I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October already

Boats in the bay
Yesterday when I woke to intense rain on the roof, I was afraid that we ladies would be walking in it, but it stopped by 7:00am and the skies began to clear. For most of the walk we had blue skies, but then it began to cloud up again, and by noon, it was raining. For the past couple of days, we've had intermittent clouds and rain, a sign that fall is definitely here. Thursday was our last summery day, I suspect.

It amazes me how quickly the weather changes. Thursday was sunny and hot; Friday and Saturday cooling a little each day, rain clearing the air, and then last night having the outside temperature fall enough to become downright chilly. Our windows are closed up instead of wide open, and although I haven't had to turn on the heat yet, it's coming soon. I kind of like this time of year.

Today I want to talk about karma. If you're not familiar with the Sanskrit word, it explains how our actions affect us, according to many Asian religions. From that link:
[Karma] refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect). Good intent and good deed contribute to good karma and future happiness, while bad intent and bad deed contribute to bad karma and future suffering. 
I have heard that word often lately, since I recently had a car accident where I was rear-ended. I wrote about it here, so I won't go into the details this minute, but suffice it to say that I think I might have earned myself some good karma. Some of my friends think maybe I've made a mistake, but I don't think so: I am not going to contact the insurance company of the other party involved, since they are a commercial operation and would have to pay for it with higher premiums. Instead, they have agreed to cover all the costs of repair and also pay for me to rent a car for two weeks.

A while back I wrote here about the Five Buddhist Remembrances, which remind me of how there is really very little that we can take with us on our journey through life. Our health, youth, friends and family, these will all pass away, and our actions are our only true belongings. The consequences of our actions cannot be escaped, and therefore it seems to me it's good to build up some good karma.

I've known about the concept since I was a hippie living in California in a commune. I don't think I've mentioned this time in my life before, but it was very instrumental in shaping my worldview. I had emerged from my third divorce, and my son's father took Chris to live with him and his wife, since I was in a precarious place in my own life. Although previously Chris had visited him every summer and every other major holiday and lived with me the rest of the time, I had not insisted that his father pay the child support he owed me. In order for him to get Chris to live with him, Derald (Chris' father and my first husband) had to pay the back child support, which amounted to several thousand dollars.

Suddenly, I was without my teenage son and had money in the bank. I promptly quit my job and moved into a hippie community and became what we referred to back then as a "drop out" from regular life. The big old mansion where the community lived had dozens of bedrooms, even a ballroom in the basement, and I had to be voted into the 21-person community in order to join. It also had a huge kitchen, and everyone shared duties to make sure the place worked. Twice a week we gathered in the evenings to share concerns and make sure everyone was engaged in constructive activities to make our community successful. It was an eye opener for me. This all happened in the early to mid-1970s.

During this period, I really let myself go. I stopped wearing bras and gained a good deal of weight. I wore long hippie dresses and Bibb overalls, like all the other women who didn't work outside of the House. I went to plenty of concerts with the likes of the Grateful Dead and others, since we were only an hour away from San Francisco and traveled there in our big van. I remember that life with fond memories, and I learned about Sufi dancing (which took place in our ballroom) and Buddhist concepts, including karma. It actually became, I realize now, part of my most basic beliefs.

Over the years, I have seen karma in action, and it's become part of today's culture, with many of us hearing about good or bad karma without actually thinking about what it means. But I do believe that it's important to add good karma to the world. After my accident and telling people about it, I heard several stories of fake whiplash incidents when other people were hit from behind. I also heard some horror stories about dealing with insurance companies. I called my own insurance company to tell them about the accident and my desire to deal with it privately, and once I explained my reasons, my insurance agent registered the event in my records and left it at that.

On Tuesday, I will get my car over to the auto shop and will pick up a rental car. I'm looking forward to having another car to drive, an automatic, which makes me feel better about the long drive through Seattle traffic to catch the ferry to Vashon Island. Wednesday through Sunday I will be back at the Lavender Farm home for our sixth writing retreat. It will probably be our last, too, since we lost another Vashonista this year and the rental is a bit on the expensive side for the four of us. So I will make the best of it and enjoy myself with my dear blogging friends.

One of my friends pointed out to me when relaying the events of the accident that "kind people get taken advantage of" and that it might happen in a way that I don't anticipate. But that's the nature of life, isn't it? When I wrote about the hippie commune, I reflected on all the events that had to happen for me to end up right here in Bellingham. All the twists and turns of life's adventures brought me to this moment, with me sitting here in the dark, tapping keys on my laptop, and my dear partner still sleeping, as usual. A wise unknown person once said this about karma:
Whatever you give to life, it gives you back. Do not hate anybody. The hatred which comes out from you will someday come back to you. Love others. And love will come back to you.
So here I am, on this dark Sunday morning, reflecting on all the love that surrounds me. I must be doing something right. I hope that you will have a wonderful week, and I'll be writing from my farmhouse bed next Sunday, no partner next to me, coffee instead of tea, and my delightful fellow writers. Until then, be well and remember that we are in this together.


Marty said...

This post could count as my Sunday sermon, it's given me so much to reflect upon.
What a constructive way to look at life.
One bonus of reaching these later years is the opportunity to look back in amazement at the way our lives have unfolded.

Linda Reeder said...

Interesting reading about your hippie days. Kind of explains a lot about you. It was during those same years that my two children were born, I had quit teaching, and was a busy mother and homemaker, living on one teacher's salary in our little three bedroom rambler. Very conventional compared to you.
I don't really think about karma. I just try to do what feels right.
Have a great retreat with your fellow Vashonistas!

Gigi said...

Another lovely, reflective post, DJan. I believe in karma - but I'd never actually seen it defined so well. It does make sense that what you put out into the world will eventually come back to you. Have a wonderful week and I know you will enjoy your trip!

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, It seems like every time I finish reading a new post on Eye on the Edge my first thought for a comment is: “Another fine post.” I won’t let myself say that over and over because I think you would find it insincere. But, by golly, it does seem to be the truth! :-) You’ve done another fine job writing about karma. I could go on and on here about how much I agree with your belief in karma and how things come back to a person in life. I’ve known about karma for a long time but perhaps, this morning, is the first time I’ve put it together with one of my main principles of life: What goes around, comes around. After an untimely incident when I was a teenager, my dad, while I was listening carefully, told me that and it has stuck with me right up to this moment. Over and over I’ve found it to be true and, just like you’re saying, it can be good or bad. And, yes, kind people can be taken advantage of. However, overall, I’ve been greatly rewarded for my kindness to others. My hope is that any young person reading today’s post will, if they haven’t already, put it to test in their own life and discover the rewards. Thanks for “another fine post.” :-) Best wishes for your journey to Vashon and I’ll be looking forward to hearing the latest from the Vashonistas!

Marie Smith said...

A young woman backed into my car a few years ago and I seetled with her rather than her insurance. It worked out well.

Such an interesting period in your life Jan,, on a commune. Living in close quarters could make life challenging. I can see why karma was an important concept.

Have a great werk.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
I have just finished my first cup of tea. My partner and cat are both carving out zeds. It is a calm time, a peaceful time - and I am a firm believer in karma. It makes a heap of sense to me.
I hope your day and week continue to be filled with its blessings.

Arkansas Patti said...

Interesting to learn of your commune days. Had no idea. I had similar thoughts in the 70's but never acted on them.
Was surprised you told your insurance company and that they went along with it. What you might want to keep an eye on is if your rates go up. Even when I was rear ended while stopped for a school bus, my rates went up. Insurance companies feel that an accident that is not your fault increases your chances of another. Never understood that reasoning.
Have a wonderful time with your Vashonistas. Can't wait to hear about it.

Rian said...

DJan, I too believe in Karma... or what goes around, comes around, you reap what you sow, etc. But I've always wondered about when good intentions bring bad outcomes. How does that fit in one's karma? To me a person's (or a law's) intentions (not the letter of the law if you know what I mean... not the literal translation) are what's important (at least morally if not legally). Didn't mean to run on, my mind takes off on tangents sometimes.
And your life as a hippie was definitely interesting. I think many of us thought of ourselves as free spirits back then, but didn't always act on it.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Fascinating! A commune. A hippie. Love it.

The Furry Gnome said...

Learn something new about you with every post!

Red said...

You've had some major influences I your life. It's caused a lot of stress but you've gained life experiences which conveniently fit into things as you go along. Maybe that's karma.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I have followed you a long time so I knew a bit about your hippie years.
I hope you have a wonderful retreat this week!! I hope that commercial company sticks to it's word on the repairs...it sounds like they will. Good thing you have your photos:)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Hippie days in a communal setting sounds a bit too of course for me back then. I was a young mom of Buddy, teaching and going to classes to upgrade my own degree. But I loved oberving those around me who opted out. My brother did 10 months of his own version along with his wife. Karma has not been easy at my end. Have a great time at your eriting adventure,

Rita said...

Oh, I am jealous of your commune days! Four of us ran away to Canada in 1969 to join a commune. The two guys--one was avoiding the draft and the other was home from boot camp and thinking of going AWOL (didn't). The other girl was in total denial that she was pregnant and I was such a mess after being beaten and raped that I thought I could just run away from my nightmares and start over (impossible--LOL!). The commune we heard about in the Canadian wilderness had a murder occur the week before we crossed the border--so we scrapped that idea. Turned out we were all back home to Minnesota within a couple weeks. My folks didn't know I was gone for almost a week--LOL! I missed my 15 minutes of fame and being on a milk carton and TV as a missing teen by calling home the night before said fame. I bet we would have a lot to chat about over coffee, Lady! ROFL!

I have always believed in karma...long before I ever read about what it was called. Seems like I always knew about the energy people send out to the world and have tried really hard to keep mine as positive as I could. (Not that I did a very good job of it sometimes, for sure!) When I was about 30 and recovering from a second divorce and the first husband coming around to mess with me for fun--I got so confused by the people who are deliberately cruel. How do you make it through and stay positive? Was I just a patsy--a fool? Got help from GA---wrote about that in Flowers and Garbage (copy on my other stories blog).

Yes--go for love and trust your gut feelings and impressions. If it turns out to be misplaced, well, then the bad karma is on them and not on your soul. Then you know who they are. Believe people when they show you is another thing it took me a long time to learn.

Sorry to go on. Obviously--loved this post! Enjoy your final writing retreat!! I hope you have good weather. :)