Category Archives: retirement

Coffee with the Goddess

Backyard goddess & me

This retiree had a few hours this morning before she snapped into action in the outside world. So I took my cup of coffee to the Goddess in my backyard.

Although I have researched, I have never found who She is. Janice and I bought her in Kentucky (of all places!) on our way home from Red River Gorge back in the ’90’s. Over the decades, she has shrunk–no, not osteoporosis but her body broke off from her base so she lost twelve inches. Short like me. And for a time it seemed that many of my goddess statues, mostly small ones, lost their heads. I took it as a clear sign to ‘get out of my head’ and not overthink so much.

So my Backyard Goddess lost her head in a move one time and got super-glued back together. One inspired time I added a glittery necklace and it now (mostly) hides the damage as it decorates.

I leave a plastic yard chair out there in front of Her and the circle of rocks. Symbolic. Not used often. But this morning, with the air crisp as autumn and this mortal rising earlier than usual, I sat in the chair.

In our brief time together, here were Her messages for me: “Well, hello there!”/”Better to drink green tea, my dear.”/”Shouldn’t you be writing?”/”Nice to see you again, even if briefly.”

Of course, She is right about all these as goddesses tend to be. But as I returned to the house and my schedule noted on my calendar, I remembered that I’m a goddess, too.

when the Buddha’s head disappears

As I walked to feed the birds these past ten days, I noticed how everything looks in the snow. Today is the third snowstorm SW Ohio has had in a short period of time. Lucky me, I’m retired though an active retiree. The first part of 2010 has seen me with less structure than I’m accustomed to.

So I have time to look. Yesterday, I chanted in front of the fireplace; afterward, just sat watching the flames. In the winter, it’s not the creek that’s the focus but logs burning into nothingness. Recently the ice and snow have captured my attention.

I have a small Buddha statue in my side yard. For most of the years I’ve lived here, I had him under what I call my “leaning tree.” This is a small pine that is close enough to my side window that I can watch the natural activity from my desk. I’ve made a commitment each winter to feed the birds. Sometime last year, I felt it was time for the Buddha to have a new view. I decided he should face west so I moved him several yards from the tree to sit under that window. Now he can watch the birds instead of being knocked down by the squirrels.

The second snow storm in this series, I noticed he was up to his head in snow. In a moment of compassion, I brushed several inches of snow off so at least he could watch his birds. This morning, the Buddha was gone. Disappeared. He was in a snow drift of his own.

Isn’t this what it’s about, anyway? Losing your head isn’t such a bad thing. For me, it’s usually been a good idea. Although I’ve been considered smart all my life, my mind has been my biggest tormentor. That is who tells me negative things about myself, assaults me with shoulds, and too often keeps that general worry current going. When I get a message from a statue, I take it seriously. As I sloshed past that window, I acknowledged, “the Buddha’s head has disappeared.” This my snow koan of the season.

winter

Although it’s not Winter Solstice for a few days, you could fool me. I was as excited as a kid to wake up and see the snow. Where I live there are lots of trees. There is a woods behind me and several trees on two sides. Only from the front window do I see a road and a neighbor’s house. The branches on these trees look glorious. That’s a word I don’t use too often. An online dictionary tells me glorious means “characterized by great beauty and splendor.” Yes.

I am not quite a monk but almost. The writing class I was taking and the one I was teaching are over now. All week I have gone out only twice — once to deliver meals and once to get dog bones and wrapping paper. Most of my days consisted of reading, writing, meditation, and keeping up with the outside world through my laptop. It’s hard to be in silence when you live with three dogs. They are spoiled Western dogs but you’d think they were starving on the street the way they act sometimes. Still, they calm down eventually and sometimes I do, too, enough to chant OOOOOOOMMMMMMMM. I like it especially when I awake before it’s light outside. Granted, sometimes I carry my first cup of coffee into my Meditation Room.

I have come to the conclusion lately that I’ve been too hard on myself. If I don’t leap out of bed, eager for an early morning meditation, I’ve failed. I set near impossible standards for myself. I also realize how much I worry about . . . well, lots: money, the future. I find it hard to stay in the present although being retired, I “have” more time to try. I worry about Mr. G with his bladder cancer; he has moved to Pennsylvania in a retirement village close to his son. At 88, he will have to decide whether to risk bladder surgery or “just” do the radiation and chemotherapy. I call him every Friday when I deliver meals and he’s not there. I am a codependent bodhisattva — yet isn’t codependence part of the personality trait of someone who vows to save the world?

I’ve become excruciatingly aware of my Witness and my ego/self. Guess it’s a natural evolution of my life right now. I’ll just keep watching and listening and occasionally I’ll share some of my life here.

Being Awake to Changes

Last week, the New Media Circle of Women Writing for (a) Change recorded our own podcast! We shared pieces we had written to the topic “Being Awake to Changes — in our life, at Women Writing for (a) Change, or the world.”

To hear this podcast, visit www.http://podcast.womenwriting.org/

These sort of assignments with deadlines force me to face the laptop screen. I began with an urge to look out the window where I witnessed a squirrel savoring the sweetness of a walnut. S/he had paused from gathering food for the winter to enjoy a taste, take a moment to savor. From the Old French savour, from Latin, saporem “taste, flavor,” savor is a word that transcends literal eating. As examples, I savor my time with this podcasting group and I savor the writing classes I take or teach with this organization that is “so much more than a writing school.”

Something about Fall makes me more reflective than usual. I look at how active my retired life is and have only myself to blame (or credit). Lately I have felt I must take a firm look at all my commitments and set some boundaries. An example: a new friend asking me to go see the film about Amelia Earhart. I didn’t have a time all week that would work. There is something wrong here! (And you might well remark that, if this is my biggest problem late October, my life is good! And you’d be right!)

So I swear I will take the lesson from the squirrel and make time to savor fall, my animal companions, friends, and life in the upcoming months. Perhaps there’s a lesson here for all my readers. Remember the squirrel!

productivity & frustration / poem 78

OK, I know most of you won’t feel sorry for a young retiree having a busy day today. I pat myself on the back for taking care of odious errands — dental appointment and oil change. These two tasks have been on my list for a long time. There is something freeing about erasing them from both my literal kitchen counter list and my muddled mental one. I followed these up with more pleasant errands like a hair cut, a nutritious smoothie for lunch, a quick ATM stop, and a gratifying elliptical session at the Y.

So it was with consternation that I got home and DIDN’T HAVE MY INTERNET. Yes, I would give up many things — tv, Netflix, and even food, if necessary, to have my wireless connection. Actually, this morning before I left I was able to hop on a neighbor’s wireless to read a few important emails. But when I returned home after a five hour day, I was irritated that I couldn’t check my email. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit: I am addicted. My answer to this is: there are so much worse addictions out there. I don’t want to hear it!

My phone sessions with the Time Warner people began nicely enough but customer service broke down for me when I had to tell the third representative the last four digits of my Social Security number. After talking to two tech people, they finally admitted there was a problem with my cable modem (I knew that). Now I must wait until Sunday to have a house visit (at least they do house visits). I’ll have to lock the dogs up; last time, my shepherd jumped the cable guy when he went into a room to check something after I’d been assured he wouldn’t have to come into the house.

I am now in my neighborhood library branch with my laptop. Fortunately, I could hop on its Cincinnati Bell wireless even though I have Time Warner. Otherwise, I would have to wait in line for the public terminals and peer through a smudged computer screen or sit next to a sexual offender. Whine. I was lucky to have my IPod with me from working out so could tune out not only small children’s voices but also the loud, but helpful, librarian on duty. I am really addicted — I can hear my own voice in my head!

Today has been an opportunity to practice all those Buddhist precepts I took nearly a decade ago: not to kill and steal for starters. Now if I can just get through the weekend without getting ‘intoxicated to the point of heedlessness’ ! I already came close to killing a cable rep with my anger but made sure to use ‘I statements’ : “I know it’s not your fault but I’m frustrated because I’ve already told two other people this same information!” All of this is to say I am being faithful to my blog and writing it early in the evening while the library is still open. Hey, these are four happy kids looking through movies for their evening entertainment. I have to admit they’re pretty cute and even behaving in the library. Maybe I could survive an evening or two without internet and catch up on those movies I have at home. After all, I know how fortunate I am to own a laptop and IPod, have a car to drive to the library branch, and be able to afford internet at home — even if it fails me every now and then.

poem

frustration can sometimes
lead to a new awareness:
things are rarely as bad as they seem.

a death at the library / in memoriam: Bob Hudzik with poem 75

A friend who works there sent me a quick email from The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County today. It was a notice to the staff about a retiree who had passed away. She has sent me a few, from time to time, and occasionally I kind of remember the person. This time, I knew.

Robert Hudzik (most of us called him Bob) was the Manager of the Films & Recordings Department for many years. Now that department no longer exists and, frankly, neither does he. Harsh? Not really. While many of us use these euphemisms such as ‘passed away,’ the truth of the matter is:  Bob Hudzik is dead.

I remember, before I retired in 2006, that Bob had been very ill with some sort of cancer, I don’t recall details. But he rallied forth and came back to work. I was glad to read — in the terse quotation of facts and dates that the Library Administration releases at times like these — that he had retired. Doing the quick math, I note that he had 2 1/2 years away from his 33 years of working at the library. I wonder how his last years were? Was he ill or did he get to enjoy the freedom and peace that retirement with a pension brings?

Bob and I didn’t know each other well. Before I got my library degree, I worked as a lowly assistant in an administrative office. I dealt mainly with department managers on behalf of their boss. Bob was always nice to me. When I think of Bob I remember the easy laugh he was quick to share. Bob and I had some things in common:  he was a poet, in fact, was published several places. He coordinated Poetry in the Garden at the library each spring. I believe Bob would be supportive of my ‘poem a day for 108 days’ experience. I remember being informed once that he and his wife had gotten bamboo floors in some rooms of their house. It seemed so chic, so interesting, so, well, Eastern. I felt a kinship with Bob — library, poetry, bamboo. It wasn’t until I read that memorials could be sent to The Animal Welfare League of Cincinnati that I realized we also shared a love of animals. You’ll be missed, Bob.

poem

this one’s for you
you love words, too
Are you writing where you are?

gratitude on a Saturday morning

All week I’d been quite busy. So when I went to bed last night, I looked forward to an extended sleep. I had nothing I had to do until Saturday night.

My bedroom window faces east so I usually can’t sleep in much when the brightness of the sun shines in on me. I awoke at 7:00 a.m. and let the dogs out in the back yard. There was a young deer in the woods across from the creek. Not a doe, but young. It was so quiet and camouflaged, I didn’t realize it was there. Only Mia’s frozen stance and upturned tail called my attention to it. It slowly climbed the steep tree-filled hill. Feeling groggy, I decided it was not really going to be the start of my day yet. I lay on the couch for a morning nap.

It felt great! So when I awoke (again) two hours later, I was refreshed. I fed the animals, made my organic decaf, and shuffled out to the garden bench. This was not an ‘official’ meditation although I could call it a ‘nature meditation.’ I spent time listening. How often do we just sit and listen? It was early enough that the mowers and weed whackers were not yet in action. All I heard were birds and an occasional car. This is one of those retirement moments I had waited for. I am very active with organizations and friends but have learned to make sure I ‘schedule’ days off. It seems ironic but it’s true: I must consciously choose to spend time alone.

I know how fortunate I am. For this day, I am grateful.

Tonight I am taking myself on an artist’s date to the May Festival. I want to hear the Verdi opera the Festival is doing. They will perform “Luisa Miller” in concert. Verdi has always been one of my favorites. So I expect that tonight’s poem will be my response to a wonderful musical evening.