Category Archives: Dharma

Offerings to the Utter Brilliance of the Present Moment

As we were leaving, the sweet Vietnamese woman at Chu Minh Veggie Deli on Jackson and 12th bent down to stand face to face with our son in his rubber boots and his raincoat, and handed him a crispy vegan springroll wrapped in a napkin. “Because you are special,” she said,

and I felt my heart in my chest, standing by the window in the cramped deli as the birds took off in a mass from the telephone line outside and swirled into the grey sky, feathered bodies reflected in the puddles of rainwater laying on the pavement.  There was a sign on the wall behind a potted plant that said “We care more about compassion and protecting your physical and spiritual health than we do about making a profit” and it was as if they didn’t need to advertise it, they just needed to affirm it, somewhere, commit it to the visual world in case someone bothers to look closely,

which is how i feel about the tattoo on the back of my neck, which says

basic goodness

and is usually covered by my collar and my hair.

:like a declaration of compassion tucked behind the leaves of a potted plant,  like the reflection of birds swirling into a grey sky in a puddle of rainwater on the pavement, like the momentary connection between that woman and our small son


to the utter brilliance of the present moment






Filed under autumn weather, basic goodness, community, Dharma, facing east, Family, Food, gathering, gratitude, love, meditation, memory, migration, on writing, Ordinary, outside, Peace, poetry, stories, watching it all go by

Annie jumped the fence this morning

Annie. Photo credit Andrea Fuentes-Diaz.

Annie jumped the fence this morning
I drove loops around our neighborhood
Staring in vain down alleys
Hoping for a flash of white
But the only sightings were plastic
grocery bags on the wind

Stopped at the park down the street
Breastfed the baby in the drivers seat
And watched a dozen ducks startle
all at once scattering from the reeds
all at once settling together,
In a unified splashdown

At the church on 14th, the readerboard says only
Jesus forgive me.
The skies are slate grey and a cold rain begins to fall sideways
Pelting the clouds of pink and white blossoms
which burst from their buds a week ago,
and are now looking sort of sheepish,
like the girl in the flashy dress who showed up early for the party.
La Nina spring, they say.

I circle around the elementary school many times,
watch parents ushering their tiny backpack-clad progeny

go home to change the baby’s diaper, and
the neighbor from the strange yellow house across the street
comes down the driveway
to breathlessly inform me Annie’s been in her chicken coop
100 yards away this whole time.
there are few survivors, she says.
she has Annie locked in her house,
and i walk across the street to reclaim her
there is no sign of chicken carnage,
i catch a glimpse of the inside of the home
it’s the sort of scene you see on tv shows about hoarders,
dim and impossibly cluttered, with only a narrow aisle to navigate.
She rushes off somewhere,
and I’m left wondering what the bill will be

a friend calls to tell me of tragic losses.
i navigate rush hour traffic to pick up the car at the mechanic in lake city
as i drive onto the Alaska Way Viaduct
the radio plays a commentary on the likelihood of a tragic viaduct collapse
the rain is unrelenting
the card won’t go through at the mechanic
and i sit on the phone with the bank
until its sorted out
transfer the carseat out of the loaner car
as sheets of rain soak through my sweater
and crawl back into rush hour traffic in the other direction to pick up Ryan

on Northgate Way, i pass a protest at Planned Parenthood
women holding aborted fetus posters in the downpour
across the street a bedraggled man holds a damp sign
that says only
I need help.
I want to support his campaign but he’s on the wrong
side of the street

my husband and I drive back across town
to attend our weekly class on karma and the 12 Links of Inderdependent Origination
the baby crawls among the class participants,
making new sounds and playing everyone’s water bottles
and I stare through the big windows
at cherry blossoms hovering in the dark
thinking about effect
and cause


Filed under Assata and Annie, basic goodness, Dharma, stories, watching it all go by

Genuine Heart of Sadness

for Kevin.

driving through the dustygold wheatfields of Eastern WA
i imagine you at the age of 15,
standing somewhere in Idaho, with friends
already you;
long, exquisite, and articulate
with so many questions.

Did you imagine the life you have Now?
high-powered career, life in Manhattan, fresh strawberries, fabulous hats, lovers,
your picture in the Style Section of the NYT, discovered by adoring friends on the opposite coast…

My wondering about Younger You is interrupted
by the sight of a partially decomposed deer carcass
in the median
which makes me think of the half-deflated
shiny red heart-shaped helium balloon we passed a while back,
snagged on barbed wire
and flattened in the wind

Death and Love and Accidents

I flashback to making top ramen with you in Logan
and smoking cloves in the bomber jacket on your balcony
under that vast clear Cache Valley Wintersky
which sparkled with six million stars

the Buddhists talk about the Genuine Heart of Sadness
which i understand as a beautiful willingness to Open
to live fully in the world, acknowledging and letting in the Pain of Living
without being Imprisoned By It,
an act of courage
which enables one to experience Real Joy

it occurs to me that you embodied this idea for me
years before I learned about it in a dharma class.

the other day I found a box on the doorstep from New York
with a sexy red apron and two matching potholders
and i laughed and laughed
what better nod to the current version of Me
such delicious irony.
and an inexplicable ziplock bag of googly eyes.
to stick on the baby, or wherever.
and a letter
which i will reread now.

It made me want to write you a poem.


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Filed under artists, Dharma, love, poetry, stories

generalizations about anonymous passerby

8:27 am on a tuesday in december, cold rain and 40 degrees outside according to the car, which is where i am sitting to write because i felt a surge of inspiration at the dreary intersection of 200th and 99 after dropping Ryan off at school just now.  I was listening to Amy Goodman explain that Richard Holbrook was dead and the last thing he said to his doctor before he died was something about how we’ve “got to stop this war in Afghanistan.”

I was waiting for the light to change, thinking about that, and watching two men in pseudo-cop gear waiting to cross the street.  One was heavyset and the other ordinary, I guess, both Caucasian, both looking pretty certain of their uniformed authority. I strained my eyes to read the white lettering on the back of their jackets but couldn’t.  Decided they were probably Metro rent-a-cops, based on their resemblance to Ryan’s description of ones he’s seen on the buses in that area. I wondered if they were escorting the middle-aged Latina woman who was waiting to cross the street next to them.  She was wearing a warm coat and carrying her purse and I wondered if they had decided to apprehend her because they felt like enforcing law and order on the buses and her transfer was too crumpled and maybe now she would be late to work or worse discovered not to have the Right Sort of “Papers” and thus deported and I seethed at the possibility, even tho I knew it was unlikely that was what was happening in front of me. I knew beyond a doubt that something like that was happening somewhere though. That sort of thing happens every day.

The light changed and I drove thru the intersection and down the hill past the federal prison, and I glanced at the woman and man on the landing by the entrance. In the split-second I had to observe them as I drove past I noticed he looked like a guard and she was wearing heels and a skirt, and I decided she was not someone waiting to visit her boyfriend but probably a lawyer and i realized that if she hadn’t been white and dressed the way she was i would have maybe concluded differently.

But this is what we do…. move thru the world every day making generalizations and assumptions about anonymous passerby based on our prejudices and our prior knowledge and our opinions about the power structures of the society we inhabit.

Ask me and I’ll tell you the judgmental heavily prejudiced assumptive story I composed about the white women at Starbucks this morning that i told my husband to hurry up and get in line in front of when i saw them getting out of their newish SUV… because women like that almost certainly order complicated drinks and they are clearly more privileged than us based on their car and their comportment and after all I am on my way to drop my husband off to teach children growing up in poverty and that is manifestly more important than whatever those women are planning on doing today with their designer handbags and their heavy makeup.

I’ve got another story about “Paul the Plumber” whose van I saw pulled up at the “sexy espresso” stand near the airport that we passed a few minutes later. Paul is a nice enough guy who thinks there’s nothing wrong with getting his coffee from an eighteen-year-old girl in a negligee who’s the same age as the daughter who he’s trying to put through college but that’s different and its no one’s business but his and he tipped her a dollar after all and he’s got a long day of dirty unpleasant work to do and he’s entitled to this small pleasure, right?

I’ve also concocted a story about the girl working in the espresso stand who i can’t even see from my car who’s probably also hoping to get through college and who surely doesn’t understand the larger gender-class-power structures that invisibly enshroud her as she shivers in a negligee in a drive-thru coffeestand steaming milk for the 1.99$ mochas of the working class folks who drive this road or maybe she feels empowered and liberated by making this kind of money and she’s majoring in feminist lit, who knows, I sure don’t but I pretend to myself I do, and it only takes me milliseconds to spin out my narrative about these anonymous people as I pass by.

It occurs to me, (sitting here in a parking lot a little while later, writing in my journal with the engine running because the baby is asleep and i don’t want to wake him before i’m done writing) that i make up these kinds of stories a hundred times a day, based on my assumptions and my prior knowledge and my prejudices, and that I am no better or worse than anyone else.

But I’m going to try and pay closer attention. Catch myself in the act.


Filed under basic goodness, blue collar, coexistence, community, culture.society.anthropology., Dharma, fathoming, meditation, memory, motherhood, Ordinary, stories

Sloppy Joes. (or: a maternal symphony in eight parts)

Coming home from dharma class at ten o’clock,
after dropping Ryan off to meet a friend,
i am ravenously hungry
Pull into the driveway, thinking only of putting food in my stomach.
the dogs must have time in the yard.
I watch them, because Annie is prone to wandering off.
It is cool, damp, and dark. I notice the outline of the sunflowers in the quiet.
the sleeping boy must be extricated from his carseat.
he wakes, and cries.
I notice the cold of the laundry room as I enter the house,
carrying him without his jacket.
I ransack the house for a pacifier. Diaper bag, kitchen, bathroom, changing table, livingroom, writing desk.
notice things everywhere i go, but no pacifier.
stop to notice myself stretched out on our bed,
rooting through the sheets while he screams.
Locate pacifier under a pillow.
Grab at it, and it falls to the floor under the bed.
extricate it, suck it clean in my own mouth, and offer it to him.
He refuses to be pacified.
I sit in the rocking chair and open my shirt. Notice the way he latches on
as if he and I are magnets.
Rock slowly while he eats his fill. Listen to the dogs drink water.
Listen to the quiet that fills the house after.
Set the baby in his bouncy chair.
Step back tentatively, waiting for him to cry.
He doesn’t.
I scramble to prepare food for myself in the lull.
Think: simple. simple. Simple. quick.
The fridge is full of simple things I don’t want.
I end up heating up a can of kidney beans.
Stare at them in the pan, and add some chopped onion.
Realize there are chickpeas and lentils in the fridge that need to be eaten.
Add them.
Realize I have no idea what I’m doing.
Add garlic and “southwestern spices”
return to the fridge,
now compelled to use things that are already open.
add some spicy soy ground beef I find
notice the tomatoes ripening on the windowsill.
decide to save them for something special, and
add a can of tomato paste.
realize I have made sloppy joes,
after a fashion.
find this so hilarious I rush to write it all down before the boy is no longer content.
Realize I’ve been writing for 30 minutes and the heat is still on under the skillet.
i’ve burned it but good.
Laugh at myself. The baby laughs with me.
Then cries.

the tomatoes I saved for something special. (tomato art inspired by Maggie)

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Filed under Dharma, Food, motherhood, Ordinary, poetry

all at once

i am driving crosstown on a late September Seattle Saturday
there is only one cloud in the placid bluesky;
a long white wisp clinging to the summit of Rainier

in traffic on the West Seattle bridge, I notice a plane towing a banner
it is difficult to read
and i see other drivers craning their necks upward
is it a marriage proposal? an advertisement?
finally, i make it out.
“WHO CAN HELP?” it asks
the answer is printed too small to read.
i wonder if it is a rhetorical question,
or if someone simply planned their banner poorly.

at 14th and Dearborn,
I sit at a traffic light and watch two homeless men
one is shirtless, well-built and very aggravated
he shouts unintelligibly,
lunges at the other man in sudden, abrupt movements,
arms darting out from his sides
in a way i associate with methamphetamines
his adversary is smaller, quieter, and carries a backpack
the light is long,
and they advance and retreat on each other like animals
fighting over territory*
(*I second-guess this simile a dozen times.
am I trading in on their humanity for the sake of a satisfying metaphor?
i am worried for the smaller man
he is less angry, but unwilling to back down
other homeless men look on,
their faces tell the story of a thousand altercations
the experience of knowing better than to get involved
i wonder if the cops would even show
and if they did,
would their actions be called “helping”

a few weeks ago, I heard a man relate
that his work with the incarcerated has led him to the observation
that since the shootings of police officers last year
cops are more rigid
more likely to throw a homeless person in jail for urinating in public
than to help them find the services they need.
we get hurt, he mused, and we become tighter.

ravens swoop over the intersection
one carrying a piece of bread
the light changes
i drive on

a few minutes later i am sitting in soft grass
breastfeeding in the warm sun beside the car
waiting for my husband
C eats with calm, focused intensity
two gulps
then a breath
two gulps
then a breath
i am thinking about my dharma homework for the week

“is there anything that does not change?”

as i struggle to come up with more than a yes/no answer
i wonder if the cloud has drifted off the mountain
if the plane is still circling the city with its inscrutable banner
if the men are still arguing on 14th and Dearborn
if the ravens have finished the scrap of bread
i look down and realize my son will never be this small again

perhaps the only thing that does not change
is the capacity of the world to contain every emotion
every kind of experience
in every single moment
of every single day.

so much beauty
so much confusion
so much anger
so much love

all at once
if only we are paying attention.

getting started on a fall hat for a friend while Ryan paints the laundry room and lil' C kicks it in the bouncy chair. photo by Andrea Fuentes-Diaz.


Filed under autumn weather, Change, Dharma, motherhood, Ordinary, poetry, september in seattle, watching it all go by

a laundry list of inspiring bits.

Travels with Owl, a new blog from Samantha Claire…

There are days when OWL naps beautifully, his mouth relaxingly puckered in sleep as he ghost-feeds, perfect child’s pose.  I shower.  I meditate.  Wash the remaining breakfast dishes.  He awakens in giggles and I find him surrounded by books he’s pulled off the shelf that’s bolted to the wall of his walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom.  We walk slowly & deliberately to the grocery store, cook dinner, and dance to Leonard Cohen or Dolly Parton, his tiny feet on my mine as we move slowly & deliberately, mindfully & with love.  We hike & camp.  Ride the buses & trains.  He loads the dryer while I fish for quarters.  He says noodle and turtle and thank you.  And it really cannot get any better that.

Pearl Nelson, a Mississippi White Trash Girl, a collection of poetry and musings from Pearl Nelson….

(from “Walking in the dark around the pond”)

I wonder aloud if the raccoons and deer
and all the other song-less creatures
wish everyone would just shut up.
Not me. I especially love the frogs
who bleat like newborn lambs.
and the old grandmother crickets with
rusty worn out summer voices. And you
when you tell me about your day.

Turning the Mind into an Ally, a book by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

What we call ‘war’ is a series of calamities arising from beliefs and opinions, which are always subject to change. What we call ‘peace’ is the absence of aggression, a tenuous state. When it is winter, summer no longer exists. We organize our life around the concept of a solid self in a solid world, even though all of it is simply ideas and forms coming in and out of existence, like thousands of stars flickering in the night. … Contemplating impermanence can be a liberating experience, one that brings both sobriety and joy. In essence, we become less attached. We realize we can’t really have anything. We have money and then its gone; we have sadness and then its gone. No matter how we want to cling to our loved ones, by nature every relationship is a meeting and a parting. This doesn’t mean we have less love. It means we have less fixation, less pain. …We’ve learned to look at what’s in front of us. 149-50.

From my garden

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Filed under art, artists, autumn weather, basic goodness, Change, Dharma, Garden, gratitude, Laundry List of Inspiring Bits, love, meditation, Ordinary, outside, Peace, photographs, poetry, Poets, Shambhala Buddhism, watching it all go by