Thought for the Day

My morning email brought me this from the Blue  Mountain Center of Meditation…

January 30
And then there crept a little noiseless noise among the leaves,
Born of the very sigh that silence heaves.
  – John Keats

Today I was walking with some friends in Armstrong Redwoods Park and I was astonished at those trees. The more I looked at them, the more I came to appreciate them. It was completely still, unlike our tropical forests in India, where elephants trumpet, tigers roar, and there is a constant symphony of sound.

Here everything was still, and I enjoyed the silence so much that I remembered these lines of John Keats. It is a perfect simile for the silence of the mind, when all personal conflicts are resolved, when all selfish desires come to rest. All of us are looking for this absolute peace, this inward, healing silence in the redwood forest of the mind. When we find it, we will become small forces for peace wherever we go. – Eknath Easwaran

As I read those lines it is suddenly spring 1992 and I am standing by the creek in the Muir Woods on the coast north of San Francisco. This was only my second trip to northern California and the first time I had managed to get out of the city. It was total serendipity that I ended up on that creek on that day because truthfully, I had never heard of the Muir Woods. I forget which day it was, probably a Thursday, and the park was almost completely empty when I arrived. Walking in the silence Eknath Easwaran speaks of above was such a spiritual experience that every time I’ve returned to the area I have made the pilgrimage back to the site.

Standing at the base of those ancient trees with the creek running by was mind expanding. Thinking about the years those massive towers of life had stood on that spot brought to mind the concept that they weren’t the first of their kind to stand here. When I think about my ancestry, ten generations barely gets me back to the Declaration of Independence. Ten generations of these trees would take you back thousands of years into the past. As I stood there in the shadows of those ancient beings I could fill the serenity of the years pressing down upon me. The deep earthy smell in the air, the ferns growing in the shadows, even the ancient corpses of the fallen giving back to the earth that birthed them, all of these things made me slow down and just breathe…In awe.

For some reason almost all of the places in my life that have had that effect on me have been in the presence of really big trees. From the old spreading Live Oaks of my home state to the massive Elms of Charlotte when I first laid eyes on trees that spread their shade not over a house but over a whole neighborhood. Even to the tall forests of the mountains I have come to dream about where I can stand and crane my neck for hours just looking toward the heavens where the trees brush their upreaching limbs in constant contact with the sky.

Such are the thoughts of my morning…gotta run.

Source: Thought for the Day

Sunday Photography Seminar

I drug myself out of bed early yesterday and drove into downtown Houston to the U of H Downtown for a seminar on Digital Travel Photography presented by National Geographic Traveler. It was this paragraph in the email solicitation that pulled me in:

Learn the secrets of these two top nature and travel photographers, and get lots of useful, real-world advice to help make the most of the potential of digital photography while avoiding the pitfalls and exploding the myths that surround the medium. This seminar is intended for amateur to advanced amateur photographers new to digital or considering making the switch from film to digital capture. Using a slide-show/lecture format, Ralph and Bob will help ease your transition into the digital world.

I was very happy with the presentation put on by Ralph Lee Hopkins and Bob Krist. They covered a lot of ground and answered a lot of questions and kept the interest and the pace through the full 7 hours of the seminar.

I guess time will tell if I really absorbed what they had to teach….

Hale: An undeveloped talent | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Leon Hale has a story from his childhood that tells it like it was in rural Texas. It starts like this…

When the family gets together we sometimes retell the story of Uncle Billy Crockett’s camera and the famous pictures he took.

The story has been retold so often that Uncle Billy himself might not recognize it. But this is a harmless story that means well, and it’s part of my folks’ history.

One of his nieces gave Uncle Billy the camera for his birthday. This was back when almost all cameras were Kodaks. You didn’t hear the word camera much.

Take a few minutes and go read the rest of the story, it’s worth the time.

Source: Hale: An undeveloped talent | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle

Friday Morning Coffee Muse

I see from my email forecast that we can expect a second day of sunshine before we go back to trying to live up to Seattle’s weather rep. It has rained (or so it seems from this side of memory) for the majority of the days in January. I guess we are making up for all of those beautiful blue skies in November and December. I have water standing right now in places in my yard I don’t ever recall seeing water stand before. Luckily, the rain has come down more as a steady light misting with occasionally heavier showers for most of the past month…The temperatures have also moderated back to normal for this time of the year in SE Texas. I am starting the day here at 6am with a balmy 39 and the forecast calls for a toasty 61 by 1pm. So all you folks in the Blue Ridges throw another log on the fire and stay warm.

For those of you who didn’t notice, the Senate yesterday tried to end the Federal Minimum Wage. An amendment was placed on a bill that would make minimum wages a state issue. Twenty-eight Senators voted for the amendment. You might want to check the list of names. I found it interesting that one of the two Republican Senators from the state of Texas voted “yea”. But I really wouldn’t have expected anything less from John Cornyn. I would like to thank our other Senator, Kay Bailey Hutchinson for having a conscience. The surprising name on the list to me was John McCain, I really find it hard to believe a Presidential contender would want to associate with killing the minimum wage…The representatives of ten states voted as a block to end the minimum wage, go take a look at the list, it makes for interesting reading.

You can tell I am still a newbie at blogging (with a low readership to boot) cause I still get a kick out of checking my logs at sitemeter. Mostly I look to see where the visitors are from. I also check where they are visiting from. Interesting reading for me at least. This weeks visitor counts at 39, not a high count but pretty much average for here.

This from “Eknath Easwaran’s Thought for the Day”…

A favorite expression of my granny’s was, “Life cannot make a selfish person happy.” It has taken me half a lifetime to understand the profundity of her simple words, warning that happiness cannot come from possessing another person, or from any selfish attachment. But she would also always add, “Life cannot help but make a selfless person happy.” Like spiritual teachers of all the world’s religions, she taught that happiness is to be found in learning how to love others more than I love myself.

Well, the clock on the shelf tells me I better get a move on…catch you later.

The State of the Union

I managed to sit through the President’s address last evening without throwing anything at the television harder than a few epitaphs, the strongest of which was probably “You damn liar”.

One of the things I can not understand at all is the deficit. How can the President claim to have cut the deficit in half when it’s higher this year than last? Am I wrong? Has the deficit really been halved?

First, we must balance the Federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 — and met that goal 3 years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the Federal deficit within the next 5 years. I ask you to make the same commitment. Together, we can restrain the spending appetite of the Federal Government, and balance the Federal budget.

Pretty straight forward statement isn’t it the deficit has been cut in half 3 years early. Then why is the deficit the same as last year and the year before? I found the answer here. I also learned that I was working under what is probably a wide spread misunderstanding. I have always associated the deficit with the total debt of the country and I find that’s wrong. The deficit is only the difference between income and outgo each year. And this President doesn’t count the money he’s borrowing from us as part of the deficit. No wonder Bush is so worried about Social Security. He’s borrowing from that bank heavier than any President before him and not adding those figures to his deficit numbers. So folks every time the President tells you he’s cut the deficit in half three years early, remember this, he learned his accounting from his good buddy “Kenny Boy” Lay.

I find myself more and more impressed with the new Senator fro Virginia every time I hear him speak. I think his closing last night was the right tone for the Democrats to take with Mr. Bush…

Webb concluded his speech with references to former presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Theodore Roosevelt and a warning for Bush:

“These presidents took the right kind of action for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight, we are calling on this president to take similar action in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”

Source: Va.’s Webb Offers a Blunt Challenge to Bush – washingtonpost.com

Bush Seeks Shift in Health Coverage – washingtonpost.com

Call me a cynic, but any plan from this president to address the healthcare/insurance problem in the country is pretty much a non-starter for me. I have spent most of my adult life being insurance poor. By that I mean, insurance has always been a priority, even when it meant having less for everything else. Car insurance, home insurance, health insurance…Even credit insurance on big dollar purchases. Now the President wants to tax my insurance premiums…Another bad idea from the Great State of Taxes…oops, I mean Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proud fourth generation Texan, not a carpetbagger from Connecticut like some un-named GW’s. But in Texas, the Republican run government raises it’s money on sin taxes and professional fees. Now the President wants to do the same…

President Bush will propose a deep tax break for Americans who purchase their own medical insurance and would finance it with an unprecedented tax on a portion of high-priced health-care plans that workers receive from their employers, according to the White House.

And there you have it, from the man who never has and never will have to worry about his families healthcare…A plan that will save us all money on our health insurance by making us take a plan that covers nothing or taxing us for having a plan hat might save our lives.

Let’s not even think about the fact that the whole concept of health insurance is now terribly out of sync. Insurance companies spend the majority of their management costs on figuring out how to not pay for something. The doctors and hospitals have a two tier pricing plan. One for the insurance holders that have rates negotiated by the company’s and one for the non-insured that have rates at least four times as high. The uninsured can’t afford these prices and end up in the emergency room which they still can’t afford.

The new tax measure would attempt to roughly equalize the benefits of people who have health insurance, whether they buy it or receive it from employers.

The estimated 150 million people covered by employer-provided health insurance are not taxed on the value of their health insurance, regardless of how much it is worth. The average employer-provided family health insurance plan costs $11,500 a year, administration officials said — three times what it cost 19 years ago.

Under the president’s proposal, workers who receive employer-provided health insurance would have to pay a tax on the cost of their benefit above $15,000, the threshold proposed by Bush for the tax break. For instance, if a person’s health insurance costs $16,000, he would pay a tax on the $1,000 difference.

I don’t know about you, but every year my employer comes to us with higher deductibles and higher premiums. Sadly, I am sure I fall into the “Cadillac” plan category that the President wants to tax. My question is, where does the President’s own plan fall? will he now have to pay a tax on his plan? I doubt he has premiums deducted from his paycheck…

Since we don’t want to fix the problem, our even address the issues, not really, let’s just level the playing field and make everyone’s plan the same…Bad. Why, if the President wants to equalize the benefits, doesn’t a single payer plan even enter the picture? Or how about a single administrator plan? Be it government or private, one administrator should have some benefits of scale. Or how about a healthcare tax? Set a percentage of pay as the entry into the plan and make it mandatory…The same percentage across the board, no deductions, no exemptions everyone must pay to play. No, not from this President. His coverage is paid for for life…Along with a big percentage of Congress. Do you really think they have a vested interest in fixing the problem? I don’t.

Source: Bush Seeks Shift in Health Coverage – washingtonpost.com

‘Post-’ – New York Times

 My God you have to love the Internet today. Call me uneducated, nonliterary, a boor, but until a few months back I had never read (that I recall) Verlyn Klinkenborg. Then I came across a quote from “The Rural Life” on one of the blogs I read regularly (I am sorry to say I can’t be certain which). That led me to Amazon and an excerpt from the book. I really liked the way he used the language. Then I was perusing a online book catalog and found a copy of  “The Rural Life” at a price I couldn’t refuse so I bought the book…Loved every page. Now with the magic of rss feeds I can have Mr Klinkenborg’s articles delivered from the New York Times every time he publishes one. Today’s column was about the prefix ‘Post’ … or the ‘Post’ prefix (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Here is a paragraph that I found particularly insightful…

The most innovative user of the prefix post-these days is the post-Austrian governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who says that he is now engaging in “post-partisan” politics. He has a serious point, which is that the number of independent voters in the state is growing even as the number of registered Republicans and Democrats is dropping. To many of those independent voters, the arcane machinery of party politics may look a little antiquated, especially since the current occupant of the White House seems to be post-Republican — even post-electoral — though, of course, never post-partisan.

Source: ‘Post-’ – New York Times

Thought for the Day

 For a long time now I have been on the mailing list for the Blue Mountain Center “Thought for the Day”. Each and every morning the email is in my inbox. Each and every morning I open the message and read the passage. Some mornings I sit and ,dare I say, meditate on the thoughts expressed in the quote and the passage from Eknath Easwaran, some mornings I don’t…This morning both the quote and the passage nailed me so I thought I would pass them on.

Thought for the Day

January 20
You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way, you learn to love by loving.
  – Saint Francis de Sales

In learning to love, we start where we are – somewhat selfish, somewhat self-centered, but with a deep desire to relate lovingly to each other, to move closer and closer together. Love grows by practice; there is no other way. There will be setbacks as well as progress. But there is one immediate consolation: we don’t have to wait until our love is perfect to reap the benefits of it. Even with a little progress, everyone benefits – not only those we live with, but ourselves as well.

While I am a failed meditator, I continue to try in fits and spurts to find that place that will call from within me the need to sit…

Source: Thought for the Day

Inosculation

Pablo over at The Roundrock Journal has a post up that taught me a new word – inosculation.
His photos reminded me of a photo I took last fall in Fulton, Texas. When we were touring the Fulton Mansion the guide suggested we drive by a house a few blocks in from the coast. There in a live oak tree was a windmill blade assembly. It had been embedded during a hurricane through the area many years ago. Now the tree had grown around the assemblage so that it is hard to tell where tree leaves of and windmill begins. The photo is tough to see due to the high contrast at the time…

 


A closeup of the windmill…