Finding peace

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Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. —Dalai Lama


Key West, Florida. On Key West’s Duval Street, I meandered past the trendy boutiques, seedy bars, and an array of restaurants, including Jimmy Buffet’s original Margaritaville. This was American kitsch at its best.

When I noticed something different — a banner outside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church announcing the “Drepung Gomang Tibetan Monks Sacred Art Tour” — I turned away from the steady stream of winter visitors and stepped inside the sanctuary.

Monks - Outside banner

A cosmos away from the outside world, Buddhist monks labored over the creation of a brilliantly colored sand mandala. Seated on a platform on the sanctuary floor directly below the wooden crosses and cerulean blue stained glass windows, the monks from southern India, applied millions of particles of dyed sand to a peace mandala.

The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, was poured onto the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a chakpur which was scraped by another metal rod to cause sufficient vibration for the grains of sand to trickle out of its end. The two pieces of the chakpur symbolize wisdom and compassion. In the sand mandala ceremony, I found threads of wisdom for life and more compassion for others and myself.

The monks dedicated a week to the construction of the compassion mandala. As I watched the monks at work, a church volunteer explained that the Mandala sand would be swept up and deposited into the sea in a few days.

According to the monks, students of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the sand mandala is a vehicle to generate compassion. The mandala’s construction and deconstruction is intended to help people realize the impermanence of reality.

As the sands journey around the world through rivers and oceans, the process  is also meant to promote the lofty goal of a cosmic  healing of the environment.

Monks 1 Flags inside

On Sunday afternoon the monks, along with spectators, traveled to the Key West harbor where the sand was ceremonially poured into the sea to spread the healing energies of the mandala throughout the world. Some of that healing energy must have reached me that day.

I mentally swept up the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years that I spent with loved ones who are no longer present in my life and imagined pouring the memories into the ocean.

Just as the monks intended, the sand mandala experience helped me move a bit closer to embracing  the temporary nature of our lives.

The current carried away the sands of the mandala. Some of the sand may be washed back ashore at Key West  while other particles will reach distant shores. Maybe the monks have it right and the sand will spread healing energy throughout the world.

Love doesn’t make the world go ’round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. —Franklin P. Jones




The Brick

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Brick - Sign


Roslyn, Washington. Drinks have been served since 1889 at the Brick, Washington’s oldest operating bar. Arguably, other bars may be as old, but haven’t been operating continuously.  The  exterior was featured in Northern Exposure, the 1990s Emmy award winning television drama that was filmed in Roslyn.

The Brick’s customers sit on the original barstools that were ordered from Sears Roebuck. There’s a unique 23 foot-long running water spittoon flowing alongside the lower edge of the bar.

Annually in March, the Brick hosts the Indoor Running Water Spittoon Boat Races and Regatta, billed as the only race of its kind in the world.

Classes for entries include soap/wax, paper/plastic, and wood, all of which must weigh no more than one ounce. Entries in the open class for motor and experimental boats can weigh as much as 1.5 ounces. The boats can’t exceed 3” long, 1 1/2” wide, and 3” tall and may be waterproofed.

Stick around for the dancing. On the evening of the races, the Brick hosts the Nautical Ball with a live band.

Let’s say one drinks too much at the Brick, and needs a designated driver. Stan the Man give rides to Brick customers. Stan works independently and operates solely off of donations to make sure guests arrive safely at their next destination without having to face the consequences of driving under the influence.

Stan makes his rounds each weekend, so customers can give him a call for a pick up or schedule rides in advance.  One might find him at the Brick drinking coffee and chatting with folks near closing time. Stan works on a donation only basis. The Brick website enthuses, “Please be generous with your donations!  He makes a big difference in keeping you and our roads safe!”

The Brick’s pub grub is good basic bar food and the servings are large. On a recent visit with my friend Nick, I enjoyed delicious chicken quesadillas. Nick savored a generous serving of fish and chips.

All in all, visiting the Brick in guarantees a taste of history and heaping serving of fun along with food and drinks.

Need information? Pondering an entry in the Spittoon Regatta? The Brick’s website invites interested persons to call (509) 649-2643 for more information.