Friday, October 30, 2009

Zoe at Halloween

Well, I have lost my senses. I got my dog TWO Halloween costumes. (And promptly donated money to charity to overcome the guilt! ) Anyway, I also had fun, and my dog loves dressing up. She dozes off in costume...not one to get agitated about fashion, , that Zoe of mine. So below is Zoe the Bumblebee, and Zoe the Charming Witch.

Trick or Woof!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales

Soupy Sales passed away today at age 83 in a hospice in NY. He had developed complications after a fall backstage during a recent Emmy Awards ceremony. I loved the Soupy Sales Show as a kid. Sigh. White Fang, Black Tooth -- and a thousand cream pies in the face. Pure fun.

Rest In Laughter and Joy, Soupy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ah, the dance

I went to a small, informal concert last night where the musicians played some waltzes and encouraged couples to dance. Several couples did get up and dance. I was enraptured.

There is such a sweet beauty to a couple that has been dancing together for many, many years. They know each other's groove in a special way. She knows when he will pause, or dip a bit to the left. He knows right where her hand will rest on his shoulder. They move together comfortably, seamlessly, as if they have rehearsed. In fact they have -- at every family wedding and social event for the past whatever number of years, they have done the routine -- the dip and weave as if by well-worn habit-- the moving hug in public.

Yet, as I watched them last night I was touched in a unique way. There was something heart-openingly beautiful about watching her rest her head against his shoulder, like she has for 30 years -- or seeing him confidently spin her under his arm, like he has so very many times before.

In a world that turns on unpredictable circumstance, and presents us all with sadness and loss when we least expect it, here was a moment of sweetness so pure and so simple that it made my soul ache.

Here, they were young again, and in love, turning forever in each other's arms with the grace of long-time lovers, lovers who know each others bodies, souls and hearts. There was no hesitancy in those bodies, just the well-worn comfort of years of being together, on and off the dance floor. It was a soft knowing, a time for the stars to come out in the dark sky, a moment when the moon pauses in her orbit for just a second, beguiled by the easy grace of these eternal dancers.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Diwali -- the epic tale of a fine romance

Diwali begins Saturday. This is The Festival of Lights in Hindu, Jain and Sikh (and some Buddhist) traditions. President Obama reached out to the people of these traditions with this address, and a small ceremony at the White House.

Diwali can be up to 5 days in length (starting Saturday the 17th). Forms of celebration can differ widely depending on which religious community or country is celebrating. The monotheistic Sikh community has a very different approach than the Hindu community, for example. But regardless of the community, the emphasis is on celebration, family and charity.

(from various sections of Wikipedia)
DIWALI and the Sikh community:
The story of Diwali for the Sikhs is a story of the Sikh struggle for freedom., starting from the time of Guru Nanak (1469 – 1539), the founder of Sikhism. When the Muslim king was ruling he locked up the Guru but while the king had tried to make him eat he refused and fasted. It was then realized that outside the palace people had gathered around with lanterns, candles, torches and protested to set the Guru free and the king had eventually agreed that his greediness had got in the way of his responsibilities and released the Guru and the people celebrated his release known as Diwali.

DIWALI and the Hindu community - The return of Rama
Lord Rama's life is pictured as the ideal man and the perfect human. For the sake of an old oath taken by his father in a moment of anguish, Rama abandons his claim to the throne to serve an exile of fourteen years in the forest. His wife, Sita, and brother Lakshmana, are bereft and join him in exile. Ravana, the monarch of Lanka, sees Sita and must have her, so he takes on the guise of a young deer, who captivates Sita and leads her into the forest while Rama is hunting. After a long and arduous search for years that tests his strength,virtue and love for Sita, Rama fights a colossal war against Ravana's armies. In a war of powerful and magical beings, greatly destructive weaponry and battles, Rama kills Ravana and frees his wife. Having completed his exile, Rama returns to be crowned king in Ayodhya (the capital of his kingdom) and eventually becomes emperor,after which he reigns for eleven thousand years – an era of perfect happiness, peace, prosperity and justice known as Rama Rajya. The diya, or lights, were set out to welcome him home at the end of his exile.

Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is also honored by Hindus during Diwali. Some businesses even start their financial year on Diwali.

In order to ease Lakshmi's entrance, Hindus will leave the windows and doors of their houses open. often the design of the lotus flower, her favorite blossom, are drawn on the floor to welcome Lakshmi. The Diwali lamps are placed in rows to make it simple for Lakshmi to find her way to houses.

This in a drawing of Lord Rama and Sita, enthroned after Lord Rama's triumphant return.

I love the romance of this story -- Rama enduring many trials for many years in a devoted search for his beloved wife, who has been cruelly beguiled by another, masquerading as an innocent deer. And, after they are reunited, his triumphal return from exile. It is a sweet day when the devoted hero wins, and loved ones are reunited at last. This story is one of deep devotion, honor and perseverance. It ends, thankfully, in celebration.

The story of Rama and Sita is told in one of the two major books in the Hindu tradition -- the The Ramayana, which means "Rama's Journey", an ancient Sanskrit epic of over 24,000 verses. This epic poem is considered so sacred that the reading if it is said to confer blessings on the reader and the listener. A translation of the Ramayana can be found here.

Happy Diwali to all who are celebrating it. May your year be sweet and prosperous.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

autumn joy

I love autumn in New England. It makes me so happy that I have moved back here to stay. I am wide-eyed as I drive through the hill towns in the fall, watching the leaves change colors day to day. I sense the nuances of autumn, the change of a meadow with and without shafts of sunlight.

I drive through towns with sparkling white colonial churches perched above fields of cornstalks, rye grasses, and grazing cows. All this is surrounded by acres of evergreens and trees ablaze with fall colors. It is the last splurge of fecundity before winter.

The trees are shameless in their show of color. Maple trees in bright orange and red vie with the yellow-leaved birch and the scarlet sumac for attention.

They are belles at the autumnal ball, whirling in the wind.

They are dervishes, whirling for God.

They are a dream, a mystical moment, a challenge to complacency.

They shimmer to a celestial music that only they can hear.

It is a symphony brought to them by the wind, echoed in the clouds, illuminated by the brilliance of the sky. It is a rhythm that speaks of love, and loss, and hope. It is an eternal humming, a soft melody just beyond the reach of human ears, recognizable, but dimly.

The trees stand, robed in color and glory and proclaim "Look!" to the world.

"See what is splendid, what is beautiful. But, see how impermanent the world is...for as we flash our color we prepare for the little death of winter. Love us now, while you can. "

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

oh heck, let's change the world in our spare time.

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work. --Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, really touched me. I found myself coming back to it over and again this week.

It all started last Saturday when I drove by a group of peace activists standing in the rain outside the farmer's market in Greenfield, Massachusetts. They held signs and just stood quietly, a silent witness to their longing for peace. Many of them were my age -- they'd "been there, done that" before during the Vietnam war - and here they/we are again.

One of the signs said "Make Peace".

The war has been troubling me again. War troubles me. The feeling of helplessness I have in the face of it troubles me. So I vote in a particular way, and send money to causes that believe as I do, nd write letters to decision-makers. And I pray. But I am nagged by the feeling that it isn't enough. How do *I* "make peace"?

And then along comes Thich Naht Hanh and he tells me to find my peace, my personal peace -- and that finding it will be an important part of peace work. I think he is right. Unless my heart and soul are at peace, I cannot think or see clearly. I can be of less meaningful help.

Then I thought of a hymn I recall singing:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

Imagine if we all did that -- all found the place and circumstance that gave us the most personal peace, and we created that place for ourselves as often as possible.

If we focus on it in meditation, we can even have it when we are not there. If, for example, you are at your most peaceful when at the ocean, meditating about the ocean, and remembering the peace you felt, can bring that peace back to you. You can find the rhythm and let it flow through you again.

Or maybe, that peace can come by us making room for it to arrive more often. If you are most at peace while writing -- why not write more?

Being at peace with ourselves quiets the clatter that keeps us from being in the world in a peaceful way. It helps us know what to do next, and gives rise to acts of kindness.

Being at peace, real peace, shuts out those feelings that get us and the world in trouble.

Maybe it is a memory of a beloved relative, or the call of meaningful work, or the sea, or writing or painting, or watching your children sleep, or playing with your dog or any number of things that brings you real peace. Get quiet enough to think about that -- where or under what circumstances are you most at peace? Try imagining how you might bring more of that into your life this week. It will energize you, fulfill you, and will improve the world, one person at a time.

It will "Make Peace".

(taken from a column I wrote this week for
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