Journey begins with…

I’m in Berkeley, CA after driving up Hwy 99 in Central California and visiting with friends in Fresno, probably California’s most important city after after Sacramento. Fresno, is the epicenter of all of California’s agriculture and the heart of the formation of Ag practices in the Western United States.

Water distribution, dispensation and use are the powerful keys that actually unlocked the door to California’s growth and prosperity over the years and all the world has been influenced, one might say negatively, by how the stage has been set for the modern industry and destruction that is Big Ag. No, its not an evil scheme. Its humans beings human full of potential which always contains the seeds of arising and falling.

So, traveling through much of the US on mostly secondary roads is astounding in the display of how we get things right and how they can go wrong. Everyone with an opinion has some true insight into our shared reality and it’s certainly not manageable in any real sense of that word which is a huge contributing factor to the ecological impasse we seem to have reached, and are still ignoring, because of the appearance of a virus. We can’t agree what a virus is or whence it arises and while we work on that we have taken our eyes ‘off of the ball’ and the World is in real danger. Our Eco predicament is ours; we own it whether we want too or not.

In the meantime, across the world, humans individually and in various sized groups, clans, tribes, nations and affinities, etc…continue to do their best each day within the increasing worry, fear and doubt, doing what they can for themselves, their families, community and others with generally speaking, good intentions and hearts.

Because of News, we get the impression that the world is falling apart and which is the result of evil-doing by, you know, Others.

My observation is that the world has reached a point of unintended consequences because we are human and we are, by that fact, fairly deluded and follow our noses and eyes and ideas and make many mistakes.

This not an insurmountable problem if we approach it directly by trying to see where we can participate and act to change how we do things in this world and not worry so much about what other people think.

I need to stop pointing fingers and look at How I Am and How I Do in this world, and get on with the hard work of investing time and effort in allowing myself to participate in changing the world by starting at the source most convenient; Me.

Journey means the

Span of a day as

The Sun travels across

The sky and as thoughts

Move through my mind

I travel away from here

And end up going There.

How it is…

Beautiful day yesterday going through South Carolina and Georgia mostly on State highways. Georgia is beautiful and as I went through a long stretch of small towns I was struck with the variety and mixture of races and economic circumstances along the way. The poverty is staggering, as it is in all of the U.S. that I’ve seen along the minor highways. Yet in the South it doesn’t seem as crushing because it is so deeply institutionalized that the “Haves” don’t even notice the “don’t haves”, because so often they appear to live in third or fourth generations of housing with the two or three previous ones deteriorating along a line to the current habitation; in the line of sight of the moderate/middle class next door. It is apparently “just how things are”.

In most of the U.S. the poverty is kept in distinct neighborhoods with traffic routed around it; in the South its just next door and it is declared ok because that’s how things have always been, and course there are plenty of ‘neighborhoods’ where for long stretches of road its all just poor. When half the population is in poverty it must actually be hard to be aware of, let alone address, the concomitant issue of race and slavery as an institution.

The really crushing part is the de-humanization that apparently can’t be addressed directly, because, “…that’s how it is…”.

In the face of that reality, the world as constituted, is still an astoundingly beautiful place because it is within all of our natures to smile and to laugh within a mostly even mix of deprivation and pain in the heart.

In the hotel parking lot desperate pimps and their prey, the prostitutes, are trying to look confident while they prowl the parking lot of a working-class hotel that caters largely to construction related business and has lots of personal working “rigs” parked there and underfoot are fast, small, subtly colored lizards skittering and dodging about, while a bird I’ve never before heard, is whistling a cheerful tune and in all that moment, lives go on in a desperate struggle and dance through the one molecule thick veil of Ignorance. Just not knowing.

We are all doing our parts to help

clarify the world to ourselves,

not really out of despair but because of a

longing we may not even know is there.

The sun is nothing but the Sun.

Roads Wet Virginia…

In Northern Virgina, Fairfax County, a major suburb of Washington, DC. The local industry has been Government for many decades. In the 60’s I went to High School in Arlington and Alexandria. In ’63 the Martin Luther King speech at Mall, the Kennedy assassination, in ’67-’68 weeks of rioting with maybe 8% of the city burned to the ground during it. US Army jeeps patrolling streets with mounted 50 Cal. machine-guns, just like Saigon, except its our Capital. Two machine-gun emplacements, in front of the Lion statues at the start of the Memorial Bridge facing into the City towards Lincoln Memorial only two hundred feet away. Our Capital was in extreme distress, nobody could really understand it.

Just like today, but we think we are having a unique experience. To us, yes. In history? Hardly. The basic world just keeps going on, it too is changing, but when hasn’t it?

In the midst of change, as I travel and change moment by moment, I marvel. This is a fine world as constituted. Greed, Hate and Delusion. You betcha. Can I notice it in myself? Oh, yeah! Can I mitigate it within myself through effort and allowing? Sure! If I’m willing.

So many variations of people in the world and on the way and on the road. Can I change them, inform them, wise them up, or tell them they are not seeing things clearly and I’m willing to straighten them out? Loud Nope!

I need to contain My Self. That, it turns out, is the only arena where I can observe, reason, allow, and be willing to learn and respond, sometimes all at once; and change is taking and finding its own place.

I’m finding great peace through just asking, “Who is having this difficulty _________________(fill in as appropriate)?”. The answer seems to generally present either a reasonable view of ‘who’ is in fact having a difficulty, or the degree of perceived difficulty. This is not just an easy-fix thing, it seems to merely be a way of viewing Trust at work.

My little local roads and ways of

Getting around have changed to

Toll and EZ Pass’s that lead to High

Rise towers that dwarf the mighty

Pentagon and make it seem like an

Old beat-down shopping mall. I can remember

When the Pentagon Parking lot

Was named ‘Midnight Auto’ by High

School car-buffs on limited budgets.

Adirondack Schroon Moon…

After ten days of little and big motels and Interstate Highways, but mostly on State highways, usually within 20 miles or so of the Interstate, weaving in the same direction but through endless little towns, villages and hamlets; I ‘m finally spending three days visiting with friends. Schroon Lake in the Adirondack Park ( First and biggest in lower 48 States) is glistening in the full moon of October 2020 and three miles up from the lake we sit outside and enjoy a great vegetarian meal and have stimulating and mostly gentle conversation as the temps drop just enough to warrant a coat, and the moon and the light of one lantern are sufficient amidst the shedding Maple trees.

The trip is interesting in that it has no real purpose or intention other than to deepen refuge in the Dharma, a sort of pilgrimage by trying to expect nothing but being willing to accept the unexpected, which it turns out is really just another way of saying trying to live a daily life.

Wherever I go there I am, and in unfamiliar settings that has proved to be unexpectedly challenging, which, it turns out, allows me to see that the practice is everywhere and available; I merely have to turn towards it and suddenly strange places are no longer strange. It’s up to me to remember that the practice and the teachings and the existence of Sangha are with me in my travel. Wherever I go, there it all is.

Including the guy sitting now outside in the motel courtyard lit by blazing barbecue pit, talking to someone on the phone about a recent traffic stop ending up with him being convicted of eight violations and having to do six months in jail, and pay a lot of money in fines. He feels he really messed up this time and something has to change.

I know the feeling. Something has changed but change is not a one time transaction; it’s a process not an event.

Here’s your change sir,

Thank you stopping in.

Have a nice trip. Bye!

Bodhisattvas every where…

Middle America. For a couple of hundred miles, both on the Interstate Highway and the secondary State and County Roads, as far as the eye can see, it is mostly corn, unharvested and rotting; thousands of square miles (?) of food is rotting because of politics, greed, corruption and an old boy network that says the American farmer is going broke. No. Our taxes in the from of subsidies make sure there are very, very few going broke. The old joke about how can you tell whose the richest farmer in the local area? The one that’s got two mailboxes in order to hold all the subsidy checks.

Even farmers laugh at that but in a funny kinda way.

So, this is not meant to be a screed against farmers, they are just regular folks, and like most of us if you luck into a system by birth, marriage or schooling connections, that caters to you, why would you want to investigate that morally or ethically, obviously you are one of the chosen or the blessed,;and that’s that.

That’s one corner of the picture of Middle America, the other parts show kindness, consideration, deeply-rooted conventions of fairness and deep belief in a system that works. The sheer hard work and industry of coming across all that distance and then usurping the folks already there, which never makes you popular with them, and the dang cussedness of staying in place just to show you can. It is worth all the agony and effort and blind willpower to make the desert bloom, and the land of plenty become fruitful and give even more than you can use or sell or just give away; then again that would devalue the thing, So, no. Anyway…

Most of the other corners of Middle America are on the Dow Jones 500.

I am ambivalent when I take great joy in aspects of our history and settlement and cultivation and building and invention. At some point, probably the year 1927 (or so), when Henry Ford built a car on a the assembly line that basically sold for a 1/5 of the price of his early models because he could, and still make a handsome profit. Of course wiser and greedier heads prevailed and that was the last time a product was sold for less when it could be made for less.

In Middle America I was 84 mph on I-90 in South Dakota and the speed limit was 80 and, I was just trying to get past that little gaggle of potential bottleneck traffic when I encountered a Bodhisattva, one of millions and billions,.

This one was parked in his State Police car in the median and I saw him and looked at speedometer and saw I was 4 miles over the limit and hoped/assumed it was going to be a pass…but it wasn’t.

I saw him in my rearview mirror jump onto the road and with no lights come up behind me a couple of miles down the road and just stayed for a bit and then hit his lights and we both pulled over, very safely, to show that I was responsible.

The Bodhisattva was Officer Johnson, and he politely asked if I knew what speed I was doing when I passed by him. I said, “84 maybe 85” raised eyebrows and small friendly shrug; basically totally in the wrong and I had no story. It was what it was.

He then explained that in South Dakota they allow 2 miles above speed limit as a cushion but after that they ticket. He then asked for my license, the whole time scrutinizing my rolling habitat, obviously an elder-coot on the road. I even had a Rand McNally 2020 Road Atlas of the US (A modern artifact/specimen of a bygone time).

He asked me where I was going and I said I’m driving ’round the whole country. He then asked, very astutely and correctly, where I was the day before and where I was going, and when I told him he asked what about the day after that? and I told him I hadn’t decided yet, it was an open ended trip. He gave me back my license, asked me to be cautious with my speed limit awareness and wished me a good trip.

I thanked him and we went our separate ways. He taught me things I need to know about what traveling with Right Mind and Right Effort and Correct Aspiration might be about.

In gratitude to Jizo, Guardian of the Vulnerable (including travelers).

To Kanzeon, Regarder of the Cries of the World.

To Officer Johnson of SD State Patrol, Re-Alligner of the Errant.

Winding roads everywhere…

Today, a long meander through the Black Hills and visiting the Crazy Horse Monument after a night in the shale-oil production center of America, Gillete, WY.

Yesterday I drove through a beautiful 110 mile stretch alongside winding rivers running past little farms and large holdings, horses and cattle mostly, and a 75 mph speed limit on a well-constructed and maintained two-lane State road. In one 20 minute period, I never saw another car, it was very refreshing.

As one approaches Gillete, a prosperous and busy little city, things started looking rather bleak with the vast pits of the mines and huge slag piles in many dozens of places as far as the eye can see. That’s the source of a thriving economy in that area with no thought or realistic memory of the former mining towns whose remains were turned into “Trading Posts” that now cater to tourists by selling fake Western and Indian clutter-stuff. Those new housing developments closer to the slag-piles than the towns won’t last more than another few years. Economic success and lots of new trucks and new stuff, and some price is just now being tabulated for some final total bill due sooner than later.

Just humans going about their lives in a culture that needs some help but is too busy to notice. That includes all of us. That special coffee from that special place in some impoverished country where coffee bean cultivation is destroying useful habitat, and yet it’s so delicious when it is ground and roasted and done in a “pour-over” (hmmmm,,what a concept:) Where people and the earth are mined for the profits and we assert our inherent right (It might be in the Constitution through the Foresight of The Founders), to enjoy on every street corner a Latte or a Cappuccino. We are all doing similar stuff with very similar intentions. Momentarily feel good while dreaming of contentment.

Simultaneously, we point fingers at each other and cannot see that the problem is not an us or a they, it’s merely that we are all just-a-little off in how we view the relationship of the World to Us and especially to the Me.

And, this is a beautiful country.

All these well-paved roads. I bet we have more well paved roads by milage than the rest of the world. I know, but look at all the State Highways and County Roads all of it?

Anyway, we can build just about as good as we destroy, we are adept at both. It’s the wrong kind of balance but it does point directly to something. What is that some thing for me?

Then again, we can’t really judge a balance as such, maybe it is merely choices we are trying to balance?

How do I actually

Be more mindful

Look for proper place

Rather than discarding,

Including all Things

Kalispell Mount Anna…

I left Walla Walla Friday 18th to Joseph, OR and in the afternoon went to St. Maries, ID in both places there are temples of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives within which I do my Buddhist practice. I hope to visit the seven other temples of our Sangha as I criss-cross the U.S. and turning this trip into a form of pilgrimage as well. That is to say, I sense there is a deeper purpose to this trip and am sort of following little prompts that seem to indicate this is a good thing to do. Of course following little prompts that “feel right”, is also what many people do and end up making big mistakes, but all-in-all its generally a learning experience for ones own good. I’ll see; I don’t really have any expectations but some hopes of at least getting a little distance/perspective of my current life/situation and see what is the next good thing to do. I’m getting old, no longer getting older. I’m there, so…

This hotel in Kalispell I’m in has paper thin walls and is three stories of busyness. This morning at 5:30 the folks next door turned on a preacher of some sort and it was astounding the anger and disturbing takes this speaker had on life etc. I felt deeply sad that these folks who listened to this, were making this the first thing they started their day with. Then I realized they were playing the same thing over and over and the logical conclusion I could come to was that the man of the couple was either studying the style and cadence of the speaker, or it was him listening to his own talk and figuring out how to hone his craft. Whatever the case there sure are a lot of different people in this world. Sorts and types.

In a few hours I’m going to have a cup of coffee with a fellow Buddhist trainee, who after years of hard work by herself and her husband, are both experiencing some of the challenges that Life throws, or places in front of us especially as we get older and our realities become accommodations, rather than the fruition of goals.

Grace, and confusion all to be encountered by me this morning in the world that I act in, and the world that I live in. Life is only wonderful because it can be so sad.

Things sure change as they

Get old and comfortable and

A little dusty with a Sprung

Spring showing in memory.

Wonder fully sad and real.

Its all practical…

Getting ready to leave on a trip on Friday morning and drive around the US, literally, with a few diversions inland. I’ve got family in Virginia and some friends scattered along East coast  and will let whim and conditions guide me as to where to go and what to see. I’m not one to go some place just to say I’ve been, or for the “view” or scenery, so to assign some meaning to this other than ‘old coot wants to ramble’,  I’ve decided to turn it into a bit of a pilgrimage and visit nine of the temples of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives in contiguous US. I know all the monks at those temples for about 30 years and it will be a treat to just touch base, have a cup of tea, do some bows and move on.

I see this little adventure as a gathering-in occurring during a time when I sense very strongly that I’m getting much more scattered hither and yon mentally. So a weird combo of me in a motion within some fear of my going Goofy, while simultaneously deepening the unformed spiritual space within and learning to trust that it is all for my own good. My only ‘job’ is to see that and allow things to flow out/in from that unknown place.

The last week with its fluctuations of the AQI smoke index has gone from several days of deep purple and lighter purple and my hope tomorrow  to be firmly in the Red Zone, under 200 of the possible 500, and in a few days of heading east will start to encounter the Old Normal with particulate matter not being a health concern.

When I was young I wound up in a variety of interesting and quite dicey situations, sometimes clumped together and overlapping so that I thought that’s what normal life was like, since almost everyone I knew and considered friend or partner lived just like me. The culmination was several years of scrambling towards my personal ‘bottom’ and then having to make some choices, actually one choice with various strings of effort attached to it. Was I willing to change completely and allow for the possibility that there might be more to life than waking up, more like coming too, and starting the recapitulation of the night or days before to find out if I made any new enemies, or worse.? And then it got worse; the last several years were a swirl of recklessness and a sort of trepidation and ultimately a willingness to give up and die in the streets. Something changed and I started to participate in the change and then I changed.

I encountered Buddhist training at a real practical level and I’ve had several rearrangements of my body and mind at kind of a molecular level, and this little late life jaunt seems to be an extension of that motion and seeking in the direction of that Stillness which can hold everything equanomously and with very little intent.

So, I’m curious how this will eventuate, it may die on the vine or it may be a loosely reordered life based on the Precepts and whispering the ongoing question within which is built the answer.

May I know what is good to do, may I do what is good to do.

Maitraiya, Buddha of the future; We are all part of becoming you.

Too cease from evil, to do only good, to purify ones Heart.

I don’t know who wants these answers. How can this being help?

I bow in gratitude and talk nonsense to the animals and they listen, a rabbit on a lawn at midnight listening an old fool natter on about the common language having no words. Or was the rabbit saying that to the fool. 

Hard to tell sometimes if we are talking or speaking, hearing or listening.

Across the country…

Next Friday I plan to start a drive around the U.S. Basically starting out from St. Maries, ID on the 20th of September after a Segaki (Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts) Ceremony, in the forest on Lotus Mountain above a stretch of the St. Maries River. I’ll be participating in this with the Sangha of the Benewah Buddhist Temple (Sandpoint Meditation Group). It’s one of the most important ceremonies in Buddhism and the only one I’ve heard of that was initiated by the Buddha to help one of his main disciples; so it goes way back.

I’m looking forward to my little adventure and at this writing I feel a little “privileged”, because I’m in a position to undertake an activity like that in times that are fraught with astounding instability from a human point of view, and all sorts of downsides looming for all of us.

I’m in Walla Walla, WA and it is midnight and the air quality index is officially 451, out of a possible 500 (Hazadous) and it’s not expected to lift for several days. I was walking through the Walmart store earlier and it looked like it had a fog in it from all the smoke which out of doors has a visibility factor measured in hundreds of yards, not portions or increments of miles. It looked grim and forboding.

I realize I have choices that many people in that store do not have. There were families with loads of kids,  groups of teens just flocking around the Walmart on a Friday night; it’s the first weekend of the school year, but of course they’re not going to school; they’re Zooming or some sanctioned equivalent. Everybody except the teens looked pretty miserable and harried; I certainly felt that way, and I wanted to move next Friday’s departure date up to right-now but I have some precluding obligations.

It strikes me that we are in this mess because we have entangled ourselves in “ideals” that are not actually real, they seem to be merely functions of various greeds; others and our own. That’s uncomfortable and perhaps something to work with, in the sense that we need to identify the real problem before any lasting change is envisioned. After identifying the cause of our sickness perhaps we can determine if there is a cure and what that would consist of. and require of us.

We are past the stage of any sort of new Normal thats comfortable or a return to a former Normal. The shit is hitting the fan, and we are the one’s who plugged-in the fan, set it on high, pushed Start and are flinging stuff; all the while looking around and wondering who started all this mess.

We insist this is not what we asked for or ever wanted to happen. Yet, here we are. While we are scrambling for solutions and context and understanding and others to blame, we will need to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, and do something, or some things. Not big things, maybe smaller things in smaller groups, maybe not as Nations? Everything will be on the table? Maybe.

The worst part of this evening’s trip to Walmart was to see the teens and young kids getting a taste of the world we are leaving for them. Yes, at some level we’ve all been blind. The majority of the herd has run over the cliff. Now what?

This Reality.

The New

Reality.

We have to change.

We have to. Change?

Will we? Sure!

Why not? Maybe

Then we’ll have an 

Other opportunity.

walk among stones…

img_20200906_111553

I walk in the cemetery most days; just a loop around the outer paved area with meanders into various other sections. I have made that a part of my practice that started after we moved to Tekoa,WA from Bay Area in ’05. I was the caretaker of the Goldenrod Cemetery in Tekoa for a couple of years and it turned out to be one of the gateways into that small community for a couple of left-wing Buddhists from the Center of Hell known as Berkeley, or so I was informed:) I learned the history of the community and became a fairly visible presence in that town of 800+. Those who know me would not be surprised at me being visible or heard, for sure, in a town that size. That experience gave me great respect and deeper understanding of the burial ground as one center for a community. Later when I became the P/T janitor at the Elementary School, another center, I got a 3-D impression of the history and culture of the town because the kids, the teachers and the Principal all had families in that cemetery.

At this cemetery I have gotten to know the nice lady that is supervisor of crew there and she had told me about a little initiative a young new employee had undertaken to replace fallen head stones, placing them in new cement bases, so their original intent would remain honored and respected. They do this when all the basic stuff, mowing etc: is taken care of. I loved that idea and offered a small donation towards cement mix and some other folks have heard about that effort and also contributed. It’s become a bit of a “thing”. (Donations welcome To Mountain View Cemetery, Walla Walla, WA 99362  attn; Joanna, Headstone Restoration Project:)

The one pictured above appeared a couple of weeks ago, it had fallen/broken off at some point and been covered over by dirt and grass for many years. I was quite taken with the wonderfulness of life and death.

130 years ago, a baby was born and named Demaris, I assume a girl, but have no basis for that assumption and choose not to research it because its not important. A child was born and seventeen days later died. In the 130 years since that birth all of that baby’s molecules have been recycled, some of them many times, and now they will also be converted to electronic signals that go on infinitely into endless space. Life is brutally short sometimes and there is always a purpose and reason for that; naturally opinions vary as to details, Often a desirable reason is hard to formulate in regard to a short, painful or tormented life; yet we bear with the perhaps greatest difficulty life presents a parent because it’s not uncommon.

I look at the stories in the cemetery written on the headstones and the wishes and dreams within those stories and on a windy day they blow by more quickly.

Life is short and

It is long. One step,

No step, millions of

Them, and here we

All are as a group,

Wondering how

Can I help? Yes, that

Is the purpose and

The opportunity

All in One.