Two sides of the Coin


Normally, I’m all for meditation. All over it in fact, every morning.

There are “mindfulness” programs in schools, especially inner city ones where all the kids are on the free lunch program and 70% of the kids when asked will answer yes to the question, ” Do you know anyone whose been shot and killed?”
Ditto, for this program in jails. This program is very helpful and successfull. Simply put, it brings in the pause ( the old “count to ten”) before you hit someone on the playground. It’s very helpful. In schools like the ones I teach at, this program is maybe less necessary.

After school art class had been over for a while and I was cleaning up. David was hanging out while I did this. I thought he was waiting for his parent to pick him up. He is lithe and lively and bounced around in his tiny six year old body talking to me as I gathered my tools and such.
Almost done, I checked my list and saw that David was supposed to go to the schools’ after care program so I mention perhaps he should get on down there.

His bouncy body slumps into a giant C as he plunks down in a chair.
“Oh no.”
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like after care? Why not?”
“UGH! They make us Meditate.”
(Feigning indignation I say) “What!? Meditate!? You mean you don’t get to run around with a ball or something? What do they make you do, listen to a bell?” (Knowing they do this)
“Meditation is, well, (groan) it’s hard to explain.”

Chinese New Year Parade etc

Hundreds of thousands people hit the streets to watch the lunar new year parade. It doesn’t seem like that many when you are there. Every year we go over the Bay on BART (the subway) and arrive before 4 to stake out our place somewhere on the route. We are not the first ones there by far.

Why we do this every year is for the magic. All of these people are there committed to being happy. The people in the parade who are not preforming are waving and we are waving back. We are all smiling. It’s not like you are waving to a real person, you are waving to whatever they are representing. We have all agreed to that. This became most alive for me as I waved to a young guy in his twenties dressed up like a fire-cracker. I was waving to a live fire cracker, all red and gold.

The thousands of children in the schools marching ARE what they are representing. The awesome beauty and innocence of the littlest ones is breathtaking. Especially when you are inches away, which we were, being first row in the bleachers.


 These are my kids and their friends. The three on the right: my daughter, Joan and Mies decide to go get a hot drink as it is freezing, especially on the metal seats sitting still. It used to be that all of the shops in Chinatown were Chinese owned but that was decades ago. They wander into one of the Arab stores with ugly glass and sentimental life sized bronze sculptures. Joan, who is editor of the high school newspaper which is nationally known and awarded (for over 100 years!) and the daughter of Harvard graduates decides to change the film in her film camera in this store. Suddenly a large man swoops in and looms over her. He has seen her put something in her pocket and accuses her of shoplifting. She pulls the empty film canister out of her pocket and is released. She tells me how awkward it was and how she felt guilty until proven innocent. I thought about how the US makes arabs feel that way all the time so I guess an arab in a store making a blond white girl feel that way is just par for the course.

Despite the non-chinese owned tourist shops, you can still be born, live your entire life and die in Chinatown and never speak english. The three finally find a restaurant. It is the only one they can find open. They are the only white people in there. Everyone else is Chinese and many of them are getting free food for having been in the parade. The waiter does not speak english. He does not understand what they mean by a hot drink. It is not on the menu so they can not point to it. They do not order tea because they want hot chocolate. They settle on steamed milk. When it comes it is cold. After they pay their bill, the two glasses still sit  on the table where the waiter has placed them. White and cold.


Stuff to get done

Why is there always so much of it?

I can look at life two ways: vertically and horizontally.
The vertical axis involves me and the absolute. The part of all this that is timeless and does not end and extends past the body.
The horizontal axis is all the lateral relationships of people, places and things with which I am involved.
Clearly all the business to accomplish is lateral and not going to extend past this life.
So why am I practically killing myself trying to get it all done?


Making a Flower

I let Justin (1st grade) cut out early to the playground. Ellen (3rd grade) sees this and she wants out early too. I say no doing. Justin can hardly sit still for five minutes let alone 60. He’s two years younger and made to run.
Ellen, two years older, is somber and capable. I want to get at least one more piece out of her before she leaves for the week. We settle on “a flower” I wad up the clay in a certain way and start to show her something I know she can accomplish In the time she has left. After my quick demo, she’s doing her own kind of flower. She’s decided she needs to make a rose and that she needs to make it petal by petal. I explain that we don’t have time for this kind of flower and besides the clay we are using today (drier than usual) is not suited to a rose made petal by petal.
At this point Michael, who is in 2nd grade, chimes in with his opinion. He says a flower is a flower and that you don’t need to get all caught up in the type of flower. I turn my attention to him and gaze into his wider than wide eyes. Michael’s eyes are so big. I stare into them forever and reach the something in me that never goes away. This takes maybe 30 seconds and I turn my attention back to Ellen and let her cut out early.


Highway one

I bicycled alone, self supporting from Seattle, WA to Oakland, CA this summer so I biked a lot of Highway One. One of the many things that happens when you are doing this is, you start to meet other people traveling Hwy 1 on their own power and you naturally take an interest in each other.
This past weekend driving it to Big Sur, CA. I saw three touring bicyclists. I waved.
Then I saw a young couple with backpacks. I wondered if they were walking between towns which would have been strange enough or if they were hiking Hwy 1 as I’d met a few people doing that. I noticed the guy was walking in his socks and immediately decided they were doing the highway itself. People who walk the coastline highway are even crazier than those who bike it.


The Moat

Without the moat, hundreds can die unnecessarily. That little bit of water tells those smart ants that the honey is inaccessible. If I forget the moat or leave the honey out unprotected on a cold rainy night, I wake up to a kitchen full of enormously industrious ants going to and from. They communicating about it all., as well. I think it’s amazing how when two of them meet from opposite directions, they stop to check in with each other. What do they say?
Weeks before my teacher died he said if he and an ant were the only two beings left living on earth, how glad they would be to see each other and how he would try his hardest to make friends with the ant. How can you make friends with an ant?! Well, by not killing him for starters.
After thinking about befriending an ant, I can no longer massacre them so when my carelessness leaves me with a kitchen counter full of busy ants, I remove the honey. It is mind blogging how fast those very smart ants clear out.

Valentines day prep

When you don’t have a significant other,
as a special some one
then everyone becomes special
so there’s lots of cards to make
Or none.
Like Einstein said,
There’s two ways to look at the world,
Like everything’s a miracle
Or like nothing is.