Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Enjoy every sandwich

In conversation with my friends over the weekend, talk moved to the people we used to work with -- I was wondering if Dave was still in touch with any, what had happened to them, etc. Honig was a wonderful place to work in those days, and somehow people stayed in touch. Of course, especially back then, the ad world in San Francisco was relatively small, so people do stay in touch and work together in one way or another.

Dave said that he was still in touch with some -- one was failing pretty badly, several were dead, others had cancer or other deadly diseases. These are our contemporaries, although Dave and I were younger than say, the upper level management folks. The talk then moved to others -- people I either didn't remember or didn't know, and one quote from the evening has really stuck with me. They were talking with one friend who had cancer and not long to live, and the man told them: enjoy every sandwich, because you never know how many more you will have. Of course, that applies to all of life, not just sandwiches, and it's so, so true. We really take so much for granted in our daily lives.

Today I had to drive into town to take Ayya to a bus stop. We left here around noon and soon encountered a highway patrolman stopping all the cars coming our way and not letting them go on. We thought maybe it was due to some scheduled road work about 10 miles up the road. When I came back around 3:30, they were still stopping traffic. The man said there was a tanker wrecked 'about a mile' up the road that had traffic blocked in both directions. He let me go because we were clear that far.

When I got up on our road I had a clear view of the scene, and it wasn't pretty even more than 3 hours later. The second tanker trailer was upright and moved to the side of the road -- didn't see the truck and first tanker, but the pavement was black over a large area so I thought there must have been a huge fire. I couldn't see how anybody could have survived that. But, it turned out not to be a fire and the driver had only minor injuries. Still!

So here's a guy just out doing his job, never thinking when he left home this morning that he wouldn't have another sandwich. Fortunately, this guy lived. That doesn't change the point of this blog entry.

Enjoy every minute. Don't take anything for granted. Don't wish for more than you have and miss out on everything that you do have. That's my rather morbid philosophy for today. I'm planning to enjoy every minute of my last week in these redwoods.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Escape to the wine country

I took advantage of a big event happening here this past weekend and escaped to have some fun with some old friends. Dave was my boss at Honig, Cooper and Harrington (at the time, the largest ad agency in San Francisco) way back somewhere around 1970. We've stayed friends since, even though years pass between personal visits. Karen came into the picture about 25 years ago, and I think this was maybe only the 4th time I've ever met her, but she's interesting and nice and we all had a good visit.

They bought a second (and possible retirement) home in Healdsburg a couple of years ago, and are in the middle of having it renovated -- almost finished. Lovely location, a dream kitchen (naturally, for them!). We were slated to meet for lunch at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill, with the first one there scoring seats at the bar. I left here early, did my laundry, still got to the square and found a parking place an hour early, so I strolled around town for awhile, sat in the park, took a few pictures before the battery in my camera died. I had thought I wouldn't use it, so hadn't bothered to charge it. I should know better!

It's lovely, charming square, so here are the three photos I managed to take. Had I really thought about the battery dying, I might have been more judicious in use of the camera. For the most part, I took advantage of moments when there were no crowds of people on the sidewalk.

I took this last photo in a quick (and people-free) attempt to show two signs that were so apropos of me -- one for Scharffenberg chocolate, the other for some wine company. Unfortunately, they are too far away to really see even if I crop the hell out of the photo. I would have taken another closer, but....

So -- when I got to the restaurant just before noon, the bar was empty. I snagged 3 seats anyway, but as time passed and Dave and Karen didn't show up, the bar started to fill up and I felt a bit guilty about holding the seats. Finally, maybe 12:45, I mentioned to the men on either side that I'd call them and see what was holding them up, but their cell phone numbers were in my car. They told me to go get it, they'd hold my seats! So I popped across the square and when David answered they were across the street from the restaurant, just getting out of their car. So we all got there at the same time, and the seats were still there. Turns out they knew one of the guys holding our seats, and of course the bartender, since this is one of their favorite lunch places.

Later, we went to Coppola, which is Francis Ford Coppola's latest wine country property. Turns out it is where the old Chateau Souverain was -- I recognized it immediately as we pulled into the gate. It was owned by Beringer back in the day when I worked for Beringer, so I'd been there once or twice. Completely remodeled -- includes a huge museum of his movie history. His place in the Napa Valley, which used to be Inglenook many years ago, had a small museum, but this one was huge. There was the car used in the movie "Tucker", a big martini glass used in one I can't remember, and all kinds of other large and interesting bits and pieces from various film sets. There's also a restaurant there, which was our purpose. Since I'm not used to eating an evening meal (and since I'd had a big lunch), I just had a Caesar salad, which was very nice indeed and quite sufficient.

Then back home, watched the end of the Giant's game. They have an incredible digital library of music, all controlled by an iPad. Speakers in the ceiling in every room (good speakers!), and synched with on-line music sources so he has a virtually unlimited selection of music. Dave and Karen are like me -- we all like music and can't imagine being in a house or car without music playing. Their taste, like mine, is eclectic and I thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the visit. Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed all of  it. We walked down to the Russian River (just a short walk from their backyard, which overlooks the flood plain for the river), visited with one of the neighbors. Karen and I went for a walk around the square yesterday, visiting art galleries and things I hadn't done the previous day. It was good to get out with her and get to know her better.

So, today back to 'normal' here in the forest. And  you know what? It's good to be back. I'm kind of sorry I'll only be here for another week -- but also looking forward to the stay at the Vihara for July.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A walk up the hill

Since I've been here at Aranya Bodhi (almost 6 weeks now) I've had people ask about photos of this place, wondering what it looks like, and such. I had my camera down here (the kitchen) yesterday because of the blue flower photos, so I thought I'd take advantage of that and do a photo 'essay' of the walk up the trail to my kuti.

On the upper part of our property, called the 'saddle'. The flags guide visitors down the hill. My kuti is to the left, just opposite the flags.

A look down the hill from the flags. It's a winding road, so you can't see far. This is the road I walk down every morning in the dawn light.

When you drive down the hill, this is the first sign of 'civilization' you encounter. We call it the upper landing. On the left is the yurt that is used for a temple, meditation and other activities. On the right is the kitchen, where I spend much of my time. The road on the left spirals downhill to the lower landing, where all the solar panels, batteries, satellite internet receiver, shower, laundry and many other things are located. Off to the right is parking and a privy.

This trail feeds off the upper landing and goes up to the saddle. It's called the spring trail.

Not far from the landing is this barely discernible trail that leads to a kuti. I would have opted to stay in this one, except that it has a wood stove rather than a gas heater. I love that it's so close to everything, but also very private.

The terrain and scenery varies greatly as the trail winds uphill. And this is uphill, even though it doesn't show that so much in the photo.

This is the the spring that is tapped at the base of this tree. It supplies all our water, in great abundance.

This bridge is not too far above the spring. At the top of the steps, a trail leads to the right to Ratana kuti, which I also like very much. To this point, the trail is a delightful walk through the forest.

This is where it starts to get hard! From Ratana kuti up, it's a grind and these deep steps are only the beginning. Hard for old bodies like mine to manage.

A good bit beyond the steps -- my kuti, at the top of the hill. You can see at the far right where the trail continues and reaches sunlight.

Emerging from the trail, this is the top of the property. The flags are behind me. When this road emerges into sunshine, in the distance, it takes a right turn to head downhill once again and off the property. I play a 'fool the mice' game every day, move my car from this spot to a spot in the distant sunshine. Does it work? Hard to tell, but I haven't seen any more signs of mice in the car, so hopefully they are not in hidden places, either.

This is the view from the nose of my car where it's shown in the above photo. Somewhere off on this sunny spot is where they hope to someday build a permanent structure, with electricity, indoor plumbing, all the comforts of home.

At the other end of the road in its second parking spot. This large field is full of waving grasses and wildflowers.

 From the car looking up the hill to the top, where the ancient stone stupa is. There's a trail leading up there, but it's overgrown and can't really be seen here. The stupa shows as a pointy white object at the top of the meadow, just left of center. Hard to see.

So that's the tour. Hope you enjoyed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Beautiful blue flowers

The weather has turned downright HOT here, and that is in no way a complaint. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I'll take hot over cold A-N-Y day! Once the sun emerged from the lifting fog yesterday the heat was somewhat brutal -- and I loved it. Have spent a fair amount of time out there today, sittin' in the sun when I can. I'm a sunshine girl and I need my fix.

Other than that -- not a lot happening around here other than the usual. It should be quiet here until next Thursday or so, when people start arriving early for the work weekend. That doesn't count a trip to Home Depot in Windsor in the truck, with stops at WalMart and a grocery store along the way. The truck is in dire need of a new rear tire, and I laid down the law that it was unsafe to drive so we'll hopefully get safely as far as Guerneville and get a new one there.

But that is then and this is now. I've just had a shower, am about to head up the hill where I think I'll hit the sunshine once more and pick some wildflowers for the Buddha temple (aka the yurt). There are hundreds of them -- beautiful blue flowers -- and many of them will be in the path of a weed eater come Wednesday, and many more in the same path over the weekend. So I might as well get to them first, right?

Monday, June 9, 2014

An afternoon at the beach

Our monastics and the steward from the Vihara in Santa Rosa are here for the weekend, and it's so lovely to have them! Yesterday, when we delivered the noon meal to our beloved Abbess, Ayya Tathaaloka, she asked if anyone was interested in going to the beach that afternoon. Neither of the other monastics wanted to go, so we two lay women spent a wonderful 3 hours or so with Ayya T --- a rare opportunity, given her general health.

There's a cove nearby where access is relatively easy from the highway -- a lengthy walk through cooling woods, but no steep descent or ascent. The day was warm and sunny, only a few people were on the beach -- a lovely change of pace from the forest, which we all love.

For some reason, this father and son intrigued me.

Ayya actually got into the water for about 20 minutes (cold water!), as the swirling motion of the tide is good for her. We wimpy lay people got our feet wet, but kept to the warm sand for the most part.

All in all, a beautiful day. I'm grateful to have been there, and to be here.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Losing weight, Hermitage style

Ratana (Jewel) Kuti
One of the side benefits I hoped to gain from my time in the forest was burning fat off my body. It happened last summer, certainly, but of course with the stress and such of the winter (excuses!) I put it back on, plus some. Tomorrow I will have been here four weeks, so last night I dug out the tape measure (no, not brought for the purpose, merely one of many odds and ends that ended up in my car) and took a reading.

At first glance, the numbers didn't look too encouraging. But this morning, back at the computer and the chart that records these things, I found that I have indeed lost an inch all around. Not enough, but a very good beginning. Now, I hope it continues for the next month, or however long I am here.

After several cold days, today started out with a heavy fog despite forecasts of warmth and sunshine. That fog began lifting very early -- before 7am -- and now we do indeed have sunshine, a good breeze and the promise of warmth later on. Tis a lovely day in the redwoods. Actually, all days in the redwoods are lovely, regardless of weather conditions.

Tomorrow a trip to Santa Rosa, Friday a trip for me into Guerneville to do my laundry. Company (the other two monastics plus another lay person, from the Vihara in Santa Rosa) arriving for the weekend. It will be nice to have Ayya Tathaaloka on the premises, even though I may not see her. Her health keeps her confined to her kuti for the most part, but her wonderful presence will be felt, I'm sure. She is a joy.

So -- no lunch to prepare for two days! I don't mind preparing lunch, but it's nice to have a break. Another woman who lives on this land (the donor) very kindly prepares lunch for us every Wednesday, and tomorrow a supporter in Sebastapol has offered lunch to both of us so that we (she in particular) may eat within the designated time and still make her 12:45pm medical appointment.

So -- other than being cold way beyond the realities of living in the forest, and a whining knee, life is good here.