Tuesday, October 03, 2006

In Memoriam - K F Hartwell

Kevan F. Hartwell Dec. 21, 1920 - Oct. 3, 2001

I immediately thought of my father when I came across this quote by George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). These words so aptly describe the way Kevan Hartwell lived, how he eagerly met life head on:

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing on to future generations."

In Memoriam

Five years, Dad, since you’ve been gone.
And here’s a new October dawn.

Five years passed like one moment in time, the blink of an eye,
a solemn whisper, a small sad sigh.

We miss your music, miss your voice, your wisdom and your cheer.
The world has changed since you’ve been gone, for you’re no longer here.

The space is dark and empty you once so brightly filled,
but we are not forsaken; you're here beside us still.

Your words still clearly echo, your hands, with love, still guide
As we reflect upon the past with tears, with smiles, with pride.

Five years now since you’ve been gone,
And we, the living, must live on.

To you, to the "splendid torch" that you passed.


Tribute-- Kevan F Hartwell

My father died five years ago, October 3, 2001.

I used to think he would live forever--he had such a strong life force. He died two and a half months shy of his 81st birthday.

He was a giant. Not in the physical sense, but in his character, his qualities.

He loved music. I recall listening to his collection of wonderful 33 rpm records. Before cassettes existed, he had a reel-to-reel tape player. This is where I first heard and sang along with movie soundtracks.

And he was musically gifted. There seemed no instrument he could not play. I remember as a child hearing him with his beloved clarinet. Day in, day out, he played that clarinet, determined to master it, as he did with everything he undertook. And--oh!--how I recall the trumpet.

Banjo, ukulele, guitar...he played them all and played them well. When I married and moved away I no longer heard his music. But the seeds he planted flourished: Though not a musician myself, I had learned to love music of all sorts, and for this I thank him.

Until no longer able to use his right hand, he enjoyed strumming his guitar, sometimes accompanying himself on the harmonica. He would sing words, or just "la-la-la." His way, I'm sure, to relax after a stressful day at work.

He planned early on to be successful. And he was, extremely so. He had a passion for flying, soaring high above the earth in his glider. He traveled, it seemed, everywhere. He liked to drive. Fast. One time my husband and I, driving home from Bellingham, saw him in his Porsche eating up the pavement on the I5. We tried, in vain, to catch him. He was uncatchable. Unstoppable.

My father was a visionary, an idea man, a thinker, a reader, a planner, a doer, with the soul of a true poet.

He was fond of maxims, two of which come to mind:

Attitude is everything.

Winners never quit, and quitters never win.

Words to live by. Words he lived by.

I see my father through filters: those of carefree childhood memories, those of adult, often distant, perceptions, those of now, when he is gone and the full impact of his extraordinary life weighs heavily on me.

Often through the years he had mentioned I should write his biography. Because I thought he'd live forever, I was in no hurry. It was something I might one day get around to doing.

How I wish now that we had done it when he lived! I could have gotten to know him better and, just as importantly, he could have gotten to know me.

I may attempt to do it. Nothing is impossible. That's something he would say.

Buddha said of death:

Life is a journey.
Death is a return to earth.
The universe is like an inn.
The passing years are like dust.

Regard this phantom world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp - a phantom - and a dream.

Quite a dream!


Monday, October 02, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

October 2. Yep--it's that day again. I think birthdays are highly overrated. Certainly, we should not have them so often!

According to Astrologer Georgia Nicols:

If Your Birthday Is Today

Social reformer Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) shares your birthday today. You're charming, witty and attractive. You display grace and gentleness: yet you're tough inside. You're also frank, candid and erudite. You have much endurance and perseverance. People respect you. In your early twenties, you become much more aggressive about going after what you want. Work hard this year for success in 2008.

Hey, though long past my early twenties, I can live with that!


Last night I dreamed about the Dalai Lama. He wore a red baseball cap, as he did during his recent trip to Vancouver. This small man has a huge presence; goodness seems to emanate from him like an aura. (see below for more on that) He smiled and spoke with everyone, joked and laughed. The dream was sweet and calming--I woke smiling.

Years ago, when I, and the world, were younger and less jaded, I read a book called The Third Eye, by Tibetan T. Lobsang Rampa. It's a detailed account of how young Rampa studied to become a monk in a Lhasa monastery. Under the tutelage of older, wiser monks, he learned the tenets of Buddhism.

(Shades of the Kung Fu television series! However, the book was published in 1956; the series wasn't made until 1972.)

The book simply fascinated me. From the gentle Buddhist beliefs, the teachers honing young Rampa's abilities, to the depictions of ever more-challenging tests he undertook--all was esoteric and new to one who had led a fairly sheltered childhood. Rampa's trials culminated in an operation that opened his third eye, that mystical "eye"whereby he could see people's auras and know if they were good, evil, honest, etc.

I learned much about Tibet, China, Buddhism--which charmed me because it was light years above and beyond organized religions as I knew them. Who could not be intrigued by the concept of Astral Projection, whereby one can be in a meditative or sleeping state and travel on the astral plane, meeting people who are similarly engaged? Who could argue the Buddhist's solemn belief in reincarnation, which they call transmigration of souls?

To someone as young and green as I was then (despite my innate certainty that I Knew Everything) this was all mystical, profound, verging on mind-blowing information. At the time people were expanding their minds many ways--yoga, meditation, hallucinogens. Some trekked to the Himalayas in search of that elusive goal--Enlightenment.

I believed the events of the book, even to the point where Rampa fulfilled his destiny: at the moment of his death during the Chinese Cultural Revolution (misnamed--yes?) he transmigrated his soul into the body of an Englishman, Cyril Henry Hoskins. I believed then that it, that anything, was possible. Ah, youth!

Years later I was disappointed to learn that Mr. Hoskins, an avid student of the occult, had never been to Tibet, was called a hoaxter, the story was pure fiction, and despite the accurate details in the book, no record existed of a Lobsang Rampa ever having studied to be a lama.

He did, however, insist it was all true. And who are we, or anyone, to say it can't be so? Cynic that I've become, I still have brief moments of faith.

So on this birthday I'll think outside the box, outside the norm. Expand my mind. Work my way back to that young person who truly believed.

As Buddha said:

Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.


Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

I still admire the Buddhist beliefs, their tenets, their noble truths and precepts. Championing peace and good, honoring all life, can never be incorrect.

And maybe, just maybe the Dalai Lama and I were astral traveling at the same time!