Category Archives: The World of Nature

In which I am pursued by a hungry blue heron

In recent years, this heron (or maybe several, but I’ve always seen just one at a time) has regularly hung out by the koi pond in Richmond’s Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Visitors pay their quarter and toss in a handful of pellets, the fish surface for their breakfast, et voila: the heron breakfasts, too.  Herons are usually quite shy, but this one is now savvy enough to stay put when a visitor appears with pellets, and today it got quite close and followed me around. I cleverly threw my pellets on the opposite side of the path from where the heron was poised to strike, so it had to go back and forth, which is a slow process for a heron on foot, and the only breakfast served while I was there was to the koi.

As a Buddhist, I feel I can’t prefer fish over herons or vice versa–they all have an equal desire to live and an equal need to sustain themselves. But I always try to err on the side of not contributing to anyone’s immediate peril.

heron lgbg 7-1-17

Cultivating bat-quanimity

Equanimity is a quality of our Buddha nature, along with love, compassion, and joy—something we all possess in our innermost being, though sometimes we have to work hard to locate it underneath the surface turbulence. The word equanimity in English comes from the Latin aequus: equal or even, plus animus: mind, spirit, character. It is defined as calmness of mind; composure, especially under tension or strain; or evenness of temper. Among the dictionary synonyms: composure, calm, peace, poise, serenity, tranquility, coolness, imperturbability. You get the picture.

I’ve discovered this week that an excellent test of equanimity is the sudden appearance of a bat in one’s home.

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All sound is the sound of mantra: Locust Grove cascade and PTC cicadas

Since the local 17-year cicadas are mostly hidden in the obviously teeming woods around the PTC perimeter, I decided to stop in today at Locust Grove, the Samuel Morse estate on the Hudson River about 15 minutes up Route 9. Not a single cicada to be seen or heard. OK, so maybe it’s named after the trees.

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All sound is the sound of mantra: 17-year cicadas June 2

The 17-year cicadas, last seen here in 1996, are not having an easy time of it.  After waiting 17 years underground to emerge for their brief, glorious moment in the sunlight and air, they were delayed by a long, cool spring. When they finally started to come out during the two-week Saka Dawa nyungne retreat in May, a blast of cold weather halted them in their tracks. But at last, in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave this week, they are emerging in numbers, and their eerie hum grows louder every day. As of today, we can hear them throughout the monastery grounds.

All sound is the sound of mantra: cicadas June 2, 2013

(High sound volume recommended)

cicada and begonia June 2 2013

The constant hum of the cicadas reminds me of this meditation instruction from Chamgon Tai Situ Rinpoche:

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All sound is the sound of mantra: frog chorus and ballet

At Mapleknoll Marsh, the trick to spotting frogs is to eavesdrop a bit at the entry, then make your way in slow motion onto the boardwalk just to where you can survey the water surface. Yesterday morning I spotted nine frogs, though quite a few splashes and shrieks informed me that my presence was detected by many others. I have found that while most frogs dive underwater before I’m even close, others seem impervious to my presence, even if I go out of my way to get their attention. Two tiny videos below: in the first one, a chorus of green frogs (high twang) and bullfrogs (deep rrrrr) from the marsh entrance; in the second, the camera movement is me trying to get some action.

Mapleknoll Marsh frog chorus

Mapleknoll Marsh frog ballet

(High volume setting recommended.)

Frogs on logs in Mapleknoll Marsh, first heat wave, May 30, 2013


Five minutes from the monastery

Unlike the rest of Bowdoin Park, Mapleknoll Marsh, which is tucked into its northeastern corner, seems to be largely–if not entirely–unmaintained. The boardwalk is sound but fraying, and tall reeds encroach upon it and even grow up through the boards. Very few visitors seem to find it, though I did encounter a birdwatcher recently, and on another occasion a young couple shrieking with delight as they teased a frog with a dried reed. (The frog, apparently thinking the movement of the reed indicated food, kept jumping and trying to bite it)

Mapleknoll Marsh 2013


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All sound is the sound of mantra: Saka Dawa 2013

These short videos are from Mapleknoll Marsh, a tiny pond in Bowdoin Park a mere five-minute walk from the end of the PTC driveway along Sheafe Road. The videos were made in late spring during Saka Dawa, the most sacred month of our Buddhist calendar, during which Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have been born, attained enlightenment, and passed into nirvana, many centuries ago. As I write this, we have just passed the full moon of Saka Dawa, the culmination of the month’s magnfication of merit, and we still have two weeks to go before the new moon, when it gives way to the next Tibetan month.

In the videos, redwing blackbirds, a variety of frogs, Sheafe Road traffic, and even, faintly, the bells of Mount Alvernia (our Franciscan Monastery neighbor), along with various unidentified participants, join in the chorus of mani’s celebrating this sacred time.

Pond, bullfrog

Reeds, redwing

Redwing, Mount Alvernia (faint)


(High sound volume is recommended.)