Entry Date Journal Archives

September 2001

09/28/01 Thursday
Have finally gotten to some reading again - the first volume of Mircea Eliade's Journals. Here's the entry from December 7th, 1946.

"Last night's dream: a moonlit night in a meadow, with many children of about six or seven years of age around me. We are all looking at the moon. Suddenly a cluster of stars of a strange, incomparable beauty begins to fall. The stars come closer and closer; we are afraid they will crush us. Then we see they are falling all around us, like golden apples. But they are smaller and hot. We begin to eat them, but I, holding one that is still burning in my hand, start to run, crying: ‘Quickly, everyone, take advantage of your opportunity! These are falling stars; they bring us good luck!'"

For me this dream is so strong, and so familiar that reading it really felt more like remembering it, or actually being in it. I read that last night before going to sleep. The hard thing about reading good books in bed is keeping a pencil handy to make notes - and not losing it in the blankets.

The Journal is very interesting - I have not read any work of Eliade's before now, and I find it to be full of things I have barely heard of, references that I don't recognize, writers I have not encountered. He also speaks frequently of writing or reading late into the night.
09/22/01 Saturday
I went to Ossining to visit Judy. I took a train from Rhinecliff, and got to the station very early. It was a beautiful, slightly hazy morning, and there were benches to sit on on the track. The station is right at the edge of the Hudson river, and for awhile I was the only person there. It was extremely peaceful just sitting there, hearing the small waves lapping at the river's edge and watching very little happening very slowly on the river. The rest of the trip was equally pleasant - I think I saw an eagle in one of the marshes along the way, but I'm not sure.

Judy's home is on six acres - it is a very low ranch style house built about fifty years ago and the years have given all the trees and shrubs and flowers time to almost absorb the house into the hill it was built on. Javier met me (Judy was still out shopping) and took me out to the patio which surrounds a small, asymmetrical swimming pool. The patio, in turn, is surrounded by flowers - all sorts, overflowing their beds and scenting the air all around. There were a lot of bumble bees gathering nectar. As we walked around to look at the flowers, Javier stopped a moment to stroke one bee on the back, very gently - an unusual talent - the bee did not seem to mind at all.

Later we sat in the breakfast room and watched all the birds feeding just outside. There were so many - titmice, chickadees, cardinals, blackbirds, doves, and others. I even saw a flicker. Just past the tree from which the bird feeders hung was a large bush fully in bloom, and many butterflies - monarchs and a few small white ones too - were feeding on its blossoms. As we ate lunch a faun, half grown but still wearing his spots, came by and nibbled at the lower branches of one of the small trees near the house.

We talked until I was hoarse. It was a wonderful visit, one of those rare times out of time - and for a little while the three of us thought of something other than the past weeks' tragedies.
09/21/01 Friday
Another trip to Kingston Cooks and another very enjoyable quiet lunch. It was a soft sunny afternoon, the light filtered by many clouds. I walked back - somewhat slowly, and was very warm by the time I got home. Barbara and Dennis were sitting out in the late afternoon sun, and I joined them for awhile. For a moment, the sunlight caught the sweat starting in the pores of my arm - and my arm sparkled as though covered by tiny diamonds.

Later, in the evening, I sat out again with Ginny, Betty and George. At one point we got into a discussion of dandelion wine - as children, Ginny and Betty both had gathered dandelion blossoms by the baskets-full so that their fathers could brew wine from them. This is one of those images that is full of magic for me: dandelion wine - imagine - what could it be like? I hope someday I find out.

I've been thinking about how to respond to the attack on the World Trade Center - I begin to see how becoming much more aware of politics, and my government's policies and actions, may be an obligation that I cannot escape - specifically as a Buddhist. I begin to understand my obligation to make myself as informed as I can manage. And to find ways to act on that information.

Ruth Simmons, President of Brown University, and recently President of Smith College said today:    "...We haven't paid enough attention to the complex relations that exist around the world and our place in that. We are a leadership power in the world, which gives us a special responsibility.... We're one of the most educated countries in the world. That gives us an obligation to learn more about our neighbors and about what it is that they have encountered, and how they live and what their perspective is on world affairs....It seems to me, we need to take seriously our responsibility as world citizens…We're evolving, I hope, to making use of the knowledge and ability that we have to play a much more forthright and responsible role in world affairs."

"This is an opportunity for us to look deeply and to assess what we do around the world with regard to poverty, with regard to civil rights, with regard to human rights, and to try to get a grasp of that that's more sophisticated than what we're accustomed to doing....There is this very serious issue that we're confronting in the world, and that is how will we —— all of us together —— live in an environment of trust, respect, peace, dignity and honor. That's a powerful question for us."

She put it very gently I think.
09/18/01 Tuesday
Slowly working my way back to normal. Added two more images and more narrative information to Bill's site tonight - perhaps it will be ready to make public by the end of this week. The site is "a celebration of consciousness" and concerns the healing power of art in the face of catastrophic injury. I'm glad to be working on it right now.

A few weeks ago, I was spending almost all day and much of the evening glued to this screen - hardly getting out or seeing people at all. Now, having found a pool to swim in and a fine place to eat lunch, I'm scrambling to also find time to do all the work I want to do. Today I went up to Kingston Cooks again for a late lunch. I walked - the afternoon was quiet and beautiful - almost got my shoes stuck in the warm tar of the new road surface on Green Street as I crossed just one block behind the road crew. After eating I ended up talking with the cook for awhile and learning how she prepares each item (it's a small menu.) She also told me of friends from New York who were staying with her because they are afraid to be in the City now.

Returned home to find Ginny and Betty sitting out - so I joined them for awhile. Many people came by; Gloria out to mail a letter, Dan working in the gardens, Irma tending to errands, Rosh Hashana guests arriving for Ann, and George driving off in his new van.

I've been looking at the NY Times web site. It has articles about the destruction of the World Trade towers written by a number of New York City writers - fine writers, all telling the same story. The images, the imaginations, all are so different - but the common thread is the complete disbelief experienced by each writer. It's the incomprehensibility that death always has, especially sudden death: how could something or someone who was here, just now, alive and vibrant, be gone? Gone beyond any recall or change; how? My mind plays the same question over and over - and I never find an answer. I have plenty of theoretical answers, beliefs that I hold; but nothing actually works when my mind, my thoughts, are stopped completely by the terrible absence.

But it is also a new year, at least according to the Jewish calendar, and I remember how when my youngest brother was born, I was struck by the incomprehensibility of birth: that where there had been nothing, there was now this small baby; where had this life come from, and how could this be? And so, I hope today that life is the more powerful mystery.
09/17/01 Monday
Beginning to pick up the threads of normal life again, but feeling guilty doing so. Part of me feels, in moments like this, that the only right and proper thing to do is to focus on the loss, the tragedy, with all my attention. This quite literally is a wake. But there is a point at which the balance shifts, and although life never returns to what it was before, it does return.

The acorns began to fall a week or so ago, and the squirrels (not yet wearing their gray winter coats) are gathering and burying them for the winter to come. Leaves are falling, but there is very little color yet.

In the evening a group still sits out on the benches, and even though it is colder, the mosquitoes still bite us. The dripped wax from last Friday's candles still marks the walk in front of the benches.
09/14/01 Friday
There's been a lot of talk about anger in various contexts - political, social, and in relation to one's beliefs. But one thing I haven't heard much about is the equally powerful urge to protect others - to shield and guard those less able to help themselves. I think many of the people hard at work, trying to rescue any of the victims that are still alive in the rubble of the World Trade towers are working out of this urge and energy.

The important thing is that this motivation is grounded in love and compassion, rather than hatred, or a desire for revenge. Moreover, it can absorb and use the energy of anger. It does not recognize any boundaries; no specific group is excluded, especially not those, such as the Moslems that live in America and Europe who may be related by nationality to those who have harmed us, but who are not in any way connected with that harm. Even when it comes to dealing with the terrorists themselves, it operates not from hatred, but from the awareness that they are also sentient beings, ones caught up in terrible nightmares, who must be prevented from doing more harm. Its purpose is to protect all sentient beings.

And I think it is this motivation that is the safest basis for the actions that will no doubt be taken in future weeks. My own prayers are that our leaders will have this motivation.
09/12/01 Wednesday
I knew that I loved New York City, but I didn't know how much until yesterday, when I saw the World Trade towers collapse. Even as they stood burning, they still stood - but when they fell, it was wrenching. It meant a terrible loss of life was inescapable - it was final. Something beautiful and loved - not the buildings, but the city and her people - had been badly wounded.

But in the next few hours the strength of New Yorkers, and many of their neighbors began to reveal itself. The willingness of people to pitch in and help in whatever way was needed has been moving, but not surprising.
09/11/01 Tuesday
I am not able to express anything appropriate to this tragedy except to honor those innocent people whose lives have been lost; and to honor all those in the World Trade area and at the Pentagon: victims and rescue workers, and ordinary people whose heroism, and simple expressions of human concern stand brighter and taller than the buildings that are gone.
09/09/01 Sunday
I've been working on transcriptions so intensely for the past couple of hours that now I can't remember what else I did today. Well - I did have a long conversation with Bill - we settled a number of issues about his web pages. I hope to have them finished and on my site by this time next week. It will be a lot of work, but I'm excited about how they will look.

After weeks of a lot of chicken, I felt really bored with it, and so went to Dietz's Stadium Diner for a late lunch today. A cheeseburger to make me happy and mashed turnips for my conscience (actually I rather like their mashed turnips!)

Just checked the weather for the next week - no rain predicted. This particular forecast tends to be accurate at least day by day. Wonder how well they do over longer periods? The long-range forecast on another site says scattered showers next Thursday. We really need several days of soft soaking rain.
09/08/01 Saturday
Farmer's market day. Good weather - which is actually becoming a bad thing because we're getting too much of it. The reservoirs are extremely low. I haven't yet learned the rhythm of the rain - I know spring is usually wet, and the snow is melting then. But do we get much rain in the fall? When would the reservoirs normally be replenished?
09/07/01 Friday
I appear to have stopped eating breakfast - if two days make a real trend anyhow. I get up and have my tea, but then get so involved in PC work, dealing with email, making sure my site is ok, talking to friends, and such, that I just never get to breakfast. Then it's lunch time - so decisions have to be made: do I eat a small breakfast now, and then do a really late lunch, which will in turn really mess up my dinner schedule? Or do I go straight to lunch and risk angering my insides with that less gentle introduction to the day's nourishment? Retirement is hell.

Talking with Charlene this morning - she mentioned how busy she'd been picking up all their garbage that had been strewn about the nearby woods by bears that tore up their refuse shed last night. Then we went on to other topics, but suddenly the garbage men arrived - unexpectedly. Not wanting to miss them, Charlene ran out to try to catch their attention. And I went with her, virtually speaking, because she uses/wears a wireless phone with a head set. Sounds of running over rough ground and ragged breath (shades of Blair Witch Project,) until she caught up with the truck and got them to take the garbage.
09/06/01 Thursday
Hardly moved from the PC today: ODP, Bill's pages, this journal, and transcriptions. Despite the beautiful weather, no walk. A bit after six, I did manage to tear myself away and went to see if there were any evening bench-sitters. Crows and blue jays flying overhead - mostly in a southerly direction, though I doubt that is significant. (Where are all the mallards I saw last year, morning and evening, going about some business? I can't remember what season it was.)

Betty has taken to getting her fresh air in the afternoon when possible, so I was not sure anyone would be out there, but there was quite a crowd. A gripe session was going on - seems that some of the apartments will have to change their addresses, and those affected were quite unhappy, especially about all the related paper work - banks, charge cards, and for Jack, changing all his pistol permits. I am spared - fortunately for me. So the talk went on - I forget all the topics. Ginny and I spoke about her work - she said how much she loves it, the patients anyhow, not the administrative stuff.

There was also much discussion of a man who has moved into a house on the next street - he evidently came over one evening and introduced himself - and everyone seems to know quite a bit of his business already. Bench sitting seems to be like staring into the sky - if a couple of people do it for awhile, others just come along and join in. A woman who lives further up the lane was walking her yorkshire terrier, and she also stopped - eventually sat down for awhile and introduced her dog whose name is Clancy. She and I talked for a bit after the others went in (it was getting dark) - she was born here and has lived where she is now for the past 50 years.

As I write, Spaceweather.com tells me that "on 7 Sep 2001 [they use GMT according to which it is already tomorrow] there were 318 known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids." They have a very nice little chart showing upcoming encounters - fortunately all will pass us by at distances several times that between the earth and moon. Spaceweather points out that, "None of the known PHAs are on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones all the time." So I guess there is still hope.
09/05/01 Wednesday
Tonight I've been working on Bill's pages - I think I have the painting section done, but I may have overindulged my tendency toward purple prose.

Encountered purple in a more benign form this afternoon - a window-box of lobelia outside a store at the junction of Wall and John Streets. Royal purple would have to be the term - the color was so brilliant and intense in the early afternoon sun. I spent a quarter-hour in the store talking with the owner just so I could find out what those flowers were. And there was a bonus - the owner's chocolate lab who played with us - shoving a green tennis ball with her nose for us to catch and then throw again for her.

Lunch at Kingston Cooks - very pleasing and almost too tasty. And then a wander home down Wall, left on North Front - a stop in the new gallery - all the work of one artist, but I couldn't tell that. There was only one piece that I liked and it was a photographic reproduction of a painting that was not there itself.

Once home, after a brief rest, I took my binoculars out to try to see the sunspots that are crossing the solar face this week. No luck - the little sun disks projected through the binoculars onto a white card were still much too brilliant to look at. Feh. No auroras, no sunspots.

As I write the mp3 files playing on my pc (a bunch of new age stuff) sound very good to me.

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