The hackberry that wouldn’t stop.

I went to eat at a tiny Persian restaurant in Nashville about two years ago. There was a chain-link fence that surrounded the parking lot. The restaurant was in a former house, so I suspect this was the original fence that marked the back yard. There were three hackberry trees that had grown up around the fence.

Nobody notices hackberry trees. They are weeds. They aren’t that pretty. The bark is bumpy and scratchy and terrible for climbing. The leaves are tiny and don’t turn any color other than brown when fall comes. The berries aren’t for eating unless you are a bird.

But hackberry trees have a lot to teach us about perseverance. They quietly grew. They get taller. These three trees grew closer to the fence. And then they grew around the fence. They didn’t push it aside. They just enveloped it. Year by year, millimeter by millimeter, they wrapped around the fence, becoming part of the fence.



10 o’clock on a Tuesday

We get a lot of people who are drunk at the library. Back when we opened at 9:30, it was very common that we’d see them at 10 on a Tuesday morning. Now that we open at ten there isn’t a set time. They come whenever. Early morning, late afternoon, evening. Any day. Why it was 10 on a Tuesday before is anybody’s guess.

They are so far into their cups that they smell of alcohol all the time. Even if they aren’t currently inebriated, they have been enough so over the course of the last month (or year) that the poison is coming out of their pores. You can smell it in their sweat. You can smell it when they exhale.

It is one reason why I dislike summer at the library. You can smell it more. In the summer, people sweat more. In the winter, even if they sweat they will often wear a coat and that provides a shield of sorts.

It is a reason I like the fact that the counter is as deep as it is. I’ve got a good 2 feet of Corian between me and them. But then I’d rather smell body odor than smell most perfumes. Body odor doesn’t trigger my asthma.

People who smell of alcohol almost always get videos. They will get the maximum number of videos as often as possible. Some come in every few days, turn in ten videos, and then get ten more. Just movies and TV shows – no documentaries. Nothing educational. I’ve only noticed one person get books who is inebriated.

I don’t know what any of this means. I just know that it is so common that it is cliché now.

I suspect there are many other people who have substance abuse issues who come into the library. I suspect they are better at hiding it. There is something about alcohol that it really smells when it comes out of the body. Sure, I can smell the people who smoke really cheap cigarettes, and those who reek of pot.

Alcohol and DVDS seem to go hand in hand. It is so cliché that if I see someone who only gets movies, and gets the maximum allowed several times a week, I wait to see if they come in with any signs of drinking.

What causes what? Is the drinking first, or the excessive movie watching? Are both symptoms of the same thing?

Quotes from my phone

There is nothing original here. These are quotes that I’d saved as screen captures on my phone. I realized recently that I had way too many pictures so I’ve been culling them. I’ve gone through and typed up all the quotes/ideas/words that I had saved, so here they are.

“People are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world your best and it may not be enough. Give your best anyway. In the end it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” – Mother Teresa

The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.

“Salvation is not about what happens after we die, but what begins whenever we realize God Loves us.” – from “If God is Love” – by Philip Gulley

“The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.” – Thich Nhat Han

The Jewish notion of the Lamed Vavnik – that there are always 36 people standing up for justice.

The word “afflatus” – it is used in the literal form of inspiration. It is the “staggering and sudden blow of a new idea, and idea that the recipient may be unable to explain.”

“Take a moment before a meal to reflect on the work and the wonder, involve in the process that brings food from the earth to your table in order to eat it with both more pleasure and more consciousness. Whether you actually say grace out loud or simply reflect in silence on this everyday miracle, the practice fosters more mindful eating. And mindfulness helps us to eat more slowly and more sanely. “This meal is the labor of countless beings,” goes one Zen blessing offered before eating. “Let us remember their toil.” – – unknown book of blessings.

“There’s force in the universe, which, if we permit it, will flow through us and produce miraculous results.” – Gandhi.

“Everybody talks about leaving a better planet for the children. Why does nobody try to leave better children for the planet?” – Facebook meme.

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

“We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.” – Lao Tzu

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Every day is a good day to celebrate.” – seen on a reusable shopping bag from Publix

“When you give Gratitude for everything that comes in life, even trouble – magic opens up.” – Amma

“We all have different faces, characters and names. If God wanted us to be all the same, He would have done it. Not to respect the differences, to accuse the others for our faults is not to respect God.” – Shams Tabrizi

“Rastas say that Jah, in the form of the Holy Spirit (incarnate) lives within the human, and for this reason they often refer to themselves as “I and I”. Furthermore, “I and I” is used instead of “We”, and is used in this way to emphasize the equality between all people, in the belief that the Holy Spirit within all people makes the essentially one and the same.” – Wikipedia article on Rastafarianism, and the word “Jah” as a name for God.

“What hurts you, blesses you. Darkness is your candle.” – Rumi

“Whatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair. Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows. You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path. Be grateful! It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want, thank before having what you want.” – Shams Tabrizi
“The darker the night, the brighter the stars. The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.” –Rumi

“Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity” – seen on a FB meme.

“We are all connected; to each other biologically. To the earth chemically. To the rest of the universe, atomically.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“There are more fake guides, teachers in the world than stars. The real guide is the one who makes you see your inner beauty, not the one who wants to be admired and followed.” – Shams Tabrizi

“Countless paths / lead to the mountain’s summit / yet from it / the same moon shines / over the land.” – Ikkyu

“All God’s angels come to us disguised.” – James Russell Lowell

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

“…the total combined weight of human beings on Earth now exceeds 287 million tons. A third of that global human biomass exists in North America, although we account for only 6 percent of the world’s population.” – from the New York Times Well Blog (the blog used the term “voluntary physical inactivity” to explain why North Americans are so huge)

“The best time to plant a tree was always 20 years ago. The second best time is always today.” – Old Chinese Saying.

“I free myself from hatred through forgiveness and love. I understand that suffering, when it cannot be avoided, is here to help me on my way to glory. I understand that everything is connected, that all roads meet, and that all rivers flow into the same sea.” – Paulo Coelho (from “Aleph”)

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anais Nin

“Your way begins on the other side. Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape. Walk out like someone suddenly born into color.” – Rumi

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

“I said – what about my eyes? God said Keep them on the road. I said –what about my passion? God said Keep it burning. I said –what about my heart? God said Tell me what do you hold inside it? I said –pain and sorrow? He said…Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” – Rumi.

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.” – Matsuo Basho

“There is a simple way to become buddha: when you refrain from unwholesome actions, are not attached to birth and death, and are compassionate toward all sentient beings, respectful to seniors and kind to juniors, not excluding or desiring anything, with no desiring thoughts or worries, you will be called a buddha. Do not seek anything else.” – Dogen Zenji

“Water which is too pure has no fish.” – Ts’ai Ken T’an

Phrases to use with people who are recovering. – I love you. I’m here for you. Is there anything I can do?
Phrases to use with caution (may be not taken well) – Everything is going to be OK. I know how you’re feeling. You’re in my prayers.
Phrases to never use – I know someone who died of that same health condition. How did this happen?

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” – Rumi

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lifves are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

“I am grateful for all my problems. After each one was overcome, I became stronger and more able to meet those that were still to come. I grew in all my difficulties.” – James Cash (J.C.) Penney

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis

“Know then that the body is merely a garment. Go see the wearer, not the cloak.” – Rumi

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” – Mark Twain

“To change the world is not your mission. To change yourself Is not your duty. To awaken to your true nature is your opportunity.” – Mooji

“Watch over those who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends on each other’s toil” – BCP

“No one wishes to be ‘rescued’ with someone else’s beliefs. Remember your task is not to convert anyone to anything, but to help the person in front of you get in touch with his or her own strength, confidence, faith, and spirituality, whatever that might be.” – The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Kintsukuroi – “to repair with gold” – the art of repairing pottery with gold or silver laquer and understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken.

“To be scientifically literate is to empower yourself to know when someone else is full of bullshit.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Keep silence, be mute; if you have not yet become the tongue of God, be an ear.” – Rumi

“Where there is anger, there is always pain underneath.” – Eckhart Tolle

Fane – from the Latin “fanum” – temple, place dedicated to a deity.

“When superior people hear of the Way, they travel it diligently. When mediocre people hear of the Way, they seem aware, yet are as if oblivious. When lesser people here of the Way, they laugh at it out loud. What they don’t laugh at couldn’t be the Way.” – Lao Tzu

“The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.” – Dalai Lama

“The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.” – from Sherwood Anderson’s letter of advice on art and life to his teenage son.

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasure of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave that you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave that was so dreaded has become the center.” – Joseph Campbell

“Happiness follows sorrow, sorrow follows happiness, but when one no longer discriminates happiness and sorrow, a good deed and a bad deed, one is able to realize freedom.” – Buddha

“When I say ‘Be yourself,” I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who’s scrambling and finagling and conspiring to relieve your fellow messiahs from their suffering and shower them with rowdy blessings of laughter.” – Bob Brezny

“Hekau is the Medu Neter (Ancient Egyptian) term meaning “words of power”. It comes from the idea of creation by words.” – from a blog called Hekau

“The way other people practiced a sport, learned a dance, I sat with feelings to learn who I am.” – S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma

Namaste – (Sanskrit) – my soul recognizes your soul, I honor the light, love, beauty, truth and kindness within you because it is also within me. In sharing these things there is not distance and no difference between us, we are the same, we are one.

“The arets are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” – Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

“Reexamine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul.” – Walt Whitman

We are in training.

We are in training. Everything that happens to us strengthens us. We can see it as a test and a trial, or as training. When we work out, our muscles are sore. We hurt. But then the muscles get stronger from the exercise and we get stronger. We can handle more next time.

The same is true of personal tests. When someone hurts us, we can get knocked down or we can see it as training. We can get stronger. Just like with muscles, we have to rest first. We don’t get stronger right away. And it hurts at first. But then we become able to handle more, and handle it better.

Look at gymnasts. They train all the time and they are able to do amazing feats. They perform what appear to be superhuman feats of agility. It is only from years of work that they can do this. They have amazing muscles, and amazing reflexes. They have trained hard.

Sadly, emotional training isn’t that easy. There isn’t a school for it. You have a harder time seeing when you have slipped and you did it wrong. But it is still important. Perhaps it is more important.

Who cares if you can walk the balance beam, if you can’t handle your own emotions? It matters more if your life is out of balance.

I have chosen to see every problem as something that will strengthen me, rather than destroy me. Perhaps I’m all about the lemonade rather than the lemons.

It would be easier to be angry and upset. It is simpler. But seeing it as a way to get stronger makes me feel better. Getting angry doesn’t do me any good at all. So ultimately I’m doing this for myself.

At one point I realized that I was praying a lot while things seemed to be falling apart around me. So I decided to give thanks for the things falling apart. They reminded me to connect with God. When things go well I tend to lose that connection.

Perhaps that is part of why things fall apart. I forgot to keep that connection open.

So I decided to be thankful. It was a reminder, this trial, this test, whatever it is. It told me to put my focus on God. It reminded me that I don’t have the big picture – God does. If I’m going to say with my words that God is in charge of everything, and that God wants nothing but good, then I have to let God be in charge.

I have to live like I mean those words. I have to remember that when things don’t go my way, that is good, because they are always going God’s way.

Give thanks in all things, and know that God is in charge.

When is a Frog?

At what point is a frog a frog? When does it stop being a tadpole and become a frog? When it breathes air? When it no longer has a tail? When it has all four legs?

(unknown photo credit)

I tell you, the frog was always a frog. Even before it was a tadpole. Even before then.

It is we who give it names, that limit when it is one thing and another. It doesn’t have names for itself. It just swims. It hops when it can. It breathes water, then air. It just is.

We have rules about what is and what is not, we humans. We are male, or female – until we aren’t. When a child is born that isn’t of one particular gender, the child is “intersexed” or “of ambiguous gender”. We don’t know what to call such a child – She? He? We don’t have a word for both and neither, yet the reality is there.

It doesn’t matter that we don’t have a word for that particular reality. The reality is still just as real. It is like a platypus. Is it a mammal, because it has fur? Or is it a bird, because it lays eggs? It is both. And neither. And something else.

Our words don’t shape reality. Reality shapes our words. Reality keeps on being, and we keep on trying to describe it, and we keep failing.

There is a Zen saying – “What did your face look like before your parents were born?”

Words are the same. What would a frog be if we weren’t there to call it a frog?