The Written Word

I had “high tea” with an old friend, a man, yesterday. We met at the local art gallery. We were pleased at the presentation of our two unique pots of tea with matching cups on coasters set on a tea tray with a mini pitcher of agave for sweetening our Masala chai’s. He had the black tea version while I had the rooibos (not caffeinated) version. The presentation elevated the art of sipping tea. We felt special. And the whole thing evoked a conversation about an acquaintance of his, a potter in Sebastopol, who at some point in his career visited Japan and returned with the inspiration for a whole new line of pottery with a Japanese aesthetic.

Conversations are funny animals…they start in one place and then wriggle into another entirely different arena. I mentioned that I had begun clearing clutter once again. Not exactly clutter, but I had ripped several pages from a journal dated 2020, not that long ago. I quickly found that on each page was something about which I became curious. This led me to investigate further online, to inquire into why I had thought something was important enough to write down in the first place.

Sorting through my written words, reading them before I decide to discard them or not, certainly stalls the clearing process. There on the same page is a reminder to buy applesauce with a notation of the Werner Herzog film “Where the Green Ants Dream.” I did rent and watch that film and found it to be insightful and sad. But I hadn’t seen the other film, “Neither Wolf nor Dog.” I added it to my list of films to watch.

Then, there were notes from a Permaculture group that I had met with briefly, before Covid. I can let those pages go for now. Then the reminder to “Do something for someone else”– always a good idea. And then to “dress wild.” I wonder if I was feeling too conservative and hemmed in by inner and outer strictures at the time. I don’t think that one took–maybe I added some brighter colors to my wardrobe. Lists that were fulfilled…or not. Tomato plants, applesauce again, reminder to buy a birthday card and book on meditation for one of my daughters. And to call my oldest brother to see if he remembers “the old man” in the neighborhood when we were kids.

As a woman of the age that I am, I wondered on paper about what my job description is these days. Is there an affirmation that I need that might propel me forward in my life…a way to live that is fulfilling to me and helpful to others…I wondered. I added books from my notes to my books-to-read list. And there they were, the directions on how to make a face mask. I pondered in pen if there was a group that embodied artists for social change.

My friend and I duly noted how one can get diverted so easily from an initial task and end up pursuing another direction. How could I resist following the note to listen to an interview by Frederik Skavlan, (a prominent Norwegian TV host, journalist and cartoonist) with Leonard Cohen and his then partner, Anjani Thomas? I told my friend that I’d send him the link to the interview which was quite good. And a link to Pearl, a once-upon-a-time Mount Shasta spiritual icon. In her very late years, there she was reciting a poem about aging and she broke down and cried towards the end of her recitation.

My friend said that when he and his elder men companions meet at another cafĂ© daily, they discuss what it means to them to be aging. And they comment how they no longer “fit” in this world. And, he also said that they talk about getting rid of stuff. He might pick up something that he either received as a gift or purchased on a whim at one time. He has had it for say ten years or more. It has no particular use other than being novel. He dusts it off, studies it and decides he can’t part with it yet.

I tell my friend that Al Gore was also on the stage in the interview with Leonard Cohen. Cohen had said something like “It’s only catastrophe that encourages people to change.” Al Gore begged to differ on that point…he believes that we are at a critical time on this planet. And that “A course correction is urgent and indicated.” And that we need to employ our foresight to change that course. Hindsight is a luxury that we don’t have in this case.

Later on in the day I listened to four young Norwegian men singing Hallelujah…one of Leonard Cohen’s songs that has global appeal. I find it difficult to easily part with the written word. It takes me down so many tunnels. Enjoy your day.

Doing Your “Ministry”

Last week, I watched the film, Hallelujah, about the life of Leonard Cohen and the journey of the song that he wrote, Hallelujah. A documentary, I was drawn quickly into the film. The soulful closeups of Cohen were mesmerizing. His deep bass voice seemed to touch a chord that my whole body responded to. And the words, his words are soulful. When I left the theater, the thought that rang true was
“He was doing his ministry.”

There was a period of five years when Cohen lived in a Buddhist Monastery. It was during the end of that period that he discovered that his manager had embezzled most of his money and sold the publishing rights to his songs. This forced Cohen out of retirement to recoup his losses. Those last years of touring around the world to sell-out crowds, in my estimation, brought out the quintessential minister/entertainer that he was. There was an added profundity, humor and presence to his performances. The audiences responded to his charisma.

All of this to wonder…how do I do my ministry? How do you do your ministry? What does that look like? In previous blogs, I’ve written about my Conversations with Daniel…a man with whom I had extensive intimate conversations about male/female relationships. For three months, we met weekly. I recorded our conversations and gave him a copy of the recording to review before the next meeting. The intention, was that we could witness how we communicated as a man and a woman in conversation.

Daniel quickly established himself as the teacher and that left me in the role of the student. However, in reviewing the recordings, he witnessed his ways of dominating the conversations. He made his best effort at being less imposing. He also had a lot of knowledge, wisdom and passion and a strong desire to impart that. It was challenging for him not to interrupt and insert himself frequently. Towards the last of our twelve weeks of conversations, I noted that I was doing at least an equal amount of talking and there seemed to be more of a balance.

Daniel passed away yesterday, suddenly. I got the news last night by telephone from an acquaintance. It was like dropping a mini-bomb in the midst of my bumpy life. Today, the day after, I can’t quite believe it. I was listening to one of our recordings last week. I put his name on my to-do list “Call Daniel!” I got so busy preparing for an upcoming art exhibit that I didn’t call him. And then the finality of the news, the phone call– “I’ve got some sad news. Daniel died.” The shock and immediate protest on my part. “No!” I wanted to turn back the hands of time by even one day so that I could call him without hesitation and without an excuse.

The reason I bring Daniel into this is that he was doing his ministry. His life was his ministry. His journey and sharing it with others was his proclamation. “I’m here!”
In the last ten to fifteen years, Daniel became a quieter man, following a spiritual teacher and doing a daily meditation. He was himself always, through his various stages of evolution. He was a poet, a writer, an actor, a friend. And likely more that I don’t know. His lived life was his ministry.

I sometimes collect quotes. This one appeared in my paper pile yesterday:

“I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you,
and that you will work with these stories from your life–
your life–not someone else’s life–water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.
That is the work, The only work.”

author unknown

This quote reminded me what a ministry might look like. Being you is your only purpose and a brilliant one at that.

I dedicate this post to my friend, Daniel.