All posts by Analyn Revilla

Intention, Time & Tapas

by Analyn Revilla

This blog was originally posted on the blog site of Fightmaster Yoga (www.fightmasteryoga.com)

Sometimes the things we love to do or are passionate about can be our prison also.  I’m talking about my love of reading and writing, playing guitar, and also practicing yoga.  It’s so strange to me, until recently, how I can hit a wall with these activities.  I will be religious about doing these things then I find my passion and interest waning, as though these things become a chore rather than a source of joy.

I get into a rut and it’s a lot of work to dig myself out of it with a new perspective, and sometimes it’s not the one I expected or wanted.  To give an example, I’ll talk about my yoga practice.  I was doing the 90-day Shine Program (available to people who join an app called MyYogaPal, which I came upon from following YouTuber, Lesley Fightmaster. She influenced my personal practice because her teaching philosophy and practice was “You don’t have to be perfect, because it’s not about the pose.”). Around the 70 to 80 day mark of the program I started to get stuck, because I repeated the classes 2 or 3 times, maybe even 4 or 5 times. I did so, because I felt I didn’t do it justice.  What I mean by that is my focus wasn’t there, and my best intentions weren’t present.

I almost wonder if we should give ourselves some kind of a graduation ceremony for accomplishing a feat of doing 90 days of yoga as a recognition of completion and getting ready for the next step.  What could that be after 90 days of the Shine program?

So what perspective did I gain after I had to re-boot myself from the rut?  No pain, no gain.  I am being a bit facetious in thinking and writing those words, but I’m not editing them out.  The reason is there is truth to the cliche (as cliche as it may be).  Here’s my real life experience about this.  I have two stories to share.

I’ll start with my recent project that I started about 2 months ago.  I decided that I want to be able to do at least one pull up before the end of this year.  So, after teaching my twice a week yoga classes at a private club, I go to the weight room and work on my pull ups.  One of my yoga students is dedicated about his weight training.  He started to notice me be a regular in the weight room.  He offered me advice on how to reach my goal.  First, he asked what my goal was and analyzed my workout.  Then he said that I needed to also do some weights to strengthen my pectoral muscles. I followed his advice.

Two weeks ago, one of my other yoga students joined me in the weight room as we continued a conversation after class.  ‘What are you doing here?’, he asked, so I told him.  ‘Well, have you tried doing one without the machines?’  I said no.  ‘Try,’ he said, ‘You might surprise yourself.’  I was doubtful, but I did it anyway and guess what – I almost got to one… I was able to lift my weight higher than I ever expected.  He said, ‘you’re almost there?!’  ‘Really?’ I beamed.  ‘Yeah.’  My coach was there too, working on his usual routine.  He said, “To be successful you have to be ready to endure pain.”  I haven’t forgotten those words since.

The other story is I have been healing an injured rotator cuff or a very tight knot around my right neck and shoulder area.  It’s been rather painful, that I can barely do a chaturanga dandasana (four-limbed staff pose). While I heal, I do a modified chaturanga dandasana.  Here I am, a yoga teacher, and I’ve suffered an injury.  I hope I’m not teaching anyone the wrong way.  I’ve always always been mindful of making sure my shoulders are aligned with my arms, wrists and hands.  It could be a combination of repetitive motion injury and arthritis plus my new pull-ups program.

Lesley Fightmaster in Chaturanga Dandasana

But I recognized there’s something deeper going on here, so I stopped looking externally as to why I’ve suffered this set back. I decided to investigate inwardly.  What is it in my life that’s really bothering me and that I’m avoiding or running away from?  I decided to revisit writing on a daily basis again to help draw out this invisible elephant in the room.  I went back to my roots of spending more time alone which I need on regular basis, because it’s always been my nature. Also, I have had to start being honest with myself and recognize to put myself first.

I was very spoiled when I lived next to a national park that bordered my home in Vancouver, Canada.  I would spend hours in the trails of the forest with my dog running, hiking, jumping and being alone but not lonely in nature.  I was one with the sounds of the forest – the rushing waters of the creek, the call of the birds, the soft wind through the needles of pine trees and leaves of deciduous trees.

That was my meditation.

Now, it’s 20 minutes if I can steal it from the heavy schedule of a regular job, and the pets (chickens and dogs), cleaning, cooking, shopping and teaching yoga.  I got lost in all that and lost a vital part of me – just spending time with myself doing the things I enjoy without the pressure of the walls of time closing in.  Isn’t it funny how we perceive time.  It could be infinite or finite, depending on our state of mind.

I really meandered on this blog.

But it all ties in with the words of intention, time and tapas.  To get to the next level of where I imagine my life to be then I have to be in tune with myself – aligned.  I need to continually evaluate when I’m not tracking to my intention and put in the sweat, effort and time to re-align and stay in-tuned to my inner voice – that calling that cannot be silenced until there is no more.

It’s easy to get thrown off my path and I have to guard my time wisely because I haven’t got a lot of it measured in human years.  I want to be generous with others, but I also need to be mindful to be more generous to myself.  This is my authentic self when I’m taking care of myself.

L O V E

There are many poems about love, and this one by Kahlil Gibran is among my favorites.

On Love by Kahlil Gibran

Then said Almitra, Speak to us of Love.
     And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:
     When love beckons to you, follow him,
     Though his ways are hard and steep.
     And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
     Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
     And when he speaks to you believe in him,
     Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
     For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
     Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
     So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
     Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself
     He threshes you to make your naked.
     He sifts you to free you from your husks.
     He grinds you to whiteness.
     He kneads you until you are pliant;
     And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
     All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
     But if in your heart you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
     Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
     Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
     Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
     Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
     For love is sufficient unto love.
     When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
     And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
     Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
     But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
     To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
     To know the pain of too much tenderness.
     To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
     And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
     To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
     To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
     To return home at eventide with gratitude;
     And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

After writing about hope I was meditating upon faith, hope and love.  Again, among my favorites… with 4 to 7 often quoted at wedding ceremonies.

1 Corinthians 13

1If I speak in the tongues a of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

When I think of my impulse to write, the underlying combustion of the engine (my heart) is love.  Love is the catalytic fire that transforms my being from sleep to wakefulness.  Sometimes, I just want to be closed and sleep.  But even in sleep, love breathes in and out.  Life is love.  I believe that I am still breathing because of love.

What is love?

It is beyond this romantic notion of sweet words, roses and chocolates, or anything we traditionally associate with Valentine’s Day.  Those things are symbolic of the impulse of love.  What if I couldn’t afford any of these things, and so I am left with words.  I could say I love you.  But if I couldn’t talk, then I could write I love you.  But if I was illiterate then I could just offer my love with my presence.

Again, I lean upon some teachings from Thich Nhat Hahn.  He speaks of love as being present for someone. 

“The true declaration of love is ‘Dear one, I am here for you,’ because the most precious gift you can give to your loved one is your true presence, with body and mind united in solidity and freedom.”

It can be practiced as a mantra, “Dear one, I am here for you,” while thinking of the other person.  A mantra can be practiced not only in speech but in your mind and your body.  

I pause now.  It’s visceral to recognize that just by being in love and expressing the mantra wholeheartedly in mind and body is enough.  I am love.  You are love.  Again, the love I speak of here is not limited to the idyllic romantic love.  I am talking of love that binds two hearts beyond the real and surreal; seen and unseen; waking and dreaming. 

Here are the four mantras shared by Thich Nhat Hanh to cultivate true love.

Dear one, I am here for you.

Dear one, I know that you are here, alive, and that makes me very happy.

Dear one, I know that you are suffering.  That’s why I am here for you.

Dear one, I am suffering.  I need your help.

Now, after pondering upon those mantras, I turn to another definition of love from the book “The Road Less Travelled” by M. Scott Peck, a psychiatrist. In the second part of the book, he contrasts his views of the nature of love against common notions of romantic love, falling in love and dependency.  He asserts that the nature of true love is an action, consciously undertaken to “extend one’s ego boundaries by including others or humanity” – a spiritual nurturing that can extend to oneself and to others.

Between Kahlil Gibran, Thich Nhat Hanh and M. Scott Peck, there is this common thread of giving of oneself to the other – a surrender that is beautiful like the symbolism and imagery of the Yin Yang.  The yin surrenders without effort to the yang as the yang surrenders effortlessly to yin. So the sun rises and sets so we can observe the moon wax and wane for 29.5 days, then again the wheel rotates.  What causes the motions and rotations of everything in the universe?

As a teacher of meditation, there is this surrender of the ego to enter into the realm of the pure awareness.  Perhaps it is in the moments when the consciousness transcends the thinking mind and feeling body that we enter the bliss.  This bliss could be love, where every boundaries are suspended and we see the one in the whole, and the whole in the one.

Hope in a Bottle

Did you know that you can buy Hope in a bottle?  Go ahead, just Google it. 

My search came up with a whole lot of unexpected results, including beauty products literally labeled “Renewed Hope in a Jar”.

Starbuck’s website has a page for “hopeinabottle”.  I clicked on the link and the page is no longer available (https://www.starbucks.ph/responsibility/ngos/hope-in-a-bottle.  The idea of the “Hope in a bottle” was to provide public schools in the Philippines from the sales of purified water.  Another search on Facebook for “hopeinabottle” defaulted to a page in New Zealand selling beauty products (https://www.facebook.com/HopeinaBottle.co.nz/) – different from the “Renewed Hope in a Jar”.

So I’ve been pondering about hope, a lot lately, mostly prompted by the theme “Hoping for…”, the theme of LAFPI’s micro-reads this past Sunday.  It was really fun.  After we left the Zoom meeting room, I texted with a friend and he was grateful for hooking him up with the micro-reads.  We were thinking of analogies for the micro-reads.  He said, “kinda like coffee shop open mikes… a chance for artists to be vulnerable and lay bare their thoughts, ideas and emotions for an audience in an intimate setting.”  I like it.  I said, “It’s really like a chemistry lab.”  (There’s a framework we work with, and we’re testing a hypotheses as writers, but the outcome is eventually in the hands of the directors and actors.  It could explode into magnificent fireworks, or just fizzle out… no big deal.  The writer can re-evaluate and re-do the tests, and same with the actors and directors.  What worked? What didn’t work?)

So back to hope.  I meander.  

Meandering is good, especially with a good companion, someone who is adventurous, curious, able and willing (maybe not always able, but willing to try) to explore.  On brighter days, “Hope” is a great companion.  If you’re a hiker or any particular activity that requires some planning, a leap of faith and gumption, you’ve experienced that “hope”… like “I hope there’s a good view of the valley” on the other side of the ridge.  Or on desperate moments like,“I hope there’s water beyond that ridge”, when you’re low on supply in your backpack and your legs.  If you were alone, “Hope” is that companion that keeps you moving towards the ridge and to the other side.

Music is abundant of references to hope.  I am aging myself when I refer to Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life”.  She sings “You give me hope to carry on.”  And the Bible, Torah, Bhagavad Gita is rich with references to hope.

In the “Oxford Handbook of Hope”, there’s a chapter on “Hope and Meaning of Life:  Points of Contact Between Hope Theory and Existentialism”.  Freidrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  This quote was often used by Victor Frankl, an existentialist psychiatrist, who was a Holocaust survivor.  “The chapter makes both an empirical and a theoretical case that, linked by an emphasis on goals, hope and meaning in life are closely connected.” (Credit: https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199399314.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199399314)

The short piece I submitted for the micro-reads was “H”, and it was a less than cheery scenario of a woman driving around alone with her thoughts and feelings of despair.  Her only tangible companionship was UB-40’s song “Red, Red Wine”, and a $20 bill.  She has a spark of hope to buy herself some flowers and a bottle of red wine to keep her company, in simpatico, as she goes through the throes of a breakup.

I do hope that we never run out of stock!

HOPE is officially out of stock!!!

But I am leaving you with hope with a quote from Thích Nhất Hạnh:

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear.  If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

I must also add that he was also quoted to say,

“When I think deeply about the nature of hope, I see something tragic. Since we cling to our hope in the future, we do not focus our energies and capabilities on the present moment. We use hope to believe something better will happen in the future…Hope becomes a kind of obstacle.” – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

In his book “ Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life“, he wrote

“Western civilization places so much emphasis on the idea of hope that we sacrifice the present moment. Hope is for the future. It cannot help us discover joy, peace, or enlightenment in the present moment.” 

Not to meander into Buddhist philosophy as I am not fluent in it, what I do recognize is the “The Middle Way”, a complimentary balance of keeping company with hope for a better tomorrow, but not to lose focus on the moment… to keep up the pace of moving one foot in front of the other to get to the other side.

An Experiment – After “Poor Clare”

After seeing “Poor Clare”, I’m convinced that the story stirs up inquiry about Clare and the arc of her journey from being a young woman enveloped in the bubble of a privileged life to an alternate painful reality beyond the walls of a palazzo.  She was innocent and harmless in her mind until Francis of Assisi showed her how her lifestyle enslaved others into a life of hard labor.  

What I found interesting about the story is the parallel between her story and Siddharta (the Buddha).  Both walk away from their privileged lives.  Their paths diverge where Clare follows Francis of Assisi and serves the poor; while Siddharta goes into a quest  inward into meditation to realize all is Maya.

I think we are all at different stages of awaking to alternate realities.  This is the richness of life. We can explore freely in mind and our hearts and make our own choices.  We stand on the shoulders of giants, including Clare of Assisi, Francis of Assisi, Buddha, our parents, our teachers and an endless list that includes ourselves.  

Playwright Chiara Atik notes that the play does not offer a solution to the crisis of homelessness.  It did however bring me to turn the wheels as to stepping out of our comfort zones, and exploring the power of our true being.

An Experiment – Before “Poor Clare”

“A lot of people don’t know but when I was about 14 or 15 my father lost his job and we became homeless for quite sometime. Of course, we were living up in Canada and I thought we were just camping…”

“…It’s totally out of control now the whole homeless thing. And we’ve really got to do something about it. Not only is it unnecessary to live in this country that way. Let’s face it. It’s getting totally annoying”.

JIM CARREY – COMEDIAN

In a few hours I’ll be sitting in a darkened theater with the lights directed on stage to watch “Poor Clare” unfold. My initiative to see this play comes from different places. Firstly, starting with reading Carolina Xique’s interview with playwright Chiara Atik. The second is my curiosity and concern about homelessness.

Facing my own fear, I’ve often asked myself how far am I from a state of being homeless? That thought floats along my spinal column, so that I get out of bed and and put on my game face for work. There are easy days and there are not so easy days. I count my blessings that I’m able to work.

I don’t know anything about homelessness other than what I see on the surface. I’ve talked to some “homeless” men and women to find out about their story. Some feel ok to share the truth or half-truth. I’ve talked with other people to find out their opinion about the state, but I think nobody really knows what it’s all about, because it is complex.

One woman, in her 60’s (maybe she was younger, but being outdoors had weathered her face and body too soon) has a daughter who has family and lives a normal life. “Why aren’t you living with them?” I asked. “Because we don’t get along.” That conversation was sometime ago. I’ve seen this woman a few times again, and she’s off the street now, and lives in an apartment of her own through the means of Section 8.

I’ve met two women who lived in their cars for a period of time. One woman, “Paloma”, was a chef. I met her in a writing class. She was writing a memoir about her life as “people without a house”. She read about her experience in the weekly workshops and I admired her cunning and courage to get through that period of her life. For example, she stayed in the parking lot of a grocery story that gave her access to bathroom facilities. Eventually the staff/management of the store figured out why she was there.

Out of compassion for her, they let her “live” in the parking lot, knowing she was in a transition period and was working to get out of her homeless state. They were also aware of the dangerous elements that a woman being alone could be exposed to. In allowing her to camp in the parking lot, they could keep an eye out for her. Paloma has since found a good position as a personal chef and is thriving in her new life.

The other story, I’m not sure how her life turned out. I met “Claire” at her friend’s yard sale. I had picked out a few things for myself at the yard sale. She and her friend encouraged me to come back next weekend as they promised to have more offerings then. So I did. And that’s when her story unfolded to me. Claire’s friend had decided she could no longer host the yard sale in front of her apartment building. Later, Claire revealed to me that she’s living in her car and had had falling out with her friend.

So, she was trying to make ends meet by selling her clothing (which must’ve been expensive as they were beautiful). She said she had loads of clothes in storage and she imagined that some of them would look “gorgeous” on me. She told me where she spent most of her days, and asked me to visit her. It was at the park where I walked my dog.

She was a complicated woman. I saw her quite regularly. Naturally, I had become friendly with her, because how couldn’t I? I was tempted to invite her for a hot meal to my home, but my friend discouraged me. “You don’t know this woman.” One day, Claire asked me a favor. She wanted to take a shower and asked if I could let her use my bathroom. I didn’t see any harm in it, so we arranged for the meeting.

My friend was aghast. “What?! Are you kidding? Now she knows where you’re living. First, she want to use your shower, and next thing you know she’ll be moving in with you.” Because I didn’t have the courage to backout of my agreement with Claire, my friend was present during Claire’s visit.

Maybe I was wrong on all counts. I just don’t know, but I avoided that park for quite some time, and it was an inconvenient change. I felt uncomfortable engaging further with Claire, because of my own fears. I am deeply curious how I will change after seeing tonight’s play. I’ll let you know tomorrow.

“Beginner’s Mind” & Grief

Before sitting down to write, I googled “Beginner’s Mind in Writing”, and there were several sites that came up, including not surprisingly Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”.  I have it on my shelf, among other books about writing.  

Continuing on the theme of “Beginner’s Mind”, I searched for other areas of interest that this Zen concept has been applied to:  

Sports – https://keepitsimplegolf.com/2020/05/01/a-beginners-mind/ 

Music – https://www.beginnersmindmusic.com 

Yoga – https://yogalondon.net/monkey/using-beginners-mind/ 

Cooking – https://www.spiritualityhealth.com/articles/2018/04/23/the-beginners-mind-of-a-master-cook   

Sex – https://sexandrelationshiphealing.com/blog/the-beginners-mind-an-essential-tool-for-recovery/ , https://www.meetmindful.com/using-beginners-mind-to-keep-your-sex-life-fresh/ 

Grief – https://omh.ny.gov/omhweb/grief/griefcounselingresourceguide.pdf 

The last one on grief only brought up one link that addresses grief with a “Beginner’s Mind” applied.  It was written in 2004, and it is a resource guide on grief counseling.  The reference to “Beginner’s Mind” was only in the first paragraph.

Defining “Beginner’s Mind”, the Zen Master, Shunryu Suzuki.  wrote,

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.

As it applies to grief, the handbook says,

As bereavement workers we must meet the grieving without expectations about what should happen or what they should be feeling. There are no experts in this work.

oFFICE OF mENTAL hEALTH, New York STATE
– AUTHORS: Susan Wheeler-Roy, Ed.D. & Bernard A. Amyot, M.S., M.A.

I’m still stifled by these words.  My thoughts, emotions, my entire being still freezes when I think of my own grief.  I like that… “my own grief”.  I’m owning it.  I’m not passing it on to anyone else.

Today, someone reached out to a friend asking for my contact information as this person had just recently found out about my husband’s (Bruno Herve Commereuc) death that happened more than three years ago.  It’ll be four years in January 2022.  I imagine how horribly sad and shocking it must be for this person to have just found out. She has pictures of her baby in Bruno’s restaurant, “Angelique Cafe”. Her baby is now a 25-year old man. Bruno had many lifelong friends. He was that kind of a man who was unforgettable and took a big bite out of life. He lived big. He was bigger than life.

They’re now beginning their process of bereavement.  I put myself in their shoes, but it’s not the same.  It’ll never be the same between any two people who knew the same person.  And then there’s this space of time between then and now.  

The five stages of grief, as identified by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are: 

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Maybe the normal (if there is a “normal”) flow is from 1 to 5, but my experience is it is fluid from one state to another at any given moment, but definitely time is a big factor in processing the loss.  Either time just helps to forget the pain if I don’t want to deal with it (denial), or it just allows me to move along the timeline to be angry, to bargain, to be down and feeling lost, and then after all that, fatigue sets in. I surrender and just accept it.

Then… it could start at anger again, if something pulls me there. But this is when awareness is important. Perhaps having a “Beginner’s Mind” – to be open to possibilities. I have choices. I can choose to be present and just allow the storm to pass and carry on with life again, like everybody else is doing. I’m not the only one who’s suffered. We all suffer. Why hide our imperfections? There are no mistakes, just lessons.

Learn the alchemy

true human beings know.

The moment you accept

what troubles you’ve been given,

the door will open.

rumi

I found the information in the resource guide (“a field manual” for bereavement workers), published by the New York State Office of Mental Health to be very good.  Chapter 4 on “Sudden Death Loss Issues” to be quite accurate.  Amongst the identified issues were:

Inability to comprehend– the disbelief of the event does not allow the individual to grasp what has actually happened. There is a searching for “why” and “how” this happened in the initial period following the death-loss event.

The ability to cope is diminished due to the shock of the event and the additional stress that has just been imposed on the individual.  

All true.  I couldn’t cope well with processing information and events.  It was as if I was a new born baby, having to relearn to comprehend.  It was a strange sensation, because I could see myself as the forest, and not in the trees. I witness/ed that I had become incapacitated, and I couldn’t understand how to learn again.  I struggled. I had to regrow neural paths to cope, to survive, to learn to find joy and thrive again.  Talk about “Beginner’s Mind”.

Thank you.  Thank you for trying to seek me out.  I look forward to meeting you and I anticipate I’ll be learning new things about my Bruno.

(Dedicated to a new friend).

LIFE Smiles Back

by Analyn Revilla

I was at a busy intersection on Slauson the day before Halloween 2021.  The van was loaded with large pumpkins and sundries to carry the entire household (humans, dogs and chickens) with food and snacks (the latter considered not as food, but necessary) for three or four days.  The weather was chilly, and I recognized LA has a fall season.  Some deciduous trees had turned their colors to yellow and brown, and dropped their foliage everywhere.  

The intersection at La Cienega is always backed up, and Saturday afternoons aren’t different from the other days.  My eyes wandered as I noted all of the cars sitting idle.  All were pretty much the same:  SUVs, trucks, sedans, vans.  Ho hum… until I spotted one SMART car.

It looked smart.  The shade was an unusual creme neatly outlined by a piping design, akin to a Coco Chanel suit.  I don’t know anything about SMART cars, other than they’re still being sold in Europe, and it’s pretty much dead in the United States.  The Europeans like their compact cars which makes sense when navigating the narrow streets of cities, towns and villages – at least of what I’d seen in my limited travel experience of Europe.  Anyways, it made sense and indeed smart to travel in compact cars in small streets.

Now here’s what struck me as weird.  As I sat in my wide and roomy van, I noticed an arm connected to a hand with fingers that held a lit cigarette.  Why was that odd to me?  I started to see more details.  The opened sunroof billowed smoke into the atmosphere above, while the arm, like a puppet, was drawn in and out of the driver’s side window consistently and rapidly! The pace was like a matador swiftly and adeptly moving a red cape as a bull charges at it. The tease, the dust, the heat and the cry of the crowd incests the animal further, making it charge more furiously towards the bullseye.  This arm was flicking ashes on the street after each inhale of nicotine.  

I watched in wonder for a little while, until I awakened to the trick my mind was knitting together – the juxtaposition of a chain smoker in a teeny car with S M A R T smattered across the back.  I laughed. We are humans. We are inconsistent. I simply love it.

“We’re all bozos on the bus,

so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Wavy Gravy

The Whole Kit & Kaboodle

by Analyn Revilla

In the heat of the afternoon I cleaned the chicken coop and its surrounding grounds – it is one of the methods to keep down the fly population, and it is a labor of love.  The chickens did their thing as I did mine.  Occasionally I’ll see a chase when a rooster haunts after his favorite gal.  Sometimes all of the roosters will gang up on one hen.  I haven’t gotten used to this behavior, and instinctively I want to interfere, but refrain from it.  I really don’t understand their chicken-logic.  I think it’s a territorial thing when the dominant rooster will not accept being cuckold by a lesser chicken in the order of chickendom.  

This afternoon, “Henri” was the energetic one and reigned terror in the roost.  I always watch my back when I’m working in the garden.  In the past, he’s attempted attacking me with his dance and jumps that aim his talons at me.  I meet him straight on.  If I back down then I’m sunk forever.  Despite my bravado, it still scares the heck out of me.  Lucky for me, I have an ally in “Number One” (that is his real name), the main rooster who keeps order in his domain.  He’s smart enough to know not to bite the hands that feed him. “Number One” will peck and chase away “Henri” as soon as he sniffs “Henri’s” evil thoughts.   But, even with “Number One” nearby, I still keep something at hand to fend off “Henri” should he have it in his cuckoo-brain to go-for-it.

As I raked and raked the ground while keeping an eye out for “Henri”, I wondered how pleasant it would be without him around.  I’ve threatened him numerous times that he would make a tasty pot of Coq-au-vin if he keeps up with his nasty behavior.   After 3 years of living in the near-terror of having this nasty rooster around, today I finally asked myself more than once if it would be nicer without him around.  

The action of raking and raking, then dumping the manure mixed with dirt into the garbage can, and sweating in my farmer’s uniform of coat and boots under the blistering sun, I started to melt. 

“Wouldn’t it be nice?” I pondered.  “Wouldn’t it?”  

I questioned my own thoughts.  The little urban farm looked cleaner as I moved from one side of it to the other.  My thoughts became less clouded as my body drenched in sweat was refreshingly fatigued.  As I gathered my garden tools and walked out of the little farm I felt less inclined  to be rid of “Henri”.  I came to the conclusion that without characters like “Henri” life would be less interesting, if not only less hazardous. Another day, and again, “Henri” and I have come to a truce.  I went inside, peeled off my wet clothes and showered away the dirt and salty sweat.

Without the “Henris” and “Number Ones” vying for the top roost and the best girls, then my chickens would just be hollow zombies.  There wouldn’t be that tension and heat that sizzles the mystery of what it is that we do.

life, funny little life.

by Analyn Revilla

We share the universal phenomena of life, love and death and everything in between.  As human beings we move and travel in linear time in our mind and in the cycles of the season with our senses. 

We pass our minutes, days, weeks, months, years and decades like the spokes of a wheel marking the miles and miles of the journey with selfies, postcards and worries. 

We cry tears of joy or sorrow. We burst out laughing in madness or glee.  It’s really a wonder to me how full life can be.

After many false starts I am still here.

I’m learning to surrender to the wonder of it all. 

As I drove home from my other job, navigating the streets and freeway traffic, I knew I had to write something. Maybe from fatigue or emptiness, I toyed with the idea of conveying silence.  Words can make a lot of noise. One word can be loud.

So let me try singing silence to you.

Just be still.

Just be.

After spending a week in the hospital as someone dear to me recovered from surgery I felt moments melting together. The thought of losing someone to their last breath condenses time. I don’t mind now that he doesn’t pick up after himself. I will miss it if I lose him.

Chasing Lilacs

by Analyn Revilla

In Edmonton where the winters are very cold and can last into early April the lilacs bloom heartily and they are sweet smelling.  A childhood memory is cutting down the tall stalks from the ancient bushes across the street from my home.  I made leis and crowns of the little blossoms that I plucked from the frond, like pinching bits of cotton candy from the cone.  

The common name of lilac is derived from the Persian word for blue.  Here is why:

Where they grow native, a lilac bush will appear in ordinary spaces making them extra-ordinary for a short period of time.  I’ve seen a single bush soften the harshness of concrete and metal with the wanton splay of branches, laden with French white lilac blooms. Syrina Vulgaris is native to the Balkan Peninsula where it grows on rocky slopes.  Perhaps it is the lilacs’ nature after all.

T.S. Eliot used lilac in two of his poems: “Portrait of a Lady” and “The Waste Land”.  In the latter he recognizes the lilacs by…

April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

a little further on…

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water.

This lilac that has captured my imagination since childhood is more than sweet and heady.

I had to write this last blog because spring is upon us and the lilacs are ephemeral. Since living in LA I’ve been chasing lilacs.  There are two places to lose one’s self in lilac dreams.  In a few weeks time, by Easter perhaps, they’re expected to come out in blue splendor at Kilcoyne Lilac Farm in Acton, CA.  (http://www.kilcoynelilacfarm.com).  I just bought a dual membership for Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, CA (https://www.descansogardens.org) where the lilacs started blooming in early March (https://www.nbclosangeles.com/the-scene/purple-for-a-gray-day-lilacs-make-their-descanso-debut/2540949/). 

Just go!

CREDIT ELISE SULLIVAN