Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I am very attached to this gravel...

As my faithful readers know Ian built a lovely Zen garden I wanted in a gravel patch near the front door of our condo building in 2012 as a Mother's Day Gift. He bought the tumble stone, and the pea gravel. We went to the mountains together and hiked up a ravine to find the right size and shape of larger stones. And he built it over two weekends. 

It's to the left of the main entrance of our building and is about 8' wide by 20' long. It's a spot where nothing will grow, as the underground parkade roof comes to the surface there and underlies that area.
Standing Stone with "Sedum" forest
It's an odd shape, since one end is a triangle, and it's only large enough for the "Three Stone" style, which means you have a standing stone in an island of greenery, plus two other stones which have a particular shape, and are placed at a certain relationship to the standing stone. 

The land is represented by round, tumbled river rocks 1 - 1.5" in size, flowing water by fine pea gravel you rake patterns in, though raking patterns in this garden would be futile, as people walk through it all the time. 

I've had many positive comments about it, and because we had a resident pass away in particularly tragic circumstances just as we finished it, some residents wrote his name on one of the smooth stones and put it on the garden in his memory. Since then other residents have written the names of loved ones who'd passed on smooth river rocks and left them in the garden, so it's become something of a memory garden. I also wrote baby Isabel's name and birth/death date on a smooth white stone and left it among the others. Since the stones represent the sea this is a rather apt metaphor of the Buddhist saying, “The wave does not need to die to become water. She is already water.”  

As you also might remember the sidewalk leading to the front entrance is about 25 feet wide and 100 feet long. Because some people have no common sense whatsoever, they will drive their five ton moving vans right up to the front door, which is very hard on the sidewalk. We found the only way to prevent this from happening was to place large cast concrete/stone planters to block their way. So we have three big three stone planters filled with road-fill gravel on the end of the sidewalk. We placed two at the driveway end and the third about 20 feet in, in the centre of the drive. These had to placed empty  by a fork lift, and then we filled them with a half-tonne of gravel, so they aren't going anywhere. 

In this climate you can't plant real flowers in them because the moisture gets into the concrete and in the winter the pot cracks, so we put in new topiaries surrounded by iron trellis work last year. These were wired to concrete blocks under the gravel because the wind is sumpin fierce here in the winter, and we had to chase down the previous ones. It cost a couple of hundred dollars for each one plus paying the landscapers to install them.

I still had one to go but hadn't been able to find a matching topiary until last Thursday afternoon I found them on line. I made plans to go buy one on Friday.

But Thursday evening I looked out the window to see one of the residents had taken the topiaries out of the pots, and was shovelling the gravel into buckets. This woman is always belligerent, and has the attitude that she is entitled to anything she wants, and can do anything without consulting anyone. I hated having to deal with her when I was on the board, because her standard answer was, "I don't care what the rules say, or what the board says. I'm doing it this way, my mother is a lawyer and I'll just sue if I don't get my way." 

More than a little trepidatious, I wandered out to ask her what she was doing. She said she was going to plant flowers in the planters. She had already dumped several buckets of stones in the Zen garden. I pointed out that the Zen garden has only two kinds of stone, and they are laid in a design. She said she didn't see any design, and she'd rake the stones flat when she was done.  

When I went out to tend the flowers the next afternoon I was stunned. She literally had *buried* the Zen garden 10-12" deep in the big rough road fill from the planters, which was also full of bark, garbage and cigarette butts. Just dumped in big piles all over the garden. Then I got mad. I actually sat here until 2:00 am and wrote a whiny letter complaining to the property manager explaining how I'd been wronged. It sounded childish even to me. So I deleted it and went to bed. 

I went out yesterday morning and looked at it again and it looks terrible, nothing like the Zen garden I'd planned and Ian had built. But standing there I realized that there's no point in choosing to be angry. All is does is make me miserable and burn off energy I could use for more positive activity. 

So I went to the Walmart and bought a big Boston fern, a transparent plastic "chip" serving bowl about two inches deep which has a "dip" container moulded into one side. It has a rippled surface, so I can sink it into the gravel, bring the gravel right up to the edge, put two asparagus ferns in the "dip" container and turn it into a birdbath. The next neighbour has a feeder and when I'm out with the hose the birds are always eager for a drink and to have a shower.  

One of the landscaping crew helped to rake the gravel down, which took him five minutes, and we sunk the Boston fern into one of the piles. I took the stones she'd tossed aside and re-sited them and gave the entire thing a good wash-down with the hose. 

So now it has a new look, with a fern, a bird bath, and the rocks - aside from the standing stone, repositioned. And it looks okay. 

It's funny, I look at other countries feuding between themselves and say to myself, "Why can't they just get along?" 

And then someone pours a half-dozen wheelbarrows of rock on a patch of gravel which is on common property and thus belongs as much to her as it does to me - and I get my panties in  twist. You know, if you don't laugh at your own ridiculousness at least a dozen times a day you're going to end up in a padded cell. 

The Buddha said, "The root of suffering is attachment." And it gets me a hundred times a day. It's a root that is as hard to dig out as those dandelions we fight with every spring.  

So, the Zen Garden is no longer the austere garden you'd find in a temple. But it's more recognizable as a "garden" to Western eyes. I like it even better now. And the flowers she planted are beautiful.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

If you forget me…

Now, is he just being realistic; I mean, what's the point of pining over someone who no longer loves you? Or is he just the kind of arrogant blowhole your mother warned you about avoiding? (Read his bio, link is at the bottom of the page, and decide for yourself. I didn't put the link here because I didn't want to bias anyone forehand.)  

At any rate, it's the only poem I could find that references garden flowers that wasn't so sappy it was instantly vomit inducing, and I wanted to show off what's been blooming in the garden this past week or so without simply plodding through another tour. For a few days I had nine glorious poppies, some as big as saucers. They usually bloom for a day or two then the petals fall off, but as I write this I still have five, some of which have been blooming a full week. 

If you forget me…
by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know one thing. 

You know how this is: 

if I look 
at the crystal moon, at the red branch 
of the slow autumn at my window, 
if I touch 
near the fire 
the impalpable ash 
or the wrinkled body of the log, 
everything carries me to you, 
as if everything that exists, 
aromas, light, metals, 
were little boats 
that sail 
toward those isles of yours that wait for me. 

Well, now, 
if little by little you stop loving me 
I shall stop loving you little by little. 

If suddenly you forget me 
do not look for me, 
for I shall already have forgotten you. 

If you think it long and mad, 
the wind of banners 
that passes through my life, 
and you decide 
to leave me at the shore 
of the heart where I have roots, 
remember that on that day, at that hour, 
I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off 
to seek another land. 

Oriental Poppy

But if each day, 
each hour,

Neon Lights Hosta, Cranesbill, Daisy, Pink ones ??

you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness,

Purple petunias, Darvona

if each day a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,


in me all that fire is repeated, 
in me nothing is extinguished 
or forgotten, 

Siberian Iris

my love feeds on your love, 


and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Disorder in the Courts!

How Do Court Reporters Keep Straight Faces?
These are from a book called "Disorder in the Courts: Great Fractured Moments In Courtroom History" by Charles M Sevilla and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while the exchanges were taking place.
WITNESS: You mumbled the first part of that question and I didn't understand what you said. Could you please repeat the question?
ATTORNEY: I mumbled did I? Well, we'll just ask the court reporter to read back what I said. She didn't indicate having any problem understanding what I said so she obviously understood every word.  We'll just have her read back my question and we'll see if there was any mumbling going on. Madam Reporter, if you would be so kind.
COURT REPORTER: Mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble, mumble. 
ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there.

ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?
WITNESS: July 18th.
ATTORNEY: What year?
WITNESS: Every year.

ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS: Forty-five years.

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget..
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's 20, much like your IQ.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shitting me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: Getting laid

ATTORNEY: She had three children , right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
WITNESS: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death..
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.

ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town I'm going with male.

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor , how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?
And last:
ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Ten to Zen

Reposted with some edits from May 2009

During a visit Zak and I fell into discussions about deeper issues as we worked. The practice of Buddhism is a frequent topic when we get together. As practiced by most Westerners Buddhism is a discipline, rather than a religion, since there is no worship and no affirmation of a deity. 

And, in fact this is apparently exactly what the Buddha in mind. He was not concerned with religion or the hereafter. When some of his students came to him, saying they were leaving because he had not told them what happened after death, he asked, "Did I ever say I would address the question of the hereafter?" 
"No, Master, you did not," they answered. 

"No," he replied. "I only said I would teach you to deal with suffering, and it is suffering that leads you to worry about the hereafter." 

As I see it (and I am no scholar) my practice of Buddhism serves to discipline body and mind, encourages me to live a useful life, and helps as I struggle to grasp the nature of reality. 

By the time you are in your late 60s you have lost many loved ones. And you've seen three generations of children born, bringing with them the features and gestures of their forefathers, the laughters of aunts and the voices of uncles who died in wars 50 years before them. You see your father's 80 year-old face recast in the joyous innocence of his infant ggg-grandson, and you realize that while we are on a continuum, we are all temporary manifestations of energy, winking in and out like lightening bugs on a summer night, in an unending dance of cosmic energy.  

The nature of reality is that this is the only moment we have, and what we do with it creates our lives as surely as a carpenter uses wood and a box of nails to build a house. We create our lives moment to moment with our thoughts and actions.    

The practice of staying in the moment doesn't mean you don't make plans or lead a normal life, it simply means you stay awake, and pay attention to what you are doing, maintaining a disciplined mental state, rather than letting your mind wander all over the place, in an undisciplined manner. Fretting over past hurts, wrongs done me, tomorrow's potential problems or what tragedies may occur next year all take my thoughts from this moment and destroy my peace of mind. Indulging my ego in angry temper against another destroys my peace of mind, as do feeling guilt, embarrassment and shame, which are just varieties of anger against ones' self. If I have done something genuinely wrong I must make it right, but at the proper time and place, and in a peaceful way.    

There are hundreds of gurus selling hundreds of books promising to reveal how to achieve peace of mind. While some are interesting and offer great insight, I've come to feel that you can't absorb peace of mind by osmosis. You can't get it by reading about it, buying a DVD, or attaching yourself to a guru.

You can only find it by practicing it. You practice by attending to the moment, and by letting go of your expectation that it is possible to acquire it by any other means. You practice it by bringing your thoughts back to the now, attending to, and living in the moment at hand with a calm discipline and deep awareness. Softly, softly, guided like a tiny child just learning to walk, kept safely on a path by a gentle touch when a wobbling step takes her too close to the edge. 

I will not pretend to have achieved this state, and I constantly must check myself, but it is an excellent discipline, one I have gained a great deal of comfort and contentment from.