Archive for October, 2008

Hallow’een wishes

Posted on October 31, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I wrote a post last year about Día de Los Muertos, so I shan’t repeat it here, but do click back if you are interested in some of the traditions surrounding the various holidays on October 31/November 1.

If you celebrate any of these, I wish you a fulfilling, satisfyingly soul-searching All Souls Day, Hallow’een, All Saints Day, and/or Día de Los Muertos!


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Blogaise

Posted on October 30, 2008. Filed under: Health, Musings, Philosophy |

I’ve just had a realization, and thought to share it. I’ve been feeling a “loss of blogging incentive” recently, and I’ve noticed quite a few other bloggers I read are either a) posting less; or b) posting more depressingly. The economic malaise and uncertainty has affected me somewhat—I’m still living my same lifestyle, but I’m more aware of where and how I’m spending money, and several of my income sources have either lessened, or suspended operations. (Still, I have a couple new sources coming along, too.) So, some of this reaction may be to change. With all of that, I’ve felt both more pressure to “get things done” (whatever that means), and a sort of mental stagnation which makes it more challenging to “get things done”.

The blogging part of this paradox is that I’ve been putting off writing blog posts until I “get things done”! And, the realization I had was that lack of blog posting is contributing to my lackadaisical attitude. I feel bleh; blah; bloohey, but believe I have to “get things done” before I can set aside the part of my day and mental and emotional space I generally devote to blogging.

Now, of course, since my Great Realization, I understand I must blog first, “get things done” next. I feel so much better already just typing along here. My impending paperwork is within my view, but it can stay safely there without compelling me to stop writing in its favor. After all, I haven’t completed it in the last three days; I tend to look at it quizzically as if it appeared out of thin air for no worthy reason.

I had avoided exercising for a while, too. Part of the reason for that is I wasn’t feeling particularly well, and didn’t feel like jumping around and stretching and things. Part of it was, though, due to the “blahs”. I was not unhappy or in despair, I wasn’t even indifferent; it just didn’t matter anyway.

If I’m intent upon avoiding change, I may need to look into residence on a different planet. Given that that’s not likely, at least not in the next year or two, I may as well readjust my expectations, attitude, and joy-quotient. This blog MAY be an addiction (there have been studies of such things),

37.5 %

My weblog owns 37.5 % of me.
Does your weblog own you?

but all I know is that since I started blogging 1 1/3 years ago, I’ve felt better, both online and off, when I’ve posted several times a week. It seems that increasing my output is good for my wellbeing. These outpourings have become such a part of my life, it would be like giving up dessert (which I only have a few times a week, honest!) if I gave blogging a lower priority than it actually has in my life. And of course, the noble-sounding reason for this is because it’s a good thing to write. It’s not the blogging per se that gives the boost to my satisfaction, but the process and result of writing. The blog is just where I do the majority of my writing. I would really like to do more and other kinds of writing, and, in wondering why I don’t, I discover that writing to an audience—even if I don’t get any comments—is a vastly different experience than more long-term novel, story, or essay kinds of writing. Those last are probably intended for an audience, too, but the delay between writing them, and allowing someone to actually read them is much, much, greater.

Many bloggers are asked (by those not in the know) why they have to publish these “brain droppings” (with thanks to the late great George Carlin) online; why not just keep a journal? My response is that I say things here I’m either not able to say in person, or can’t get people to sit still and listen to in person. This medium gives me a chance to collect my thoughts, and respond in my own time, rather than “on demand” as is often required in personal relationships. I’m kind of a delayed-reaction sort of person; I also prefer to communicate the “details” of friendships by email, rather than by phone, even if the persons involved live close to me. Fortunately, most of my friends are comfortable arranging dinner or theater dates by email. In fact, I find I don’t see the friends who don’t like this way of scheduling as often as I do the ones who do. (Did I just get myself into a grammatical quagmire? Oh, well.) I still DO see people, though! I’m not one of those freaks who spends all their time in a dark room with a computer and a soft drink and no “live” friends!!! (I only have a small amount of fear of becoming such a person presently.) ;)

I won’t say that I will blog more often now (in light of my Great Realization—but I do intend to!) or that my blog posts will be of greater quality (unlike this one; geeeesh!) but I do hereby, publicly, acknowledge the blog’s important place on my joy-compass.

So, in these times of change, I’d like to know what you think. Is blogging good for your health (be it physical or mental)? Can we indulge our blogging needs and benefit each other, even when we’re feeling a bit lost? Whether you are a blogger or not, I wish you well as we all embrace this changing world.

Are You A Blogaholic?
Your Score: 72 / 100
YOUR SCORE

72.0% 72.0 points out of 100

AVG SCORE

45.6% 45.6 points out of 100

381 people have taken this silly test so far.

36 people have scored higher than you.

340 people have scored lower than you.

5 people made the same grade as you.

What does this mean?
72 points is in the 51 through 80 precent
You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You’re the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!

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Over the Weather

Posted on October 22, 2008. Filed under: Health, Musings, Philosophy |

I’ve been feeling a bit “under the weather”, as the term goes, lately. Nothing serious going on here, but a generalized set of symptoms that have caused me to examine their cause. What, exactly do we mean when we use the phrase “under the weather”, anyway? We may have sniffles, but not a full-blown (pardon the pun) cold. Or a few sneezes, but not quite an “allergy attack”. Maybe we’re more tired than usual, or a bit head-achy and cranky.

Naturally, I had to look up the origin of the term, and found it’s probably a British nautical phrase, used when sailors became ill. They were confined below deck, therefore “under the weather“. (Depending upon the ship, and the conditions, this may or may not have helped!)

One can also be “above the weather“, an informal aeronautical term for flying higher than the clouds. I’ve been in a plane above the clouds and it is wonderful and magical—certainly nicer than being “under the weather”.

I am one who believes that physical un-well-being is always connected to ones emotional state, and I realize that lately I’ve allowed many of my emotions to be guided by numbers. I am, in most cases, a big fan of numbers. Mathematics, while not my best subject ;) is of endless fascination to me. Equations can be keys that open up worlds of conscious exploration. However, the numbers I’m talking about now are these:

Financial Market Numbers, specifically The Dow Jones Industrial Average, but also worldwide markets. These are broadcast half-hourly on the radio, these days, and minute-by-minute online and on television.

US Electoral Map Polling Numbers, such as this frequently updated chart shows.

These two sets of numbers are the subjects of intense focus of millions of people throughout the world. Many of them believe that the quality of their lives are governed, at least partially, by these numbers. It’s very easy for me to get caught up in the drama of all the numbers, as even on days when I don’t intentionally tune into the media, they are in front of my face when I log into my beloved WordPress to check my blog!

In these times, I have to remind myself that the numbers aren’t real—they are made up! They are OPN (Other People’s Numbers) and I can choose to adopt them, or leave them alone. As I’m rather a sensitive individual, I can feel when those around me are angry or panic-stricken, so it’s crucial, in my opinion, to meditate longer, exercise more, take my supplements and maintain my immune system, and do any of the other things I choose to believe are helpful. After all, I am of no use to people when commiserating with them. That brings the energy down for both of us.

I know some are excited about the prospect of their presidential candidate winning an important election in less than two weeks. With International and National issues looming large, should one choose to allow them to, many are working and writing and campaigning on behalf of potential national and local leaders. This can be a wonderful thing, if one is following ones passion in a positive way. It is way too easy, though, (and I confess I’ve occasionally gotten caught up in this myself) to then find fault with the candidates and/or issues one does not choose. I do almost always vote in elections, not because it’s my civic duty, or because it’s a right or responsibility, but because it feels worthwhile to contribute to the well-being of my town, state, and country (and keeping in mind the impact on the rest of the world) in that way.

I would not, however, vote for a candidate I felt was “the lesser of two evils”. Many vote that way; feel they must vote for someone. Beside the fact that I don’t believe anyone is evil to start with—but that’s another discussion—if I really believed there was no clear and joyful choice I would not “settle”; instead I’d examine the current universe I find myself in, and see what other direction to follow.

Aside from all that, however, I have realized that the numbers I’ve been watching, and which, I feel, I allow to drain my energy, won’t change either a) who I plan to vote for on November 4th, or b) how I invest and or spend what money I have. I’m confident and comfortable with the decisions I’d made before those Numbers were so prominent in the American news. There is no reason to focus on increasing anything other than joy. For those who enjoy politics, I wish you all the best! As for myself, I think I’ll attempt to stay “Over the Weather” until I’m able to observe, and take joy in, the news, while keeping my equilibrium. I wish you joy and peace.

PS: Congratulations to the nation of India and my Indian friends on the launch of your first space mission to the moon! I’ll be following this mapping mission with great interest. :)

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Time for some Shift

Posted on October 18, 2008. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Philosophy, Science |

This is a follow-up post to the one I wrote for Blog Action Day on October 15. I was grateful for the opportunity to explore planetary resources from some different perspectives. Recently, I became aware of a film being made that explores the issues in many of the ways I enjoy. The film profiles a series of what it calls Global Activists who are on the forefront of an exciting movement to change the way we think about global issues. Leaders from all over the world appear, including one or two I have met, and many I’ve never heard of. There is strong support from youth leaders, as well as those of the more “seasoned” variety. If you watch the trailer below, you will see some familiar faces. I’ve signed up to support this project, and wanted to share its vision. I hope you will enjoy the trailer; about 6 minutes long.

The film’s website is here: http://theshiftmovie.com/

Peace.

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Blog Action Day 2008: Plenty

Posted on October 15, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

There are a lot of posts about Blog Action Day today. I participated last year, when the topic was “The Environment“, but I almost didn’t want to this year. I really enjoy being a part of projects like this; and I’m always interested to read the views of other bloggers.

What got to me this time around was the topic title, “Poverty“. Immediately, it puts into peoples’ consciousness that, not only does “poverty” exist; it’s a widespread “problem” which needs “intervention”. I honor those who wish to help others in the world, and in their own communities. You will find many blogs today which have views on how to do this, and many will make good and inspiring reading.

I just feel to approach the issue from a different perspective. Here is one way of looking at a particular resource:

The world is being transformed because the cost and speed of creating, manipulating, and communicating knowledge (and other forms of wealth) have fallen to tiny fractions of previous levels. What resources facilitate this revolution? Silicon, for computer chips, and glass, for fiber optic cables. Both are made from silica, which, after oxygen, is the most common element on earth. It is sand! Thus, human beings took a common, abundant material, applied their ingenuity (in the form of, for example, quantum mechanics), and created unprecedented wealth. —Sheldon Richman

So, one way of looking at resources is that some are abundant, not scarce. I know there is much more to say than this; much more to the story of who benefits from which technology. But, as I said before, there are other blogs to read about those things.

My wish, for today, is that each of us can do a little bit, whether it’s deciding to have a new thought, or whether it’s giving something unexpectedly to someone, to make us feel more abundant ourselves. Feelings turn into thoughts, which turn into realities. It’s difficult to see headlines such as “Worldwide Economic Crisis” and not react with some fear, and this in turn may make us feel a bit helpless when thinking of aiding others. On an Action Day such as this, though, it seems helpful to me to step back, assess all the wonderful things I have in my life, and allow the feeling of “plenty” to permeate my thinking. Fear and panic won’t help. As one of my teachers says “You can’t become poor enough, or lonely enough, or any other conscious state you can muster to completely empathize with someone who is poorer or lonelier than you.” Someone else said “One way I can help the poor is to not become one of them.” This may sound callous to some, but I feel we are much better able to serve from a position of strength.

A Zen Story: A man walks by a beggar on the street, who displays a sign saying “Please Help. Haven’t Eaten in Three Days”. After contributing some coins to the man’s upturned hat, he contemplates this as he walks into a meditation center. “How long have you been fasting so far?” he’s asked by a friend. “Three days, and I’m just starting to feel really good.”

I think it is sometimes a blessing to deliberately engage in consuming less. It can be remarkably freeing and uplifting, and, leave more resources for others. The difference between me, and the beggar, is that I’m fortunate enough to perceive my own choice in this.

I’m reminded of a song, from the controversial musical Porgy and Bess. It’s called I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’, and it’s sung here by Sammy Davis, Jr. It illustrates, clearly, that perspective changes everything.

Lyrics are here, if you’d like them.

I wish you a day of Plenty.

This post is part of Blog Action Day 08

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“Education” as a commodity

Posted on October 8, 2008. Filed under: Culture, HowTo, Music, Philosophy |

Is it just me feeling weird about all the references to the ability to “send your kids to college” I’ve been hearing vis-à-vis discussions about the economy, US Presidential debates, etc.?

As is the case with many children of immigrants or people of modest backgrounds in my country, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. My parents did not. My only sibling did not. However, I chose this myself, because I enjoy the process of education, not just the product. I didn’t expect my parents to pay for it, either. In all fairness to them, they would have done; they would have been proud to contribute to what they perceived as the advancement of their child towards “the American dream”.

I chose to leave home at an early age—barely 18—for a variety of reasons, and in order to do that, I took the first job I found that I was qualified for. I didn’t even know how to look for a job; I’d seen in the newspapers something called “Employment Agencies”, and there was one whose ad seemed friendly and helpful, so I went there. This probably sounds naive, but, in fact, they were friendly and helpful: they helped me evaluate my few “skills” (running a calculator by touch, and indifferent typing) and craft them into a package that would look good to an office manager. I think if I hadn’t been so shy at the time, I might have worked in food service or as a shop assistant as many my age had done; but I was reluctant to telephone or apply for jobs in person, so the Agency seemed like a place where they’d do all that for me. And they did. And therefore, I became an office worker in the financial district of San Francisco.

I could go on about what I liked and didn’t like about that, but the point I’m making is that, at the time, I had no college degree, and while the pay wasn’t spectacular, it did allow me to rent my own apartment, and live my own life, without being beholden to my parents. Had I demonstrated an aptitude and interest for the insurance business in which I worked, I could have gone on to learn from in-house courses and trainings to become a successful executive in that industry, without ever taking a “college” course. The most valuable things I did learn there were (most importantly) that I could support myself and be self-sufficient, and that computers were interesting and cool. :)

Eventually, I did put myself through college—very slowly—and launched myself into an advanced degree program, too. It took years, because I was working at least part-time all the way through, but I gained so much self confidence and ability by approaching college as a working adult rather than a “college kid”.

I take issue with “ability to send your kids to college” as a huge economic issue for many reasons. One is that it denies and diminishes trades, crafts, and skilled work that does not require college. Where would we be without carpenters, plumbers, and highway maintainers, to mention just a few? Many skilled professions do require some kind of training or apprenticeship, but those professionals don’t have to set foot into Harvard or Oxford to accomplish it. Please know that I think a college or university education is a wonderful thing (or I wouldn’t have pursued it myself) and that parents who wish to assist their offspring in this way are to be commended. I just don’t think it’s required (on the part of said offspring) or obligatory (for parents to provide).

A question parents might ask themselves—or better, ask their child!—is “What would give my child joy?” If we could only learn to start from there, rather than from perceived status or pay rate, I believe both the workers and economy would be much better served.

Even in those professions for which a college education is available, it’s not always the best, happiest, or most successful route. We all know that Bill Gates, for instance, dropped out of college, but that of course doesn’t guarantee success. What did, with this gentleman and many others, is that he had an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for his dreams. In artistic pursuits, opinion seems to be split on how much a “proper” education helps or hinders. Many fine painters are self-taught, while many others have attended specialized art schools or major universities to hone their technique. It’s the same way with musicians. I used to be quite a music snob; I felt that if one were interested in music, one ought to learn the western system of notation and music theory, as I have done. While one could not get a job in a fine orchestra as a player or conductor without this grounding, I’ve noticed that music is so much more than that. I got an inkling during my second music theory course where I learned things like “spelling” and “proper voicing” (This refers to how to write chords; not necessarily having anything to do with singing.) It was actually physically painful for me to be confined to western musical “rules” which, when examined, are no more than cultural conventions. Much, much, much World, Indigenous, and independent music doesn’t follow these conventions at all. I believe a great deal of creatively might be lost in imposing rules upon music which, after all, lives more in the soul than in the head.

That said, having the ability to notate music does come in handy. I have a friend who occasionally calls and tells me “I just wrote a song!” I tell him to hang on while I get my music notation paper, and he sings it to me, and I write it down. He could just sing it into a recording device to be transcribed later, but he doesn’t do this; for some reason that makes him feel self-conscious, but singing it to me doesn’t! So, I am of use to him. He loves to sing, but will not sing in the chorus with me as he doesn’t enjoy the discipline of rehearsals and the music-reading skills needed. Does this make him any less a musician, though?

The prejudice against “skilled trades” as being somehow less worthy or less “intellectual” than other pursuits is belied by this very medium in which I communicate to you. Writing, like music, is another endeavor where too much “education” may be a hindrance, or may be the making of the writer. Either way, when I look at the blogs I read here on WordPress and elsewhere written by truck drivers, mechanics, and brick layers, it’s apparent that there is poetry in many souls.

So, should “sending the kids to college” be a primary focus of economic planning? I’d be very interested in what you think!

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I answer questions; you look at pictures

Posted on October 4, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings, Travel |

I’ve seen this meme around on a few blogs, a couple of which invited anyone who wanted to to complete it. I don’t usually meme without being tagged or “strongly encouraged”, but for some reason this one really appealed to me. I’ve enjoyed reading/looking at others’, and searching for the photos gave me some insight into myself as well. (What I do with that insight remains to be seen).

So, here’re the instructions (which I may choose to follow; or not!) ;)

Instructions:
a) Answer the questions below, do a Google Image Search with your answer, take a picture from the first page of results, and do it with minimal words of explanation.

b) Tag 5 other people to do the same once you’ve finished answering every question.

OK, my first issue with the instructions is that “below” does not actually ask “questions” but, instead, invites us to respond to “statements”. {I quibble, you benefit…or roll your eyes; your choice} :razz: Secondly when they say “…do it with minimal words of explanation”, I interpret that to mean “Post each reply with few words of explanation”, the gist of which I take to mean “Let the pictures speak for themselves as much as possible.” I shall, therefore, let the pictures speak completely for themselves. :) Finally, I won’t tag five people, or any people, but I can recommend this meme as a worthwhile project, and if you wish to complete it, I’ll really enjoy viewing yours. :D Given all this equivocation, I will say that I did not cheat; every picture was from the first page of results generated by a search of my response to the pertinent statement.

Here goes:

1. The age you’ll be on your next birthday

2. A place you’d like to travel to

3. Your favourite place

4. Your favourite food

5. Your favourite pet

6. Your favourite colour combination

7. Your favourite piece of clothing

8. Your favourite TV show

9. First name of your significant other

10. The town in which you live

11. Your first job

12. Your dream job

13. A bad habit you have.

14. Your worst fear

15. What you’d like to do before you die

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If you can’t laugh at the economy, what CAN you laugh at?

Posted on October 2, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings |

As someone who’s easily amused by rather silly things, I felt it was timely to share these. They’ve been around in emails, so you may have seen them; if not, enjoy! :D

For all of you with any money left, be aware of the next expected mergers so that you can get in on the ground floor and make some BIG bucks. Watch for these consolidations in 2009:

1.) Hale Business Systems, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Fuller Brush, and W. R. Grace Co. will merge and become: Hale, Mary, Fuller, Grace.

2.) PolygramRecords, Warner Bros., and ZestaCrackers join forces and become: Poly, Warner, Cracker.

3.) 3M will merge with Goodyear and become: MMMGood.

4.) ZippoManufacturing, AudiMotors, Dofasco, and Dakota Mining will merge and become:ZipAudiDoDa.

5.) FedEx is expected to join its competitor, UPS, and become: FedUP.

6.) Fairchild Electronics and Honeywell Computers will become: Fairwell Honeychild.

7.) Grey Poupon and Docker Pants are expected to become: PouponPants.

8.) Knotts Berry Farm and the National Organization of Women will become: Knott NOW!

OK, that last one may be a little far-fetched. ;) As I write this, the US Vice Presidential Debate has concluded, the US Stock Market has tanked again, and the US Congress is still wrestling to balance politics with a useful spending plan. Given all these challenges to our equanimity (and, as a US citizen, I feel for you, rest-of-the-world, as your markets tend to dance with ours), I can have but one response: Join the Silly Party.

The following British election results clearly show the Silly Party in the lead; however for all us non-Brits, I’m told that the Silly Party is now world-wide, and seems the sensible party to join.

Convinced yet? I know it seems the Silly Party will only succeed in Britain, which, admittedly, is a very silly place, but as these next two documentary videos prove, Silliness has come to the USA, nay, to the world, indeed, to the entire galaxy!

For those of you who do not appreciate the seriously sophisticated, finely nuanced style that is Monty Python—and/or Star Trek—(and I know you’re out there) please just skip the next one and be my friend anyway, ‘K? :)

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Tortoise, Buddha, and Pagoda

Posted on October 1, 2008. Filed under: Games, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

I have a large back yard—or garden—(although to use that word is stretching it a bit), and in addition to only two plants (a large Prickly Pear cactus and an even larger spidery thing whose name I do not know), and many rocks (since we apparently love those in the desert), there are three objects d’art: a Tortoise, a Buddha, and a Pagoda.

This title sounds like either the beginning of a fantasy tale (like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), or the first line in a bad joke: “A tortoise, Buddha and a pagoda walk into a bar…” (I did say bad joke!), but in fact, it’s only a backyard anomaly.  (Now that sounds like a song: “It was only a Backyard Anomaly…”—Oh dear. It’s one of those days.)

I recently gazed out into the back garden, and noticed I often do so when tired, or needing a break; grumpy, or just wanting some mental refreshment. Of course the major attraction of gazing outwards from my particular vantage point is the dramatic view of the Santa Catalina Mountains, which my neighbor told me was “worth $50,000 right there!”. I don’t know about that in these times, and I’d never been inclined to put a price tag on a public mountain, but I do know that those mountains bring peace to my soul, and were a large part of the reason I wanted to move into this particular house.

Largely because the mountains had seemed “enough”, I didn’t want to clutter up the backyard with a lot of landscaping, or concrete  walkways or, gorsh help us, a pool. (Not that I have anything against swimming pools, but I’m a low-maintenance kind of person.) So, the only things I added to the garden, as the plants and rocks were already there when I moved in, were the aforementioned objects. I didn’t get them all at once, nor were they the result of any planning or design.

First came the Buddha. I’ve always enjoyed the sight of a Buddha in a garden. He reminds me to meditate, to be as serene as I can, and hopefully to convince me and anyone who may see him that the reason I don’t have more stuff back there is because I’m going for a minimalist, Zen-like simplicity. Besides, I like the guy.

The pagoda came next. One of my favorite “escapes” during my childhood was the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. No matter how I was feeling, I felt better when I went there. I’ve toured many Asian-style gardens since, and, again, the feeling of serenity comes to mind. The pagoda has its own corner, and appears to act as an anti-chaos device.

Finally, there’s the tortoise. There is simply no explanation for her. I attended a Home Show, as I do once or twice a year, and there was a vendor outside it, selling cast concrete garden art, and this reptile came to my attention (by “reptile” I mean the concrete tortoise, not the vendor). Unlike with the Buddha and the pagoda, I don’t have a particular spiritual affinity with the tortoise. As far as I know, she is not my “totem animal” or “shamanic power animal”, but somehow she and I knew she belonged in my yard. The pagoda is of cast resin and is very lightweight. The Buddha is cast metal, and hollow inside. (Is there some spiritual significance to this?) The concrete tortoise, on the other hand, is enormously heavy! I could barely carry it to my car, and had to stop three times on the way. In a parking lot!

After wrestling the reptile out of my car, and into place in the yard, it became apparent she was not where she should be. (It had taken me three weeks to get the other two objects “just right”.)  “I will move you one more time only,” I told her, “so you’d better find me the right spot!”  She did.

At first Buddha was wary of her. I didn’t think the two would get along. I had the feeling I’d challenged Buddha’s spiritual equanimity, but he, as he does, eventually became “at-one” with the tortoise. As for Tortoise; she feels fortunate to have escaped the world of cliché: “Slow and steady wins the race”—[Yeah? and Time waits for no Turtle!] and into the land of koan: “Without anxious thought, doing comes from being.” -Gautama, the Buddha.

While the mountains speak to me, I enjoy the teachings of the Tortoise, and of the Buddha, and the Pagoda.

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