Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gratitude January 31, 2009 -- Bill Jansen

"Give up your bike?" a familiar voice asked from behind. It was Bill's voice. Bill's my age but grayer, and at 6' 4" taller than me. He was riding his handmade custom bike and I was on foot, walking home from the gym.

Bill used to manage the bike shop in town and I was his regular customer. He's since become a kindergarten teacher. He says he was inspired to set down his allen wrenches and pick up the chalk by me. I don't know about that. He is a born teacher. "I never see you riding anymore," Bill teased.

"I've discovered my feet," I said. "Walking to the gym I've already run into five people in town, and now you. How's your year going?"

"Horrible and wonderful. My kids have the worst lives. Parents using drugs or in jail. Older sisters pregnant. Three kids are homeless. My classroom's the only place in their lives that's halfway stable."

"That's the wonderful part?"

"Yeah, I've got 15 girls and only 4 boys. I create little spots of peace, safety, and happiness in my classroom and that's when moments of wonder come. I don't know how I could do it without my taekwondo classes. They teach me to stay centered, grounded, and ready for whatever comes. Teaching is more like combat than most people realize. The kids tell me stuff that makes me want to cry."

Bill went on to tell me about the many wonderful ways he quite literally brings kids back from the brink. He's found a way to bring order into chaos, and to provide children with stability.

We talked for twenty minutes about the challenges and rewards of our lives. Impossible work. But somehow, with no help from outside, he gets it done.

Hats off to Bill.

Gratitude January 30, 2009

First, a disclaimer: this post is a day late--going up on January 31, but concerning the gratitude I felt on January 30. The reason for the omission yesterday was a schedule packed a little too full of work and fun to squeeze in time at the keyboard.

That said, Friday I felt grateful for the help of my two new student teachers, Amanda and Kendall. They are, first of all, smart. They seem to be entering the field of education because it is their calling, not the best choice among too few choices.

They come with experience. Amanda has worked as a scout leader and for a bookstore in the children's department. Kendall has taught outdoor education in Yosemite and at the Marin County Outdoor Education Program at Walker Creek. Student teachers who've spent considerable time in the company of school age children have a good and useful head start.

They are enthusiastic and energetic. We worked yesterday to put up a word wall for the kindergartners to refer to when writing their own stories. This was work that would have been a drudge for me to do alone. Instead, with the assistance and company of two young and sparkly women I did the task with pleasure.

Finally, they're young, about my daughter's age, years younger than the students I first taught at the beginning of my career. There's no word I know in English to describe the pleasure of passing your life's work into the capable hands of others whom you know will carry on the noble work (equanimity mixed with delight?) but wordless pleasures can leave you speechless and with a little more spring in your step.

There. I knew it would take about twenty minutes to express the gratitude I felt on Friday, time that wasn't available then. I'll post again later today for January 31.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gratitude January 29, 2009

This evening Sarah and I walked over to the Charter School to hear the Youth Chamber Orchestra perform works by Vivaldi, Beethoven, Grieg, and Bartok. Performers ranged in age from 9 to 19 years of age, most (all?) of them products of home schooling, private, or charter schools.

After that we walked across the street to hear the author of The Power of the Possible, Auriela McCarthy, talk about her book at Many Rivers Books and Tea.

She offered sound advice to avoid frustration and hurt feelings on Valentine's Day.

For women: Tell your man exactly how you'd like the day to unfold. Flowers at breakfast, where to go for dinner, exactly what gift you'd like to receive, and so on. Give him a detailed road map. Write it all down if your man seems to suffer from attention deficit disorder. Tell him all this at least one week in advance. Then, remind him—again—a few days ahead.

I know, I know, spelling out like this is not romantic, like in the movies. So forget the fact that you had to give him the road map. Blot it out of your memory. Hit the delete key.

Do that, and allow your experience of Valentine's Day come come pretty close to what you wanted, like in the movies.

For men: Listen. Ask for a road map if one isn't provided. Follow the road map.

Simple, useful, practical advice. May this advice benefit all who read it.


This evening I'm grateful

  1. To live in town where we can walk to 2 events like this on the same evening.
  2. To Katherine, Alden, and Delwyn for chiming in and for posting to their blogs.
  3. To feel that America is changing course in millions of ways for the better. Hope that is palpable.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gratitude January 28, 2009

Not my yacht. Maybe someday...

My great grandfather, Frederick, for teaching my grandfather, Dan, to sail.

My grandfather, Dan, for teaching my father, Robert, to sail.

My father, Robert, for teaching me to sail.

For this practice of cultivating gratitude. (I spent the day in teacher training instead of teaching and on days like this I find that I'm prone to grumpiness.) This practice shakes me loose from negativity's negative charge.

For scissors.

And for Birkenstock sandals.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gratitude January 27, 2009 The Nobility of Plants

I am grateful to all plant life for making food from sunlight for us to eat today.

I am grateful to all plant life for making oxygen from sunlight for us to breathe today.

I am grateful to all plant life for nobly transforming sunlight, minerals, water, and CO2 into life.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gratitude January 26, 2009: Thank You, Corinne

"Gurney. Hmm. So, you're married to the Mayor," remarked the teller at the bank as she studied my deposit slip. "I've heard you're a teacher."

"Yes, that's right. I teach kindergarten south of town," I replied.

Encourage your daughter to follow her calling.

"Kindergarten. That's what my daughter wants to teach someday. Do you like teaching?"

"It's my life's work. I've been teaching at the same school for 28 years. When you're called to teach, it's what you do."

"Do you ever get to see your kindergarten kids as grownups?"

"Oh, sure! I see former students around town. I even have 'grandstudents,' you know...children of students I taught twenty plus years ago."


"At this point, I have some every year. Encourage your daughter to follow her calling. It's a good life," I said as we completed the transaction and I took my leave.

On the walk home I stopped by my favorite Sebastopol business, Many Rivers Books and Tea, to say hello to Rob and tell him I was looking forward to the book club meeting scheduled for tomorrow night.

As I left the store, I saw an elegantly dressed and attractive thirty-something woman walk towards me and smiling very broadly. That smile, I've come to learn, can mean only one thing: she is one of my grownup kindergartners. I recognized her immediately: Corinne!

We had a very nice talk. She's well. Studying economics. Happily married, still, to Ken. (I was a guest at their wedding.) Ken's working in the solar power industry. Corinne is thinking about starting a family. I told her I had just talked to a bank teller about the pleasure of talking to former students.

We caught up on other members of her class. Hollie, Kelly, Christina, Nichelle, others. They started kindergarten in 1982. I still regularly see about a half dozen of her class, the Dunham Class of 1989. They "graduated" from our sixth grade class twenty years ago.

We talked long enough for current Dunham students Rylee and Logan to call out as they drove by, "Hi, Mr. Gurney!" A minute later the mother of a former kindergarten student now in high school waved a friendly hello from across the street. I would have loved to invite Corinne into Many Rivers for a pot of tea, but I had to run. Tonight is square dancing night.

"Mr. Gurney, I want you to know, I think of you every day. You have always been my favorite teacher."

"Thank you, Corinne," I told her. "That means a lot to me." It really does.

Thank you, Corinne.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gratitude January 25, 2009

So many things to be grateful for all day long. It's getting hard to pick out which to mention!

I didn't expect that would be the challenging part about keeping a gratitude blog.

Tonight what first comes to mind is the group of friends who came over tonight for tea and to talk about a selection from Chapter 19 of the MN. Beverly, Christian, Louise, and Suzanne, thanks for coming over tonight.

To me our gathering is the perfect way to spend an evening. And Louise, thanks for the idea of doing a dharma talk on the fifth Tuesdays. I think that's worth thinking about.

At the meeting I shared about an unexpected effect of my New Year's resolution to end each day with a post about Gratitude:

Yesterday I did my laundry. When I opened the dryer door, I saw blue ink stains on my favorite shirt. The plastic barrel of the bottom of the pen fell to the tiled floor as I pulled out the rest of the clothes in dismay. A small coiled spring bounced away. I assessed the damage. The plaid boxer shorts escaped undamaged, but my two favorite shirts are ruined. My first reaction was ordinary: I cursed quietly and accused myself of carelessness.

To my surprise, my mind quickly abandoned its self-flagellations. I discovered my self-talk had become more useful. I could hear myself say, "I must remind myself to check all the pockets more carefully."

This more positive self talk did not result from any major effort to abandon negative self talk and replace it with positive self talk; instead, I felt surprised to be so nice to myself. It was like two surprises, one right after the other. The first surprise was the ink spots, the second surprise the compassionate self talk.

My theory is that the second surprise, the kinder and gentler me is the result of this gratitude blog.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gratitude January 24, 2009

That's Sarah kneeling with the book, and that's me, behind the camera.

I'm grateful to the twenty-plus walkers who turned out for the Sebastopol Walks event Sarah and I co-led this morning. We walked and talked our way all around the 7 mile perimeter of our lovely town.

Tonight we're off to a political party and then to see the late show at the Rialto. Life is good.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gratitude January 23, 2009

I'm grateful to have a faithful commenter, Delwyn, on this blog. I know others visit, but she comments, and I appreciate it. It's most encouraging to know someone out there is going to respond. Thanks, Delwyn.

Google's Prado Project

If you are interested in art, visit my brother's blog post today on Google's Prado Project.

You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gratitude January 22, 2009

I'm grateful to be married to the Mayor of my town.

It's the opposite of living in anonymity; it's living in community.

Going out anywhere anytime (I usually do my errands on foot) results in greeting people I know and usually getting engaged in a nice conversation or two or three or more.

It's been said that "it takes a village to raise a child." I think it's equally true that it takes a village to raise an adult.

Maybe I'm just a big kid still growing up and recovering from a childhood lived mostly outside of community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gratitude January 21, 2009

I'm grateful to all the people at Zojirushi in Japan who were involved in the invention, manufacture, and distribution of my rice cooker. This machine has faithfully and reliably made uncounted servings of rice for me and my wife over the years.

When the rice is cooked to perfection it plays a jaunty little tune and then keeps the rice warm and ready to eat until the rest of whatever we might have for dinner is ready. It never fails to make the rice as perfect as rice gets.

I'm also grateful to all the people involved in growing the rice I cook, mostly organic rice from Lundberg farms in California.

I'm grateful to all the many people who put food within my easy reach.

Thinking about Dr. King

I'm still thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King. I found this on a Buddhist Peace Fellowship email:

Two reflections, 2500 years apart, come to mind.

As recorded in the Dhammapada, Shakyamuni Buddha said:

All tremble at violence,
All fear death;
Comparing oneself with others
One should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
- Dhp. 129

All tremble at violence,
Life is dear to all.
Comparing others with oneself
One should neither kill nor cause others to kill.
- Dhp. 130

Victory breeds hatred,
The defeated live in pain.
Happily the peaceful live,
Giving up victory and defeat.
- Dhp. 201

Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking to his congregation in Montgomery, Alabama said:

I think the first reason that we should love our this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that's the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil... Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off, and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.
- "Loving Your Enemies" 17 November 1957

I hope that the United States can awaken fully from its state of fear and live out the values and wisdom of its hero, Martin Luther King.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gratitude January 20, 2009

I'm grateful for so many things today.

Walter, Marc, Eve, and Mischa who came over tonight to discuss Chapter 16 of the Dhammapada. You are such fine friends. I feel blessed with enormous good fortune to have you in my life. And also to Debra, Richard N., Louise, Christian, Sue, Richard R. and Roger who couldn't make it tonight. I missed each one of you.

A new president who inspires America to hope instead of inciting it to fear.

All my teachers, but especially Jim Wilson.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gratitude January 19, 2009

This evening I'm grateful for the Dalai Lama saying he loves George Bush.

Now, finally, I know someone who loves him.

I'm grateful for being able to hope for new beginnings that shall start tomorrow.

In response to my wife's request, I've strung up some white lights of hope at my front door.


Martin and Barack

Thanks to Coachdad (coachblogger) for the image above

On this day of remembrance of Martin Luther King, I remember that in his final years Dr. King worked for economic justice for minorities.

Near the end of his life he pointed out that the Johnson Administration had shifted its focus from fighting its "War of Poverty" to waging a war in Vietnam.

A year before he was gunned down in Memphis (he was there to support a strike of sanitation workers), Dr. King made a speech in New York at the Riverside Church in which he discussed the connection between spending on the two wars.

At that time, Dr. King said:

There is...a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings.

Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube.

And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

We spend $500,ooo to kill an enemy soldier and $53 to fight poverty in America.

I don't know how today's spending priorities compare to those of 1967, but I would guess they're in the same ball park. We seem today to be in the same predicament we were 41 years ago.

If he were here today, 80 year old Martin Luther King would encourage us to reflect on to what degree we've become a society gone even more mad on war.

And as we look ahead to tomorrow, when The United States opens a new chapter of hope (after eight years lost to fear), let us reflect upon how we might heal our madness and encourage our leaders to build our national security by peaceful means.

We could begin by reversing our priorities and spending more on economic justice and less on wars of choice. We need, as Martin did, to see war as an enemy of the poor and attack it as such.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gratitude January 18, 2009

This evening I feel grateful for...

taking a bicycle ride with my wife in the last hours of the day;

Sarah's cleaning of the house while I was away at the conference;

my friend, David Heintz whose birthday was today;

my brother's blog which is always entertaining or informative (blowing soap bubbles in sub-zero weather today) and

wool socks.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gratitude January 17, 2009

This evening I feel grateful for the piano music of Erroll Garner. He played jazz piano from the heart. He couldn't read music, but boy, he could play it. I've been enjoying his music in the background as I catch up on Dharma reading and emails here in the hotel room at the Kindergarten Association Conference.

This is the one weekend of the year that I usually get one of my infrequent looks at television. There's a big flatscreen TV in this room, but I just can't bring myself to turn it on.

So, it's just me and Erroll Garner and my Dharma books as the evening passes pleasantly.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gratitude January 16, 2009

This evening I am grateful to all the teachers who've been associated with the California Kindergarten Association.

I am in Santa Clara at the statewide California Kindergarten Association's Annual conference and will spend the next 2 days talking about and thinking about kindergarten and what its mission should be as well as gleaning some great new ideas from colleagues from all over California.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gratitude January 15, 2009

Darjeeling tea plantation

I'm grateful for the people of Darjeeling, India who make the organic Darjeeling tea I enjoy with lunch most days of the week.

I'm grateful, too, for the wakeful and calm state of attention it induces that allows me to enjoy the afternoon hours with the kindergarteners with whom I work.

And I'm grateful for random acts of kindness that are done for me. Today Kelly Bengs bestowed one on me that I talk about over on Mr. Kindergarten.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gratitude January 14, 2009

I am grateful to the greens that grow in my garden. Most mornings before the sun comes up, I wander up into my garden and pick by flashlight a few leaves of kale or chard or collards to add to the blender chai I have for breakfast.

I am grateful for my friend Roger who works at the STW-II dhamma center in Graton. Roger's a wonderful person.

And to Delwyn, an Australian blog reader who chimed in with these words of wisdom:

Give birth to love for the one next door
as you do for your own soul's self
and the part of it that feels like a neighbour

Give birth to compassion for the nearest,
yet unfamiliar, aspect of yourself,
as you do for the one outside
who feels like a stranger

Give birth to the deepest warmth for
the neighbour, inside and out,
as you do for your own
subconscious community
inside and out

Makes a difference doesn't it. In Aramaic there are not clear distinctions between inside and outside so that the neighbor can refer to a member of your inner community!
So it's about honoring, respecting, expressing and opening up to all of our parts....and our neighbor, food for thought...

I agree. This boundaries between self and other get blurrier and blurrier as heart vision comes into better focus.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gratitude January 13, 2009

I am grateful for the tasty organic purple potatoes and the veggie burger and green beans that I ate this evening with a Sarah.

I am grateful for the dinnertime candlelight we've enjoyed almost every night for the past 36 years.

I am grateful for the piano music of Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Jessica Williams, and Tommy Flanagan, among others.

Oscar Peterson

I am grateful for having enjoyed very good health overall for 57 years. How lucky is that?

Sand Castles

The Buddha was a great teacher. This simple teaching of the Buddha reminds me of kindergartners playing with blocks.

Some children were playing beside a river. They made castles of sand, and each child defended his castle and said, "This one is mine!" They kept their castles separate and would not allow any confusion about which was whose. When the castles were all finished, one child kicked over someone else's castle and completely destroyed it.

The owner of the castle flew into a rage, pulled the other child's hair, struck him with his fist and bawled out, "That one has spoiled my castle! Come along all of you and help me punish the destroyer as that one deserves." The others all came along to help. They beat the child with a stick and then stamped on the child as the child lay on the ground. Then they went on playing in the sand castles each one saying, "This is mine; no one else may have it. Keep away! Don't touch my castle!"

Evening came. It was getting dark and they all thought they ought to be getting back home. No one now cared what became of their castle. One child stamped his; another pushed over hers with both hands. Then they turned away and went back each to his or her home.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gratitude January 12, 2009

Sarah with a Peace calendar she gave to the City.
She's the Mayor of our town this year.

I'm grateful above all to have married a very good person. We first met in the fall of 1970, gee that's more than 38 years ago. We married in 1974. And, after all these years, we're still a good team. This evening we went to our second square dancing lesson and had a blast.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gratitude January 11, 2009

I'm grateful to be able to take a 9-mile hike in Sugarloaf State Park with friends Richard and Brenda. We enjoyed warm weather for January and good friendship along the trail.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gratitude January 10, 2009

Tonight I am grateful to

Marilynn Groesbeck Glade, my wife's mother, who, if she were alive, would have celebrated her 89th birthday today.

Happy birthday, Marilynn.

And the full moon, the very large full moon at perigee this evening at 7:27. I saw it. Wow!

And the clear skies.

A page from one of my journals

Last summer while on retreat at Spirit Rock with Ted, Guy Armstrong gave a lecture. I took notes. This page from that journal keeps arising in my mind:

It's not easy for us to so clearly understood that our ethical behavior leads to our happiness. It's more common for us to think that behaving ethically is about "being good" and "doing what we are supposed to do" and following the Golden Rule. External motivation. We seem to believe that succumbing to temptations can make us happy. Not so.

We don't necessarily understand that ethical behavior creates the conditions for sublime happiness. But that's exactly what ethical behavior does in fact do for us, and why we can aspire to have internal motivation to "do the right thing."

Ethical behavior helps us find the peace of mind that permits us to begin to refine our minds; our minds won't be occupied by regrets over our misdeeds.

Once we've achieved a refined mind, we have a chance to glimpse wisdom.

Dharma Seeds #3

Noble Friendship

Then the venerable Ananda approached the Lord, prostrated himself and sat down to one side. Sitting there the venerable Ananda said to the Lord: "Half of this holy life, Lord, is good and noble friends, companionship with the good, association with the good."

"Do not say that, Ananda. Do not say that Ananda. It is the whole of this holy life, this friendship, companionship, and association with the good."

(Samyutta Nikaya)

Dharma Seeds #2

The brahman Dona saw the Buddha sitting under a tree and was impressed by his peaceful air of alertness and his good looks. He asked the Buddha:

"Are you a god?"

"No, brahman, I am not a god."

"Then an angel?"

"No, indeed, brahman."

"A spirit, then?"

"No, I am not a spirit."

"Then what are you?"

"I am awake."

(Anguttara Nikaya)

Dharma Seeds #1

Like entrusting yourself to a brave man when greatly afraid,
By entrusting yourself to the awakening mind,
You will be swiftly liberated,
Even if you have made appalling errors.

(Majjhima Nikaya)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Gratitude January 9, 2009 #2

This evening, I'm grateful for the work of Harvey Milk. (Sarah and I just saw the movie, Milk, starring Sean Penn.) A man of great courage, really, who stood for the rights of people against discrimination.

I am grateful, too, for my dreams. They teach me so much.

I am always, always, always eternally grateful for the three treasures.

Gratitude January 9, 2009

I went last night to a poetry reading, and there I learned of a new form of poetry called 100 friends. 100 friends is a 15 line form of poetry with lines of poetry determined by syllables as follows: 2,4,2,4,6,4,6,8,6,8,10,8,10,12,10.

Being the tinkerer I am, I've adapted the form to 108 syllables and call it the Sangha form. It's similar to the 100 friends form, but with an added coda of 3 lines totaling only 8 syllables, for a total of 18 lines and 108 syllables. Nice, huh? The coda's lines have syllabic counts of 4,2,2.

So the Sangha form has 18 lines with syllabic counts as follows: 2,4,2,4,6,4,6,8,6,8,10,8,10,12,10,4,2,2.

Here's my first Sangha form poem. It's about seeing Venus by daylight. I'm pleased with the result:

 Not on Television
January 9, 2009

I found
Venus shining
In Day-blue sky
Between the sun and moon
This afternoon.

For fifty-seven years
I’ve not known the sun and the moon
Have company up there
Overhead in the daytime sky.
No person showed me when or where to look;
I learned how on the Internet,
Glad to find something significant there.
It felt like discovering a parent’s affair—
Knowledge ancients kept and shared, ‘ere
Screened out

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gratitude January 8, 2009

This evening I am grateful for a little bookstore in Sebastopol that sells "Tools for Spiritual Living" called Many Rivers Books and Tea. I buy tea there as well as many books. What's most special is their Thursday night talks.

Tonight the store featured a reading by poet Jim Wilson. He read poems for more than an hour. Those who were lucky enough to be there enjoyed many shimmering moments of wonder and delight.

I bought his collection of poems called Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are 6 tanka poems from this collection:

Moving On

"Will you forgive me?"
That's all that he requested.
But she had moved on.
A new experience loomed.
She will leave him to his doom.

It's Over

You don't understand.
How can I make this clearer?
Can you disappear
And not look back, don't check in
Or call me "for old time's sake"?


Love is a strange thing.
At first it offers us wings
And then it clips them.
What follows is the sharp sting
That only love's absence brings.

After a Reconciliation

I had no idea
That love would demand so much;
It's not just a touch
But an abiding presence
That once found, never leaves us.


Standing on this bluff,
Gazing past the conifers,
To sunset streaked clouds
I number the days gone by
Since we last saw each other.

I held your pale hand
Through the months of your fading
I heard your last breath.
On this anniversary
I sense your presence and love.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gratitude January 7, 2009

I'm grateful today for:

the wonderful dinner I had tonight: roasted vegetables grown mostly by Scott Mathieson, our local farmer, with a garden burger and short grain brown rice cooked in our fuzzy logic rice cooker. Dinner was accompanied by a rare treat: a fine half glass of Merlot from a bottle given to me by a friend whose wife is a wine judge.

running into my friend Misha at the produce stand this afternoon. We had a nice talk.

being able to figure out how to post a video on YouTube (it was my second, actually) without any difficulty at all

the 8 candles burning on the dining room table

the fire I'm sitting by

Cal Tjader's music playing now in the background

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gratitude January 6, 2009

First, a little story:

One a man heard that the Buddha's Way lies in persevering in benevolence and compassion, and meeting evil with goodness. He then came and cursed the Buddha. The Buddha, remaining silent, did not respond, but rather had pity for one whose ignorance and rage led to such an act.

When his cursing abated the Buddha asked him, "If you offer a gift to someone who does not accept it, what happens to the gift?"

The man replied, "I would have to take it back."

The Buddha said: "Now you have offered me curses but I do not accept them. they return to you, bringing harm to your own person. Like an echo responding to sound, or a shadow following an object, in the end there is no escaping it. Take heed of your evil ways."

—The Sutra in 42 Sections

What I feel grateful for today:

  • So many kindergarten students having learned the Soundabet over the winter holiday
  • All my Dharma Friends who came over tonight to discuss the Dhammapada—and the ones who wanted to be here tonight, but could not make it this time
  • The gifts Richard N. brought over tonight.
  • My teeth and my friend, Dr. Al Couture, the dentist who takes care of my teeth. Al travelled to Ghana about a year ago to take care of children's' teeth, too. Ghana is in Africa, directly west of Togo, where Ted is right now. Al also believes in hugging.
  • Learning about non-violent communication (NVC).

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gratitude January 5, 2009

I'm grateful to live in a town that has several active square dancing clubs. Sarah and I took our first lesson tonight and had a whole lot of fun. Friends Jon, Vina, Linda, Gregory, and Pat from Coastwalk were there, too. I'm grateful to live in a town where people know each other.

I'm grateful for my 28 five-and-six-year-old friends. We had a nice time today, the first day back at school.

I'm grateful that daughter Elizabeth checks in by phone daily, even though it seems we're never home when she calls. She left a message while we were at the dance lesson.

I'm grateful for music. As I write this, I am listening to Ella Fitzgerald sing "Bewitched."

I'm grateful for the bellyful of baked spaghetti that I made for dinner tonight.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gratitude January 4, 2009


Blogging about gratitude is amazing.

I was wrong when I thought I would have to "reach" for things to write about.

The opposite problem arose. I'm grateful all day long.

It hard to decide what I should include. Should I mention one, two, three or more... a dozen things? How should I organize the things I feel grateful for? Into realms: physical, social, environmental?

Any hints?


This evening I'm feeling grateful (in no particular order, as I'm struggling with organizing this) for:

Katherine's chiming in with things she feels grateful for. I hope she's the first of many more to come and leave a gratitude to share here.

Eve, for writing so many beautiful songs, especially "Cemetery." In that song she sings about something Don Juan says, "Keep death upon your shoulder. It will remind you to love."

My sense of balance. (The Spanish teacher at my school has been through a long struggle with dizziness and is recovering from major neurological surgery to correct the condition. We take things like the sense of balance for granted: it doesn't even make the list of the "5" senses.)

The young man in Togo who last Wednesday invited Ted to his "village" in the forests about an hour's walk outside Seregbene. Ted said it was like walking into the past. Nine thatched houses in a clearing in the forest. No roads, just a footpath. The young man was returning from market in Sergebene (where Ted lives) to bring his family a chicken and some beans.

Mr. Music who brings music to the schools and Sebtown. And peace, too. He came over to talk about our Peacetown, USA resolution. He's my bud.

Elizabeth who found her bridal gown and tried it on with a special necklace on :)

And that, folks, is the first time I've ever used an emoticon.

The world hasn't changed that much; my view of it has.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gratitude January 3, 2009

Cultivating gratitude helps me discover a healthier, happier, more optimistic view.

I go through the hours thinking about what I am grateful for and which of the many, many things I feel grateful for that I will select for mention here on the blog at the end of the day.

This evening I'm feeling grateful to--

My brother, Jim, who sent me and handwritten letter along with the newsletters from the Platte Cove Community who are living in intentional Christian community in New York. Inspiring folks. Maybe I'll visit there again this summer....

Jim Corbett (AKA Mr. Music) for his efforts to bring music to our schools through his music education program, and to our community via "The Love Choir." He is an inspiration to all of us in Sebtown. This evening Sarah and I are working on the resolution that will be read by the Mayor (my wife) next Tuesday.

Cal Tjader whose music I'm listening to on Pandora. Do you know about Pandora? It's a website where you can make your own internet radio station. You'll like it. Click here: Pandora. Elizabeth initiated me to Pandora over the holidays. Now I'm a fan.

Debra Birkinshaw who is on the Board of the Sonoma County Peace Center and writes for its newsletter. She's also a member of my Sangha.

Katherine over at the blog, Last Visible Dog. She's taking care of a pair of thrushes, Victoria and Alexander.

Thich Nhat Hahn and Jim Wilson who've been a reliable guides for me.

My neighbor, Rebecca, whose father is dying in Nebraska. She wants to have a community garden going in her side yard in 2009.

I invite YOU to share what you're grateful for in the comments section of this post.

Whitman's Advice to Poets

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body..... The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured.....others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches.... and shall master all attachment.

—Walt Whitman
1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass

Friday, January 2, 2009

Gratitude January 2, 2009

Elizabeth packed up last night. She's already back in NYC.

I am grateful for

• Elizabeth's visit. I miss her so.

• Legs that help me pedal out restless energy on the bike trail;

• those who brought the Joe Rodata and Santa Rosa Creek Trails to be;

• former students who express their gratitude to me (E. Hage);

• people in China who, 19 years ago, made the Puerh Tea I drank today;

• Marc Polonsky, who reminded me of the importance of poetry.

The Santa Rosa Creek Trail as it looked today.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Gratitude January 1, 2009

Making New Year's resolutions is fraught with difficulty. With the passage of the year, positive intention runs high. The temptation to overreach is very strong. But I'm going to try to post regularly to this blog and put more energy into it. It would be nice to post one strong post a week to it and five or six short ones to fill the spaces between major posts.

Posting one expression of gratitude each day would be a way of getting the smaller posts written.

So here goes:

Today I am grateful for
• living so close to the Pacific Ocean
• being able to hike the Kortum Trail
• the fine calm weather this afternoon
• the other people enjoying the trail with us
• the people who make the trail
• the "breakfast for dinner" S &E made tonight (French toast, persimmon, kiwi, kale)
• the chance to count my blessings.

Ted in Togo

Why do more women than men volunteer in the Peace Corps in Africa?

That's Ted, there, in the back row, with blond hair third from the left.

Ted front left

The Peace Corps sent us an email with three photos attached of Ted in Togo. These are the first and only pictures we have of him there. These pictures were taken at a Peace Corps Volunteer gathering for Christmas.

If it's possible to feel homesick for your kid, that's what we felt.

Hiking with Elizabeth

Elizabeth is flying back to New York early tomorrow morning, and Sarah and I are going to miss her.

We took a hike on one of our favorite trails, the Kortum Trail on the Sonoma County Coast.