The questions of what to wear, who to meet, where to eat, all have the same answers now: something simple, my wife, home.
And what to do together? Most often, just walk outside.
I now recognize some of the sounds we hear in the mornings: what I thought was an owl is a mourning dove, named for its call, which sounds like one in mourning (hence the name). The “gaaaa” calls come from the murder of crows. The ambient tweets come from the song birds barely seen.
And then, among these voices, are the voices of my wife and me, talking as we are walking. This is our chapel, here is our service, heaven upon us.
BY EMILY DICKINSONSome keep the Sabbath going to Church – I keep it, staying at Home – With a Bobolink for a Chorister – And an Orchard, for a Dome –
Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice – I, just wear my Wings – And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church, Our little Sexton – sings.
God preaches, a noted Clergyman – And the sermon is never long, So instead of getting to Heaven, at last – I’m going, all along.
I have been sitting with this Buddhist proverb, the way a practitioner sits with the dharma. Enough is a feast.
We are taught in my culture to want more. I remember in the heyday of MTV the Billy Idol mantra, “Too much is never enough.” That is the value system that surrounded me. That surrounds me.
My meditation practice is simply counting my breath, a focal point for my wandering mind. And in the moment, my breath – the inhale and exhale, the filling and emptying of my lungs – is all my body needs, desperately needs. My breath is enough.
A friend introduced me to the Japanese tradition of nengajō (年賀状) – sending cards to loved ones in the new year. I imagine the cards hold haikus. In Japan the practice is precise: the cards arrive on January 1.
This year I have been doing the same.
I have a stack of cards. I personalize each one. The note is specific.
Off they go into the mail, on their journeys north and south, far west and to the east, arriving unexpected, handwritten and holding a small gift, arriving in their own time.
For my recent birthday, a friend gave me a painting by her, and when I looked at the backside, I realized how much it held.
I don’t know if we have a good working definition of friendship, so I will offer one: a relationship between two people who understand each other (but not completely), accept each other (but not foolishly), and walk together (figuratively).
I think you can measure a person by their friendships. A person with long, sustained friendships. A person who is able to form new ones. A person who does not have a trail of broken friendships.
Tibetan thankas have on the front side a painting of a bodhisattva and on the back side the red handprints and writing of the monk who blessed the thanka and brought it to life.
When I looked at the back side of my friend’s painting, she had written a kind of benediction, sharing when in her life and why she had done the painting. I thought, “This is like a monk’s blessing of a thanka.” This painting lives. And she gave it to me.
A friendship, just as I defined it, once new, now sustained.
“And feel a spirit kindred to my own; So that henceforth I worked no more alone;”