A Life Altering Event

Petals on Stone
Petals on Stone
MSB retreat and kitties 086
There is no end to the road

“Sometimes the powerful force behind our life seems to make us a passenger. We aren’t in control. We identify with the force and think, ‘This is who I am,’ we wander without intention…Ignorance separates us from others, nature, and ourselves causing endless suffering.”

Last week I flew to Colorado, and I got to change my life. For the price of a plane ticket, the several conveyances to and from the Buddhist retreat at Phuntsok Choling, and the discomfort of countless hours of sitting on a cushion in a shrine hall, I was able to expand and define much of what I have been studying for the past thirteen years, not to mention the previous fifty. (B.B. Before Buddhism) My way of viewing the causes and conditions of my daily life and my understanding of why suffering and joy occur for each of us became clearer and clearer as I sat and listened and asked questions.
Here I summarize what I gleaned from the talks of my main teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche and the three other teachers: Pema Chodron, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, and Dungse Jampal Norbu. To write this will be of great benefit to me and may interest you too. Of course, these comments of mine reflect what I was able to comprehend, or, even more likely, my capacity to understand the precepts and subtleties of the Buddhist teachings and Dharma. I’ll just do my best.

To preface my explanation it might be helpful for you to go first to the website for Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s sangha http://www.mangalashribhuti.org/, mostly for the benefit of the visuals. I could write “a thousand words” to illustrate the beauty of the typical Tibetan shrine with its ancient Buddha figures, the elaborate textiles surrounding the dais, the splendid fresh flowers arranged with the candles, crystal water bowls, and so forth. In general, a Tibetan Buddhist shrine is a feast for the eyes, far surpassing the Catholic altars familiar to me from my youth. Such sensuality is in keeping with the general understanding among Buddhists that life is to be embraced with all its splendor and its suffering. The MSB website has wonderful photos of the various teaching centers and events. Kongtul Rinpoche’s book Light Comes Through is also a good way to follow his teachings that are extremely intelligible. “User friendly.”

Day One

On the first morning of our retreat the large tent was filled with a gathering of about one hundred students all seated on cushions or chairs; the yellow color of the tent added a sunny aura to an already sunny day, at about 9,000 feet. We began with a series of chants mostly affirming the importance of living well and helping others to live well with minimal suffering. The NSS retreat (Nygima Summer Studies) is an annual event; and the teacher DzigarKongtrul Rinpoche places huge importance on the intense training that brings students from all over the world. Australia might have been the farthest point of departure, but there were people from all over the US, Canada, and Europe taking advantage of the opportunity to spend over a week with a great Tibetan Rinpoche to whom they are devoted as friends and students.

Our “curriculum” for the week was three major phases or “vehicles” of Buddhist training: Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. These are in some ways sequential, like learning the cords on a musical instrument before one learns the composition. In the words of a wonderful MSB friend who has studied with Kongtrul for years as well as other Buddhist teachers, “each “vehicle” has a focus of development leading to enlightenment such as building the foundation, caring for others, and realizing egolessness…Elizabeth (Mattis) was very clear about how important it is to build a good foundation rather than to try to jump on board with some what some consider to be the ‘coolest’ teachings, those of Vajrayana.”
Hinayana is apparently the simplest and includes the simplest meditation technique that one learns when stepping on to a contemplative path. But here, with these talks, Rinpoche began by explaining the benefits we accrue as we learn to calm the mind in meditation which do not seem a direct result of meditation. By implementing the teachings in your own way, you slowly alter your way of viewing and reacting to things. To quote another great teacher, the Dalai Lama, “When your mind is trained in self-discipline, even if you are surrounded by hostile forces, your peace of mind will hardly by disturbed. On the other hand, your mental peace and calm can easily be disrupted by your own negative thoughts and emotions. The real enemy is within.”

Returning to the NSS talks, in the same context, Kongtrul Rinpoche spoke of the force that seems to drive our life, that prompts us to think, “This is me,” even when we feel separate from much of the causes and conditions that constitute our daily reality. Sometimes we spend time and energy trying to escape the forces in our life that frequently include suffering and confusion. These forces have little to do with our intention or wishes; indeed, sometimes we have no personal intentions, only going with the drift and flow around us. The subtle detail on our intentions is about our Karma. Apparently, some of our intention is a result of past actions. Our will or “intention” is not entirely free; we paid for it earlier. But we can use it well or poorly, and obviously we can’t dwell on it or blame it.

For example, and this is MY example, if we wake up every morning and dedicate ourselves to doing and being “good,” this brief practice will no doubt lead to positive results. Through defining your intention for the day, your actions will have better results. Simple. A caveat in Buddhism is that your intentions and actions are both important as are the results. Whether you win or lose is no more important that how you play the game. What is in your heart is ultimately what matters.

Another basic tenant in Buddhist thought is impermanence. Everything changes constantly. A familiar syllogism is “You never step in the same river twice.” Indeed, science now tells us that the universe is in transition as is our knowledge of what and how it works. In this context, all that a person can do is to act with good intentions and subsequently have a calm attitude toward the results. If we try to exercise too much control and become too attached to the results, considerable suffering will occur generally. Rinpoche described stupidity as discomfort without really knowing why, a craving for a different result. If we can accept the result, much of the discomfort will dissipate.

Later that day, Elizabeth Mattis Namgyal spoke. (She has just published a book called The Power of an Open Question that demonstrates her great interest in chaos theory.) She described the Hinayana path of Buddhism as denser and stronger than the Mahayana and Vajrayana paths and that it is like the base of a mountain. We all love to reach the top of a peak from which we have a great view, but we can only get there by climbing from the base. There is more specificity and structure in Hinayana which seems to limit our percentage of freedom (by being structured), but this is empowering once one has learned to use the options available through skillful means and meditation practice. We can see the sanity of our mind without the grip of our habitual patterns. “Sometimes you choose to be in your practice, but sometimes you forget,” and lose your allegiance to the sanity of your practice. If we only remember to stay calm and smell the roses, life works better for us.

Mindfulness of Mind

The next morning, Rinpoche took up the question of the mind and our relationship to it, saying, “Our intention to understand our mind is the key to enlightenment.” We are born with built in abilities toward self-reflection and self-awareness which are our tools for personal growth. To observe the dichotomy between subject and object as our mind perceives them can teach much about cause and effect and even our own neuroses as we watch the sometimes peculiar machinations of our thoughts, feelings, and conclusions.

To use his example, we can eat something very hot. If we are not paying attention, we are distracted, we hardly notice; but under other conditions, we can have a very strong response. This tells us much about the nature of our minds. I asked a question about a similar response. Occasionally, I will discover a significant bruise, usually on my hip or legs, where I have bumped into something with enough force to leave a mark without ever noticing the event. I will then usually try to recall when I ran into a table or other object. There should have been pain if I had not been distracted and failed to notice. He described the surgery of his root teacher Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche who underwent surgery without anesthetic. He didn’t need it. Mind over matter, in this case an understanding of his mind made pain an acceptable experience if, indeed, he felt pain at all.

My Experience

Before attending the NSS training, I had studied the teachings of Kongtul Rinpoche for nine months as part of the amazing online courses offered by Mangala Shri Bhuti. It was possible to download talks and text once enrolled, and I had the opportunity and the time, to study and meditate almost daily, following the Dharma. It was convenient and transformative for me as I have moved around so much in the past fifteen years that regular study with a teacher has been almost impossible. The eight days of intensive training in the presence of this fine teacher and the three other gifted thinkers/teachers was very moving. Many of my previous ideas were confirmed, but actually being with the Sangha (community) was heart-lifting.
Of course there were a few difficulties. I can’t really appreciate the Tibetan chants much. First of all, they are in Sanskrit and very hard to follow. Once I am lost as the group chants along, I get really frustrated. Fortunately that is part of my practice, and I have to just get over it and wait until someone shows me (my frustration emanating widely) the place in the chant book. I have to be patient which is one of the primary qualities of a “good” Buddhist which I don’t claim to be. (This reminds me of the Kung Fu TV series from years ago when the teacher would say to the student, “Patience Grasshopper.”) My same MSB “adviser” suggests that one should “try listening with your heart instead of your brain. There is beauty and joy in the rhythm of the words, and you can get a general sense of what it is all about even though you don’t understand the language.” Indeed the chants are lovely.

Also, certain aspects of the teachings, or Dharma, are hard for me to accept. For example, I don’t believe in “prayer” in the sense that I can ask for something from a higher power and expect to get it. I have to view prayer from a different point of view, as something that I plant as a seed in my life, mind, and universe in hopes of a result. And there are a few other things; but, by and large, the teachings are highly accessible and make a huge amount of sense. And this was all presented in the first two days!

Days 3-6 were devoted to Mahayana which is much larger in content, focusing on the contents of our hearts. I will write next about it.

I hope that this has been of interest and benefit as it has benefitted me to write it. It is difficult to claim wisdom, may seem presumptuous; but I learned a lot and hope that it might help others.

Getting Her Ducks in a Row at Sky Farm

In a row, sorta Which Came First?

After 9:00 and time to feed the ducks! Marie pounded down the stairs from here crow’s nest bedroom and headed down to the hall on the bottom floor of her strange, tall, metal-incased farm house. She grabbed a red, re-cycled coffee container and filled it with light brown pellets of duck food from a huge bag that was surrounded by other bags containing food for guineas, wild birds, turkey-chicks, and, finally, cats. She was careful to grab the right food; you can’t have your momma ducks laying kitten eggs. Then she scooped up a days worth of wild bird seed with a Starbucks “tall” cup and headed for the quackers, not to be confused with Quakers.

Stepping into the moist, cool morning air, green was abundant. Spring was all around. Earth was definitely happening. Green trees, grasses, veggies, and lake scum assailed her eyes as she walked over the wooden bridge connecting Earth to Duckland, the small island in the small lake about fifty yards from the farm house. As she crossed over, carefully listening for any trolls under the bridge, she heard the insistent squawks of thirteen ducks and two geese emanating from the small, corrugated duck shed on the island.

The fifteen birds had been enclosed since dusk the night before when they had readily waddled into the shed and hit the hay, rather literally in this case. FYI, by dusk, your average duck longs for comfort and safety after a long day of scum-sucking and bug-chasing. The little shed was also safe from the coyotes and coons who would love to make a feast of a nice fat duck. Without the enclosure the ducks might be forced to spend the night on the lake itself, dog-paddling for hours, in order to avoid predators. So the small, stinky shed with its blanket of hay was a haven for them. BUT they clearly wanted out by 9:30.

Marie put down the container of duck pellets in order to lift the heavy hinge on the shed door. Ryan, the “guard goose” was at the forefront almost staring her in the face at his considerable goose height; he was shouting expletives in Goosian which needed no translation. Ryan and his consort GiGi were the odd birds, having been purchased with the thirteen ducks to act as guards. Ryan was large, loud, and fearless; he was the equivalent to a Sikh warrior in India’s Punjabi State, bred to protect. With a guard goose, it is sometimes helpful to back-hand him a bit to, literally, have the upper hand.

She stood amidst the cacophony of bleets, croaks, and quacks, then raised the heavy door, releasing the flock, careful to watch for Ryan’s bill least he feel exceedingly aggressive and want to swipe at her as a type of warrior practice. The fifteen creatures waddled and squawked ahead of her with Ryan, the Tall, in the middle continuing with his strange goose hiccup/bleet which must mean, “I am the Pope of Geese. See how tall and white I am with a huge, orange, plastic-looking lump on my head. I am leading my flock.”

Marie followed the Pope to the feed trays near the water. Pouring out the pellets, she was up to her knees in duckbills and quacks, but even Ryan was reasonable as he gobbled away. (So maybe we need to talk turkeys here.) She then headed back to the quack shack to gather the eggs; hopefully, ten from the momma ducks and one from GiGi. The only efficient way to gather the eggs is to climb through the low door to the shed and sort of hunker around as you look for eggs. This is an uncomfortable and stinky process as the birds have “soiled their nest” extensively. Apparently they have not read the books on bird protocol stating that birds don’t usually do that. Perhaps it’s different for domesticated birds that depend upon their humans to keep the hay fresh which it wasn’t on that morning, by any stretch.

The act of searching for eggs was a rich one. Although there existed actual nesting boxes in the shed which allowed for easier harvesting from the exterior, some of the ducks had not read those instructions either, or they simply preferred those spots with a good view or a better mattress upon which to lay an egg. Maybe they have their own, internal, de-duck-tive processes.

Task completed, our Earthling headed back over the bridge with ten eggs in the same small pail with which she’d delivered the food. It seemed like a fair exchange: ten eggs for humans in exchange for two pounds of food for the ducks as well as a great lake covered in duck weed (What else?), and a safe bedroom. She headed into the kitchen to scrub up the new eggs and pack them in a dated carton; she pulled a previously gathered egg to scramble for herself that morning. When she cracked it open and saw the bright orange yolk, she thought, “Here’s my carotene for today. This is better than any vitamin.”
Then she thought, “There something totally cyclical about all of this. Not only do the ducks and I feed each other, but they feed me in other ways. They give me an excuse to waddle down to the lake; they make me laugh; and they remind me about pecking orders and arrogant peckers who think they’re warriors. And all I have to do is feed them. Life should always be that integrated. How often do I feel just the opposite? That I give too much, that there are not enough eggs in my basket to make a decent omelet. Do ducks feel dissatisfied? I doubt it. Does Ryan? Maybe.”

Then she laughed and sat down to eat the amazing egg with a simple side of toast and butter. Integrated and grateful.

Roots in the Sky

Sky Farm school April 28 13 032Baja Observatory Sky Farm Icehouse 079Baja Observatory Sky Farm Icehouse 058Baja Observatory Sky Farm Icehouse 083

Roots in the Sky

I am surrounded by beauty! The fourth floor window of my sister’s house at Sky Farm reveals rolling green pastures, dotted with spotted cows. The countless wildflowers fill the hollows of the hills upon which you can see an occasional old house. The landscape is verdant beyond belief as it is Spring, the green vista is touched by the soft light of thin clouds, almost a mist of moisture. The new leaves on the elms and ash trees are a brilliant yellow-green and even the water in the lake is green as a result of the duck weed floating on its surface. There are no sharp angles anywhere. There is no dust, no trash, only rich grass and trees growing from the thick, Texas top soil.

I have been staying here at the farm, located between Houston and Austin for two weeks. My fourth floor point of view is made possible by the five story house built on the property twenty years back by its then owner-architect. The house is not that large; it’s “just tall, that’s all.” The view from the fifth floor is even more impressive, but people seldom have the energy to walk up the four flights of stairs to get there. My room on the fourth floor is providing me with great  exercise every time I forget my phone, hat, book, etc. upstairs three flights.

 

Previously, for the past fourteen years, off and on, I have been living in Marfa, Texas, and in the Big Bend Region. When I first moved to the high desert and people would ask, “Why did you move to Marfa?” I would say, “The Sky.” I was so enraptured by the vast contours of peaks, the golden grass lands, and skies that my heart would soar like those wide-winged buzzards that hang almost inanimate, on the wind. Now, fourteen years later, I am back in central Texas; I lower my gaze, I look around; and I stick my metaphorical toes into the topsoil, wiggling them slightly. It feels good: the moisture, the bird calls, and the moos from adjoining fields.

 

I can almost feel myself heal from the drought of solitude I felt while living in the high desert for seven years. As I wrote in my book, Let Go of the Rope, “…it was true that my social life was for shit. I was over sixty and single in a land of married’s and thirty-something’s. I just stayed home or hiked or worked or studied alone. My mantra was ‘Today, I will simply enjoy the hell out of my day. Yoga will be fun. Tomorrow I’ll try to find the courage to put my dancing shoes on and go hear some music even if I have to go sola.’ I seldom did this.”

 

Here at the farm, I am surrounded by richness. My family loves me and knows my history. They are even vaguely interested in my ideas and personhood. In the process of tending the gardens or feeding the assorted birds that are thriving here: ducks, geese, guineas, baby turkeys, I can reconnect with something so obviously outside any sense of ego or self-recrimination. And the environment is so fruitful, literally, with an array of small crops such as artichokes, beets, lettuce, and so on, that fill the fridge, then the dinner table. I am literally being nurtured. I feel like a resurrection fern from the desert, the kind that look totally dead as they hang onto rocks and sand then burst into glorious green after a good rain even if it hasn’t rained in years.

Goatheads vs. Chiggers

Of course, no place is perfect. For example, in Marfa, we have “goatheads,” a kind of sticker than is so potent it will inflict pain upon anyone’s feet and will even puncture a stout bicycle tire. “Don’t tread on me.” The local residents go to great lengths to control the predators, but one of a goathead’s greatest skills is to thrive under the worst possible circumstances, such as the drought conditions in West Texas over the past two years. Goatheads abound in abundant abandon. You can pretty much forget riding a bicycle off the pavement, let alone walk barefoot.

In central Texas and specifically SkyFarm, we have a wiggly version of that prickly villain, the chigger. Having spent an hour weeding the chard sprouts in the family garden yesterday, I have to insist that the chigger is worse. As I sit here and avoid scratching the large, red pock marks on my armpits and on my chest, I can imagine the amount of fun the critters had yesterday climbing up my arms while I tugged on the pretty chard sprouts. These invasive varmints have made the flesh of my upper body resemble the sad photos of the victims of smallpox, the bubonic plague, or an extreme vitamin deficiency. (We frequently were shown these in grade school in order to make us glad to be Americans.) And they itch! And you can’t scratch a chigger bite! It just itches more.

 

Is it a question of goat heads vs. chiggers? Marfa vs. Sky Farm? Should one base one’s life decisions on the aggravations of stickers or bugs? No, but it’s worthwhile to recognize that wherever you go there will be difficulties; they are so omnipresent as to be almost irrelevant. This suggests that one should go for the “gusto” and look for the enlivening joy, for one’s soul mates, for things that grow and soar, for great conversations, or projects that appeal. Whether you are living in Thoreau’s Walden or downtown Chicago the key is to focus on your “bliss” as Joseph Campbell would have suggested. My “bliss” has always been Mother Nature; she has been my mentor and provided succor countless times. She has revealed many secrets to me, for example, the seasons, the cycle of life and death, or the miracle of a sudden rainbow. Sitting “at her knee” I have learned to love and take solace in her lessons and truths. I try to stay in her company as much as possible.

 

Others may have responded to the lessons of music with its heart-opening qualities and infinite vocabulary. A highly physical person might find bliss in a perfect stroke of golf or a consuming yoga session. We each have our great teachers who are all teaching the same thing: find your joy, YOUR joy. That moment of seeing a duck launch ripples onto a mirror of water or a complete surrender to a Mozart Sonata, that’s joy. Look for your joy even on a minor scale, perhaps your favorite cup of tea, sipped ceremoniously.

I have loved living in the high desert of the Big Bend region of Texas for the past decade. All those sublime sunsets reside in my mind’s eye eternally. Can I love living in the verdant hills of central Texas and Sky Farm even with the chiggers. I shall strive to put down roots in the sky! We’ll see what grows. Hopefully it will be my heart which is already responding to the simple fact of having my friends and family nearer to me than in my High Lonesome. The great Buddhist teacher Thich Nach Hanh says that we are our home and that the more we try to find a “home” outside of ourselves the more we feel the discomfort of looking for a home.

I acknowledge the validity of what he says while maintaining that we still require a community, regular contact, meaningful conversations, and a sense of inclusion. Here with my literal family whom I have loved all my life, this feels like my home, my earthly home. I have left a wonderful house full of all my personal possessions, my favorite art work and so on in Marfa. I miss it, the house and my stuff; but it’s just stuff.

What is Sky Farm

To explain the farm I must first tell of its inception. The idea for Sky Farm developed forty years ago when my sister, my brother-in-law, and I moved from Houston to a commune in Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas. It was begun by a wealthy Houston woman as a way to flee the city at times. She invited her friends to live there too, thus creating a type of commune. I’ve written about the Peaceable Kingdom School in my book, explaining the property owner’s decision to start an official school, partly in order to create a tax write off for her generous expenditures on behalf of her friends and, also, because she liked the idea.

 

We were a motley crew of over-educated, rich, or drugged out twenty-somethings. We were asked to start a school. We created a series of classes that we advertised in Houston and Austin; we successfully drew people in for weekend classes in a variety of subjects: wild edibles, pottery, blacksmithing, building a barn, native dyes for weaving, and so forth. The response was very positive; and we shared a lot of information and craziness with each other.

 

My sister, brother-in-law, and I stayed only about eighteen months; but it had been an exciting experience in so many ways that we have often talked of doing it again. About five years ago, Jody, David, and I started looking around central Texas for a place to live and start a school. They found Sky Farm finally; and the rest “is history.” Over the past several years they have accomplished huge things. My sister and her son Jay are amazing gardeners. At the farm they have built two gardens, one on the small island on the lake, the other behind the big house. An interesting aside about Jody’s gardening skills is the front yard of her Houston house which is peculiar. In a neighborhood of trimmed lawns in front of million dollar homes, she has planted every square inch of the front yard.

It is mostly vegetables, except for several, oversized citrus and peach trees that tower over the family’s compact cars. Visualize a house in the Montrose area that is surrounded by up-scale homes; then there’s a yard filled with roses and spinach and marigolds and oodles of nasturtiums and a grape arbor over the cars. Initially, Jody’s garden was not popular in the neighborhood. Now everyone is used to it. She even got an award for best yard at some point!

Another facet of the Sky Farm gardening project is nephew Jay’s innovative spirit. He has created very distinctive gardens and orchards in the permaculture tradition. My personal favorite is the hugel-kulture area in which the beds are in a zig-zag pattern and quite tall, maybe thirty inches. If you look online you will learn more, but the basic idea is to use fallen tree trunks and limbs as a base upon which dirt and mulch are layered and layered and layered until there is a raised bed. A ground cover is used, usually an easy crop like mustard or lettuce, to keep the soil aerated and moist. Of course, you can also eat the crop. Jay and his talented wife Lily also have a more traditional garden which is organic. The artichoke plants are beautiful, they could be in anyone’s front yard as decoration; but the fruit is prolifically edible.

My sister’s garden on the small island in the lake has a foot bridge allowing access. Her garden is smaller and tidier and includes most of the old favorites. The domesticated ducks and geese that live on the island and on the lake provide eggs daily. They are very happy ducks, and the eggs, delicious. My brother-in-law and good friend David is the permaculture king and the landman. With an assortment of small farm tractors, he has created pastures and swales that encourage the growth of native grasses, aerate and irrigate the soil, and control erosion. He and son Jay run the Houston Tomorrow Foundation, a kind of think tank for what the community can do to improve the quality of their lives, including community gardens and transportation systems that allow people to stay out of their cars and still live productive, rich live. He is also a brilliant woodworker and photographer. He is currently writing a book about permaculture which should be out in a year or two. (David Crossley)

I have visited the farm many times as have my sons and several of my friends. I may just stay. I can be in charge of egg-scrubbing or mulch mulching, or wildflower identification.  I guess I’ll have to think of some productive role; but so far I’ve been happy to simply help out.

In the interest of creating the long-anticipated school, we have a plan in the works. David has purchased an enormous portable classroom building: 24 X 63 feet which we have just begun to remodel to provide a conference room for meetings and classes and a small dormitory to house about ten people. It will have a huge porch, partly screened for the comfort of visitors and a great view of the hills and the lake. We might offer classes that include diverse topics such as The Preparation of Fermented Foods for Health and for Fun. Nephew Jay is already making Kim chi and sauerkraut. He will soon be ready to teach some aspects of this. Sister Jody might teach Planting by the Phases of the Moon. David is fairly expert in the principals of permaculture and land management. Last night Jay was talking about creating a vineyard, and they immediately launched into a conversation about the new swales that could be created on the contours of a field to build the soil for the future orchard.  The possibilities are infinite. Stay tuned for developments.

Meanwhile I have to go feed the guineas and the ducks. They will be very happy and so will I. We will nurture each other.

Marfa Metamarfisis

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Create your day..every day.

Create your day..every day.

Marfa, Texas, population 2000, has sprung to life in the past thirty years. Like the resurrection ferns found in the cracks and shadows of the boulders of the high West Texas desert, it has morphed from dead and dormant to green and reaching up. The abundant waters of money, art, and cyber-space have been transformative.
Marfa’s transformation from a dusty, Tex-Mex, ranching and railroad town during the first half of the twentieth century to a mecca of media and art is due to the many newcomers who have arrived in the past two decades. These modern-day, westward-ho adventurers probably grew weary of the traffic, tract houses, and city racket in their everyday lives then they fell in love with the skies of the Big Bend region. The sheer vastness of the high desert with its soft mountains and amazing light would sooth any brow that’s paying attention and calm any heart that yearns for meaning.
If you think of today’s Marfa as a cultural basket, it is helpful to go way back to the early residents, the human fibers from which it was woven. First there were the residents of Mexican extraction, then the ranchers, and, later, the nineteenth century railroad families. The military played a part during the “Indian Wars” of the nineteenth century and later World War I and II. This basket integrity was big enough, back then, to hold the Wild West with cowboys, Indians, Buffalo soldiers, and families; but it had so many holes that anything else fell through. By the middle of the twentieth century, the departure of the military from the region and a prolonged drought almost put an end to things for Marfa.
By the time artist Donald Judd drove through Marfa in the early 70’s, falling in love with the light and the solemnity of the high lonesome, the town was almost a ghost. He kept it alive and eventually started it on the road to health by moving much of his world-renowned body of art work to the abandoned army base, Fort Russell. You might say that his presence deposited little blobs of Juddness into the many openings of the original, withering basket. He hired people to re-do the army base, converting it into a museum. The creation of large cement “culverts” out in the field beside the museum must have amazed the local residents as they questioned the sculptures’ unique value that lays in one’s perception of the light at different times of day.
I distinctly remember my first visit to the Judd collection, specifically, one of the converted barracks displayed a long series of plywood boxes along one wall. I remember making an effort to understand why and how I should relate to a series of wooden boxes, approximately the size of fruit crates. Should I relate to the emptiness of the box? The subtle differences in size and shape? The shadows created by the boxes on the wall from which they were suspended? Or should I relate to my personal confusion when regarding a long row of boxes that were sculptural, theoretically? I decided to relate to the latter as that was the only real meaning that came to me. I think that my occasional confusion is shared by others in the face of Juddness in Marfa.

By the 80’s, the arrival of Judd-crazed visitors to the area from New York, Germany made it possible for locals to find work; and the art world began to hear of Marfa. Affluent Texans and snowbirds from the northeastern United States were attracted by the relatively pleasant, climatic conditions of the high desert and by the art-world buzz; and money and fame poured in.
Soon middle-aged couples, the men in Chinos and cotton plaid shirts, the women in linen slacks and Jimmy Choos, would come for a visit and decide to set up a winter home. They were/are extremely happy to be in the high lonesome and away from the vigorous tedium of their past. Many eventually made a more or less permanent move, joined the library board, helped start the humane society, etc. It was a good match: sophisticated, disquieted retirees move to Manana, Texas.
If the drought of the 50’s had spelled the near-death of the cattle industry and the town, the arrival of Judd had been the rains bringing things back to life. The new energy of the adventurous newcomers resulted in the purchase and remodel of crumbling adobes and local real estate deals. I heard a story from an artist friend who had a party at her nice old adobe house. Another friend had invited another friend from Houston. He was a tall, silver-haired man, wearing a silver Stetson and smooth, black Lucchese boots. He was apparently seduced by the new form of my friend’s adobe home because, before he left that night, he offered her $125,000 for the simple structure. She took it and moved to neighboring Alpine, buying another old adobe for $70,000. Things were happening fast in Marfa.
Even after his death, Donald Judd’s projects and the later arrival of Houston lawyer Tim Crowley catalyzed the migration of many highly educated folks, willing to work in the old cafés or clean houses in order to live in Marfa and write their novel or paint or…. The owners of the local grocery store, responding to their new clientele, had to first figure out what tofu was and then find a source for it. Many of the new residents planted gardens, and eventually someone opened a natural foods store. A weekend farmers’ market began and still thrives; people sell the excess from their gardens, the original Marfans tend to sell tamales, yard eggs, honey, and rocks! A well-known banjo player from Marathon, Texas sometimes shows up.
The once desiccated Marfa basket that had been rescued by Judd is still being watered and enriched by a new stream of talent and enthusiasm. People arrive, curious, having heard about the place; they fall for her (Marfa’s) immense sky-smile; and they stay. The buzz that hit the internet by the first part of the 21st century grows louder and louder. On certain weekends, the town fills with BMWs and Mercedes with license plates from California and other states, tour buses from Arizona, and groups of pedestrians dressed in black pants and shades who parade the streets looking for sustenance and art, any excuse for art. The locals might be amazed by a gallery’s offering of a slip of paper with a sketch by Donald Judd valued at $10,000. The visitors are probably impressed that their interests had been fully confirmed by the price. They are clearly in a happening place where a slip of paper with an artist’s notes is worth a hefty sum.
The town’s fame has now gone public with various and countless articles in prominent publications and on the airways. The artists have found a spot to work in the relative quiet and beauty, the aficionados have found positions as part of the supporting staff. The massive amounts of money spent to remodel the original town have given it a polished look as if Donald Judd’s Minimalist brush had inspired the architectural use of large sheets of glass, excessive amounts of red-corroded iron beams, muted green to grey paints on smooth adobe walls, rounded corners, and very subtle lighting. Gone are the boarded up buildings on “Main Street.” Instead most of the town structures are occupied by the old and the new, side-by-side.
For example the famous “Barbara Hill house,” located on the courthouse square had been a simple family home in the 90’s until a classy Texas woman of debutante breeding converted it into a showplace. The Barbara Hill in question was, reportedly, Miss Texas in the 50’s and is still lively and lovely with bright hennaed hair and awesome boots. She purchased the house a decade ago, maxed it out, minimalistically and architecturally speaking. When she put it on the market years later, it was rumored to be on sale for almost a million bucks and reportedly sold for a little over half of that, after having its debut in the New York Times. This is an extreme example, but the cost of some of these re-models is hard to imagine.
The media hype resulting from this outgrowth of talent and money has been just more moisture for flourishing, little Marfa. Other trust-fund escapees and affluent folks from Houston and Austin have arrived to make things ring in the form of musical events, literary foundations, and art galleries. The original cultural basket is sprouting new faces and institutions that assure that the contents will grow and Marfa will continue to marf.
Memories of the railroad era, the ranching industry, and Mexican heritage are written about, painted, or spoken of, and sent into cyber-space where they can be seen shining brightly in the peculiar form of a basket from the West Texas high desert. The traces of the past are becoming more and more like nostalgia. However, a younger crowd continues to arrive, similarly to the hippies of the seventies, but with less angst and more education. They come out with a friend for music or independent film festival and decide to stay. They frequently have several jobs and seem to have a very tight support group. In my opinion, they will be the factor in the “roots” of the Marfa basket that hold it together and keep it alive. Otherwise it might end up a civic museum for aging artists and aficionados.
Recently Cory Van Dyke and his winsome consort Jennie Lyn Hamilton wrote and produced the film Far Marfa which deals extensively with the 30s-something crowd. I found it to be fascinating and entertaining. I suspect that it contains many truths about the new Gifted and Talented Marfans who are enjoying the new venue.
Underlying this cultural renaissance is a tender schism. To mercilessly mix metaphors, there is a social divide that reminds me of my high school days. If Marfa is a “high school,” there are two divergent populations: the new Gifted and Talented and the original salt of the Earth residents, mostly of Mexican extraction. If you are one of the former, your enthusiasm and skills far out shine the solidity of the person whose family has been here for generations, through thick and thin, drought and floods. If you are a Latino, you might look askance at the skinny, young men who arrive wearing tight, peg-leg jeans, sun glasses, and an odd hair design, or the young women in cowboy boots and short skirts who ride cruiser bikes all around town.
The Marfa post office is a good place to study the cultural differences. Because there is no street delivery by the postal service, everyone has to have a postal box and pick up mail in the center of town. The “old timers” and the new come in after 10:00am, the Latinos speaking Spanish. The P.O. is a good place to catch up on gossip: who has been ill, has a new grand baby, just won a Grammy or produced a new film.
I am fluent in Spanish and, when I first arrived to Marfa, I would greet the Spanish speakers in Spanish, but it soon became apparent that they were not interested in sharing “their” language with me. There is only one Hispanic person in town who will speak to me in Spanish, and she is a good friend. Recently I attended a Christmas party with her. I was the only Anglo at the party in which Spanish was the language used. When I tried speaking Spanish, the person with whom I was talking would immediately switch to English. I have two theories about this: 1) the other person is intimidated by my rather Castillian Spanish and don’t feel confident to speak his/her Texas Spanish, or 2) the person holds the language close to his/her heart and feels that I am not in a position to share it. Maybe both. The party was also odd in that the food was, to me, reminiscent of my mother’s kitchen with many rich cakes, different colors of jello, whipped cream deserts, and coconut confections. I seldom eat these any more so the memories were strong; I loved the Tres Leches cake.
Yes, in the new Marfa there are new institutions and businesses. Galleries that are open some of the time, a fabulous book store, three excellent eating establishments (two of which are pricey), an organization that saves abandoned animals (that were previously euthanized), an enormous interest in writers, film, music and radio which is satisfied by appropriate 501c3s or other generous funding sources, and so forth. It is truly a renaissance.
So what is gone? The Mexican population is about 70% of the town. Returning to the original concept of a high school with a schism of social types, I have asked several local Latinos about this dichotomy. They seemed happy to have the extra income, see the new “kids” come in and begin a family. Are they interested in the new social offerings? Not much. Life goes on for them in much the same way with church and football and festivals, but they can’t help but resent the excesses brought by the new rich. I am personally disturbed by the virtual invisibility of the Latino community in the eyes of the larger world; but maybe that’s just me; I’m not Latina.
From a practical angle, the cost of housing is much higher; it is almost impossible to find a place to live. Food products cost more, yet the types of jobs generated by the new residents such as handyman or cleaning lady, don’t compensate well for the costs. Furthermore, there has been no development of local industries that might provide good jobs for the young people finishing high school. About the art, it seems that art should be something pretty like a landscape or still-life and not the conceptual and intellectual works that seem to surface on the scene. Some of the old-timers must wonder what ever happened to their sleepy town, once over run by tumbleweeds and old cars. There is occasional rancor. Some of the original residents are critical of the Chinatzis (referring to the people connected to the Judd enterprises such as the Chinati Museum).
What else has changed? When I first arrived here, we used to have these pot-lucks in people’s yards. There was usually a good social mix with the mayor, a couple of ranchers, and, of course, a small number of imports. If that is still happening, I haven’t heard it. We no longer have a city police force, that responsibility has been handed over to the Presidio County deputies. (This area has one of the largest law enforcement labor forces in the US: Border Patrol, county officers, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Homeland Security, and so on. “Law enforcement” is everywhere.)
Oh! And we no longer have skunks! Seriously. When I arrived seven years ago, it was common to smell the little guys and even to see one occasionally. They really are beautiful creatures. However, I haven’t smelled a skunk here in a good while. I rather miss them.
In conclusion, Marfa has marphed. It’s still the same basket but the new contents have taken over the original weave. Bright green sprouts put down roots in a colorful past, now mostly a memory.

What I Learned in 2012…Take 2

Here are a few other noteworthy observations about what 2012 revealed. I’m just going to quote. There are also several neat comments at the bottom of the first “What Did You Learn?” post.

From an old friend who lives far away now.

Ceremonial site to honor the sacred feminine.

Ceremonial site to honor the sacred feminine.

 

“I became a grandmother for the first time. Sure, I love the little guy and look forward to him growing up into a person I can talk to, but it’s not my grandson who’s been my focus this year, it’s been my daughter. Watching her become a mother, watching her care for her new baby in her tender and compassionate way fills my eyes with tears and my heart with love. It’s all such an about-face from the uptight, self-centered, stiff-upper-lip Anglo-Saxon coldness that I lived in as a child. And to know that my years of effort to break that cold chain have borne fruit is stunning. Stunning.”

 

From a friend who gave it a lot of thought. (I included #5 even though it’s a bit like bragging.” Thanks,” from me.)

 

“1. An unusually long recovery from surgery taught me that One little tic in the body pretty much shuts down the rest of it. I need to take better care of myself. Diet. Exercise. Psychological.

2. I am too critical of others. Always have been and it is time to stop. How do I know the burdens a person carries? Judging others by my standards is not beneficial to them or to me.

3. Mindfulness. I am working on staying in the present and when I can do it, things go better.

4. I really dislike cold weather. I would have stayed in Florida, but then I would have missed having new adventures and learning about new people and making new friends.

5. I learned that Marie Blazek is a goal-oriented, persistent and an excellent writer. I rarely achieve long term goals. She is a role model for persistence.

6. Having turned 70, I am aware of my mortality much more this year than last. What I need to learn is how to cope better.”

It was hard to tell if they were egrets or spirits on the water.

It was hard to tell if they were egrets or spirits on the water.

From a really bright friend in Mexico…

 

“What I learned in 2012? What a question. I learned what I learned for many years…not only in 2012:”The world does not learn, because the people are blindfolded.(see Mexico!)”

And from me:

It occurred to me that words are the element that distinguishes humans from animals. Yet words are also the primary constituents of our thoughts that keep us from seeing things clearly at times. We like to send everything through our interior editor who is generally in a hurry and either ignores the inquiry or just sends it quickly into the most available mental box. The only way to have any real personal awareness is to sneak around the editor and reach calm-mind or Samdhi which is fairly free of or, at least, unencumbered by words and thoughts. If a mind (and heart) can become calm and wordless, it’s more like the mind of an animal or a small child and capable of great awareness of what is around it. Our gift of words can be a curse, but it can be adapted.

 

What Did You Learn in 2012?

Wake up to Happiness

Wake up to Happiness

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You are what you see! Chinati Museum, Dawn

What did you learn in 2012? Seriously. To answer that question may take a day or two. How are you a different person heading into 2013 than you were in 2012? Rather than come up with New Year’s Resolutions, take a look at last year’s lessons and epiphanies.
I’ve asked around and gotten some really great answers. On New Year’s Day, the entire dinner party got into the question. Here, I’ll summarize. Some of the responses are much more elaborate than others; some are related; some are profound; and some, simple.
“Vote for me.”
One of the strongest responses was given by several women. I call it “Vote for me.” This was not the verbatim response, but the gist of it. I think about a high school kid running for student council who feels trepidations but knows that he or she must have confidence to finish the race.
One of my friends had a really rough summer. She found herself angry at the lack of control over her life and daily circumstances. After fulminating for months, she figured that she had to take a stand, that she had to “Vote for me,” meaning that she would create some personal boundaries and begin to protect herself from what she perceives as affronts or negative conditions. Without any radical changes, she has basically distanced herself from the more painful dynamics and simply decided that she will find ways to enjoy other aspects of her life without confrontations. Another friend had lost a job that meant a lot to her. She realized that she had erred in not making some of her objections and hesitations obvious to her new board members when things had gotten uncomfortable in her position. It’s likely that she could have defused a difficult situation. Hindsight is 20/20!
By “Vote for me,” I mean that we can be centered enough and respond appropriately to a situation eliminating subsequent problems, confusion, resentment, and anger. As Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche states in Light Comes Through, “When we get angry, we lose the dignity of our intelligence…we’ve lost trust in our ability to respond to situations in a sane and reasonable way.” He goes on to say that this builds anger and even aggression. Alternatively, if we can simply put our cards on the table early on, stating our needs and ideas, much misunderstanding and rancor can be avoided. We have to trust ourselves.
In a parallel offering, a friend said, “I have learned what I am made of. I can hike the Inca Trail, and I can kick a bad attorney’s ass.” 2012 was a confidence booster for her. She persevered and reached her goals.
“Judge not.”
Another simpler insight came from a twelve-year-old girl who had learned to not judge others on the basis of their cultural background. I asked her how she had arrived at this, and she said that she had made a really good friend from Korea. She had made a “heart connection” with her that had changed her way of looking at others. Friendship can be a great teacher.
“Step out of your safe space.”
Perhaps my favorite was, “It’s OK to step out of your safe space before you know what will come of it. The results expand your space. The simple act of stepping out is as important as the results. The results might be good or bad, either is safe.” This person meant that you would live through the consequences even if they were negative; your world would be larger; and you, stronger. She added, “If you journey into the unknown, you either land on solid ground or you learn to fly.” She had recently left a bad job and moved 500 miles without the promise of another job. She landed on solid ground.
Words create your world.
Another concept that appealed to me was, “I learned that I can create my reality by the words that come out of my mouth.” One can say, “I really dislike this part of my job,“ or “There are other parts of my job that I like much more than this.” It may sound like quibbling, a subtle difference, but the re-phrasing, if considered a change in one’s mindset, can have a long term benefit. Remember to “stay on the sunny side.”
Another language tip is, “Ask the next question.” Let your optimism take you to the next step when sharing information. You may be surprised at what else develops, what else “the universe will provide” if you are inquisitive.
About men and women…
About men and women, I had a fascinating conversation with my 32- and 34-year-old sons when we took a road trip to New Orleans for Christmas. It was a pretty odd conversation to have with my sons, but it was extremely enlightening. I asked them about a photo on the wall in a night club that showed a woman who was seated between two men at a bar. She was wearing a blouse but was naked below the waist. She was “butt naked.” One of the men was leaning around to look at her derriere. I found it gross.
I asked my sons, “To what extent do men respond to the obvious physical attributes of women such as breasts and butts?” They informed me that a woman’s sexual appeal was the big issue for men, more so than the heart or feelings, even in the context of sexual relations. From my female point of view, one’s sexual response is linked to the heart. My sons assured me that it is much less so for men. The “much less” surprised me, but I’m taking their word for it.
Later, I discussed this with a lady friend, and she said, “Men are tools. Women are Swiss watches.” This means that men have an on/off switch when it comes to women and sexual response. Men want to know “Will I get laid tonight?” Women want to know if he will call, if he likes her, if she looks hot? For men it’s not so much about themselves as about sex. For women, it’s about themselves.
Patience
Another friend lives with a spouse who is suffering from dementia, so she is suffering too. She tells me that she has learned patience. To react to his frequent anger and frustration, of which she is the immediate victim, is defeatist and makes the situation much worse very quickly. She has learned to notice when his “face is set in a certain way” usually early in the day. When he is riled, she knows to distance herself carefully rather in the guise of having a task to do. To confront or engage in any way would be destructive. This approach is working for her.
“Knitting”
I asked a friend the question, “What did you learn in 2012?” I followed that with, “It can be serious or simple, anything, such as knitting.” He gave me a really strange look and told me that he had been taking a class in knitting. Seriously.
Assorted Other Things Learned according to Friends
• I can get by with less $.
• I can allow my community to contribute to me.
• Yoga can change your perception of your body and your self.
• I’m comfortable with my relationships, I can be happy without a physical relationship.
• Everyone is working on his own piñata. Be careful what you throw away.
• The people you work with will not notice what is required of them in the job. You will have to constantly point it out which will build a certain amount of bad feeling.
• You don’t have to know how to do something before doing it.
• Revenge is not necessary if you can get even.
• The world did not end on December 21,2012.
• That you just keep learning, that it’s cumulative.
What I, Marie, learned in 2012
I learned that it’s OK for me personally to be a high energy person. I have even found a type of yoga that allows me to meditate while I do a yoga series. This acceptance comes after years of self-criticism and criticism from my ex-husband who labeled me a workaholic or “hyper.” My mind is also very active which has made meditation a difficult practice for me. However, I can deal with it. I have a good mind; I will deal with it and the body that carries it. I think that this type of acceptance is what we all need; we are basically alright, each and every one of us.
And, my life is perfect as long as I am living in the moment. If I stop “hoping for something to happen or regretting that something has happened,” I sense that it’s all good. Longing and desire are traps.
So tell us, what did you learn in 2012? I and others would like to know. Either comment here, or use social media. My email is mariefindfree@gmail.com, also my Facebook.
And have a Happy 2013. Learn a lot!

Go ahead, expand your space,

Go ahead, expand your space,

Oh! And there’s my “just out” book: Let Go of the Rope. Go to Amazon or other book sellers and type in the title plus Blazek, or just get in touch with me at my email address.

Let Go of the Rope…The Book Is Here!

let go of the rope 2012-07-01 014The Book's here.

It’s finally done! After two and sixty-five years, I wrapped it up in 360 pages of grief, joy and discovery. My goal is only to share what might be helpful and entertaining to my fellow humans. Maybe the tale with resonate and bring some clarity if not laughs. It has been a wild ride, but now that I’ve got my feet on the ground as I swirl through planetary space, it all seems good. If you’d like to buy a copy of the book go to Amazon and type in Let Go of the Rope. It’s there. (I haven’t set up the interior pages yet so I’ve provided a description below and the chapter titles.) You can also contact me at mariefindfree@gmail.com, but it’s better to go with Amazon. The price is about the same with shipping as you don’t pay state tax that way. Also, you enhance my place on the search engines, etc. May you enjoy it and be in touch through this blog or email.

Tug-a-War? Who Wins?When do you grab the rope?

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This is the story of Marie Blazek, a woman raised in small town Texas under tough circumstances who survived the gender wars of marriage and motherhood to find her own narrative in the mountains of Mexico. There she learns and writes that each of our lives can be embraced and nurtured, no matter how prickly, to provide adventure, insight, and spiritual awareness with each day. From the oyster-shelled streets of an East Texas town to the cobblestone streets of a Mexican village, she delivers one entertaining challenge after another placing the reader right beside her as she finds the wisdom and courage to “Let Go of the Rope.”

It’s a book for yogis, working moms, Buddhists, travelers, star-crossed lovers, losers, and everyone else. The almost incredible tales of births, deaths, divorces, and lost careers are sad and inspiring. If events and experiences are the bricks of the structure of a life, what we learn from them is the mortar. This book is as much about the mortar as the bricks. Anyone who reads it will identify with and learn from the insights and new awareness. The earliest years develop as a tepid stew of middle-American mores, natural wonders, and a personal determination to escape to ANYTHING ELSE, anything but the drainage ditches, Friday-night football, and green jello pudding of a small Texas town.

It was a rough beginning. To wit, “I should not have been born on June 6, 1947, but rather on June 5, the day that my tiny, infant body had planned it. My timely birth was denied. My mother went into labor in Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Houston, Texas on the morning of the 5th; but when her labor had not advanced well by late afternoon, the physician gave her an injection to slow her labor. He wanted to go to a dinner party that night! I’m sure that the physician in question is dead by now; I can only hope that he had a lousy time at the “dinner party” during which time I was feeling the door to my mother’s womb slam tight. I almost didn’t make it to East Texas. ”

Later, entering adulthood, “Upon college-hood, the realities of my background and mindset were discarded for the exotic world of hippiedom, smash-the-state, and do the wrong thing for the right reasons.” In Chapter 3, Religion, Family, and Finally Love, “About my frigidity, I still have no perfect explanation. ‘Quarterbacks are bad lovers?’  Or ‘I was so busy living in my head in high school that I ignored my body’s needs.’ Or ’Catholic girls are libidinally deficient?’ Ironically, I didn’t lose my official virginity until I was nineteen by which time I had left the church. I then arbitrarily selected a college guy with whom to end all my years of avoiding total penetration. It was a physically and emotionally damaging moment, my way of saying goodbye to the church that had been such a major part of my life and saying hello to an active emotional paralysis in which I experienced a lot and felt little. It was the era of free love and sex and experimentation. With no real love interest, I went through all the emotional motions, it was brutalizing.”

And “Motherhood is never easy, but it should never have been on my curriculum vitae. As a youngster, I had little interest in my original family home, let alone homemaking. I actually never played with dolls. Nonetheless, at the age of twenty-seven, I undertook all the appropriate life lessons in Marriage 101 and Motherhood P/F (pass or fail.)  My previous, personal dreams were mostly forgotten upon waking to the light of day, and they soon morphed into the exigencies of caretaking and bread-winning.  This was another quasi-pathetic phase of my life, chocked full of moments of sheer joy, deadly lessons, and nuggets of wisdom which slowly accumulated…My new husband and I moved into an old ‘shotgun’ house located in Washington-on-the Brazos, Texas…which became the home of the new baby, John Brazos. It was a tiny, batten-and-board house with a million cracks in the walls.  Although living in a shack may seem pathetic, this one was located in one of the lovelier places in Texas.  It was surrounded by an enormous field that had produced cotton at one time and had begun to grow acres of bluebonnets and then goldenrod as spring became summer. Shading the tiny house was a walnut tree the size of Walmart. Directly across from the house was the original ‘company-store’ building from the early part of the century. The final glory surrounding us was the rugged and proud Brazos River that lay a hundred yards from the steps of the store. We could actually hear it. I used to say that we lived in the worst house in the best place on Earth.”

Eventually after two marriages, motherhood, and the tragic death of a son, Blazek begins a spiritual search for meaning and begins to meditate.” Some friends of mine had a tiny cabin in a remote part of the Davis Mountains in Texas. I asked to stay there for a few days and took with me the audio version of Pema Chodron’s Noble Heart. I also carried fruit, nuts, water, camping gear, and desperation. I figured that if I could just turn my focus away from myself and my unhappiness, it would be a relief. Obviously, my marital and professional efforts were failing. I was under-employed and uncertain about my future. I finally turned myself over to the universe, attempting to find some resonance, some truth beyond my immediate perceptions of life and how it works. Ironically, there was an almost instantaneous release.”

After a few more years in the life wars, in a moment of do or die,  she lets go of the rope and escapes to Tepoztlan, Morelos,  Mexico. There, two years of exciting and potentially dangerous living transform her, granting a rapid series of personal epiphanies. The new insights began to reveal the significance of a life. Part II of the book follows her adventures in Tepoztlan and the insights that revealed themselves while climbing pyramids, dancing at festivals, shooting pool in cantinas, or sharing conversations with the numerous fascinating characters who live there. It is a romp, full of fun and heart.

Part III of the book deals with Blazek past, present, and future as straddled between two very different worlds: the vibrant, Tantric, in-your-face reality of Tepoztlan and the fascinating and quirky facts of Marfa, Texas, a lovely, social anomaly in the Davis Mountains of Far-west Texas. It is like having two radically different lovers and becoming a different person in the arms of each. “Back in Marfa, I realized that I my main ‘ambition’ was my search for higher meaning.  How could my search grow in that small, dry, Texas town. Could I find teachers in my everyday life if I simply paid attention? Must I be with other joy-seekers on a similar path to really benefit? I was in West Texas, the land of ranchers and rattlesnakes. Is God a rattlesnake? Am I a rattlesnake…The back and forth between the two “lovers” while still trying to untwine the cords of her early life end with an understanding that our final search is the search for truth where ever you end up.

 

food stands on south congress 2012-05-14 002

You never know where or how you’ll end up.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PART I

“I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BORN…”

Chapter 1

BIRTH AND REBIRTH, INTO THE STORM . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Chapter 2

MY TEXAS BEGINNINGS, THE 50’S . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Chapter 3

RELIGION, FAMILY, FINALLY LOVE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

Chapter 4

LEAVING IS WHAT I DO BEST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47

Chapter 5

MOTHER AND NATURE AND CLAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

Chapter 6

TRAGEDY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

Chapter 7

POVERTYAND POTTERY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Chapter 8

LOVE AND THE SCHOOL OF SELF-DOUBT . . . . . . . . . 90

Chapter 9

SOLA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102

PART II

A VACATION FROM MY LIFE

Chapter 10

AVACATION FROM MY LIFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108

Chapter 11

FINDING AWALKING BUDDY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

Chapter 12

CORN GODS AND CAR GODS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125

Chapter 13

REBIRTH AND THE TEMAZCAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134

Chapter 14

THE “MARAUDERS” FROM THE NORTH . . . . . . . . . . 141

Chapter 15

SEX IN MEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

Chapter 16

MORE SEX IN MEX . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

Chapter 17

DESIRE AND GRATITUDE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172

Chapter 18

SWEAT AND LOSS OF SELF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 178

Chapter 19

A MEXICAN FESTIVAL & AN AMERICAN WEDDING . . 183

Chapter 20

FOOD IN TEPOZTLAN. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

Chapter 21

TEMPER TANTRUMS AND TRAUMA IN TEPOZ . . . . 195

Chapter 22

EIGHTY-NINE KINDS OF SEEDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202

Chapter 23

“EL RETO,” THE PROCESSION TO THE PYRAMID . . 208

Chapter 24

SPENDING THE NIGHT WITH THE SHAMAN . . . . . . 212

Chapter 25

BACK TO MY ROOTS IN CLAY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218

Chapter 26

HOME? HOW TO REDISCOVER LIFE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227

PART III

LEAVING TEPOZ FOR MARFA, VICE VERSA, VICE VERSA

Chapter 27

TEXAS TRAVEL TRAVAILS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232

Chapter 28

LAS DIFERENCIAS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242

Chapter 29

TO SEE OURSELVES AS OTHERS SEE US . . . . . . . . . . 246

Chapter 30

CAN YOU GET HERE FROM HERE? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

Chapter 31

EN CASA? HOME AGAIN IN TEPOZ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265

Chapter 32

FRANCO AND FOURTH HONEYMOON . . . . . . . . . . . . 269

Chapter 33

IN MY OWN, OLD MARFA BED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275

Chapter 34

GUADALAJARA DISASTER! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 287

Chapter 35

HOME AGAIN AGAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 301

Chapter 36

NEWAGE SMORGASBORD. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314

Chapter 37

THIRTEEN LUCKY TRUTHS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327

Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358

Adios amigos y amigas!