Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Month: January 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Caye Caulker, Belize

When we wake, birds whistle and chirp and screech, a dog barks from somewhere nearby, and the sun lights the top of the palm tree at Wish Willy’s, the outdoor restaurant in front of the cabana. The mosquito net over the bed billows inward, pushed by the fan we keep aimed our direction most nights. I listen for a while, then get up and makeĀ  coffee, rummage around for a little breakfast. Caye Caulker.

Mary Ann gets up, I get a cup of coffee, and we go to the front porch of the cabana, check our email, think about riding bikes down to the south end of the island. Caye Caulker is 4 miles long and 650 yards wide at its widest. The caye is split about halfway down by a water passage cut by Hurricane Hattie. The split, about fifty yards wide, frames the north end of the village, where we are staying. So we are at the northern tip of the southern half of the caye. The Lazy Lizard, an over-the-top tourist bar that we avoid, sits right on the split, a really nice area for swimming.

Maurice, a big Belizean with the standard dreads, who owns and runs Wish Willy’s and is the husband of Monique, our landlady, comes down the steps from their apartment above the restaurant and gives us a big piece of dark, super rich chocolate cake with pecan sauce, warm and chewy. A mouth explosion that reorients the world for a few seconds. So that’s where he got the belly. Well earned.

Monique’s dog Scruffy lies on the porch at our feet. One of three that roam the property, all good natured and keen to be petted. We love that Caye Caulker is so laid back and low key about everything. Development is encroaching here, but the streets are all still sand/dirt, there are no cars, just golf carts, and we can eat at small street stands or from street vendors with just a grill on the side of the road. Lovely local food.

Colors. We love the colors. Bright pink, rich blue, turquoise, startling orange and yellow, green. The houses, shops, signs. The old wood plank docks jutting into the ocean from the sand. The still, green water at the shore, the white line of surf at the barrier reef, the dark blue of the deep water beyond. Sitting in canvas chairs in the shade of a palm at the beach, reading, dozing, looking, walking in the shallows, looking. Morning on the Caye. Di island, Mon.

Village Writing School Writers’ Column

I want to share some news that I hope will interest some of you: In the next week or two, the Village Writing School will begin publishing a column by me every other week in their on-line Newsletter. Each column will address a single issue faced by writers. The first two columns will look at Conflict and Geography. I’ll keep them short (maximum of 300 words) and direct. Each column will offer some practical recommendations along with some background theory. I will be posting the columns here on my blog with links to the resources I’m discussing. If you are a writer, or if you just like to think about what makes writing good, I hope you’ll join me.


Jesus and the Jewel in the Lotus, Part 2

Continuing with the discussion of Jesus and the Jewel in the Lotus mantra from a few days ago, we have the final three syllables of the mantra (pad-me hum) to consider. If you missed my last post, which considered the first three syllables of the mantra (Om man-i), you can find it here. In that post, I said that I prefer the translation by the Dalai Lama.

The first two of those final syllables, pad-me, mean lotus, andĀ  the Dalai Lama says that the lotus symbolizes wisdom. Wisdom is a central tenet in the development of Christianity. The old Apostle Paul said that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” Sophia is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for wisdom in the Septuagint. In Catholic theology and in Protestant mysticism, Sophia is the wisdom of God.

So, up to this point, we have Om, which is purity of mind, body, and speech; mani, which is compassion or love; and now padme, which is wisdom. Wisdom is simply too abstract to translate into action, so I take the statement in Proverbs that “the beginning of wisdom is the fear (reverence) of the Lord,” and I translate “reverence” into faithfulness or trust. Those are terms I can see in action. So when I repeat, to myself or with others, the syllables pad-me, I am yearning for faithfulness and trust–i.e., faithfulness to “the way” and trust in the one to whom the way leads.

The final syllable in the Jewel in the Lotus mantra, hum, is translated by the Dalai Lama as indivisibility, or oneness. The indivisibility of method (compassion) and wisdom. But also the inter-relation or inter-being of all creation. All human beings are inter-related. We are, in a very essential way, one. As a species, we like to think of ourselves as separate from, or above, the rest of creation. Yet we were created from dirt (in the Genesis story), consist mostly of water, must constantly synthesize both air and the flora/fauna to live, and reproduce through a process of cell division, just like everything else in creation. When we die, the atoms that made up our physical form return to the storehouse of nature from which other creatures/things come. Oneness.

Often when I pray, I use the simple translations of the syllables of the Jewel in the Lotus as my mantra. Purity, compassion, faithfulness, oneness. Those are all important words/ideas in the teachings of Jesus. They are words that describe Jesus. We are told to be transformed, to have the mind of Jesus. In the beginning, Christianity was not called “Christianity.” It was called “the Way.” Jesus is the Way. Meditating on the words of this mantra is one of the ways I try to follow the way. I like to think of Jesus as the Jewel in the Lotus, the Compassion in the Wisdom.

Purity, compassion, faithfulness, oneness.



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