Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A heat wave in Eugene

To any and all who might care, I arrived safely in Eugene this afternoon after just under 9 hours of driving -- including a brief grocery stop. That's about 500 miles, per Google. More from actual address to actual address (rather than just Napa to Eugene).

It was an easy day, the car seemed healthy, and the AC worked great. But I was totally and completely bushed by the time I arrived. My landlady helped me get all the stuff out of the car (and it darned near filled the cottage up!), and I didn't do much to put anything away. First thing, I got the air mattress filled because that was the only thing that was really important.

The place is smaller than I remember, but still nice and livable. The garden has grown by leaps and bounds -- barely recognizable. I haven't wandered through it yet to see what's there. Some of my stuff is still on the deck, and I don't even care! I strung my string backpacking hammock rather quickly, too, but it was much too hot to use it for quite awhile. I guess the weirdest thing is to be back around neighbors -- haven't had any of that for the past 3 months, but it'll become the norm soon enough. I'm probably going to have to change my sleeping hours -- to bed later and, hopefully, up later. People sensibly wait until the cool of the evening to get out and do yard work -- some quietly, some with noisy machines. That'll become the norm, too.

Wouldn't you know I'd arrive here in a heat wave? Go figure! I had forgotten all those hot stuffy nights in my apartment in Corvallis, as well as the one in Eugene (although that one had AC).  Those places were stuffy and almost unbearable. Unfortunately, today was one of those days and the forecast doesn't show any improvement in the near future and despite all the windows, this place was also unbearably hot earlier. Alas. This is the first bad heat I've felt all summer! Even though it was around 100 a couple of times in Santa Rosa, our house was cool even without using the AC. Lots more breezes there to flow through the windows, too.

I expect it's going to take a few days for the body to adjust to this new reality. All windows and doors open all night, but I'll close them during the day to keep heat out. That worked really well in Georgia, so I hope it works here, too. A box fan or two in the windows is going to be a necessity at night, I think. One to draw the cool air in, the other to push the hot air out. Works like a charm!

I really would like to go to bed -- really pooped. But it's too hot yet. Whine. I'll adjust, however, and it'll be just fine.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Birthdays and travels

Yesterday morning, with very mixed feelings, I drove away from the Vihara for the last time -- last time for this journey, anyway. I'm sure I'll be back. With that, my almost three months of happy, volunteer service to these three wonderful women came to a close and I re-entered what most of us consider to be the 'real' world.

Dave and Karen, at cake cutting.

Last night, I went to my old friend Dave's birthday party in Healdsburg. As he said when he introduced me to folks when I arrived, we've been friends for almost half a century, since somewhere around 1970. And he's right! Today I'm in Napa at a wonderfully comfortable and quiet private residence, with my next-oldest friends, from about 1979. I'm still catching up on sleep and rest, because once I 'let go' of my sense of responsibility on Friday and turned it over to the incoming helper, I had a huge tension release that is still continuing.

Saw some folks I've known for awhile last night, some I've only met once or twice and briefly at that, many I'd never met. But there were 5 pickers (guitar players) there and one fellow who toodled along with his flute at times, and that made for a wonderful jam session that was way too short for my taste. I could have had it go on for a long time.

Dave has an eclectic group of friends whose most common denominator is that they love him, because he truly is a great guy. Most of us go way back with Dave -- even though I don't know many of them because I left the city and the business (advertising) so had only occasional social contact with anybody but Dave. All interesting, good people.

Dave and his friend Alan

When I attended the last party, 5 years ago, I didn't stay long because I was tired from the drive from Oregon. I met Alan, and no doubt his wife, then, but it wasn't until the next day that I learned more about him. He's a photographer who wasn't able to use a camera for a long time because he couldn't see through the tiny viewfinders that most of the old film cameras had. Then he developed Parkinsons, and couldn't hold the camera steady. Then, along came digital cameras and he could see the screens and while he couldn't hold the camera steady, his work took off at a new angle that is simply amazing! You can read his story, and see he current (and other) work, here. It's worth the visit!

Sunset hues start to color the skies
I was hoping for a second set of music, and Dave had hinted that might happen, but not long after the birthday cake folks started fading away with the day. I was glad to have been there and heard the first one. At least, I heard part of it. I was on the deck, didn't know it was happening until I walked back inside for some reason. Still, I got enough to be happy. So -- Happy 70, Dave. See ya at 75!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hermitage diet plan -- revisited

Who would think that it would take leaving the hills and dales of the forest and moving into a luxurious home in the countryside would be what it took to finally make the belly fat start to melt away?!? Sure surprised me, but yesterday morning when my pj's kept falling down as I walked around getting my coffee (nobody here but me, so I hadn't needed to 'dress'), I came back up and whisked out the old tape measure.

Sure enough, since my last entry here back in early June, I've lost two inches of fat around my waist, and almost that much on the abdomen! I've been here almost 3 weeks, so it must have something to do with the change.

Interestingly, while the living is harder at the hermitage, the actual work is easier, by comparison. Here, living is easy in this lovely house (running water and everything!), but there is more work and often, harder work. Such as: every Thursday (today!) three large trash bins need to go out to the road. Not the end of our driveway, but the end of the private road where it hits the main road, which is a good 1/4 mile away and up/down a couple of steep hilly sections. The first week I had help. Last week, and today, I will need to haul each of them to the street, one at a time. They get pretty heavy going up that final hill! Then tomorrow they need to come back, but will at least be empty by then. And, clothes need to be taken down a hill to a clothesline for drying, hanging out on the lines. I try to do as much of that for the bhikkhunis as I can, as neither of them is physically strong at the moment. Both try to do for themselves, but I generally intercept.

So -- I'm working hard, going up and down the stairs a lot, sometimes carrying a heavy tray. Thought I'd die the first week, but then the body began to grow accustomed and it's gotten easier. As far as the garbage goes, I did it last week, so I should be able to do it easily enough this week. And all that burned off fat is great motivation, I must say! Keep it going, since I only have one more week here. I'll need to find the same level of activity in Eugene -- some of which will no doubt be spent working in the garden, since it's the handiest form of activity and since it's something I enjoy. I refuse to let all that fat come back on this body, as I did last year.

The winters are what get me. I kept the fat off for a couple of months without even trying, then cold weather came, which makes me want to bake, which makes me need to eat what I've baked, and which for me, generally calls for heartier and therefore more fattening foods. Gotta see what I can do about that this winter, and in fact need to keep the fat burning, since I have a long way to go before I'm down to a healthier level.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A different way to spend the July 4th weekend

Last Saturday we had a wonderful day (weekend for some) at the Hermitage, Aranya Bodhi, formally blessing the three new buildings. These blessings are serious, but also tend to be a lot of fun as Ayya Tathaaloka throws water at everything (and sometimes everybody) within reach. I personally think monastics like this 'throwing water' part of a blessing. Bhante Gunaratana seemed to have great fun with it during the two precepts ceremonies I've taken part in at Bhavana. Sometimes his aim was really good, other times it missed, but there was always laughter.

Out of something like 137 photos I've distilled a few that I like, and/or that have meaning for me.

Ayya Sobhana blessing the meal offering.

Offerings for the various buildings, reflecting their use. These were put together by a couple of supporters, and were really beautiful.

L-R, Ayya Tathaaloka, Ayya Suvijjana, and Ayya Sobhana, who is reading a list of donors for the new sangha hall kuti.

Blessing the new shower. You can't realize what a big deal this is unless you've experienced the previous shower, which was merely a couple of tall shower tents loosely linked together at the edge of the forest. Bracing, especially in cool, windy weather. This is really 'downtown', as one supporter said.

The half-moon, overlooking the ceremonies. The full moon of July is the traditional beginning of Vassa, or rainy season, where monastics settle in one place and don't travel much (at least, that's my understanding; I have been known to be wrong).

Ayya Tathaaloka cutting ribbon to new kitchen on wheels.

The lighting on this one really spoke to me. Pure happenstance, as the offering for the kitchen was placed before the Buddha, prior to the reading of the donor's names.

Ayya Tathaaloka blessing the premises (aka, throwing water!)

Even the camera got a little blessing! Note water fuzz on lower right.

A lovely Dhamma talk from Ayya Tathaaloka. Some people had already left by then, and I couldn't get everybody in the photo from where I sat.

Ayya Suvijjana caught in the halo of light from the top of the yurt. She was squinting at the bright light, but it's just a lovely photo of a truly lovely bhikkhuni.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A change of scenery

So, anybody been wondering what's happened to me? I'm pleased to report that I am alive and well, but I had a major change of scenery and duties on Sunday and am just now catching my breath long enough to put a few words together. Not together well -- but together.

Partial view from back patio. This is indicative of all around, although there are cows, horses, llamas and goats as well as vineyards! This is pretty much the view from where I sit to eat lunch, although this year everything is much browner and drier. This was taken last year.

I volunteered a few weeks back to take the steward's job at the Vihara in Santa Rosa for the month of July, and I did this for several reasons. One, my body was tired of life in the rough (although wouldn't you know that my last week out there it finally got some strength and energy!), and two, I really wanted to spend some time with these two remarkable women who live here.

It's not easy -- there's a special diet involved which takes a lot of time, but it is so worthwhile, and I'm getting better at it, and more confident. And there are other physical duties (neither of them has great health at the moment, so I try to keep them from doing things that don't seem reasonable for them).

However -- I love being here. It's a beautiful place, not far from shopping, way out in the country, gorgeous scenic views, wonderful people. What's not to like about that?