Holy Week

10 April 2020

This week little pink buds in clusters of fours are appearing quietly on the palm sized plant that I received during the lunar new year this January.

“Clusters” has taken on an ominous tone these days, so I hope seeing clusters of flowers helps to provide some balance.

3 days ago the super pink moon graced the night sky even as residents in Singapore retreated indoors to avoid Covid-19.

And on that full moon night among the pink buds and under the pink moon, I sat up with Grace, my 13-year-old cat.

She had suffered rat glue trapping in her kittenhood while living on the streets of Little India and endured spaying and dental surgeries after her rescue. Now in her old age she had to battle blindness and ill-health.

Her life hadn’t been great in the normal sense, but she was loved, treated for her discomforts and had outlived the vet’s projection of her life span by 11 years.

After a final drink of honey water to quench her thirst and in anticipation of a sweet rebirth, eye drops on her eyes to regain her sight in the life to come, and a brief cuddle, Grace left her body without struggle.

The stars were sparkling that night as I lit a butter lamp to give thanks for her easy passing and to guide her home. 善终 meaning a peaceful death is one of the 5 blessings (五福)

Yesterday on Maundy Thursday, Grace’s ashes came back to me in a small porcelain urn.

Amidst the restrictions of physical movements, sufferings of loss and shortages of tangible goods, I hope that acceptance of whatever we’re facing will also allow compassion to flow, so that our heart can expand a little & we can breathe a bit easier, even as our body retreats temporarily from the outside world.

New Moon Mandala of GRACE Dedication

24 March 2020

We give thanks for the new moon who accompanies us faithfully in times of laughter & tears, in times of plenty and scarcity, and in times of sickness and health.

May the new moon bless all departed sentient beings with her healing light of peace.

May the new moon grant the living, the grace & sensibilities of Mother Mary, as the human race pass through this current pandemic in kindness, for our benefit, and the benefit of ALL sentient beings.

Full Moon on Thaipusam (8 Feb 2020)

10 Feb 2020

Giver of Wisdom, Ganesh, and the Wind Lion Deity of Kinmen (凤狮爷) posing with Revival, Red Radish 1.

Over the weekend, after the Singapore government raised the alert to Code Orange in response to the evolving situation regarding the novel coronavirus, there was a rush to stockpile food supplies and essentials.

Last Saturday (8Feb), as I was waiting for a taxi in the east to take me home in the west, I deliberated on whether I should also stop by the supermarket to replenish some of my regular supplies that were running low.

I avoid eating out as much as possible. The queuing, carrying of my own tray and looking for a seat in food places will neutralise whatever nutrients any purchase promises to give me. People like me don’t need any outbreak to eat in. 😊

In the midst of my rumination, a taxi appeared in the distance. I flagged it down quickly as I had been waiting for some time.

When it pulled up, I realised it was a 6-seater space wagon!

I got on the cavernous vehicle despite knowing the trip would cost me more than the usual. The driver had made the effort of switching from the outer lane to stop for me. It would be unfair of me to decline the ride.

And as if reading my mind, the Indian driver cheerfully announced that his type of taxi ride will cost more because it is for group travellers with luggage.

Ganesh is known as the Giver of Wisdom and Removal of Obstacles. The Indian driver with his 6-seater cab literally cleared a path for me to get health supplements & groceries, and then to go home with ease.

“But don’t worry. U just sit. I know where to take you so that you can get a normal cab easily,” he suggested in a loud, booming voice, much to my surprise.

He then dropped me off at Kinex Mall taxi stand, and jocundly refused to accept any payment. Instead, he thanked me for blessing him when I wished him safety and good health.

After he drove off, I decided to make the best of his kindness by exploring the mall a bit to see if I could get some health supplements for my cats and find a quiet supermarket to replenish my noodle stock.

Next to rice & pitta bread, longevity noodles (mee sua or somen) is my favourite emergency food. And ever since I had tasted the ones from Kinmen Island, I’ve been hoping to find them in Singapore.

Longevity noodles (Mee Sua or Somen) from Kinmen. It is my favourite emergency food since childhood.

To my delight, the basement of Kinex Mall not only had a pet shop, but also a very peaceful & well stocked supermarket that devoted entire two rows of its shelves to imported groceries from Taiwan!

So among the Taiwanese snacks, staples & condiments, I finally had a reunion with my beloved noodles from Kinmen!

Handmade & sundried noodles (Mee Sua or Somen) from Kinmen Island, Taiwan.

Considering that day was the 15th day of the Lunar New Year (full moon reunion) and Thaipusam, a very significant observance among South Indian Tamil Hindus, it was more than luck that a Chinese woman would be assisted by an Indian man to go to an unfamiliar shopping mall where she could buy noodles produced in her ancestors’ birth place.

The encounter with the Indian driver leading to the noodle discovery has given me the assurance to buy just enough for my needs, and to resist the urge to buy more because of the fear of not having enough, the greed of wanting more and the arrogance that I could afford them.

And I’m amazed to read that Thaipusam marks Lord Murugan’s victory over fear, greed and arrogance. 🙏

OM in black for the Full Moon

9 Jan 2020

Black is accommodating.

It hides what is not ready to be seen.

Black is giving.

It stays in the background to allow others to shine.

May the full moon tonight bless our mind with wisdom, so that we can see beyond our emotions, and learn to rely on the comforting presence of darkness to recover, for our benefit and for the benefit of others.

Light to help us befriend not dispel Darkness, so that we can heal.

Hero’s Assurance

9 Jan 2019 (Full Moon)

My first penmanship gift from Sharonne in 2020.

I’ve been using blue ink to teach penmanship to younger students since 2014. Blue is easier to clean and more forgiving on kids’ clothes. And I’ve used blue so regularly that I’ve forgotten about black.

But ever since this new year when I started writing OM, my interest in black ink has returned.

OM in blue.

So the day before yesterday, I went to West Coast Plaza specifically to collect my shoes at the cobbler’s, and to look for black ink at the stationery supplies store there.

First Tutee shows Ollie pictures of themselves taken when he was in primary 1. He’s in primary 3 this year. 😊

I was in a bit of a rush to return home where First Tutee, now in Primary 3, was dropping by for his first lesson of 2020.

When I got home I realised I had forgotten to check out the bottle of HERO black ink at the cashier’s. It was still sitting on the shelf where I had placed it for safe keeping when I left.

As I couldn’t justify taking a cab back to the store just to pick up a bottle of ink, I decided to let the matter rest.

Yesterday, over lunch at Fortune Centre, my friend, Sharonne, whom I’ve known for 37 years gave me a present.

It was a HERO penmanship gift set made up of a fountain pen and a bottle of ink. She had bought it at Sisyphus Book Store in Hangzhou, China, where she spent many happy hours.

And the colour of the ink?

It had to be black of course. 😊

It feels humbling & assuring that the black ink has made its way to me despite my inability to purchase it on my own.

So I wish for my friends and all sentient beings the same assurance and the same ease that have been experienced by me, as they go about heroically creating better lives for themselves & for others.

Happy Full Moon! ♥️🌈🐾

Staying Sweet for 2020

6 Jan 2020

First Parcel in 2020 for a friend whom I hardly see but is always supportive of my animal work since 2007.

School & work started on the 2nd day of 2020 for most in Singapore.

Since primary school days the ending of the old year and the beginning of the new one carry great significance for me.

As I age, I find myself more selective and making more efforts in the simplest of activities that I partake in around this season. (This would be the main reason why I need to operate alone. 😄)

Ollie poses with a Street Dog Care calendar from Nepal. This was the first gift I mailed out in 2020.

So on the 2nd day of 2020, I decided that leaving my house to make a trip to the post office to mail a calendar to a friend was top priority.

Now the taxi fare to & fro would easily cost me at least $14, and if I were pragmatic, I should have waited a few more days to gather up more errands and mail her the calendar while I was running them. But this friend definitely deserves more, and shall not be part of my errands.

My sore throat was also healing. Although I didn’t think it auspicious to begin the new year with one, it had the benefit of making me stay home to write OM and drink honey water.

After the Westgate Post Office, I stopped by a costume jewelry counter on my way to the supermarket.

The counter was just on the walkway of the mall so it wasn’t even in a proper shop.

Ollie, like Planet Jupiter, wears my choker of 12 moons.

But the salesgirl on duty that day was dressed as if she was working for Cartier.

She showed the low priced trinkets respectfully to customers who were mostly in carefree and casual clothes.

I was immediately impressed by her regal air even though her retail space was tiny & cluttered, and even though she only had a plastic stool to sit on, despite looking like a million dollars.

When she saw me, she was very interested in the rudraksha beads on my wrist and tried to recall their Mandarin name.

“Boudhi Seeds (菩提子),” I offered.

The young Queen smiled.

After she realised I understood Mandarin, she started telling me how she liked the way my choker looked against black.

This 12-moon choker of buffalo horn reminds me of Jupiter and has accompanied to many places. Its bovine presence often allows total strangers to relax and smile at me.

I returned the Queen’s kindness by complimenting her on her youth and dress sense, and she replied, “我只是年轻罢了。而你的时尚是打从骨子里来的.” (Rough Transl: I’m just young, but your style is bone deep).

As I watched Her Grace greeting customers who didn’t even bother to look at her, I felt I needed to give her something to remind her of her sweetness.

So before I left the mall, I bought an extra bottle of honey from GNC and went back to the costume jewellery counter to give it to her.

“May your life be sweet no matter who you meet.”

At first she looked a little puzzled. Then she held up the bottle of honey and revealed excitedly that this was her first gift from Singapore! She had only been working here for a month plus. And for her to receive honey at the start of the new year was auspicious, she gushed.

And standing tall on her fine stockinged legs, the Queen bent low to ask if I could give her a hug!

As I did, I wished her a happy and youthful 2020 and may the honey gift remind her of her own sweetness, and to remain sweet no matter what kind of customers she meets.

Barry Lopez and the Himalayas

29 November 2019

I first learnt of Barry Lopez maybe 10-15 years ago while reading up on issues related to animals & conservation. At that time I was trying to read “Of Wolves and Men” by him but somehow his language eluded me.

But still, each time I visit a bookshop, his name would catch my eye and I would find myself saying an inward hello.

The day after this new moon, an interview of Barry Lopez by Vincent J Miller popped up on my FB feed. So I read it, counting on the fact that words from an interview might be more accessible to me.

It was a long interview called “The Literary Landscape of Barry Lopez.” And every word from him felt like God speaking to me!

After I recovered from the near spiritual experience, I felt compelled to share Lopez’s interview with two friends. One is still on his pilgrimage at La Verna where St Francis of Assisi received his Stigmata and the other will be taking a retreat in a Cistercian Monastery two days after I leave for Nepal.

The La Verna pilgrim texted back to say he would be drawing on Lopez’s interview to close his journey.

My friend sent me this from La Verna after I shared Lopez’s interview with him.

The Cistercian pilgrim thanked me for the share and he’ll be reading the interview as part of his preparation for the retreat.

Their responses rekindled my courage to read Lopez, especially now that his new book “Horizon” was available at the Jurong East Regional Library.

I was completing some errands at Clementi Mall when the thought of borrowing “Horizon” came. I resisted the urge to make a reservation and told myself if I was meant to read it, it would still be there by the time I took the train and walked to the library.

When I got to the library, I looked up “Horizon” on their online catalogue & noted its call number on paper.

As I was walking to the lift and trying to visualise where the shelf that held “Horizon” might be, I asked a library staff for direction.

“You just take a seat & wait here, I’ll bring you the book,” the young lady offered enthusiastically!

In no time time she was back. She smiled triumphantly as she placed a beautiful blue book in my hands.

When I opened the book, the first thing that greeted my eyes was a painting with the Himalayan Mountains as its backdrop. The painting, known as “Remember,” was by Nicholas Roerich, who spent time among the Himalayas.

I’m heading for Nepal in a weeks’ time and I couldn’t have hoped for a more suitable book to begin this trip.

And this whole experience feels that forces beyond my understanding were collaborating to assist my learning.

So I wish for everyone the grace to remember past aspirations & the faith & patience to wait for the alignment of causes & conditions to bring their aspirations to fruition.

The scallop shell which held the tea light for this new moon’s mandala happens to be a symbol of pilgrimage in the catholic tradition. All paths centre on the Divine.

Mandala of Pumpkin Seeds on Cambodian Weave for the New Moon.

26 Nov 2019

Ollie represents all animal beings in this new moon mandala dedication.

May the seed of peace buried in each human heart be watered by the new moonshine.

Pumpkin seeds and Cambodian weave called “krama” share same shades of colours.

And may its roots weave paths of hope & healing for all sentient beings because all lives are intricately linked.

Our destinies are weaved to one another like the intricate threads of this krama. When we harm others, we harm ourselves. No one is free.

Messenger on 11-11

12 November 2019

It was full moon last night.

After dedicating a mandala, I met up with a friend for dinner. I had been wanting to hand him a souvenir from Taipei since September.

It was an access card holder with peacock embroidery on it. I bought 3 of them and two have already found delighted owners.

The 3rd piece was a bit tricky to give away because this friend and I seldom meet. By the way, the intended recipient of this gift has spent nearly his whole life studying birds.

I was slowly doubting the necessity for an ornithologist to own an embroidered bird as a keepsake when he’s surrounded by REAL feathered beings every day. 😄

I had my “selling ice to an eskimo” moments which made me harbour thoughts of keeping the gift for myself.

But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Last night, not only was my friend very very pleased with the gift from Taipei. It turned out that he’ll be there this December for new year countdown!

As he learnt about my September visit to Taipei and Kinmen Island, my grandma’s birthplace, he became intrigued by the latter.

He wanted to know more about the old streets, slow life and ancient houses. His eyes shone in wonderment when I told him about the abundance of blue peacocks on the island.

By the time dinner ended, my friend was thinking of including Kinmen Island in his new year celebration.

After we parted ways, I saw a young man on the linking bridge between Westgate Mall and JEM Mall. He was aiming his cell phone camera at something in the distant.

As I followed his hands, my eyes landed on a Peacock shimmering away outside the Jurong East MRT Station.

The Peacock, despite his majestic beauty, is associated with humility and magnanimity. Being light-footed, he carries his magnificence with ease. He is a reminder not to turn blessings into burdens because of our craving for control.