Treading lightly the path to enlightenment.

Beautiful Yesterday

Ordinary Folk

I saw my Beautiful Yesterdays in the passing strangers.

Perhaps I should refer to them as “The Unacquainted”, as they are far from strangers.

Now, at 57, and having raised five children, they are almost a flashback.

They are walking in the park, these four, this pack. Two in the prime of their youthful adulthood, the four-year-old toddles along behind him, and she is pushing the stroller with the littler one.

He (and toddler) string out ahead a bit, pause, wait for the other two. They catch up. He looks up from his phone to address her. (I cannot hear their words, if any, at this considerable distance.)

She is saying “Put up his hood, it looks like rain.” or “Do you have three dollars?”

He is saying “Do you want to get lunch?” or “What time will your mother be over?”.

Their clothes are ordinary. Not old or worn, nor necessarily new or fancy. Perhaps they’ve bought these things, perhaps some were gifts. A winter coat from Grandma. A new shirt from sister. Fuzzy lounge pants from a sweetheart.

They’re walking and pushing a stroller because they have no car. Maybe they are saving for one, hopeful for this summer. That he may reach out for that better job across the river, so she can bring groceries home in a trunk, not a stroller laden with bags and bundles. So that they may drive to the lake on a Sunday afternoon and have a picnic while the children play in the cool water.

Maybe they are city folks, and have no need for the expense and burden of a car. Buses take them to work, to the barber, to Cub Scouts. They will almost never use a taxi. Cab fare that could be spent elsewhere. Two suppers. Formula. Diapers.

The apartment is small, in Woodbine Square, known to be…affordable. Perhaps they dream of moving to the Gramercy Apartments. Tall windows, Victorian stairs. Maybe this year.

The challenges laid before them come at a steady and manageable pace. They appear not as mountains or even boulders in their path, but rises in the road ahead.

She wants to take up knitting. Has a few needles and things from Mom. She parts grudgingly with the six dollars for a skein of yarn. She knows she will have three warm and pretty scarves to give to her little family when her labors are through, but still feels a slight twinge of guilt spending this money which could be milk and eggs, apple juice, bus fare. Still, she must have this small comfort. The price of one small beauty in this world surely will not break the budget.

He is saving his money. He thought he was saving for a new pair of waders for himself, just in time for Trout Season.

But then, next month is Mother’s Day, and his savings are three-quarters the price of the Mother’s Day ring she admired in an advertisement. Perhaps waders will wait.

Each day they bring the energy and spirit gifted to the young and the young at heart. He rises with the sun and goes off to work, to return twelve hours later, a little richer, a little older, and a little tired.

She follows a different clock, independent of the sun and Earth and the world spinning around her. The slightest coo in the crib that shares the master bedroom, and her “mother alarm” sits her bolt upright.

“Hey little girl” in hushed tones, heard only by these tiny ears, quiet, so as not to disturb the others, “Is it time to get up?”. A beaming smile greets the child.

Life is far from care-free. Fortunate enough to have a decent job in the richest country in the world, they are taking care of themselves, independent, paying their own way. Some bills may need to be put off a week, and there are few extravagances. Yet there is comfort, and simple joys.

There will be a few arguments. There will be some heated debate about topics which are very important to those in this stage of life. Sometimes it’s about money. Their goals and desires, the someday place we want to be. Sometimes the money is a tyrant, lording over them mercilessly. Slaves to monetary society. Sometimes it feels like the money is so finite, we fear our little tribe will go under. We think this last thought in silence, in the darkness of night, the solitude of rational fear.

Sometimes the argument is centered on symbols. Behind the argument is a ponderous pile of memories and imaginings. Childhood dreams she feels are slipping away. A dream of the person he imagined for himself, before he vanishes into the “Mr” of “Mr & Mrs & Family”.

Underlying the sentiments are fear and uncertainties. health and success for ourselves and our children. The not-knowing of the future. How can we be sure we’ll “Be okay” as dad says? Will you really stick by me? Like the old song about old people, written by a man at the ripe old age of perhaps twenty-five, “Will you still need me when I’m sixty-four?”

The little family walks on, down the path and turning left into the apartment complex.

And I see in them the beauties of untold tomorrows. It’s not necessary to make a morbid account of those (we pray few) Black Days which seem to visit most lives. I see in them all the beauty of my own beautiful yesterdays.

Lunch in the park over, I must return to work now.

You see, I’m saving my money…

Earthbound Angels

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Joy In Motion

 

By Land, Sea or Air,

I wish to live my life

To leave no trace 

But the tracks of 

Wonder and Adventure.

A vapor trail of laughter.

A wake of smiles.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

This journal entry was originally posted in 2012.

It seemed worth repeating.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Sunset Moon

It wasn’t easy choosing a name for the blog Armchair Zen, though that’s how I’ve referred to my personal philosophy for some time. Names like “Zen in the modern world” and “Everyday Zen” and the like seemed to be taken. I guess everyone has the same idea.

Mostly the idea of ACZ is to share thoughts and philosophy with those that want to seek enlightenment, peace in their daily lives, harmony with the world, nature, the cosmos and life itself. It’s not about achieving perfection or some higher plane or a place in the next life or eternity. It’s about understanding our capabilities and limitations in this life, it’s about acceptance, understanding, compassion, forgiving and letting go.

As it says in About, these things are nothing new. Applying them to today’s world is not always that easy. We live in a world I term a Techno-Monetary society. We’re surrounded by wonderful technologies from life-saving medicine, global communications, electronic entertainment, space exploration and productivity greater than mankind has ever known, bolstered by the machines and artificial intelligences of our modern world.

In ancient times and old days, individuals and whole communities were isolated, and did not have the benefit of the vast volumes of knowledge mankind has compiled since. Their lives were filled with strife, at the mercy of the elements, filled with superstitions, fears, and lack of understanding of things that seem simple to us today. The sun, the solar system, what makes rain, thunder, tornadoes. They had more time, and perhaps a greater need, to seek peace within their lives.

We are also slaves to the monetary system. In all the developed countries (probably 90% of the globe), we need to work at something to earn money for rent, taxes, clothing, food, transportation, and the list goes on. This is really not new, nor does it strictly apply to developed countries or societies. Go back a couple thousand years and we find people did not live the simple agrarian lives we might imagine. Subsistence farmers & ranchers, mountain-men and even minimalist communities of today need to barter goods or trade cash for the things they can’t make. Cooking kettles, sewing needles, broadcloth, tack supplies, sugar, salt, bacon.

Finding our personal zen and peace within our lives seems like a considerable challenge after negotiating traffic, signing in at work, talking to customers, clients or co-workers that are not seeking enlightened ways, and any number of non-zen, non-nature, non-peace-encouraging things we must do.

Still, I find my ACZ to be pervasive. It hasn’t always been that way. I was “Two Jakes” for many years, seeking solace in nature and creative expression during my precious evenings and weekends, and turning off the peace machine when going to battle with the world. After some years of concentration, practice and informal self-cognitive behavioral therapy, the zen has spread to all hours of the day.

Nowadays there are few interactions with others wherein the conscious-competence of ACZ does not rule. Filter-monitoring, managing emotions & reactions, thinking forgiveness & acceptance, seeking to navigate all situations for the best outcome of all under the guidance of enlightened thought & behavior. Spread loving compassion by being loving and compassionate. Spread forgiveness and acceptance by being forgiving and accepting. Appreciate the beauty of the world around us by opening our eyes and minds and truly seeing. It’s not always easy, but it’s always simple!

That’s really all for this post. Perhaps it’s not a lot of meat, but an encouragement to those that may be seeking the path to peace. Sure, it takes a little time and concentration, but it can be done without extensive training or effort or money or social status or massive brain power.

You don’t have to be rich, you don’t have to be beautiful, you don’t have to be perfect. Everyone is welcome.

The cosmos, and I, love each and every thing without judgement.

That includes you!

Be at peace,

Paz

Constant of Joy

Sunset Moonrise

Someone asked about happiness.

“Can you be truly happy if you are alone?”

I replied as follows:

For me, there is peace. It’s not so much about happy or sad, really. Life is a long, long road for most, and it is bound to be pock-marked with tragedy, sadness, loss and boredom as well as elation, excitement, gains and triumphs.

Having come to understand my place in the cosmos, my perspective has become one of simple reality. Like so many other beings on this planet, my existence is but a flash in the context of the universe. This existence, by its very nature, will be visited by laughter, joy, pain and sorrow in varying measures, until my light goes out. It is the knowing that all things here are transient that brings peace. Cherish the highs and endure the lows, and it’s gone before we know it.

I feel I am never alone. Wherever I go the Great Cosmos is all around me. I am a part of it as a grain of sand is a part of the beach. I feel comforted, secure. In constant company. And it is this that brings me joy (happiness) always.

Any place, any time, the Cosmos assures me, “I’m right here.”.

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

The Wee Hours

Moonrise

Moonrise

Awake in the wee hours, the “middle” of the night.

The world feels quiet, sleeping, and close. The world seems smaller and more intimate. Or perhaps that’s just my world. Unencumbered by visitors and conversation, undisturbed by the constant chatter of the television.

Sassy June awakes, walks to the kitchen door with one eye open, as if to say “Time to get up?”.

Sleepless, I stare out the west window through the maple trees twice my age or more, and watch the stars. One disappeared, and I thought cloud cover must be blowing in. A few moments later, the star reappeared, and I realized I stared at it so long the planet moved beneath us. As our blue globe rotated, stars would vanish momentarily behind a branch, to pop up on the other side after a minute or two.

Standing beside the wood stove, I look out the south window. Across the road and down a hundred yards, small lights glow at Hillmeyer’s farmhouse. I can’t tell if they are porch lights or within the house. Light from my own kitchen window spills out onto the snow-covered ground beneath, illuminating an odd rectangle, stretched out of shape. A trapezoidal micro world that extends no more than five feet from me. I watch as the wind blows tiny things through the spotlight. Bits of autumn leaves, little crystals of snow, an occasional leaf of grass, dried and tan.

I consider the things I might do as long as I’m awake. Get out the easel and sort paints, maybe start a new canvas. Re-string fishing rods and ice-fishing tip-ups. Write a little.

I could post to the blog or read a few others, but the thought of the laptop and its noise, the light and the connectivity to the outside world seems offensive, intrusive.

I want to do nothing to fracture the fragile silence of this hour. Like sitting in church or attending a funeral, restful quiet is in order.

Winds blow.

Stars creep.

Man watches.

Before I know it, I am waking to the dawn in the chair beside the window.

February Dawn

February Dawn

Seek peace,

 

Paz

Beholder

Gray and Blue

Gray and Blue

Is the songbird more beautiful perched among the cherry blossoms?

Is the songbird less beautiful perched upon a heap of trash?

Is the game bird less beautiful than the songbird?

And the mealworms on which it feeds?

In this Great Cosmos, their beauty is equal.

-Paz

Solstice Day

Happy New Year!

Celestial Celebration

Celestial Celebration

 

In a world that follows the rhythm of the cosmos and the heartbeat of Mother Earth, tomorrow is New Year’s Day.

Today our globe reaches the point when its crooked and wobbling circuit of the sun finds the Northern Latitudes tilted away from the nuclear heart of our solar system.

It was beautiful sunrise for Solstice Day. Bright blue patches of infinity showed between streaks of billowing clouds. Classic tri-color clouds of white, blue and gray; and others painted with the pink peach of wintry dawns. Passing woods, one can see deeply into them, their floors carpeted with pristine snow, the white birches standing out like shoots of snow growing vertically. The golden copper oak leaves evoke thoughts of Christmas kitchen kettles. Frozen mists are seen at distance, hovering over Pigliavento’s sleeping greenhouses. Finally, the sun crawls over the clouds of the horizon and the lights come on for a shiny new day.

The half-moon hangs in the morning sky, upside down, out in the daytime, providing a celestial metaphor for the occasion. We are half-way around the year. As far as we can get from the greenery and flowers of summer, shirt-sleeve weather, the drama of thunder & lightning, the long evenings watching the sunset past nine o’clock.

Today, our shortest day, finds us at the extent of our solar season, far-flung and stretched like a rubber band, our globe pulling against the gravity anchor, the sun holding tight to the reins as we hurtle through space at six hundred kilometers per second, beginning the turn toward the new year.

Days get incrementally longer now, a thought I find exciting and encouraging. Solstice Day has many facets; it marks a circle closing, the circle of seasons, the circle of the year, a circle-within-a-circle of my life. Now it feels as though we are half way round. Half the leafless season of cold is past. The circle seems to get shorter, pass more quickly, each year I count. Regarding troubles, we are glad this time is behind us. Remembering joys and the magic of wonder, we are glad to have added these pages to our life book.

And now we can do that singularly-human thing: we can imagine what our future holds. For by the time I reach New Year’s Day again, that is, the next winter solstice (if I am still here), I will have lived and loved, wondered and marveled, kissed and hugged, fished and hiked and boated and camped my way through another chapter, all the way around another circle.

I count blessings and embrace the good and joy that surrounds me now. I cleave to these thoughts, never knowing what our next course around the sun will bring.

May the peace of the cosmos find you this holiday season, and may good fortune follow you throughout the year.

Look at this mess!

Look at this mess!

Happy New Year!

 

Paz

An Award? For ACZ? Yay!

How Exciting! Dan and Fiona of  360exposure have nominated ACZ for a Sunshine Blogger Award!

Thanks Dan & Fiona, your gesture is genuinely appreciated.

(360exposure.wordpress.com)

sunshine-blog-award

Rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the eleven questions set by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate eleven other blogs and give them eleven questions to answer.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post.

Dan & Fiona’s questions:

What made you start blogging?

I’ve always enjoyed writing; poetry, songs, radio comedy. I’ve also written journals for many years, sort of a diary. A blog seemed like a logical next step. Like many, at first I thought I was framing up a book, but then the blog community stole my heart.

If money was no object, what would you do?

I’d spend much of my time in service to others. Refugees of war-torn countries, VISTA stuff, Veterans, the blind and illiterate, and animals.

What do you prefer Marine or Terrestrial environments?

As a terrestrial mammal raised on Terra Firma, I like dry land. I love water’s beauty and value, but I’m a little uncomfortable in an environment where I can’t see things that are big enough to eat me.

If you were kind and you knew then what you know now. Would you have chosen a different profession and what would it be?

As dichotomous as it sounds, if I could do it again I’d probably be a monk or a drill sergeant.

Do you prefer sweet or savory?

Sweet all the way.

If you could save one animal on the planet which animal would it be?

Dogs. Selfish, I know, but it’s my answer. Don’t get me started on dogs…

Favourite music genre and/or band?

Not sure what you’d call it, but it would be Rickie Lee Jones.

If you could earn a salary from blogging, would you do it?

For legitimate publishing, yes. Not as a vendor or tech support or anything.

What are your views and thoughts on global population numbers.

This question may be too big for me. There are a lot of people and there must be a limit of some kind. Quite honestly, in my true Armchair Zen heart I don’t think humans are the best thing for this planet. Maybe it sounds a little crazy, but frankly the planet would be better off without them (or perhaps a total world population of a million or two). My eye to the cosmos says our little globe will be glad when they’re gone.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to a foreign country where would you go to?

I live in New York State, the northeast United States, not far from the confluence of two famous rivers; the Hudson, named for Hendrick who landed here in 1609, and the Mohawk, made famous by the tales of James Fennimore Cooper. If I was forced to move I’d go to Canada, but then our neighbors and our countries are quite similar. Otherwise, in a total fantasy answer, maybe Australia.

When was the last time you spent the entire day without your cellphone and/or iPad?

Every year I have the great privilege of camping at Forked Lake in the wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains. There are no cell towers in the High Peaks region, and therefore I have a perfect excuse to leave the phone in the car. It is the most peaceful time of my entire year.

 

My nominees for the Sunshine Blogger Award are as follows:

Rabbit Patch Diary (rabbitpatchdiary.com)

Brian and Lily (lilyandardberg.wordpress.com)

By India Blue (indiablue.co.uk)

Livenowandzen (livenowandzen.com)

Whippet Wisdom (whippetwisdom.com)

Mrs. Twinkle (mrs-twinkle.com)

Cancer Killing Recipe (cancerkillingrecipe.me)

My Zen City (myzencity.com)

Dhamma Footsteps (dhammafootsteps.com)

Catwoods Porch Party (catwoodsporchparty.wordpress.com)

Fun Wunderlust (funwunderlust.wordpress.com)

 

My questions for the nominees:

How do you come to be a blogger?

Tell us a bit about where you live.

What other creative talents or outlets do you have, besides your blog?

If you could send a text to everyone in the world simultaneously, what would you say?

How would you describe humankind to an alien that knows nothing of humans?

What, in your opinion, is the most important or valuable invention of modern man?

What attributes of your favorite season do you most admire?

What is your earliest childhood memory?

In what ways do you now differ from the person you thought you’d be when you were a teenager?

Who has been an inspiration or hero in your life?

If you could be a different species, what would it be?

Thanks again to Dan & Fiona at 360exposure. This has been an honor, and a lot of fun!

 

Seek peace,

 

Paz

 

 

Wonderlife

 

 

Unbridled

Unbridled

A life of

Wonderment

will not simply

Come to you and 

Adorn you like a ray of

Magic Sunshine.

It requires your 

Direct and Vigilant Participation.

You must believe it,

Believe it is and

You can make it so.

Herein lies the

Magic.

-Paz

The In-Between Time

November's Palette

November’s Palette

Just a few weeks ago, I could find nearly every color of my palette as I observed my world.

Sap Green and Phthalo Green, Mars Violet and Alizarin Crimson, Naples Yellow and Cadmium Yellow.

Now we slip into November, the In-Between Time.

Not Autumn exactly, but not yet winter.

Now the palette is limited, like a tonal study.

A study in Earth Tones.

Burnt Sienna, Van Dyke Browns, Raw Umber, Golden Ochre.

These swatches appear against a brilliant Cerulean sky, or alternately a Payne’s Gray backdrop.

The Wonder Woods, so recently reposed beneath bright colorful leaves, now an open space with sunlight streaming in, an unrestricted view of the sky where once there was a canopy of green

Wonder Woods

Wonder Woods

And then there is this In-Between Time. Barely discernible if you’re not paying close attention. Like a great pendulum swinging, as it reaches the height of its arc, and for one brief moment there is no motion. A kinetic pause, placed and required by the Great Cosmic Clockworks.

Like a breath held in, it seems our world has stopped, ever-so-briefly.

There are no green things growing, there are no red leaves falling.

No litters of newborns or fledglings in nests.

There is a stillness, a silence to my world, to our Wonder Woods.

It is the shortest of all the seasons-within-seasons.

If you are fortunate, you may be out in the Great World of Wonder when this season falls.

It is rest and respite, it is calmness and quiet.

Like coffee at sunrise or a granddaughter’s hug, it is over before we know it, and leaves us wanting for more.

Alas, the In-Between Time is that momentary motionlessness of the swing in the pendulum of the Great Cosmos.

And in an instant, the pendulum begins to drop.

If you blink, you may miss it.

 

Move slowly now, these shortening days.

And on to the Winter Solstice.

 

Seek Peace,

 

Paz

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