Entry Date On-Line Journal - October 2001
October 02nd    October 03rd    October 06th    October 08th    October 11th    October 12th    October 17th    October 20th    October 27th   

10/27/01 Saturday
Late evening - I keep trying to write a new entry but I have nothing but torn pieces of snapshots from the last few days:

Weather that changes so much that I can not remember in the afternoon if there was rain in the morning, or bright sunshine;

Walking back from lunch Friday through scattered raindrops and wind, passing rust-orange chrysanthemums pushing their faces through a white picket fence like eager children;

Ducks flying south in the morning and north in the evening - my sister suggests they might be practicing for their more serious journey;

The play of light and shadow today on the mountains to the northwest - the sun was hidden behind black clouds, but its rays caught a curtain of rain coming down one of valleys, making it radiant white.

In all this serene beauty the news reports are relentless. So many things that I do not write down, because I just don't know what to say.
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10/20/01 Saturday (as it becomes Sunday)

Exhausted and blurry. Standing at midnight in my doorway, hoping once again to see the Northern Lights - my breath rises in clouds in the cold, and the air is crisp, smelling of earth and pines, not yet like winter. TV images flicker in a window across the street, but most other windows are dark. I hold an opaque box cover up in front of me to block out all the light from the lamps along our walk so that I can have a chance of seeing those elusive northern lights. Anyone seeing me probably wonders what that strange woman is up to -

I interviewed Bill this afternoon.
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10/17/01 Wednesday
A windy afternoon, leaves of many colors blowing off all the trees, covering the sidewalks, and filling the gutters. I picked up some of these leaves on the way home from another lunch at Kingston Cooks.
fall leaves Winter is coming.

Yesterday morning at about 10:45AM, two hundred or so geese flew over going south in a ragged V. But the mallards are up to something different. They fly south in the morning, and back north in the evening - unless of course there are two different groups, one of which – no, I can't entertain thoughts that strange, no matter how logical. This reminds me of the ducks that lived in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I used to see them every fall morning and evening as I walked to and from the subway. They flew in a south-westerly direction in the morning, perhaps to nearby Greenwood Cemetery, and back to the park in the evening. Always wondered why - still wondering.

Today's fears have to do with all the anthrax that is turning up - where is it coming from? The sense of being under siege grows. I hope this has peaked, and that we will be able to begin to recover from this threat.
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10/12/01 Friday
The sand mandala again today. I was looking forward to watching the monks working on it as I had last Tuesday. But in fact when I went into the gallery, the mandala was finished and had been set up on a platform about two feet high. The monks were not around. It looked so beautiful in a bright, no-nonsense way.

One thing I noticed that I had not been aware of before was the three-dimensional quality of much of the mandala. For example the flower petals that form one of the outer rims - in the image below, they are the very outer ring of the design that has been completed - the white edge of each petal is considerably raised, far beyond what would be necessary just to make the color clear. A number of other features of the mandala are similarly handled. This is especially marked in the fierce faces that are at each of the four corners, outside the mandala itself - they each have discernibly modeled eyes, noses, lips, teeth and chins. Each detail is so minuscule, and so clearly done.

When I got there, I was by myself, and took a bunch of photos. Then a number of people came in. Two of them eventually put cushions on the floor, sat and began to say prayers, almost inaudibly. Everyone else became quieter - I guess out of respect. I sat too, too shy to pull out my prayer beads. The mandala itself was a sort of center of gravity in the room - drawing everything toward it.
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10/11/01 Thursday
Last Tuesday, after lunch at Kingston Cooks, I stopped by the Off the Walls Gallery where Tibetan Monks are creating an Avalokiteshvara sand mandala. They began creating it on Monday, and will finish tomorrow. The mandala base, a blue wooden square about three or four feet on each side with the major lines in white paint, had been set up on the floor in the center of the gallery. The monks, seated cross-legged, were working when I went in - they looked up briefly to say hello, and then went back to work.

The sand is put onto the surface using foot-long thin metal funnels. One end of the funnel is about two inches in diameter, and that end is dipped into a dish of colored sand. Then the sand is poured down through the narrow end, through the opening which is not much larger than a pencil lead. Because the opening is so narrow, the amount of sand can be finely controlled. The outer surface of the funnel has little ridges on it and by scraping another metal blade over it, the funnel is made to vibrate, which causes a very fine stream of the colored sand to flow from the bottom. The monks bend themselves nearly double holding the funnels, drawing the designs with them.

There are several chairs available so I sit in one, and watch. Everyone is quiet - occasionally one monk makes a remark to another. Otherwise there is just the sound of the metal blades being rubbed against the funnels. When laying down the base color, the monk can work quickly, but once that layer is done, the fine designs take much more time. The monk nearest me is putting in some intricate vases with elaborate tops. He wears a white mask over his mouth to be sure he does not breath upon the mandala as he works. First he marks some guidelines faintly in white sand, and then using pale green sand he begins to build the vase. When the basic shape is laid in, he adds decorations in several other colors - orange dots, blue lines along the top, and more. What amazes me is that he is simply drawing all this from memory - they do not have a copy of the design anywhere around to work from.

There is nothing going on here other than the creation of this beautiful pattern; the creation is a meditation, and observing that process is a meditation. It is an unusual experience to just sit here, as these men spend hours and hours slowly building up colored sand into such a complex and brilliant image. This work is rooted in an entirely different sense of time and of what is important. It is possible to just sit here and be, for now, at peace.

sand mandala
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10/08/01 Monday
It seems insensitive to the point of immorality to write about simple day-to-day events when a war has just started in Afghanistan. But time and days go on anyhow. The cold turns the leaves red and orange, the leaves fall and litter the lawns and sidewalks and roads.

And then something familiar brings the far-away suffering home to me. Tonight I was reading a report from Jane's Security website (www.janes.com) about the conflict in Kashmir. The article spoke of the formation of "madrassahs" - that is, schools that teach Islamic theology and law - by the Kashmiri organization Din-e-Mohammad Taliban, and backed by the Taliban and Pakistan-backed extremist organisations. According to one Kashmiri military commander, "...children are being prepared as soldiers for Islam." Moreover, "students are flocking to [these] schools as their parents are delighted at the thought of their children getting a free education." That is terrible in itself, I can not express how terrible. Training adults to be soldiers is not good, but training children is unspeakable. Then the article went on to say that similar madrassahs have been set up in remote areas like Kargil, and Ladakh to the north of Kashmir.

These are places I know - if only through reading - and places that I love because of the Buddhists who live there. I have read so much about some of these people that they are a presence in my life. Ladakh in particular is one of the last outposts of Tibetan Buddhism - it is remote, poor, wild and spare, and very beautiful.

Mountains of Ladakh
The people who live there, especially outside the capital of Leh, grow up in a culture still strongly influenced by traditional Buddhist values. Settlements are frequently centered on the small monasteries that are found throughout the country and the monks provide not only spiritual guidance and support, but education and medicine as well. Children still grow up here drinking in the teaching of loving-kindness and compassion with their mother's milk. This is human goodness. The thought of establishing schools which would teach these same children to hate and kill breaks my heart. I can only cry.

A small voice in my mind says that perhaps the schools would be set up only in Leh, and only for the children of the Moslem community there - in fact only for the boys. And is that any comfort - how could it be?
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10/06/01 Saturday
Today is the feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusians - the order which claims never to have been reformed because it was "never deformed." They certainly still live with an extraordinary adherence to their original vision.

A Carthusian writing in the first half of the 20th century said,
"To live by God alone and for God alone, that is the heart of our secret and the true essence of our solitude... To wish for nothing else, to know nothing else, to have nothing else, but God and God alone... Every other care beside this one and only Love is superfluous. Anything that has no part in the infinite self is too small for the human heart."

"There are not many souls which have the power to recognize the beauty of the Absolute... Rare are the souls intrepid enough to acknowledge all their weaknesses, to acknowledge their very nonentity. Rare are the souls which really dare to be nothing, and which, in that very act are humble enough to be content to be divine.... It is not possible to formulate a ‘theory' of this kind of life or to express in words its essence: it is too simple. ‘To love, to live in naked reality' - that is all that we can say with human words. "
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10/03/01 Wednesday
Today I have a lot of insect bites - evidently from standing out last night looking (in vain) for northern lights. And I thought my vigil was over until I looked at Spaceweather.com a little while ago. They say that there is a strong geomagnetic storm still going on and that "sky watchers with dark skies" could see auroras tonight and tomorrow night. So back out I go in a few minutes - though with little real hope, given how bright the skies here are. I don't think I see significantly more stars here than when I lived in Brooklyn.

This afternoon I finished the first section of Bill Richards' pages and made them public.

A new way of web-surfing: the counter on my web page tells me if people who visit find my site through a search engine; if they do, I can often look at the search they used, and see all the results - lawsview for one, but often also some wildly different sites.

Tonight, someone's search for "resonance" and "Rene Daumal" led me to an article, "The Deconstruction of Buddhism" that uses a lot of the ideas of Jacques Derrida - and I despair of understanding it. But I see that I must be careful in my own writing if I want to use the word "deconctruction." Evidently it is closely linked with Derrida, and his ideas. But it so perfectly fits what I think meditation is intended to do...

The same search led to another long article about life at Timothy Leary's establishment in Millbrook NY in the ‘60's. Reading that as late night turned into early morning brought back for me what it felt like to be leading even an ordinary life back then. It was a time full of wild and naive optimism. But it was when the door to so many different ways of being were opening. The wildness and optimism have faded, but the doors open wider and wider.
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10/02/01 Tuesday
11:30PM I just stood outside for awhile looking up at the sky. Spaceweather.com says there might be northern lights tonight near midnight even this far south. It is about 40 years since I saw the northern lights, and I would like so much to see them again. This is one of the places where outer reality and the inner world of miracles overlap. Maybe this is why Eliade's dream struck me with such force. But tonight the moon is full, or almost so, and very bright; the streetlights also give off their glare, as do the headlights of passing cars - with all this ambient light, I don't think there is much chance to perceive the soft, subtle colors of the aurora.

It was pleasant standing in the cool night. The air smelled clean - a heavy dew had fallen, and coated my fingers when I pushed my front door open to go back inside.

It seems as though the campaign against the terrorists responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Towers is heating up. Will some military action be taken soon? News reports speak of a strike at Afghanistan as "inevitable." According to one reporter, "about November 1st, most road movement becomes impossible." So if there is a plan to put troops on the ground, it has to happen soon. After our action, will there be a response - escalation? Or will there be more terrorist attempts very soon in any case? There is all sorts of speculation - TV special reports describing the value of gas masks versus just moving rapidly "upwind" in case of a biological or chemical attack. There seems to be no way to know just yet how much life has changed.
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