Sep 22

The Importance of Hope

Hope is a dress that my mother once wore
A fiddle tune I heard that has no words
Hope is the one thing we have never lost…
Susan McKeown River (song lyrics excerpt).

River by Irish-born Celtic musician Susan McKeown is a real favorite in my music library. While I enjoy the melody, I fell in love with this song by McKeown even more for the phrase, “Hope is a dress my mother once wore. A fiddle tune I heard that has no words.” I am thinking of these poetic song lyrics about hope and its importance right now now as I observe the whirlwind of change and uncertainty unfolding in America with reverberations felt around the world.

Along with the volatile world events, the October 11th one-year anniversary of my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy’s passing is fast approaching – called Mahasamadhi in the case of an illumined spiritual master leaving the body. Thus, my heart is heavy and full of concern — whether for the ravages of hurricanes, financial turmoil or the closeness of memories from memorial activities for Sri Chinmoy one year ago. Given all that is happening, I feel that blogging right now about my latest fun discovery (the Animal Clock in Central Park for instance) from within my own little universe doesn’t quite work.

Odd is it for me that even as I bear witness to tremendous upheaval and sad memories, I find myself inwardly buoyant. Meditation like an anchor is holding me fast in its arms. Recently my regular travels to New York to meditate with other members of the Sri Chinmoy Centre leave me immersed in deeper and deeper peace, serenity and faith.

Back home I even find that in spite of a storm of ongoing uncertainty for the fate of public libraries in Massachusetts (my chosen profession for over 20 years), I am greeted by sweet, encouraging dreams when I sleep at night. In the dream world, I encounter healing advice, support and teaching.

I can only surmise that my spiritual outlook is ringing like a bell with the message that the true meaning of life is not found in outer prosperity or material things but rather in union of our soul with God. And the clapper inside that bell is none other than hope.

Hope is more important than ever when times are troubled. The Webster’s Collegiate Thesaurus gives “trust, confidence, dependence, faith, reliance and stock” as synonyms for the word hope. Sri Chinmoy placed abundant importance on the role of hope in his philosophy and teachings. In an interview with journalist Joel Martin, Sri Chinmoy stated,

He who treasures hope can make progress…
without hope we cannot even budge an inch…
Is there any human being who can live on
earth without hope?
-Sri Chinmoy

I will be concentrating on hope through this stormy weather, humming that fiddle tune that has no words and thinking of more lyrics from Susan KcKeown’s River song:

Hoe is a river that flows from these stone walls
into an ocean we have never seen…

Related Resources:

Listen to the song:

River – Susan Mckeown

Sep 07

Heidelberg Travel Highlights

If Kennedy is a Berliner, Ich bin ein Heidelberger. If you have never been to Heidelberg, you are missing a great travel destination. For this American tourist, it offers quintessential historic and beautiful scenery in the Old Town with a fairytale European flavor also containing surprises.

Rose Petals on Door Steps in Heidelberg - Photo by Sharani
Rose Petals on Door Steps in Heidelberg - Photo by Sharani

For instance since when do you associate Germany with flower petals scattered in the entry ways of a building? Yet that is precisely what I encountered in two different doorways to stores/restaurants in the Old Town.

The Yahoo! Travel Guide to Heidelberg states that a popular saying for Heidelberg is “Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren” (I lost my heart in Heidelberg). They also refer to it as “heavenly”! Now is it any coincidence that before knowing either of these two things I named my photo album of Heidelberg “Heavenly Heidelberg” and chose a photo of a sticker on a motorbike that says “I heart HD” as the title photo of the album?

I love Heidelberg - Photo by Sharani
I love Heidelberg - Photo by Sharani

Many aspects of the city come across as icons from the vantage point of an American tourist.  We found ourselves referring to locations in iconic fashion with simple all-encompassing words – Castle (Schloss in German), Old Town (Alt Stadt), Old Bridge (Alte Brucke), the River (Fluss), Market Square (Marktplatz ), University (Universitätsplatz), Main Street (Haupstrasse one of the longest pedestrian- only areas in Europe).

The cobblestone streets (which we kept walking on forgetting that they were for cars not pedestrians), the castle on the hill, a city clustered along a river, church bells ringing for a solid fifteen minutes to strike the hour, excellent food from open air markets and small bakeries – all together created an easily cherished and enjoyable visit. Heidelberg is certainly one of my new favorite travel destinations in Europe. It finds me enthusiastically exclaiming, “If Kennedy is a Berliner, Ich bin ein Heidelberger.”

This photo slideshow of my trip memories offers some highlights of my visit:

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Some of my other favorite places I’ve blogged/written about:

Turkey: The Call of Turkey

Paris: Paris: Je t’aime!

Japan : Bamboo, Butterflies and Buddha: Japanese Journey

Jul 20

Why not WordPress as a CMS for the Library Website?

When the public library I work for in Dartmouth, MA wanted a web site redesign, we decided to try using WordPress for the entire site – not just for blogging. The intention is to have something created in open source software that can be fairly easily taught to multiple staff members.

With a push off the diving board from Aaron Schmidt and David Lee King, I dove in and got expert help every step of the way from Kathy Lussier, the Technology expert at the SEMLS regional library organization serving libraries in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The site Dartmouth Public Libraries went live on July 2nd and uses the Triple K2 theme with plugins such as NAVT.

Dartmouth Public Libraries Website
Dartmouth Public Libraries Website

Kerim Friedman provides a good summary of the benefits in using the Triple K2 theme for CMS in his blog post WordPress CMS.

If you are considering switching your library’s website from software such as Dreamweaver to open source software such as WordPress, our site is testimony to the versatility of WordPress for use as an entire website that is more than just a blog. Knowledge of basic CSS is helpful for creation of the site when you wish to customize the theme’s look (something I did a fair amount of for the library site), but once it is established much of the ongoing editing is easily accomplished by staff with little knowledge of website design.

Jul 13

Meme: Passion Quilt – Learn How to Meditate

Photo by Sharani Robins
Photo by Sharani Robins

The Passion Quilt meme started with Miguel Guhlin, an educator in Texas who suggested that people take a photo (their own or one from creative commons license) and caption it with what they are most passionate for children to learn.

I first came across the meme when Karen Schneider, the Free Range Librarian Blogger, shared a photo of a child reading and penned an accompanying essay Reading Sets You Free. Hands down, this is one of the most powerful and beautiful treatises on the importance of reading that I have ever come across.

Although not tagged, I was inspired to caption a photo of what I passionately want children to learn in life. As a daily meditator since 1985, I find it to be a powerful tool for growth and learning. I feel it would be very empowering for children to learn how to meditate.

Meditation Teacher Sri Chinmoy answers a question asked of him,
“What is the greatest thing we can do for our children?”

If I know that the best thing for me to do early in the morning is to pray, I will encourage my child to do this. But if I say, “No, I have come to this realisation at the age of forty, so let my son also wait until he is ready,” then I am making a deplorable mistake…
from Sri Chinmoy Speaks, Part 1

The original meme:

1. Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
2. Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
3. Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.”

Photos tagged Passion Quilt in Flickr

Photos tagged Passion Quilt 08 in Flickr

With confessed trepidation, I tag:
Pavitrata Taylor, Art Teacher and Photographer
John Gillespie, Web Designer
Kedar, Photographer and Videographer
Thomas Laupstad, Norwegian Photographer
Jessica Langlois, the Cool Librarian

Jul 12

Dae Jang Geum – All-time Great TV Mini-Series

Dae Jang Geum DVD vol. 1
Dae Jang Geum DVD vol. 1
When do you ever like a DVD set of a TV mini-series so much that you can unequivocally say that it is the best drama you have ever seen – despite me being only a third of the way through watching it and despite it being an English subtitle experience of a Korean program, a culture I must admit I know next to nothing about?

Such is the case with Dae Jang Geum/Jewel in the Palace, a historical drama depicting Korean court life in the early 1500’s. It originally aired as 54 one hour episodes on television in South Korea in 2003-2004. Telling the story of a young orphan girl who becomes an apprentice cook in the King’s palace, she eventually becomes the first recorded female royal physician to a King.

The drama is in part based on actual history. The Annals of Joseon Dynasty, a history of the kings who ruled in Korea for 400 years, tells of a female royal doctor. The drama extrapolated from this historical truth is a remarkable combination of palace intrigue and corruption, extraordinary scenes of remarkable cooking/cuisine, heroism, morality and love.

This YouTube video (one of the few YouTube selections using shots of the English subtitled version) features the protagonist, Jae Geum with her mentor Lady Han, one of the Court Ladies for the Royal Kitchen.

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Although the above YouTube video sets the vignettes to a Celine Dion song, the actual soundtrack to the show is also haunting. I find myself hearing the music inside my head long after watching an episode. Here is the original soundtrack being performed by an orchestra.

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I borrowed the first volume of the three volume set (18 one hour episodes) through inter-library loan because not many libraries in the U.S. own it. Since the lending period was short and my pals and I are totally hooked on it, vol. 2 is already on its way as a purchase from Amazon.

I highly recommend Dae Jang Geum. Already exported to 60 countries and taking country after country by storm after its airing, you truly must find out for yourself just how captivating this epic story is.

Dae Jang Geum Themepark in South Korea.

Korea Times article about the international popularity of this drama.

Internet Movie Database comments about worldwide cultural impact of the drama.

Plot Summary of the 54 episodes in English.