September 28, 2006

Sunny Face

Karme Choling, 2006

September 26, 2006

"Free Hug Campaign"

I'm a sucker for joy-spreading-activities, such as this one.

September 25, 2006

Rust(ic) Barns and Why They're Red

Driving through Connecticut with my Dad and brother this weekend, someone in the car asked, "why do you think barns are mostly red?".

Now, given that the three of us are genetically predisposed to strong opinions (presented as fact) and liking to hear ourselves talk about theory on just about any topic, the silence that followed was highly unusual. I was sufficiently moved enough to google this question as soon as the next free moment arrived.

I found some interesting theories and myths about the origins of the red barn craze. The most interesting (i.e. coherent and short) and perhaps plausible (i.e. it doesn't cause my skeptic alarm to sound) explanation was found here, and copied for you here:

Centuries ago, European farmers would seal the wood on their barns with an oil, often linseed oil -- a tawny-colored oil derived from the seed of the flax plant. They would paint their barns with a linseed-oil mixture, often consisting of additions such as milk and lime. The combination produced a long-lasting paint that dried and hardened quickly. (Today, linseed oil is sold in most home-improvement stores as a wood sealant.) Now, where does the red come from?

In historically accurate terms, "barn red" is not the bright, fire-engine red that we often see today, but more of a burnt-orange red. As to how the oil mixture became traditionally red, there are two predominant theories:

  • Wealthy farmers added blood from a recent slaughter to the oil mixture. As the paint dried, it turned from a bright red to a darker, burnt red.
  • Farmers added ferrous oxide, otherwise known as rust, to the oil mixture. Rust was plentiful on farms and is a poison to many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grown on barns. These fungi would trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay.
Regardless of how the farmer tinted his paint, having a red barn became a fashionable thing. They were a sharp contrast to the traditional white farmhouse.

As European settlers crossed over to America, they brought with them the tradition of red barns. In the mid to late 1800s, as paints began to be produced with chemical pigments, red paint was the most inexpensive to buy. Red was the color of favor until whitewash became cheaper, at which point white barns began to spring up.

Huh, tinted with blood eh? Well, that's kind of, er, disturbing. I don't think I'll ever be able to look at a quaint country barn in a field somewhere and feel that sweet nostalgic wave again. (Shudder)

September 21, 2006

She Runs

I see her every morning, and sometimes in the afternoon. She runs up and down my road every day, but she doesn't look like a runner. She doesn't have proper running shoes, or clothing. She looks pained but isn't sweating. She doesn't move like a runner, she holds her arms the wrong way.

It is safe to say that she is probably new at this sport of running, but it isn't only that. She is overcoming something. Running, for her, is not just an avenue for a firmer body and better stamina. No, she is running for other reasons, and I can see them written all over her.

She runs to escape a past, to get ahead of the present, and in the hopes of arriving in a new future. She runs to break the barriers between the universe she lives in now, and the parallel universe that could be her life. She runs to build...her muscle, her confidence, her dreams, her will. She runs to escape the last remnants of darkness that cling inside her. She runs against the grain, against everything she has ever been shown, ever been taught, ever been allowed. She runs for freedom. She runs to save her soul.

(Image: Sean Gabriel Ellul

September 19, 2006

Word Challenge

I do love words. Put together in coherent fashion they constitute language, and language facilitates thought, communication and progress.

My favorite words for today:


The list is simple, as is my request. If you are reading this, comment using one or all
of the words, OR write a post on your own blog using the words, and kindly direct me to it. Don't make my next favorite word list include "bozo". cheerio!

September 18, 2006

Dogs of Germany

Lazy Alpine Pup

Cafe Greyhounds


This lovely beast wanted to join our tour group

Munich Airport



The New Look and Bugs Under the Rug

I got tired of looking at that subdued green, so I changed my blog template today. However, is apparently not yet clever enough to recognize that a light font used on a dark background, will not show up should someone change their background to white. Now I have to either live with the subdued green forever, start a whole new blog, or manually change the font color on all the posts.


A little each day, I'll change the font color on the posts manually so they are visible.

However, I can't seem to get rid of some of the font funkiness going on. Some posts now have two different fonts when they are not meant too.

I repeat...le sigh.

Computer Miksang

At my Desk, 2006

September 17, 2006

Back in the Saddle...or should I say Toe Clips?

I'm not feeling particularly poetic or political today, so instead:

Yesterday I strapped my bike on the back of my car and headed into the back roads of Northampton for a free bicycle clinic sponsored by my friends, the Pedal People. Every Saturday they provide the space, the tools, and guidance for you to repair your own bike. This fact makes me do a little happy dance!

In the basement are crates and plastic tubs full of spare parts that have been pulled off discarded bikes and out of dumpsters. They are all organized for easy locating and free unless you feel compelled to make a donation that will most likely be refused. Patch kits are $2.00 a piece. Every tool you could possibly need and more, all clean, all organized, and all a blessing. The picture below is of the work bench, just a small part of the tool collection and many were outside in the hands of novice bike repair-ers at the time this photo was taken.

Myself, I needed a new back tire and tube, both of which were already in my trunk, just waiting to be put on. Below is the blown out tire after I took it off the frame. The sidewalls were completely ruined from my son riding it home with a flat. (Derned teenagers!)
I found two holes in the tube that I'll patch up next week so that I have a spare tube on -hand. I marked the holes with a pen so that next week I can get straight to work on the patches.Ah, new tire (below). Ready for the road and trails! Took me a while to get it back into the frame, until Ruthy kindly pointed out I had a spring in backwards. Doh!
Sitting all winter in a damp basement left some rust on the chain, so I needed to lube up.

Ready for the ride home!

September 11, 2006

On This Day

Today, my daughter's teacher asked the class if they remembered what they were doing on 9/11. I've been thinking about that since she told me casually while we were picking up groceries for tonight's dinner.

That year we were living in Vermont at a residential Buddhist meditation center. Back then, the community was still set up to have "open days" when the retreat center closed down and everyone was off for the day. We would work for two weeks including weekends, and then have 2-4 open days. The first thing most of us would do on an open day was to go into town to visit the bookshop, the restaurants, or see a movie.

I walked up the long driveway that morning, wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Summer was lingering in Northern Vermont and the sun was shining. When I reached the main house, a couple of people were on the porch enjoying some morning conversation. A car was parked in front and the engine was running. Someone was in the passenger seat listening to the radio. I figured it was Vermont Public Radio because I could hear news. We didn't have televisions and didn't subscribe to any newspapers at the retreat center, so we got our news every couple of weeks from radio.

I walked up to the passenger window to say hello to one of my co-workers and community members. She shushed me as I leaned in, then she turned up the radio. It was around 9:00 in the morning. A reporter had interrupted a music show to announce that a plane had just flown into one of the twin towers.
Having gotten used to being somewhat removed from the media, I didn't hang around long to hear the report repeated in a half-dozen different ways. At that time, it sounded like a tragic accident and while I felt sadness I didn't want to perpetuate it.

I walked up the steps to the large front porch and joined the others already there. I told them what I had just heard on the car radio and for a minute or two this was the topic of conversation, fueled by general curiousity and compassion toward the passengers on the plane. It had not yet occurred to us to think about the people in the building. It had not yet occurred to us that this was anything more than an accident.
Abruptly, D came out the front door onto the porch and without looking at us, announced that the second tower had been hit by a plane and another had gone down near the Pentagon. Her skin was sickly white and she was looking through us.

"My son...he works in one of those buildings.", was the last thing she said before disappearing back into the house.

The three of us sat there staring at the space where D had been just seconds before. We didn't know what to think, where to begin, what to do. We were stunned, confused, suddenly afraid. We had gathered that the plane crashes were no accident, but rather some sort of attack on the U.S. In low voices we wondered aloud to each other if we were at war on American soil. We couldn't even conceive of what that would mean.

Dazed we got up one by one and held the door for each other to go into the main house. We found people gathered around a radio in the dining room. Upstairs someone was retrieving a television from a storage closet and later we would gather together in a small room and weep as we watched the news footage. All of us were particularly raw having lived in a small community, many of us for more than a year, and working daily on developing and cultivating compassion. To add to our vulnerability, we had all voluntarily removed ourselves from the bombardment of media. (A year later when I would leave the retreat center, I would find normal television painfully overwhelming...the noise, the rapidity of movement and screen changes, and certainly the violence.)

The director called us to the main shrine room, and there we gathered in the only sane way we could. We did the only thing we knew how. On September 11, 2001, I and forty or so other Buddhist lay practitioners sat in meditaiton together in a renovated farmhouse on 500 acres of Vermont woodland. We cut through pain, confusion, and fear. We sat there for hours without talking, without working ourselves into a frenzy...the kind of frenzy of fear that the Bush administration would prey on to wage their war against Iraq...without perpetuating and prolonging fear and we let the sadness sit fully. At that moment, it was the best any of us could do.

It may seem passive, or in some ways slightly ridiculous that we thought the best thing to do was to just simply "sit". But what were the alternatives for us in that moment? We could relive the horror, over and over, by watching the news and let fear and worry overtake us. Essentially, become ripe for poor decision making. We could talk incessantly about what should be done and spread fear and hatred amongst ourselves causing the harm done by the terrorists to extend far beyond the lives taken.

We chose instead, since we could do nothing directly in that moment, to at least cease the spread of confusion, hatred and fear. I now feel immensely thankful for where I was that morning.

September 09, 2006

September 08, 2006

How I Was Found

Google search: "how to live with teenagers". That's how someone found my blog today. For the rest of you, my few and faithful readers, I assure you I will be back soon. I have several deadlines I'm trying to keep at the moment.