Sunday, September 30, 2018


Flashback to the Ram Dass Library at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck where on the top floor lounge you’ll find a brass statue of Hanuman, the half-human-half-monkey Hindu god. Hanuman has super-human strength and is able to fly. He represents resistance to persecution and in this depiction is seated holding a torch and mountain stone. In Hindu mythology Hanuman was a mischievous child and would use his supernatural powers to prank innocent bystanders and would steal devotional objects from the collections of village spiritual teachers. One day he pranked the wrong meditating sage who in return cursed Hanuman into forgetting his powers—which would return only if someone reminded him of their existence.

Brass statues of Hindu deities are popular and come in lots of sizes. The process begins with a carved piece of wax which is covered in cement and heated so the wax melts. It is poured out and the mold is filled with molten brass which hardens into the desired shape. The hardened cement covering is removed and the statue is buffed and polished. Elements of a single statue, such as the items Hanuman holds on his hands, may be created separately and affixed later.

Ram Dass Library:

Stop and smell the milkweed

It’s a real treat to find a garden filled with native plants. Compared to perfectly manicured lawns and gardens dotted with exotic ornamentals, sustainable landscapes are low maintenance and require far less water. They provide homes for insects that feed native birds and their seasonal changes showcase the Hudson Valley’s famous fall foliage. 

Safe Harbors Green in Newburgh is a spectacular example of re-introducing native species to an urban area. This once vacant lot on the corner of Broadway and Liberty Street was renovated a few years ago into a welcoming community space. Improvements brought terraced lawns to the formerly flat space along with crushed stone walkways and seating areas. The space has hosted stages during events and a travelling trapeze school setup for a period last summer. Special features include storm runoff management and ADA accessibility.     

The space is home to thousands of native plants including milkweed, goldenrod and sumac. Milkweed’s sticky milky sap feeds pollinator insects including monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs solely on milkweed plants upon which the caterpillars feed until they pupate. It’s estimated each caterpillar needs to consume 20 leaves to successfully pupate. Once a common prairie plant, milkweed has been destroyed across the country to make way for agriculture and eliminated in favor of ornamental gardens.  There were so many milkweed plants in Safe Harbors Green and I’m excited to visit later next month when the pods dry out, pulling the garden into fall.