Cloister Commentary, Day 215: The Cat and The Bell

I need report nothing other than, based on three consecutive daily observations ending in yesterday morning (and, honestly, continuing this morning), our cat Spirit is participating actively in our morning meditation sessions. Normally a bit aloof and prone to sudden violent swiping with her ginsu-claws, she turns into a purring, affectionately head-butting mess the second the meditation bell sounds. Technically, she should become still, be mindful of her breathing, and bring herself into an awareness of her living in this moment. But rather than shedding attachments, she sets hers aflame with need.

Even pets do the COVID shuffle.

Streaming for Strivers:

See if this makes you purr.

Cloister Commentary, Day 188: Semicolonoscopy

Dr. James Terry is one of the best profs at Stephens College–he’s admired by students AND colleagues–and yesterday he staged his students’ annual Punctuation Day competition. He assigns each of the class’ finalists a punctuation mark, then charges them with the task of designing a creative presentation that effectively defines each, illustrates its uses, and offers tips to the confused, and delivering it on stage in the school theater. This year, he invited me to judge, and, in introducing me, asked me how I liked to celebrate National Punctuation Day. Having only learned of its existence the day I received his request, I lied that I like to spend the morning writing, then the afternoon giving my work a semicolonotomy (I am a mite too fond of them). Also, after submitting my ballot, I learned I was the first judge to ever award all three categories (creativity, volume, overall excellence) to the same student, who revealed the mysteries of–wait for it!–the semicolon to her peers. By the way, half of the students were beaming in via Zoom (one presented that way), the other half plus the educators were masked, and tape prevented any of us from being closer than eight feet from each other; props to Jim and Stephens for providing a safe and healthy place to learn. (Note semicolonic restraint exercised above.)

Nicole and I have had a bit of a rough week, if you’ve been following, but I’d like to recommend neighborhood walks and sitting meditation to any of you who are also mourning or otherwise suffering (the national events of the week have been enough to cause an excess of both in almost anyone). Also recommended: taking meals together, talking the grief out, listening to The Beatles, and watching uplifting programming (for us, Woke and Unpregnant).

Streaming for Strivers:

I’d like to thank Spacecase Records for lighting a punk rock fire in me. Found within: early work by Meat Puppets, 100 Flowers, Leaving Trains, and The Gun Club.

Cloister Commentary, Day 63: Bells and Chimes

I awakened, wrote the last of seven stories about my departed friend–does anyone else compose on Facebook? I can think of many reasons not to, but it’s where the audience is–felt like taking a 24-hour-nap, but rallied for a visit with Nicole to a special spot on Hickman High School’s east side: a labyrinth for meditation, created by Kewpie students with George’s help to honor a fallen, much-loved master teacher a few years ago. We thought it would be a fitting place to quiet down and honor George’s memory, and we were right. It was our highlight of the day by far. When we stepped to the labyrinth, distant church bells rang in the eighth morning hour; when we stepped out, wind blew through chimes hanging from a nearby tree limb. I ain’t superstitious, but those were heart-lifting coincidences, and they inspired us to once again visit both Love Coffee (the three of us had made that a favorite place) and, later, Bangkok Gardens, the first place we’d ever eaten together. When we stepped out of Love Coffee, and received a message from my friend Kristy that the Tribune had published an op-ed about George, so we drove right around the corner and bought out Break Time. Matt Gordon, a Veterans United employee, sparely yet vividly and eloquently captured the essence of George’s approach to life. As I writer, I was envious.

We did more yesterday, but this is what I want to remember.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

The best meditation recording I’ve ever heard. Period.

Cloister Commentary, Day 33: It’s All One Day

To myself: “What day is it?” Me: “It’s all one day.”

We like to meditate with the window open, for the spring birdsongs. Beyond the birdsongs is traffic barreling down I-70. The birdsongs are like a veil; I fight to keep from mentally ordering the next few hours.

My project is moving in the lawn furniture and preparing the yard for our landscaper Deven, then putting out the garden hose and sweeping out the garage. Oh yes, and I really sweep out the basement.

Without the focus of a full-on job, my “ailments” become more noticeable: my tennis elbow, got from sifting litter boxes, is flaring up (I now sift left-handed), the calcium deposit in my palm feels bigger, why does my heel feel suddenly bruised, did I tear a ligament in my thumb, what’s that weird feeling under my rib cage, my nose is running and I have a slightly dry mild cough (it’s allergies)–am I officially old? Wait…also…I have an obtruding zyphoid process and encroaching hammer toes–is it all connected?

I need a nap in the afternoon. Instead I brew some Irish breakfast tea so I can keep reading.

A friend of ours from olden times named Greg used to magically and spontaneously create interesting meals for his family (and sometimes us) by just foraging through the fridge and throwing things together creatively. This is kind of what we do, and it is good, and I suspect it is a popular strategy for this longest of days.

Sharing crazy cat pictures was not enough to provoke comments from one of our favorite young couples, Patrick D and Mary Clare. Worried, we check on them. The future lawyer and current poet and teacher have been predictably laboring and scrambling, and they are OK. We just miss them.

Our series are ending (please put Ozark out of its misery!) or over. What next? Mrs. America–check. What We Do In the Shadows–check (GO FX!). But...the Jordan doc on ESPN? Fauda? Gomorrah? Babylon Berlin? The “Up” films, finally fully available on Brit Box? I feel like I am brainstorming upcoming units for a class.

Speaking of ESPN…I’m doing just fine without sports. Imagine that. I’m not sure I even need another face full of Jordan.

After 12 years of tormenting our sleep, our dog Louis suddenly decides he can crash alone and silent in the living room and hold his bladder for seven hours. A seemingly meager gift, but it is as from on high. Perhaps having his anal glands expressed was the key.

The spills, thrills, and chills of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place shuffle.

Streaming for Shut-Ins:

An exquisite pairing with the above.