Sunday, May 31, 2009

Deer Neighbors, Part 2

My neighbor, Steve, got a call from someone who reported an orphaned fawn. So, as he has done before, Steve adopted the baby.

Turns out his boxer, Bella, loves the baby, too!

The first time we came to look at this house, we were greeted by Baby Girl, a small deer that Steve had raised after finding her in the woods with no mother nearby. Baby Girl later met a bad end at the hands (or mouths) of some local dogs—one classic example of why I think all dogs should be confined to fenced yards. (Another reason, of course, is that I see so many of them dead by the side of the road after being hit by cars.)

We will hope for a better outcome for this new baby.

Beautyberry Flowers!

News flash from the yard: Our beautyberries are bearing flowers! This is big news because later this summer, the flowers will give way to green berries that will then turn the most bee-yoo-tee-ful shade of purple.

Maybe it's because our summers here are so brutally hot and humid that I love the beautyberry; it's always exciting to see the very first of the purple berries, because it reminds me that fall's cooler weather is on the way.

The beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is native to Florida, "commonly used as a specimen shrub for its prolific, attractive purple fruit" (Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants, p. 49).

If you live anywhere in eastern North America, you may have seen the beautyberry. Look for "a loosely branched, irregularly spreading, graceful shrub with arching branches" that bears small pink to lavender flowers in early summer, "conspicuous, showy, purplish drupes" in late summer and fall, and loses its leaves during the winter. Beautyberries are hardy in zones 6 to 11.

There is also a white-fruited form, C. americana forma lactea, which my book says may be used with the purple-fruited form to "create a very interesting combination." Hmmmm....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day/Magnolia Grandiflora

When I was little, I remember grownups talking about “Decoration Day” around the time of the Memorial Day holiday. I knew the holiday was significant because it honored our soldiers who had died in wars; I had a vague idea that the holiday was somehow connected with the Civil War.

My mother and grandmother liked to refer to the Civil War as the War Between the States or (my particuar favorite) The Late Unpleasantness, because they said there was nothing “civil” about it. They were not really joking; my mom was the descendant of “Rebel George” Falkner on her father’s side, and both women were continually aghast at the atrocities heaped upon Southerners by Union troops, particularly those under Sherman’s command in Georgia. There wasn’t a prejudiced bone in either of their bodies—it’s from them that I learned not to harbor racial prejudice—but they were, at the same time, proud of their Southern heritage.

A few years ago I did some Internet research about “Decoration Day” because the phrase was sticking in my mind. What I found out was that the holiday that we know as Memorial Day likely began in the South:

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, ‘Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping’ by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication ‘To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.’”

The earliest grave decorations may well have been flowers of the magnolia tree, Magnolia grandiflora. These huge, fragrant flowers were favorites of my grandmother; my mom used to tell a story about stealing them from a neighbor’s yard to give to her mother, and then having to confess what she’d done.

Here, above, are a couple of giant magnolia flowers in remembrance of Rebel George, my Uncle Kenneth on my father's side of the family, and all who have given their lives for our country.

May we soon reach a day when war will be forever over!

108 Things We Can Do for the Earth/#2, Understand

Number two on His Holiness Karmapa’s list of 108 things we can do to help the environment is:

”Read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community.”

Maybe it’s because I’ve always loved the area where I live now that I can’t imagine not being interested in the surrounding environment. Maybe if I lived in some place that I didn’t much like, though, I’d feel differently.

For right here and right now, however, I want to know as much as I can about our local birds, our local water cycle, our wild native creatures and plants, our stars, and how the continually changing cycles of the seasons manifest in North Central Florida.

I first tuned in to seasonal changes several years ago, when I was doing a lot of reading about the new paganism (I did comparative religions in college and am fascinated by that subject), and got acquainted via email with a remarkable writer named Waverly Fitzgerald. Waverly lives in Seattle and produces a web site called School of the Seasons, which I highly recommend. Reading her articles made me realize how out of touch with seasonal changes we can become, given our prevailing culture’s neverending focus on work, consumption, and entertainment.

Now, of course, the area where I live is embroiled in the water wars. So I think it’s more important than ever for us to educate ourselves about our natural resources, so we can stand up for them and protect them. The California Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder had an article in the November 2007 issue of Shambhala Sun called “Writers and the War Against Nature,” part of which is reprinted in the July 2009 (pp. 64-65) issue; in it, he says:

“How can artists and writers manage to join in the defense of the planet and wild nature? Writers and artists by their very work ‘bear witness.’ They don’t wield financial, governmental, or military power. However, at the outset they were given, as in fairy tales, two ‘magic gifts.’ One is ‘The Mirror of Truth.’ Whatever they hold this mirror up to is shown in its actual form, and the truth must come out. May we use that mirror well!

The second is a ‘Heart of Compassion,’ which is to say the ability to feel and know the pains and delights of other people, and to weave that feeling into their art. For some this compassion can extend to all creatures and to the world itself. In a way, nature even borrows the voices of some writers and artists. Anciently, this was a shamanistic role where the singer, dancer, or storyteller embodied a force, appearing as a bear dancer or crane dancer, and became one with a spirit or creature. Today, such a role is played by the writer who finds herself a spokesperson for non-human entities communicating to the human realm through dance or song. This could be called ‘speaking on behalf of nature’ in the old way.”

To really speak for Mother Nature or any of her creatures, it seems to me, you need to know what you are talking about. You need to “read, discuss, and develop an understanding of environmental issues and how they affect you and your community.”

I’ve pictured above some of the resources to which I turn when I have questions about our area and its flora and fauna. There are, undoubtedly, many such resources for every area of our country and, no doubt, the world. The Internet itself is one such resource. You can’t see it on the computer screen in the picture above, but I had surfed over to the Water page at Food and Water Watch.

Here in North Central Florida, I always encourage people to tune in to what the folks at Our Santa Fe River are doing. My friend Merrillee, who does an outstanding job of communicating river-related news, also has an e-mail list that provides a wealth of current information (pun intended!); you can get in touch with her through the Our Santa Fe River web site. Rachael Ryals, a journalist with the High Springs Herald, provides a great service not only by writing about environmental issues for that paper but also by administering the new North Florida Nature News web site.

What are you most curious about in your own local environment? What are some resources you can use to find out more? Do you know other people who are interested in some of the same things? How can you begin to speak for your neighbors who are voiceless—the plants, the animals, the outstanding natural features?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May Monsoon

May is usually our dry month here in Florida. I remember taking off from the Orlando airport in May 1985, looking down and seeing what looked like smoke from hundreds of little wildfires practically covering the whole state. The end to our dry season usually comes in June, when afternoon rain showers and thunderstorms become more regular.

This year, though, the rainy season came early. It’s been raining pretty steadily for a week now. The lawn chairs sit empty, viewed through the porch screen as the downpours and drizzles continue over Memorial Day weekend—traditionally the start of summer beach weather. 

I’m not complaining, mind you. We need the rain; we’ve been in drought conditions for quite a while now. What this weather means to me is that our plants won’t need to be watered so much, and maybe—just maybe—we can finally have a bonfire sometime soon.

But—my friends Pam and Kathi are in South Florida today; they're going swimming, while I'm stuck inside, writing this blog. (heavy sigh) Have fun, girls!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bluebird House

We put up this bluebird house about a year ago, and it's been occupied ever since. This morning, a bluebird flew out of the house right before I took this picture.

There's a great article about bluebirds by one of my favorite Florida writers, Jeff Klinkenberg, in today's St. Petersburg Times; it's an inspiring example of how one person can make a difference to our fine, feathered friends.

Magic May Morning/Early Summer

This morning I went down to the spring that's near my house to take some pictures while all was quiet and the water was still. The place is a popular swimmin' hole, so it's impossible to get people-free pictures of the water later in the day.

I was happily snapping pics when something started dripping on me from the trees above. Slightly irritated, I shielded the camera and moved out of the way. I looked up for a guilty squirrel or bird, but saw nothing. So I continued around the spring, snapping when I saw anything that looked like a good shot.

A bit later, as I circled back toward the spot where part of the river that flows around a small island is used for boat launches, the drippy phenomenon started up again. This time, I was looking into the sun and could see that the water was dripping from all the trees around me, coming down in little cascades of twinkling drops. I remembered that we had had a terrific thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, so I finally figured out that the drops were moisture from the rain that had lingered on the trees overnight, only to be blown down by the early morning breezes.

The Tibetans have an expression called "a rain of flowers" that refers to either rainfall or snowfall (I've heard both) when the sun is shining. In the namthars (sacred biographies or hagiographies) of the Buddhist teachers that I've read, a rain of flowers sometimes appears as an auspicious sign. Of course, it's not surprising that I got irritated by this "rain" at first—I thought I was standing in an inauspicious spot!—but I was glad I finally figured out what was causing the droplets, so I could appreciate it as a beautiful natural phenomenon and not simply an irritation. I guess this is an example of how your perceptions can shift when you change the way you look at things.

As I was taking pictures of the main vent of the spring system (there are a couple of smaller vents closer to the river as well), I noticed two large fish had come up into the spring to explore. Two fish are an auspicious symbol in Buddhism as well; they can represent happiness, among other things. (I'm always happy to be at the springs!)

A bit later on near the boat launch, I heard a hawk call and saw two two large birds fly into a tree. I waited a bit, and while I wasn't quick enough or expert enough to get a picture, one of the hawks left the tree and flew right by me. Partly because "Faulkner" (falconer) is a family name on my mother's side, I feel a kinship with these beautiful birds; my spirits lift whenever I see one.

As I was driving up the little hill away from the spring and river area toward higher ground, a black crow flew in front of my car for a long way—not leaving the path of the winding road, but flying directly above it, almost as if to guide me away from the river.

I don't attribute any special significance to these events, by the way—I just think it can be inspiring to contemplate what Mother Nature will show us, if we are patient and focused enough to watch and listen.

Sometimes two fish are just two fish; other times, a symbol of two fish can represent beauty and abundance, or the embodied consciousness in which we so often find ourselves imprisoned.

Sometimes a hawk is just a hawk; other times, a hawk can remind us of our connections with our ancestors or inspire us to see things from different perspectives—the hawk's eye view.

Sometimes a crow is just a crow; other times, a crow can remind us of Mahakala, the dark protector of the Karma Kagyu lineage.

Sometimes raindrops can just be raindrops; other times, raindrops while the sun is shining (which happens a lot here in Florida!) can remind us of our beloved teachers, and of Buddhism's twin goals of wisdom and compassion.

It was really a magical start to the day—first being alone at the spring and then watching as two beautiful retrievers joyfully splashed around in the water with their owner; their delight was so obvious that I couldn't help smiling.

As I was leaving, more people began to arrive. How the springs draw us all in—it is true, isn't it, that "recreation" means, in part, a process by which we re-create ourselves?

There may be a magical place very near where you live. What is it? How does it reveal itself? How do you honor it? What can you do to protect it?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunshine State Water Wars (Part Two)

There is disturbing news in today's High Springs Herald:  The Florida Legislature, in its ultimate wisdom (sorry, my sarcastic streak is showing!), has unanimously passed a bill that conceivably could give developers and the water bottling industry exactly what they want—control of Florida's water supply.

The bill takes away the authority for making decisions about state consumptive use permits (think trucks hauling water away from your favorite local river or spring) and environmental resource permits from multi-member boards that are required to hold public meetings, and gives the authority to only one person—the executive director of the governing water management district. In effect, this bill completely cuts the taxpaying public out of the dialogue about water use.

But wait, there's more. The bill (Senate Bill 2080) mandates that consumptive use and environmental resource permits will only be considered by the water district's governing board if the executive director DENIES a permit.

In other words (and, yet again) the deck is stacked in favor of the folks who would—little by little, year after year, in small increments that over a number of years could wreak havoc on Florida's rivers and streams and springs—pipe all our water away for their own monetary gain.

People who think this law is a bad idea have until this coming Saturday, May 16, to call the governor's office and urge Governor Crist to veto this bill. The phone number is 850-488-7146.

The bill started life in Florida's House of Representatives as House Bill 2080. Here is the email I sent to Governor Crist earlier this week about that bill, believing that old platitude that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar:

"Dear Governor (and possibly soon-to-be Senator) Crist,

Please provide us with some much-needed leadership on Florida's complicated water issues; please either veto or do not sign HB 2080.

HB 2080, as I understand it, will make it more difficult (if not impossible) for Florida's citizens (who are not business owners or members of water management district governing boards) to have input into how our water is used.

The main problem with Florida's water issues, as I see it, is that as a state we have not yet decided whether water is a RESOURCE that is needed by everyone, or a COMMODITY that should be sold to the highest bidder.

I don't think anyone who lives in Florida--business owner or not--wants to live in a state with dried-up springs, unhealthy rivers, and bad water. It does seem, however, that as a state we are taking many actions that will, cumulatively and eventually, lead us in that direction.

Florida desperately needs a leader who will articulate a vision for the conservation and preservation of our rivers and springs, so that our children and grandchildren won't wake up one day and bemoan what they have lost.

Please be brave enough and visionary enough to take a strong stand in favor of Florida's one-of-a-kind water resources. Your leadership on this issue could one day assure you an honored place in our history books. Thank you."

Garden Spot/Blooming Aloe

Forrest rescued this beautiful big aloe plant from the last restaurant where he worked, after it closed. Every so often, the aloe puts on a show with a big, beautiful bloom—as you can see!

The bush to the right of the aloe plant is a beautyberry, a native plant that gets outrageously gorgeous purple berries in the fall. Since I'm a fall foliage nut, you will probably see plenty of pictures of the beautyberry when it begins to "do its thing." Stay tuned. (We got the Buddha from Target or, as we often pronounce it, "Tar-ZHAY.")

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Goddess of the Grapevine/Early Summer

Far away in the depths of the mountains
Wandering here and there I carry no thought
When spring comes I watch the birds,
In summer I bathe in the running stream,
In autumn I climb the highest peaks;
During the winter I am warming up in the sun
Thus I enjoy the real flavor of the seasons.

-Shih T'ou

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day/Words of Yeshe Tsogyal

It's Mother's Day here in the USA, and I am reminded of the Buddhist teaching that all beings, in one lifetime or another, have been our mothers—and so deserve to be treated with the same kindness and compassion that we owe our mothers in this present life.

Our mothers, after all, cared for us unselfishly when we were helpless; they loved us unconditionally.

There's a scene in the movie Kundun where one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's tutors tells him, when he is a young child, that it's his job to love everyone unconditionally. I often wonder how our world be different if every young child were taught this lesson.

I think of this unconditional love as a form of generosity, and it reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of poetry; it's a description of the way she works to benefit beings, spoken by a Tibetan woman, Yeshe Tsogyal, who was one of the 25 main disciples of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). Guru Rinpoche is credited with firmly establishing the practice of Buddhism in Tibet, and Yeshe Tsogyal greatly assisted him in that effort.

Her life is described quite wonderfully in a book, Lady of the Lotus-Born (Shambhala Publications, 1999), which includes the following passage (in which the "he" who has vanished from sight is to Guru Rinpoche).

So today, I offer Yeshe Tsogyal's words as a happy gift for mothers everywhere:

"And with these words, he vanished from our sight. Whereupon I, Tsogyal, made my way to the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, where I caused Namkhai Nyingpo to progress in the meditation on the subtle channels and energies. I granted the attainment of immortality, so that the bhikshu gained accomplishment, both supreme and ordinary.

Afterwards, I abided evenly in the view of the Great Perfection beyond all action, and as the experience dawned on me wherein all phenomena are extinguished in the nature of reality, I was perceived in various forms according to the needs of beings.

To the hungry I was heaps of food and all good things, and thus I brought them joy.

To the cold and freezing I was fire and sun-warmth, thus their joy.

To the poor and needy I was wealth and riches, thus their joy.

To the naked I was every kind of raiment, thus their joy.

To the childless I was sons and daughters, thus their joy.

To those who craved a woman, I became a lovely girl and thus their joy.

To those who sought a lover, I was a handsome youth and thus their joy.

To those who wanted magic powers, I gave prowess in the eight great siddhis, and thus I brought them joy.

To the sick I was their remedy and thus their joy.

To the anguished I was all their mind desired, and thus I was their joy.

To those hard pressed by punishments of kings, I was the loving friend to lead them to the land of peace, and I was thus their joy.

To those in fear of savage beasts, I was a haven, thus their joy.

To those who fell into the depths, I was their drawing out and thus their joy.

To those tormented in the fire, I was a quenching stream and thus their joy.

To those in prey to any of the elements, I was their medicine and thus their joy.

For those who could not see, I was their eyes and brought them joy.

And for the halt and crippled I was feet and thus their joy.

I was a tongue for those who could not speak, and thus I brought them joy.

To those in fear of death I granted immortality, and thus I was their joy.

I led the dying on the path of transference and brought them joy.

To those who wandered in the bardo state, I was their yidam, bringing them to joy.

I cooled the burning heat and warmed the cold of those lost in the realms of hell. 

Howsoever they were tortured, I changed myself to shield them, being thus their joy.

To those who lingered in the land of hungry ghosts, I was their food and drink and thus their joy.

I was freedom from stupidity and servitude for those caught in the wordless state of beasts--and thus I brought them joy.

Those beings born in savage lands--I turned them from barbarity and brought them joy.

I was a truce from war and strife for the asuras and was thus their joy.

The gods I guarded from their bitter fall and I was thus their joy.

I shielded all from everything that tortured them and was their every joy.

Wherever there is space, five elements pervade,

Wherever the five elements, the homes of living beings,

Wherever living beings, karma and defilements,

Wherever is defilement, my compassion also.

Wherever is the need of beings, there I am to help them.

And thus I remained for twenty years in the great cavern of Lhodrak Kharchu, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

108 Things We Can Do for the Earth/#1, Pray

For Earth Day this year, His Holiness Orgyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, released a list titled "One Hundred Eight Things You Can Do to Help the Environment."

While the list was written primarily for the monks and nuns who live in Karma Kagyu monasteries throughout the world (and, especially, in Asia), it struck me as I read through the list that it contains many ideas that we could all implement, if we choose to do so.

So, on an irregular schedule—since that seems to be how I'm blogging now—I'm going to start posting the 108 ideas, one at a time, along with some of my own personal musings about them.

The number 108 has significance in Tibetan Buddhism—it's the number of beads on a mala that's used to count prayers and mantra recitations, for one. There's a very interesting discussion about the significance of this number—including its astrological significance—on Ken Holmes's web site, and my friend Khandro also includes mention of 108 on her mind-bogglingly comprehensive page about number symbolism.

So, what made Number One on Karmapa's list? Prayer. Here's what he says:

"Make aspiration prayers. We make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. This should also include the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life. We can pray for a more harmonious world where humans recognize how their actions have harmed the Earth and change their behavior."

It's true that Buddhists make aspiration prayers for all sentient beings. The primary aspiration, of course, is that all sentient beings will ultimately become enlightened—in other words, that their positive qualities will manifest fully and that their negative qualities will be eradicated.

Praying for the Earth, which sustains us and gives us life, strikes me as a new slant to the traditional Buddhist aspiration prayers. I'd venture a guess that most of us don't usually consider the Earth a sentient being, so even if we are praying for the benefit of other beings, we're praying for beings who live on and of the Earth—not for the Earth itself. His Holiness Karmapa is saying that needs to change.

Prayer in its purest form—done from the wish to benefit all sentient beings—seems to me to be, at its heart, a recognition that all of us (including the Earth) are deeply connected; this idea dovetails in a lovely way with the Gaia Hypothesis.

I can envision a day when "civilization" might be defined as both a recognition and a full expression of the interdependence of all things—Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit.

Stop for a moment and ponder: If you wrote your own prayer for the Earth, what would it be?


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Steve's Sycamore/Early Summer

Here's a new picture of Steve's sycamore, all leafed out and lush for the summer season.

You can compare this view to the one I posted on April 7 to see how the tree has changed over the past month. One easy way to do this is to type "Steve's sycamore" in the Search box at the top left of the page, and hit Enter; this should bring up both pictures on the same page.

Bonnie's Back Yard/Early Summer

Sometimes we need look no further than our own back yards for amazing natural spectacles. Such is the case with my neighbor Bonnie's back yard, which (thankfully) she chooses not to mow until the coreopsis have finished blooming.

The photo above is how her yard looked a couple of days ago. The flowers are still blooming brightly today; I can see them from my house, and they look like a bright yellow carpet on the western horizon.

Sunshine State Water Wars (Part One)

Trouble is brewing here in the Land of Flowers, and it's something I'd bet that none of us who grew up here ever thought we'd see—a war that will eventually determine who, or what agency or business, controls the state's water supply.

I grew up in Orlando, about two hours south of where I live now. Although Orlando is an inland city, I felt as if I grew up surrounded by water, with lakes too numerous to count—where my dad went fishing almost every weekend—and springs and rivers in wild abundance. With its limestone-based karst topography, Florida has the largest concentration of first-magnitude springs in the world. Back in 1957, when my family moved to Florida and I started fifth grade, the idea that the state would one day face a water shortage would simply have made us all laugh. 

Fast forward (and, looking back, it's amazing how fast a forward it is!) to 2009, and much has changed. There are springs here in the Sunshine State that have now dried up or been fouled by pollution, lake levels that are shrinking, and lakes that have disappeared; and when I moved to my house near the river, I was shocked to find that there were four new requests for water bottling facilities on one 3-mile stretch of the Santa Fe River—not including the one water bottling facility, run by Coca-Cola, that has been up and running near Ginnie Springs for many years now.

I could go off on a tangent about how we all need to drink water, but how we don't all need to drink bottled water, and how bottled water is frequently no more pure or nutritious than water we get from the tap, and how the cost of bottled water is really higher per unit volume than the cost of oil—but you get the drift.

The threats to our water supply don't stop with the water bottlers, however. Recently the St. Johns River Water Management District, over in Palatka, approved a request in favor a permit that would end up extracting 5.5 million gallons of water daily from a springfed tributary that feeds the mighty St. John's River. The idea behind this approval, as near as I can tell, is that the people who live in Central Florida need the water for their lawns and golf courses more than the river needs it.

Will Florida follow California's model of piping water hundreds of miles in support of rampant growth and development? It seems we are headed in that direction.

There are quite a few citizens, however, who object to such a course, and I am heartened that they are making their voices heard. Somewhere along the way, though, business and development have twisted state laws in their favor, so it's hard for the water management districts or the courts to take tough stands in favor of conservation and environmental protection. Somehow, this needs to change.

One tangent I will happily go off on is how decisions about our water and our environment get made. Every environmentally-related hearing I've ever been to (and I haven't been to that many) has seemed to devolve, at some point, into opposing sides arguing "science." One side will cite statistics and "facts" to prove their point; the other side will then dredge up their own statistics and "facts" that prove the exact opposite.

Now, I am not stupid enough to write off science completely; as a childhood sufferer of frequent bouts of tonsillitis, I know I'd be dead if it weren't for antibiotics and other scientific advances. But science is, after all, a human system, and as a human system it's subject to human foibles and fallibility. Indeed, we determine the outcomes of scientific investigations largely by the questions we choose to ask. Bad questions bring bad outcomes; better questions bring better ones.

So I'd like to suggest that one key to ending our water wars might be to learn to ask better questions. Instead of getting bogged down in statistics, how might our discussions be different if we chose, instead, to step back a bit and ask some bigger questions: What kind of life do we want for our children and grandchildren? How do we give a place at the conference table to the flora and fauna of ecosystems that will be affected by potential water withdrawals? Is water a commodity that should be sold for private gain, or a resource that everyone needs to survive? If water is a resource, what are the ethical implications of piping a resource away from one area and toward another? Why are we even talking about piping water if we aren't practicing massive conservation efforts first? Do any of us—business people, developers, private citizens—even want to live in a state without springs or healthy rivers?

And finally—given that Florida's rivers and springs are true wonders of the natural world, is it too much to ask that our citizens and businesses make some sacrifices in order to save them?

Last year, one of my Buddhist teachers, Khenpo Ugyen Tenzin, came to Gainesville to give a weekend seminar to the meditation group to which I belong. Over the course of the weekend, there was some discussion about environmental issues, so on the Sunday morning when I drove Khenpo-la into Gainesville for the teachings, I took him on a quick detour to see the small spring that's about five minutes from my house. He thanked me for taking him there, and told me that the place was "very unusual."

Later that day, I asked him to pray for our rivers and springs, and explained that they were threatened by the water bottlers. Khenpo-la asked me if I didn't think there was a legitimate need for bottled water. "Yes," I said, remembering how power goes out after a hurricane and how natural disasters and wars can make it impossible for people to get fresh water. "But if all the water is pumped away, then what will remain for the people who live along the river, and for the plants and animals that the river supports?"

Khenpo-la thought for a moment and then said, "I will pray, then, for an auspicious balance."