Sunday, December 6, 2015
When Angelina arrived, she mixed up her yogurt. That was my cue to eat mine. It had been sitting out since 10. She started to cook bacon and kale and eggs and poured a glass of carrot orange juice for me. Wow!!!! Wake up, mouth!
In the midst of all this, we were dealing with a host of work issues. Trying to match colors, determining the strength of dye to be used. This work requires important and new decisions all along the way and everything is based on a a set of eyes or a few sets of eyes and the available light. We are dying long fir boards and beams, trying to match a sample. Not all the wood is reacting the same way. Some is lighter and some is darker. The thicknesses and grains are different. But it must all be matched. Our discussion delays breakfast. It's smelling so good in there. The dogs and I are tuned in.
After many photos and texts and phone calls and decisions, we at last sat down to dine. Colorful and fatty. Rich and abundant. I didn't begin to brush the 2nd coat of dye into the boards until 1pm. With the sun setting at 4, this means I'll work til after dark.
In my work, I want to know what I am doing and to be able do it. In my art, I want to not know what I am doing and do it and, by doing it, find out what I am doing. I want to listen to my work, hear what it says. I set up impossible or near impossible tasks. I set up situations in which to not know myself, and perhaps to never know myself, and then I investigate them. This is one of the differences between my life and my art.
Scott is coming to help with a doggy so I can be with Alexis and focused on wood. Alexis is going to California tomorrow, to celebrate her mother's 90th birthday!
After the rain and the rain dogs, we shared a glass of happy hour wine and a kobe burger at a local bistro. Aioli dipping sauce. I cleaned my plate except for a hunk of meat, which will go to a good dog.
Tonight is my first night alone in an awfully agreeable house. A clean bright space. An airy, warm, woody home. I sat on the petting couch with the dogs petting them. I stared off into space. I fell asleep sitting up, waiting for the energy to get up and move. I still need to drive across town to let the cat in. I took a hot shower. I applied lotion. I laundered my clothes. I drank warm vanilla milk. Then I drove across town. The cat was in. I thought he had wanted out this morning. He did not want out now, but wanted love. I gave him some. I fed him and cleaned his water bowl and played some music and watered and fed the chicken. All is well. It is predicted to rain everyday this week. A good day to stay in.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
It's rare for me to eat at restaurants and here I am doing it so much. I did not think MyShare would be like this. A celebration. An extravagance. But when I share, I want to offer something beautiful. I imagined picnics on park benches with strangers and invitations into tea house and bringing people off the streets. Romantic, yes, but possible. My life has changed since then. Again. And now I'm everywhere and nowhere again. I worked all spring and summer, day and night, and now fall is into winter and I haven't had any regular rent to pay for 10 months. This means a little money saved up. Feels like a lot. I'm saving for Mongolia.
Aaron shared his news with me. He and his partner are selling their house and moving to Skagit. Debt free in Skagit. And this year he moved his aging mother to Seattle. She brings in more SS than my mother and can afford her rent. He had her things shipped to Seattle and solicited friends to unpack her things and so she arrived to a decorated apartment. She was thrilled. Sounds very unlike what I did for my own mother. Alas.
When we got talking spirituality, he told me about his 10-day Vipassana meditation. Since then, he said, he sits an hour a day. That, as a practice, prepares him for his day. After the meal, we walked to Quan Yin Teahouse and ordered a pot of World Peace tea. They had to ask us to leave an hour after they closed
Aaron encouraged me to watch "A Thousand Clowns." In trying to find it that night, I inadvertently watched "Separate Tables." When the film was over, I realized it wasn't the movie I was meaning to see. I found that interesting as I'm struggling to continue my work on "The Clown" in France and Mongolia and am instead here in Seattle sharing meals.
I stayed up late. I cannot work. I cannot focus in a cluttered space, in a dirty space, in a dark or cold space. I must clean and order it before I can sit down to work in it. All I need is a corner, some free table space and a clean kitchen and bathroom. I did a fair amount of cleaning before I backed away. I gain nothing from this. At some point, when I saw I was not winning, I stopped and sat up on my computer watching a film.
There were two books next to each other on the bookshelf at the teashop. They were part of a set. One had the letter T on the spine. The other had the letters EA on the spine. They were arranged in the wrong order and instead of spelling TEA spelled EAT. The cosmic order is mixed up. I bought a bar of dark chocolate for us to share. Aaron had no difficulty receiving it. He simply said, "Thank you."
For 35 days, I have eaten in community. I have eaten nothing alone. All my meals are taken with others. Because of this, I have missed meals. I have missed breakfast most, but also dinners and lunches. There were no days when I ate nothing. I am considering continuing with this work. Why? Why not? Why? Because I have wanted to cheat? Many times I have thought, "What would a nut matter? I could just have this olive or that piece of fruit or... this whole project is silly! Who cares. And I want to eat." I have not cheated. I have wanted to. Many times there were nuts or chips or cheeses or crackers or fruits or chocolate lying around. I have smelled food cooking in restaurants, scents wafting from neighbor's houses. Mmmm. Food. The sacrament I do not freely take. Eating alone, one day, when I chose to end this work, will feel heightened and luscious and maybe even wrong.
A Chicago artist I met through Vanessa contacted me recently. If I was still in Seattle, would I meet and welcome her friend Nate to the city? He is relocating here. Well I needed to eat and thought, yes, I must meet this Nate. We met at a dive bar, a place I'd never been. He had an I Heart Science pin on. The heart was anatomically correct. He was finishing his $2 tacos and beer when I arrived. I asked if he wouldn't have more. If it would help, he said, he would. Let's go somewhere. Too many TVs. We walked to Hattie's Hat. I order a meal and a drink. He ordered a spinach casserole and a beer. We celebrated his new job and his new apartment.
Nate's been living in his car since October. He came to Seattle to start a new life and get away from the harsh Chicago winters. His dream is to live on a boat and travel from the islands, where he lives, to the city to sell his cultivated mushrooms. He is working as a house cleaner. I asked why. It pays $17 plus benefits. During dinner he told me he doesn't kid himself. There are people out there who are more valuable to society, who should earn more money. I stepped into this line of fire to point out his singular perspective, material production. If he were to look into the values of kindness or humility, or were to consider his spirit of adventure, or his volunteerism, or his ability to draw people in and make them feel safe, he might be at a different place on the scale. Why should we live in a one scale world?
He told me about his bicycle trip across Mexico long ago and about his coffee shop in Chicago and about his father and his friends in Iowa. I told him about the books I'd been reading and about my search for the truth and the miraculous. He told me about an experience he had in his early teens. He sometimes saw in blue. Everything was blue to him. He shared this with one friend at the time who said he'd had a similar experience where everything went red. He and his friend invented an explanation for this. They were superheroes, of course.
Nate ran his battery down this week charging his tablet. He asked me about the service station on the corner, asked if they were reputable. They are swines, I said. I offered to give him a jump. There are cables in my car. I used to leave my lights on. After not having a car for 17 years, it was a hard habit to break. I used to lock my keys in the car. Breaking into and getting a jump from strangers, these were regular occurrences.
After dinner, we walked to his car. It was loaded with stuff. There was a bike on a rack on the back. Far more stuff than I own at present. It was drizzling. The street lights were hard to see by. Which was the positive and which the negative terminal? We attached what we thought were the right clamps to the right terminals, but then sparks flew out and smoke began to rise. Yiee! Science. The clamps and cable were hot to touch. Something's wrong with this science. I was getting nervous. I started to imagine all the movies I was in. Who'd really sent this man? What end I was coming to? After a few more tries, I located, for certain, the negative and positive symbols imprinted on the battery. We'd had it backwards. We switched the cables and his engine started up. Phew!
I brought a baguette from Le Fournil and sandwich meats and cheeses. Alexis doesn't eat bread. She didn't share what I offered. She has her own routine. She ate an egg and steamed greens. I left the piece of coconut cake she gave me yesterday in the car. It was gifted to me by her mother, who was already on a plane to California when I received it. I had no one to eat it with. It was cold and damp. I was going to a cold, dark, uncomfortable house. A cluttered space with stains on the carpet. I slept in my sleeping bag and woke and left.
No dinner again. Looking for calories in a hot chocolate. The milk in the frig is outdated and nearly turned. I must get more. Please cow. It was a last leg cocoa, though warm and warming. Then a jasmine tea. Then bed.
And the meal food was warm and plentiful and lifting my heavy plate was exercise enough, but nobody really ate with me or planned to eat with me, they more fed than ate with me, which was plenty good enough for me. There was lots of talk and laughter and story telling. And that was our share.
On Sunday, I went back again to Laura and Clinton's for a second post-Thanksgiving Day Dinner! This time, Laura's brother Daniel was there. We all ate together then when the other dispersed, Daniel and I talked over dessert--three pieces of bread pudding, all different, with whipped cream. Mmm.
Like Laura, Daniel is committed to meditation and is deeply engaged in a spiritual search. He suggested a teacher to me, a woman in Oregon named Gangaji, who invites people to think about the question "Who Am I?" After dinner, I watched a few of her talks. Her eyes are half-mast, her mouth is firm and her smile is challenging, but when she said, "And then the word 'I' will fall back to its origin," she won me. Her teaching is simple. Letting go of "I" is the hardest thing we'll do, but all the nothing it offers is worth more than all we can achieve. Awareness existed before "I" was formed. Letting go of "I" allows us to reconnect to awareness. To me, it seems everyone is saying the same thing, but some are saying it better, saying it just for me to hear. Gangaji.
I've found Daniel, at times, in the past, to be cynical, short, off putting, out for a shock, flip. Tonight, he was a wise man, tolerant of the worst anyone could offer—negativity, complaints. "Bring it on," he said, "trigger me!" He wants to get all that out of the way so he can get onto what is real. What an invitation to the world! I'm amazed by his resistance-less-ness. Go Daniel! And a little jealous that he and his sister can talk so freely about their personal search. My brother and I used to be able to talk about anything, but mostly I listened and he talked, but back then that was enough. Then I think anger or criticism drifted in and the room started getting cold and eventually the door froze shut. Or is that just what it seems like? It looks like we have more differences than similarities now, but I don't believe that. I believe he's holding up a world he doesn't really care about. I wonder if he thinks I'm hiding from a world I cannot face up to? I wonder if we'll meet again and where.
I have three dogs, two cats and one chicken at three houses. Two of these "jobs" are favors. I'm doing them because they need doing. I want to be helpful. My desire to be helpful is a shattering, scattering force. Where is my life? I tell myself I am still in recovery from summer, but then there's no room in this life for recovery, so I'm just holding on or coasting or floating out to sea. Everyday a bit of money, which isn't bad, but then a curbed sense of freedom and a fence between me and my artist. These jobs, all of them at once, require that I borrow a car. I feel alive when I'm walking and the car is the death of me.
Inside all of this, I have one job that is my dream, Mona and Maddie! I've been caring for these two maltipoos (Maltese + poodle) for 3 years now and they have my heartstrings. I'd take them in a heartbeat, anywhere, anytime. Get an apartment. Get a job. Move to the country. You name it. I should say no to all the other friends and just work for them. That would be true happiness. But, as is, coming and going from their house leaves me, or used to leave me, the freedom to write and hike and make art and be social. And they paid my meager bills. And their costs were covered.
Now I am just over committed and caring for too many houses and animals for it to be useful. It is unsettling because these jobs are at the most 20 days long and at the least 1 or 2 days long, which means I am always moving, but this moving has been urging me, more and more, to divest myself of things. Where I used to be Spartan, now I am mobile, or near mobile. I still have some unfinished projects in a bag and a hard-drive and a laptop. What does a pilgrim do with such things?
Did I eat today? What? With whom? It must have been at work again. I'm sure I missed another meal or two. I cannot say.
It is Thursday 26 November, Thanksgiving day. I had plans to join a friend in West Seattle for her family dinner, but then I liked the idea of getting out of the city too and going for a walk in the woods. Scottie needs to spend time in spaces where the vibrations are high, in places that are aligned, in harmony, unjumbled. Old growth forest works. My body appreciates those places too, but I'm not yet crystallized and have such a soft center I can and try to find the sky and earth wherever I am. I love myself for being at sea. Thank you Thaddeus.
We took the doggies, Mona and Maddie, to Tiger Mountain. It was frosty and foggy and cold and damp, but then the sun came out and instant relief! We went up Adventure Trail and came down High School Trail, then drove to Renton for Thanksgiving dinner at his sister's. Scott's mother and her partner, his father and his father's wife, his two sisters and his niece were there. Mona Maddie were given free reign to wander the house and garnered turkey treats in the kitchen.
There were four pies, two kinds of gravy, ambrosia salad, stuffing and the most delicious turkey. It was a fabulous meal. After dinner, I did the dishes. The others cleaned up before the meal.
My own mother took the train from Philly to New York to be with my brother, who called me and left me a message. There are two in my immediate family. When one or more doesn't show, there is one or none. He said he wished I were there. My low vibrating self heard that as the right thing to say, but doubted it was true. My low vibrating self realizes they will have a more pleasant and enjoyable time without me. For that I must love myself. If Thanksgiving were Thankstaking, I would be better at taking what I need, forgiveness.
Tuesday, fast upon the heels of Monday, in late November. Another day with Scottie and Alexis building a scaffolding to hold the wood. More easy food. Ahh. And sigh. Does this constitute a share? I am not counting it as a share.
Day two of the retreat. No breakfast. No dinner last night. Though silent, I am still looking forward to it, another uncomfortable potluck. I am hungry and want to eat, though I know I could go without food if I needed to. I'm not ravenous. I've had one meal every day of this project. That's quite enough I am finding.
As usual, I found a way to be last in line at the buffet. When someone gets in line behind me, I find excuses to get out and come back later. I was last again. Being last means I get what no one wants. And it means no one is crowding me from behind. And I won't feel compelled to leave some for the next person. I am the next person! I can take whatever I want, without trying to be selfless. This is how I find ways around being who I am.
Before getting into the line, I craftily visited the end of the banquet table where dessert was, where the bread and fruit and cheeses were. I prefer open spaces to crowds. I prefer to be where things are flowing and to avoid congestion. This happens where you start at the opposite end of things (opposite to the herds or conventions). I do this at airports too. I'd wait til everyone has boarded, then walk jauntily aboard myself, without waiting in any line. Why rush to stand in line when you can sit reading and writing til the end?
Before the retreat this morning I went in search of some bread. I had an hour to spare. I wanted to contribute some fresh local bread to the potluck. I went to two bakeries. Neither would have bread before 10 am. Really? I weighed my options and waited for baguette at Honore, which meant I'd be late. Fresh loaves were worth it. They arrived at 9:45am. I carried two warm baguettes into the retreat center, then slipped into the event room and listened to Robert again. A long preamble. I wished he'd arrive an hour earlier and get this out of the way. Then he would be ready for me, as I am ready for him. Hmph!
After an hour, he started to get into the meat of it. Then he was flowing and engaging and I was interested again. I appreciated some of what he had to say. I disagreed with a lot. At the end of the day, I felt suddenly alert and heard him say something directly to me. He was explaining my situation, without knowing my situation. He said, "At this juncture, is helpful to have a teacher." "Ah, but who?" He explained how our foundation will fall away when we fully let go of our self. "There will be a time when things fall away as soon as they arise. At this time there is a sense of confusion and terror." I do not feel terror. I feel passive. What is this about?
Robert Beatty, a member of the first wave of Theravada Buddhist teachers who brought the Dharma from Asia in the 1970’s. Robert founded the Portland Insight Meditation Community and is the guiding teacher there. His training began in India in 1972. He traces his lineage through Ruth Denison, founder of Dhamma Dena Retreat Center. She named him as Dharma successor and authorized him to teach.
The retreat is two days long and is at Nalanda West. Forty people are attending. The demographic is older, educated, white, middle to upper middle class. It is late morning. After much setting of the stage, we were led through an exercise, the same one we were led through last year. We were shown how to opt out by remaining seated with our hands crossed over our hearts, then instructed to stand, if we wished, and move about the room looking for bodies to greet. We were to approach another person with our eyes down, then slowly lift our eyes until the person came into view. We were asked to see them fully and then tell them so. "I see you." One by one, we greeted everyone in the room this way, left hand up, right hand down, hand-in-hand, "I see you." "I see you." "I see you." To a blind man, it might have sounded like a lover's game. It's a simple exercise, but powerful and intimate, a kind of soul gazing that compels one to compassion. At first I thought, "Come on. What is this? You've had a year to come up with a new exercise." Then I was glad of it. It gave me a chance to forgive my teacher and myself and everyone in the room.
Lunch was a potluck. I’d been looking forward to it, but then it came and went and was rather drab. Salads from the natural food store, packaged hummus, a few homemade salads, most everything cold. Robert invited us to observe noble silence at lunch. He'd ring the bell when we were least expecting it and, when we heard it, we were meant to stop mid-chew to notice ourselves, or something, what, our desire, that we were eating to fuel our meditation, that we were present and the food in our mouth was present too. I felt lonelier during this meal than during any meal in the last 20 days. Lonelier than the french fries at McDonald's. Lonelier than the cocktails at the bar. Averting my eyes from the 12 eyes at my table and finding every one's eyes averting mine, I felt disconnected.
In 2014, in the 15 days after my 15-day fast for the artwork "Hunger," I wanted to eat alone and in silence and I often did. Eating then felt like a sacrament. I spontaneously invented a prayer then, something I still say, something I had been trying to do in 2011 and couldn't. Eating in silence today did not help me meditate or enjoy my meal. It felt awkward, like forced a rejection of joy.
Seated at round tables in a banquet room, it takes some effort for 80 eyes not to meet. Most people gazed across the room with a glazed look, staring at the sides of silent faces seated at the other tables, at the photographs on the walls. Surely there is a way to invite a mature, committed group to share a meal respectfully and reflectively without denying the opportunity for community.
It is Sunday 15 November, a guaranteed breakfast day. I've been waiting for this. I purchased a package of top shelf, no nitrate, uncured bacon. I walked 3 miles for a loaf of Hominy bread from Tall Grass Bakery and saved the 6 eggs Mylinda gave me from her chicken, Henrietta. I purchased organic mushrooms at Green Market and goat cheese at Ballard Market. Scott is making me breakfast, a full breakfast, and I am thankful.
During the decadent times, I think about my brother, about how and where and what he eats. I don't know. I guess he eats out, with friends and colleagues and women. How often does he eat alone? How often does he cook at home? Where does his food come from? Can he get produce from local farmers? I don't know any of this. In recent years we haven't seen each other. Two days in four years, this April. We ate out every night. My mother was packing up her life. We were helping.
We were all becoming homeless at the same time, in the Spring of 2015. My mother's apartment building was being renovated and she was being out-priced. My brother was coming home from Hong Kong and looking for work. I'd given up my boat and office to help my mother (which in hindsight I did not and could not do). Here it is November. My mother's in a condo in PA, purchased by my brother. My brother is in a condo with our father's brother's ex-wife (my aunt) on the Lower East Side. And I am living no where, moving about, place to place, house-sitting. I'm not called yet to correct this and I don't know why. Am I preparing for something? A departure? A move? A shift? When will I receive those orders? When?