, and for your continued support and interest. Most days I'm just here, around and about, being a mother, wondering about my purpose, wondering what I am doing, where I'm going, if anyplace at all. You could say, she doesn't know what the hell she's doing, and that would be a fairly accurate accusation of sorts. Just for the record, I am taking pains to give some more shape to my life, to walk a fine line, or perhaps, to take the messy clay I call myself and mold it into something intelligible.
I'd also like to report, if you don't mind, that I've dropped all pains at solving my "problems" (It's not even certain I have any at all! to speak of....) through the rattling vehicle called psychotherapy. I am not discounting therapy, or therapist. I know they are essential, and "they've" helped a lot of people....
There have been a number of therapists since I've been here, and lots of desperation. In the end it amounted to sessions of me either complaining bitterly about people, or about my life here, or to efforts at painting a promising, future-oriented picture of myself to the therapist. There was no shape to our sessions, no direction at all. I might as well have been complaining to the wind. I think, in fact, that wind might be more helpful. It can be refreshing, makes a pleasant sound, and has the tendency to wake one out of stupor. It challenges. It forces one to live. It grant life to the senses. I think, mostly, you could say, I love wind (when it's not destroying things), whereas, psychotherapy, hum, I'm not too certain. Love?
The therapist was terribly bored with me, suppressing yawns, and nearly nodding off while I shared some of my darker moments. You could say I envisioned someone like "The Mother," in Portrait of a Schizophrenic Girl, someone who would nurture me back into existence. I met a therapist who had such powers briefly in New York.
I often thought my therapist was more interested in her waste-length blond hair, and her next ski vacation than she was in my tottering mental health. Encouraged, I thought, well, at least I'm practicing my Dutch. After a few dismal years of this spotty "treatment," I requested another therapist, and then another. "The third man" spent most of our few sessions together either making me cry, or arguing to me about his position. He was one of those therapist who doesn't want to let you out of his clutches. If it had been up to him, I'd be going there every week to enter into conflict with him, or debate some rough aspect of his character.
On the third session I stated emphatically: "I don't want any more conflict! I'm through with conflict! I'm going someplace else with my life now! I'm going to another space, and I'm leaving all of this behind me." I thanked him for giving me the gift of self-reliance, that I actually CAN rely on myself, that I'm capable of figuring things about for myself, without his paltry help, or what they call "hulpverlening," which doesn't amount to much help at all.
It's shocking to finally realize that you're not in need of help at all, and that, actually, there wasn't anything much wrong with you to begin with, but that there's an enlightened path waiting for you to jump on board. A path of peace, harmony, problem solving, resolution, cessation. It's the path of the Buddha, and already, after only a few months of following it, I am becoming a better, more confident, nicer, more patient, less angry and confused, happier person. I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go, but I feel very fortunate that my life path has led me to Buddhism. It's like being given a golden key. Suddenly, very simply and plainly, I know now where I am going. I know now that I don't have to live my life in turmoil and depression. There is a way out of the darkness. There is a clear, safe, reliable way out. I don't have to live my life in pain anymore. Thank you, Buddha!
Monday, June 23, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
This is an interesting silent yoga video. This guy was the teacher of BKS Iyengar, which is the school of yoga that I follow.
Yesterday I did the back bend he does using my head as a support for the first time. I also used my elbows as support for my head, and had a wall behind me. It made me sweat. In the same class we did headstand with variations for nearly twelve minutes. I couldn't believe it when the teacher told us we'd been standing on our heads for that long. Sweat was dripping from my arms. At the end of the class my entire body was shaking. We hung in the ropes, and did numerous back bends, which I can handle, but it was the combination and the intensity that was dizzyfying. A great challenge, indeed.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I watched this documentary about six months ago. It was really interesting. I think I'm going to watch it again.
Leonard Cohen is the narrator.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Recently I received the story of one of my namesakes, Emily Ellen Peacock. Emily, an English woman, fell in love with a Mormon missionary in the 1830s. Her father William, a printer, initially didn't approve of the match, or of Mormonism. Emily was determined to marry her suiter, convert to Mormonism, and emigrate to Utah. Her father finally gave into his daughter wishes. Emily's mother had also been converted to Mormonism. William decided to convert, and move with his entire family to Smithfield, where there was no work for printers. He wound up getting work as a clerk.
I imagine that it must have been a radical decision at the time to relocate your entire family, and move that far away.
I recently heard on the Leonard Lopate show that, while Americans are a mobile people, fewer than 1% relocate to places outside of the United States. I'm one of the few.
The world felt small when I came here ten years ago, but it feels much bigger now. I guess I've come to question the notion that we're all really close together, a global community, and all. There are so many things separating people, and too many obstacles to communication. I thrive on communication, and exchange with other people. When I do get around to fulfilling some of my social needs here I am much better at feeling positive and motivated. Too often, the barriers are high, people are closed down. They put space between me and them, obstacles. They don't seem willing, when, it would seem to me, so much more interesting to drop hostility, drop whatever's barring you from simple, unfettered conversation. I like to talk with people, but a lot of the time, it doesn't seem like people like to talk with me much, and I don't see why. This is called isolation.
It's funny, though, in the story I read about Emily, it didn't say anything about how her life went once she got to Utah. All of the detail I wanted to know was missing from her story. Was she happy? Was her husband good to her?
From what I know of Mormon community life, I would assume she was apart of a large circle of women, sharing, talking, working together, supporting each other. I haven't found any of that here. It's like having the rug pulled out from underneath you raising children without any help at all.
Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum. Om Mani Padme Hum.
When I first came across the Green Tara mantra on YouTube, it was a Tibetan monk singing in an extremely deep voice. I liked his singing very much, but I was expecting a female voice. Here's a female version. It is supposed to be cleansing and protective to listen to or to sing yourself, but I haven't learned to sing it, yet.
Om Mani Pade Hum is a protective Buddhist mantra. Chant it to yourself, aloud, sing it, repeat over and over during times of affliction.
Tibetans believe that even looking at it written in Sanskrit has protective powers. Elderly Tibetans chant it throughout their days, carrying prayer wheels around with Om Mani Padme Hum inscribed on them. They spin them all day long.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
This is kinda funny. There's a really weird commercial in the middle of it all.
This song just sums it all up for me. I'm an American. Americans are a mobile folk. We move around. Before I lived here, I moved at least ten times in my lifetime. Now I've lived in the same place for ten years. I'm a Road Runner, you know, gots to go.
This is beautiful. I love the old shots of New York. It's a world I feel I've always known and loved, and longed for... Quite nostalgic. I'd have to leave out the child labor, and other poor working and living conditions.... I get a homey feel here. Feels like home, although I know I'll never live in New York again. Can't afford it. I remember the first time I visited New York as a teenager, I immediately had a feeling of belonging, or of being home. Certainly I partly grew up there. I'm still growing up, even at my age. I don't think I'll ever be fully grown. I still have to find a home, again, but I'm feeling good, not despondent. My head is clear with the help of yoga and meditation. I'm sure that eventually I will find my home in myself. Home isn't external, even though I long at times for a certain place, a feeling of belonging, I'm cultivating home now in me.
Monday, June 2, 2008
I signed up to write everyday on the topic "home."
I haven't felt at home for ten nearly ten years.
Two of the things that bother me most about our house, since I guess it's my house, too, are the leaking roof, and the front door that's falling apart.
In Utah an unruly, weedy lawn, is a sign to neighbors of moral weakness. Neighbors will be sure something's seriously wrong with you and your family if you down get out there and mow, prune, water, and preferably, weed.
We have a little front garden. One year I let wild grass grow there. It got to be several feet high, perhaps even four or five feet. It was the happy home to hundreds of grasshoppers. I sort of liked giving a home to grasshoppers in an urban environment. It made me feel like I was doing something good for nature. The neighbors didn't like it. I'm not very popular in Holland.
I guess you could say, our front door is sort of like a Utah lawn. It should have been painted six years ago. I was pregnant at the time. It still hasn't been painted, and now it's weathering away. I thought of finding some kind of vinyl covering to glue onto it, and I found out that you can cover your windows with insulating, transparent vinyl. So far, I haven't found anything of the kind that would seal up our door. The wood is so bad, it seems like a waste of time painting it.
Our roof should have been repaired around the same time.
I think I'll try to repair it myself.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Call me a doomsday thinker. Catastrophe thinking, it's called, rather. But I'm starting to wonder whether I'll ever make it back "home" again. As I said to my mother, every year it seems, the flights are too expensive for us, until the next year, when the prices are even higher, and I think, well, last year was sure cheap!
When I came here ten years ago I go could whenever I wanted, and I visited regularly. Flying to Utah from Amsterdam was a few hundred dollars for me and my son. Once we paid less than $300.
Now, the kids are in school. They're bound to school, and so am I. The school inspector would track us down, and slap on a steep fine, if we were "absent" for a week before, or a week after a holiday.
Problem is, the only even remotely affordable time to travel is outside of the school vacations.
So I wait, and I twiddle my thumbs, and I search for affordable ways to travel. I haven't seen half of my family members in two-and-a-half years. This year it's more than 4,000 euros to fly "home." That's over $6,000 with the awful exchange rate.
It makes me cringe to think that next year will be even more expensive. Oil reserves are drying up, and "airplane fuel" (somebody help me here) is becoming even more expensive and scarce than benzine. The Dutch papers ran two days of stories on how much more expensive it's going to get. The airlines will be forced to cut back service to meet rising costs. I wonder if it will be $10,000 next year for four people to fly to Salt Lake from Amsterdam. I really ought to go this year. I wonder when I'll ever see my parents again.
Last night I had a nightmare that we were being held hostage. I was able to sneak a call to one of my cousins in Seattle to tell her about it.
Will the days of air travel become a thing of the past? One dollar is .64 cents.
My Swedish, Dutch, English, and Norwegian ancestors left Europe, and never saw whomever they left behind again. A bold and courageous move. Sometimes I wonder if my move wasn't just stupid. I have an inkling it wasn't. I'd like to be a little more confident.
Friday, May 30, 2008
This is great. In the crosswalk sign here, the little girl has a mini-skirt on, a bob, and a ribbon in her hair. There did seem to be many charming young women in Prague.
Better not to realize it too slowly or too late. You're own children are the best people you will ever know, if you get to know them, that is. They will charge you with their energy, if you allow them. They will stimulate you with their surprising curiosity. They will shock you with their love for you. Make no mistake. Children are not a burden, but troves of wisdom. They are our teachers.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Every time I go to a monastery, or a cloister, I'm so fanscinated, intrigued, drawn in by the structures, the hallways, the ceilings, the cool materials, the smell of stone. They truly are heavenly places. If I could live anywhere I think it would be in a monastery. I could easily be sucked in there. I could easily go into one, and never leave again, I think. Of course, I would need supplies. I don't know what I would do with my days, since I guess I'm not really a scholar, and long, brisque walks can unexpetantly lead me to start writing a story down. Of course, I think monks do a lot of walking around, but it's not the same as walking down a city street, your eyes turned in upon your own thought buzzing inside of you. Still, the monastic life, the tranquility of it, will always appeal to me. Mostly, I am in search of tranquility. Above all.
I guess the best thing to do is to continue doing things, even when you have no clue what you're doing at all. Live life. What a cliché. Instead of sitting, frozen, waiting for life to happen to you, waiting for the key to fall down into your lap, waiting for things to change in your favor, waiting for happiness to happen, for a light to go off in your head, a surge, a burst of energy, when suddenly everything makes sense. You know who you are, why you're here, where you're going, what you're purpose is, and with that knowledge springing out of you, you can do something great, fulfill a dream, create a sensation, somehow, with something, you don't know what, but you want to. You want to change in a 100 ways. In order for any of this to happen, it might be necessary to leave the house, to leave your seat and your coffee machine behind. You might have to shed some of your fear. You might have to allow yourself some liberties. You might have to agree with yourself for once. You might have to actually make a decision about something, someday, at some hour or minute, you don't know when, but you do know, as you sit there cringing, that time is running out on you. Still, you wait, waiting, waiting, waiting. Every now and then, all of the pent up, dull energy you've been preserving for years under the surface might come out in a brief explosion, only to subside again into calm, a silence so still it cuts into you.
Monday, May 26, 2008
There are lots of places in and around Prague where you aren't allowed to take photos inside. Karlstein Castle is one of the many. This is one of the only photos I could sneak, with the tour guide along.... It's worth a visit, if you're ever in the neighborhood, you can take a look yourself.
Here's a photo of the tomb in St George Church.
I was so busy taking photos in Prague, I didn't have time to do much reading up on things. The entire time I thought, I'll be back here someday soon. Everything about the trip (we were also in Weimar) had the feeling of return, somehow. I knew I'd be back, although, of course, it isn't possible to really know. I was more sure of the fact that I'd return to Prague than I am sure, though it pains me, that I'll ever see my family members again. (It's only 4,000 euro to fly to Salt Lake this summer). But these are all just vague feelings. It did however seem like certainty that I would return to Prague. The thought of visiting the United States is rather uncertain, not unlike the thought of me becoming employed. Writing a novel, hovering toward Prague/Weimar, are greater certainties somehow.
Here's another shot in the St George church. It's a lovely religious relic.
This is a secret photo, by the way. ;-)
I'll tell you another secret. While I was in Prague, I imagined lots of things. One of my big phantasies while there was to pack up, move there, and start learning Czech. We learned one Czech word, "doebrieden," meaning "Thank You." Of course, I have no idea how to spell it. I decided that I could learn Czech. I was already reading and understanding things the first day. I also learned how to say "Next stop...." It's such a beautiful city. Tragic, really, not to spend at least a few years living there.