Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Movie Review: Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning is a movie about Rose and her sister Norah who form a bio hazard removal and crime scene cleanup business.

While at first this industry seems macabre, Rose sums it up nicely when she says "We come in to people's lives when they have experienced something profound and sad. They've lost somebody.... And we help. In some small way, we help."

The movie follows two young women and their family as they cope with a childhood tragedy and overcome personal adverse circumstances. In the process, the sisters clean up their own lives, learn to let go of pain, and begin to thrive as entrepreneurs.

I loved the movie because of two main themes. The first is that our work is our contribution to the world, and if we approach our job with an attitude of service to humanity, whatever we do becomes noble. Rose and Norah touched the lives of their clients with compassion, sensitivity, and respect. They helped people in the most terrible of circumstances.

The second theme is that out of tragedy, we can renew our lives and grow and thrive. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh used to say that flowers grow out of garbage. The resiliency of humans is amazing, some of the strongest and most deeply compassionate people I know have experienced the most profound sadness. The human spirit can take these tragedies and transform them into opportunities for growth and maturity.

I would highly recommend this touching movie. After seeing it, I asked myself how I can approach what I do with an attitude of service to others, and I asked myself how I can turn adversity into growth.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hawk Mountain River of Rocks

Today started out as a beautiful day for a hike. I saw a large hawk fly over my back yard, and based on the tail and size, I think it was a Cooper's Hawk. I was hopeful it was an indication of a good birding day, and I was excited to visit Hawk Mountain . Unfortunately, however, there didn't seem to be a lot of migration today, and after eating lunch at North Lookout we decided to hike the trails instead.

We took the River of Rocks trail and then the Golden Eagle trail. Near the end of our hike, it started to rain, but luckily we were past most of the rock scrambling (rocks + rain = bad).

After a day of hiking we went to a Pennsylvania Dutch restaurant in Kempton. I had the potato filling, pickled beets, coleslaw, corn fritters, and apple fritters - a typical Pennsylvania Dutch meal (sans meat of course!).

It was a great early Autumn day in Pennsylvania.....

The aptly named River of Rocks

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Movie Review: Viva Cuba

I love to travel, but with 391 National Parks in the United States alone, and 193 countries in the world (UN count), I can't possibly visit every place I would like to. So I love travel movies!!!

I watched Viva Cuba, a Cuban independent film about two youth, Jorgito and Malu, who travel the length of the island to contact Malu's father. The two children have a close friendship which transcends the economic differences of their parents. The film touches on issues of emigration, class differences, family conflict, and adolescent turmoil. I loved the portrayal of the charming and sometimes strained relationship between Jorgito and Malu, which is tested by the difficulties of their travel, and I also loved the glimpse into the culture and life and beauty of Cuba.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival

Today I went to the Pennsylvania Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Festival in Kempton. There were hundreds of exhibitors displaying products and information on alternative energy technology, organic gardening, sustainable living, environmental education, and more. I received a lot of advice on using native plants to landscape my garden, how to use a solar fan to cool my attic, and how to contact my representative regarding a clean energy bill. I also did a little shopping and bought a fair trade bracelet from Ghana made from recycled materials.

I ate some vegetarian Thai peanut noodles for lunch with a vegan peanut butter brownie for dessert, all animal friendly and Earth sustaining!

I listened to three of the dozens of lectures. I learned about the environmental risks to the water supply from drilling for natural gas, I learned why wind energy is a viable source of energy and how buildings can become self sustaining with wind turbines, and I learned some theories explaining why bees are disappearing!

The view from Kempton - a beautiful day for a festival

The main speaker Saturday afternoon was Brian Tokar who spoke about "Renewing Energy and Renewing Society".

The evening's entertainment included traditional Japanese percussion performed by Makoto Taiko.

Paul Winter performing on saxophone. Winter incorporates sounds of nature and wildlife into his songs, he included recordings of whale songs, wolves, birds, and elk.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Movie Review: God Grew Tired of Us

I watched the movie God Grew Tired of Us, about the horrific impact of the war in Sudan on children and a hopeful journey to America. The movie followed several of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of over 25,000 young refugees from civil wars in Sudan, through camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, and ultimately to America where they were offered shelter and education and a chance to create a new life.

Parts of the movie were shocking and tragic as the reality of war impacted these children: starvation, disease, loss of family and home, separation from loved ones. The title of the movie comes from John Bul Dau who at one time believed the end of the world was imminent and that God had simply grown tired of us.

A number of the young men were offered refuge in America for education and employment. The movie also has some humorous moments as they explore aspects of our culture from the outside. They learn to ice skate on wobbly ankles, they wonder if the brightly colored sprinkles on donuts are actually food, they crush up Ritz crackers and cook them in milk because it resembles a familiar meal. They also experience the sometimes lonely nature of American life, the separation from family and lack of time for connection with friends.

The movie was very inspirational for several reasons. We can see the resilience of the human spirit, the simple will of these children and youth to survive in the most desolate of circumstances. They bond together in makeshift families and learn to support each other. On days with no food, they have "parliament meetings" to experience community and help each other get through.

As they find jobs and start school, they never forget connections to homeland, family, and friends. They searched desperately for lost family, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. They constantly send whatever money they can spare to loved ones. But, most importantly, they work to change the situation. John Dau became an outspoken advocate for peace and justice in Sudan and developed health clinics in his homeland. Other "Lost Boys" started schools or other charitable foundations.

I loved the movie God Grew Tired of Us. Although parts were tragic and difficult to watch, there were enough light hearted moments as the young men navigated their way through America and interacted with Americans. The movie also showed the remarkable ability of the human spirit to transform the most dire of circumstances into hope and optimism and connection with community.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Welcome Back Baha'i Junior Youth Group

Today was our first day of Baha'i Junior Youth group for the season.

Our discussion topic was "Religion as One".

Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will, and friendliness.
-'Abdu'l Baha

The religions of the world have a diversity of expression and belief, including dietary habits, customs, rituals, and laws. If the religions differ, what does it mean to say "Religion is One"?
We explored that question together. The youth were amazingly insightful and said that we can still have differences of opinion and outward expression, but still work together in harmony and friendship. We can move beyond mere tolerance and embrace our diversity. We also have wide agreement on what is ethical behavior, including the Golden Rule and treating our fellow humans with kindness.

After our discussion, we decided to "embrace some diversity" and Steven led us through a few yoga poses. Here we are at the end of class enjoying our time together.

Welcome back Junior Youth! We're going to have a fun year!


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Celebration of Nepalese Culture

Tonight Kamud and Sophia opened up their beautiful home to us. Renu, Kamud's mother, cooked us a lovely Nepalese dinner of eggplant, cauliflower and peas, spiced potatoes, basmati rice, dahl, and spicy tomato pickles. Dessert was galub jamun and rice pudding.

Kamud spoke to us about life and culture in Nepal and showed us the beautiful artwork in his home.

Buddhist artwork from Nepal

Prayer wheel and bell.

Buddhist art and devotional objects

Kamud and Sophia have a global home. This mask is from Kenya.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Double Rainbow at Sunset

Today after work I saw the most beautiful sunset.

I was delighted to see a a full double rainbow arc across the entire sky.

The rainbow is a traditional symbol of hope and encouragement. And just when I needed it most.....

Monday, September 07, 2009

Hawk Mountain and the Skyline Trail

I had a relaxing Labor Day weekend which included getting caught up in the house and garden, spending time with family and friends, and a trip to one of my favorite local spots - Hawk Mountain in Kempton, PA.

Of course I'm sad to say goodbye to Summer, I love sunshine and beaches and wearing sandals and sleeping with the windows open. But I'm also looking forward to one of my favorite times of year, longer hikes in the cooler woods with the colors of Autumn slowly appearing, sweaters, hot chocolate, a long list of foreign films I want to see, reading novels by the fireplace.

Today we went to Hawk Mountain to see the first of the Fall migrants. We picked a rather slow bird day, but it was fun to be back on the mountain again. We hiked parts of the Skyline Trail, which involved some bouldering and rock scrambling. I picked up a compass at the visitor center, hoping to learn some orienteering skills.

Skyline Trail intersection with North Lookout

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