Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On the road -- AGAIN!

First, let me say that I am so proud of my little car! Even as it approaches 90,000 miles it continues to get such wonderful gas mileage. On this last trip with three fillups, mileages were: 38.45, 38.52 and 39.49mpg! The latter was actually the first tank, when I was driving easily in the early morning hours headed northeast. The last two covered heavy slow/fast and even stop and go traffic during the next half of the trip north, and a slightly heavier foot on the pedal all the way home. I'm getting braver, edging that speed up just a tad and hoping the vigilant Virginia cops leave me alone. So far, so good. If I didn't have this car -- or another car with equally good mileage -- I'd never be able to afford all these trips I take.

My next trip, however, is going to take me further and faster -- as in a big old jet from Atlanta to San Francisco. I returned home to find my dear friend Ayya Sobhana left alone at the hermitage with only one lay woman to help, and many construction and maintenance projects underway. The other bhikkhunis are staying elsewhere for the next few months while all this is going on, so I felt that I had to find a way to help her out. I can do more of the financial stuff from there, and more to help her with various elements of project management. I am already doing more from here, but in a few weeks there are no more lay women scheduled to visit and help. Someone must prepare her food and drive her from time to time -- the monastic orders do not allow her to do these things for herself.

That said, I'll be leaving here August 14 and returning September 17. Cold weather, rodents, mold and all the chaos be damned! It'll also be a really good opportunity for me to determine whether or not I will be able to go there to stay, as I've been considering once again. This is going to be tougher than last year -- the 'kitchen' is outdoors, soon to be covered by a large canopy that I just ordered for them. Two big Coleman camp stoves do the work. Water is nearby -- don't know if it's been plumbed to the temporary kitchen or not. But, I've cooked meals in the woods for myself many times, using a simple one-burner backpacking stove, so I can do this. All that's needed is filling and nutritious food -- nothing fancy.

So, it's going to be an adventure -- one I'm looking forward to. This time I'm taking some good cold weather clothing, even though that will require checking a bag and thus more $$. But the comfort will be worth it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Home from the hills

I'm getting better at this traveling thing! Last month, when I drove home from Bhavana it took me almost exactly 12 hours -- but I made stops for breakfast and a late lunch (I was pooped and needed a break and some heavy refueling). Driving up there last Sunday -- in horrendous traffic and nasty thunderstorms for the last 3 hours, it took 11 hours. I took food in the car, so only needed to stop for gas and bathroom breaks. Driving home yesterday, I made it in 10.5 hours -- again, I had food stashed in the car (stopped at a grocery store early on for some cheese and a bathroom break), and blessedly light traffic that allowed me to move steadily along all day. I left there at 11:05am, arrived home at 9:35 pm. Better yet, with each trip I find that I'm less and less tired afterwards. My body is adjusting. That bodes well for whatever long trips may be in my future.

Had a great trip. Finally, a retreat taught by the irreplaceable Bhante Gunaratana. I've met and talked to him on previous visits, listened to some short talks, but never an actual retreat taught by him. This was worth whatever the cost in terms of time and money. I was planning to leave yesterday early, before breakfast, but on the previous day they asked me to assist with a ceremony that would take place yesterday morning. I was honored to be asked, so of course I stayed, leaving right after the ceremony, before lunch. This was for the Eight Lifetime Precepts, which I took two years ago. The ceremony requires a female, preferably a nun, to put a medallion necklace around the neck and tie a string bracelet around the wrist of the women taking the precepts. I was apparently the only female onsite who had previously taken these precepts, and that made me marginally more appropriate to the cause than a female who hadn't taken them. I was careful not to attach any sense of pride or ego from this, but I have to tell you it was really, really cool to sit up front next to Bhante G and perform these rituals! Photos were taken during the ceremony using my camera. I'll eventually post more on the CintaSpeaks site, but here's one.

Yours truly -- with a woman I happened to already know and Bhante G looking on. Priceless! Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.
I'm still a bit brain-loopy, so further words will need to wait. I will say that more travel may be in my immediate future -- as in airline travel to San Francisco. Stay tuned to details as I get them.

Friday, July 19, 2013

To old friends

A dear, old friend of mine was recently named 'Artist in Residence' for the America's Cup competition underway in San Francisco. One of the nicest people I have ever met, Jim is not only a talented artist, but also an accomplished sailboat racer (now retired from that) and owned a successful sail loft that catered to racing for many years (also now retired). These days, in his 80's, he enjoys his life and paints, which is what he loves best.  This self portrait shows the merry glee and goodness that are so much a part of his personality.

Check out this article in Diablo Magazine for some of Jim's America's Cup work, and links to more. He's a true treasure, and I am so honored to have been a friend for over 40 years now. I even have an original deWitt sketch that's about that old.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Listen up, everybody. This is an important question.  How does a butterfly get through the fine meshed bird netting that covers one of my garden beds? During the past several days I've freed numbers of them, when I've seen them floundering against the net from the inside, trying to escape. It's a mystery to me.

I'm back from retreat. Kind of. Let's say I'm edging back. Officially, I'm not 'back' until tomorrow, but I put a hole in the proverbial dam yesterday when I answered an email from the bhikkhunis in California that I wanted to chime in on immediately, as it concerned me and some new duties I'm taking on. Once that was done, the hole just kept growing and emails have now been flowing as normal. But, I'm still being silent otherwise, still sticking with the meditation schedule and work schedule and the monastic precepts (no evening meal and no entertainment, primarily).

And, since I took the plunge last week and signed up for a formal jhana retreat at Bhavana next week (as opposed to the informal one I've been doing here), I will have a four-day turnaround before I hit the long road again early Sunday morning.

I found great humor during this week at how much my house has profited from the daily scheduled hour of work. My house is too small to require an hour to tidy up every day, so I had to find projects, things that would take time. This morning, I hauled everything out of the pantry and cleaned it thoroughly, then put it all back inside. Badly needed! There have been many of these projects, inside and out (I almost tamed the rosemary). That's a good thing!

The retreat was more than successful. It was intense and deep and hard work! So hard, in fact, that by Sunday I was drained, whupped, pooped, flogged. Done. That's when I started peeking at the internet again, reading but not answering email. The mind and body were just too tired to keep the work going. I'll do more of these, but I've learned a couple of things. One is not to use an electronic teacher, since that requires turning on the computer. The one I used is actually on a cd that I have, but it opens in a browser and has three talks per day, so it didn't make sense to turn the computer on and off three times a day. I just left it on -- and the temptation got me.

The second thing I learned was that next time I won't make it quite so long, since I really haven't been very effective these last few days while I was so drained.

Other than those minor things, it all went well. I didn't have any trouble keeping to the schedule (although I did blow off early morning meditation a couple of days when I was so tired and the body just wanted to sleep). All in all, I think I spent more time meditating during meditation periods than I normally do at a formal retreat.

The best thing about it all was silence. Outer silence that allowed the inner silence and peace to arise and take over. That was just too, too beautiful for words. And rather surprisingly, most of that disappeared when I began communicating and becoming involved in things again yesterday.

I really would make a good hermit. And I really do need silence, at least from time to time.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Retreat time

Still wallowing in dampness here. Cool dampness. Forecast for the next week isn't a lot better, although instead of 100% chance of rain, it drops into lower percentages. Fortunately, it's been calm and steady rain -- no racking thunderstorms, big winds or downpours. It could be worse.

Everything is wet now. The dehumidifier is running a lot, and I'm emptying a lot of water from it. This old wooden house has just absorbed moisture and that won't go away until we have some sunshine and warm weather. It doesn't help that I've still opened the house up at night for fresh, cool air. Tonight, I'm going to leave the windows closed (a few are always open a bit), so I don't have to start all over with the drying out tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I'm going to take my own advice and turn this house into a meditation cave for the next 10 days or so, if I don't go stir crazy before then. I've spent the past few days prepping both the house and me, getting food in, cleaning, doing things a retreat center would do to prepare for a retreat, mostly. Fortunately, no packing or driving for me this time!

Now, I just have to see if I have the discipline to make this work. I think it's a toss up whether I will or not. I have a schedule to follow and no distractions. The computer will be off. I'll let you know when I emerge.