Judith’s Buddhistic Paradise

(a Retreat atop an Island of Serenity).

Well, two days is not a long time to spend in Paradise.  Fortunately, Paradise has many forms, fingers and flavors.  It seeps into our lives through the Cracks In Things.

Judith has been care-taking at the KDOL Buddhist Retreat Center on Saltspring Island for some time.  She’s in charge of Gardening, occasional meals & errands and helping take care of the resident Lama, Lama Karma Phuntsok.

Besides her duties in taking care of residential business at the KDOL Center, Judith has organized a casual, “come-as-you-are” retreat for the end of August / early September  2013.  I was pleased to partake of 2½ days of sublime beauty, nature and gourmet cooking from the Mountain Diva Herself!

Judith Mountain Diva

One of the most pleasurable and spiritually-beneficial aspects of my stay on Saltspring was the delightful culinary creations, offered by Judith, any time of day that struck my fancy.

And being somewhat ‘city-lagged’, my waking hours were an odd combination of unpredictable sleeps, hikes, silences and star-gazing moonlight indulgences, that, all in all, had no rhyme, reason or season to them.

The women’s side of the retreat center, where Judith had staked out her territory, is a rustic village of small 1-room cabins, set around a temple or meditation building, and a kitchen.  The Kitchen was our favorite hang-out, basically because this is truly the temple of the digestive system!  And what offerings this temple does provide!

Deer at the KDOL Buddhist RetreatWe share this idyllic setting with Denizens of the Animal World.  Actually, didn’t see much else than Deer.  And plenty of them. Apparently, there’s nine or so that frequent the hill beside the kitchen area.  Four pairs of Does & Fawns and one occasional Buck.

Judith offers them kitchen scraps, which they make a nightly pilgrimage for, and who’d-a-thunk?  It seems that this indeed is their “pizza-of-the-day” treat; they come from miles for their evening rituals.  They kind of look at you funny.  With those Big, Deer Eyes.  So Cute.

But nervous creatures.  Make a loud noise, and they’re history.  I tried my morning Elk imitation, but they weren’t impressed.

One of my favorite parts of the whole journey is the Ferry Ride.  It’s always kind of a “religious experience”, riding these huge white honking boats across the scenic channel of water that separates the Mainland from the Gulf Islands, and the largest island: Vancouver Island.  Nice on sunny summer days, but nicer still, in its own damp, oceany, “west-coast” way, when the seasons turn – when grey skies prevail and the cool winds sing in the sails (so to speak: ferries have no sails).

Ferry Ride to Saltspring Island

Ferry Rides, for those living in this part of the world, are some kind of Right of Passage. You leave behind some fragment of lives lived, and, face to the wind, breathe in the fragrance of the Unknown, the Vapors, the mists of Uncertain but Fragrant tomorrows.

It’s kind of like a “going”, with no easy and certain picture of where you’re going to.  Perhaps a mini-re-birthing session of sorts.  With onboard Starbucks’ and Boat Burgers to boot.  It’s a treasure-chest of rich sensations.

Opposite ferry in Parallel UniverseSometimes, you can even see another ferry going the opposite way, in a neighboring “Parallel Universe”.  All for a seventeen-dollar foot-passenger ticket.  Cool, eh?  It even gets better when you’re a decrepit 65 years of age: it’s free to travel the ferries on week-days!  Whoa!

So, that’s a little bit of “how we got there”.  There’s two ways from the Vancouver side, one is direct from Tsawwassen; downfall is it’s only 1-2 times daily, and it takes a long time: total of 4 island stops, Salt Spring is the last!  The other way is Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay (near Victoria), a 1.5 hour ride on the Big Ship, then a short half-hour ride to Salt Spring, one stop. Advantage: many sailings throughout the day.

Well, back to the Retreat.

One of the lovely things about this location, is the view of the ocean, in both directions – north and south, along the east edge of the Island.  You’re far enough above the water – 900 meters or so to scope out a majestic offering of blue shadow and lagoon, enough to inspire an artist, meditator or photographer for sure!

Ocean and Sky Panorama, looking east-ward from the Buddhist Retreat CenterYou can click on the picture above, which will hopefully show you an enlargement of this fabulous view from atop the Buddha’s Hill.

(“Oh to Live on … Buddha’s Mountain … with the Barkers and the Colored Balloons… you can’t be twenty, on Buddha’s Mountain, but you’re thinkin’ that you’re leavin’ there too soon … you’re Leavin’ There too soon.”)

And Now For Something Completely Different …

One of my old and most-favorite shows of all time was Monty Python, which -as we know – featured the humor and impeccably inane personality of John Cleese. Here’s John, sharing his latter-day wisdom which makes light of the nuisance we call “war” …



The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.... of Monty Python Fame, the Fabulous and Prolific John Cleese

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels ..

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

John Cleese,
British writer, actor and tall person

And as a final thought – Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC.

Life is too short…

Bus Shelter Ghosts

This day was kind of an odd day.

The sun was out today, which is always a blessing in Vancouver.  But in my little suburb of New Westminster, I took an early morning walk in the Amazing Rays, and – almost at my destination – I saw a curious enigma at a bus shelter located across the street from where I was walking.bus shelter ghosts

Here, the bus shelters are often constructed with clear plexiglass walls, sometimes with advertising posters sandwiched inside them.  This particular bus shelter, bathed in the long rays of April Morning Sunlight, had a very striking pattern of what looked like steam or condensation on the back panel of the shelter, behind the bench where people normally sit.

The condensation displayed itself as a “halo” or “aura” – outlining distinct shapes of 3 human bodies, almost looking like they had hats or some sort of head-gear on as well.   I found it quite amazing!

bus shelter ghostsSo I took out my camera, braved the traffic to get to a narrow concrete median, where I precariously balanced myself while swapping lenses on my camera, and took a series of shots from the concrete median.  Then a short time later I took more shots on my way back from my destination breakfast cafe.

The photos are all quite striking.  I couldn’t help but think of the three people who lost their lives yesterday in the tragic bombing incident at the Boston Marathon.  My poetic rambling self thought, “well maybe these light-halo enigmas are the three souls saying good-bye to us and awaiting their ride out into the Light… “

Whatever the case, it was incredible.  I didn’t find it eerie or frightening at all, just mysterious and somewhat magical.

When light and shadow meet, you get some really interesting metaphors arising as The Art of the Found Moment.

You can see the gallery of my Bus Shelter Ghosts by clicking the link on the side-bar to the right, or by clicking HERE.

bus shelter ghosts

The Internet Ghetto …

Has anyone noticed the proliferation of pointless and annoying advertising on the internet over recent years? It seems that “cyberspace” has evolved over 2 decades, from being an open and creative space, defined uniquely by individuals’ abilities and expressions, has now turned into a social media and advertising ‘factory’, exposing us to more and more unnecessary hype and sales gimmicks every turn we take. I just opened up another one of those sites where a pop-up window appears, and I left the site immediately.Bird on the Limb

As a web designer, I’m particularly sensitive to design dynamic and ambience, as well as to the substance of messages being communicated. If you have something of import to say, the words themselves will communicate the message; you might say the ‘intent’ and the inherent life-energy behind your message will speak for itself. I’ve seen powerful messages put forth on very “plain paper”, in a sense, with regard to page layout and design.

I’ve also seen up-tempo, “stylish” hyper-active flash-based sites, with all their eye-catching pyrotechnics … which actually say nothing. Nothing, except, “look at me”. Kind of juvenile attention-getting scheme, as is exemplified by the Hollywood ‘fast-food’ injections of exploding cars and police chases in movies.Gary-the-Blooger

A lot of websites – and sadly enough – site designers as well – have opted to “pimping” their websites for advertising, either these pop-up style “click me” windows, or that cheap and crass “google advertising” spread across their top and side bars. In most cases, these people will likely never see a penny from the ‘lucrative’ ad revenues they imagine, and they will have insulted, distracted, and otherwise wasted peoples’ precious time with only more nonsense-that-we-don’t-need splashing in front of our eyes.

Indeed, from what once promised to be an interesting city of character homes, the internet is turning into an ugly cardboard cut-out suburban cul-de-sac blight, rife with it’s “Walmarts'” and “Costco’s” and frantic people driving their SUV’s into Information Madness.

Thankfully, those of us who are GOA (Grumpy Old Anarchists), can still express ourselves and establish our own unique designs without being arrested by the Google Brain Police. As long as there’s a thread of freedom in this crazy Online Shopping Mall, I personally vow to use it to propagate freedoms of artistic, anarchistic, and surrealistic expression.

There! I feel better already!

Change is Afoot …

Things are changing.  Rapidly.

Public opinion is brewing and shaping and people are getting wind about what Big Money, Big Politics and Big Oil are up to.

It’s partly our fault: for sitting in the padded ignorance of our own comfort zones, numbed like a junkie, while the media keeps us distracted by cops and robbers stories and pop-culture trivia that are strategically moulded to provide those empty calories.  And, we do love our comfort zones, don’t we?Toxic Alberta Tar Sands

But, comfort zones are getting stretched.  Already massive, destructive storms are hitting a little close to home, too close to ignore, too close to escape from.  And the reality of Climate Change is standing with its naked, monstrous self, directly in front of us.  The polar ice caps are melting.  MELTING.  I mean, this alone should be enough for any person in his right mind to ask, “what the f*ck is going on?”   But we remain quiet, polite, subservient – the way we always are – chit-chatting with friends and neighbors about the usual confetti, the day to day concerns of drunken lives, lives lost in the wonder drug of prescribed entertainment.

And politicians lie to us.  Daily.  Big Media lies to us.  Daily.  Big Oil and their sleazy campaigns lie to us: constantly.  Have we lost the taste of what Truth really is?  Have we been so bombarded by industrial lies, political promises and cheap ad campaigns for so long that we just eat it up because it’s “convenient”?

It’s amazing and heart-warming, that people are speaking up.  They are saying “NO” … in a voice clear and loud.  They are tired of lies and empty promises and environmental travesties hidden behind the cheap facades of “regional prosperity”, “national economic growth” and the time-tortured 4-letter word, JOBS.    These little plastic carrots dangled in front of us are no longer garnering the devotion of the Chronically Stupid: people are being informed, updated and are seeing behind the camouflage and lies.USA Oil Sands Project

And the interesting thing is, they’re not getting this illumination from mainstream media like CNN, NBC, ABC, FOX or even *sigh* CBC.  They’re getting it from friends, relatives, strangers and others who are taking advantage of the connectivity of social media, websites, video, sharing on all levels the real word about what we are up against on this Planet, at this Time.

It’s time to MOVE.  It’s time to ACT.  There really is an amazing call for change, for accountability, for truth … taking place on the planet right now.  It’s exciting to be a part of it.  It means that WE as human beings can begin to engineer a better world for all of us.  Inhumanity, corruption, environmental destruction and greed have no hiding places any more.   They’re all being ‘OUTED’.  Wow.  Now, that’s pretty cool.

It won’t happen without a fight.  Money and power and time-tested control will not be letting go easily.  But it will happen.  It will because we are demanding.  Not politely “asking” for it.  We demand it.   Accountability, transparency and visioning a world that all human beings can thrive in peacefully is what it’s all about.  And it can happen.

All it needs is YOU.

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Office of the Prime Minister
Jan 24, 2013

Dear Mr Harper,

This is a letter to you, and to those who form your caucus.

For the first time in my life, I am embarrassed to be a “Canadian”.

I was born here in this country, almost 60 years ago. I’ve lived and enjoyed a peaceful, plentiful existence, in what has been up ’til now, a democratic nation, peopled and governed by human beings who respected each other,and who also took the time to respect our environment, all the richness and splendor of nature that we’ve been so bountifully blessed with.

Betrayed by Stephen Harper and his Unholy Alliance to Oil and MoneyAnd now, in front of my eyes, I see you and your government – step by step- disassembling democracy, decimating the environment, and above all, acting in secretive, dishonest ways to bulldoze through legislation which will leave our country and its citizens vulnerable to whatever financial and economic powers want to walk in and literally plunder our resources.

I’m sorry, but the tired old line, “jobs and economy” doesn’t cut the mustard any more. It doesn’t work in a planet whose atmosphere is being poisoned by fossil fuel. It’ doesn’t work, because it’s more than Canadians and their pretty little back yards who are at stake here; it’s the whole of civilization and species as we know it. It doesn’t work, because no line you can give us is going to provide an excuse for the sleazy and embarrassing tactics you’ve used to back off Kyoto and other commitments to planetary cooperation with other nations in easing the carbon payload in our already overburdened atmosphere.

And now, you’re wanting to ship this oil – the dirtiest of all oils, to the biggest polluters on the planet, who will further burden our eco-system by refining this “guck”, and even further by burning the end-product and spewing it into the air? You must be joking.

Already, climate change has taken hold of this planet so severely, that science itself is beginning to quake in their boots at the prospect of what is to come. The polar ice caps are melting. Outrageous oil spills have decimated the environment in sensitive Eco-systems that will never be the same again.

And you’re wanting to send this sludge in pipelines, across pristine wilderness, to be placed into tanker ships the size of the Empire State building, which will be plying dangerous waters off the BC Coast to take their horrendous payload to China? “China” – who you’re giving unprecedented sovereignty to, to walk in and plunder our Eco-system and resources?

Who is going to benefit from these disastrous mistakes, these miscalculated tragedies-of-outrageous-proportion just waiting to happen? You and your cronies? Tycoons who have invested in these toxic companies? A few pipe-fitters, welders and machinery operators will have beer and pizza money for a few more years. “Wow”. All this in exchange for decimating our environment, and making us a laughing-stock in the eyes of world citizens who care about this beautiful planet?

I am insulted by the deceit, the arrogance, the irresponsibility and the lack of courage that you and your government are portraying to the Canadian people and to the world at large, in the way you are handling the responsibilities of government.

You are responsible not only to us, in terms of honest and transparent government, but you are also responsible to the people of Canada and the people of this planet Earth in terms of fostering and creating a sustainable future for our generation, and for generations to come.

You are failing in all regards.  What you are doing amounts to Global Environmental Sabotage.

I am ashamed to be a Canadian. For the first time in my life.

Gary B
New Westminster, BC

Maple Leaf of an Embarrassed Canada

here’s Harper’s email if any of you want to add your voice: pm@pm.gc.ca

Winter’s Ways …

There’s something in Winter Branches.
Maybe the Cold Rain.
Maybe the Pearls of Wind hard diamonds of Sun
Stray Light of a Season Lost
A questionable friend with Bright Eyes
and Frozen Limbs.
Branches of Winter, Hands of Spring
The Way of Wood
Tears Lingering are now Ice
The memory is a Leaf that Died
The smell is sweet rotten Love;
the Life that Lied to us, Fed us,
Renewed us, Spit us out, Held us
We have nowhere left to Run.
Jewels of Winter's Frozen Fingers
We Multiplied and became Freeways
we Died inside our Cars but loved the Movies
that guided us to Stars
and drank from our Already-Empty Cups
We were cut by our own Blades
and Melted inside our own sun
Cooked to Perfection in the Big Karmic Kiln…
discontented Freeways of the Heart ...
There’s a Million Pearls
And a Million Stars
Sun seems Distant
But it’s Not Really Far
the Light you see now
Has already died
Unless the Light you’re Looking At
Is the Light Inside …
A Million Lights Have Died, except the Light Inside ...
That tree, you see,
is the Tree of Life
It grows on the Island
that knows no Strife.
“Pretty” is a word for parrots
and it won’t take you home.
These words are useless because
they leave you all alone.
This word, and this Tree,
and all the lights ever to Live
are all Switched On
Me Tree, Inside the Seed of Life ...
Inside of Me.

JFK :    In  My  words  of  Now

In one of my rare forays into TelevisionLand, I surf the channels and find the movie JFK (1991 – Oliver Stone, Kevin Kostner, et al).  So, I begin watching, and I am pulled in. Very interesting. I thought a lot about it afterwards – here are some reflections.

John F KennedyThat was “my era” – the 60’s – my growing-up years, my elementary-school chapters, my living room on a middle-class street in a middle-class town in a Middle-Class Life.  There are few things in that era of my life that were truly “traumatic”.  Life was predictable and rubber-stamped, day-after-day.  Excitement lived in the extra-curricular seasons of my friends and in the changing imprints of the times. The hippie era, the Vietnam War, the Beatles and the gradual “colorizing” of the drab, mercenary post-industrial baby-boomer value system, fraught with materialism and the predictable charade of status quo.

November 22nd, 1963 began like any other day with the rituals of school and life.  By the end of the day however, the world had changed irrevocably, and the hearts, minds, and emotions of millions were in turmoil.  Somewhere in the early afternoon, we received the news in our elementary school, I even recall alarms and sirens going off; all systems seemed locked down and security alerts in place.  School was suspended for the day and we all went home.  I’ll always remember the headlines in the paper: “Kennedy Killed – Assassin Sought”.

My memories of that day and the character of this event were more like emotional energy imprints, rather than inventories of actual events.  The shock that  permeated the entire culture seemed to be more an expression of some huge unknown atrocity that had happened, containing archetypal imprints of the most horrendous artifacts of humanity’s “shadow” – violence, murder, death, fear, lies, deceit, coercion, propaganda and one of the largest-scale betrayals to be pulled off in Western Civilization.

I followed the Kennedy conspiracy theories from an intellectual distance over the years. It was lumped in with the other pop-culture tabloid concerns that our society chews and spits out: Elvis, Hitler, UFO’s, Crop Circles, The Great Wars, Large Sharks and on and on.

Lately, however, I’ve re-blossomed as a light political-environmental activist of sorts, and in this mode, I’m looking more closely at political leaders, their relationship with money and industry.  How does this pan out in terms of transparency, accountability, impact on our fellow humans, and on the planet itself?

It’s so obvious – not only from the content of this movie, but from gut-level and intuitive feelings that inform me in my life: that we live in a society whose machinery is controlled by those immersed in silent contracts. ThesePast President unspoken connections of finance and convenience, this unbending loyalty to the rules of a military-industrial complex whose control over our lives is far-reaching: deeply enmeshed into our culture, our character and our mindset, often beyond what we are able to fathom.

We have learned not to question, not to acknowledge or trust own inner gut-level understandings, but to implicitly respect, obey and at times worship, the matrix of beliefs and values we are handed  by societal institutions.  We are so afraid of making waves, that we would opt to drown in a sea of deceit rather than to question some of the basic tenets we’ve been spoon-fed all of our lives.

From understanding a little of Kennedy’s life, he was a peace-maker, a visionary, a leader who wanted to dis-assemble, neutralize, and hold accountable the vast powers and  power-brokers of the machinery that ruled America.   In doing so, he crossed the lines of the many who were benefactors of the industrial / war machine, and he paid dearly for doing so;  he paid with his life.

And then, the legacy of just more ‘corporate’ leaders: more liars, more traitors, more imbeciles who wore the distorted face of power, control and “smooth talk” – the actors, the Hollywood scripting in politics, the boys of the “old school” .  Paperback “heroes” who hide behind the facades of  “family values”, religion, and business-as-usual in order to carry out – consciously or unconsciously – the destructive and anti-human agenda of greed, control and manipulation that sits at the heart of corrupt politics.

But this is more than just JFK and all the actors in the movie that played out, both in real-time and on the screen.  This is about us as humans and our own real voice, the voice of our intuition, our guts, our hearts, our spirit: the voice that knows the truth – the truth at least for self – our path, our real place in life, our real purpose, real celebrations and struggles, our real real reason for living and breathing on this Planet at this particular time.

Where is our real voice, who is our real voice, what words does is speak, what song does it sing?

For some of us, this little voice is internalized and lost.  It’s JFK - Official Whitehouse Portraitburied under the deep and rigid architectures of parental control, polite deference and obedience,  overcoats of religious propriety and morality.  It hides behind masks of the learned male and female emotional protocol, and years of serving the unspoken rules of the majority: what is “right”, what is “called for”, in the minds of generations preceding us.

I think that those who felt betrayed on November 22nd, 1963 wanted to scream.

Scream in pain and betrayal.  Scream in the agony of deceit and massive violence.  Scream forever and ever at the masked men and the fake smiles and the smug gun-toting criminal machinery that kept all the “I’s” dotted and the false paperwork framed on the thin walls of this so-called democracy.   Scream at the shadows and fear that control the hearts of men and women and children all around the world.  Scream that enough is enough – there is no more room for shadow, for darkness, for pain, for deceit.

Scream that it’s time to turn on the lights for all of humanity.

We each have the power and the privilege and the birthright to live in the light of peace and justice. To trust the true voice that guides us on the inside, the voice that wants to celebrate life, liberty and love from a place of knowing. 

The Silent Scream of Mankind, buried ‘alive’ within us, buried for centuries untold, is finally making its way to the surface of humanity’s matrix.  This voice is our own, one that can both vanquish the darkness from within our own castles, and and shed light for once and for all on the forces that shape the world we live in.


Prisoner of the Fall …

We are Leaves.
We are Trees.
We understand the Small Words
Between the Sentences of Things.

Red Rubies - Prisoner of Autumn

Leaves are Alive in their Demise.
Laughing at Eternity and it’s Approaching Fingers.
We all go There.

Some with Less Color.
Others with Loud Voices.

Laughing Leaves - Dying Season

I talk to you about Escape
And  you tell me  your Dreams are too Comfortable.
I point out the Holes in the Fence
But you refuse to Bend and Fold

if only to crawl Hands & Knees
into the Arms of Beauty

Caught in a Cage

I have Wasted Only a Day
In the Kingdom of Flowers
in the Dignity and Dying Embers of Fall.

these Colors I take Home
and serve New Gravy
on Old Casseroles
to the Guest …
Scattered Soldiers of the Sun

… who Comes and Goes with the Wind.