1955 high-back chair designed for John Rayward House (“Tiranna”), New Canaan, CT. Philippine mahogany, vinyl-cloth upholstery.
1955 high-back chair designed for John Rayward House (“Tiranna”), New Canaan, CT. Philippine mahogany, vinyl-cloth upholstery.
“Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.”
More can be learned about Nagarjuna at http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/nagarjun.htm
“In principle and in potential we are immersed in good for we are in the Mind of God. But we have freedom, or volition, to create in our own experience, out of the possibilities of life with which we have been endowed, the prerogative of heaven or hell. So we need to shake ourselves loose from the tyranny of fear and superstition and isolation and the emotional traditions.”
The Spiritual Universe and You
Beginning anew is the key to waking up. If we keep trying to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, even we begin to suspect our mental state as a hellish one, while we may not yet grasp who is at cause in the matter. Of course, we are always at cause in our experience and this is a difficult thing to consider when we are going through a rough patch.
If we start anew, we can begin again to directly experience this environment of good that is our natural home. What if all that other stuff we experience is something we have made of the good opportunity that we are given? One of my early Religious Science teachers, Rev. Dr. Dominic Polifrone, used to tell us that “Everyone goes through hell from time to time, but that’s no reason why you should stop and build your house there!” Each of us lives in alternating states of present awareness broken up by intermittent periods of unconsciousness—not all of them deep sleep! The practice of affirmative prayer, and the supportive practices of contemplation, spiritual study, service and mindfulness in our everyday lives begin to lengthen the experience of present awareness, or consciousness, little by little until those around us actually have easier lives as a result of the spiritual transformation that occurs in us. I believe that we know we are doing well when folks around us begin to have improved lives.
Not long ago, I was talking to someone here locally, and the practice of humility came up. I believe a true, deep, and spiritual humility arises in us when we realize that we are truly made of Divine stuff and we begin to tell the truth of who we are, making no more, and no less, of the lives that we are given. The more we allow God to be God in and as us, the more amazing the things that we are able to do with our lives; the more the people around us reap the benefits of what we (You, God & I) have wrought with the opportunity of life itself.
And, of course, we all screw it up from time to time. We get grumpy, impatient, tired or find an infinite number of other ways that we can block our divinity its full expression. You can fill in the blank for yourself here; you know how it looks when you get off track. From time to time we need renewal and self-forgiveness. I urge you to take a few minutes to release all feelings of failure, frustration, denial, or any form of self-rejection and judgment you may have held against yourself. We cannot begin anew and hold any form of grudge against ourselves or another. Picture yourself releasing it as a small boat on the river of life. Allow it to sail away beyond the horizon, forgiven, released and then allow yourself the respite that only such forgiveness can grant. Let it go. Don’t waste time making yourself wrong.
Wake up. All is well! What you are afraid of is not real.
This I share for Dan. Our friend Melanie Bassett read this favorite poem at our wedding 24 years ago last New Year’s Eve. We were, against all odds, still hopeful for a good married life after my three failed marriages and his divorce after eighteen years and four hardy, smart and challenging McMullen children. He was nearly 52 and I was 40. It’s hard to be hopeful when you’ve seen more failure in your relationships than anyone ever warned could happen. Those failures want to force cynicism into our hearts like cement hardening us, making it more than a little difficult to hang on to any part of our innocence. But we tried: I put on my brave-flowered dress and Dan matched my call with his tuxedo, Father Charlie donned his robes, and we try and we continue to try, and we have succeeded.
Nobody knows what love is anymore —
not the groom in his rental suit
flushed with desire, not the bride
blushing in her one-day dress and flowers
smouldering with the fires of expectation.
Nobody knows, and I least of all.
Still, we are here, against all reason,
the products of that ancient spoken
or unspoken vow. To the east, across
nearly insurmountable summits caked
with snow, the Great Plains rise
and fall while we continue to remain
steady as November rain, having grown
accustomed to a cold that never freezes,
to a shade of deep, spectacular green
intact, season after season. And so we find
ourselves outside in fog, in hoarfrost,
in rain or snow, living as we do
at the edge of a continent or a dream,
living perhaps with our hearts
not in our hands, but on our lips,
although they are seldom spoken.
(Friendship hereabouts is assumed
like an old mackinaw or a blanket.)
But that time comes, and it will come,
when you try to recite the names
or find the odd, almost familiar faces
that move beyond the old events, like fog,
that made you what you are. The years
that disappeared like falling stars
are lovely to remember. And there will
be time aplenty for flowers on a grave.
No, nobody knows what love is. Nobody
understands the past. Saddled with
all the hopes that will outlast
a lifetime’s dedication, we,
groom, bride, friend and friend–
we step into the day amazed to find our-
selves among companions eager to weather
the winds of change that turn us
heavenward, poor fools together,
never to learn what love is, we
who map the country where it lives.
She was born into a difficult, violent family and thrived in spite of their poverty and lack of ambition. It turned out that life was good. She loved it.
This is a wall in our home that we see every day.
Spring is evident every where we go right now. So we went to Lummi Island, one of our favorite places to visit, a place that is always on Aidan’s list when he comes to stay with us.
It was the warmest day on record in Bellingham. What a great day to play and hike around the Lummi Island shores.
Little tide pools and places that had been hiding sea life for centuries were open to our view.
Some family traditions are all about fun, AND DESSERT!
From the Whatcom Chief we can see Mount Baker sixty miles away on the horizon enshrouded in the high clouds.
The Pacific Northwest has its pleasures, a warm Spring afternoon on Lummi Island is certainly one of them. To share such a rare day with our grandson was unforgettable.
All photos were taken with my old iPhone 3GS. If only I had steadier hands…
“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and the angels know of us.” Thomas Paine
I don’t know about others, but I know what it means to have a “reputation.” That’s what we called it in high school when a girl was thought to be sexually active. Never mind if it was true or not. I was one of those girls and I can tell you, it is really weird dealing with the product of empty gossip, or what was described in law school as arguing facts not in evidence. What people say about us often is the result of idle conversation and gossip. Even people who know nothing about you will talk. Whatever “they” might say, it has nothing to do with what we know of ourselves.
After the death of Thomas Paine in New York City on June 8, 1809 the newspapers read: “He had lived long, did some good and much harm,” which time judged to be an unworthy epitaph. He left a tremendous philosophical legacy, but in his day he was vilified for a few mistakes.
When we mean to be of service, whether we get a reputation for helpfulness or for failing to help often has nothing to do with what really happens. This is the legacy of many who are of service. You may not be known for what you do — do it anyway!
While there is no need to hide the nature of what we do, as some people want to do for religious reasons, if we are looking to become “known” through acts of service, we could well ask ourselves, “What service is there really for those being served?”
In any case, we can’t control what others say about us anyway. Finding the true joy of self-expression in service is it’s own end. When we serve we share the opportunity to express what is divine, or best, within us–and with those with whom we share the experience. Nobody else really needs to know. We can’t prove we are good people. It isn’t our purpose and trying to prove how “good” we are only points to our doubts about ourselves.
Remember, it is your own character that is among your riches, for you are divinely made, and no matter what “reputation” you might enjoy — you know in your heart of hearts is true of you. Enjoy that knowledge and celebrate it in offering your hand in the equation that service represents in our lives. Service is always some part of what is best about living expressing perfectly through, and as, you!
Perhaps someone reading this can share ways that they have been of service that have contributed to their own sense of self in unexpected ways.
I was so very tired when I arrived in Italy. We had only about 3 hours of sleep when our mini cab came to take us on a 45 minute drive to the airport at Stansted, where we were required to arrive two hours prior to our 3 hour flight’s departure. The trains were not running on Sundays between London and Stansted as a result of improvements being made to the tracks. In London there is an express train that takes not much time at all to get from the City to the airport. But such luxury would not be ours. We wiggled our way through all kinds of serpentine streets and made our way to the airport where resourceful, and youthful budget travelers had made their way early and were camped out on all the free seats and had spilled over on to the floor everywhere in the terminal. We fled to the airport café, dragging our wheeled luggage in tow and waited for the window to open. Ah! A table with two chairs and something warm to drink.
The beautifully skylighted Santa Maria Novella train station, Florence
Riding the train from the airport in Pisa, Italy toward Firenze (Florence), I began seeing rainbow-striped flags hanging from the windows. I began watching for them and quickly saw that the word “PACE” was centered on them. Peace. After we changed trains in the amazing 1930’s Art Deco station in Firenze and headed toward Cortona, I continued to see these flags hanging from multi-storied apartment buildings, grand homes, overpasses, ruins and hung by farmers out in fields of grain. Sometimes there were six of seven flags hanging on the laundry lines on the side of an apartment building. They were everywhere! As we passed through amazing, long and dark tunnels through the hills of Toscana I saw more and more of these flags. Clearly, many of the people of Italy had their minds focused upon Peace and they wanted one another to know about it!
And I felt as if my prayers were being heard somewhere in a language that I did not speak. “Join me in this prayer for peace.” My meditation became “Pace, pace, pace…” as I rode through the ancient pastoral landscape, past the ruins of fortresses, towers, gorgeous vineyards and fields of grain, lovely gardens, orchards, olive trees and stopping at every station, where I saw more and more “Pace, pace, pace.” And then I saw Cortona and its glorious stone buildings on the hillside, imposing, powerful, overlooking the valley below it.
When we arrived in Cortona by taxi from the train station in the town of Camucia at its feet, we sat in the square at a café with our luggage all around us awaiting the key to our little apartment, it was 3:00ish as I looked up to see the time of our arrival on the clock tower which we sat beneath, and to the right, hanging from a Citta de Cortona office window there was another flag, I was home for the month: “Pace.”
“That which is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I only knew him very briefly before his 1997 death. In my home I have two objects d’art that were used by him in setting up still lifes. One a woven basket that resembles a duck, and a pot that was burned in an open fire in the way that Southwestern and Middle American pots were fired. I treasure both of these for having been his possessions and the subject of works that I could not afford to own.
He shared with me a story of being selected to work on the restoration of the Sistine Chapel while he was still a student at Brera Liceo Artistico. He was clearly and appropriately deeply honored to be asked to do such historically important work.
It was painstaking, slow and exceedingly careful work that seemed to go on and on, days on end, weeks pouring into the next endlessly. One day he was high up in scaffolding, and to steady himself he put his hand against the fresco and his hand slipped right into an existing hand print in the ceiling, the hand print of Michaelangelo, who it was said was the only one who had worked on the fresco. It wasn’t exactly duplicating the subject matter of the ceiling, but it did seem instructive to me in the way that follows.
As you can see exemplified in the illustration, the color was eventually restored to the frescoes, and while there has been great controversy about whether or not these colors should have been used, we will not embroil ourselves in the arguments of art historians and restorers of great works. Roberto Lupetti worked on the penultimate restoration about which there are no longer any arguments.
There are two principal ideas that I think we can take from this story. The first being that history does reach over time and touch us in ways that are incredibly important for us. For Roberto it was the lineage of his artistic style reaching through the ages and affirming his life’s work at a time when he was very young and the encouragement of being selected to do this work in one of the most historic and beautiful places on earth, and then to have that sacred experience of slipping his hand into the handprint of Michaelangelo, as if a sacred trust was being passed along to him. Through the years as a teacher he passed on ancient techniques and knowledge as a result of the culmination of his experiences as a significant artist himself, always remembering that moment of realization high up in the scaffolding as he carefully worked to return the fresco to its early glory.
The second idea that I want to share is that Roberto was always willing to be inspired. It was as if he was a clearing in the forest awaiting the light of day to shine upon it, illuminating all upon which the eye could fall. He was not embarrassed to be so inspired or to teach others to allow inspiration into their hearts as they worked alongside him. Each of us, has the opportunity to live as he did, as a man who opened himself completely to the artist that he was, to the experiences that presented themselves and who was willing to go far from his home in Milan to live on another continent if it meant that he was able to express himself fully as an artist and a teacher.
He was a very humble man in failing health when I met him near the end of his life. I understand from mutual friends that he had always been a warm and simple man with a wicked gleam in his eye, just as he was when I briefly knew him.
Through the years I remember sitting at the kitchen table at Dr. Bill’s house talking with Roberto and his telling me that story, and I was struck by the lightening, as if I, for that sunny afternoon, was one of his legion of students, enlightened by my brief contact with the story of his realization.
This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones I feel it —
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.
Teaser loves to check out what’s going on down on ground level…
While we call our home Toad Hollow, it’s also been called the house of the entwined cedars. Behind the Aurora Dogwood is an enormous Douglas Fir. Just beyond them up hill is a Stellar Pink Dogwood, shown in the very next photo.
There is an Eddies White Wonder Dogwood in the foreground, and to it’s left is the Stellar Pink. Look at that Rhododendron color!
The Rhododendrons are blooming one by one, we’ve bought different varieties with differing bloom times to extend the time we get to enjoy them.
The Clematis have been blooming in successive waves and growing and growing and growing like never before up the posts that support our deck.
My editor demands that I upload a photo of him too…
There is so much to do. This began as 15 square yards of 4-way garden soil. It seems that we haven’t moved much of it yet …
“Since childhood, since childhood!
Childhood is a toad in the garden, a
happy toad. All toads are happy
and belong in gardens. A toad to Diana!”
Excerpt from Romance Modern
William Carlos Williams