The Daily Muse

Thoughts from an Austin Garden  -- March 2008


Last update: March 31


Magnolia "Jane."


March 2 - evening


A driving rain is falling in the garden as I write this. A quick moving cold front is sweeping through the area bringing us this much need moisture. I wish the storms would linger, but based on what I see from the weather radar, it appears as if the rain will end very quickly. Our magnolia blossoms may be battered just a bit, but I will happily trade a few petals for a heavy downpour. Spring appears to be ruxhing in this year - our peaches are full flower, our redbud is about to be, and we have roses, magnolias, and more all brightening up the garden. Even a few of our bluebonnets are blooming. I promise more images soon!


This is going to be a very busy spring! Not only am I trying to take the measure of a new job as CEO of Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, but my calendar is chock full of exciting events, many of which involve our garden. One event that I am thrilled to be helping with will take place later this month...


At the end of March , the Tibetan Buddhist monk, Khen Rinpoche Tsetan will be visiting Austin for five days. Khen Rinpoche is the khenchen or head abbot of the Tashi Lunpo Monastery in exile.  The original monastery , built in 1447 in Shigatse, Tibet was the monastery of the first Dalai Lama and the seat of the Panchen Lama.

As a young boy of 16 he walked with his father over 800 miles to undergo training at Tashi Lunpo. It was only a few years later when the Chinese invaded, desecrating the monastic system , destroying precious ancient scriptures,  killing and torturing and arresting hundreds of monks and nuns. He made the same 800mile walk back to his Himalayan village and continued his training over many years. He founded a school in the Himalayas, The Siddhartha School , championing children and the preservation of Tibetan culture and the values of compassion and tolerance. He has lectured at Smith , Amherst, Bangor Theological Seminary , Harvard and Princeton.

The preservation of the Tashi Lunpo monastery, now in India,  is intrinsic to the preservation of the teachings and traditions of the Gelugpa lineage, the lineage of the Dalai Lama. In 2005 the Dalai Lama appointed Khen Rinpoche to be the Abbot of the monastery. The Panchen Lama's role within the history of Tibetan Buddhism, has been one of primary mentorship in the education of the young Dalai Lamas. 

On Friday March 28, he will be giving a talk entitled "Commit to Peace" to the students and families at St Francis School here in Austin.  The big event is the conference scheduled for March 29th, "Of Buddhas and Brains: An Exploration of Contemplative Practice and Neural Integration" sponsored by Austin in Connection and St Edwards Campus Ministry. He will be doing a Tibetan blessing for individuals and families coping with life-threatening illnesses on March 30 from 2-3:30. This event will be held in my garden. Due to space limitations, 
RSVP required, contact Patty Olwell Upon registration you will receive directions to the garden.



For those who may have missed it last month, here is a piece I produced about Michael Benedikt's book, God is the Good We Do.


March 4 - morning


 I hope all of my fellow Texans plan on participating in today's election! Here is a less than subtle endorsement from me to Barrack Obama:



March 5 - morning


Congratulations to Texas Democrats for an overwhelming turnout yesterday and to Hillary Clinton on her victory. When I participated in my caucus last night I noticed a hardening of opinions that I feel is very dangerous given the likelihood that this campaign is now likely to be contested all of the way to the convention. I am beginning to hear opinions formed by resentment that I feel will destroy this historic opportunity for American progressives. We cannot expect to move this country forward if our political trump cards are the resentments of the past. That is one of the reasons that I voted for Obama, he has very thoughtfully avoided the language of Jesse Jackson and others whose signature demand is that it is "our turn." Instead, he has tried to point to a future focused on unity and has not sought entitlement based on his race. In recent days, I have heard quite a bit of "our turn" language, which to me, spells disaster. We must discipline ourselves against resentment and stand ready to support the candidate who best represents the future after the conventions this summer - whoever that may be. If we turn our backs and choose to cling to our resentments as our primary motivations, we will once again get the government we deserve - how well has that worked for the past seven years?


March 9 - morning


A telephoto view of our back patio with a potted magnolia in full bloom.


A glorious spring morning here in Austin! We had several nice rain showers during the week and the weather is now cool and delightful. Everywhere I turn I see new leaves and blossoms. I just hope we avoid a late frost! Here are a few picures from yesterday - including an image of a sculpture that is on loan to our garden from Hank Waddell, a local artist whose work is inspired by his childhood memories of time spent alone in the woods around Houston (woods that no longer exist.) 


Close-up of the magnolia blossoms.



Red Baron peach.






"Tree Bones" a sculpture by Hank Waddell.


Tree Bones with morning light.



Maya napping.


March 12 - 2008


Sunrise over the Missouri River.



Happy Birthday to my sister, the renowned North Dakota photographer, Diana Hoffman! Here are a couple of her latest images. Enjoy!



Glowing mist.


March  14 - morning


Dioon edule close-up.


Just a reminder about the "blessing event" that will be held in my garden at the end of the month... On Sunday, March 31st, Khen Rinpoche Tsetan, one of the revered leaders of Tibetan Buddhism will be in Austin for a lecture and discussion series. On the 31st, he will be coming to my garden to perform a blessing ceremony for those with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and HIV / AIDS. To learn more about this event see the March 5 listing above. Due to space limitations,  RSVP required, contact Patty Olwell Upon registration you will receive directions to the garden.

Another event that I would like to draw your attention to will be happening on April 5 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Paula D’Arcy, renowned author and lecturer will be presenting a spiritual retreat titled, The Gift of A Day Apart at Saint John’s United Methodist Church, 2140 Allandale Road.


Paula D’Arcy is widely recognized as an eloquent and powerful speaker and retreat leader, and is author of the best-selling book, The Gift of the RedBird. She is also President of the Red Bird Foundation, supporting the growth and spiritual development ofthose in need, and furthering a ministry to those in prison and those living in third world or disadvantaged cultures.


Image courtesy of Isabelle du Toit


Paula’s ministry grew from personal tragedy. In 1975 she survived a drunk driving accident that took the lives of her husband and 21-month-old daughter. Pregnant at the time, Paula survived the accident and gave birth to a second daughter, Beth Starr. A psychotherapist who ministered to those facing issues of grief and loss, Paula worked with the Peale Foundation, founded by Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, from 1980 until his death in 1993. In addition to workshops and retreats related to spirituality, in recent years she has teamed with Richard Rohr to present seminars on the Male/Female Journey and Spirituality in the Two Halves of Life.


Sara Hickman - native Texan, award winning musician, community activist, philanthropist, teacher, parent - will bring her wonderful blend of music and humanity to enrich the day.


For more information email or call 452-5737. To register contact Diana Mullin. For more information about Paula D'Arcy visit the Red Bird Foundation website.


Sabal texana palm.


March 17 - morning


Our peach trees are at the height of the spring glory.


Eight years! Today marks the eighth anniversary of Soul of the Garden! My thanks to my many loyal visitors for the gift of you attention and your kind words about this little labor of love. I celebrated yesterday by spending almost the entire day in the garden doing my big spring chop and trim session. Today I feel a little creaky, but once again very thankful for the gifts of the garden. Cheers!



Spring Star flower.






The dianthus plants that are tucked into our patio started blooming this week. I love their foliage!


March 20 - morning


A "Colorado" water lily...


The greatest time of the year! Gorgeous spring weather following a heavy rain. Here are a few celebratory pictures from our garden...



...and another.



Our Lady of the Bluebonnets.






The garden wide in the morning light.




A potted amaryllis.




Angelita daisies with yucca and agaves.




Scilla peruviana.



The Tex Zen garden in the evening.








March 21 - evening


Buddha with ground orchids.


Another beautiful evening... our windows are open and I am listening to the mockingbirds and lesser goldfinches singing in the back yard.


I just wanted to put out one more reminder about the visit of the Tibetan Buddhist High-Priest, Khen Rinpoche Tsetan, to our garden. On the 31st, he will be  performing a blessing ceremony for those with life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and HIV / AIDS. To learn more about this event see the March 5 listing above. Due to space limitations,  RSVP required, contact Patty Olwell There are only a few spots left for this event so sign up soon! Upon registration you will receive directions to the garden.


March 31 - morning


"Giraffe" Amaryllis in our parterre garden.


What a blessing! The visit of Khen Rinpoche Tsetan to our garden was an amazing experience. I feel so fortunate that we were able to share our space for this event. Khen Rinpoche Tsetan made a profound impact on me and all of those who attended. This was a very moving event, it was specifically for those dealing with life-threatening illnesses, but was attended by many who simply wanted to be in the healing presence of this very humble and giving soul. I had a brief moment with Khen Rinpoche Tsetan and really felt the compassion flowing from him when he took my hand. A moment later, one of our visitors approached me with tears running down his cheeks thanking me for making openning our garden. I feel as if the healing peace that Khen Rinpoche Tsetan brought to our garden will linger for a long time to come.


Khen Rinpoche Tsetan.


On our back patio - John Dromgoole is greeted by Khen Rinpoche Tsetan.



Christine Albert performs.



Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Austin's own Country and Western Buddhist.


Jimmie Dale and Christine share a laugh.



Sally Jacque and others enjoying the music.



Khen Rinpoche Tsetan performing a "purification ritual."






Talking with a small group of people in "Possumhaw Hollow."



People waiting in line for an individual blessing. That is Victor's mother, Edelmira, looking off to the right.



An individual blessing.



My favorite moment of the day.



Healing hands.



Orange Amaryllis in our parterre.



Agave in the Conversation Room.



Dutch iris and verbena.



Prayer Bell / Singing Bowl.



The water lilies are still at their height.






An interesting visitor - a "Hummingbird Moth" disguised to look like a bee.





On another front, I would like to personally invite you all to the Austin Area Interreligious Ministries (AAIM) annual Hope Awards on Thursday, April 10. As you are aware, I am now the CEO of AAIM. The Hope Awards event is our biggest annual fundraiser and it crucial to the success of our organization. Among our Honorees this year are Rabbi Steven Folberg and Congregation Beth Israel who graciously opened their doors to AAIM's Thanksgiving Celebration last year after another venue was denied to us because of the participation of Muslims in this interfaith celebration. We will also be honoring the United Methodist Women of Austin for their long history of dedicated social service. Pat Hayes, the Former President of St. Edwards University will be our Emcee, Sara Hickman will be performing her wonderful music, and I will be delivering the keynote address. Please support AAIM by participating in this important fundraising event! To register or learn more visit the AAIM website.


Continue to April 2008

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