World InterFaith Harmony Assembly of CNY

The first week of February is World Interfaith Harmony Week.  I attended this local celebration as a member of the Zen Center of Syracuse Hoen-Ji.  The celebration was held in the Bethany Baptist Church and included songs, poems, stories, prayers and dance from a number of traditions.   We all danced to a Hopi dance and chant that honored Mother Earth sponsored by the Dances of Universal Peace at the Society of Friends, heard the call to prayer and a story about the Prophet Mohammad, Peace Be Upon Him, and a song about the Five Pillars from the Islamic Society, a folksie song from the Christ Scientists, poems from the Jewish tradition, saw Bhutanese dancers and listened to songs in Pali that included names of Gods that I recognized, Shiva, Krishna, and some om shanti om shanti…..  heard a wonderful poem from the Pagan Community that had me wondering if I could find writings by Starhawk for my NOOK, heard a prayer of the Eucharist from the Catholic tradition which were at once familiar and limiting in my heart, songs from the Episcopals, a story from the Sikhs and Chanting from the Zen Center.  The program ended with prayers and song from a group of children from the Baha’i Faith.  They were sitting behind us and when the lovely toddler sat down she asked did I do it good?  I turned and told the girls they did a lovely job.  Their faces were beaming.  What sweet and pleasant children!

As I sat there I thought about my own faith and how it has grown.  Although a Buddhist in practice I believe strongly in an  all unifying power in the universe, some may call it God, I don’t know what to call it.  I was thinking earlier today about this Unitarian idea that our view of “God” is limited, we all think what we are seeing is the only view.  I thought even then we are looking through a shattered window and we have to squint our eye one eye and move just right to get a view and even then the view is distorted.  But all around us is this living energy and as humans we cannot really comprehend what it all is. Sitting there I felt as though all those faiths together in one room made it possible to assemble the pieces and I felt like it made it all seem so much more clear.  I felt the presence of divinity.  I also saw my own path the Presbyterian Sunday school, the Lutheran Sunday school and services, the Catholic confirmation, the obsession with all things Native American until I read that they resented white people trying to ascribe to their religion, the reading and passing interest in Wicca, the Baha’i friend who I met as I was playing with the Unitarian Universalist idea we talked about the similarities of the two traditions, the OM tattooed on my back and my yoga practice, the chants I listen to before I go to bed while I light a stick of incense and sit in quiet contemplation and my Zen practice.   All of this together and even though I do not even know what my questions are, I think that somewhere in all this religious questing there may be some answer, or at least some vision of the universe that is closer to the truth than I was at birth, or perhaps even farther.

Karen said at the beginning some comment about there not being an answer.  Sam joked and said 42, which made me laugh.  Then I said maybe there isn’t even a question.   Karen told me of her revelation of realizing this one thing.  And I nodded.  I think of this book Gateless Gate which I am struggling through, struggling to understand, it all seems so esoteric, but at this moment the idea of the Gateless Gate comes to me and I realize it is the same thing, there is no answer because there is no question.  Ask what is the answer and then ask what is the question.  The answer today is this church, this fellowship of people from all over the world and their relationships with the universe, call it what they will.  I realize that it is an accident me being here, but is it really?  I had contemplated Sesshin but decided that my aversion to cold and fear of driving in terrible weather and the horrendous hours I am working this school year would make it too much to bear.  Karen made a plea for people to chant with her in an email and I thought despite my continuing laryngitis that I should be there since so many of my Sangha are in Sesshin and I am after all a member and duty is part of the practice.  This morning as I was snowhoeing in the deep snow of Oswego’s Rice Creek, I regretted my decision, but obligation to my word won out the day.  And sitting there I realize that this was a blessing, this fellowship.  I feel a closeness and affinity to all of these present and to all those in similar meetings around the world today.  As war and revolt and protest clamors across the deserts, the oceans, the forests, the cities, the mountains, the sky and bounces through the atmosphere of our fine mother planet, I feel hope, I feel the light inside of me, shining and as the children said in their prayer we are all pearls in the shell of God.  The Sikh speaker removed his shoes in honor of these traditions and spoke of the hope that everyone in that room has of finding Peace.  I put my hands together, and I bow my head, then I lift my voice in song, and I am filled with joy.  The next time I remove my shoes to enter the Zendo, I will remember this day, and I will remove my shoes in honor of Peace and Harmony in the traditions of the world.

We all have our arms upraised, we all sit in prayer and meditaion, we all sing with joy and write poems and tell stories and put it all together all the traditions since the beginning of time, and still we have not gotten to the final moment when the answer is revealed to a question that cannot be asked.

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Making Peace

I have had this on my mind now for nearly two weeks.  The request was to blog about peace, with a nod to my blogging friend Eva at http://47whitebuffalo.wordpress.com/.

Dove of Peace - I had to blur out the name....sorry for the way it messes up the picture.

What is peace?  Is it merely a dream of the dreamer?  Is that why I have so many sleepless nights?

Our city is one that struggles with gang violence, the paper doesn’t say it is gangs, but when you look at the address of the crime, and you see the names of your former students, their parents and cousins you can begin to piece together the information that is left from the pages of the black and white.  Our Vice Principal puts on a Martin Luther King Peace Assembly every year and as I mull and chew on this idea of my own peace, the inspiration to bring peace to others enters my thoughts.  I design a lesson in which Picasso’s Peace Dove holds center stage, design a bulletin board with quotes from Jimi Hendrix, Ghandi, Condoleeza Rice, Eleanor Roosevelt and MLK, quotes that speak of the difficulty and cost of peace but of the absolute necessity of it.  The children draw doves and color them, one draws a dove that looks remarkably like a wild turkey.  I tell him this and as his face falls, and trying to recover, I say, I love it!  A Turkey of Peace.  He looks at me uncertainly but sees the genuineness of my enthusiasm and his face slowly starts to beam.  He goes back to his seat for a few moments and then comes up to me again.  How do you spell turkey he asks me and we sound it out together.  His picture is placed prominently on the bulletin board. I show the Vice Principal, I am not by any means a suck up person.  I truly want her to see that I am supportive of the message and theme of her annual assembly, of the message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  I too have a dream even when it keeps me from sleeping.

Turkey of Peace

I am watching the news and I see the revolts that are taking place around the world and I find myself asking at what cost is peace?  Must those that suffer in poverty and at the hands of corruption or even at the hands of neglect from the game of we are all chickens in the pecking order pretending to be ducks and geese.  I want to jump up and act like a goon just from my day to day experiences of living in this ego driven world.  And my life is relatively stable and normal and I have food and my child has access to free public education and I benefit from the slavery of other people’s children.  (all brought to you by Wal-Mart dah dum dum).  I ask what is peace?  It is not the acceptance of the status quo.  It is not terrorism nor should it ever be.  I find myself appreciating how the Tunisians have done it, at least thus far, the only people who have suffered are those that gained on the backs of others.  I call that Karma not revolt.

Peace is like love, it cannot be describe in a single word, a single poem, a song, or a picture.  Peace is about the day to day actions of an enlightened few.  Peace is ever changing and something that requires metacognition on a daily basis.  And here we arrive at what keeps me up at night.

I tell a student to march his behind to time out.  He is angry as he stomps off but a few minutes later he comes up to me and tells me that someone has written I hate Ms. Gregory on the desk.   He then offers to scrub it off the desk.  I have to hope that in some small measure my love and caring of these children, which includes discipline for unruly and aggressive behavior has had some impact.  But I don’t know.  It all seems like such a muddle in my sleep deprived brain. I wish I could live the dream.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Art

Owl Moon by a Kindergarten student

I stand in the doorway.  I usher in the smiling and grubby after lunch faces of a class full of Kindergarteners.  Some throw their arms around me and hug me tight.  Some shyly smile and wave the queen wave, the hand that slowly nods back and forth, a boy loudly exclaims that he would like to see Cheekzilla (the cheek pinching T-Rex that lives in my closet) today.  I smile broadly, laughing out loud.  Then I put my hand on my hip and stand arrogantly.  I am afraid I have no idea what you are talking about I say, but wink and the child laughs the way only a five year old can, a shriek.  I walk in hand still on hip, I should say I sweep in.  Good afternoon knights and ladies I say.  Your Majesty someone says.  One of the girls says OOOOHHH Princess Art.  A boy stands and rolls his arm at his waist as he bows to me, the bow I taught them some months ago.  A naughty little boy is beginning to misbehave, I look at him with my regal eye, IF you continue to misbehave I will send you to the dungeon. Another boy says OH no then she will feed you to the dragons.  The naughty little boy is giggling but he sits and stops fooling around.  We proceed to make art.  Cheekzilla does not make his loud appearance except in the small argument that takes place, Cheekzilla is a boy not a girl, Cheekzilla is Ms. Gregory, not he isn’t, yes he is, Ms. Gregory it’s you isn’t it?  I am afraid I have no idea what you are talking about! I say in Princess Art mode, more laughter peals through the room.

We read Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, the weather is perfect for this book, and when we come to the father hooting like a Great Horned Owl my secret talent for bird calls comes out in the open and a class room full of faces stares at me with wonder, and then they begin to echo me.  We make a beautiful collage of little owls, their gluey faces with torn strips of paper fanning out, the grey paper in sticky glue puddles on the belly, some put dark brown paper sticking straight out like the wings in the illustration in the picture by John Schoenherr the Caldecott Award winning artist of this lovely story.   To look at these pictures is to see the heart of a child writ on black paper with a shining yellow moon.

As the children leave the Kingdom of Art they hug me or wave again in turn, someone asks if Cheekzilla will be back next week.  I shrug and say if he comes back from his vacation at Disneyland.  NO someone shouts he is you.  The teacher shushes the student.  And again I wink and the shushed child grins despite getting in trouble for his outburst.  As they leave the room I become Meg again.  But there is a sparkling glitter of a diamond in my eye.

 

Megalicious say why would you put a mountain lion in a bunny suit and expect it to fit?

Balls to the Wall

I realized today that I am having a hard time with the whole dating thing for one main reason.  I cannot abide the rules.  Its like that old game of duck duck goose.  I find myself sitting in the damn circle with dating and I bleeping hate it.  I despise it.  I find myself actually texting my daughter’s father to ask him what the hell is going on.  He confirms what I already know about myself, that humor, intelligence, truthiness, the real me, entirely loveable.  I talk to my favorite cousin he says honey just be yourself, cause I love you just as you are,  but everyone else tells me wait three days before you call, never let him see you sweat, if he is into you he will call you, you have to have sex on the fourth date blah blah blah.  Funny how it was so much easier for me before I was even aware of these stupid rules.  And yes the guys I have dated successfully have generally been people not sitting in the game of duck duck goose but dude when I try to play I find myself just hopping up and down next to the gym teacher shouting honk HONK HONK and am threatened with expulsion.  Its making me crazy.  I have too much energy and frankly  I hate the game.  I cannot play it.  If I like you I am not going to sit back and wait, screw that.  It sucks.

 

Meanwhile I am sitting here sweating from working out for an hour checking facebook and writing on my blog.  Alone.  But I suddenly feel okay cause seriously I would rather by myself balls to the wall than to sit back and wait.  I am starting a new game over here and I am cool with playing all by myself until someone else wants to join in.

Nemesis Kiss

This is a drawing and then the subsequent acrylic painting I did to go with the dream I had recently about being unexpectedly kissed and basically told it was a kiss to hold me captive for all eternity by my nemesis.  I know it was a dream but it really shook me this week.  Anyway best solution to deeply emotional things is to quietly paint them into something positive.

Curio Cabinet - Ragdoll or Nemesis Kiss Preliminary Drawing.

Nemesis Kiss - the painting

Please comment I would like to see what people think of the art.

Robin in the Winter

I bundle up and head out for a quick walk at the park.  The dog is in his usual high spirits as I stuff my gloves in my jacket pockets and push back the wool lined ear flap knitted wool cap and let it hang by its “dingle dangles” around my neck.  Despite the cold I feel very warm.  My back is still in sorry shape and my only intention is to walk today, I have found that it is better than a massage on that one muscle that is twinging right now.  The kiss of an enemy is fading in my mind although the dream still haunts me, the cold air and the plan to draw out the image that has burned itself behind my eyes seems to help.  I am pretty much astounded by a robin, yes a robin, in the woods.  I thought I saw him there last week but I thought I was completely seeing things.  But he sits and watches me, all fat and fluffed out.  I ask him if he is okay, because I think he should be living someplace warmer he ruffles his feathers and hops off to a higher branch.  I still don’t believe it and plan to go onto the Cornell Ornithology lab site and check to see if there is some other random bird I have never heard of that looks like a robin.  I think to myself as I crunch over the cold dry snow that it must be a sign, the reason being that it is so very much unexpected.  A bird I associate with spring, watching me as I walk over the trails on this cold winter day.

Soul of Light

I dream that I am a being of equal parts dark matter and burning fire, I am trying to reach an escape pod, I want to get out of the space station that is on the verge of destruction.  A man stops me and we are talking intensely and then he kisses me and tells me he cannot wait to kiss me again, even if it is in another lifetime, but it is no ordinary man, it is my nemesis.

This dream wakes me and it is the harbinger of a not particularly good day.  I lie awake along while waiting for it to pass.  I get to work and my back is aching, threw it out taking off a sock.  Really.  I go to move some papers and slice my finger and again, this time it bleeds.  Over the course of the next four hours four papercuts altogether, two that bleed and three underneath my fingernails.

I find myself in the afternoon, in the place I thought I had abandoned well behind me.  It is a place where self loathing and doubt roar through me like a jet engine flying over head.  I catch my breath and wait for it to pass.  If I could sit I would but my back will not support it, if I could do yoga I would but I cannot, I cannot even get outdoors to let the earth soothe these feelings.  I am stuck waiting them out.

That kiss.  Kiss that steals my confidence, and takes away my soul.  I do not wait for it.  I do not want it.  Go away I whisper as I close my eyes.  Why can’t you just go away.

I take the pearl out of my hands and hide it away in a cache inside me.  I don’t even want anyone to see it right now.  Because I know it is a beautiful amazing jewel, but I also know that not everyone can appreciate it, and I suddenly have no desire to share it, just in case.

Warm and Cozy

I am restless as I lie awake in the cold night, cat purring on my shoulder, the dog pressed against me both seeking warmth, a mutual yearning.  I turn on the light and after a few minutes the cat does her best to knock the book from my hands, the dog in his own way kisses my face and slams his body against me, rolling like he does into the snow drifts.  I tell them I love them, I express gratitude for their friendship, they tell me Hey Lady Lights OUT!  I respond, guys I ain’t no lady.  They just lie down beside me, purring and grunting in turn.

Snow Drift

I try to press my will up on the universe. I am wide eyed in all this darkness, but no matter how hard I push, the universe does not yield to my pleading.  In all its vastness, my loneliness and yearning is but a dust mote, it does not even register.  So I am here waiting for my voiceless desires to be met.

Trumpet vine in winter

 

I am still snow shoeing in the clipper whipped woods, the snow falling in great flakes as my cheeks ache from both the cold and the smiling.  But I feel nothing but the warmth of new friendship, the warmth of delicious hot tea as it soothes my aching vocal chords.  I am more quiet than I normally would be and in the darkness I find myself wondering if somehow I could have said more.  The time passed so quickly I hardly notice it and I want for more of the good company.  And even though I wish I had said more I know that my curio cabinet heart, the real one, was wide open, deeply revealed,  I couldn’t have been any more myself, the question is was it lost on my surreal companion whose very words echoed so many of my own sentiments, a flavor both familiar and completely new.

It is day now, and a long sleepless night weighs heavy on my eyes.  I take my body outside to clear away snow, to inhale the fresh air that I am convinced will clear my mucus filled voice.  My silence is broken only by the coughing and the spitting into the snow as I work to clear the high pile of heavy ice at the end of the driveway.  And now at last in this cold my mind joins up with its host and I am completely here in this moment.  It has already been long and difficult this winter, but as the sun clears through the clouds and my heart beats soundly in my chest I feel warm inside my boots.  And cozy.