Zen Things

I Ask You
What scene would I want to be enveloped in
more than this one,
an ordinary night at the kitchen table,
floral wallpaper pressing in,
white cabinets full of glass,
the telephone silent,
a pen tilted back in my hand?

It gives me time to think
about all that is going on outside–
leaves gathering in corners,
lichen greening the high grey rocks,
while over the dunes the world sails on,
huge, ocean-going, history bubbling in its wake.

But beyond this table
there is nothing that I need,
not even a job that would allow me to row to work,
or a coffee-colored Aston Martin DB4
with cracked green leather seats.

No, it’s all here,
the clear ovals of a glass of water,
a small crate of oranges, a book on Stalin,
not to mention the odd snarling fish
in a frame on the wall,
and the way these three candles–
each a different height–
are singing in perfect harmony.

So forgive me
if I lower my head now and listen
to the short bass candle as he takes a solo
while my heart
thrums under my shirt–
frog at the edge of a pond–
and my thoughts fly off to a province
made of one enormous sky
and about a million empty branches.

– Billy Collins

The introvert in me is singing.

I have been blessed with 48 hours of aloneness.

The boys took off early Friday morning for Baltimore, to watch the Orioles play a three- game series in Camden Park.  Jake hasn’t been to Camden Yard since he was five. I’m sure if I looked through the boxes in the closet, I could find a picture of a wee small him in his Cal Ripken tee shirt.  They’re having a blast – baseball, beer, USS Constitution, more beer, Fell Point, and more baseball.  I’m loving their pictures (thank you Instagram), and am so happy that Andrew gets to spend some time with his oldest son.  But I’m also absolutely fine that I am not there.

I watched a movie.

I stayed up late reading.

I walked Rowdy. Rowdy is old now and has arthritis, and has to trot mostly on three legs instead of four. So she no longer bolts down the road, yanking your arm out of your socket. That masochistic-looking choke collar we used to use has been put away. I smiled as we walked, remembering the times when she was young, and would take off running through the neighborhood if she got off her leash.  I laughed while thinking about 7-year old Ben and me running through the woods, screaming her name to come home.  It was a nice slow peaceful walk. We got a little bit wet from a misty rain.

I went to the grocery store and bought ingredients.  I spent 2 hours in the kitchen, without the master chef of the house hovering over me, cooking and singing along to iTunes. I made some healthy food – chicken salad, smashed cauliflower and a zucchini pie. Then I ate it.

I drove to Macy’s while practicing conversational French with my Pimsleur CD. At Macy’s, I spent an hour carefully examining and comparing luggage to pick out a new suitcase for my trip to France. If any of you saw the monster of a suitcase I took to Italy last year, you will know exactly why I did this.

I paid bills. I opened all the mail that had piled up through the week while I was away in California.  I paid my next-to-last college tuition bills for the boys’ undergraduate educations, and did a little dance.  Only one more semester and that immense and intense journey will be done. A mini-celebration in itself.

I started a new blog post while Rowdy laid at my feet. I did some research on a topic that interests me- alchemy, darkness and transformation.  I pulled out some books and read and highlighted. Then stepped away to let the words and the thoughts percolate.

I stayed up until 4am reading and got up at 10am.  And for once, I didn’t feel guilty about it, after reading an article that said intelligent people are more likely to be nocturnal.  “Only after dark can we learn, absorb and study the effects of the day. It’s a necessary self-reflection that few humans take the time to make…It’s the most creative time of the day, along with the most liberating.” Amen.

I made Rowdy’s breakfast and then we sat on the patio to watch the birds.  I watched the old girl chase a panicked chipmunk back and forth across the garden. It made me smile to see that she can still move like that when the memory of the birddog spirit catches her.

With no commitments, I just slowed down. And when I slowed down, I noticed stuff.

The marvelous feel of clean sheets as you finally climb into bed.

The breeze on my skin coming through the screens on my porch.

The soft pattering of a runner’s shoes as they jogged down the road.

The melodic chirping of the birds in the trees.

A dog barking in the distance.

A hummingbird three feet in front of my face at dusk in the garden.

Weekends are usually tough for me to enjoy.  I wait for them all week, but when they come, I stress over how short they are and walk around with a list in my head of all the “should-dos.”  It’s a list that is usually too long and creates a low-grade panic that sits in my gut for the full 48 hours.

It’s Sunday afternoon now, and I can feel that panic nipping at my heels.

But I will not give in to it today. Tomorrow, with all its stresses, will come soon enough.

This weekend was a gift, and I am not finished unwrapping it yet.

As Billy Collins says, I’ll take this ordinary scene, it’s all right here, right now.

Who knows, I might just light three candles tonight and listen to them sing in perfect harmony while my heart quietly thrums like a frog in a pond.


3 thoughts on “Zen Things

  1. What a great weekend for you. Yep – hard to just sit and relax and I know the Sunday afternoon dreadedness – why do we do that – instead of waiting until Monday to worry about work! Your words were a good reminder to me. Enjoy France – can’t wait to see pictures from you.

  2. I dropped Bill at the train station this morning. He’ll be in New York until Thursday night. I plan on using your weekend as a roadmap for myself for the next five days. The last couple of weeks have been over the top. Thanks for reminding me to just take time to be.

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