Zen Eyes, Beginner’s Eyes


“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Three beer cans; Miller, Budweiser, and one so rusted it remains a mystery.  A lost, printed movie ticket.  Black tissue paper.  An old cracked plastic cup filled with dirt.  A yellow feather from a craft shop.  A freshly dropped thin pinecone.  And a strong, thick shoebox, once home to shiny new business-man shoes, but now home to things much less shiny, but no less interesting.

Yesterday my 9 year old son came bursting through the front door, all in a huff of excitement.  He called for me with several gasping breaths, and I rushed from the kitchen, still with soapy gloves on my hands, hoping I heard excitement and not panic in his voice.  (One never knows, it could go either way.)

Luckily it was excitement.  With a flourish of pride and flushed cheeks he proceeded to show me the contents of the shoebox.  All these things, he announced, had been discovered in the woods behind our house.  And not to worry, he assured me, about germs or rust or other motherly vexations, for he was wearing his football gloves and was thus immune to any such nonsense.

As he catalogued his treasures to me, I thought, what a funny thing.  He has collected what most wise grown ups would term ‘trash’ in the woods, and yet he is ultimately pleased and delighted with himself.

But yes, if one looks closer and rubs her eyes to remove the sleep of adulthood, she can see it too!

These things are ancient relics, hints of other times and places, alive with stories!  What mysteries and secrets they hold!  Someone drank this beer, perhaps out in the woods.  Who was it?  Were they alone?  Was it sneaky?  Someone used this cup.  What was it filled with? Apple juice? Perhaps it was a child?  Would that child be fun to play with? And someone lost this printed ticket.  I found it!  I saved the day!  If that someone needs it, I will keep it safe for him.  Oh, and some gigantic tree dropped this pinecone.   How long had this tree been preparing, making, molding this pinecone?  Will it open soon?  Will the shape change?

After some pondering, the shoebox and its cache of treasures was positioned carefully on the front step, and I returned to my duties in the kitchen and forgot about it.


This morning my husband had to leave early for work.  I am not an early riser, and I grumbled my way out of bed at the horrific hour of 5:30 a.m. to make and pack his lunch.  However, after a little coffee and fumbling around the kitchen, I realized I was up in time to see the sun rise.  At 6:12 a.m. I was outside with my steaming mug, sitting on the front steps and watching the light filter through the trees.  For one who enjoys staying in bed till the latest acceptable hour, seeing the sunrise is a rare treat.  For this, I have beginner’s eyes.  This is the precise moment when my gaze fell upon the treasure chest of the day before.

It was as if I had never seen it yesterday.  It was pure magic.  Transfiguration.  Alchemy in a shoebox.  I watched both for a long time; the magical sunrise and magical shoebox.

When I reentered the house, there was this new presence with me, like special sight had been bestowed upon my eyes.  Everything around me had an essence, a story, offering up some energy to exchange with my own.  There is a shape and a contour, a history and a secret, a craftsmanship and twinkle of merrymaking in all of it.  The sneakers, the candles, the baby toys (including a singing dog complete with chocolate smeared paw), the old telephone and the books.  The tiny green glass bottle holding a pine branch (my daughter’s creation), the spiral notebooks, the pencils and the empty mug of coffee.

Tummy  Pine needles

Such beauty surrounds me, and yet I am most often blind to it, never allowing my eyes to penetrate the world around me.  What foolishness in labeling the inanimate as such!  What poverty to disregard the whispering mystical accoutrements of life in search of some grander distraction! No no no.  From now on, I go deeper.  I make it a priority to See.

There are signs of the animate awakening.  Little footsteps above me as I type, the creak of doors opening and the flushing of toilets.

The Beginners are awake.  What lessons shall they teach the expert today?


Triumph of Springtime!


There are three dogs in my front yard.  A small, poorly groomed poodle, resembling a large yet happy rodent (all my doing, PetSmart will never hire me) named Sunshine, a cheerful medium sized brown dog named Scooby,  running mostly in circles due to a leg  injury from a car, and an enormous beast of a black dog who nearly gave me a heart attack when I first met her, as I thought she was a very fat wolf.  She is not, however, a wolf, but a very mellow and kindhearted old girl named Goose, who meanders into our yard and allows my own frisky poodle to sniff her in all the wrong places.


Along with these dogs there are six children, three of which are mine.  There are three girls, first my own daughter, the beautiful, dragon obsessed little war monger, keen on wearing a crown made of construction paper stapled with green leaves, grabbing long sticks and fighting against the boys with her improvised ninja moves and dragon fire.  Her friend, a very gentle, kind and lovely girl, patiently playing most invented games and occasionally focusing my daughter on some organized sport.  They make a good pair.  These two are 11 and 10, developing into stunning  young women as seen through a shrewd  mother’s eye, though they still have no idea of it.  Finally there is our graceful neighbor, a girl of 13, who humors them and saunters behind, mostly texting on her phone but donning the leaf crown and taunting the boys on occasion.

audrey legs

As for boys, my oldest son…ah.  Speak of the devil.  I have just been interrupted by a snowball consisting of mostly ice flying through the open kitchen window, along with his sweet little voice yelling “Hey girls!”.    But how could he know the window was open on this, our first true spring day?  And how could he know that the girls had abandoned the battle in search of some quiet time drawing and gossiping upstairs?  I am not angry.  I am delighted.

Please no more snowballs through the open window.

 Oops sorry mom!

A big smile and flare of red embarrassment as he dashes off with his friend, another beautiful blue eyed child, with a smile hiding much mischief.  I find it hard not to pinch their cheeks.  As they charge off I hear their belts of chains rattling.  These chains were discovered somewhere in the depths of the garage, and are now used as belt-holsters carrying a variety of loaded water guns.


Then there is Nicholas, my partner in crime, and for most of the day he has been a member of the audience with me.  We sit on a blanket and watch the commotion unfold for a while, I read a little and he plays with his toys.  A soccer ball narrowly misses my head here.  Two children tackle each other upon my legs and as they dust off I am informed that it is not their fault, as this particular blanket is official Base.  Children come and go from my Base Headquarters Blanket, telling me of bugs they have found, asking me to watch tricks they can do, and tattling on each other.

There is such freedom and energy here today.    There have been marriage proposals and banishments and custody fights over animals.  There have been soccer games and tree climbing and battles among the rocks.  There have been strawberries and  meringues and root beer and hot popcorn  and mud pies stuffed with pine needles and apple cores.  There have been naked trees with bare arms dancing in supplication to their sun and fat little chick-a-dees whizzing and twittering among pregnant bird feeders. There has been a sky so blue that tears formed in my eyes to behold it.

Naturally there were also a few casualties; the untimely disappearance of a lego minifigure, a variety of soaked clothing articles, a few temporarily lost tempers and an unfortunate incident with dog poo.

But the clothes and one pair of sneakers spin happily now in the washing machine, and I am all together twitterpated with Mother Nature and lusty for tulips and dandelions.

There is life here today, on this beautiful spring entrance.  Bloom baby bloom.



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