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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Who Are All These People With Whom I Share the Planet?

Hubris is my middle name, whether or not I pronounce it correctly. Deep within me, unasked-for, is the knowledge that I am probably superior to everyone else. Well, everyone I don't know. The people I do know quickly reveal their strengths and excellent qualities and that revelation disabuses me of my untenable feeling of better-than.


Obviously such thoughts have no place in the heart of a seeker, so I am now consciously changing my ego-driven gut reaction.


Who ARE these people I know barely or not at all? Since I have no clues as to their nature or even their behaviour, wouldn't it be more appropriate to assign them activities and ways of being that elevate them in my mind rather than diminish them?


Let's take the Smiths. I frequently see these two retired people walking. But beyond those neighbourhood sightings, their lives are unknown. How they spend their time is a mystery, just as it is for any casual acquaintance.


So rather than wonder about the apparent lack of excitement or virtue in the Smiths' lives, I have come to the conclusion that they are closet Buddhists. Unbeknownst to us neighbours, they spend each day in meditation (jointly or singly I can't know) and prayer; they eat abstemiously; they revel in sending healing messages to all sentient beings.


Well, who would have thought? This has completely reversed my view of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I now imagine them as selfless, conscious beings committed to the good.


And having accomplished this turn-around in my thinking, I have begun to apply a positive spin to everyone I come in contact with. Those dispirited people on the subway are not living empty lives of despair but only seem dull on the subway because internally they devote their commuting time to meditation, prayer, attempts at enlightenment. Strangers are not who I originally thought them to be, but are infinitely better.


This way of thinking does nothing to diminish me. On the contrary, their gain, arbitrarily imagined by me, is also my gain. The world wins.


Now, if I could just successfully extend this generosity to everyone. Excluded, for the moment, from my benign thinking are those who barrel along the sidewalk without making room for others; those who steadfastly refuse to notice that the subway car is filling up and thus it might be time to move their feet or their giant backpack off the nearby seat; in short, anyone who annoys me while I am out in the world. Those who fail to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. Those who are publicly noisy when I want quiet. Those who are slow when I want fast, or fast when I want slow. Those, in short, who are not ME.


H'm-m. The new me seems to need additional work. Well, I've made a start. If I can open my heart a bit more maybe I can make room for uncritical views of first one other couple, then another. Then three. And then on to an entire subway-ful. It's a work in progress.


Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, May 20, 2018

To Etch a List

Writing a list is onerous enough.

Etching a list would take forever,

so best make it a list worth etching.

No mere catalog of groceries to buy

or Christmas card recipients.

What, then?

A list of epiphanies,

experienced or desired?

Well, the ones experienced, perhaps,

but to write of desired epiphanies

misses the point.

Surely an epiphany is by definition


not an experience to be demanded

as a child calls for more:

more candy, cookies, love.


No, etching a list of epiphanies

you'd like to be visited with

would be a fool's task.

Let those come as they will

(if they will).

Instead, etch your list with beauties encountered,

pains endured,

growth received.

Etch a list of gratitude for life.


Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Organ Lessons; a Mother's Day Story

I've forgotten most of the details, as you will see. But here's what I remember: Eileen, my mother, overcame her fears and made sacrifices so that I could learn to play the organ.


When I was in grade 8 I began taking organ lessons. I don't know why. I was age-appropriately proficient on the piano and I don't remember any strong push to play the organ, though there must have been one.


However the subject arose, Eileen jumped on the idea, probably because it coincided with her strong Irish Catholic ideas of how her daughter could endear herself to God. She found a teacher at the convent in Lafayette, twenty miles away. Looking back, I'm surprised at the ease with which that happened.


Now, it is important to know that Eileen was a supremely nervous driver. The road between our home town, Delphi, and Lafayette followed the twisting and turning of the Wabash River, with resulting hills and vales. Highway 25 was a two-lane highway (they all were, in those days), and family cars shared the road with the long-distance trucks that transported goods all across the country. If you were stuck behind one of those giant semis grinding slowly up a rise, then you remained stuck forever—unless you were a driver bold enough to poke your nose around the truck and attempt to pass on one of the rare and too-short straightaways between curves and hills. Eileen made this drive with her heart in her throat. I could hear the terror in her breath and see the white knuckles of her death-grip on the wheel.


Making that trip once a week for a lesson would have been enough of an effort for the mother of six school-age children. But we needed to find a way for me to practice. Lucille, the organist at our parish church, seemed to feel she owned the church organ. She was a sour woman my mother's age, who led the grade-school girls' choir in their (our) pretty much incompetent singing of the more-or-less Gregorian chant Mass, and she was not a very good organist. But she was the organist. Father Kienly, when we asked permission for me to practice on the church organ (the church where I attended daily Mass as a member of the parish and was a paying student at the two-room Catholic school)—Father Kienly referred us to Lucille, asserting that this was not a decision he could make. (He was not only a lily-livered coward but also a promising pedophile, later transferred to another parish after Eileen and her dear friend Irma complained about his interest in and "accidental" touching of my sister Sari's burgeoning breasts.)


Anyway, Lucille said no. No way could I, an eighth grader, practice on the (her) church organ. She must have offered some sort of justification, but I don't remember what it was. As the months went on, her real reason became very clear: Lucille thought I was studying the organ so that I could take over her job. It never occurred to her that I might have a wider life ambition than being organist of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Delphi, Indiana, population 2500.


Where, then, could I practice? My new teacher in Lafayette offered us a private practice room at the convent. So for a long period of time (a month? six months? who can remember?) Eileen and I drove that cursed Highway 25 not just weekly but daily, always after school when traffic was heavy (though that might not be true; I'm pretty sure there wasn't a rush hour between Delphi and Lafayette!). But it was definitely at the awkward after-school, pre-dinner time of day. We would drive for thirty minutes, I would practice from 3:30 to 4:30, then we would drive home and Eileen would immediately apply herself to preparing dinner for eight people. How long we did this daily routine is anybody's guess.


Eventually, my father prevailed upon the minister at his own (Methodist) church and I was allowed to practice on that organ. Looking back, I can see that it was worth his while to save Eileen from that daily drive—which must have affected his dinners as well.


At the convent, Eileen would let me off at the door. I went down a hall and into the small, bare practice room—nothing in it but the organ (perhaps the same one on which I took my lessons), its bench, and maybe a chair. Where Eileen waited for me I don't know. Presumably (I hope) not in the car!


The peace I felt as I entered that room—indeed the entire building—is still in me. It was quiet. Such a shift from the chaos of my family life—and thus so harmonious to my introverted self—that it's a wonder I didn't opt to join the convent immediately.


And then I practiced. Smooth transitions from note to note, fingers shifting as needed for a legato line. Three ranks of keys. Stops to pull to imitate flutes or trumpets. Pedals, in the same layout as the organ's black and white keys. Heel-and-toe exercises and scales. Heaven.


And it was Eileen who made it all possible. Happy Mother's Day!



Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog:

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Wake Up Empty

Wake up empty if you must

then spend your whole day filling.

Look at the sky

whether it's the colour of milk

or sea

or Paradise itself.


Hold a tree to fill a crevice or two.

Put your foot on the needles of the forest floor and

let Earth filter through

your sole to expand your soul.


So many ways to generate fullness:

babies, deep talk,

dancing to the rhythms of your heart,



Consider also the charms of domesticity:

chop an onion,

knead the dough,

create a scarf by looping a single strand of yarn

through itself, through itself, through itself.


Send out some love

and watch new love seep into the cracks.


Above all: kneel before what is awesome

then stretch your neck to kiss the sky.


Copyright © 2018 Ann Tudor
Food blog: