Friday, January 9, 2009

More on Signs and Tuning in

As a writer, I like words. Verbal or written, I'm always using them. My husband, Seong Yoon, is a bit conservative with his words. He doesn't usually say much and many think he's a quiet person. The opposite couldn't be truer. The difference is, Seong Yoon doesn't waste his words. I think, as Americans, we like to talk about everything under the sun. Our lives, our communities, our jobs, our husbands, our friends, our families, our children our this and our that. We are social beings and when we get together we open our mouths and a lot comes out. The conversations weave their way in all directions. Some of us are great story tellers. We know how to grab the attention of our listeners and draw them in. Great story tellers often make great writers, I find. In the vipassana meditation practice I do, we are taught that sila is of utmost importance. Sila refers to morality and includes five precepts, one of which is to abstain from wrong speech. In our society, where gossip is the norm, it is easy to quickly fall into wrong speech. We may not even realize we are there until someone says, "Maybe we shouldn't talk about this". Being a writer, a person who enjoys a great conversation and a person who is following sila, I realize I'm walking a thin line. Luckily, I still believe in signs to guide me. Our dear friend Aaron came to visit us for three days. We hadn't seen him for over a year and naturally we had a lot to talk about. He also follows vipassana meditation. We went on a long walk through the Broadview neighborhood in Seattle. We talked and talked and talked and walked and walked and walked. Aaron was looking for a canopy for his truck and there was one along the side of the road. It looked like it was in some sort of "free" pile. The pile also included garbage lids and a cookie tray. It was an odd looking "free" pile. Aaron bravely went to the door of the house near the pile and knocked. Seong Yoon and I curiously waited by the edge of the road while Aaron disappeared into the house for what seemed like a long time. He finally emerged with a bubbly looking woman who came out to greet us wearing one lime-green, dish washing glove. Aaron said, "This is Sheila." Sheila had blond hair, sparkling eyes and looked too young to have a 21 year old daughter. Her daughter crashed her truck, apparently and Sheila was left with the canopy. According to Sheila, the trash lids and the cookie tray were remains of the sledders who used the top of the hill where her house stood as launching point for sledding. She picked up the make shift sleds with her green-gloved hand and said, "I don't know if I should throw these away, they just left them here." Sheila smiled at us and let our friend know that the canopy was his if he wanted it. We thanked her and turned to walk back the direction we came. I turned to Aaron and said, "Sheila seems nice". For some reason we both heard "Sila seems nice". Later that evening, while Seong Yoon was teaching yoga, we decided to check out what movies were playing. Revolutionary Road, with Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio was playing at 5:15pm downtown. It was 5pm when we left in the pouring rain. We had to fight rush hour traffic and so it took us an hour to get to the theater. Since Aaron used to live on Capital Hill, he knew some back roads. Once again, we started talking about this and that. We rounded a corner downtown and a large, black sign with white lettering in front of a restaurant stood out like a sore thumb. We both said in unison, "Shilla". The sign was referring to a Korean restaurant. I knew that Shilla was also a dynasty which was located in Kyongju, South Korea, where I met my then Buddhist monk husband. In his little red truck, cruising the rainy streets of Seattle, we fell silent for a moment. I don't think we had much more to say.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Can You See the Signs?

Signs are everywhere. Can you see them? A few days ago I took a break from writing my book and went for a walk with my husband. We went down to Carkeek Park in Seattle. The tide is usually high when we visit this park, so we can't walk far on the beach. On this particular day, however, we could see that there was a strip of sand between the sea wall and the Sound. We walked and walked and walked on that strip of sand. The sun was blaring down on us. It got brighter and brighter and we were blinded by it. We were forced to stare down at the gray, sparkling sand while we walked. We both commented on how unusual the weather was for winter in Washington. We felt the light wind mixed with the smell of seaweed. The waves lapped gently on the shore. A few people walking on the sand bar with their dogs appeared to be in a blissful, sun-filled state which showed on their smiling faces. It was the beginning of January 2009, a new year and a new life! I stopped for a moment. Someone had drawn a big heart with a stick in the sand and wrote two names inside. It said, "Joy+Rich". I said to my husband, "Look, a couple wrote their names in the sand!" My husband said, "No, I think that's their new year's resolution!" At that moment, it occurred to me that maybe it was and that I felt those very words. It was summed up right in front of me. The signs you see depend on what you tune in to. What are you seeing right now?