Sunday, December 31, 2006

Randy Gave Me Permission

I would never have the guts to allow a photographer to capture my image while I was sitting in one of the most private rooms of my house, the bathroom.

That's why I love you as a friend Randy!

You are able to laugh at yourself. When I watch you do it, I am reminded that it's important to enjoy a full bodied laugh at myself too. Thanks for that reminder.

:) Shot on December 29, 2006 by Lori (upstairs at Randy's)

Friday, December 29, 2006

My Mom: I Love Her

My mom taught me this:

It is important to realize "that our nostalgia for wanting to stay in a protected, limited, petty world is insane. Once you begin to get the feeling of how big the world is and how vast our potential for experiencing life is, then you really begin to understand renunciation." Pema Chodron

Renunciation: Giving up, letting go of suffering, being in the moment, a willigness to let the story line our thinking fabricates dissipate: letting go of the thoughts that generate worry, lust, desire or an attempt to control and manipulate

(shot by Tsay in Humboldt, Iowa on December 26, 2006)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eva is Free

Eva's extended arms reaching out for the unknown symbolize risk-taking and freedom.

December 26, 2006 Three Rivers Trail in Humboldt, Iowa

Randy and I Have Never Been to Prison

Mental illness, child abuse, teen pregnancy, adults on parole and drug dealers have all lived in my house.

Three cheers for Randy and Lori! We don’t have a criminal record and the police have never been called in regard to out of control events unfolding in our apartments.

(shot as a goodbye memory in the Carroll Avenue house in Ames on December 27, 2006)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Devils and Dust

Devils and Dust: Lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

[Note: The punctuation and some capitalization are my own. The lyrics flow better for the reader’s understanding with the changes. Excuse me for tampering with your lyrics Bruce. It’s the editor in my head that never shuts up.]

What if what you do to survive,
kills the things you love?
Fear's a powerful thing.
It can turn your heart black you can trust.
It'll take your God filled soul,
and fill it with devils and dust.

Me: I don’t see the God whom Springsteen refers to as the Christian God. The word God for me, a practicing Buddhist, represents the exceptional spirit residing in each one of us; however, I agree with Bruce that fear does kill the noble, tender and vulnerable space inside of a human being capable of experiencing joy. Over time, this death harms creativity, connections to others, and our sense of wonder at living life on the planet earth. Devils and dust is the imagery used to articulate the process of decay that will overwhelm us if we don’t pursue the things in life that we truly love. It may seem simple, but it takes human energy and persistence to look fear in the eye until the monster in the mind turns away, embarrassed and defeated.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Her Kind

although your fear is anyone’s fear,
like an invisible veil between us all…
and sometimes in private…
my face, your face. - Anne Sexton’s confessional poetry

Anne would saunter to the podium, light a cigarette, kick off her shoes, and in a throaty voice say, “I’m going to read a poem that tells you what kind of poet I am, what kind of woman I am, so if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

Then she would launch into her signature poem, “Her Kind”:

“I have gone out, a possessed witch… A woman like that is misunderstood… I have been her kind.”

Selection: Anne Sexton: A Biography, by Diane Wood Middlebrook

Me: If you are a woman, you have been- at one time in your life or another- “her kind.”

Delusion: Inability to see things as they are

Tricycle's Daily Dharma: December 22, 2006

A Primary Cause of Suffering

A primary cause of suffering is delusion: our inability, because of subtly willful blindness, to see things the way they truly are but instead in a distorted way. The world is in fact a seamless and dynamic unity, a single living organism that is constantly undergoing change. Our minds, however, chop it up into separate, static bits and pieces, which we then try mentally and physically to manipulate. One of the mind's most dear creations is the idea of the person and, closest to home, of a very special person which each one of us calls I: a separate, enduring ego or self. There is "I"-- and there is all the rest. That means conflict--and pain, for "I" cannot control that fathomless vastness against which it is set. It will try, of course, as a flea might pit itself against an elephant, but it is a vain enterprise. --John Snelling, Elements of Buddhism

Me: I want to remember this Daily Dharma. I would also like to ruminate on delusion for a few days before any words are attached to the page.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Hands of Summer

Self portrait summer 2006

Hey my seasonal partner summer, I miss your gentle hands and the warm embrace of sunshine slipping its sultry, sweaty arms around my body.

Facing the Boxes: there are just so many.

I don’t know where the expression “facing the music” originated, but for me, “facing the boxes” has a more ominous, repugnant and revolting ring to it.

Facing cardboard boxes scavenged from area grocery stores, knowing all the while that I must pack my personal items inside of them, securing the flaps with tape and yesterday’s news is a will-power sapping eyeful of sadness.

I realize what I am leaving behind.

Talking with Al today, I said, “We should go to the Tea Room for lunch some time,” realizing only after it was floating in the air around us that we can’t make that date. I have an appointment with my cardboard boxes, but more importantly, I have an airline ticket.

What comes after the boxes are stored in my mom’s basement? [which, as a side note, she can’t stand.] I know she closes her eyes at night and invokes the image of my gypsy possessions gathering dust in her otherwise uncluttered and ultra-organized basement. She hates my unruly clothes, futon and lava lamp as much as I hate the boxes that attempt to contain them. We have a mutual hate fest, each for different reasons. I know hating is very un-Buddhist, but those who honestly hate for a certain period of time until they let go should be rewarded for admitting it.

I hear the song “If life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long,” playing in my head. I think I am ready to jump on the highway of transience, but I am not quite sure what map I should follow. Perhaps that means I am not a responsible driver, but I will use avoidance to dodge that quotidian concern.

Let’s return to the boxes. No, let’s not.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My blog is invisible. Help me somebody!

Big flow of disaster...

My blog is no longer visible. Oh no! There was this really awful moment when I thought, "Oh my God! HTLM code and I are going to become friends, like it or not. And then...on-line salvation. It must have been the Nunchucks. Thanks nuns.

Games and Toys for Jesus, Buddha and the Gang

Religious games and toys are a multi-million dollar industry according to Nikki Bado-Fralick assistant professor of philosophy and religious studies at Iowa State University. Here she is in her office holding Virgin Mary and Esther dolls. Virgin Mary recites assorted verses from the Book of Luke. She’s a talented little doll.

I didn’t use this photo in the article that I wrote for the “Ames Tribune.” I used the Missionary Conquest photo, but this photo- for me anyway- captures the spirit of our interview on December 11, 2006.

You can see the screamer over Nikki’s left shoulder. Lecturer Eric Northway is her colleague in the Philosophy and Religious Study Department at Iowa State. He is in the background observing the action.

The Nunchucks in Nikki’s office spoke volumes to me about her attitude toward religion. I would summarize it as: Keep an open mind and don’t forget to laugh. Nuns and Jesus can be a source of amusement.

The Nunchuck’s advert on the Web site reads as follows:

Sally Fields isn’t the only nun who can fly! Just load the 1" tall, plastic nuns into the 5-3/4" long plastic shooting device and pull the trigger to send a sister sailing. Great for working out your repressed Catholic school memories. Four different nuns included.

I wish that I were on the ISU campus in Ames, Iowa in the fall of ‘07 to take Nikki’s class on Buddhism, but alas, I will be in Hawaii. If only I could do everything that my greedy heart desires, I would be a happy woman!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Smiling: Two of My Favorite Men in Ames

How often will I have the chance to capture two of my favorite men at a joyous moment like this? at a winery with the sultry and Iowa-rooted name like “Prairie Moon?” I loved that day!

(Shot in October 2006 at Prairie Moon Winery outside of Ames. Oh, do I want to go back? YES!)

Dancing on December 3, 2006

Working with the ISU dancers on December 3, 2006 at the scholarship performance was an amazing experience. Valerie Williams choreographed the dance that Elizabeth is performing in the photo. Val is also my neighbor. Sometimes, life is serendipitous.

(Photo: Shot by Lori Runkle on Dec. 3, 2006 for the Iowa State University Dance Department, Property of the ISU Dance Department, for personal use only)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Reminder to be a Peaceful Witness to My Thoughts: No Expectations, No Judgements

... Attention: I am sending myself a reminder today to maintain my footing on that peaceful and grounded place where I am standing now in my mind.

Sometimes the thoughts in my head have a life of their own, attempting to swing dance when I want them to sit still.

I don’t want to do battle with my thoughts.

I want my mind to support my overall desire to remain focused in the moment and healthful. But, my mind insists on acting like a child going through its terrible two year-old stage, dragging me this-way-and-that, thoughts banging and honking- beeping like vocal toys.

“Oh, mind,” I say, as I witness the drama. “I know you will need a nap soon.”

(Photo shot in Dec. 2006 at the meditation in Des Moines)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Fountain Power at ISU: night shot

I am sure nearly everyone with a camera has shot the fountain, but it is a memory of the place nevertheless.

Just Charlie: the Teacher

(Photo shot in Dec. 2006 / Charlie Day leading the meditation in Des Moines, Iowa)

Portrait of a Fellow Photographer

We met at Myron and Tracie’s dinner party on December 9, 2006 and had an in-depth conversation about photography, something we both love. His wife is beautiful, funny and so dynamic. I talked with him about shooting together, but that won’t happen because I am leaving Ames.

In retrospect, it is clear that my life has grown cautious roots around certain people here, creeping down deep into their lives, wrapping around my own. I know it is time for me to go.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Grateful to Friends

This photo reminds me to take some time each day to thank the people in my life who support me even on my not-so-stellar bad hair and gloom days. Thanks Al.

(Shot in Humboldt, Iowa: Nov. 2006 by G)

Me: Notes on Desire Thumped out on my keyboard on a Monday- oh Mondays...

I have been waiting, and my moon is changing color.

I am relieved that the fall 2006 semester at Iowa State University is at last winding down because I now have time to observe my more creative thoughts. I have been doing so much journalistic writing recently. This type of writing trains my mind to partially silence my personal voice in the objectivity and fact checking process. It is important for me to re-attach to the inventive and tie-dyed side of my writer’s voice.

Notes on desire thumped out on the keyboard on the first day of the week- oh Monday- of December 11, 2006:

Sometimes, in order to fully and completely let go of desire, all the hope invested in its attainment must die. The sparkling pixie-dust that coats the desire with suffering and longing must be dispersed by a strong wind whipped up with willpower from inside my own mind. This wind blows the deceitful dust every which way, shuttling it into the universe with a mighty force. As I watch it fly into the air, I send good wishes from a balanced heart. I attempt to smile as I let go. After the process, it becomes something in my past that I can choose to leave in peace, but also examine and learn from in my future encounters with sentient beings. This is a wise move and makes me stronger.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I wish that I could read about Buddhist thought all day long!

Me: I wish that I had more time in life to simply read and discuss ideas with people whom I respect. I think my true calling was: monk. Unfortunately, that is not a career offering widely available in the U.S.A. Buddhist psychotherapist Mark Epstein- although I have only read his articles on-line- would be one of those amazing "let's chat over coffee" people. Here are some thoughts on desire from Epstein published in an interview in "Tricycle" on-line dated Sept. 27, 2006:

Desire as a Path for Personal Transformation

Known in the East as the tantric, or “left-handed,” path, desire, in this view, is a vehicle for personal transformation. It is a yoga in its own right. Rather than treating it as the cause of suffering, desire is embraced as a valuable and precious resource, an emotion that, if harnessed correctly, can awaken and liberate the mind. In this way of thinking, desire is the human response to the discontent described in the Buddha’s First Noble Truth. It is the energy that strives for transcendence but, if it is to truly accomplish its goals, the seeker must learn to relate to it differently. He or she must learn how to use desire instead of being used by it. In this sense, desire is the foundation for all spiritual pursuits. As the well-known contemporary Indian teacher Sri Nisargadatta, famous for sitting on a crowded street corner selling inexpensive bidis, or Indian cigarettes, once commented, “The problem is not desire. It’s that your desires are too small.” The left-handed path means opening to desire so that it becomes more than just a craving for whatever the culture has conditioned us to want. Desire is a teacher: when we immerse ourselves in it without guilt, shame, or clinging, it can show us something special about our own minds that allows us to embrace life fully.

Accepting what comes/Moving Toward Desire

Would that necessarily mean sitting with the desire unfulfilled? Well, the nature of desire is that it’s always at least a little bit unfulfilled. Resting in the gap—without either rushing to satisfy the desire or foreclosing the possibility of that satisfaction—is a literal attempt to open to desire in its totality, to understand it, and through this insight to come to an understanding of oneself. Denial of the desire is just another way of trying to eradicate the gap, which is what desire wants: Ultimately, desire seeks fulfillment. The practice I’m talking about encourages one to move toward that which one desires, witnessing the whole process along the way, and not simply getting lost in dissatisfaction. This approach challenges one to go wholeheartedly into one’s life and one’s desire, and also to accept whatever comes of that pursuit.

Here is the link:

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My muses want to tap dance in the kitchen.

They have spring fever, and it is infecting me.

Me, sporting a Peter Pan complex? Well, no comment...

My moon is no longer blue.

"I’m just not interested in “getting to know someone” by typing words into my computer. For me, connections unfold slowly, through repeated encounters in natural settings. Instead of exchanging pleasantries with strangers [whom I don’t know] online, I would much rather go deeper into my life as it already is, and celebrate the intimacy- with friends, family and community- that nourishes me and brings me joy."

Anne Cushman, Fifteen Weeks of Dharma Dating in “Tricycle,” summer 2006


I like digesting Buddhist writings in my humble brain and being around people who are wise. Wisdom is part of age I now realize. No more blue moon wild; the urge to write is flooding back into my veins, full-fledged and ripe like a creamy triangle of ever-so-seductive Brie perched fetchingly on a cracker. My mouth waters for its fatty satisfaction.

I have been waiting, and my moon is changing color.

The Blue Moon is changing her color.

(Shot in Ames, Iowa during the summer of 2006: in July if I remember correctly)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

In Praise of the Humble Comma

As weird as it sounds to non-writing people, I have been thinking about punctuation a great deal lately. The source of my pondering flows from a four-page essay by Pico Iyer titled “In Praise of the Humble Comma.”

Iyer writes that punctuation “scores the music in our mind, gets our thoughts moving to the rhythm of our hearts.”

As I was teaching my young tutee, Taegong Ha, about punctuation, we read this essay together. Because he plays the flute, I watched him mull over the comparison of punctuation marks to musical notation and visualize in his mind the ideas that Iyer expresses in this essay.

“Punctuation is the notation in the sheet music of our words, telling us where to rest, or when to raise our voice; it acknowledges that the meaning of our discourse, as of any symphonic composition, lies not in the units but in the pauses, the pacing and the phrasing. Punctuation is the way one bats one’s eyes, lowers one’s voice or blushes demurely. Punctuation adjusts the tone and color and volume till the feeling comes into perfect focus, not disgust exactly, but distaste; not lust, or like, but love.”

Punctuation is a bit like the adjustments I make on my camera when I want to shoot in low light, sunlight, or shadows. I adjust the setting to create a mood of passion, suspense, dark humor or gay abandon.

As the years pass, subtle exclamations and faint brush strokes of expression call my name and dazzle my imagination. The swish of the humble comma on the page, the measured breath of the flutist on an exhale, or the shutter speed and f stop I select to create the mood of an image are among my circle of intimate companions.

”Thus all these tiny scratches give us breadth and heft and depth.”

Thanks Pico Iyer.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

the refrain of Mexican love songs

I have at last found an on-line shelter and repository for the literary passages I treasure. When I find a group of words that creates an entirely new thought in my mind or floods bold hues from the color wheel of knowledge into my living room, I am excited. I work to make this happen at least once a day, preferring multiple times.

June 24, 2006

Mexico is poor. But my mama says there are no love songs like the love songs of Mexico. She hums a song she can remember.

Men sing in Mexico. Men are strong and silent. But in song the Mexican male is granted license he is otherwise denied. The male can admit longing, pain, desire.

HAIII-EEEE- a cry like a comet rises over the song. A cry like mock-weeping tickles the refrain of Mexican love songs.

Richard Rodriguez, “Proofs”

Friday, June 23, 2006

Discovering Self

It is strange to join the world of blogging fools- publicly displaying my thoughts to other Web users- because I have always considered myself a private person, careful with my cascading trains of thought and sparkling epiphanies.

Yet, here I am flashing my private bits to the masses, feeling nervous and downright revealed.

Writing has always caused me to ask myself the question: Why is my writing important or interesting to others: if, in fact, it is. So many writers through the centuries express in words what it means to be human- their intellects trapped within rough, oily, thick or sensitive skins- squealing to assert mind over matter. Themes emerge of human suffering or fleeting joy, recycled again and again in the orbit of eventual mortality.

What strikes me as promising though is that no individual human being can ever truly have the same experience as another human being. The individual and solitary perspective on existence and its connection to the human condition is what a writer brings to her pages.

As a writer, I see it as my job to capture the smallest details that personal observation will allow and serve those remnants of being alive to my readers on a silver platter.

Appetizers for the mind and annotations on life if you will.

I must always remember that the main course of a savory piece of work only satisfies a reader’s palate if her mind has something to chew on after she swallows the last word. And, I want the reader to return to my vegetarian kitchen of intellectual delights.

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.