Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What's wrong with this picture ????

Headline in today's local paper

Yes, that's right! A 19 year old UVa student, who used a "replica .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol" as a prop in a movie he and several other students were filming for a class project, was arrested on Monday. He remains behind bars until this morning when he will appear in court for a bond hearing. If found guilty of the misdemeanor charge of "brandishing a firearm," he could face up to a year in jail and a $2,500. fine. He could also receive University judiciary penalties for using the "BB gun" for the film.

Captain Michael A. Coleman of the University Police said, "his department received several 911 calls arond 11:20 PM, Monday, reporting a man with a gun in the area." When the force arrived at the crime scene with guns drawn, they were told by a another student that she was part of a group of students using the gun in a robbery scene they were filming for a class project. There were no other students arrested.

The University "prohibits the possession, storage or use of any kind of ammunition, firearms, fireworks explosives, air rifles and air pistonls on University owned or operated property without the express written permission of the University Police Department." In January of 2006, Virginia Attorney General, Bob McDonnell, issued a wirtten opinion that though the University "may regulate the conduct of students and employees, they may not impose a general prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons by those holding permits."

In the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy a week ago, there is no question that seeing a gun on any campus or in any public location, should and must ring alarm bells. However, it seems that paranoia is taking over in this case. The only crime committed here is that the students did not get written permission to use the "replica" from the police department or from their professor who had not been informed of their choice of props.

Why waste time and tax payer dollars on a trifle such as this? What about the bigger questions of stricter gun control across the country, especially by those who are deemed a danger to themselves or the general public??

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Being Fearless ...

Last Monday afternoon I returned home from New York City, to the news of the senseless deaths of 32 students at Virginia Tech. I had spent the weekend attending the Omega Institute's, "being Fearless" conference. For anyone not familiar with the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, it is located in Rhinebeck, New York. This year they are celebrating "30 Years of Awakening the Best in the Human Spirit." At the campus in Rhinebeck, you can attend a variety of workshops or retreats from yoga, to healing, to writing poetry, and so much more.

The conference was attended by about 2,000 people from all over the world. We listened to Al Gore, (a VERY funny man) speak about his own spiritual life and his hope for the world. Jane Goodall spoke about the environmental damage we are heaping on the planet and her reasons for hope that we will discover ways to stop the harm we are doing. On Sunday morning, we were inspired by Samdhong Rinpoche, a fully ordained Buddhist monk and Chairman of the the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Other keynote speakers included Arianna Huffington, nationally syndicated columnist and editor of the, and Caroline Myss, author of best-sellers,
Sacred Contracts, Anatomy of the Spirit, and newly published, Entering the Castle. Nora Ephron, best-selling author of, I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, and screenwriter-director of such movies as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, closed the conference with a witty talk about how she got started in the business.

I attended workshops with mystical scholar Andrew Harvey, writing teacher and author, Natalie Goldberg, former "economic hitman" for the World Bank, John Perkins and insight meditation teacher Tara Brach. These sterling examples of people living fearlessly in a crazy world, filled me with inspiration. I left New York feeling ready to face whatever was ahead, not knowing that as my train pulled out of Penn Station, 32 young people were being randomly slain by a hateful madman unable to manage his own bottomless sense of anguish.

The lessons of the conference are many, but my understanding of fear and fearlessness has become more clear. Fear is a fact of everyday life. The "fight or flight" instinct keeps all of us safe from the bully down the street, the snarling dog on the corner and the daily hazards we encounter along our paths. It's doubtful to me that anyone lives without fear of one kind or another. But when there is too much of it, people often can no longer relax. They are always looking over their shoulders, checking out places to hide from whatever it is that causes them angst. They can become hateful and snap, as that young man did on the campus of Virginia Tech.

The world we are living in is a very frightening place. There are terrorists, school shootings, political upheaval and war. Television, movies and all of pop culture is too often filled with violence and suggestions of hatred. The planet is warming and none of us knows what kind of a world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

By learning to manage our fear we can live a rewarding life amidst all of the chaos. I will no longer watch network news. Media coverage of the Virginia Tech event, in unending replay, confirms for me the insensitivity and disrespect our news people show for their fellow human beings. We can only change our world by slowing down and getting involved in activities that can make a difference. We can show respect for our environment by picking up litter while connecting with nature on our daily walks through our neighborhoods. It is amazing what a friendly smile and hello can do for the stranger we pass on the street. Sending emails to our governing officials telling them what we think, is an act that can bring about the changes we need in the world.

This is a wonderful time to be living on the planet! There is much work for us to do to bring about life affirming fearlessness! With everyone's help we can be living in a peaceful world!

Saturday, April 07, 2007


New Garden Project, April, 2007

"I have said on occasion that I think gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. … True gardeners are both iconographers and theologians insofar as these activities are the fruit of prayer "without ceasing." Likewise, true gardeners never cease to garden, not even in their sleep, because gardening is not just something they do. It is how they live."
Vigen Guroian
From the essay, 'On Leaving the Garden,' in "The Fragrance of God"

I'm not a church goer. As a matter of fact, I don't consider myself a member of any one religious group. If anything, I'm a hybrid like my car which runs on a mix of gasoline and electricity. My fuel is a mix of teachings from all of the great religious traditions of the world ... especially Buddhism. As a result of my tangled experiences as a child and religious instruction, for many years, I had difficulty uttering the words God or Prayer. But with age, I'm finding that those words are becoming a large part of my vocabulary and life.

It is when I'm out in nature or working in the garden that I feel closest to God, the
Spirit, that I feel is the creator of this beautiful world and the joy and wonder that I am privileged to experience every day. You won't find me on my knees in a church ... it doesn't feel natural. But in the garden, look, there I am, taking the position as I weed or plant bulbs, muttering encouragement for growth.

The very acts of digging in the dirt, placing a seed or bulb, are for me sacred rituals, filled with hope for the future. They are a letting go of my need to control my life and the world around me ... a sacrifice, if you will, to the
Spirit of the Earth, who will take my offering or not. I might not get anything for my effort, but I just might get the most beautiful blossom I've ever seen.

These days my prayers are for our planet, the earth ... my prayer is for all of us to help to bring her back from the destruction that we have placed upon her.

Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday, April 06, 2007

For The Children ...

Zoe, in front, with friend, after their performance in "Oliver"

I spent this past weekend in Black Mountain, North Carolina, visiting my daughter, her partner and my grandkids! Zoe's school launched an all school production of Oliver, which was marvelous. Zoe played an orphan and one of the townspeople. She sang and danced and I had a wonderful time being a proud grandma among the many others who attended. I wasn't acting. I'm so thrilled to see this little woman growing into her life.

I can't help but wonder what she will be doing five years, ten years, twenty years from now. What will her interests be? Will she follow in her grandad's steps and inhabit the world of theater? Or will she be writing, painting or doing research in a lab?

I marvel at the joy and talent of all of the children (grades K through 8) on stage that day and pray that their world will be peaceful, safe and filled with beauty. We seem to be living in desperate times ... an unending war, environmental crisis, political chaos. We all need to work hard to bring an end to this instability ... for ALL of the children.