Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Love itself...

I guess I must admit to being on a bit of a Leonard Cohen binge at the moment. My friend Liz said to me earlier today, "His voice makes me want to slit a pulsing artery, mine or his," but I'm loving the work he's produced since becoming a Zen Buddhist monk.

Cohen has been a practicing Jew all his life but says of his adherence to Zen; "[In] the tradition of Zen that I've practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity. So theologically there is no challenge to any Jewish belief..."

In this song there are echoes of the Heart Sutra which says; ... form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness. ... Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening..

The light came through the window,
Straight from the sun above,
And so inside my little room
There plunged the rays of Love.

In streams of light I clearly saw
The dust you seldom see,
Out of which the Nameless makes
A Name for one like me.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love Itself
Love Itself was gone.

Then I came back from where I’d been.
My room, it looked the same –
But there was nothing left between
The Nameless and the Name.

All busy in the sunlight
The flecks did float and dance,
And I was tumbled up with them
In formless circumstance.

I’ll try to say a little more:
Love went on and on
Until it reached an open door –
Then Love itself,
Love Itself was gone.
Love Itself was gone.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Feline Overlord Turns Twelve!

Valentine's day is not a day of hearts, roses and sweet nothings in this household. Oh no! Valentine's Day here is the birthday of the Feline Overlord of the Household, a day when we do (the usual and proper) reverence to He Who Must Be Obeyed.

A newborn kitten looks so innocent, but behind those "adore me" looks lurk a quick intelligence and a natural flair for leadership. Just give him a few months.

Last night at midnight I was awakened (for the second time since retiring at 10:45) by the poke of a paw on my face. This, plus head butts to my nose, signals that my services are required. He wanted to go out and sniff the night air, have a meal and a "cookie".

The night time meals are not just because he's spoiled, but are part of the routine we use to keep his blood sugar stable. He's diabetic, but by feeding him a very low carbohydrate canned cat food and feeding him a spoonful at a time both day and night he has not required an insulin injection in over three years.

I put a teaspoon of food in his dish, put out two "cookies" (pieces of high-grade crunchy cat food). Then, as expected I stand by the door and wait for the scratching that signals his desire to come back in.

Ten minutes later I stumbled back to bed, he curled up with his arms around my neck, buried his face in my shoulder, and we went back to sleep.

At 4:00 am he woke me by vigorously scratching on the wall by the bed. "Service please." Out to sit on the step for five minutes, a meal, a cookie. Back to bed, with him snuggled up "spoon" style.

5:25, a poke in the face, accompanied by an insistent meowing. He has an indoor box, but he doesn't like using it. Outside for ten minutes, several of which are spent in loud and vigorous excavation of the cat box.

6:45, He wakes me by poking at me again. I give up and get up. The first things done are: 1) let the cat out 2) start the coffee 3) let the cat in 4) feed the cat 5) hold the cat in my lap.

You may well understand why we refer to him as the "Overlord". Today he's been fed, brushed, walked, held and rocked, petted, played a game of ball, knocked my jade tree out of its pot onto the floor, stood in the middle of the kitchen sink (which had water in it) to play in the water from the tap and left big wet tracks all over the counter. Now he is on the sofa, belly up, enjoying a well-earned rest.

Today is Sal's 12th birthday. He's slowing down, he limps a bit, he sometimes groans in his sleep and I worry about him and love him dearly. He is a delightful and engaging companion who is very adept at communicating what he expects from us. But he gives as much as he asks for.

Happy Birthday Salvador!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Purge, Pack, PANIC

Barring unforeseen circumstances we have found a new home. YAY! It only took five months of looking, and two failed offers before this one was accepted. Very much like a visit to Brimstone and Lucifer Dental Surgery.

But I won't address the difficulties of that process here, the one ahead of us is daunting enough. We have to be in Calgary to sign papers one month from today. (Gulp) Hence the "purge, pack, panic title of this post. So, how does one organize a move when you have limited energy stores?

You set up a system

Knowing this move was coming I bought a stack of 2" square post-it notes in four neon colours, orange, hot pink, lime green and eye-watering yellow. Each room in our new home is designated with a colour and a letter code:

Living Room (LR) is Orange
Kitchen/Dining room (KIT) is Pink
Bedroom (BED) is Green
Bathroom/laundry/linens (BATH) is yellow

As I pack each box it gets a colour sticker with the room code written on it, a number and a priority letter code "A", "B" or "C".

  • "A" boxes contain items we need on a daily basis, and which must be unpacked immediately.
  • "B" boxes are items needed less frequently, but at least weekly.
  • "C" boxes can wait until everything we need to manage comfortably has been unpacked and put away. "C" items are pictures, fancy china, books, and tchotchkes, which despite a rather dismissive definition in wikipedia, in Canada anyway suggests items imbued with an aura of sentimentality or personal significance.

I record what goes into each box as I pack it, then code it - colour, room, number and priority. So a box with a pink label may have the code LR #3 C. If I find I need a specific item as we unpack all I need do is search the list with my "find" function and I'll know what box to look for.

The brightly coloured post-it notes enable a quick sort as boxes come in the door. I remember too many nightmare moves where the helpers don't have a clue where a box is to go, so the very box you need for the first night gets buried under a pile in the middle of the kitchen floor, or the pile in the bedroom - or... did it come in at all?

All you have to do is stick the right colour post-it on the doorway to the room and say, "Match the colour of the sticker on the box to the sticker on the door." If the label says "A" put it to the side.

I start packing "C" items obviously, so today the paintings came off the walls, the curio cabinet was emptied, the pretty cups and tea set, some reference books, and other small items were packed.

I'll cull and purge as I go. I'm not taking anything that is borked in any way unless getting rid of it would cause deep emotional turmoil. Things I do not absolutely love are outta here, to be passed to someone who will love and use them. I even organized. For some unexplainable reason we have two large photo albums, each only half full. I pulled the pictures from one and put them in the other, and will pass the other perfectly good album to the thrift shop.

That's my "sit-down" time used up. Back to packing! How do you prepare for and organize a move?

Our February KIVA Loan

Our KIVA loan this month goes to Deggo Book Ligguey, a group of nine women in Senegal who work together to improve their lives.

In this Group: Bobatora Diedhiou, Christine Assine, Rosalie Sagna, Rougui Diedhiou, Marie Boya Diedhiou, Méta Diatta, Héléne Diatta, Francisca Diatta, Solinda Silva.

The Deggo Book Ligguey solidarity group was created three years ago. It is composed of nine women. These women advocate harmony within their group, which allows them to feel very close and cooperative in their business activities. They have all invested in small stores, buy their products in one place and set the same price.

Mrs Marie Boya Diedhiou, standing right in the picture and raising her hand, chairs the group. She is 33 years old, married and the mother of four children. She sells palm oil, brooms and lemons. The Microfinance loans she was granted so far have enabled her to expand her business to Dakar, the capital of the country. Now she participates more in the education of her children. She also is able to contribute to general household expenses.

In a group loan, each member of the group receives an individual loan but is part of a group of individuals bound by a group guarantee. Under this arrangement, each member of the group supports one another and is responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members if someone is delinquent or defaults.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Snow Day...

Thankfully we went to town to shop yesterday, when it was a blistering 6 degrees C (42.8 F) because while prognostications are that it will reach 8 C (46.8 F) tomorrow today we have snow! It's snowing very heavily and is supposed to snow all night, turning to rain as it warms.

Our neighbour Art, who was out cheerfully shoveling first thing, said, "It's so wet you could almost pump it!"

It's very still, and very quiet, in that muffler and scarf sort of way only heavy snow brings. The world drops away at the edge of the road. It's quite lovely, especially since I don't have to drive in it, shovel it, or otherwise endure it.

In the garden the Kanji lantern is buried up to its shoulders, with a perfect cap of snow on top. The garden is a hummocky bed of white, with only the tallest bits peeking out from under the blanket.

Sal is disgruntled, since he'd like a walk but doesn't walking in wet belly-deep snow. He sits on the step and glares.... Maine Coons are supposed to be impervious to snow, but he hates the wet kind. When it's dry he'll walk on it, but walking in this is too much like a cold bath to be any fun.

We won't complain. It's been a mild winter and we should be through the worst of it now. The days are visibly longer, this will give the earth a much-needed drink, and the earth continues to spin on its axis.