Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Children of the Congo

Please take 2 minutes to watch this video and if you are so inclined, consider signing this Amnesty International petition to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Feed 'Em

I normally love a good, cold winter. But since I got sick, it's like I'm made out of rice paper and just have no cold tolerance whatsoever. Northern Arizona winters were just right. Because the big snow accumulations usually happened late in the day or overnight, I'd wake up to ponderosa pines laden with snow and sun glittering through the icicles. Every time I saw it, I'd think "Winter Wonderland." The low humidity meant neither winter nor summer was too extreme. But the past few years there have seen colder winters and hotter summers. Global warming isn't going to spare any Wonderland.

Similarly, winter in Maryland has been brutally cold this year. It's my first winter here, and I've done my fair share of complaining about it. Actually it's more like complete bewilderment, as I walk outside into the icy air and say things like, "Is it really this cold? How can it be? It barely even snows here!" I find my head chronically cocked to the side like Forrest Gump. But the locals are complaining, too, and they don't seem overly delicate. (Especially not the guard at the local Social Security office-- she's about the toughest-looking person I've ever seen. Like she could just look at you and crack a bone.)

The cold winter has put wildlife in jeopardy. Biologists are scratching their heads (though not in panic, they insist) at the curious absence of acorns along the entire East Coast this year. The lack of their staple food plus the cold has led to record numbers of squirrels dying from starvation.

So here we all are-- humans and animals alike-- being increasingly frozen and melted each year as if we were being stored in a huge, malfunctioning refrigerator. Toss in eight years of unregulated corporate greed that encouraged irresponsible consumer spending, and that deliberately ignored and suppressed scientific evidence of global warming (all of which can be filed under "W") and we all know what a mess we have on our hands. Ecosystems and economies thrive on homeostasis. Neither does well with crisis-- the imbalance has to get absorbed somewhere and always rattles down the food chain to take out the weakest links first.

One of the things I love about Buddhism is that it's always concerned with the weakest links. My Lama has this thing about feeding hungry beings. In a teaching years ago she said, "I feed everything." It's true-- wherever she goes, her trees are always filled with bird feeders and she routinely feeds the deer and other wildlife.

Inspired by her compassion, our sangha has put out birdseed, salt licks, corn and nuts at the temple and our own homes to help the wildlife survive. I have one skinny squirrel in my yard who's so hungry he eats bits of garbage he finds in the common areas. He doesn't even look up as I step two feet from him. I've been slopping fatty peanut butter on a fence post for him, which he devours every day. My lousy camera phone won't let me get a good picture of him, but I did get this shot of Patch mesmerized by the squirrel. You can pencil in a scrawny squirrel in the upper left corner.

With hunger affecting more and more people, Jetsunma asked us to begin a food bank at our Maryland temple : "Give what you can, Take what you need." I saw it today-- one day after this picture was taken. We already need a bigger bin.

Times are hard and probably will get harder. A box of macaroni and cheese might just be the new face of compassion in 2009.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sunset for Tibet

Last month I wrote about Tibet, Tara's Babies first Katrina rescue dog granted a lifelong resident pass. We had discovered that he was in need of veterinary care for some worrisome symptoms.

Thanks to the generosity of so many, Tibet received the diagnostic tests he needed, but the cancer had already spread throughout his body. He died last night, on the land reserved for him for all his days-- sacred Dakini Valley. Ani Kunzang, director of Tara's Babies, remarked how peaceful he had become in his final days. A good way to enter the Bardo.

Thank you to his loving caretakers and to all those who support Tara's Babies. No one knows what Tibet's life was like before Hurricane Katrina. But thanks to you, he was never in harm's way again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


One of our Australian nuns, Ani Tenzin Wangmo, reported today that the wildfires there are "like a Hell realm." The news is filled with stories of people overtaken by the unbelievably fast-moving fires. Those trying to drive away found their cars were on fire, too. Thousands left homeless. A man on one news video said all his friends and all their children were killed.

Our sorrow encompasses the uncountable number of creatures affected as well. Animals experience fear. Even insects instinctively defend their homes. So many creatures left homeless, injured, killed. A Hell realm, indeed.

There are ways we can help. Ani kindly forwarded these links : one to make donations to the Australian Red Cross, the other to make donations to the RSPCA (animal rescue/shelter). Please consider even a small donation as you hold all those affected in your prayers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blog Eyes

I never blogged before. Now that I do, it’s like I have a microchip implanted in my head that makes me evaluate everything I read, see, discuss, laugh about, fret about, or in any way interact with, for its blog-worthiness.

Here are a few things that caught my attention this week :

Elizabeth Edwards—wife of John Edwards for those with short-term memory disorders—has written a new book called Resilience. Her publishers said, “[Edwards is] one of the most beloved political figures in the country, and on the surface, seems to have led a charmed life.”

Some charmed life—she lost her teenage son in a car accident and has been living in the national political spotlight while dealing with breast cancer.


The Broadway Diner in Baltimore has a tabletop touchscreen computer game called Merit Megatouch. There's even a “My Merit” button to see how much you've accumulated. Wish it were that easy.


I’m a biologist and a Dr. Seuss fan. Imagine my delight when those worlds collided for me this week, and a new species of sea squirt was discovered
Living in their
Sneak-a-peeky world
in the deep Australian swirl

Or if you prefer,
"'It was truly one of those transcendent moments," said the cruise's lead scientist, Jess Adkins of Caltech. "We were flying — literally flying — over these deep-sea structures that look like English gardens, but are actually filled with all of these carnivorous, Seuss-like creatures that no one else has ever seen.'"


A mere fifteen days after Obama put on his Inauguration shoes to begin leading the nation out of the smoldering ruins left by George Bush, Newsweek ran a story about the Obama administration titled, “Losing Control.” Not like we have unrealistic expectations of the guy, huh? What did they expect? It’s much too early for President Obama to put on his blue tights and red cape. That’s Spring wear and everyone knows it.

Millard Fuller, the co-founder of Habitat for Humanity died this week.

He believed, “We want to make shelter a matter of conscience. We want to make it socially, morally, politically and religiously unacceptable to have substandard housing and homelessness.”

A man who walked his talk, he chose to be buried “in a simple pine box.”


While speaking about malaria education and eradication at the annual Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Long Beach, California, Bill Gates opened a jar containing (malaria-free) mosquitoes and set them free in the room. That was probably good for both the mosquitoes and his fundraising.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Old But New

This video has been on YouTube for over 2 years. Two years is a long time in the world today. Easy to think, "Yeah, I've already seen that. Gimme another bright shiny object, would ya?" But its message is no more worn out than when the Buddha first said it 2,500 years ago.

May you be happy.