Because my sisters and chickens

Today I drove into town, ostensibly to go to the grocery to buy eggs because I had just run out, but really to get that ceramic chicken.

Last month my sister/friend Beth posted a picture on my facebook wall of a five foot tall chicken sculpture facing the front door of a house. The photo was from a blog, specifically theblogess.com in which this lady had purchased this chicken sculpture and taken it home, placed it at her front door and rung the bell, then hid behind the bushes waiting for her husband to open the door. Freaking hysterical, man. Chickens are funny. I always talk about how my neighbor down the road has chickens in the yard and I can be in the worst mood but the minute I drive past the chickens I have to smile. My son told me once that when he was over there playing with his friend (their son), he discovered that the chickens will bury themselves in the dirt underneath a bush in the front yard to keep cool in the summer time and you’ll just see their heads sticking up out of the ground.

“Nuh uh!”, I said.

Then I drove past and looked over under the bush at all the chicken heads and almost had to pull over. Some things are too funny.

I’ll get to driving into town for the purposes of purchasing a ceramic chicken here in a moment but I need to go even further back in time to when my now 20 year old daughter was two so that you have a complete chicken back story. I hope you’ll bear with me.

There was a family get together at my Dad’s campground one year, and I had a Loftus brand rubber chicken handy because chickens are funny and a rubber chicken is an old prop from vaudeville. I know this because I looked it up on Wikipedia recently. There is a series of photographs of each individual family member posing with the rubber chicken. The rubber chicken pictures are one of those family legends. In fact my older sister Brenda has a photo of her son Jake and the rubber chicken framed in a cute little frame. His expression is ponderous as he tries to understand why he has been asked to stand there and hold this chicken.

My oldest sister Liz, in the telling of these chicken stories, (I suppose we could call this chicken lore), received the gift of a rubber chicken from one of her co-workers last week. Awesome. I had gotten a rubber chicken for Christmas. We have been exchanging rubber chicken pictures on facebook.

(I need you to know that my fourteen year old daughter just burst into the room and said, “Okay as you stare into the deep abyss of the universe and harmony….do you just need to buy a thrift store ceramic chicken?” ┬áSee. Okay. That’s great. That tells me that my fourteen year old is awake on this Saturday afternoon and that she has noticed there is a ceramic chicken on the table in the front room, providing me with a lovely segue to where I was going anyway.)

There is a thrift shop in town in this small farming community called Second Blessings. I am pretty in love with this place because the merchandise is donated and therefore super cheap. Also the imagination just catches fire with the potential back stories of all the items on hand. Last week I was there and bought a Pfaltzgraff butter dish for a dollar. I checked online and eBay had that same butter dish for 25.99. Score. See? That’s so awesome. I also during this visit and fresh off sister Liz’s story of being gifted a rubber chicken, noticed a hen sized ceramic hen there on the shelf. I checked the price and made a mental note that three bucks plus tax would be all I would need to make this chicken mine.

This brings us to today. I had a window of opportunity to get out of the house by myself for a little bit so I thought I might go buy eggs (and milk and bread). I thought it might be good to stock up on some pocket change just in case that was needed, and probably about three bucks worth would be good. Off I went into town, listening to NPR on the car radio and going directly to the thrift shop and directly to the ceramic chicken and directly to the counter. The lady at the counter smiled and said, “I wondered if anyone was going to buy this.” (That is also what she said when I went in to buy the five dollar ottoman that I then took pictures of my fourteen year old daughter sitting on all over town. But that’s another story.)

“Yeah did ya notice I walked in walked right to it?”

“It’s cute!”

“It is!”

“Would you like a card?”

“Yes please! I always want the card! Thank you!”, and she handed my a small note card in an envelope on which she had written “Glory To God”.

In the car I opened the card and there was a bible verse and a little note saying that Jesus loves me and that she prays he blesses me. I keep those because she totally means it. The love vibe that comes off those cards always gives me a little psychic buzz. “Thank you for the chicken, Lord.” I said out loud. Then I went to the store. I have eggs now. My son had asked for some snacks but the kind he asked for were not at the grocery I normally frequent so I drove back into town to go to the dollar store. At the light Amy Coar was behind me as I was listening to this amazing NPR story about the blog “Post Secrets”. I had seen her turn onto the road I was on but she has gigantic movie star sunglasses so I wasn’t sure she had seen me gesture over when I saw her. I looked in the mirror and there is smiling Amy waving. I gave the same wave to the rear view mirror. Amy does totally look like a movie star driving around, so I felt pretty special to get the Amy wave.

I had to write this blog because my new Facebook profile picture is me and my new ceramic chicken. This tale was too long for a facebook post.

Hope your day is pleasant.

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Streaming the Diamond Sutra

I streamed three different Dharma talks on the Diamond Sutra this week via YouTube. The teachers were highly qualified and the talks were well done. The content was clearly the same but yet very different.

Venerable Guan Cheng, Abbott of the International Buddhist Center in Canada has a series of lectures that are thorough and explicit with great background content. These 38 lectures are quite academic. I got a terrific education.

Zen master Hyon Gak Sunim of the Zen Center in Hwa Gye Sah, Seoul, has 12 talks on the Diamond Sutra which he says are not meant to be academic. They are expository none the less. For the listener helped by words spoken by a guy obviously from New Jersey, this down to earth fella brings it home (and puts it on a very ordinary plate, which is his whole point).

Then there is Thay.

Zen master, author and peace activist Thich Naht Hanh talks the Diamond Sutra for one hour and eleven minutes. He speaks barely above a whisper. He writes a list of four items on a whiteboard (things that bring us suffering) and then talks about a flower for quite awhile. I kept waiting for readings from text and PowerPoint slides and cited historical facts and was still waiting for him to get to the text when it was over. I went back the next day and watched it again. In perfect Zen fashion, all ya need was on the whiteboard the whole time. Now that’s class. My jaw is still on the floor.

All these very different fingers are clearly pointing at the same moon. They all will show you the truth about the fundamental nature of our shared circumstance and how to get out, get better, have less suffering, and find peace.

I am not myself going to attempt to reveal the Diamond Sutra to you so the substance of the talks is for you to find from them. They are qualified. I am so not.

But I will tell you that this was the result of my search for the highest and best use of my time and attention here on Earth. I was not disappointed.