Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tibetan Buddhist teacher returns to Chico


The Venerable Lama Losang Samten, a frequent visitor to Butte College and Chico State University, has returned to Chico to present a series of teachings and construct an intricate sand mandala, now through November 8. A schedule of events is available at; those interested can contact Bejay Moore in Chico at and she can provide details.

Born in Tibet, Losang Samten lives in Philadelphia where he is spiritual director of a number of Buddhist centers. The former monk was a personal attendant to His Holiness the Dalai Lama (“lama” means “teacher of the dharma”) and an advisor for (and actor in) Martin Scorsese’s film Kundun.

To enable a fuller understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, Losang Samten has written “Ancient Teachings In Modern Times: Buddhism For The 21st Century” ($20 in paperback, self-published, available at, edited by Lori Petruskevich.

In a conversational style that includes a number of anecdotes and reflections on his life (he is no stranger to suffering), the author explores karma, finding a guru (he is bothered by teachers who have succumbed to the lures of material possessions), meditation varieties (in Tibetan “samten” refers to “concentration meditation”), enlightenment, retreats, and more.

The author notes that “in Buddhist teachings there exist two different Truths: conventional truths and ultimate truths.” The conventional truth is that the self exists, but the ultimate truth is that the self “does not exist independently; rather, it exists interdependently.”

For the author, “the goal of spirituality is to overcome suffering, and suffering is caused by delusions, as a result of the three poisons (anger, attachment, and ignorance), with ignorance being at the root of all delusion and suffering. … The delusions and imprints of delusions are like a debilitating disease, and the dharma is like a medicine or antidote. From the example of the garlic and the smell, it is clearly much more difficult to remove the smell of the garlic than to remove the garlic itself.”

“It is my dream that everyone is kind to one another, showing deep respect and compassion for all humanity, all sentient beings, and Mother Earth.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Local author on the lure of fishing


Garry Cooper writes that “even though I don’t claim to be an expert in any type of fishing, the fact remains that after fishing for nearly sixty years, landing thousands of fish and other creatures and making over a thousand spear-fishing dives—along with undertaking so many other water-creature-slaying adventures that it would be impossible to count—it is hard not to accept that I am somewhat of an authority in this field.”

The Chico State University grad reels you in with fishing experience and stories in “Not Just Fishing: A One-Of-A-Kind Book Sure To Interest Every Fisherman” ($19.95 in paperback, self-published, available at The book includes black-and-white photographs (including one of the author with “the biggest shad he has ever caught”) and a ton of fishing advice.

It’s evident Cooper loves all aspects of fishing, including cleaning. “Sturgeon have a gizzard like a chicken, believe it or not,” he writes. “This gizzard has rocks and such in it, and you can slice it open to clean it. It is very good to eat. Some folks marinate it in milk and fry it swearing it is the poor man’s abalone.”

In addition to sturgeon fishing, the book has chapters on striped bass, salmon (including a section on “lure fishing from shore—an unusual but effective method”), trout and steelhead, catfish and crappie, shad, as well as the author’s tales diving for abalone (an “in depth” account, of course), clam digging (wherein the author reveals his “clam pump” method), and frog gigging.

“The most stupid thing that I ever did while spear fishing, without a doubt, was attempting to spear and land a twenty-foot giant pacific octopus when I was free diving by myself in Northern California in Mendocino County. … I won’t do anything that stupid again—although last time out (by myself) I decided to spear a seven-foot mouth full of dangerous teeth known as a wolf eel”—but, well, it didn’t work out.

Cooper’s writing is exuberant, plain spoken, and practical. The author invites interested readers to take the bait.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Making sense of C.S. Lewis


What is the power of Clive Staples Lewis, author of “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Screwtape Letters,” to lead contemporary readers to an understanding of Christianity, to deepen the faith of believers, and to be a faithful companion for those facing some of life’s biggest decisions? The Oxford scholar died in 1963, and yet his popularity is undiminished. Why?

Greg Cootsona, Pastor of Adult Discipleship at Chico’s Bidwell Presbyterian Church, and an academic in his own right, says of his own journey that “Lewis taught me that Christian faith could withstand serious intellectual engagement.” As a student at UC Berkeley, he writes, “My crisis of doubt found an answer in the gospel, and I can attribute a fair measure of this to Lewis.”

In “C.S. Lewis And The Crisis Of A Christian” ($16 in paperback from Westminster John Knox Press; also for Amazon Kindle), Cootsona weaves Lewis’ own life story around its central decision-points, the crises that shaped his writing.

As a young atheist, Lewis wrestled with the crises of materialism, meaninglessness, and anomie (no source of moral guidance). Eventually, describing himself as a “reluctant convert,” Lewis the Christian had to face the question of  the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the nature of the Bible. And as a human being, he dealt head on with the crises of suffering and death, and with feelings. If God feels close one day, why does he feel absent the next?

Through rereading Lewis’ works and research in Lewis archives in the US and UK, Cootsona finds renewed guidance for his own life and ministry.

Lewis experienced a lifelong sense of “poignant longing. He described it as a search for joy (which Lewis frequently capitalizes because he uses it as a technical term). The taste of joy—and the desire it evokes—began early in his life and gradually expanded, like a time-release capsule that drove him to God.”

This book gives another taste of that Joy.

The author will be speaking about Lewis and signing copies of his book at Lyon Books in Chico on Monday, October 27, at 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

A memoir of Sixties friends


Over the course of three books, Chico businesswoman Judi Loren Grace has been charting her life story. “The Third Floor” (2010) tells of giving up her child as a teen mom; “Dreamscape In A Minor” (2013) is about the loss of her second son, Jeff, at twenty-one. Her new book focuses on an unruly bunch of lifelong compatriots from the Sixties who shaped the author’s understanding of true friendship.

Rita’s Road” ($21.99 in paperback from Jetstream Publishing,; also for Amazon Kindle) is available in Chico at Lyon Books, Postal Plus, and Satori Color and Hair Design.

Divided into two parts, “Rita’s Road” takes as its central subject Rita Marie Simpson. “We have a similar background,” Loren Grace writes, “which borders on dysfunctional, and everything clicks with us. … Our friends are crazy, wild and easily bored. We do whatever it takes for a good laugh. Rita is our leader in crime and she alone teaches most of the people in our small town how to inhale and blow smoke rings. She is full of bad ideas with no boundaries. She is impulsive and the epitome of a true prankster. Her side kick is her Austin-Healy.”

The story begins in the mid-Sixties with a small band of girls, including Rita, the author, and Judith Murray Schmeichel, looking ahead to life after high school in Porterville. Loren Grace opts for Beauty College; Murray for modeling school in the Bay Area, and Rita—she “works for a loan company” in a back room with “a dead fly stuck on the wall.” Rita and her co-worker “name it Sidney and talk to it every day.”

What follows are not a few shenanigans instigated by Rita.

Then, suddenly, an accident puts Rita into a months-long coma. Emerging, her memories shredded, she must relearn everything. In the book’s second part, Rita’s growing demands on her friends test everyone until Rita is in her own sixties.

With family photographs, the book is a moving tribute to a friend who provided plenty of laughs but who struggled mightily. Murray’s words about Rita ring true: “One in a bazillion.”

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Jane King: Remembering Frisky the fox


Though her family’s adventures with Frisky the fox took place years ago in Indiana, Jane King’s retelling sparkles with detail. Now living in Orland, King, an artist and retired math teacher, and a former trustee for the Chico Unified School District, enhances the memoir with dozens of her pencil sketches and a section of family photographs. It’s a treat for both kids and adults.

A Fox In The Family” ($15.99 in paperback from Xlibris, also for Amazon Kindle) begins when “my husband, Jim, and I had moved to the country after our first son was born, and by the time our second son arrived, we knew where to find the great horned owl resting during the day … and lovely pink lady slippers just off the beaten path.”

“Two newspaper articles,” she writes, “had featured our family as the only people in town who fox-hunted on horseback and raised scrappy and unusual terriers that would go underground after all sorts of critters.”

Asked to help remove “a litter of foxes from an old barn that was being torn down,” the family eventually finds itself in possession of two gray fox pups. Soon Frisky and Friendly had the run of the house, to the delight of the two boys, Chris and Carter. “The foxes would hide under the trundle bed while the boys played with a conglomeration of toys on the floor. When a particular one took their fancy, the foxes would dash out, grab it either from the floor or from the boy’s hands, and scuttle back to the safety of the bed.”

There is sadness when Friendly succumbs to illness, yet much laughter and hubbub at Frisky’s foxy antics, and sadness again when the family moves and must leave Frisky behind. Up close and personal, it’s a wonderful tail.

King will be signing copies of her book at the Orland Art Center, 724 4th Street, from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. October 3 and from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. October 4. She’ll also be signing copies at the Chico Library October 18 from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Poems of love and grief “at the edges of my life”


Chico writer Joan Goodreau wrote of her son’s disorder in “Strangers Together: How My Son’s Autism Changed My Life” (2013). In her new book experience becomes poetry and she imagines as well how Ian’s brother and sister see him. Then she moves into perhaps deeper waters in poems exploring “separation,” reunion with family and friends, and her own breast cancer diagnosis.

Another Secret Shared: And Other Poems” ($9.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; available locally at Lyon Books in Chico) turns the dailyness of routine into art. The dreams of life can only reach an “Approximation”: “I must accept my own approximations. … Email’s my memoir/ shopping list my poetry/ run to the car late my marathon/ push the shopping cart my dance.”

In “My Reading At Lyon Bookstore,” it is “thirty years after my son Ian’s/ diagnosis of autism. … Suddenly I see Ian tall/ stride through the audience and/ present me with a bouquet like/ I’m an opera singer taking a bow/ to show me that our book’s story still continues unfolding. …”

The poet sees Ian through his brother, together “grown like thistles through cement”: “When I listened to my music/ he swung his body to and fro/ a metronome.” And Ian’s sister, in “Warning”: “When Ian was only as big as/ my cabbage-patch doll/ I nuzzled his cottony head and/ adopted him for my own.”

Later, the poet’s own diagnosis. In “Visualize,” she writes, “My friend says gather the negatives of my life/ let them go with the lump to be removed./ But some things go too deep to find/ even with radioactive markers and dye/ too deep to dig out.”

Yet, as she remembers in “First Poem,” when her grandmother told the young poet that poetic license means you can invent a word that rhymes, “At the edges of my life when/ I fall off in love or grief/ I search around for the right word but then/ use grandma’s license to make it up.”

Lyon Books in downtown Chico will host a reading and book signing with the author Tuesday, September 23, at 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Local poet: Drawing strength from the forest


When Butte College writing instructor Shannon Rooney was seven, her family moved to Trinity County. “We lived in a house … surrounded by thick forest. My backyard ‘dissolved’ into woods that led all the way up to the Alps; I could ‘dissolve’ into pines, cedars, and firs for long afternoons, especially in summer.”

That experience provides the title of her new book of poetry, “Dissolve” ($7.95 in paperback from CreateSpace; also for Amazon Kindle), and the title of the collections’s first poem. “Dissolve back/ to green haven,” the poet writes, “gentle bower/ of fragrant creek-flow,/ of sky riddled/ with sweet love/ of puffed cloud/ upon puffed cloud,/ of blue jay screeching/ of red-tailed haw/ twee-tweeing,/ of holy moments/ of cattail fluff/ adorning/ morning breeze.”

Life carries us on yet those experiences sustain us, and we must not forget “That There Are Others”: “That there are others/ like me—/ that there are others who quiver and cringe/ walking the busy/ grime-slick streets/ amid red lights glaring,/ car, train, and truck horns blaring,/ our brains bombarded/ by psychic shrapnel//while remembering/ round brush huts,/ sun on naked backs,/ the smell of lupine blooms/ in spring,/ that there are others/ like me….”

As the poet remembers “All that really mattered…,” there is a growing energy in the words, remembering “the maze of trails and secret gullies/ in beckoning hills beyond—/ calling me to rise and wander,/ calling me to see and wonder/ at hidden places, lightly jeweled/ with silver beads of morning dew,/ folded grass revealing/ where doe and fawn had bedded/ in timeless eddies of night.”

In “River,” a realization: “I leak life/ like a clay jar that is cracked—”; “I have gone to seed”; but inside, there’s “a river demanding/ to be a river once more.”

In poems that pluck all the senses, the reader is drawn into wild strength that once was and is yet again, courage in the midst of love and poignant humor.

A reading and book signing with the author will be held at Lyon Books in downtown Chico on Tuesday, September 16 at 7:00 p.m.

Trilogy comes to a suspenseful conclusion


Chico novelist Mike Paull, who retired from a Bay Area dental practice, is also a licensed commercial pilot. Aviation plays a central role in each of his three Brett Raven mysteries: “Flight of Betrayal” (2012), “Flight of Deception” (2013), and now, concluding the trilogy, “Flight of No Return” ($15.99 in paperback from Skyhawk Publishing; also available for Amazon Kindle or visit

Raven, also a pilot, is a dentist as well, but in this latest outing he’s mostly out of the office on a desperate mission to reclaim his kidnaped wife and prevent the death of their two babies being carried by a surrogate. The story takes place in 2001 and, unlike the previous novel, when Raven was pretty much in command in pulling a fast one on the bad guys, in the new novel he’s at their mercy.

While Raven is on the West Coast, a strange murder in New York City brings two cops into the investigation that ends up engulfing Raven and his wife, Annie. She had divorced Raven in 1995, married an associate of Raven’s, John Thomas (J.T.) Talbot, and then, in 2000, when JT was reported killed in a mysterious plane crash, re-married Raven. The newlyweds were going to become parents, through a surrogate pregnancy, until the bottom falls out.

It turns out Annie “was in a hotel suite in New York where a murder took place and now she’s disappeared,” as one of the cops summarizes; and then he adds, “One of the guys in that room is”—well, that remains for the reader to discover.

The price for Annie’s return is a large ransom, and no cops. What follows is some good, old-fashioned salty nail-biting suspense as Raven tries to locate his wife while keeping investigators at arms’ length. He has the help of some unlikely friends, but the bad guys have Annie. It’s a page-turning adventure, right up until the very end.

Canyon Oaks Country Club will be hosting a complimentary wine and cheese reception for Mike Paull at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept 18. The public is invited.