Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Tonight my book club discussed "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures " by Anne Fadiman. The book is the story of Lia Lee, a Hmong child who is diagnosed with epilepsy. Her Hmong family and her medical doctors have two completely different world views and different perspectives on the nature of disease and healing. Because of profound communication blocks involving not only language but also culture and outlook, Lia receives less than optimum care, and her condition tragically worsens.

In addition to the story of the Lee family, this book is the fascinating story of the history of the Hmong people, a culture which has been subjected to tremendous amounts of persecution, isolation, tragedy, and suffering, but has remained an intact, vibrant culture with much to offer the world.

The story gave me much food for thought. How can we bridge the communication chasm between various people, cultures, and languages? Can two opposing views of reality both hold truths? Is the viewpoint we hold as "real" the only way to see the world?

The book would be helpful reading to anyone in the medical profession or social work, but even for the rest of us who may or may not encounter such profound cultural differences, the book holds deep lessons. Two people may come away from the same interaction with completely different translations based on background and beliefs about the way the world works. Can we use these differences to broaden our understanding instead of creating conflict?

Lia Lee

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Deck the Halls!

I started the Christmas decorating today. The tree is mostly finished, but I still have a few more ornaments to put up. The Santa on top is a family keepsake from Louisiana. I have a selection of ornaments from a number of different phases of my life, and they have moved with me several times. The painting in the background is from historic downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, painted by W. Scott Bivans. Let the Christmas Season begin!

A diffuse glow with the lights out

Moravian Star on my front porch, candles in the windows, and colored lights in the shrubbery

O Tannenbaum

Today my sister Diane and I went out to find my Christmas Tree. We drove to a pretty Christmas Tree farm in the country and spent the morning picking out and setting up a very beautiful evergreen.

We took turns cutting it down. Those arm curls at the gym are finally paying off!

Diane hauling the tree.

Pretty tree farm

Look at all those trees!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Maple By Moonlight

Tonight when I was photographing the sunset, I saw a beautiful view of the nearly Full Moon and a Maple tree just past the height of Fall color. The scene was just too dark to capture correctly, but tonight as I was going through images and about to discard it, I put a glass filter on it to see what it would look like. To me it captured the feel of the scenery- the dark sky, luminous moon, and hint of Autumn orange.

Thanksgiving Sunset

Today I had a wonderful Thanksgiving spending time with my whole family. The entire clan was at Mom and Dad's to enjoy each other's company, a warm but blustery Fall day, and a delicious meal. On the way home the sunset was so beautiful I stopped at my favorite sunset location for photographs.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

First Snow!

This morning I woke up to our first snow of the season. The snow is falling in big, wet flakes and melting on impact. Although I love to be outdoors hiking, I cherish the change of seasons and the chance to sit inside by the fire for hours reading books, chatting with friends and family, and just generally puttering around the house. I'm also reading some articles on artistic creativity and vision, and inspired by these new found concepts, I've created a couple of new images from yesterday's photographs.

Scarlet leaves over the Wissahickon Creek

Wissahickon Arched Bridge as painting

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fort Washington State Park and Wissahickon Creek Gorge

Today I hiked the Green Ribbon Trail in Fort Washington State Park with the Appalachian Mountain Club. It was a very brisk day for a hike, but with plenty of layers the day turned out to be quite comfortable. The vibrant oranges and reds of early Fall have mostly given way to the yellows and browns of late Fall, leaving the woods mostly golden with a scattering of completely bare trees. Later, a couple of us hiked the trails in the Wissahickon Creek Gorge, Fairmount Park, followed by dinner in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

A few vibrant oranges can still be found

The golds and browns of late Fall

Along the Forbidden Drive trail

Moss covered stone wall on Forbidden Drive

Arched bridge over the Wissahickon Creek

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

An Evening at Moravian College

Tonight I went to a Student Alumni Networking Reception held at my Alma Mater, Moravian College. This event was set up to allow Moravian grads to talk to students who are about to embark on their new career path. I graduated with a degree in Psychology and Religion (yes, I was fascinated by the meaning of life and the depths of the human psyche even back then), and made a career transition into software development. So I was able to encourage the students to get a solid education, keep an open mind, continue their lifelong education and development, and explore the possibilities open to them. I also had a chance to connect with the Moravian Alumni Association. I really enjoyed it. Afterwards, I wandered around the campus, camera in hand, feeling nostalgic. Night shots are difficult to come by, but I managed to get a few pictures of the Moravian Chapel lit from within.

Looking into Moravian Chapel Comenius Hall

Stained glass window detail

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sean, Afton, and Ella Mae in Mexico

My nephew Sean and his wife Afton and beautiful daughter Ella Mae are living and studying in Mazatlan, Mexico. Recently they sent me some family photos, including some photos of altars set up to commemorate the Day of the Dead, a traditional Mexican holiday to celebrate and remember those who have passed on. Sean and Afton added their own touches to remember some of our family members.

A happy family photo!

Mommy and daughter...

Traditional Day of the Dead altars

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Baha'i Holy Day Celebration

Today Baha'is all over the world celebrate the Birth of Baha'u'llah. We had a program with prayers and readings, and then a fabulous potluck dinner and lots of time for socializing with friends.

Approach and entrance to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah in Haifa, Israel. (Reprinted with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

I'm a World Citizen!!!!

Gathering at the dessert table.....

(For more info on the Baha'i Faith see Baha'i Faith United States Official Website)

Schuylkill River and Valley Forge National Park

Today I went with the Appalachian Mountain Club on a 6 mile hike along the Schuylkill River. Afterwards, a couple of us walked a 6 mile loop in Valley Forge National Park. It was a crisp, clear Autumn day, just cool enough for a sweater. We are probably at the height of the Fall Foliage season here.

Brilliant yellows in the woods

Looking into the Schuylkill

Schuylkill River

Inside Valley Forge National Park

The brilliance of a Maple in Autumn

National Memorial Arch commemorating the soldiers who wintered at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. A fitting way to celebrate Veteran's Day.

More gorgeous Fall colors

Washington Memorial Chapel. If you zoom in closely, and look to the right, you can see Sam the Eagle.

The ubiquitous Eastern Whitetail....

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Peaceful Warrior

This weekend's movie selection was "Peaceful Warrior", an adaptation of Dan Millman's semi-autobiographical, part fiction, account of his days as a college gymnast, a serious motorcycle accident, and subsequent recovery and return to competition. Along the way he meets a spiritual mentor he calls Socrates, who teaches him to live in the present moment. The past and future do not matter, all that exists right now is this moment. His three laws of life include Paradox (life is a mystery which can't be completely figured out), Humor (don't take yourself too seriously), and Change (everything in life changes). Along with the movie Dan Millman has published a slew of self-help books in the same vein, drawing from various spiritual traditions and even his own athleticism.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Joy of Living

My newest find from the public library is "The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness" by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

At its heart, Buddhism is very practical. It's about doing things that foster serenity, happiness, and confidence, and avoiding things that provoke anxiety, hopelessness, and fear. The essence of Buddhist practice is not so much an effort at changing your thoughts or your behavior so that you can become a better person, but in realizing that no matter what you might think about the circumstances that define your life, you're already good, whole, and complete. It's about recognizing the inherent potential of your mind. In other words, Buddhism is not so much concerned about getting well as with recognizing that you are, right here, right now, as whole, as good, as essentially well as you could ever hope to be.(p. 11)

Central to Buddhist teaching is not only wisdom and clarity of mind, but also compassion:

May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all sentient beings have joy and the causes of joy.
May all sentient beings remain in great equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.

(p. 252)

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