My Coyote Friends: Coexist with Love

Good morning!

What an absolutely magical surprise!

This is the first color video of my nightly visitor. It was about 6:00 a.m. Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?

In this black and white video, there are now two coyotes and since we know they mate for life, I have my fingers crossed waiting to see if they bring me any grandchildren! Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Some coyote facts:

Urban coyotes can create territories out of a patchwork of parks and green spaces.

While many urban coyotes make their homes in large parks or forest preserves, this isn’t the case in all situations. Urban coyotes don’t need one cohesive piece of green space like a single park or a single golf course to call home. They manage to make do with surprisingly small patches of hunt-able land woven together as a whole territory.

Coyotes can thrive in a small territory if there is enough food and shelter, but if there isn’t — such as in sections of a city with only a handful of small parks, soccer fields, green spaces and the like — then they will expand the size of their territory to include enough places to hunt for food to sustain themselves. The size of an urban coyote’s range is dependent on the abundance of food and can be anywhere from two square miles to ten square miles or more. Urban coyotes tend to have smaller territory sizes than rural coyotes because there is so much more food packed into smaller areas, even if that area has only a few scattered parks.

Studies have shown that coyotes much prefer forested areas and large parks where they can steer clear of humans, and they try to avoid residential areas. But when that’s not available, they still figure out how to make do. In a large-scale study of urban coyotes by the Urban Coyote Research Program, it was discovered that “29 percent of collared coyotes have home ranges composed of less than 10 percent of natural land and 8 percent having no measurable patches of natural land within their home ranges.”

Urban coyotes may live in family packs or on their own at different points in their lives.

It’s common to see a single coyote hunting or traveling on its own, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is alone. Coyotes are highly social animals and this didn’t change when they entered the urban ecosystem. Coyotes may live as part of a pack, which usually consists of an alpha male and female, perhaps one or two of their offspring from previous seasons (known as a “helper”) and their current litter of pups. The pack may also welcome in a solitary traveler if their territory can support another member. Packs living in sizable protected areas can have as many as five or six adults in addition to that season’s pups.

However, a coyote may also spend part of its life on its own, known as a solitary coyote. This is common when young coyotes disperse from their pack and go in search of their own territory, a new pack to join, or a mate with whom to start their own pack. A coyote may also spend a stretch of time as a loner if it was an alpha in a pack but lost its mate. According to Urban Coyote Research Program, between a third and half of coyotes under study are solitary coyotes, and they are usually youngsters between six months and two years old.

Because coyotes hunt and travel alone or in pairs, it is often thought that they don’t form packs. The study of urban coyotes has helped to correct this misconception and has revealed much about the social lives of coyotes.

Urban coyotes mate for life and are monogamous.

Speaking of mates, coyotes mate for life and are 100 percent faithful to that mate. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Mammalogy found that “among 18 litters comprising 96 offspring, [researchers] found no evidence of polygamy, and detected a single instance of a double litter (pups from different parents sharing the same den).”

This loyalty holds even when there are other coyotes in adjacent territories and plenty of opportunity for cheating. But coyote pairs stay faithful and faithful for life. Some of the pairs followed by the research team were together for as long as 10 years, only moving on when one mate died.

The researchers believe that this monogamy plays an important role in the success of urban coyotes. Because a female can adjust her litter size based on the availability of food and other factors, she can have larger litters of pups in a city where there is a buffet of rodents, reptiles, fruits, vegetables and so much else in a relatively small area. She also has a dedicated mate to help her feed and raise the pups, so these large litters have a higher survival rate, resulting in more coyotes reaching an age to disperse to other areas of a city.

Even when food is less abundant or there is territory pressure from other coyotes, the couple stays together year after year. Coyotes may be opportunistic about matters of food and shelter, but not when it comes to love.

Urban coyotes do not feast on pets and garbage; they typically stick to a natural diet.

Due to sensationalistic reporting, many urban residents think all coyotes are out to eat their dog or cat at the first opportunity, or that they’re dumpster divers of the first degree. On the contrary, studies have shown that urban coyotes stick mainly to a natural diet.

Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores and will eat fruits and vegetables along with animal prey.  A study by Urban Coyote Research Program analyzed over 1,400 scats and found that “the most common food items were small rodents (42%), fruit (23%), deer (22%), and rabbit (18%).” Only about 2 percent of the scats had human garbage and just 1.3 percent showed evidence of cats. “Apparently, the majority of coyotes in our study area do not, in fact, rely on pets or garbage for their diets,” say the researchers.

This aligns logically with urban coyotes’ preference of sticking to parks, preserves, cemeteries, and other out-of-the-way areas as much as possible. The food available in these locations is rodents, reptiles, fallen fruit and other food items that are part of a natural diet.

Coyotes of course take feral cats or the occasional domestic cat that has been left outdoors, and there is certainly evidence that coyotes that have become habituated and overly bold will go after small dogs. However pets are not primary prey for them, not by a long shot.

As it is with the presence of apex predators in any ecosystem, having coyotes living and thriving in an urban area is a positive sign of the health and biodiversity of urban areas. Their presence can be considered a thumbs-up for the quality of a city’s urban ecology.© Jaymi Heimbuch / Urban Coyote Initiative

Urban coyotes often switch from naturally diurnal and crepuscular activity to nocturnal activity.

When urban residents see coyotes “in broad daylight” it is often assumed that the coyote has grown overly bold or is ill in some way. Actually, it is perfectly normal for a coyote to be out during the day, as this is their natural time for hunting.

Urban coyotes have made a behavior change to avoid humans, switching from being active at dawn and dusk or during daylight hours, to being mostly active at night. This strategy lowers their risk of encountering a species of which they are naturally afraid while still hunting in an urban territory.

However, if a coyote needs to be out during the day to hunt or to get from one place to another, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong or odd about the coyote’s behavior. In fact, in the spring and summer when raising their pups, coyotes need to find more food and so may be more active during the day and thus spotted more often. Urban residents frequently misinterpret daytime sightings as a rise in the urban coyote population or that the coyote could be rabid, neither of which are usually true.

Urban coyotes help control the populations of other problematic urban wildlife like rodents.

It’s so easy to think of urban places as home to humans, pigeons, crows and raccoons, and that’s about it. But our cities are increasingly home to an ever more diverse array of wildlife species rats have been an issue in cities ever since cities were invented. Coyotes play a role in limiting the populations of these species and more, helping to keep a balance and increase biodiversity in urban ecosystems.

Rodents are the primary food source for coyotes in rural and urban areas alike, and studies have shown an increase in the rodent population in areas where coyotes are removed.

The easiest way for city residents to avoid negative interactions with coyotes is to avoid feeding them, either accidentally or on purpose, and otherwise habituating them to humans.

When coyotes become overly bold or aggressive, and in the rare instances when coyotes have bitten humans, it usually is discovered that they were being fed.

Coyotes have a natural fear of humans, and like most wildlife, will start to lose that fear and even become aggressive if they are being fed. This is the reason wildlife managers warn people to never feed wildlife, and there is the saying, “A fed coyote is a dead coyote.”

Once a coyote loses its fear, it is likely to become a problem animal and that means animal control will have little choice but to lethally remove it.

Feeding coyotes sometimes happens on purpose, but it can also be done accidentally when people leave pet food on their porches intending it for cats or dogs, when they leave scattered seeds under the bird feeder, or even when they leave fallen fruit or compost in their yards.

Educating the public on the importance of not feeding wildlife and removing any food sources, as well as educating them on safe and humane coyote hazing strategies to maintain coyotes’ fear of humans, is the best way a city can avoid negative interactions and instead enjoy quiet coexistence.

People often feed urban coyotes accidently by leaving out pet food, open compost bins, fallen fruit and other tasty morsels for these opportunistic eaters to find. © Jaymi Heimbuch / Urban Coyote Initiative

Trapping and killing or relocating urban coyotes does not reduce the overall population of coyotes.

A common reaction from urban and suburban residents when they learn coyotes are living in their area is to ask for the removal of the coyotes, either through lethal means or by trapping and relocating them. However, animal control officers have learned through a lot of experience that this is not only a lot harder to do than it sounds, but it does nothing to reduce the number of coyotes living in an area. In fact, it has the opposite effect.

Coyotes are territorial and keep other coyotes out of their home range. The larger the territory of a coyote pack, the fewer coyotes are present overall. Removing coyotes from an area opens that location up for new coyotes to come in and claim it as their own (and there will always be more coyotes coming in to fill a void), often resulting in a short-term increase in coyotes as the territory lines are redrawn by the newcomers. Additionally, when there is less pressure from neighboring coyotes and more food available, female coyotes will have larger litters of pups, again creating a short-term increase in the number of coyotes in that area.

There are other problems with trapping coyotes. As the Humane Society points out, “The most common devices used to capture coyotes are leg-hold traps and neck snares. Both can cause severe injuries, pain, and suffering. Leg-hold traps are not only cruel and inhumane for coyotes, but may also injure other wildlife, pets, or even children. Non-target wild animals are also caught in traps, and many sustain injuries so severe that they die or must be killed.”

If a city wants to limit or reduce the number of urban coyotes living there, the easiest thing to do is allow existing coyotes to work out their own territories, naturally stabilizing the coyote population. There will never be more coyotes in an ecosystem than that ecosystem can support, so (despite what some may think) a city can never become “overpopulated” or “infested” with coyotes.

We can take extra steps to make an area less appealing to coyotes by removing all extra food sources – from fallen fruit or ripe vegetables from backyard gardens to pet food left on back porches – and removing sources of water. The fewer resources available, the larger the territories need to be to support the resident coyotes, and the fewer coyotes there are overall.

Coyotes are here to stay and removing them is not and will never be an option. Our one and only path forward is coexistence. https://urbancoyoteinitiative.com

Learn more about coyotes and support the great work of Projectcoyote.com

Advertisements

A Slice of Covert Racism

On a recent flight back home, I was sitting in my usual choice of an aisle seat mostly because I don’t like to crawl over strange legs when I need to use the restroom.

An older (older than me) woman crawled over me to take the window seat.

A young man was escorted to his seat directly across from me by a flight attendant who commented on his height and asked him how old he was as he was flying as an unaccompanied minor.

He was nine-years-old and about six feet tall.

Just a little boy in a man sized body.

I could feel his embarrassment as he was singled out for his height and I’m sure has had to endure a zillion comments about it.

He was very quiet, but seemed a little scared, so I chatted with him a bit, and he was very sweet. His dad was picking him up and he would be starting school in San Diego. He began to open up and just as I suspected, he was a little boy who didn’t really know how to deal with the fact that he looked like he was in high school.

The older woman next to me said, in a very heavy southern accent, “I should get his autograph now, he’s going to be famous.”

I didn’t respond to her right away because I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt or maybe I had misinterpreted what she was alluding to, but she repeated herself loud enough for the young man to hear, and I felt that I needed to do something.

I said, “What are you saying? That because he’s tall, his only life path is basketball?”

She looked at me and said, “Well, he’s tall…” and then her voice and thought faded.

I replied loud enough for anyone to hear, “Maybe he’s going to be a doctor. Or a professor. Or an artist or a writer. Just because someone has a physical trait doesn’t mean it’s a life sentence. He can and should do whatever touches his heart.”

The woman had so much ingrained covert racism built into her that she didn’t really know what to say, but a few minutes later she told me that she thought about it and agreed with me, so then we had a pleasant rest of the flight.

Did I change her?

Probably not, but the grateful smile I received from a nine-year-old made my day.

(And did I really need to mention that he was a six foot tall African American nine-year-old child or did you figure that out for yourselves?)

And then I saw this photo of Trump serving fast food to the Clemson team.
More covert or not so covert racism. Love Reggie Bush’s tweet.

Last Chance for Animals

Not too long ago, I was walking on the beach and saw this van and it piqued my curiosity:

animal news van

What is the Animal News Van?

The Animal News Van (ANV) is Last Chance for Animal’s education and news reporting tool.

Partnered with the LCAnimal.org website, it effectively educates millions of people in Southern California on animal issues.

The van’s TV screens, speaker system, and LED message board impart important information. It is the first of its kind on the West Coast, reaching people across cultural and economic lines.

What Does the ANV Educate About?

The ANV educates the public about the plight of animals used in modern society for food, entertainment, clothing and scientific curiosity.

The ANV is committed to disseminating truthful information and promoting conscious, informed lifestyle decisions in order to improve the manner in which animals are treated in the American culture. Millions of dogs, pigs, rats and other animals will be grateful when human compassion and understanding finally reaches out its arms to embrace them. (Info from LCA website.)

I’ve been involved in animal activism for a long time, but I had never heard of Last Chance for Animals, so when I got home, I researched the organization and learned about their mission statement:

Last Chance for Animals (LCA) is an international, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention.  LCA believes that animals are highly sentient creatures who exist for their own reasons independent of their service to humans; they should not be made to suffer for the latter.  LCA opposes the use of animals in food and clothing production, scientific experimentation, and entertainment and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle and the ascription of rights to non-human beings.

Pretty cool, huh?

I reached out to local volunteers and offered to participate when there was an outreach event that needed some help. A couple weeks ago, there was an opportunity at the Escondido Street Fair, and I signed up for the morning shift.

It was a great opportunity to connect with the public and educate them about the plight of factory farmed animals and the myriad of vegan options that are cruelty-free and SO healthy.

We handed out lots of vegan chocolate chip cookies and plant-based “milk”.

If you’ve never heard of Last Chance for Animals, visit the website and get involved!

Last Chance for Animals
https://lcanimal.org/

Mayor, Mayor, on the wall…

Who’s the most intelligent, caring, and forward thinking of them all?

Lolz, THIS is pic speaks a thousand words, doesn’t it?

At the last of three Mayoral candidate debates/forums in Carlsbad, this one hosted by Pacific Ridge School and moderated by Voice of San Diego’s Jesse Marx, we witnessed a tired old sour faced dinosaur listening to the brilliant words spoken by a true visionary.

THIS is what Carlsbad needs.

Present in the moment, alert, thoughtful, intelligent…

Cori Schumacher.

Real. Genuine. Authentic.

Mayor Mall is the embodiment of “liar liar pants of fire“.

He was not truthful when he said he really really really responds to each and every email.

I can only speak for myself BUT I know that is specifically and categorically UNtrue.

He has NEVER responded nor acknowledged any email OR snail mail letter I personally sent to him during the years he’s been mayor of Carlsbad.

He delivered more confusing and obfuscating word salad, but what REALLY spoke to me was the demeaning and misogynistic device he used by consistently referring to Cori Schumacher as “her” or “she”, instead of affording her the respect Cori deserves by speaking her name, and by snarkily laughing while she was responding to questions.

This is a tool in the arsenal of a misogynist who covertly/overtly minimizes, diminishes, and depersonalizes women.

Unacceptable.

We will no longer have our voices silenced.

Vote for Cori Schumacher.

It’s a win-win for Carlsbad.

Ocean Warrior: Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson

Despite suffering from a sinus infection, Sea Shepherd’s Captain Paul Watson showed up on Saturday morning to meet and chat with the public when the vessel, M/V Farley Mowat, was docked in San Diego Harbor at the Maritime Museum, offering free tours all weekend.

Tcapt watson me

I took the train downtown and got there just in time to greet Capt. Watson as he arrived, and he kindly set aside time to respond to a couple of questions.

This is a man who walks the walk and talks the talk. He is a man of integrity and I admire him immensely and support his ideals and goals.

IMG_5492

While I’m waiting for the pics and video to download to WordPress, I’ll ask you a question…do you know who Farley Mowat was?

Canadian born, he authored one of the books that inspired me and shaped my existence as a wolf activist: Never Cry Wolf.

He created a body of work staggering in its quality and breadth: Sea of Slaughter, A Whale for the Killing, Grey Seas Under, Lost in the Barrens, Virunga: The Life of Dian Fossey (that became the movie Gorillas in the Mist), and many more.

One of Canada’s most popular and prolific writers, he became a champion of wildlife and native Canadian rights and a sharp critic of environmental abuse.

His writing spoke deep truths about humanity’s responsibility for the planet and the species we share it with. In doing so, he became one of the pioneers of the environmental movement.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat was named in his honor, and he frequently visited it to assist its mission.

The M/V Farley Mowat has been in the Sea of Cortez saving the protected vaquita porpoise from gillnets: 

(https://enchantedseashells.com/2018/04/14/battle-in-the-gulf-of-california-for-the-traffic-of-sea-cocaine-maritime-herald/)

 

IMG_5467

Nothing happens without dedicated volunteers!

IMG_5476IMG_5469

Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian-American marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist who founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an anti-poaching and direct action group focused on marine conservation and marine conservation activism.

Since WordPress doesn’t allow me to post videos directly to a post (I have a free blog), here’s a link to a couple of videos of Capt. Watson I posted on Facebook. It can’t be embedded, but if you click on “Watch on Facebook”, you’ll be able to watch!

Jungle Jack Hanna says, “Touch the mind, teach the heart.”

****I don’t really agree with Jack’s philosophy which is one reason why I wanted to meet him. His passion for animals is real and I admire him for that, but his ardent defense of SeaWorld is something he and I disagree about.***


A couple weeks ago, I was savoring a cup of perfectly brewed French Roast while watching Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, on Saturday morning television. (As an aside, his ability to connect with dogs seems truly amazing.)

I forgot the TV was on, scrolling through my Facebook feed, when I heard an advertisement about Jungle Jack Hanna coming to the San Diego area. In a sparkle of synchronicity, when I looked up, there was an episode of Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown. You know who he is, right? He’s been around forever on all the late night talk shows. Often with his wife by his side, attired in his khaki uniform, he’s a virtual fountain of animal knowledge.

John Bushnell “Jack” Hanna is an American zookeeper, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. He was director of the zoo from 1978 to 1992, and is viewed as largely responsible for elevating its quality and reputation. He’s the host of TV’sEmmy award winning Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild and Jack Hanna’s Wild Countdown.

We have a bit of a difference of opinion about Seaworld and zoos in general, and while he concedes that certain things about Blackfish were a real portrayal of what happened with the whales, he’s a staunch and passionate supporter of their rescue skills and education programs.

Some of the conversation I jotted down as we were talking, with his approval:

He is involved as a person who supported Seaworld since the beginning.
Blackfish is trash.
Very big proponent of Seaworld’s conservation efforts.
Manatees were going extinct –and Seaworld saved them.
Disappointed with people who hate Seaworld.

He asked me a rhetorical (in my opinion) question, ‘How do we learn about the animals?”
He doesn’t agree with anything that might harm the animal.

He made a point I have to agree with. There are no real completely wild places left in this world. When he’s filming, his guidelines are to respect the animals, don’t teach them to do anything unnatural. Back off, or don’t interfere or interrupt the kill.

I know that he works with the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda and they hold a special place in his heart. I was recently at the zoo in Seattle and took my grandson to see the gorillas (a favorite animal), and it was heartbreaking to see them. They looked completely depressed to me, and desperately need their habitat improved. There were blankets strewn about on the dirt ground and it looked as sad as a homeless encampment.

I had plans to ask him more questions, but there wasn’t time as he had to prepare for his flight to San Diego.

Here are the topics I didn’t get to broach with him:
What do you think about the current admin’s decision to reduce the size of our national parks?
*Ditto: Killing of hibernating bears
*Ditto: Drilling for oil
*Ditto: Delisting wolves

The show started at 6pm and I made sure I was there in plenty of time to get a little backstage time, if possible. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a packed house with so many people interested in learning about animals.

Jack was very hospitable- a complete gentleman- and made time to take a selfie with me:

DA5FB53E-63BC-4F82-957D-770423E6BBDE

Unfortunately, something went wrong with my Canon Rebel T3i , so all I have are the pics I took with my iPhone.

39FF4399-D128-4738-A283-677DE0618514

***These were all rescued animals, none were taken from their native habitat.***

2333F338-4D4D-4225-BA75-EBD5EDA3652F2BD56624-1EA4-48A5-A490-C5DEF2E083FA7F0CC36E-51BF-4F6C-9BAB-9E4F8CE24A3F9A57CF3F-22B3-4D3B-ABB2-C86B1214ED69

It was pretty funny when the kangaroo got to run around the room but it happened so fast, I didn’t get any video.

While we don’t completely agree on several issues, I have mad respect for Jungle Jack Hanna’s passion for wildlife conservation, as well as his very obvious love for his wife of 47 years, his children and grandchildren.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was that day I met His Holiness, The Dalai Lama

Remember? It was back in June. You can read all about it here:

Meeting the Dalai Lama.Thaumaturgic.
https://enchantedseashells.com/2017/06/19/meeting-the-dalai-lama-thaumaturgic/

Still thaumaturgic. Still a magical never-to-be-forgotten day. Still healing.

The rest of the story of that day goes like this…

In my thoughts and preparations prior to that amazing experience, I thought it would be an appropriate act of kindness to bring the Dalai Lama a gift.

But what is the right and perfect giftslashoffering for a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with one of the most special humans on this planet?

What do you think?

Flowers? Nope. A gift certificate to Dave & Busters? Nope. An engraved pen and pencil set? Nope again. Money? Maybe, but I don’t have any to spare, so nope.

Guess. No, come on. GUESS!

Only my DIL got it right when I asked, “well, what do you THINK I would give him?”

Give up?

OK, silly as it may sound to you, I beautifully wrapped a few of my most special seashells and a rock that looks like a whale and placed them in a brightly colored cotton gift bag.  I know it might seem childish to you, but I never really grew up, so it’s in keeping with my mental/emotional age.

When I thought about what evokes enduring purity and beauty, there is nothing more meaningful to me than seashells and rocks. (Diamonds fit into that category too, but that’s another story.)

Y’all have already seen my seashell encrusted home, right?

seashell mirrorseashellwreath

Before the Dalai Lama and Ann Curry appeared on stage, I struck up a conversation with one of his emissaries/bodyguards, and told them I had a gift I hoped to present to His Holiness.  They pointed out the person I should hand it to and suggested I do it right after the interview.

However, because His Holiness spent so much time answering my question and talking to me, he exceeded the time set aside for the interview and was late getting to the open air stage at Rimac Field where 25,000 people were waiting in the heat for us to finish our conversation…

Ann Curry whisked away the Dalai Lama and there was no time to offer my little gifts to His Holiness.

However, that setback didn’t deter me…

Since I’m such a great snoop investigative journalist,  I somehow discovered where His Holiness and entourage were staying, drove there, and left my treasures with the concierge at the front desk. I included a hastily written note to thank the Dalai Lama for speaking with me for such a long time and how much I appreciated his wisdom–along with my name, address, email, and phone number.

I drove home, trying to process the intensity of that surreal and amazing experience, and thought no more about it.

Even though I personally treasure every seashell and rock (truth), I didn’t seriously think that they would actually make the journey to be received –or acknowledged–by His Holiness–I don’t have a grandiose sense of my own importance in this world.

A couple weeks later on a Saturday afternoon, my cell phone rang with an unknown number from Florida. Normally, I don’t answer a number I don’t know-there are all those annoying telemarketing calls, but this time I pressed the accept button and said hello.

Imagine my surprise when a heavily accented voice asked for me (not Princess Rosebud lol, but my other name). The voice introduced himself as the Personal Emissary for Peace to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. OH EM EFFF GEEEE!

Acting on behalf of His Holiness, the emissary was calling to thank me for my gifts and told me how much they were appreciated.

To describe my reaction succinctly. I was literally gobsmacked, And rendered pretty much speechless, which is a rare occurance.

One of the world’s most spiritual humans took the time to express GRATITUDE to me; an absolute nobody.

That’s the ultimate amazing ending to one of the most significant experiences of my entire life.

 What’s the message? What’s the lesson?

Gratitude and appreciation. If someone like the Dalai Lama can take the time and effort to acknowledge a handful of seashells and rocks, we all need to follow his example and this world will be a better place for us, our children, and grandchildren.

No, thank YOU, Your Holiness.

You restored my faith in humankind.

Namaste for reals.

IMG_2839

 

 

 

Meeting the Dalai Lama. Thaumaturgic.

This is going to be the first in a series of posts about my thaumaturgical, magical, and enchanting encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet. He was born July 6, 1935. The Dalai Lamas are considered the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people.

IMG_2873

What does thaumaturgic mean?
…Of, or relating to, the working of magic or performance of miracles.

Lastly, powerfullest of all, least recognized of all, a Noblesse of Literature; without steel on their thigh, without gold in their purse, but with the “grand thaumaturgic faculty of Thought” in their head.
–Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, a History

So yes, an otherworldly experience for sure. Because as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I really am NOBODY. That’s correct. But somehow, the Universe was aligned at this moment in time to bring me to the front row of a press conference with the Dalai Lama at UCSD.

Fourteen years ago, almost to the exact day, I was at Rimac Field in this same intense heat screaming myself hoarse (and annoying everyone around me #sorrynotsorry) as I watched Angel Boy 1.0 graduate with honors. I’m not sure it compares to the day he received his PhD from Yale, but at that point in time, I couldn’t have foreseen the future. Actually I DID, but more on that later.

IMG_2888

I heard that the Dalai Lama was planning to speak at UCSD for two consecutive days; the first public gathering was to be preceded by a press conference and on the following day, he was the commencement speaker for 2017 graduates.

After the year I had endured, one in which I was broken into a million pieces and each of those pieces exploded into a million pieces; this little princess who had her rose colored glasses cruelly ripped off her face and shattered-the shards of glass slicing and ripping apart every tendon and muscle, deeply cutting to the bones, her bones that were now stripped of all flesh– and oh especially her heart, her innocent innocent vulnerable heart…that she could have and DID muster up the wherewithal to apply for media credentials for the press conference is really nothing short of a miracle.

But she did. I did. She persevered. I persevered. She triumphed. I triumphed. She rose from the whirlpool of a sinking boat and she took one breath. And then another. And another.

Apparently, I still live an enchanted life. In spite of everything.

With nothing to lose, you lose nothing by trying. You only have everything to gain.
That’s one of my new mantras.

It’s the ultimate despair to have nothing left. TRUST ME.

Yet another story for another day.

It’s not like I felt unworthy of being in the presence of His Holiness. It was more akin to feeling that this was purely pure serendipity.

And what was my very first thought? It was of fashion, of course. What’s the appropriate fashion statement for an event of a lifetime? I chose a simple Calvin Klein slim line dress and accessorized with a triple strand of pearls. My heels were a respectable height, don’t you think?

We had to submit questions in advance with no assurance that our particular question would be chosen, but I was prepared for anything. After all, when you expect nothing, there are no expectations, right?

True to form, I was one of the first in attendance, and the first to snag the best seat in the house, in the front row, literally six feet or so from the Dalai Lama.

IMG_2831IMG_2893

IMG_2841IMG_2835IMG_2843

The energy in the room was palpable. With about one hundred jaded journalists and photographers who’ve seen it all, there was a certain excitement and anticipation; talk of feeling a sense of positive and uplifting spirituality.

When he walked in, His Holiness didn’t immediately climb the riser to sit on the small stage. Instead he stopped to chat with and bless many of us lucky enough to sit in that first row. He said “hello” while looking directly in my eyes, took my hand, and blessed me. His hand was warm and I felt touched on a cellular level.

HE TOUCHED ME.

After Ann Curry formally introduced him (she looked GORGEOUS, by the way), His Holiness spoke for about fifteen minutes (I captured it all on my phone) about compassion and kindness and education and the state of the world, and then opened it to questions. There was a bit of confusion because he didn’t want to be read questions that were previously submitted; instead he wanted to connect to us in the present moment.

IMG_2882IMG_2869

Most people weren’t prepared for that, but I was.

He answered a couple questions about politics and a macro vision of the world (sorry, didn’t pay much attention haha) and then I raised my hand and he pointed at me. Now let me ask you guys, how would you have felt at that moment? Would you be nervous? Scared? Shy?  I felt no anxiety. I asked the question I had previously submitted. He didn’t hear me the first time and I had to repeat myself:

“If you have suffered deep personal and emotional pain, how do you turn that pain and anger into love and compassion and forgive the one who hurt you?”

For the next fifteen minutes, his eyes locked on mine as he spoke directly to me. As if we were the only ones in the room. You could hear a pin drop. There were things he said to me that were conveyed only by thought, I know, because I started tearing up, wiping away tears unashamed to be so emotional and so raw in public. Ann Curry nodded to me, as if she too understood,  and he kept talking, leaning forward to heal my pain cell by cell, deeply and lovingly.

It was the most transformative experience of my life, right up there with the births of Angel Boy 1.0 and 2.0, a moment in time that I’m still processing.

Stay tuned for Part Two and I’ll have video, too.

Namaste, y’all. And #gratitude.

(PS These are all my images, copyright Enchanted Seashells.)