Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Sunday, 2017.03.26
I wonder if you know that the harp is a predecessor of the modern day guitar.
Early minstrels were much larger people. In fact, they had hands the size of
small dogs.

		Cliff Clavin

2006.12.20

The Developing Storm

A view of the wind chimes outside the second floor window. The ridge of snow is a drift being created on the lower level roof by the wind. Normally, there would be a clear view down to the driveway below.

Chimes

This intrepid sparrow has been camped at the bird feeder for the better part of an hour. He is on the down wind side of the feeder and thus protected from the driving snow. Plus, he has easy access to the seed with no apparent competition. In spite of the weather, this little fellow projects a rather cozy image.

Sparrow

Winter Meditation

Denver and the front range are currently getting hammered by the worst storm of the season, so far anyway. Some are saying it will be worse than the blizzard of ’03. For Buddha, this is just another moment.
Winter Buddha

2006.11.22

Mac Duff

Lay on, MacDuff, and curs’d be him who first cries, “Hold, enough!”. — Shakespeare

Re-read my post on Mac Duff moving on and thought of a few things I wanted to add.

First, I wanted to say more about Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder. She is a tiny woman, a grandmotherly figure who looks like she stepped off a Norman Rockwell painting. Neither her attire or her bags had the slightest suggestion of being a veterinarian. And Mac Duff’s nose was as curious as ever about what she was carrying. He quickly found the biscuits and was welcome to them. Dr. Ann thought of every detail and asked me questions like if I wanted a snip of Mac Duff’s fur (I had already done that) or a paw print in clay (which I accepted). She even researched the proper tartan for the Mac Duff clan and tried to match the blanket he would be wrapped in after he was gone.

In addition to explaining what she was going to do, several times, she carefully explained what Mac Duff’s reactions would likely be along the way. I knew most of what to expect, but if this was a first time or if there were kids saying goodbye to a pet, her explanations would have been priceless in helping them with the experience.

Dr. Ann talked about how after the last shot, and Mac Duff’s breathing and heart had stopped, animals sometimes take one last quick breath. She described this as the soul leaving the animal’s body and not to be alarmed by it. She was also willing to let me spend as much time with Mac Duff after he died as I wanted. I told her all I wanted to do, after his breathing and heart had stopped and he was leaving his body, was to play a piece on the cello which Mac Duff seemed to like. And so, when it was time, I played the “Ashokan Farewell” for Mac Duff. (Alas, I hadn’t practiced the piece on the bag pipes for the lad!)

Dr. Ann took care of the cremation arrangements as well. I like it that they use the metal tag identifier with pets like they do with people. Dr. Ann had recorded Mac Duff’s tag number on my receipt and tied the metal tag to his front left paw with, what else, a tartan ribbon.

I helped wrap Mac Duff’s body in the tartan blanket Dr. Ann had brought and I carried him out to her car. She had lined the back of her VW wagon with blankets of the same tartan and had a pillow ready for Mac Duff’s head. I put Mac Duff’s little body in the back, scratched his ears one last time and stepped back. He looked every bit like he was taking one of his naps. Dr. Ann said I could close the hatchback of her car when I was ready. I didn’t need long, Mac Duff was gone.

Wow. What a contrast to the way Pfred and Oscar had to leave. Particularly Oscar, for I believe he unfortunately suffered more than necessary before his death. He knew where he was and he absolutely hated the vet or anything that so much as suggested a cage of any kind. A dislike no doubt coming from his first 6 months in a puppy mill cage shared with a bigger dog that continually attacked him.

Time HealsThe next day I met a friend for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Marie and I feel the same about our dogs and loosing one is no small thing. At the end of the meal, the fortune cookie for me was “Time heals all wounds”. I had written quite a bit about this particular phrase in a notebook I’m using to collect such thoughts which will eventually end up in the book I need to write.

Any truth behind this phrase is a myth. Time doesn’t heal all wounds. I’d say unequivocally it doesn’t heal any wounds. What it can do is give those who have suffered a loss the opportunity to grow, explore and discover new and deeper ways to live. Time gives those with even a small amount of courage the opportunity to find ways toward strengthening their soul and moving forward. And in doing so, the distance traveled gives perspective and reveals meaning about the rough road behind them. It doesn’t matter that others fail to understand this insight. It only matters to those who have suffered such deep losses. For them, there is no such thing as just another sunrise or sunset. It is the paradoxical gain that comes from loss.

2006.11.20

Janet’s Boy Drops His Body

Mac DuffFor the third time in the past 18 months I’ve had to hold hospice here at home. First Janet, then our little silky terrier, Oscar, and this past week it was our cairn terrier, Mac Duff. I had to euthanize the pup this past Thursday night.

This all unfolded rather suddenly. About four weeks ago Mac Duff started limping on his front left leg. He reluctantly put weight on it and would hold his left paw in the air when he was just sitting. Pick him up wrong and he would screech in pain. Not a good sign. Detailed blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, MRI, a lump biopsy, $4,000 and four vets later the answer came back as very aggressive malignant lymphoma.

Mac Duff was a rescue dog. We got him at about 6 months of age. Janet wanted a third puppy and I grudgingly acquiesced. She had been through some rather difficult chemotherapy and surgery and wanted some puppy energy in the house to help boost her spirits and had wanted a blond cairn terrier for a long time before that. Mac Duff provided all this in one tiny nuclear package. He never slowed down and had the best temperament of any terrier I’ve ever known. He was Janet’s puppy.

Phyllis Glawe, the oncology vet at the Veterinary Referral Center of Colorado (VRCC) was clear and detailed with the facts. I’d asked for that up front given my history of supporting Janet in her fight with cancer. Smoke, mirrors and candy coated prospects are a bad thing. A very, very bad thing. If I’m to make a decision, I need to know what I’m up against, what the options are and what the likely consequences of any decisions might be.

A vet, or a medical doctor, earns a great deal of my respect from me if they are capable of acknowledging when they don’t know something. The valuable piece of knowledge contained in that acknowledgment is that I need to look elsewhere for an answer. Feigning knowledge for egotistical reasons, presenting speculation as fact and the like is also a very, very bad thing. It was that kind of attitude that put Janet is such a difficult situation before we even knew what was going on.

So, given that Mac Duff’s cancer was very aggressive and already quite advanced, if I had opted to put him through chemotherapy the cytolysis of the cancer cells would have flooded his little body with buckets of dead cell material, further taxing his already struggling liver and immune system and making him even sicker than the chemotherapy drugs would already make him. He could die from the treatment. Then there would be the side effects of the drugs: fur loss, vomiting, incontinence, risk of infection. God damn it, this is all too familiar. Not only this, but after six months of treatment, Mac Duff would have another 3-6 months cancer free after which the likelihood of a recurrence is very great and we would be right back where we were this past week. Only after much suffering and another $4,000+ lighter.

As Mac Duff’s owner/caretaker, the tough decisions are left to me. When Dr. Glawe showed me the protocol Mac Duff would be on, I knew what was in store for him when I saw words like “Adriamycin”, “Anzemet”, “Cytoxan” and “Cycloposphamide”. I could hear Janet’s voice screaming at me “Don’t torture the puppy!”

After the awful experience of having to put Oscar down and the way his last week on the planet unfolded, I wanted to find a vet who would make house calls for euthanasia. After speaking with several contacts, I settled on Dr Ann Brandenburg-Schroeder who specializes in pet euthanasia and calls her business “Beside Still Water“.

What a find! Dr. Ann is an angel. I had expected the house call vet would pretty much do what they do at the vet office except they would give the shot to put Mac Duff down at home. Not so. As soon as Dr. Ann stepped in the front door, she sat on the floor with Mac Duff and worked on setting a friendly rapport. There was nothing about Dr. Ann that said “vet” to Mac Duff. She had tasty biscuits from Great Harvest Bakery, spoke softly to him and scratched his ears. Even my other cairn terrier, Jasmine, took biscuits from Dr. Ann. Jasmine never takes treats from strangers. While doing this, she explained the process. She did this several times during the two hours she was there at the house, no doubt to remind me of what would happen.

Basically, she used four shots over about 15-20 minutes. The first was a strong pain killer, which made Mac Duff relax (first time in 4 weeks) and made him a bit sleepy. The second shot relaxed him even more. He was still aware and Dr. Ann said a loud noise or such would cause him to take notice. He was still tracking me with his eyes. The third shot was basically anesthesia and put him into an unconscious sleep. The fourth shot was an overdose which stopped his breathing and heart. Like Janet, when Mac Duff left, he jetted out of the galaxy.

I have a clear sense Mac Duff didn’t know what was about to happen. At no point was he afraid or agitated. He was comfortable and certainly enjoyed the treats. Unlike Oscar, who I had to take to the vet at 3:00 AM. As much as Oscar was suffering, he knew where he was – that place where people hurt him. So he fought and struggled. And the animal hospital vet didn’t get the euthanasia drug dose right and had to give him two shots. So he didn’t die right away. It still troubles me thinking about how he left. With Mac Duff, I have a much better feeling about his last days and moments. Dr. Ann is the main reason I’m doing better after Mac Duff’s death than I was after Oscar’s. The overall cost of using Dr. Ann’s services are not that much more than taking one’s pet to the vet to be euthanized. But the benefits to both you and your pet are an order of magnitude better.

I have one ding against VRCC for the record. It needs to be said to help readers who may be in my position. First off, understand that the vets at VRCC are very, very good. We refer to VRCC as the “Mayo Clinic for Pets.” They are also very, very expensive. And that’s not my grudge. I love all my pets and consider them a part of the family. Not in the perverted sense that some pet owners do who think it fitting to dress their pets up in people clothes, feed them human food, take them to pet psychologists and pet psychics, etc. Not in this house. We know our dogs are dogs and we care for them according to their nature. My dogs are on a raw food diet for the most part and they thrive on such food. They are given plenty of room to play and frequent walks. What ever care they need, if I can at all afford it, they get it.

My ding is how the tests were triaged. With obvious multiple lymph nodes that had had swollen to the size of plums in just one week, the sensible thing to do would have been to run the blood tests and biopsy first and deferred the $2,500 MRI until after the less expensive and, frankly, more appropriate tests results were available. But VRCC tends to go for the full buffet. They did this with Oscar but I put the breaks on that when they presupposed my instant answer to his potential glaucoma problem was to remove the cataracts in his eyes and replace his lenses with artificial lenses.

When it’s one of my dogs that is suffering, it’s difficult to keep the caveat emptor attitude. I trust the vets to make the correct call and not act as if they have a blank check with which to work. VRCC has my vacation for 2007. I hope they enjoy it because I likely won’t be traveling far.

[Edit History]

2006.11.22

Add more information in second post regarding Mac Duff.

2006.10.31

Rise And Shine

The colors just get better…

Aspen 01 Aspen 02

This was yesterday evening just as I got home from work. Today is damp, gray and cold.

2006.10.28

Das Engel Heiligtum

The aspen are in peak just outside my house.

Das Heiligtum

Standing beneath the aspen, lulled by the the shimmering of the sun and melody of the breeze in the leaves…

Das Heiligtum Aspen

…today is a good day.

2006.10.08

Heartland

A few pictures from a walk several weeks back. I’d meant to post them, but forgot about them until I happened across the digital camera this morning.

dsc00396_50.JPG

Janet and I called this cottonwood tree “Quasimodo.” Out in a field all by itself, it has been struck by lightning more times than I can count. The bark on one side is all black, the after effects of its most recent brush with primal forces. As gnarly as it looks, it has always been an inspiration for persevering and getting through our own tough times.

dsc00404_50.JPG

It used to be I could point a camera in any direction on my walks and end up with a cool picture like this. Now, there is so much mega-house building going on I have to frame my subject as best I can. On this walk, it was quiet, warm, fragrant and tranquil. Just like old times. I stood on this bridge soaking in the sunlight and comforting smells of Fall for a good long time. I want a strong memory of this place before it is gone forever.

2006.10.01

Dashboard Mohammed

Apparently, in high demand:

Dashboard Mohammed

A quote from the Daily News reads (H/T Michelle Malkin):

Frank Peters, a professor in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at NYU, warned that a bobblehead Muhammed was “a really bad idea.”

“Jews and Christians have gotten used to this kind of thing, but Muslims haven’t,” he said. “This may not be his intention, but these things have consequences.”

Well. I say let the desensitization begin. It might prevent the logical outcome of current trajectories.

A question, though. If no one is allowed to depict Mohammed, how do they know what he looks like? Maybe Mohammed doesn’t look like Dashboard Mohammed at all, which would mean all those symbols of rage (Danish cartoons, South Park episodes, etc.) are not offensive in the least because they actually don’t represent Mohammed.

Maybe he looks like this:

Circle

Or this:

Square

Or this:

Triangle

Would these images be representations of Mohammed if I said they were, or even simply claimed it was my intention that they were? In a rational mind, Dashboard Mohammed could be declared as not being The Mohammed rather just a Mohammed and all would be peachy. But rage blinds the rational mind like a hot iron to the eye.

If the radical Muslims could please provide a picture of what nobody is supposed to depict then all this nonsense can stop and we can all be respectful. But then, of course, they’d have to declare jihad on themselves. This reads like the Knights Who Say “Ni”. You know, the iron clad chaps from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Those fellows who can’t say that word…er…can’t think of it right now. Ooops! That’s it. Argh! I wrote it again! There, I’ve written it again! I can’t stop writing it! Help!

[Edit History]

2006.10.01

Sorry. The quote from Michelle Malkin is linked, just further up in her post. Link added to this post.

Also edited for clarity.

2006.09.21

The Tin Foil Brain

This from Swiss researchers, so you know it’s accurate:

Stimulating a certain area of the brain can produce a creepy feeling that someone is watching you when no one is, scientists said Wednesday.

Swiss researchers made the discovery while evaluating a young woman for surgery to treat epilepsy. They believe their finding could help explain feelings such as paranoia which afflict patients suffering from schizophrenia.

When they electrically stimulated the left temporoparietal junction in her brain, which is linked to self-other distinction and self-processing, she thought someone was standing behind her.

If they repeated the stimulus while she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had an unpleasant sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her.

“Our findings may be a step toward understanding the mechanisms behind psychiatric manifestations such as paranoia, persecution and alien control,” said Olaf Blanke, of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, in the journal Nature.

The left side of the brain. Hmmmmmmmm. We can only hope that someday appropriate medication will help.

[Edit History]

2006.09.23

Added link to original article.

2006.09.13

One Arab’s Apology For 9/11

Emilio Karim Dabul:

WELL, here it is, five years late, but here just the same: an apology from an Arab-American for 9/11. No, I didn’t help organize the killers or contribute in any way to their terrible cause. However, I was one of millions of Arab-Americans who did the unspeakable on 9/11: nothing.

The only time I raised my voice in protest against these men who killed thousands of innocents in the name of Allah was behind closed doors, among the safety of friends and family. I did at one point write a very vitriolic essay condemning their actions, but fear of becoming another Salman Rushdie kept me from ever trying to publish it.

Well, I’m sick of saying the truth only in private – that Arabs around the world, including Arab-Americans like myself, need to start holding our own culture accountable for the insane, violent actions that our extremists have perpetrated on the world at large.

Yes, our extremists and our culture.

I would like to thank Mr. Dabul for his apology. But more importantly, I would like to congratulate him for his courage. What he has done, is no small thing. I wish him peace and a long, happy life with his family.

2006.08.29

Variation On A Theme No. 4,577,308,253 By God

The Spring and Fall are the best seasons to walk along my life long favorite trails. This evening it was the Highline Canal Trail. I’ve walked this trail since, well, since I could walk. It’s evening walks like these, alone with my thoughts, that I feel I could never live anywhere but Colorado.

But the walks are changing. Deep gashes are being hacked out of the land on either side of the trail to build colossal, five story buildings some people seem to need. Stranger still, they call them “homes.” Thankfully, they haven’t rubbed out nature yet.

As I walk, I can close my eyes and listen to the cicada and crickets, smell the woody fragrance of the aging cottonwoods and maturing sage and yarrow. Fall is imminent. When the breeze is just right, and the failing sunlight just so, I can even imagine Janet is walking along with me. At this moment, it would take a powerful force to pull me away from here. I feel the roots fading, however, as places exist in both space and time. The relaxing satisfaction of watching a sunset has been displaced by a deep sadness I cannot define just now. It’s a silence that has me listening for something. My sense is there will be a time when I must go and search for a new home.

All the more reason to enjoy this sunset. And so I did…

Sunset 1

Sunset 2

[Edit History]

2006.08.30

Grammar changes and expanded a few ideas.

Sweet And Friendly Room In Kilauea

Passing this along…

I can vouch for the peace and tranquility of this space offered by Eana Rose. The quality of her massage is also top notch and an excellent way to set the stage for your visit to Kaua’i. Eana was one of the Hula dancers for Janet’s Celebration of Life on Kaua’i.

Sweet and friendly room In Kilauea

Do you have friends or family visiting? Anyone you know need a place while on Kauai for a retreat, workshop or school?

I am offering temporary shelter in my home, in a sweet room set up for retreat, healing and inspiration. Available for a day or two a week or two or by the month. As well as a supportive environment for your own agenda on Kauai, you have access to a sacred temple setting for meditation, yoga or making conscious music. Sacred Hawaii Bodywork and Ayurvedic Massages available, access to Hula lessons and sacred dance, great space for art and writing, silent Vipassana meditation on Monday evenings. Visit my web site for a description of “Pu’uwai Ka Lani Retreat”. Please feel free to share this with anyone you know who wants a safe, sweet space to stay while visiting Kauai. Or anyone needing a “Space In-Between” longer term living arrangements. Mahalo, eana

For information, rates and availability contact:

Eana Rose

(208) 721-1677
(808) 828-0138

eana@nalinilomi.com

eana.rose@hawaiiantel.net
www.nalinilomi.com

2006.05.29

The Warrior of Peace Rests

It may seem incongruous to associate the word “Peace” with “Warrior,” but as history has shown and current events are testing, there can be no peace without warriors to protect it. Janet was such a warrior. She knew peace, how to create it, how to nurture it and she knew when to defend it. And there is no denying she knew how to fight. When breast cancer showed as an opponent, she knew most likely she was fighting for others, that they might have a chance at peace. A peace that she would not know again until she left this world.

I had one last obligation to Janet’s physical presence here on Earth. It was her wish that her ashes be laid to rest in Hawai`i. Janet and I had a number of conversations about what she wished to have happen in this matter. And I have had a year to come to terms with this transition and to think about what needed to be accomplished during this particular journey to Hawai`i, for both Janet and myself. I have a clear sense of peace that I was successful.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

About half of Janet’s remains were released at a spot along the Kalalau trail on the way to Hanakapiai beach. The view from this location is breathtaking and was one of her favorites. (Click images for larger picture.)

South West West North East South East
South West West North East South East

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A few were released at a brief ceremony on the Heiau where we were married. I had devised a special urn for the Heiau ceremony and called it Janet’s hōkū lele (Hawaiian for “shooting” star or “meteor”).

My role in this ceremony was to facilitate the completion of her transition from life on Earth to what Janet believed was the next phase in her spiritual growth. I do not know what was next for Janet. None of us can claim that knowledge. What I do know is what she believed needed to happen on this side of her transition. As anyone who knew Janet could attest, she could be rather particular and in this matter she was no different. She was adamant, for instance, that at least 72 hours pass before her cremation. And so it was. Most of what needed to be done has already been taken care of by Janet herself. My part, while perhaps important, is largely symbolic and pertains to her actual physical remains.

In keeping with how Janet thought about the world, her Hawai`i Celebration of Life builds upon the transition of five basic elements which are common in a variety of cultures and spiritual beliefs. Buddhist philosophy speaks of “go dai”, the five great elements of earth, water, fire, wind and void. Hinduism makes reference to the “Panchamahabhuta”, the five great elements of Earth, Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Aether. Similarly, western culture from pre-Socratic Greece up through the Renaissance refer to these same five elements, although “Aether” is frequently substituted with “Heaven.”

Transition of Heaven was completed by Janet on April 22, 2005. She referred to this as her transition into Spirit. Likewise, the transition of Fire has been completed. No one can deny that Janet walked through the most intense of fires during her 10 year battle with breast cancer. Then, of course, there was her cremation. That leaves the transition of Janet’s remains to Earth, Wind and Water. Here, I have a minor role to play and larger forces will see to the completion of transitioning these elements – the Earth, the Wind and the Ocean.

In summary, the Heiau ceremony went as follows. I met with Fern Merle-Jones from Island Weddings and Blessings at the Kalalau trail head about mid-morning. I was delighted to see she was accompanied by four other Hula dancers, including Eana Rose who had recommended I contact Fern for the celebration arrangements. I have previously posted the rather interesting chain of events leading to my introduction to Eana. As we began the short hike up to the Heiau, several of the dancers began to chant in Hawaiian.

Upon arrival at the Heiau and before stepping into the circle of stones, each person was to state their name, the purpose for being at the Heiau and to ask forgiveness and clarity. Fern blew a conch shell several times. A small table was set up upon which a picture of Janet, leis similar to the ones we had at our wedding, leaves gathered on the way up to the Heiau, the memorial book from the May, 2005, Celebration of Life ceremony in Denver and Janet’s hōkū lele were placed. We then sat in a circle and I was invited to share some stories about Janet so they could know a little more about her. I formally began the ceremony (if such a free-flowing and improvised celebration could at all be referred to as formal) by saying:

Aloha Kakahiaka.

Thank you each for being here with me to participate in and witness the completion of Janet’s transition and to celebrate her life. The voyage Janet and I shared began on this sacred ground. We were married here. And here, on this same ground, this familiar landscape where we vowed tell death do us part, we do so today. Each on separate journeys, each with new eyes.

Janet had a profound respect and appreciation for sacred places. Her skill at creating such places was unparalleled. She would have begun this ceremony by calling in the light and that is what I will do my best to accomplish now.

Father, Mother, God.

Pele, Laka, Hinahina.

I ask that you surround each and everyone here with the Light of Aloha for the highest good.

Mai ka piko o ke po`o a ka poli o ka wāwae, a la`a ma na kihi `eha a ke kino.1

A Warrior of Peace comes to you swift as an arrow shot into the sun. I knew her as Janet Laurel. Please accept her.

Fern then lead the dancers in two absolutely beautiful dances for Janet. One of the reasons I think Hula appeals to me so much occurred to me while watching. I thought of Fred Astair, and watching him from an Aikido perspective – he is incredibly balanced and centered. I can see this when watching a single Hula dancer, but the really amazing experience happens if you can view all the dancers simultaneously with soft eyes and absorb the story they are telling as a group. Its like seeing the forest in the trees. Not easy, but its very cool when it happens. The five dancers assembled for Janet’s Heiau celebration were excellent and did a wonderful service for her transition.

It was my turn to complete the ceremony with the hōkū lele. As I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Earth, I tapped the hōkū lele on the stones at the edge of the Heiau to release a few of her ashes onto the ground. As I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Wind, I held the hōkū lele high and shook it to release a few of her ashes onto the sea breeze blowing up from off the waves below the Heiau. After I spoke the words returning Janet’s remains to the Water, I held the string tail to the hōkū lele tight and wound up for the best shooting star I could muster and launched it far out over the edge of the Heiau and into the waiting Ocean below.

The holes in one half of the hōkū lele would allow for Janet’s ashes to be released into the Ocean’s water. The Colorado granite stones and Anini Beach sand would insure the sphere would sink and not wash up on some beach for a tourist to find and pocket as a souvenir. The Colorado granite stones also provide a symbolic link back to another part of the world that Janet loved so much. In short order the glue (water soluble and non-toxic, of course) holding the hōkū lele together would dissolve and spill any stones, sand and remaining ash into the Ocean. Over a short period of time,the wood and cotton string would degrade, thus leaving no trace to its purpose.

Watching the hōkū lele sail over the distant Ironwoods, the Hula dancers began to chant. I stood on the edge of the Heiau and allowed this moment to wash over me, then ended the ceremony by saying:

Ua ola loko i ke Aloha.

A hui hou, Makamae Janet.2

Before we left the Heiau, Fern again blew the conch shell several times. At the base of the trail leading up to the Heiau, I walked out onto the rocks at the end of Ke`e Beach and threw the leis into the Ocean while the Hula dancers chanted.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

As is my tradition, I made my way to Hanakapiai falls. I was on the trail before sunrise and made it to the falls about 7:30 AM. Each time I make this hike, it serves to remind me the guides to living a balanced life in a complex world are simple and easy to grasp – watch your footing, keep your balance, notice the beauty, take care of your self, help others, wrong turns have their own lessons and can be just as beautiful…

I ended up with a full 3 hours by my self at the falls before anybody else arrived. While soaking my sore feet in the cool water, I noticed I wasn’t alone. An `Auku`u (Black-crowned Night Heron, native to the Hawaiian Islands) was across the way, intent on some fishing. `Auku`u, while belonging to the same family as the ubiquitous cattle egrets found on the Islands, are quite rare and don’t care for the company of humans generally. I’ve been fortunate in that for some reason they tend to find me or when I stumble upon them then don’t fly away. This has been true of the Great Blue Herons back in Colorado as well. Janet used to marvel at my affinity for birds in general and herons in particular. She decided they were somehow my protectors or guardian angels. Perhaps. I just think they are magnificent creatures and I tap into a deeper sense of peace and confidence whenever I am near one.

I moved in a little closer and got a pretty good picture.

Black-crowned Night Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron
(Nycticorax nycticorax)

We hung together for about 15 minutes during which time he caught two pretty good sized fish. Then with a magnificant spread of wings, he caught the draft of wind coming off the falls and sailed effortlessly down the valley. Can you find him in this picture?

Black-crowned Night Heron in Flight
A hui hou, my friend…

And of course, the falls were as magnificent, inspiring, healing and replenishing as ever.

Hanakapiai Falls 1 Hanakapiai Falls 2
View from the ledge. View of the ledge.

Back out at Hanakapiai Beach, it was an opportunity to experience some excellent, thunderous wave action. The surf is still really rough and the rip tides looked particularly vicious.

Hanakapiai Beach 1 Hanakapiai Beach 2 Hanakapiai Beach 3

Monday, May 29, 2006 (Memorial Day)

The last of Janet’s ashes were laid to rest on top of Haleakala on Maui. Haleakala means “House of the Sun,” and is the place where the Hawaiian God Maui captured the Sun and brought it to Earth. Fitting, as Janet was certainly my sunshine, and my star to steer by.

I made the trek to the top of Haleakala well before sunrise, carrying the last of Janet’s remains. Finding a suitable place to sit in the dark wasn’t particularly easy, but find it I did. Looking to the horizon I could see the faintest hint of the new day begin to color the edge between Heaven and Earth. Time to wait. And remember. Janet was fighting cancer barely three years into our marriage. Most days, I have to struggle to remember what it was like to be married to someone who didn’t have cancer. I thought of all the hopes and dreams we had on our wedding day – thoughts of children, family, friends, laughter, flowers, travel, music, writing – the images were rich and endless. Somehow, they didn’t seem to belong to me anymore. They weren’t mine to share with Janet. Our time together was for a different purpose.

On top of the world, surrounded by an Ocean of tears, there was no need to cry. What was my sorrow when compared to all those who have suffered before me or were suffering now? Since Janet’s death, I, too, have added tears to this Ocean and so have come to understand a greater depth to loss, courage, power and love. My life with Janet expanded my experience of what it means to care, trust and understand. So how shall I apply the gifts Janet has left me? How shall I and the world gain by this loss? This, it seems, shall be my koan into the next moment.

The very first rays of sunlight were dancing with the cloud tops when I released the last of Janet’s ashes onto a wide flat stone in front of me. The wind had picked up and immediately began to carry her off to greet the rising Sun. Looking out across the vast panorama of volcanic ash, the thought occurred to me, “ashes to ashes, sure enough” and I wondered what magnificent Phoenix would rise from this humble collection of dust.

I rested there on the top of Haleakala, watching the wind carry away Janet’s remains into the morning sunrise. I was remembering the last words I said to her for which I know she acknowledged having heard. “Peace be the Journey”, I said, and she nodded. I looked down to the wedding ring on my hand. The ring Janet put there close to 15 years ago and during that time had never once left my hand. The ring inscribed with our wedding date and the simple phrase “With Loving” – our affirmation and promise to each other, our challenge to fulfill each day.

For thirteen months I could not bring myself to remove this ring. I have continued to feel like I am still married. Where can I place the experience of 14 years with Janet? “Until death do us part” turns out not to be true. I can never leave her behind and yet what is there to carry forward? Part of me died with Janet and part of her lives on with me. I cannot stay and I do not want to go. This was the void feared for so long and I had arrived at the trailing edge of that unthinkable moment. I said the words aloud, “With Loving,” to be carried away by the wind along with the last of Janet’s ashes. As I watched the barest trace of ash left upon the windswept stone in front of me disappear, I slipped the ring from my finger and shifted my gaze to the horizon.

East
Haleakala East
North Haleakala North Haleakala South South
Haleakala West
West

A hui hou, Makamae Janet…

Janet Angel Bear
Gregory and Janet at Haleakala

[Edit History]

2006.06.05

I was reminded today, while reading what the Anchoress wrote on the passing of her brother-in-law, of the solace I frequently find in a simple haiku from Shinsho,

Does one really have to fret
About enlightenment?
No matter what road I travel,
I’m going home.

I had thought of this simple, yet powerful expression while reflecting atop Haleakala. Indeed, it is our poets and composers who best speak for us when we are struck dumb with grief and sorrow.

2006.07.21

Came across this quote in my collection:

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.

Isak Dinesen

The woman knew.

2006.08.05

Edited for clarity.
____________________________
1From the crown of the head to the soles of the feet and the four corners of the body. A call to be mindful of one’s entire being- spiritual, mental and physical.
2Love gives life within. Until we meet again, Precious Janet.

2006.02.08

Mohammad in the Gutter

In an unfortunate display of example following postulation, the flame fanning by Muslim clerics behind the Danish newspaper [Jyllands-Posten] cartoons as reported by the Wall Street Journal echos points I made regarding the “War on Christmas” crusade being waged by various fundamental Christian groups (See Jesus in the Checkout Line)

In writing how unthinking followers confuse the symbol with the real thing, in this case how a tree IS Christmas:

This is where the dogmatic followers in the “War on Christmas” crusade are stuck – the label. The crusade leaders know this and use the effect on the followers to advance their agenda.

Now match this with what the Wall Street Journal reports:

Keen to “globalize” the crisis to pressure the Danish government, Mr. [Ahmed] Abu-Laban [a fundamentalist Palestinian cleric] and his colleagues decided to send delegations to the Middle East. They prepared a dossier to distribute during the travels. The document, which exceeded 30 pages, featured copies of the published cartoons and Arabic media reports about the controversy. It also contained a group of highly offensive pictures that had never been published by the newspaper, including a photograph of a man dressed as a pig, with the caption: “this is the real picture of Muhammad.”

(more…)

2006.01.26

Jesus in the Checkout Line

Thankful to have survived another season of holiday shoving…er…shopping, there are a few things which stand out about the past few months, in particular, that give pause to reflect on just what motivates the galaxy of agendas among the teeming masses each November and December. By the time the corporate marketing machine had “The Big Push” to full power, I had pretty much tuned out – the paper was down to Sunday only delivery, the TV and radio off for weeks at a time, SPAM filters nicely tuned and most shopping done on-line when I already knew what I needed and from where.

I’ve never been easily led by marketing campaigns anyway. As a kid, there just wasn’t the level of saturation there is today. Since then, years of Zen meditation and Aikido practice have instilled a strong sense of balance when it comes to material things and the stuff I consume. The set point for that balance is definitely on the minimalist side of the scale where less is more. Having less stuff, less reliance on things and “services” gives me greater liberty and freedom. This type of life style kills more sales pitches than anything else I know. Back in the mid 80’s, for example, when I didn’t have a TV, the cable TV companies would go door to door pitching their service. “I don’t have a TV” squashes any deal they may be offering and renders any strategy for overcoming objections DOA. Likewise, complaints from people around me about the cost of cable service carry about the same level of interest as complaints about the cost of escalator service on Jupiter. (more…)


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