Skip to main content

Observing, Presently

 The change in my blog's header reflects an editorial change. During the time in which I have been away, I've had time to consider if there were a common thread among my 302 posts. The result is "El observatorio de Ysabel," or Ysabel's Observatory. I might observe the stars from time to time on this virtual page, but my plan is to observe the goings-on on earth. The title reflects my desire to share observations rather than opinions, with the hope that such observations can lead others and myself to insight and understanding; to be, perhaps, a candle in a window to anyone who passes by. 

To those of you who have continued to visit my blog since I have been away, thank you. Your presence means a lot to me. 

Now, let us climb a mount called perspective, as if we were heading to the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of Texas, where I passed some fascinating hours this summer. 



___________________________________________________

I made my first trip to the Davis Mountains last June. The first night of the trip was to be spent at a "star party," where we lay-folk would look through a mega-powered telescope at the McDonald Observatory and observe the constellations we cannot see from home.  Clouds cancelled it all. Big, simple clouds foiled the star-party crowd.

In my early 20s, I bought a used book on Zen Buddhism for 49 cents. It did not change my life; it did change my mind. Two things drew me to the subject matter as though the book were a magnet and I a handful of metal fragments. 1) The koan. "Draw the bow after the thief has left." And 2), presence: momentary, yet eternal, the question of how to be present now. 

Weather is a good Zen teacher. I am at my most present in the face of weather. When I store my winter clothes, I do so, convinced that I will never need them again. The thought of autumn, much less winter, on a day when the thermometer reaches 104 is not surreal, but unreal.     


An old American elm tree lives a foot from my yard, its trunk separated from me by a honeysuckle-covered fence. Its roots and branches, though, spread beneath and under my bit of land. As long as I have lived here, I've never seen my neighbor water it. I have watered it. This year, our county entered "catastrophic" Stage 5 drought. I once thought that watering this tree, and the rest of my yard, was a chore. Now that outdoor watering is forbidden, I know that chore for what it has always been: a luxury. 

With the help of a friend, I rigged a water recycling system that pumps bath and shower water into a rain barrel outside the bathroom window. I also collect rain when it graces us. I collect water from vegetable and hand washing and anything else possible. This year, I have been able to give the great elm only buckets of recycled water and what additional rain water I could. 

Last Wednesday, I raked its fallen, dessicated leaves into a large pile. I thought of the pile as summer's sad harvest. The next day, rain arrived. Plentiful, musical, cool. The temperature plummeted. The sage bushes bloomed. The tree looked refreshed, despite its loss of leaves. I looked at the pile of brown leaves, now damp and soggy, and thought, How could I have been so sad yesterday? How could I have believed that it would not rain for weeks to come? 


Because, Zen master, I had truly been in that present moment! I was all dead, dry leaves. Then. All fresh water. Now.  When I awoke this morning, I saw the grey sky, and thought, "It will be cloudy today." Yet even as I write, the sun peeks through those clouds. It was cloudy only in that present moment, now past. 

Weather is not season. Weather is now. I am within it now, and only now. When I can watch the weathers inside me, feel or know them fully and yet also know they are not more or less than now; when I can declare to my very soul that no cloud can take a star away; when I can discern within now what is merely present and what is present eternally, perhaps then, I can draw that arrow and know, indeed, the thief has left.


On the rise at right, two observatory towers appear as small shapes atop the mountain. Appear barely, I should say. They seem to blend in as natural shapes at this distance. 
_________________________________

Header photo, Elena Marconi. All other photos, Ysabel de la Rosa. Text and images, copyright 2014.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mil Cosas

Mil Lubroth was an American artist of Polish and Russian descent who came to settle in Madrid, where her chic, short name took on an extra meaning. In castellano, Mil means a thousand. Just right for an artist whose work could never be "pinned down," or categorized by any one theme or direction.

To experience Lubroth's work is akin to hearing a chorus of voices from Sheherazade's 1001 nights: it is to see and feel a thousand things united in one intriguing and beautiful visual journey. If you are anywhere near Madrid during October, invite yourself to a banquet of Mil's "mil cosas" atAnnta Gallery. The exhibit that opens October 5th is the first retrospective of Lubroth's work since her death in 2004.

Spanning 50 years, these works reveal an artist who was never less than mature and skilled in her work. There is no sign of awkward beginnings, improvement over time or deepening development. Here is Minerva, beginning her artistic trajectory fully f…

A Cat, a Dog, and Shakespeare: The Perfect Sunday Afternoon

One reason I keep paying a cable bill is to be able to watch Turner Classic Movies. I had just finished a batch of Sunday chores and was resting a moment on the couch, wedged between Chatterly the cat and Gypsy the dog (an Australian Kelpie), and saw that TCM was about to air Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, and produced in 1953. 


I read Julius Caesar for the first time when I was in sixth grade. It was a great time to read it, because it seemed fresh and real to me, even though some of the centuries-old English was challenging. 


The movie made me wish that Joseph Mankiewicz had directed more of Shakespeare's works for cinema. The balance the movie strikes is oh, so totally just right. It does not go so far into cinematic territory that we lose the work's theatricality, but travels far enough by camera that it provides a sense of seamless reality only a movie can create.  The casting was brilliant.  James Mason was at his best as Brutus, and he carries the film on h…

Booked on Sugar

Sometimes the television remote control finds the channel for Destiny. I believe I was indeed destined to see Marc Aronson'sand Marina Buddhos's presentation to students at the Brooklyn Public Library based on their recent book, SugarChanged the World. Their program certainly changed my world. While written for a youth audience, this is a book that adults will enjoy, and naturally, a great book for parents to share with their children.

I often wonder at the parallels between drug addiction and food addiction in our culture. I know I'm not alone in this. You can't miss the similarities:  "Betcha can't eat just one.  Crave the crunch. Do you dream in chocolate? Hershey chocolate is bliss."  And, as noted in my earlier posts on  Super Bowl ads, when you see a man "snorting" Dorito crumbs .... well, I rest my case.

I've also thought about how quickly we "judge" people with substance abuse problems while the US clearly suffers from foo…