If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month

Full Moon photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Cathy Ross

If the moon came out only once a month
people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it
in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice
how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.

And if the moon came out just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one has to work on lunar eve,
travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,
celebrations with champagne and cheese.
Folks would stay awake ’til dawn
to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.

And if the moon came out randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, never knowing
when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,
weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance
of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,
everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,
night events would be canceled,
moon-closure signs posted on the doors.

And if the moon rose but once a century,
ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,
enchanted by its spell. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.
Maybe you will live to see it too.”

But the moon is always with us,
an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,
so no one pays it much attention.

why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if you’d never seen it before,
as if it were a miracle,
as if you had been waiting
all your life.

·    ·    ·

Title poem from If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month, by Cathy Ross (Seattle: Forsythia Press, 2012). Posted here with kind permission of the author.

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Johnny Cash & Global Warming

220px-JohnnyCash1969By Dick Gillett

Heading up to Phinney Ridge the other day on my morning coffee run, I grabbed a Johnny Cash CD as I went out the door. The inimitable, deep voice of this old singer and his wonderfully uncomplicated music flowed from my car’s stereo to the bottom of my soul as he sang “When the Man Comes Around”. This song is chock full of apocalyptic verses from the bible’s Book of Revelation—doom, the end of the world, judgment, good and evil, choice—not a book many people read nowadays, including myself as an ordained minister.

But the pathos of Cash’s music took me immediately back to the conference I’d returned from last week. Called “Seizing the Moment: Toward an Alternative Civilization”, this Pomona College gathering of over 2000 people from around the world included about 130 participants from the People’s Republic of China. The conference topic was global warming—and what to do about it. The mood was somber, if not downright apocalyptic at times. “We live in the midst of perhaps the greatest crisis the world has known,” warned environmentalist and keynoter Bill McKibben, “and it has come upon us very fast.” He called for a “global grassroots movement” to address the global warming generated by the trillions of tons of carbon dioxide we collectively put into the atmosphere each year.

…on this morning, Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Theologian John Cobb suggested that “it may already be too late” to save the planet.

So it was on this morning, on my way to coffee, that Cash’s apocalyptic music and global warming came together for me.

Despite the seriousness of the conference’s topic and our global situation, determined participants engaged in several dozen workshops over three days, focusing on specific aspects, projects, and models needed to address the huge complexity of a global society that must eventually move from an expanding economy to a “steady state” economy. Could we imagine a society whose ethic would affect sharing with others instead of unlimited consumption and rampant individualism?

By the end of the conference there was hope in the air as well as the hard recognition of the lateness of the hour. Johnny Cash’s song was for me a call—an inspired call to pay attention! Pay attention today to what can and must be done by all of us who share this precious Space Ship Earth.

If you’d like to know more about the conference and its follow up, please visit: www.pandopopulus.com

·    ·    ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. His previous works for our PNA Village blog include, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, “”Generation Nice’ at Herkimer Coffee”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.

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Off the Cushion: The Eternal Care Unit

Chester Arnold, A Hawk’s Attention, 2015. Catharine Clark Gallery.

To what shall I compare
this life of ours?
Even before I can say
it is like a lightning flash
or a dewdrop
it is no more.
Sengai (1750–1837)

By Pamela Gayle White 
(Reblogged from Tricycle.com)

When I was in retreat, death and impermanence—death’s harmonic base—provided the background tone of every practice, from preliminary contemplations to yogas focusing on the dissolution of the elements and aggregates that occurs when we die. For months, maybe years, my beloved retreat master, Gendun Rinpoche, answered virtually all my questions (even the most abstruse) with a laugh and the suggestion that I delve deeper into impermanence.

I’m still burrowing. Here at the hospital, we witness the dark side of impermanence every day. The hemorrhage that floods the brain on the eve of a long-anticipated cruise, the tumble from the ladder, the drive-by shooting. The stillborn twins, the metastatic rampage, the overdose. As chaplains, every day we tend to the dying, their families, and their caregivers—and still it is difficult to fathom that we too are really, truly going to die.

Even in Buddhist circles, traced on the ever-shifting ground of birth, aging, sickness, and death, many of us have neglected to sign advance care directives or even designate someone who can make decisions for us when we are no longer able. My own form needs updating; it awaits somewhere on my to-do list. There’s always tomorrow. Until there isn’t.

At work one evening a nurse asked me to see an elderly woman whose husband’s health had taken a sudden turn for the worse. In intensive care, Claude was sedated as machines ensured continuity of his essential bodily functions. Willie, his careworn wife, broke down and sobbed in my arms; they had been married for six decades, and she wasn’t prepared for widowhood. We prayed.

The following afternoon I approached Claude’s room with a sharp pinch of dread; clearly he would not recover, not even enough to go home to die. But the atmosphere was unexpectedly welcoming, with music playing softly in the background and Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. Claude had transitioned to “comfort care”; he was awake and alert. Gone were most of the tubes, beeps, and bustlings. The priest had been through. Family members were en route.

“I’ve been blessed by the love of a good woman, and I have no doubt where I’m headed,” Claude told me. His serenity and faith enhanced the room’s warm glow. Willie’s grief had become deeper, yet more accepting. Later on, as his family surrounded him in love and song, Claude did go gentle into that good night.

We’ve been programmed for life since beginningless time; programmed to use our perceptions as the building blocks that make existence seem solid.

It was as “good” a death as can be imagined. What made it particularly poignant is that Claude knew he was about to die. Most of the dying people here are too sick to truly take stock of their situation; few are as lucid as Claude was. Some go in gratitude for how their life has blossomed and for the seeds they have left behind; others depart in agony or anger, praying for a miracle of healing to the last breath; yet others, seemingly unaware, simply slip away.

What would it be like to know that death looms? Last autumn, at the Buddhist Contemplative Care Symposium in upstate New York, I attended a workshop during which we were invited to close our eyes and imagine our funeral. The workshop leader asked who was having the hardest time dealing with our own death. I was surfing that one pretty comfortably until I pictured a memorial of sorts and there was Moune, my sweet shaggy dog, whining softly and looking around for me. That’s when my anguish cracked open. My Moune without me.

There was a discussion after the exercise. A young woman said that even though she’d spent a good deal of time contemplating and practicing with the subject, she still couldn’t imagine being dead. Her comment was left dangling, but it had weight. Death is uncharted territory for this unlikely, transitory medley we think of as “me.” We’ve been programmed for life since beginningless time; programmed to use our perceptions as the building blocks that make existence seem solid. How could we imagine not perceiving? How could the world possibly continue to spin without us?

Since it doesn’t make sense, it may seem easier to just pretend it’s not there. The Voldemortish “That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named” aura doesn’t help. Euphemisms abound: pass away, croak, meet one’s maker, bite the dust, shuffle off this mortal coil. . . . A nurse on one of my floors calls it “heading for the ECU: the Eternal Care Unit.”

But it is, inescapably, death. It can be a great relief to embrace the inevitable, to give voice to it, to hold it, and, finally, to leave the mystery unsolved. In The Cancer Journals, the poet Audre Lorde wrote, “What is there possibly left for us to be afraid of, after we have dealt face to face with death and not embraced it? Once I accept the existence of dying as a life process, who can ever have power over me again?”

Naturally, I wonder what it will take for me to be able to die, like Claude, unafraid and in peace. I’m praying that I will be ready, inspired, and awake. That I will not be hampered by too many burdens of regret or unfinished business or important things left unsaid. That curiosity, connection, and gratitude will get me through. Though he died almost two decades ago, I can imagine asking Gendun Rinpoche for advice on how best to prepare for death. And I hear him urging me to reflect on impermanence, now, and laughing.

Pamela Gayle White is a dharma teacher and translator in the Bodhi Path network and a Tricycle contributing editor. She is a chaplain resident at the University of Virginia Medical Center, “on sabbatical” from her regular activities.

Chester Arnold, A Hawk’s Attention, 2015. Oil on linen, 46 x 54 inches. Image courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.

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Keeping Parents Safe from Afar


By Karen Vogel

Looking for a technology solution to keep my 92-year old father safer, I came across the Lively safety watch (http://www.mylively.com/). My dad lives in an independent apartment in a retirement village 1200 miles away. He’s fallen a couple of times where he couldn’t reach a phone or a call button for help. His most recent fall occurred in the shower at night, and he lay on the floor for 14 hours before help arrived (he’s recovering after hospital and rehab care, and he’s fine).

When Dad still lived at home, he tried the Life Alert system but hated how cumbersome it was. The Lively safety watch is discreet, waterproof, and stylish (it looks like a FitBit). It tells the time, tracks his steps, and if he presses the alert button, a nurse calls back immediately. If he can’t answer, three calls are made – one to the building’s front desk which has 24/7 coverage, one to alert me, and one to his neighbor who has a spare key to his apartment.

…my father has embraced the safety watch, doesn’t feel like “big daughter is watching,” and appreciates how this system facilitates his independence.

The safety watch comes with a hub and four small sensors that are placed in strategic areas to track movement: the front door, his pillbox, the medicine cabinet, and the refrigerator. It’s all powered by batteries and an outlet; a computer isn’t required. Lively has a range of 1500 feet, which is more than adequate. As the administrator, I’ve programmed the system to email or text me when there is no movement between certain hours. I access a dashboard to see his daily patterns. This way, I know if he’s left the apartment, shaved, taken his insulin, made his lunch, etc. Dad still has his privacy – there are no cameras, and there are no sensors in the bedroom. I monitor his movement – or lack of movement – from an app on my smart phone or laptop, and I can change the settings remotely.

Most importantly, my father has embraced the safety watch, doesn’t feel like “big daughter is watching,” and appreciates how this system facilitates his independence. He still uses the facility’s safety pendant as a backup. I’ve asked his friends and neighbors if they would wear this kind of watch, and they all answered with a resounding “yes.” No system is perfect. There is always a possibility of an emergency; however my father and I are now better empowered to prevent another crisis. After the initial purchase of the watch ($49), it costs about $30/month, and it’s worth every penny.

I don’t get any commissions from Lively; I’m simply a cheerleader. If a family member is at risk – especially if they live alone – whether they reside at home or in a more structured setting, this personal safety system is worth checking out.

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Playgrounds for Seniors Popping Up in U.S.

senior playground

By Leigh Ann Renzulli
September 2012—Governing.com

Bobby Dinkins admits his idea to build a playground for seniors wasn’t exactly original. “I actually just got the idea [through] Google,” says Dinkins, director of the Boyd Esler Senior and Community Center in Springfield Township, Ohio. “I went online and googled ‘exercise equipment for seniors’ and read about the Hyde Park playground in England. I realized they were really popular in Europe and Asia, but not over here.”

Dinkins is right: Playgrounds designed specifically for aging residents have popped up in England, Finland, Germany and throughout Asia. But the idea is just now taking off in the U.S. The parks feature low-impact exercise equipment designed to promote balance and flexibility, such as elliptical machines, static bikes and body flexors.

After securing $33,500 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the facility, Dinkins opened it last November. “The idea behind the equipment is to get seniors to stay active and to prevent them from falling,” Dinkins says. “Improving balance is important because a fall can be physically and emotionally devastating for seniors. Plus, it’s just fun.”

Read the full article on Governing.com

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Conference update


By Dick Gillett

Opening the Pomona conference on Thursday evening, before a charged-up audience of well over 2000 environmentalists, activists and faith leaders, keynoter Bill McKibben called for a global grass roots movement to end fossil fuel use by 2025. “How about undertaking an effort comparable to the moon shot of 1962?”, he challenged us. McKibben noted that by the evening of the massive 400,000 climate change march in New York City last year, the Rockefeller Fund divested itself of all fossil fuel investments—and this trend is increasing.

Tomorrow I’ll report on what a panel of six low wage workers in my track on “Good Work” had to say about their work, and what it means for present and future global trends.


Plenary sessions will be streamed live online here: (http://original.livestream.com/whiteheadconference)

Videos of yesterday’s plenary speakers are also now available:

Friday’s plenary
(Speakers begin at 26:00)

Saturday’s plenary
(Speakers begin at 21:49)

PDF version of the conference program is available here:


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Seizing An Alternative

By Dick Gillett

Towards an Ecological Civilization

Is Global Warming truly upon us?

Mind-boggling floods in Dallas, killing heat in India, staggering and ongoing drought in California, melting of the polar ice caps, an unusually dry spring here in Washington…Meanwhile, drilling for vast new oil reserves in the stormy waters off the North coast of Alaska just got a green light, even though it’s acknowledged that the burning of fossil fuel contributes enormously to carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

AlternativeStarting today, June 4, a four-day conference titled “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization” convenes at Pomona College in Southern California. It brings together several organizations including religious ones, and is expected to draw 1500 people, including over one hundred delegates from The People’s Republic of China.

Keynoters at the conference are widely recognized experts and advocates, but the conference is chiefly intended to engage attendees to grapple with how “we the people” (and our organizations and governments) are going to make the transition from a “growth-and-pollution” economy to an ecologically sustainable one.

I am privileged to have a very small role as a presenter in two of several dozen workshops offered, on the future of Work in such a transition. As time permits, I will attempt to send short email summaries of the day’s events as I see them.

The conference web site is ctr4process.org/whitehead2015, and conference plenaries (including keynote by Bill McKibben, addresses by Vandana Shiva, Sheri Liao and many others) will be live-streamed.

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Book Review: “Share the Care”

SHARE THE CARE: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who Is Seriously Ill (Revised and Updated), by Cappy Capossela & Sheila Warnock
(Touchstone, 2004)
Share the Care

By Alyssa McFarland

Have you ever needed to provide help to a friend or family member with a serious illness or injury? Did you feel overwhelmed and resentful, and then felt guilty about those feelings, but felt if you didn’t help, no one else would? Have you ever been unable to do things for yourself because of serious illness or injury, and felt worried because relying on random people, busy friends and family was kind of like having holes in your security blanket?

Caregiving groups to the rescue!

The book, Share the Care, is a remarkable achievement. It was written by two women who were part of a caregiving team for a mutual friend who had cancer. They have group caregiving down to a system, and share their system with readers in this book and on their website, sharethecare.org.

Through the power of using the group so that no one burns out, the Share the Care system helps you do everything from navigate the medical maze to fixing up your sick friend’s room. Whether you or your friend has a terminal illness or just need help for a couple of months after hip surgery, the authors have thought through virtually all the various tasks that might need done for an ill person. They provide forms that members can fill out detailing their skills and availability, and explain how to run the initial meeting that gets everyone on board with the concept of sharing the care, and much more.

I’d recommend it to anyone, even if aren’t convinced you’ll ever need it, because it is thought provoking and full of good ideas.


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: (Not currently available)

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780743262682

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/594460.Share_the_Care/

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For an Aging Brain, Looking for Ways to Keep Memory Sharp

Paul Rogers - NYT

Paul Rogers – NYT

By Jane E. Brody
May 11, 2015 —The New York Times Well Blog

With people worldwide living longer, marketers are seizing on every opportunity to sell remedies and devices that they claim can enhance memory and other cognitive functions and perhaps stave off dementia as people age.

Among them are “all-natural” herbal supplements like Luminene, with ingredients that include the antioxidant alpha lipoic acid, the purported brain stimulant ginkgo biloba, and huperzine A, said to increase levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine; brain-training games on computers and smartphones; and all manner of puzzles, including crosswords, sudoku and jigsaw, that give the brain a workout, albeit a sedentary one.

Unfortunately, few such potions and gizmos have been proven to have a meaningful, sustainable benefit beyond lining the pockets of their sellers. Before you invest in them, you’d be wise to look for well-designed, placebo-controlled studies that attest to their ability to promote a youthful memory and other cognitive functions.

Even the widely acclaimed value of doing crossword puzzles has been called into question, beyond its unmistakable benefit to one’s font of miscellaneous knowledge. Although there is some evidence that doing crosswords may help to delay memory decline, Molly Wagster, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging, said they are best done for personal pleasure, not brain health. “People who have done puzzles all their lives have no particular cognitive advantage over anyone else,” she said.

Read the full article in The New York Times

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