Friday, February 28, 2014

Best in the States


With a canoe and a camera, AP journalists told story of coal ash spill

Congrats to Gerry for winning Best of the States this month with the Associated Press. This story on the coal ash spill in NC has traveled all over the world and opened dialogue about the safety of our water near coal ash dump sites. He has had so many emails about his photos. Sometimes he does get to shoot something besides a sporting event and make a difference! He was interviewed this week for a story on the 
There is also a good AP article about the trip here:

Way to go Ger!!!

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
After a long day of reporting, Michael Biesecker sat by himself at a table at Outback Steakhouse in Danville, Va.
“And they brought me a big glass of water,” said Biesecker, a reporter with the Associated Press, in a phone interview with Poynter. “And I knew the water was drawn and treated from the river, and everyone around me was drinking that water.”
That water, he discovered earlier that day, was thick and dirty with toxic coal ash stored in a coal ash pond that had leaked into the Dan River. Biesecker asked the waitress if she’d heard of the spill. She hadn’t. Hardly anyone had.
I need to tell people what’s going on here, he thought. So he wrote fast at that table, with a salad, a baked potato and a bottle of water nearby.
Outside, a 16-foot Mad River Canoe canoe perched above Biesecker’s Mazda CX-9. Clumps of river mud still stuck to the bottom.

News broke Monday, Feb. 3, of a spill from one of the coal ash ponds on the banks of the Dan River. Duke Energy issued a press release about the incident, “but it really made it seem like it was not a big deal,” Biesecker said.
He called his editor. We need to go up there, he said, and “because it was a spot on the river, I packed a canoe.”
AP reporter Michael Biesecker on the Dan River. (Photo by Michael Biesecker)
That Wednesday, Biesecker met AP photographer Gerry Broome. The two weren’t the only ones on the river bank that day. Environmentalists were coming down to see the damage, too. Biesecker and Broome met with canoe guide Brian Williams, who offered to help the two navigate the water. The three paddled downstream, and pretty soon they saw for themselves the real damage from the coal ash spill.
The riverbank looked like a bathtub with a ring of dirt around it. Both Biesecker and Broome describe it that way. Biesecker pushed his paddle into the river and found ash several inches, if not feet, deep.
“That was when it really started to sink in,” Broome said in a phone interview with Poynter.
Biesecker’s story, which ran Feb. 6, described what they found.
Canoe guide Brian Williams dipped his paddle downstream from where thousands of tons of coal ash has been spewing for days into the Dan River, turning the wooden blade flat to bring up a lump of gray sludge.
On the riverbank, hundreds of workers at a Duke Energy power plant in North Carolina scrambled to plug a hole in a pipe at the bottom of a 27-acre pond where the toxic ash was stored.
Since the leak was first discovered by a security guard Sunday afternoon, Duke estimates up to 82,000 tons of ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water has spilled into the river. Officials at the nation’s largest electricity provider say they cannot provide a timetable for when the leak will be fully contained, though the flow has lessened significantly as the pond has emptied.
AP photographer Gerry Broome on the Dan River. (Photo by Michael Biesecker)
Broome, who shot a photo of a hand covered in sludge left from the spill, said he’s actually gone on much greater adventures for images.
“It was just a peaceful little float,” he said. “But it paid off.”
Since his trip on the Dan River, Broome has gotten calls from other photographers wanting tips on getting similar shots. Other than to just figure it out, he said, be safe is the first tip. Know what you’re doing and where you’re going so you don’t become the story. And know what you’re dealing with legally.
Before they set out onto the river, officials with Duke Energy asked Broome and Biesecker who gave them permission to do so, Broome said. It’s a river, they replied, so no one. But they knew not to stop on Duke Energy property, too.
Those images, Biesecker said, helped move the story along. They showed what was really happening. Biesecker has that same instinct, to go and see and tell. Biesecker, a former Eagle Scout, said that was reinforced by an editor early in his career.
“He would always say, take me there,” he said.
Biesecker, Broome as well as AP reporter Mitch Weiss have done more than take a boat trip onto a dirty river. They’ve continued reporting on the results of the coal ash spill, the state’s lack of enforcement of ground water contamination violations, slap-on-the-wrist settlements and modest fines, and no requirements for Duke Energy to clean up. Biesecker wrote Feb. 19 about 20 subpoenas sent out by federal prosecutors as they widened their investigation following the spill.
Last week, Biesecker covered a press conference where officials walked out.
On Saturday, he and Weiss wrote about the people living in communities that may face similar issues with coal ash dumps.
From inside that canoe, Biesecker and Broome could see for themselves the damage caused by the coal ash spill and the many miles of damage it would continue causing as it moved downstream. And they’re not the only ones reporting on it. On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported on a second ruptured pipe at a coal ash pond on the Dan River. On Monday, National Geographic published a story about the economic impact the spill might have.
On Tuesday, Biesecker headed back to Eden, N.C., and the site of the spill. This time, he left his canoe at home in Durham. He plans to wash it thoroughly before using it again.
Photo by Michael Biesecker

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Guess Who

When I was at Lark and Key this week I picked up a little gift for myself. I guessed three different potters before Sandy told me who made this. Can you guess who the potter is?

I don't buy pottery because of who the potter is like some folks around here, I buy what I like, what speaks to me. This tray spoke to me. Of course almost everything Lark and Key has in the gallery speaks to me, what a beautiful place.

Guess where? I am getting photos everyday from Jamphel. These monks are seeing more of the United States than some of us who live here! In true mom style, I asked where his coat was. Then last night while Gerry was shooting a basketball game he emailed and said he told Jamphel he needed a coat on! Now we wish we had paid more attention to what they had and maybe gotten him a coat. Those thin robes are not suitable for this weather!

I managed to work upstairs on some jewelry yesterday. It felt good to be creating something. Still too cold for my pottery studio but my little upstairs loom and jewelry space is cozy and warm. Having the monks here seems to have informed my work. I was adding little buddha heads and other things that made the necklaces feel very spiritual in nature.

Perhaps these will be prayer necklaces of some sort, a nod to rosaries and malas.....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My extended family

Is this not the most wonderful photo?! Jamphel emailed us today from Virginia to say it was snowing there and I know he is happy because I couldn't keep him in the house when it snowed here!  He sends me emails most days, sometimes with photos, sometimes just a quick hello. How is it that a monk who traveled all the way here from India has become like family to us in such a short time? Life is a wonder......

 This is Geshe Jampha. He is on facebook with Wesley every day, throughout the day. She got a note from him yesterday saying that he misses his family (us) and that he hopes and prays every day to see us again soon. It still amazes me how close we all have become, and I do hope we will see them again soon. They will be in Kentucky in May for six weeks, the final leg of their journey before going back to India and we are hoping to go for a last visit with them. This is a kind and gentle man, he developed a huge crush on Gerry's camera, haha! Gerry let him take some pictures with it and I think he would really like to have a camera of his own. But mostly I think he would like a family. It's sad in a way, these men have so much to give, they would be such wonderful fathers, husbands, grandfathers, but they have dedicated their lives to another path.....
We all miss them terribly.

I get up every morning now and I practice my Tibetan alphabet. I know it pretty well. Now I just need a teacher to help me move on. My pal Laura took me to a Tibetan store in Cary this past weekend and I met the owner, a very sweet man from Tibet who offered to teach me. I just might take him up on it!

I thought I would move on with my blog and end the monk saga until I got the photo from Jamphel, I thought you might like to see it too. So, this will be a nice ending post, and I will try to move on to another subject!

I went to Charlotte today to pick up a few pieces that had been visiting a gallery for a bit too long and brought them back here. Had an email from a very worthy group asking for an auction donation, and how about that, I just happen to have a couple of pieces to choose from!  Karma. Lark and Key has been very good to me, Sandy took me out for a wonderful lunch, and so I will give a little back to someone else. Just as the monks would want it, right?!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Paradox of our Age


We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness;
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet
the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies then ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
but slow digestion;
Tall men but short character;
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.

The 14th Dalai Lama
(This was on the wall hanging Tashi and Jamphel gave us
no truer words....)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Now what?!

Thanks to all of you for coming along on this journey with us through my blog. My stats are way up this month, lots of readers. Thanks also for your wonderful comments and emails. I have been really slack in commenting but I have read your comments and shared them with Wesley and Gerry.  They are most appreciated and enjoyed!!!

Yesterday lunch was just the three of us. We had momos with rice and vegetables and the hottest chili sauce I have ever eaten. Leftovers from our Saturday party.

We received emails from Tashi and Jamphel, Wesley talked with them all day on facebook, they are doing well and have begun the construction of another mandala in Richmond Va. Wesley left for school after supper and it was back to the two of us, me and Gerry. What a quiet house!

My weight watchers meetings taught that it takes 16 days to form a routine. I would agree. I had 15 days with the monks and our mornings were always the same. Now I find myself moving in that new pattern. New routine, new everything.

Wesley is learning the Tibetan alphabet and teaching me. Today my homework is to write my letters. Yesterday we made flashcards and my goal is to be able to recognize the letters of the alphabet by the time Wesley comes back home. Wes loves language and I have no doubt she will be speaking Tibetan smoothly by the end of the year. She can already read some words and knows the alphabet. Ahhhh youth, they are like sponges!

Tahsi left one of his cokes here and I drank it yesterday. I haven't had a coke in years, I forgot how good they are, but not good for you, poison! I drank it anyway, for Tashi :)

I feel like I am back in first grade. Remember the lined paper and the first letter written for you so you could practice your strokes? I'm right back there. The TIbetan letters are beautiful and fun to write. Art in another form. I have a calligraphy marker and it makes writing them much easier.

We spent the day yesterday reflecting on our monks, how funny they were, how unexpected everything was and not at all as we had imagined. Their kindness and compassion will stay with me forever. The last night of their visit, they lingered downstairs after diner, not wanting to leave us, wanting to spend as much time as possible with us. They sang songs to us in Tibetan. I wish you could have all been here for that. Wesley and Gerry played their guitars for them. We shared photos and family stories. Wesley showed them all of the footage she had shot over the week. No TV, no Olympics, just quietly being together. Tashi got tired and went upstairs. Then Gerry. Jamphel did not want to leave us, so Wesley and I stayed up with him late into the night, talking, sharing hopes and dreams and memories.

Jamphel told us that his dream is to learn English very well and he wants to translate important Tibetan books into English and important English books into Tibetan. He told Wesley she would help him. Can you imagine this? Wesley has contacted the monastery headquarters here in the U.S and asked for more time to shoot video. I have no idea where all of this will lead my child, but many doors are opening for her, and her future looks so amazing. I cannot wait to see where her journey will go.

Today my journey leads me upstairs to get my house back to normal! And soon it will be warm and my studio will be calling to me.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Sacred Arts Tour........ Gifts and Goodbye

Fifteen days ago I was busy preparing our house for our guests, two Tibetan monks, coming here to create a peace mandala to raise money for their monastery and promote compassion. I had no idea what to expect and I was a bit nervous with anticipation of what was to come. Little did I know, the two monks that would stay with us would become our family, that we would grow to love them and call them our sons, brothers, and that they would leave a huge empty space in our home with their leaving.

My heart is full this morning as I sit here drinking a cup of coffee, I could not bring myself to make a pot of tea in my now beloved tea pot that served so many cups of tea every morning, every afternoon. All is quiet, there are no showers running, no prayers being chanted, no walking around, no shutting doors. Gerry and Wesley still sleep, and I have no idea what to do with myself. So I am going to sit quietly and enjoy the memories of these two special people that quite likely have changed our lives.

Yesterday before their departure, we all exchanged gifts with one another. One of the gifts from Tashi and Jamphel were handmade books from Tibet. Jamphel wrote us a letter in one of the books and then read it to us at the table over tea. Tears, as you can imagine.  One thing he wrote...the snow that came was a gift from God, so that we could spend important time together. No truer words......

On Jamphel's wrist in this photo are new prayer beads. Earlier in the week, he gave Wesley his beads. She commented to him that she liked them and he took them off and gave them to her. He got the beads when he visited the Dali Llama and they were very special to him. Now she says her prayers with them. They will be with her always. One of the other monks, Tenzin, in return gave Jamphel these beads of sandalwood. You all know my issues with gift giving, but these monks have given it a whole different meaning.

I had photo books made for my three children, memories for them to keep. Jamphel called it his remember book. We were told that many of the gifts they are given, they do not keep, they give away. Not this gift!

They gave Wesley a book of dharma for her to study. Chants written in English and Tibetan so she can learn. We all received another khata. I told Jamphel that I would save mine and when I meet his mother I will give it to her. Tears again.

They also gave us the wall hanging behind Tashi, a lesson on it from the Dali Llama. It is beautiful and it hangs by our kitchen table. I will look at it each time we have a meal here and think of them.
We got Tashi a cover for his new Samsung that he is so proud of. He was very happy.

Geshe Jampha painted this and I got it for Wesley at the closing ceremony. I received an email from the coordinator this morning saying that the party the monks gave us on Saturday night was paid for with money they make selling their own art, not money that is given for the monastery. So in a way the money I gave them for this painting helped them pay for a party they wanted to give to us. A circle complete. Karma.

This was a sad goodbye. There were many tears and I found it hard to even look at Jamphel, the look on his face broke my heart. Twice in one year he has had to say goodbye to a mother. First his mother in Tibet that he had not seen in fifteen years and had a brief three month visit with before he said goodbye again, and now a goodbye with me, who knows when we will see each other again.
And then I turned to see the tears on my own child's face, and my heart broke again. I just held her close as her tears fell.

I hung the khatas in my yoga space on a piece of bamboo. One for Gerry la, one for Wesley la, one for Tracey la and one for our family, including our newest members.

We received many gifts from all of the monks at the ceremony. They gave me and Gerry t-shirts and khatas and a certificate from the monastery. They gave Wesley this Tibetan flag and we flew it in honor of them when they left yesterday. As I took down our American flag I joked that we had become Tibetans, haha!

Last night I received an email from Jamphel with a photo attached. "A ma la (mother), here is my new room, so good, but I miss family". On the bed in the photo was the box of Valentines candy I gave him, his language books we got for him, his robes. Gerry came home one night late after work, he had stopped off and bought a new notebook and pencils for Jamphel. These were also on the bed.

More tears........ what a gift we have been given............ a new journey.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sacred Arts.......... Closing Ceremony

Peace Sand Mandala, Artscenter Carrboro, NC

The closing ceremony for the Peace Sand Mandala was Saturday afternoon. There was a very nice crowd in attendance at the Artscenter and the community showed their support with donations and purchases of merchandise. The monastery will receive over $10,000 for this tour and 2000 monks will be very grateful for the donations. 

Gerry, Wesley and I received Khatas and gifts from the monks. Here we are receiving a blessing from Geshe Jampha. It was a very special ceremony.

The Geshe asked Gerry to photograph the mandala and they would not move it until he arrived to take the photo. Three monks and one volunteer from the Dojo helped him up onto the pedestal they had arranged for him and held him so he wouldn't fall. If only everyone received the media this way. Usually Gerry is being pushed off a pedestal or yelled at by an over zealous security guard. 

HERE is the schedule for the rest of the tour, they are heading for Virginia, Pa. NJ, NY and a few more stops. If they come close to where you are please go and visit, tell Jamphel and Tashi you are my friends!!!!

We said goodbye this morning to our guests. I will share later, we need a minute..................

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sacred Arts...........Deconstruction

Today is the closing ceremony for the Sacred Arts Tour and the Peace Sand Mandala. It is exquisite. I hope that some of you will be able to come and see it. Breathtaking work! The monks worked all day on it yesterday and will finish it early this morning. It has been a formidable challenge to get this mandala constructed. Icy roads forced everyone to stay home for two days, yesterday the ceiling at the Artscenter started to leak and the mandala had to be moved several times, it seemed that one thing after another came up, every day plans changed, we stayed fluid and accepting of the circumstances we could not prevent.

This morning I learned to make Tsampa. This is a staple of the Tibetan diet. Traditional tsampa would be made with yak butter and yak butter tea, don't happen to have that so we settled for some smart balance butter substitute and PJ Tips black tea. Basically you melt the butter into a cup of tea, add barley flour and mix until you have a ball of dough. Add some sugar and it is a sweet bread like food. You pinch off small balls of it and enjoy. It was very tasty. When I was a kid, I would pinch off a piece of bread, roll it into a little ball and eat it, this tastes very much the same. A filling breakfast food, I think it would be great for camping!

Yesterday I gave my kids little boxes of Valentines candy. I am slowly moving away from the commercial gift giving holidays, I get so annoyed, today if I went into Walmart there is a good chance I would see the employees putting out the Easter candy next to the Valentines clearance table. We are being drowned in candy holidays and I'm growing tired of it all. But it was fun to explain why we do this to two monks, and so we had a Valentines Day with them.

Tashi's uncle sent him a Samsung phone yesterday. It was more like Christmas around here than Valentines.  For two days Tashi has said, "I get Samsung, Samsung very good." Last night as soon as he got home, he pulled it out and said, "Samsung!". I wish I could show you how excited he was to get a phone. All of the monks communicate with their phones, it cracks me up to see three or four of them sitting around together, all with their smart phones. Wesley and Jamphel are texting constantly now and that is how we are staying in touch when we need to pick them up or find out what the schedule is. Wes has a Tibetan dictionary on her phone now and can easily translate.

Yesterday I looked out and Gerry had walked around and spelled out goodbye outside the bedrooms the monks are sleeping in....... awww.......... they saw it first thing this morning.

Today we start the process of deconstruction. Deconstruction of the mandala and of the way we have been living for the past two weeks. I told them this morning we would not say goodbye, only say until we see you again. This is the Buddhist way, impermanence, letting go.....

Last night I felt the detachment beginning. I sensed a pulling away, as it should be, it felt right. They did not spend the evening with us watching the Olympics. Tashi took his phone to his room and played with it, Gerry and Jamphel moved photos to Jamphel's hard drive, Wesley wrote, I watched the Olympics sometimes alone, sometimes with someone briefly. Today we go to the ceremony, then the monks are making momos for us, we will all sit down for one last meal together, and then in the morning the van comes for them and they leave for Richmond Va and then other stops along the tour.

One stop is huge. Our monks will offer the opening invocation at the benefit concert for Tibet House at Carnegie Hall. They have no idea how big this is. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, The National, and many others will be performing and my cho chos  (sons) will offer the opening prayers. So proud!

If the tour comes anywhere near you, please go and support the Drepung Gomang Monastery and say hello to my boys!!!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sacred Arts...... Snow again!

I'm having to look at a calendar to know what day it is, read my blog to remember what I did the day before. Wednesday snow, we got six inches of fluffy white snow man building snow. Thursday started with rain that turned into fluffy big snowflakes that added a couple of inches to the layer already there. This is a pretty snow. Today the sun is shining.

Gerry went out early yesterday and shot news photos all day long. We saw one of his photos on NBC news last night, always a bonus for some hard work! Later in the day after work, he took Wesley and Jamphel sledding. They waited patiently all day for him to get home, Jamphel asking every so often, "when Gerry get here?"

When they got back from sledding, Gerry came in. I looked out the window and saw Jamphel rolling this huge ball of snow. There was a Tibetan monk building a snowman in my front yard. Now tell me, how many of you can say these words?!

They worked so hard and built a fine snow man, I came out with a carrot and some tangerines, scarf and hat for the final touches, and ta da we had a Tibetan snowman in our yard!

When the reality of having two monks stay with us finally hit me, I worried about how we would communicate, what would we do with them. What would we eat, how would we act. Never in my wildest imagination would I have come up with all of the things we have done this past two weeks with them! Build a snowman? Are you kidding me?!

I made lunch for us yesterday, running low on provisions thanks to the snow. I refuse to run out to the store when there is a call for milk sandwiches (bread and milk), I am not going out in the midst of all that. Now is the time for creativity in the kitchen. I had mushrooms, bok choy, ramen noodles and some vegetable broth in the freezer. Soup of course! Cooked the mushrooms and bok choy in a little butter, added the broth and four or five pinches of red pepper flakes, they like spicy. Stir in ramen noodles at the last minute. This was one delicious soup! Wesley made a salad. Chopped red and green cabbage, carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, onion, and green apple, a splash of rice wine vinegar, olive oil and red pepper flakes. Also delicious. I baked some bread and we slurped our noodles while the snow fell.

Last night, Jamphel and Tashi offered to cook supper. Wesley helped. Wesley made the noodles and we had what many southerners would have called dumplins, the kind that go with chicken and dumplins. The kind my grandmother made. My daughter is making dumplings!
Basically it was a thick broth from the addition of an egg, yellow pepper, celery, napa cabbage all stir fried, then water and the egg are added, then toss in the noodles and more red pepper flakes. That was it, simple, homemade noodle soup or Thukpa in less than thirty minutes.
It was zshimpo doog!

Today we are going to try and get them to the Artscenter to finish the sand mandala. Tomorrow is the deconstruction ceremony and it isn't even constructed yet! They will have a long day and work into the night. Gerry is off today and we are going to go have breakfast while Wesley joins the monks. Our first day together without the kids in two weeks. What will we talk about? Our kids of course!