Friday, May 28, 2010


Memorial Day has a deeper meaning to me every year. Each passing year marks another revolution/revelation of being mired in a seemingly interminable and unwinnable war.  (The spell checker says that unwinnable is not a word.  Maybe it should be.)

Fact checking on the Department of Defense's web site reveals that the number of American soldiers who have died in combat in all this country's wars is approximately twice the number of people in Baltimore City.  And that doesn't count people who were wounded, non-combat deaths or those fighting on the other side.

That's a lot of tombstones.

Google Maps
Arlington National Cemetery and Its Neighbor the Pentagon

Did you know that the Pentagon is right next door to Arlington National Cemetery?  I hope the people in the Pentagon who sign the papers to send people to war have a view of the Cemetery from their office. Perhaps that would make them think twice before they snuff out so many lives with the stroke of a pen.

On this and every Memorial Day, may we never confuse those who were called to make the ultimate sacrifice with the system that demanded it.



This week was a very good week, and I'm doing very well.  A chance remark at a meeting attended by a state legislator may lead to protecting schoolchildren from exposures to dust, lead and asbestos during school renovations. An assignment to escort an out-of-state visitor may lead to making more information on health and environmental effects available to her state.  Earlier in the week, meeting with medical librarians from around the country may enable them to find better information on environmental health for them and their patrons.

I touched a lot of lives this week, and did a lot of good.

I'm doing well from doing good.  And so it goes.

The Appearance of Reality:
Fire in the Soul


Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I have become a great fan of Facebook lately, and especially The Dalai Lama's page.  I never thought of The Dalai Lama as one who would use Facebook, but he and his organization are taking advantage of all that social media have to offer.  He usually posts some kind of sage advice that is totally in character, but the surprising part is his Picture of the Day.

Once he apologetically said that he had to rush over to Kolkata (Calcutta) to give the Mother Teresa Memorial Lecture and had to come back to Dharamsala the same day.  The picture showed him behind the wheel of his car (with entourage as passengers), pulling out of his compound.  I couldn't tell what kind of car it was from the side, but it looked more like a Toyota than a Mercedes.

I never thought of The Dalai Lama as a mere mortal who would drive his own car, but there he was.  And the most surprising thing?  He had a big grin on his face, as if he were relishing the experience.

Just the other day he posted a photo of his current visit to Madison, Wisconsin.  In this picture he was on a prosthenium (raised) stage with a man playing what seemed to be exquisite music on a cello.  Again The Dalai Lama was smiling.  But the thing that caught my eye, because of the unusual angle of the photo, was that The Dalai Lama was wearing Rockports and brown socks.  Somehow I expected him to wear sandals:

His Holiness in Rockports

I love it how he manages to be both human and divine, just like the rest of us.

Here is another image from "The Appearance of Reality" series, in his honor.  This image was worked up from the refraction pattern of the sconce in my entrance hall, viewed from my favorite spot in the living room:

The Appearance of Reality:

I think it looks kind of Tibetan, don't you?  Here's to you, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, for showing all the rest of us how to live.


Monday, May 17, 2010


Life has been very interesting lately, full of financial challenges and uncertainty.  But is that really any different from the new normalcy?  Our individual lives tend to mirror what's happening at a larger societal level, and for the past year things have been very gloomy for both society and me.

How to pull ourselves out of the doom and gloom?  First comes the realization that where we are in life is mostly the result of our own decisions.  I've made some pretty bad ones over the years, many to gratify my ego when I should have been listening to logic.  Many of the big decisions in life are emotional ones:  which house to buy, which person to partner with, even which career to follow.

But enough about me...where are you in your life's journey?  Are you pleased with your current position?  If not, know that you can shape your reality by envisioning what you want it to be and then live as if it were already true.  William James said if we want to be a happy person, we need to act like one.  If our actions follow our thoughts, then surely the reverse must be true.

We must be able to create and believe in hope - otherwise, what's the point?

Here's one of my favorite images from a recent trip to New Orleans.  The fleur-de-lis, the symbol of the Bourbon family which was given the original land grant for Louisiana, has become the symbol of the resurgence of post-Katrina New Orleans.  This angel is in one of the historic above-ground cemeteries there.  I like the playfulness of the Mardi Gras beads on it, the juxtaposition of life and death, and the fleur-de-lis emerging from the shadow in the background reminding us that hope is always possible:


Sunday, May 9, 2010


This is Mother's Day, the first Sunday in May.  The chill of early spring is still in the air, and we all relish this interlude between the snowmelt and the coming oppressive heat of a Baltimore summer.

I've been thinking a lot about my mother lately.  She would have been 95 on April 23.  Nowadays 95 doesn't seem so old anymore, with Betty White hosting Saturday Night Live last night at the age of 88 ½.   My mother looked a lot like Betty White.

I can't help thinking about what we could have done together all those years if she were still alive. But she died of Alzheimer's in 1994.  One of the most severe cases ever seen, according to the autopsy report at Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

As my dear Father said (when he was developing dementia of his own, unbenownst to us), Mother died in 1994, but we lost her many years earlier.  Looking back, I now realize the subtle signs that crept insidiously into her being and robbed us of a normal relationship.

As a result, from about my age of 16 on, we never did "mother-daughter" things.  We never went shopping together. We never went out to lunch, just the two of us. We never talked about life or love, politics or pop culture, or all those thousands of little things that bond a mother and daughter together.

She made many sacrifices for me.  In her 40's she took some college courses in order to qualify for an emergency teacher's certificate so that she could be a substitute teacher and save some money for my college education.   She took driving lessons. She, who had never worked outside the home after marriage, later worked full-time as an attendance clerk at a junior high school.  This job title has undoubtedly been replaced by PCs and spreadsheets by now, and irony not lost on one who uses them every day.

For years I harbored a lot of anger and guilt about my mother.  Anger over those years that Alzheimer's took from us, guilt from not being a better daughter.  But now, as I approach the time in my life when she lost her personhood, I am grateful for the time we did have together, and cherish those memories.

I miss you, Woo-Woo.

The Appearance of Reality:
Fragments of Memories