Wednesday, 21 March 2018

WW: 8-strand flat kumihimo

(In the process of making fudos I generate a lot of scrap cordage. When the quantity gets too unmanageable, I knot it together into one long string, cut it into 8 lengths, and spend a week or two braiding up a spool of flat 8-strand kumihimo, to be used to various ends. [No pun intended.]

The photo above is a single 24-foot example, wound on a wooden frame. The braid is about half an inch wide.

If nothing else, this photo demonstrates how much red yarn I use in my fudo practice.)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Tuesday, 20 March, is Bodhisattva Day

Mr. Rogers Ofrenda Detail (1805130790) It's happening, droogies! This Tuesday the time comes again to emulate Mr. Rogers and throw down for Bodhisattva Day.



That's pretty much it. No need to wear a colour-coded ribbon or do an interpretative dance or march about in the streets chanting "Hey-hey ho-ho!" or sing a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walk out.

Just wear the wool of compassion.

Or the acrylic. Your call.

Because enlightenment is its own movement.

Again, that's THIS TUESDAY, 20 MARCH. All over the world. Boys and girls. Buddhists and non-Buddhists. People who are legitimately cold and those who are just posing. Crunchy and smooth. Waterfall and window shade.


20 March.



(Photograph of Día de los Muertes ofrenda to Mr. Rogers at Carmichael Library courtesy of Albert Herring and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

WW: Stained glass

Thursday, 8 March 2018


If you'd told me when I was 22 that the day would come when I would cherish my ex-girlfriends, I would have called you mad.

As a young man, I did relationships like a drug. Heroin, to be specific. I loved hard, like diamonds, and lost harder. I wore rejection like a crown of thorns, bled from it like stigmata, dragged it across the earth like the Holy Cross. Cowardice, caprice, indifference, were feminine vagaries I could not forgive.

I was the ex-boyfriend from hell.

I don't know what changed. I didn't hear from my ex-girlfriends for years, and then I did. And I was ecstatic, like a pilgrim who falls to his knees on the far edge of the desert, weeping for the pain, and laughing for the weeping.

No-one was more surprised than I.

So perhaps, sometimes, even I grow up.

Perhaps even heal.

My ex-girlfriends are interesting, caring, engaging women, and a gift to my life. They have great husbands, brilliant children, and there is nothing I wouldn't do for any of them.

There's no word for this unexpected love. It's not possessive, like a lover's, or exclusive, like brother's, or conditional, like friend's.

It just is.

And whatever it is, it brings me endless joy.

(Adapted from Rough Around the Edges: A Journey Around Washington's Borderlands, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Peter Dowley and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

WW: Morse code key

(After ten years fighting off my ham radio addiction, I recently dug out my old station and set it up again.

This is my classic brass straight key, the one I first used to get on the air.

Been in storage for a decade. I've missed it.)

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Good Book: Cat Attacks

I didn't want to read this book. And I really didn't want to keep reading after I started. But as I've often said, denial is an unskilful response to danger.

Most of my life has happened in cougar country, much of it in the woods, where I prefer to practice Zen when possible. A few years back I sat 100 Days on the Mountain, an ancient Buddhist ritual, in Washington's coastal jungle.

The cat threat there, of which I was generally aware, comes up several times in my book. (Which is now finished and seeking a publisher.) But if I'd read Cat Attacks: True Stories and Hard Lessons from Cougar Country, I wouldn't have slept once during those more than three months.

Authors Dean Miller and Jo Deurbrouck are careful to point out that human-cougar encounters are extremely rare, and physical contact a tiny blip in that statistic. But they are also conscientious – downright didactic, in fact – in recounting, second by horrific second, exactly what happens in a mountain lion attack.

And though it's apparently impossible to escape a gruesome death if you're alone when the stats turn against you, your chances of avoiding that actuarial convergence drop to zero if you've no hard data on your predator's habits and methods.

Some of which, thanks to Miller and Deurbrouck, I now know:

•    Cougars prefer silent, lightning ambush from behind and above, after extensive stalking at close quarters. When in the woods, turn and look behind you, thoroughly and often.

•    Your predator's single-minded intent is to kill and eat you. This makes your bear-mollifying skills guaranteed death. Instead, if one atypically shows itself before lunging, go big, mean, and criminally insane. This may convince the cougar to go back to just stalking you for now. If on the other hand you make yourself quiet and small and avoid eye contact, you've green-lit a kill.

•    The charge, when it comes, is supernaturally fast; witnesses uniformly report a "brown blur". And its dump-truck impact is instantaneous. So even if you see a lion crouching to strike (which they take great pains to conceal) you have no time to raise or aim, much less draw, a firearm.

•    Though they'll attack groups, particularly children in the midst of one, as readily as they'll strike a loner, cougars rarely turn on rescuers. (It's bizarre, un-prey behaviour that evolution has not prepared them to answer.) So if a companion is hit, come in hot and hostile and fight hard at close quarters, with feet and fists if necessary. Once engaged, a lion may cling stubbornly to its quarry, but they seldom or never accept third-party combat. So keep on hammering until you completely weird it out and it withdraws.

•    Solitary humans have no chance of survival.

This is just a smattering of the practical, unromantic intelligence Cat Attacks contains. The authors' steely pragmatism, while traumatic, gives the work great strength. Particularly valuable is their bullheaded refusal to get sucked into either of the silly postures – "kill 'em all" or "poor persecuted kitties" – one usually encounters when the topic is raised.

To counteract the first, they illuminate in equal detail the harsh reality of a cougar's life, which is astonishingly brutal and getting crueller by the day, thanks to overweaning human arrogance.

As for the second, well… in the same instant a cougar touches you it rips your face off. This allows it to begin eating you without waiting for you to die.

That image brings me keenly in mind of Meditation in the Wild, wherein Charles S. Fisher points out that early Buddhist monks – originally all, and then most, of whom were hermits – had a tendency to enter Asia's primordial jungles and never be seen again. Tigers are even bigger than cougars, and not one whit more sentimental.

These are the conditions that forged our nihilistic Zen world view.

So if you live or travel in the northern and/or western half of North America, read Cat Attacks. Get schooled. Be prudently terrified.

Because when I think of all the times I've been afoot in the rough at dusk – including every day of ango – I break into a cold sweat. One unmoderated by the knowledge that cats also attack people in broad daylight. (Even housecats creep me out now.)

So be safe out there, brothers and sisters.

As safe as this existence allows.

(Note: a slightly updated release of this book came out in 2007 under the title Stalked by a Mountain Lion: Fear, Fact, And The Uncertain Future Of Cougars In America.)

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

WW: Thunderheads

(Thunderstorms – and their accompanying cloud formations – were rare here when I was a kid. Over the last few decades they've become much more common; yet another effect of changing climate patterns. But I've never seen a conga line of anvils like this one. Here or anywhere.)
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