Friday, January 31, 2014

Beauty treatment

Well...! Time magazine covers from January and August 2003, and the current issue.

新年快乐 Happy New Year!

And it's my year, too: the horse. (Cookie courtesy of Joyce Bakeshop)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Man par excellence

For "Buddhism and Modern Thought" we're reading one of the classics of introductions to Buddhism, Walpola Rahula's 1959 What the Buddha Taught. I dare say it's how I was introduced to Buddhism, too! Returning to it now, older if not perhaps wiser, I can appreciate its achievement - how it fashioned an image of a universally acknowledged original Buddhist core which also happened to be more modern than the best of Western moderns! Behold how brilliantly he begins:

Among the founders of religions the Buddha (if we are permitted to call him the founder of a religion in the popular sense of the term) was the only teacher who did not claim to be other than a human being, pure and simple. Other teachers were either God, or his incarnations in different forms, or inspired by him. The Buddha was not only a human being; he claimed no inspiration from any god or external power either. He attributed all his realization, attainments and achievements to human endeavour and human intelligence. A man and only a man can become a Buddha. Every man has within himself the potentiality of becoming a Buddha, if he so wills it and endeavours. We can call the Buddha a man par excellence. He was so perfect in his 'human-ness' that he came to be regarded later in popular religion almost as 'super-human'. (1)

From this start he can assert that Buddhism isn't a religion. Certainly beautiful customs and ceremonies emerge to support those less advanced ... along the Path (50, 81), and, less happily, noble traditions of meditation deteriorated or degenerated into a kind of ritual or ceremony almost technical in its routine (67). In this lesser Buddhists are like "religious" people everywhere, creating God, the Soul and other errors to console themselves in their ignorance (51). But truest Buddhism, unique among religions and philosophies, is truest humanism!

Whatever issues one might have with its construction of Buddhism (in "Theorizing Religion" I call appeals to timelessly accessible ancient sources which claim it possible and necessary to bypass the long intervening history of barbarous bowdlerizations "Protestant"), Walpola's gambit is a worthy riposte to the hollow humanism of the colonial West!

Walpola Sri Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (Revised Edition) (NY: Grove, 1974)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chin up

I'm taking another course besides Chinese this semester. By happy accident, the very China-focused course on East Asian religion in my own program is running this semester, and it fits my schedule! To give us a sense of the China before it became China, the teacher gave us fascinating short selections to read - Shang dynasty oracle bone inscriptions, the dedication written on a Zhou ritual vessel, exquisite poems from Chu, Mozi on ghosts... A different world in so many ways! But as he was leading us through the ritual vessel inscription he passed around a book of images of ancient bronzes, and it took me way back. These are some of the bronzes at the Met, but I also recalled a gu I saw in Chicago, and, long before that, a course I sat in on at Princeton on Shang bronzes taught by Robert Bagley. A long time ago! (And I remember little more than the word "falange" - I can't remember who recommended it to me or why I pursued it, though I recall showing up out incredulity that something so arcane could have excited someone so). The wonder I experienced there came back to me today. My focus in thinking about the upcoming China trip has been resolutely contemporary, but of course, China goes way back... !

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I knew the tones were hard but not this hard! On this self-administered listening test in one of our class textbooks (each comes with a CD), I got so many wrong I don't even know where to start fixing it. Over the course of its 24 syllables, I managed to mistake pretty much every tone for every other! Our teacher's response, when I showed her the bloody scene, was both discouraging and encouraging: it's hard even for her to make out words without contexts. Nothing to do but keep learning words (with their tones!), and keep training my ears any way I can.I do just fine with the written - my familiarity through Japanese with the way characters works helps a lot. What's (a little) amusing is that as a result I'm finding myself in a situation analogous to that of my Chinese classmates when I was learning Japanese - they could read almost anything, but couldn't recognize anything anyone said. Or, for that matter, many Japanese of my acquaintance, whose knowledge of written English so far outstripped their abilities in conversation as to paralyze them in despondent panic. I'm glad to have a good teacher!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Dial

Well, I thought the first session of "Buddhism and Modern Thought" was fascinating - not sure how it will have played with the class, whose interests and degrees of experience with Buddhist and religious studies I have yet to gauge. But I'd like to think there was something tantalizing for everyone, and a web of unexpected effects and resonances across times, places and genres interesting enough to make them want to come back for more! (Unfortunately there were no markers for the board so I had to send them this drawing of the dial suggesting an order to all the connections after class.) The room in the new building (we're moving next class) was indeed windowless and a little grim, but there was a bonding experience in being among the first students to meet in the new building - and I was able to invite everyone to the cafe on the same floor after, leading them from the dark cave through a long corridor to the light-filled seating area overlooking 14th Street.

The class has wound up with some very ambitious "learning objectives."
Today's forceful tour was trying to get at the 4th, 5th and 6th of these.

Brecht's poem about the Buddha's parable of the burning house (read in an overpoweringly terrific way by the 80-year-old Käthe Reichel here) tells a story Brecht scholars seem to think was invented by Danish novelist Karl Gjellerup (Brecht was in Danish exile when he wrote the poem).* It really refers to one of the most famous stories in the Lotus Sutra, which I think Brecht will have known and expected his readers to know. (It would be nice to be able to demonstrate this...!) If so it's more than the cry of despair of a revolutionary artist who can't get through to people:

"... One of them,
While the heat was already scorching his eyebrows,
Asked me what it was like outside, whether there was
Another house for them, and more of this kind. Without answering
I went out again. These people here, I thought,
Must burn to death before they stop asking questions.
And truly friends,
Whoever does not yet feel such heat in the floor that he’ll gladly
Exchange it for any other, rather than stay, to that man
I have nothing to say.” So Gautama the Buddha. ...

It's a manifesto for more skilful art: realism, knowledge, truth are insufficient for getting people to see that the mouldering house around them is on fire. The father in the original Buddhist parable doesn't give up but gets his kids out, though not in a very Brechtian way (he doesn't talk about fire - they don't know even know the meaning of fire, of houses, of losing things - but tells them he has gifts of their favorite things for them outside the house). Pretty cool way to introduce upāya, huh - a communist artist, epic theater!

After reading them the parable as recounted in the Lotus Sutra itself, and mentioning its importance for explaining upāya and the mahāyāna, we turned to the year 1844, when it turns out, no less a figure than Henry David Thoreau published a translation of a part of the Lotus Sutra in his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson's journal The Dial: the first English translation of a Buddhist text! (He'd translated it from a Sanskrit edition based on a cache of Buddhist texts sent to Paris from Nepal by British colonial agent Brian Houghton Hodgson in 1837.) 1844 is an important year for western Buddhist studies, as it's also the year Eugène Burnouf - recipient of Hodgson's cache - published his  Introduction à l'histoire du Bouddhisme indien, coining the word "Buddhism" in the process. (Burnouf translated the full Lotus Sutra himself in 1852.)

A little foretaste of learning outcome 3! And a chance to name the orientalist worry (I dropped Edward Said's name). Europeans constructed an image of Buddhism out of texts, rendering it a system of ideas. (Actual practitioners in decadent Asia were not consulted.) But that's not how Buddhism (or any other religion) works. Sutras are recited, transcribed, copied, used as talismans, stuffed in statues, consumed. (Remember Bielefeldt!) And some of them - the Lotus Sutra prominently - are themselves agents. As a Japanese Buddhist intones its name, 南無妙法蓮華経 namu myōhō renge kyō, it's not that you recite the sutra, you lend your lips to the sutra, the sutra is on your lips, the sutra uses your lips, the sutra recites you. Intense stuff - and a little taste of the really mind-bending learning outcome 6.

So next we watched Theaster Gates and the Blind Monks of Mississippi singing "Blood in my veins," a work song composed to honor Dave the Potter, an African American slave potter (at work in 1844, for what it's worth), which resolves into a free jazz-like recitation of the name of the Lotus Sutra: namu myōhō renge kyō. (It starts at 22:30 here.) This was, I grant, a little hard to listen to so early in the morning! And just what was Gates (a masterful upāya user, as the story of Shoji Yamaguchi below right makes clear) up to? Slavery, ceramics and Buddhism? But I'm hoping it makes clear from the start that our inquiry can't confine itself to scholars, and to white Buddhists, and to those forms of Buddhism
which white folks like - first Pali, then Zen, then vipassanā, now Tibetan. For Gates almost certainly learned of the Lotus Sutra through Soka Gakkai, a lay Nichiren movement which has many Americans of color among its members.

And to close the circle, it turns out that Soka Gakkai was founded in Japan in 1930. Placing this up alongside Brecht in 1931 is just sneaky, as, indeed, is arraying all these disparate things around a dial. I'm not suggesting causality here, am I? Or am I? The really mind-bending part of "Buddhist ways of understanding influence" is the suggestion that the world may work in a Buddhist way - there may be bodhisattvas at work, and agencies like the Lotus Sutra. Or at least, as the Soka Gakkai International explanation of the significance of namu myōhō renge kyō makes clear, that we're going to need to push at the usual understandings of causality. The lotus blooms and produces seeds at the same time, and thus represents the simultaneity of cause and effect.

Will they come back for more? We'll see!

*In the 1999 translation of Gjellerup's novel The Pilgrim Kamanita, available here, a brief story of a burning house appears at 163-64, not much like Brecht's; the editors note that nothing like it is known in the Pali canon, and with evident distaste (and inaccuracy) refer to the Lotus Sutra as the likeliest source (415).

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quinzaine de Job

Today was the first day of a fifteen-day flurry of Job-related activity, which all told will include three talks, a sermon, a radio interview, and a performance (not by me). This morning saw my first talk on the book - at St. Michael's Episcopal Church on the Upper West Side. And this afternoon, I attended a second performance of Outside the Wire's Superstorm Sandy-Job project - this one hosted by the JASA (Jewish
Association Serving the Aged) in Long Beach, Long Island. (That's LB's newly rebuilt boardwalk above, its partly frozen beach below.) I don't have time to give you details right now, as the new semester begins tomorrow morning, 8 am, and a syllabus needs finalizing before then. But I took copious notes, so I'm sure I'll give some report eventually! Suffice it to say I am once again filled with gratitude at all I learned.

Okay (it's Monday night now), something from each.

In the talk at St. Michael's (below) I surprised myself by gathering together all the bits of the book that are actually my ideas. I wasn't going to do that - all messenger, all the time - but somehow it came together that way as I finalized my notes in the subway on the way over. So after framing things in terms of how Job makes every reader or interpreter or user "make a book" of it, I offered two images I'd found helpful for understanding the Book of Job, and two morals of the story:

1. a mobile, different parts of which are in the foreground at any given time (and some perhaps hidden), but whose life and role in people's lives involves just that movement; 
2. a mousetrap, tempting people to try to fix its meaning and then challenging that meaning with some other part which just doesn't fit - a little naughty, perhaps, for a book that demands that we make a book of it! 

1. the "patience of Job" shouldn't be thought to refer only to the Job of the frame story, but to all of the book, showing that "patience" doesn't exclude protest; 
2. the importance of Job's friends - but that you know! 

I'm not sure why this proved my focus (there were, of course, cameos from Jerome to the Midrash to Aquinas to Calvin to Simone Weil to contemporary interpreters like Zuckerman and Newsom); people usually ask for my reading of Job but I usually change the subject. Maybe in the non-academic setting it's easier to own one's voice.

And at "Job in Long Beach," stories of real devastation (far more than we heard in Red Hook): houses, cars, boats lost, and the terrifying sound of a dislodged wooden deck knocking farther and farther into your house with each wave as you cower upstairs. These people have been struggling daily for the last year, some still living with family far away or in substandard rental apartments, frustrated by insurance and other bureaucracies, but also moved by strangers' outpouring of care from the time of Sandy on. For many, the last year has brought new hardships - family members diagnosed with cancer, deaths in the family - and many recounted the moments when they'd felt like Job. (One told of a man behind her in the line for gas who, when her car couldn't make the curve, rolled his eyes and looked heavenward and said, loudly, "Really?!" to which she replied "You tell him!") Many can't trust the ocean, their
erstwhile friend. Ever expecting the next devastating storm, some are still afraid to put things away.

But the reflection which really blew me away came from a rabbi who works in health and human services. Job is different from her clients, she said, because he knows he's innocent. But we mortals are not, all of us are flawed. We all have histories. And when terrible things happen, these histories come back. We wonder if it's because of particular things we did. "We live not just today's traumas." This was a revelation to me - something that makes perfect sense when stated this way, but something I'd not heard anywhere else. (And of course even Job, with a little help from his friends, is doing this, too.) I should add that the Long Beach community is home to many children of Holocaust survivors. The rabbi observed that for survivors she worked with, Sandy brought all that back, too: "Did I fail there too?" People were "overwhelmed, almost to the point of cursing the day they were born."    (Above picture from here)

Bryan, the director and moderator, barely had to ask people to talk about the story of Job. It happened by itself, and not just the woman who said she'd read Job "at least eleven times" since superstorm Sandy. The Book of Job is part of the culture of this community, offering recognition as much as - perhaps more than - comfort. Nobody's waiting for twice the flocks and a new lineup of children. This is very simplistic, said one octogenarian, but the way to move on is to put one foot in front of the other. "Where there's life there's hope," she added.

Again, what a humbling honor to be present for the discussion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Another gnomic message, this one West 12 Street...

Skilful means

I think I've got a socko start for "Buddhism and Modern Thought." We'll begin with Bertolt Brecht's 1931-32 poem "The Buddha's Parable of the Burning House," which is an incomplete memory of a famous upāya parable in the Lotus Sutra. So next we'll look briefly at that section of the Lotus, which, conveniently, introduces the great (mahāyāna) and lesser vehicles (hinayāna) - the latter not a term used by the people so designated, of course! Beyond the politics of Buddhist namings, I can also introduce the termnavayāna (new vehicle), used by Ambedkar for his new Buddhism and also used by some people for Western Buddhism. But that's not all! I'll tell the class that the Lotus Sutra was the first translation by the man who coined the word "Buddhism" in 1844, Eugène Burnouf. And then, finally, we'll watch a video of a 2011 performance by Theaster Gates and the Blind Monks of Mississippi which goes from an (invented) African-American slave work song to a chanting of the name of the Lotus Sutra, the central practice of Soka Gakkai, a Nichiren-based lay movement started in Japan in 1930 and currently the most widespread of Buddhisms among Americans of color.

A lot - indeed much too much. But that's the point. My task is to convince students it's worth spending a semester learning more!

(Image of the Buddha delivering the parable of the burning house is from Dunhuang.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Open for business!

The University Center is officially open - despite the hole in the street!
On a bright winter's day, much of it is overflowing with light. Only disappointment was the room I'm to be teaching in, which is not only windowless but mislabeled by our famous "wayfinding" system: this doorway does not, in fact, lead to room 202, which is in another direction and unlabeled.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Another polar vortex, bringing snow and temps well below freezing!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snowy landscapes of the city

Snow snow snow, all day long! 

Tour of the provinces

My new course, "Buddhism and Modern Thought," is turning into something quite different from what I originally envisioned. A very good thing! When I proposed it, I was thinking of it primarily as yet another western intellectual history class, but I've been finding material that's allowing me to present the western reception of Buddhism as it should be presented: as ancillary, a provincial development, even in modernity - which I'm not assuming is western or westernizing but multiple. And thanks in large part to bell hooks' visit to The New School last Fall, "western Buddhism" itself has been wrested from the hands of white male Buddhist teachers. It all lets me try to do something I was very excited about a few years ago - imagine a history of modern thought (or of thought, for that matter) that's not Eurocentric.

How do I propose to do it? I'm still moving pieces around, but the current arc of the course starts with Marilyn Ivy's essay "Modernity" from Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism, then looks quickly at the western construction of the Buddha from Donald Lopez' The Scientific Buddha: His Short & Happy Life and Philip Almond's British Discovery of Buddhism, and then nibbles on some Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. But that'll all be finished by the end of week 3.

Next, we read Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught, an introduction to Buddhism written in 1959 by a Sri Lankan scholar and still very widely used in US universities (I read it when I first studied Buddhism). Rahula argues that Buddhism - he focuses on Theravada - isn't religion at all, but in its rational and experimental nature better understood as science, psychology. We'll appreciate Walpola's skillful playing of western yearnings along with his account of the dhamma.

But then we turn to Buddhist modernisms in Asia - I'll have students give presentations here - starting with Sri Lanka, followed by Japan, Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan, and Tibet and Nepal (sequence determined not by Buddhist history but loosely by the stages of western Buddhist encounter). Students will read the relevant sections from Buddhism in World Cultures (ed. Stephen Berkwitz) and Buddhism and the Modern World (ed. David McMahan), so we'll have a rich and complicated understanding of the emergence of different forms of Buddhist practice and thought in the wake of colonialism, modern science, nationalism, globalization. Among other things, we'll find out that Walpola Rahula was hugely important in his native Sri Lanka, arguing, fatefully, that monks should be involved in politics.

Only then will we return to the western reception and construction of Buddhism, reading David McMahan's Making of Buddhist Modernism. (Actually I think we'll first read an essay by Richard Payne about how important "modern occultism" was both for modern constructions of religion and for Buddhism in American self-help culture.) Not only will it be clear that Buddhism wasn't waiting around for modern western people to revivify it - piles of dusty tomes neglected by ritualistic orientals - but I hope we'll be able to see what western Buddhologists and Buddhists have been doing as part of larger global trends. (Maybe even larger trends understood in Buddhist terms?! David Loy!)

Then it gets a little unclear... I want to tailor the class to the interests of the intrepid dozen willing to sign up for a course that meets at 8 on a Monday morning, and each student will have a research project s/he'll be giving progress reports about through the second half of the semester. If they want Henry Steel Olcott or Hermann Hesse or D. T. Suzuki or Jack Kerouac or John Cage or Chögyam Trungpa or Derek Parfit or Wittgenstein and Nagarjuna or Sharon Salzberg or Marcus Boon or Pema Chödrön or "The Matrix" or DharmaPunk or JuBus or even speculative non-Buddhism, they'll get it (well, some). But we will certainly also read some of The Buddha and his Dhamma by Dr. Ambedkar (who brought Buddhism back to India as the religion of the Dalit movement), some Alice Walker (probably this talk), and Hsiao-Lan Hu's This-Worldly Nibbana (which you've heard me enthuse about before).

What will it all add up to? We'll see - but I'm confident it'll be good. That said, it's still several days until we start; things might yet shift around! And how do I begin? I usually like to use the time of the first class for a film, but I'm open to a series of videos. Maybe Ambedkar?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lend me a tenor

Well, I guess we don't know what we don't know. Until yesterday, I'd thought of myself as a baritone, and lustily sang base (except for the notes lower than low G) in church - ours is a singing congregation! But yesterday my friend M, a trained singer whom I'd asked for some singing pointers (China will be a long series of command performances, I'm told), asked if I'd ever sung tenor. Not as long as I can remember! But it turns out our church choir is low on tenors, and in particular needed a tenor for today's service, so I tried singing the tenor line on the week's hymns. With the exception of "Lift every voice and sing," which is stratospheric the way Beethoven's 9th is, I managed. It even felt good!

So I came to the choir rehearsal before church today and rehearsed as one of two tenors. The choir director thinks me a tenor, too: he listens for what notes a singer can project, and indeed, the tenor (II) range is where I have volume. So I got to be in the choir today (vested!), and even got to sing the melody for a favorite hymn.

I didn't sing that well. The higher notes really need to pressed out, like a trumpet. And finding your note isn't as easy as for a base (for whom it's the lowest note, often the key signature, almost always played by the organist's feet). The tenor is there in the thick of things, neither the melody nor the key, but harmonizing, often to a little melody of your own. It took me back to when I arrived at Oxford and auditioned for the college choir. I didn't get in, at least in part because I wasn't able to sing the middle note in various tone clusters. Guess I was a tenor then, too! (Instead I joined the no-audition Kodaly Choir, but that was my last choral experience.) I'm missing church for the next several Sundays (Job gigs at other churches) but will start trying the tenor line on for size.

Friday, January 17, 2014

One smart phone

Well, this Chinese thing is going to be a lot of work. But it's going to be so much easier than learning Japanese was. Not just because I know Japanese (a mixed blessing, I understand - it may hinder as well as help) but because that was 1987 and this is 2013. You used to need three fat dictionaries - English to  Japanese, Japanese to English, and a character dictionary, for looking up unknown characters (by radical, number of strokes or pronunciation) and compounds. Then handheld electronic dictionaries appeared, rendering all the books obsolete. And now (I'm assuming parallel development for Chinese) smart phones apps like Pleco do things one couldn't have dreamed of back then. Not only are there the translating dictionaries, you can input words in Roman letters or by radicals and strokes; you can also draw them! Or scan with the phone's camera! Once captured - the dictionary includes many proper names too (and this is just the free version!) - there are sample sentences; you can also listen to the word pronounced. (I think you can input vocally, too - I'll try when I'm a little more confident on my tones!) And then add it to your flashcards. Hours of constructive fun await!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

University Center for dummies

Some fashion students are being allowed early into the new University Center. One of the first ones to go smuggled me in for a peek!
You'll recognize some of those figures from the old fashion building; this reincarnation makes a nice inversion of last month's postmortem shots.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

QC, the book!

Remember the Queer Christianities conference? Remember we got a contract to build a book around it? The book is done - well, submitted!!

These are the first fifteen of three hundred pages, comprising seventeen fantastic essays and an introduction (my contribution). I've been told that putting together a collection like this is a nightmare - it's as strong only as its weakest link, as fast as its slowest part - comparable for misery only with the ordeal of sharing the editing of something with good friends, but our experience has been nothing like that. Working together on this truly was a pleasure, and our contributors have been diligent and understanding - not to mention that they've written some amazing stuff! If the NYU Press editor likes the way it looks, the book may see the light of day by Fall! Fab!!

Muddy signature

There was a water main break last night, at Fifth Avenue and 13th Street - a pipe from 1877 burst. It was causing havoc on the subway system during rush hour, I heard on the radio, affecting B, C, D, E, F, J, M and N trains, but my first thought of course was "Fifth Avenue and 13th? That's where the new University Center is!" Indeed it is, and scheduled to be festively opened to the world next weekend with performances in its partly subterranean auditorium. By the time I checked it out, mid-afternoon, water was still pouring down 13th Street. A huge hole gaped from the middle of the intersection. Buildings all around are affected. And come evening nothing much had changed, though the university did send out an announcement to the effect that damage is extensive but under control, and that all events and classes but those planned for the subterranean level will go on as planned when the new semester begins January 27th.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

你好!我叫 Mark . . .

A new place in my personal geography of New York - the China Institute on East 65th Street, where I had my first intensive Chinese language lesson this morning. Our class has five people, none of us quite as complete beginners as we say (I know lots of Chinese characters from Japanese, for instance), but it's going to be a heroic slog. Well before the end of our three hours I was overwhelmed by the strange new set of consonants and vowels - the reason I've not been able to "get" the tones before, as some of the consonants seem polysyllabic, and many of the vowels diphthongs - which I lack the muscles to pronounce as well as the hearing practice to make out. But somehow by the end of class we were speaking simple sentences, like:
你好!我叫 Mark,是美国人。Hello! My name is Mark, I'm American. 

Monday, January 13, 2014


One of the pleasant duties on return home is restocking the larder. Since New York is always changing, it also gives one a chance to take stock of changes. So walking to school from Porto Rico Coffee (without whose French Sumatra I would be lost), I noticed that Gray's Papaya on 8th Street is closed. I haven't been in ages, but the memory of its tasty hot dogs often made me regret my vegetarianism.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Post-consumer waste

All over the city, piles of Christmas tree carcasses.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Time I Know

Ahh, home sweet home! Celebrated being back in beautiful Brooklyn by going to the dress rehearsal of a colleague's dance piece at Gowanus Loft. The piece was great: catch a performance next weekend! The post- industrial view out the window was pretty cool, too!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flyover state

Ever wondered what a spectacular pink sunset looks like from above? I'll admit I hadn't. It's a sight to behold: those clouds are lit up from below!
The flight back to NYC from San Diego takes you across the desert and along the rim of the Grand Canyon before crossing snowy mountains and entering the Great Plains. (The rest is usually just human - exoskeletons of light.) There's a part of myself I rediscover on each such flyover, a part at once lonely and at home as it contemplates geological cornucopiae mutely marking the churning earth below, the elegant  results of millions of years of gently unrelenting erosion on ancient sebeds and newer mountains, the evanescent play of clouds and their shadows - and the hieroglyphics and geometries of human settlement. I've been seeing these wonders for longer than I can remember. How could they not have become part of the way I see the world?
(Apologies for some of the colors on these; a dirty window and hard-to-register reds forced me to use photoshop. As true as I can manage.)