S’no worries…

An interesting week. Last Sunday at the Wallowa Buddhist Temple; after meditation the monks and lay practitioners in attendance conducted and participated in, a Memorial Service for my wife Linda. She died on the 29th of January, 2014 and since the dates coincided with the last day the temple was going to be open before the monks went on their own retreat for the month of February, it seemed good to offer this service. A nice discussion followed along with tea and some goodies and a delicious pot-luck lunch. A nourishing day for many of us, and Linda too.

Went north for a few days and returned very tired from trip and visiting with friends in Tekoa. It’s taking a few days to get back into retreat mode and am a little sick but encouraged because its almost 40 degrees outside.  Spring!  But not, Sproing!!                     That will probably come around March/April.

Part of my personal winter retreat is reading, slowly, the collection of poems titled “The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse” a Chinese hermit/recluse/monk/poet from the 14th Century, translation and commentary by Red Pine, who has done many fine translations over the years. I read a few each day and in a couple of weeks I’ll have gone through the book and then plan to go through it again, writing my own notes relating to the poems and my personal journey along the roads/trails and thickets of Zen.

Also, just finished a nice novel titled “Dictator” by Robert Harris its about Cicero the Roman statesman who was instrumental in various ways (and the recorder) of the changes that took place in The Roman republic from roughly 65 BC to the Triumvirate that ended in the Octavian elevation to Caesar. It’s politically understanding, in the sense that there is nothing new in politics and everyone scrambles, all the time, and they never really know what they are doing. They are just driven by the karma for power and success, and in those days things rarely ended in peaceful retirement. Its based on reality because Cicero left huge quantities of writings and letters. In a way it’s like Procopius’ “Secret” History, or the “Secret History of the Mongols” they  give us a look at reality not legend.

So, in light of todays political angst, the histories and the views of a recluse monk I seem to be landing squarely on the side of stillness. Lord knows I’ve done my share of creating karma that needs help. I’d better get to it and quit all the worry. I do have to remember that worry is also information and teaching, pointing me too…

The snow is so white and furious in its calmness

Just laying there, perching here, sitting on a stump

Quiet and very present. My squinting is making me

Tired and the tension in my eyes is hard to separate

From the worry even though the worry is much,

Much older than the snow. No, no that’s not so…

Snow and worry, water, ice, ocean, accepting, peace. 

what creature passes?

A week of very cold weather and finally some snow and and warming coming for a few days. As I am going into retreat mode I don’t really have to plan a lot, things seem to be coming into some sort of recognizable form that will allow me to just meander into a structure which will be the backbone of settling down for a couple of months of quieting down. My plan is 49 days, ending on March 12th. Plenty of space built in for needful things to be done but also lots of space and time to settle into a relaxed way of being by myself.

I am also aware of the fact that I may run screaming into Walla Walla Airport and catch a flight to Vegas, but I like to think not. I’m by myself and have the opportunity to look closely at my many assumptions and presumptions about who and what I am and what I am doing with my life. Seems a little late, in a way, I’m 69; but I’ve never been precocious. So, I’ll just have to follow that prompt, hint, nudge; and see where it leads or points. I expect a bit of discomfort, I’ve glanced at all of my life but have left a few things unexplored; more will be revealed.

Furrows as wide as my hand

Circling paths in the snow

They come, they go and I

Wonder what strange creature?

Then I see the three quail jump,

From roadside scratching for

Food, and land in the soft snow and

Sink down, a few inches, then walk

Ahead. Chests denting deep into

Powder and little feet dog-

Paddling and tails dragging,

Wiping clean the tell tale

Sign of what Creature passed.

Our lives are like that too.

beckoning glow…

Its been an interesting several weeks on many levels and I never got anything written that seemed pertinent to anything. I had a terrific visit with my brother and his wife and their new grandchild. Classic Christmas, really enjoyed it, being with the little bit of family I have and seeing that fresh new life changing every day; another synapse connected another motor skill refined just a touch, a brighter and truer eye connecting with the world.

A baby born with karma into a world of karma surely will create some; but the potential for good is deeply imbued into its very existence and that is the miracle for not only the Christmas story/season, but a truth for everything that comes into existence. We are all born perfect just as we are, there is no sin, no taint, nothing misplaced. Endless potential for good and compassion. That we grow into the world and make mistakes is part of the deal, and to the degree that we can see our mistakes and try our best to remedy them, that is the fulfillment of the original potential. Ultimately, we just keep trying the best we know how. That is the miracle.

Lots of things going on at the horse ranch and in life generally, and I am in process of starting a 49 day personal retreat that will end on the 12th of March (Equinox, I think).

I am letting the process of that develop daily and change as it wishes to, but plan on a schedule of activities that, to me, are for the purpose of looking looking within and becoming more still deliberately, and to take a good look at what arises. Simple.I’ll know more after a while.

If so moved I may post a bit about the process and such, and may do so on “off days” which are built into my schedule.

In any case, I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up.

The white Winter with

Its light and very 

Short days, beckons

With small warm glows

At night, to guide.

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.

Never metaphor I…

Last week a resentment swarmed up the stick I was using to poke at all the little ways the world and the people in it were not behaving in ways that pleased me.

At first, of course, justifications took precedence and those lasted for a good couple of hours; then the niggle that perhaps I was wrong and not seeing clearly arose and that took a couple of days and a sleepless night to become apparent as true. I also had to do some things. Sit still. Examine. Open my heart. Be willing. Be teachable. Give myself the Dharma. Accept the teachings as they came. Two dreams. One, pulling a large wooden splinter out of my right eyeball with tweezers in the bathroom mirror. The other, walking next to my teacher, and he, uncharacteristically, putting his hand around my shoulder as we walked and I felt only Love being transmitted.

He was one of the objects of my resentment because sometimes I don’t like the way he does things.

Almost twenty years of my accepting (haltingly and with bristling, carping and grousing at various times), this student/teacher- master/disciple intention experiment (“We’ll see how it goes…”) and having to remember my part. To examine, to accept; to make the teaching true for myself. That truth which transcends teacher and student, peasant and sage; and does not stand against itself.

My former father-in-law, a true Irish self-made-man, Joe L. used to say “You can’t have it every-which-way!” The truth.

Anyway, it takes what it takes and I have to remember that “one should always be disturbed by the truth”, because otherwise it’s just an agreement between what I know, what I think I know, and how the world appears in relation to all that, to me. Dead end.

Resistance is a many-headed dragon. It doesn’t need slaying, just some good nourishment and a safe place to rest and enough comfy pillows for all its heads. Luckily I have Resistance Whisperers in my life.