Archive | July, 2014

An Email from the Past

27 Jul

I just accidentally opened an old email from my dad. It’s from April. It was a reply to my gushing email about seeing Jimmy Carter at Powell’s.

I had written:

Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2014 20:57:03 -0700 From: Subject: Jimmy Carter’s Signing at Powell’s Books

 Text messages to a friend while I was at Powell’s City of Books today:

Of course the parking lot is full.

 I’m in the Whole Foods parking lot. There must be a way out.

 I’ve never seen Powell’s this crowded.

 This is crazy! A staff member is holding a sign that says “End of Line.”

[A customer commented, “Oh, good, I thought it said ‘End of the World.’”]

 Cops in uniforms. The secret service. This is intense.

 I ended up in oops the front of the Jimmy Carter line and asked Kevin Sampsell where we purchase books. They’re on a rack by the info desk.

 Crap, they’re no longer taking any more in line for the signing, and I just purchased the book.

 The line has reached its max and they’re no longer allowing people in the line. The first person who announced it said it depends on timing, and there’s a possibility that they might let more in.

 It’s too busy to do it now, but maybe I can return the unsigned book and get a signed one, assuming he signs every copy like most authors. Ugh, I should have come here at noon.

 False warning: I got to the end of the line, and they still had plenty of tickets! That stern cashier can bite me.

Oh, my, I’m standing in line in the feminism section. Drool, drool.


After my part of the line stood in the feminism and gender studies aisle for quite a while—with me browsing enthusiastically—the line suddenly moved forward. We wound through many, many aisles of books, following blue lines of tape on the concrete floor. This took place in several rooms and up two staircases. I happened to pause next to a shelf labeled “Jimmy Carter,” which featured books by and about him. At another aisle, I paused by a book called Make Congress Your Bitch, which was about getting Congress to actually represent the people. I don’t know whether I was in the politics section or the humor section.

Up in the Pearl Room, the line continued winding and winding through the stacks. I saw a man in a suit who was obviously a secret serviceman. He eyed people in line, but he didn’t search our bags. Finally, the line approached a line of red-shirted Powell’s staff and a long table, all roped off from customers.

 Jimmy Carter sat at the long table and kept signing bright blue books.

The book, by the way, is A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. I handed my books to a Powell’s employee. Several employees passed the books along till Jimmy Carter took them and signed them. Then he passed them to another employee on his right, and several Powell’s employees passed the books down till they returned them to me.

 Secret servicemen hovered around not looking particularly secret. Customers stood holding up their cameras (mostly smart phones) inside a blue box [not a TARDIS] taped onto the floor. We were allowed one photo each, and a staff member assured us that Powell’s will have photos online. I stood in the box, zoomed in as far as I could, and got a photo. I then moved on. I paused on a landing, where I took a picture of the big blue sign announcing the book signing.


Here was my dad’s reply, from April 1:

 “Sounds cool. I hope someone interesting is there when I visit you, provided my doctors will let me travel again.  I have to see the cardiologist April 17 and the cancer doctor May 28.”


There was no next visit. He died before May 28.

Marketing a book…and struggling with technology

8 Jul

Now that I’ve self-published Every Day is Magical: a Buddhist Pilgrimage in India and Nepal (, I must market it. I’ve been promoting the book on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I emailed information to friends and former traveling companions, and of course to the people in charge of the pilgrimage, In the Footsteps of the Buddha ( I can handle those aspects of technology: social media and email. A demented printer, on the other hand, is a different story.

I spent several hours using InDesign to create fliers and bookmarks for Every Day is Magical. I rushed out to Office Depot and bought a package of bright yellow cardstock (the color of the book’s cover). I brought the cardstock home and put several sheets into the demented printer. It jammed. There doesn’t appear to be any reason for it to jam—unless pure spit is a reason. This printer is maybe three months old and appears to be quite sophisticated. It has animated instructions on how to supposedly un-jam the printer…but the directions are completely at odds with reality.

 Meanwhile, Portland is having a heat wave obviously caused by climate change. Struggling with a demented printer in an apartment that of course doesn’t have air conditioning has resulted in my sweating a great deal and therefore becoming that much more irritated.

I’m finally starting to get the hang of my new laptop computer. It’s been a vicious struggle of several weeks. Not only have I suddenly switched from Windows 7 to Windows 8—drastically different technology—but it’s also a touch screen.

Now if only I could find the external hard drive. I know where all my tiny flash drives are—it’s the relatively large and heavy external hard drive that has vanished in thin air.

 Technology is irritating. Yet I need it for my writing career. Otherwise, I’d probably settle for sketchpads and notebooks.

My travel memoir is published!

5 Jul

Every Day is Magical: a Buddhist Pilgrimage in India and Nepal is now available on


EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL: A BUDDHIST PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA AND NEPAL is my memoir of traveling in northern India and Lumbini, Nepal, visiting places significant to the historic Buddha’s life. The book combines vivid descriptions of the locales and Indian culture, the Buddha’s life and times, and my spiritual progress, in addition to my reactions to my surroundings and Indian society with all its complexities and contradictions.


East meets west, modern feminism meets ancient tradition, and a twenty-first century meditator meets the historic Buddha, in EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL. I arrived in India knowing very little about the culture, not even the phenomena of squatting toilets or bucket baths; climbed onto a boat on the Ganges and placed an offering—a banana leaf plate holding a candle and marigolds—into the river; and rode an elephant despite my intense fear of heights. I circumambulated the Bodhi Tree while listening to eight thousand Tibetan monks and nuns chanting; I also sat under the Bodhi Tree and had a rapturous meditation experience not far from where the Buddha gained Enlightenment. During my three weeks on the other side on the world, I gained much insight, compassion, wisdom, and fearlessness while learning about a fascinating culture and about the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. I returned to the United States significantly more equanimous, fearless, mature, and hopeful.

EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL includes a brief explanation of how I took up Buddhism, why I was motivated to take the In the Footsteps of the Buddha pilgrimage, and how I got to India. Not merely my own personal account, the book is relevant to anyone’s spiritual journey and is sprinkled with a feminist and pacifist perspective on, and comparisons between, American and Indian culture.

EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL describes visits to:

  • Delhi, where I met up with Shantum Seth, meditation instructor and travel guide, and with the other members of the pilgrimage. We visited Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram, where he lived at the end of his life and where he was assassinated.
  • Patna, where the museum contains a relic of the historic Buddha.
  • Rajgir, where the Buddha meditated and taught on Vulture Peak and started his first sangha.
  • Nalanda, ancient ruins of the first Buddhist university
  • Bodh Gaya, the village where the Buddha reached Enlightenment
  • the holy Hindu city of Varanasi and the Buddhist site of Deer Park in Sarnath
  • the ruins and temple of Kushinagar, where the Buddha died.
  • Lumbini Grove in Nepal, where Mayadevi gave birth to the Buddha.
  • Kapilavastu, the ancient ruins of the kingdom where the historic Buddha grew up as a prince.
  • Shravasti and the Jetta Grove, the final site of the Buddha’s sangha, where the monks and nuns stayed put through the rainy season.
  • Agra, the optional part of the journey, where we visited and explored the Taj Mahal and Akbar’s Tomb, beautiful relics of the Mughal empire.
  • Delhi again, for a final dinner and farewell.

 I experienced rapturous meditation experiences in the presence of the Buddha relic, in a cave on Vulture Peak where the Buddha meditated and taught, and in front of the Bodhi Tree. We pilgrims met Buddhists from around the world, including Tibetans, Thais, a Thai abbot, the founder of a school for poor Indian children, and the “pope” of the Buddhist world. We practiced a walking meditation across the sandy river bed that the Buddha crossed twenty-five hundred years ago. We witnessed the World Peace Ceremony, in which eight thousand Tibetan monks and nuns chanted around the Mahabodhi Temple. Meanwhile, we encountered Indians from all walks of life, from beggars and polio victims, to merchants and owners of chai stands, to museum curators, to a maharaja and maharani. We visited the Sujata Stupa, marking where the girl Sujata met the starving Buddha and fed him rice pudding, inspiring him to think up the Middle Way. We walked across fields accompanied by village children, visited a very old and beautiful Hindu temple in the middle of nowhere, and continued walking to a humble farm, where we sat on the roof drinking chai and interviewing the family. In Varanasi, we rode a boat on the Ganges at dawn and explored an alley full of Hindu shrines and shops. At a maharaja’s lodge, I faced my fear of heights by riding an elephant.

 EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL will inspire Buddhists and other spiritual seekers in their spiritual journey, whether or not they intend to literally travel to India or Nepal. Not just relevant to Buddhists, EVERY DAY IS MAGICAL is a great read for anyone interested in India, Indian culture, and the religions of India, and to anyone who wishes to travel to India or the Himalayas. It will also inspire and educate anyone interested in the life of the historic Buddha and in their own potential of having a spiritually fulfilling and meaningful life.


Protesting Too Much

4 Jul

I just emailed two queries to two literary agents, and I’m going over the website of a third. It says that in order to soften the blow of a rejection letter, they send “prayer cards.” It adds that if you find this offensive, you might want to “contact a different agency.”

Wow. How completely insane. Not to mention, of course, arrogant. Jamming your religion down the throat of every poor author who contacts you.

One of the agents does accept queries for Xian books, but I was going to contact the other agent, who says nothing along those lines. Not so much.

I dwelled in the Midwest for the first thirty-seven years of my life. (Yes, I know I should have left sooner, but I used to be one of those chronically depressed people who get stuck in a rut). The reason I bring this up is because to this day I remain traumatized by smug, arrogant, monotheists who thought they were entitled to harass me. It seems that sometimes I can’t even research literary agents without encountering more such arrogant fools.