Friday, December 30, 2011

And Now We Are One: Thanks From a New Kid on the Blog

The title could suggest a celebration of the emptiness of our form, but it just means that Snow Branches is one year old today.

A year and a day or so ago, I wasn't totally sure what a blog was or whether I'd even read one. A couple of friends in the 'other' world had encouraged me to share my thoughts, and blogging seemed logical. After a bit of exploring with Google and clicking around user-friendly Blogger, the site was up and running.

Snow Branches was the title of a tiny collection of poems I wrote five years earlier and circulated by e-mail to all of half a dozen friends and relatives. I kept the title because I couldn't think of a better one. The photo is a bush outside the front door.

A few writing rules took shape: Listen to your heart - you head's too sneaky; If you wouldn't read it, chuck it; No BS; Yes, acknowledging your humanity is uncomfortable - get over it; Try not to cause too much damage; For god's sake attenuate your proclivity for polysyllabery.

A year later, I've been honoured by 9,300 visits from about 75 countries. I know these aren't huge numbers for the first year of a blog, but my socks are officially knocked off. Thank you so much.

Although I don't usually subject my clients to the blog, Google is merciless. I was on the phone to a new client who was looking me up while we spoke. She asked, "Oh, are you the Buddhist poet?" I muttered, ", well..." She said, "I just love those little poems - what do they call them?" ", haiku, but I don't count the syllables..." Thankfully the conversation meandered back to her case.

The blog is mostly about kindness, and it has been nurtured by the kindness of so many, for which I'm deeply grateful: the generous encouragement of other bloggers who have welcomed me into the family, and the kind retweets, mentions and likes by the beloved Twitter people and Facebook friends.

Special thanks to everyone who left comments. You know who you are.

In case you don't, here are your names linked to your blogs: Andressa, Anonymous, Barry, Bea, Caine, Carole, Charity, Darragh, Dawid, Debra, Elizabeth, Elliott, Herb, James, Jeff, Jess, Jomon, Julie, Kara, Karina, Kate, Kathy, Kel, Kellie, Kyle, Lola, Lynette, Maia, Marguerite, MTK, Nishant, Nancy, Nicola, Rizal, Scott, Stream_enterer, Sue, Susan, Tara, Thane, TMC and Wendy.

And to the person who drove onto my blog on a Google search looking for "luckybeard bonali mediafire", I hope you find what you're looking for. Please feel free to come back any time and stay for a cup of tea!

Friday, December 23, 2011

What? What?

I just figured out why, despite his outrageously politically incorrect opinions, I'm so fond of Archie Bunker. He had a kind heart, and he was absolutely genuine.

Other than his own, no nationality, ethnic group (including hippies), race, religion, sexual orientation or social class was spared. Sometimes he would lambaste several at once, as when he called England a "fag country" because of the upper class accents. Coming from anyone else, the bigoted things he said would be offensive in the extreme. Coming from him, somehow they weren't.

You don't scold an infant for grabbing and breaking your necklace. It's what they do, with no thought of causing harm. Tell Archie Bunker he's a bigot and he won't have a clue what you're talking about.

Some years ago, I went to a restaurant with a charming elderly gentleman and his grown up daughters. I knew that the lady serving us was in fact the new owner-manager and told him so. He looked up at her with a big smile and said, after thinking How could a mere woman own a restaurant?, "Good for you!" When we hung our heads in embarrassment, some with our hands to our foreheads, like Archie, he said, "What? What?"

Over the Christmas season, I found myself quick to criticize (in my head) kindly people at dinner parties, talking about peace and goodwill while gnawing on body parts of murdered animals. Sorry - I'm starting to rant...

I think another reason I like Archie's well-meaning cluelessness is that I know I'm looking in the mirror. It feels like I'm, for the most part, genuine and kind-hearted. But an oblivious person by definition doesn't realize s/he is oblivious. Since I'm not aware of everything, I must be oblivious too.

Something to work on.

Oh dear - I feel a joke coming on.

A blind man walks into a bar, and says loudly, "Hey do you guys wanna hear a blonde joke?" The bartender says, "Sir, I realize you are blind, so I am making an allowance here, but I am female, and a blonde.  Also, the two ladies beside you are professional wrestlers, and they are blondes.  And the two ladies behind you are Hell's Angels, and they are blondes. Are you sure you still want to tell that blonde joke?" The blind man said, "Nah, I don't want to have to explain it five times."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

You Must Forgive Them All

You must forgive them all; for though their hearts are faithful,
to face fear ... is not what they were made for.
Tom Bombadil

Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Recently, I saw The Way, a beautiful movie about a father who, after the death of his son, finished his son's journey walking the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route of Saint James that ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

When he arrived, the camera began to take the movie audience inside, and I had the strange sensation of really not wanting to go any further. I recognized that I was having strong feelings of judgmental anger towards the Roman Catholic Church.

The enormous cathedral, with all its ornaments and statues, was a monument to the horrific abuse of power that it had wielded over the centuries. Its wretched victims came to mind: the heretics burned for their beliefs, the tens of thousands of innocents executed for witchcraft in Europe and the American Colonies, the men and women tortured during the Inquisition, the victims of the Crusades, and the countless trusting children sexually abused by monks and priests all over the world.

The movie rolled on, but I was frozen in that moment, hating, and not comprehending, the monsters who were capable of such cruelty.

It dawned on me how completely the road ahead was blocked. Until I forgave them all, I would never advance another step. It was clear to me that I not only had to forgive them - I also had to love and unreservedly embrace each one of them as if my own child, in fact, as myself, because as uncomfortable as it was to acknowledge, each one was myself.

Sitting there in the theatre, I did forgive them. It felt like a weight had been lifted, and I watched the rest of the movie a bit stunned, but at peace.

Of course, that isn't the end of the story.

A few days later, I went to a choir concert where I knew some of the singers. I noticed that I felt resentment towards a couple of them for one reason or another. Turning the love light on them, as I watched them sing, they transformed from people I avoided, into people I cherish.

There are many that I have not forgiven, hidden away in my forgetfulness. I need to seek them out in the dark corners of the hall and invite them onto the dance floor for a hug and a lively polka, and in the joy of the dance, forgive myself as well, for harbouring resentments for so long.

Shall we dance?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Seven Links - Browsing through the Branches

I was encouraged to write this post by Lynette over at 108 Zen Books, who was encouraged to write 7 links - how to appreciate yourself by Carole over at ZenDotStudio, who was similarly encouraged to write Wandering Down Memory Lane (My 7 Links) by what must be a long lineage of introspecting bloggers that may have started here.

Here are the rules. Bloggers named in a "7 Link" blog are encouraged to list seven of their posts that fit these categories:

1. Most beautiful
2. Most popular
3. Most controversial
4. Most helpful
5. Most surprisingly successful
6. Most neglected
7. The post that makes you most proud

Then they nominate five other bloggers to do the same.

This is not easy. Brain immediately offers divers reasons why not to do it: (a) It's an ego trip. (b) Who cares what I think about my posts? (c) It's like picking which of your children you love most. (d) Choosing 5 bloggers will offend everyone else or hurt their feelings. (e) I should be writing something meaningful (f) Blah blah blah. Hmm - these are sounding pretty persuasive...

OK, if Lynette and Carole survived, I guess I'll give it a go.

Most beautiful
As in beautiful phenomenon (not beautiful writing!). I picked An Ancient Tree Blooms: The Awakening of Compassion because I can't think of anything more beautiful than that.

Most popular
That's easy. Mindful Blindness: A Rant Against Speciesism got about four times more hits than any other. That's really heartwarming.

Most controversial
My posts haven't generated much debate, except for Do Bodhisattvas Go To Heaven? (See the last four comments - an altercation I seem to have incited with a comment over at The Zennist)

Most helpful
(to me) The Oak Tree in the Garden is a short piece about realizing that my need to feel like I'm making a difference is misplaced. What I really need is just to fearlessly plow ahead with all I've got. Where? I have absolutely no idea.

Most surprisingly successful
I didn't expect Car 16: A Reminiscence to climb so fast. It must have been the funny conversation at the end.

Most neglected
Who Are These Faithful Friends? Not the least visited, but my first. I still marvel at how the animals that we know the most intimately are the victims of such mindless abuse. Who are they? Here's a hint: they are wearing our clothes.

The post that makes you most proud
This is cheating, but I'm not going to play favourites. Some Poems, Some More Poems, Another Batch of Poems and Poems Batch 4. I don't think proud is the right word, but I kind of like some of them.

Enough about me. I've been trying to think of criteria that will fairly yield about five bloggers without stooping to favouritism (or sadism, depending on how you view it....). Most frequent commenters seems to work.  Without further ado, here they are: (now ducking for cover, maybe never to come back...) Tara at Out of the Lotus, Bea at PROVOKED, Kellie at off-peak, Susan at Sincerity, Cleanliness & Good Presentation and Karina at Senshin. I'll pass on the note that was passed to me: please don't feel obligated in any way to play - you didn't put your name in the hat, so I hope you just do whatever feels right. Just reading your blogs is good enough for me.

Well, Dave, that wasn't so hard, was it? Yes, Dave, it was.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...