March 20, 2013

Life at Stanford

 There's never enough time to do everything, so I've stopped trying or even making a list.  What comes forward is how it goes.  Much easier, more relaxed and it gives the feeling that I'm living here and not just being a tourist.  Some things, of course were planned.  Seeing various people and a few trips to the museum, walks with some folks across campus.  These were quiet treasures.

I did visit Mr. Richard Diebenkorn in the Cantor Museum and spent quiet time around his two representative paintings.  "Ocean Park #94" on the left and "The Window" on the right.  Could spend hours looking at them particularly Ocean Park which has an enormous vocabulary when you get up very close and see the brush strokes, the layering, the scratches, the casualness of the lines purposely done so as not to seem perfect in a geometric painting.  The signage said that he was influenced in this particular Ocean Park painting by Matisse's "View of Notre Dame."  Other visitors to Diebenkorn's studio noticed that there were large windows with a transom window at the top and suggested he was simply painting his surroundings.  He seems to have laughed and said "well, sure, if you think so."

 It's spring break this week and the campus has quieted down except for groups of families walking around campus obviously visiting their kids.  There's always tourists photographing and carrying bags of souvenirs they've gotten in the bookstore which is loaded with clothing stamped with the Stanford emblem and which takes up far more space than the books.

I went up in the Tower with a friend the other day, and from there you can see all of the Bay Area, from the San Francisco skyline, to the UC Berkeley Campanile, to San Jose and all the surrounding hills including Mt. Diablo.  I posited that this was built to address a challenge to the Berkeley campus, but that's just me, it isn't truly a fact.  The Stanford campus was begun because Leland Stanford couldn't get into Berkeley so he started his own university.  If you are going to do that, you might as well make it as visible as you can and thumb your nose in that northerly direction.

Tonight is my last night and I'll leave in the morning to return to Berkeley.  I'm having dinner with the Schireson's who live on campus in faculty housing.  What is wonderful here at Stanford is the sense of community among the people who live on campus.  Many have lived here for 35 or more years and chat on the street, get together socially, continue a rich cultural life.  Even after retirement, they remain in their homes till they die, unless they choose to sell.  Where could anyone go to have a more excellent lifestyle and climate?  Yes, some people have all the luck, and they've worked hard to earn it.  

March 02, 2013

Activities and Travels

The power of this guardian archer sculpture facing out to the Bay always impresses me when I visit the Berkeley pier for a walk by the water with the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline in the distance.  Days are most often sunny so I follow the urge to be in this open space as often as I can.

It has been an active month.  Had visits with numerous friends and began the writing workshop at OLLI lifelong learning series, part of the UC Berkeley connections.  The teacher Deborah Lichtman, former chair of creative writing at U. of San Francisco, is a superb teacher of memoir and autobiography, and the students are mostly advanced writers.  The questions and discussions are right on target.  I've learned a lot in this class and will be sorry when it's over next Friday.

I attended several lectures in the department of philosophy and the Buddhist studies department at UC Berkeley.  It was easy enough to follow the arguments and discussions even if they were steeped in shades of differences between Kant and Schopenhauer and the philosophical gang.  I found myself wearying of the amount of words without the notion of application or activity toward the alleviation of suffering even when that was the aim.  Reminded me of the old warning to Zen students: get rid of intellectualism and philosophizing before you step into the Zendo.  Otherwise, the Zen master will hit you over the head.

Went with my daughter to see "Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.  Always a great pleasure to see any work by Vermeer, one of my favorite painters.  But two Rembrandt's were almost more thrilling.  The Vermeer work was behind bullet proof glass so it was a little hard to enjoy the crackles that have resulted in the canvas due to aging.  You'd see it better on a print.  The Rembrandt paintings, also under glass as were all of the paintings in this exhibit (they are 500 years old and can't stand much light without deterioration), were masterful by right of their painterly nature and relaxation of subject.  There was also a large adjoining exhibition of etchings by various artists of the same period well worth viewing.

The last weekend in February I returned to Olympia for several days to attend and support a Celebration of Life service for my niece Jamie Steele, who died February 8, way too young and before her time.  Other family also came and Jamie was adamant that we not mourn and weep so we started out the service with one of her favorite pieces of music: "Oye Como Va" by Santana.  Jamie also had loved Wagnerian operas so we closed the gathering with "Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla" from Das Rheingold.  Not much of "Amazing Grace" or "The Lord is my shepherd...." in this gathering!

The day after I returned to Berkeley, I drove down to Mt. View and Stanford to give a talk at Kannon-do.  I spoke about the manuscript I've just finished (at least as a good first draft) and the subject of Kakarembo, Hide-and-Go-Seek, Ryokan's favorite game.  Of course the Hide-and-Go-Seek acts as a metaphor for many of our lives as we move in and out of hiding and appearance.  Also received the key for the place I'll be staying for two weeks in Stanford faculty housing in the middle of March, watering plants and taking in the mail for old friends.  Can't wait to be down there.  It's gorgeous, gorgeous and the Stanford Museum is excellent and free.  I can walk in and out all day if I choose and there's a free bus that runs around the campus all day long.

Seeing more friends before I drive down to Stanford next Friday where I'll see some more.  It's only four more weeks before I return to Olympia.  Time is suddenly racing.  I haven't written so much on the blog because I too easily write myself out and the manuscript had to come first.  I'm soaking up the vitamin D every chance and loving the views of cows grazing on green hills just above the Stanford campus.