Monday, May 31, 2010

Have You Seen steven's Blog?

My blogging buddy, steven puts out one of the best blogs I know.

Today's post is breathtaking, at least it took my breath away.

Check it out:

the golden fish

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Funded Peace Corps Project

Below is a message from my son, Ted, who is three quarters of the way through his stint in the Peace Corps in Togo, Africa. He would like to do two "funded projects" which is Peace Corps lingo for special projects financed by folks at home. If you would like to contribute, please send a donation by writing a check to me, Dan Gurney, in any amount to:

Dan Gurney
re: Ted's Peace Corps Project
P.O. Box 2255
Sebastopol, CA 95473

Here's Ted's message:
I hope this message finds you well. It has been quite a while since we last spoke and I want to update you on my travels and experiences with the Peace Corps.

It has been a year and a half since I embarked on my journey. The first three months of service were spent in the Girls' Education and Empowerment training program. Training consisted of French language classes, cultural classes and technical training, teaching us possible project ideas. After a swearing in ceremony, I was put in a taxi and sent to my village of service.

My new home is called Seregbené. It's in the plateau region of Togo, about 300 km north of Lomé and 15 km from the border with Ghana. It is 34 km from a paved road and electricity and 98 km from running water and internet access.

I live alone in a three room house. I collecting rain water from my roof for drinking and washing. I cook on a small gas stove and read at night by the light of a kerosene lamp. During the last rainy season I planted a small garden in my front yard, and plan to do the same this year.

Seregbené has a population of about 700 people. The village is nearly 100% ethnically Akebou. Due to the region's isolation and homogenous population, a dim view is often taken towards strangers. I find this sometimes hinders my work, but at the same time provides me with an excellent opportunity to increase the understanding of American culture among the Togolese. Each day I try my best to integrate into the rhythm and pulse of the village, visiting farmers fields, spending long afternoons at the once-a-week market, and drinking palm wine under the mango tree.

My work centers around education and women’s rights. I work at the local middle school (7th through 9th grades but students aged 11-25). I teach Life Skills and health classes. I have trained a group of Peer Educators who help me spread the message of family planning, safe sex, gender equity, women’s rights, study skills, self confidence and public speaking. I also do similar activities with the seamstress and hair dressing apprentices.

While my work centers around youth development, I also work with Village Savings and Loan groups which bring access to micro-finance credit even in the most rural settings.

I have also collaborated in tree planting projects, nutrition awareness campaigns and soccer matches.

Although work is sometimes slow, it is rewarding and I am glad I joined the Peace Corps.

In 6 months, when I close my service, I plan to attend graduate school in education somewhere in the west, probably University of Washington, University of Oregon, or U.C. Davis.

At this point, I would like to present two funded project ideas. The two Village Savings and Loan groups that I work with suggested that they would like to do a collaborative project among the members of the respective associations.

One group (25 people, 20 women and 5 men) proposed the idea of building a storeroom where members of the group could store cash crops and grains. The ability to store their crops would make it possible for them to collectively sell the crops when prices rise thus adding to their profits. Profits would go to their Savings and Loan association which serves as a village-run bank.

The other group would like to collectively raise goats. With 37 members, they would be able to share the maintenance of the fencing, grazing areas and housing structure. Profits realized from raising the goats would be invested in their association.

Both of these two projects could be realized with a sum of $1000 - $1300. The two associations, the village, and myself would be very grateful for any donation. To contribute, send a donation to my parents who will then transfer your donation into my Togolese bank account here in country.

Internet access is scarce but I will do my best to send updates.

Hope all is well.


Ted Gurney

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Contemplation on Sequoia Sempervirens

My house was built in 1951, the year I was born.

Its framing and siding was milled from mature Sequoia sempervirens, Coast Redwoods.

These vererable trees are remarkable life forms.  The few ancient trees still living grow almost 400 feet tall with trunks over 25 feet in diameter. They are living wonders of the ancient world.

When the loggers came to the forest to take the lumber in my house, those trees were almost surely more than 2,000 years old. I don't think anyone cared to ask.

To “harvest” such noble beings to build modest homes like mine is, now, difficult for me to comprehend. Would we dismantle down the Statue of Liberty to “harvest” her copper sheath to make pennies?

I feel, sometimes, like I’m living in a crime scene, the crime being ignorance, greed, and delusion. I am a member of a society that cannot reliably see what is wrong with killing whales for pet food or redwoods for fence posts and railroad ties.

I’m doing my time on the meditation cushion. My next house will be made of mud.

And now, an “Hourglass Etheree” poem:

Rafter Creaks:

Here. Now. I get the holiness of trees
their bodies, in death, sheltering me
in my wood-framed, wood sided house
I hear the trees talk—faintly though
redwood whispers, soft, low.
At silent meeting
sitting with friends
night descends
trees give
our ancient trade
taking earth, light, rain
to make oxygen, shade
blossoms, tea leaves, nut meats, fruits
wood for guitars, violins, flutes
cribs, cradles, tables, chairs, caskets, pews,
trunkfuls of foodstuffs for fungi to chew.”

by Dan Gurney

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Eight Days in New York, a Haiku

This one's for Elizabeth Gurney, M.D. Fond memories linger.

eight days in New York
subways, stadium, the stage
two plates at Jojo's

Monday, May 17, 2010

Healer, a Rictameter

Doctor Gurney
To the love we gave you
You added vision, pluck, hard work,
Persistence, resourcefulness, compassion,
To answer a noble calling—
To comfort the ailing,
To cure disease,

A rictameter is a nine-line, fifty-syllable form of poetry. The syllabic count adheres strictly to the following pattern: 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2. Ideally, the first and the final two-syllable lines mirror each other. Any subject may be taken up in this form of poetry.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Deep Pleasures

I have enjoyed many happy moments in my fifty eight years on earth.

Simple outdoor pleasures...

Riding my bike along roads so remote that one must count the hours per car, not cars per hour, and wonder, "Why would anyone be driving way out here, in the middle of nowhere?"

Sailing or paddling in waters so quiet that most of the beings around me have wings or fins

Hiking on trails too pretty to describe...

Deeper pleasures at work...

Singing with students,

Challenging the most able students with problems so hard that they must think deeply and flexibly to solve them,

Giving enough support to those who struggle that they know I really care.

And the deepest pleasures I know: Family.

Late this Sunday evening, I am savoring exactly one of those:

The success of my daughter, Elizabeth Price Gurney, M.D., who graduated with honors from New York Univeristy Medical School last week. She earned the AMWA Glasgow-Ruben  Achievement Citation for outstanding academic achievement and professionalism.

For one whole week, I had the delight of sharing with Elizabeth this milestone in the company of people whom I have loved deeply for many decades.

 Jeanette Lendino Gurney, James Gurney, Elizabeth Gurney, M.D., me, Sarah Glade Gurney
outside Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City, May 13, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Sublime Week

For me, it’s been a sublime week.

I shall  mention only two events, editing out the ten thousand springtime joys that swirl every day around this kindergarten teacher in early May. If I started recounting kindergarten joys, I’d ramble on forever.

Joyous Event One

First, I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Tuesday night group, the Society of Friends, which met here May 4. We shared meditation, tea, the Dharma and warm fellowship. I felt nourished by all four.

I could feel Walter’s fellowship among us, blessing us, shining upon us. Saying things like that may sound a bit “West County,” as they say around these parts, but I could feel Walter’s spirit guiding us, encouraging us, and helping us see the Dharma and open our hearts. Walter was dedicated to opening hearts, beginning with his own heart, but helping those around him, too, and he’s still helping us. Thank you, Walter Blum. You are such a good friend. You are here with me, still, friend.

I believe that someday, science will catch up with Buddhism in these matters. It’s already happening to some extent in quantum physics and brain science. When science begins to find the reality Buddhist monks have discovered 2,500 years ago, modern skeptics will find the great joy and deep peace that are quite real and actually achievable by walking along the Buddhist path.

Joyous Event Two

Second, this week I enjoyed giving my very first poetry reading in public. Previously, I’ve read my poetry only to my wife and to the aforementioned Society of Friends.

Thursday night, May 6, I joined Sandy Eastoak in reading at Many Rivers Books and Tea. Our evening’s reading was titled “Poem as Native” and its theme was about reading and writing poetry as a way to open to our actual reality, Mother Earth and the web of life she supports. We experience the world debut of a new participatory poetry form: the Etheread. If someone asks, I'll describe it in the comments section.

Sandy, who is a painter as well as a poet, writes words that make my heart grow. I plan to share some of her poetry here on Mindful Heart in the future.

The poems I shared that evening have all appeared here on this blog. Thursday night was made the more sublime by being attended by special people: Sue from the Society of Friends, Jim Wilson, a poet who has inspired both Sandy and me, a grandparent of one of my kindergartners, among others. Why, you could find in the audience even the Mayor and the Vice-Mayor of Sebastopol—not the poet-Councilmember, sadly, but maybe it was good he didn’t come; there would have been a quorum!

Our evening opened and closed with songs of blessing and healing sung by a Native Pomo Indian healer, Armando.

Sandy surprised me with a gift of a double Etheree that she dedicated to me because she knows I’m beginning to fall in love with soil. The trees have been telling me about soil.

Here, I’ll share it now.


wants earth
life below
the surface where
leaves shimmer greenly
& birds flit through shadows
he wants worms mouthing darkness
millipedes racing with springtails
through hidden dampness of pregnant soil
drama of decay & mycelium

the secret movement of nutrient breath
the slow leach of rain past roots & stones
gophers & moles twist through tunnels
round white grubs spiral beside
jerusalem crickets
& bacteria
by the millions
renew our

Is there any gift finer than a poem?