Repurposing Plastic Waste

I have been interested in crafting for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite projects was working with a group of Embracing the World volunteers to create beautiful bags and baskets by crocheting and weaving discarded grocery bags, strapping, newspaper wrappers, snack bags and other forms of waste.

Below are photos of some of the items I made during that time in my life. If you click on the gallery you will be able to see what each article was made from.

Here is a more detailed listing for one of the items.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose


The Amazing Kapok Tree


One of the trees in Amritapuri’s Saraswati Garden is a Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) I have learned that these trees can reach a height of  200 feet. My guess is that the one in the Saraswati Garden is 125-150 feet high. It is the tallest tree in the garden.

When I looked for photos of Kapok trees on Wikimedia Commons and Google Images, I saw that the trunk of the trees can be gigantic, such as the one in this photo:

Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

They can also be small like this one in Amritapuri.


I stood by the Kapok tree in the Saraswati Garden and looked up. Notice how the building’s metal roof has been cut away so that it doesn’t impact the tree.


I looked for a place to take a photo that showed both the bottom part of the tree and the part that was above the house.


I still couldn’t see the top of the tree from where I was standing, so I found a different vantage point.



Seed pods, like the one at the top of this post, drop from the tree when they are ready. Inside, there is a substance that is very silky. It also bears resemblance to cotton and wool. Notice the seeds that are scattered throughout the silky material.

A Rainforest Alliance article said this about the Kapok tree:

The majestic kapok tree has many uses for humans. Its wood is lightweight and porous; good for making carvings, coffins and dugout canoes. The silky fibers that disperse the seeds are too small for weaving but make great stuffing for bedding and life preservers. Soaps can be made from the oils in the seeds. Other parts of the giant tree are used as medicines. In ancient times, the Maya believed that the kapok tree stood at the center of the earth.

In Amritapuri, the pod contents are being used to stuff meditation pillows. I look forward to telling the devotees who are working in this garden that the oil in the seeds can be used for making soap and that pillows stuffed with the silky filaments will float!

To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.



Shared on Senior Salon

My Life is in Transition

My new dehydrator.

Over the last few years I have felt myself inching towards retirement. Last month, I set a retirement date of May 31, 2017 but the size of my psychotherapy practice has reduced so much lately that sometimes I feel as if I am already retired. I know that could change, but I don’t know if it will.

This transition time has been very interesting. When my ex-husband had a massive heart attack in 2001, we began to reconnect. Now we are regularly doing things together, such as watching Seahawks games and Dancing with the Stars, and occasionally going together to movies or other events. We have talked about contacting two or three of our friends from our pre-marriage days.

I also have reconnected with Kathie, who was a close friend in the mid-80’s to mid-90’s. I helped her start a blog last year, ChosenPerspectives, so we have that in common in addition to our past history.

I’ve noticed other things that could be related to this transition. Since 2005 or so, I have felt a drive to reduce the number of my belongings. While I have never been much interested in material possessions, I began to give away anything I hadn’t used in the last three years, unless there was some major reason to keep it. Last year, I changed that number to objects that I hadn’t used in the last two years. I also have had an ongoing desire to organize and clean out cupboards, shelves and drawers.

I have had a renewed interest in numerous activities that I enjoyed doing in the past, such as gardening and canning. For about a year, I felt pulled to buy a microscope, an item I loved during my childhood. When I realized that I could add microscopic photos to the nature photography I put on my blog, I bought a microscope and started using it immediately.

I’ve also developed new passions during the last few years. The most important is blogging, which has become a major part of my day-to-day life. As a result of our mutual blogging interest, I have much more contact with my son, who is the person responsible for me starting my blog. (His blog is The Seeker’s Dungeon.) As the result of blogging, I have also developed a passion for photography.

For several years, I have considered learning how to dehydrate vegetables and fruits. Last month, I purchased a dehydrator and started dehydrating bananas, mangoes, plums, tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, cucumbers (probably won’t do that again), and as of yesterday, watermelon. I’ve also felt the urge to start knitting, crocheting, sewing, and possibly folk dancing and going to Dances of Universal Peace, all activities I enjoyed decades ago. These could all be retirement activities.

When I am with Amma, the frequency of the synchronistic events that happen in my life increase dramatically. This summer was no different in that regard. A clear theme emerged in the course of those synchronicities.

The week before Amma arrived in Seattle, I was at my Network Chiropractor’s office when a woman walked out of the treatment room. She looked familiar. I did a quick 20 year age-progression in my mind and then asked if she was the person I thought she was. I was correct. The next week, the same thing happened, in the same place but with a different person. Again, the woman was someone I hadn’t seen since the mid-90’s.

When Amma came to Seattle, I spent the first morning she was here helping a staff member find and go to a dentist. I didn’t walk into the program hall until 1 p.m. As I was walking in, a woman was walking out. She called me by name. When I looked at her, I recognized that she was also someone who had been in my life in the early to mid-90’s. I hadn’t seen her since then and she told me she hadn’t attended one of Amma’s programs during the intervening years. I was amazed by the commonalities between all of these synchronistic experiences.

The most amazing reconnecting events happened just before and during Amma’s Toronto programs. On Father’s Day, I received an email from my brother saying that his son had written a Father’s Day post about our father, i.e. my nephew’s grandfather. Before I tell that story, and the events that followed, let me say that I left home to go to college when I was 17; my brothers were 12 and 14 at that time. I saw them very few times after that. My youngest brother died in 1992. (My children and I did visit him several times between the time he was diagnosed with cancer and the time he died.) I have seen my other brother only three times since 1992, and those visits were brief. We do email each other every now and then.

So back to the story at hand. It was fascinating to read my nephew’s post and to learn about my father from his perspective. Even more fascinating was that I discovered that my nephew and his wife are professional photographers and that my father had also had an interest in photography. My nephew posted some of my father’s photos in his Father’s Day tribute. I knew my father had taken some family pictures but this part of his life was completely unknown to me. It was particularly interesting to me because of my current interest in photography. I was discovering there are things I have in common with my family that I didn’t know anything about.

In his post, my nephew had referred to my father’s military life. Some of what he said was different than my memories. When I checked those things out with my brother, he put together a time line of my father’s career. There was information in it that I didn’t know, and I knew some things that he wasn’t aware of. We wrote back and forth over the next few days. At one point, he added his two sons to the email exchange, so I added my son and daughter. All of us made a comment or two on the joint exchange and then the four cousins wrote each other separately. This was the first conversations they had ever had with each other. I marveled at the miracle that was unfolding.

Over the next week or so, my brother and I continued emailing each other about our childhood memories. He mentioned that he thought our father had gifted us with a love of music, books, education, hard work and the desire to do things right. I believe we also learned the value of hard work and education from our mother and even more important, the value of being in service to others.

I still don’t know my surviving brother well but over the years I have learned that we share some of the same political beliefs. Recently, I learned that we are both introverts and have similar thoughts about some religious issues. Since he is a landscape architect I assume we share a love of nature.

While I was pondering all of these commonalities, I realized that my current passion about nature is something I have in common with my youngest brother, even though we didn’t have that focus at the same time.  His room, both as a teenager and a young adult, was always filled with injured birds and other animals he had rescued and was nursing back to health. I remember visiting him before he married. At that time, he was raising snakes in his room. I will never forget this piece he wrote just prior to his death at age 39:

I am very sad that people seem to see so little of the world around them. I can’t walk outside without seeing the beauty of our created world, from the rainbow in a line of earthworm slime, to another visible ring on Jupiter. We have been given this magnificent world to study and enjoy in limitless detail at any level, microscopic to cosmic. Even though I have enough things to interest me another 10 lifetimes, I must take solace in knowing that, at least compared to others, I’ve had much more than my share even in half a life time..

As I approach retirement, I am grateful that a natural transition seems to be occurring. I am reconnecting with my past in many different ways. I have no doubt that I will have enough activities that I am passionate about to keep me occupied for years to come. The unanswered question that is most up for me now concerns where I will ultimately live: “Will I move to India?” “Will I live in one of Amma’s U.S. Centers?” ” Will I continue to live in my own house in Seattle?” Those answers, and the answers to many other questions, are yet to be revealed. At this moment, there is no need for me to know the future. I know I will know what I need to know when the time is right!


cropped-senior-salon  Senior Salon

Weekly Photo Challenge: Alphabet

In the early to mid 90’s, I made a needlepoint piece to frame and put in Amma‘s room the next time she offered a retreat near Seattle.  It consisted of a note that said “Amma, may each day we become more like you” and then listed the names of many of the local satsang members. It was written in Amma’s language, Malayalam!

At the end of the next retreat, we discovered that Amma had blessed each of us by putting some sandlewood paste next to our names.

The handiwork is now hanging at the site of our future Center.





Crocheted Afghans for the Homeless

In 2004, Seattle Amma satsang members joined together to make crocheted afghans for men and women who were moving from the streets into transitional housing.  The afghans were all made from scrap yarn.  Each of us crocheted as many squares as possible and then we mixed and matched the squares to create the beautiful blankets.

Here are pictures of some of the afghans we made:

This project was inspired by a group called Warm Up America.

Making Crocheted and Woven Items from Trash

In my young adult years, I loved to knit and crochet. I remember making blankets, sweaters and vests. Decades later I worked with a group of Amma devotees knitting and crocheting hats and scarves for Seattle’s homeless.  We also crocheted quilts for poor women who were moving from the street to transitional housing.

In 2007 or 2008, we started crocheting purses, hats, bags, and other items from materials that would normally be thrown into the garbage.  Some of the trash could also be woven into baskets.  By making crafts such as these, we could, in a small way, reduce the amount of garbage going into a landfill and polluting the earth.  Below you can see pictures of some of the items I made during that time.  (If you hover your cursor over a picture, you will be able to see what the item was made from.  If you click on any of the pictures, they will become a slide show.) Continue reading “Making Crocheted and Woven Items from Trash”