Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Full Bloom Trees; Half Bloom Sidewalk

Today is either the 5th or 6th straight day of 80 degree weather and everything in the yard is definitely showing the effects. The cherry blossom tree usually starts blooming in mid- to late-April and takes about two weeks to come to full bloom. Both opened yesterday and both look to be at full bloom today! Inconceivable.

Made good progress today on ripping up the sidewalk between the garage and the house. Here's just one of the piles of cement from its previous incarnation as a boring, white-bread, cement sidewalk. It's amazing what you can do with one sledge hammer and a lot of sweat. :-)

Here's the beginnings of what it will look like in its new life. The larger, rectangular stone is the one that will sit inside the threshold of the gate. In addition to these three stones, i have four large(ish) stones left. Those four will have to spread out and fill the remainder of the sidewalk. The spaces between these large stepping stones will get filled with mid-sized stones, if i can rummage up enough of them in the back yard. After that it's down to small stones. Lot's and lot's of them.

Monday, March 19, 2012


First full day of blooming and the new Yoshino is already at full bloom. :-) The good news is that it made it through it's first winter in spectacular shape and has beautiful white petals. I had to take a picture now, even though it is overcast and the lighting doesn't show the tree very well, because thunder is rumbling just southwest of here and rain is on the way. I'm afraid the first rain will strip off all the petals before i could even get one picture this year.

The shidarezakura behind the torii is blooming nicely.

Obviously you can see that the path leading to the torii desperately needs to get finished. I put pea gravel around the stepping stones at the base of the torii late last fall to see if i would like it. I've decided i do so will put it down along the rest of the path and take out the grass in a couple of weeks.

From where blooms of such beauty
The eyes of your son

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

The first blossoms have made their appearance here in Lockport! 2-3 white blossoms on the new Yoshino tree and 4-5 pink ones on the shidarezakura (weeping cherry blossoms tree) poked their heads out of their buds late this afternoon

Will post pictures when most of the tree is in bloom, but i am sooooo happy tonight. :-)

Meanwhile, work on the back yard started again this week.

* Built a new brick retaining wall and steps around an area next to the porch that will get white gravel to simulate a pond and then a small 6' round deck over that, which will look like the center portion of this picture, sent to me by a friend many, many years ago (thanks Shirley).

* Terraced the top third of the area on the north side of the house, trimmed all the wild grasses, and transplanted several dozen handfulls of day lilies to that area. Will terrace another third over the next weeks and then leave the bottom part alone until fall. Probably.

* Widened the (fake) creek that flows through the yard from north to south. About two-thirds done and will finish the remaining one-third this week.

* Cut down three-quarters of the remaining wild grasses and Russian Sage in the front and side yards. Will finish the rest tomorrow because they are all starting to show new growth.

* Moved about 50 day lilies, maybe more, probably more, to new locations around the yard to expand already existing sections.

* Took a sledge hammer to about 30' of sidewalk and busted out all of the cement. That will get filled back in with gravel and topped off with dirt. Then limestone stepping stones will be laid out as the walkway from the garage up to the house. Large flat stones to step on, medium stones to fill in between those, and small stones to make everything a reasonably standard width. Then plant grass around it all to hold everything in place. It is going to look oooohhh so good.

* In mid-April i'll buy the wood (6" x 6" posts) and FINALLY build the Japanese-ish gate at the end of that stepping stone path, just before stepping up to the sidewalk along the back of the house. Finally. I'm not sure when i'll get the actual roof on it (money issues), but at least the frame and door will be up and in place.

* This week i have to finish trimming last years growth down, then hope to build another retaining wall with steps down to where i'm going to "skin" the back wall of the garage so that it looks like a temple on Shikoku. That's the purpose of almost everything i'm doing in the back yard. Both stone walking paths and the stone bridge all lead you in the direction of the temple.

* Had an ingenious idea the other day (if i say so myself). I'm going to keep my eye open for someone who has cut down a tree and try and get a section of the trunk about 1.5' long. I'm then going to take the time to saw and chisel it, and hollow it out so that it looks like a temple bell and hang it from a post in front of my fake temple. Haven't decided if i will have to paint it or not. I'll wait until it's done to decide that.

I have promised to help my sister Thursday through Sunday with work at her house. Will rototill almost her entire back yard and put in mole repellent to see what we can salvage. The moles have destroyed it. Once they are gone, we can re-sod sometime in April. Will also install two windows in the shed in her back yard — windows that came out of my back porch when i replaced them.

We'll then pull 6 very old lilac bushes out of her back yard, trying to get them out in good enough shape to move them to my house were i'll add them to the side parking and front yard.

It's going to be a busy next several weeks. :-)

Thursday, March 15, 2012


What does it mean to be authentic? To live an authentic life? According my dictionary, the definition of authentic is:

- Not counterfeit or copied.
- Conforming to fact and therefore worthy of belief.

   - Unquestionable
   - Reliable

The most difficult part of this is that thorny issue of "fact," that which is unquestionable. On one hand, if authentic is 'conforming to fact,' whose facts set the standards? On the other hand, there are facts held by others that i personally don't believe or accept, yet i do accept that they are worthy of belief.

So if, as i believe, it is impossible to come up with a list of facts that everyone, with no exception, will agree are unquestionable, incontrovertible, is it impossible to live an "authentic" life?

I don't accept that. Living an authentic life is living your life completely in accord with your beliefs. Decide what they are, and then live them. No wiggling around in order to satisfy (or make) friends, no wiggling in order to keep the boss happy so you might get a promotion, no wiggling in order to find the perfect mate or to keep peace in the family. No wiggling.

According to my beliefs, there is one unquestionable fact — everything changes; with zero exceptions. Everything. And that includes your beliefs. They may change over years and decades, they may change from minute to minute as "facts" unfold. But, they will change.

Also according to my beliefs, there is one absolutely key ingredient in living a truly authentic life, and that is the commitment to understanding what your beliefs are at all times and noticing them as they change.

In all the myriad of small, seemingly trivial, thoughts, words, and actions you offer the world each and every day, how often do you make an offering contrary to one of your beliefs simply because it is expeditious, simply because doing so is easier than sticking to your beliefs?

Note, i am not asking about the big decisions, the big things that seem to matter, i'm asking about the other 99% of your day, all the trivial things that don't seem to matter, but are done as part of the routine of living.

Join me as i ask myself today, am i living an authentic life?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shakuhachi For Sale

I've decided to sell the better of my two shakuhachi. Contact me if you are interested.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Throwing Your Life Away

The house across the street has stood empty for quite some time. There used to be an older person living there, but i can't remember the last time i have seen anyone around.

Late yesterday morning, our local garbage collection company drove up and dropped off a dumpster about 20ft. x 8ft. x 10 ft. in size. Massive. I wondered what was planned? The person who had lived there was a renter and now that they have left the owner was going to undertake a remodeling project and bring it a little more up to date?

After lunch several pickup trucks showed up and several guys got out and set to work. Open the windows on the side of the house by the dumpster and open the garage doors. Then inside they went.

Within minutes, stuff started flying out the windows and it was obvious that the house was being stripped bare. Furniture, pictures, clothes, carpets,... everything. By dinner time everyone was heading home and the job was complete. The house and garage were empty and the dumpster was overflowing — now filled about 3 ft. over the top rim.

My guess is that whoever had lived there is no longer with us. That whoever had lived there was now without need of earthly possessions. My guess is that everything that whoever had lived there had saved for and bought, had desired, dreamed of, cherished, couldn't live without, danced for joy when it was brought home,... is now sitting in a dumpster under a light rain.

Those dreams of youth, those plans made while raising a young family, those dreams of happiness and satisfaction, those memories of happy days and intimate relationships,... those things that make you smile just at the sight of them, or the smell, or just the touch,... those things that represented every aspect of someones life,... now sitting in a dumpster under a light rain.

Forgotten. Immense value transformed into zero value with one flick of the wrist. A memory of the purchase or gift transformed into a memory to call the garbage company to come pick up the now full dumpster within a few hours.

A life not just forgotten, but intentionally thrown away. Or, maybe never understood in the first place.

Sitting where you are, stop and look around the room. Everything you see could one day find itself in a dumpster getting soaked in a light rain. You call them possessions, but in reality they are material manifestations of memories. Beautiful memories, so-so memories, happy memories, sad memories. What do they really mean? And to who?

What a sad thing to see — someone's life being thrown in a dumpster.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


"Consciousness is limitless. It has no beginning and no end. It is out of time, eternal. It does not live or die because it is uncreated. When you see yourself this way, you have no fear of death and daily events have no impact. Consciousness, like water or air, has no particular form, but it can assume any form.

"It illumines both the subjective world and the objective world. It is present in sleep. It never becomes unconscious. It is unrelated to everything, but nothing is unrelated to it. It cannot be an object of thought or feeling. It is the essence of the thinker and the feeler.

"The self is not a doer. No action can take place without it, but it cannot act because it pervades everything, like space. Objects appear in space and activities take place in space, but space does not move from one place to another. All objects, including space, appear in awareness but they do not contaminate it."

How To Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Nonduality
James Swartz

I'm not saying i disagree with James, i don't. This is wonderful prose and spot on. But, i do admit to not agreeing completely with the last paragraph, at least not how it seems to be presented.

I don't see space in the same way that James is talking about. In my way of thinking, objects don't appear in space and activities don't take place in space. Everything is space and activities are just space rearranging itself.

It is not that this room is filled with space, and me, sitting here, displaces a little of that so that i can be in this location. Or that my computer displaces space so it can be where it is at. No. I am space manifesting as Lao Bendan, here in my chair. My computer is space manifesting as a computer on Lao's lap. The bookshelf across the room is space manifesting as a bookshelf across the room. You are space manifesting as whoever you are, wherever you happen to be reading this. Where there is nothing manifesting, that is simply unmanifested space, and that is everywhere, universal, omnipresent.

If space manifests as object A "here," and then that manifestation disappears and reappears "there," then space has simply rearranged itself, even though in our relativistic world we call that "action," or "movement."

There is not space and all the objects that manifest in it, there is just space and the continually changing and flowing process of space manifesting as one thing here, another thing there, in, out, here, there, now you see it, now you don't.