Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Hurts

I'm reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and it reinforces a message I find hard to hear. People do things to hurt others, and once the damage has been done- the pain inflicted, the torture experienced- it is too late. Throbbing memories fade and discolor, but the sharpness of the poke, the insult, the dirty deed remains like a stain at the bottom of a coffee cup: brown and scummy. It does not vanish no matter how much we wish to start over, begin again. Every little action matters, affects others, touches lives.

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a little seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: "Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." Similarly he said: "Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel." Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed "by time, fire, or water." Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying from Everyday Mind

Friday, January 25, 2008

birds in yellow

If the sun won't shine, I will increase the hue in Photoshop until a warm yellow light washes through my mind.

Two birds in the sun...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Silence in the World

Mind Numb Me

Claus, a friend from Copenhagen, strongly suggested that I read Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. I was wise to heed his advice. An excerpt of a paragraph from the chapter "Catfish Dawn" describes the silence inside of a Viet Cong death camp.

I, too, have been exploring the sounds of silence in the brutally cold environment of an Iowa winter, nothing compared to a death camp I know, but both climates bring a razor sharp awareness to human mortality and fragile flesh and muscle.

Of his last days in the death camp, Thong remembers the silence most. It was a thick creature that sat on his chest and lodged its fists in his throat. In the Viet Cong prison hut, he heard only his heart.

Andrew X. Pham

Taha on the potty

I wrote the original blog that accompanies this photo in November 2007. At that time, I had problems uploading the photo from my location in Rabat, Morocco, so Taha on the potty is featured in this month's news.

Magic moments of life come to us when we have our eyes open and our cameras at hand. I love this kid even though he could behave like a "complete asshole" on many days- those are Evi's words- but I would have to agree with her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the unaware shot

This was taken on the last day of our desert trek in Morocco in Nov. 2007, when we had tea with Mubarak's family.

Monday, January 21, 2008

a blind pigeon: Buddhist suffering in creative non-fiction

People and Animals: The Blind Leading the Blind

I found this essay in "High Country News," for people who care about the West. (That's what the publication's blurb says anyway.) The personal essays discussing human involvement with nature in that pub are some of my favorites. I've been exploring works of creative non-fiction lately, and appreciate Laura Pritchett’s ambivalence toward suffering. Here's a teaser to help you decide if you want to read on:

My short tenure with a blind pigeon
January 21, 2008 by Laura Pritchett, "High Country News"

There is a blind pigeon - a pigeon born without eyeballs - living in my house, and I’m not very happy about it. It’s my mother’s fault; she has a new habit of adopting these eyeless creatures, which are hatched in the barn rafters at my family’s ranch. When the mama bird is done feeding her brood, she kicks everybody out, and the normal ones fly away to start their normal pigeon life. But this year, several babes have been born with feathers where the eyes should be.

Support Public Radio

I have always loved public radio.

With the purchase of my new iPod, I serendipitously discovered podcasts for “Morning Becomes Eclectic” at KCRW in Santa Monica, California. I am now branching out to explore additional programming at the station.

Here are my favorite music picks that Nic Harcourt, the host of the show, recommended from 2007. Don’t miss the “Once” soundtrack!

1) Jesca Hoop, Kismet (Columbia)
2) Federico Aubele, Panamericana (ESL)
3) Once, Original Soundtrack (Sony) / I LOVE IT.

Supporting your favorite local public radio station financially is a GREAT idea.

KCRW, a community service of Santa Monica College, is Southern California's leading National Public Radio affiliate, featuring an eclectic mix of music, news, information and cultural programming. The station boasts one of the nation's largest arrays of locally- produced, nationally-distributed talk program content. extends the station's profile globally, with three streams featuring web-exclusive content: all music, all news and the live station simulcast, as well as an extensive list of podcasts. The non-commercial broadcast signal reaches 550,000 listeners weekly and is supported by 55,000 member/subscribers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spirituality in Algona, Iowa

The Day I Met Fran in Algona, Iowa

I have been thinking about spirituality in the midst of the brutal cold and wind chill of an Iowa winter. I saw this sign cheering for Jesus in Algona, Iowa and I had to photograph it. As I was putting my camera into its bag, Fran herself approached my car.

Fran firmly grasped my upper arm just below the elbow and began to tell me all of the reasons why she was a Christian. When I finally admitted to her that I prefer the principles of Buddhism to Christianity, she asked me if Buddha shed his blood on the cross for mankind.

That question was not relevant to my own world view, but the intensity in Fran's cloudy 73-year-old eyes and the firm pressure she applied to my upper arm told me that the answer mattered deeply to her.

It was at this moment that I made up an excuse and escaped. I had a dental appointment suddenly. I am still thinking about spirituality.

Note: I used a mosaic filter in Photoshop while working with the Fran's Praise Shop photo.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Iowa Thaw

My soul is telling me that it wants to live in the tropics!


How do you make reservations for an afterlife?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Homo Politicus

Reminder: read this book, "Homo Politicus" by Dana Milbank

Read a review at the NPR site.

Homo Politicus


...all we need to do is unveil our own nature, and we will find an inexhaustible source of wisdom, compassion, and power. It is nothing we need to acquire, from anywhere or anything. It has always been there. Seen in this light, the Buddha-nature requires no additions. One does not have to memorize sutras, recite prayers or accumulate virtues to create it. All one needs to do is unveil it.

-B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Secret Service and The Press: Obama Rally Dec. '07

I enjoy watching the secret service agents and the members of the press doing their jobs at the pre-caucus campaign events just as much as I enjoy hearing the candidates speak about the issues.

Photo by LJ Runkle

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You understand what I am saying??

Now you know why I was distracted from John's political message for most of the afternoon.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle with love and care

More than Edwards

Surprise For My Eyes

I was watching this photographer work at the rally for John Edwards. In fact, I was distracted from John's political message for most of the afternoon.

His hands were smooth. His eyes were sharp, and I thought he was beautiful. I couldn't stop watching him.

The slow and gentle way he removed his fuzzy gray scarf sent chills up my spine, and the way he handled his camera was a joy for this woman to behold.

His presence reminded me to appreciate beauty in this world wherever I find it, including during a campaign speech by John Edwards on a cold and breezy Iowa afternoon in January.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle with love and care

John Edwards in Iowa

His Message

When he arrived, not a hair was out of place. His plan, as I heard it, was to confront the status quo in Washington, fists swinging.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle

John Edwards in Iowa

Cold Caucus Season in Iowa

It was a cold and blistery winter evening when we went to see John Edwards speak in Fort Dodge, Iowa on January 1, 2008. Sun rainbows were hanging in the sky. Elizabeth Edwards introduced her husband, who was running about 25 minutes late.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.