October 2006


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It’s Halloween. Pumpkin carving is part of the tradition. It would be interesting to see what devotees could do with pumpkins using a Krishna based theme.

Halloween is a shortened form of All Hallows’ Eve. Tomorrow is All Saints Day, when all the saints on the calendar were meant to be honored. Of course, that part is pretty much forgotten and the fun part retained. It is a great holiday for children. We used to decorate for it, but with the kids gone, we don’t anymore. We haven’t even had anybody come trick or treating lately. Better pickings in town where the houses are closer, I guess.

In case you don’t have a costume, here is a good one to get.

For a sociological view of Halloween, it’s economics, its roots, and, of course, its controversies, check out What Halloween is Really About.

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The cows have been moved from Bahulaban to the big barn for the winter. When they are at Bahulaban, during some phases of the rotation schedule, they can be seen from my house. Now I will have to go to the barn to see them.

Jayaprabhupada only needed a few helpers to move them. The herd is down to 70 cows anymore, and being old, they have made the yearly trip many times and know the way. It is about a 4 mile journey, leaving Bahulaban at the old schoolhouse, down the run on the right of way through Snyder’s, then up out of the hollow to old Vrindaban, where Srila Prabhupada had stayed. This was the original, and now abandoned, farm of New Vrindaban. The picture is taken from the next ridge over where all the beside the road people travel on the way to the current temple.

After passing through Vrindaban, they go down the other side of the ridge and follow the run that starts on my property down to where Burches Run Lake used to be, then up again to the upland terrace where the barn is. Both the run that flows through Bahulaban and the one that starts on my property end up at the old lake. The Bahulaban one is too narrow and steep sided in places and there are waterfalls so the cows can’t follow it the whole way.

When a beautiful woman wakes up,
she checks to see if her beauty is still there.
When a sick person wakes up,
he checks to see if he continues to be sick.

He takes the first pills in a thirty-pill day,
looks out the window at a sky
where a time-release sun is crawling
through the milky X ray of a cloud.

   * * * * *

I sing the body like a burnt-out fuse box,
the wires crossed, the panel lit
by red malfunction lights, the pistons firing
out of sequence,
the warning sirens blatting in the empty halls,

and the hero is trapped in a traffic jam,
the message doesn’t reach its destination,
the angel falls down into the body of a dog
and is speechless,

tearing at itself with fast white teeth;
and the consciousness twists evasively,
like a sheet of paper,
       traveled by blue tongues of flame.

   * * * * *

In the famous painting, the saint
looks steadfastly heavenward,
             away from the physical indignity below,

the fascinating spectacle
    of his own body
                     bristling with arrows;
he looks up
as if he were already adamantly elsewhere,
    exerting that power of denial

         the soul is famous for,
that ability to say, “None of this is real:

Nothing that happened here on earth
and who I thought I was,
and nothing that I did or that was done to me,
was ever real.”

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How long would it take you to remove all the leaves from a tree by hand? To put them back on?

Immediately after the first hard frost, our Carpathian Walnut tree shed its leaves  en masse. As is often the case with killing frosts, the weather was calm and all the leaves lay as they fell. It will take a bit of a stiff breeze to send them scurrying as they are on the lee side of the driveway. There is some wind break effect from the plantings on the windward side. This is a rare picture actually – right after the leaves have fallen, but before they are scattered away.

“Narayana, God, the Supreme Lord, He is beyond this creation. He’s not one of the created beings.” You try to understand. God said, “Let there be creation,” and there was creation: “Yes.” His word is sufficient. His word is sufficient. You can take practical example. In your country you can understand this nice example. During the fall, all of a sudden, all the leaves of the tree, they fall down. There is no more leaf. And again, during the beginning of spring, the, immediately everything becomes green. Now, how this is happening? If you decorate one tree, if you want to take (bring) out all the leaves of a tree, it will take months together. And if you want to decorate one tree without leaves, it will take months together. But you can see that within a few days all leaves are fallen down, and within a few days all leaves are coming out. So why don’t you believe that simply by word of God there may be creation, there may be destruction? That is sufficient. He doesn’t require any engineering. Simply that vibration is sufficient.

Sunday Feast Lecture — Los Angeles, January 19, 1969

 

‘The saints,’ said [French author George] Bernanos [most famous for his Diary of A Country Priest], ‘are not resigned, at least in the sense that the world thinks. If they suffer in silence those injustices which upset the mediocre, it is in order better to turn against injustice, against its face of brass, all the strength of their great souls. Angers, daughters of despair, creep and twist like worms. Prayer is, all things considered, the only form of revolt that stays standing up.’

This is very true from all points of view. A spirituality that preaches resignation under official brutalities, servile acquiescence in frustration and sterility, and total submission to organized injustice is one which has lost interest in holiness and remains concerned only with a spurious notion of ‘order.’ On the other hand, it is so easy to waste oneself in the futilities of that ‘anger, the daughter of despair,’ the vain recrimination that takes a perverse joy in blaming everyone else for our failure. We may certainly fail to accomplish what we believed was God’s will for us and for the Church: but simply to take revenge by resentment against those who blocked the way is not to turn the strength of one’s soul (if any) against the ‘brass face of injustice.’ It is another way of yielding to it.

There may be a touch of stoicism in Bernanos’ wording here, but that does not matter. A little more stoic strength would not hurt us, and would not necessarily get in the way of grace! “

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton,

New York: Doubleday & Co, Inc., 1968 edition, p. 165

Emphasis is mine. In the material world, imperfection is everywhere, even in religious institutions. Those who think otherwise are in illusion. This includes those who become complacent because they think somehow they are exempt from this, ergo the status quo is just fine, and also those who resent an institution because it doesn’t achieve the theoretical purity they deem necessary.

In the material world, everything is constantly losing energy. Any institution where there isn’t constant error checking and reform will gradually fall from spirituality to religiosity. On the other hand, those who seek panacea answers, and put theory over reality, are equally responsible. They use resentment as an excuse to avoid doing the long, hard, incremental work needed to keep an institution moving against the current.

Hopefully, the sincere will persevere.

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When I first moved to New Vrindaban, it was a new environment for me. I came from flat country, where we did dry land farming, average rainfall something like 18 inches a year. In West Virginia it was hillsides and over 40 inches of annual rainfall. It was also a move from horticultural zone 4a to 6a. To oversimplify, this meant a switch from wheat as a main crop to corn. They say it takes an experienced farmer 5 years to adapt to a new environment, and I wasn’t experienced. Although I had grown up on a farm, and been driving tractors since I was 11, back home I was still learning the ropes and the decision making was done by my father and uncle.

There was some initial help from Paramananda, but he moved to Gita Nagari shortly after I arrived, leaving me with no older person to learn from. So I went out and made friends with older farmers in the area. Probably the most important source of information was Bob Merinar, who passed away a while ago. He was very friendly and always ready to talk about farming. His sister is Betty Hickey who does the roses at the Palace.

When talking to the old-timers, a lot of the folklore would be discussed. One was about the wooly bears, the caterpillar that comes out on warm days this time of year and crawls around trying to find a place to winter over. They are large enough to be seen from a car window when driving by, but still many of them end up being spots on the roadway. I suppose the drive by ecologists try to avoid them.

The idea is that you can predict the coming winter by the stripes on a wooly bear. The larger the brown stripe, the milder the winter. I used to go by this back in the day, and my conclusion was it was more accurate than the long term forecasts for the winter by the official weather forecasters. We had some harsh winters and they were preceded by abundant wooly bears with only a third of their coloration brown. The one pictured above would be for a mild winter. You have to look at a lot of them, because there is some variation in a given year’s population, but this one is average for this year. They are also a little scarce this year, which is part of it.

I exchanged mail with Scott Shalaway about this, and he pooh poohed the idea; he is an authority on wildlife, but I still check them out every fall.

Michigan State has biggest comeback in Division I-A history in defeat of Northwestern

“Trailing 38-3 in the third quarter, Michigan State rallied Saturday for a 41-38 victory over Northwestern as the Spartans ended a four-game losing streak in dramatic fashion and momentarily took the heat off coach John L. Smith.”

This is an example of :

a.) Learning from Northwestern: Why we should never get complacent in any of our material or spiritual endeavors.

or

b.) Learning from Michigan State: It’s never too late to rally from bad decisions, material or spiritual, and to start making good ones.

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“Prabhupada: Oh. [break] …fig, there are thousands of seeds. And each seed contains a tree like that. And there are thousands of fruits, figs. Where is that chemist who can prepare such figs?”

June 6, 1974 — Morning walk Geneva

We had our first snow today, some flurries, melting as they landed. While it isn’t unusual to get a little snow in October, it rarely sticks as the ground temperature is still warm.

I took some pictures of our fig plant. You may note some outer leaves got toasted in the light first frost, but I suspect tonight will finish the rest. I wanted to show the green figs. There were better pictures showing more figs, but this one caught a snowflake in flight so I chose it. You can see one fig on the right side. In a good year it is covered with them.

Fresh figs make life worth living, and with the highest levels of minerals of any common fruit or vegetable, figs of any kind help give a better quality of health. They also contain most of the bioflavonoids that make green tea and red wine beneficial. The advantage being figs are offerable to Krishna.

This is another year we are only getting green figs. In order to get fresh figs this far North, it is necessary to wrap up the fig plant and insulate it for the winter. Otherwise it top kills. It will come back from the roots, but by the time it grows enough to set fruit, the season comes to a close. We are borderline even with protecting it. In a cool summer, they just start ripening when the season ends. Even in a good year, we get a short harvest season and most don’t ripen. Farther South, they are extremely productive and any serious gardener should have at least one.

As my health began to fail, I had to stop doing a lot of things, and wrapping the fig got left off the list. The return on investment of the labor was low, it was more of a luxury, as dried figs are as healthy and relatively cheap. This year probably will be another year I let it go. tarring around the chimney where a slight gap has opened and letting some moisture in will be higher priority, amongst other things, like bringing in firewood.

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