This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, May 22, 2008 edition
I don’t know about you, but when the lilacs are in full bloom it is almost impossible for me to maintain a cohesive thought. I know I am too old for this sort of distraction, and will make no excuses for it. That said; here’s what’s drifting in and out of my head along with the sweet smells that gown our glorious May.
If you did not go out last Tuesday and vote in the school board elections, tsk tsk. School taxes dwarf combined town and county taxes, usually representing at least 60% of the total annual property tax, and yet historically Woodstock’s voter turnout would not fill the tables of a Shady Methodist Church roast beef supper. Not good. It gives residents in the rest of the districts (Woodstock is mostly in the Onteora district, but there are significant parts of town located in the Saugerties and Kingston school districts) the impression that Woodstockers are indifferent to education, but worse, lousy turnout denies Woodstock a seat at the table where critical decisions are made concerning the education of our youth. This time, however, candidates generally supported by a vibrant Shandaken-Woodstock axis were swept into office, thanks in part to the big Woodstock turn out. But still, even lilacs in full bloom are no excuse for not having voted in this critical election.
If you stayed for the entire Woodstock town board meeting on May 20, which did not adjourn until almost 1:00 am, shame on you! Don’t you work in the morning? I dare say, watching the best effort of three board members to tweak, bait, gull and gall the supervisor has become one of the saddest political shows since Ken Starr, exacerbated by the wearying fact that all the amusement and wit of the dour threesome wouldn’t clog the slenderest reed in a vernal pool. Jean Paul Sartre, when he famously said, “hell is other people” obviously had not been to a town board meeting like this one. These are our representatives! Once again we got to listen to Chris Collins speechify on how he got elected on his campaign to “protect natural resources.” I have to give the man credit; he’s been on the board for two and a half years and I can still smell the lilacs outside my window.
Did you read this month’s issue of The Atlantic? Yikes! Apparently there are thousands and thousands of asteroids and comets out there, and very good odds that one of them is going to smack into the earth and do unto us what some big rock did unto the dinosaurs sixty-five millions years ago. Thank goodness I’m not trying to quit smoking, what with this potential huge annoyance hanging over us. The gist of the article was to encourage NASA to put together a real program to divert the disaster, should it come our way. I sure hope the town board does something about this. It could really mess up my lilacs if they don’t.
Today I had the extraordinary experience of going to the KTD monastery with former councilman Bill McKenna to witness an appreciation for the many, many people who have contributed to the establishment of Woodstock’s very fine North American seat for His Holiness Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Karmapa. I remember very well the dire warnings from the mouths of those like Jay Wenk and Ed Sanders opposed to the expansion of the monastery, how the Tibetan Buddhists were going to ruin our roads with all their tramping up and down the mountain, dry up the neighbors’ wells, and even possibly cause the sudden extinction of the dinosaurs (oops, got tangled up with my previous un-cohesive thought). On our way up we noticed that the traffic in town was no different than usual, that the parking lots still had plenty of spaces, and that somehow the sun continued to shine. We were graciously escorted to front row seats in a tent that held at least as many people that attend the High Holiday celebrations at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, and were just inches away from the ceremony greeting the arrival of His Holiness. McKenna and I were both very touched by the deep, sincere thanks given by a KTD representative to the people of the Town of Woodstock for accepting into their community’s fabric a people and creed that suffers from a forced dispersion as wicked as any has been. His Holiness, after thanks had been given to those who helped KTD, gave a short talk in Tibetan in a deep, lovely voice. I had heard Tibetan spoken for the first time several years ago when I paid a visit to the monastery’s abbot Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (also in attendance), and I can tell you it is musical and entrancing. I have been to several religious ceremonies over the years, and have spoken with some of our local religious leaders and teachers. Rabbi Jonathan Kligler, Reverend Kathleen Edwards Chase (alas, gone from us to parts south) and Reverend Sonja Tillberg (who I hereby criticize for not updating the Christ Lutheran Church’s website where I might find her married name!) are among them. I deeply revere the tenets of Judaism and Christianity, and I admire these religious leaders I’ve mentioned very much for truly embodying the depth, beauty and meaning of their creeds, and also for their ability to touch and affect peoples lives with their wisdom. I did not have the opportunity to discuss with His Holiness the tenets of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, but I’ll tell you; I wish I had. I don’t know how much time he will spend at KTD but I do know that he is very much a welcome presence in Woodstock’s truly incredible religious life.
By this time next week the lilacs will be almost gone, and maybe, just maybe I’ll come down the earth and be able to express a sensible thought or two. Right now is it a glorious, wonderful spring, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I am. A family of birds is nesting in the tree behind my house, and their eggs have hatched!