Hokku 10

6am. I've come outside to feel the shock of cold morning air. My porch is small and contains only one long bench for sitting. I wipe the dust from it with my palm and sit, knees pressed together. I stare out onto the line of bushes and note their contrast with the cloudless sky. Immediately my attention is drawn to a dazzling light. Like a thousand tiny crystals suspended in min air. Moved by the small, but stunning creation, I quietly hope he'll be here tomorrow. I should like to see it every morning.

Still spring morning;
Spiders web-
Glints in morning dew

The Hall of Books

Today I walked isles lined with art literature. It’s been too long since I’ve set aside time to wonder.  I miss art. I passed a Japanese couple speaking animatedly about a painting they’d found in a large Michelangelo book that sat protected in an end-cap. She would point and brush her finger across the page. His slow nod, brows nit in response. Minutes pass and I’m warmed by the consideration, the patience it takes to see a piece of art.

They moved on, allowing me to focus on the shelf again. I grabbed Photobooth by Babbette Ines and upon opening to the middle of the book, my eyes began to sting with tears. Each page, covered by small portraits of so many who have already gone. 

It was too much. I placed the book back on the shelf.

In the next isle I searched the theory section and move into Artists A-Z where I stand next to two women. After some time, watching them pick up books and comment on their various sizes, I realized that they aren’t looking at the art at all but the bare blue canvas covers. I find myself slightly disgusted as they continue to unshelve books, strip them of their sleeves, murmur in disagreement and continue on.

I leave with Women Before 10 AM by Veronique Vial.

Brenna KingComment
Hokku 9

The tips of my fingers were numb as I yanked my lunch bag out of my backpack. Walking to the break room, my mind drifted towards the day's list of to-dos. By the time I reached the refrigerator the work day's anxiety was in full flux. I closed the fridge door and turned to fill my jug. I didn't get far. The view from the 32nd floor stopped me in my tracks. 

What magnificence. Any impending stress dropped away. I can't say I remember how long I stood there staring down at the Willamette river, its banks lined with bare trees, fallen leaves swept away in its current. When I returned to my desk it was with the same profound fluid grace. 

Autumn daybreak;
Wide river,
slow in the icy air

Unfortunately convinced

I can’t believe November is here, its chill seeping indoors. Thank goodness my thermal curtains arrived today. (I highly recommend them, my energy bill does too). Of course, they are much heavier than my summer curtains so naturally, my mind made sense of NEEDING to purchase new curtain rods today.

“Brenna, they won’t hold, you absolutely need to take yourself shopping for a more suitable option!”

I entered Ross trying in earnest to ignore the boots and blankets. 

“Oh corduroy jackets! I wonder if that’s trending again…”

I shook the neediness from my head and aimed directly for the curtain rods. I quickly thought over my daughter’s interior design preferences and grabbed a set for each of us.  I kept my eye fixed on the end of the long boxes as I maneuvered around the Christmas displays. 

The lines in Ross are relatively long, and like the traffic earlier today, slow. I stood directly behind a woman who held a soft couch throw and a pair of jeans. She turned slightly, rocking from foot to foot. She faced me with a tired smile as defeated laughter bubbled from her. 

“What’s wrong,” I asked with a short giggle, not sure what to think.

“You know…I’m just so…tired.” And she really was. “I came looking for a lamp, the ones with three bulbs. I decided recently that I want dim light in my bedroom during the evening.” She shook her dark long wavy hair and shifted as she used her hands to describe the lamp. 

“For reading, naturally,” I said, still offering an easy smile.

“Yes!," she exclaimed in excitement. “But Ross didn’t have it, so what am I going to do…? I’m going to go to Target and if they don’t have it I’m going to drive even further to…,” all the while she’s staring at the ceiling, flabbergasted and disgusted with her lamp obsession.

She was quite a hoot really. Had to get it all out. Reminded me so much of myself.

“Sounds like your mind has you convinced you really need that lamp, and maybe those jeans…”

“…And this blanket,” she cut in.

“Well, you’re not alone because mine has convinced me that I need these curtain rods.”

We spend the next few minutes in the sloooow line musing over how foolish we really were.

“At the very least let’s make a deal. Let’s say no at least once this week. The next time we feel like we absolutely need to make a purchase, let’s just shut it down.” I said as she moved to the front of the line.

“Let’s!”

Our laughter faded as we both continued on, one after anther, to the same cashier. Before parting, we both gave our thanks for the momentary friendship. It’s always nice to be able to say “me too”.

But I will keep my word. I will say no, and I invite you to do the same this week. Maybe it’ll be my latté, maybe a pair of new wool socks. 

Let’s take one step toward gaining control.

MusingsBrenna KingComment
Hokku 8

How to explain the beauty that exists just before dawn. Autumn has come again and with it fresh rain, that blows in gusts from passing commuters on the road. As I wait at the bus stop,  a break in the traffic leaves behind a deep silence. In the quiet I can hear pins dropping. In that moment I'm no longer on my way to work. I'm just here, listening to the unseen droplets in the darkness.

In dark morning mist;
Raindrops sound
on fallen leaves

HokkuBrenna KingComment
Hokku 7

At the end of each exhausting day, I make the last stretch of my journey home on the public bus. It jerks to a halt at each stop and passengers shout their thanks to the driver as they step into the evening. There is one great hill that is lined by a small forested area. It's not till we reach this part of our journey that I can truly bring my mind home. Its lush half acre is home to a small marsh surrounded by a thicket of massive pines. In their autumn brilliance, they stand tall and bare. I am stunned by the contrast they cast against the aging marsh grasses. How can something so stark and barren make one feel so much at home? I suppose they teach me to find comfort in this seasonal change.

Autumn evening,
strong trunks
through empty branches

Brenna KingComment
The struggle is real, or is it?

I've worked hard for several years. Daily I wake up early, work all day, cook dinner, tutor my daughter, do the dishes, and turn out the lights.

I get tired.

It takes extra effort to put aside time to meditate before bed. Takes time to convince my self that this quiet few minutes I set aside for 'nothing' will be productive.

And I sit.

In the morning, AH-HA! The eggs, just right!
The splendor of our morning dash makes me smile. I revel in the silence on the train to work. I'm unperturbed by the homeless man that sneers at me, wishing I had a dollar. The day is swift, my focus steady. Ah! To cook this meal…to feed my family! We celebrate my daughters rising grades as we review her work. Then the lights go out and I find my seat.

When I lack balance, life is a burden. When I sit, it is a gift.

Hokku 6

I wait at the bus stop each morning anticipating the sunrise as it reaches over the roof tops and blinds me. It's my favorite light, seeming so thin, clean and delicate. And as my eyes wonder across the sky this morning the vastness is broken by a brilliant fresh green. The tree accompanies me every morning, a quiet friend that wraps its branches around me. It's shade speckles the sidewalk. There is more security beneath the lively limbs than in the hundred planks that surround me each night. 

Early morning; 
young maple leaves
against a soft blue sky

Hokku 5

It's finally warm enough to keep the windows open tonight. And though I'm fenced in by screens it's one step closer to being connected to the small marsh and line of trees just below. The pulsing sounds reach me from the darkness outside and I try to dissect them. I can hear the rustle of the leaves and the song of small animals. Some near, some far, yet all collaborating on the same tune. It's a welcome sound from the comfort of my bed.

Spring night-
Frogs call
sleeping blooms

Hokku 4
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My living room window looks out onto a small wildlife preserve. I assume its acre protects many small marsh animals and birds. Occasionally I'll hear the doves or see a snake disappear into the brush. Through it runs a small creek. I can hardly make it out through the pines. Sometimes the water stares back like a pane of glass and at other times, at the bottom of the bed, lies the long grass swept to one side by the current. It's beautiful, but like a child, I want to run down and feel the cushion of the marsh under my feet. I want to plunge my hands into the stream and grope for pebbles.

New spring;
Brisk mornings
ice the waters

HokkuBrenna KingComment
Hokku 3
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Waiting for the bus this morning. I can still smell the rain that fell much earlier. A line of cars as far as I can see. The roar of engines as they each chug up the hill on their way into town. But beyond all the noise there are quiet moments too.

Under Maple shade;
Tiny footprints,
Dewy seeds

HokkuBrenna KingComment
Hokku 2

Laying in bed. Shades drawn over the open window. The sheets are crisp and cool. The cold breeze blankets the room. Never feel alone when the rain is singing for you. The quieter you are the more you can here. 

Under nights veil
The pitter patter of feet;
Raindrops dancing

HokkuBrenna KingComment
Hokku 1
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I walked through the front door and the overwhelmingly familiar smell of a spring thunderstorm hit me so hard I almost began to cry. It is one of my fondest memories. When I was young I would sit at the window counting, the smell filling my nostrils. The storm would reach down and strike our large willow tree. My father was worried it would split and fall onto our roof. Today as I drove into town the rain began to fall I rolled down all the windows. The air was warm and humid. I parked and sat, staring into the bright sky. 

Beneath the orange summer storm;
Wet earth-
Fragrance from home

HokkuBrenna KingComment
Damn you zafu

(Stepping back onto the path)

As I lay in bed, propped against two large white pillows my eyes dart nervously from the chair to the plant, then come to rest on my meditation cushion.

"It's all your fault cushion.  It's you who held me upright, urging me on until the bell. It's you who beacons me into the corner in the dark of night. You made me turn off the TV, you made me hand wash the dishes, you made me love those new little chip card readers in my favorite grocery store because now I get to listen to the cashier tell me about their day during the wait. I love that, you know I love that! You've slowed my pace, accomplishing less...I no longer strive to be somebody. Somebody who looks great in heels and chemically straightened hair. Damn you zafu."

I can't take it, I grab up the phone and begin to type this. Anything to rid me of the anxiety caused by this new found silence. This silence that will 'cure' me. 

 

Hehe.

It's time to sit again.

Nirvana wears many hats

Today I rode into town on the train. I don’t remember if it was the red line or the blue line. No matter, they both take me to my destination. I boarded at Sunset Station, roughly 7am, as I do every morning. The bright sky lit up the interior of the train revealing much more detail than I’m used to. I find no sitting room most mornings so it’s no surprise that I found myself standing, leaning against the bike rack. Instantly I tuned to a booming voice and felt my irritation rise quickly. I thoroughly dislike when others ruin my 20 minute transit ride to hold a phone conversation.

“Cause’ you know brotha’ the only thing worse than dying on the outside is dying on the inside.”

I’ve never taken to what some might call the strong presence of a preacher and his sermons. And I certainly didn’t appreciate it now.

A woman stood just two feet in front of me. I took her in as we shared a brief smile. She was probably in her early 50’s, with long naturally greying hair and a healthy glow in her face, free of makeup. A long yellow jacket draped her, fit for rain, and a large grey hoody underneath. She stood straight and tall unafraid of eye contact as she returned my smile. Instantly I began to wonder how she could stand listening to this booming spiritual authoritarian. My quiet early morning pep talk about my good intentions for the day went out the window. I just couldn’t take it.

I dropped my bag a little too quickly, purposefully showing my impatience with the noise. I dug for my headphones, plugged them in and turned my classical music all the way up. I straightened to give the woman a knowing smile. She returned it with one that was noticeably innocent. I’ll admit that a small part of me wanted her to agree.

“We suffer together sister!”

I was given no assurance.

I opened my book and began to highlight, wobbling back and forth. We were 10 minutes in. Just through the tunnel. The preacher now carried loud conversation with the woman next to him. She didn’t say a word just a brief head nod here and there. I’m quite sure she didn’t even speak English. I let out an exasperated breath. Was he raised with no manners? I bet he wants to feel excepted, with his loud notions about god, spirituality, and the meaning of life. He probably takes out his phone and calls someone every time he’s on the train so he can feel as though he has the upper hand, as though he’s extraordinarily special.
I huff.

Then someone catches my eye. My old professor from art school. He was one of my favorites. He helped me understand that as artist the work we create is interconnected. That it’s just as important to understand world economics and politics as it is to understand art. A great teacher.

With a brief smile I move past the woman and poke at his arm to get his attention. 20 seconds later we’ve promised another unplanned sighting and coffee if time allows before he leaves the train.

I find my way back in front of the woman, greeted by her smile.

“He was an old professor, one of the best I had.”

Figures that she choose this moment to give me the knowing look I’d wanted from her at the beginning of the trip.

“You’ll see him again. Everything happens for a reason. You never know what may come of it, just know that it isn’t coincidence.”

I don’t judge. I’m almost to my stop so if this conversation takes us into the mystical realm than it will be cut short just in time. You see, I don’t believe much in the idea of ‘decided fates’. I answer anyways.

“That would be nice.” I admit, “I’m still waiting for my happy accident”.

“Oh yes”, she says gently, “you’ll find what you’re looking for. There is a reason for everything.”

“Did you find what you were looking for?” I asked, quite curious now.

“Yes, i’m a hospice worker.”

I couldn’t hide my surprise. Maybe it’s because I contemplate life, death, and the in-between constantly that I find hospice workers, those so close to death on a daily basis, to have untapped knowledge about a reality that the majority of the population denies. I have so many questions. So many things I want to ask her. I think to give her my card so we can meet up but am disappointed when I realize the doors of the train have opened at my stop. My head whips from the door back to the woman. 

“I’m so sorry, this is me” I speak quickly backing toward the doors. “I’ve really enjoyed this.” I say in total honesty.

“Me too” she says, the corners of her mouth curving once again.

I pivot quickly to rush from the train and my eye stills on the preacher’s empty seat. 
I step from the train saddened that I didn’t notice the man leave.
How dare I judge him.

MusingsBrenna KingComment
Surrounded by meaning

The absolute best advice I can give is to create a life of deep meaning.

I had a conversation this week with a local artist about ‘artistic satisfaction’. I realized how deeply one must go in order to experience true meaning. Over and over again, the designs I’ve thrown together… get thrown out. A couple years ago I’d sewn a beautiful Japanese handbag but because I rushed through, merely to say I’d done it, the meaningless pile of canvas ended up at Goodwill less than two months later. Lucky for me my recovery was quick, I’ve incapable of living without meaning. I form relationships with all that I own and everyone I know. We’ve got history, ya know? 

I have one computer bag, and it’s amazing. I found it at a thrift store for 20 bucks. I couldn’t pass it up, it portrayed every aesthetic I love in luggage design. That’s saying something!

My iPhone case; Apple did such a great job on the feel and grip of the case that I appreciate it every time I pick it up. Additionally, how about the glass screen protectors? You just can’t walk way from great design.

My drinking glasses are the product of hours of hard work and we’ve bonded. I’ve always hated scrapping off stickers and I thought that after buying one jar of Almond Butter every other week that I could repurpose them. They are the only glasses I can use for both hot and cold beverages and they won’t crack in the dishwasher. 

Even the three dishcloths that my mother knitted from high quality cotton. I tore a hole in one of them last week and freaked out. It was a part of the family (which is probably why I won’t throw it away until it unravels and reverts back to one long piece of yarn).

I could go on… my bath soap, my key hook, my salt and pepper shakers. They all have meaning and as such are taken great care of. I encourage you to do some sorting, some decluttering and find what has meaning to you. Get rid of the rest. I don’t care if it’s your Bentley Continental, if you made a purchase to feed your ego, think again. It’s incredibly empowering to come home to a clean space that speaks to your senses.

Live genuinely! The quality or depth that an object holds is not something you can lie about. It’s a sensation that you can’t escape. You can do this!

 

FIND MEANING IN ALL AREAS OF YOUR LIFE;

 

- Don’t rush through the creative process or knockoff someone else's creation.

+ Do start with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper. You’ll cherish what you’ve made. 

 

- Don’t keep friends that drain you, that exist on a different frequency, or throw you off balance. 

+ Do keep friends that listen, that empower you, and share your excitement for life. 

 

- Don’t work at a job that creates so much tension in your life that you’re coming home every night trying to shake of the physical and mental symptoms of stress.

+ Do apply for jobs your passionate about, that offer meaning to your life.

 

- Don’t buy 5 notebooks, 10 bags, 4 nail files, 15 pairs of jeans, and 40 pairs of shoes (and don't sign up to complete product reviews by the boxful).

+ Do buy what you need right now, and be realistic. You can do so much with so little, and you’ll breath easier to. 

 

- Don’t become complacent with your partner, children, family or friends. Don’t forget how amazing they are and what brought you together in the first place.

+ Do remind yourself of how lucky you are to bask in…(list all of their amazing qualities).

 

I can’t imagine that a pianist could create a beautiful orchestral piece with ought complete comprehension of each cord, furthermore each note. I feel like life should be this way. Each piece carefully handpicked because it means something to us. Depth creates room for harmony and makes life worth living.

MusingsBrenna KingComment
Lesser practice, higher heel

I hate it when I don't keep receipts. The need for them arises every time I reach a new height in my spiritual practice. It's happened so many times over the last eight years I should have, by now, learned to expect it.

I've always loved minimalist fashion. I live in monochrome because it calms me and keeps my ora quiet. It just feels right. And so did the two pairs of heals I bought from Ross week before last. 

Just so happens last week was a really good week, one that involved great sleep and profound moments during meditation. I get a bit giddy when I reach this point. I feel good about work, motherhood, living minimally, and about myself. There is nothing more I need and I find extreme satisfaction during these times. I go about my days in a very rhythmic manner, waking, showering, and cooking with some light music in the background. I find it refreshing to look in the mirror without the tug of needing validation when I decide to wear less makeup, leave the hipster sunglasses in their case, or wear my rain jacket instead of a lovely fitted wool piece that would make my little ego sing! 

However, it's common for one's practice to sway, dip, and rise from the ashes again and again. Life certainly looks a little different from each of those angles. Today my issue lies in constructing life during the dips...say going out and buying three inch heels.

Now they sit quietly amongst several other black pairs of shoes. I laugh at the ridiculous idea of wearing them. How is 'sexy' going to contribute to my day?

It's great to have evidence of how far your practice has come.

When I get home I'm going to find those receipts.

Stepping onto the platform
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Most mornings I ride the train into town. This is my fourth week at a new job that allows me to make the fifteen minute journey every morning. A month ago I found public transportation daunting and had little to no interest in commuting. After much deliberation I decided to look past my bias and discovered that beneath 'scared' was a sliver of 'excited'. I pulled at the sliver and boarded the train. Immediately overwhelmed by my surroundings I ducked my head until my stop was called. Nothing seemed to register, buildings and cars whizzed by and It made me feel nauseatingly out of place. I wanted to block it out with headphones, filtering a familiar pulse in my ears. I couldn't, it was just too much. Everyone was so quiet, so stiff. This mourning of the daily commute went on for a week. 

Monday appeared, again. The plan was to actively take it all in. I would not be perturbed by the grinding gears that cut into the morning silence. I would smile at passengers and read my book. I was determined to find my rhythm. It reminded me of taking notes during a college lecture, becoming hurriedly unsuccessful at organizing the details. 

During week three the alien passengers transformed into my fellow beings. Most mornings I chuckled into the pages of my book about a woman in very much the same situation as my own. I paused to watch the sea of colors morph through the glass that surrounded me. I learned that those fifteen minutes were a gift. 

Full of silent, knowing smiles.

Surrounded by the cool cast of morning.

It's week four and the train is pulling to a slow, grinding halt in the heart of downtown Portland. The doors swing open eliciting the immediate shuffle of feet. I keep my seat as long as time will allow, willing everyone to stay put. I step onto the platform and watch all of those with whom I'd become close, retreat with their backs to me. If only they'd slow, I could hold on to those fifteen minutes a little while longer. 

 

At a red light in the rain

I slowed my car to a stop at the red light. The rain was heavy. Usually I keep the music on in the mornings but this morning I chose to listen to the raindrops instead. Portland has shifted into its rainy season very quickly. It wasn't coming down in sheets yet everything glistened under the grey sky. My eyes followed the water bouncing off the train tracks in the glow of my headlight. How differently everyone in this crowded intersection must have interpreted this moment. I suppose that maybe somewhere amongst the traffic was someone who chose the music over the pitter-patter.

I shifted, looking for the train that I assumed kept us in place. Out of my  window I stared at the driver next to me as he rocked back and forth gently. It wasn't cold for November so I quietly wondered why he was rubbing his hands together. The rain ran down his passenger window in streaks, distorting my view, but at moments giving me just enough clarity. He rocked, his cheeks puffed and deflated. The light, still a sizzling red in the morning haze.

Once more I glanced through his window surprised to see him, quite clearly now, playing a harmonica. A warmth spread through me despite not being able to hear a sound. My dad plays the harmonica. Well, he played the harmonica. I remember him honking away at it in the backyard when, my youthful wisdom concluded, he was very bored. I couldn't play it for putty and came to find the sound slightly annoying during our RV road trips across Montana. But now... as I sat in traffic and watched the silent rendition of the huff and puff harmonic symphony I felt very much as if I was sitting with my family in the backyard over a huge bonfire with marshmallows, listening to dads breathy push and pull into his little metal thing-ama-jig.

That kind of warmth lasts all day.

Green light.

MusingsBrenna KingComment
To eat or not to eat

I haven’t been able to use my kitchen in recent weeks and have been visiting local cafes and restaurants. My favorite and most eventful visits are to New Seasons grocery in North Portland. They have a wonderful little seating area in the back where you’ll find the hot water faucet scalding and the AC quite frigid. Today I filled my water glass with hot water, as I always do, because I’m thoroughly convinced that it helps me digest. On my way back to my seat I spied a gentleman so engrossed in his devices that he failed every attempt he made to stab the potato wedge on his plate. “Sir, please don’t break the plate”, I wanted to say. After counting five attempts I smiled and continued walking back to my chair. I’ll never know if his dire hunger finally tore him away from the distractions, allowing him to finish his brunch.

A couple weeks ago, sitting in this very seat facing the bowling alley across the street, sat an older man. He appeared to be homeless, soiled bag, boots, and hands. My daughter and I sat just two chairs aways and I couldn’t help but stare. He was meddling with a plastic bag. I watched him pull out a huge white onion. I sat in awe as he palmed the vegetable and fit as much of the sphere as he could in his mouth. The delightful crunch it made didn’t calm the churning in my stomach as I watched. Crunch. Again and again! I sat fascinated, avoiding his gaze, wondering why my daughter wasn’t reacting to this turn of events. His whole world was in that onion, it was the only task he needed to perform. He savored every bite, and drank water periodically to ease the sting.

It clicked. Today before I brought food to my table I stashed my laptop, mouse, and phone. Only my food and a small flower existed in my space.

I’d much rather eat a raw onion than lack the realization that I ate at all.