My dear friend lost her zen teacher last week, suddenly of a heart attack. Not only is this a great loss for her (which in and of itself makes my heart break for her) this is a great loss to my sangha. He was the co-abbot of Dharma Rain Zen Center, which is the “mother ship” so to speak. Our little sangha falls under the Dharma Rain umbrella. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude for this, and in turn, we owe Kyogen a huge debt of gratitude. His leadership has set the stage for us, and has allowed us to be what we are. I have never met him but I feel like he is a part of me because of his teachings.
Last night at our sitting group we had a beautiful memorial for him. This was the first time I participated in a Zen Buddhist memorial service. It started with zazen and about 10 minutes before we were done with zazen one of our teachers quietly made an announcement about the ceremony.
When I am sitting in the zendo I pick a seat that faces a window and has a beautiful view of Mt. Hood. Generally, when sitting in zazen you are supposed to face a blank wall so you don’t have any distractions. But I do allow myself this one luxury sometimes. I guess because I am still so new at this. I will marvel at the view for a few minutes but then my gaze goes down to the carpet a few feet in front of me (like it’s supposed to).
When our teacher was introducing the ceremony she talked a little bit about Kyogen and how he has been so important for our sangha. As she was talking my gaze went from the floor to the view because something caught my eye. It was light that had caught my eye. Until that moment it had been a gray and dark, rainy day. I couldn’t even see the mountain from where I sat. But at that moment when I looked up there was the most glorious beam of light shining down on the foothills in front of the mountain. I kind of couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It gave me chills and I wanted to grab my friend who was sitting next to me and point out the window but felt that it would be inappropriate to do so. So I sat silently in awe as I watched the clouds light up with the sun.
It was a beautiful moment that filled my heart with hope and love.
The first time I heard this song was in October of 2007. I’d heard the news that my step-brother was found hanging from a tree, alone in the wilderness of Idaho that morning. I wasn’t particularly close to my step-brother but, still, the news cut deep. I was living in Spokane at the time and walked to work. It was a 45 minute walk and I’d just bought the latest Interpol album: Our Love To Admire. I thought I’d listen to it on my way to work. The song, Pioneer to the Falls came on and there was something about the haunting lyrics coupled with the suicide of my step-brother that brought me to a sobbing mess of tears before I made it to work.
I love this song, though it doesn’t make me cry like it once did. I just think it is an incredibly beautiful song with beautiful lyrics. It evokes a story in my soul that I can’t quite suss out completely. It is a story from a dream that is there but not quite there at the same time.
I randomly grabbed this video off of Youtube and I love it. It is comprised of scenes from one of my favorite films: Once Upon A Time In The West.
I received some really sad news this morning. My mom told me that her cat, Dexter, died this morning. I am going to miss him. He was such a sweetheart. Such a cuddler. Whenever I picked him up and gave him a little squeeze he would literally hug me back. He let me hold him for a couple of minutes but then that was it. He would wiggle out of my arms and go back to whatever he was up to.
When I lived in Spokane I visited my mom often and since I don’t have pets of my own I really became close to her pets. I love animals and try to make friends with all of them whenever possible. Dexter and I were good friends for most of the time I knew him but there were a couple of years when our relationship was on the rocks. One day I was playing with him and, for some reason, I thought it would be fun to play catch with him so I threw a dog toy in his direction. The toy accidentally hit him. He was absolutely stunned. He immediately left my vicinity, shunning me entirely. For two years Dexter would leave the room when I arrived. TWO YEARS. He would have nothing to do with me. I am not sure what I did to gain his trust back, but he finally decided that we could be friends again and he let me pick him up and snuggle him. But man. That cat held a grudge!
I am going to miss Dexter hugs very much.
I was reminded* that yesterday and today is Dia De Los Muertos. This is is very interesting because, as you know, I found myself thinking of Gary, the boyfriend who died in a car accident when I lived in New York. It is weird that my mom sent me the photo that was taken the day I found out he died, and also weird that he died around this time of year. His birthday was also the end of October. So he has been on my mind. I feel like I should write about him more, but I don’t even really know where to start.
I remember our first date. It was summer and he took me to a party at a friend’s house. We had the best time together that night, innocent fun! Laughing and joking with each other as we had a few beers from the keg. Alphaville came on the stereo and he remarked that it was his favorite band. I’d never heard of them, so he went to the record player and put on his favorite song, Forever Young.
It kind of gives me chills that THAT particular song was his favorite, since he died two years later. But every once in awhile it will play on my iTunes and it will make me think of him, which is nice.
Along those same lines, this morning as I was walking to work, “A Song For You” played randomly on my iTunes. This song has special meaning to my mom especially, and to me since my mom told me her story about it. I only hear it if comes on randomly so when I hear it I feel like it is Doug, trying to get my attention. It was strange that it played today on my walk, but it was nice to think about my Step-father this morning as well.
I wish that American culture embraced The Day Of The Dead. It is a beautiful holiday and it is a beautiful thing to remember those who have passed over. I am glad I had these moments to think about Gary and Doug. Their stories and their spirit will forever live on.
*P.S. Go read Inge’s moving post on Pinhole Obscura!
Under the overpass
I lay here only just
In the dark
The sound of the
Tickles my ear and
I want to crawl
toward the sound to the
But all of my
bones are broken.
“This will be my
Last Summer” I think
As I lay dying
And then I wonder if that
Will be my last thought
Or maybe it will be
*Hi there. Sometimes my mind goes to dark places. Now you know. Ahem…This was a poetry writing exercise from the book Writing Poetry From The Inside Out. The exercise is to come up with a poem out of four words. The appendix of the book has a section of word clusters and I like to shut my eyes and put my finger on a set of words and see what comes out. This dark poem/story came out of these four words a couple of weeks ago. And then, weirdly, I found this lone shoe in the forest. I think I read too much Stephen King when I was a teenager.
This is a poem to my Grandpa Ed
Who smiles at me from these faded pictures.
Who holds my grandmother happily among the corns stalks.
Who stands, posing in front of his truck,
With his children, with his brothers and sisters.
This is a poem to my Grandpa Ed
Who tells the story of the day he met my grandmother.
Who tells the story about a dance. He saw her and loved her.
Who tells the story about how he fought for her.
Who tells the story about how he won her over.
This is a poem for my Grandpa Ed
Who was thin and dying, lying in a hospital bed.
Who was dying from a wasting disease.
Whose last words to me were,
“I like you hair short. It looks very pretty like that.”
Saturday was my Uncle Will’s funeral in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Raf and I made the long drive to Spokane for the weekend. it was really good to see my family. We had a really great visit on Friday night when Raf and I finally arrived. The service was really nice, as was the reception afterward (as they all usually are. Have you ever said you’ve been to a bad funeral and reception?). At the reception I had a conversation with my mom’s friend about my cousin, Eddie. Eddie is the guy you see in the photo above. Whenever I think about Eddie think about this photo. I didn’t know him at all. Met him maybe twice in my life. He was a lot older than me. But I always thought he was a handsome guy.
I am not sure about the details but, if I am recalling the conversation, he had been reunited with my uncle. He disassociated himself with his family for a long time (I believe, I could be getting my facts wrong) but he had been located. I thought, “Oh cool. maybe I will get to meet him again.”
Well, that will never happen because he died that very evening in the hospital. Apparently he was in the hospital.
Again, I didn’t know him so this loss doesn’t hurt like the loss of my Uncle Will. But, still, it is a blow to my family. It’s sad because he was so young and his death could have been prevented, I think. But there is nothing that can be done about that now. I only bring it up because it makes me think about myself and my habits and it makes me wonder if I should be taking better care of myself.
Rest in peace, Eddie. We’ll meet again someday.