Face Painting!

I got to do some face-painting at a street party in the east end of the city on Friday. The first “client” was a very smart little girl of four who knew exactly what she wanted. “I want to look like a tennis ball.”

Fortunately there was a tennis ball nearby that I could work from.

I like to get people, especially kids, talking about what they have chosen, sort of expanding on their imaginations, which are generally huge, so it begged the question, “so you like playing tennis?”

“No. I just like tennis balls.”

I didn’t get any pictures that day not even of the “tennis ball” a first for me. What can I say, it got busy and no one took any pictures. Here instead is a picture from another day and another street party, just to give you an idea of the set-up. The makeup is hypoallergenic and water based, great for kids and I have a bunch of laminated pictures to get them thinking about what they would like.  I often find kids are wannabe artists too so I can talk about how to mix colours and blend.  It’s all good. 🙂

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Looking in the Mirror

Looking in the Mirror…

I read my horoscope everyday, not so much because I believe in the power of celestial bodies messing with my life as I believe it is the acid test for how I am feeling when I read it.  Today it said something to the effect that I would be likely to get into arguments, which pissed me off.

I do get angry. It is hard not to sometimes but I try to be aware of it before I am in some action that can do harm and also, I will admit, gets me in harms way.

I used to toss a coin when I couldn’t make my mind up about something.  Never anything really important, usually when either choice was valid.  I found if I didn’t like the outcome of the toss I would simply do the opposite. Again, either choice being valid, my inclination was the question. I learned that didn’t need to waste my time. I am not as quick witted as I once was, but I am more measured.

Inclination is in itself type of coin, perhaps a coin we don’t know we carry until something in life causes us to choose an action and we have to turn it over. Granted there are plenty of thoughtless thugs who never question their inclinations. Often if they have some part to play in history they become celebrities at least in their own pub or whatever cultural gathering place that includes mental incapacity due to alcohol or religion or the combination that results from professional sports. Or they become infamous villains depending on way things play out, how attractive their features are and if they survive or end up on t-shirts. Those who question inclination often become ineffectual in the grand scheme and hardly thought of at all when the dust settles except perhaps when they say, “I was alive during that time”.

My question is, within the mass of humanity that might get caught up on the streets in some sort of demonstration either by folly or desire or virtue, are not most feckless wanderers who despite the rightness or wrongness of their inclination would choose NOT to cause harm to another human being, especially if they could toss the coin endlessly until the question of being there or staying home was exhausted?

I once spent a weekend with a lovely couple in the seventies who had been caught up in the arrests without cause that followed the FLQ crisis back in ? She was less ardent but he was sure a war between French and English Canada was coming and after hours of talking concluded that I would be shot by both sides. The assertion being that NOT CHOOSING was a greater sin than being wrong.

But again, there are people who just show up. People like me who don’t know how to effect change but recognize at some point you have to decide to show up in support of this or that. The hard part is not falling prey to the inclination to do harm. The miraculous part is seeing some who can show us how to address the harm that others might do without perpetuating it or fueling it.

Wow. Just writing that last sentence got my heart pumping. The scary thing is being scared and not succumbing to acts of violence. Not condoning aggression even as pay back. It is the fear of losing the peace that I enjoy that reveals the fear and perhaps the dishonesty of my pacifism, but that peace includes everyone I endeavour to love and that includes everyone. So when whatever war comes to my door (because I will stay in) I will try to be brave and say, “either side can kill me, I will not defend myself if it involves harming others.” My inclination will not decide for me. Regardless of how close to what history will bare as the most important choice a person can make in these times, a gut reaction will not be useful. My practice and commitment to love and to do no harm to others will be what determines my actions. I will be wrong perhaps but not untrue. I tend push back, it is my inclination, but I submit by choice.

These are frightening times.

P.S. I have just learned of the events in Charlottesville, in the U.S. yesterday. It is hard not to want to strike out against the monstrous mental paralysis that has lead to these murderous acts. It is not terrorism, it is bare-faced murder.

These people who are in the mental paralysis called fascism want to kill the opposition. They do not recognize any people who have opinions other than theirs as being human, as anything but a target for their hatred.

So how do you respond?

I think that it is good that the statue is coming down and it shows the success of government and civic responsibility. I don’t believe that the fascists have done anything to change that. (I hope). I am sorry for all the people who were injured and their families.

Sharing our Humanity

 

flowerseller

Nivia Gonzalez, “El Mercado de Flores”

Two days ago I went for a follow-up mammogram and ultra-sound. Nobody likes to get these things. I always tell the technician a glass of wine would go nicely, sometimes it gets a laugh but I NEVER get a glass of wine.

 

It was good.  I mean, I had a nice time if you can believe it.  As it was a follow-up exam I made a point of telling everyone that actually had to touch me that I have had cancer twice and am now being monitored for a pre-cancer.

“I can understand how you might be nervous because of that.”

It seemed to make a difference, but I can’t be sure if it was a result of the release of tension I probably carry without knowing it or because of the technicians actually showing more than the usual amount of compassion.

I like to say that compassion is not something anyone can own or take as a virtue but an environment that we can share when we let go of the “self and other” mentality.  I have no proof for this and only a vague recollection of experiencing this as my usual internal narrator was absent. The moment, transitory and aberrant has only a tether to my Zen practice which is almost impossible for me to talk about.

Nevertheless my own pressure release of expressing what could likely make me feel separate from other people, (or at least one of the things that so often limits me) did serve to connect me to what was going on and that usually has good effects.

Something else I realized, if you make people aware of your shared humanity, they increasing look ridiculous as they try harder and harder to deny it.  You only have to look at ranting racists on social media who are confronted in a calm but consistent rebuttal by the people they are invested in hating and how they look more and more pathetic, eroding in their rhetoric into petulant potty mouths.  I think it is interesting because they look like two year olds… just a thought…

Nobody should be written off as hopeless.  We all behave like children often enough and yet, like children, given a shared opportunity to learn we can be quite remarkable in how kind, helpful and even courageous we are.  Oh and good news, results in, it’s fine, nothing to worry about. 🙂

the poster was in the waiting room of the breast screening clinic

Buying Time

This is a link to some famous guys talking about their time.  You can Google Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and find out who they are if you don’t know.  Which is cool right?

http://www.swiss-miss.com/2017/03/you-control-your-time.html

Anyway, a basic lack of awareness is the biggest time waster of all and no amount of structure, lists or schedules can provide it.  I remember when a mom I knew who had been a palliative care nurse in a hospital told me she had had nervous breakdown.  She said the cut backs in support staff were so severe that her job had become moving patients around like cords of wood just to get the basics done like changing sheets and cleaning bed pans and she realized that she had started to see them as impediments to the function of the floor rather than the reason why she was there. “I wasn’t interacting with them as human beings. I had lost it”.  What had she lost? She lost the awareness of what she was actually doing there, perhaps because it was no longer possible.  I don’t know, I don’t doubt it was devastating for her.  She loved her job, she said she felt had been good at it.

This is a drastic example but not unusual.

Still, we have more time than we know, we have right now.  We have the breath in our bodies. We have the light entering our eyes from whatever screen we are looking at this from, the air moving around us, perhaps playing with dancing tiny flecks of dust, the sounds around us, intentional or insidious, humming aspects of twenty-first century life.  Or maybe nature: Robins bursting with exuberant declarations of spring love, or trees swaying in the wind or rain falling on hard ground…

Ah but there is that other blog we wanted to check and the coffee we want warmed and damn aren’t we late for something!!!  But if we bump into another human being as we rush to where we are going we can take a moment to notice them (if we are Canadian we can apologize) before we rush off.  We can be AWARE and it can make a difference.

Have a Nice Day!

This moment is brought to you entirely free. 🙂

 

 

Personal Transportation Vehicles

Sitting staring at a blank wall the image of a zafu, a small round cushion, flying through the air and hitting me on the back of the head came to mind.  Wait, let me back up a bit: I have grown very attached to my zafu having clocked  so, so, many, many hours sitting on it.  At times I realize I have an almost obsessive affection for it. It has been repaired and recovered and in it’s heart it contains my former teacher’s zafu.  *Sigh*

None of these things has anything to do with my practice or the value of it or my sincerity or effort. At the end of the day it is just a cushion… And you may ask, quite rightly, what does this have to do with cars?

Well we all have to get to places. We can pay attention to where we are without getting confused about how to get to where we need to be. *groan*

We all, at least begrudgingly, acknowledge we  affect each other with our behaviour, certainly we acknowledge when other people’s behaviour upsets us in some way. But put us in our very own vehicle, encase us in “top of the line performance” and drench us in the joy of our favourite mix of tunes OR WHATEVER, driving along in our cars, flying like Isadora Duncan’s scarf down a ribbon of hi-way, well, that is freedom.

The images of driving and freedom are endless thanks to really clever and expensive advertising.  Too bad they are untrue.  It isn’t free.  It is very costly.  It costs in waved penalties for environmental damages for the HUGE companies that produce all manner of stuff for cars. It costs in road maintenance, insurance claims, hospital and emergency response costs, and in broken bodies and destroyed lives.

It costs in deluded and dangerous expectations about “what we deserve to have” and gives us an added layer of separation from the harm we might be doing to others.

Whatever you believe about yourself and what you are doing, if it is a means of separating yourself from your fellow beings and their suffering you will get someplace, maybe get there really fast, but you won’t be happy and you can never be free.

You might get a buzz, a high, a sense of being unfettered by worries and concerns and responsibilities but, AND IT IS A REALLY BIG BUTT, AS IN DUMB-ASS, now wait for it, here it comes, the flying zafu!!!!

A Few Thoughts on Traffic from A Crossing Guard who Quit

Dear Pedestrians, when talking about “the flow of traffic” in a big city, I think it is important to say if it is a liquid it is ketchup. It gets stuck just like the ketchup when you hold the bottle over your fries and then suddenly it seems unstoppable and you have a mess pouring out ruining everything! This is how I have come to understand that not only one car will fly through an amber light but three or four will follow and the last will be speeding through a red light.   😦

It can be argued that ketchup is mindless and drivers are not but neither have been proven.

I do not describe pedestrians as ketchup because that is my greatest fear. I never ever want to see any pedestrian covered in anything resembling anything like ketchup. It was one of the reasons I decided to quit.  It’s one of the reasons I am posting this.

This idea that we all have to run across a light as the final numbers count down might be a result of too many game shows in our youth but here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You don’t get a prize. You maybe save a couple of minutes but you set a bad example for your kids who will, despite all your efforts to supervise them, one day do the same thing. Also you can cause an accident. It isn’t all about your ability to run, it’s about a lot of other people too, some of whom are in cars and also the cars behind those cars…
  • Not everyone can see everything that is happening all the time. This is why when the randomness of rush hour and children’s behaviour (they drop their project, they see a friend on the curb and run back, they sudden stop to crouch down to tie a shoe) WE PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO THE RULES THAT HELP US ALL STAY SAFE.
  • The length of time you have on a green light should be long enough to cross at a normal brisk walking pace. Running is not a good idea, neither is riding a bike or skate board or a pogo stick! Running with a stroller with a child in front of you, by the way, they do not make good shields against on coming traffic… well, lets just say, is not a good idea and here is why: a driver will take a quick perusal of the speed of the herd of pedestrians and calculate his/her turn based on that. Yes he will be in the wrong if he hits someone, but as I said, its not a game show. 
  • If suddenly a person takes off ahead of the herd a driver can’t anticipate this. Many drivers overestimate their ability to accelerate, swerve and stop. If he/she is making an illegal turn across the crosswalk, and this happens so regularly that it is almost normal, he will have to hit the breaks, AND he might have a flow of mindless ketchup behind him to jam up the intersection.  This has happened so many times that I stopped trying to keep count.

You would think having a crossing guard there would help alert the drivers that there could be children crossing. There is nothing lovelier than working for minimum wage, often sick and in the worst weather to have a driver show me the finger because I have stood there, in his or her way, until the parents and children are on the curb. FORGET ABOUT HIM LETTING ME GET THERE too!  Sheesh. He or she thinks they have 360 degree vision while also interfering with traffic and breaking the law.  I decided it was easier to thank the good drivers than to expect anything at all from the bad drivers.

So, getting back to what pedestrians and cyclist can do: Don’t ignore your charges, dogs, cats, kids or parrots. Behave in the manner you would have them behave. Please don’t text on the phone or stop to greet one another in the crosswalk. (Even if it’s to tell the crossing guard you love her or him!) Wait until you are on the curb. In such a beautiful and warm community as yours (at least we hope it is) it will happen often that you are talking and sharing with each other but do it when you reach the sidewalk well away from the curb so there is no confusion for the drivers or the crossing guard about your intentions to cross.

Cyclists. You are my heroes.  Do not ride in the crosswalk, especially when there is a constable or crossing guard.  Walk your bike or ride on the road. It is illegal always to ride in a crosswalk but especially not a good idea when children or handicapped people are crossing. If a crossing guard is crossing people it is because they may have varying abilities to react to unexpected vehicles in the crosswalk. A bike is a vehicle unless it is a handicap device.

Finally, stay safe. Take chances with your fashion, your creativity, your generosity, and your interests, and your limits but not with traffic. That`s just dumb.

The Things I`ve Seen Standing on the Corner!

Okay, the laughs are hard to come by these days but last week I watched a young woman with headphones on and her hood up (it was cold and had snowed the night before) walk along at a leisurely pace as a sidewalk snow plow continuously honked the horn at her, FOR AN ENTIRE BLOCK trying to get by her.
FYI: I now help texting people across the street as I count them as visually impaired. I have a great idea for improving the smart phone:  Put left and right turning signals on the side so other people can tell which way they are going to go!
Perpetually hooked up people are sensory disadvantaged!