The deal: A week ago I completed 100 days of hermit ango in the Willapa Hills, being the rugged, densely forested, sparsely populated southern frontier of my coastal nation. I spent each of those days attending to the needs of survival and practising meditation, both sitting and other. I also brought out 445 pages (and counting) of journal. These will be rockered into a book, but for the time being, I can summarise the experience as "deep and broad and one of the most worthwhile things I've ever done."
In the meantime, here are some photos. I had no camera, since possessions were limited to survival requirements, so "some" photos is pretty much all of them. But I offer them all the same, in deep gratitude for the opportunity to practice, and for the friends and fellow monastics who made it possible. Supplying these photos was the least of their contributions.
Facts in Brief:
I established camp on 83 acres of undeveloped hillsides, surrounded by much the same for miles in every direction. I was dropped on 26 May 2011, and remained in-country for 100 days.
|View of my mountain from another one.|
The weather was... how do you say? Ah, yes. CRAP. To put things in perspective, let me explain to those not from the North Coast that our famous perma-rain is supposed, by custom and contract, to diminish through June, and end definitively on 1 July. After that date, glorious summer is to ensue and persist until mid-September, at which time the rain may begin again.
Thus, I sat, as I expected, in the bitter wet sopping dark through the full 30 days of June. Then I did likewise through July, day by day, night by night, week by week. Finally, on 1 August, the rain stopped. The grey kept on, but I'm cool with that. You can have the grey, July, just stop goddam raining on me.
So my host's gracious offer of the barn, including the wood stove and even his firewood, as laundromat and spa, proved vital in a summer that included a sit in full winter kit (tuque, gloves, and every stitch of clothing I owned on under my robe) on 4 July. And that wasn't the last.
At long last, mid-August produced a near-facsimile of summer, following clouded mornings with sunny afternoons, and only 1 full day of rain. I was even able to take the fly off my tent for several days, so only somewhat arctic had the nights become.
Despite my sitting
Three things will not be silenced
Mind. Body. Tyvek.
Sangha included, by partial account: Steller's jays; more configurations of garter snake than I've ever seen; kingfishers; salmon smolt; four species of owl; Douglas squirrels; bears; deer; alligator lizards; a young goshawk; otters; numerous colonies of paper wasp; beavers; bobcats; a special-ops unit of raccoons; a herd of elk; and an entire tribal confederation of coyotes. All of us closely monitored by a proprietary flock of ravens. (Full list to be included in the upcoming book.)
Finally, close friends made three scheduled proof-of-life visits during the ango. One dropped me off in May and made an emergency trip on Day 62 to verify my well-being, and another picked me up in September and bought me a cheeseburger and fries on the way back to the realm of people. And of course the couple who allowed me, with incredible generosity, to sit on their land all summer, and supported my practice in smaller but vital ways over the full 100 days.
And now the work begins. I'm hoping to have the book done soon. In the meantime, you'll be seeing excerpts and related material here.
And I'm glad the rest of you didn't blow yourselves up in my absence. Keep up the good work, eh?
|The Bodhi Tree, a giant bigleaf|
maple, under which I sat.