Sunday, May 24, 2009

Philosophical Sunday~

Not so long ago I was bent down in my garden planting seeds. A few days later, I was there again, doubting their ability to sprout. Every year and without fail, I find myself wondering if my garden will grow, if the flowers will bloom, if the plum tree will fruit...and every year despite my disbelief, the garden grows, the flowers bloom and the plum tree fruits.. and every year I stand in awe at the miraculous ability of nature.

It occurred to me just recently that I might benefit from considering the possibility that this is also what is happening for humanity. That my part in the garden of creation is only that, just a part. That as much as our lives are governed by the way we think about them, there is also something beyond our minds, beyond our thoughts (which lets face it, are not always sweetness and light, at least mine aren't) beyond our "control." That beyond our thinking there is a magnificent indescribable momentum that propels all life forward toward bloom and fruit, death and rebirth.

On my knees, there in my garden, the sun beating down on my shoulders, the moist earth between my fingers, I felt relief as this thought washed over me. I let myself sink into the possibility that I was being carried, like all living things held in the arms of the Great Mother. Moving like a river does, destined for the sea. Perhaps life then is a balance between active and passive, between doing and not doing, between knowing and not knowing, and this, at least for today, is a great relief to me.

My book shelves are lined with books whose pages are dedicated to teachings that explain "how to create a glorious reality," and looking at their bold titles and colorful spines, on this quiet Sunday morning, seems really quite hilarious, like a lot of work and pretentious notions. Today I am considering the possibility that my reality is already perfect. Today at least, there is no better reality to create, no more perfect way of thinking or being anything other than what and who I am. As for tomorrow, who knows what new and clever notions will be taking for forefront, but I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Papa Sigi and Ravi Shankar ~

Papa Sigi (my grandfather) and I ~

Yesterday, I spoke with my grandfather. He turned 92 last week. He still looks like he's sixty; out in his garden on most days planting seeds and digging weeds. He's often found in cut off jean shorts and gum boots, chopping wood and stacking it against the shed.

He told me that it's hard to believe he's 92 this year and that he remembers 29 like it was yesterday. He told me that he has lived the best life and that he can barely believe his good fortune. He told me that the luckiest thing to have happened to him was to have lived through the hungry thirties. "After that, he said, a person is never in want of anything again. Yes, he said, I have had a good life, I am still having a good life, I am the luckiest person in the world Nao."

"What is the secret to such happiness," I asked him, and he said, three things: "not worrying, not envying and lots of sleep." After a half an hour of delightful conversation, I put the phone down, without saying goodbye of course, as my grandfather believes that there is too much finality in those words, and that nothing is ever final. So when we part ways, we only say, I love you, and then we hang up the phone, or walk away, and there is never a goodbye between us.

Later that same day, I spent the evening, in an old baroque theatre, listening to the 89 year old Sitar Master, Ravi Shankar. It was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever been privileged to witness. There he sat, on that elegant stage, in his Indian slippers, speaking only to announce each Raga and then he played with a radiant smile on his face, his eyes closed, his head tilted toward the sky. He played 2 songs over an hour and a half. It was like being inside a prayer.

While I sat there, the classical sitar music of India enveloping me in like sunshine, I thought, here is another wise man, who like my grandfather has also lived through the majority of this past century. And despite the fact that he has lived an entirely different life to my Papa Sigi, the quality of the smile on his face seemed to reveal the same sense of gratitude that my grandfather, in his little wooden house, in a small Canadian town, on the edge of a grassy field also knows.

The wisdom of one who has lived and loved and lost is truly a wonderful thing to experience.

This post is dedicated to Papa Sigi Kuraoka and Ravi Shankar, both Gurus in their own right.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Beetime Traveller Chapter 2~

Four months ago, on a rainy wintry day, I called the local honeybee center, and registered for a four day long, "Basic Bee Keeping" course. The course was to be taught by a local Beemaster and would include both classroom and field study. The cost was 250 dollars, which I paid without hesitation.

A week later, I bought all my honeybee equipment including the veil and safari type hat. Of course, once I had those things in my possession, I tried them on every chance I got, and stood in front of the mirror dreaming of bee keeping, like a child does Christmas. I was on the count down. And as the blossoms bloomed in the garden, one after another, the way they do at this time of year, I knew I was getting closer to the course scheduled for the beginning of May.

You see I have this "way" of looking forward to an event that has to do with what flower, or vegetable, or fruit is in season, on the day that the event is scheduled for. It's a childhood ritual I simply cannot help but still do, and it goes like this: I knew that on the 1st day of my bee course the plum trees would be in flower, and so instead of looking on the calender to when my course would be, I waited for the plums to bloom before preparing.

I invented this planning style as a child when I couldn't understand calenders and time lines. I could however, understand what time of year it was when the violets were out, or when the pumpkins were ready. I knew that my birthday was just before violets and Halloween was sometime around pumpkins. My niece understands this logic very well, and she asks "when will I see you again Auntie, and I reply, "when the raspberries are ready to eat, or when your mom plants the squash, or when the sunflowers are out." And she gets this, more than she might if I had said in two months and five days. For, what does two months mean to a child?

( Funnily enough this is how beekeepers think too, as they respond to the needs of their bees based on what is blooming, and they ask themselves "are we in dandelion season or blackberry?")

But back to Basic Bee Keeping, a course due to start when the plum is in bloom.

Two weeks ago the plum tree's bloomed. A week later I got in my car and drove for an hour into the fields where I met up with twenty others who wanted to learn about honeybees. And I have to say, as far as I can tell, people interested in honeybees, seem like a pretty good bunch. These folks were the most down to earth, unpretentious, good hearted group I have met in long time. I think it takes a certain kind of temperament to be interested in such things. Opening a hive of 60, 000 honeybees is not for the angry impatient ones, it really isn't.

And so together, with our unbelievably knowledgeable and inspired teacher, we ventured into the land of the honeybee. We donned our bee suits and headed out into the Bee Yard, we opened hives, inspected frames of bees, lit smokers, counted eggs and larvae. We read books, we took notes, we watched slide shows, and we were tested, both on the field and in the classroom. There was an exam which I proud to say I did rather well on (little geeky grin), and a certificate awarded to all of those who past the test. It was one of the most informative and interesting things I have done in a very long time.

I learned more over the course of those four days than I can fully integrate, but I expect I will figure much of it out along the way. It's a bit like all things that way, gardening, parenting, getting a dog, buying a house, going traveling, falling in love, first kiss, loosing ones virginity, all daunting things in the beginning. You can only prepare so much for any one of them, and then, you just do it, and you figure it out. eh eh eh. ( I hope I haven't offended any bee keepers out there by comparing bee keeping to "loosing one's virginity," but you get my drift, I hope).

So that said, here I go, two weeks until my Bee's arrive! I know a little bit more now then I did last week, and I will learn a whole lot more over the many years that I hope to do this. I have no doubt that this is going to be a life long learning, but I am truly okay with that, cause let's face it, what isn't?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gramma Bell

Image from interent

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to take me to this tiny spot of green beside her house, where the wild violets grew, over the graves of the family pets. Only two things grew in that little shady patch of green, that lay between those two old buildings, on the main street, of that small mountain town. One was the wild violet, and the other, was the bleeding heart.

Image from Internet

The violets, she would tell me, grew there because flowers naturally grow on the graves of those we love. The bleeding hearts however, grew there to tell us a story. The story was of an unhappy princess who refused the love of a charming prince. Eventually the prince killed himself because the princess would not return his feelings. "Hearts bleed," my grandmother would say, "when we believe that only someone else can bring us happiness."

My grandmother was indeed a wise woman, she was also a heavy drinker and an angry woman. She was perfectly human, and in her humanness she was the most colorful, loving and raging woman I have ever met. To glorify her as a saint would be more than untrue, it would be unfair, for it was her ruckus laughter and big bellowing whiskey cheer that made the people love her. It was the way she sat on the piano bench and sang "Just a closer walk with thee" after a bottle of booze with her friend Dorris on a Sunday, that brought the house down. It was the upside down pineapple cake she made for us on our birthdays, and then force fed us, that was her charm.

Who am I to judge her way of coping? Who are any of us to judge anyone? I know there was a sad and secret story from her past. I know her heart was broken in a thousand places before my grandfather fell in love with her, and even the love they shared, it never fixed hear heart permanently. The love between she and my grandfather was strong and real, but it was more like the glue that holds a potted vase together after it has already been broken.

I know it was her brokenness that made her understand the sad wayfarer passing through. She had the kind of empathy that comes from experiencing the rugged and treacherous landscape of living. How many of those shoeless, womanless, penniless people, did she invite in off the street for a hot meal and a bath? How many broken hearts did she hold to her breast and with that big warm soft body, whisper that it would be alright?

When she died the whole town mourned. And I swear that little mountain town became a quieter place over night. "Just a closer walk with thee," has gone back to being sung by church congregations, and I am sure everyone would agree that it seems to have lost a certain kind of zestful deliverance.

I am not a believer in perfection. The more days that go by in my life, the more I am aware that our imperfections are what make us human. As far as I can tell it is the mud of who we are that is what really rounds us out, gives us depth and color and character, that makes us the passionate and perfectly imperfect beings that we are.

Joseph Cambell once said, "Be careful of the demons you cast out, lest they be the best parts of yourself."

And so, on this May morning, I am thinking of my Gramma Bell. Just a few days ago I noticed the bleeding hearts in my garden are in flower. Whenever I move into a new house I plant two bleeding hearts for my grandmother and every year when they offer there soft pink shapes to the world, I raise a glass to that wild and wonderful woman, who taught me so much about being myself.

~ To Gramma Bell
Isobel Elizabeth Kuraoka

Image from Interent