Saturday, February 28, 2009

my first knitting circle

i had the pleasure and privilege of visiting a local yarn shop today with my friend, inhui (above, on the right). she has been knitting up a storm this winter and invited me to accompany her for an afternoon with the knitting circle she'd found nearby. having been curious about learning a craft like that, i felt eager to check it out. when we arrived i immediately became mesmerized by the yarn selection! there was even all natural hemp yarn! finally, i decided upon 100% wool with varying shades of grayish-blue on the same spool. the price was right for my first attempt at a scarf and the texture/color felt comforting and a color i'd want to come back to, which i will be doing again and again as i knit this scarf!
after i'd chosen my yarn, the queen crafter (above, on the left) sat me down and proceeded to teach me how to knit! in korean, of course! she was very patient with quite a sense of humor! within ten minutes i was up and knitting! i missed a loop somewhere along the way, and i made the first several rows too tight, but she showed me how to mend my follies and i became a better knitter for it.
i couldn't believe how the time flew.
after our late afternoon snack of kimbap, pig liver and rice cakes, the women had me try on different pieces they had knitted or crocheted. they took care of things! they bustled around, dressing and undressing me, arranging the hats on my was clear that i was not versed in such matters!
inhui and i plan to return once a week, to receive guidance from the queen and to sit in a circle of women who weave, bustle and share sweet space together.

Friday, February 27, 2009

part one, part two

i have changed my blog to private viewing only. over the last few months, i've begun to feel that having all of my postings floating out there in cyberspace was a little too public. also, i've been wanting to experiment with writing in a less censored way. so here goes...a new chapter beginning.

this evening as i was frying up some left over black beans, green peppers and couscous, my thoughts wandered back in time. it's a strange sensation to realize one has lived at least two distinct lives already in one actual incarnation! sometimes aspects of the first life catch me off guard in my memory as parts of it feel so foreign now. take, for instance, the concept of original sin. i refute that dangerous notion with every bone in my body in this "part two" of my life, as i have found a very different way of seeing and understanding the world. however, i recognize how that belief, which took hold in very early, formative years, still reverberates in my cells to this day. it can still trick me into thinking i'm not okay, i'm not worthy and that i need some sort of external salvation.

like many other protestant newborns, i did not exactly arrive into a cosmology of belonging to this body, this earth. i belonged to god, who was somewhere up high, very abstract and yet somehow definitively male. i was his child, and my sights were to be set on heaven, not on the fleshy earthiness of human experience. during my earliest years, this belief system worked out pretty well as i seemed to be able to access god directly, through nature and imagination, and didn't have an understanding of patriarchy yet. my grandmother has shared many a story of catching me amid full out conversations with god, all by my lonesome.

i loved god and was on fire for jesus. in fact, i was a full fledged devotee by the age of three. i wrote song after song about how much jesus loved me, and i sang at the top of my lungs all day long. i was quite taken with the bible, so much so that i received a trophy in second grade for "the most scripture memorized." i loved the way the king james version sounded, all the "thee's and thou's." it rang ancient and poetic in my little ears. i wanted more than anything to become a preacher. i wrote lengthy sermons and would sit my two younger sisters down in the living room to play "church." i even made programs to hand out so my small parish could follow along with the liturgy.

i still remember the day i was told that girls can't be preachers. i remember the mauve color of the carpeting as i lowered my head in shame and disbelief. anger and questioning were not acceptable responses to authority at that stage in the game. i can still hear the whirring sound in my brain as my sense of purpose, creativity and pure joy were bombarded by the oppressive force of patriarchy. at my young age, i had seen no female religious leaders, so i took those adult words as truth. even though i couldn't quite believe it, my first and most vibrant dream went underground.

now, in "part two," i count my blessings that i was deterred before i could even think of attending oral roberts university in tulsa, oklahoma to become a zealous, raving lunatic of an evangelical preacher! it was definitely a road i could have easily traveled down coming from such a right wing milieu. i have no doubt i would have been quite charismatic with all that passion, but oh, the damage that could have been done! and the regret in the aftermath... i shudder to think. which reminds me, there is an incredible interview with frank schaeffer, who wrote the book "crazy for god: how i grew up as one of the elect, helped found the religious right, and lived to take all (or almost all) of it back." you can listen to this interview on NPR's fresh air with terry gross. click here to do so. it's incredibly moving.

so, anyway, here in "part two," i am in korea, devoting my days to the cultivation of wise understanding, compassion, and healing the fragments, reacquainting myself with what it means to have a dream of my own and really go for it, no matter what the old original sin voices say inside my head, no matter the gripping fear that follows. the courage, independence, and capacity that has been gained through following what i knew i needed and deeply wanted to do is clearly tangible after this year and a half overseas. even though it feels excruciating sometimes that the big choices come at such a great cost, i give endless thanks that there is also gain. gain and loss...gain and loss...over and over again, it seems. grief and praise. joy and sorrow. ever two sides of the same coin.

and in this process, dreams that once went underground, resurface again, in new shapes and colors...transformed by time, evolution, and grace.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


"security is mostly a superstition. it does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. avoiding danger (risk) is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

-quote by helen keller (my addition in parentheses)

-photograph by diana blok, india 1994...given to me in postcard form by a dear cancerian friend. thank you, surane.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

snow dusted mountain tops

i returned to korea a week ago. valentine's day to be exact. this is my fourth time to land in korea and begin a new semester of teaching. each time it feels different. this time, vastly so. after the initial feeling of disorientation that comes with just having said goodbye to everyone i love back in north america, the curse of jet lag upon me, and entering my apartment after two months of being away and having it smell funny, i began to feel deeply settled and so very happy to be back. i marvel at the affinity i feel for korea, despite the insane motorbikes that come full speed out of nowhere down the sidewalks, the yellow dust storms soon to hit and reek holy havoc on my respiratory system, and the red pepper paste in almost everything available to eat. i just love it here. and the rightness of living in korea at this time in my life is unquestionable.

today, after cooking up a hearty hiker's lunch of poached salmon, mashed potatoes, and salad, finished off with a steaming cup of yunnan gold with a square of mexican dark chocolate, i set out on a mountain climbing venture. a friend told me about a ridge behind the train station that she recommended as a must hike. i rode a bus from my apartment to the vicinity of where my friend said the trailhead would be. turns out it was quite a walk through city streets to get to the actual base of the mountain, but i persevered! of course, there was a fork in the trail at the very beginning, and i chose the wrong one! well, not necessarily the wrong one, but the more meandering, odd one. it seemed fine for awhile, but then there came a long stretch where i had to walk through people's private vegetable gardens and was worried sick that i was going to be arrested for trespassing! in the process, i got massively snagged by a huge thorn bush that took me a good ten minutes to untangle from. finally, i made it to a clear, decent trail that looked as though it would lead me safely up the mountain. i followed it through forests of evergreens with magpie's chirping from the branches above, past mounds scattered about the mountain side where people are buried. and to no surprise, i came across a vibrantly colorful buddhist temple. i stopped in for a little rest and a splash of holy water on my face.i seemed to be the only person on the path for quite some time, then a few other hikers came my way, some of whom were amused by my sing-songy "ahn-YONG-ha-SEH-yo," as they echoed it with giggling after passing by! it's possible they were also entertained by my abominable snowman outfit. i have not hiked enough to have the gear down pat yet. i made the mistake of wearing my bulky, below zero, down jacket, with ski gloves and a stocking cap. i simply did not want to get cold. so, i spent quite a bit of time taking it all off and putting it all back on again, sweating and then freezing. i have to get this clothing issue figured out. i might just go out tomorrow and purchase some hiking poles, so i at least look like i know what i'm doing!

as i approached the top of the mountain, there were patches of ice and snow along the path. my breath looked like a cloud of smoke.
it is a marvelous thing to reach a mountain top. i never used to be one for climbing mountains. i was more of a minnesota flatlands, california ocean kind of gal. but, the more i climb to mountain peaks, the more i love the feel of looking out and seeing for miles and miles. the air is so clear way up there on top of the world. and one's perspective can't help but change. suddenly, i notice how small i am. and how boundless the earth, how far-reaching the horizon. i feel a great sense of accomplishment and awe every time i make it to the top of a peak and gaze at the view. i feel strong in my body, free in my soul...and my heart feels as wide as the world.after resting for a while at the top and giving a go to the exercise equipment up there, i took off along the ridge, which appeared to meander for miles. the views were breathtaking. i would have gladly hiked along the top of the mountain range as far as it would have taken me, but after a while i deemed it best to start heading down the mountain before the sun slipped out of sight. i had no idea where i would end up at the bottom, but figured i'd surely be able to catch a cab home, no problem. you can imagine my shock in the last 100 meters when i realized that i was exactly where i had begun several hours earlier. i exited the mountain on the trail that i should have chosen at the fork in the beginning, but instead took the garden tour/thorn bush path! my laughter echoed throughout all of korea. how strangely funny and perfectly fitting. all at once.

1st image - an acrylic painting titled "asian fall" by frank ignizio
2nd and 3rd images - paintings in an exhibit titled "universal mountain" by korean painter, ahn sahn

Monday, February 16, 2009

perfection of wisdom

"live with skillful nonchalance and ceaseless concern."

-from the prajnaparamita sutra

Thursday, February 12, 2009

the art of disappearing

by: naomi shihab nye

"when they say, don’t i know you?
say no.

when they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
then reply.

if they say, we should get together.
say why?

it’s not that you don’t love them anymore.
you’re trying to remember something
too important to forget.
trees. the monastery bell at twilight.
tell them you have a new project.
it will never be finished.

when someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
when someone you haven’t seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don’t start singing him all your new songs.
you will never catch up.

walk around feeling like a leaf.
know you could tumble any second.
then decide what to do with your time."