From the monastery Mount Shasta can be seen towering into the sky, recently covered with snow. Winter is just around the corner. A cooling last week with welcome heavy rain has ushered in a real sense of the season change.
Today a female Reverend and I drove up the mountain road to a trail head leading to Horse Camp. It was a two mile walk to the stone hut the area around it serving as a base camp for those climbing the mountain. The hut a shelter in severe conditions. It’s a long days climb (for most people – see comment) to make it to the top starting out in the wee hours to get back down before dark. This is a real mountain climb requiring ice and snow equipment and experienced guides. I’m just so glad of the opportunity to get closer to this majestic mass. Shasta Abbey is 4000 ft above sea level.
As close as the mountain is and as beautiful as it is I rarely stop and look at it as a ‘sight’ as I go about the day. That’s unless it turns candy floss pink in the evening light. Or as the other evening when we were called away from the washing up to look at a perfect rainbow arching over the mountain.
But that you could join me here. My place of training for so many years. Now returned to appreciate anew the gifts which can’t be conveyed in a photograph. Or in words.
I was on call for Rev. Master Jiyu during the last night of her life. I sensed she wasn’t sleeping, she wasn’t well. Not well at all. A cold had been doing the rounds and she had it, her breathing was laboured. I lay still, very still. Listening. I thought I was having a heart attack – the pain in my chest was intense. My mantra that night was When life comes, there is life. When death comes there is death. Over and over again I repeated. Something in me knew this was sympathy pain yet all the same I repeated the mantra. A mantra of acceptance and of comfort. Mixed with fear to be sure.
Within this place there is no suffering.
No coming. No going. No ceasing. No Way.
There is only endless training.
Later that day Rev. Master Jiyu died. This post is for those whose life is under threat and for those who are left behind after an unexpected death. We cannot but resonate with such circumstances whether they be near or far away.
The cloister, a third of a mile long covered walk way holds many a charmed moment. Cats disport themselves in the heat of the day and hunt by night. Sometimes there are clashes however for the most part peace reigns. It has not always been so. Max and Tom were both un-neutered toms and thus could not share the cloister. Max was caged by day and Tom by night. I wish it had been the other way around! Max who I cared for every summer in the 1980’s would appear in the morning in the garden beside ‘his house’ battle worn from a night out in the neighbourhood. Congealed blood mixed with dust matted into his long coat – he gazed out of his crazed battle worn eyes saying something like: Don’t ask! Just let me in and feed me. I really didn’t need to ask. Long haired, champagne coloured and handsome. The old reprobate. We love those cats. I think he died in battle. One time he just didn’t make it home and was never found.
California sun on the cloister one afternoon at Shasta Abbey
This morning walking to breakfast having received a couple of emails from readers saying how they appreciated the teaching in the recent Fire! Fire! post I was thinking I could give a talk based on it. No sooner had I thought that thought than the Prior caught up with me on the cloister! Had you thought of doing this Sunday’s Dharma Talk? She asked. I had to say yes because it was the truth and knowing full well that with my yes came the commitment to do it! So be it.
Part of my pondering on doing a talk was the wish to offer something into the merit pot for all those caught up in the fire that sprang up yesterday afternoon very close to the monastery. Mt. Shasta power was shut down for awhile and aircraft were coming in low over the property heading towards the fire to let loose water or fire retardant to save what ever was still not burnt. 150 structures or more were lost or damaged in a very short time, flames were fanned by a strong wind. The monastery was never under alert to evacuate, a community in the path of the fire did have to evacuate.
Update on the Boles fire Weed issues 15 mins ago.
Thoughts for the people of Weed and all who were involved in fighting the fire. And thank you to the monk now returned to her temple in Canada and once living close to Weed for her contribution of photographs.