The Mystical Arts of Tibet





I’ve lived all my life in the South, which also means I live in “the Bible Belt.” If you are unfamiliar with this term, in a nutshell it means not only is someone going to ask you “who’s your Mama?,” they are also probably going to ask you which church you attend on Sundays. From the bayous of Louisiana to the hollers of Kentucky, you can’t throw a stone without hitting a First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian or First AME church. Don’t even get me started on Second Baptist and Third Baptist churches. Just like how you take your tea, which mayonnaise you use, and which SEC football team you yell for, your religion is everybody’s business in the South.

With all of this in mind, when we found out that the Tibetan Monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery were revisiting the Jepson Center Center for the Arts, we knew it was time to take a drive down to Savannah. The lamas were at the Jepson for a week-long residency to create a sand mandala.

Mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram,” is a sand painting. Beginning with an opening ceremony in which the lamas consecrate the site through chanting and music, the monks began creating the mandala outline from memory. Each manifestation of the Buddha has its own design. The monks began by drawing the axes in the four cardinal directions using chalked string that has been blessed. Using simple geometric tools and rulers, the lamas drew parallel lines, overlapping circles and concentric squares to create the mandala.

In the following days, the monks painstakingly created the mandala grain-by-grain using crushed marble. Dressed in dark red and golden saffron, the lamas poured sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid. The lamas created the Akshobya Mandala, also known as the “Unshakable Victor,” for conflict resolution and peace.

On Sunday, the mandala was destroyed by sweeping the sands —a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands were swept up and placed in an urn; half was distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony. The remainder was carried by the monks to the Savannah River. The waters then carried the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.





Dining High on the Hog

So let’s get the bad news over with first. The Dutch lost to the Danes today in their first match in the 2012 Euro Cup. Ouch. I won’t go in to a lot of detail about it; I really don’t want to have to relive it. I will say I learned an important lesson, though: I am so going to call our insurance agent before the 2014 World Cup and take out a new life insurance policy on the Dutchman. As much as he yelled and cussed out the boys in orange on the TV today, he might just stroke out if they play like that again. Holland’s loss might be my financial gain. Hello early retirement!

Just kidding.

However, all was not lost today. We headed over to the First Annual High on the Hog BBQ Contest at Whitehall Plantation on Lady’s Island. All the barbecue samples you could eat, beer, ice cream, and ice cold slices of watermelon; with all proceeds benefiting Lowcountry Habitat for Humanity.

Ladies and gentlmen, swallow an extra cholesterol pill, put on your stretchy pants, and get your plastic forks out because it is time for some ‘que!

We tried out more than a dozen samples of ribs and butts today from pit masters from all over South Carolina, North Carolina and coastal Georgia. Not actual butts, mind you, just a cut of meat called “Boston Butt.” We do eat some weird stuff in the South like fatback and boiled peanuts, and we put enough sugar and ice in our tea to make your cavities freeze but we aren’t THAT crazy.

The Dutchman and I thought S’Lowcountry Q was hands down the best barbecue. Their Carolina Gold mustard-based sauce was phenomenal. I know some barbecue experts think it is blasphemous to drinch the meat in sauce but I couldn’t help it. This sauce was awesome! I think other people must have agreed with us, too. When we went back for seconds they had run out of barbecue and the Carolina Gold sauce container was almost empty.

We even took Marley, our sweet old beagle with us. I think she thought we took her to Doggie Disneyland or something. People played with her and rubbed her ears, she got to eat barbecue galore, and all of this involved her favorite activity besides napping: riding in the car!

So how was it all? I think Marley’s expression during the car ride home speaks for itself:

Stick a fork in me, I’m done. It’s time for a nap.



Taking the Plunge in 2012

Happy 2012!

Every holiday has its traditions. Watching football while eating collard greens and black-eyed peas is the norm for me on New Year’s Day. However, we decided that since we moved to the beach it was time to kick off 2012 with a new tradition. We took the plunge. The “Pelican Plunge,” that is.

The Pelican Plunge is a local event modeled after the “Polar Bear Plunge” held in places like Boston and New York. Basically, you go out to the beach, psych yourself up, and with adrenaline pumping, you run like an idiot into the pneumonia-inducing, who-the-hell-thought-this-was-a-good-idea, freezing seawater. Sounds like a great new tradition, right?

If you have never been to Hunting Island, go. Go now. It is a gorgeous even in winter!

You can walk to the top of the lighthouse.

At the Pelican Plunge, there was a reggae band, a costume parade, and a Kazoo sing along. The donations raised go to support “Discover Carolina” South Carolina State Park Programs, a program that transforms South Carolina State Parks and the South Carolina State House into living classrooms.  

Now, onto the day’s festivities. We jammed to the music…

We watched the costume parade…

Then it was time for the main event. It was rather unseasonably warm with a daytime high of 71 degrees, but don’t let that fool you. The seawater was unseasonably cold, according to officials. Believe me, it was COLD!

You know, Mother Nature may not be kind to women sometimes, but today was a good day to be a woman. I shudder to think about how many men were recalling this episode of Seinfeld when they hit the water:

We came. We plunged. We got the commemorative t-shirt and kazoo. Now bring me an electric blanket and some hot chocolate.