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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Know and Be Known

Know and be known?

Oh lordy, is this another abstraction I have to deal with?

Give me the concreteness

            of happiness landing

            on the neighbouring roof

and staying until it wants to leave.

Now there's an image to conjure with.


But "know and be known"?

Be known by whom?

Give a subject to that second part?

In that way, they will know you.

And in that way, you will know.

Know yourself.


The only way to know is to keep sensing

            the objects of your senses.


Smell the air around:


lilies of the valley

the friendly farts of your bed-partner

the promise implicit in the aroma of dying yeast cells

                when the bread's in the oven


the nuzzled newborn


Hear what strikes the ear:

temple bells

a cement mixer (putty-putty)

the traffic's roar or hum (depending on distance),

the intricacy of a string quartet

the high whine of a bluegrass classic


Taste what's there to taste:

the baby's little fingers clutching yours

corn from the garden

the bitter fizz of a crisp lager

the melting chew of the slow-cooked oxtail

fat snowflakes falling on your tongue




See what you see:

ice-mountains lining the curb, taking up the parking spaces

ecstatic audiences after a concert

solemn babies pushed in prams

plush grass in the park

poking crocuses testing the air after a long winter

the familiar face of the beloved


Touch what you touch:

a rough towel rub after bathing

the silk of a polished quartz crystal

the give of the skin being soothed with lotion

the uncompromising tread of the maple tree's bark


Keep sensing, and by the end, you will know.


Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Coming and Going

Coming and going leads to drafts

("Close the door! Were you born in a barn?")

Coming and going can also lead

to the (temporary) satisfaction

of curiosity.

Ask any cat.


Coming and going

leads to hellos and goodbyes,

to welcoming the new

and to bidding fond farewell,

as the travelogues used to say,

to what needs to be abandoned.

This brings us back to our old friend

"Letting Go,"

so familiar as we meet it

time and time again during

the spirals and switchbacks of the journey.



I'm coming.

(Meaning: "Don't cry, baby. Mommy's coming."

Or "Don't stop, darling, I'm coming.")


I'm going.

(Meaning: "Don't try to stop me;

my mind's made up."

Or "I'm goin', and I'm gonna have a happy time.")


And me? I don't know whether I'm

coming or going (they're so much the same thing),

but I can tell you this:

either one will lead to change,

and change is the very air

I breathe.


Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What's Absolutely Clear

Water is absolutely clear,

if it's been filtered.

And Lucite is,

until it's been scratched through use.

Glass, I must say, is clear,

and so cleanable,

so satisfyingly clean

to use for storing food.

Plastic lacks that clean feeling.

Plastic retains the memory

of what was previously stored in it.

No, plastic can't replace

the clarity of glass.


Such beating about the bush.

What's absolutely clear

is the shifting and changing and rearranging,

the steps forward and back, the new attack,

the words without saying, the new ways of praying,

the chanting and toning, the sense of no lack.


What's clear to me now,

not muddled or fuddled or foggy,

no longer hazy or smudgy or smoggy,

is simply what's here.

It's clear.



Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor   

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Forged in the Fire



Have you been?


Well, it's an on-going process.


The process is called life.


So what's the fire (notice I'm not saying "where's the fire?")


The fire is life's vicissitudes.


So the fire lasts forever? We're forever in the fire?


You got it.


And where's the reward? What do we get out of all this heat?


You get forged, of course.


Into the shape of what?


You choose. You are malleable throughout, you know. You create the shape.


Help! I don't know how! I don't know what I want to be.


Well, that's tough. The fire's lit and you're in it. Deal with it. Well, all right. I'll give you some suggestions, shall I? Here's one, for example: be yourself. That ego machine is not you, although you like to pretend that it is. The ego machine is just your cover, your beard. Beneath it (or surrounding it or within it) is your true self, which is, which carries, its own flame for forging. It is the forge within which you are tempered. It is the bright unwavering and eternal flame that is your connection to the Universe and to everything in it. THAT'S your forge.


So you're telling me to access that flame, to be aware of the flame, and to let it forge me. But let it forge WHAT me? The ego machine?


If you wish.


If not that, then what? It's too scary to think of. It's too scary to do. Who would I be? Where would I be?


You choose. The flame is there. Always. Always ready. But hey—no pressure.




Well, I think we've milked that conversation till it's about dry.  Let's leave the forge and move on to the milking room. Time to bring in the fresh milk and begin the day's cheese-making. After this batch of milk settles and I've poured off half the cream that rises to the top, I'll heat it and add rennet and let it sit again.


And then it will be time to ladle off the curds into the little molds. And then I'll turn the shaped cheeses from the day before, and the ones from the day before that, as they dry and age on the racks.


The cheesemaker's job is never done. It's unending. There's always a next step to be followed as we go from hay to cow to milk to cheese to market.


And breadmaking is just as organic a process as the cheesemaking.  The biga has to be put together the night before (water, flour, and a tiny bit of yeast). In the morning I'll add more water and flour and some salt. Kneading wakes up the gluten so it will form little elastic cell walls to enclose the yeast's gasses. Then I set it aside for the long slow rising in a cool (not warm!) place to develop the flavor of the wheat and the yeast. The fun part is when I shape that dough, which feels as smooth and soft as a baby's bottom. And then it rises again and I bake it and the house fills with the smell of dying yeast cells.


The bread and the cheese are ready.


The wine was made ten years ago and has been aging in the cellar.


Bring it up. Open it. Pour that old wine into new glasses.


Glasses forged in the fire.


Feel the connection.


Copyright 2010  Ann Tudor

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This New Year

I celebrate three new years. The first one is in September, when, with the excitement of a horse let out of the starting block, I respond to those back-to-school ads, a few falling leaves, and the offers of new classes and workshops. I'm off and running! See Ann start all over again, racing toward the finish line . . .


. . . which comes NOW. The end of December. And the start of the official calendar New Year. New Year's Day, the end of my favorite week of the year. It's time to return to life's hard slogging after the relief of a holiday break. It's the time of resolutions and affirmations and sober second thoughts. The time of lists, sorting, cleaning, and throwing out. The time of do-I-have-the-energy-to-do-this-AGAIN? (And it may not seem like it as the New Year begins, but you always manage, somehow.)


So thank goodness for the real New Year. Nature's New Year. The one where we get drunk on tulips and forsythia, experience hangovers not from alcohol but from contemplating the cruelest month. The Spring New Year entices us back to a grounded communion with the Earth. We recognize the baby beginnings of the year in the gentle puff of a breeze on our newly hatless head. It's here! It's time! We have light, and rain, and warmth, and more light.


Until then, however, we celebrate the calendar New Year as best we can: we notice that each day the light comes earlier and earlier, always an opportunity for joy.


So I send out wishes for a whole year's worth of joyful new years, whether it's this January one, the socially conditioned September one, or the re-awakening of the Earth that begins with the return of spring.


May each day be filled with mindful, prayerful joy.


Copyright 2010 Ann Tudor   

Mirror, Mirror


I have a friend who, as part of her search for enlightenment and spiritual consciousness, went through a six-month-long period during which her meditation consisted of looking at herself in the mirror for thirty minutes each day. She said it was a powerful meditation.


Monkey-see, monkey-do. I decided to try this technique. Well, the first problem was finding a mirror to look in. Most of my mirrors are five feet off the floor and are too heavy to take down and replace every day. There are the sliding mirrored doors on the coat closet, but in order to use them I'd have to sit in the drafty hallway.


You get the picture. I obviously didn't really want to do this mirror thing. I doubted that any of its benefits would be worth the pain of staring at myself in the mirror for thirty minutes every morning.


About ten years ago I looked in the mirror and I saw my sister Sari. I was shocked. We have never looked alike. She's taller. Bigger-boned. Looks more like our mother. Has darker hair. I'm shorter, look like my father's sister (Aunt Roberta) and her son (Cousin Bob). But there I was, a dead ringer for Sari. And over the ten years since, I've grown to resemble her more and more. Now we're like the Bobbsey twins.


(There's a New Yorker cartoon that shows two old women sitting on a park bench. Each is wearing a buttoned-up winter coat and a little-old-lady hat. They are obviously sisters. One says to the other: "Are you the smart one and I'm the pretty one, or is it the other way around?")


Is this all I have to say about mirrors? Little jokes and anecdotes? A history of mirrors was published a few years ago. Ever since we first saw ourselves in a still pool, we have been fascinated with our appearance. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself in a three-way-mirror? You hadn't known what you looked like from the side. Sometimes it's better not to know.


Our sweet Baby Sam, when he was just a year old, loved his mirror image. This was discovered by accident one day when he was having a bad day, fussing and crying and apparently inconsolable over some unknown baby angst. A desperate parent carried him to the mirror and said, "Look, Sam! See the baby?"


Well, Sam saw. He stopped crying and began smiling and laughing. He babbled greetings and sent coy looks to the little stranger. For months the mirror was Sam's parents' best friend.


The mirror was a sure-fire distraction. Before he was mobile, you could hold him up close to the mirror and he would put his hands on the glass and give the baby a big wet kiss. Even at a sophisticated twelve months, he played with the baby in the mirror, toddling to the full-length mirror in his bedroom, picking up his favorite soft monkey or big plush dog, burying his face in the animal, and then peeking shyly at the mirror to see what the other baby thinks of him.


When I was visiting in the Bahamas a few years ago, a lone bird landed on the door-mounted rear view mirror of my daughter's parked car. From 9 a.m. until sundown, the bird did not leave the car. He was convinced that another bird lived on the other side of the mirror. He hopped from the ledge at the front of the mirror to the top of the mirror, where he would peer at the backside of it, searching for the stranger. Whether he wanted to fight him or welcome him, he was determined to find him.


All bird-ly duties were forgotten in his obsession. He hopped from front to back, back to front, front to back, sure that if he could just be fast enough he would find that sneaky hiding bird. He did not eat, he did not go home to see his wife and baby birdies. He dug not a single worm.


How did he excuse himself when he arrived at the nest after dark? Did he say, "Honey, I'm sorry I didn't call, but you wouldn't believe how I spent the day! There's a stranger in the neighborhood, and I spent the whole day playing hide-and-seek with him. And I never managed to catch him!"


And did she believe him?


We watched this off and on all day, but, lacking the bird's obsession, we also ate and played with babies and walked to the beach at Coco Bay to look for empty sea urchin shells.


Copyright  2010  Ann Tudor