Lean into the mountain…

A week of snow, on and off, and some single digit temperatures. A taste of Winter. Just enough to get me kind of excited. I’d forgotten how the Winters up here can be an ongoing challenge. All modes of transport involve extra care. Walking is most dangerous in town, because most places don’t shovel their sidewalks, either correctly or at all and no parking lot or street parking is safe; once your out of your car, walk mindfully.

Modern times add a few extra concerns. When the Wi-fi broadcast signal goes out on Sheep Ridge, it may not come back on for the rest of the day or tomorrow. Arhggggg!!! Can’t access Facebook! Missing out on pictures of casserroles,  grandkids in school plays, and that newfangled dessert they’re offering at TGI-Fridays, and those cute  cat-videos. What amused us before cat videos?

Anyway, enough of a preview to make me look forward to Jan. Feb. and March. I plan to make those “retreat(ish)”months where I can hunker down and look at  my spiritual life in terms of meditation and being still. Spiritual belt-tightening as Reverend Alden used to call it.

In the meantime, this week I’m getting ready to go back to D.C. over Christmas and just relax, having gotten into the swing of things here on the ranch, I can see myself holding forth on the plane to the poor unfortunate sitting near me, how it’s good to get away from all that jus’ plain ol’ ranchin’; even though I’m just a Ranch Finger, part-time volunteer at that. Like the ladies at the Hospital gift-shop; helpful and necessary  but not vital to the operation, yet certainly to their own well-being.

The bulk of the herd is out to Winter pasture and there is only an Old Mare and a One-eyed Stallion to feed on the lower pasture and two nice Donkeys in an upper paddock who are not too happy to be there because they have no cover; but I bring them some carrots twice a day along with some alfalfa and go and break up the ice on the water trough they share with the horse herd, which also gives me a chance to yack and pet with them for a bit; sometimes one or two of the Breakfast Cats come along and and make nice with the Burros too. I named them Lewis and Clark, because they are so intrepid and can-do.

Also, four  Pack-Mules and Luna and her Colt, Roscoe , who was born one morning in a ditch of water in pasture below my cabin. That morning I felt I was in a movie, I milled around as he was being helped to drink milk, taken from his mother because he was too small to stand and get his own, and after four hours he stood up and he found the nipple. He survived after couple of other drawbacks and is now a rambunctious little colt who already acts like a Future Stallion. Those four mules will help keep him in line as he goes through his first Winter.

There are also two Elk carcasses down by the river that had been butchered and are now in the capable hands of the Magpies, Coyotes and a Golden Eagle who I have seen fly above.

I went by there the other morning to do a short Buddhist Funeral service for them and chant some bits of scripture that I felt appropriate while circambulating them in the snow. Magpies waited patiently. One line goes “…the things that are eaten, and those doing the eating are universally void of Self…”. There is nothing to judge, in any fashion. Everything has a reason for being the way that it is. There is always a “before”

The past is Prelude.

The question for me is, “What am I building Now and how does it influence the Future?” , and that is part of that looking within and seeing where I can do better; that this Winter will be partly focused on, the other parts are doing the things that need doing and those that are good to do. Hopefully, they combine more often than not.

Ascending the mountain I lean into

It for help and, it is given.

Standing in the stream I look up and 

See the water flowing towards and away,  down 

Behind me.

Yet, there I am.

 

Snow, flies, silence, buzzing…

In the well-lit loft of the Wallowa Buddhist Temple in Joseph, OR, in Wallowa County, (“The County” as the residents tend to refer to it), I sit with seven other people, after a couple of meditation periods, for a Dharma talk and discussion. I look out of the large windows and watch the First Crop snow flakes of the year fall and settle, fall and land plump, wet and they clump, pile up and accentuate the bare trees and and fence rails and there is a relief that finally it has come. I drove about fifteen miles from where I live which  is about 300 feet lower in elevation and where there is just wet slush. At the temple, a short distance up Hurricane Creek Rd., it’s real snow. Winter.

The Dharma talk is given by the younger of the two female monks who reside, practice and offer Buddhist teaching at this temple.

As the snowflakes drop, large, gravid and at ease; I see in the windowsill there are three old flies trying to fly up the window to attain some necessary position within their House Fly Imperatives but only manage about a foot of flight before they settle back down on the sill, to try again and again. Life is now very short for these Winter Flies. Later in the day, or the next, their carcasses will be respectfully gathered up and with a verse from the Funeral Ceremony for Animals, will be placed outside, to mix with the snow and settle in to their next activity.

We are having tea and some sweet offerings brought by Sangha members and the Dharma talk is on a tiny portion of the mighty Avatamsaka Sutra, a Chinese text held in high esteem especially in the Chan/Zen traditions and is the basis of the Kegon school of Buddhism in Japan. Its very precise descriptions of inter-related phenomena and how they produce This, and the journey to complete enlightenment that is the understanding of all descriptions and their inherent emptiness. More or less.

The black flies fly upward, constrained by

Clear glass through which I see the white

Snow fall to ground. Heaven touching earth.

The flies are old with wings worn thin, and

Tattered by the efforts life. Like me; although

Warm, eating chocolate, sipping tea, at ease

Listening to the teachings of a deep, ever changing

Present intertwining all of the phenomena as the

Snow falls white and the flies fall black. Buzzing

(the background noise of Silence),

Sangha discusses intertwining while very quiet down

Drifting snow encloses the miracle within each

Condition of the world as it goes on, and on and,

Sure as snowflakes fall to earth, one day, perhaps

Today, if not, then certainly another. I will buzz one

Last time against the false constraint of a window

Pane of my conjuring, and pass through it and join the

Falling snows as they settle to nourish this Earth and

Every thing.

Waiting for Winter…

Went to a nice little event in Joseph last night, a presentation of some local musicians,; Mandolin, Dulcimer, electric Cello, etc; and nice vocals of mostly original good folk music rooted in this area. The show was at the Hurricane Creek Grange hall and there was a good turnout of local folks and some nice little snacks during intermission. I left after gobbling some goodies. 8:15 is late for me in the Winter. Anyway, it was a nice way to get a sense of the community here and just meet a few folks.

One of the results, currently, of having moved up here is that I am becoming bit more inward and hope to explore that more as Winter deepens. There seems to be a lot going on in my life and all of it feels like aimless beginnings of something, a slight portentousness to everything. That combination of change, aging, approaching senescence and various infirmities, and a plain old “not Knowing”. Yet, it all feels exactly like it’s what is natural at this point and the teaching with in it all will reveal itself in due time. Or, not.

This morning the Extreme Feral Cat, Quattro, was actually on the edge of the front porch with two of the Breakfast Cats looking on, basking and cleaning himself. Don’t know if that speaks to future harmony, or not.

I’m planning on visiting back East for a week over Christmas with family in Washington D.C. and looking forward to trip. New baby nephew to be viewed and groundwork laid for future spoiling of said child. In case two complete sets of Grandparents fall short of that goal.

So, waiting for Real Winter to arrive and see how that all goes.

Flowing Clouds

Drifting Cloud

Here today,

Here tomorrow.

Thunder, rain

Lightning, snow.

The lake and

Puddle reflect and

Produce them

As the result

Of each other.

We are alike,

Differing forms.