Category Archives: Out and About

Like Clouds and Water

See also photographs on FB: hounmugo is my name

A rare moment of rest during a long train journey. No complaints there.

For the past eight days I’ve been ‘on the road’. First in The Netherlands staying at the Clouds and Water Hermitage in Friesland, to the north of Holland, then in Utrecht to stay with a Sangha member. And now with a brilliant wi-fi connection on a German train on the way to stay at a temple within our Order in the Black Forest. I’ll be meeting Sangha members lay and monastic, sitting a session, attending a lay ordination and celebrating Wesak. That’s the Buddha’s Birth and Enlightenment. Oh, and sewing a robe for one of the monks.

It is awhile since I have ventured away from the lovely Lake District for extended travel. From now on until late July when I will fly to North America I’ll only be touching base but briefly. However there are plans for a few good high-level walks in the lovely lakeland fells.

As I’ve been filling in my diary for May and June I’ve noticed a certain gladness when I see a week here and a few days there open to be at ‘home base’. Away time and home time. Movement and (kinda) rest. Yesterday I turned a corner mentally, or in attitude, towards this division of my time. Basically counting days until I’m back ‘home’. This is no way to live obviously. What changed? I just stopped counting days into the future. Simple. Might have been something to do with a boat tour around the canal system in Utrecht. Being afloat seems to send me into a nowhere in particular time zone.

Or. It might have been the reminder of living the life of an Unsui, a traveling monk moving freely like clouds and water. Sounds great less easy in practice and more to do with a mind not dwelling anywhere (not for long anyway) than movement across the planet.

Respect

From a train heading north to Friesland, The Netherlands
I’m in the Netherlands. Think tulips, think windmills, think water! And much more. This morning my host was driving us, and her Greyhound, to a forest where dogs can run free. Vast swaths of land have been reclaimed from the sea, we were at one point driving along the original dyke wall. For as far as the eye could see where once water now forest, fields and dwellings. Amazing engineering when you think about it.

Anyway, this isn’t a travel blog. I’ve a thought to pass on picked up from a meeting in Manchester Thursday evening:
‘Don’t judge my story
By the chapter
You walk into!’.

For a woman I was with today whose story I was invited to read, Respect. Never judge her, nor pity her either.

Looking Up?

Elf Cups

Now is the time to look up. Literally. Not because there are black clouds gathering with threat of rain chasing you off high places for shelter lower down. For many good reasons rising eyes from the ground and above the horizontal is advised. While, of course, glancing down, to step safely.

Walking with eyes down cast. Sitting with eyes down cast. Standing looking into a ‘device’ all have an impact both mentally and physically. And this morning as I prepare for a walk around Stocks Reservour in the Bowland Forest I’m thinking of ‘aiming up’. Meaning I’ll be raising my eyes above the level of the horizon, frequently. Not just because there are birds and wild fowl buzzing about. butterfly’s too. All interesting to be marveled at.

Nope its because raising my eyes is ‘uplifting’. Who would have thought it only takes look up to uplift oneself. Nothing more required. Well except for also remembering not to fly off (mentally) into the treetops and leave the rest of me behind, dangling unknowingly nowhere in particular. Better stay back with that which is the rest of me!

No thrills, no spills.

Mabel Sit!

Ah Mabel. Yesterday a photo call by the milky white waterfall in the aptly named Sourmilk Gill above Grasmere.

I’ve know Mabel since she was a wee pup. She just turned three years March 1st and is as lively as ever and loves the lakes almost as much as I do. Whatever the weather, wetter the better for her.

I’ve traveled this path about four times in the last year and as I walked this time memories swam in and out. In my mind walks jumbled together along with the different companions, the walking conditions, stops to snack etc.

Memory snap-shots all jumbled out of sequence. And it maybe the out-of-sequence nature of memories generally that has me wondering just how much of memory is made up, unconsciously. Imaging, imagining, visualizing events and conversations so as to make sense of the jumble. Brains are brilliant at keeping us safe mentally and emotionally. But not necessarily accurate. As we know to our cost sometimes.

So my thought now is on what my teacher taught us. To remember to think when in contention, ‘I could be wrong’, or alternatively ‘I could be right’! An aid to nurturing humility and confidence, depending. All relative though.

Thanks to friends who tolerate my leaky memory. Wars are made of this! Careers are lost and broken because of this.

Plain outright fibs are another story. Mabel! Did you roll in Fox poo? Who me!

Memory Lost


A first for me on Saturday while walking up in the snow near Grasemere. Crampons! Wild looking devices and clearly they can do damage to both self and other when out of control. Not surprised to hear wearing them or not, needing them or not is a matter of debate when approaching snow. Perhaps that’s because they are ‘work’ to fix¬† onto the boot. Who knows. We watched a group making their way up to Fairfield, one chap used crampons a couple of others traction devices (mini spikes) and the majority stayed with ‘raw boot’!

I am reminded of being in Edmonton over ten years ago now. Snow, the sound of snow as boot lowers and raises. The quality of sound with varied ones according to the quality of snow and the temperature too. Do those memories sew my life together to make it a continuing story? Or are they simply snap shots stored away. A thread of a person moving through life. Yes, obviously. And in another sense she of five days ago, has died.

I’m thinking particularly about those who are suffering from memory loss, short-term memory loss which is so distressing and dimmed long-term memory too. I see on the face of those I visit the deep anguish in them as they struggle with, or give up on, their encounter with the outside world. Why is it you have come? she said. Are you giving a lecture here? Why are you here? No answer will satisfy because it’s forgotten instantly.

Errm, this reads a bit ‘random’. Happens to the best of us. Merit to those with random thoughts who are no longer able to string their life together. At all.