Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps Tonight: Remembering Edward Kennedy

Back when I was a teenager in Orlando in 1960, I did volunteer work for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign—I addressed and stuffed a lot of envelopes at Orange County’s Democratic headquarters.

I was thrilled to watch the presidential debates on black-and-white television, and even more thrilled when “my” candidate became the new president of the United States.

Since then, my memories of JFK and his extended family hang like a string of beads that connects places from one end of the United States to another—from Boston to Washington, D.C., Dallas, Los Angeles, Chappaquiddick, New York City, Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannisport.

With Senator Edward Kennedy’s death, it seems those beads have come full circle.

I find it especially interesting to hear what some of Sen. Kennedy’s Republican counterparts—and often, his legislative opponents—are saying about him now:

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona): "My friend, Ted Kennedy, was famous before he was accomplished. But by the end of his life he had become irreplaceable in the institution he loved and in the affections of its members. He grew up in the long shadow of his brothers, but found a way to be useful to his country in ways that will outlast their accomplishments."

Nancy Reagan, former first lady: "Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah): "Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber."

Former President George H.W. Bush: “Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn Ted Kennedy lost his valiant battle with cancer. While we didn't see eye-to-eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service—so much so, in fact, that I invited him to my library in 2003 to receive the Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the United States Senate—a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body's history.”

Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts: "The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud. In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary. I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor—qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow. I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced."

In this day and age where rabid name-calling and untruthful appeals to base emotions seem to have replaced rational political debate, nothing would be a more fitting memorial for Ted Kennedy than if Republicans and Democrats could join together to make sure that every citizen of our country has access to health care as a right, not a privilege.

I wonder if everyone who is bad-mouthing government involvement in health care at town meetings is going to decline Medicare and Social Security when they turn 65. If government involvement in our lives is so bad, I wonder why they aren’t demonstrating just as loudly against the wildly successful “cash for clunkers” program that has proved to be a boon for the automobile business. I wonder if they will send back those diplomas they earned in public high schools, colleges, and universities.

In short—If other countries can offer all their citizens health care, why can’t we? What are we afraid of? And what could be more important for the long-term health of our union?

Tonight, my fervent hope is that some of Teddy Kennedy’s spirit of public service will rub off on the Romneys, McCains, Bushes, and Hatches of the world, who will then stand up and do what is right for the country—not just what some pundits think is right for their political party.

If you think universal health care is a good idea, it’s time to take pen (or computer) or telephone in hand, and let your Senators and Representatives know how you feel.

Do it for your family.

And do it for Senator Edward Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, who is sleeping tonight.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Orb Weaver

Here's one of our summer friends, an orb weaver who has spun a large web in the carport. That's Forrest's hand and pen for a size comparison.

I'm not sure what type of orb weaver we have here. If anyone knows, I'm all ears.

When I showed F. this picture, he said, "Oh, that's a good one for your WEB page."


Yes, we have big spiders in Florida. Forrest made the mistake of sending his mom (in California) a picture of one of them, a large wolf spider as big as the coffee mug it was hanging on.

She has never come to visit us.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beautyberry in Transition

Sometime between my last trip to KTD and today, which is the first day I haven't worked since I got home, our beautyberries have begun their annual transition from green to purple.

Here's a glimpse from our garden spot, with our red garden Buddha's head in the background.

Dawn, Last Day at KTD

Dawn was breaking as I left KTD this last time--maybe the last time ever?

The clouds were still pink, and the light was still on outside the north entrance to the shrine building.

There are no guarantees in life, other than the oft-repeated death and taxes, and I do know that my travel will be restricted for quite a while--the result of having to buy a car to get back and forth to work.

This is another view I will remember for a long, long time.

Thanks to the alert reader who pointed out that this is blog post #108. "Cosmic," as we used to say (and sometimes still do).

KTD Morning View, Looking North

Here is a view I will always remember--looking north from the road just outside the front gate at KTD.

There is something about being in the mountains that lifts the spirit the way nothing else can.

Stone Wave at KTD

My friend Sandra, who lives at KTD and is an exceptional artist, has created several very lovely and unusual pieces based on His Holiness the 16th Karmapa's dream flag designs.

You can see her work in stone in KTD's driveway, right in front of the bookstore and dining patio.

I imagine that these stone waves will be covered by fallen leaves a bit later in the year, so make sure to look for them soon--or next spring, after the snow melts.

Remember to click on the picture for a bigger view!

Dream Flag Gate

Here's a view of KTD's entrance gate with the blue and yellow dream flag that was designed by the 16th Karmapa.

You can buy your own dream flag from Namse Bangdzo.

KTD Building Construction

While KTD's shrine building has been complete for years, the rest of the monastery is still under construction and nearing completion.

Amrita, who is KTD's Director of Development, led some of us on a tour of the new building, which will house offices (including HH Karmapa's), Namse Bangdzo bookstore, guest rooms, staff living quarters, dining room, and kitchen--replacing Meads Mountain House, which will eventually be demolished.

Earlier, I posted a view of the lovely new dining room (is it wrong to daydream of a successful vegetarian restaurant there?). Here is a view of some of the recent work of the artisans who have been brought in to add the traditional Tibetan-style decorative touches.

Morning Prayer Flags at KTD

Here is a view of prayer flags in the morning light at KTD, near the front gate.

The small reddish tree surrounded by wire fencing is one of two maples that were supposed to be planted by His Holiness Karmapa on his first visit. He didn't have time for that task, so Sandra planted the trees for him.

Guru Rinpoche, Kon Chog Chi Du Form

This lovely small thangka hung in my room on my most recent visit to KTD.

The thangka depicts Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) with his right hand held at his heart, the form used in at least one of the Kon Chog Chi Du visualizations--the peaceful form of Guru Rinpoche, which was the subject of the empowerment given by His Holiness Karmapa on his first visit to KTD in 2008.

This particular practice is one which, for many reasons, is close to my heart--so I was thrilled to find this thangka hanging in my guest room.

Remember that you can click on the picture for a better view.

First Fall Leaf

I was walking in the driveway in front of Meads Mountain House when I spotted it, all alone and small and glowing on the gray gravel--the first fallen leaf of autumn, my favorite season.

This year, I will be spending fall in Florida. I dream about someday being able to spend fall in Woodstock.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Meads Mountain House

For many years now, Meads Mountain House—originally built in the 1800s as an inn for people who traveled by horse-drawn coaches—has served as the staff living quarters, offices, guest rooms, bookstore, kitchen, and dining area of KTD.

This trip, I'm staying in one of the rooms on the second floor at the front of the building.

I'm sure the building, in its heyday, was a great place to stay. The ravages of time are all too apparent now, however, and I think everyone will be glad when the new building—still under construction—is finished.

I'm all for saving historical buildings, but I think this one is really too far gone to be of any use. The floors slope in different directions, the roof and showers leak, and the joke is that the paint is the only thing holding the building up.

Tonight, though, it's wonderful to be here. The forecast low is in the 50s, a cool breeze is blowing in through the open window, I have a big double bed all to myself, and wi-fi internet access right here in the room. Plus, Machik Labdron is making an appearance, in the form of teachings by my refuge lama, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.

My karma yoga is again in the shrine building, beginning tomorrow, and there is a Green Tara empowerment tomorrow night.

In short—rickety old building or not, it doesn't get any better than this.

Fantasy Woodstock Address

Where else would A Word Witch want her mail delivered, other than on Witchtree Road?

Morning Moon

I started my day of travel to KTD before dawn. I was lucky enough to be called by Forrest to see the just-past-full moon setting over the pine trees in the west. Just beautiful, how Luna lights the pre-dawn hours.

Forrest also saw a shooting star! A Perseid, perhaps?

Make a wish: Absolute perfect enlightenment for all sentient beings, especially feral cats.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Iridescent Clouds

Something made me start carrying my camera around with me this week. This morning, on my way to work, I was glad I had the Fuji. Luckily there was a safe place to pull over when I saw this beautiful iridescent cloud in the east, as the sun was coming up.

I took the iridescence as a pointer for my trip back to KTD tomorrow, for a continuation of the teachings about Machik Labdron—perhaps the last time I will get to visit there for quite a while, now that I have a car payment and need to be a financially responsible adult. Drat.

Stay tuned.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ferals' Progress, Part 5 (Housecats)

The ferals have discovered the joys of being housecats. Here in North Central Florida, that means access to cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter; for ferals' humans, that means fleas.

Forrest is still learning how to use his new camera, but if you can overcome the orange radiance, here are the members of the lineup from left to right, above: Bill, Baybee, Grover, and Julius.

Not pictured: Bootsy, Tracey, Angie, Hortie Tortie.