Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simple pleasures

Tomorrow, if there is dawn, Cheri and I will drive in the early morning  to visit our friends in Oregon and spend New Year with them.They live in Willamette Valley where the best Pinot Noirs are located. Their children live nearby.
I will be on sabbatical from cyberspace for a week.  Days will be of simple  exquisite pleasures- friendship, taste of the vineyards, cool  fresh Oregon air, and green country.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pride and vanity

Pride and Vanity

from the Hermits by Peter France: 
“But the (Desert) Fathers made an important distinction between pride, the first of the deadly sins and cause of the fall of the angels, and vanity, which is simply the desire for the praise of others. Vanity promotes ostentation; pride, which is more insidious, can make a person indifferent to the impression he makes on others.So vanity is easily spotted; pride often lurks beneath a show of humility and piety.” 
...Pride “creeps into the soul of the righteous person who feels the first twinge of satisfaction in having behaved well.”
Humility-“...The defense against both vanity and pride is humility...Our virtue consists in not making evident a superiority of birth, education or income. Its essence is that those who know themselves to be superior should be at some pains to disguise the fact...The humility of the Desert Fathers was more deep-seated."

...”Discernment-This is the most valuable of the virtues. Many are given humility, many have love, but without discernment they can harm themselves and others. It is a sort of sanctified common sense but by the name of spiritual discernment. It sees the humorous side of exaggeration and affectation.”

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Merry Christmas

The nativity set is from Cheri's grandmother.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 23, 2011


The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery opens with-”1856-1866. When I was NINE, in the city now called Kyoto, I changed my fate. I walked into the shrine through the red arch and struck the bell. I bowed twice. I clapped twice. I whispered to the foreign goddess and bowed again. And then I heard the shouts and the fire. What I asked for? Any life but this one.”
From The Intellectual Life: Foreword:”Among the works of St. Thomas (Aquinas) there is a letter to certain Brother John, in which are enumerated Sixteen Precepts for Acquiring the Treasure of Knowledge.” The Intellectual Life by A.D. Sertillanges,O.P. is inspired by the precepts.
3 years ago, in June, we were in Bandon, Oregon, we saw a spacious place and abundant life, during the lowest tide.  There are offerings of life in abundance every day.
Frederick Franck quoted a Buddha saying: “We do not learn by experience, but by our capacity for experience.”
I try to express my understanding of things which is, perhaps, also my ignorance of things. With sincere hard efforts I hope to improve my understanding and diminish my ignorance. A progression from pride to humility to discernment (PhD). 
Along the way I will need help, real and inferred. In the end, I will need grace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What do you do with time?

What do you do with time? Some divide, fill, spend,save and squander time.The monks have their Hours that divide the day. Homeschoolers have the Rule of Six which I modified slightly and adopted for my daily activities-Books, PIES (Philanthropy with time and hands, Imaginative play (walk in the outdoors),Encounters with beauty ( art, music, and nature), Silence (prayer) ), and Ideas to ponder and create.
From the Summer by John Ashbery (2nd stanza of 6)
“For the time being the shadow is ample
And hardly seen, divided among the twigs of a tree,
The trees of a forest, just as life is divided up
Between you and me, and among all the others out there.”
Ideas to ponder come while I am reading, during play or walk. Prayer happens while I’m walking or listening to music. After all, in the end, life itself is a prayer.
I keep a stack of books at the bedside.Which book gets the most attention is what interest me most at the moment. It can get interrupted if I bring home a new book that seems so different, with simple or complex stories that entrance. 
Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina,and the Little Prince remain my favorite books.I’m fascinated by the stories of Jorge Luis Borges.
This month I’m reading spiritual books and one of them is Hermits by Peter France with anecdotes and insights of solitude. “Of the depth of their spiritual experience they had little to say:but their every action showed a standard of values that turns the world upside down. It was their humility, their gentleness, their heart breaking courtesy that was the seal of their sanctity to their contemporaries, far beyond abstinence, miracle or sign.”
Poetry ranges from T.S.Eliot to John Ashbery
My music varies but tilts to classical. I always like Beethoven since I was in school. Schubert’s Ave Maria, Meditation from “Thais” and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor move me whenever I hear them. I listen often to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  With singers I often listen to Lara Fabian,Loreena McKennit and Sarah Brightman.
Recently I’m attracted to photography. I’m trying to learn how to take pictures.
There are other things, like chess, which I will always like and forever play. And I will always dream to be near the sea .
2nd stanza of 6  from As One Put Drunk into the Packet-Boat by John Ashbery
“So this was all, but obscurely
I felt the stirrings of new breath in the pages
Which all winter long had smelled like an old catalogue.
New sentences were starting up. But the summer
Was well along, not yet past the mid-point
But full and dark with the promise of that fullness,
That time when one can no longer wander away
And even the least attentive fall silent
To watch the thing that is prepared to happen.”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Places and memories

Certain places evoked memories of friendship. We have friends from Germany whose wedding anniversary almost coincides with ours. 3 years ago we visited together Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Cheri and I attempted to walk the Narrows in Zion National Park but did not reach the end. Cheri had a healing fracture of the right arm and on a sling and became too tired in the freezing waters of Virgin River. We had to go back. Our friends did not want to walk the freezing waters.

Bryce Canyon had all the splendor of a fairy land in June. Queen Graden's Trail offered an easy promenade even for Cheri. 

We did not miss the Grand Canyon. The awe and grandeur of the place always remain.

At another time our friends from Oregon visited Napa Valley and we viewed an orchid festival in San Francisco. Golden Gate Bridge appeared splendid even in a misty afternoon.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The ocean with its immensity

I finished Michael Ondaatje's The Can's Table. Ondaatje's sentences nimbled with the recollections of an eleven year old boy of his journey aboard a ship from Sri Lanka to England to be reunited with his mother. The anecdotes were interspaced with fragments of understanding after years of reflection of what those earlier experiences meant and how they affected his life and others. There were surprises. There were clarity and simplicity in expressions and tender affection for the characters.

They were children looking at the ocean with its power and immensity and seduction.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


The divine came down from heaven and dwelt among us. Innocence is here on earth. Purity of heart-we should seek it. We are given three essential virtues-faith, hope and love. It's written that the greatest of the three is love.

This month of December I'm reading more of spiritual matters particularly on prayers. From Thomas Merton: "Contemplation is the highest expression of man's intellectual and spiritual life. ..It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, awareness of the reality of that Source. It knows the Source, obscurely, inexplicably, but with a certitude that goes both beyond reason and beyond simple faith.
...In other words, then, contemplation reaches out to the knowledge and even to the experience of the transcendent and inexpressive God....Hence contemplation is a sudden gift of awareness, an awakening to the Real within all that is real. A vivid awareness of infinite Being at the roots of our own limited being. An awareness of our contingent reality as received, as a present from God, as a free gift of love." 
Merton wrote: "Our faith is given us not to see whether or not our neighbor is Christ but to recognize Christ in him and to help our love make both him and ourselves more fully Christ."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Life of Our Lord

I am reading The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens which he wrote and read only to his family. Gerald Charles Dickens writes in the introduction-"My great-great-grandfather wrote The Life of Our Lord for a very special reason-he wrote it for his family. He wanted his children to learn about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in as plain and simple a way as possible, and he decided the best way to achieve that was to write it himself and give to his family as a gift." "...Read it as an honorary family member and draw from it the rich meaning that Charles Dickens intended when he first presented this gift to us."

Saturday, December 10, 2011


What is so incredible about the complexity of the universe is its simplicity. Imagination can be so vast yet can be so simple. My eyes can see a natural beauty yet there is a mystery that remains. One can sit on top of a rock and look out at a distance and contemplate about beauty. 

While I'm writing these lines I am listening to solo piano pieces from the radio called Whisperings. The photos were taken from the Garden of the Gods just outside Colorado Springs. We were passing through after  we attended a wedding in Beaver Creek.

I remembered looking at the landscape and I felt a certain serenity and joy. I would not be pretentious to say that it was an epiphany.  How could I  bring the feeling back when my thoughts reach the edge of being ungrateful at certain times? What's the secret? 

The shy and the bold

The birds flock to the pond near the community college. These 2 geese are separated from their group.
Some birds seek adventure; others fly in the zone of comfort. We are too.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Inner monastery

I finished reading-The Abbey Up the Hill" by Carol Bonomo. She writes-chapter 73, Rule of St. Benedict: "We seek spiritual progress; rather than spiritual perfection." "...The Benedectines would call that conversatio mourum suorum-conversion of manners, a continuing and unsparing assessment and reassessment of one's self and what is important and valuable in life."

She writes further on:"It's about place, the place made within, the 'inner monastery' of obedience, silence, and listening that invites God to enter and shows true hospitality by making him welcome."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Insight meditation

Yesterday I walked to the gym and worked out for 40 minutes. Wandered through the downtown and then visited the library. Read a few books and selected 3 CD’s - Frank Sinatra, ABBA and Sarah McLachlan and borrowed Thomas Merton, A Life of Letters.
A slow walk home trying to be more aware of the surroundings.
Today I walked in the neighborhood and met a man at the river who was calling the ducks with his duck caller gadget. He told me he used it for calling ducks when he goes duck hunting. Today he was practicing. He even told me  he prepared duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving. I also met a lady walking with 2 sister dogs, one with black fur and the other, brown. Different fathers with same mother she said.
December is cold and sometimes misty and bleak. It’s not coincidence that red and joyful colors decorate houses, hearth and trees and electric posts.
I don’t know how to do walking meditation. How about insight meditation?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A child and the universe

The earth does not argue, 
Is not pathetic, has no arrangements, 
Does not scream, haste, persuade, 
threaten, promise, 
Makes no discriminations, has no 
conceivable failures, 
Closes nothing, refuses nothing, 
shuts nothing out.
             Walt Whitman
A Song of the Rolling Earth

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

One of my favorite poems-Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens. A few lines:
Among the twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of a blackbird.

I don't know which to prefer
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

I know noble accents
And lucid inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dovekeepers

2 days ago I started reading The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. The story is set in ancient Israel-the story of Masada. From the book's jacket: "In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. ...two women and 5 children survived." Alice Hoffman wrote a novel based on this heroic and tragic event of Jewish history. Today one can reach Masada by tram or by hiking a trail from the foot of the mountain. From the ruins one can see the Dead Sea.