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Letters by Sarah Vekasi
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September 24, 2009


September 24, 2009

Dearest Friends,

            How wonderful it is to write once again! I have been on the road for the past three weeks, connecting with many of you in Olympia and Boulder and sharing photos and stories about my work here in West Virginia and what I have learned thus far in the movement to end mountain top removal during two evening events and in a class at Colorado University. Some of you are receiving an e mail from me for the first time. I try to send out updates with photos about my work every two to three weeks. If you do not wish to receive these just send me a line, no problem. It has been nearly a month since the last one so I apologize for the delay! I am home now and have changed my phone number to be a local number here. Please note the change that my new number is 304-640-7960.

            Before I say anything else I want to highlight a significant action item that you can each participate in. While I was away, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, took a major step towards ending mountain top removal by placing 79 out of 86 pending mountain top removal coal min permits on hold and opening up a 14 day public comment period. The Bush administration rubber stamped all of the permits and this is the first time a public review period has been opened. Please write a comment! Today!

To comment, go to this website.

There is a plethora of information about the specific permits and watersheds in danger through this webpage. There is a sample letter ready to go there which you can send or write whatever you want. These comments are really important and yours counts a lot. We are sure the coal industry will try to fill up the comments with words about how clean and safe the process is, and I can personally testify that the effect of mountain top removal mining is devastating and virtually permanent.

Write from your heart as someone who cares about communities, mountains and water. To date, over 500 mountains have been destroyed and the more conservative estimates say something like 2,000 miles of streams have been filled in when the former mountain tops are reduced to rubble and pushed into the valleys, filling them in completely. Imagine!

            When you are done sending in your comments, feel free to read the rest of this letter if it suits you

 I have finally returned to my cabin here in Hico, WV and am beginning to settle in more. I was away nearly three weeks and am nearly done with the work of moving as I shipped my belongings here during my adventures away.

In early September, my dear friend Ocean brought me to Olympia where I was able to soak up the love and support of my oldest friends. I celebrated my 31st birthday on Watch Mountain, above the town of Randle and spent time with the trees I used to live in and the water and mountain which moved through me enough to change the I-90 Land Exchange 10 years ago by saving Watch Mountain and parts of Fossil Creek. It was a delight to camp out with Eva, my god-daughter and offspring of dear Rachel Goeke in a place we lived before her birth nearly 7 years ago. I ate smoked salmon and shared stories and songs with Lupin, Rama, Jim, Leon and others from our old crew.

            I flew from Olympia to Boulder to attend a conference on American Buddhism hosted by the Lenz Foundation which made it possible for me to go to graduate school where I met new friends and was able to share some of my favorite stories from Naropa such as the student group I helped form called the Cult of Vimalakirti with Robert Thurman who translated the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra the group was founded to promote. While in Boulder I also packed my earthly possessions into a freight truck to ship to West Virginia!

            I arrived in West Virginia before my belongings but only for a moment because my Mother met me in Charleston, WV and we drove together to Covington, KY for a fabulous wedding between Todd Buell and his love Leigh. I spent precious time with my dear friend Elisabeth Buell and her whole family, which was a true delight. 

While driving back home, the impact of all that travel dawned on me – I was engaged in geographical integration, weaving the stories of what I am doing here in Appalachia in places I love with people who live inside of me. I will go to Maine this winter, and being with good Maine friends helped seal the deal as it were. I am sure you know that moving is overwhelming, and by returning to my home places and sharing what I am doing here I was able to synchronize the experiences more and create some sort of social continuity in my heart.

            During the Buddhist Leadership Conference at Naropa, I was moved by a discussion on social action between Venerable Thubten Chodron, Robert Thurman and Bernie Glassman. Ven. Chodron is an American nun and she spoke about living through the generosity of others through donations. Her words resonated with my experience as I am currently living one hundred percent through the kindness of all of you. Receiving donations from all of you has been a great honor which helps me feel supported and truly like we are all here adding to this movement together through my body. I received $521 in donations during my journeys which helps tremendously and am still in the process of raising enough money to cover rent and living expenses while I establish my work here.

            I am sending love through the internet to each of you. The leaves are beginning to change here and there is a chill in the air at night. I am playing old time music in the pavilion in Ansted on Saturday night with my friend Sage (he on fiddle me singing and playing backup chords on my guitar) and fixing to spend as much time as possible outdoors enjoying the colors while I continue to fall in love with this devastating and wonderful new home. Thank you for sending in your comments to the EPA.


Love and Solidarity,

Sarah Vekasi