Archive for category: Mindfulness

Lima: Tears of Joy & Sorrow!

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Gourmet, Mindfulness, Oncology, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

This emotional roller coaster, these tears of joy and sorrow, this laughter, all within 48 hours, this is NOT JET LAG. It is the joyous proximity to celebration of a new life, juxtaposed with the sudden confrontation of the possible death of a friend, both of whom we have specifically come to South America to visit.

But here and now, the poignant celebration of a new life. We touched down in Lima at midnight on Sunday, exactly one year to the day later than we were expected. After the usual scurry of pre-departure preparations for a six-week absence in So America and Cuba, we arrived in Lima after 22 hours in transit, and exactly one year after we expected to arrive. The surprise sight of Prudencio waiting for us with his bride Margarita and their baby daughter, Tania Harriet, my Aymara Indian baby namesake, awaiting arriving international passages straining at the rails, simply and totally dissolved me.

Loving Newlywed Parents

Loving Newlywed Parents

I had not seen Prudencio for ten years, not since I was the one at LAX awaiting at the rails for him among arriving international passengers after he’d returned to us from his visit home to his family in Chicuito,, his Aymara pueblo on the banks of Lake Titicaca, in Peru. But in 2004 Prudencio, even with the ten year visa we’d helped arrange for him to visit us, was quite harshly denied re-entry by US border officials.

That was one of the penetrating traumas that preceded my diagnosis of breast cancer, and that introduced me to the visceral experience of powerless disenfranchisement that the majority of third world people experience daily. As I waited eagerly for Prudencio to emerge from customs, the hours dragged on with no word. US Border Officials refused to reveal anything about Prudencio whom they had detained in a darkened room behind closed doors, while, I later learned, they threatened him and his whole Peruvian family if he did not confess to whatever trumped up charges they accused him of, before loading him on a return flight to Peru.
In the intervening years we tried several times to clear this up, to no avail. So this is the first time we have seen each other in ten years, and why, upon seeing him waving and smiling as we emerged from customs after midnight, I dissolved in tears of joy and relief.

Since then we have spent nearly every waking hour together while we are in Peru. They show up at our hotel mornings after what turns out to be typically long bus rides across several zones of the city of Lima on the Metro with Baby Tania Harriet. We spread out over the two queen beds and on the floor of our large hotel room for hours, sharing photos, catching up, exchanging presents, and reading aloud in Spanish from one of the dozen or so classic children’s books I have brought my namesake, year-old Tania Harriet, long before she will be interested in reading!.

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Listening to Ariel's iPad Reading of "Ferdinand"

Listening to Ariel’s iPad Reading of “Ferdinand”

Margarita crotchets booties for Daughter Ariel and her partner Kate’s baby boy due in June. Ariel has recorded a dramatic video reading on my iPad of “Ferdinand” in her fluent Spanish; Prudencio read us my favorite story of “Frederick”, and we stumbled and laughed through pidgin Spanish escapades of “Curious George on His Bicycle”. We visited museums together and their immaculate modest house outside the city, appreciating anew the struggles he faces supporting his family with his work in housekeeping at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

P1020506The last day we played in our shallow hotel swimming pool, introducing Prudencio, Margarita and the baby to their first time ever dog paddling and “swimming” before taking them out for a celebratory final dinner at “Rosa Nautical”, a fancy and delicious seafood restaurant on Lima’s Pacific shore.

All in all, a delicious and wonderful visit before we set out on the rest of our long awaited return to Latin America,, and next, our also long-awaited reunion with travel buddy and English Expat friend, Kevin Poulter in Santiago.

How To Find Solace In the City

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Relationships, Self-Improvement - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It is so easy to get caught and stressed, and yet so precious to be able to find opportunities for calming the mind, breathing and smiling, and centering.  For example, Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times about “The Busy Trap” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap)  and how we too often overload our schedules and run around lamenting how over busy we are, just to avoid the fear of space, quiet, down time–the true ingredients of creativity. “More, more, and more” has long been the American way of life (or, should I say the American way of death…?) but there are (dare I say?) more and more of us pursuing a quieter, calmer path.  As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh so sapiently offers:

DONT DO SOMETHING….  JUST SIT THERE…..

          Cultured Asians have long understood the value of solace and respite, and to that end, have created sublime gardens to foster peace, calm and tranquility.  This fall, while traveling on the book tour, we have savored three such beautiful gardens:  the Chinese and especially the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California–(about a block from where both Jim and I grew up), and the Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon.

In each, we found peace and quiet and such a clear privileging of aesthetics and beauty over any other value.  Time spent in an urban garden as even a brief respite from the busy-ness of urban life can be as refuelling as a day in the wild.  

 This lovely scene is from the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA  Japanese Garden – The Huntington Library www.huntington.org › Gardens

The Chinese gardens in Portland provided welcome respite from a busy schedule on the book tour in the Northwest–In Portland, we did a “meet the author” at Annie’s Bloom’s Books.  Annie Bloom’s Books | Your neighborhood independent bookstore. www.annieblooms.com/.   We stayed at the beautiful Portland hillside home of Lilio Aragonez, one of my favorite colleagues from teaching days at Beverly Hills High School a few decades ago!  We adventured around the city with Maina Ptolomy, one of my high school buddies from San Marino.  So book touring was always an adventure combined with kicks and old home week.

Taking only a whole city block, these gardens invite us to step into the home of a Chinese scholar and calligrapher, pausing by contemplative ponds and bridges.Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures—a powerfully inspiring experience that takes one through time, offering a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking.

Lan Su Chinese Garden   www.lansugarden.org/

Entry mosaic invites the eye to contemplate patterns and rhythms while walking in meditation

A seasonal array of Chrysanthemums reminds one of the falling leaves, the coming of winter and consciousness of time passing…

Entering the welcoming courtyard,  looking through the keyhole gate, we are invited to look inward, to leave the city’s hustle and bustle behind and to enjoy time for contemplation, for focusing on aesthetic beauty and on both timelessness and time passing.  As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “I have arrived, I am home”  and “No Coming, No Going…..”

Each vista is calming, centering, lovely…

Don’t Lose Your Cool in the Warmth of the Holiday Season!

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Mindfulness, Parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Spiritual - Tags:

        Tis the season to be jolly, right?  Sometimes, doing our best at this time of year to be kind, and generous and thoughtful, remembering our friends, our family, our neighbors, wanting to reciprocate that random act of kindness that went unacknowledged, sometimes we just discover ourselves running out of gas, spread too thin, uber stressed.

I remember the coup de grace of this pattern, a time, way back when, when I was a single mom, a full time graduate student, and trying my best to do it all and to make the holidays wonderful for my two children, Gabriel and Ariel, then probably seven and five years old.  My kind mother, a creative grandma sewed an advent calendars for each of  them.  the calendars each had twenty-four little pockets with each day numbered from December 1 to 24, and each pocket was to hold a small surprise to be opened every day until Christmas.  So, writing papers and meeting deadlines for grad school, I also did my best to find forty-eight wonderful tiny surprises, and wrap each in tissue paper to fill their calendars.  Of course in addition, there were gifts to buy for the whole family and many friends, stockings to fill, holiday cards to create, write and address, lights to hang and a tree to decorate.

Gabriel and Ariel delighted in helping glue family photos on the cards, baking cookies and decorate the tree, hanging ornaments as high as they could reach, but we had a high ceilinged living room and a very tall tree, so they could only do so much.  At night, after they were tucked into their beds and sleeping, I got a tall ladder out of the garage, set it up, and began working my way up the tree with ornaments (many of course hand-made to make them more meaningful–Martha Stewart, are you hearing me?).  As I reached the top of the tree and the top of the ladder, to put the star on top of the tree, I teetered, lost my balance and fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, alone, sobbing, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted.

Big life lesson!  Can you relate?  Anyway now, our extended family,  Jewish, Buddhist and Christian, celebrates the holidays very differently.  We rotate holidays, taking turns to host and decorate a tree.  For gifts, except for little children, we have a drawing, each of us drawing the name of another family member.  We have each submitted the name and contact information for our favorite charity (If you are feeling generous, mine, which I founded locally, is Bread for the Journey, a non-profit that raises money to bestow micro-grants to seed creative projects to serve the underserved in our county: www.bfjsantacruz.org).  We give one  generous donation to support the charity of the family member we’ve drawn.  So conscious, so simple, so nourishing!  So respectful of our intention to consume less, be lighter on the planet, and to celebrate the season with unfettered love and generosity.

So, my gift to you, this holiday season, Dear Reader Friends, is the gift of Stepping Into Freedom!  Stay cool, keep it mindfully simple  and be warm!

 

 

Hecate’s Feast: Celebrating Dark Time in Deadwood

Categories: Adventure, Conscious Living, Dining, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Self-Improvement, Spiritual - Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Skeletal Wine~But Look at the Price tag: $98! Fit for the Feast of Hekate

Jim and I had an amazing experience on Sunday night, visiting a friend in Deadwood Oregon, a tiny bohemian enclave off the grid in central Oregon.  We happened to be near Deadwood for the Feast of Hecate, as we are here on the last major chapter of our book tour, which is taking us from Eugene, to Portland, to Seattle, to Port Townsend and then back through Tacoma, where we will celebrate the close of the tour with Thanksgiving at the home of our daughter Brooke and her family.

Yardenna, Our Queen of Deadwood

 

Our longtime friend and former mediation partner, Yardenna, invited us to overnight at her home in Deadwood.  She told us that Deadwood residents would be gathering at the home of Mark McNutt, internationally recognized astrologist and his wife, Mary, an Anusara yoga teacher.  Their strawbale home is totally off the grid and built entirely by their own hand, an experience to visit in its own right.

Hecate’s feast was celebrated by candlelight with quite delicious offerings of black beans, peruvian potatoes, kale, dark pasta sauce with lots of black olives, forbidden rice, some amazing beets, etc brought by guests from the neighborhood and beyond.  After the feast, carrying some of the food, Mark and Mary led us with hypnotic drumming on a ritual walk by candlelight in the gently falling rain to Hecate’s altar on the bank of Deadwood Creek.  There we gathered for singing and silent intentional reflections about what we would like to lay to rest and what we would like to nourish through the dark time of winter.
Then, after being offered six pomegranate seeds, symbolic of the six seeds Persephone ate which consigned her to spend the six dark months of the year with Hades, some of us followed the sounds of splashing and thrashing to a bend in the creek where 20-30 pound salmon were returning to their birthplace to spawn.  The exhausted fish, weary from crossing the Pacific ocean and returning to their home creek, were digging holes in the rocky creek bed with their tails, before laying eggs, then the males fertilize them–and up the creek they journey, spawning until battered by the rocks they have beaten their bodies against, utterly depleted and exhausted, they die and the winter brings a gestation time for their fertilized eggs to hatch in spring.  What a powerful experience of celebrating rather than resisting the onset of the dark time!

Right Action: Save Unspoiled Land!

Categories: Conscious Living, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s Hear It For the Santa Cruz County Land Trust! (http://www.landtrustsantacruz.org)   Really performing “Right Actions” here in our county, saving thousands of acres of land from development.  Here are some photos of a sneak peek I was privileged to enjoy visiting our newest acquisition, pristine 1,200 acre Star Creek Ranch in the heart of the Pajaro Hills near Watsonville.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Board of the Santa Cruz County Land Trust and my friend and neighbor Cindy Rubin, former President of the Land Trust, invited us to join Stephen Slade, Deputy Director and Lisa Larson, Finance and Administrative Director, on a picnic and Four Wheel Drive tour of the ranch.  We agreed in a nanosecond, and I wanted to share the inspiring and heads up story of what the Land Trust is doing in our county, in hopes that any of you in other counties will take action in your own back yards.  It seems to me, there is no greater legacy we can leave the next generations than open and wild spaces.  They create a habitat for animals and a breathing space for humans seeking regeneration and respite from the congestion of modern cities.

At its core, Santa Cruz County Land Trust is pioneering forward thinking conservation planning non profit.  SCCLT has developed a “master plan” or Conservation Blueprint identifying those places in our county where conservation could deliver the most benefits for the least dollars. They were, essentially, looking for places that had it all. The Pajaro Hills fit the bill and Star Creek Ranch is at the heart of those hills: the single property that links other large properties and is, therefore, the place to begin the protection of a whole new region.Star Creek is such an exciting acquisition. Wildlife habitat, check. Fish habitat, check. Water quality, check. Recreational opportunities, check. Biodiversity, check. Connections to other large habitats, check. Potential revenue to fund stewardship,

You can follow the 2.5 miles of Pescadero Creek as we did, bumping along in Steve’s 4WD SUVor look down on the canyon it forms from the hills above and you can’t help but see the appeal of this property for a wide variety of wildlife. Deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, mountain lions, hawks, eagles, steelhead, and even threatened species like the Southwestern pond turtle have all been seen on the ranch. The endangered California Red-legged frog is there, too – and we can enhance their environment once we own the property.

As exciting as what is on the land is what can pass through it. The Conservation Blueprint identified the Pajaro Hills as a critical link between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Gabilan Range to the south. Linking such large habitats is a high priority for the long-term health of such wide-ranging species as the Mountain lion and badger.

Pescadero Creek drains a watershed as big as the Aptos Creek watershed. It runs year-round and already serves as a critical steelhead spawning and rearing habitat. We anticipate that restoration and stewardship work will increase the steelhead population. The creek flows into the Pajaro River and the property has numerous streams and springs – all of which contribute to the flow of quality water into the Pajaro Valley and its overdrafted aquifer.

Star Creek Ranch has 24 miles of unpaved roads and trails, which can provide the basis for a wide range of recreational opportunities in the future. Because the ranch borders all the large neighboring ranches in these hills, it is the critical link in providing connections to other lands as they are protected – as well as to currently protected lands, including Clark Canyon Ranch (owned by Peninsula Open Space Trust), Castro Valley Ranch (where there is a trail easement already) and Mt. Madonna County Park.

The 1,200 acres includes 360 acres of redwood forest that has been logged in the past. The Land Trust will reduce timber harvests and follow the model it has used in the Byrne-Milliron Forest to create a healthy, unevenly-aged forest that will both enhance wildlife habitat and provide revenue for stewardship and restoration of the ranch. As in the Byrne-Milliron Forest, our practices on Star Creek Ranch will demonstrate the compatibility of forestry with habitat and water quality protection.

Our day at Star Creek Ranch was way more than a picnic–it was a day of spiritual replenishment, inspiration and wild beauty.

Llama Drama: An Opportunity for Practice

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , ,

All Black Llao Llao Grazing by Matlock Lake

Arriving in bliss with the llamas and our dogs, high in the John Muir Wilderness, we chose a relatively off the beaten path lovely lake to set up camp for our week.  While the Kearsarge Pass trail gives access to both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and thus sees lots and lots of backpackers this time of the summer, Matlock Lake is a hidden gem.  We are the only ones here.  It is in a basin surrounded by gnarled weather bent White pines and granite outcroppings against a backdrop of jagged minarets.  From here we can explore Flower Lake,  Gilbert Lake, Heart Lake, and Bench Lake.

Packing with llamas gives us some luxuries backpacking must deny, such as a commodious tent, extra thick sleeping mats, a hammock, a table and two low Crazy Creek chairs, my small inflatable boat the “H.M.S. Sassenatch” launched summers ago on Crabtree Lake into Bench Valley, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables and other delectables.Feeling immeasurable gratitude for all their exertions in making this possible, I wanted to offer the llamas something in exchange.  Down by the banks of the lake I saw a wonderful garden of fresh green bunch grass, their favorite.  I could liberate them from their stake out line, up the required 200 feet from the lake, and let them enjoy an hour of grazing while I paddled across Matlock Lake in my little boat on a reconnaissance mission.

Paddling H.M.S. Sassenatch with Beau and Tashi on Matlock Lake

Jim had warned me that that he had seen Kalmia Polyflora,a toxic form of heather,  the same noxious neurotoxin that had killed Llao Llao’s grandmother Hopi on a pack trip many years ago.  I had seen a bit of that plant down by the lake but felt that there was so much good bunch grass available for the llamas that they wouldn’t eat it, especially if they were only allowed to graze there at the lakeside for an hour.

Last night we climbed into our tent early, read for awhile, buttoned Tashi and Beau into their bright red fleece sleeping jamis and fell fast asleep.  That is, until I was awakened by my muse to write ” The Zen of Llamapacking in the Wilderness” as Jim and the dogs snored on.   I finished writing just before turning out my headlamp to go back to sleep.  But not quite!  I heard a disturbing noise.  Was it a llama choking and sputtering?  I knew it could be the worst.  Terrified, I pulled on my camp mocs and jacket, and rushed out of the tent to discover my worst fears realized.

Llao Llao was frothing at the mouth, just like his grandmother Hopi had done before succumbing to paroxysms of neuromuscular trauma and death.  OMG.  At least this time I had fully stocked our llama emergency first aid kit and was prepared with activated absortive charcoal, a camelback and tube for intubating a poisoned llama, as well as an injectable bio-sponge to absorb toxins from the gut.

At first, so chagrined that I had not heeded Jim’s admonition, and dreading the inevitable “I told you so.” I hastily mixed the granulated charcoal in water in the camelback and tried to administer it by myself to the downed llama.  As soon as I approached Llao Llao with the hose to intubate him, he got to his feet and I knew I couldn’t wrestle 325 lbs of even a sick llama by myself.

I had no choice but to swallow pride and wake up Jim for help. Torn between terror about losing Llao Llao and dreading Jim’s reprisals, I called out imploringly to him.  Aroused, he snarled, “I knew it!” but pulled on his pants and shoes and came to my side.  Realizing we had to figure out a way to immobilize Llao Llao’s head and incredibly strong neck, I haltered him and led him to a large granite rock, pulled his head down onto it, wrapped the lead rope under and around the boulder and handed the rope to Jim to immobilize him while I tried to get the hose down his throat and into his stomach, not his lungs.  Not easy at all, as naturally he fought with all his might and when I did snake the tube in he tried to grind it up with his molars.  He didn’t try to bite my hand inside his mouth per se, but I did get some cuts but somehow managed to pump quite a bit of the bladder full of charcoaled waters into him.  We released his head and watched for awhile, until we figured there was nothing more to do for him but pray.  Charcoaled water all over my clothes and feet, I looked like a refugee from a coal mine.

Jim couldn’t resist telling me that I had shown way too much hubris.  Meekly, I replied that I thought it was misguided compassion more than stubborn pride. Nonetheless, deeply sobered, I realized it was definitely time to practice, to breathe, to meditate, to embrace humility and calm, not get feisty and defensive.  So, exhausted, we returned to our tent and fell back into deep slumber.

The following morning at daylight we checked on our patient and to great relief found him standing and even tentatively chewing his cud.  To be extra safe, remembering Hopi,’s prolonged fatal poisoning ordeal, we repeated the procedure this time with the orally injectable bio-sponge.  The whole drama was such a practice opportunity!  Breathing in my humiliation, breathing gratitude that a potential tragedy had been averted, and that Llao Llao would not die, I realized that compassion and gratitude must be tempered by good judgement and common sense.

Confirming the crisis had passed, I was able to feed and water the llamas then stake them out far from the lake and the heather.  Assured they were cared for, secure and safe, we were able to actually take a great day hike, climbing to the top of spectacular Kearsarge Pass at 11,804 ft.  Surrounded by jagged minarets, we found a new vantage point overlooking our breath-takingly beautiful high Sierra world!

Jim & Me with Tashi & Beau on Kearsarge Pass

 

 

 

UA-27644110-1