I’ve been off work for the last ten days taking a well earned break. I’ve spent most of that time doing exactly what I wanted, which has been mostly writing. I’ve been working on a Dharma essay entitled ‘The cold in my bones’ which draws on a single sentence discourse by Dogen which goes as follows :-
“If this greatest cold does not penetrate into our bones, how will the fragrance of the plum blossoms pervade the entire universe?”’
I’ve found this an absorbing task, through exploring my own responses and analysis. It’s main theme is the necessity to reflect deeply and consistently on impermanence. For me it has raised issues of what effective practice is, particularly for a 21st century Western Buddhist. As is usual with my longer written pieces I coasted two thirds of the way through and then I hit a sandbank. I am beginning to learn that that is when real graft is required. I just need to keep writing regardless of quality and coherence. Eventually enough of it makes sense that I can precis, edit and polish the results As it currently stands its about 5,500 words long. Today, I’ve started refining a couple of earlier essays on Dogen discourses, one called ‘Binding oneself without a rope’ and the other ‘Enter the grass and transmit the wind’. This writing, and the study I’m doing with Paco, is helping me to re-engage with the Dharma in my own way, after the last few years when all interest had seemed to desert me. So far I’ve not shown anyone my Dharma writing, though I think I might be getting ready to break that silence soon. I have an idea that these essays could constitute a little book one day, who knows !
Another achievement was driving David and myself up north to see my parents. I’ve never driven such a long distance before, particularly not on motorways. Newly serviced, the car ran very smoothly. I realise, to my shame, how neglectful I am of it so longs as it starts and runs at all. I could give it a bit more care and attention than I do. I’ve never been that interested in cars, so I guess its asking a lot to manufacture one now. Travelling up there went OK. With three breaks for coffees and breakfast I was pretty brain dead by the time we reached my parents house. Coming back Sunday night in persistent drizzly rain, was also a challenge, but perhaps was not quite as dreadful as I’d imagined beforehand. It did demanded a lot of concentration and I wouldn’t like to repeat such a journey too soon. I prefer train travel, at least you arrive relatively relaxed and rested.
The main event of the weekend was David meeting my parents for the first time. It was also the first time I’d taken any boyfriend home. Though I had a restless night beforehand, I was quite relaxed about it all on the day. I think all that driving absorbed any nervous energy. David understandable was quite apprehensive. I think it went fine. David is such a easy likeable man, I didn’t see how my family wouldn’t warm to him. He seemed to enjoy himself, though I think he’d had enough socialising by the time we left on Sunday evening. My Parents, Sister, Brother in Law and Nieces were all pretty much as they usually are. No one appeared to be nervous or self conscious. My Mother was good natured and as lively a talker as ever. David was worried that there might be lots of embarrassed silences where no one knew what to say, but then he’s not met my Mum before.
It’s been interesting to ask David how he saw my family. I’m so used to them and obviously have a rather set way of viewing their behaviour. As usual, I got into a bit of a pissed off downer after a day of my Mother’s incessant blathering. I just found it draining to be forced to listen all the time and not be engaged in normal conversational dialogue. This is a very old frustration which I tire of hearing myself intone justifications for. I really should have grown bigger than it by now. It would, however, seem I have not.
David said he found my Mum very positive, bright and engaging, much like I can be when I’m at my best, Owch, bulls eye !!! Other things he noticed were particular expressions and habits which my Mum and I share, and a laugh that my Dad has, which is similar to one of mine. He also noticed the time when I asked my Dad a direct question and my Mum answered for him, one of her habits I sincerely hope I haven’t copied. Still it is all very useful to hear this because it gives me another perspective to view them from. It also highlights how much I anticipate situations and overreact ,such as to my Mum’s talking. It’s all very salutary and sobering like other words beginning with S such as sibling.