Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A clean, dry, sweatshirt is worth a lot

In case some of y'all are wondering, I am still here! Low internet speeds and low energy, combined with being sick, has kept me from the computer much of the time. But life continues here, deep in these beautiful redwoods.

I caught a bug from a supporter while at the Vihara last Sunday and it's laid me low for most of the time since. Thankfully, we had a visitor here last week who did the cooking. The darned thing settled in my ears -- particularly my right ear -- and I guess it's going to take awhile for all the stuff to drain out. Fortunately, someone at the Vihara Monday morning (we stayed overnight) was a nurse-practitioner, so she gave me the low down. Yuk. I'm on antibiotics for another day or so.

Today, after the lunch cleanup I hustled back to my kuti (got a ride) and slept for two solid hours! That is unheard of for me. Of course, aside from cooking, I made two trips from the upper landing where the kitchen is to/from the lower landing where the wash tubs are, to wash some things I forgot to take to the laundromat over the weekend. This involves not only the two trips up the steep road, but two fights with the hand-operated wringer, both of which I won. And now I have a clean, dry sweatshirt to wear, among other things.

After our evening meditation, it's back to bed for me. Gotta keep the energy up. I hope this changes as the bug dies away. If not, I may need to try to hustle back to Eugene sooner than expected. Of course, that can't be before the end of June regardless.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Now it all makes sense.....

Its odd how life brings things full circle at times. That happened to me a couple of days ago when I got the answer to all my crazy health issues from a friend who is in Thailand at the moment on a long meditation visit to Asia. Long story short, she and I both have the same anti-immune disease. Hers was, I believe, somewhat recently discovered and her symptoms are severe. Mine was diagosed 7-8 years ago and my symptoms were minor. Since there's nothing to be done for it, over the years I've simply put it away and forgotten about it, for the most part. On occasion I've wondered if maybe my fatigue was due to this, but would then put it away and forget about it. If it is, it is. Nothing to be done about it.

So, over a few emails while we discovered we have the same thing, I got this from her:

"I have hashimoto's too. My friend, it is not only aging that has you do depleted--it is a debilitating disease!

Your reaction to the day you spent in town sounded so familiar to me--it all makes sense now.

Kitty, please do not underestimate the symptoms of this disease. It also profoundly affects the brain and cognitive function, and we are not able to manage the same level of sensory input as ordinary people. Things like driving, crowded places, and seeing a lot of activity easily overload the Hashimoto brain and leave one quickly incapacitated. I have to be VERY careful at managing my time in crowded places where there is noise or activity, and driving just wipes me out, as the brain is trying to manage so much input.

I am only just now, after a year of full-time practice, able to separate the physical aspects of the disease from my mental reactions, like anger (hashi's people are very irritable as we are do dreaming tired and unwell all the time), laziness, despair, etc. BUT this is because I am in a very controlled environment where there is no pressure for me to do anything. So I can challenge myself at my own pace to push through my limits and see the defilements as they arise. Were I not in such a controlled environment, the fatigue would be overwhelming. 

Kitty I hope you can find a place to rest, heal, and learn from your disease with a teacher who can support you. People don't understand that there are diseases which are not merely about pain, but that usurp all of our energy. When the body has no energy, it cannot function. End of story."
I've used her words because they are so concise -- explains so much about my 'brain fogginess' and my reaction to driving in traffic (yesterday was insane!). Still nothing to be done about it, but it helps me to know the cause -- which is simply that my symptoms are becoming worse. I suspect that stress may aggravate it, and I've had my share of that.

I gotta go -- we're in a bad situation with our internet here and I can't waste too much time on it. Back at you when I can.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A way cool evening

There are times when I really feel my age -- and realize that I should probably just admit that there are just some things I can't do.  Last night was one of those times, and yet, even though my body complained the entire time, I'm so very glad I went. For me, it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This is the mouth of the Russian River. As you can see, it's calm and peaceful at this point, perfect for kayaking. Especially perfect for kayaking at sunset/moonrise.

Moonrise over the eastern hills. Kind of fuzzy -- handheld in a floating boat, after all. It was orange, really -- sorry the color didn't really shine through here.

A bit later, from a different location. Not bad for handheld, really.

Still later, from the beach. We'd beached the kayaks on the river side, then walked across to the Pacific to meditate. I didn't do much meditating -- lay back exhausted and watched the stars and moon and listened to the sounds of incoming tide and surf.

I had a white-water kayak for a year and loved it, but aside from playing with my boat in still water enough to learn to make it go in a straight line (not easy in a whitewater kayak!), I didn't do much flatwater paddling. Whitewater is very different from paddling in still water. In whitewater, you're mostly moving with the current of the stream you're on and the paddle is used mostly for steering, keeping upright, maybe paddling through a rapid. This was constant paddling, and we took an extra long route, hoping to find a different place to stop. After awhile, my arms felt as if they were going to fall off! It didn't help that I'd spent an hour using a old-fashioned slingblade to clear weeds and grasses along a trail that afternoon, so my arms were tired before we even started.

I just didn't have the strength for this kind of thing, and alternated between internal whining and full awareness of the beauty and joy of being where I was. I'm sore and stiff this morning, and tomorrow morning will be worse, no doubt, but I'm so glad I went. I was up way past my bedtime so I'm a little groggy this morning, will make an easy day of it.

But what an experience! Many thanks to the people who made it happen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I had my first unpleasant encounter with the wildlife up here yesterday! Not bad, for the third visit, I suppose. I was walking a little-used trail to a privy on the upper level where my kuti is, and suddenly a loud buzzing ahead stopped me cold. It wasn't a sound I've ever heard in the wild before, but it sounded like a serious warning. As I listened, I thought it sounded like some kind of insect, although I couldn't imagine an insect that would make such a warning sound. It was coming from a clump of dried grass just ahead.

Naturally, the idea of 'rattler' crossed my mind, but I'd never heard a rattler before. I've seen a few out in the wild, but they were napping. Once the buzzing stopped I tossed a small piece of wood into the clump of grass and it started again. And I did it again. Finally, I turned around and walked back where I'd come from. Nature won. I wasn't willing to take the chance that it was a harmless insect.

And, it's a good thing I didn't. This morning I went on good old YouTube and listened to the sound of a rattler -- yep. That's what it was. And Ayya says there have been nests of rattlers up in that general area in the past. It's actually the kuti and privy that are the home of our Abbess, who now spends most of her time in Santa Rosa. She had encountered them on another trail in the past, but this is the main trail to her kuti area.

I've volunteered to tend all those upper trails, cut back the dried grasses and such to make them more passable. Clearly, it's needed, because we can't have a rattlesnake nest in that location. I walked the path a few days ago with no troubles, so hopefully it was just a random snake, not a nest. If that's the case, I can clear the path safely. If not -- well, somebody else is gonna have to figure out what to do about it.

We have an outing scheduled for this evening that I hope will produce photos that I can share tomorrow. Even without photos, I'll share my memories if it's as memorable as I think it will be.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Why here?

It's a breezy, sunny day here on the Sonoma Coast. Cool in the shade, but lovely in the sun or in a sun-warmed space. I've been here two days now, have put my kuti into proper shape for long-term occupancy, although we are still going to install a coat rack and a small shelf. Like everything else, it's at the top of the hill from where I sit now, typing this, but from day one I've forced myself to walk the hills, not drive up out of laziness. The only way to get my walking legs and lungs back is to walk the hills, so I'm doing that a couple of times a day, at least. And they are not small hills. They are steep. My lungs are improving rapidly, but I admit to some sore lower-body muscles that are used in climbing hills! That will pass, the muscles will strengthen and harden, and hopefully, the fat will melt away. I can only hope!

Before I drove down here I had several people ask me in a short time-span why I like to come here, or to other Buddhist monastic locations. I've had simple answers to offer to that question, which is not an uncommon one, but one person pushed me to think a bit deeper and I did that on the drive south. Two days ago I had wonderful words on the subject. Today, those words are no longer part of the present, but I'll try to answer the question anyway.

Aside from the physical beauty of these hundreds of acres of redwoods, the sight of the blue Pacific that looms when we drive out to the highway, as we did this morning, and the peaceful sounds of nature and the forest, I think the real answer is the people. Particularly monastics, since we lay people are generally less accomplished in our practice, less skillful at moderating our actions and words. I also want to help, to give back in some small way for all that has been given to me in terms of teaching. I love being able to ease some small part of their burden, to do a simple task that they may not be allowed to do, such as drive a car, spend money or even prepare their own meals. The two go together. The people are wonderful, and that brings out a better part of me that wants to give of myself to them, in terms of my labor, and to please them in such a way to bring happiness to all of us.

The monastics, as well as some of the other lay people who might visit here, are generally wrapped in such things as metta (loving-kindness), compassion, generosity, joy in the happiness of others, contentment with just what they have at the moment even if what's present is painful to them. Rarely are voices raised, and when they are it's generally due to an egregious display of unacceptable behavior on the part of a lay person and even then, it's only a reprimand. Anger, along with all its little subtitles such as impatience, irritation, resentment, intolerance, hostility, sarcasm and thoughtless words and general mean ill-will, is almost unknown from both monastics and long-time lay practitioners.

Our world in general is not like that. Does your world lack anger, snippiness, hostile words, mean words? Are you part of a world that has no violence, no hatred, no rude or unfriendly behavior even from your loved ones? If so, you are lucky. Few of us live in that world, and some of us are willing to give up some 'normal' comforts of life in order to find that kind of existence, that kind of world, even temporarily. That doesn't totally separate us from the reality of world events, from the violence and anger and brutality that exist in this world and that frequently enter into our 'entertainment'.  We read the news. We aren't hiding from that reality, or sticking our head into the ground to escape, to pretend it doesn't exist. We are simply choosing to live a different kind of life, amongst others with similar feelings. A place where we are not confronted with anger in daily life -- whether on newscasts, TV shows, movies, road rage, or even a loved one who is having a bad day or a series of bad days.

Lay visitors come with differing backgrounds and issues, differing levels of accomplishment. Some are difficult, some are easy. My first visit here was very difficult. I struggled with the terrain (had just had about 10 stitches removed from a skin cancer excision on my calf), with sleep, with energy, with the entire environment. I was less skillful then in my practice, and it showed. We are all still people and generally people with issues of one kind or another. Still, good behavior and getting along with others is encouraged and even necessary, for a peaceful existence for all concerned.

I use the universal 'we' here, but these are my thoughts. Others have their own reasons and I can't speak for them. I can only say that this is the atmosphere that's created here, and at other monastic residences, and that being around people like this is a wonderful influence on me, a true gift in terms of helping me grow in my own practice, to ferret out whatever bits of anger remain in me, and help me to cultivate qualities such as love, compassion, peace, harmony, generosity and good-will. These are the kind of people I like to be around, and the kind of person I'm working to become. These are happy people, and I'm a happy person most of the time. Why choose to surround myself with unhappy, angry people? I need smiles, laughter, a good sense of humor, and most of all -- kindness. So I find it here, then when I return home there's more of all that in me, and it lasts, becomes part of who I am and becomes more and more the type of person I want to be around. I learn and grow here, and all that brings happiness. The hardships of living on the land melt away and become unimportant.

What's not to like about that?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014



That seemed to be the limit of my vocabulary early this morning as I drove from Eugene to the Coast. First, the road begins to wind its way over the Coast range, alongside a stream surrounded by old, thick trees whose branches were curved and arching in beautiful patterns, all moss-topped and breathtaking in the morning light. Then when I reached the Siuslaw River just before Florence it started again -- I'm just a sucker for rivers and bridges and pilings and piers jutting out and the whole picturesque scene. Naturally, neither of these particular sights offered an opportunity for stopping to take pictures.

Other Ohhhhhhs! followed here and there along the length of the coast, which is itself one of my favorite places on earth. I stopped often for photos, but none of them are really interesting. I stopped for lunch at my favorite place, The Crazy Norwegian's, in Port Orford, but passed on their fabulous fish and chips because I was having some tonight. Bad choice! The clam chowder and sourdough bread was as delicious as I expect food there to be. But tonight, I arrived at the remembered place in Brookings to find that it had changed -- and not for the better! No more fishing supplies, more tables, a fancier and more expensive menu, and the fish and chips were barely more than mediocre. A good example of the Buddhist theory that everything changes. And maybe a reminder of the dangers of craving anything.

So -- tomorrow on to California, the Sonoma Coast. And while none of today's photos were particularly good, I'd like to share them anyway because I just can't help myself. Unfortunately, the slow download speed of the wireless in this motel won't allow that. This, too, has been a disappointment -- prior stays here have been terrific. But -- no matter. It's clean and private, the bed is good and the tv works. And I don't want to do much more than sleep.

The present, the future

So here I sit, approaching 6am and barely light outside, sipping coffee and watching the world come alive outside and in the garden. Even the chickens are still abed!

This is kind of what I'm looking at right now, although it was much brighter outside when I took this photo yesterday than it is this early in the morning.

This is such a sweet place -- I plan to come back and stay, sometime in August once the incoming, short-term renter has moved on. Then, with my own things in place and settled in, I can make it 'home' and be quite comfortable here. It's small (although larger than the kuti I'll be living in for the next 3 months) but all the windows, skylight and open ceiling make it feel much larger. I don't feel at all claustrophobic and I love the interaction outside during the day with the chickens, cats, a sweet dog, and even the humans.  There's lots and lots I can do for comfort.

A closer look outside -- the chickens and part of the garden, plus the 'catio', a clever place just outside the window that would allow an inside cat to spend some time outside without escaping.

The mess and clutter are mine -- camping out! The sleeping nook will hold a full-size bed, although it's a bit snug. I'll be using my air mattress and may move it beneath the window by the chickens, on some kind of platform, and use it as a day-bed/sofa as well. The nook can be used for many things -- a dresser, a meditation spot, whatever feels right. The bath is tiny, but functional.

More of my temporary clutter messing up a very nice space. With all the built-ins I'll have room for all my kitchen stuff and books and whatever.

The cottage itself, in the morning light. Not it's best angle -- it's actually quite cute -- but I didn't want to venture further into the garden and disturb anyone so early. Garlic in front of the deck -- gotta love that!

The deck, again in the early morning light. Nothing stirring out there at this point other than a hummingbird.

So -- the present moment and the future home. Today I'm driving south along the beautiful (and beloved by me) Oregon Coast to my old home in Brookings, where I'll stay overnight before heading on to California tomorrow. There's a big basket of Oregon fish & chips awaiting me tonight at my favorite spot down at the harbor. My real favorite spot, of course, is The Crazy Norwegian's in Port Orford, but I'm going to bypass that today and settle for another rather funky place (a few tables in the back of a fisherman's supply store/bait shop) that has really good fish and chips and draft beer.

Monday, May 5, 2014


Despite the previous bitching about the speed and un-fun of the trip, I am SO, SO glad to be in Eugene! The trip began to be perfect and worthwhile once we left the city of Bend behind and headed into and over the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

This morning, albeit initially with some trepidation and fear regarding getting lost, I ventured from my friend's hideaway in the woods outside of town to run some errands. First stop was a laundromat, then on to a State Farm office to be sure I was going to remain covered with the car over the interim few months before I move back here to stay. My current coverage expired in late August, so having my new coverage material returned to sender would probably not be a good thing. I found my old agency here in Eugene and they took care of the transfer, using my friend's address temporarily. So, not only am I covered, but my rate was cut almost in half! I was hoping it would go down, because it certainly went up when I got to Georgia, but wasn't expecting that much of a break. No complaints here.

All those initial fears about getting lost have been (so far) without merit. As I suspected, once I got into town everything looked familiar and I was able to find my way around without too much trouble. People are smiling and friendly, and finally my Oregon sweatshirt and rear window decals fit right in.

With an hour to kill before my next appointment (the new landlady!) I found a nice cafe with free wireless and here I sit, writing this. Drinking a mango/banana/Nancy's yogurt smoothie and eating a vegan oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I wasn't quite ready for a 'normal' lunch, but since I needed to buy something in order to hang around, this fit the bill, and is really good, and mostly healthy.

Talked to the potential landlady twice last evening, and she suggested that since the cottage is clean and waiting for the next tenant (a 2-month rental starting in a couple of weeks), I was welcome to use it as a motel room for a couple of days before heading south. That way, I can get a good feel for how it would be to live there, see how I do with the chickens (not a problem!) and the two of us can get to know one another. So if upon inspection it seems like a place I could live, that's exactly what I'm going to do. How kind of her to offer!  My friend's place is really small, and there's not much for me to do there, no wireless access, so I think this is a perfect solution.

I'm still looking forward to the summer in California, but Eugene feels like home, and that's a good thing.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fast times

We are in the small town of Burley, Idaho -- last stop on what has become a whirlwind trip to the west coast. Not what I had in mind when I left Georgia -- I was looking forward to leisurely trip with some relaxation thrown in, so I wouldn't be so tired at the end. Instead -- 5 push-push-push days that haven't been even an iota of fun, certainly not relaxing, and forget about not being tired. I'm pooped -- and it's so hard to unwind after long days on the road.

Last night we were in Eagle, CO, near Vail. Before that, Salina, KS. Before that, someplace I don't even remember. Tomorrow night -- 601 miles later -- we will hopefully be in Eugene. I have a lovely cottage awaiting my inspection for rental in August, some laundry to do, hopefully a bit of rest, then on Wednesday I head south to the hermitage, where I am sorely needed. Once again, Ayya Sobhana has been left alone there due to unforeseen circumstances (someone left due to an emergency, another cancelled due to family illness). So once again -- but only for a few weeks -- I will be chief cook and bottle washer, but this time in the new kitchen, rather than the makeshift (but quite useable) outdoor kitchen of last summer. I'm really looking forward to being there again, in the peace and quiet and friendship.

Also looking forward to returning to Eugene in August and -- if I like the place after I see it, and if the owner likes me -- setting up housekeeping in the cottage. It's tiny, but set in a garden with plenty of veggies, fruit trees, berry patches and even chickens for eggs -- all of which are available for grazing.

That's it for now. Just needed to chill a bit, and writing here always chills me out. Haven't had time to take many photos, but what I have will appear here eventually.