Well, the big news bouncing around the Buddhist blogosphere is that Barack Obama had a white kata (white ceremonial offering scarf, called khatag in Mongolia, where it’s usually blue or yellow) blessed by HH the Dalai Lama in his pocket at the time of his inauguration. It was given to him just before the ceremony by Richard Blum, husband of Sen. Diane Feinstein, and the philanthropist who initiated the American Himalayan Foundation. Tricycle Blog’s got the scoop. I met Richard once in Mongolia when they were scouting out expanding their operations into this country. Not sure what became of that. Nice fella, though.
In other news, Mother Tara of the previous post (not the elephant) has summoned me tomorrow morning. Seems she’s taken a liking to me and wants a traditional doctor to listen to my pulses, see if I need a tune-up. She sent me a gift of some lovely incense, fashioned from the fresh ingredients only found on the slopes of Mongolia’s spiritual center, Otgontenger Mountain in Zavkhan province. I hope to make a pilgrimage there in early March; plans are still being formulated, so stay tuned.
In still other news, I seriously courted frostbite today with new British birding friend Tom – an expert on the avifauna of warmer climes as you can see at his excellent Mayan Birding site – tromping about the Bogd Khan Mountains. Worth it? Darn tootin’. Snagged yet another lifer that has eluded me forever in North America, the lovely Pine Grosbeak. Can’t say I warmed up much upon returning home; heat’s inexplicably been off for two days. Nonetheless I plopped a cat in my lap, brewed a hot cuppa, and proceeded to spend way more time than grown monks ought trying to sort out the maddeningly subtle differences between Common and Arctic Redpolls. At the risk of an email deluge, if any of you are experts in redpoll variations, drop me a line!
Update: Keeeeeller! You thought no one would drop me a line, didn't you? Well ha, cuz Tom my birding partner did, furnishing clear photographic proof of what we suspected, that we were observing Arctic (Hoary) Redpolls, another lifer! In case you doubt we're an obsessive lot, check out the side-by-side photo doc he created with pix from this trip, and Common (Mealy) Redpolls from the fall: Download Arctic and Common Redpoll comparison . Tom also got some lovely shots of the Pine Grosbeaks, a few of which are reproduced here for your viewing pleasure: