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Presidents Diary, May - July 2010

BettyBlandTSA vice-president Tim Boyd, my husband David, and I arrived at Krotona in early May just in time to gather a few food supplies and begin our Friday evening session, the first of eight in a series of workshops based on the little book Trust Yourself to Life by Clara Codd. Tim’s and my experimental team teaching turned out to be a huge success, taking unexpected turns every day but somehow coming together into a pleasing whole. We got lovely feedback for these interactive sessions during the process and found that we enjoyed the experience tremendously. While there we made good use of every moment in order to have the time to connect with our many Ojai friends.

No sooner had we returned than we packed our bags again for a trip to Iowa for a special audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Although Tim and I had been expecting this auspicious event, we were not given an indication of exactly when or where until just a week before, while we were still at Krotona. Tim and I, accompanied by our spouses, Lily and David, were also fortunate to travel with Rinchen Dharlo of the New York Tibet Fund office. Rinchen flew in and out of Chicago and joined the four of us in the van for the five-hour road trip to Cedar Falls, the home of University of Northern Iowa (UNI), venue of His Holiness’ visit. We were treated to excellent seats at the several events there and were able to meet the Tibetan students who were at UNI under special scholarship arrangements.

We had been told that we would have only ten minutes with His Holiness but, through his gracious interest, our visit extended to thirty minutes. One of the first things he said was how well disposed he was to the Theosophical Society and how it had influenced his thinking as early as 1956, when he was invited to a Buddhist conference in India. As a serious young practicing monk, his contacts with Theosophists during that meeting opened his eyes to “the fact the Buddhism was not the only true religion.” Theosophy broadened his horizons at a critical time as he started along his path toward becoming a world leader in the area of interreligious communications and understanding. When approached concerning TSA’s possible sponsorship of an event in Chicago, he paused for only a moment before replying, “Yes, I will give you two days next year.” Needless to say, we were ecstatic! Tim and I are now anxiously awaiting information about the dates and will keep you informed, although I must warn you that “next year” seems to have meant the next year in planning, and that the event will most likely occur in 2012.

Coming back down to earth (way down) almost immediately, we had to deal with drainage issues around the footings of the library, for which David had negotiated a reasonable contract. Mark Roemmich dubbed it the “big dig” and a big dig it ended up being. As soon as the new drain tiles and waterproofing were applied at the base of the footings, and dirt backfilled, Nicor Gas Company needed to dig up the same area for repair of a gas leak. Then after a few heavy rains, one of the window wells settled and pulled away from the wall, necessitating a partial third reworking of the original dig. At last the issues seem resolved, and the landscape has been recontoured and reseeded.

David and I were happy to discover that the pair of great horned owls nesting in our yard successfully launched one baby. The city environment is not conducive to their survival, so every year we anxiously watch for them. This year they didn’t make as many hoots as usual, and we only discovered them just before the baby was ready to fly. When the couple decides that the fledgling is ready to leave, they completely demolish the nest. There is no option for the returning home of adult children in the owl kingdom!

The earlier than usual summer Board meetings challenged staff to get reports ready, but we managed. The big news is the two large bequests received: one from Cleda Nicholson, which funded an upgrade to our kitchen and dining area, and the other from Louis Kinney, a Theosophist from Montana. The Kinney bequest made it possible for us to meet and exceed our initial Program Endowment fund goal to provide ongoing financial support for our educational programs. Bequests such as this are of great importance in supporting our expanding services to members and the public, especially as we work to increase the visibility and influence of the much-needed Theosophical worldview in today’s society.

Immediately following Board meetings, the Summer National Gathering (SNG) went into full swing with stellar speakers including Scott Olsen, Maria Parisen, Kathy Gann, Jonathan Zimmer, Uma Krishnamurthy, Ralph Hannon, and Amit Goswami. Following the theme of “Theosophy: Gateway to Nature’s Treasure,” topics covered a broad spectrum ranging from scientific measurements of the Golden Section to consciousness, the experience of beauty, and psychological yoga. Dan Noga of the Membership Department captivated the audience with his talk titled “Why I Am a Theosophist” as members recalled their own reasons and commitment to Theosophy. The presentations and discussions were interspersed with the richness of the stunning music of violinist Cármelo de los Santos and the dramatic reading of The Theory of Everything, featuring librettist Nancy Rhodes and the Olcott Drama Troupe. Fun Night, with a variety of skits, a magic act, and classical Indian dance by Uma Krishnamurthy, rounded out what several participants termed the best SNG yet.

Just a few days after SNG 2010, David and I traveled to Paris to attend the French Theosophical Section’s Summer Convention, where I presented a talk on “The Truth.” They were a good audience and very receptive to a non-French speaker. We enjoyed staying a few extra days at the stunningly beautiful French headquarters to experience Paris (in the summer heat) and visit with a few friends.

At the 2010 World Congress in Rome, Italy, we enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere of over 500 Theosophists from many countries, meeting, dining, touring, and sharing a wireless internet site together. The theme of “Brotherhood as a Road to Awareness” was thoroughly addressed by a number of speakers, punctuated by delightful evening entertainment. For my part, I invited Tim Boyd to share the platform with me for two afternoon workshops on “Two Key Elements in Brotherhood: Forgiveness and Interconnectedness.” Even with a large and diverse audience, participants seemed to get a lot out of the sessions and particularly enjoyed the opportunity to share with each other.

Although located away from the city center, our venue was a convenient meeting spot. providing a central location for overnight accommodations and all other activities. In fact, David and I didn’t really venture off campus except for specific planned tours to such sites as the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.

While there, I did have an opportunity to meet with TS international president Radha Burnier. Although frail, she was amazingly strong in demeanor. Our meeting was cordial, but she has apparently been affected by some of the malefic accusations that have flown around the Internet against the American Section in general and me in particular. Be that as it may, we had good conversation and parted in peace.

Following the World Congress, David and I participated in a joint tour of sites in Italy with Australians, Americans, and New Zealanders. The heat was only a mild inconvenience for our intrepid treks, which took us from the picturesque southern Amalfi coastline to the artifacts of Pompeii; the ethereal beauty of art by Leonardo de Vinci, Michelangelo, and others in Florence; and the waterways and the ubiquitous but beautiful Murano glass objects of Venice. All these travels were laced with the experience of stunning scenery and the inspiring magnificence of cathedrals and basilicas.

Finally back home at Olcott, we are looking forward to a quiet August—except that the Co-Masons will take advantage of our available facilities by holding a long weekend of activities here. Although we generally have a full schedule of Theosophical programs, we have found it to be most useful to fill in the brief voids by renting space to compatible groups. In fact, during the past year, rentals and fees added almost $10,000 to support the upkeep of our buildings. We also find that the more we invite people to experience our lovely center, the more we make long-time friends for Theosophy. Perhaps a visit to Olcott to attend a program, for library study, or personal retreat is in your future. We love to welcome our members, but do check for availability, because Olcott is a very busy place.