Wednesday, 29 February 2012

WW: Seattle sunbreak

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Day 32

Digitalis, Low Meadow, Day 47
These are entries from my 100 Days log, from 26 June 2011. They are edited for clarity, but otherwise typical. Notes added for the blog appear in brackets.

Very sleepy, from getting up so early this morning. There's no place to nap here, and that's a blessing; keeps me from sleeping the day away. I did sit four times, and may do again in the tent before bed. Once, half a dozen chickadees invaded the Tyvek shelter, searching for food and flitting about.

My eyes have really gone. Can't make out tree types and birds at a distance. I feel like Burgess Meredith in the bank vault.

Surveyed the fruit trees in the orchard. A few have embryonic pears; some have tiny apples. The black walnut is covered with tiny greenish-white flowers, fragrant and often growing in pairs, though you have to look hard to see them. But you smell them when you walk under the tree. No hazelnuts, but the barberry bush is full of pinhead-sized fruit.

Practice doesn't really come into force until about this point in the ango. Before then, you're adjusting and finding your routine. Plus you don't need it, because your mind is kept off your suffering by worldly concerns. Now I'm more settled in (though you're never really "set" out here; never bored), and without normal distractions, both the disease and the cure are more evident. You feel the unease, and so crave the practice. I got up this morning chiefly to sit. I'm reminding myself more often that it's "time to sit," not from obligation, but a sense of need; I want to do it. It's become a natural priority. But it took this long for that to happen.

I repeat my Chinese brother's mantra ["If you don't practice out here, you'll go crazy," from Amongst White Clouds] whenever the solitude feels lonely or I feel a little panicky. Which is normal, when you're completely alone for long periods of time.

My meditation is deepening, finally. It's been off for years. I'd like to return to the quality I had when I started.

I think about those days a lot out here, especially now that it's warmer and sunny. This place feels very much like the woods in Québec, where I spent so much time when I became a hermit. Like there, it's humid and spongy and muddy and earthy, and melting hot in the sun. Flies and mosquitos. Same smells, same sounds: birds, insects, babbling water, wind in the leaves. The sounds of rural activity: motor sports, dogs barking, traffic in the distance, agricultural machines.

Same feelings coming back too, right down to sadness about the marriage and missing my wife, which I haven't done in a long time. I think in French very often out here. Didn't expect all that, to revisit the divorce and my rebuilding afterward. The earth played a major role, in fact the major role, in that recovery.

I went to the barn for water after supper, and when I got back, a brand new molehill was under my pack [kept on the night hoist, suspended at chest level]. The moles here are militant.

These days, a voice says "Past" when troubling memories rise. Which they often do. Remembered happiness or contentment, I let be. Reaching calm, peace, acceptance. Getting better.

Mosquitos, like the ants, have come out in force since it's warmed up. Still very few in the morning, when it's still bone-chilling cold, but afterwards they whine in clouds. I've become used to them, and scarcely notice them when I sit now. But I have to reapply repellent now; used to get by with once a day.

I'm also often badly startled these days by things briefly glanced that my mind identifies as someone standing in front of me. Or behind me, if I've turned around. Once it was my robe, hanging on a tree. A few times it's been my [suspended] pack. I jump hard, heart racing, zero-to-sixty terror in a blink. Followed by a flood of relief when I realise it's not a person, and a weak, trembling sensation. This happened once before, during the period when I'd first got PTSD. Some of that debris must be washing up now, too.

So quiet now, you can hear the silence. Nothing but birds and mosquitoes in the stillness. There's a dove across the ravine, a woodpecker in an apple tree in the low meadow, and a chamber ensemble of songbirds in the forest around me.

Good day; warm, summery. Eden-like after 1600. Productive.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

WW: Ten years ago this week I became a monk

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Koan: A Grasshopper and a Zen Monk Walk into a Bar

Stout "Hey!" says the barman. "We have a drink named after you!"

"You have a drink named Dave?" says the monk.

"Not you. Him!" The barman points at the grasshopper.

"You have a drink named Harold?" says the grasshopper.

"No," says the barman. "We have a drink called a 'Grasshopper.'"

"I don't get it," says Harold. "I am a grasshopper, OK, but that's not my name. That would be like everybody calling you 'Human'."

"Look," says the barman, throwing together some crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and cream in a cocktail glass. "See? Looks like you."

"It looks nothing like me," says Harold. "To begin with, I'm not a liquid. And if I were, I'd probably still be brown, which is what I am, and not fluorescent green."

The barman opens his mouth to respond, but Dave cuts him off.

"I'll have a pint," he says.

Wu Ya's commentary: "One for the grasshopper as well."

(Photo of sublime ploughman's lunch courtesy of Jon Sullivan and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

WW: Buddha entered Nirvana on 15 February

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

St. Valentine's Kyôsaku

"We are all surprised when when we read a story about two people who fall in love and marry even though one is terminally ill. It seems to require great love and courage to risk such a frightening and painful journey, to decide to love someone who you know will be taken from you soon. Yet isn't that what all of our lives are? We live day after day, and love other human beings with a tenuous hold on life. Doesn't this require great courage and love?"

Philip Martin

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Hermitcraft: Fudos, Pt. 3: Lord of the Rings

One day's walk in town
Collecting fudo rings is an object lesson in greed. First you pick one up by chance. Then you become acutely aware of every washer in the vicinity, in service or out. Soon you're dodging four lanes of traffic to get to the hardware on the median, and waiting for the guard dog to round the corner so you can scale the truck yard fence. When you start fantasising about the explosion at the fuel dock that would score you those awesome mooring rings, you officially have a problem.

Fact is, life is full of rings. Mostly washers, with a scattering of et ceteras. And there's nothing like that Epic Find. The rust-latticed, potato-chipped gutter washer; the big bronze bearing; the giant log boom ring. Ask any birdwatcher or ham radio operator: these things can put you in a good mood for days.

Where to look

Collecting beach rings
The short answer is "everywhere," but some wheres are more generous than others.

o Any place work is going on. Construction sites are good. Demolition sites are better. Where machinery is parked or repaired, it's "eyes low." Breaking yard? Jackpot! Public works are gold, too. You can find serious iron around recently replaced light poles, highway retainers, etc.

o Rich = stingy. (As much with rusty washers as everything else.) Poor neighbourhoods offer better pickings, because we fix our own crappy cars outside our own houses. And our streets are paved and swept less often. If you find yourself on such a street, watch it. (The street, I mean.) Hardship, depression, and desperation generate fudo rings. I could get all metaphorical on your backside, but you get it.

Street lamp base
o Cities. Best prospects: former accident scenes, busy corners, industrial districts. Any place the road is rough shakes down hardware by the tonne.

o Beaches, though you have to have the tools to free them. But the selection is excellent: chain links, net rings, malleable dock washers, and all manner of small hardware. All generally well-harmed by Earth's least metal-friendly environment.

o The entire nation of Guatemala. The combination of alleged "streets", screaming poverty, and perpetually reconditioned buses, trucks, and tuk-tuks fills your pockets daily with the strongest, bad-assedest fudo rings on the
Fifteen ring day
in the city!
planet. I swear it rains bodhisattva bronze in that country.

Wherever you find them, gathering up fudo rings is fun. It makes every walk a potential catch, and turns boring, drab, depressing surroundings into pastures of plenty. It also makes for great stories. Remind me to tell you about the time a winter storm threw up a seine that had sat on the sea floor for decades, so impregnated with sand that it ruined three pairs of shears before giving up a grapefruit-sized black concretion that I had to kiln in the woodstove overnight before smashing it with a hammer to discover five breathtaking rings.

Never mind; guess I already did.

Four hours' work on the beach

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

WW: Night on Capitol Hill

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Paper Sack Samadhi

Is there any happiness happier than twenty five unopened pounds of rice? Not that wan white stuff where they take away all the food and flavour and sell it finer, but the good brown grain of the ground, fuel of farmers and fishermen, and hermits. Who else can know the celebration, the bone-deep weight, of two shy stone of life and good fortune on your shoulders? Just the feel of it. Just that, already feeds you. A bit. 

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

WW: Seattle's other icon

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