Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Panorama in 4 panels

I thought some might be interested in seeing the view I look out upon for most of each day around here. It's far too sweeping for one photo -- so here are four. As you can see, it was a lovely, sunny early morning here -- totally tempting to me as a photographer. These past days have been balmy -- into the 70s and sunny, although that's due to come to an end on Friday. Naturally, I see that temps in Eugene have also been mild, although certainly not this mild!

On the far left, our property sweeps downhill and adjoins the landlord's portion. In the distance a lone house with unkempt vineyards around it.
Continuing our journey around the panorama, our property sweeps down here to a large pasture usually dotted with cattle -- but they have a lot of land to roam and were elsewhere at this particular time.
On around -- more pasture. Cows still on the left, but starting to see the neighbor on the other side who has llamas and goats. This view, and the previous one, are what I generally look at outside the kitchen window, or the French doors to the outside, and most of the other large windows on the back of the house.
And the right side. Hard to see the neighboring house on the next hill, or their pasture, from this spot. The kitchen window is not shown, would be a smaller bay window than the one shown, just out of the frame on the right. Smaller, but big enough for an expansive view!

As expected, my body is struggling here, but it's OK and it'll be relatively short-term. Lots of creaky back aches and pains -- some muscle, some bone joints. But nothing I can't work with. The benefits of being here far outweigh all of the discomforts.

Yesterday, my two monastic (and monastic-in-training) friends came in from the Hermitage and we had a nice visit. The house is very quiet, as the head monastic is on a writing retreat this week, upstairs in her rooms. We take her food and other things up to her, and she often brings the dishes and such back when nobody is around. We only communicate by note, and only if necessary. The other monastic and I are very quiet too, to keep from disturbing her concentration. Sounds from outside, other than livestock and birds, are rare. It's a beautiful, peaceful existence.

Today, a supporter is bringing lunch, so my duties are finished for the day, in terms of cooking. That's good -- not sure what I'll do with the time, but I'll find something. Sunshine calls!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tired, but happy

For any who wonder -- I arrived safely after just over 11 hours, door-to-door, yesterday.  Much longer than I anticipated, but I took a longish lunch break because after 6 hours of steady driving, I needed the break and food! Also a couple of traffic jams of unknown origins here and there, including here in Santa Rosa. But -- I'm here, happy, and looking forward to my time with these wonderful people.

One thing that became really obvious yesterday was that going home via I-5 sounds absolutely wonderful! Long stretches of concrete, easy cruise-control, all sound much better than the scenic but winding roads and small towns of yesterday. It was, as always, great to see the redwoods and the coastline, but going home will be a different path.  And while I've been saying there's no good way to get here from I-5, I realized en route yesterday that for some reason I've been avoiding taking Hwy 12 through the city of Sonoma -- probably because of past memories of heavy tourist traffic that are unrealistic. From where we are, it's an easy drive to pick up 12 in Glen Ellen, then an equally easy drive from there to Napa and thus to I-80 and I-5. Not as big a deal as I thought it would be, as often happens.

But in the meantime -- I'm going to rest up this morning before starting lunch, which will mostly be warmed-up leftovers. This old body is tired, but happy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's a frustrated cook to do?

Behind the Vihara, from the terrace
Tomorrow morning, early, I head south to Santa Rosa for two weeks. with my bhikkhuni friends. I am SO looking forward to being there -- seeing these wonderful women who are like family to me.

I've grown since I left there at the end of July. Everything that I experienced and learned over the three months I spent with them has jelled and coagulated and filled my mind to such an extent that my first instinct is to want to kneel before each of them and thank them -- and I just might do that very thing!

To swing subjects completely, I've also noticed lately that I have a deeply buried urge to cook that hasn't been able to rise to the surface for a good while -- because of $$$$$ (or lack thereof) among other things.

I used to really cook for myself. Good food. Trying all kinds of recipes. I still cook, of course, but my budget and expanding waistline hold the variety to quite a dull level. Beans. Beans and lentils, good curries here and there. No wonderful baked creations. I buy basics, but nothing interesting and/or exotic, certainly. I'm well-nourished, but bored.

It's not all money, of course. A real kitchen with counter space, a real refrigerator, a stove (preferably gas) where all four burners actually work. Freezer space. But there's one more missing ingredient: people to share it with. I can only get so interested in preparing complex recipes just for myself.

I'll be able to cook and share in California, of course, but the batterie de cuisine at the Vihara leaves a lot to be desired, plus there is limited time for preparation and rather serious dietary restrictions, so I don't get very complex or interesting in my cooking there. I'm usually happy just to get necessities on the table. There's a big difference in cooking for fun for myself, whatever floats my boat, and cooking full meals around strict schedules and dietary needs. I've never had to prepare regular family meals, so I don't have a repertoire of casseroles or veggie dishes or pasta dishes that go together easily and taste delicious. So -- while rewarding in its own way, cooking there can also be a bit frustrating and hard on the ego.

So -- what do I do with this urge? I envision a kitchen with someone else -- or several someones -- cooking for  people. A lovely kitchen -- everything a cook could ever need -- and appreciative diners. Where and how to do that? Not at a retreat center, a restaurant? Who would hire me to do that? Who would even take me on as an apprentice to do that? Like much else, this is very much a pipe dream.

But worth giving up to the sub-conscious to work on, see what might come along.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Football, Food, Exercise, Meditation

Another exciting, tense and breath-holding football Saturday here in Duck Land, with only 3 more regular season games left. I have to apologize to all the people over many long years for my lack of understanding about the culture of football. Finally, I get it. The year revolves around this season, and here in Eugene it's so intense that it begins to feel as if there's nothing else going on anywhere that has any importance. So -- an early morning shout-out to Mariota and the gang in Utah, in hopes of yet another victory. I'm not sure I'll be able to watch this one. It'll air on-line at, but the internet here has been so bad these past few days that I don't know if I'll be able to watch. I may have to settle for the radio.

But -- that's not what brought me here this morning. Today, I'm kind of ranting about something that I fully realize is largely of my own making -- the difficulty of eating the kind of nutritious diet I want on the small income I have. I do pretty well, but even while saying/thinking that, I also know that I buy some small amount of cheap things that I really should avoid, and that I buy them because they are either cheap, filling or tasty. Not enough money spent on these things to allow me to afford much more real nutrition, however, no matter how I slice it. It'll be better once I'm able to move into the affordable senior housing I'm waiting for, but that's a year or more away, and I have to deal with the present.  It'll also be a little better come January, when the measly $20 social security increase will hit my bank account. There was a time not too far in the past when I thought $20 wouldn't make enough difference to matter. Nowadays, I know better. I also think I can arrange my expenses to add another $20, so that will be a big advantage. I'm not by any means starving -- I could live for awhile on accumulated fat, if it came to that, and I have plenty of good food, even if it's sometimes boring.

On to other things -- I've been waiting until January also for my new medicare supplement to take effect so I could use the Silver Sneakers gym membership program. A few days ago I had a big duh moment and realized that my current supplement is still in effect and I can still use my Silver Sneakers card, even though I've moved. So -- the nicest gym that's part of the program around here isn't within walking or even short drive distance, but I think I've come up with a plan. There's a Curves nearby that I can walk to a couple of days a week, and then I can go to the other place a couple of times a week for yoga classes and to make good use of their steam/sauna facilities. Can't wait for that!

And -- I seem to be making progress in my efforts to establish a theravadan meditation group here in town. I'm supposed to go sometime today to meet a young woman who has offered to host our group at her wellness center, not far from here. Hopefully, she will call, and I think she will. That's a major obstacle out of the way. Once we get that, I think I'm going to bite the bullet and set up a MeetUp account for us. I may be going down to Santa Rosa later this month for a couple of weeks to help out the bhikkhunis at the vihara, so I'll probably wait until I return from that before getting started beyond the Monday morning group we are already doing. If they decide I'm needed. Of course, I always enjoy seeing them, and I miss them.

So that's my Saturday. Hope yours is happy.  GO DUCKS!!