Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Vase

I awoke this morning with death, life, love, my parents, my kids – all of this not really on my mind as much as in my heart, residing like the deep ocean inside of me, defining me, holding me, offering to me a chance to love the world with all that I am and am not.

I glanced at the clock, squinting mightily as I do each morning, and decided to roll over and not so much go back to sleep as lie in that space of semi-conscious remembering.  My dreams were full and had messages that I had not completely tapped into yet. 

Recounting only briefly, I was with my friend who died this year.  His phone and computer were next to me on a table.  His phone rang, I answered, and it was him.  He was returning and I wanted to gather flowers to uplift the room.  As I was flower arranging, the vase felt and looked too full, just like our minds feel too full at times with worries, anxieties, fears, what ifs and thoughts about the future. 

Just as that thought manifested in my dream, there was a man crouching down by my side.  We both reached into a cupboard to retrieve the perfect size and shape vase.  There was no question in either one of our minds which vase we would choose.  In unison, as we drew the vase out, I leaned in to him and rested my head on his chest.  There was no doubt, question, hesitation in me.  He completely and simply received my need at that moment and without words offered me a place to rest and be.  There was no other moment that mattered in that moment. 

Just last night I had just finished Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men before going to sleep.  I was deeply struck by the humanity in that book and how Candy could not help relieve his dog’s long overdue suffering but George had to relieve Lennie’s future suffering.  This is on my ninth grade son’s English reading list.  Its message is clear: sometimes there is just no way to resolve the world as it is.  The world is full of suffering and we can be bodhisattvas with awakened, broken, soft hearts open to the world.  We will be wounded and hurt as we witness a world that is alive and trapped in the confusion of aggression and retribution.  And there are circumstances simply beyond our control.  To love the suffering, mad world with every molecule of our being is freeing but still we cannot alleviate it all however much we would like to.  The Buddha realized that.  Jesus realized that. 

We can though work our cluttered and worried minds and take some of the anxiety and confusion away by sitting down and quieting in a regular way.  Some do this by sitting and meditating regularly, some do this by communing with others in a sacred place like church, synagogue, temple or other hallowed space.  Some walk on the earth with great tenderness and honesty.  Through exercising the mind by stilling it, we can live more in the gift and wonder of each moment.

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment.  And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.  Then gradually time awakened again and moved sluggishly on.” 


As I lay in bed in the wonder of my sweet dreams of the night from which I had just awakened, my oldest boy came into my room and wanted a hug.  I moved over and he lay down.  I hugged him and gently ran my fingers through his hair.  Before long he was fast asleep.  Then my youngest showed up at my bedroom door all wrapped up in his down comforter.   He came around the other side of the bed and joined the party.  There I lay on a rainy lazy Sunday morning the last day of September sandwiched between my two grown sons, much like when we first moved in this house ten years ago.  How many mornings had we snuggled together just like this.  It was a fleeting gift to have this settled, peaceful moment of not doing but simply being.

To just be happy because we are together.  We all drifted off to a brief morning sleep only to be awakened by the telephone, first the home phone which we let ring through, then the cell phone, which my eldest handed to me.  It was my mom.  Through tears she delivered the sad news of my neighbor’s, Aldo, passing this morning.  I just felt so sad and said so.  I hung up and reflected for a few moments.  The moment of sleepy peace disrupted, the boys moved out of our collective snuggle and I was left alone with a heart of sadness.

I had been thinking and regretting not having spent enough time with my parents, or with my long time neighbors from my childhood home, Grace and Aldo.  Even though I had time with Grace and Aldo on their front porch in July, I saw a memory clearly when I had only waved a few weeks ago to my dad and Aldo who were perched on Aldo’s front porch across the street.  I was in a rush to get to the office.  How I wish now that I had just taken five more minutes and said hello. 

Is it worth regretting those moments that we miss, when we are engaged in another moment that we must meet?  There is usefulness in regret if it helps us to see more clearly and engage more clearly in what makes our heart sing, if it helps us to be more present in our moments and to others in our lives.  Regret can help us see places that we would like to shift and change.  Regret can be a helpful reminder to make more space in our mind and schedule to relate to our life, to relate to others.

Today I know that I will spend part of the day with my folks.  I know that I took time to cuddle with my boys this morning.  It is about the lifetime of being together and all the moments that add up to that lifetime.

We are all precious beings of basic goodness and decency.  We all love, we all cry, we all get angry, we all feel sorry when we fly off the handle, we all want a place to rest our head and a shoulder to cry on.  Again as I lay in bed with my two sleepy head boys this morning, I glanced up at my bedroom wall and saw a little shrine of sorts I have.  A painting of the Buddha holding a woman in his arms, holding and loving her, being fully present in the embrace, knowing that one is enough, and that each and every one of us represents the goodness of this world. 

And then I glance to the two hundred year old vase from my great grandmother placed on the highest ledge.  A 200 year old family relic just sitting there out in the open, vulnerable, accessible, alive, and celebrated, just sitting out there in space like every one of us.


(Quote from John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men.)

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