Popcorn Meditation


My dog is in the plastic laundry basket in the closet panting.  He looks up at me pitifully, longingly.  He seems to be begging me to make it stop.  I wish I could.  I cannot make the thunder and rain and hail stop.  I cannot stop the lightening flashing throughout the canyon.  I cannot stop the sound of the raging river behind the house in a place that is normally just a path.  We are in week two of daily flash flooding and mudslides.  Homes seem to be melting into the surrounding mountains.  We used to have landscaped rock gardens, now we have yellow walls of sandbags encircling the mud and sand.  Giant boulders that would normally take heavy machinery or 5 muscular people to move are being tossed around in the water like they are fake plastic models. 


We are not national news because there are so few of us who live here in this area of northern New Mexico.  We spent the last 8 months praying for rain during the drought.  Now our prayers got answered, but we should have been more specific about quality and quantity.  Nature is showing us just how tiny and insignificant we are.  Some of us are in the habit of parking across the Rio Grande and canoeing to our homes rather than drive the 2 miles of four-wheel drive road.  This habit is serving us well these weeks when the road has been washed away and those who are dependent on it are unable to get out most days.


Tonight, I am doing what any sane person would do who wants to pretend that life is normal…I am making popcorn.  I realized that while I was running around in my poncho with my giant flashlight watching the rising white swirling water, I was doing no one any good.  The dogs were getting more and more nervous and the rain certainly didn’t stop because of my running around with my flashlight in the flooding paths.  Some folks might choose to meditate or do some deep breathing exercises to calm down.  I stopped and thought about what normal would look like and saw myself making popcorn.  So here it is that joyful pop pop pop and the smell of warm oil and a normal weekend night.  It is working.  The nervous mervous dog is slowly creeping out of the laundry basket (he is twice the size of the basket and getting out is no easy task).  He is looking around checking to see if the coast is clear.  Ahhhh, he is picking up his favorite toy and holding it between his feet.  I can tell he is kind of faking it like me.  Just like I thought that making popcorn would make the evening seem like any other, he must have thought that holding that toy would fool us all into thinking that the water isn’t running behind the north side of the house.


I am grateful right now.  Here is what I am grateful for:

-Bright yellow sandbags filled and stacked by amazingly giving neighbors.

-A mouth full of organic popcorn.

-My most recent visitor who helped dig out the culvert so deep that the river on the north side of the house cannot resist going down there and right through it.

-A laptop computer that runs on batteries.

-My other dog’s deafness…she is sleeping, snoring like an old sailor, oblivious to the storm and my coming and going in my noisy rain poncho.

-A working phone line.

-Being a renter rather than a homeowner in this floodplain.

-A warm dry bed waiting for me.


I have thought a lot about the New Orleans flood victims in the last few weeks.  Our fate seems tiny in comparison.  The neighbors and I reminded ourselves one day while digging wet mud that we are really very lucky.  None of us are being shuttled to the Houston Astrodome and being asked to abandon our homes and companion animals.  None of us is so alone that we can imagine ever being homeless.  We all have close loving friends and family who would take us into their homes in a heartbeat.


I have been thinking about global warming and the increasing intensity of life here in the USA and on planet earth.  I just found out this week that for my upcoming domestic flights I cannot take any water on board with me.  Travel is becoming less and less desirable.  Maybe that is a depressing trend.  Or maybe it is a chance to just stay home and say no to travel.  Some of the most content people I know rarely leave their peaceful homes. 


I have been thinking that where we are headed will be crisis after crisis and it will seem dark and hopeless.  Now I wonder if those crisis situations will make us take stock and remember to be grateful and to live as caring as possible with the time we have left.  I wonder if we could do it before a major crisis hits.  Maybe this will all be a gift. 


No more cheap plastic goods from China (UPOs-unnecessary plastic objects). No more fuel for making useless car and plane trips.  No more produce shipped from around the world or across the country.  Could be just the wakeup call we need for lessoning our human footprint on the earth.


While typing this article, the rain and lightning stopped for a time.  The calm returned.  But I am looking across the canyon and see flashes of lightning signaling more to come.  The back up beeper of the road crew across the river is loud.  They must be trying to move boulders off the highway.


A part of me has been fantasizing this week about living in a place where you drive right up to the house or bike to the grocery and movies.  I have imagined a home with a washer and drier right in the house, rather than a walk across a mud field to do laundry in my landlord’s art studio.  Maybe that is what I want now that I am in my fifties, some ease and convenience.  But, I know that I don’t want to live where I forget my wildness.  I know that I always want to live where the wildest parts of nature and the quiet of the non-human world surround me. I don’t want to forget my place in the wild things. 


I was flipping through a high fashion magazine that I got free at the library yesterday in the giveaway pile.  I always grab those free magazines so that I can tear out the ads and use them in programs. I have program participants deconstruct the consumer messages in the ads.  I want them to question the ideas and things being sold to them.  One of my greatest joys in going through these magazines is the freedom that I feel in not needing anything in them.  The one I brought home yesterday is filled with things like 700 dollar bikinis and winter neck scarves made from fox fur that came from captive suffering animals in an industry that I had hoped would have died long ago.  I am often shocked at how people continue to be seduced into purchasing items that cause suffering and environmental destruction.  I should not be shocked by it since I occasionally am seduced into a purchase that is completely un-thought out.  I mindlessly let myself purchase the item without hesitating to think about the consequences of supporting the industry the created it.


Here is an example.  I live in the driest place I have ever known.  Until the past few weeks, I had no need for any indoor drying device.  The outdoor clothesline was plenty. The clothes dry in an hour out there.  Then a few visitors were here when the rains began and I rigged up an indoor clothesline for using temporarily.  It works.  It is not so classy and it is strung between two rooms of the house, but it works.  This week, I was in a store and spotted a spiffy folding clothes drying rack for using indoors.  I picked it up and was heading to the check out when I was hit with a moment of sanity.  I asked myself the question that I am often asking others in programs:  Is this a want or a need?   I could not deny that it was certainly not a need and it would not add anything to my life except another thing to move when I move out of this floodplain.  I marched back to the shelf where I found it and put it back. I glanced down and saw that it was made in China.  I happily walked out of the store empty handed.  Narrow escape from one more useless purchase.


I am no guru of simplicity.  If I were, then I would have only a few possessions like Gandhi had at the time of his death.  If I were, I would sit and meditate on my little cushion rather than make popcorn at a time like this.  A friend told me that to do his style of meditation I would need to be given a mantra.  I think my mantra should be “POP POP POP”.  No master needs to give me that one.