Friday, July 4, 2008

My Altar Stands

My altar stands
Directly in front
Of me.
I kneel…
Feel wool harsh
Beneath bare knees.
...I k-neel…
...Feel wool harsh
...Beneath bare k-nees.
...I k-notice Ks
...Like Bill K-near:
...He too
...Is silent k-now.

I take up sandlewood beads,

Still pungent after
All these years…
Rub them together
Between prayerful palms…
...As I've been admonished
...K-not ever to do.
The sound comforts
And focusses
Mind to heart
And back again.
Slow intake of breath, now.
Makes foundation
For what's to come.


With eyes searching…
Pin-point in heart
I chant.
And chant and chant.

At first

There is intention.
Then only chanting.
...Again, I k-notice
...Bill's Kin-ear.
The SOUND of chanting
Becomes link to
Wayward thoughts
And returns
Me to myself.

Other links vie

Like forks in roads.
The many giving way
To the chosen…
Obvious in tone
And time.
...Time beckons.
...Chants want haste.
I rub beads again…
Let sound gently
Waft me back to
Vibration of chanting
In my chest.
Breath remains constant,
Flow of chant
Belies movement
Within my soul.
I chant and chant
...Told and guarded
...Give credence
...To trust-
Here lies truth
For the taking.


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Forest Primeval

Great orb of sun makes
Dapple green and yellow.
Sweet fruit swells
To unrelenting ripeness.
Pungent perfumes mix with
Rich humus odors,
Permeate air that
Hangs so heavy as to be
Almost visible.
Velvet leaves rustle
Against each other
In endless breeze-dance.
Day again becomes night
In rhythm
Of action and sleep.
Spend and renew.

This night
Relinquishes its rest
To clamour of thunder
And piercing of lightening.
This massive tree snaps
As world’s first intimation
Of matchstick.
Quick. Brittle.
Mighty tree cracks.
Crashes to ground.
Smolders with internal smoke.
This one may flame into fire.
Or it may not.
Acrid smell does not predict.

Time and time again.
Before Adam.
No ears... no sound.
No eyes... no light.
No nose... no perfume.
No hand... no touch.
No mouth... no taste.
No existence without witness.

Adam brings
Five brand new senses.
All in perfect working order.
Now all forest performs
For an audience
In celebration of its
Own existence.
But Adam is lonely.
How does he know?
Alone he does not speak.
No voice... no record.
No words... no subtleties.
No language... no connection.

Eve's arrival gives
Voice to existence.
Fusion with Life.
Observers connect, define,
Enlarge universe.
Sentient beings together



Caledon Reflections

I find myself here today
As if by chance:
Circumstances have conspired
Over the past twenty-or-so years
To bring me here to Caledon.

The first evidence
Of this conspiracy of chance:
An ad for a job.
I applied.
I got the job and
There I met Jennifer in the early months
Of her Buddhist practice.
Her chanting filled her with confidence.
Some days her not-chanting
Filled her face with tension.
As if by chance, I noticed.

The conspiracy continued with
A chance meeting
Of Mrs. Izumi on Bloor Street.
Her radiant life filled
An aura for a mile around.
As if by chance, I noticed.

I heard Jennifer chant for the
First time

On a shared trip to New York.
We wanted tickets for a play
That night.

As if by chance, we got our
First choice:

A Chorus Line.
I later learned

As if by chance, it was written
By a Buddhist
Based on district meetings
Among members
Who were young performers.

The next step
In this chance-full conspiracy
Came from my own inner longings:
A series of repetitive dreams.
In each dream I chanted
And I felt a beautiful contentment…
Only to awake to disappointment
Because I didn’t know
How to chant
In my real life.
Oh, I noticed that!
So, I asked Jennifer to teach
Me to chant.
As if by chance, we both had time
On our hands.
I practised with her each day
And, as if by chance,
My relationship with my mother
Got back on track
After years of estrangement.
Yes… I noticed.

Oh, my!
Twenty years of this conspiracy
Of chance
Have wrought great changes in my life.
Nurtured and protected by the warmth
Of my Soka friends I have stretched:

I sang for President Ikeda in Japan

And he did magic tricks
For us.

Because Veronica asked,

I wrote plays for the
Junior Pioneers
And they, grown up now,
Greet me with hugs.

At the WG General Meeting

I tap-danced for the first time
In 35 years.

Now, I’ve played drums

At Caledon
To find a renewed
Spirit of unity.
And Mrs. Izumi
Played the piano
For us.

All by chance… I know.
But now I understand
The spelling is C-H-A-N-T-S.

By chants I now know
I am Soka Gakkai.
I am kosen-rufu.

What a truly remarkable
and fortunate
Bunch of people we are!


29 June 2003

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kindness of Strangers

As I move around this city every day, whether walking or riding the TTC, I frequently encounter glorious evidence that we're all happy being human together. On Monday I saw two such instances and decided to start a new blog to mark these warm happenings.

Kindness of Strangers

This city is Toronto.
TTC is the Toronto pub trans, aka Toronto Transit Commission.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Designer Bees

In my dream...
.....Lone, luminous
.....Honey-toned stepping stone.
.....Around it buzz bees,
.....Many together as near a hive,
.....Each a different designer bee.
.....Some alight on glowing stone.
.....Others hover low and near-by
.....Buzzing a dance with purpose
.....I want to join.

Bees defy aerodynamic design
And fly fat bodies in face of
Scientifically declared impossibility,
Joyously confident of thin air's
Support for their dance.

Bee business is this buzzing dance.
A buzzing map
That points to fields filled with sweet flowers.
Movements say what buzz alone cannot:
.....I've found flowers.
.....Go this way, this far,
.....And you can find them too.

Bees, like ants, share
Loot and tell each other
Where to find it.
.....I’ve been here.
.....Where have you been?
But bees…

Bees take sweet nectar
Without disturbing flower
And manage in their process
To ensure flower’s rebirth.
Then they create
Not just fodder for their own rebirth
But ambrosia for the gods.
Ancients make mead
Imitating gods
And know they are as blessed…
By the bees.

The dream I describe has given me the metaphor for my work. Indeed, before that dream my two perfect grandsons called me Nana B. After the dream, I became Nana Bee—the change in spelling giving voice to my purpose.

My purpose is always sharing my ideas. My background includes a BA in Art and a career in graphic design that has spanned the US, Australia and Canada. My own buzzing dance involves design, poetry and even tap dancing. This is the stuff of my creative life. I offer it as mead. Let's drink together!

Excerpt from Designer Bees, Toronto, 2001

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spring's Greeter... Friend or Foe?

North Americans decry
Dandelion's ubiquitous invasion.
Japanese praise
Her unwavering tenacity.

Grown-ups call her weed,
Endeavour to eradicate.
Kids just can't wait for her
Summer seed-blowing crown.

To a person standing on a piston
The world goes up and down.
Seems a lot rests
On our point of view.

I suggest we choose
The piston or the world.

The dandelion doesn't care.
She'll be here long after
Our own seeds face distant
Yellow-topped challenges.

1 June 08

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On Becoming an Adult

While a university student,
In art guild group I met
Dr. Charles Burns,
Director of Witte Museum.
He was there because he painted.
He did art restorations
For paintings as well as pottery
And metal objets held by museum.
He wrote weekly syndicated column
About everything.
.....The opposite of Seinfeld.
He taught writing for profit.
My mother took his course.
.....And sold her stuff, too.
Dr. Burns was sixty-ish,
Always learning new things
To do and
To put into his column.
He was invited to speak
All over the country
On all his diverse interests.

At twenty-one I completed my
Bachelor's, married,
And enrolled in course in
Adolescent psychology.
.....I don't remember why...
.....Either the marriage
.....Or the psych course...
But professor presented
Paradigm of attributes
That separate adolescents
From adults:
..... Adults focus on long-term planning.
..... Adults are capable of deep intimate relationships.
..... Adults limit activities to ensure depth of participation.

I'm so glad Dr. Burns
Decided not to enter adulthood
Via that third attribute...
And that he showed me
I have choices too.
Growing up is entirely optional.

4 May 08

Thursday, April 17, 2008

First Spring Day

Not the first day of Spring
Because it's still cold then.
But the first Spring day.
A day that's warm
And Spring-like.
Today is it!

How can I tell?
First, no boots or coat.
That was last week.
Freedom from bulk.
We all transform ourselves
From looking like
Army of Michelin tire men
To showing ourselves
As men, women, boys, girls.

Today people wear short sleeves
And just plain shorts.
They jog.
Their dogs pull them faster:
Jaunty, smiling together.
And... on subway
They exude distinct
Smell of sweat.

Ah, yes.
This is the Real Thing.
We'll get busy now
Mowing, raking, planting.
Bike riding.
Picnics on the beach.
In a fortnight
We'll complain
About the heat.

17 April 08

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tacos y Mantequilla

Carmen taught my mom
How to make tacos.
For that I am
Profoundly grateful.
I was four at the time.
I still make tacos
The way Carmen
Taught my mom...
So do my son and my daughter.

Carmen was happy
When we moved next door.
Mother to seven kids
In San Benito, Texas,
She sent first six
To kindergarten to learn English
In time for school starting.
Her youngest, Juanita,
Didn't have to go.
She learned English from me.
Unfortunately I learned
Very little Spanish in return.

What I did learn
Proved effective.
Once when Juanita
Refused to play
The way I wanted her to,
I shouted Mantequilla! to her
At the top of my lungs.
Apparently she
Understood using the word
Butter as an expletive.
She acquiesced
And played my way.

That was 1947.
Today in Toronto
I work on package
For Wal-Mart in the US.
I type: B-U-T-T-E-R

I wonder if they know
I put swear words
On their little
Bilingual box?

8 Apr 08

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Happy 2008

That's me practising
My tap dancing.
The music's Sweet Georgia Brown,
Sometimes in Dixieland
But most often a simple piano solo.
I can't remember who played.
But I do remember
The steps...
And I do remember
The smells.

I tap and tap,
Change combinations
Ad infinitum.
Childhood home
Comes equipped with
Screened porch.
Perfect practice room
Away from television
And reading parents.
I crank up
That music and
Tap with all my might.

Oh, yes
I did say "Smells,"
Didn't I?

Hot summer sun is filtered
Through live latticed walls of
Honeysuckle and Jasmine.
Vines are thick with tendrils
Heavy with blossoms of
Unforgettable fragrances.

I tap and tap.
Wipe face
With towel that
Lives 'round neck.
I gulp air filled
With sweetness
Stirred by breezes.
Each gust mixes new
Potion with
Variations on
Nectar's theme.

How can I describe
Maybe you've known
Maybe you've known
have you known them

Then smell of
Sun and
Dancing dust motes.
They smell of
Joy and movement.
Then smell of
Nature's hopes
And promises.
They smell of
Effort to be better:
Quicker and slower.
Shuffles and flaps.
Leaps and turns and kicks.
Black tights.
Gold lamé Cuban heels.
Capezio taps.
They smell of
Sweaty terry cloth.
They smell of
Soft rustlings.
They smell of
Butterflies and
Oh yes,
And bees.
Of course.
They smell of
They smell of
Memories in my bones.

I'm showing you some of my memories,
Carried here by
Honeysuckle and Jasmine.
Just kick back and drink them in
With me...
While I invite you
To notice
The smells around you...
To remember smells past...
To find new ways to enjoy...
And describe
Your smelliest year yet.

Happy New Year!

Dec 2007

(Jasmine and Honeysuckle photos © 2004 fleursfrags)