Friday, April 16, 2004

Back to the present:

There are a couple of loose ends that need gathering up.

About "Redemption," if you've been paying attention, you'll know that it was aired last Sunday night on the FX cable channel and repeated last night (twice). Great news! According to Barbara (my friend who acted as co-producer), the channel would have been content with a market share of 2. That would have been extremely good for a cable channel, especially in the same time slot as the "Sopranos" in some places in the country. Instead, they received the highest market share in the history of the channel. Some samplings around the country, Atlanta - 7, Memphis-8, Florida - 6, and we don't have the numbers for last night when the word-of-mouth would have probably boosted them even higher. Barbara is receiving calls from all over the country and those are voices supporting a moratorium on the death penalty. In the week prior to the airing, she was bombarded with enough emails and calls from victim's rights organizations to have made her pretty apprehensive about what she had wrought. "I may have hastened Stan's march to the death chamber by my work, Betty." The communications since the airing have been heart-warming, and she's been vindicated in her own mind, at least. Next stop, Cannes! Hope you've had a chance to watch the film.

Issue two: Tibetan Dzi Beads.

Recently I wrote about my longtime association with Lama Wangdor of Rewalser in the Himalayas. It had never occurred to me to learn more about those "Zee" stones he'd sent to me years ago. But then there wasn't access to the Internet at that time, and I was surrounded by dreamers who believed that all things Tibetan were magical by definition. All I knew about them was that they were rumored to have magic powers of some sort. There were six of them. The fact that Lama had smuggled them out of Tibet in 1987, sewn into the lining of his clothing should have suggested their value to me, but I simply took the little homemade leather pouch that contained them and tucked them away for the moment. Intended to have them made into a necklace at some point -- when there was time to think about it. Only about six months ago I did just that. A friend combined the six beads with other antique pieces and created a lovely necklace. Having read the explanations of these ancient beads, I'm wondering now if I've done them justice? Wondering too if it makes sense to wear them as casually as I have -- their only real value to me was the tawny colorings and how they did or did not blend with whatever I was wearing. Today something changed. I wore them to my meeting, but this time under my sweater -- against my skin. They're definitely not to be taken for casual jewelry anymore than a rosary or a St. Christopher's medal might have been.

As you may recall from an earlier entry, at one point in our long friendship (not student-teacher but as pen pals), he'd sent to me his mother's traditional apron-type brightly-colored garment, some well-worn silk brocade garments, two prayer rugs and a larger one with two beautiful tigers against a yellow background (it sits on the floor at my front door even as we speak).

My attitude about all things Tibetan was highly colored by those larger than life days at the university -- and by my determination to stand apart from what I felt was the seduction of Buddhism. I surely didn't feel that way about Bill's obvious dedication to his newfound faith or to his religious practices; this was something I felt a little envious of actually, but I couldn't embrace what I had so little understanding of. And the unique friendship with my Lama friend was enough for me. My pen pal certainly didn't demand anything more of me. Our friendship -- at first by mail and later in person when he visited the West -- stood apart from all that, and was always approached as equals. His letters from Rewalser were translated by Lena Ford (American), and his gifts I'd originally felt were at least partly in appreciation for Bill's financial support -- but eventually -- his allegiance was to me, personally. He was a lovely man. That he may also have been a powerful religious iconic figure was incidental. Funny, isn't it?

Last night -- for the first time -- I went on line to look up "Zee stones." This was how he referred to them in his letters to me. Learned in my Google search that this was Lena's error in translation and that they were actually "Dzi beads." What a gift! Take a look for yourself. Put "Tibetan Dzi Beads" into your search engine and boggle your mind!

I'm off this morning to the second day of a two-day seminar sponsored by the National Park Service. We're continuing the master-planning of the Reception Center for the Rosie the Riveter Memorial National Park on the Richmond shoreline. But under my sweater I'm wearing a necklace made of the six dzi beads received long ago , and I fully expect miracles! There may be reasons why I've led such a charmed life for all these years, and I'm only partly joking. Fascinating stuff! Should have paid attention to this gift long ago, but now that I have the time and with my curiosity still active and alive ...

Perhaps I'll stop by Padma Ling and become re-acquainted with the past ... .

Now I'm off to catch up with the present ... .