February 2, 2014 § 29 Comments

Ever tried.  Ever failed.

No matter.

Try Again. Fail again.

Fail better.

Samuel Beckett

Some writing comes easy, especially the exposition of the critical- the writing that comes from the head.  But what is the worth?

Most writing now painful and difficult.  Hours spent at the computer staring at the screen without a single keystroke.  And so many passages, fragile and aborning, killed off with a slashing delete.

You seek to capture a feeling or a thought that it true and important, or you inhabit a world of your imagination, and then you take that precious and evanescent wisp and try to reify it in the form of words.

But it all falls apart like a clump of moist sand coming undone in your hands.  You reach down and try to gather the sand but it’s now scattered across an endless beach.  And so you go back, seeking again that place where the feeling lived but you stagger through a maze of spaces, lost.

And so you begin again.

The exquisitely painful work beckons, as irresistible as it is impossible.

Words piled on words.  A lifetime of writing.

Yearning only to fail better.



Beauty, Wisdom

July 18, 2013 § 7 Comments

In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In thinking, keep to the simple.

In conflict, be fair and generous.

In governing, don’t try to control.

In work, do what you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present.


Tao te Ching


October 25, 2012 § 33 Comments

She stands amidst the range of trees out back.  A proud and massive oak, flanked by the maples.  Her main trunk splits and she is slightly out of kilter, leaning to the west, but she wears her imperfections with disregard.  Dressed now in the orange cloak of fall, soon she will stand nude through her winter vigil.

I have seen her limbs sway in the howling storms.  Gracefully undulating to the forces of nature.  Today the wind is down and she is still.  Yet even in her still and silent posture I feel the energy and strength radiating outward.

Over the years I have spent countless hours in her presence.  She watched over me as I buried Mike, our cat of 19 years, in her shadow.   So many times, when I needed to return to the center, I stood before her and felt her presence.  She is a living, breathing existence for me- not an object or a thing.

We choose how we live in and how we experience the world.  She shows us the way.

Not loud, quiet.  Not frantic, still.  Not rigid, supple.  Not drifting, rooted.

I see her now.  She is simply and always right there.

My Watch

September 28, 2012 § 25 Comments

I sit in the diner waiting for my good friend, Dan.  I look down at my wrist and see the watch.  It’s a vintage Omega, from the 1960’s.  Susan, my treasured friend, gave it to me.  It was her father’s watch.

I look at the watch and think of Susan, and her father.  I think of my children, imagining that someday one of them will wear the watch.  I recall my father who, like the man who wore this watch before me, was a fisherman.  I imagine the early mornings on the water with my father, picturing the way his wrist snapped as he cast his line.  And my imagining just spins out from there.

In Buddhism we say that we die, and we don’t die.  That which exists cannot become non-existent, we are taught.

Like all great wisdom, it’s simple, enduring, and true.  In the things that we do, in the way that we exist in the world, we set in motion ripples of feeling and thought that collide and connect with other ripples and become part of the same cosmic field that Buddha walked.

We change the world, each of us, by our presence.  And when we die, when our bodies return to dust, even that dust may enrich the soil, feed a living thing.

On and on.

We cannot possibly trace all the interconnected ripples that bring us to where we are.  But we surely feel the presence of those who are with us now- and those who came before.

A half century ago a man walked into a store and bought himself a brand new Omega.   And here I am, in this diner, waiting for my friend.

The magic of life.


July 3, 2012 § 16 Comments

One of the most important texts in my life is Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.  This is a passage about mindfulness and wisdom taken from that book.

Just to see, and to be ready to see things with our whole mind, is zazen practice. If we are prepared for thinking, there is no need to make an effort to think.  This is called mindfulness.  Mindfulness is, at the same time, wisdom.  By wisdom we do not mean some particular faculty or philosophy.  It is the readiness of the mind that is wisdom.  

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