Sunday, March 7, 2010

How I ended up at Lamayuru without even trying

When I was young I longed for the Himalaya, and read National Geographic after National Geographic, longing especially for landscapes like this. I had a catalogue and ordered the postcard below about 20 years ago, from Snow Lion Publications in Ithaca NY. It bumped around. I put it on the refrigerator for a year or two, then stuck it in my bedroom mirror for awhile, and finally put it into a photo album of photos of my children when they were young, hoping maybe that someday someone would understand, for whatever it was worth, what landscape I always longed for, and how I lived it out, that the Tibetan Plateau and all the areas surrounding it, were where I felt I belonged. I wasn't really sure where exactly this place was, never paid much attention to the fine print on the back of the card, but assumed it was in Tibet.

I have no idea why it is I've always longed for solitude in remote regions, I would certainly imagine though, based on what I've learned in this lifetime, that there's a reason for that longing, and that it need not be questioned. Why did I dream of monks in the Himalaya, and wish I could be a calm attendant on them, by lamplight, rather than dreaming of being, say, Jacqueline Kennedy or Meryl Streep or Madame Curie? I honestly don't know. N'importe.

And then last week, a few of my children found that photo album and produced this old postcard for me to see, the one that was stuck on the refrigerator years ago.

When I went to India, I decided to stay in Leh only and to be grateful for that, at my age and at that altitude. I wanted to go to Tibet, but Leh was close enough, within a hundred miles of places I had dreamed about, I figured. But by an effortless chain of events, I ended up traveling more extensively with my daughter and the NGO LEHO into more remote areas of Ladakh. I discovered recently that the postcard I bought twenty years ago, was a photo of Lamayuru Monastery, in Ladakh, India!. My daughter and I visited Lamayuru in June 08, (our driver made an unplanned detour) and witnessed the rare visit of a high-ranking monk, who arrived in a caravan of vehicles amidst all the ancient fanfare and horn-blowing of monks with precious ancient instruments, and the gathering of aged Tibetan refugees who had walked for miles and who sat curbside spinning prayer-wheels for hours....

So much happened when we were there, hours sacred and remote from earthly concerns....That day is a mystery unto itself. I could never explain it in a million years, and so it is. I was there. And not only that. It happened without me struggling for it. It happened because I just put myself in God's hand and went alone to India with no script. And then, blessing upon blessing, with my daughter, bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, by my side. Put the picture of what you want in front of your eyes, and it may come to you!

Enough mystery for many lifetimes.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

George Mallory's Body: Alabaster on Everest

Posted by Picasa

In May of 1999, when George Mallory's body was discovered frozen into Mt. Everest, the skin of his back gleaming in the sun like alabaster seventy some years after he died, I wrote a poem. I've lost the poem but I remember posting it at, where it was absorbed into the ethers.

I had been feverishly following the Mallory-Irvine Research Expedition online, buying my kids t-shirts in support of the search, and listening with them to the reports broadcast by Eric Simonson from Everest. Conrad Anker made the find, later describing it this way:

" I saw a patch of white, that was whiter than the rock that was around and also whiter and whiter than the snow that was there, and went there. And within a few minutes of being there realized that this wasn't a body from recent times; it was something that had been there for quite awhile..... He seemed to be at peace with himself. He had been there quite awhile, and there was something very, very subtle about his being there, not really scary and violent. "

The photographs of the body were beyond thrilling to me. There's no way to express the poignancy of the image. Mallory's arms reaching upwards, his bleached white body melded to the mountain forever, his earnestness so clear even in death, trailing bits and pieces of wool and cotton clothing still, even a clearly legible name-tag sewn lovingly into his shirt. The thought that his camera might be found, and a statement by the Kodak company that they very well might be able to develop the film, was truly provocative.

How does someone tackle the likes of Mt. Everest, the high odds of death, the altitude, the weather, the strain? What shadows and forces would drive a man from the safe haven of life in Cambridge to the highest and most difficult peak in the world? He and his friend Andrew Irvine succumbed while struggling together to this peak, casting logic aside, the bond between them unfathomable to those of us ordinary mortals who lust only for what's close at hand.

Mallory was famous for responding to a reporter who asked why he wanted to climb Everest: "Because it's there." Reporters continued to ask him variations of the question again and again. "It's of no use", he said. "If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life".

So to the nice woman who recently asked me what I would take along to India next week to occupy myself, and why in the world I would go to Leh ( a mere 11,000 feet) and the Tibetan plateau, I defer to Mallory, who found it hard to explain, but shut them up by saying "Because it's there."

-repeat from 6-08

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Dancing Cheek to Cheek

Is this not one of the loveliest things that ever happened on film?? Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Top Hat. If you're in a hurry, skip the first two minutes, that's the singing- the dancing starts at 2 1/2 minutes. If you watch to the very end, you'll be amazed at how relaxed they are as they lean against the balcony when they glide to a close.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Parting Words: Longfellow's Psalm of Life

In his dying days, my father quoted these lines to me from his hospital bed: the last three stanzas of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Psalm of Life"....good for all of us to consider (and to wonder "Where have all the poets gone?" - gone to flowers, every one).

He also recited Polonius's words to Hamlet: "To thine own self be true. And it shall follow as the night the day: thou canst not then be false to any man."

He, one of the all-time-great joke tellers, also, for balance, would have been glad to tell the story about the man with the ugliest pecker in the world. But I told him we have that on tape.

A Psalm of Life

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Breathing Right

Maybe a few times in our life, we breathe right. Some of us know from our experience of reading random magazines and informative literature, that there are some Tibetan monks and yogis who do it right all of the time. And we know, of course, from popular wisdom, that you can do some things right all of the time and you can do some things right some of the time, but you can't do all things right all of the time. But when it comes to breathing, which we do from birth til death, wouldn't you rather be in the minority of those who have "got it down"?

Every breath we take is precious. Sometimes we hyperventilate. Sometimes we get ourselves practically comatose. We need to. We're mostly young spirits, struggling along and alone with what the law allows and with what the doctor prescribes. We stare at ourselves in the mirror at the gym, hoping to see something worthwhile. Then later we primp in front of another mirror, to prepare a face to meet the faces we will meet. We forget that we are breathing, number one.

So here's to effort. Here's to concentration. Here's to self-awareness, and those who have it. It ain't me, babe.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Love Song of Alfreda Prufrock, tweaked for a woman's perspective, with apologies to T.S. Eliot

The Love Song of Alfreda Prufrock-

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the gentlemen come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the sweet men come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With my chin held high, color in my hair—
[They will say: “How that girl is growing thin!”]
My best black coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My neck scarf rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how her arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are muscled and tan and bare
[And in the lamplight, slung strong behind my chair!]
Is it remembering men getting dressed
That makes me so digress?
Arms that reach across the table, or help me wrap my shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the steam that rises from the pots
Of lonely women's soups, drifting fragrant out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by strong fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [a head grown old] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophetess—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am a goddess, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by his head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after our skirts that trailed along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am neither prophetess nor queen, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lady, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the queen; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the tops of my stockings rolled.

Shall I pull my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white linen pants, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the seagods singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen the sea-gods riding seaward on the waves
Stirring the white peaks of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-gods wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown

With my apologies to the purists - TC

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remembering 1918 influenza, and the 1976 swine flu shot, hoping for immunity

I have tried to explain to my kids that I am old enough to remember hearing stories from people who survived the 1918 pandemic influenza that killed FIFTY MILLION people worldwide. My mother's brother died as an infant then. My mother hadn't been born yet, but two older brothers had contracted the virus. Doctor Jacquish came and tended to the family through long winter's nights. He finally had to ask my grandmother to choose between two sons, the infant or the four-year old, because he had to work continuously to keep either child breathing, siphoning off fluids etc,...and couldn't tend to both. My brokenhearted grandmother had to make her choice, and she chose the four year old because, she said, she knew him better, and he knew life better. In her eyes, the baby would be welcomed back and restored to health by the angels he had so recently left. And so it was.

Noone knows what lies ahead. People don't want to hear, and can't believe, that such long winter's nights as my grandmother's could happen again, to them. I'm scared. I have listened for years to old scientists predicting with fearful confidence that another pandemic is coming. I hope this isn't it. But there's hope. I was vaccinated reluctantly in 1976 against a swine flu, along with about 25% of the U.S. population. That turned out to be a fiasco, which caused Guillaine- Barre syndrome in some people, against an outbreak that never materialized. My father, the doctor who gave the shot to my mother, my sister and me in our living room, always said those who developed that syndrome were hypochondriacs, though I swear I was never the same after that shot. But I've decided, using my ever-active-imagination, that maybe there's an upside.

Here's hoping that it's not illogical to think that that controversial immunization may have provided some protection to those who received it, and, through subsequent pregnancies and lactation, to children who are now young adults in the at-risk age group. Since I have five children in that demographic, I'm going with that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Measuring out Life With Coffee Spoons, at last

I do understand so well
Now that I've lived through many moons
What TS Eliot meant by
life measured out in coffee spoons.

Each morning when I stumble downstairs
And barely have strength to move
I know that the coffee will help
And I measure that stuff with love.

Some days the filter’s still full
With the grounds of the day before
So I grumble and moan and rinse
And fill the gruesome filter once more

I measure generously with a spoon
That I have had for thirty years
I know just how to fill it and hold a high hump
No other spoon soothes my fears

that I won't have strong coffee
That I’m really alive
That I’ve slept through another night -
And risen again to go out and work:
It generally works out right.

Usually I remember to clean out the filter
And dry it the day before.
And, as I’ve said,
Sometimes I forget.
I’ll do this forevermore.

But how many more times?
And how many more spoonfuls
Of coffee will I measure out?
How many more cans
of Folgers Columbian
will I slobber into my snout?

My coffee and me
We’ll never part
I’ll never subdue to tea.
I’ll measure and filter and whimper til death
Yeah, T.S. Eliot and me.

"Fifty Years Seems But A Day"

I just can't begin to imagine
how the folks in the world
got so young.
It was only a quarter to seven
when I myself turned twenty-one.

But that clock is in some clock heaven
a gold watch my father gave me -
It was, (Lord!) nineteen-sixty-seven
when he made me that great martini.

And then there's a blur
and a swishing of years
and I swear that it didn't take long
To watch the world age
and decay and implode,
dragging little young me along.

I remember my grandma said once in the sun
as she brushed hair long since gone gray:
"When I think of my youth and my mother and friends,
Fifty years seems but a day."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Equilibrium, Life is Good: To Hell with Murphy's Law

I'm not so sure that when all is said and done, I'd be proud to be the person who created Murphy's Law.I mean you would have to be young hot and glamorously cynical to come up with stuff like that. Sure, all that stuff is true some of the time: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." "Enough research will tend to support your theory". So who doesn't know that riff already? Who doesn't know that, sometimes at least, life seems that way? Only someone who hasn't been around the block much, or at least, read much research. But when you grow old, and your life is fading away - you were smart enough to have been cynical and flip at times- and, looking back, you know you could have have done better. So is something like "Murphy's Law" really the imprimatur you'd want to leave behind?

I'd much rather be the person who created a theory that gave people hope. Even old Mr. Murphy, on his deathbed, must have thought: "I was smart. I could have come up with something a little better, a little more helpful to all those who will come after me. I wish I would have used my wits, and become famous for saying something like "All sentient beings seek equiibrium." "True equilibrium is finally achieved only in death." Or better yet,"All things are possible if you will only believe."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Throat Singing Saturday Night

Well it's not exactly Jukebox Saturday Night, but here's what you can do, even ye of little faith: Listen to the Gyuoto Monks Tantric Choir, let's say "Tantric Chants for World Peace".....don't be scared of the word "tantric"- it's not all about exotic sexual positions that you're afraid you can't's nothing like that. It's just something you should listen to...and carry on...steer the ship, cook dinner, tend the baby, phone your mother....just carry on, and let the music insinuate itself into your innermost reaches. Don't worry. Don't even try. Just carry on. Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead made this recording possible, so let's be grateful to him.

This music is dying out. Very few people can do it. Try singing from a whole bunch of places in your throat, all at the same time. It takes training, it's beyond most people's imaginings. Some Tibetan chanting makes use of musical instruments such as the human skull of a past master. This is not whimsical stuff. It resonates in your flesh and bones. As you listen carefully, (and sometimes it's so discordant that it really hurts), lifetimes resolve, dissolve, revolve, evolve. Concentrate. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

A 30 second sample:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Patience With Others: Dalai Lama and Confucius

I love getting my weekly Dalai Lama quotes in the email, and I particularly love this quote about the impossibility of transference of inner development from one person to another. (If more people understood this, it would be easier for teachers and parents to accept each child's uniqueness.) But Chinese thought offers a gentle counterbalance in the I Ching, about how the force of a good strong personality can influence even the most stubborn people for the better: one of my favorite Hexagrams, 61, Inner Truth.

Dalai Lama Quote of the Week from Snow Lion Publications:

"...when you start practicing, you should not expect too much. We live in a time of computers and automation, so you may feel that inner development is also an automatic thing for which you press a button and everything changes. It is not so. Inner development is not easy and will take time. External progress, the latest space missions and so forth, have not reached their present level within a short period but over centuries, each generation making greater developments based on those of the previous generation. However, inner development is even more difficult since internal improvement cannot be transferred from generation to generation. Your past life's experience very much influences this life, and this life's experience becomes the basis for the next rebirth's development, but transference of inner development from one person to another is impossible. Thus, everything depends on yourself, and it will take time.

I have met Westerners who at the beginning were very enthusiastic about their practice, but after a few years have completely forgotten it, and there are no traces of what they had practiced at one time. This is because at the beginning they expected too much. Shantideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds emphasizes the importance of the practice of patience--tolerance. This tolerance is an attitude not only towards your enemy but also an attitude of sacrifice, of determination, so that you do not fall into the laziness of discouragement. You should practice patience, or tolerance, with great resolve. This is important."

--from Kindness, Clarity, and Insight 25th Anniversary Edition by The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, edited and translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, co-edited by Elizabeth Napper, published by Snow Lion Publications
Now for the gentle counterbalance from the I Ching, Hexagram 61, Inner Truth:

Chung Fu / Inner Truth

"The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they represent.

The attributes of the two trigrams are: above, gentleness, forbearance toward inferiors; below, joyousness in obeying superiors. Such conditions create the basis of a mutual confidence that makes achievements possible.

The character of fu ("truth") is actually the picture of a bird's foot over a fledgling. It suggests the idea of brooding. An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life is to be awakened. Far-reaching speculations can be linked with these ideas.
The Judgment

利 貞 利 涉 大 川 豚 魚 吉 中 孚


Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.

Pigs and fishes are the least intelligent of all animals and therefore the most difficult to influence. The force of inner truth must grow great indeed before its influence can extend to such creatures. In dealing with persons as intractable and as difficult to influence as a pig or a fish, the whole secret of success depends on finding the right way of approach. One must first rid oneself of all prejudice and, so to speak, let the psyche of the other person act on one without restraint. Then one will establish contact with him, understand and gain power over him. When a door has thus been opened, the force of one's personality will influence him. If in this way one finds no obstacles insurmountable, one can undertake even the most dangerous things, such as crossing the great water, and succeed.

But it is important to understand upon what the force inner truth depends. This force is not identical with simple intimacy or a secret bond. Close ties may exist also among thieves; it is true that such a bond acts as a force but, since it is not invincible, it does not bring good fortune. All association on the basis of common interests holds only up to a certain point. Where the community of interest ceases, the holding together ceases also, and the closest friendship often changes into hate. Only when the bond is based on what is right, on steadfastness, will it remain so firm that it triumphs over everything."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ted Turner Sings "Home on the Range" on Meet the Press

I will post Ted Turner's very sweet and unadorned rendition of "Home on the Range" as soon as it's on Youtube.

I love Ted Turner and would go so far as to say I understand him. But that's only thanks to Tom Brokaw's questioning of him tonight on Meet the Press, and casual but steady observations of him through the years. I haven't even read his latest book, "Call Me Ted", but I look forward to it. Maybe I've been bamboozled. I thought before tonight that the conventional wisdom was that he was a jerk. But there's just no way, not based on what I just saw on Meet the Press.

He's no Donald Trump. that's for sure. The Donald lays it all out on the table for show and razzle-dazzle, a really fun snake-oil salesman. Ted Turner is just Ted Turner, laying out only what he wants, and most gently at that. On tonight's show, Mr. Brokaw discussed the troubled relationship Mr Turner had with his father, who never thought his son Ted would amount to anything because he was studying Classics at Brown. Ted answered, barely changing his expression, honestly and forthrightly, that his father's disapproval and subsequent suicide eventually made him a better person. He learned to keep on going and to set his lifetime goals impossibly high so that he would never lose energy or motivation. The man has done so much, and given so generously, to make the world, the WORLD, mind you, a better place. He allowed himself to beam just a little with pride when he talked about giving the U.S. government a bailout when they were "coming up short".

His interesting comment in response to Brokaw's question asking if Putin has kind of "a KGB look" was basically "Hey, they have a KGB, we have an FBI, both respectable organizations." Who knew? But I'd wager Ted Turner knows more about that than I do.

Then Mr. Brokaw read a statement from Jane Fonda about how Ted can't "open himself" to religion or the Holy Spirit. Hogwash! No wonder they couldn't stay married! What could she, with all her ups and downs, insecurities and "right ideas", know for sure about the inner workings of someone so private, humble and steady? (I'm under a spell.)

"Ted Turner!? Humble!?", you say? I'd say yes. In response to Mr. Brokaw's question about whether he prayed, Mr. Turner replied that he prayed for his friends when they were ill, but that he tried to keep the prayers short so as not to clog the airwaves.

And then, at Tom Brokaw's request,and because they are apparently friends, Ted Turner closed by singing one verse a capella, without the chorus, of "Home on the Range." It was lovely.

Ineffable Experience at Lamayuru





Raum Feur
Posted by Picasa

Ineffable Experience at Lamayuru

My daughter Honna and I actually saw this happen in Lamayuru! We were there when the photos above were taken. It was not a large group of people, it was a more-or-less private celebration by the monks and local Buddhists to welcome a visitor, a monk supposedly very close in rank to the Dalai Lama. We stood with the group as banners waved and the monks' hauntingly beautiful instruments and horns resounded across the valleys. We watched the progression towards us of the monk, travelling in a caravan of white Jeep-type vehicles toward the monastery. We were not forewarned, and thought we were only visiting for a quick look at the monastery on our way to Domkhar to view the LEHO projects and the Women's Alliance Group. But our host surprised us by asking casually if we would be interested in taking a little detour and visiting Lamayuru. We had tea and soup at a cavernous cafe there at the monastery, and noticed monks tending to instruments and donning robes and headgear casually here and there, as if getting ready to go to a band practice. - (I think some of the cool looking guys in cargo pants and t-shirts who were working in the cafe morphed into the transcendent figures on the mountaintop, all the better)- We barely sensed the growing anticipation at the monastery, because the "vibe" was so cool, calm and collected.
Posted by Picasa

Travels on the Leh-Srinigar Road and Beyond

This is a post from July 08 which I have dug out because it's about my trip with my daughter through Jammu and Kashmir, specifically Ladakh. For some reason it was still in the "edit" column and I apparently never published it to the blog. But in light of recent horrors in Mumbai, which some analysts attribute to disputes over Kashmir, it seems timely to describe some of the beauties of the area which we experienced. If you scroll down to late July and early August (click on "older posts"), there are many photos of this trip, still not 100% organized, but enough to give you a feel for this magnificent part of the world.
Cannot believe the wonderful trip we took with Mr. Tashi from LEHO...the vehicle was small and the LEHO people, Dr. Mohammed Deen and Razia Sultana were so helpful in making the arrangements, which involved helping to transport LEHO-connected people from one town to another. They were all concerned if we would be uncomfortable. "Oh no it'll be fine" I said, little knowing what a full spectrum of comfort levels there are in this world, and in particular along the Leh-Kargil arduous but so incredible. The engineering feat of creating this wonderful road, with its stone walls, so much of it in excellent shape, is an endeavor most Americans couldn't imagine....the workers live in tents along the way, working for months at a time before taking breaks to go home to their villages.

Everywhere we went the hospitality was so generous, kind, gentle. My photos, if I ever get rested enough to upload them, will confirm the utter beauty of the homes and the hard work the people do with ease and love. We slept in a tent on the top of a Ladakhi roof in the village of Dumkbar. If we would have done any sleepwalking outside the tent we would have fallen off a ledge into oblivion. I usually go to the bathroom several times a night but this was definitely not an option...the toilet would have required a trip down stairs through the home where people were sleeping, and then outside along a narrow path through a garden.I t was what they call a dry toilet which is a hole in the ground. The toilet was not the problem, just the location of it, one misstep in the nighttime could have ended in disaster. At the home we were staying it was very clean, everything was clean and beautiful, shrines and holiness throughout.

The ride was so harrowing and backbreaking I can't believe the fascinating things that happened along the way and the people we met and all that we learned. I would do it all again tomorrow if I had a chance.

Unfortunately Honna's camera memory card of the trip got scratched and so much of it all is lost we think. It's a true heartbreak. But we have to accept it and move on. We still have enough to design the brochure that LEHO needs, since they acknowledge forthrightly their weakness is in written English documentation of their work. They do have a logo but I think it needs help. They appoint the head of their greenhouse projects in each village and then provide materials and training for start-up, but then back off, and let the villagers run it themselves, dropping in now and then to offer help without insulting the pride of the villagers. Everyone profits, and everyone must pay some money into their business, machine repairs etc. We also visited a self-starting children's school that runs for an hour each night, at 7:30 after work is done, just to learn one English word a day. I will look for flash cards with pictures on the baclk to send them. Also it amazes me that they apparently don't grow or know about kale, which loves the winter. so I'm going to send some seeds.... The winters are so hard and these LEHO projects are designed in conjunction with 4 other NGOS to help improve the villagers life.

We just happened to be present at Lamayuru monastery when a new Rimpoche arrived for a visit in a caravan of modern white jeeps.We saw them weaving back and forth across the mountains from a long way off. All the monks played their ancient instruments and wore the ancient ceremionial garb for the arrival, the most ancient Ladakhis and Tibetan refugees in traditional garb spun prayer wheels and sat along the road, waiting for him. I don't know how they have the strength to walk so far and up such hills. We also visited Alchi monastery, absolutely impossible to describe the ancient beauties, efforts, and mysteries there. These monasteries have as much and maybe more spiritual oomph than anywhere I've ever been. When you consider how remote they are, how difficult they are to reach even in 2008, you really do have to wonder how they could build gilded statues of Buddhas encrusted with semi-precious stones two stories high- a thousand years ago!

But most importantly perhaps, we saw the LEHO (NGO) works in progress, microhydroelectric power in action for grinding almonds, extracting the oil, and grinding barley. The community all benefits from each product through a cooperative unit, with the European Union at the top of the pyramid of engineers and donors. No USA support of LEHO to speak of yet, but we will research that and set up a fund for interested donors. Swedish and French very large donors of equipment including weaving looms, spinning and wool carding machines. I bought one shawl that will supposedly support a village for a long time, and empower women to have their own money. Many of the projects are arranged so that the women don't have to ask their husbands for money for household expenses, which is considered to be humiliating.

We were entertained in every household we visited- every greenhouse, every root cellar, every poultry farm, every apricot drying scheme, every garden, by kind gracious, gentle, laughing, happy people, offering us butter tea and regular tea and biscuits and very crunchy almond barley mix...We rode much of the journey with traditionally dressed Ladakhi women, sleeping on one another's shoulders etc as we bumped along.

I hadn't realized the importance of the slight change in altitude and keeping hydrated for the return to Leh, which is higher altitude. Last night I had my first episode of true frightening death-defying pain, getting an hourlong headache in which I thought my brain was exploding. Never in my life experienced such pain, it was beyond belief. Honna did her kind care and pranic healing, and just her kind hand on my brow and to be able to hold onto her arm was such a comfort. I couldn't get out of bed for another twelve hours as it subsided. I thought it was cerebral edema (for which I had brought an emergency supply of predisone but didn't use) but Honna softly and gently said not to worry, it was just lack of proper hydration on our journey. The Ladakhi women don't drink water on their journeys so I was trying to be one of them and not be so American with my water bottle, but I am what I am, and the water is so critical at have to drink it all day long from safe water bottles, everyone does, plastic which can be refilled at certain places, but plastic in general is frowned upon in this most ecologically aware part of the world...they put America to shame here in Ladakh, because their ecological schemes are so advanced and so gentle...

On the way back we were nearly out of gas and it was very dark on very windy roads along cliffs. We saw ancient remote statues - gilded and bejewelled- of various deities in the temples along the way. Even though it's only a few hundred kilometers to Dumkbar along the Srinigar-Leh road, it took about eight hours with all our stops along the way. It was a hard and exhausting journey but when we arrived, and sat on a dirt floor by candlelight with the beautiful men and women, looking at their cooperative efforts in handicraft, and drinking butter tea sitting by the looms and woolens and grains, helping to box them up to take to market the next day, it was an ineffably beautiful end to the day. In the car the next day the ever-jolly Ladakhi women took turns grabbing my thigh and shaking it and saying how strong I was and how young I look! I have a hard time accepting compliments, but it is amazing and shocking to get compliments from the people I admire most in the world for their strength and beauty. However life in the mountain villages is hard, and people whose age I estimate as 60 or 70 are actually only in their forties and fifties, but still beautiful beyond words....

I am beyond happy, beyond blessed,beyond wonder, so full of gratitude for this experience....Love to all...Please become aware of Ladakh. Honna and I will be trying to raise awareness in the USA when we return. As I've said, we are responsible now for making a brochure and other literature as part of our arrangement with the NGO LEHO to go to the outer villages and homes.ALthough Leh is a wonderful bustling tourist destination with its share of hustlers and vendors just like any other tourist town, Ladakh is an unspoiled, almost unspoilable region of the world. I haven't been able to upload photos, the time is too long, but no picture could ever capture the pure goodness and beauty of Ladakh.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wasting Some Time Staring at the Stars

I was supposed to be in bed already, work tomorrow and all that. But I grabbed a bag of granola and started staring out the windows looking at the stars, and wondering about the universe. WHAT IS IT THAT WE HOPE IS OUT THERE?

I imagined someone like me, light years away, starting to grow old, tired and feeling lazy, holding onto a granola cereal bag and staring at her sky, wondering what her children are doing and whatever happened to the men she loved in her life,,,,munching away and staring at some distant planet that might be earth, and imagining that maybe it's better here,and in her helpless kindness, wishing us well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

George Mallory's body: Alabaster on Everest

Posted by Picasa

In May of 1999, when George Mallory's body was discovered frozen into Mt. Everest, the skin of his back gleaming in the sun like alabaster seventy some years after he died, I wrote a poem. I've lost the poem but I remember posting it at, where it was absorbed into the ethers.

I had been feverishly following the Mallory-Irvine Research Expedition online, buying my kids t-shirts in support of the search, and listening with them to the reports broadcast by Eric Simonson from Everest. Conrad Anker made the find, later describing it this way:

" I saw a patch of white, that was whiter than the rock that was around and also whiter and whiter than the snow that was there, and went there. And within a few minutes of being there realized that this wasn't a body from recent times; it was something that had been there for quite awhile..... He seemed to be at peace with himself. He had been there quite awhile, and there was something very, very subtle about his being there, not really scary and violent. "

The photographs of the body were beyond thrilling to me. There's no way to express the poignancy of the image. Mallory's arms reaching upwards, his bleached white body melded to the mountain forever, his earnestness so clear even in death, trailing bits and pieces of wool and cotton clothing still, even a clearly legible name-tag sewn lovingly into his shirt. The thought that his camera might be found, and a statement by the Kodak company that they very well might be able to develop the film, was truly provocative.

How does someone tackle the likes of Mt. Everest, the high odds of death, the altitude, the weather, the strain? What shadows and forces would drive a man from the safe haven of life in Cambridge to the highest and most difficult peak in the world? He and his friend Andrew Irvine succumbed while struggling together to this peak, casting logic aside, the bond between them unfathomable to those of us ordinary mortals who lust only for what's close at hand.

Mallory was famous for responding to a reporter who asked why he wanted to climb Everest: "Because it's there." Reporters continued to ask him variations of the question again and again. "It's of no use", he said. "If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life".

So to the nice woman who recently asked me what I would take along to India next week to occupy myself, and why in the world I would go to Leh ( a mere 11,000 feet) and the Tibetan plateau, I defer to Mallory, who found it hard to explain, but shut them up by saying "Because it's there."

-repeat from 6-08

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh and By The Way, When I was in northern India, in the Himalayas, this past summer, they were praying for Obama

I can't believe I never told the stories in my blog about how the people I met in remote areas of India this summer were really attuned to the U.S. election. They hoped Obama would win. I was in the Himalayas, northern India, in Jammu and Kashmir, in a particular area where Muslims and Buddhists coexist peacefully. I had always wanted to go there, and I got there as if by magic. That story is well-documented in my earlier posts. I rode in cabs through desert terrains, and a driver would swing his head around to me and ask about Obama, and add hopefully, that he hoped Obama would win. This happened in some of the most remote places on earth.

Once in a jewelry store in Leh, Ladakh, India,near the border of Pakistan and China, I bought a ring, lapus lazuli, for a few dollars more than I should have, ten instead of five, rupees being my downfall. I joked with the store owner, I liked him: you charged me too much. He spoke a little English. He was kind, and funny, as kind and funny as any businessman can be. My daughter and I returned the next day, we struck a bargain, I exchanged one ring for another, he was very nice and very cool. We had a rapport. We laughed together. I told him he should come visit me in the U.S. sometime. He laughed a stoned, shoulder-shaking laugh and said "Are you kidding?! They would never let me into the U.S! I am a Muslim, I am Pakistani! With a name like mine, I could never get a visa into America.!"

And then he winked. Well, maybe someday. Maybe someday when America is ok again.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Casting a Spell on Halloween

Casting a Spell on Hallowe'een - again (from October 07)

One of my daughters called from far away and asked if I was ready for Halloween, She told me it was her favorite holiday when she was young because the house felt so magical. I live away from the hurly burly of town and don't have many trick-or-treaters anymore, but I know my precious 2-year-old granddaughter Maya will come by, and that is inspiration aplenty. I have always loved to cast a spell on this wonderful night. Or rather, I allow the night to cast a spell on me. It's easy! Here's how.

Put on a cape. Put a pumpkin on the porch and hang up a respectable looking litttle skelton (not a silly or scary looking one), to remind you of your mortality. Set out a bowl of apples from the farm market, a kind of apple you don't usually eat, a true tasting apple that tastes like it just came off the tree. No mass-market red delicious, try McIntosh or Winesap.

Make the house smell like it should. Get out the dark molasses and bake some gingerbread. Put some cider in a pot on the stove and add cinnamon sticks and cloves. If you have the spot, build a big fire in the fireplace. Have plenty of low light in every room of the house, but no overhead lights, just candles and lamps with soft bulbs. I have a wall sconce that holds half a dozen candles- perfect for this night.

Put on Van Morrison or Bob Dylan or whatever you love, full blast. Lay out some Hawthorne and Poe books. Hope to see a beautiful child at your door. Dance.

Remember that it is All Saints Eve, All Hallows Eve- a tradition regarded in one form or another across history and throughout many cultures, particularly those with Gaelic roots, as a time when the dead are near. With the changing seasons, the death of nature's summer vibrance, the harvest over, the falling of leaves and the natural melancholy of fall, there is a momentary crack in the veneer of life. Stay attuned to the restless spirits wandering free of the grave tonight. Welcome them in. Grant them peace. Hope for wind.

from October 07

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Encounter of the Primary Kind: Adventure for an Old Lady

Ok Ok, nothing to hide: I had a little fling over the weekend. A stranger passed through town and was spending some time in the same glam spot where I was having an after-dinner glass of wine. He was swarthy, a little younger, an adventurer like me....and, like me, wanted to have a nice time with no drama and no attachment, preferably no names. He may do this every night, me not so much, but it doesn't matter. This was a new kind of thrill for me, living in the sticks as I do. When we met, we spoke strictly in French, since he was from Montreal. I started with the intention of saying in French that I studied French intensively forty years ago, but it came out rusty and wrong: "I have been studying French intensively for forty years." He laughed and kidded me about that, and we were off and running....literally talking and laughing the night away.

I had said something like "Ah oui je parle bien le Francais, mais il y a quarante ans je l'ai etudier. Et apres avoir bu, je le parle beaucoup plus couramment"- He understood the last part, even though couramment is not quite the word I was looking for. It worked. There was a definite spark. That doesn't happen often in these parts!

It was fun. When he told me he had been to Nepal and Everest Base Camp, I was a goner. I did have to gag a little when he said he had been a diving instructor at Club Meds all around the Caribbean, from which I inferred, with my usual cynicism, that he had probably contracted various and sundry diseases d'amour (who doesn't fall in love with the Club Med French diving instructor?) and so I made a solemn pact with myself to not relent to his charms. He was charming, and completely reasonable. He doesn't seem to mind hefty old ladies, we are apparently kind of his niche, or one of them, and he knows how to be attentive, kind, also funny. He calls us by our French my case, Therese. He moves on leaving only a light footprint... So where's the harm? God bless him! Wish there were more of him!

My kids (a few of them were there) were great sports- slipping me a hotel room key and breath mints ostensibly because I had gone over my usual two glasses of wine and 9PM (self-imposed) curfew, and shouldn't be driving home, but winkingly allowing me to pretend for a moment that I might take this random encounter a few steps further. Well as I said, this guy is an apparent specialiste in old ladies, and knows enough not to press his luck. He was charming, lovely, at one point in the wee hours, outside, even grabbing me, laughing, into the dark and unoccupied parking lot booth as if we were teenagers..saying "Let's think about this for a little bit." That was a true highlight of my recent life!

I hesitated to sit on his lap for fear of squishing him, but he was game for anything, and so I did, strong passionate man that he was! We took a car tour of the town and got pulled over by a police officer around 3AM because I was trying to help him find his car...luckily we hadn't really been drinking for several hours.....and so escaped the hand of the sheriff....

So all in all, a really fun night for a woman of a certain age. I didn't ask for or even want to know his name. We've been around the block, loving life, no need for worrying. No need for that key, although he liked the idea. I just laughed myself all the way home. He even visited me at my house the next morning, no idea how he figured that one out, but he's smart, and he's a man, and a gentleman, and you know how that goes! In the course of that morning visit he actually demonstrated on my living room floor how to do the cha-cha, a dance that disturbs me (hearkening back to my dancing school days in junior high with red-faced boys in white gloves, which this man definitely was not!).

I feel good that I took the right road when the path diverged. Could have been my last chance - and it was a really great one! This is all I am going to tell- that's the truth the whole truth the only truth, so help further details will be forthcoming! Inquiries will receive no response. Toodle-oo!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What It's Like Having Adult ADD or ANY ADD (What Many Teachers Hate to Understand)

I have been very busy for the last week or so, up in my head. The world, the house, (the school) have been whizzing past my super-highway mind. It's as if I'm trapped in the back-seat of a speeding car, barely able to count the telephone poles along the way, let alone focus on scenery.

I ate and slept at fairly appropriate intervals. I watched the news. I went to work. Occasionally I would see a pile of stuff here and there. Some stuff in the sink, some mail or clothes in piles here and there. I might wonder vaguely about it and briefly check off that it wasn't always like that, in that place, just kind of interesting for a moment as I walked through the room. But I couldn't think of what it was or where it was supposed to go or who was going to change it. I didn't care and I didn't try to figure these things out, because I was way too busy up in my head. I was tired, having travelled over the weekend. I was worrying about other things, thinking about other places and times and various people, and always, very very busy, with miles to go before I slept.

I remember around Sunday I saw an unopened can of Spaghettios in the middle of the kitchen floor, which made me begin a whole stream of free-association, thinking eventually of how sweet my grand-daughter is, and how maybe she moved it there or how much she might like it, and I've liked looking at it there every once in awhile, and have walked past it dozens of times without ever registering any reason or need to pick it up and move it. I kicked it once in a fit of pique while looking for my spatula, it's still there on Wednesday. I've enjoyed it very much, it hasn't bothered me a bit. I live alone. No reason why it should bother anyone else, either. It's mine.

Getting out the door in the morning is hard sometimes. Spinning around in circles, upstairs, downstairs, looking for shoes, looking for pocket change for lunch, looking for eyeglasses, car keys, and noticing lots of fun things along the way. An old birthday card from one of my kids, on the back stairway, a bracelet I haven't seen in years in the drawer where I'm searching for socks, The Economist issue I thought the mailman stole, voila!, under the bed, a bill that needs to be paid, in the cushions of the couch, a long-lost eyeliner in the pocket of my sweater, and hallelujah! a twenty dollar bill, on the dining room table right in front of my eyes! OH and there's a can of peas on the kitchen counter! I love peas! I forgot about peas! I could have eaten those last night! Or put them in my omelette this morning. Shoot! Too late now.

Then, lo! the sky cleared for an hour or so this afternoon, molecules in my brain mysteriously aligned in a different way and I felt like a newborn babe seeing the world for the first time.

I realized that the house was a wreck and that it looked literally, like a hurricane had blown through. I thought Ha! I can change this very easily if I want to, and I don't need to, nobody's making me, but wouldn't it be nice?? I'll do a wash of this clothing pile...oh and look...there's more over there! Why don't I put all these shoes in one pile? What a great idea! What is that empty cabinet in the bathroom? So pretty! Oh...I remember now. It's for all the clean washcloths that are piled in the hallway. Look at all that stuff in the kitchen sink! It's dirty dishes?! Who knew?!?!?! Let's see how do people do this when it's such a mess? Where do people start? Turn the water on. Organize the dishes a little, pots with pans, glasses together, silverware all together. Ok, I get it, it's all coming back to me now. It's easy! What's this? God almighty, I nearly forgot that I have an automatic dishwasher! What a great invention!

I've always been like this. It's not senility, but it borders on it, even if you are five years old. The short-term memory is not working properly. When you're young it manifests and translates as multi-tasking. You just keep moving along, running into what you want as you move. I had five kids and kept everything bubbling along 24-7. It was wonderful, I loved every second of it, but it was a series of searches and discoveries, and a wild one. I would save little messes the kids made...toothpaste mixed with peanut butter in dollhouse dishes and stuffed into the mouth of a teddy bear, for instance, which I would save for hours, even days, because such things were so curious, fascinating and wonderful to me, to be cherished rather than wiped anxiously away.

I feel very proud of myself for restoring a tiny bit of sanity to my environment today, but it would probably take years to correct all the collateral damage of years and years of being so "busy". (If you were a young schoolchild, wouldn't it be great to have some help with all this stuff in the world?) People like us often enjoy our peace and quiet. We can come up with great ideas if we have the room to breathe. Minimal stimulation once in awhile, please, and don't chastize. You think I should know where my eyeglasses are, let alone the strap they hang around my neck on? Think again.

I benefit from a helping hand. Just a little, not too much, don't want to lose track of anything since my mind works differently from most people. I really do know the general location of the essentials, whether I saw them one minute or five years ago, or twenty. I don't need structure, structure, structure. Let me loose or I'll fly off like a goose. I need someone to realize that my wings are strong and my vision is good and my brain is ok. I like FORMATION. I like having a destination. I'll follow a leader. But I need my space. And I like it up here in the quiet sky.


It seems most teachers can't stand kids (or adults) like this. I am blessed to have children (and a few co-workers) who understand and occasionally help me (carefully), without me even realizing it's help, lest I bolt. Sometimes it's just a few days of major disorganization that get out of hand. Brain chemistry fluctuates, things can get really messed up, but then the sky clears.

If teachers could offer just a little gentle good-natured help for a student who can't find his homework in his bookbag, or even kindly organize his binder papers once in awhile without making him feel stupid, understanding what those papers may have been through at home,(ADD runs in families, who may all have trampled on that paper on the kitchen floor this morning without even realizing it, while looking for the Cheerios and its accoutrements) life could be better and a slew of ADD medications wouldn't be a teacher's only prayer and solace.

The meds can help, even transform, a student's life, and keep the teachers from tearing that student to shreds, but wouldn't it be nice if students weren't treated and prodded like cattle? And if we could help them fly in formation without bringing them down from their gentle winds?

Happy Birthday Dear Julina!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Barack Obama: Radiant, Crystalline, and, Don't Forget, Half-white, a member of the largest human race, the mixed race

I have always been puzzled about why Barack Obama doesn't admit that he's half- white. At the very least, he could remind folks once in awhile, a little more emphatically: Don't forget, I'm actually half white! He has beautiful color, is a beautiful man, and is proud, as he should be, of his black heritage and cultural exposure in all directions. But as the climate of racial hatred fueled by McCain's campaign grows, why not speak up as a member of the largest human race, the mixed race?

We know he's cool, and those of us who understand the coolness factor understand why he doesn't want and shouldn't need to explain himself over and over, but things are getting frightening out there. The wackos are oozing out of the ducts.

Barack Obama, soon to be our first "Black president"- was raised in a white world by loving white grandparents, who must have struggled originally with the consequences of their daughter's insatiable wanderlust. The black part- and the middle name Hussein part- were virtually negligible parts of the young Barack Obama. His father, from whom he got his color and his middle name, was not present in his life, didn't help raise him, was just a guy he met once or twice. His mother, the one who sought exotic couplings and affiliations, wasn't there a lot of the time, and died young.

Like any other young person in our increasingly diverse world, Barack Obama tried to piece together his identity as he grew into adulthood. His mother, more of an archetypal figure in his life than an actual fleshy protector and teacher, provided an impetus for him to think beyond the limited confines of his grandparent's nest. His father, mystery man from Africa, provided the impetus to search out, identify with, and contribute to the black community, which, stick a pin in a map, turned out to be Chicago.

So his mother and grandparents raised him as well as they could, from midwestern small-town boy to increasingly competent and thoughtful young man, through Punahou and Harvard and on into Abraham Lincoln's old stomping grounds, and now onto the world stage.

All of Barack Obama's transitions have been carefully documented, and make sense, and produced a radiant man with a crystalline mind and heart, who stunned many of his Harvard professors and classmates with his aura of potential greatness.

And still, gratis of the ugliness of the McCain-Palin campaign, people this week have called from angry crowds such things as "Kill him!".

There have been comparisons made of Obama to JFK, Lincoln, and even Christ. I pray that Barack Obama is able to serve America, develop his considerable gifts, and that, in the fullness of time, people who "called for his head" will grow to understand and appreciate that he has always had the country's best interests at heart, and may very well be the best of all worlds.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Physics for Poets, Basically: The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics

I think it's time for me to post (again) something I was fascinated by early on in my life, thanks to our physics teacher Dr. Althea Johnson at Ellis in Pittsburgh,something that I should have developed and stuck with, Physics, and in particular: The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, embedded in the I Ching ("Far-reaching speculations can be associated with these ideas") and other esoteric philosophies, eons ago. Even little Wikipedia says "These laws (sic) are often associated with concepts far beyond what is directly stated in the wording"

1. All molecular processes seek equilibrium.

2. Equilibrium is attained only in entropy (death).

But there are variations, and exceptions, and bifurcations to everything, even this rule, and fighters, amongst physicists, against that thermodynamic rule: there don't seem to be many steady states. SO just get ready for what lies ahead, keep your heart simple, uncomplicated, and open. Get ready to move, if necessary. Get ready to stand firm, if you must.


Just for fun and beauty: From the Wilhelm/Jung version of the I Ching:
61. Chung Fu / Inner Truth


The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they represent.

The attributes of the two trigrams are: above, gentleness, forbearance toward inferiors; below, joyousness in obeying superiors. Such conditions create the basis of a mutual confidence that makes achievements possible.

The character of fu ("truth") is actually the picture of a bird's foot over a fledgling. It suggests the idea of brooding. An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life is to be awakened. Far-reaching speculations can be linked with these ideas.

DON'T NEED NOTHIN'! How to Face the Future with Equilibruim

I don't want anything right now. Not a single thing. I'm in a state of equilibrium, and it's insatiably gratifying. I don't need money. I don't need gratification from the latest stock market figures, or the latest presidential polls, I don't need steak or veggies with cilantro and snazzy sauces. I don't need wine or vodka. I don't need chocolate or coffee with sugar, not even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, or a good book or a good TV show. I don't need antidepressants, and I doubt I even need Metamucil. Actually, I don't need a thing. Nope. I'm done for the day.

And at midnight or 4 AM, when I wake up frantically throttling my own throat in some dreamstate-self-strangulation, wishing I was deader than a doornail, as Grandma used to say, I hope I'll remember this wonderful moment of equilibrium, which lasted nearly five minutes, a blessed bit of eternity.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Tolerance For Insanity: Quetzalcoatl's Return in 2012, This Year's Election, and the Nobel Prize in Physics, all rolled into one blogpost

Listening to tonight's Presidential debate, I realized my mind was wandering- I do have a certain tolerance for insanity as well as for bores...sometimes I think I've pretty much heard and seen it all, but, despite my hopes that it's time to settle back to the simple life of pastels and lace and pleasurable memory lapses for which I cannot be held accountable, I know that can't possibly be true.

I have been reading and kind of struggling, nightly for a few weeks- (nightmares and weird associations gratis with the experience) - through Mr. Pinchbeck's "2012:The Return of Quetzalcoatl " He's taken all varieties of the Carlos Castenada drugs and experiences and consulted the priestesses and shamans and carefully steamed his reliability quotients up the wazoo. But the man has got a brain. A big unintegrated ridiculously thirsty ego most of the time, but hey, he is really trying to get it together, and if you were living the 60's to the hilt, you can follow him. Tedious, but you can follow him, and wish him well, even wish all of us here on earth well, by the end. He does inspire and speak sanely at times. There is not a single conspiracy theory or new-age strategy or idea that he doesn't more-or-less validate, from aliens to crop circles and beyond, so whatever you've been doing to keep your wildest thoughts and associations at bay, get ready, cause he'll hear you out. He's uneven. He jumps around, embarrassingly. You wonder what his latest therapist has prescribed to "talk him down." But you can, if you have a certain tolerant spirit, hear him out, and wonder what's coming.

Personally I'm already convinced that it all has to do with the Hadron Particle Collider, and that today's two Japanese and one American Nobel Prize winner of the Physics award for their work in the most puzzling and topsy turvy symmetries in the universe - particle physics at its most exciting- are in places where Mr. Pinchbeck is trying to go. I would secretly rather have been a particle physicist, spending a lifetime involved with the development of the Hadron Particle Collider, or just a fly on the wall of the men who won the Physics award today. Hindsight!

I have an inkling of the mysteries involved. The collider and the physics prizes interest me immensely, who wouldn't find it all fascinating? -(oddly the people where I work aren't as excited as I am to talk about it- ). So I will toss and turn myself to sleep with my boredom at the debate- and my inkling...tiny inkling....of universe upon universe, time upon time, unfathomable but utterly true underlying principles of physics, validated today by people in Stockholm with clearer minds and better credentials than me and poor Mr. Pinchbeck, who has done his best, and thrust himself into an Amazonian version of the Carlos Casteneda fray, and come back to tell the tale as best he could.

The Nobel prizes thrill me to the core, must have been my grandfather who got me excited about them decades ago- I love the Physics one but the Peace Prize is the golden ring- and this year in particular- is making the Chinese government very nervous in light of the potential win of the imprisoned dissident Hu Jia. On Friday I will wake up very early, as I did last year, and get online to watch the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize from Sweden. So thrilling to see the small crowd gather outside the beautiful and mysterious 18th century doors at The Swedish Academy in Stockholm's Old Town, to see an elegant man appear to meet the press.

That old Mr. Nobel, dynamite maker, really got some stuff going.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bob Dylan's Newest Album, Tell Tale Signs, Due out Next Week, Sneak Preview from NPR

This is an exclusive preview of Bob Dylan's new album, due out next week.

Thanks to Justin Wolfers of the New York Times column "Freakonomics" for bringing it to our attention.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Steve Fossett in Shambala: Fossett's Plane Wreckage Likely Found in California

In the last several days, personal items of Steve Fossett have been discovered near Mammoth Lakes Califormia, and this morning it appears the wreckage has been found,
so I re-post my blog entry from last Fall, in his memory:

One of the greatest adventurers of all time, a man who pushed himself to achieve physical feats that noone else on earth has ever achieved, has vanished from the face of the earth. He apparently removed his Breitling wristwatch with its Emergency Locator Transmitter, grabbed a bottle of water, jumped on a single-engine plane and disappeared.

Did he really crash into a remote Nevada cul-de-sac where even the best technology in the world can't find him? Or did this world class adventurer enter a place where he languishes in peace and from which he may still emerge? A man so interested in human limits as he was might not have ignored accounts of mystic transfigurations and superhuman accomplishments emanating from the Himalayas.He was a good-humored and down-to-earth businessman and family man, but certainly not a simple man. He could have read the most esoteric literature on earth for all we know. Few could know the heart or mind of a man like Steve Fossett. How many of us could inspire the likes of Richard Branson to engage with Google Earth to create a special set of all new high-resolution images so that computer-savvy people world-wide could conduct a search for his missing aircraft?

And yet, he's gone. Some conspiracy theorists say Fossett disappeared into Area 51 near Roswell. Some say maybe he had enough, was growing old, and went off to his own private island to live in obscurity with a newfound friend. Would a man of his caliber do that?

There are far more intriguing possibilities. For instance, ancient accounts tell of Shambala, a paradise that is not visible on this earth, to which entry is gained only by the achievement of certain levels of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines through yogic techniques. Why couldn't it be something like that? Mircea Eliade wrote about it. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, the objectivist philosopher, wrote of a utopian society created by brilliant industrialist drop-outs who used illusion and mirrors to hide access to their mountain kingdom. How about that?

Listen to Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And finally, remember the words of Christ: "In my father's house are many mansions. If it were not so I would have told you."

Let's hope that Mr. Fossett is somewhere in the universe reaching the new heights that he deserves to reach. I often take heart from this old Scottish proverb, and I hope Mr. Fossett would at least be able to say: "I am wounded but I am not slain. I shall lay me down and bleed awhile, then I shall rise and fight again."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thinking Lovingly of Harvest in the Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir

This design was on the main pillar in the main room of the home where we stayed in Dumkhar in Northern India this summer. When I asked about its meaning and snapped a photo of it (during an electrical blackout) I was told, to the best of my understanding, it brought blessings at harvest time. Now there's another idea for a tattoo.

Posted by Picasa

Neil Young Original "Harvest Moon"

My favorite song of all time: just enlarge it to full-screen size (by clicking the little square at the bottom, second from the right), turn it up, stand up from your computer and dance to it, wherever you are, nobody will mind. It's just a marvel, so beautiful, utter perfection. Try not to cry. I'm so glad I was alive, and young, when Neil Young was creating and feeling like this, and putting it out there for us to feel it with him. It's a better world, for having transcendent love songs, sung like this.

Other Worlds, Other Times, Other Places: Elton John's "Nikita"

Monday, September 29, 2008

Planning for One's Demise ...(a Little Bit ) Ahead of Time: Gladly Did I Live and Gladly Die

Basically I try to stay on top of things, just enough so that if they find me dead in the morning, they'll be more inspired than aggrieved. I mean, there's the poster of the Dalai Lama, and a very nice selection of books. Surely they will recall that I was funny and laughed a lot and went to church, sometimes slightly irreverently, and had joyfully accepted the fact that I would be gone someday. But did I improve the life of my fellow man? I hope so, at least now and then and here and there.

It could happen to any of us at a moment's notice or less, and if it did, what would matter? Your first inclination is to wonder if your affairs are in order. The truth is, they are often not in order, lawyers being how they are and all, not to mention expensive to consult. Because, what do you want? Well, of course you want your children to live happily ever after, that's a given, and oftentimes your spouse. My ex-spouse was cut short, and unable to make provisions for me or the children, but we've all carried on magnificently I'd say, despite it all. It's going to get harder though, to plan ahead, especially if we go into a depression.

So what do you want them to see after your carcass is carted away by the removal experts, who may have swiped loose change from the dresser, and knocked a picture or two crooked as they carry you down the steps in their black suits, joking under their breaths - undertakers being what they are and all- among the funniest of all people I've ever met, God knows? Do you want your loved ones to see what you were last involved in, the last book you were reading, carefully earmarked, or the letter you were writing? (Best hide the Metamucil each night, just to be sure, for aesthetic purposes) Or maybe the last cake you baked, your last pan of eggs, almost empty but not yet washed, and how good it was, fresh herbs all about? Chances are they'll be preoccupied with other things, and you won't be able to set the mood.

Or would you rather leave only the slightest trace? Some think of it that way. So many better and wiser people have gone before us. "Famous Last Words" and "Famous Epitaphs" are of interest to many people. Clark Gable's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" has been used. And W.C. Field's proposed "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia." Being somewhat old-fashioned and romantic at the core, I always favored "Beloved Mother"

But what do you want to leave behind? If you can't leave money, which you might not be able to, or real estate, which you might not be able to, given the economy? How about a little flower or some pretty thing upon your breast, if you felt it coming? A note? No, too complicated. A smile? Can't predict how that'll go.

Or how about this: let's not worry too much-just live to fight another day, show them how it goes. We all live by the grace of God. There's not too far to go. We're all in this universe together throughout eternity, what else is there? Energy's neither created nor destroyed, right? Have faith. Carry on. Love one another, as we've been told. And love God above all else. Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

"Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave, and let me lie.
Gladly did I live and gladly die,
For I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
'Here he lies where he longed to be.
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the Hunter home from the hill'."

-Robert Louis Stevenson

On A Brighter Note: Sam Cooke's "Don't Know Much About History"

Might as well be dumb and enjoy it, right? that Russia I see from my kitchen window? Come here, my little hot Toddy. We're gonna look good in that White House during the Depression...

Or better yet, be smart, innocent, pretty, young and Amish and dancing with Harrison Ford in a barn ...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Heavenly Birthday at age 62!

What a day! I woke up loaded for bear about politics and obsessively followed the process on TV throughout the day, something I actually love to do (get obsessed about news, even though I really don't understand most of it at all). I had been saying for weeks that I didn't want a birthday with presents or any fuss made. At my age a birthday card is very much appreciated, and really is enough...

So I went off to perform ushering duties at my dear little St Peter's church in Cape May Point, last Sunday of the season. Those duties include the old-fashioned ringing of a bell in a steeple by pulling on a rope. The usher's duties include ringing the bell for a glorious full minute at 10:30, presumably to wake folks up or alert them to imminent services. At 10:50 or so, the choir assembles on the porch in preparation for a simple procession as the organist ceases to play at exactly 11. At exactly 11, the usher rings the bell three times only to begin the procession.

To my delight, my 3 year old grand-daughter and my daughter showed up for the 11 o'clock service, Maya bringing me a tiny birthday pumpkin right up the steps of the church. I had little Maya's earnest help as I pulled the bell-rope, something I feel certain will stick in her memory forever, bonding her to this special little church. Not only that, but she stood holding my hand as I read the announcements after the exchange of the peace, and she helped me, barefoot and with perfect reverence, deliver the offering to the priest during the Doxology. What a day! Later Maya showed me a buttercup and put it under her chin so I could see that her under-chin glowed yellow - meaning, as her great-great-great grandmother taught, down through the generations, that Maya likes butter. But that wasn't the end of it!

In addition to all this I had the very sweetest cards/texts/conversations possible with a daughter in Texas and a daughter in New York. I heard from some relatives and old friends. Then I had a fabulous loving dinner, hosted by my son and his partner, cooked by my son in honor of the ancestors, my father and grandfather's favorite dinner: Swiss Steak and mashed potatoes, with two daughters, their husbands,my grand-daughter and another couple. Maya brought a balloon and gave me one of her baby dolls for a present. There were wonderful birthday cards and fun gifts.One daughter brought my favorite cheese, Prima Donna Red, and in additon to the sublime red wine served, it was heavenly. But that wasn't all!

One of the dinner guests was a Belgian pianist from New York, former Yale professor, Mikail, who good-naturedly played silly tunes we requested while we all sang along- church hymns, showtunes, torch songs etc., so wonderful to sing at the top of our lungs - my son and daughters and sons-in-law.... Mikhail allowed Maya to sit on his lap and accompany him as he held her hands under his without missing a beat. Then, responding humbly to our insistence that he play "something classical", he blew us as all away, humbling us in turn, with beautiful Schubert pieces that brought tears to our eyes....

Happy Birthday to all, with love and appreciation, and Good Night. How lucky I am to live to the ripe old age of 62. "After this", as my father always said, "everything's gravy."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Renzo Piano's California Academy of Sciences as described by Nicoli Ouroussoff in The New York Times

Why are architecture and art reviews so often the most brilliant and world-comprehensive writing? Maybe it's because some artists and architects have a vision that transcends humanity, civilization, and time as we know it, and some writers undertand that from the bottom of their hearts, and are stirred to describe that vision. This article by Nicolai Ourossoff, from yesterday's New York Times,can just thrill your soul. Our travel this year needn't be cost prohibitive. Let's just go see Renzo Piano's new Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park! I want to share in evolution, and in a world-view that doesn't place humans automatically at the top of the heap, but considers them part of a much larger organism.

"Architecture Review
A Building That Blooms and Grows, Balancing Nature and Civilization

The new California Academy of Sciences is capped by two spheres covered with plants. By NICOLAI OUROUSSOFF
Published: September 23, 2008 New York Times
SAN FRANCISCO — Not all architects embrace the idea of evolution. Some, fixated on the 20th-century notion of the avant-garde, view their work as a divine revelation, as if history began with them. Others pine for the Middle Ages.
But if you want reaffirmation that human history is an upward spiral rather than a descent into darkness, head to the new California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, which opens on Saturday. Designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano on the site of the academy’s demolished home, the building has a steel frame that rests amid the verdant flora like a delicate piece of fine embroidery. Capped by a stupendous floating green roof of undulating mounds of plants, it embodies the academy’s philosophy that humanity is only one part of an endlessly complex universal system.

This building’s greatness as architecture, however, is rooted in a cultural history that stretches back through Modernism to Classical Greece. It is a comforting reminder of the civilizing function of great art in a barbaric age.

The academy building is the last in a series of ambitious projects to be conceived in and around the park’s Music Concourse since the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Herzog & de Meuron’s mesmerizing de Young Museum, enclosed in perforated copper, opened three years ago. Scaffolding is to come down at the concourse’s neo-Classical band shell this week after a loving restoration.

Glimpsed through the concourse’s grove of sycamores, the science academy gives the impression of weightlessness. A row of steel columns soaring 36 feet high along the facade lends the building a classical air; the sense of lightness is accentuated by a wafer-thin canopy above that creates the illusion that the roof is only millimeters thick. It’s as if a section of the park carpeted in native wildflowers and beach strawberries had been lifted off the ground and suspended in midair.

The idea is to create a balance between public and private, inside and out, the Cartesian order of the mind and the unruly world of nature.

A glass lobby allows you to gaze straight through the building to the park on the other side. Other views open into exhibition spaces with their own microclimates. The entire building serves as a sort of specimen case, a framework for pondering the natural world while straining to disturb it as little as possible.

Mr. Piano’s building is also a blazingly uncynical embrace of the Enlightenment values of truth and reason. Its Classical symmetry — the axial geometry, the columns framing a central entry — taps into a lineage that runs back to Mies van der Rohe’s 1968 Neue Nationalgalerie and Schinkel’s 1828 Altes Museum in Berlin and even further, to the Parthenon.

Just as Mies’s glass-and-steel museum reworked Classical precedents, Mr. Piano’s design invokes Mies’s model, though with a sensitivity that makes the muscularity of the 1968 museum look old-fashioned. The roof of the academy’s lobby, supported by a gossamerlike web of cables, swells upward as if the entire room were breathing. Views open up to the landscape on all four sides, momentarily situating you both within the building and in the bigger world outside. A narrow row of clerestory windows lines the top of the lobby. One of the building’s many environmental features, these windows let warm air escape and create a gentle breeze that reinforces the connection to the natural setting.

From here you can proceed into the exhibition halls, delving deeper into the universe’s secrets. Two enormous 90-foot-tall spheres — one housing a planetarium, the other a rain forest — beckon from either side of the lobby. They are the most solid forms in the building, yet seem to hover in the space. The base of the planetarium sphere floats in a pool; a broad ramp snakes around the rain-forest sphere. Enveloped in gnarled branches, the ramp seems to have been swallowed up by the jungle landscape over millenniums.

Once you reach this point, the genius of the green roof’s design becomes apparent. The mounds of earth visible on the exterior turn out to be hollow: their forms, punctured by round skylights, bulge upward to make room for the giant spheres underneath. It’s as if a lush protective rug has been gently draped over the entire building.

Additional exhibition spaces just beyond the spheres were designed with movable partitions that give them a temporary feel. Large windows open onto more park views.

The museum has also preserved its African Hall, with its gorgeous vaulted ceiling and dioramas of somnolent lions and grazing antelopes, integrating it into the new design. Built in the 1930s, this neo-Classical hall is a specimen of sorts. Its massive stone structure reflects colonial attitudes about the civilized world as a barrier against barbarism. It was intended as a symbol of Western superiority and a triumph over nature.

By contrast, Mr. Piano’s vision avoids arrogance. The ethereality of the academy’s structure suggests a form of reparations for the great harm humans have done to the natural world. It is best to tread lightly in moving forward, he seems to say. This is not a way of avoiding hard truths; he means to shake us out of our indolence. "

Beautiful! And a nice distraction from the news. While the foolish Ahmadinejad is being jeered for saying that the American Empire is coming to an end(yesterday at The General Assembly I believe)- I'm wondering about that old saw "from the mouths of babes (fools)....That may be because I am reading a book (2012) that is utterly crazy but sane and fascinating in bits and pieces has stirred me at times, against my will...and often because of its stance that beings and ancestors throughout the natural universe are speaking to us and will gain our attention very soon....this new building seems to allow for that, or at least to call our attention gently and kindly to human delusions of grandeur, here in a very large and very old universe.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hadron Collider on Hold- til 2012 and Quetzalcoatl's Arrival?

Of course the Hadron Collider is on hold following a little transformer break-down! Of course it is! This won't be the last time either. Acording to the book I'm reading, "2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl" by somebody Pinchbeck...- the world as we know it will end in 2012 and we will be transported, apparently, to some other sphere of existence. Ok, ok, I'm not all the way through the book, and don't know what he's talking about, but if things are going to change drastically, and we are going to travel forth with all the mushroom spores through eternity....maybe it'll happen in another few years (i.e.,2012) when they finally iron out the kinks in the Hadron collider and spin us all off into the far-out Mayan heavens. I'm game. But will Georgie Porgy and Sarah Palin have to go too?

Bush looking frightened? Tired? Sick?

Georgie Porgie didn't look like himself at this morning's new conference. When I first saw him talking (suspiciously patronizing)to the President of Columbia, I thought "What's wrong? He looks scared. Or on cold medicines or steroids gone amuck. Something's not right. Does he know something we don't know? Has he received a death threat?

Just now we've learned that the Marriott in Islamabad has been bombed to smithereens, with many casualties. Is something up? Is there more going on? Why am I on edge?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Moving back to Pittsburgh at age 62?!

I am excited this week at the prospect of moving back to Pittsburgh, my hometown. It was a sudden decision and it's not definite yet. My kids are grown and all are nearby, so in that respect I'm blessed beyond words. But the they times are a' changing.

It's too expensive and hard to be 62, single, and to maintain a big old farmhouse in a resort town just so I can have two or three big family dinners every winter. The market is a mess and I'm losing out there, but gas prices and my real estate taxes went up last year. Running my car is too expensive, even with the recent drop in prices.

One of my daughters, the only one with a child, my dear grand-daughter, blithley mentioned that they are thinking of moving back to Santa Cruz where people are more sympatico to youthful ideas, and I don't blame them. Another daughter mentioned that she'd like to give Western Pennsylvania a try. Another daughter is beginning a job in New York, my son travels all the time. My daughter and son-in-law who live around the corner, and who plan to stay in this area, are more than enough reason to make me stay here, but I end up having to call my daughter and son-in-law every time there's a storm or a bat or a snake in the house, and depend on them to cut my grass without adequate compensation....there's a lot of it....and they're going to get sick of me after awhile! My Monday night ladies group- "Boggle"- is so dear to me- we are all of similar mindbents and are really good friends- but really- the whole area is cost-prohibitive and I need to go back to my roots, to the dear hearts and gentle people who live and love in my hometown.

I can come visit Cape May. I have options. Trains are easy. The thought of living in a large (2000 sq, feet) affordable condo in Fox Chapel, with a beautiful lobby and a lovely location on the road where I grew up is so comforting a thought! I could collect a small pension and even social security and find a little job in the community where I grew up. Here in Cape May I have held jobs where English is helpful but not required, (working in a gift shop at the ferry turned out not to be as romantic as I thought it would be)....I have worked at a vegetable stand with an 83 year old woman I loved like a grama, watching the vegetables roll in through the seasons, and listening to her stories...I have spent a dozen years in the school system as a social worker...trying to do good in people's lives, but meeting with resentment every step of the way if I used a vocabulary word more than five letters long. I have dumbed myself down, like America itself, trying to use that common touch I inherited from my parents and grandparents who simultaneously transcended it in their private lives. But I am getting dumbed down so far that my mind is numb. I imagine how much fun it would be to work in a private school like my alma mater, Ellis School in Pittsburgh. How lovely it would be to daily encounter well-educated, confident, successful people. My peeps. My family, my Boggle group, some of my co-workers, my church and my friends in the community are the most important people in my life now, and I would miss them all horribly. But I need to be able to afford to live! I would miss the quirky town people I wave to here and there.... the guy at the hardware, the hot-dog vendor...but we don't even know each other's names really, they could get by without me I guess.

People move. Older people move to condos, always have. There's nothing wrong with that. There's just no condo in a beach community that is affordable and spacious. I'm used to space, lots of it. I'm used to my grand-daughter being nearby, and she recently started dancing school, and I will want to see the recital. So, like grandmothers throughout time, I'll travel to see it! And what do I do anyway? I read,I take walks, I sit at the computer, I text message my kids and they text me, and that keeps me pretty happy. I eat, I sleep. SO what difference does it make? I could probably live in a yurt in Finland. My kids are internationally-oriented, they travel all the time. They need to get on with their lives. I need to sell the house, pay off my mortgage, all my kids' college loans, live without a mortgage, and have a job I enjoy. Not that there's anything wrong with that!