The Gentlest Thing

Julia's nice clogs and Dolly
I was walking on Prince Street in Soho this morning, on my way to Elena’s Saturday morning yoga class, and I noticed a tiny white poodle standing on the sidewalk, collarless, all alone. She was just sniffing around outside a freshly opened bodega, her feet, wet from a puddle of chipped ice, leaving tiny blotches (you couldn’t exactly call them footprints; they were more like the imprint of a little paint brush after you’ve washed it) on the pavement.

Then I noticed that her mom—a bedraggled hipster with bedhead—was waiting in the barely opened doorway of a tenement in her blue bathrobe and bare feet (red toenails). I had a fantasy of her: last night in her little black dress and her leggings and her gigantically tall heels running down the street arm in arm with five girlfriends, all on something, laughing. I’d seen a mob like that, you see, at around 7:00 PM while I was on my way to the theatre: they said, “Harvey Keitel!” and all bent over laughing; their mouths were such perfect Os you could have had them for breakfast with milk in the morning.

Anyway, that dog. I continue to feel that dogs are the best people around, and I continue to miss mine (Scout), and Julia’s (Dolly and Scooby)—all of whom died in a cluster this fall (did I say clusterfuck?). Then, when I miss Dolly and Scooby, I start to miss Julia, and how she’d love on that tiny shih tzu, grinding her front teeth (Julia’s) while picking the ubleck out of Dolly’s perpetually wheezy eyes. I loved that love, Julia’s for Dolly. Anyway. (Am I gossiping about Julia? I’d certainly say it to her face, if I had a chance: I loved that love, and I miss you terribly. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’m sorry, once again, for all the ways I made you feel bad. I hope you are really well, and feeling happy.)

Sooooo. This is one of the things that Elena said this morning; that the gentlest thing in the world is an open mind. Thank you, Elena.

The Guest House

On a completely other note, Colleen read this poem by Rumi yesterday, at the end of an amazing yoga class in Sag Harbor, that was about ebbing and flowing like the ocean (backbending and forward bending, breathing in and breathing out—a circle). Just to put things in perspective.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Deitch Is Standing Up, Finally

I was at a teaching in France with Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche last summer, and someone raised their hand during a Q & A and said, “All this stuff about seeing everything as empty—it’s so easy. So what’s the fuss about? Why do we have to do all these practices and hear all these teaching over and over again?” Rinpoche didn’t have to think for very long. He said, “You’re right. It is easy. Until someone puts their hand on your girlfriend’s ass.”

For all my old dharma friends—my vajra brothers and sisters—who are in this stew pot with me, I love you. It’s perfect. Keep it up, whatever it is. Especially the bodhicitta. That’s the teaching. I, personally, will never give up on you.

I don’t like it, but if you want to keep up the gossiping and the toxic vomiting about me, too—mostly about my breakup with Julia—go for it. I’ve had very sad long winter to adjust to this phenomena—adjust to losing especially old friends, or having friendships irrevocably damaged, because of conversations that occur behind my back, and only behind my back. Not many people who have engaged in these conversations—one or two, maybe—have come to me and asked for my input, or inquired about how I’m feeling. Some people have actually come to me and told me what’s going on in my life, and were completely deaf to the fact that I may have a better understanding of that than they did.

That’s the really crazy territory I’ve been travelling in; it would be amusing if it weren’t so unbelievably painful. As a complete stranger at yoga, two ferry rides away, said to me the other day, “I know the WHOLE story.” She swept her hand across the air, encompassing the entire universe when she said it. I wish I knew what she knew. No one has, as yet, told me. I thought the story of my personal experience was supposed to include me.

It’s a lesson for all of us: No one likes the mirror, I know that. But until the mirror is turned on us—especially showing us how we build ourselves up by knocking other people down (and we sometimes do that in a group, which has a bullying quality)—we just go on being arrogant and insensitive and hurting people, and telling even ourselves that we have no idea that it’s happening. That’s not bodhicitta.

I think the rule of thumb is, if you wouldn’t say it to the person’s face, then don’t say it at all. If you said it, then you said it. Stand by it or apologize for it or clear it up, any misunderstanding that comes from it. I’m up for conversation, so instead of talking behind my back, and hiding, why don’t you come and talk to me. I’m not just talking to one or two people: I’m talking to anyone who has engaged in this activity. I’m here, and I’m open.

The Asparagus…

…are out at Sep’s farmstand, just at the end of my road, a pound bag for $4, which you put in a big jar, honor system-style. The stalks are green but with a purple tint, kind of like that shiny fabric from India—what is it called? I think that if I sat on my porch and watched the trees, I’d see them bloom: colors are popping by the hour today: fuchsia bushes, canary yellow shrubs, baby-green pods born in a moment from seemingly dead grey branches. Everything is beginning to taste like it came out of the dirt, rather than a warehouse, and the breeze through the house is warm and soft, carrying the sound of bugs, birds, and a little local construction. When you spend the winter in an isolated spot, the sound of humans working is welcome: We made it.


For awhile now, a foghorn has been sounding, low and soft, from the Sound, and a bird has been saying, right here, outside my treehouse, “Da wizard, da wizard, da wizard.” The sky keeps changing from grey to blue, and what’s left of the rain just hangs from new buds and pods. All my windows are open, though I’m wearing a sweater and a down vest inside, and my nose is cold.

It’s spring, time to let the outside in. And it’s Sunday: in our old loft in Brooklyn, we’d move the furniture around on Sundays. Maud would call from school and say, “What are you guys doing?” And I’d laugh and say, “Moving the furniture—it’s Sunday. Wanna come over?” Today I moved my shrine from the livingroom into my tiny bedroom, to make way for Guru Yoga, which starts tomorrow. I want to be socked in and snug on the floor between my warm, soft bed and the closet. There will be music (da wizard, da wizard), and there will be space.

Dad Memory #12: Dancing

I’m afraid I’m running out of memories. But it does seem like every time I remember one, another pops up. Sometimes I think I don’t have them because they’re so part of the fabric of my mind that they don’t register as memories—they’re just Deitch space. But then I realize: No, that’s my father.

My parents had 78s. Did I write this already? The record player was downstairs, by my room, in a den that looked out over the Long Island Sound. The floor was actual slate: grey and uneven, shiny with some kind of floor cleaner. That floor is so part of Deitch space. There was a tiny built-in kitchen in that room, elegant, for parties and grown-up card games. There was a little fridge and a sink and bottles of booze. I remember so fondly bowls and bowls of bridge mix—orbs of chocolate—coming out of that.

Anyway, I remember my mom and dad playing 78s and dancing in that room. Not when people were around: just us. And I remember him holding my hands as I stepped onto his shoes, my tiny feet in socks, and him carefully lifting his feet and starting to dance. Could there be anything better? The sunshine, the slate floor, my parents just having been each others’ arms, dancing and laughing. The feel of my feet on the solid ground of my father’s shoes, my hands firmly in his.

Posted in Dad

Dad Memory #11: Goodbye, Father

It was not like this, except for the root beer.
We were on an airplane that had just landed somewhere, my mother, father, and I. I had been sitting next to a priest—between him, I think, and my mother. I was probably five or six.

Wait—I forgot to tell you that my mother was raised Catholic, in Milwaukee, and my father, Jewish, in Brooklyn. Oh, no—I did tell you that, a while ago, in the even sadder days. Anyway, as I stepped into the aisle of the airplane—stepped up to my father, who was standing there waiting for me—my mother said to me, “Say ‘Goodbye, Father.'” Meaning, say goodbye to the priest. So I did. I said, “Goodbye, Father,” and my own father laughed. That is, he laughed derisively—sort of scoffed, or sniggered.

This is an odd memory, and there was a time that I thought about it so much that the memory of the memory is more vivid than the incident itself. I felt humiliated in a number of ways, though I was just a little girl. I felt like I had been caught by my father being stupid: using words that had meanings I couldn’t know, but should have known.

It was about him, right? Maybe it was about him and my mother and their differences. Probably, for him, it was about being Jewish, somehow. How could I not know the true meaning of this? How could I not know, in some deeper way, my own father? (Ladies and gents with real live daddys: know them, if you can. Just to have known him for a little while longer; just to have been a little older.) There was contempt there; that’s what I remember. It made a tiny part of me, like the wind against the sand.

Tonight I’m going to sit with it for a few minutes, and look at it. Goodbye, Father. Goodbye, father. Goodbye.

Posted in Dad

The Sad Dusk: One Bean

I wore the clogs. The guy was not a Republican. Afterwards, I went over to L. B.’s to return her car, and talked to her from her bedroom doorway, while she lay in bed in her yellow, two-story house, in her pajamas, sneezing. I went to the store and bought her some chicken soup that she could make salty and hot, and lemons and ginger. She told me to take her car home with me, rather than get on my bike in my suit. So I did.

I have a few stories to tell you. Some of them I’m not sure how to say. Here’s one more Kay Ryan poem:

The Best of It

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn’t matter that
our acre’s down to
a square foot. As
though our garden
could be one bean
and we’d rejoice if
it flourishes, as
though one bean
could nourish us.

Niagara River

I took a book of poems by Kay Ryan out of the Greenport library today. She just won the Pulitzer for poetry. (Have I told you that the Greenport library doesn’t charge late fees? If you want to put money into the jar when your books are late, you can. Otherwise, they can just be late.) Anyway, I was blown away by this, which is the title poem:

The Niagara River

As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.


I put on my old gray Calvin Klein suit about an hour ago—the one I bought while Maud was still in elementary school, and it fit (which is a testament to yoga and to the power of despair to use up calories). I’m going to see a conservative person about a conservative job, so I put on lipstick and mascara (does that stuff go bad?), and then I put on clogs. The clogs looked ridiculous: I’m supposed to look like Patti Smith, and instead I look like Nurse Bob. So then I put on my Frye boots. They were better, but they’d probably lose me the job, with all that metal crap sticking out of the bottom of my pants where my lady-like ankles are supposed to be. Shit.

It’s OK, I thought: I don’t look too weird. And then I realized that I had a protection cord around my neck—bright red—right there in the middle of all the black and white. It came from my teacher. Between that and the boots and the freak flag (mommy’s unite!), I’m going to be eating cat food soon. Except that’s made with meat.

I was sitting with Alan a few weeks ago—Bronnie’s Dad, who’s a super famous fabulous brilliant retired trial lawyer who has generously employed me for the past three months—and he said to me, “I have problems with authority.” And I thought, “Right on.” If he can say it without apologizing, I can say it: I have problems with authority. The last boss I had (not Alan, whom I adore) surreptitiously read my email. That’s legal, right? But this was a four-person operation, and I was second in command. I’m not good at things like that.

But, wait: I can’t give up on him, even if he was a giant fat asshole, read my email, and then fired me. I will bless him, and wish him enlightenment in this lifetime. Please, you go first. In the meantime, I’m off. I pray that I get this job if it would be of benefit to all beings, and that I don’t if it won’t.

Don’t Give Up

Part of that vow you take when you enter the Vajrayana is to never give up on your fellow vajra travelers. I like that, and it’s been very helpful to me. I’ve given up on friends in my life, and it’s never left me anywhere near happy. Ultimately I always end up missing them, since the love I felt for them never dies. I ruined the relationship between myself and my ex-husband by being unkind to him years ago, and he’s the father of my wonderful, beautiful child. Our child. It doesn’t matter what the reasons were—who cares? We wanted different things, that’s all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately—about how we are abandoned over and over. About how we abandon friends, ex-lovers, family. About how we’ve abandoned our planet. I have. I have to set that right. I’m rebuilding my life right now, so I have a chance to do it differently.