It was a house with some unusual features - the garage had been turned into a family room with a window seat that stored toys and built-in bookshelves, and was never very warm. We had a basketball hoop on the tiny back patio, which I loved, though I hated it when the ball went down the stairs to the cellar door and I had to go down after it. The cellar was a typical unfinished basement, with a fruit cellar built into it, and it held a washer and dryer that were fed by the clothes chute that came down from the second floor. The basement was to play an important role in my story.
One of my favorite holiday activities was arranging and rearranging the Nativity scene. There was Mary, on her knees in the traditional blue robe, and Joseph, also on his knees, both of them flanking the baby Jesus, lying in the manger, arms wide to welcome everyone. The young shepherd stood tall carrying a lamb fireman-style on his shoulders. One wise man knelt, the other two stood, all of them carrying their gifts. The colors were bright, not like the pastels stores favor these days. And the stable in which they sheltered was made of a strong cardboard, with a hole in the back for a light/star. In Indiana, one side pole of the stable was broken, and at some point my mother decided it was beyond saving, and she threw it out.
On Christmas Eve, I decided I needed to build a new stable for the baby Jesus and friends. We had a hammer and nails, and there was plenty of wood lying in our yard, having fallen from the trees in lovely, stable-sized branches. Of course, I had never built anything in my life. I was nine years old, and the hammer was adult-size.
Undaunted, I harvested my wood after lunch, and made my way down to the basement, determined to create the best stable ever. Hours later, I had a few nails sticking out of sticks, none of which would stay together as soon as I tried to add a new branche. My level of frustration was high, to put it mildly, and by the time we sat down to dinner I was near explosion level. I made it through dinner without exploding - it was after dinner when I went back down to finish it and my brother or sister or both of them came down and nagged me to come upstairs so we could sing Christmas carols.
Vesuvius had nothing on me when it came to eruptions. I would guess my mother might have characterized my behavior as hysterical. She sent me to my room to calm down, while the rest of them finished the decorating and preparations, including setting up the Nativity scene under the tree, without benefit of stable.
When they were ready to sing Christmas carols, my mother came up to get me. As I recall, she thanked me for my hard work, and explained that sometimes things just didn't work out the way we planned. We sang for about half an hour, all of us choosing our favorite carols, and I looked at the nativity scene under the tree. Without the stable, you could actually see everyone better. I don't think we ever had a stable again...
Have a wonderful holiday, and safe travels. I will be travelling too, so it's unlikely I will be posting refularly during the next few weeks. Be well, Doc
Anyone who knew me at Tassajara probably remembers I had some difficulty sitting low on anything, which is why, by the time I left, I sat on a chair in the zendo. However, in the summers, on my days off, I could often be found on a chair on the lawn in front of the Stone Office under the trees, with my nose in a book. Or on the deck of the swimming pool, reading or writing. And yes, I did have red shoes the summer I drew this picture - red Keds, just like I had when I was five years old. They even had the white rubber toe area. Was it a pain having to tie and untie them? You bet. But I loved them. And just like when I was five years old, I wore them until they literally had holes in them.
Please be sure to notice the squirrel in the picture - yes Leslie, I still think they're cute! At Tassajara they knew no one would hurt them, and I once had one jump onto my leg and put its little front paws on my arm as I read. It looked up into my face as if to say, "Don't you have a treat for me?" When I said hello, the sound of my voice sent it flying off to scamper across the lawn and into a tree.
At the retreat, I'd asked Adyashanti how buddha could be willing to see the clown. His answer had to do with love and self-compassion, things about which I still had a lot to learn.
In a sense, you could say my playing with art and poetry is a form of love and self-compassion. They give me a way to explore the world without needing to justify their existence. They are play, and a treasure trove of delight.
Take a few minutes to find your own way to play today...
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop