Being There

Here is somebody giving voice to what I experienced for so many years as a novice monk. I remember standing waiting for the moment to unscrew a light bulb in a lantern, all the while knowing I’d burn my fingers.

For the Birds

Since I am pointed at birds at the moment I thought I’d share these two photos taken in Montana in 2004 and 2001. The bear was after some fat in a feeder. It did climb up into the tree and afterwards it hung around the garden picking fruit and eating compost until it was eventually sent on its way. Such excitement!

That’s a Kanzeon statue on the feeder. The cat loved to perch there, thus ensuring birds wouldn’t!

Somebody left a comment yesterday asking that merit be transfered to the very many birds dying in Europe as a consequence of Bird Flu. I offered incense for them this morning at the Kanzeon Altar. Feel free to join in the offering of merit.

I’ve been in homes where there is an altar specially set up for remembering animal friends who have died. Performing a short ceremony to remember the creature can be helpful for children and adults alike. On the altar mentioned there was a veritable ‘farm yard’ of animals placed in rememberance. Perhaps I’ll buy a little bird for our Kanzeon Altar.

IT Happened

Edmonton woke this morning to twelve inches of snow. We have been out shoveling. As I understand it you can incur a fine for not removing the snow from the pavement in front of your house. Not a hardship for me to be out playing with the snow, I’ve been waiting for this since late October!

This morning, gazing out of the kitchen window at the wonderful white world I noticed a bird trying to land on the feeder. Of course I went out and removed the snow…and then refrained from loitering by the window waiting for the birds to arrive. Bird feeders can become like televisions, one can’t keep ones eyes of them.

I was here five years ago reminded by the flocks of birds swooping around the houses and trees. Together they make a distinctive sound, more than your average twitter. Something between a twitter and a squeak. There was snow on the ground then, lots of it. The people I stayed with put wood screws in the bottom of my shoes, now I have some fancy traction devices called ‘Yak Tracks’. Fine on snow but a disaster on the polished floors at Staples!

Yes, it is good that IT has happened at last, winter is not winter without some accumulation of the white stuff.

Passing Times

Somebody wrote to me and reffered to the article on altars published on February 23rd.

“…it is deeply humbling to know that the ‘baggage’ (that comes with this anniversary) does have a place, and that place is on the altar. There are times when the willingness to make the offering is everything, yet how easy it is to forget that”.

Birthdays, death-days, monastic anniversary days, my Master’s ordination-day, Remembrance Day, public holidays in honour of…well the list goes on. There are the big landmark birthdays: twenty-one, fifty seventy-five. In our tradition we have a ceremony on New Years Eve. After it we have our version of ringing in the New Year. Everybody gets a chance to ring the great bell, 108 times in total.

The abbot rings the bell first and thereafter all those who will be 7, 25, 45, or 60 in the coming year ring the bell once then everybody else follows. These numbers are regarded as the significant religious years in a person’s life. Seven is the end of the age of innocence. Twenty-five marks the start of adulthood and the end of what are called the ‘green years’. Forty-five is said to be the beginning of wisdom. And then there is age sixty, the ‘seeing of the mountain to ascend’. I take that to mean ones life is naturally turning inward after a life of service. A chance to take stock, see the mountain and ascend. I was at Shasta in the year I turned forty-five and rang the great bell after my Master.

Then there are the other anniversary dates that mark a life changing event, or world changing event: a trauma, an accident, a surgery, the day you fell in love, or got a divorce…the list goes on. During my life I’ve had a few anniversary dates that would have me wondering if something bad would happen this year. Eventually the memories faded and other dates became anniversaries, which in turn faded with the passing years.

Because it was snowing yesterday I watched “Life is Beautiful” (1999) with Roberto Benigni, instead of going to the park I’d intended to visit. The film is a skilful coverage of the Holocaust full of love, humour, compassion and human resilience in the face of crushing circumstances. This is a film well worth revisiting, again and again.

Uh! And did you know today is Mardi Gras, the final day of the famous carnival season in New Orleans? Yes, six months after Hurricane Katrina people in New Orleans have been dancing in their streets.

Latter in the message mentioned earlier:
“There’s nothing quite like an anniversary for tipping the balance and pulling the rug from under the feet”.

Yes, indeed I know that one. And our human resilience has us back on our feet again. Dancing!