Monday, September 24, 2007

Mysteries of the Moleskine Revealed

reverendmother covets these journals. I admit to having two: one for keeping track of daily life, the other for keeping track of my interior life. They are tough as nails, and have survived dunkings in tea, many meetings and being stuffed into all manner of bags. But where to keep your pen, wonders the good reverend!

In the spine, just like a spiral notebook...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Zen of Not Blogging

I’m spending 48 hours at a Zen workshop. Two friends were coming, and encouraged me to come, and given that I am facilitating a group on contemplative practices, I thought it a good thing to try. The workshop is essentially immersion into Zen practice. Explanations are sparse, just enough to shape our practice so that it is incrementally better than it was before. Zen teachers are sprinkled throughout the zendo (or zen hall). Three-quarters of us (including me) are rank beginners at this. The Zen master who is leading the weekend emphasized at the beginning that Zen is a practice that deepens whatever religious tradition you profess (or don’t).

Even though I regularly use stilling practices and exercises of awareness for prayer, and am a veteran of 8-day Ignatian retreats where I might spend 6 or 7 hours in formal prayer each day, I’m finding this weekend hard going. Part of this is the necessarily rigid schedule of the communal meditation. We are to be in the zendo ready to go 5 minutes before the appointed hour. “The work” as one of the monks calls it, may last 3 hours at a stretch. We sit and meditate, walk as a group – meditating - and chant. The first period began at dawn, the last one will end at 9:30 tonight. All together, we will spend 9 or 10 hours working together.

The sitting is hardest for me. The instructions are to be aware, pay attention, but not to process. Don’t internally name the sound you hear, don’t think about what you will do in the free period after lunch, don’t think. Just sit. Above all, don’t think about what you might blog about the experience!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The instinct for self-preservation is strong

Last weekend we took the Fiat Lux out again. This time the wind was strong and gusty. The first tack across the lake was rough going. I’d get everything sheeted in, then not only would a gust hit, but the wind would shift. I sailed back, beached the boat and then wondered if we should back out, or call it a day. The four boys who had not been out were clearly voting for staying. I was watching the other Laser on the beach pack up and having second thoughts. When I saw a 15” Hobie cat (with its sails reefed, no less) go over, I had third and fourth thoughts. “So what’s the worst thing that can happen?” Math Man asks. “We capsize.” Hey, we’ve brought dry clothes, the weather is warm and this is not the open ocean. I rule that everyone (including me) wears their PFD zipped up and tight, and we sail
Barnacle Boy has tons of questions about balancing the boat, prompted when I wouldn’t let him sit on the bow on this ride. We are having a wild ride across the lake, when I decide it’s time to come about. Over goes the tiller, and…over goes the Boy. He couldn’t find a good grip on the deck, so when the boat turned, he slid right off. I tried to grab him, but he outweighs me by 20 pounds and I couldn’t get a grip. “Mom!” “I won’t sail off without you,” the captain promises him. He doesn’t look very reassured, and does look very small and forlorn bobbing in his yellow PFD in my wake. Sailboats have no brakes, no reverse. The best I can do is point up into the wind. In this kind of wind, holding the boat into the wind midlake is what Crash would call a mad skill. The rigging shivers and clangs like Marley’s ghost. I point up and tell the Boy to swim to the boat. Thankfully he swims as if he were born with gills. He slides back over the gunnel, soaked to the bone. “I think I’m ready to go in now, Mom!” He’s grinning though, and the first words he has for the crew on shore are, “I fell off!” And how else would anyone get that wet?
Later in the afternoon, Crash and I are out. The wind is still up and it takes both of us hiking out over the side to keep the boat sort of flat in the water. Crash is discovering why reaching in a 15 knot wind is so much fun. By now I’m getting the hang of the wind and the boat and am practicing racing turns. Fast and smooth and right onto the new tack. I like being in control. Suddenly a puff hits and the clew end of the boom is in the water. Certain we’re going to be in the water, I turn to brief Crash on what to do: climb out onto the hull opposite to the sail. I find him already turned around and half-way out of the boat. The weight actually brings us down again and we don’t flip the boat. “Whew, I thought we were going over for sure! You did just the right thing.” My 13 year old responds laconically, “Mom, the instinct for self-preservation is strong.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The least you can do is take me to Staples

Barnacle Boy is anxious to get his supplies for middle school. (We bought the basics in August to beat the rush, but there are a few specifics his teachers have asked them to bring in.) I finish class today and the phone rings as I hit my office. "Mom, can you take me to Staples when you get home?" After 9 hours without a break, the thought of standing in a 30 minute line at the office supply store is not high on my list. "Can it wait?" The short answer is no, he doesn't want to wait. All evening long, he tries to get either me or Math Man to take him. We're not biting. I finally ask to see the list, which notes that the teachers (quite reasonably) don't expect the supplies to be in hand until next Monday.

Finally, around 8, I check the New York Times and see the article about the new iPods. This has got to distract him..."Barnacle Boy, come see the new iPods!" We enjoyed checking out the new models and had a rousing discussion about whether (if you had the money) you'd buy the 4G iPhone or the 8G iPod with touch screen and Wi-Fi. Relief is short-lived. The conversation closes with, "Well, if you're not going to buy one, the least you can do is take me to Staples!"

Sunday, September 02, 2007


I've been on the road much of August, living out of my red rolling suitcase, dropping in just long enough to run a load or two of laundry and head out again. The rest of the team has been road-tripping too, though with a bit less intensity. It felt good on Saturday to be doing the laundry with the intention of putting it away in drawers, of having a choice of shirt color (pink or white?) instead of the monochrome pallete I wear to travel.

After a week at the beach, I decided to stage laundry in the living room. Suitcases were emptied onto the floor, and I dragged the kids' surprisingly full hamper down the hall to join the party. "Hey, Mom," wonders the Boy, "could you order us some more shorts? We only have 3 pairs." Three pairs? They had a dozen between them at summer's start. Have they been that hard on their clothes? "Sure," I shoot back, "just let me see what you've got and we'll order enough to get you through the fall." As I chat, I'm emptying the laundry hamper. And emptying, and emptying, and...

a foot from the bottom , there is a flash of pink. Pink? Pink! Pink panties to be precise. The boys are in trouble, but it's not what you think. Panties belong to their cousin, who last graced these walls on July 27. This layer is a foot from the bottom of their three foot deep laundry hamper.

When was the last time someone did their laundry? No one knows. But the stratigraphy is clear, even without consulting our back door neighbor (a geologist). It's been way more than a month.

This got me wondering if they'd just been hamper diving while I was away. My current theory, which Math Man isn't debating (he's taking the fifth on this) is that every time they came back from a trip, Math Man washed the three or four pairs of communal shorts that they packed. So I think they've mostly been wearing clean clothes, just not much variety!

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I think the hard drive on my laptop may have crashed. I last backed-up before I left for the August travels. As my Carmelite friend would say, "detachment, my dear". Sigh....

Practice makes perfect

"Mom, Game Guy and I are going to have a practice middle school day tomorrow," Barnacle Boy announced as he sailed through the door last night. "A practice middle school day? What's that?" "We'll get up at 6:00, shower, eat breakfast and meet in my driveway at 6:45 for parents to take pictures - well not really take pictures today, but..." Today, I will note is Saturday, when legions of teens and pre-teens blissfully sleep through all the hours designated am. "Did Game Guys' parents OK this?" "Yep!"

At 5:36 am I awoke to the sound of the Boy's feet hitting the floor. At 6:20 am he appeared, shiny and clean at my bedside. By 7:30 am when I appeared downstairs, showered and dressed, he and Game Guy were playing The Hard to Acquire Game System That Shall Not Be Named and reported that they were 10 minutes early to the bus stop. We'll see how this all goes on Tuesday!