Friday, September 18, 2015

KIVA Loan #74 Sept 2015

Our KIVA loan this month goes to Mohammad, a 30-year-old single man from Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, which is both a city and a refugee camp. He lives with his family in a small, old house. He is the only breadwinner in the family, and they depend on him for support. 

Mohammad has a medical laboratory in the city. It is a good business and provides him with a good income, but the economic situation in the Gaza Strip is bad because of the ongoing conflict in the area. 

Mohammad applied for a loan from KIVA Partner “Palestine for Credit & Development” or “FATEN” to buy a new modern analysis device for his lab, which will offer a wider range of medical testing to patients. This new device will enable him to increase his services to patients and increase his income. Eventually he hopes to save enough money to get married.

FATEN is a non-profit organization that provides micro- and small loans to economically-active entrepreneurs in Palestine. Originally founded as program of the Save the Children Federation, FATEN spun off and became completely independent in 1999.

Initially, FATEN served only women micro-entrepreneurs, but has grown to include men as well. Now it operates through 20 branches across the West Bank and Gaza. Its growing staff travels extensively to towns, villages and refugee camps throughout the regions surrounding its branch offices.

FATEN aims to expand financial access for marginalized communities. It also supports projects in new and existing economic sectors, as well as farmers who own land isolated by Israel’s separation wall. To ensure that people benefit from their loans, FATEN provides considerable follow-up services.

Since its inception, FATEN has focused on social responsibility. This extends to humanitarian, developmental, environmental, educational and health initiatives, in addition to economic outreach for women and youth. 80% of the beneficiaries that have received loans from FATEN are women.

FATEN’s unique lending approach

FATEN’s credit products include group, environmental, small investor and housing improvement loans.  The institution has also launched projects targeting young people in Palestine.  Student and computer loans help Palestinian youth obtain higher education and gain diplomas. This success qualifies them to access labor markets and to secure brighter futures for themselves and families.

Please consider making a $25 KIVA loan today. This small amount, combined with the loans of other KIVA lenders, can provide a hardworking man or woman almost anywhere in the world you choose with access to a micro-finance loan of a few hundred to a one or two thousand dollars, which can be paid back in small weekly or monthly payments. Such small amounts can enable a mother to make enough profit to send a child to school, or buy medicine to treat a persistent infection. It's good Karma. :)   

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Day Crowded With Incident

It was a day “crowded with incident”, to quote Lady Bracknell of Oscar Wilde’s play; “The Importance of Being Earnest”.  

Our weather has been a yo-yo of summer to winter to summer again. We had a day of heavy rain and then snow on Thursday, sandwiched neatly between hot summer days. Weather changes flatten me as effectively as a steamroller, and I was flatter than a crépe this morning. 

Add to that a subluxed L5 vertebrae which is impinging the nerves going down my legs so I feel as if I have a bad sunburn on my thighs. The darn vertebrae keeps slipping in and out, when it’s in I’m fine, when it pops out, not so much. Loosey-goosey me.  

I was sitting here reading at about 1:00 when the smoke alarm started shrieking. My first thought was, grab the cats, get them in the carriers and head downstairs but when I stood up and looked into the kitchen it was full of thick smoke! The fire was here! Yikes!

Tony came running from the bedroom saying, “What did I do?” He’d put the kettle on the front burner to boil water for tea, but turned on the back burner by mistake. I keep my bamboo cutting board on that burner because we never use it, and yes, I know this is a dumb/ stupid place to keep something flammable, and he'd wandered off and laid down for a nap, and now the cutting board was on fire!  

I grabbed the cutting board with my silicone glove, dropped it in the sink and doused the blaze with water, but the place was thick with choking smoke. We turned on the exhaust fans in kitchen and bathroom, put the fans in the windows to pull the smoke out and opened the front door to increase air circulation, but 12 hours later it still reeks in here. Guess I need to look for ways to remove the smell of smoke. 

But all that adrenaline wired me up, and when our older son Ian sent me an e-mail at 2:00 asking if I wanted to go for a walk later I said yes, despite my misgivings and the state of my back. 

When he arrived about 4:00 we decided to go in my car since I have trouble climbing into his Land Cruiser. However my car wouldn’t start. I haven’t been anywhere in weeks and even then I’ve not driven any further than to the doctor’s office 12 blocks away in three months. While I was waiting for him to dig out the trickle charger cord from under the hood I felt a tickle on my arm and, without thinking, brushed it away and got nailed by a yellow jacket on my right hand ring finger. That hurt!  It swelled up nicely and is tight and hard to bend. 

I used my walker as a step to crawl into the Land Cruiser and off we went to the newly reopened Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. This is a spot we’ve visited since Ian was four years old, and it’s been closed since Calgary’s big flood of 2013 when it was all underwater and the trails and bridges were washed away. 

It was a gloriously beautiful day, and we had a lovely walk across their beautiful, lush meadow and through the aspens and pines and down to the bridge that crosses a quiet backwater of the Bow River. We watched a little female merganser fishing for minnows, and saw some mallards sleeping in the sun. Other than the briefest  glimpse of a chickadee we didn't see any other birds. The only other “wildlife” we saw were grasshoppers and hornets, all of whom were madly attracted to me, and paid no attention whatsoever to Ian. Every time we paused or sat on a bench, pretty soon there would be a hornet or two buzzing around me. 

On the way home we stopped at the grocer’s, then squeaked in 15 minutes before the roads were closed for Global Fest, the annual fireworks competition which is held in the park across the street from us.  

I was happy to plop into my chair once the groceries were put away. And my bed now looks very inviting. As soon as my pills kick in I am headed there.  

Friday, July 31, 2015

It's strange but the pain doesn't matter...

I had things to do today. I’m not good at doing several tasks in one trip, I generally don’t have the stamina to do more than one at a time, but things do pile up don’t they? And you get a little desperate. Despite the fact that I was already a little wobbly in the pins and it was 31 C (88 F) as my Dad would say, “I put my foot in my pocket and set out.” I have no more idea than you what that means, but not all of Dad’s idioms made sense. 

I had to go to the pharmacy, well, you know "pharmacies" these days. Yes, they dispense your medications but they also carry everything else from cosmetics to footwear to mops, motor oil, frozen food, and everything in between. Ours gives points with every purchase, even prescriptions, and since we take a suitcase full of expensive medications every month we rack up a lot of points. I needed to replenish the laundry soap, dishwasher detergent, mouthwash, and articles along that line. There was a sale - so much the better. It was time to cash out some points! 

I needed a cart, but that meant I needed a loonie (dollar coin) and all I had was a handful of quarters and toonies (two dollar coins). I ventured into the store and asked the first clerk I saw if she could give me a loonie for four quarters and she ran to the till to do so. I ran into one of the identical twin brothers who own the store, like two peas in a pod, in an aisle, and asked for a supplement they keep behind the counter. No waiting in line. Yay! 

By the time I checked out, with almost $100.00 of stuff for $20, I was beginning to see through a grey Scottish mist, and I must have looked as wobbly as I felt, as one of the clerks followed me out to the car, unloaded my two bags, helped me into the car and told me to wait while she brought me my loonie from the cart. I sat in the little red oven with the windows down until the AC cooled it down, then decided I’d better go next door to the Burger King, sit for a while and get some food and potassium in me before I passed out.  

In the BK the young man who took my order said, “I’ll bring it to your table, you should go sit down.” Maybe the fact that I didn’t have the strength to open the door to get inside was a tip-off. LOL (It’s a handicapped “powered” door, but you still have to pull on it after you punch the button.) 

Next stop, the bank. Not a single ATM working. There was a lot of colourful language, in several languages, in the foyer. The line-up inside was about 40 people long. Ahead of me in line was a gorgeous African man, maybe 50. His boot lace was trailing by about 16”. I brought it to his attention. He retied his laces and then urged me to go ahead of him. I declined saying I was younger than I looked, being only 110. He said he was 111, and we should call the Guinness Book of World Records and they will come take our picture immediately, us being so old and both so good-looking still. He was a cutie. 

But little by little I got pushed to the front of the line, no one would take no for an answer. All these people, tired from a day/week of hard work, many in overalls and hard hat, and some in office wear, smiling and saying, “No, you go you go, you senior, your time for respect, our pleasure.” Not superficial, not simple politeness, but real kindness, and as the last woman at the head of the line said when she insisted I go in front of her said, "It makes me feel good to extend kindness to someone else. I do it as much for myself as for you."

When all you hear on the news day after day is how awful people are, and what terrible things they do to each other, and after the outright nastiness directed at me here in the building in the last few weeks, their kindness was enough to almost bring me to tears. 

As I came out of the bank a neighbour was just pulling into the handicap spot just outside the door and we talked a few minutes. He’s a very nice man, someone I put up a fight for when our last management company charged him a large unfair fee. He always has a big smile for me. 

My last stop was the grocery store. Thank goodness I didn’t have much to get, because halfway through my potassium took another dive. I was spaghetti legs. I grabbed a bottle of water from a cooler and popped a potassium fizzie in it and started drinking but the water was too cold to drink very fast. I was still drinking it as I checked through. The checker packed the bags light enough so I could easily lift them and one of the stockers went out with me and loaded the groceries into the car. I appreciated this a lot and gave him a nice tip.  

I sat in the car and finished my potassium, by now the temperature was 33 C (91 F) and I still had to drive home, unload the purchases into my granny cart and get them inside. But I did it, or I wouldn’t be here, now would I? 

I ran my little marathon and finished. Right now, if it don’t hurt, it don’t work, but you know, it doesn't seem to matter. 


Sunday, July 19, 2015

July's KIVA Loan - Oxen in Armenia

Anahit and her granddaughter 
This month we make our 73rd KIVA loan. It goes to Anahit, who is from Lori Berd, a village of Lori region, Armenia. She lives with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Her shy little granddaughter is in this photograph with her.

Anahit is a nurse by profession and works part time in the local clinic. She and her husband are among the many parents around the world who have to help their adult children care for and bring up their grandchildren. 

Anahit’s family has a small farm which requires a lot of hard labour and is not always profitable due to the many problems that can emerge on any farm, but which is especially challenging when the grinding amount of labour required to farm must be done entirely by hand. They don't even have an ox to pull the plow or transport feed or other heavy items. Currently they keep two cows, calves, a pig and some hens, but are limited in how many animals they can keep by the labour required to provide for them. As a result their income is also limited. 

Anahit manages to sell some meat, dairy products and eggs, to customers in their village, but to be able to increase their production and enrich their farm, Anahit has applied for a loan which the family will use to buy four oxen, which can be used to plow and do other heavy work the family finds extremely difficult or impossible. 

As this is Anahit's first loan, it has been approved within the framework of the joint initiative between KIVA and their field partner in Armenia SEF International. The first-chance loan program provides loans to people who didn't have access to credit before because they have no credit history. Through this joint initiative almost 500 borrowers like Anahit have gotten a chance to have their first loans and develop their businesses. This is Anahit's first loan with Kiva, and she hopes that the Kiva loan will bring success to her agricultural business.

SEF International is a microfinance subsidiary of World Vision International. It extends financial services to Armenian entrepreneurs to fund their small businesses and improve their lives. Through its partnership with Kiva, the organization is able to create sustainable jobs and build brighter futures for families and children.

The majority of SEF clients are located in Armenia’s poorest rural communities. Accordingly, the organization offers a variety of loan products for farmers, urban businesses, start up and non-formal businesses and consumers focused on improving quality of life for children.

From a social impact perspective, SEF has delivered visible results since its founding. In total, it has extended more than $74 million in loans to more than 74,000 clients. It has also created and sustained over 64,000 jobs and positively impacted 109,000 children.

When you think of the intensely hard work this couple, probably in their mid-to-late 50s and their son and his wife, endure to survive, it stirs a deep compassion in your heart. To be able to help lift that burden is a privilege offered by KIVA. And there are a thousand more hard-working women and men and families waiting for a hand up, not a hand out, just a loan which will come back to you. Bread cast on the water, comes back buttered with the satisfaction of knowing that it has helped lift someone out of poverty. Think about making a KIVA loan today. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

Remembered with Love 

   Mary Margaret Isabel born sleeping 17 July 1971

Undercover officer gets the surprise of his life!

Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has a well-deserved reputation for being a violent, dangerous place. When Vancouver Police Officer Mark Horsley went undercover looking for a thug who'd roughed up and robbed a couple of wheelchair users look what happened to him. (when the video finishes hit the escape key to return to this page.) 

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~Dalai Lama

The people on the East Side have almost all gone through terrible trauma, some of it self-inflicted, but much of it out of their control. But it's a nasty place to have to live. They aren't there because they work in a downtown office tower and it's a short commute to work. 

People usually have one of two reactions to having living through horrific trauma like the holocaust or residential school, or physical, sexual or psychological abuse by a parent or caregiver. The first group says; I will never do this to anyone or be silent when it happens to others; the second group becomes embittered and twisted and try to "avenge" what was done to them by perpetuating the abuse, again and again on others, as if trying to vomit spoiled food. 

Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. ~Orison Marden

It's clear that while the people who helped Officer Horsley might not be "successful" by Wall Street's standards, their ethics are far higher than those of the men who run the world's largest banks and corporations, and their compassion is off the chart compared to people like USA presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who seems to think shooting illegal Mexican immigrants from his private helicopter would be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and another presidential hopeful, Ben Carson, has just allied himself with a rightwing pastor who advocates killing Gay people and women who use birth control as a way to bring the USA back to "righteousness". Of course Carson would back the KKK if it got him two votes. These two are highly "successful" by the society's standards, but are repulsive as human beings. The members of Vancouver's Eastside Community has them for beat by miles in terms of humanity and compassion. 

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

This Island Earth

I should have waited for an overcast day to take pictures because the full sun on the hot colours of red roses and hot pink petunias make my cheap little Nikkon lens have grand mal seizures, but blossoms are so fleeting, aren’t they? 

We've had a good bit of rain and everything is just bursting into bloom, so I grabbed my camera and headed out to take some pictures of the flowers and shrubs I’ve planted over over the last four years. 

Remember my little run-in some days ago with the woman about dumping 500 pounds of roadfill into the carefully designed and tended Zen garden? Well, her live-in boyfriend is president of the condo board this year, and Monday I received a rude letter from our management company, ordering me to stay out of the flower beds that I have planted and cared for daily for the last four growing seasons.  Since "the work" now primarily boils down to weeding  which hurts my back, I'm not broken-hearted.

I wrote management and told them what needed to be done, and today two of the landscape crew spent well over an hour yesterday being paid to weed and pick up the garbage in the garden, which I'd have done for free. 

But the situation brings to mind a good story, and I'll share one of my favourite songs from Jonathon Edwards called "This Island Earth", plus a good many pictures of the lovely flowers growing in the garden. Enjoy dears… 

                                              Might as well start with the music. 

Gurdjieff was an early 20th century teacher. Students came to live and study with him on his estate near Paris. There was one man in the community nobody could stand because he was impossible to get along with. He was overbearing and boorish, bullied the other students relentlessly, and had such a short fuse that everyone was constantly filled with tension, knowing that any insignificant thing could cause him to explode. The other students just wished that he would go away.

One of Gurdjieff’s teaching methods was to make his students do repetitive tasks that were completely meaningless; with the purpose of making them awaken to their reactions. It wasn't the meaningless tasks that were important, it was his students' inner experiences that mattered.

One day Gurdjieff’ told his students to dig up the grass on one side of a path and replace it with the grass growing on the other side. This task proved to be too much for the man that everyone disliked. Halfway through the morning he blew up, screamed that he’d had enough of Gurdjieff’s useless chores, threw down his shovel, stormed to his room, packed his suitcase, ran to his car and drove away, swearing never to return. The rest of the community was delighted and cheered as his car disappeared down the drive. But when they told Gurdjieff what happened, he said “Oh, no!” and went after him.

Three days later they both came back. That night, when he was serving Gurdjieff his supper, his attendant asked, “Sir, why did you bring him back? It was so much more pleasant here with him gone,” Gurdjieff motioned the attendant to come closer and answered very quietly, “Between you and me; you must tell no one. I pay that man to stay here.”

People like Gurdjieff’s professional irritant and experiences like him, are what are called life's therapeutic irritations. They exist to wake us up. Like the sand in the oyster that is the seed of the pearl, therapeutic irritations stir a reaction in us. They pull off our blinders and teach us what is not possible to learn when surrounded with admiration, peace and harmony. 

Buddhism teaches that the difficult is the best teacher, and that all of us suffer from the same kleshas, mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. 

The kleshas are also called the five poisons and are:

1: Passion (craving, greed, lust etc)
2: Aggression: (anger, hatred, resentment etc)
3: Ignorance: (confusion, bewilderment, apathy etc)
4: Pride: (arrogance, conceit, low self-self esteem etc)
5. Jealousy: (envy, a lack of self-worth, paranoia, etc) 

Buddhism teaches that while the kleshas can never be completely eliminated, they can be pacified. Once you realize how these negative emotions are poisoning your health, happiness and well-being you can train yourself yourself to reject them when they arise, and gradually they lose their power over you. 

 This is a universal struggle faced by all of humanity and one that calls for compassion rather than anger when you are faced with “therapeutic irritations”. 

As Jean Vanier, who I admire so much said, “We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. Each one of us needs to feels appreciated and understood. We all need help.”

Let’s face it. Happiness is an inside job. 

Story about Gurdjiieff for Pema Chodron’s book, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Shambala Press, 1994 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Thoughts that go bump in the night

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you most certainly are deprived of any quality reading material, but you also know I have been an avid genealogist for over 40 years. 

My 4th g-grdmother Catherine Dorneberger
Genealogy is interesting for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it quickly teaches you that no one gets out of here alive. When 90% of your family photos are of tombstones, you soon understand that the Grim Reaper walks one step behind you, and that rustling you hear is his robe catching against his bony knees. 

Genealogy isn't a hobby with me, it's more like an obsession. Maybe I was called to it, because I was born what the Irish call "sensitive", not that I am an overly emotional person, in fact one of my doctors referred to me as "stoic" recently which made me laugh afterwards considering how much I moan and groan about my pain levels. But sensitive in the woo-woo sense.  

For example, my Dad was a rig supervisor in the oil fields of West Texas.  On any given day he could be on any one of half a dozen rigs, over a 200 mile area. There were no cell-phones or ways to communicate in the 40s and 50s. But several times, beginning when I was about two, when Mother needed to reach him in an emergency, she sat me on the front seat of the car, where I couldn't even see over the dashboard, and asked me to tell her where Daddy was. And I'd listen for him, or feel for him. It's hard to describe. I would open my heart, or that's how it felt, and I could feel where he was, and I'd tell her to go that direction. And we found him every time. 

But I had a coincidental and unrecognized at the time encounter with a family member long since in the spirit world in the late 1970s. We decided to return briefly to the US because my Mother was terminally ill and we wanted her to have some time with our two boys.  

We decided to buy property in Arkansas, a few hours drive from my parents, and build a small house. Land was very inexpensive, and we wanted to be out in the country. We drove through a tiny town in the northeast corner of the state called Berryville. We looked around a little, thought 'not for us' and drove on. But in the night I woke up and felt a strong compulsion to go back to Berryville. 

Long story short, we went back. A realtor drove us around and there was one piece of property that grabbed us, me especially. We bought it, built a tiny house and lived there for about a year. 

At the time I had no idea that my paternal grandmother and her mother had both been born in the next county. There's an excellent genealogy library in Berryville. I would go in there and literally ache, because I could feel family all around me, and all I could do was look at the files in frustration. I even walked the graveyard, with the same feeling of frustration.

Thirty-five years later the bird comes to the nest. With DNA testing I've made contact with a 3rd great-grandson of my 3rd great-grandfather's Lawson's brother Jacob. And with it his family tree.  

In 1850 both Lawson and Jacob and their families were living  side-by-side in Ripley Co Missouri. By 1853 both had moved south into Arkansas. Jacob's son George Washington Smith moved to Carroll Co, just outside of Berryville, next door to the Sisco family. And in 1883 George Smith's daughter Lucretia married William Emberson Sisco and produced eight little Sisco kids. No Lone Rangers apparently.  

On the way to our property, we left Berryville on Sisco Rd. The Sisco farmhouse stood at the junction where we turned to get to our property. in 1979 it was well-maintained and still lived in. 

George Washington Smith and wife Sarah Jane Frederick
The 20 acres we bought may well have been part of the property which belonged to my 4th cousin George Smith 100 years before us. We disassembled an old square-cut log house up the road from it. The logs were not milled, but cut with an adze. The nails were hand-forged. I still have one of them in  a drawer somewhere. Was it the home of George Smith?  I wish there was a better picture of him, this one is torn across his face and no amount of photoshopping will fill in the missing gap. 

But my 3rd great-grandmother Priscilla, and 4th great-grandmother Elizabeth both died between 1850 and 1853, the same time George Washington Smith moved down near the Siscos. Did Lawson and his family go with them? Did Priscilla and Elizabeth die in Carroll County? For the life of me I can't understand why a 4th great-uncle would exert such an emotional pull, while I have searched for the identities of these two women for three decades. 

You have to wonder what ghosts lead you back, but I've seen "coincidences" happen to genealogists I know too many times to discount them. Henry Jones, expert on the Palatine migrations, has written two books based on genealogists finding their ancestors through almost unbelievable "coincidences".
"They want to be found," he says.  


Friday, July 03, 2015

Flickers and Flowers...

Northern Flicker
Yesterday was Canada Day, and the weather was perfect, so in the afternoon Ian and I went for a walk in a local park. We walked to a high point, where we had a view of the entire park, which is a former industrial area that has been cleaned up and left to go back to as wild a state as possible. It's prairie, with grasses, and a bit of marshy area, so the grasses were billowing in the wind. We sat and talked for a long time, and he took pictures of some of the flowers, grasses and vistas, plus a Northern Flicker, a member of the woodpecker family.  

Hackelia floribunda
One flowering plant growing in profusion along the path was so beautiful we stopped and Ian took several picture of them. 

The flowers are hardly bigger than the head of a pin, and the plants themselves were 4-5" or about 11 cm tall. Many were covered with flowers but the little burrs the flowers mature into were already visible. These are Hackelia floribunda, a species of flowering plant in the borage family known by the common name manyflower stickseed. 

Yes, well-named. Walk along a path lined with these later in the summer and your socks will be covered with the little egg-shaped burrs which are covered in velcro-like hooks. Like a lot of bad habits and crazy ideas, they start out looking very attractive, but it isn't long before you can't get the "burrs" out of your life.

We followed our walk with a visit to the grocery store. I had started a yummy chicken soup made from fresh vegetables and roasted chicken in the crockpot before leaving home. So we bought fruit and salad and cat food, and the three of us had a nice meal together and Ian visited with his Dad for a while.

It was lovely to spend time together. He's always so busy, that I miss the long talks we used to have when he was younger and we'd often talk late into the night. Seeing your children grow up into competent, compassionate human beings is the best feeling in the world. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I am very attached to this gravel...

As my faithful readers know Ian built a lovely Zen garden I wanted in a gravel patch near the front door of our condo building in 2012 as a Mother's Day Gift. He bought the tumble stone, and the pea gravel. We went to the mountains together and hiked up a ravine to find the right size and shape of larger stones. And he built it over two weekends. 

It's to the left of the main entrance of our building and is about 8' wide by 20' long. It's a spot where nothing will grow, as the underground parkade roof comes to the surface there and underlies that area.
Standing Stone with "Sedum" forest
It's an odd shape, since one end is a triangle, and it's only large enough for the "Three Stone" style, which means you have a standing stone in an island of greenery, plus two other stones which have a particular shape, and are placed at a certain relationship to the standing stone. 

The land is represented by round, tumbled river rocks 1 - 1.5" in size, flowing water by fine pea gravel you rake patterns in, though raking patterns in this garden would be futile, as people walk through it all the time. 

I've had many positive comments about it, and because we had a resident pass away in particularly tragic circumstances just as we finished it, some residents wrote his name on one of the smooth stones and put it on the garden in his memory. Since then other residents have written the names of loved ones who'd passed on smooth river rocks and left them in the garden, so it's become something of a memory garden. I also wrote baby Isabel's name and birth/death date on a smooth white stone and left it among the others. Since the stones represent the sea this is a rather apt metaphor of the Buddhist saying, “The wave does not need to die to become water. She is already water.”  

As you also might remember the sidewalk leading to the front entrance is about 25 feet wide and 100 feet long. Because some people have no common sense whatsoever, they will drive their five ton moving vans right up to the front door, which is very hard on the sidewalk. We found the only way to prevent this from happening was to place large cast concrete/stone planters to block their way. So we have three big three stone planters filled with road-fill gravel on the end of the sidewalk. We placed two at the driveway end and the third about 20 feet in, in the centre of the drive. These had to placed empty  by a fork lift, and then we filled them with a half-tonne of gravel, so they aren't going anywhere. 

In this climate you can't plant real flowers in them because the moisture gets into the concrete and in the winter the pot cracks, so we put in new topiaries surrounded by iron trellis work last year. These were wired to concrete blocks under the gravel because the wind is sumpin fierce here in the winter, and we had to chase down the previous ones. It cost a couple of hundred dollars for each one plus paying the landscapers to install them.

I still had one to go but hadn't been able to find a matching topiary until last Thursday afternoon I found them on line. I made plans to go buy one on Friday.

But Thursday evening I looked out the window to see one of the residents had taken the topiaries out of the pots, and was shovelling the gravel into buckets. This woman is always belligerent, and has the attitude that she is entitled to anything she wants, and can do anything without consulting anyone. I hated having to deal with her when I was on the board, because her standard answer was, "I don't care what the rules say, or what the board says. I'm doing it this way, my mother is a lawyer and I'll just sue if I don't get my way." 

More than a little trepidatious, I wandered out to ask her what she was doing. She said she was going to plant flowers in the planters. She had already dumped several buckets of stones in the Zen garden. I pointed out that the Zen garden has only two kinds of stone, and they are laid in a design. She said she didn't see any design, and she'd rake the stones flat when she was done.  

When I went out to tend the flowers the next afternoon I was stunned. She literally had *buried* the Zen garden 10-12" deep in the big rough road fill from the planters, which was also full of bark, garbage and cigarette butts. Just dumped in big piles all over the garden. Then I got mad. I actually sat here until 2:00 am and wrote a whiny letter complaining to the property manager explaining how I'd been wronged. It sounded childish even to me. So I deleted it and went to bed. 

I went out yesterday morning and looked at it again and it looks terrible, nothing like the Zen garden I'd planned and Ian had built. But standing there I realized that there's no point in choosing to be angry. All is does is make me miserable and burn off energy I could use for more positive activity. 

So I went to the Walmart and bought a big Boston fern, a transparent plastic "chip" serving bowl about two inches deep which has a "dip" container moulded into one side. It has a rippled surface, so I can sink it into the gravel, bring the gravel right up to the edge, put two asparagus ferns in the "dip" container and turn it into a birdbath. The next neighbour has a feeder and when I'm out with the hose the birds are always eager for a drink and to have a shower.  

One of the landscaping crew helped to rake the gravel down, which took him five minutes, and we sunk the Boston fern into one of the piles. I took the stones she'd tossed aside and re-sited them and gave the entire thing a good wash-down with the hose. 

So now it has a new look, with a fern, a bird bath, and the rocks - aside from the standing stone, repositioned. And it looks okay. 

It's funny, I look at other countries feuding between themselves and say to myself, "Why can't they just get along?" 

And then someone pours a half-dozen wheelbarrows of rock on a patch of gravel which is on common property and thus belongs as much to her as it does to me - and I get my panties in  twist. You know, if you don't laugh at your own ridiculousness at least a dozen times a day you're going to end up in a padded cell. 

The Buddha said, "The root of suffering is attachment." And it gets me a hundred times a day. It's a root that is as hard to dig out as those dandelions we fight with every spring.  

So, the Zen Garden is no longer the austere garden you'd find in a temple. But it's more recognizable as a "garden" to Western eyes. I like it even better now. And the flowers she planted are beautiful.  

Friday, June 19, 2015

If you forget me…

Now, is he just being realistic; I mean, what's the point of pining over someone who no longer loves you? Or is he just the kind of arrogant blowhole your mother warned you about avoiding? (Read his bio, link is at the bottom of the page, and decide for yourself. I didn't put the link here because I didn't want to bias anyone forehand.)  

At any rate, it's the only poem I could find that references garden flowers that wasn't so sappy it was instantly vomit inducing, and I wanted to show off what's been blooming in the garden this past week or so without simply plodding through another tour. For a few days I had nine glorious poppies, some as big as saucers. They usually bloom for a day or two then the petals fall off, but as I write this I still have five, some of which have been blooming a full week. 

If you forget me…
by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know one thing. 

You know how this is: 

if I look 
at the crystal moon, at the red branch 
of the slow autumn at my window, 
if I touch 
near the fire 
the impalpable ash 
or the wrinkled body of the log, 
everything carries me to you, 
as if everything that exists, 
aromas, light, metals, 
were little boats 
that sail 
toward those isles of yours that wait for me. 

Well, now, 
if little by little you stop loving me 
I shall stop loving you little by little. 

If suddenly you forget me 
do not look for me, 
for I shall already have forgotten you. 

If you think it long and mad, 
the wind of banners 
that passes through my life, 
and you decide 
to leave me at the shore 
of the heart where I have roots, 
remember that on that day, at that hour, 
I shall lift my arms and my roots will set off 
to seek another land. 

Oriental Poppy

But if each day, 
each hour,

Neon Lights Hosta, Cranesbill, Daisy, Pink ones ??

you feel that you are destined for me with implacable sweetness,

Purple petunias, Darvona

if each day a flower climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,


in me all that fire is repeated, 
in me nothing is extinguished 
or forgotten, 

Siberian Iris

my love feeds on your love, 


and as long as you live it will be in your arms without leaving mine.