Following the Heart of Dharma

This post is a small contemplation about gratitude and the paths that lead us to wonderful places.

I was lucky enough to stumble on the Heart of Dharma sangha through Meetup when I moved to Boise. I’m not much of a joiner generally but this meetup seemed undemanding and familiar, raised as I was in a non-monotheistic household.

And let’s face it: there’s no denying I need need all the meditation practice I can get. Not to mention practice in compassion. And letting things go.

You know what's cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.
You know what’s cool about the roly poly Buddha? It all slides off.

First meeting was great. Guided meditation followed by an illuminating talk. A teacher (Dana Marsh) who spoke with compassion, kindness, intelligence and humor. Kindly people who smiled a lot. Even being thanked for sharing my practice with the group; the loveliness and wisdom in that every practice gesture still strikes me with awe.

As with all great starts, I imagined myself attending the guided meditations at every opportunity, learning amazing things and attaining some of the wisdom my treasured sister Erica makes seem so effortless. The schedule was easy too: an evening meditation on Tuesdays and one on Sunday mornings. One hour, in and out, and even a bikeable distance!

Now, a few years in, I find my attendance is more inconsistent than I’d like or would be helpful to me. Yet, every time I go, I come away uplifted, optimistic and peaceful. And I feel so fortunate that the sangha exists, so accessible and so near to me. As my sister has pointed out, this wasn’t available to me where I lived in California and the nearness of a wonderful teacher . . . it’s a priceless gift.

This year I’m feeling especially lucky because in an unusual fit of resolve, I decided to attend the Eight Week Spiritual Jump Start, Sunday mornings at 9:30. In theory, it sounded like a good thing but in practice, I wasn’t too excited about it. I don’t like making commitments. Classes or anything that I feel I should do makes me want to flee. I’m the guy that, the minute I say I’ll do something marginally social, I want to do the opposite.

Classes started and I’m pleased to say, I haven’t skipped one yet. (This is slightly miraculous.) Still, last week was a bit pressured and over-scheduled. As I was contemplating another over-scheduled week ahead, I decided to reduce the pressure. No Sunday morning alarms. No rushing to get the beast to and away from the dog park in order to trundle into class on time. No inhalation of breakfast and coffee. I was not going to feel bad about missing class today. And, if we all slept in and I still wanted to do something for my battered, dark soul, I’d hit the 11 o’clock guided meditation session and call it good.

You get where this is going. With no pressure or expectation, I woke early, naturally, in time to catch a beautiful sunrise. Had quiet coffee and a clementine by the fire (I do love clementine season!). Made myself a mint tea to go. Actually showered and put on clean clothes. Max and I ambled off to the dog park where he staggered about leisurely and managed to secure the attentions of kindly dog hosts like Star. When it was time to go, no civil disobedience. We actually made it to class a few minutes early.

And of course, it was again wonderful. Today’s class helped me get some perspective on some issues, renewed my respect for my teacher, reminded me how much the person or creature sitting next to me has to teach me, and generally gave me an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and peace.  Also, I laughed out loud a few times. (Yeah, I know, that paragraph was all about me. In fairness, I’ve never claimed to be an evolved Buddhist.)

Anyway, before this day gets into busy and doing mode — or not busy and lollygagging mode, not sure which — I’m taking these few minutes to make a note of gratitude to the sangha for existing, to Dana Marsh for teaching, to all the volunteers and supporters of Heart of Dharma that make it so accessible. Thank you.

Note: If you’re not a Boise local but would like to benefit from this teacher (Dana Marsh), her book, Extraordinary Freedom, is available on the Heart of Dharma website and online. I found it accessible, engaging and helpful.

Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.
Sometimes the Buddha is just pretty. This one lives in a teak temple in Myanmar.

4th of July and a Boise Moment

I’m a patriot, and a fan of July 4th though our current environment of privacy abuse and the expanded powers of bullies worries me greatly.

Ahem, this is not just because I read “Little Brother” or watched Citizenfour or am addicted to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But okay, I admit, they raise my awareness without boring me to tears so THANK YOU!

This holiday, my sister W was visiting and we hit the July 4th parade downtown. Not much to write home about parade-wise, but it does give you that 4th feeling. In the 100 degree heat, my nephew and I were sprawled in front of the capitol on the sidewalk, in a bit of shade while W and niece were trolling for candy thrown from the floats (good swag, Idaho Atheists and Hare Krishnas!). Nephew was unabashedly ignoring parade in favor of an electronic device and I was just lolling, with our half drunk lemonade cups strewn about.

I look up to see an officer of the law looming. Instantly I flash back to when another sister got censured for dipping her feet in the reflecting pool in DC one hot August midnight (that’s you, Toad). I wonder if I’m going to get cited for littering (not guilty, we’re still drinking those! And then we’re recycling, officer!). Maybe no one is supposed to just sit at the capitol without a permit. Maybe every electronic device is a suspected bomb switch so my nephew is about to lose his most prized posession.  After all, we are on high security alert at the airports this weekend. Ack!

Officer leans down and says, “Ma’am, I don’t know if you know this already but . . .” I tense. He continues, “the Capitol building is open today until five.  It’s cool there and there are water fountains inside.” Then he walks away to terrify someone else with this information.

And here’s a Boise fun fact: the pretty Capitol building, which is modeled on the one in D.C., is the only geothermically (sp?) heated capitol in the U.S. Just call us the Pompeii of the continental U.S.!

North End Largesse

New to Boise, I picked this neighborhood because of park proximity, walkability, and the charm of older homes. Though pricey compared to other neighborhoods in Boise, these amenities outweighed any fantasies I had about a home with a master suite, gourmet kitchen, or swimming pool.

What I didn’t know then was how generous a neighborhood it would be. I was prepared for California-transplant hate (which I didn’t get, ever), but not the active welcome and practical help.

Today I am grateful for the gift of plants from my kindly North End neighbors. Thanks to them, seven tomato plants are now in the raised bed, ready to go to town in the coming heat. And the bald patch in the front yard is now planted with day lilies that one neighbor thinned from her bed. I’m so excited to have plants in a spot I thought would be bare all summer due to No Spend Spring!

Wheelbarrow full of lillies, free!
Wheelbarrow full of lilies, free!

The Mints are as grateful as psychopaths ever are, as well. Another neighbor lost her cat and showed up on my stoop with a bin full of dry cat food.

I don’t remember this happening in my old neighborhood, even though I lived there more than a decade, and had lovely, friendly neighbors. When neighbors dropped by, or hailed you outside, it could be to chat, comment on one’s landscape, complain about something, or demand support for some issue. Not to just give.

North Enders seem to be heavy NextDoor users, and they use it well. Sure, there are a fair number of lectures, issue related, and for sale posts. Yet there seem to be even more about found pets, creatures who need homes, and useful free things (lumber! plants!). Now and then there are calls for help, refreshingly creative ones. At the holiday one neighbor asked for help for some homeless friends, struggling to get into housing with a disabled child. Her plea wasn’t focused on cash but on the short term assist that was needed. This meant specific items to help this family with practical needs and a holiday celebration. OK, not rocket science but my California-jaded self is just so used to pleas only for cash.

I posted once, trying to find a home for a puppy a friend was fostering. This was met with practical offers for help for the little guy. Sure, there were a few unhelpful lectures as well, but scanning — and ignoring — those were a small price to pay to help the puppy. That puppy quickly found a home.

It’s not just online. I notice it out dog walking as well. There’s a genuine interest in my beast, the occasional invite to sit down by a front yard fire, collegial alerts about foxes in the area (the Mints seem impervious), and the like. Sometimes free stuff is just left out for the taking. Or the lost posted on telephone poles (and found again). The North End Neighborhood Association (NENA) is active too, and volunteers kindly deliver a quarterly newspaper.

I’m not sure what inspires all this kindliness. Is it a Boise thing? Is it smallish city  living? Not sure. Just lucky.




A bit of “Boise Nice,” a little gratitude

In any neighborhood there are flyers stapled to poles and mine is no exception. The hound and I were walking about one evening. We came across a woman removing a flyer we’d seen all over the neighborhood for the last week or so. It was one of those that had me shaking my head: lost laptop, please return.

Ready to give sympathy for the loss I greeted her only to learn that yes, someone found and returned the laptop. She was tearing down her flyers to make room for others.

I guess it’s kind of sad that I was so stunned that someone actually returned her laptop. Or maybe it’s a commentary on the places I’ve been living. Either way, thinking about the compassion of strangers and the optimism of the laptop owner has stayed with me.

So this little note is just a moment of gratitude for all that kindness that flows around. Thank you, whoever it was, for returning that family’s laptop. Thank you lady, for having and working towards the hope that someone would do the right thing.

Thrifting Wish List

  • Black or dark grey garden hoses: I want them to disappear against the house but this house did come with a couple ugly bright green ones. Note: have tried spray painting one, we’ll see if it makes it through a whole season . . .
  • Barn door wheels, or barn door kit. Update: Found it!!!! $20 for two 1915 pulleys at an estate sale. Now it’s time to get that door hung: DIY Sliding Barn Door Hardware.

    $10 each! And I had to think twice about it!
    $10 each! And I had to think twice about it!
  • Folding luggage rack for guests: got cats, guest suitcases need to be off the ground. Amazon has one new for $20-$25. Update: Found it at the Youth Ranch thrift store for $4.
  • Gentleman’s Butler: I want a place to toss my clothes that I’ll probably wear again tomorrow. Don’t want it in the closet with the truly clean clothes. For now, maybe forever I’ll use the rickety but pretty chair Grandpa built. Love the valet idea but the chair is probably more functional. Will use that until . . .
  • Outdoor rocker: want, not a need, already have seating, this is to charm up the yard
  • Better lighting for guest room.  Currently a builder grade nipple light, which makes the ceiling look lower. Found at the ReStore for $10! Vintage chandelier

  •  Frames for jewelry organizers, no glass, wood. Got em! Prices ranged from $0.50-$5.
  • Pretty $5 wall mirrors, not cookie cutter. Three down! Still worth looking for
  • Fabulous planters, other outdoor
  • Tomato cage, obelisk, something to give that pesky seventh tomat some structure
  • Vintage light for foyer. Gotta be right priced. Found it! $10
  • Free dirt for the raised bed boxes I made from D&D’s gifted redwood
  • Crystals, real ones, to make a chandelier
  • Seriously great paper cutter
  • Excellent condition carpet shampooer
  • Super cheap but great old kitchen cabinets to expand workspace in garage workshop
  • Shop vac that actually works (mine is cursed)
  • Bike rack for garage, am sick of hoisting onto those huge hooks
  • Plants for landscaping, if free and pretty. Got some! Day lilies! Always want more.
  • Pavers to make a better front door path, grey, cottagy
  • Gas fireplace (stand-alone) for basement
  • New stove, gas or induction top. No falling off handle.
  • New fridge, bottom freezer. With all shelves and bins.
  • Trunk for base of bed in basement bedroom.
  • Lumber, cedar, redwood, handy size pine
  • American flag, if pretty. Found a lovely one at an estate sale for fifty cents!

    Only fifty cents at a garage sale. No icky poly, wonderful fabric.
    Only fifty cents at a garage sale. No icky poly, wonderful fabric.


Hello World!

Flying under the radar just now . . . this is an draft version of my blog. It’s public so I can get some feedback from advisors and friends on the architecture and content but it’s not ready for prime time. If you want to jump in and share your opinion, please do! In advance, thanks for your understanding.


Welcome to my nesting blog. Here’s how I’m making a home in this new-to-me little egg house at the foothills of the Rockies. Here’s how I’m trying to figure out the next chapters a life that has not quite gone according to plan. I hope you’ll join me on the ride.

More about me: tight budget vs lofty ambitions. Some days I meet the challenge, others feel like epic fails. I believe that living in a beautiful, happy space extends to your whole world. That world includes a home shared a bunch of creatures, who often pose a design challenge. It also includes fabulous family and friends.

This life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Each day is a challenge to regain my stride. Gone are my executive days of hiring a professional for every job or just buying what I think I need whenever I want it. These are the days of figuring it out for myself, coming up with alternatives, and sometimes just making do with less. Good for my character, hard on my ego! Yet as they say, the only thing you can do is start from here. Let’s make it fun.