‘It obviously behooves me to practice being receptive, open for the business of gratitude.” – A. LaMott

Briefly, from Ananda Ashram –

Today (Saturday) I head out to Bless School again, to work with the teachers. V. excited. More, as it happens (and as Internet is available)!

Hello from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


Lost, but found: passport – thank you, Matthew, for running back with it.

Long,  but worth it: the Dubai – Chennai leg of today’s trip,  which included being bumped to Business class: Veuve Cliquot for breakfast and a massage chair that stretched out into a bed.

I’m  in Mamallapuram, a sort of Indian Capitola-Tahoe City-Grand Marais (when it’s hot). Or, “…like the coast of Florida, only with more elephants.”

It’s on the Bay of Bengal, and  best-known for the stone statues,  still done (with electric “knives & chisels,” I noticed), and for its 5th-7thc. temples on the beach.  I walked out to visit the Shore Temples, which Elizabeth and I had seen a few years ago, but not entered.

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I was there with hordes of schoolgirls – those matching uniforms – and families in electric orange.

My driver, who decided to walk there with me,  said all  the orange was for the lotus. Somebody else said it was to show they were a family; still another person said… you get my drift: I’m back in India!


Consequently, the assault to the senses has begun: this hotel is on the main street, and horns replace turn signals outside the window of my 2nd floor room. The hotel seems full of agents and porters tripping wonderfully over themselves to help people like  Maggie Smith and Judy Dench.  DO TAKE 3 MINUTES to watch that clip, because it is iconic of  the colors, the dust, the energy of India: it [all] teaches me something.

So, a few photos in this  note from my hotel room,  where the a.c. is   going [more or less] strong, and where the Internet is doing similarly valiant, if spotty service.

As I was finishing this post, I looked up to see a 3-inch flying…?bee?beetle?…landing on a light fixture.  Those of you who know me, know I do not do flying or scurrying critters. One of the men from downstairs helped me. Full disclosure: I stood 10 feet away, calling out, “What are you going to do?  Where will it go? Shall I open the door?” The man wisely ignored me, swatted the thing onto the floor and out the door (bare-handed), and now I’m going in search of some re-vivifying seafood.

It’s good to be back.

A Child’s Christmas in Vienna

I’ve been here for several  days, now, delighting in Leilani and Matthew’s warmth in sharing their new city. We’ve had grand meals,  both at home and out. Lei makes her own tortillas in Vienna (yes, yes, she does).  We did Caffe Diglas  for a lunch of schnitzel and goulasch, and then a melange…

MelangeI’ve  visited the place where Matthew spends his days, and seen the view from his study room:








Mary seems to own Dad’s study room, or at least the string controlling the blinds — 

Our  nights have been  full of Christmas markets: Stephantsplat, Freyung in the city center; there’s one in the Ehrenhof, outside the Belvedere Palace; the one we did last night  in Spittelberg is full of lanes, crowded with stalls selling handicrafts (think, llama blanket with polar bears) , art ( think waxart, which as we left, was going for 50% off), and chocolate of every color and flavor.

 lights 3afterXmasdinner

3 in St Stephen's
St Stephen’s for Mass: Haydn for 2 hours. Still, it was Haydn. Still, it was 2 hours.


I expect to be somewhere else in a few weeks,but for now it’s great to be in the Twin Cities, which even HuffPost recognizes as amazing.

And look how these Cronin boys love the leaves —





New Job, New Culture, New World!

I’m not a stranger to roads  less travelled,  but I’ve recently entered a place that’s forcing me to chart new territory.  Last   week, I began teaching (observing, really — I won’t teach for a couple weeks)  in a place where I’m a minority, a place where the vocabulary, and the etiquette — even the position of chairs in a room —  are all intensely new.

VLR sign

Vision Loss Resources, Lyndale Ave, Mpls,  is full of chances to see things differently. Yesterday, I  accompanied an Orientation & Mobility  i.e. white cane,  Instructor, as she worked with a client.  She  used words  like “shorelining,” and “feeling for the bubbles [underfoot]”.


Heading to and from Target, we crossed streets,  went up and down escalators, and rode both bus and  light rail.

Clients at VLR start with the Braille alphabet and punctuation, then move to the next level, where they learn to read whole words. Our client yesterday doesn’t yet know enough Braille to read this directional sign. Instead, he  listened for the oncoming train, and once he realized others were  on the platform, asked them if this were the Midtown train.

LtRail Sign


feet & cane

The instructor  and I sat 10 rows back, so that, as she explained, “People will assume he’s alone.” The he is middle-aged man, blind from birth, who has been so dependent, for so many years, that he’ll probably never live outside a group home. Yet, from what I can tell, nobody  at VLR –  from the CEO to the newest  client — ever says never

My colleagues, who all seem to know I am sighted,  treat me, nevertheless,  with respect: I do  not have a guide dog, and I can see  paperclips and jump drives; at the computer,  I have to use a mouse, rather than directional arrows or JAWS to locate desktop files and open folders. Yet, they don’t  hold this against me. In fact, they are, fortunately for me,  Bodisattva-like, in their compassion.

As  the newest Newbie,  I probably notice things that others take for granted.Today, as I walked through the lobby,  I saw this poster for a Great Books Discussion Group. For a split second, I was bemused by the hand, until  I remembered I wasn’t at TGHS.  

poster Grt Books

REALLY, I’m trying to  learn to do familiar things in unfamiliar ways , e.g.”Please don’t worry about saying, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow.’ or ‘Did you see the latest piece about Syria?’ We all say it all the time.” or “You know that joke about how to make Helen Keller cry (Rearrange the furniture!)? Well, here, it’s for real, so push  your chair back in its place when you leave the classroom.”

Long story short: I hope my colleagues have as much empathy for ME as they do for our incredible clients. So far, so good.

[Today is just like] January in India

Despite a  forecast dangerous for State Fair goers,  it had been a fruitful morning for me, personally   – air conditioned Mass, then a promising meeting on St Cecilia’s Domestic Violence work  with the pastor, as well as  with one of my all-time  personal heroes,  Mary Louise Klas.

Once home and  planted safely  in front of my a.c., I did a broad-stroke outline of  this year’s Escape-Winter-Ice Travel Plan,  then began the memoir thrust upon me earlier in the day by Judge Klas.  My weekly ESL work  is allowing  me just the narrowest glimpse into Somali (Muslim) women’s lives, and yet  the experience has sparked my interest. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say the experience has also raised questions [aka flags],  as I watch the   women in this 23-floor high rise, so I am fascinated by Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s INFIDEL.

Reading for a sweltering day

Reading for a sweltering day

Spice Grinder for Garam Masala

Spice Grinder for Garam Masala

IN OTHER NEWS:I have started cooking Indian this summer: coriander, cumin, cardamon… 

My first batch of Garam Masala, that defining pleasure of many Indian dishes, was…well… Mary Briel,  you will remember how I had  you  taste that finely-ground brown mixture   I’d  brought back from Chennai? Remember how we decided I’d mixed up the plastic bags, and you’d just tasted Ananda Ashram DIRT,  instead of  Spencer Plaza GARAM MASALA?

Yes. Well, let me say this: my first batch of GM tasted just like India…the dirt of India.  “…you will want to  play with the flavors,” said the lovely Sri Lankan who sold me the spices and the grinder online, then called several times to check on my progress.  (I was being overzealous with the nutmeg; the GM is improving).


Ths afternoon, as we edged into the upper nineties in St Paul, I did what the women who cook at the ashram do: made a spicy chicken dish.

Indian GM ChickenThe picture won’t make you envy me, but it really is quite perfect, especially with a little of this…

IMG_4826                              (and I see it’s only 84F in Chennai today!)

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