When It All Converges

Butter Bowl and Brush, Ink on Paper, 7" x 7"

Butter Bowl and Brush, Ink on Paper, 7″ x 7″

I am trying to make baklava for a holiday party tomorrow night. But the phyllo dough is rancid and Trader Joe’s is closed and Fresh and Easy is lame and somehow I find myself eating cold pork and parsnip hash out of a tupperware with my bare fingers at 9:40 pm in lieu of making a decision, utterly unsure of what the next move is. Drive to the grocery store that’s close, run the risk they don’t have what I need, drive to a further one, and then stay up past midnight making baklava? Devise some other amazing recipe that uses a crap-ton of chopped nuts but doesn’t come off suspiciously like a poor kock-off of baklava? Throw the nuts in a plastic bag and into the fridge and make something that takes half and hour like shortbread?

All of these are perfectly reasonable options. My trouble is that every moment lately seems like a last moment. In my head it’s like this: in two weeks I’ll be in India, and in three months I’ll be in France, and I don’t really know when I’m ever coming back, so whatever I do right now, it has to be exactly the right thing because this is probably my LAST CHANCE. I mean, for a while. But still, people, it seems dire.

Our Fragile Hearts (May the Clouds Pass), Ink, Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Paper, 7 1/2" x 5"

Our Fragile Hearts (May the Clouds Pass), Ink, Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Paper, 7 1/2″ x 5″

And life seems dire period these days. I’ve been trying to come up with something to say since last Friday. I had planned to put up a post about caramel sauce for the holidays, and then I turned on the radio and heard about the shooting in Newtown. Since then, no words have seemed to cover what needs to be said. So I’ve stayed silent. But it doesn’t seem right to let heart ache and the seeming senselessness of tragedy put you in a corner. Isn’t the grace of life found in the ability to move through the shifting sands of change? It seems like a rough and losing game trying to deny impermanence and find solid ground to stand on. So here I am. I’ve nothing particular to say other than this: I can feel the sands shifting. Here’s a wry smile for all of us standing on uneven ground. This is life. Have a hug.

Not Darkness But Cognizance (detail)

Not Darkness But Cognizance (detail)

After the Holidays

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Happy third night of Chanukah and Merry (T – 15 days to) Christmas.

My family is not particularly religious, but we do celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, as an ode to our roots, and as a way to bring us all together. My mom was raised loosely Catholic, and professes to believe in a higher power, but has never glommed on to organized religion much. My Dad is a reform Jew from a big Jewish family on the East Coast who took my sister and I to synagogue every year for the High Holy Days, and still does if we’re in town. When I was little, we read about the parting of the Red Sea and the miracle of oil that became Chanukah.

I love the singing of songs, the eating of fried food, and the sense of history that my Jewish heritage gives me, but I never much formed a bond with the God of the Israelites. My sister is a devout atheist; I guess she never did either. In our respective years of life, we have each stumbled upon various forms of value and guidance for this life. Taylor is discovering her own goodness and the power of human communication. I have developed meditation practice and am walking the Buddhist path of discovering the nature of mind. We share the practice of creativity and faith in the power of art to connect and elucidate the workings of the human engine.

This holiday will see all of us, on our various paths, come together to light candles, top trees, wrap presents, and share meals made with love. It’s the big family hurrah! And when the holidays are over, my own path will take me far afield. Come January, I am heading to India to study some of those texts that have been handed down through generations to tell those of us alive today what the Buddha taught over 2,000 years ago. The opportunity came up quickly, and, for now, I mostly feel a sense of giddiness combined with all the uncertainty of what lies ahead. I don’t know what will happen to this little blog in that time, but, as it unfolds, I’ll keep you posted. Happy Holidays!

From Under a Rock

Proof that I went somewhere; I've been hiding under some pretty good rocks. Bianca (left) and me in the mountains above Durango. Photo by Iza Bruen.

Proof that I went somewhere – I’ve been hiding under some pretty nice rocks. Bianca (left) and me in the mountains above Durango. Photo by Iza Bruen.

I’ve been hiding, a little bit, over here. You may have noticed I’ve been gone almost a whole month. Minor yikes, though I’m not planning on making a habit of it. I could easily attribute the absence to travel or an abundance of epic meals to be made. But truthfully, neither is to blame. I suppose the best explanation is to say that, lately, I’m a little dumbfounded by life.

The Buddha taught that all things are impermanent; the only things we can rely on are change, impermanence, creativity, and uncertainty. The cells of my body are dying and being made new every day, as are plants and animals, stars and planets. Impermanence is sensible, but it also comes as a surprise when change applies to the things we thought, or hoped, we might be able to rely on for a little while.

From the series Midday Crisis Aphorisms, Mixed Media on Paper, 4 3/8" x 4 3/8"

From the series Midday Crisis Aphorisms, Mixed Media on Paper, 4 3/8″ x 4 3/8″

In my silence, I have been digesting some impermanence. The strange thing about ever-changing life, though, is that you don’t get settled with it. Even new changes shift and change as I am watching them, living them. My friends are changing, dispersed over country and continents. Many of the cares that held us together have faded or been left behind; some have been remade and others not. My family is changing, less a tightly-woven unit and more a fragile web of individuals. My future is changing, places and paths I thought I might see someday becoming ones I might see very soon, while others disappear completely. Inside this sense of loss I wonder: even the best of plans are only imagination until they come to pass and even the best of people are only with us when they’re with us and gone when they are gone. It may seem a heavy thing, and yet everything about it blows away with the wind.

A temporary friend.

A temporary friend.

As Burns said and Steinbeck reminded us, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I have nothing else pithy to say; I just really wanted to include this adorable picture of a critter I had the pleasure to meet before sending him on his way. I know most people don’t like rodents, but isn’t he cute? I think he’s grateful to be alive. Me too.