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The wind carves shapes into the beach sand

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#2559 - Sunday, August 20, 2006 - Editor: Gloria Lee  

This issue makes room for a few voices not often heard here. -Gloria    

Why should those who rejoice when Destiny brings good
Moan when that same Destiny decrees misfortune?

What is there that is mightier than Destiny?
For it is there ahead of us even in the plans we devise to overcome it.

-Tirukkural 38: 379-380

Excerpted from the Tirukkural, translated by Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Afraid So

Is it starting to rain?
Did the check bounce?
Are we out of coffee?
Is this going to hurt?
Could you lose your job?
Did the glass break?
Was the baggage misrouted?
Will this go on my record?
Are you missing much money?
Was anyone injured?
Is the traffic heavy?
Do I have to remove my clothes?
Will it leave a scar?
Must you go?
Will this be in the papers?
Is my time up already?
Are we seeing the understudy?
Will it affect my eyesight?
Did all the books burn?
Are you still smoking?
Is the bone broken?
Will I have to put him to sleep?
Was the car totaled?
Am I responsible for these charges?
Are you contagious?
Will we have to wait long?
Is the runway icy?
Was the gun loaded?
Could this cause side effects?
Do you know who betrayed you?
Is the wound infected?
Are we lost?
Will it get any worse?

-- Jeanne Marie Beaumont from Curious Conduct

When we meditate, we're creating a situation in which there's a lot of space. That sounds good but actually it can be unnerving, because when there's a lot of space you can see very clearly: you've removed your veils, your shields, your armor, your dark glasses, your earplugs, your layers of mittens, your heavy boots. Finally you're standing, touching the earth, feeling the sun on your body, feeling its brightness, hearing all the noises without anything to dull the sound. You take off your nose plug, and maybe you're going to smell lovely fresh air or maybe you're in the middle of a garbage dump. Since meditation has this quality of bringing you very close to yourself and your experience, you tend to come up against your edge faster. It's not an edge that wasn't there before, but because things are so simplified and clear, you see it, and you see it vividly and clearly.

-- Pema Chodron, in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1


"In the window's reflection, I see who I want to be."


They'd chase a false hope. The job, it turned out, lasted only a couple of months. The family paid the friend of the uncle for a mobile home that never materialized.

Mom, dad and Andy ended up in a homeless shelter in downtown Seattle. Senter met a girl there, though. She liked to play video games. "That's hard to find in a girl," Senter said.

On their way back from the Woodland Park Zoo one day, they got stuck in traffic. His girlfriend, tired, laid her head on his chest. Senter saw their reflection in the window across the aisle.

The moments people remember come at unexpected times and in unexpected places. As more people ride the bus -- there were 30 percent more trips taken on Metro last year than a decade ago -- many of those moments are happening in transit. That idea, of life happening on the bus, is reflected in many of the 60 poems that began going up inside Metro buses last week. They'll remain on display for the next year.

The poems chosen in the 13th annual Poetry on Buses program, run by King County and the group Public Arts 4Culture, reflect those moments people experience on the bus -- of overheard conversations, of the isolation some riders feel as they watch the city pass by, or, in Senter's case, of the sense that for all else that's gone wrong, there's solace in the reflection in the window across the aisle.

Reflection in the Sun

By Andy Senter

Traffic jam; draw bridge is up.
After an hour, she falls asleep in my arms.
I shield her eyes from the Sun
I see myself shielding her eyes from the Sun
I see myself with her in my arms.
In the window's reflection, I see who I want to be.



By Betty Jane Sparenberg

Let another's driving be my
hypothesis of direction, for
I admit no asylum but transience,
where lost is my location,
where, in motion, it can be secret even to me
that I only ride for the lie of
going home,
that I never could endure
to stop.

Sparenberg, an 11th-grader at the Nova Project, an alternative high school in Seattle:
"It's about kind of not having a place to go but pretending you have a place to go. ... It's about the fickleness of security, and how sometimes because life moves so fast, transience can feel more safe and 'homelike' than settling somewhere. ... It's about being lost and not really having a place I can call my own. Floating. Sometimes, home or school of wherever I'm going, just doesn't feel like home."  

link posted by Michael Rawls to nondualnow

Even if your house is flooded or burnt to the ground, whatever the danger that threatens it, let it concern only the house. If there's a flood, don't let it flood your mind. If there's a fire, don't let it burn your heart, let it be merely the house, that which is external to you, that is flooded and burned. Allow the mind to let go of its attachments. The time is ripe.  

-- Ajahn Chah, in Samuel Bercholz's Entering the Stream


No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.... not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not "So there's no God after all," but "So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer."



image by Robert O'Hearn on Garden Mystics  

Rights of Access
by Briony Penn
Monday Magazine, 2002

I once spent five years of my life studying which parts of the earth you could walk without being fettered by physical and legal obstacles. The idea of where we could still move without paying or breaking the law seized me after spending years travelling on the cheap in different parts of the world. In a sense I was a wild animal sticking to places that I had a right of access: Paris sidewalks, Dalmatian shorelines, English footpaths, Norwegian utmarks, Canadian parks, Checkpoint Charlie, African game trails, Guatemalan markets, American malls; as long as I kept moving. When you stop, you are not seeking access you are seeking sanctuary and that is different again. Then you have even fewer options. Laying your head down on the earth to sleep under the stars without impediment or paying is now hard to find except in the poorest countries of the world where the numbers of homeless have exceeded the numbers of officials to move them on. During my research, I took to reading accounts of where travelling people (gypsies, hobos, beatnik poets, the homeless and backpackers) move and stay in their travels to sketch out maps of public access≠the free spaces within the network of possessed lands and resoources. The maps of their movements look like spidery webs, narrow corridors with a few precious nodes for resting: highway pullovers, abandoned city lots and unoccupied institutional lands. These maps showed the spaces that wildlife might also be able to move unfettered through and rest, because physical obstacles are typically built to define the legal ones: fences, walls and hedges. 

Then I interviewed hundreds of people from three countries: Canada, Scotland and Norway, about their perceptions of rights of access to all different tenures of lands: I provided them with maps and asked them to tell me where they felt they had rights of access and where they didn't.  These maps took on colours: green areas where people unanimously perceived rights of access (de jure‚) rights, e.g., parks and public lands), red areas for off-limits (e.g., near someone's house) and yellow areas that people felt could be accessed but perceptions of rights remained unclear (de facto) wilderness, ecological reserves, institutional lands). Most people felt that restrictions of access were reasonable for conservation reasons or safety. You could charge user fees if the type of recreation required costly facilities but walking was seen as a basic civil right. I asked the same questions of bureaucrats and managers of public spaces. They were more men than women, they were more old than young, they were mostly far from their days of youthful roaming and few had walked the paths of the homeless or thought like a deer moving through a city, but they all confirmed the existence of strong cultural attitudes towards rights of access. The Norwegians entrenched the old common laws of a right of access to the utmark or hinterland in the Free Air Life Act. The Scottish had fought to keep the English Trespass Act out of Scotland and maintain a common law right of access even on private land as long as no damage was done. British Columbians had fought to keep crown lands open through the 60s when the forest industry was lobbying to pass the Access Act which would have prevented us from accessing crown land and viewing the damage.

At the time, nearly 25 years ago, I would have said BC was a sympathetic place to be if you were roaming and/or wild. Entrenched in law was the clause that if you were travelling across crown land and not damaging anything you had a right of access. You had a right of access to national, provincial, regional and municipal parks because you were not charged to go for a walk. You could stroll along sidewalks and linger in malls and municipally-owned cemeteries. The shoreline was accessible below the high tide mark thanks to a federal statute that outlined the need to keep shorelines accessible to mariners. Like a cougar on Vancouver Island I could walk from Victoria sidewalks to Strathcona Park unhindered since 96% of the land was publically-owned. I could roam at will, making decisions about access based on topography, scenery and vegetation not just fences and walls. In Europe, the gradual enclosure of land into private dwellings and farms limited access down to footpaths, small village commons, mountain paths and the odd park, but here in BC we were supernatural and free.

In my dissertation, I predicted an erosion of rights of access in BC as demand for land and resources grew and population increased. This was because the costs of access would rise, even to manage people walking≠with the assoociated trampling of land, the maintenance of footpaths, the picking up of rubbish, the costs of restoration and ecological monitoring, policing the fears against wanderers and roamers. This would lead, in fiscally-nitpicking times, to bean-counters looking for sources of revenue to manage access outside of the general tax base. Second, with increased mechanization of access (as all-terrain-vehicles, mountain bikes and other paraphernalia hit the trails), damage would increase exponentially and it would become an issue rife with conflict. Elite user groups would emerge with demands to privatize types of access, paralleling the moves to privatize health services. At the heart of these debates, I predicted, would lie the central question of whether the ability to go for a walk or sleep on public land remains a right that is unalienable.

My predictions proved correct with the principle of user fee for what they call "non-consumptive recreational uses." In English that is paying to go for a walk or sleep on public land. As it stands now, the public have not alienated their right to go for a walk on their land. They have alienated many other uses like the right to take trees off the land, and now sleeping but not to go for a walk across their land. This is not the same as payment extracted at the gate or the parking lot to public land for parking your vehicle and maintenance costs of roads in the park. Those stickers go on your windshield not your forehead. That is a very major distinction as parking and cars are accepted by the public as commodities. You don't charge to use a sidewalk but you pay to park your car. Government goes on to argue that the costs of properly managing trails in parks and crown land should be borne by users not the general public. This year no money was spent on maintaining trails so it is academic really. With trail or no trail, the debate has now become whether we have a right to walk through public land or not. Aside from limiting a freedom to walk there is also the question of limiting our ability as citizens to monitor the use of crown lands. If we alienate the right to walk to a commercial licencee, as they are suggesting, the licencee can collect fees, decide who goes on the land and where and we won't be able to see our public lands.

Norwegians, Scots and British Columbians told me that walking, like breathing air, was a fundamental human right and shouldn't become a commodity. One Norwegian told me that if they stopped him from walking across his countryside, he wouldn't be Norwegian anymore. Wild by definition is the freedom of movement. During my thesis years, I would have nightmares of the public being trapped like the famous Empress cougar in parking lots and sidewalks, while the wealthy could buy their walks in exclusive resorts. Now those fears don't seem so absurd and so far away.

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