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.