AONB’s

Millions of people, both local residents and visitors, enjoy Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty every year – many without realising they are in a protected landscape.

Well I certainly didn’t know I was living a protected landscape, an official Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We are within the North Pennine AONB, one of very many areas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland so designated.

This afternoon I was invited out for tea. We drove up the West Allyn valley, then turned left over the moors to Allenheads at the top of the East Allyn valley. There in a pleasant cafe within the lead mining heritage center where we had our treat. Later we headed down the East Allyn to Allendale Town, known by many as the centre of England. And then back up over the moor to home. That’s all within outstandingly beautiful countryside, naturally. And now that’s official!

Living Altar

It’s always pleasing to come across a Buddhist altar in the home setting. This one is on a corner shelf and contains the usual flotsam and jetsam of items picked up and honoured for awhile, and then cleared off to make room for new things.

Altars can become the living expression of practice which is forever evolving and changing, or they can gather dust.

Faith to Leap Beyond Fear

I left meditation this evening thinking about cats and what a comfort they can be. Since I don’t have one living close by I thought I’d publish this photo of Ms. Marple, an American cat. It makes a good lead into the teaching of Nanzan and the cat.


There is a famous koan about a Chinese Chan master called Nanquan or Nanzan, who cut a cat in two in order to teach his students about grasping. It appears in many different koan collections and is the ninth case of the “Shoyoroku” :

“One day the monks of the western and eastern halls of Nanquan’s monastery were squabbling over a cat. When Nanquan saw this going on he seized the cat and held it up before them and said, ‘Say one true word or I’ll cut it.’

“No one could say anything. Nanquan cut the cat in two.”

The above text is from an article, Cutting the Cat in One.

One will never know if this event actually took place. It was after all a long time ago and far away. However the koan (problem) is still alive because it is, like all the koans, an expression of the condition of the human mind which grasps at things, concepts, ideals. At base the purpose of koans, and the naturally arising koan of daily life, are presented to propel the mind past the grasping.

The answer to all of the koans, and problems of daily life, is faith. The faith to let go of even this. And then attempt to be the best person one can be.

So Like Us

Things have moved on with vacuum cleaners. For one thing, in England we no longer refer to them as ‘Hoovers’. Now there are so many more manufacturers, sending them to our shores from all over the world. I’ve recently become intensely interested in all things to do with vacuum cleaners. That’s because I volunteered to take care of ours, an extensive fleet of them. However my feelings towards them, up to now, has been ‘distant’. First task then is to hunt them down. Then check their bags and filters and see how they are doing generally.

This morning I went on a tour of inspection. There they were lurking in cupboards, in stair wells and the final three were found nesting collectively in a down stairs bathroom. Replacement bags there are aplenty. Sooo many different sizes. What next? Well, already I see myself nudging towards anthropomorphizing them. They are all different to be sure. Each has unique characteristics, particular strengths and weaknesses and special features. They have a whole host of attachments too, some concealed neatly out of sight and others sprawling all over the cupboard. So like we human beings?

Although my tendency has been to remain distant from these busy machines (there I go again!) I’ve generally treated them with respect. And, while they may be ‘just’ machines they do have particular needs to take into consideration when dealing with them. So I approach my new responsibility with enthusiasm and a thought for their general well being. So like how I’d like to be treated.

The next task? Find and read the manuals! See also…

Earth Landing


This hawk was particularly friendly and seemed to want to pose. He did a spectacular display of hovering in mid air after this photo was taken. Then he landed right next to the road, so we could say hello again. Sent to me by the same monk who took yesterdays photo at Tule Lake.

Today I went to Newcastle with one of the monks. Our mission was to fetch carpet samples and hunt down some fabric. Carpet was easy but no luck with the fabric although I saw the exact colour several times. That’s: made up as sheets, boys shirts, shop assistant uniforms, and a pile jacket worn by a chap walking out of the cafe where we sat waiting for lunch. An interesting conversation ensued.

Hi guys! (I’m used to being mistaken for a male person, it happens quite often.) I finger his jacket, talked about looking for fabric just THAT colour. There were some awkward moments as we banter back and forth. Which way is this conversation going to go? And then his story emerged. Of having been in our valley one day mending a bridge as a workman for the county council. Then driving the empty road with trees meeting above him. In the distant gloom two lone figures, dressed in religious garb. Not something you see every day of the week, it takes people aback. Later on he had seen the sign for the monastery. He’d made the connect between that startling event and seeing us and obviously wanted to connect and to talk. So we did, until lunch came.

It seems that beings naturally wish to connect with others. That’s when they land long enough, and find willing eyes and ears.