Tag Archives: meditation

The MFA: I’m running like our cat

We have a sweet and wonderful cat, a stray who lived near my old writing studio. I gathered her up one chilly November day several years ago  — she was sweet and affectionate even when she was skinny and shivering — and brought her home to join the chaos. She has a loud purr and will nip your calves when her dish has been too empty for too long. And she loves to sit in and on suitcases. Packing for a trip? Plan an extra ten minutes to vacuum the fur off the bag. Returning from a trip? If you don’t close the suitcase after emptying it, she will sleep in it all day long.

And this cat loves to snuggle up next to my husband when we do our daily meditation sit. Ok, it’s not every day, but we try. The 17 y.o. sits in the big yellow chair, the 14 y.o. & I settle on the couch and hubby sits on a zabuton cushion and the cat, no matter where she is in the house, curls up next to him. She purrs and purrs and purrs and purrs.

Meditating kitty.

Meditating kitty. And hubby.

But last night there was an open suitcase in the foyer. She had leapt into it, settled and purred and fallen asleep. Well, we said, no cat on the zabuton tonight. We all sat down and we set the timer and … there was a gentle kerthump as the cat jumped from the suitcase and then ran — sprinted — to sit with my husband. Seriously.

Please indulge me as I now sally forth into extended-metaphor-land.  In this metaphor, I am the cat, my life is the suitcase and the snuggling-while-meditating is my writing. I like my life. It has comfy places to sit and I like to sit and write. And when the Warren Wilson low-residency MFA program offered me a place in their program I of course happily accepted.

And here’s what surprised me: I had no idea I would want to sprint to an MFA program. I love writing and my application obviously was an indicator that I’d want to enter the program. But when I began listening to some of Warren Wilson’s downloadable craft lectures, I shifted from “this will be good,” to “this is what I have wanted to do and didn’t even know it holy cow I can’t wait!” An entire hour of lecture about the semicolon! An hour and a half on internal versus external turning points in fiction and poetry! When I described the bliss I experienced while listening to these lectures, the 14 y.o. said, “You’re kidding, right?” and I squealed, “No! No! I am not kidding. I get to study this stuff for TWO WHOLE YEARS!” He was aghast. I was giddy.

It’s a bit weird that our cat runs to sit with us during meditation. Loving to think about and talk about semicolons is a bit weird. (OK, maybe a lot weird.) But I am looking forward, with an almost animalistic delight, to immersion in this new-to-me writing community. Long live the weird!

May you find and run to your (little bit weird) delight today, too.

Homecoming: heartbreak, hilarity and humble hopes

English: JetBlue Airplane in Flight over Houston

English: JetBlue Airplane in Flight over Houston (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I returned home last Wednesday and Engineer Hubby had graciously taken off from work a bit early to drive me home. We stopped at the Farmer’s Market for yummies and flowers. First world privileges, thoroughly enjoyed after surviving the miracle of flight yet again. (30,000 feet above the earth in a fancy tin can. I have to drug myself with an absorbing novel every time, to minimize screaming.)

But at home, our oldest resident animal family member, the 15 y.o.’s beloved cat Raleigh — not that old, at nine years — was knife-blade thin and leaving lakes (I am not kidding) of urine beside the litter boxes. She’d been diagnosed with kidney disease before we’d taken the boys to camp, and we’d all said goodbye to her, fearing she might not even make it ’til we returned sans kids. However, she’d rallied with IV fluids.

Now it seemed the rallying was over. I took her to the vet and she laid it out, very kindly but bottom line: Raleigh was failing fast. To ensure minimum suffering, it was in her best interest to put her down ASAP.

Engineer hubby was in DC for a meeting. Both boys were unreachable at camp. Raleigh trembled beside me on the bench in the exam room. I was uninterested in playing god but even more uninterested in lengthening any sort of misery she might have — our true and faithful friend of the huge meow and purr who’d always slept curled up with the first son. I called EH and interrupted his meeting and we agreed: sooner was better than later; our desire to have her last ’til the boys returned home wouldn’t serve her.

The vet, the vet technician and I all cried (they less than I), but Raleigh went quick and easy. I wept while walking out the door, in the parking lot and all the way home, though I waited to drive ’til the worst was over since bifocals + tears = bad driver. We’ll pick up her ashes this coming week  scatter them wheresoever the eldest boy chooses.

I had been pondering the transiency of all things before this. It has been a summer with many losses, mostly “second-hand:” a neighbor’s wife, the son of another friend, the son of a newly-met acquaintance, a neighbor’s dog — and I have been moving in slow-motion through my days, trying hard to Be Present Now.

Cup of tea

Cup of tea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And in these days, the writing has come both easier and harder — I know I will feel better when I’ve done it, but it is hard to walk away from my morning Now, which consists of my Lap Dance tea (from the excellent Planet Tea House) and whatever I am reading (I have a list of 400+ short stories from the Taos workshop led by Robert Boswell). I do, however, because the routine inevitably returns me to my better self.

My Now also includes a pre-bed ritual of reading the funnies and doing the soduko. Last night I messed up the soduko within the first three minutes, then finished the crossword puzzle, then the Jumble, then, still wide-awake, read the local paper’s food column on grilling fruit.

The first recipe I read was for grilled grapes. I thought I had better check the prescription of my reading glasses. No. My prescription is fine.

Red Grape

Red Grape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The suggestion was that the home chef take thinly-sliced pancetta, cut it into 1×3″ rectangles (that’s the dimension of the post-it note flags I use to capture one-word impressions on the short stories mentioned above), wrap the pancetta around the grape, secure this morsel with a toothpick and repeat with the remaining two cups of grapes. Then the home chef is to gently toss these toothpicked wonders in an olive-oily glaze and GRILL THEM.

Holy mother of the creativity gods who has time to do this?

It takes everything I’ve got to manage one fifteen minute meditation per day and then focus on the Now so I can pretend I’m not having a midlife crisis about continuing to spend my dwindling days writing short stories on this suffering-laden planet. The idea of wrapping grapes with fancy-pants ham tickled my funny bone something fierce. I snorted and snarkled and chuckled and generally worked myself into a fit of laughing that woke the already-sleeping EH.

Humor is subjective.  I am sure my guffaw at the grape grilling may trigger upset in someone else. I also believe making beautiful, interesting, delicious food for oneself and/or one’s beloved family and/or community is a generous and creative act. It’s just not my creative act. My creative act entails sitting alone in a room and imagining other worlds and then describing it using our inadequate language as evocatively as possible. Those whose highest and best selves are compelled to come up with ways to grill fruit of all types are welcome to whatever giggles my practice rouses in them.

Hank & RaleighMay it be so: that we call forth whatever version of our best self we have, be it creative-recipe-creator, writer, ender-of-suffering-of-small-creatures, or simply accepting our flawed little ego-heavy selves, struggling to meditate, to write, to love well and often enough that at our ends, our god(s) will grant us a departure with no more suffering than we can bear.