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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Vesākha Puja Day (and making merit) ~

vesak dayAlthough May/ late spring celebrations in Buddhism go back centuries, it was only in 1950 that the Buddhist world agreed to celebrate Vesākha Puja together, on the full moon day in the month of May. In other words, May 25th this year.

In other Buddhist communities, the holiday celebrating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha is known as Vesak, Visak, Wesak, and even Waisak. And if there are two full moons in May — as there were in 2007 — some countries will celebrate on the first full moon day, and others will choose to celebrate the 2nd full moon day.

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I love this. It is absolutely Buddhist to me. I can’t imagine any other religion being so … liberal in its celebratory rites. Christian denominations have SPLIT over whether Easter is this Sunday or that Sunday… Given how the calendar has changed? A lunar calendar, geared to the seasons, is probably the most accurate metric we have. And the freedom to decide it according to local tradition? How wonderful!

Besides: what does it matter when we celebrate the important events of our faiths & traditions? As long as we do.

Buddhists celebrate Vesākha Puja in several ways, as the license to choose which full moon might suggest. :) If you’d like to prepare, here are some suggestions: Buddhist followers take flowers and offerings to the temples they attend, giving them to the teachers there, or to the temple. The thought is that as the flowers & offerings wither & die, so will life. The basis of Buddhism… Everything passes.

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It’s a primarily vegetarian holiday — killing of even food is discouraged. Animals, insects, & birds often are set free, a symbolic ‘setting free’ of all those in captivity or imprisoned. I like to think, too, that it’s like the freeing of caged finches I saw as a child in Thailand: symbolic of the way following the path of Buddhism sets us free from the cycle of samsara, the cycle of birth, death, sorrow, and rebirth (for those Buddhists who believe in reincarnation; not all do).

It’s also a holiday of remembering the less fortunate through alms, as well as celebrating the teachings of Buddha. So tomorrow, make an online donation. Or do your own boxing day, cleaning out closets to donate. Spend a bit of time being grateful for your precious human life. And remember: everything passes ~

 

 

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the love of a teacher ~

clearing moore tornadoJust yesterday this post-apocalyptic scene was a school, where children sat at tables, learning. Where teachers sat with them, facilitating that learning. Hours later, a tornado turned that normally noisy scene into hell.

Moore, Oklahoma is familiar with tornadoes. Two other horrific ones have hit in the past 14 years. There were death tolls then, too. But death tolls don’t tell the whole story. Especially when the tornado chews up an elementary school.

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Teachers served as human shields, once again, for their students. Laying their own bodies over the fragile bodies of the children they love. And there’s not a teacher I know — and I know, literally, thousands… — who would think twice before doing the exact same thing. One teacher is in grave condition, following her shielding of three students. Others told their students to hold on to the walls of the school, placing their bodies and arms in an extended, encompassing hug to protect Moore’s children.

Teachers take a low of heat these days, even after a tragedy like Newtown, where those teachers, too, laid down their lives for the students they serve. So I’d like us to take a moment and remember: These are the people, America, to whom we send our children each day. The people to whom we entrust our children’s precious human lives. The people who lay down their own bodies for the futures of the children they care for. Here’s to every teacher I know:

Thank you. Thank you more than I can say.

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bees, and going with the flow ~

brushy mountain hiveI’ve always wanted to keep bees. Perhaps it’s my Uncle Russell’s fault, although I’m pretty sure that my fascination w/ bees predates Uncle Russell’s beekeeping days…

More likely it’s from reading the French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre as a child. And following bees around. Like I did ants, and snails, and spiders. I don’t ever remember being really afraid of ‘bugs.’ Fabre’s work on bees (he did at least a couple of books) was anthologised in a children’s book of science & nature writing I had.  And since I lived by a French library, I was able to go check out the other books, labouring through the Latin names to learn more about bees.

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This spring I enrolled in a beekeeping course. About half-way through I dropped out; a possible upcoming move reminded me that bees are a long-term commitment, and difficult to transport hundreds of miles. At least for amateurs. So my lovely copper-roofed Brushy Mountain hive will have to wait until our family plans are firmer.

But sometimes when you want something for a long time, and you work towards it, other paths open. Two years ago, my sister gave me a small mason bee house. Last year I was ecstatic it had THREE bees in it. Over the winter, I forgot all about it. Until yesterday…mason bees

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Cutting roses before the rain, I saw it: filled! Full of mason bees! The holes you see filled in have mason bees inside. Cool, huh? Bees!

So here’s the deal: I might have missed these, focused as I was on the absence of my copper garden hive roof. I could have continued grieving for the bees I don’t have, and totally missed my mason bees. How dumb would that be?

But we do it all the time: obsess on one thing to the point we become blind to what’s around us.  Not to belabour the point, but it’s an American trait. ‘Work towards the goal!‘ It’s just that goals can be flexible. And we need to be able to identify the larger goal within the specifics. Bees, in other words. Not a beautiful copper hive. :)

 

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art festivals & beginner’s heart ~

blue dome festivalArt festivals rock. Really! Tents of cool trinkets to explore, music, junk food (although really: who considers locally  made chocolate gelato junk?), kids with painted faces… What’s not to love?

This week is Tulsa’s MayFest weekend. An old festival (as these things go), the original MayFest has spawned neighbouring (not competing) festivals, specifically, Blue Dome Art Festival. And while they’re separated by only a matter of blocks, the crowd, merchandise, and entire ‘flavour’ are completely different.

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At MayFest you can drop thousands, if you have them, on beautiful jewelry, prints, leather, wood-working. Yesterday we saw a piece of hand-worked burl wood — a hanging — inlaid w/ copper that was about 6 grand. Mixed metal earrings by one of my long-time fave artists, Q Miller, start reasonable and climb. :) But the pieces are by artists standing in front of you, who can tell you the story behind each piece and its name.q miller necklace The metals have the print of hammer, the wood the silk of sandpapering.

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The same at the Blue Dome Festival, but these artists live in the area. And not all the quality is…well, as polished. :) It’s far more like the early days of MayFest, when international artists didn’t come to Tulsa. We asked our own, and they chipped in. And it was wonderful. Still is. I saw handmade journals, and quartz pieces, and leather, and magic…

I love both parts — the craftsman/artist me loves the quality of work at MayFest, the individual visions shared out in wood and metal and ceramic and ink. The kid still impressed by toys and glitter loves the carnivale of the Blue Dome. Completely different, they’re both part of art and what it does for me.

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And yep, there are at least a dozen metaphors here. I don’t think I have to spell them out…:) But just in case, here’s a clue: next year I want to have a haiku booth with a friend. Get your custom haiku — give us 3 words! We’ll use ‘em! — for a BUCK!

And I want to have it at the Blue Dome. Where the great tattoos roam, and the shaved ice melts. And parents blow bubbles at their children, who wear painted animal faces…

 

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