One Gift Turned into Three

A friend just sent me a link to this video. I loved it.

I decided to listen to another one of his other songs. I loved that one too.

Then this video caught my eye. It wasn’t by Keb’Mo’ but I also loved it!

Thanks Vani… for being the person who led me to this string of gifts.

A Weekend of Gifts

Last weekend, was quite a weekend. I felt like I received one gift after another. They weren’t life challenges that many of us often refer to as “another gift from the universe.” While I believe even those gifts are “for my own good” and should be respected, that phrase is often said with an eye roll and a bit of sarcasm. The gifts I’m talking about in this post are the “feel good” kind of gifts.

The weekend series started when I looked at my Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward’s handbook and discovered that all of our plants for the season were supposed to have been planted by March 1. I thought I had until sometime in April. That wasn’t the gift I am talking about either, although I am sure glad I found out about my error when I did.

The first “feel good” gifts came when I wrote my friends Sarva and Gopika and asked if they would help me plant the remainder of the plants… and they both said yes. Sarva was able to set a time for Saturday but Gopika couldn’t come until Sunday. It was my hope that Sarva and I would finish the planting on Saturday so Gopika and I could focus on the other work that needs to be completed before our upcoming March 17 work party.

On Saturday, Sarva and I planted 40 shrubs and 6 ground covers. We also placed burlap around most of the newly planted items. By the end, we were both exhausted, but we had finished the planting!

The next day, Gopika and I finished 1) writing the name of each plant on a popsicle stick and putting in the ground near the plant, 2) making sure a blue and white checkered tape and a flower that had been blessed during a ritual had been placed on or near every plant and 3) removing the pink flags that had marked the spot where the shrub or ground cover was to be planted. (The blue and white tape means that the item was planted during the 2017-2018 planting season.)

Our next step will be to cover all of the exposed burlap with wood chip mulch on March 17.

I received the second set of gifts when I kept an appointment with my auto mechanic. He was at the front counter talking with friends when I arrived. One of the friends had an interesting item in his hand. I asked if it was for a steering wheel and he said yes. A few minutes later he gave it to me, saying he would put it on the wheel. I wasn’t sure I wanted it, but it felt right to accept it, so I did. The friends had trouble stretching it onto the wheel but they finally got it on.

I had mixed feelings about the gift. It seemed gaudy and I don’t like drawing attention to myself. And as I drove with it on the wheel, I also became concerned that it added too much width to the steering wheel to be comfortable. During the days that followed, I discovered that the cover makes it easier to spot my car from a distance and it is so nice to not have to touch a cold wheel when I get into the car during freezing temperatures. I think I will get used to this new form of comfort.

After my mechanic replaced my brake light, he surprised me by saying there would be no charge.  And another auto problem I was having when I had made the appointment on Friday, resolved before I got there. From my perspective, both of those experiences were also gifts.

The third set of gifts started when my neighbor Jason notified me on Friday that a colleague of his had rescued a Douglas Fir tree from a rockery several years back; the tree was now eight-feet tall. She had asked him if he knew of a place where it could be planted. He asked if we could plant it in the Greenbelt restoration site.

We’ve planted so many trees this year that I wasn’t sure I would have a place for it. When I looked around though, I saw a spot in the middle of a grove of maple trees. Those trees are very old and we’ve been focusing on planting trees that will eventually replace them.

Jason said he would bring the tree to the site on Sunday. I considered asking another neighbor, John, to help plant it, but I didn’t do it. As I walked towards the Greenbelt to meet Jason, John walked out of his house. I asked if he would help with the planting and he said yes.

This weekend, I felt as if I had received gifts from Sarva, Gopika, Jason, Jason’s friend, John, my mechanic, the mechanics friends, as well as feel good gifts from “the universe”. My weekend had been both fulfilling and joyful.

(I’m laughing. Minutes after I finished writing this post, I received a notice that went out to the Forest Stewards saying that we can have extra plants if we want them! I’m taking that as another gift as well as an acknowledgement that it was not a problem that I didn’t have everything planted by March 1. Now I need to decide if I want to ask if more sword ferns are available. I believe we have enough of everything else for this planting season, but having more ferns might be nice.)

The Red Rose

This morning, I worked in the Greenbelt for a short time. At one point, I was standing about fifteen feet from the Hanford stairs, which are on the north end of the property. As I glanced towards the stairs, I saw a homeless man whom I haven’t talked to for a year or two. I believe he lives with a few friends in a different part of the Greenbelt, about six blocks from where I was standing.

I used to do a lot of litter pick up in this area and I had talked with him numerous times when he and his friends were hanging out on the stairs. They used to point out places where I could find cans to pick up and sometimes they even saved some for me.

Today, we saw and acknowledged each other at the same time. He started to talk to me but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. He gestured to the planting areas and I told him that we were working to make the land a forest again.

After I answered his question, he handed me a red rose. I was so surprised and had no idea where it came from. It was as if the rose materialized out of thin air. Without a word, he continued walking up  the stairs. What a beautiful way it was to start my day.

A Surprise Gift

On Friday, I spent time working in our Greenbelt restoration site. As I turned to go back home, I heard a loud sound. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was. When I looked ahead of me, I saw a woodpecker pecking at a dead tree. It was unlike any woodpecker I’ve ever seen. One of the remarkable things about it was that it looked huge.

I used the burst setting on my phone camera and was able to capture a shot of it in the action of pecking.

I wish I had thought to take a video so you could hear the loud sound it made when it was pecking.

Later, I learned that it was a Pileated woodpecker. which is similar in size to a crow. One of their most notable features is their bright red crest. The males have a red streak on their cheek, so the one I saw must have been a female.

These birds are often found around dead trees, foraging for carpenter ants. They are known for the triangle shape holes they create in trees, holes that become habitat to “swifts, owls, ducks, bats, and pine martens.”

Pileated woodpeckers  apparently have bright white underwings. I hope that someday I have the opportunity to see one in flight!



Pileated Woodpecker


Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 12-18, 2016

Amme Yi Jivende

Last week, I wrote about hearing one of Amma’s swamis singing a song titled Amme Yi Jivende. I shared about a time in the early 90’s when I heard a different swami sing the same song. At that time, I was sleeping on a devotee’s roof during a program in Trivandrum. The house was near the Trivandrum ashram and the music filled the late night air. I felt as if the Swami was singing a lullaby to the infant part of me.

The day after I heard it sung this year, I walked by the auditorium when a group of brahmacharinis (female monks) were singing the very same song. I haven’t heard that song for many years so to  have it sung in my presence twice in two days was quite a surprise. The tune has run through my mind numerous times since then.

Indian religions recognize both God and the Goddess. The words of Amme Yi Jivende are directed to the Goddess. As I mentioned above, the tune is very much like a lullaby and the sound still sooths the infant part of me… and there are times older parts of me relate to the lyrics.

O Mother of the Universe, there is no one other than you who can wipe the tears off this face, who can liberate this soul. Coming to your feet, this soul realizes itself.

Alas! This mind is even now wallowing in sorrow having lost its way in Maya before finding its Goal. Please bless me that I shall forever hold you in a tight embrace with pure devotion.

In this fearsome ocean of birth and death, the only refuge is your lotus feet. Won’t you come and sprinkle a little of the nectar of love on this smouldering self?

This little infant spends every single moment meditating on your form. Please do not keep me waiting any more– draw me close to you and bestow inner tranquility to this tortured soul.

I wish I could share a soundtrack with you but I don’t have a way to do that. If you belong to Spotify you will be able to find it there.

Kapok Tree

In an December 4th post, I shared pictures of two Kapok tree trunks. One I found on the internet; the other tree is in Amritapuri. At the time I wrote the original post, I couldn’t see anything that these trunks had in common.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia


This week, I happened to look at the other side of the Amritapuri tree and this is what I saw:


Even though the two tree trunks are vastly different in size, I can see that their trunks have some commonality.

Rupee update

Money is still a big problem here. The banks won’t give out much cash, if any. The ATM I go to won’t ever dispense more than 2000 rupees a day (about $30), and it is frequently empty.  I went to two ATMs in town one day and they were empty too. The machines may stay empty for days.

If you luck out and are able to get some cash, it may still be difficult to use it because the merchants are often unable to make change. This problem has been going on since November 8th.


It was hot when I arrived at the ashram on November 26. Then the weather turned much cooler. There was even one day when I put on a flannel shirt for a while. Most of the time, though, it has been hot, but not too hot, during the day and cool in the early morning and during the night.


Two days ago, I saw Lakshmi, one of the ashram elephants, for the first time this year. She was walking down the road with her mahouts when I was returning to the ashram after working in the garden.

She had probably been in the courtyard by the auditorium. The mahouts often bring her there at this time of year so that children and adults can feed her bunches of bananas. I fed Lakshmi for the first time two years ago.

The following photos of Lakshmi and Amma were taken in 2011.



This morning, a woman was sketching at the table where I had breakfast. I told her that I thought her drawing was beautiful. When she finished it, she gave it to me!




To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.