New Microscopic Photos and More

Yesterday, I decided to accept the self-imposed challenge of taking microscopic pictures primarily with my non-dominant hand. Even under normal circumstances, I have trouble hooking up the adapter that connects my iPhone to my microscope. I wondered if adding a wrist splint to the mix would make the task impossible. I would, of course, stop if the endeavor caused any pain at all. It took some effort, but before long the equipment was ready for me to snap some photos.

Last summer, I took microscopic pictures of the orange Echinacea flowers in my garden. This year, my goal was to photograph flowers on all three of the Echinacea plants. Each plant has blooms that are a different color. I was able to accomplish that objective and more.

Plant #1

While I was taking the photos, I saw something I had never seen before. It was quite a surprise. Take a look at my first microscopic video!

I did not notice that the photos of that plant had come out pink, instead of light purple, until I created the photo gallery above last night. I wondered if that happened because of the light source I was using for the microscope. This morning, I decided to shine that light on the flower again to see if it changed the color.

When I went outside to retrieve the purple flower from the back deck, I was flabbergasted to see that it had turned pink during the night. It had not looked pink when I checked it last night.

Plant #2

I found another bug when I examined the second flower through the microscope. It was a different kind of insect, though, or was it a spider? It resembled a spider in the way it looked and acted but insects have six legs and spiders have eight. I only see six on this creature so I don’t know what it is. It was so small that I couldn’t see it on the plant even when I looked for it wearing my reading glasses.

Note: There is a point in the video below where the creature stops moving for a while, but it starts again.

Plant #3

I appreciate the iPhone camera and the beautiful photos it takes. I appreciate whoever came up with the way to connect the microscope and the iPhone camera. I appreciate the ease of the WordPress blogging platform. I appreciate how easy it is to create photograph galleries on WordPress.com blogs. I appreciate the dictation program for Office products that Microsoft released last week and the person that told me about it. I appreciate the neighbor who took the case off my iPhone so I had a chance of  making this project a success. I appreciate my willingness to take on challenges in difficult situations. And, last but not least, I appreciate all of you who read my posts.

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Living and Learning in Amritapuri, India: December 23-25, 2016

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Be Like a Bird Perched on a Dry Twig

I’ve mentioned before that Amma teaches us to be like a bird perched on a dry twig, ready to fly at any moment. That lesson has been front and center for the play cast during the last three years.

Five or six years ago, when the play was on a darshan day, Amma said to hold it on the auditorium floor since she would be using the main stage for darshan. The participants built a small stage for the performance.

In December of 2014, Christmas Eve was again on a darshan day. Since the cast believed the play would be on the auditorium floor again, they were very creative in how they built the stage. It had three levels so that three scenes could take place at once.

Amma is asked where she wants to hold the play 3-5 days before the event. In 2014, they were shocked when she said that she wanted them to perform it on the main stage. She would finish darshan early, and watch it with us. While everyone was delighted that Amma wanted to watch, they only had 72 hours to adjust all the backdrops and choreography to fit on the smaller stage.

In 2015, the play was once again on a darshan day. While they knew they couldn’t count on it, they planned for the play to be on the main stage since Amma had wanted it that way the previous year. Days before the performance, she told them they would need to use the auditorium floor since she would be giving darshan on the stage. Everyone flew into action, building a stage for the auditorium floor and adjusting everything that needed to be adjusted. That year they just took it in stride, seeing it as the opportunity for growth that it was meant to be.

The December 2016 play would normally have been on a non-darshan day but,  since it was a Leap Year, it ended up being on a Saturday, another darshan day. This time the play was planned so it would fit on either the stage or the auditorium floor. The leaders kept in mind that Amma could come up with an unexpected third alternative and that is exactly what she did. When asked where the play should be held, Amma informed them she would let them know on the day of the program.

While they were jolted by this response, they went on preparing the play, envisioning it in both places. The day before the event, thinking Amma, because of the size of the crowd, would most likely choose to hold the play on the auditorium floor, they installed the lighting and the backdrop. The gigantic backdrop was rolled and hoisted 30-40 feet above the auditorium floor.

On Christmas Eve morning, Amma was asked once again where she wanted the performance. She said she would decide later in the day. They still didn’t have a definitive answer at 6:00 p.m.

It soon became obvious that Amma wanted to see the play with us, so the backdrop and the lights were taken down around 7 p.m. I heard that it took 30 people to remove the huge structure of lights and carry it to the main stage. Both items were then reinstalled on the stage, while Amma was giving darshan.

Soon the cast were in their make up and  costumes. All the props were ready to be put on the stage. Nothing else could be done until Amma finished darshan and the stage was cleared.

Darshan was over at 10:30 p.m. It usually takes hours to do the play set-up but they accomplished it all in an hour; the play started at 11:30 p.m. and proceeded without a hitch. The music was wonderful, the acting was wonderful and the dancing was wonderful. Never has one of their plays gone so smoothly.

The cast had handled all of the challenges with such grace, knowing that everything they experienced had purpose. What a lesson it had been in flexibility, persistence, patience, non-attachment, equanimity, and being like the bird perched on a dry twig.

I will write more about the play in a future post, but for now I will share some pictures I found on Amma’s Facebook page today. They will give you an idea of the quality of the costumes and backdrops and even glimpses of the acting.

The story was about Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, with the emphasis being on the loving father. The first photo is of the father, the second Jesus, the third of one of the piggies, the fourth is a village scene and the fifth is of the prodigal son in despair.

After the play, Amma sang some songs and led a meditation. The photo below was taking after we sang a very rousing bhajan. She often ends those kind of songs by saying “Mata Rani Ki Jai” (Victory to the Goddess/Divine Mother) over and over and we respond “Jai” (Victory) each time with arms up. That is what you are seeing in this photo.

If you look closely you can see Amma. (The picture also shows you what the auditorium looks like and gives you a sense of how many people were present.)

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Amma ended the evening by passing out Christmas cake to the thousands of people who were present. What a day it had been.

Prasad Giving

When I arrived at the head of the prasad giving line on Christmas Eve, Amma started hugging people faster. Our “shift” for handing Amma the candy and ash she gives to each person who comes to her for a hug lasts either two or three minutes. Usually the prasad giver only has the opportunity to hand her a few packets. Because she was going fast at that moment, I was able to give her many packets. I had a lot of fun.

I handed Amma prasad again on Christmas day. This time when I reached her, the person who was being hugged asked Amma a question. Amma had lots to say so I was able watch. I didn’t get an opportunity to hand her packets during my time, but I didn’t care. It was nice to be so close to her and after all, I had handed Amma so many packets the day before.

Karunalaye Devi

When I left the stage where Amma was sitting, one of the brahmacharis (male monks) started singing Karunalaye Devi, a song I mentioned in a previous post. Hearing it again felt like a gift.

When I returned to my room, I looked to see if the song was available on YouTube. I was surprised to discover that Amma has a YouTube channel that contains videos of many of her songs.

A version of Karunalaye Devi had recently been uploaded. The singing takes place in the Amritapuri auditorium, but there are also darshan scenes from  her Indian tours. The man in the photo below is Swami Amritasvarupananda, one of Amma’s senior swamis.

Christmas Surprise

The afternoon of Christmas Day, I participated in the play cast celebration. It is always so much fun, and, considering all the challenges, they had even more than normal to celebrate about. At the end of the party, we heard that Amma had said any ashram visitor who hadn’t had darshan during the previous week could come for darshan that night. Since the crowds are so large at this time of year, we hadn’t even considered going until January.

It made for another late night, but it was so worth it. What a wonderful Christmas season it has been.

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

From Darkness to Light

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I just published a new post in The Seeker’s Dungeon. It is one that is very close to my heart. I hope you will run over there to read it!

From Darkness to Light

 

A Will to Live

In the summer of 2013, I bought a small lemon tree. There were several lemons on it when I purchased the tree and I had visions of all of the lemons that were to come. The nursery staff told me to bring the tree into the house before the temperatures dropped, so as winter neared I put it indoors. One by one, the beautiful lemons turned black and fell off. Then most of the leaves fell off. Soon there was nothing left but the trunk (if you can call something that small a trunk) and a few leaves.

Spring 2014 came and nothing happened. The same few leaves stayed on, but there were no new ones and there were no flower buds. I took the plant to a nursery to see if it was possible to save it. They instructed me to use a particular kind of fertilizer. Months later there was still no new growth.  It wasn’t until late August that a few flower buds formed. The plant was still alive but it seemed too late in the season for any fruit that formed to grow to maturity.

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As it started to get cold, I once again brought the tree into the house. And again, the few small lemons that were on the tree turned black and fell off. This time the rest of the leaves fell off as well. I decided to leave the tree in the house even though it was just a stalk.

Sometime in late winter 2015, I concluded that the situation was hopeless and put the tree outside on the balcony. My plan was to compost it in the springtime. However, when springtime came and I picked up the container to take it to the compost heap, I noticed many tiny leaves were beginning to form! (Note: The big leaves at the top the photo below are from another tree.)

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The lemon tree seemed determined to live. Over the next weeks, the leaves grew and a flower bud formed and then blossomed!

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Once again, it produced no fruit.

Later in the year, as the weather got colder, I decided to leave the small tree outside rather than bring it into the house as had been my practice. The leaves stayed on throughout the winter of 2016. When spring  came there were no buds, but the tree was definitely alive.

In late May, I decided to try something else. I made a mount out of new top soil in the back yard and planted the tree in the middle of it. Around it I planted a circle of beets,  a circle of carrots and a circle of lettuce. I had the image of the vegetable plants worshiping the lemon tree.

None of the seeds even sprouted; I probably had planted them too late in the year, or maybe I didn’t water them enough. The tree developed no blossoms or flowers but over time there were more leaves.

Next spring, I will take more care in preparing the soil, and will then plant the vegetable seeds around the tree once again. I’m excited to see if my vision of the lemon tree being surrounded by an abundance of vegetable plants will become a reality.

This lemon tree seems to have a will to live. As long as that continues, I will be here to support it in any way I can!

Finding Happiness

Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Yesterday, I discovered a blog created by a fifteen-year-old Finnish girl (This Girl’s Bucket List).) She is signing her posts as “ThisGirl” so that is how I will refer to her.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the pieces ThisGirl had written. When I woke up this morning I noticed she had published a new post, so headed to her blog to see what she had to say.

In the new post, ThisGirl described the guest speaker who talked to students at her school yesterday. The speaker’s name was Marja Korhonen and she “talked” by looking at a board with letters.  A helper then voiced Marja’s message. ThisGirl ended her post with the trailer for Marja’s book.

As I watched the short video, tears started running down my face. Nine hours later, I re-watched it and had the same reaction. Once again, I have been presented with a person whose willingness to live life fully inspires me, profoundly inspires me. A person who teaches me that my life will be of value regardless of the circumstances. One who by example lets me know that it is possible for me to be happy no matter what challenges come my way.  As I age, I find I need that reminder more often than ever.

I will leave you with the same video. Be sure to turn on the subtitles by clicking on the CC at the bottom, unless you speak Finnish that is!

Written for Dungeon Prompts: Getting to Our Happy Place