Thursday, February 22, 2007


I got my Tibetan name, Yeshe Palden, from Lama Yeshe. It means ‘Having glorious transcendental Wisdom’. All Tibetan names are like that, road signs pointing at the highest aspirations. What I liked specially about my name was that it contained the wisdom part, Yeshe, from Lama Yeshe’s name.
There was one boy, the son of an Italian couple that I had met at Kopan in Nepal back in the early seventies, who also had the name Yeshe. He came to visit at Vajrapani when he was nine years old.

From my diary, July 15, 1985:

Today left my little wisdom-brother. Just before we separated yesterday he asked me: “Do you have a good life?”

I had a shower before writing this, on the balcony surrounded by pink and purple flowers, in the warm breeze, the cool water.

Playing robot with Yeshe yesterday he had a soft-button on his spine in the hollow of his back. I demonstrated him for the others and when I turned him soft he collapsed in a heap on the floor, his big porcelain eyes staring, empty of expression, a limp Pinocchio.

I said: “Yes, I have a good life; what about you?”
And he said: “Oh! I have a very good life.”
Already at the age of nine he is so full of human qualities of the kind that elevates man.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


This is a dry year here in Santa Cruz but recently we were blessed with some rain.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Thanks to Daniel the Guy in the Desert.


When I was 18 my aunt, with whom I lived, was at the hospital for a while and there she met a younger woman, Ellen, that she became fast friends with. After they had both left the hospital Ellen invited us to visit her family who lived on a large farm. Ellen’s husband was a swarthy, taciturn man with long lashed soft eyes and a friendly smile.
In the evenings I was fourth at Bridge, but during the day I passed most of my time with their oldest son, Thorkild, still just a boy of 11, but big and mature for his age. Together we explored the farm, the fields, and the forest; we played games and made theatrical productions with his younger brothers, entertaining the family.
I was very popular with the whole family for my ability to function in both worlds, the children’s as well as the grown-up’s.

One day we listened to a play on the radio. It was about a person who dug up corpses and ate them. As part of the play, in the intermissions between the acts, the microphone stayed open and the actors discussed the play and came thereby to grips with some of their prejudices against other ‘freaks’ like gays and blacks. The play touched me deeply, for I was not unaware of my feelings for Thorkild, and it was a comfort to hear everyone agree, both the actors and the listeners, that prejudice was stupid and evil.
Through seven years my aunt and I kept visiting from time to time, in the later years I came alone since my aunt was again not well. As Thorkild grew up, my attraction to him grew stronger and found some expression in sparring and physical nearness, and once, when he was 18 and I was 25 - and ebullient with wine - I tried to kiss him after having pinned him to the floor, but he turned his head and evaded me.
I had just come out of the closet to my aunt and my closest friends, but to tell Thorkild, with whom the sexual vibrations were alive, was more difficult. The kiss had been a way of saying without saying, but it didn’t bring any opening and I decided to write instead. In my letter I said rather bluntly how I wanted him and felt that maybe there was hope that he felt the same way. I had to be open about my feelings and, whatever he felt, the most important was our friendship.
His answer was defensive: how could I think there was hope? He could never do a thing like that and he had guessed and feared that I was gay.
I wrote back that I was sorry, but I had had to talk; all I wanted was to be open and be his friend. Could I come? Could we see each other?
This time Ellen wrote back. I should stick to my own kind, she said, and I had hurt her son, he had cried and she did not think it was time yet for me to come.

I never saw Thorkild again.
I went through a period of frustration and anger, arguing my case through the long sleepless nights. A son and a brother I had been in that family, who professed their liberal dissociation from prejudice, and yet they would never let me speak my case. Their total rejection nourished a debilitating fear in my mind that too often made my actions cramped and untimely.
I understood later how I set myself up. Thorkild could not have reacted differently precisely because he had known, and he had felt, and my bluntness scared him too much.

Monday, February 19, 2007


The orphan boat of my heart crosses the unsteady, undulant ocean of time.
Ping Hsin

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ups and Downs

From a diary, 1983:

The full moon rising at the end of the valley in a sky like abalone shell; the insects of night sounding their ecstatic monotony in concert with frogs and quail.
What am I to do with this perfection? It only seems to make my heart heavier.

Ebb of energy and enthusiasm. I spin my web in the corner of an empty frame.

I’m just back from two days cross-cultural camp. So many lovely boys! Most sexy: a blond Italian, Pietro. He is slim yet muscular, but it is his movements that makes him so sexy, whether he walks or swims or dances – oh, especially when he dances, of course – with slow odd twisting and sudden jerks; his classic torso burnt copper, glinting with sweat, his hair whitish gold. I cannot take my eyes off him.
At the pool, Eric, the lifeguard, asks him: “What’s macho in Italy?” and Pietro hugs an arm around his neck and gives him a kiss, and they all laugh happily.
And there was Jean François, athlete-puppy with the most magnificent chest, Christophe with yellow hair and almond-brown eyes, and Swiss Paul showing his elegant thighs. Most lovely was Christian, the German boy. They are all half and half, German boys, according to my experience. At least they are so conscious of the possibilities that, willing- or unwillingly, they play the flirting game. Christian was tall and skinny; his body like a column whose only function is to carry the head: exquisitely boyish beautiful with a smile that seems to force it’s way out against his will.
The last evening he became conscious of my attention and after I had twice caught him checking back out of the corner of his adorable dark blue eye, I ignored him for the rest of the evening.
Next morning I talked to him just casually and when we were settling in for the group photo before leaving I passed by him by calculated chance and sat down and he came and sat next to me. Said he: “Are you happy to sit next to this beautiful head?” and I: “Oh, yes! I appreciate it – here we sit: beauty and wisdom!” Again he looked at me, like realizing that this time he had started the flirting. From behind he was asked to move towards me, but I didn’t move, so we sat very close for the first photo. Then he pretended to want out but, instead, he just changed places with the girl on his right and sat down with a girl on each side, putting his arms around them, and for a moment he was focus of the whole group’s laughter. The second photo has him seated like that.
I ordered one; I wonder which one I get.

This is the emptiness within the frame.

It is Monday morning. Low clouds loom over the valley and my spirit is in the same tune. Only good for daydreaming – but nothing but sordid dreams will come: specters of lost opportunities, my own and others shortcomings.
I take a book as painkiller, but after hours and hours of reading I am in no better state than when I began.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Journey to the West (Santa Cruz)

(Continuation of Topanga Canyon)
My destination on the West coast was my friend Høne who was living in Berkeley with her husband, Chris, and their kids Thor and Amrit, whose birth in Sweden I had attended. They were part of the Vajrapani group who also included a retreat center in Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
I was running out of my three months visa, but when I asked for an extension it was denied. I was too content being in America, being, in fact, where the whole hippie revolution had started and was still very alive, so I had no intension of leaving. This became the beginning of ten years as illegal alien.

We went to Boulder Creek to visit the retreat center. The last two miles were dirt road and it was slick with about six inches of soupy mud and the car was sliding along dangerously near the creek, but we got through. The retreat consisted of a few cabins and tepees hidden at the end of the road, deep in the redwoods. It was very new; the land had been given only a year before to create a center for Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa.
It was a lovely place and I was eager to move there, but first I had things to do in Berkeley. Together with Chris, I had been asked to make a brochure aimed at raising funds for Vajrapani. I was given a room in the house of a Vajrapani couple, Gabriel from Haïti and his wife Lois. The house was at the top of Shasta road with a view of the whole of San Francisco and the bay with a peep right through the Golden Gate at the wintry sunsets. It was glorious and I, who love to be gazing out the window, could not tire of watching the shifting colors of the evening and the lights coming on in San Francisco.
I thought it was a romantic environment, S.F. is a Mecca for the tribes who were united in the youth revolution of the sixties, and here I was at the very epicenter overlooking it all from up the hill in Berkeley. My need for nature walks was satisfied by Tilden Park a few minutes away.
Within the tribe of Tibetan Buddhists I felt a direct approach to the spirit of Peace and Love. We were fortunate to have an extended visit of our kind teacher, Lama Yeshe, who enjoyed California lifestyle. There was an atmosphere of light-heartedness around him that made us all feel happier with our lives.

The true purpose of religion, as far as I can see, is to be a help in the difficult task of living and connect us with the unity and love that makes for true happiness. In Buddhism, there is no dogma, nothing you have to believe. You look for experience and experiment to build up your own understanding. Whatever happens becomes a teaching.
When a person gives up personal agenda in the compassionate service of others, then that person becomes a living bodhisattva, an example of that which is taught. Such a person teaches with his own experience and is pointing the way, but it is up to you to go the way. The teacher is not accepted point blank. I observed Lama Yeshe through thirteen years and sometimes under conditions of closeness, like living together, and always there was a radiance of gladness and humor around him that was uplifting for all.

(Spell check comment from my computer: Yeshe = yes he?)

Buddhism is an ancient and wise course in self-help, to be employed in daily life.
I keep talking about this because I meet people that are totally opposed to all religion or completely uninterested in any religion, and I feel that they throw the baby out with the bathwater. Among them, I suspect, there are some who just do not recognize their true religious feelings as being “religious”. What it all comes down to is how we act and what the results are, for our self and for others. Ignorant people often create misery for themselves.
“If your actions brings greater clarity and more compassion,” said Lama Yeshe, “then you are following the Buddha’s way, whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not, and if not, then you may call yourself a Buddhist, but you are not one.”

I’m digressing. Back to Berkeley hills. Lama Yeshe asked me what I planned to do and I said I would stay at Vajrapani Land over the winter.
“So short!” he said.
I think that was the moment when I began to realize that I was not on my way to India anymore.
Høne’s husband, Chris, had taken vows as monk and took off to Nepal to meditate and Høne and I moved with the kids Thor(5) and Amrit(4) into a tepee on the Ridge at Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture, or, more simply, the Land. It was lovely to suddenly have a family and be part of a community devoted to the dream of building a place of calm for teachings and retreats, a dream that they were already living. For me it was a natural continuation of the time I had spent in Kagyu Ling and Kopan, where I had also been involved in building a center.
The Ridge had a compelling view down the valley of King’s Creek, ending in a blue mountain range on the far side of San Lorenzo Valley. At the end of the Ridge was a platform with the tepee where we stayed through this hot and dry summer that stretched into October. The sunny afternoons we rolled the cloth up on the western side and opened up for the view and the breeze that wafted up the valley with a hint of the cool ocean.

Next to the tepee was a light construction with corrugated sun roof, open on three sides to the oaks and madrones that covered the hill. This was the Ridge Kitchen, a communal center where half of the folks had dinner together every day. The Land had two such communal focal points of which the other was Jackson’s Kitchen further up the valley.

That year the creek was running strong all through the summer and I went down with the boys in the hot afternoons to cool down. My principal occupation was to paint a thanka for Chris that was the most complicated thanka I have ever painted.

Children's conference.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Space Garbage

On January 11th. China sent a missile out in space where it smashed an old weather satellite 520 miles above the surface of the earth.

Donald Kessler used to work for NASA, and it was him who gave name to the Kessler-syndrome – the conception that one day there will be so much scrap metal in space that it will be impossible to send up vessels and satellites.
He says to the newspaper that the Chinese missile test only has precipitated the inevitable.


To oppose something is to maintain it.

(Ursula K. LeGuin, ‘The Left Hand of Darkness” p. 146)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

From Nepal

Among the friends who came to Lama Yeshe’s teachings in Kopan were Lena, Nick’s girlfriend, and Høne with her new American boyfriend, Chris. Lena was living with Nick in a house in the fields outside Bodhanath and it was in their home I first met Chris. He was part Native American, pale with long straight dark hair. That first night he didn’t say a word, and he intrigued me. He was living with Høne in one of the houses that circled Bodhanath stupa. From these houses, looking out one side there was the stupa, looking out the other side there was rice fields and the mountains in the distance.


I became a frequent visitor in their house. Chris had many fantastic stories about out of body experiences and other supernatural phenomena. I took acid with him and had one such thing happen. We were looking at the starry sky and had located Gemini and Leo. “I don’t see Cancer,” I said, “it should be there in between.” Then, suddenly, we saw it: a radiant picture of the crab, and it was like the whole sky was a network of luminous correlations. I felt that this was how the ancients must have seen it and named it.

Bodhanath stupa

Nick and Lena took care of a puppy that was born in their house. He was named Skorpe (Danish for Rind) because they fed him cheese rinds. He became big and strong and was devoted to the different Danish households that he would often visit and where there was always some tidbit for him.
One time he came to my rescue. I came home late and when I passed the Bodhanath stupa a pack of feral dogs started barking aggressively at me and soon had me cornered, my back against the wall. Then one detached itself and jumped up to lick my face. It was Skorpe. As soon as the others saw that I was a friend they closed in on me with wagging tails and wanted to be petted. Later there was a raid on feral dogs, but Skorpe was too smart to take the bait of poisoned meat, maybe also less needy because of his Danish connections.


There is no sweeter revenge than requital of hatred with deeds of good will.

(Paul Carus, ‘Karma’)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

One Year

Today, February 7th. 2007, is the first anniversary of this blog. I will profit by the occasion to thank you all, who visit here, for your interest and encouragement.
When I started out I had a lot of material ready: in writing, photos and paintings. Now, more and more, I have to create new material for each post and it naturally slows down the process. Please, bear with me and keep coming around.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


A new citizen of the world came forth on February 1st. Arianna Shoshana Hunter, Daughter of Ellesa and Michael.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Journey to the West (Topanga Canyon)

After three months in New York, I began to feel that big city life would drive me crazy and when the chance came for company with a young French guy we decided to take a drive-away car cross-country. We had limited time, but we made a stop at the Hopi reservation to pay our respects to the American-Americans. A second stop was at the Grand Canyon; truly a breath-taking encounter with American nature. The final destination of the car was another especially American phenomenon: Las Vegas. Here we split up and I took the bus to LA, or, more precisely, to Topanga Canyon where Sherab’s twin brother, Bruce, and his Danish wife had invited me to visit. They lived in a bus and had given me a fairly good description of how to find them.

Arrived in LA it was already early evening. I asked for Topanga and was shown to a bus. The bus let me off at a crossing. It was Topanga Avenue and it stretched infinitely to the right and to the left. There was nobody around. All I could do was take a guess, which way was right, and then start walking.
It was getting dark and there didn’t seem to be anybody living in the neighborhood. Finally a car came by and stopped for a red light near me. I approached the car to ask for help, but as soon as the driver noticed me he started up and ran the red light to get away. That was the last living being I saw that night. I found a deserted place behind an office building and rolled out my sleeping bag.

Next morning I found a gas station and the attendant told me that I had taken the wrong direction and anyway, Topanga Canyon was quite far. I had to take a bus. When I arrived I followed the directions, but where Bruce’s bus should have been there was no bus. I called Sherab in New York and after several phone calls it was revealed that Bruce had gone with the wife and the bus to visit his parents in Escondido and wouldn’t be back until a week later. I didn’t have money for a hotel, in part because Sherab hadn’t paid me what he owed me, so I told him he had to help me out. After more phone calls Sherab had me hooked up with a Buddhist center in LA and I reached them before nightfall. They took good care of me till Bruce returned.

I was still captivated by America, even more so after crossing the continent and seeing the West coast. I had expected everything to be new and efficient because all the new things in Europe that I disliked, like freeways and supermarkets, all came from America. Instead it was often more funky and old fashioned here than Europe. Topanga was some kind of hippie community; it even had a fair while I was there, attended by Timothy Leary. Ten years earlier meeting the acid guru would have fascinated me; now he seemed a bit passé.