Dharma Gleanings


cynthia rich

August 11, 2011—August 26, 2011

August 11, 2011
In my dream, I am seated at the end of a long dinner table near an “older” man and woman. They are middle aged but I see them as older. I am very quietly weeping because I feel so deeply happy. They ask cooly, “Why are you crying?” and I answer, “Because I am so very happy.” They do not say, “We’re glad,” or “Why are you happy?” They are not critical, but entirely indifferent. I am not in the least bothered by their indifference.

LATER (added as preface to the entries that follow)
Birds have figured in meaningful ways in Bettina’s and my life together. The entries that follow suggest some of these ways.

Several years ago, when Bettina was working to free herself from the prison of her childhood, she was moved to buy a small bird and release her on the desert. When we opened the box, she hesitated a moment to be sure that this freedom was really possible, and then escaped upwards with a wonderful swoop. We named her Hannah Free, and the next morning while Bettina was outside painting the garage, she heard Hannah singing from a nearby ocotillo.

In 2010 a mourning dove named Trudy chose to build her nest on the porch directly outside our front door at 4109 Front Street. In spite of all the comings and goings and a barking dog in the next apartment, Trudy and Henry took turns sitting on the eggs and, when two tiny birdlings were born, they took turns feeding them.

This spring, birds began to build their nests in crannies of our desert house, mainly in the roof of our carport, where we could hear the tiny voices through the roof of our living room. Several generations were born during this prolonged spring.

August 12, 2011
At work in the hospital last week I counseled three women in three days who told me of childhood molestation and horrible abuse. The next day I find myself sobbing in the car, comforted by Bettina, shaken with the depth of the feeling.

The following day we are driving to the desert and stop at PetCo in El Cajon for birdseed. In the back of the store is a small cage filled with parakeets. There is no room to fly and they sit stone still, not fluttering or moving their heads. It upsets me to see them, trapped in so small a space, and I begin to mutter about it. By the time we get back to the car hauling the bag of birdseed, I am filled with emotion. I tell Bettina that I need to go back and speak to the manager. This is very different from the countless times I’ve gone to speak to managers as an activist—righteous, indignant, even if I made sure to keep my tone cool, determined to be heard. This time my voice is shakier as I explain to the manager that the cage is too small, that it feels abusive, that it is upsetting to see them there. She listens respectfully, is responsive in a way that feels genuine—still I know that my speaking to her is not about creating change in PetCo, that it is about a process within me, about the opening the birds give me to Little Cynthia. When I come back to the car, where Bettina is waiting, I burst once again into inconsolable tears, taking in at a yet deeper level, how trapped I was in the house of my childhood, the pain and horror of it.

August 13, 2011
As if in reenforcement from the universe, Bettina notices a sound in our chimney—the sound we heard when a bird was trapped there last winter. I open the screen and release a groundfeeder into our house, knowing she may never find her way out unless we can catch her. As I feared, she flies about dipping against the ceiling, only to bang against the glass windows, but somehow miraculously she finds her way into the bathroom, where we can close the door. While she flies around in desperation, squawking loudly, I grab a towel, Bettina takes it and tries to catch her. Finally the bird freezes on a window screen and Bettina can catch her in the towel. She carries her out to the door, enclosing her with love and caring, gently and firmly.

Surely for both Bettina and myself, the trapped—and freed—bird is a life message.

August 26, 2011
Yesterday Grace and I were talking about non-attachment and Grace said, “When you’re attached to someone or something, you turn them into property.” Grace has a long-standing critique of capitalism, and I found her use of this word immensely helpful and illuminating. I thought of Krishnamurti’s challenges to parents, informing them that they do not love “their” children—he doesn’t use the word property but it would apply. “My child, my husband, my dog, my house.” “I-Mine” is an extension of what Buber calls “I-It”—it takes what has been objectified and claims it as property.