Thursday, June 30, 2005

You can see that with the platform removed, we had a mess on our hands...This is a view of the upper steps before we cleaned them, LOTS of sand and debris... Posted by Picasa

Here's an "after" shot of the steps...much better... Posted by Picasa

Anne stayed right up to the end with us. While we worked on power washing the Stupa she polished the offering bowls!  Posted by Picasa

After I finished with the upper steps, Norbu took the hose to wash the lower steps (a LOT of sand came down from those steps). We were all tired, but we wanted to leave the Stupa clean and fresh after carrying that platform all these weeks. Posted by Picasa

Spike, my older dog, found something really attractive in the grass, and rolled in it. I can only hope it was as clean as those newly polished bowls!  Posted by Picasa

Here it is, platform down, washed and ready for more repairs! Polished bowls a great contribution! Everyone worked really hard today, a wicked humid, relentlessly hot day. Tomorrow we'll be back out (weather permitting) to continue repairs. Lisa is planning to join us, we're hoping to convince her to work on the upper steps with us! : ) There's plenty to do, so if you're curious and want to help don't be shy! We'll walk you through every step, and if you'd rather watch, we'll be here. Remember, even just seeing an image of a Stupa brings blessings, so it is our sincere hope you'll keep visiting us, whether in person, or here on these pages. Stupas exist for no other reason than to bring benefit to beings. It is our hope that by working on them, restoring them, we will cultivate that very same quality within our own minds, and offer that to every being we encounter. Until we can, we'll work hard to keep such precious objects in the world, so all beings may find a place of refuge... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

It turns out Norbu didn't do much over the past few days, due to the forecast. He didn't want to paint, or do repairs, knowing it could end up being washed out or ruined. After some deliberation we decided it was safe to repair the underside of the steps, as they wouldn't be hit directly by rain, and moisture is good for the curing repair material (but lethal to the we left that alone...). This means we'll have a challenge on our hands when we go to paint the bumpa (we're taking the platform down tomorrow), but we've talked it out and have confidence we can get it done without too much trouble. A few ladders, ropes, and a little courage, we'll be fine up there.... : ) Posted by Hello

Here's a look at what we were up to... Posted by Hello

We found that some of the roughest areas of the concrete (where most of the finer material had fallen away), had rusty metal strips running through them... Posted by Hello

This is a close up of a situation we encountered when doing the underside of the steps in the northwest corner. You can see pieces of metal running through the aggregate that are rusting. We know that the metal rusting will cause a problem if we repair over it, so we get some pliers and start pulling. Most of it came out easily, but a few pieces were running deeper into the structure. We ended up getting the grinder out to nip those pieces off below the rust line. I thought of the rustoleum, but we decided to repair over the nubs. We'll keep an eye on this region of the Stupa next year though... Posted by Hello

Pete came by while we were working. He (obviously) had come from work. He brought a change of clothes so he could work on the Stupas with us though! He also brought his lunch, so he headed inside to get himself together for an afternoon at the Stupa... Posted by Hello

We used the grinder to nip off the strips of metal below the level of repair, so it would be completely covered by the repair material. We also removed all loose material from around where the metal strips had been.  Posted by Hello

Pete came out just as we were wrapping up. Rain in the forecast made us reluctant to do any repairs on areas that would be hit directly by the showers. So we all decided to pull out the power washer and check it over. If you'll recall, a few weeks back we tried to use it and it jammed. Pete tinkered with it and now he said it worked okay, but wanted to double check. When he opened the air filter compartment to check if we needed to replace it, this is what he found...oil in the air filter chamber. Not good... Posted by Hello

Pete gave us a grin as we all confirmed what we already knew, there was oil in places there shouldn't be... Fortunately, after a few minutes of this ugliness, it cleared up. The theory being we had somehow overfilled the oil chamber, and it blew up around the rods or rings or something (I'm no mechanic). Pete and Norbu agreed it should not be a problem. The power washing function did work, and the engine calmed down. So, say a few prayers for it! The Migyur Dorje Stupa is just a few weeks away! We'll be back to chemical stripper out there, and the power washer is essential in removing the residual stripper once it's been scraped off... Posted by Hello

At the end of the day, we made it all the way around the upper steps, at least as far as we could reach...We had to restrain ourselves, knowing rain was on it's way (with the sun shining it was tempting to continue repairs). It turned out to be the right thing too. It thunderstormed all evening! Don't worry though! Your Stupa Crew was tucked away in the temple safe and sound...

It was an evening of practice, so I returned home late. Thus, I'll keep this brief tonight. We're slated to remove the scaffolding tomorrow, so do tune in!

As always, every effort you see here, from the updates on this blog to the many people coming out to participate in this renovation, and all those amazing folks you never see here (the fund raisers, book keepers, organizers), all of it is devoted to keeping these precious sources of blessing in the world. And to making them available to you! If you'd like to see them in person come on out to Poolesville (see the KPC Maryland link on this page to find directions!). If that's not an option, we'll keep you up to date here! May all virtue or merit generated by these efforts be devoted to liberating every suffering being! Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I worked (at the hospital) again today, so have no immediate news to report from the Stupas. This is the Enlightenment Stupa from last week. It's now been repaired on all four walls of the throne in addition to the bumpa. We're planning on taking down the platform on Thursday, in preparation for completing repairs (can't get to the upper steps with the platform in place). The rain has reminded us we are not in control, however, and we haven't been able to paint as we had planned. So we'll see what happens!

I posted this photo to reassure anyone who may have found the blog for the first time yesterday, you can see we've made a lot of progress since this project first started! I can remember being told by concrete restoration contractors (I had several actually come out to assess the Stupas) that all the paint would have to be removed. I can recall being told by paint vendors it wouldn't be possible to remove all the paint, period! You can see such statements did not deter us!

I don't say this as a boast, but out of reverence for these wonderous structures. They call forth the very best in beings, and honestly, miracles do happen! David Parker came out of nowhere when we needed him, just in time to help us plan and build this platform! He brought tools and knowledge that made the repair of this Stupa possible. Back in March, just when I thought I'd have to start researching vendors again (had been toiling at it for over a year), one of the contractors we'd been working with closely (but could not afford) offered us detailed advice on products, and gave us the contact for a vendor that could literally walk us through the repair process! That vendor, Cathedral Stone, sent a mason/sales rep to teach us not only about their products, but showed us how to use them! It is not likely a coincidence that this breakthrough occurred when our teacher, whose aspirations formed the foundation of all the Stupas, formally asked us to repair them. David himself has said he can't believe what we've accomplished, and he has 15 years of construction experience. I've talked with Stupa builders in Arizona, and they all have many such stories to tell. It isn't us, it's the Stupas that make this kind of wonder possible. Just look over these pages, and through our archives, and you'll see some really amazing things. Heck, if you're in Maryland, you can come by in person! This opportunity is open to anyone wishing to give it a try! I guarantee if you hang around here long enough, in person or by watching this blog, you'll see wonders in action! If you come join us, you may experience it first hand! So don't be shy, we won't pressure you to do anything you don't want, but we'll do our best to support you if you do want to help!Posted by Hello

This photo is from last week. David Parker, from TMC in Frederick, came by to see what we'd been up to since he helped us build the platform. He's volunteered to help us take it down! He's also going to help us plan and build a similar platform at Migyur Dorje, reusing portions of this one. He said they're planning to build their first Stupa up in Frederick! How cool is that!

He's always showed up at critical junctures for us. Without him the sand blasting of the bumpa would have been extremely difficult. But the platform gave us an easy access for the sandblasting, and for the repairs! Out at Migyur Dorje, that's going to be even more important, as the relief and artwork need repair and repainting, not something Ani Alana is likely to do dangling from a rope. : ) Lisa might...but I think she too would prefer something to stand on. In addition, the bumpa out there presents a similar challenge as the sandblasting....stripping requires scraping, and more difficult still, removing the stripper. That's a messy business even from the ground, and I've been up on the Long Life Stupa trying to power wash off the slimy, smelly stripper without losing my footing, and it's not easy. Call me crazy, but it's still worth every bit of effort! Still, less danger is good. : )

Not having any idea what Norbu's been up to I'm not sure what we'll be doing tomorrow. Forecast calls for rain, but there's plenty to keep us busy if that happens. : ) I can't wait to get back out there! Working on the Stupas is magnetic, I never want to stop... Their blessings have changed every particle of my being, working on them is an opportunity to share that experience with others. Whether you join us for a few minutes, or for many days and hours, it is the goal of the whole Stupa team that you have that chance!

"If one participates in a stupa's construction and ritual activities, or honors the completed stupa with an altruistic resolve to benefit all beings, then the blessings are such that Buddha himself could not describe them."
From Stupas: Incalculable Sources of Blessing by Tulku Sang Ngag Rinpoche, published by Chagdud Gongpa Foundation.

Thus, I'll end with my usual invitation, to come out and give this a try. It will bring benefit now and in the future, to you, and to all beings who encounter these precious structures! If you are not able to travel to Poolesville, then rejoice in these activities, and accept our offering of this blog, and our efforts, for the benefit of all beings! Posted by Hello

Monday, June 27, 2005

Because I had to work at the hospital today, I couldn't be on site to tell you what happened. So I decided to tell you a story...

Once upon a time, about a year and a half ago, I was asked by Ani Dawa in Arizona to take a picture of a Stupa I'd never seen before. It's in an out of the way place, not a public area. This is the Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje Stupa, built when he was here at the temple (so I think, I wasn't there, timeline may be off). In any case, when I took my camera to this remote spot and found it, I wondered "does she realize how this looks!". It was aweful. You can't see clearly here, but there were vines growing up it, literally into the concrete of the throne! It was covered with mildew. Off to the side (perhaps the most frightening thing) it has about 2 feet of ground before a drop off (needs a retaining wall bad!). I couldn't even circumambulate it for the weeds. I dutifully shot the photos, knowing full well what I was getting into. There was no way Dawa would see this and be okay. But, the path is about honesty...

So this adventure began on that chilly day. I went home, emailed the photos, and looked up online how to remove mildew from concrete. I was out the next day with a power washer (this is late February, early March I think, it was really cold) and mildecide. I pulled off the vines and cleaned it. Ashby, a faithful servant of the Stupas, painted it while I worked at the hospital. But still, it wasn't enough. I knew if that had happened, there were other Stupas. I knew the Enlightenment Stupa by the parking lot was already showing signs of wear. I was afraid of what I'd find on the others...

Guru Rinpoche once told Yeshe Tsogyal something very simple "Whatever can be done, must be done". Taking that statement to heart (I still do, every day), I accepted the responsiblity of ensuring the the Stupas would be cared for. I didn't know anything about concrete, or construction, or repair (drywall maybe, but a completely different animal). But that's where this all began. That's the source of all the merit and benefit brought by this endeavor. So if you've ever wondered where this project came from, here's a brief (very) overview.... Posted by Hello

The first place I thought of when taking responsibiltiy to do an assessment was the Stupa Park... Posted by Hello

When I arrived at the Stupa Park to inspect it wasn't pretty... Posted by Hello

Perhaps the most frightening sight was this one, the Auspcious Manifold Doorways Stupa. Up to this point I was thinking the old scrape and paint might work...after seeing this, I realized I really needed to learn much more. I wanted to know not only how to fix this (I had no experience with concrete at all, but this had to be done), but how to make sure it never, ever happened again... Posted by Hello

A close up of the gau of the Auspicious Manifold Doorways Stupa. It was literally coming apart! I was mortified. I went out and bought caulk, and caulked the heck out of it. I didn't know what else to do, but I couldn't NOT do something. You can see photos from earlier this month where Norbu has lovingly restored this!! How amazing! But believe me, in the beginning I was griefstruck. I didn't know anything about concrete, but I knew something had to be done. Hence, the research phase hit high gear. It was a long road, a story for another day, but we're now at the point where this precious park is free of paint, and nearly completely repaired. We're now just waiting for our fund to grow enough to order paint! If you'd like to contribute to this you can use the link on this page, or send us a comment. It's going to be a custom paint, one that is both breathable enough to allow vapors to escape while protective enough to keep rain out of the concrete. We've tracked down (finally) a vendor, have a sample chosen, and are ready to go! We just need a little boost in the budget! : )  Posted by Hello

This is the Enlightenment Stupa before we got too far underway. It doesn't look bad from a distance, but up close the paint was really failing. This shot is from April 15th, after we tried to scrape it and couldn't go any farther. We tried this step, which is chemical stripper that had brought us success in the Stupa Park. It didn't work. We finally surrendered to what David Somerville our Stupa Building expert in Arizona said would be our only option...sand blasting...You can see that process in the May archive via the link on this page! Posted by Hello

I didn't take a lot of "before" shots of the deterioration on the Enlightenment Stupa, but here's one from April 9th, the first day we started working on it... Posted by Hello

This is a close up taken on April 9th, when we first started working on the Enlightenment Stupa. In areas whole chunks of the underlying "stucco" layer were popping loose. Though I didn't photograph them, there were other areas where large (like the size of a football) bubbles in the paint appeared. This Stupa was just done years ago, the most recently renovated. We're now at the point where all the paint is off, the stucco layer is off (we sandblasted almost the whole month of May if you want to see the archival photos!), and we're now repairing it with a mortar that breaths. It is our current focus, and we hope to be painting it on July 10th! Posted by Hello