Mimes, Koans, Feet, and Dolls


Between 2002 and 2005, I mimed a lot. Not on stage. Not for compensation. It started as a way to make my friend Amy’s college photography assignments more interesting. (The above pictures are not hers, they are a Warhol inspired collage I made of a picture she took of me). Although she took pictures of still lifes and other objects found in daily living, I was her model too. Her subject matter. But why did I choose to mime for the posed pictures? To try at conveying emotion without words? I could have worn jeans and posed outside. Or dresses and posed with jewelry adorning me. I came up with miming instead.

I had several pets to bathe, feed, clean up after and love. I had three school aged kids to cook for, clean for, shop for, to nurture. I had a paralyzed husband to care for; he needed round the clock care. There was his personal hygiene of course. The various machines to run, to clean, to order new filters regularly for. The medications to administer, the feeding tubes and so forth. When I think of how many directions I was pulled in back then, I believe I will never be that needed again.

The Buddhist practices of vipassna (insight) and metta (mindfulness) meditation come to mind now, these years later. I have to wonder whether the miming presented me with a type of soul nurturing; as well as an outlet for the creative energies I need to bring forth. I often had little time to change clothes and remove mime make-up when someone needed my attention and so I was doing laundry, dishes and household stuff (shaving him, helping kids with homework, etc.) in full mime.

Mimes are silent. I embraced that. I did what I had to do. I was doing for myself (nurturing my inner self) while doing for others. My kids never judged me. Sarcasm and meanness were better left unsaid in those days. The situation was serious and somehow we pulled together. I think we all learned to be humble. Here was a loved one facing death. Who were we to complain? How our priorities changed after the diagnosis of ALS. How we changed. Our circumstance, our views, our relationships with one another, our very life paths.

As for limerence, there is a period of it in the beginning of relationships and that fades into something like a much loved sweater.

Some people will cherish that sweater,

some will throw it out and buy a new one.

As I’ve said many times, the art of

simply being,

of observation,

of mindfulness,

is in the “little things.” Developing “Lovingkindness” through silence. Developing compassion through bare attention. Keeping the mind open… Rocks are pretty special by the way. My grandkids think so too.


I enjoyed a slow paced ride to Massachusetts recently. Al pulled into a gravel lot. Beside a brand new picnic table was a garbage bag of trash someone had left behind. A scraggly tree grew in the lot, but was so malnourished it did not even cast shade over the table. The table itself looked scared to be a table; it just resided there maybe 30 feet from the road. The nearest stand of trees could be seen in the far distance.

“This table won’t do,” I said. “Not this one.”

We drove on. And I saw it! It was lopsided, marred with graffiti, faded grey with age and life, lovely grey. The embankment and many wild weeds and wiley trees stood behind the table. We spread our food out and indulged. Beyond the steep embankment, the brook. Around obstacles it kept going. My grandson, granddaughter and I took off socks and shoes and rolled our pantslegs up. The water was cool. My feet distorted beneath the surface. The frogs were hopping. My grandson sought out flat stones to stack. He made this rock tower; pictured above. My granddaughter got delightfully muddy and being one year old, alternately squealed, laughed, dipped her feet, splashed her hands, and clapped. (So did I, although I haven’t been one for a many years).


What do you think of my feet? I especially like the picture on the right. My toes look so distorted! In fact, look at the weird white ‘refection’ in the water under my foot, in both pictures. Kind of looks like that ghost dog from Nightmare Before Christmas, heh?


My son texted me a picture of this place, which is located here in Connecticut. It’s not a tourist attraction. It’s just a real residence with a very interesting person or persons living inside. I think this is what I like best about my smart phone: the ability to take pictures of wavy underwater feet and for people to send kitschy pictures like this to people instantaneously! My son said, that as they drove by, it was even creepier (and more remarkable?) than the picture indicates. There were dolls everywhere! On the roofs…In the yard.


The above picture was taken from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshmichtom/2072848946

                                And now for a favorite Koan:


Learning To Be Silent

The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.

On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming aloud  to a servant:

“Fix those lamps.”

The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk.

“We are not supposed to say a word,” he remarked.

“You two are stupid. Why did you talk?” asked the third.

“I am the only one who has not talked,” concluded the fourth pupil.


 I love this koan because it seems like a big FAIL. They all broke the silence vow. However, each student did acquire useful knowledge about mindfulness, right? Even if they did break their vow of silence. Even in situations which seem like failures of goals that have been set, much can be learned. In clipped summation; what have they learned?

First student: Do for yourself.

Second student: Don’t judge.

Third student: Sarcasm and meanness are better left unsaid.

Fourth student: Be humble.

2 thoughts on “Mimes, Koans, Feet, and Dolls

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