(A)cross the Bay…

I am in a new place. A small apartment in downtown Vallejo. This was the first big(er) city to go bankrupt several years ago and is trying for a comeback. There are definitely signs of life and resurgence, but it has many of the basic urban problems. I’m in a small building with four other tenants and it’s pretty quiet, although there are enough urban noises to keep one alert when going about. A high speed police chase went right by me the other day; and as it was when I used to live here, was the sound of ambient gunshots.

In Tekoa when I heard gunfire I could safely assume it was another hunting season, here I can safely assume that when I hear gunfire it may bode ill. Although the hunting guns also bode ill for the animal(s) in question.

In any case, this week I’ve been getting together the basic things I need. The annoying thing is that I have all of that stuff but it’s in storage back in Tekoa; so a short trip back there should easily pay for itself in terms of not having to buy a bunch of useful gee-gaws. I’ll do that next week.

This morning instead of going right into my to-do list I went and hopped on the Vallejo/S.F. Ferry and went to the early parts (staging) of the S.F. Giants Parade. The boat was full, a mix of regular commuters and Baseball fans. When I got to the City I just walked up Market Street for  ways and got the feel of the the Baseball fans that were starting to come into town for the big event (2 million expected, yes 2 million! I have to remember that the SF bay area is the fourth most populous urban area in the country), and it was starting to rain. After an hour of that I went back to the ferry and caught a ride back to Vallejo. I was the only passenger.

I am extremely grateful and glad that I was able to spend the last three months living at our temple in Berkeley. I didn’t know how crazy I had become. The daily schedule and constant proximity to a Zen Master(s) and other practitioners was a great benefit to me.

My plan is to develop a routine of practice for myself in this apartment and go to the temple twice a week in Berkeley and see if I can integrate a creative practice into my daily routine. More on that as it evolves (or doesn’t [or de-volves] ). :)) he indicated parenthetically…

How to live a grateful live gracefully. That’s what I want to learn. Or, perhaps a graceful life gratefully. I’ll take either.

Life passes as swiftly as an arrow,

The morning dew is gone,

The sun continues its climb.

(A)float…(A)flight

I have started serious house/apartment hunting in Bay area. I plan to move at end of month and am looking in Craigslist and alerting friends to keep an eye out for a small place for a short term (perhaps longer depending on price and situation), lease so that I can experience this area again and see if I fit in, come Spring. I am so grateful for the opportunity that the Abbot of this temple gave me by inviting me to stay and live and train with him for these now almost ten weeks. I am starting to get some clarity and also some relaxing of views and tensions and heretofore unseen anxieties. So, a great opportunity offered, and taken, and deeply appreciated.

Last week I was sitting by Lake Merit waiting to go to a meeting nearby. I was about 15 yards from the lake and watching all the jogger and after-work exercisers thronging the circumference pathways. the sun had set and the sky was red-orange and deep blue and the lake quiet and reflective, as was I. When I heard a huge splash beyond my left peripheral vision field and turned in time to see a pelican coming up from its dive and working to swallow a fish it had. It then lumbered up into the sky with a rather awkward take-off and very slow altitude gain, but off it went.

A jogger went by and we were both grinning at our fortune of having seen this primal feat right in the midst of this huge urban sprawl, our eyes met briefly in acknowledgement of our good fortune. It was a nice moment. Over the next five or so minutes I watched three more pelicans dive into the water and get some dinner. Oddly, they got better. The last one I saw barely left a ripple on the surface, because the entry was so clean and smooth. #10 in Waterbird Olympic Diving Contest for sure. The first one which I didn’t see enter the water, but definitely heard, was probably a #5-6; in that range. No sooner had the last bird left the stage with its fish (I’m fairly sure the four fish concerned were not so happy about the evenings events), when I was startled by loud shouting and screaming coming from somewhere to the right of me.

Walking/staggering/weaving, gesticulating screaming swearing angry words, wild haired and eyed, came a drunk; mad at the Universe and  sharing his confusion and anger with everyone he encountered or withing earshot. He came staggering towards the bench I was on and while sitting/falling on to the bench I was sitting on, he turned to me and very seriously and loudly said, “Now you look like an intelligent man!” In the fashion that some people use in trying to start a sales pitch or some proposition proffer. I just turned my head somewhat towards him and said, “I am not one.”

He did sort of double take and as he lurched to get up and started to stagger on in the direction he was going, he said “Then you must be an idiot!”

I was very still at that moment, because some points had been made in front of my very eyes in the last 5 or 6 minutes. I’m not sure what they were, exactly. But they had to do with life and moments and transactions. Not all things we learn have deep meaning or are necessarily connected, but everything that appears is a teaching. A fair amount of the time we just wait to see if some other dots appear and we can connect them and learn maybe just some small thing  that may turn out to be big.

Here’s what I learned that day. If we sit still and just watch, there’s no end to the surprising things that arise in front of our very eyes.

Go figure!