The views and opinions expressed in our letters section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hudson Valley One. You can submit a letter to the editor here.
My internal dialogue
Vaccine has entered the land. A frigid liquid healing, held in polar temperatures. We watch gloved and masked nurses waiting to poke and prick our flesh, while trying to comfort our fears of pain and dying.
It’s hard to not allow the void of hope, made by all the death we have witnessed, be filled with memories of the way things were. I know I am not alone with having found a new stillness settled inside me. The pandemic forced me to stop moving away from my inner self, allowing me fewer distractions from contemplating living and dying.
The new hope that’s in the vaccination has triggered my imagination to tug and pull me to get ready to roll out of bed and head out of my front door, leaving the other self I just befriended alone inside me. The self in me, escaping out the door, wants back into the rat race, back around those who tell me who I am. Then I don’t have to figure that out, with my inner self.
That inner self in me was a hard friend to make. Having no one else to distract me from him, it allowed me to begin to care for my whole self in ways I never have. Before this time, I’d lie to him, I’d overfeed him, I’d call him names when he made mistakes. I found it hard to comfort him when he was upset, so I ignored him. When he needed attention, I watched TV.
In the time of the pandemic, when he tells me he is afraid of dying, I sit with him, and we talk. That’s when we made friends. I listen to him and began to do what he asked. I feed him home-cooked meals, comfort him when he wakes up from bad dreams. I assure him that we will make it out of this pandemic, just like we did in the Vietnam war. I have begun to let him speak more often, and I listen.
When we saw the first vaccinations on TV, I could see that he was frightened I would leave him, and go back to all the distractions I’d made before the pandemic. He told me he was sure I’d eat out instead of at home. That I’d become preoccupied by what was going on down the street, instead of him and me inside ourselves. He went on to say he was afraid I’d run out feeling “vaccination safe,” when I shouldn’t, putting all of us in danger.
While he still had my attention, he said, “Just maybe I had invested enough, that I’d want to keep our relationship and, us alive. Then he told me, “I’ll test you the next time we go out for our walk, I won’t remind you to take a mask and wait to see if you remember it. Then I’ll know if you’re with me, or you’re going back to being an absent friend who I live inside of.”
Mold or myth
There will be no construction on the Woodstock Public Library site of any kind for at least a year or more. Many of us in the community are disappointed about this and want to help to renew the library facilities.
But yet, there is something which needs attention immediately and can be done now. An article was found in the newspaper of March 24, 2017 written by Nick Henderson which had a comment from trustee David Lewis. He was quoted, “I think, one of the biggest goals for me is improving the air quality in this building, because I just know too many people with allergies and just sensitivities that won’t come into this library.”
While I support trustee Lewis’ concerns, many in the community would like to know what formal steps have the trustees taken to remediate the air quality in the library. It’s been three years since David said this. We have employees working there, and families using the library. Has this problem been addressed?
In addition, informally the public has been alarmed by rumors of a mold problem. In the interest of public safety, let’s address this issue in a transparent, diligent and professional manner. The trustees should let the community know what steps have been taken to date, and make public any formal environmental assessment reports that have been received. Something this significant must be addressed.
Intuitively for me, there seems to be an air-quality concern. Surprisingly at this point, it appears to have not been formally examined. As far as mold? Has that been professionally determined? If not, an environmental assessment should be made. This, of course, would incur an expense, approximately $5000, according to C2G Environmental Consultants.
Maybe a fundraiser or two can help to collect the funds for an environmental assessment and/or apply for a grant. Let’s find out what is really going on as soon as possible. Many in the community and the Library Alliance would like to help. At the very least, in the end the community will know more about this, as to whether it’s an alarming problem or not. Let’s come together to take care of this as soon as possible.
Shoot for the moon
The moon forms two letters: C and O.
Seven deadly sins
As horrible as it is watching the havoc he’s wreaking in his last days in office, I’m pleased to see the bad guy — the worst guy — finally getting his just deserts: humiliating (and, let us hope, ultimate) defeat. And if while tending to the country’s much-needed healing they can find a way to throw the bastard in jail, I’ll be even happier.
Obviously, though thanks to masking and social distancing, I’ve so far escaped the Trump virus, I haven’t escaped unscathed: I’ve gradually developed a severe case of schadenfreude.
Still, better schadenfreude than any of the other ills we’ve watched curse through America’s bloodstream for four years. It’s been enough to make every humane, healthy person I know feverish with impotent rage. But again, better to have a fever that’ll soon likely go down by degrees, and then pass, than to be one of Trump’s forever-fevered, one of those who continue to join in or stand cheering on the sidelines, unwilling to acknowledge that the country has declared an end to this march of indecency — this Parade of the Seven Deadly Sins, in which:
The PRIDE float is “manned” by myriad ball-less GOPoliticians who, rather than give up their position and power, gave up their country and whatever values they might once have possessed, but can never lay claim to again;
The GREED float is populated by the filthy rich, who, after having amassed great wealth by promoting and/or selling anything they could make a buck off, promoted a Satan and sold what remained of their souls;
The Aryan Brotherhood, the Proud Boys, and their ilk, ordered by their fuehrer to “stand by,” stand ready, aimed and fired up to defend their position on the WRATH float;
The Stop the Stealers — long resentful of Blue Staters for their better educations and incomes, and now resenting them for defeating the Red Staters’ soulmate and in his stead electing the kind of D.C. pol who’s always neglected or screwed them — jealously guard the ENVY float;
The LUST float — under a balloon depicting a priest clutching an insensate fetus in one hand while nailing a pair of embracing men to a cross with his other — is physically manipulated by a team of yoked, emotionally manipulated Evangelists;
The GLUTTONY float buckles under the weight of its Caucasians, who, starved for their piece of the economic pie, have at least been able to help themselves to their piece(s) of the apple pie…though not nearly as many pieces, of either pie, as the man who until recently sat at the head of the table:
And who now sits blimpily and blithely aboard his SLOTH float, complete with golf course — for just as Nero fiddled while Rome burned, Trump golfs while America suffers and while Americans die.
Do I sound like a man with rage, and scorn and disgust? I am, and, though I’ve only recently arrived at this level of schadenfreude, I’ve been that man for four long years.
But the trip back has begun.
Thank you from the Boys & Girls Club
Just like all businesses and non-profits, this year has been a tough one for the Boys & Girls Club in Saugerties. Fundraising efforts came to a screeching halt in mid-March when the pandemic came, but the needs of the club did not stop then. Indeed, they became more crucial as the club stayed open to serve the local children of essential employees and later to allow the children whose parents decided to keep them remote to stay at the club during the day. Our club staff has worked closely with the schools to ensure we are aligned with school guidelines
The community has stepped up in so many ways we never could have imagined to help support the club. Our biggest fundraiser is the annual auction. This year it was reimagined to a first ever virtual auction. By any standards, it was a huge success. The ever-popular end-of-year holiday poinsettia fundraiser will sustain the club into the new year, but fundraising efforts will have to begin almost immediately in order to keep the club operational at its current level. The pandemic has put the brakes on our usual fundraising programs, so we will be looking for new resources and reaching out to community for assistance when necessary.
We wish to acknowledge and thank the community for the ongoing support the club enjoys. We are extremely grateful for the love and hope you will continue to support us in 2021. Without the tremendous help of club friends near and far, we would not be able to keep the doors open. We are beyond thankful!!
Wishing you a holiday season filled with abundant love, peace and good health.
on behalf of the Boys & Girls Club
Every American citizen should have access to quick, easy, accurate Covid-19 tests at no cost. Many such tests have been developed that could save lives if the public knew about them and had access to them.
An example is the SalivaDirect test, developed months ago by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health. This test was successfully used by the National Basketball Association for their shortened season this year. The Yale researchers announced that this test would be available to any lab that wanted to use it at minimal cost. As the name implies, a quick saliva sample is taken and results are obtained within 30 minutes, unlike the invasive PCR test which usually takes days in order to obtain results. While waiting for results from the PCR test, unknowing persons who have been infected continue to transmit the virus to others.
The August 15, 2020 edition of the Yale News speaks of the Emergency Use Authorization granted by the FDA for the use of this test. One of the professors involved in the research at Yale stated that “widespread testing is critical for our control efforts.” I agree. He states that if cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic. Why has this type of testing not been a priority? For more information, one can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Project Quaker was initiated for a safe campus reopening at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn students will be tested twice a day using quick, non-invasive saliva tests for Penn undergraduates.
Researchers have also developed in-home Covid-19 tests. Where is the publicity and easy access to these tests? Can you imagine if we could all easily be tested without a lab in the privacy of our homes? If we test positive, we could isolate ourselves and help mitigate the transmission of the virus. If we had a health care system, our governments on every level could help those who don’t have the financial means to properly isolate themselves from others. Instead, politicians are forcing those less fortunate to be “locked down” in tight quarters together, some closing outdoor dining, which is safer than forcing people into small indoor spaces. These actions are not based on science. Science says, test, test, test and help those with the virus to properly and humanely isolate themselves from others.
With a week left in December, it just passed February as the month with the most Covid-related deaths and California, in spite of it being one of the strictest states on masks, shutdowns, school closing and bans on gatherings, just became the state with the most Covid deaths and is experiencing a surge in Covid cases.
Seems like all the restrictions hasn’t done the job of slowing the virus down since we’re worse off now than we were in the spring. All we’ve managed to do following the advice of Dr. Fauci, the economic Judas goat, is cause enormous economic pain and disruption while depriving the young of their education. Seems the cure might be worse than the disease. Meanwhile, President elect Joe Biden says President Trump needs to sign the Covid relief bill as millions of Americans are suffering due to loss of their jobs or business and unemployment insurance is running out.
A few points: where has he been while Nancy Pelosi has been holding up any bill since July? Didn’t anybody go down to the basement to let him know what’s going on? Why is a bill to help Americans full of pork, spending billions on things unrelated to Covid, including money going to foreign nations and for both Democrats and Republicans? Why are people like government workers, school teachers and others who weren’t laid off and have suffered no economic damage going to get a check? I wonder if Hunter Biden is going to get one. How about passing a bill that only deals with Covid-related problems.
For readers all over
The decade is almost over. Here is to a blessing of friendship: the gravitational pull of friendship has a cumulative effect on the quality of our lives — strong support and affection is a magical elixir that bubbles with equal parts of helping, encouraging, sharing with and, of course, loving one another.
We cross our fingers and hope that as we inch our way into and through this new decade, the continuous soft crackling of liveliness and effervescence that we generate bursts open with a joyful spirit as we help each other realize a 2021 which provides a fresh start of personal uplift and planetary well-being.
Let’s begin the New Year celebrating the release of the past while at the same time embracing the wholly now while our inner eyes gaze toward the future. With a heartfelt “peacefulness always” mantra to ring true, our love must abound without limits or restraint.
So remember — there is light at the end of this 2020 Covid-19 tunnel, and with continued fingers crossed there’ll be a noticeable lessening of f-bombs uttered. We want to see things as we are and not feel resigned to see things as they are. Please cozy up with warm wishes and see the morning in each other’s eyes, while serving up good cheer to all in your sphere. As a result, we’ll sing in the sunshine and laugh every day again.
Time for We the People
We are a nation founded on the principle of “All persons are created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We the People have allowed the diminishment of our freedoms and opportunities by the growth of government and “identity politics.”
The genius and gift of our nation has been the rise of individual achievement and creativity and a culture predicated on The Law of Love, as political leaders try to disguise their malfeasance of huge budget deficits, self-aggrandizement, destruction of small businesses, communities and attacks on the elderly, disabled and handicapped. We have allowed them to corrupt our educational systems and media with the separation of rights and responsibilities with the elites as the know-bests, not the deplorables responsible for defining our freedoms, culture and economic and health decision-making and opportunities.
It is time for We the People to wake up, fight for our rights, communities and values guaranteed by the gift of our Constitution and the Law of Love, or we will be reduced to a segregated and elite-driven nation. The choice is ours to what we want to gift our future generations and the world.
Bridge for sale?
In response to a taxpayer questioning [Woodstock town supervisor] Bill McKenna’s accepting a 2.25 percent raise, McKenna said, “My contracting business, I put it aside because the town needed me to get through this pandemic. Occasionally, I will go and help my brother from time to time on weekends doing a couple little things.”
Bill McCloundy, Canada Bill Jones, William (Bill) Thompson. What do you think; does it fit the “Bills”? You tell me.
Thank you, village staff
I’m grateful I get to work with Village of New Paltz staff. Each of the department heads from building, the treasurer and clerk’s office and public works take pride in their work and push their colleagues to do the same. When I speak with Cory, Nancy, or Bleu during business hours, or if I call them or they call me after hours, including nights and weekends, I receive sound advice and thoughtful suggestions. Each decision they make centers on how to best serve this community.
Thank you, Cory, Nancy, Bleu, and the whole team at Village Hall.
Mayor Tim Rogers
There I was
Returning home from dinner
What a diner it was!
So festive and bright with all the candles
On the dining room table
Friends gathered from near and far
All in the form of a flat screen
That made us all feel able
To continue on to another day
The pie was good,
The pork even better
We bantered and we stayed
Late into the night
Not hugging, not kissing
Spending a lot of time dissing
The nature of our plight
Ah how the mighty do tumble
A great nation, a great notion
And now how great we stumble
We thought we could count
On man’s good graces just to be
Not to be cruel
But we find that when we pass
Our time based on the amassing
We find that those who hunger
Most will manage to pull it off
And pull it down
We find that love of greed
Leads to the real thing
An ascendancy to power
Of the ultimate thief
But do not despair
Christmas is here
And bright baubles are everywhere
Plentiful and cheap
A fantasy come true
For me and for you.
The culmination of such
A Festival of vanity
A festival of villainy
Let’s simplify: vanillainy
But this reference
Once so fraught
Now seems nearly trite
In the face of the
Nightmares we might partake
For here we are kind and gentle
Because we can all say “Merry Christmas” without fear
That someone will think you bad
Because the baubles
Babble on the evening
news, telling you it is good
to have Christmas back
for it was stolen you know,
but now that is a thing of the past
as the baubles of the news cycle babble on, in certain places,
guaranteeing the hysteria of lies
flowing down, a cascade
of tinsel on the tree
cut out of the forest
As the president incites a coup
And The numbers of pandemic dead
Reach beyond the wail
As they stretch
The fabric of your ideal
With yourself to manage
The delicate balance
Of which ornaments to
Bending the spine of your tree
With the heavy burden
Of taking a vaccine or not
But really all this political
It is nothing compared to
The weather outside
As the storm is coming to
Here, this coming yuletide
Bringing the fierce cheer
To the air outside
Which will carry the
Beauty and intensity
Of this holiday season
Into your face
In the form of
A flying reindeer
Right into your
Crashing there, Rudolf
And Dancer and Prancer,
unable to speak
stunned into silence
By the ferocity of the wind
Whipping through our world
Fueled by the incessant desire
Of arrogant fools
Seeking always to succeed
And pound away
Deep deep deep
Into the ground
Where the holes are dug
The ground prepared
For the fools we have become
Two weeks after the horrible and shocking 9/11 attacks, in late September, 2001, my partner Gretchen and I flew up to the New York area, from Tallahassee, Florida, where I was living at the time. We went to a five-day retreat at Omega Institute. We spent the week enjoying some amazing stories from Ram Dass, while benefitting from his teachings. Each evening Krishna Das led a beautiful kirtan, which is where I first fell in love with chanting.
Two weeks later, and back in Tallahassee, I received my newly ordered, brand new harmonium, just like the one that KD was making music with. Soon after, I fell in love with playing the harmonium. I learned a bunch of chants that winter, and in the summer came back to my Woodstock home, hoping to find new friends to chant with.
I heard about this guy named Srutiram, who had chanting at his house every Tuesday evening. So I eagerly began to go each week, where I met some very interesting new friends while learning many more wonderful chants, along with lots of information and rituals about the Hindu religion. Sruti, as we all called him, initially appeared like a larger-than-life character, running the evenings with charisma, intensity and ecstatic kirtan energy.
Wow. What a find!
Months turned into years. The chanting community began to grow larger and larger. I started hosting kirtans at my house as did others in town. At one point we met each Monday for a couple of years in a back room at Mirabai, a specialty store right in the middle of Woodstock. The organizers of those Monday kirtans were Jeff Davis and Cory Smith, beautiful and devoted locals who helped us continue to grow the uplifting chanting energy. And as usual, Sruti was one of the main draws. The place was always packed when it was his turn to lead.
Sruti and I became pretty good friends, although our personalities did clash at times. His chants were often high-octane energy, but I resonated more with softer meditative chants that quietly opened the hearts of those in attendance. It took me a while to embrace all aspects of Bhakti yoga, but I learned to respect the beauty and value of all different styles, tempos and intensities.
I also play drums, and went across the river with Sruti one day to support him at a kirtan he was leading. It was a big place with a pretty good group of chanters. At one point during the kirtan, Sruti picked up the shakti. I was totally ready for his faster rhythms, but then he decided to up the energy even more. I was working up a pretty good sweat, and playfully decided to raise the tempo even more. See ya five and raise ya ten!
The place was rocking when Sruti, again, took it to another level. Whoa! At one point he glanced over to me and we both broke into hysterical laughter. Talk about ecstatic. It was so much fun and so uplifting to everybody. Those were some great times, where I developed a better understanding of Srutiram and what made this unique and dynamic man tick!
I also learned that, in spite of his larger-than-life persona, he had such a sweet and tender side. Sruti was always happy to pick me up if I ever needed a ride to a kirtan evening. He enjoyed assisting me, in and out of whatever venues we were going to,and did his best to be supportive to me, and what I needed with regard to my blindness.
At some point the kirtan energy at Mirabai became too much for the store, so the Monday kirtans shifted to Namaste Yoga Center, hosted by me and Gretchen, who now was teaching yoga there regularly. The space was about twice as big as Mirabai’s, and the kirtan community was very happy with their new home. Week after week more and more chanting enthusiasts showed up to enjoy the different leadership styles, while building sweet connections with each other. I took on the job of scheduling, and in a very short time I would have a filled schedule for those who wanted to lead. Kirtan leaders needed to wait ten to twelve weeks before they’d get a chance to lead again.
It was an exciting time. Shyam Das, another wonderful kirtan leader, used to playfully call our community “the Bhajan Belt” because of all the delicious chanting excitement. It was truly a very special time with lots of loving energy.
But times unfortunately change, and the joys from all the kirtans became sprinkled with the sad losses of community members. Jonji Provenzano was the first to leave his body from cancer, and shortly after we lost Shyam Das in a motorcycle accident in India. Then Sahaja was killed in a car crash one morning, and then last December 22nd we all lost one of our most revered spiritual leaders in Ram Dass.
We went from a time where there were three or four kirtan evenings each week, to a once a month evening, more recently held at Woodstock Yoga. And of course, now with the constant threat of the virus, we haven’t been chanting together at all.
During the last few years Sruti developed a well-tuned sound with Ishwari, his new chanting partner. Sri Kirtan, their group name, began to tour. Their sound was dynamic and their albums were well respected in the kirtan world. This was a dream come true for Srutiram, and in spite of the constant drain on his aging body he was basking in the recognition. He and Ishwari made a beautiful team, and our local community was so proud of them.
Srutiram left his body on December 16, another victim to the dreaded virus, and last Sunday, December 20 we had a heartfelt three hour Zoom memorial to honor the man. The evening was so open-hearted, so rich, so painful, but also very beautiful. It felt like old home week with so many members of our chanting community showing up on Zoom from all over the country. They all wanted to honor Srutiram as well as taking the time to express deep gratitude and appreciation for all he meant to them.
Dear Sruti, longtime leader of the Woodstock kirtan community, you will be greatly missed, but your spirit and legacy will be dancing all around our little hamlet forever.
Postscript. Since both Ram Dass and Srutiram left their bodies, a year apart, in December, I’ll always picture them together, enjoying each other’s company. Years ago Omega Institute honored Ram Dass by naming their library after him. The Ram Dass library is a place with lots of treasures as well as with the rich essence of Ram Dass. Wouldn’t it be special if one of our local yoga studios honored Sruti with a name change? How about something like, “The srutiram Memorial Yoga Center!”