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Friday, July 31, 2009

The Old French Clock and the Dharma Center



300-Year old French Clock for Sale-"Theodore Lepin a la Trinite"

No, this isn't Craigslist.

To support our local meditation center, my friends donated a French clock that's been in their family for 300 years. It's a beautiful clock with intricate carvings, free from the damage of rot or insects. It's amazingly preserved, made of beautifully carved wood with an ornate metal clockface frame showing a happy courting couple. It will be an adventure finding the right home for it.

It was a ton of fun photographing it with my friend Emily's help.

What must this clock have seen! If it was created in the 1700's it's seen a lot from its elegant face. If only clocks could talk. Instead of simply tocking. (Oh, I couldn't help it.)

If this clock is meant to be in your home or you know someone who would enjoy having it AND benefitting a worth Dharma center, please let me know.

My Puppy's Dentist Works on Lions-True Story with a Photo




Dr. Brook Niemiec, DVM will perform two root canals on my 8-month old border collie tomorrow morning, at about 9:00 a.m. California time.


Isn't life an adventure? Here's a photo of Dr. Niemiec working on a thoroughly anesthetized cat. Nice kitty, don't wake up yet.


All prayers are welcome tomorrow, although I'm not concerned about the safety of my pet in this expert's hands.


The thing is, the dental care this lucky animal will get is better than what most Americans can get, and that does make me sad. I hope and pray that all people can obtain the medical care they need. And while we, as a nation, work towards that (in a great and confusing dialogue), I am glad that this type of care is available for animals.


Why I didn't go into animal dentistry instead of art and mala-making, I'll never know. Perhaps I could be driving a jaguar and drilling the cavities on a jaguar in the same day. But my calling is to create beauty that soothes, and Dr. Niemiec's is to soothe the beauties that roar, and bark...and purr. Nice kitty.


It's late now. Goodnight and bless you and yours.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sunflowers and the Beach


Sunflowers against the California sky

This time of year you have to go swimming. It's practically a law. Yesterday my kids and I went to the beach with a friend of mine from high school. Imagine long stretches of sand and water, with a view of Point Loma (the furthest West point in San Diego). I found an entire sand dollar, a dead crab, and a couple of unbroken kelp pods. It was sooo beautiful. My son picked up a surfboard and headed into the ocean to catch a few small waves. My daughter read, and read, and read. My friend and I discussed philosophy, families, and ghosts. So much fun to talk to someone who thinks. His teenage sons are addicted to surfing after two weeks in San Diego. They live far away from the ocean in North Carolina.

I finally took a dip in the ocean, my first of the season. As I dove into a wave, my prescription sun glasses kept on diving. Gone, gone, gone. Gate Gate, Parasamgate, Parasamgate Bodhi Soha. They became one with the sandy bottom and I got to walk around without clear vision until I got back to the car. My eyes are good with glasses, but they aren't what you'd call functional without them. I wouldn't recognize my own face without glasses on. I need glasses in the morning in order to find my glasses, which doesn't really work. So when I can't find them I call out to my ever-suffering husband, who finds them right beside the bed where I left them in a pile of books the night before.

Walking back to the car I felt like I had glasses of the wrong prescription on. It didn't feel like not wearing glasses, it felt like wearing someone else's blurry lenses. It was so funny.

This prompted my friend and I to talk about non-attachment. Why do people assume that just because one is a Buddhist one has a handle on non-attachment! I certainly have a lot of stuff. Every now and then I get rid of a pile of it and another pile magically appears where it was. More stuff comes into the house than leaves it, invariably. But what I'm not attached to are experiences, people, the good and the bad. I really don't expect things to stay the same. I really, really don't. I don't expect people or things or good circumstances to last forever. I don't even have a problem imagining that I will die, sooner or later. Sure it brings a tear to the eye, but it's so much easier than imagining things to be permanent. His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes about this beautifully, as does Sogyal Rinpoche. It makes every day more valuable to see it as one of a finite number of days in my life.

Every day is beautiful in its own way—some more frustrating than others, some inordinately gorgeous and satisfying. I'll leave you with that. Go swimming. Post some photos of sunflowers and send me a link. I promise that when I find someone with true non-attachment to material objects, I'll let them write a guest editorial! But it ain't me, babe. Sorry.


(By the way, you don't really have to go swimming if it's not your thing. I understand.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So You Went and Got Yourself a Border Collie Puppy...Now What?

Anna of The Stockdog Ranch with her dogs

We started having trouble with our border collie puppy when she was quite young. She would not just nip but bite people hard, with a growl. Seemingly pleasant almost all the time unless she didn't want to do something or was denied something she wanted, we dealt with it by going to weekly pet store puppy training classes. They were good up to a point, but didn't really address her behavior. Border collies are different and need more and different training and other dog breeds. We read books and followed through with the instructions. And we ended up with what happens to a lot of families: a dog that was terrorizing the household. Our cute little puppy was unmanageable no matter how consistent we thought we were being. As she grew bigger this became more of a problem. Add a serious medical condition that made her teeth die and need extractions and root canals, and we had an expensive pure bred dog that we couldn't justify keeping.

(I'm writing this to help someone who's thinking of getting a border collie, because there is a lot you should look into. I didn't believe it, but now I do. People are fascinated by border collies; they look really neat and have the reputation of being super smart. But they don't make good household pets. This story tells how we're dealing with that.)

Yes, Penny Lane had become a slightly dangerous adolescent who needed thousands of dollars worth of dental treatment. One late night I contacted the Border Collie Rescue of California to ask a few questions. I found out that her behavior was unusually aggressive; as a matter of fact the group won't take any dogs from the breeder we used because of how aggressive the dogs are, biting volunteers, etc. All of a sudden I felt such relief, knowing that it wasn't all our fault. It wasn't just our inexperience, it was partly her genetic programming to act this way.

The group immediately stepped forward with names of dentists and trainers in our area who worked with border collies. At this point the universe began to step in and support us. We called one recommended trainer who worked an hour from our house. She trains herding dogs on stock. Here's her website. Penny's life changed as soon as she met Anna, who takes no guff. Our life changed. On her second visit to the ranch, Penny got to do what she was born for: chase sheep. My kids, husband and I stood and watched as Anna put Penny into a small pen. Penny chased the sheep one direction and then another under Anna's guidance. Penny stared down the big sheep who wanted to head butt her, and she nipped at the sheep's haunches, but not too hard. It was the first time in Penny's life that she was allowed to bite anything living, and she did it with aplomb. Afterwards she was quite pleased with herself.

So now my quiet little life is expanding to include trips to the country for sheep-herding lessons. It kind of goes with getting that breed of dog. So many border collies are given to rescue groups after families find they can't manage them at home, it's really sad. My case was worse because the breeder was putting out way too many litters, not caring well enough for them, and breeding border collies for looks instead of work. Somehow some aggressive genes got mixed into the dogs and now they are famous for their bad behavior. They sure look cute when they're young, so you wouldn't guess they'd go full Cujo on you! Watching her take a nip at my five-year-old niece's face kind of turned my stomach.

So, the warning to you is: if you're going to buy a border collie, don't just go to the breeder's kennel to see it. You might think you can judge cleanliness and the parents by seeing them, but you can't get enough info about how the puppies will turn out that way. Contact the border collie rescue groups and ask for the name of a reputable kennel that puts out good dogs. Believe me, they will know.
It will save your life and that of the dog. Our breeder actually stated in writing that they wanted dogs back if they didn't work out or had medical issues, but after we picked up the puppy she stopped returning our calls and emails. I later found out that she'd done this to many, many people. And she said she'd stop breeding, but there are new puppies all the time on her website.

I wish there was more oversight of dog breeders and that a bad one could be forced to comply with standards, but it seems that there isn't much regulation. A buyer has to beware. All I can do is write of my family's experience and hope it gets passed around. Luckily, it turns out some new blood got into the kennel and my dog isn't 100% born aggressive, but is instead extremely trainable and salvageable. So that's what we're committed to. She's already much more manageable, but we're training her 24 hours a day in a much more strict way.

In a lot of ways this has taught me a huge amount, I just don't want to see others go through it if they don't have to. Never buy a dog without knowing the breeder through and through. A cute puppy today can become a real problem as an adult.

Penny is now becoming the sweet, biddable dog she wanted to be all along. But it's taking some work. And my thoughts go out to all the other dogs that this breeder is putting out and to the families who are buying them, as well as to the breeder. I hope she is able to turn her kennel into something more positive and stop exploiting the breed and unwary buyers. I think she could do it with effort. Fewer dogs per year, better medical care for them as puppies, keeping shot records, not using any dogs with biting tendencies as parents, filing promised AKC papers for buyers, taking back dogs with medical problems—these things would do a lot to help turn her kennel around.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy Bastille Day- Viva la France!


Viva la France! This photo is of a temple at a Tibetan Buddhist retreat land in the south of France. What a wonderful place this would be to visit tonight. I remember a previous Bastille Day. There was a wonderful party and people sang songs representing the different countries we were from. I'll never forget the French group poignantly singing La Vie en Rose, followed by the Americans singing Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz. I don't think the French contingent understood the Americans' attempt at humor. They actually blew us out of the water with their passionate rendition.

I will never forget being in Paris on another Bastille Day and hearing fireworks and firecrackers all night in a district near the Eiffel Tower.

Truly, all people in the world are just brothers and sisters separated by circumstances. I'm glad to feel like a citizen of not just the United States, but of the world.

Viva la France! Happy Bastille Day. Let's all celebrate in our own way.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Orchid Madness-Day Two

Orchids at the Balboa Park Arboretum. These might be Phalaeonopsis, but I couldn't swear to it. Maybe you know.

Lovely. Orchids are so beautiful, they look like they're made of frosting.
I love African Violets too. As well as tall begonias.

What are your favorite flowering plants? I'm curious, do tell.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Orchid Day at Balboa Park Botanical Garden


Orchids in Balboa Park, San Diego, today. The orchids were madly blooming, excitedly shouting, colorfully proclaiming "We are alive! Enjoy us." The photographers just stood in line.

This week I'll be orchid mad on this mala blog. This is only a taste.

P.S. I have no idea how to remove a photo once I post it the first time. Thus the duplicate. Bear with me while I learn blogger!

Bless you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Turquoise and Crystal Pocket Mala, The Sky and Clouds


I got a request for a 27-bead pocket mala that would stretch and fit on a wrist recently, so it started me off on making a few pocket malas. Whenever a customer mentions that they'd like something-or-other made in a certain way that they can't find, it makes me excited about just that way of making malas. Since I get so many ideas from customers, (I wish I could say patrons instead, but that's pushing the whole malas-as-art analogy a little too far for comfort), I'm never bored with designing. People know what they want and how they want it, I just try to fill that need.

This pocket mala is made of 26 8mm turquoise (howlite) beads with a carved, fluted 8mm quartz crystal bead at the top and a crystal guru bead at the bottom. I made a tassel of some bamboo thread I have. It's strung on beading wire and will not stretch. But it is so cute— it wants to sit in a pocket and exude positive energy all day long. It cries out to be taken out at lunch and used with mantras.

Boy, I had such a day yesterday. And I forgot to wear my wrist mala! I was kicking myself. These malas really help bring down the blood pressure. Okay, it's not just the malas, it's our prayers and connection to the benevolence of the universe in all its myriad of sacred forms that does that.

Really.

Take care! And peace to you.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Remembering the Masters, A Film About Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, Teacher of Teachers

Sogyal Rinpoche as a boy with JamyangKhyentse Chökyi Lodrö.
I study with a wonderful Tibetan teacher named Sogyal Rinpoche. He was raised as a spiritual son by the Buddhist master Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö in Tibet before the Chinese takeover forced them to move to Sikkim in the late 50s.. There Jamyang Khyentse taught many masters and lay people before he died. I honor of the 50th anniversary of his death in 1959, we recently watched this film about his life and how he influenced other Tibetan masters. His influence is still felt today. He taught Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Orgyen Tobgyal, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Kalu Rinpoche, Tarthang Tulku, Khandro Tsering Chodron (Jamyang Kyentse's spiritual wife, a great woman master who never teaches, but lives quietly at Sogyal Rinpoche's center, Lerab Ling, in France) and many more. In case these names are new to you, they are the Tibetan "A" team, the heavy hitters. Jamyang Khentse taught not just in one sect but in many. Because of this he was a master of the non-sectarian movement, Rime.

It was very inspiring to watch this video. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, I think you'll like it. It has a wonderful way of capturing the spirit of Tibet. And it's beautifully fimed.
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It's especially helpful right now to send prayers for Tibet, because apparently there is a new crackdown on Tibetans by the Chinese government.

May all beings enjoy happiness and be free from suffering. May all live in equanimity.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Faceted Garnet with Natural Amber, a study in contrasts

This faceted garnet wrist mala with natural amber to mark each 7th bead was such a joy to make. It was for a dear friend who's going on retreat, so it should get lots of good use this summer. The garnet is that hand-hewn kind of bead that has slightly different facets on each bead. I think this makes it more interesting. It definitely shows the mark of the crafts person in India who made them.

This has thirty five beads plus one extra large amber to serve as a "guru bead". The assymetry of the two beads in front is partly so you can feel the difference between them without looking.

Malas are so intriguing in their math, aren't they? People like to stay within the tradition of 108 or 111 beads, with variations of 54, 22, and 27. You can read explanations online. I'm not a completely traditional mala maker, though, because I believe that it isn't the number of beads as much as the intention with which they're used that is important.

Still, I respect tradition enormously. I'm happy to make custom malas in whatever configuration of beads someone needs.

I saw one mala online that has a thousand beads. That's wonderful!