Tibetan Greenhouse Dugout Bench #1

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h2g2 Friends of Tibet

Where what we've planted grows, and where what grows may not necessarily be what we've planted.

Don't be afraid. Nothing here is harmful. If you have an idea that would look good in a pot, plant it... let's see if it grows. Tibet is a real place, full of real people. It is far away, but that doesn't make you and I any less real.

You don't have to know about Tibet or plants. All you really need is to be a person with an idea that means something to you.

Have a look. You'll see what I mean.

If something sprouts in your head while you read (or later, when you're mowing the lawn), pop it in a forum... we keep them under the benches.

This is what you will find on Bench #1...

'Julia Butterfly Hill'  
'Sad, isn't it'  
'God's own Summer' written byLøønytünes
'Life goes on...' written byYinYang
'Ginkgo the rushes-ho' written byYinYang
'This Century Passing' written byTwophlag Gargleblap
'Sanskrit Proverb'  

Julia Butterfly Hill

Julia Butterfly Hill lived for two years on a six-by-eight foot platform 180 feet up in a giant redwood tree perhaps a thousand years old, which she named Luna. She did this amazing thing to protect Luna, and the rest of the forest, from the Pacific Lumber logging company1.Thanks to her determination and courage, Luna and her immediate neighbours will not be turned into planks.

The convoluted hillsides of the Pacific coast of North America were once thick with some of the most magnificent trees on Earth, towering hundreds of feet above the forest floor like a vast natural cathedral. The life they sheltered was among the richest and most
varied to be found anywhere. The human inhabitants were so well provided for by their forest home that they were able to devote more time to leisure and artistic expression than any people ever have, or are ever likely to, anywhere. Nowhere else on the planet has supported such a number of people who lived so well with what they had at hand. In little over a century, almost all of this has been destroyed.

In the beginning, human beings lacked the power to do serious damage to this magnificent environment. It took teams of men days to fell a single tree, and their means of transporting the fallen giants was limited by the endurance of muscle power. Now the forests are given over to corporate giants, who stride across international borders and scythe the hillsides bare with all the tools of modern industry... and the appetite of modern greed.

Whole forests are swept away, with all the plant and animal life they contain. Everything goes! The very soil that gave the great trees life, without the protection of their mighty branches, is swept away, filling the pristine rivers and streams with mud and silt, destroying the salmon that nourished whole cultures.

The corporate monsters soothe whatever doubts and concern our governments have with the mantra, 'Jobs... jobs... creating jobs'; but those jobs disappear with the trees, taking with them the 'jobs' of the people who were defined by the forest, whose identities depended on it. For them, their livelihood, their art, their spirituality, their very existence is at stake. For they cannot delude themselves that a monoculture tree farm on a silted stream is the same as a living forest and a teeming salmon run.

Their loss is perhaps the greatest; but, in part, it's shared by all. The value of a forest is not the view of it from your window or the resources it contains. Its value is in knowing it is there; that there is a part of our planet that is the same now as it was when
we first arrived; that we haven't sullied everything. The survival of the forests is a talisman against a future we all dread, one that, as long as the forests live, we can hope may never come.

The amazing thing that Julia Butterfly Hill did was sit in a tree for two years. The remarkable thing is that, eventually, a giant corporation made a small concession to her and the viewpoint she represents. The truly sad thing is that she had to sit in a tree for
two years to make people care.

Sad, isn't it.

On the occassion of the tenth anniversary of the massacre in Montréal, December 6, 1989.

Ten years ago today, at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal,14 young women were gunned down by a lunatic with a gun. They were killed because they were women, that's all. What a terrible thing! Those bright young humans were snuffed out by another human who had something wrong with his brain. That should scare everyone. A significant portion of our species is malfunctioning and the societies we are building don't work properly.

A young man was permitted to develop the idea that the success of those women was so unjust that nothing short of killing them would sort things out. He was broken in the head and he didn't know it, because nothing in his culture worked well enough to correct his malfunction. His culture is broken too. It gave him the means and the power to kill 14 women.

How much nicer life would be if the broken young man's culture worked well enough that it had cut off his power and made him rest for a while when he started to go wrong, and empowered the 14 women - or anyone else who is not broken - to help him to work properly again.

These are people you will never meet:

Geneviève Bergeron, 21

Hélène Colgan, 23

Nathalie Croteau, 23

Barbara Daigneault, 22

Anne-Marie Edward, 21

Maud Haviernick, 29

Barbara Maria Klueznick, 31

Maryse Laganière, 25

Maryse Leclair, 23

Anne-Marie Lemay, 27

Sonia Pelletier, 23

Michèle Richard, 21

Annie St-Arneault, 23

Annie Turcotte, 21

Sad, isn't it.

God's own Summer


Yes, this is it, this is New Zealand - open, and dazed, and you have sand in your hair and sand in your pockets, and every day is like Sunday. The sunsets are shocking pink, outrageous, would you look at that. The air in front of you is wrinkled with heat. Mt Ruapehu is as bald as a coot; Lake Tekapo needs a drink. You are walking on hard, pale clay. You are on the porch. There are monarch butterflies, and cicadas, and moths, and flies, mosquitoes, wasps, ants, and visiting brothers.

We are a nation of summer islands - the beach, the dust, the light. It suits us. It makes us. It's the way we imagine ourselves, and brag about it to the world. Postcards of blue Lake Taupo, Art Deco Napier, even Greymouth, and 'Wish you were here'. Some of our best literature has suntan lotion on its pages - Sargeson's That Summer, Duggan's Along Rideout Road, Janet Frame's The Reservoir, and if you close your eyes while reading Stead's All Visitors Ashore you see orchards and wharves, bare legs and open windows.

It's our time. A national dress is established: we go outdoors wearing the kind of clothes that make us look like hicks.
Summer has a New Zealand brand: L&P softdrink, Tip-Top ice-cream, Huttons delicacies. We know what to expect. TV
plays rubbish. Some bore gets awarded a knighthood. Cricket. Road tolls. Sex, hopefully. The tent, the garden hose.

Optimists will blandly claim that it's always good to be alive, but summer most definitely has advantages. Food tastes better. You're insane if you think anything beats sliced cucumber and radishes in a bowl of vinegar with lots of salt at the ready. Even vegetarians stop looking so miserable, although it's true that one of the most pitiful sights of the modem age is a vegetarian at a barbecue. Steak. Sausages. Chops. Chooks. Shish kebabs. Burgers. Prawns. Fish. And by all means try barbecued Wattie's fish fingers. Fantastic.

Your gob, your stomach, your entire flesh. Skin smells and tastes delicious in the sun. No doubt many will spend summer on top of jet skis and racing bikes, up and down mountains and in and out of various beds. Good for them. But this is also the best time to perform that most vital bodily function - sleep. It's nice to dose while the morning ripens like a big fat fruit. A nap is a splendid way to ignore the screeching afternoon. As for the evenings – yes, the thing to do is have another good, long snooze, and it doesn’t get better than if a sulking night finally bursts into a thunderstorm, with the wind lunging at your bedroom curtains through the open window, and the rain steaming off the ground by morning.

Summer demands that you hang a sign over your brain: Back in 5 minutes. So you sleep, and you eat, and what's left of your mind is boggled by heat. The cat is as weak as a kitten. You could fry an egg on the pavement. There is so much yellow defeating the earth - gorse, broom, buttercup, lupine, all of the Mackenzie Country. Summer is powerless, exposed. Nothing is as it was. Unplugged and unwanted, schools become ghost towns - the chairs on desks, the dark rooms, the complete silence of the playground as you bend over to drink from an outside basin tap. Sports day, the history exam - their terrors shrivel up and die.

Offices, too, are revealed as nothing more than flimsy walls and the kind of footsore carpets you wouldn’t let your dog vomit on. All work is a sham and summer knows this for a fact, laughs in its face.

The trampoline, the icetray. We are freed from the shocking political event. Old people play cards on folding chairs in their caravans at night. Kids run a lot. There are books to be read, and heaven knows what they call that kind of music these days to be played until dawn at night-clubs. Loneliness will cut like a really big knife. Nothing happens so much that the newspapers are driven to publishing stories about buskers.

All summers are endless, sloppy, childish. But the fact that this is the first summer of the new millennium might sharpen our act - the unknown future luscious with promise. The next century is like Robinson Crusoe's desert island: those first footsteps on the sand are ours, it's up to us to reshape the world as we see fit. In short, this is the time for all sorts of lunatic ideas.

Fair enough. Look at those perfect, virgin numerals on the calendar: the year 2000. Anything could happen. These are exciting times. But the days just get on with it - the willow dangling in the slow creek, the flame-grilled feeling of the fish finger - blue and lovely and shimmering.

Many thanks to

Løønytünes » » & ACE up sleeve

for such a beautiful taste of summer in NewZealand.

Life goes on...

The year 2000 came in; some places saw it in with a bang, others with a whimper; some with a prayer; and maybe some couldn't be bothered at all. I guess we all want it to be really special; we're all waiting for some seismic event, or sign that things are going to be different now, but the only place we can really make a difference is within our own hearts.

You have to start small, and work up. Every long journey starts with a single step; but sometimes, if you think it's going to take you into the unknown, or over the cliff, it's a very hard step to take. So keep hammering, keep talking until others round you decide to stop what they're doing, and take notice.

I too despair at the Chinese attitude towards Tibet, and it's a movement I feel strongly about; but I also get mad at the dad who habitually beats his kids, or the woman who lives in a blanket and lives on alcohol. The point is, just where do you start, and how do you start to make a difference? One that's noticeable, one that makes other people stop and think? We can all of us only do our best, do what we're good at, and keep talking about it. Soon, one pair of footprints becomes two....

Many thanks to YinYang

for signposting a better future.

Ginkgo the rushes-ho

I want to bring my very favourite tree to grow and rest, undisturbed by bonzai fanatics. It's the
Ginkgo, and while individual specimens generally reach their peak by the time they're around seventy, the species itself has been around for - wait for it - 150 million years! It is the oldest species of any living tree, and though it is better known as the Maidenhair Tree, due to its fan-shaped leaves, it is in fact a true gymnosperm, like the conifers. Gingkos' leaves turn the most rich and vibrant shade of yellow in the autumn, and then they drop, creating a pool of sunshine around the base of the trunk. Big respect for the Ginkgo, I say!

Its native habitat is Chekiang, in China. Needless to say, I have one in my garden, here in France, and we chat most days. Trees are wonderful, non-judgemental listeners. It was while I was mulling things over with my tree that I had two wonderful thoughts planted in my mind.

Many times I have despaired of how little I feel I am actually doing in the Big Plan to make a difference. I meditate, I teach Feng Shui and T'ai Chi and run a home. I try to live for the moment, and leave people with a favourable impression of themselves and, perhaps, me too. So I am a busy person, me with my children and husband and menagerie, and my time is filled with duties; but I often wish I could do more, like these wonderful Rinpoches, or prominent people who can move mountains due to social clout. Then, a small voice spoke to me and said,

Don't you see, that you are fulfilling the life given to you? Maybe your task in this life is to do exactly what you are doing. Maybe some of these Rinpoches and prominent people occasionally yearn for a life like yours! So you may think your life would be better spent in prayer, meditation and quiet contemplation; but who'll stoke the fires, if you're not here? Who will get the girls to school, and support them on their journey? Smile, and fulfil your days, for they are the Universe's gift to you; fleeting they may be, good and bad, but always precious - like you!

Thank you, tree!

My second thought was advice I gave to my dear eldest daughter, who is struggling to find her place in her new school, and finding it very hard. She is only sixteen, and can't be expected to know what she's going to be doing the rest of her life, surely! In her words:

If my life were a day, it would still be 4am! Go away, I'm asleep!

I compared her struggle to her trying to swim upstream, in a fast-flowing river, to reach a destination not too far away. But she is floundering and finding the effort too great. So I suggested perhaps she allow the current to carry her down, until she reaches a bank and can climb out to walk. The journey may take her longer, because she is now further away; but it will be much easier, and she'll get there just the same, with less of a struggle.

Sometimes it pays to let Life take you the way it knows best, and instead of frantically trying to be there, and be there now, take the longer route and the longer time. It may take a lifetime, but serenity will have been your travelling companion.

Love and no late winter frosts.

Many thanks to YinYang

This Century Passing

(Excerpted from private journals)

I am writing these words on the date of January the 5th, 2000. The world's millenial celebrations have ceased, and humanity has returned to its toils and troubles. There does seem to be an air of optimism in media reports... the dreaded Y2k bug has left us relatively unscathed, the economy continues to trundle along, and we are otherwise once again occupied with the day to day drudgery of existence, world without end. I have seen several stories thus far in the media attempting to grapple with the 'momentous' event of the passing of a Millenium... searching for meaning in the happening of it, and usually failing to find any.

If you are a picky individual, you might have noticed that we haven't entered into the new Millenium just yet... we have one more year to go; and while I am not one to place undue importance on such an arbitrary thing as the rolling over of an imaginary number, I do think that this Century which we are now closing out, the 20th Century, is worth observing and reflecting on because of what it has meant for our species and culture historically.

I think the greatest fallacy of the societies and cultures now occupying this planet is the 'world without end' myth... the idea that life as it is now is life as it has always been... and always will be. Probably the tendency towards this mode of thinking is to some degree a part of us genetically... for the untold Millenia we have existed as a species, it seems to have been a given that life for one's descendants would be similar to the life lead by oneself, and by one's forebears.

We have reached a place in history where this is no longer a valid assumption. This Century passing has not only been remarkable, but unique in human history. No human has ever lived as we do now. This Century saw the development of aeroplanes, automobiles, computers, satellites, spacecraft, radio, television, to name a few odds and ends. Our cosmology progressed from Newtonian mechanics to Einsteinian relativity, to quantum theory, to fractal topography, and beyond. Mass industrialization went rampant, and the bloodiest wars were fought this Century. Communication technologies and the Western market economy are creating a global stage where the needs of individual communities become subsumed by the needs of the whole; and the stakes of course are much higher... whether by nuclear fire or by environmental impact, we now, for the first time in human history have the capacity to self-destruct; and who can then blame various religious fundamentalists for seeing in this Century the near fulfilment of ancient apocalyptic texts? Our choices now carry the gravest of consequences... many species of animal go extinct each day as a result of our activities on the planet... is it so difficult to assume that one day humans might take their turn on that growing list?

There is no way of guessing what will come next.. for there is no precedent by which we might determine the future. We have, as it were, reached a turning point in the history of our species... and only a deliberate choice will see us through it reliably.

It is absolutely fundamental that we awaken, each one of us as individuals, to this larger reality... we can no longer afford to go through our lives blissfully unaware of the big picture, or deliberately ignoring it. I think many people are unwilling to assume personal responsibility for what is being done in their name... they feel too small and insignificant to have any impact on anything of global significance. This, of course, is the source of the problem... a paralysing apathy or a deep rooted conviction of inadequacy. People may profess to be concerned about overpopulation but would never translate that into a personal choice to avoid having children, and certainly would not support a political decision to somehow limit population growth forcefully. A person who may profess concern for the
environment is nonetheless often unwilling to recognize it should be a key issue in the politics of the nation that is doing the most damage to the planet.

Paradigm shifts are a fundamental issue here... it is very, very difficult for someone to change or abandon their preconceived notions about reality and how it operates... how well I know this! So we cling to antiquated notions of morality, legality, spirituality, our islands of refuge in a changing world... not realizing that by doing so we doom ourselves to be annihilated by those very forces of change. Even the most intelligent of us fall easily into this trap,
huddling, as it were, in stick lean-tos as shelter against a coming hurricane. Intelligence does not allow one to slip out of established paradigms. Rather, intelligence defines how well one is able to operate within a given paradigm. Wisdom is the pertinent trait that allows one to see outside a paradigm and eventually loose the bonds of an ideological prison.

So, the human species needs to wise up, and fast. I think that the point in history at which we find ourselves now - this 'jumping off point' as it were - represents some sort of evolutionary apotheosis for us all. A revolution must come, a message must be heard everywhere that will mean something to everyone that hears it. This revolutionary message is unlikely to be an idea or doctrine of any sort... ideas are by their nature relative constructs which invite dissent and opposition. Moreover, the message cannot be by any means intellectually obscure, unfathomable by someone lacking in education or wit... rather the message must be straightforward and appeal to people's wisdom. Lastly, we must recognize that people are by their nature selfish to varying degrees... the message must offer something to the one who hears it.

I will leave the reader to ponder what such a message might be for a while. What I have just described of course is what our major religions purport to offer us... again, I leave it to the reader to ascertain how much success these efforts have had. Religion is something I have spent a good deal of time pondering, and I will offer some reflections on it later on. For the time being I think it is sufficient to point out that if any religion offered complete and universally sufficient answers to our deepest questions, then that religion would now be the dominant force in all human affairs.

So, I will ask the reader to humour me while I explore some points in more detail, offering no credentials or apologies to excuse the blasphemies and heresies presented forthwith... I would ask rather that you ask yourself this as you read on:

Will humanity survive? How will we do it?

Many thanks to

Twophlag Gargleblap, Master of Relativity and Possessor of Ingrown Toenails

Sanskrit Proverb

Look to this day,

For it is life,

The very life of life.

In its brief course lie all

The realities and verities of existence,

The bliss of growth,

The splendour of action,

The glory of power -

For yesterday is but a dream,

And tomorrow is only a vision,

But today, well lived,

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day

Back to Tibetan Greenhouse Dugout

On to Bench #2,
Bench #3,
Bench #4

1Pacific Lumber has been cited with over 250 violations of the California Forest Practices act. In 1998, seven families lost their homes near Stafford, California to a mudslide resulting from a Pacific Lumber clearcut.

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