Monthly Archives: November 2013

Natural fireworks at Mt. Etna

Mount Etna recently surged back to life, as it tends to do every few months or years.  A local volcanologist, Dr. Boris Behncke, has posted videos from Saturday night, and they are spectacular!  This 8-minute sequence may stretch your online attention span, but there’s a wealth of riches to be had herein.  After thirty seconds of scene-setting, the fireworks ramp up, with a series of stunning lava-bursts from about ninety second to three minutes or so: huge spheres of glowing lava expanding outwards, then settling ever-further down the mountain’s flanks.  From about six to seven minutes, there’s a wonderful sequence with the near-full moon setting behind the smoke plume and peak.  As an added treat, the video gives at least a sense of the thunderous booms that follow a few seconds behind the visuals, the locally-familiar call of the mountain rolling across the landscape, day and night, into the streets and homes—and the hearts and bones—of all its neighbors.

For more on this eruption, including several links to more images of Etna, see this article at  And check out these two posts from the good Dr. Behncke, on an especially interesting burst of activity in late October, and on the last surviving remnant of an old hut, built in a burst of foolishness in the 1960’s: an antenna, now poking its lonely head from ash and lava flows.

The same grace

Though it may appear that this wayward
stumbling is errant, choreographers
can see that it possesses the same grace
as a leaf fallen into concert with a steady
creek and its swerving currents of rapids.

Though the progress  of this thought
might sound to some like stuttering,
the listening blind know that it follows
the same pattern as rain streaming
in gusts against a windowpane at night.

. . . 

The twisting and weaving of a pea vine
intertwining with its invisible love
may appear to be without direction
or purpose, but students of tenacity
and sunlight know better.

. . .

Pattiann Rogers, Study from Right Angles
from Generations 

Click through to read the poem in full

Read the rest of this entry

Into the other

(I feel that this applies not only—though yes, deeply—to human connections, but also in subtler, perhaps more partial yet palpable ways to our presence with other species, landscapes, the earth and sky, and indeed, all creation)

ThomasmertonLONGTo love another as a person…we have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us.  We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him.

And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which “transforms” us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own.

Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible.  But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation “into the other” while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence.

Thomas Merton
from Disputed Questions

Image: Spirituality and Practice

 These thoughts were percolating as I wrote the previous post (scroll down).

Here you are

With no warning and no surprise, three sturdy wingbeats slide suddenly from on high.  Settling, now still.  Here you are.  Strong breast, speckled; eyes vigilant, crown aglow from low sun behind—avian apex of the valley.

A peripheral suggestion casually slips up the bank, into piñon shade.  Settling, now still.  Here you are.  Gorgeous coat in mottled sun; relaxed, feet front, head high—strong, sure morning sentinel of the valley.

Hawk perched alert in the center of the yard, until lifting surely back to its aerie.  Coyote lounging amidst the trees, now strolling languidly through shining gramma, poking into low boughs, and dropping back into the arroyo from whence it appeared.  In this way, into the quiet space at the heart of the solitude that I’ve chosen and cultivated, which has broadened and deepened with time, with attention, with care, here you are.  Spirit tangible. Palpable. Embodied. 

Gentle, rich presence: cool clear water soothing a valley’s parched heart. . . soft insistent breeze stirring each sun-seeking tendril. . . winter’s dazzling stars piercing the soul’s cold night.  The wind and water, sun and stars—ever arriving, never lingering.  Always touching, stirring, warming, lifting.

Annular eclipse 2012

And so I walk on, here in the outskirts of the heart of this all-living world. Carrying questions.  Keeping faith.  Reaching deep.  In the layers of wind whispering across the land, and this noontime moon-slice in soft blue sky, here you are.  As the search discovers its path, here you are.  Alongside flowing waters, here you are.  In the sharing of kindred souls, here you are.  In each breath and every touch, here you are.

Image: Colleen Pinski, Smithsonian Magazine

The voice used here addresses specific beings and/or or a divine realm
as a separate, though at times extended, “other.”
It occurs to me: perhaps it would be interesting
to revise it by changing “you are” to “I am,”
reflecting an expanded self-identity with the other,
and/or a fuller embodiment as or identification with
what’s being experienced.
Ah, such a coarse reversal doesn’t fully work
with the presence being explored here.
But the gesture is still worthwhile!

See the next post (above) for Merton’s musings on this theme.


Milan apartment tower goes green. Way green.

Vertical Forest Milan WEBA two-tower apartment complex in Milan is charting the way to a greener future for cities.  Each apartment is outfitted with a sturdy outside balcony which will host trees and shrubs.  The first trees are already being lifted into place, and once complete, “residents will retire to their apartments after a long day in the grit and grime and drift off to the sound of wind in the leaves—and muffled car horns.”  Nice!!

(Image: Stefano Boeri Architetti and  Marco Garofalo; more pics here)

Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light

Laurie Anderson wrote a loving, joyful letter to the local paper this week, offering an intimate glimpse of Lou Reed in his final days and moments; the rich companionship they shared sparkles from these words.  Sounds like a near-perfect death: immersed in natural beauty, in the company of his loving partner, reaching into and through the moment in the practice of his spiritual discipline.  Wonderful.

LaurieLouWEBTo our neighbors:

What a beautiful fall! Everything shimmering and golden and all that incredible soft light. Water surrounding us.

Lou and I have spent a lot of time here in the past few years, and even though we’re city people this is our spiritual home. Last week I promised Lou to get him out of the hospital and come home to Springs. And we made it!

Lou was a tai chi master and spent his last days here being happy and dazzled by the beauty and power and softness of nature. He died on Sunday morning looking at the trees and doing the famous 21 form of tai chi with just his musician hands moving through the air.

Lou was a prince and a fighter and I know his songs of the pain and beauty in the world will fill many people with the incredible joy he felt for life. Long live the beauty that comes down and through and onto all of us.

– Laurie Anderson
his loving wife and eternal friend

PS: Laurie later wrote a longer, incredibly beautiful piece for Rolling Stone; don’t miss it!  Here’s a little taste:

We tried to understand and apply things our teacher Mingyur Rinpoche said – especially hard ones like, “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.”

As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died.

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