Along with all the preparation to travel, so many details to attend to, I took the opportunity to spend a moment or two doing nothing. That was yesterday. Today its Heathrow and I’m taking another opportunity to do not very much. Well writing this of course – and also gorping out of the window at the hustle and bustle.
Worlds apart one might think. But in a certain way of thinking – there is no gap. Come sit and travel with me. Oddly there is more time/space to write here when ‘on the road’.
Sit and be at ease, where ever your sitting place is.
My father went to the kind of school where they developed character, encouraged creativity and generally turned out half way decent people. Passing exams and going onto higher education was not a high priority. As a consequence I had a pleasingly unambitious father who could turn his hand to most things but would not be said to have had a ‘career’ in the usual sense. I could say the same about myself.
Here is some of his creative work which I recently sent to my American relative to be passed down the generations as a link with their roots in England.
In the 1960′s it was probably easier, more sociably acceptable, to drop out of higher education and then follow a career path than it is now. The best youngsters seem to be able to do currently is cram in as much adventure into their gap year before going on to university.
And I’m in the thick of preparing to travel on Saturday. Adventure? I’m not so sure about that however there will be tales to tell. But before signing off I will link to a Guardian article about a man who inspired me at my final school speech day. Freddy Spencer Chapman, an SAS officer who some say is the most unsung hero of the war in East Asia. I was impressionable, he said those of us who hadn’t received prizes or who did not have exam passes could get on in the world and be a success. I took heart at the time. Sometimes a word or two can change the direction and outlook of a whole life. My fathers unambitious presence was a passive influence and Spencer Chapman’s words that day inspired confidence. He was an army man and man of his time. My dad was a private in the army, a conscript. All of his life he remained a man outside of his time. He would have been 94 come August 20th.
The Lancaster Canal has been my walking companion this week. Still. Glass like. Cooling and soothing during this rash of hot summer days. The North West has been roasting. This evening. Rain.
Tow path travelers bring colour and texture to the grey ribbon. Some interact most don’t. Cyclists ring their bells in warning and we walkers make way for runners. There is courtesy here which brings a sense of community.
There is something so utterly compelling about canals. I’ve been drawn to them since early days ‘up North’ in the 60′s. Thank goodness people of vision started to save them from extinction back then.
One more walk tomorrow early and then a return to Throssel.
The abbey (Shasta Abbey) also offers a number of programs that are open to the public, including meditation instruction, retreats, teaching and spiritual counseling. While the cats are not officially part of these programs, they do make their presence known. The chief cook’s cat is often seen outside the kitchen, greeting guests (or perhaps waiting for a hand out?), and the guest monk has a cat who is very much alert and present when guests come.
This information and story came to me recently via an email. Make of the story what you will.
I’d like to share with you this old Japanese story. This is one of those children’s stories that generations of Japanese grandparents used to tell their grandchildren.
In Japan, the statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha are commonplace, often at the roadside. They may be solitary, but often we see six of them, one each for the six realms (hell, hungry ghosts, animals, ashuras, humans, gods) in which Ksitigarbha is at work.
Once upon a time, there was a poor couple, an old man and a woman. The New Year’s Day was just around the corner, but they didn’t have money to buy rice cakes for the New Year. The old man had made five straw hats during the evening after a day’s hard work in the field. “My dear old lady, I’m going to the market to sell these straw hats, and I will buy some rice cakes,” said the old man. But he couldn’t find any buyers. It was snowing hard, and there weren’t many people in the market. He couldn’t sell a single hat. He was sad, thinking how disappointed his beloved wife would be. On his way home to the village, he walked past six statues of Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. Snow was piling up on their head and shoulders. “They must be feeling cold in an evening like this,” thought the old man, and he put the hats on the statues’ heads. He had only five straw hats, and he didn’t have any hat left for the sixth statue. “I’m very sorry but I have only five hats,” said the old man to the last statue. Then, an idea came to his mind, “Well, please wear my old straw hat. I’ve been wearing this for some years, and it is a bit worn out, but it is better than nothing.” It was New Year’s Eve. The old man went home, without wearing his hat, and his wife greeted him at the door. “My dear, I’m glad you managed to sell all of your hats, but did you have to sell your own hat?” “No, no, I couldn’t sell any,” said the old man, and explained to his wife what he had done. His wife was very happy to hear what her husband did. “You did a very good thing, my dear,” said the wife. Just after midnight, they heard some singing outside. They opened the front door, and found some rice cakes at the doorstep. “How strange! Where did these rice cakes come from?” In the distance in the snow storm, they could see six statues of Ksitigarbha marching their way back, all wearing a straw hat and singing a song.
In another version of the same story, the old couple was visited by six monks wearing straw hats on New Year’s Eve. The monks brought them some rice cakes for the New Year. The old man recognised that the sixth monk was wearing his old straw hat, and then he knew that the six monks were not of this world but the six statues of Ksitigarbha.