This past weekend, we went up to Sea Ranch to spend four days at a rental property with family, who had been visiting for my grandmother's birthday celebration. Sabrina and I were very much looking forward to a mini-vacation; we had hired a pet-sitter, cleaned the house, packed our bags, and headed for the coast, ready for some down time.
It was a little more than we bargained for. Throughout the weekend, there were people coming and going, with anywhere from two to six children, ranging in age from two to fourteen. At one point, there were four under the age of eight. Let's just say it was lively, especially for two people who are childless.
But still, we were having a good time. It was great visiting with my sister and brother-in-law from New York, who I had missed a great deal, with their little guy Ty, my special nephew, and spending time with my sister and her three boys from Tennessee. We ate good food, had a gorgeous view of the ocean from our dining room table, and when it got too crazy, I holed up in my room to read or take a nap.
The trip got cut short, though, on Saturday afternoon, when Sabrina stubbed her toe on a coffee table. What? I know, what's the big deal, right? Well, she broke that toe, and she did a doozy on it. It was sticking out at a very weird angle. We ended up helping her out to the truck, and I drove her to Kaiser in Santa Rosa, where x-rays confirmed what we suspected. Today, she had to go in to see a podiatrist, because the toe was not aligned properly, so they had to yank on it to try to get it lined up. She's now in bed, after being in terrible pain all day, barely able to walk with a cane.
Geez. This is getting ridiculous. In the past nine months, we have had a chipped beak (Barney the parrot), lens luxation/sudden onset glaucoma leading to loss of an eye (Houla the dog), thumb surgery to correct arthritis (Sabrina the human), two heart attacks (Barney the parrot), a scratched cornea (Michelle the human), a leg infection leading to hospitalization (Gladys the grandmother), and now a broken toe (Sabrina the human). Each incident above necessitated a trip to the emergency room, either at the veterinary hospital or the human hospital - some of them required more than one trip. (I think there were actually a couple of other incidents, but I can't recall them right at the moment.)
My teacher Tony, upon hearing about the broken toe, said we needed our own MASH unit. I think he's right. Remarkably, throughout all of this, everything has turned out OK. No loss of life, no debilitating damage. My whole family is still in good health, functioning, and doing the best we can to deal with each one of these challenges as they come our way.
Sometimes, in the midst of all this, I bemoan the fact that I have no time to practice Zen. I have had to miss my Tuesday night sitting a number of times, and will have to again tomorrow, as I want to be at home to help Sabrina prepare some dinner after being alone all day while I am at work. Even though I know this is what I must do, part of me chides myself for being a "bad" Zen student for being so caught up in these day-to-day crises. Then I ran across this story:
From "Zen Is Right Here" by Suzuki Roshi:
A woman told Suzuki Roshi she found it difficult to mix Zen practice with the demands of being a housewife. "I feel I am trying to climb a ladder. But for every step upward, I slip backward two steps."
"Forget the ladder," Suzuki told her. "In Zen, everything is right here on the ground."