Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Song for the New Year

I wish us all a New Year filled with love and appreciation for the people things that are precious in our lives.

Shakura Cathryn
"Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time." ~Betty Smith

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Goodbye, Glenn-Friend

Late yesterday afternoon I found out that my very dear and much loved friend Glenn died a few days before Christmas. He was only 47 - would have been 48 this coming Monday, Dec. 28. He was a musician and artist who walked a very difficult path with alcohol. I so hoped he would be able to find his way on to a better, more self-nurturing path. He didn't drive, because of that.... I understand that he crashed on his bicycle and had a head injury, and died as a result of the head injury and the complications of alcoholism and renal failure.

Alcohol is such a seductive downward spiral for some.... It saddens me so much to see how many good-hearted and talented people find themselves unable to let go of that demon. And it is such a wonderful miracle when I see those who do come to a fork in the road that they can navigate, and find their way onto a better path.

This is my song for Glenn.... it says "it's time to crash and burn or fly." It appears that he did crash and burn, and now he is flying. Fly on into the Light, my friend.

Shakura Cathryn  
"Blessed the traveler who journeys the length of the Light." ~Unknown
"We are travelers in a cosmic journey - star dust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal. But the expressions of life are ephemeral, momentary, transient. Buddha once said "This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds. To watch the birth and death of beings is like looking at the movements of a dance. A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky." We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment, but it is transient. It is a little parenthesis in eternity. If we share with caring, light heartedness and love, we will create abundance and joy for each other. And then this moment will have been worthwhile." ~Deepak Chopra

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Blessings ~ Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

Dear Friends and Family,

This has become my favorite writing for the holidays. It has a timeless beauty, truth and tranquility about it that touches my heart. I wish all of this for each of you. Thank you all for the parts you play in my life – and for your contributions to life on planet Earth. It just wouldn’t be the same here without you!

Written on Christmas Eve, 1513

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see. And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

And so, at this time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and shadows flee away.

~ Fra Giovanni ~

Shakura Cathryn
"When your life is filled with the desire to see the holiness in everyday life, something magical happens: ordinary life becomes extraordinary, and the very process of life begins to nourish your soul!" ~Rabbi Harold Kushner

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lisa Thiel - Winter Solstice Song (Yule)

On the longest night we search for the light,
And we find it deep within.
Open your eyes to embrace what is wise,
And see the light of your own soul shining.

Music by Lisa Thiel
Vide0 by WiccaNoita


Enter the night and you'll find the light,
That will carry you to your dreams.
Enter the night, let your spirit take flight,
In the field of infinite possibilities

On the longest night we search for the light,
And we find it deep within.
Open your eyes to embrace what is wise,
And see the light of your own soul shining.


Wrap up in the cloak of starry darkness my child,
And you'll find the center of all things.
For from this space of the deepest dark place,
Life Eternal does spring.


So when you find that spark
When you dream in the dark,
Hold it close to your heart and know.
All that you see is all that can be
When you give birth to the dreams of your soul.


Wishing you Peace, Blessings, Hopes and Visions this Winter Solstice Night!
Shakura Cathryn  
"I like the darkness. 'Cause when you lay down and it's all dark and quiet, then you can hear the song that's going on inside you." ~A 4 year old child.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ticket on the windshield

Oh, this is just too much fun to keep to myself – I have to share it! It came to me by e-mail, and I don't know who wrote it. Thank you, Sky, for a good laugh!

Working people frequently ask us retired people what we do to make our days interesting.

Well, for example, the other day my wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and said, 'Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?'

He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a Nazi turd. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires.

So my wife called him a shit-head. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, we didn't care. We came into town by bus and the car had a Sarah Palin sticker.

We try to have a little fun each day now that we're retired. It's important at our age.


Shakura Cathryn  
"Levity helps us overcome gravity, especially when we shine the light of laughter on those poorly-lit corridors of power." ~Swami Beyondananda

Friday, December 11, 2009

Prayer Request / Medicine Buddha Mantra

I learned tonight that the daughter of our neighbors was severely injured in a car crash about a month ago, in Washington state where she was in college. She had head injuries as well as having her pelvis broken in 5 places. She is "not all here" mentally at this time, although the doctors are hopeful she will have full recovery of her brain functions. At this time she her brain is still swollen. She is severely limited in her ability to move, as well, and will have a long and difficult haul to recovery. She is a VERY talented and super intelligent young woman who had been very active in our community from a very young age, taking it upon herself to organize and publish a local newsletter with information about how to be more environmentally conscious, news about local politics and events, etc.

And her parents are also going through a divorce at this time, so it is an intensely difficult and stressful time for the whole family.

If you are inclined to prayer, please include this family in your prayers... Rod (father), Patty (mother) and Katie (daughter). I don't want to include their last name as I don't know that they would want their identities published.

Here is a beautiful Tibetan Buddhist healing mantra.

Tayatha Om Bekandze
Bekandze Maha Bekandze
Randze Samu Gate Soha

Tibetan Buddhist Mantra - To eliminate not only pain of diseases but also help in overcoming the major inner sickness of attachment, hatred, jealousy, desire, greed and ignorance. Mantra chanted by Khenpo Pema Chopel Rinpoche from the CD 'The Blessing from H.H. Penor Rinpoche for World Peace'.

Shakura Cathryn  
"The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace."

Sunday, December 6, 2009

From Pocket to Stage, Music in the Key of iPhone

Oh, this is fun! Now I want an iPhone!

There is also a video on that page!

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times
Nicholas Bryan plays multiple iPhones during the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra’s Music for Iphones concert at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics on Dec. 3.

PALO ALTO, Calif. — An expectant hush fell over the audience as the director of the chamber ensemble, Ge Wang, came out and asked them to turn off their cellphones. The seven other musicians, dressed in black, filed in and took their positions in a circle.

The conductor raised his hands. A low droning sound arose, as if the chamber ensemble were tuning. Then the musicians began to swing their arms in wide circles, creating rising and falling waves of electronic sound.
The Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra’s performance on Thursday used the most unusual of instruments: Apple iPhones amplified by speakers attached to small fingerless gloves.

Sometimes the sounds were otherworldly. Sometimes, they mimicked raindrops, bird songs or freeway traffic. In one piece, two performers blew into their phones to stir virtual wind chimes. In another, the instruments took on personalities based on the pitch, volume and frequency of the notes played — as if the musicians were flirting, teasing and admonishing each other.

And gradually, the audience disobeyed instructions, pulling out their own iPhones and iPods to record the performance.

From the earliest days of the iPhone, applications that mimic musical instruments have topped the download charts. But the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra, with its avant-garde compositions and electronic renditions of popular songs like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” is trying to push the frontiers of the four-decade-old field of computer music.

While computer music composers once spent hours programming giant mainframes to synthesize a single sound, advances in hardware and software have brought powerful and easy-to-use music tools to personal computers and now, to smartphones.

Ge Wang, the assistant professor of music who leads the two-year-old Stanford group, says the iPhone may be the first instrument — electronic or acoustic — that millions of people will carry in their pockets. “I can’t bring my guitar or my piano or my cello wherever I go, but I do have my iPhone at all times,” he said.

Professor Wang said he would like to democratize the process of making music, so that anyone with a cellphone could become a musician. “Part of my philosophy is people are inherently creative,” he said. “It’s not just people who think of themselves as artists.”

To pursue that goal, he co-founded a software company, Smule, which makes applications that turn iPhones into simple musical instruments. Although the consumer apps are less sophisticated than the custom creations of the Stanford orchestra, users have been fascinated by them.

The most popular Smule app, Ocarina, turns the iPhone into a flutelike instrument played by blowing across the microphone, touching virtual finger holes and tilting the phone. Another Smule app mimics a trombone. The two programs, which cost 99 cents each, have been downloaded about two million times.

Other software companies have hopped on the bandwagon. MooCowMusic, for example, makes apps like Pianist, Guitarist, Organist and Bassist, which sound like traditional instruments. With a program called Bloom, created in part by Brian Eno, the musician and producer, users can tap their phones to create drone sounds that loop and become a piece of music.

Stephen Tramontozzi, who teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and plays double bass in the San Francisco Symphony, questions whether iPhone instruments can viscerally affect an audience the same way as the vibrations of traditional instruments in a concert hall.

“The response of traditional instruments is so subtle to the movement and the sensitivities of the being playing it, so it therefore can express much, much more and be more touching than something that produces sound electronically,” he said.

Professor Wang, who still plays the guitar he learned in middle school, acknowledges that “nothing is better than a cello at playing the cello.”
Still, he hopes that his ensemble — which builds the instruments, writes the music and performs it — will invent the instruments of the future.

While the Ocarina app is simple enough that anyone can easily play it, the Stanford orchestra is studying the potential of more complex iPhone instruments and pushing the limits of the type of music that can be made with them.

To play one of the instruments, called the non-gamelan, musicians tilt the phone to create sounds of drums or bells and surround audience members to give them the feeling of being in the middle of a digital-age drum circle. Another instrument takes advantage of the iPhone’s touch screen. The musician taps different parts of the screen to create notes that resemble a piano or the chirps of the R2-D2 robot in “Star Wars.”

Cellphones are appearing in other ensembles across the country. A mobile phone orchestra at the University of Michigan, led by a co-founder of the Stanford group, will perform on Wednesday. And a big-band jazz group called Large Ensemble used smartphones as instruments during a recent performance in New York.

“It is too early to make any judgment on” such ensembles, said Paul Lansky, a composer and professor of music at Princeton who was a pioneering figure in computer music but recently abandoned the field to focus on traditional instruments. “You can make great music with a rubber band and terrible music with a Stradivarius violin.”

In the future, Professor Wang said, a music ensemble could be made up of any group of people playing music together, no matter where they are physically.

Users of Smule’s Ocarina software can already listen to other people, anywhere in the world, who are playing at the same time. Professor Wang has talked to the San Francisco Symphony about a joint performance, with traditional and iPhone instruments, and he hopes to someday host a concert with musicians and amateurs from across the globe playing their iPhones all at once.

“A concert anywhere, anytime,” he said. “Let’s jam.”

Shakura Cathryn  
“Listen. Every molecule is humming its particular pitch. Of course you are a symphony. Whose tune do you think the planets are singing as they dance?” ~Lynn Ungar - Excerpt from the poem Boundaries (Blessing the Bread)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Laughing With - Regina Spektor

I love it! I personally think the Universe contains a huge amount of humor - as well as a lot of love and compassion - and whether you call that God or Tao or whatever, there is room for laughing at God, or not laughing at God, or laughing WITH God!

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

Shakura Cathryn
"L.O.R.D. = Love Over Ridiculous Dogma" ~Aletha Byrd
"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." ~George Bernard Shaw

Friday, November 27, 2009

Amazing Grace sung in Tsalagi, the Cherokee Language, by Walela

I have always loved this song. This version even has some nice bagpipes in the background toward the end of the recording - an interesting choice for Native American musicians. It is so beautiful it gave me "God" bumps!

Shakura Cathryn
"A man of peace is not a pacifist, a man of peace is simply a pool of silence. He pulsates a new kind of energy into the world, he sings a new song. He lives in a totally new way his very way of life is that of grace, that of prayer, that of compassion. Whomsoever he touches, he creates more love-energy. The man of peace is creative. He is not against war, because to be against anything is to be at war. He is not against war, he simply understands why war exists. And out of that understanding he becomes peaceful. Only when there are many people who are pools of peace, silence, understanding, will the war disappear.' ~OSHO, from: 'Zen: The Path of Paradox, vol II'

Change Your Thinking - A Nice Story

I enjoyed this story, which came to me by e-mail. I don't know the origin of it.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room's only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'


There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.

'Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present.'

Shakura Cathryn  
"Is it reality, or is it not reality? All things are reality. Even if only one is imagining it, it is a reality in that the thought has been offered and someone, who has the ability to translate that vibration, will perceive it. It must be fair to say that anything that can be perceived must be reality. Because, as creators, your reality depends upon what you are willing to imagine and allow." ~Abraham

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Blessings


Thanks & blessings be
to the Sun & the Earth
for this bread & this wine,
this fruit, this meat, this salt,
this food;
thanks be & blessing to them
who prepare it, who serve it;
thanks & blessings to them
who share it
(& also the absent & the dead).
Thanks & Blessing to them who bring it
(may they not want),
to them who plant & tend it,
harvest & gather it
(may they not want);
thanks & blessing to them who work
& blessing to them who cannot;
may they not want - for their hunger
sours the wine & robs
the taste from the salt.
Thanks be for the sustenance & strength
for our dance & work of justice, of peace.

~ Rafael Jesus Gonzalez ~

Dear Friends,
I am grateful for all of you,
and for the blessings of life.
Thank you for the parts you play
in the Dance of my life.

I hope you are all feeling blessed.
"The more you praise and celebrate your life,
the more there is in life to celebrate."
~Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Infinity: The Ultimate Trip - Journey Beyond Death

Infinity: The Ultimate Trip – Journey Beyond Death
A Film by Jay Weidner
Featuring Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger, Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss.
Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger. Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss

Running Time: 90 min
24.95 Retail

Preview Screenings start
October 1st.

Available for Purchase
Thanksgiving 2009

What happens after we pass from this world? Is there a life after this one? Or do we just disappear forever? These are the questions asked in this powerful and poignant feature documentary, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip. Many may be surprised by the answers.

Featuring noted experts Gregg Braden, Dannion Brinkley, Renate Dollinger. Stanislav Grof, John Holland, Dzogchen Ponlop, Robert Thurman, Alberto Villoldo, Neale Donald Walsch and Brian Weiss, Infinity: The Ultimate Trip brings a message of hope and optimism concerning the most mysterious act in a human life; the end of this life and journey to the beyond.

Using vital and beautiful imagery, along with personal accounts of near-death experiences, reincarnation and more, Infinity brings forth the story of our own infinite nature, what to expect after death and the magic and beauty that awaits us on the other side. Here we learn of the energetic landscape of the world that we enter after we die, the angels, or beings of light, who assist us in the passing and the promise of a new life. Infinity: The Ultimate Trip is an honest and hopeful assessment of the greatest journey that any of us will ever take. It changes our view from that of dread and pessimism to one of hope, joy and light.

Shakura Cathryn  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Deepak Chopra Picks The World's Seven Most Powerful Teachers

I like this!

An inspired teacher changes how you think. A powerful teacher changes how masses of people think. The most powerful teachers go even farther--they elevate our collective consciousness. But this ultimate power can't exist without the first step, inspiration. The seven people on this list fulfill both requirements.

Deepak Chopra is the author of over 50 books on health, success, relationships and spirituality. He is also an adjunct professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

No. 1: Gloria Steinem

Founding Editor, Ms.

She is symbolic of a revolution that required many other smart, brave, committed feminists. But in her own right she possesses all those qualities in large measure. Her abiding lesson is about equality.

No. 2: Al Gore

Former Vice President, United States of America

He spoke about an inconvenient truth when there was no glory or reward in it. He showed us it is our responsibility to think globally. His abiding lesson is about deserving nature's gifts.

No. 3: Muhammad Yunus

Founder, Grameen Bank

Yunus is the Bengali banker who won the Nobel Prize for conceiving of mircrocredits--tiny loans that change lives in the developing world. His abiding lesson is about opportunity for all.

No. 4 Nelson Mandela

Former President, South Africa

He survived political oppression in its harshest forms and emerged to reshape a racist society. Personally, he has lived every word of his teaching, whatever the cost. His abiding lesson is about forgiveness.

No. 5: Tenzin Gyatso

Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tibet

He is world-famous as the face of Eastern spirituality. His life embodies every truth he speaks, but he also works tirelessly to advance knowledge of the brain in its higher functions. His abiding lesson is about compassion.

No. 6: Michio Kaku

Physicist, City College of New York

Kaku is more than an acclaimed physicist rooted in string theory. He pioneers the physics of the impossible, where the universe can produce anything we could imagine. His abiding lesson is that there are no boundaries.

No. 7 Dean Ornish

Founder, Preventive Medicine Research Institute

He made waves medically by alleviating heart disease through lifestyle choices instead of drugs and surgery. Now he's pushing the envelope by showing that lifestyle alters our genes. His abiding lesson is about taking control of your own life.

Shakura Cathryn
"It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things." ~Machiavelli

Friday, November 13, 2009

Obama Visits Arlington National Cemetery on Veterans Day

We can’t end war until we can see the truth of it. I am heartened to see that President Obama is actually willing to look at the death caused by war. I don’t think either of the Bush presidents allowed themselves to acknowledge how many people were actually dying in the Gulf War, and then in the Iraqi war. And they certainly kept the knowledge of the number of casualties from the American people.

"The best mind-altering drug is truth." ~Lily Tomlin
"The Truth will set you Free. But first, it will piss you off ~Gloria Steinem

My solemn meeting on Veterans Day with President Obama at my friend's resting place in Arlington

BY James Gordon Meek
Thursday, November 12th 2009, 4:00 AM

ARLINGTON, Va. - He didn't introduce himself. He didn't have to.

President Obama simply stuck out his hand and asked for my name as he stepped toward me amid a bone-chilling drizzle in the Gardens of Stone.

This was Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. I wasn't there as a reporter, but to visit some friends and family buried there when Obama made an unscheduled stop - a rare presidential walk among what Lincoln called America's "honored dead" - after laying a Veterans Day wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

What I got was an unexpected look into the eyes of a man who intertwined his roles as commander in chief and consoler in chief on a solemn day filled with remembrance and respect for sacrifices made - and sacrifices yet to be made.

I'm sure the cynics will assume this was just another Obama photoop.

If they'd been standing in my boots looking him in the eye, they would have surely choked on their bile.

His presence in Section 60 convinced me that he now carries the heavy burden of command.

I had stopped at Arlington to see the resting place of Ken Taylor, Ed Lenard and Dave Sharrett. Ken and Ed survived their service, in World War II and Korea, and died as old men. Dave did not leave Iraq alive. He was 27.

Obama arrived just before noon at the serene Section 60, where many of the dead from Iraq and Afghanistan are buried together - and where many more heroes will undoubtedly be laid to rest before this President leaves office.

It's a section typically bustling with those visiting loved ones. Every time I go there, more and more graves have been dug into the earth.

The President and First Lady Michelle Obama emerged from their armored limousine hatless in the frigid downpour and took a slow stroll into the soggy rows of white marble headstones.

They stopped first at the grave of Medal of Honor recipient Ross McGinnis, an Army private who threw himself on a grenade in Iraq three years ago to save four buddies.

A sad-faced woman reached for Obama's hand and pointed him to a nearby plot.

The face of another woman - who had grimly sat in a folding chair for hours next to a headstone she'd arranged flowers around - suddenly broadened into a smile as she stood to embrace Obama and thank him for paying his respects.

She was so overcome with emotion that a soldier from the Army's Old Guard had to console her afterward.

The President patted backs of a dozen other Gold Star relatives and troops visiting buddies now in the ground.

He gave hugs. He shook wet, chilly hands. He wanted to know something about each fallen warrior.

He began to slowly trudge back toward the motorcade - and to another White House huddle with his war council, which is advising him whether to send up to 40,000 additional troops into harm's way in Afghanistan.

And then Obama noticed a tall, bearded figure. He probably didn't see the mud-caked combat boots I trudged around Afghanistan in a few years ago.

"What's your name?" a somber President asked as he extended his hand.

"James Meek, sir," I replied, struggling to pull off my wool glove and pull my hood back from my head. "I'm here visiting a friend, Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, who was killed in Iraq last year."

He asked how I knew Dave. I explained that his father, also named David, was my high school English teacher in nearby McLean, Va. My classmates and I knew Dave as a little boy playing at our feet.

"He became a star football player and was one of the toughest soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division," I told Obama.

I didn't tell the commander in chief that Dave was killed by friendly fire. Or that the Army bungled notifying Dave's parents of a probe that concluded his lieutenant tragically mistook him for a terrorist in the dark and shot him. Or that his family had to fight for accountability - which two battlefield commanders promised but stateside generals derailed.

That wouldn't have been appropriate, Dave's deeply grateful father later agreed.

"Well, we appreciate his service very much," Obama told me.

I then told him I'm a reporter for the Daily News - but was just there to visit friends.

"Well, James," he said, looking me in the eye, "just because you're a journalist doesn't mean you can't honor your friends here."

The First Lady smiled and squeezed my hand. I thanked her for coming to Section 60.

Her face opened up into a smile filled with warmth and comfort, a welcome antidote for the weather and sadness around her. She said there was no finer place to be on Veterans Day.

Ironically, I was ready to leave the cemetery an hour earlier, but it went into lockdown because of Obama's visit.

"Sorry for any inconvenience," a terribly polite Secret Service agent whispered in my ear.

As the Obamas ended their pilgrimage through Arlington's hallowed ground, inconvenience was hardly what I felt standing there as the rain pelted my coat, staring at blades of grass around a headstone etched with a name and a date I will never forget. 

Neither of these pictures are from Obama’s visit to Arlington…. but I chose the first because it gives a hint of the vastness of this cemetery and the number of graves. And the second picture – well, it’s just so expressive of the truth of human loss.

Remembering and honoring those who have given their lives in various wars… including one who was dear to me.

Shakura Cathryn
"Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off." ~Paul Brodeur