Over the holidays, Howie was away, and Yvonne Ginsberg filled in for him for three weeks in a row. The first week, she said that we are actually more powerful when we let go of our defenses—when we are at our most vulnerable—because then we have access to more of our interior resources. I have a feeling that’s going to stay with me. (She once said, regarding impatience and wanting things to be as we prefer, “Let the invisible hand work.” I’ve never forgotten that.)
She also said that the awakening to which the Buddha refers is awakening from the trance of thought. I guess I’d never thought about what specifically the awakening was. Maybe I thought it was awakening to direct knowledge of our cosmic oneness or some such. However, I do believe that any moment when we’re not lost in thought is a moment of enlightenment, so I loved what Yvonne said. Fortunately, the idea of “becoming enlightened” didn’t persist long into my meditation career. I think that idea causes a good amount of misery for some.
On Christmas Eve there was a splendid luncheon party at the soup kitchen, which had been decorated for the holiday. There was a Christmas tree. Instead of standing in line, the guests were served a special lunch at their tables, complete with cake for dessert. Usually the soup kitchen doesn’t serve sweets (or coffee). The executive director had told me they’d have live music, which I interpreted to mean a folksinger with a guitar, but in fact it was a wonderful Latin-flavored band, complete with percussion and trumpet player.
There may be 20 volunteers there for a typical lunch, but on this day, there may have been 80 or more volunteers. It’s a major undertaking, both the preparations and the day itself. I was a busser, and with the surfeit of volunteers, I didn’t have all that much to do. There was one lone, brave woman—tall and skinny, in tight red trousers—dancing expressively all by herself. She saw me tapping my foot and came over to encourage me to dance. I’m not that intrepid, but then I spotted a fellow volunteer, a sweet person who often wears one enormous comical hat or another. On this day, he was wearing a lavender jacket and a huge bamboo hat that came to a point at the top. I asked if he’d like to dance and we turned out to be perfect dance partners. We danced for several songs in a row, and for one of them, the executive director came out and joined the tall woman, so it was the four of us. Very fun.
Then Tom and I drove to Sacramento in dense traffic, four hours to get there instead of two. We and Ann had a lovely dinner at Steve and Julie’s. Steve received Ann Patchett’s book of essays from Ann, which I immediately borrowed. I gave Ann Rod Kiracofe’s latest book about quilts, which is gorgeous. Tom and I slept over at Ann’s and in the morning we all went over to Paul and Eva’s for stockings, and got to see Chris and Kristin, and Sarah and Farid.
The Saturday after Christmas, I made Egyptian Bean and Vegetable Soup from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, which is delectable. On Sunday, Ann came from Sacramento and she and Tom and I had lunch at Thai Street Food, and then we saw Red Hot Patriot at Berkeley Rep, with Kathleen Turner in the starring role. I never regret going to see live theater, but this show will not be remembered as a favorite. I did get some sense of Molly Ivins’ career, but I don’t know if the idea of using Molly Ivins’ relationship with her father as the framework for the whole show was a good one. It didn’t seem quite organic, and Turner seemed stiff and uncomfortable, even unsure what to do with her hands. Watching her was not a relaxing experience.