Tree burials in Japan

As early as the 1970s, public officials in Japan were concerned about a lack of adequate burial space in urban areas. They offered a variety of novel solutions, from cemeteries in distant resort towns where families could organize a vacation around a visit for traditional graveside rituals, to chartered bus trips to rural areas to bury loved ones. Beginning in 1990, the Grave-Free Promotion Society, a volunteer social organization, publicly advocated for the scattering of human ashes.

Since 1999, the Shōunji temple in northern Japan has attempted to offer a more innovative solution to this crisis through Jumokusō, or “tree burials.” In these burials, families place cremated remains in the ground and a tree is planted over the ashes to mark the gravesite…

While many families electing for tree burials do not explicitly identify as Buddhist or associate with a Buddhist temple, the practice reflects Japanese Buddhism’s larger interest in environmental responsibility. Perhaps influenced by Shinto beliefs about gods living in the natural world, Japanese Buddhism has historically been unique among Buddhist traditions for its focus on the environmental world.

All good news as far as I’m concerned. Over time, both of my parents were cremated and ended up in our family flower garden.

I wouldn’t mind just blowing in the wind up on top of the Caja del Rio mesa. Many fond memories of exploring walks up top. It commands the view to the West every day on my fenceline exercise walks.

Air quality and sunset

Caja del Rio just after sunset

Sunsets – along with sunrise and every other reason for looking to the horizon – have been crap for weeks. Tonight was different.

The smoke from wildfires has been persistent and often oppressive. Key fires here in New Mexico have been out for a little while; but, about 50 square miles of Colorado is still burning. So said the morning news. Air quality indications on my iPhone’s weather app have been moderately unsafe at best…usually “unhealthy for sensitive groups”…like human beings.

Most of this week, I’ve worn a cloth mask to keep the crud away from my lungs.

But, tonight, on my last exercise lap walking our fenceline, I glanced East towards the road and realized there were a few lovely red clouds in the sky and I could see the Sangre de Cristos East of Santa Fe clearly as evening approached. Most of this week, I could barely see there was a mountain range there – not that many miles away.

I turned and looked back at the mesa across our valley and the sky was smoke-free, clouds colored by the sun which set several minutes earlier. And grabbed a quick photo.

After I took the picture, I brought up the weather app. I hadn’t worn the mask tonight and the app confirmed my opinion. Air Quality was “good”. Hope it stays so…through the weekend and on into autumn.

Just another sunset in paradise

Click to enlarge

That’s the southern end of the Caja del Rio Mesa at the bottom. We’re at the Southeastern edge of the Colorado Plateau which extends through a portion of each of the states comprising the Four Corners of the American Southwest.

We live in the bottom of the valley created by the Santa Fe River. We’re at ~6300 feet altitude.

On our last walk of the day.

Stormy sunrise panorama

Stormy panorama sunrise

The sunrise is behind me. Facing West over La Cieneguilla valley to a volcanic escarpment. Actually, part of the southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau. The sun rising directly behind me is shining through the storm you see to the right only in patches one of which I just caught shining on that escarpment. The panorama is about 160º.

A lovely mood, lovely sight on my first walk of the day, today.

[Open the photo up to full screen if you can. I reduced it to 1920 pixels wide. The original is over 16000 pixels wide.]

Killer releases his son after SWAT standoff, kills himself

The scene at sunrise this morning – Soto’s SUV at the right

Update 5:10 a.m.: César Meléndez, the 5-year-old boy abducted by his father Tuesday after a shooting in southwest Santa Fe is safe and in the custody of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office.

His father, 39-year-old, José Meléndez-Trillo, was located shortly after midnight Wednesday morning and, after a short police pursuit in southwest Santa Fe, barricaded himself and the boy in a 1997 Ford Expedition off County Road 56 west of the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.

After about a four-hour standoff with police, Meléndez-Trillo released the boy and immediately turned a gun on himself around 4 a.m., according to Sheriff’s Office Lt. Adan Mendoza. Police fired no shots and Mendoza credited all local law-enforcement for their assistance with the case.

Update 12:54 a.m.: Lt. Adan Mendoza of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that the suspect in Tuesday’s fatal shooting, José Meléndez-Trillo, has been found off County Road 56 west of the Santa Fe Municipal Airport, and officers are negotiating the release of his 5-year-old-son. Mendoza said the man and his son are in a vehicle, but could not elaborate.

The road toward La Cienega was blocked off at Huey Road, one mile west of N.M. 599. By 1 a.m. members of the Santa Fe Police Department’s SWAT team were beginning to assemble near the scene. One officer said Meléndez-Trillo was still armed and officers were in the process of moving the road block east to N.M. 599.

RTFA. This is why we didn’t get any sleep, last night. It all happened just beyond the bosque behind our home.

We were woken by the sirens of the cars chasing Soto down county road 56 just a tad before midnight. By the time I’d run out into the courtyard they were stopped – you could hear him shouting “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! Yo soy an Americano.”

I went back into the house to get shoes on – and as I came back out the scene moved to the petroglyphs parking area a couple hundreds further south – on the west side of the road.

The coppers were superb, professional – especially whoever was in charge of trying to talk Soto out of his Ford Expedition over a loudspeaker. In very good Spanish with an Anglo accent.

He kept ask “Señor Soto” to release his niño – tried to get him to call a phone number which I presume was the officer’s cellphone so they might negotiate. I have no idea if that ever worked.

Around 4AM we heard the shot which must have been Soto killing himself – after releasing his little boy.

Hundreds of cave paintings found at new sites in Somaliland

Striking prehistoric rock art created up to 5,000 years ago has been discovered at almost 100 sites in Somaliland on the Gulf of Aden in eastern Africa.

A local team headed by Dr Sada Mire – of the Institute of Archaeology at University College London (UCL) – made the finds which included a man on horseback, painted around 4,000 years ago – one of the earliest known depictions of a mounted hunter.

Leaping antelopes, prancing giraffes and snakes poised to strike are among animals and reptiles depicted with astonishing clarity. Such is the quality of the paintings that at least 10 sites, scattered across semi-desert terrain, are likely to be given World Heritage status.

Mire’s research study will be published this month in Current World Archaeology. He said: “With wars, droughts and piracy in Somalia, hardly anyone has researched the archaeology until now. But it’s absolutely full of extraordinarily well-preserved rock art.”

Dhambalin, about 40 miles from the Red Sea, features horned cattle, sheep and goats painted about 5,000 years ago. The animals have distinctive bands around their backs and bellies, which suggests farming or ritual traditions.

We live about a quarter-mile from the rim of the Caja del Rio. A mesa overlooking what was valley grasslands and prairie with swamplands and bosque forest along the course of the Santa Fe river.

Until the coming of Spanish colonial settlers – and their cattle – this was the home of Pueblo Indians. Their rock art, petroglyphs decorate the whole southern rim of the mesa. Pictographs tediously chipped into sunglazed rock surfaces.

One of my favorite places to sit in the autumn sun and reflect upon the families who lived here for hundreds and thousands of years. Gone, now.

Weird western cloudscape

Here’s what’s weird about these clouds. This about 6:45 AM MDT. I’m facing West at the beginning of my first walk of the day with Rally.

These clouds are ahead of me – to the West. The sun is going to be rising in a short while – behind me.

I’ve seen clouds illuminated like this with the sun behind them. But, not with the sun ready to come into view facing the clouds.