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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Harvest Moon: Portrait Of A Nursing Home

Florence taught me to sing, not well, and we would sing and skip and laugh out loud. I knew her years ago, in my first job in a nursing home. I was a nurse’s aide, I was seventeen, and she was in her seventies. Florence was confused, happily so, unsure from moment to moment of her age, her history, her condition and status in life. She was not inclined to wonder, happy to accept whatever explanations I and others would offer for the apparent inconsistencies in her life. She sang a few songs many times: “I ain’t had no loving since January, February, June or July!” And skipped a step on her walk to the dining room.

The Guru

Coming to the study of spirituality we are faced with the problem of our relationship with a teacher, lama, guru, whatever we call the person we suppose will give us spiritual understanding. The words, especially the term “guru,” have acquired meanings and associations in the West which are misleading and which generally add to the confusion around the issue of what it means to study with a spiritual teacher. This is not to say that people in the East understand how to relate to a guru while Westerners do not; the problem is universal. People always come to the study of spirituality with some ideas already fixed in their minds of what it is they are going to get and how deal with the person from whom they think they will get it. The very notion that we will get something from a guru — happiness, peace of mind, wisdom, whatever it is we seek — is one of the most difficult preconceptions of all. So I think it would be helpful to examine the way in which some famous students dealt with the problems of how to relate to spirituality and a spiritual teacher. Perhaps these examples will have some relevance for our own individual search.

The Turquoise Dragon

Remembering Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1940-1987)

He was a short man with glasses and a penetrating smile, and a high, almost falsetto voice. He was enamored of Oxford English and taught elocution, after his own comical fashion. (Elocution lessons were given at one o’clock in the morning, before an audience of 400 laughing spectators.) Years ago he had crashed his car into a shop that sold jokes and novelties; since this bizarre accident he could hardly walk without assistance. Although he was often transported in a wheelchair, it never seemed appropriate to regard him as disabled. He had a string of titles Rinpoche, Vajra Master, Ocean of Dharma, the Vidyadhara, the Eleventh Trungpa Tulku. In his teens, he had been abbot of the monasteries in Surmang, a region of eastern Tibet. It was said that on the day of his birth, a rainbow was seen above his village, a pail supposed to contain water was unaccountably found full of milk, and members of his family dreamed that a lama was entering their tents.

Fiction

The Short And Happy Life Of Spaghetti Johnson

Very few eleven-year-olds are fortunate enough to have a friend like Spaghetti Johnson, Ronald knew. Ronald, that’s what Spaghetti Johnson called him. His parents and his sister called him Ron or Ronnie. His mother called him Ronald Stewart Sibley when she was mad at him, or when she’d called him several times and he hadn’t answered. His older sister, Stacy, called him Ronald when she was being smart-alecky, or when she was acting high-toned. But Spaghetti Johnson called him Ronald, just as a matter of course, because it was his name.

What Will Be

I should have known Brian would leave me. I should have felt his restlessness and uncertainty. Instead, I woke up four Mondays ago with only a tattered note for a companion. I was abandoned, surprised, and angry. What good were my powers if I couldn’t predict my own life?

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write

Secrets

Sometimes I get like this. I am sure that my existence is a tragic mistake, that I have come into this body and will leave it without a trace. I don’t know why I was born.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸
Quotations

Sunbeams

Life is short and it hurts. Love is the only drug that works.

John Coit

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