May 2008

Here is a picture of Tulasi working in the flower gardens at Prabhupada’s Palace of Gold. He is digging holes so Gopa can plant the cannas that she started in the greenhouse from roots saved in the fall from last season.

He just came home from college to spend the summer and Gopa snatched him up first thing to help as the cool rainy spring has her behind on the planting schedule. He will help her for a couple of weeks until planting is finished.

FYI, he is working his way through college so anyone who could use a strong young guy let us know because he is looking for jobs.

Vidya was commenting that this was a full circle because she was the original gardener at the Palace before Tulasi was even born and now he is working there. She had collaborated with Kirtanananda Swami in designing and planting the first garden and manged them for several years until Betty Hickey took over.

Now Betty is semi-retired, focusing on the roses, and Gopa is taking the responsibility for the rest of the gardens. Gopa was out fund raising in the early years of the gardens but now has her chance to enjoy the nectar.

Most of the original plants can no longer be grown at the Palace because of deer damage but cannas are still the backbone because deer don’t eat them. Cannas were my contribution to the garden scheme. We didn’t have them back home in North Dakota growing up so when I saw some growing down in Moundsville I was fascinated by them and lobbied successfully against no resistance for their inclusion. They continue to be planted to this very day.


I have been thinning/harvesting trees between the State road and the lake near the temple. When they were planted 20+ years ago, they were over planted for immediate effect, and should have been thinned starting about 10 years ago.

Besides taking out the dead and dying trees, I have been opening up some sight lines and clearing around specimen trees, like the tamarack tree I opened up yesterday. I have been working along the state road, not necessarily because the need is greatest there but because I perceive the need every time I drive to the temple.

I lack the vigor of youth so I can only do a few hours at a time and only once in a while, but over the next 3-4 years I will accomplish the task of managing the forest in the temple area.

I had pulled my vehicle over to the side of the road while dropping a locust tree. When I went around to the side of the van to get my saw, I stepped into a grass concealed groundhog hole and almost fell over, doing a little tango with a wild rose bush in the process. No blood shed in this particular encounter with an insidious multiflora rose, but not a pleasant experience.

After I gassed up my saw and got it ready, I moved back from the van and stepped into the same exact hole again. Doh.

As the tree was going to drop in the State road, I got Vyapi, who was cleaning up the trimmed off branches of previous dropped trees, to come help. He watched for traffic so I didn’t drop the locust on the roof of a passing car, and then helped get the branches I cut off to the side of the road so traffic wasn’t impeded.

After he left, I loaded my saw into the van and tried to pull away. Due to the rising elevation of the road, no weight on the rear axle, and the accumulated grit on the side of the road left over from cinder spreading in the winter, the wheels spun out.

Without stopping to evaluate the situation, I put it in reverse and started to back down the hill onto the road. As there were a lot of trimmed branches behind the van from the locust tree, and they sometimes have tire puncturing properties, I swung the front of the van in order to miss them.

Remember the groundhog hole from earlier in this story? Amazingly enough, it was still there, obeying the laws of physics.

Thus when the front wheel encountered it, gravity prevailed, coupled with the principle of an inclined plane, or complete lack thereof in the straight sides of the hole, so the front wheel dropped in and I was stuck.

Off I walk the hundred meters to where Vyapi was working. This was in the latter part of my half day’s worth of stamina, so I sat on his rig he was hauling branches with while he walked down to the garden to get the Marines to come to the rescue.

That would be Bhakta Tom (“Once a Marine, always a Marine”) who brought the garden’s truck and a chain.

Here is the van chained up ready to be pulled out. Note the locust branches on the side I cleaned away to get at the van. The white stuff on the ground is locust blossoms that were jarred loose when the tree was felled, and were not flowers showered by demigods to commemorate my getting stuck.

Anyway, get out I did, the only damage was to my pride.

While waiting for the tow, I was looking at the sky and saw the waning half moon in a brilliantly clear blue sky framed by trees, which, were I to rationalize the larger implications of why the Universe wanted me stuck, might have been to see that sight.

It doesn’t come across that well in this photo, but the little white smudge in the center of the blue is actually the waning half moon. It was quite beautiful in person.

“We love. The loving propensity is there. Even we have no family… Sometimes we keep pets, cats and dogs, to love. So we are, by nature we used to love somebody else.”

The Nectar of Devotion — Vrndavana, October 24, 1972

Simon is my wife’s cat. He is has not been heard from for several days. The first morning he didn’t show up, Vidya was immediately worried. She checked all the places where he might normally have gotten himself shut into but he was nowhere to be found.

Not being so intuitive, I figured he would eventually show up but with still no sign of him, even I am conceding he has meet foul play. What that may have been may never be known.

If hit by a car his body would have been by the road but it isn’t. Going a mile out the lane that runs through our property there are a couple of dens of coyotes which I never see but know they are there and a pack of them could take out a cat and no trace would be left.

My wife has been affectionate to the cat and is feeling the touch of her own mortality as a result of its going missing.

Why would this be bloggable? Well, secret revealed, my primary purpose in writing this blog is to communicate with my 5 children and to leave a record for my grandchildren, so Simon going missing is big family news.

I started this blog while I was going through a nose dive while in End Stage Liver Disease, with inevitable death a near possibility. Unfortunately, I lived, and am now in the habit of grinding it out, and since news of Simon’s demise is of interest to my family, it is today’s post.

It is a bad time of year for the cat to go missing, as all the young rodents will be leaving their mother and looking for new homes so we will be vulnerable to damage. A cat helps control mice and rats so most rural households will have one.

Simon was a cat Vidya and Tulasi saved from the pound. He had been taken from a home that was raided by the police for some reason and so had a little moment of fame because he was mentioned in the newspaper report of the raid.

I am not big on cats other than their function as a mouser but I know many are, so for any cat lovers out there, you can sympathize with my wife.

And no, she is NOT immediately ready for a kitten so put down that phone and don’t call.

‘and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence’
— George Eliot, Middlemarch

Dead dandelions, bald as drumsticks,
swaying by the roadside

like Hare Krishna pilgrims
bowing to the Juggernaut.

They have given up everything.
Gold gone and their silver gone,

humbled with dust, hollow,
their milky bodies tan

to the colour of annas.
The wind changes their identity:

slender Giacomettis, Doré’s convicts,
Rodin’s burghers of Calais

with five bowed heads
and the weight of serrated keys . . .

They wither into mystery, waiting
to find out why they are,

patiently, before nirvana
when the rain comes down like vitriol.

“Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the ksatriyas.”

Bg 18.43

It’s Memorial Day in the United States, when we are meant to remember those who gave their lives for their country. Back home where I grew up, this meant a parade that ended at the cemetery and then a 21 gun salute fired by riflemen. As small boys, we would look forward to this and when the shell casings were ejected, we would race in and collect them, thinking this was great fun, oblivious that this was all about the pain that those honored deaths had made for their families.

Regardless of the politics of the civilian leaders of the US, soldiers act out of duty and fight when asked. This also applies to those in the National Guard. The National Guard used to be under the control of the individual states, but under the latest Republican regimen they have been co-opted by the Federal government. As such, they are no longer used for emergencies in the state they are formed in but are routinely called upon for service in Iraq.

The story I am most remembering for this Memorial Day is of a local hero.

Both him and his wife were in the National Guard. He finished his commitment and was released from duty when the unit was activated to go to Iraq, but his wife was still under obligation. He re-enlisted in the unit and took his wife’s place in the call up so she could remain at home and care for their two small children.

While in Iraq, he was KIA, Killed In Action, and never made it home. To take his wife’s place and put himself in danger took great courage and made him a hero, IMHO, and is one of the saddest stories I have heard of the many who have died in Iraq while the children of those civilian leaders who send them there take vacations and play video games.

Sacrificing the blood of others is NOT a ksatriya quality. Hiding in offices while the best of our youth goes off to sacrifice doesn’t dilute the honor of our soldiers and their sacrifices but it does make our leaders look like cowards.

There was a Cow Conference recently in Hungary at the New Vraja Dhama farm. This is a topic I have a keen interest in. Unfortunately for me, the info coming out of it is all podcasts which with dialup it isn’t practical for me.

Is anyone willing to listen them on my behalf and give me an executive summary or even a general sense of it? I would really appreciate that.

Or listen and tell me which one would be the best to listen to if I could only listen to one of them. I have to let it download all night so I could do it but with so many I would like to listen to the one that would best capture the spirit of it.

Cow Protection Conference

21 May: Cow Protection

Sick & Aging Cows

22 May: Cow Protection Conference

Bhakta Rory and Kalevaram das were standing at the base of a flagpole, looking up.

A woman walked by and asked what they were doing.

“We’re supposed to find the height of the flagpole,” said Bhakta Rory, “but we don’t have a ladder.”

The woman took a wrench from her purse, loosened a few bolts, and laid the pole down. Then she took a tape measure from her pocket, took a measurement, announced, “Eighteen feet, six inches,” and walked away.

Bhakta Rory shook his head and laughed. “Isn’t that just like a woman! We ask for the height and she gives us the length!”

Bhakta Rory and Kalevaram das are currently working for the GHQ.

“Who’s Oprah ?” say people who have

a.) lived in a cave for the last twenty years
b.) been oblivious to the mass media due to ecstatic symptoms
c.) have never had an informal talk with an average American woman.

To those I say, she is the Queen of day time television and one of the richest women in America — a major opinion maker.

Oprah's Blog

In her book Quantum Wellness, best-selling author and spiritual counselor Kathy Freston suggests trying a 21-day cleanse as a way to jump-start an inner makeover. Oprah has decided to give it a try! The plan is to eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and animal products from your diet for up to 21 days. Read along as Oprah blogs for three weeks about the highs and lows of her experience.

Week One: Sunday
There was a passage in Kathy Freston’s book that so related to me, I thought for a moment she was talking about me.

In the passage, Kathy talks about an overweight friend who would gain and lose. She didn’t conquer the weight issue until she became a “conscious” eater.

Conscious eater. That struck a nerve. I had recently come to the conclusion that after spending weeks reading and rereading A New Earth and being on line with Eckhart Tolle that bringing a higher level of awareness to my eating was the solution I’d been avoiding. My idea of a conscious eater, however, was not quite the same as Kathy’s.

I thought it meant not allowing yourself to eat emotionally and filling the void of anxiety with food, as I’ve struggled with for years. I thought it meant taking your time, making healthy choices and chewing slowly—being conscious of every bite and not scarfing down a meal and then thinking about the next one.

That is one level of consciousness. But what she talks about in her book is a higher level. She speaks of “spiritual integrity.” How can you say you’re trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?

So this 21-day cleanse gives me a chance to think about it differently and see what my attachments are to certain kinds of foods—and what I’m willing to do to change.

Don’t know if I’m going to feel better or worse, but I’m willing to try to see if my body at least feels differently.

So this first day wasn’t hard at all. For breakfast, I had steel-cut oatmeal with fresh blueberries, strawberries, chopped walnuts and a splash of soy milk and some agave nectar. For lunch, chunky mushroom soup with wild rice and pecans. As a snack, a handful of roasted almonds. And for dinner, a baked potato drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper with a salad of shredded lettuce, cranberries, pine nuts and tiny orange slices with a vinegar and oil dressing.

Very satisfying. Day 1 also started with the meditation mantra that Kathy suggests in her book. I’m ready!

— Oprah

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