who am i?

I am James.
I am a father.
I am a husband.
I am a friend to whippets.
I am a worker.
I am a writer.
With my small camera,
I observe the changing of the seasons.
I am an opening hand.
I am a crumbling wall.
I am a cry of a gull over the water.
I am the sound of laughter.
I am nobody.
I am nothing.
I am… *click fingers*

the beach at east mersea

Groyne posts, silhouetted before the solstice sun
Erosion-felled trees, sun-baked, strewn
A bucketed scavenger after scallops? clams? cockles?
Acrylic arcs of cloud
Memorial benches, plaques glistening
A kestrel hovering, completely still
The occasional cry of a wading bird

boat names: west mersea

I’ve always been rather fascinated by the names people give inanimate things that they care about. Mostly boats, but also homes. I think it’s something to do with my love of short-form writing generally – the idea of imbuing a minimum of words with the maximum… what’s a good word for it? I’m going to borrow from eastern thinking for a moment (surprise!): chi. Or energy? Or feeling? Not sure. But I think you understand.

Think about all the thought and love that goes into boat names: they must be over-charged with the stuff. At the very least they seem worthy of collecting. I’ve been meaning to start for ages, with a view to doing something with them. But I’ve never figured out what. So for now, collecting the names will have to do, or I’ll never start.

So here are some boat names I saw at West Mersea in Essex today:

  • Quiet Air
  • Mersea Guy
  • Seahawk II
  • Fanny’s Prospect
  • Double Trouble
  • Admiral Benbow
  • Ghostbuster
  • Blenheim Rose
  • Two Voices
  • Keehar
  • Omar
  • Centenary
  • Gib’ Sea 262
  • Lahloo
  • Alchera
  • Cloud Nine
  • Mischief
  • Alouette
  • Blue Fox
  • Rosie
  • Lisa Lynne
  • Alderney
  • Tequila Sunrise
  • Exposition
  • Brenda Leigh
  • Liberty 23
  • Ignis
  • Chelsea Flower
  • Mersea Native
  • Jolly Don
  • Riis I
  • Jenny Dee

50 days of zazen, and the future

I renamed my 100 days of zazen tag to 50 days of zazen. I did the 100 days, and am still going. But I stopped writing after 55 days. I was quite busy-brained throwing myself into a new job. And when I did sit down, I decreasingly knew what to say. I choose to interpret that as a good thing.

My teacher shared a paper she once wrote on taking your zen to work with you. This is the challenge of challenges for me. I’m much more likely to take my work into my zazen. Whoops. But I’ll get there. It may take many years, but I’ll get there.

I’ve been tempted to start another blog because I’m enjoying work, and that inevitably means thinking more about “professional” kinds of things. But if I blog in more than one place, I’m going to lose enthusiasm for one or the other. So I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to use this place for whatever it is I want to talk about.

I’ve always struggled to reconcile the various bits of me. The silly me. The serious me. The creative me. The analytical me. The happy me. The grumpy, sad me. But I’ve been a little bit inspired by the “bring your whole self to work” people. I might start bringing my whole self to blog. I’m all of these things, and it’s time I stopped fretting about the reconciling and just do whatever it is I feel compelled to do now, and try my hardest to be a good person and a nice person while I do it.

thank you, stanley

We said goodbye to our elder whippet, Stanley, a few weeks back. We knew it was coming. Kidneys. Age. He was such a loving and loyal pup. A few evenings ago we scattered some of his ashes on the ridge overlooking the valley. Some were carried in the direction of deer across the valley. He loved to chase deer, if he could. We didn’t let him, of course, but once or twice he managed it all the same. We brought the rest of his ashes home. We will scatter them in the garden when we plant our new dogwood tree.

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thank you, omicron

A positive CPR test, and I’m assuming it’s omicron. I’m assuming it’s omicron because my immunity should be pretty high, and this is the kind of COVID you can still catch when that’s the case. I had COVID last January, have since been double jabbed, but unfortunately was not able to book a booster in time. In fact, I must have picked up COVID around the time I had my booster.

Also the symptoms seem to fit. The main one being extreme tiredness. I could just sleep. And that poses interesting questions around meditating. My teacher suggested lying meditation, and to just sleep if I felt the urge. I’ve been working on the who am I koan since taking the precepts. I don’t know if I’m making progress but I’m yet to “pass”, if that’s the right word.

You pose the question, then meditate on it – gently. Don’t commentate on it. Don’t form narratives around it. Don’t mentally write answers to it. Just pose the question, then, more or less, meditate as normal – with a suggestion of the question perhaps lurking under the surface. At least that’s my understanding of koan study. Could be, then, that omicron – or rather the fatigue that comes with it – could be helping me to not overly-fixate on this question. I guess we’ll find out next sanzen.

There is much writing on meditating when tired and how it can actually help. They also say that more or less everything – especially adversity – is a teacher. So thank you, omicron.

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making space

Hey. I might post in my “stream” category for a bit. This is a category intended for bits and pieces that don’t fit anywhere, and that’s very much where I am right now.

Things I’d like to talk about soon:

  • 100 days of meditation, and why I stopped writing about it
  • taking the precepts (done)
  • adding an 11th prevent (done, thank you, Roshi)
  • dharma names (having one, and what to do with it)
  • beginning koan study, and failing at it

I might also talk about about zen and work and zen and the internet. I’ve resisted that for a long time because that’s not what I wanted this blog to be about. But at the moment I’m not quite getting to the creative stuff I wanted to, so let’s at least do something: I’m happier when I do.

Thanks for sticking with me.

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