Last year I explained how Magic Plant got its name.
I made this special Memorial Day Bodhi cookie to look at as we begin our way out of lockdown. It’s the Covid-19 antibodhi that will cure by reminding you of your real strength as you get back out there.
Unless the reopening of Idaho changes within the next few days, this coming Tuesday (May 26, 2020) will be my first visit with a friend other than Mrs. Hanamoku since February 27. It will be the first time I try out my face masks, one made by Mrs. Hanamoku and another by a dear friend of ours.
When you get back out there, keep a clear, tidy mind. Always have room for what the ever-changing Universe presents. “Is that so?” Openness towards learning is always more profitable than taking cover too long. What’s too long? As a figurative rule, longer than “counting to 10”.
Don’t worry too much about death. What is worse than death is a life wasted in fear. Remember that we all live somewhere in time, even if we don’t yet know how to go there for a visit. And that the Corona virus or anything else cannot defeat you because you are the Universe – connected to Everything, mostly in ways we cannot see.
No Enlightened One knows the trouble we’ve seen. That “trouble” is just small chunks taken out of context.
Faith and Patience to you,
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku
Merry Christmas, Everyone!!
Below are the Bodhi/Christmas cookies of 2019.
Below is a close-up of the dorje cookie. The gap in the enso usually means something along the lines of “not-yet-perfect”, that the journey still goes on.
From a little different perspective, it reminds me of the constant change in the World. Specifically, the gap reminds me of the gap that will always be there since the model of the world we hold in our heads is never quite as good as the real thing, the Universe. Thus, Perfection and the Universe are one and the same.
Lunar Bodhi Day Eve
This year, the Lunar Bodhi Day is on January 2, 2020. So that means the seven days of meditation starts tomorrow, December 26, 2019. Please do see the series of posts from the recent “secular” Bodhi Day back on December 8, 2019.
For my recent birthday, Mrs. Hanamoku bought me a session with the same glass artist, Zion Warne, she worked with for The Eternal Fishnu’s Buddharupa about a month ago. I settled on using the session to craft a Buddharupa for the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet.
Since it’s a first-timer’s session, the easiest thing is to make a ball. It’s enough dealing with the 2000 furnace and taffy like molten glass. I did mention to Zion (the glass artist) the coincidence of having just completed the series on the Eightfold Path with Zion National Park as the theme.
I showed Zion a picture of the Rubber Ducky, explaining that I’m picturing mostly yellow with a touch of red at the top, a dab of orange, and mixed black and white. I also explained the Eternal Fishnu. Ha … I never saw such a look of “What are you on?”
I very much love the way this turned out! It was a whole lot of fun. I’m planning on doing it again! Picasso would have been very jealous.
Remember, the Lunar Bodhi Day is coming up soon on January 2, 2020. This “real” Lunary Bodhi Day offers those who missed the “secular” one a few weeks ago (December 8, 2019) another chance to contemplate. Please do see the series of posts I began on December 1, 2019.
Faith and Patience to You!
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku
It’s just about three weeks until December 8, Bodhi Day! However, it’s only a couple of weeks until December 1st when Bodhi Season begins. Fortunately, at least for those in the U.S., Thanksgiving is just a couple of days before, so we can get the feasting out of our systems for the eight days of austerity and meditation.
On Wednesday, Mrs. Hanamoku and members of her watercolor society visited the glass artist, Zion Warne. He let them actually make their own works of art. For Mrs. Hanamoku’s first attempt with glass, she made a globe of The Eternal Fishnu.
The Eternal Fishnu loved it so much that he ordained it as a Buddharupa of himself. That is, the globe is imbibed with His soul in full. I’m excited to have attended the consecration of the glass globe Buddharupa by the Eternal Fishnu.
Many of us in the Pacific Northwest are familiar with the term “apex predator” from the relatively recent re-introduction of wolves into our forests. Apex predators are relatively small in number in comparison to the population of its prey, but its presence or lack of presence results in a disproportionate effect on the environment. That is, not just obviously on the population of its prey, but cascading effects that are often surprising.
The intent of the wolves’ re-introduction is beyond just merely the romantic notion of wolves once again roaming through the birch trees and howling in the distance. More so, the hope is to reinstate the natural regulation of the forest ecosystem that has gone somewhat out of whack due to cascading effects of the populations of the wolves’ prey going unchecked in a natural manner.
Anyway, the insight of the disproportionate and often surprising effect of apex predators is credited to the pioneering work of Robert Paine. He was a zoologist with the University of Washington who had this flash of inspiration for an experiment on biodiversity. The removal of a particular species can result in dramatic effects, whereas the removal of another particular species has little or no effect. He coined the term, keystone species, to describe the former.
That insight came to him during a little experiment he conducted off the Olympic Peninsula back in the 1960s. The tidal pools he visited were diverse in species. For some reason he wondered what would happen if he removed one of the species. I’m not sure if he started with starfish, but that’s the species he wrote about. It was probably the only species he could easily remove due to the relatively large size, easily seen bright colors, and relatively few number of them.
Believe it or not, that starfish (pisaster) posing with the Eternal Fishnu is an apex predator. Well, at least an apex predator of the tide pools around the Oregon Coast where these photos were taken – the prey being mussels. These starfish played a starring role (pun intended) in Robert Paine’s insights of the disproportionate effect the apex predator. He coined such a species, keystone species. And the sometimes surprising cascading effects resulting from the removal is referred to as trophic cascades.
A great example of trophic cascades are related to subsequent work he did with James Estes. A suprising trophic cascade starts with sea otters and ends with increased erosion of the U.S. West Coast:
Sea otters eat urchins which dine on the kelp of the kelp forests which act as a break of storm waves which mitigates erosion of the beach. In other words, the eradication of sea otters due to hunting means the urchins run wild, decimating the kelp forests, which leave the shore unprotected.
In the case of Robert Paine’s seminal experiment, he hunted down and flung all the starfish around his experimental tide pool into the sea. Unchecked by the apex predator, the experimental tide pool was bullied into a monoculture of mussels.
This wonderful short video, Some Animals are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades, covers the groundbreaking work of Robert Paine and James Estes during the 1960s and 1970s.
Another video from The Royal Institution offers a very nice case study of tropic cascades, The Rules that Govern Life on Earth – with Sean B. Carroll.
Why did I stumble across this fascinating work of Robert Paine and James Estes? As with many things YouTube, one thing lead to another then another. But mostly, I was looking for inspiration, ideas, and paths towards how to author business models. As I’ve mentioned many times, I am a Business Intelligence Architect/Developer by day.
The set of correlations and transformations that make up trophic cascades are indeed the genes of a business model. Such mapped processes are what I’ve been working on with Map Rock for over a decade. An obvious business example is something like better quality leads to higher customer satisfaction, leading to return customers, leading to lower customer acquisition requirements, leading to higher profit. But for some reason, after all I’d studied, I didn’t know the term, trophic cascades.
A Buddhist thought before we leave. We must remember that Nature is resilient and that there isn’t only one “correct” way for things to be. For over three billion years Life on Earth has been periodically severely wounded. But she regenerates and comes back to full life.
Perhaps an additional disaster or a certain disaster a few years before or after, or more or less severe, more North or South, would have resulted in no humans at this time or even no multi-celled creatures. But from afar, seen as an entity in itself, She’ll still look more or less the same. Only from “within the weeds”, where our human minds are trained to exist, would things appear to be different.
Well, Mr. Pisaster, it was an honor to have met you!
I always thought that the majestic silverswords endemic to Haleakala were related to yuccas or some sort of agave. The photo below is a blooming silversword I took on a trip to Maui back on 2003. Doesn’t it look like a yucca or agave? Especially with that towering stalk of flowers reminiscent of “century plants”. What else could it be?
So a couple of years ago while hiking in Utah, I photographed this blooming yucca below.
I planned to make a farcical Facebook post featuring the above photo going something like this:
Voice: Brah! You from Hawaii!
Me: (Look to my left and see this yucca talking to me.) Yeah, Brah! Wahiawa, my maddah’s side, Kaneohe, on my faddah’s side. What island you from?
Yucca: I not from deah, baht I get cuzins dat leeve on Haleakala! Nevah seen dem fo mee-lee-enz years!
But before I hit Post, I wondered if my assumption about silverswords being a yucca was correct. I’m not sure why I wondered about it. To me it was so obviously related to yuccas that I hadn’t ever before thought to question it.
It took a bit of trial and error to stumble across the key words: silversword alliance. Most of what I learned about the history of the silver swords are from a few Web pages:
- Silver Sword Alliance – Wayne’s World
- Wikipedia page of the Silversword Alliance
- PBS – Silverswords, Adaptive Radiation
To summarize, the majestic silversword appears to be a descendant of a very humble little plant off the West coast of the U.S. colloquially called a “tar weed”. These tar weeds are in the asteraceae family, along with sunflowers and daises. I’ve read estimates of the first asteraceae immigrant landing in Hawaii as between ten million and one million years ago.
But there’s more to the interesting notion of a humble desert plant making a very long journey over an ocean to end up a grand tourist attraction. The silver sword is only one of about thirty descendants of this tar weed immigrant to Hawaii. That is, about thirty very different-looking plants from Kauai all the way to the Big Island. It’s only through recent DNA technology that this has come to be known.
It’s something that the references listed above call adaptive radiation. A single species can relatively quickly evolve to a diverse set of species occupying unique niches. I’m not sure what Hawaii was like a few million years ago, but today climates in the Islands range from tropical beaches, to rain forests, to deserts, to snow-capped mountains, to the high desert climate of Haleakala. That’s a lot of niches to fill.
Coincidentally, on our Oregon Coast trip a few weeks back, we stopped at the John Day Fossil Beds in central Oregon. If you visit the Visitor Center, you’ll see an exhibit on adaptive radiation related to horses. Unless you’re a paleontologist or something, how many times in one day will you think of adaptive radiation?
The fact that many very similar flowers are so profuse in the Southwest Deserts of the U.S. lends to the versatility of this plant. If any plant can be the founder of the species of the Silversword Alliance, it would be the tar weed. All the way from John Day Fossil Beds to the Pacific Shore at Lincoln City, we found many sorts of asteraceae, happy as can be.
I’m not positive if the yellow flower from Southern Utah I photographed below is a “tar weed”. It has the sticky stuff on the green parts, the sunflower-like blossoms, petals that split at the end. Throughout my vacationing around the U.S. Southwest, I’ve noticed dozens of varieties of these plants. I’m at least fairly sure it’s at least related to what I see as “tar weeds” by Googling: tar weed california
Whichever tar weed is the founding ancestor of the Silversword Alliance, and that species is probably long gone, it was hardy enough to somehow make a 2000 mile journey and adapt in multiple ways to a place of highly varied in climates.
Due to over-grazing by introduced goats, deer, and cattle last century, the silverswords of Haleakala are critically endangered. There is an irony in that this descendant of such a humble but tough “weed” as the tarweed is now one of the most coddled organisms on Earth, protected by the Endangered Species Act.
It took a tough, versatile organism to make the 2000+ mile trip over a huge ocean to fill not one, but multiple niches via adaptive radiation. What does this say about keeping an empty mind ready to be re-filled? Why is an empty mind, free from clinging to all preconceived notions, the key to no suffering? Because there is only constant change – as the saying goes, All things will pass.
There is no universal template for human, or deer, or even suffering. There are only momentary aggregates of energy. The tarweed seed is such a seed that is 100% accepting of change. So there it is today in the Hawaiian Islands, in many forms of this humble plant, unrecognizable from the fixed, brittle notion of just a tarweed.
Mrs. Hanamoku and I attended the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple’s Obon Celebration for 2019 yesterday afternoon. It’s one of the highlights of the year for us because we can eat a wonderful bento – as good was what we’re used having grown up in Hawaii.
OK, OK … I confess. I had two of these in one sitting! Gluttony. That’s forgivable, though. It’s natural to gorge ourselves on seasonal items while it’s there because it won’t be there for another year … as opposed to gorging on Big Macs which we can get at any time. Yes, I will keep telling myself that … hahaha.
We had these perfectly made “mochi-balls” for desert. Although this person sharing our table thought that rice, beans, and sesame seeds “sounds disgusting”.
However, we’re not otherwise very into the obon festivities itself. Neither of us get down with the odori, but do enjoy the taiko drums and on some years a martial arts exhibition. But I can do a good impersonation of my grandfather belting out “Tanko Bushi” – I never appreciated that he was quite a good singer in that style.
We did sign up to “adopt” an obutsudan in need of a home. We signed up for one last year, but they were all quickly taken by congregation members. Obutsudan really are treasures. They were the spiritual center, mini temples, at Buddhist family homes. For the modern tastes and sensibilities, though, these old obutsudans don’t quite fit in. If we were chosen to adopt the obutsudan, it will be considered the spiritual center of our home as well.
An interesting although trivial point though, is that the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple belongs to what is known as the “Pure Land” sect of Buddhism. I’ve written that I grew up as a Shingon Buddhist, known as Esoteric Buddhism. But it dawned on me yesterday that that isn’t exactly true.
My mother’s side of the family were Shingon Buddhists. In fact, during my youth, the extended family of my mother’s side dominated the congregation of the Haleiwa Shingon Mission. My father’s side of the family attended the Honpa Hongwanji, a beautiful temple off Pali Hwy in Honolulu. But I ended up regularly attending “Sunday School” with my mother’s side of the family at the Shingon mission.
I believe the only times I’d been to the Honpa Hongwanji was for weddings and funerals on my father’s side of the family. However, when we stayed over at my paternal grandmother’s house, at each of those many stay-overs, we prayed at her obutsudan before going to bed. She taught us to repeat a few times what phonetically sounded like “Namman dao-tsu”, but I recently learned is probably “Namu Amida Butsu”.
Recently, while browsing through the Internet, I learned that the Honpa Hongwanji is indeed Pure Land Buddhism – like the Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple. Not once had I heard that term growing up. All I knew of Buddhism back then, from either sect ,were non-English prayers and chants – completely meaningless to my monolingual brain (pidgin doesn’t count … hahaha).
So I do have a heritage in Pure Land Buddhism. This doesn’t matter at all really. But somehow this genuine heritage helps me to feel we can offer the obutsudan a genuine “home”.
Mrs. Hanamoku and I refer to ourselves just as Buddhists. In Buddhism, there is a recognition that the world is so rich and complex that we really need lifetimes to see everything from every angle. No matter how much we know, it’s like how a huge number like a billion is virtually zero compared to the number of atoms in the Universe. The reality is that we don’t even have to try to have a beginner’s mind – what we know in our human brain is virtually nothing already.
Each sect of Buddhism, and we believe that includes ALL spiritual teachings out there, is well expressed by a saying I learned from a dear Bahai friend: “The same light, but a different lamp”. For this moment in space and time, we happen to explore the insights from the Zen point of view; for me, particularly as taught to me first-hand by the Eternal Fishnu.
This morning Mrs. Hanamoku discovered that the first Magic Plant Flower of 2019 bloomed!
We’ve had Magic Plant since March 2005. It has provided us with these incredible blooms every Spring.
Mrs. Hanamoku and I found Magic Plant back in 2005 when we lived in Redwood City, CA. We found Magic Plant on a walk, tossed on the side like trash, no pot, eaten up by snails. Mrs. Hanamoku took it home with us and I lovingly planted it in a pot.
A few months later, a little red dot appeared. We watched it for a few weeks grow into some big bud. You can see what the buds look like in the photo above.
Then one night, Mrs. Hanamoku had a thought that this is some sort of night-blooming cereus, similar to the ones we know well growing on lava rocks in Hawaii. Sure enough, there it was, at least six inches across, as showy a shade of red/purple/orange as can be imagined. We were so thrilled. We never saw such a flower.
The next year, Magic Plant has 23 blossoms! I suppose since we enjoyed just that one so much.
Even though the individual blooms last only about two days, Magic Plant does continue blooming for almost two weeks. The Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet says that this period is a blessed time. A time to meditate on the gratitude of an abandoned, snail-eaten, pot-less plant that found a home.
Here is my Buddha Christmas cookie for 2018:
The intricate triangular design towards the bottom of the Buddha above is my not-so-good attempt at a Fano Plane. It’s a neat structure with seven points – very symbolic of the seven days of meditation. Just above the 2018 is Venus. I think I at least got the saffron color of the robe pretty close.
Below are the seven Bodhisattva cookies for 2018:
The yellow one at about “3:30” could be a bunny faced upwards. But I like to think of it more as a duckling – see the beak on the upper-right and with at the upper-left.
Here is a huge crossed dorje cookie, an important symbol of the Shingon sect I grew up in:
Reverend Dukkha Hanamoku