Ode to Brian

Brian is our postman; he works for the Royal Mail and wears a snappy uniform. We see him driving his little red van all over the valley and he always waves when he passes one of us out for a walk. He probably waves to everybody he sees, it might be part of the job. This time of year he arrives later than usual, perhaps two hours later. There’s obviously more post to deliver around Christmas and New Year. He has been our postman for as long as I can remember, he is almost part of the family now. I noticed that there was a greetings card marked ‘Brian’ set out with the mail; I guess somebody will post it to him in person.

This is the way of things in rural England. The postman (or woman) is a life-line especially for people living in out of the way places like our valley. For many people the postman is the only person they will see in a day. I knew a woman in South Wales who baked every morning for the postman and entertained him daily with tea and jam tarts, amazing! So this is not just a person who delivers a fist full of letters and the odd parcel and leaves, oh no. Postage stamps can be ordered, paid for and delivered next day, medical prescriptions can be delivered and frequently are. On some rural routes there is a Post Bus which delivers mail and ferries people to the local town. What a service! For years we even had two delivers each day, mid-day and evening.

Hand written letters and cards with personal greetings are a treat to receive. So I’d better get stuck into writing some more before it’s time to turn in. Reaching out doesn’t take a lot however it can carry meaning far beyond what one might imagine, for example the card from America from my dear niece. I walked down the yard casually reading the return address on the back of the envelope. Karen? Who’s this from? I don’t know a Karen in America do I? Oh Yes, this time of year reminds me that I do still have relatives and however distant they may be; they still have a place in my life.

The Royal Mail has been around for ever. At the bottom of our lane we have a mail box set into a stone wall. The opening is just too small to accept a CD case, so no joy there. However the last pick up is 5.15 pm which is really handy as that mail could be delivered in London next morning. It’s an antique judging from the inscription. Modern boxes have ER (for Elizabeth Regina) molded into the cast iron, this one has GR. George I’d guess, George Rex. Too bad we didn’t have a King called Brian!

Empty House

Packing up, sorting out, throwing away, the ghosts of the past now caught in a moment of time. I did it for my parents after my dad died, packed up their life together. Sold it, burnt it, put out for the bin men, gave away, sent to auction. and finally their home was sold.

Iain, who I traveled with in Japan last year, is back in England sorting out his parents home. He has interesting insights on things left behind.

The First Post

Here is an extract from an email I received. It is published with permission.

I read with much interest and appreciation your recent diary entries, “Contemplations 1 – 4”. I have watched two people close to me die – a good friend who died young from Cystic Fibrosis and my Mother, who died 12 and a half years ago, from various lung diseases. She died at home in her own bed with her family around her. I sat with her as her world closed in until taking the next breath was all and everything, until finally even that was given up. On that afternoon in early May, some hours before she died, she was extremely weak but she found the enough energy to haul herself out of bed and pull herself upright at the window sill and look out over the blossom trees that bordered the fields behind the house and call out I want to see the spring again, I don’t want this to be the last spring. These were more or less her last words. She died relatively peacefully about eight hours later. Almost a year to the day after her death I found myself in Canada sitting in a beautiful park close to Niagara Falls (my one and only Canadian visit). I was alone and sitting on a park bench doing nothing really except contemplating two large splendid cherry trees in full blossom. Without thinking I just knew I was looking at those trees with their radiant white blossom through my Mother’s eyes (at least there seemed to be no me in the seeing) – she loved cherry blossom. It lasted the fleetest of moments.

So she did see another spring; and I feel she always will see and be part of each and ever spring.

Thanks Tim, and I am delighted to see your blog with the first posting published just moments ago. From The Edge of Europe A diary of Life in Kosova. It comes hot off the press and faster than it took to post a handful of cards at the local post office.


I managed to get out for a longish walk this afternoon however by 3.00 pm the sun was nearly behind the hill, sinking fast towards Alston in the next valley.

In practice we talk about climbing up the trunk of the tree and being careful not to stray off along a side branch. As you can see from this tree, once on a branch it is just so easy to get lost in the maze of little branches leading in every direction.

So how does one go directly. Climb the tree, so to speak, and not waste time exploring this that and the other thing? During an introductory talk recently I found myself constantly bringing the focus of the talk to ‘returning’. Simply returning. One could say it is to the trunk, the fundamental, that one returns having noticed oneself dangling dangerously from a twiggy branch, waving in the wind.

Side branches have their place in practice, helping to reestablish where the trunk is, however I’d advise against lots of side trips if you can avoid them.

In one of our scriptures are the following words, which relate to the above.

The absolute upright holds within itself,
Many phenomena within it’s own delicate balance,
Both function rest reside within.
Lo! Hear! Set up not your own standards.

Tomorrow is mid-Winters day, the shortest day of the year in terms of day light. Have a good one. It will be summer before we know it!

The Beckoning Cats

Around about this time of year back in 2002 the late head of our Order came to Cornwall where I was living at the time. He, along with another monk I work closely with, stayed in a cottage and talked business. We talked business every morning for a week. In the afternoons the late head of our Order wrote and polished his book, Buddhism from Within, sat at a table in my trailer. He worked incredibly hard. Little did he know he would be dead within three months, of lymphoma.

During that week we had wonderful lunches cooked by our host and, with him, set the wheels in motion to establish a charity for the OBC in England, the OBC Activities Trust. (On Monday I missed the AGM of the charity held near Manchester due to more pressing matters here in the monastery. ) Towards the end of our week together we visited a village, it could have been Newlyn, and these cats caught my eye.

Today, a beautiful crisp sunny day, I’d intended to treat you all to some photographs of the monastery clothed in a white coat of frost. However more pressing matters had me driving out of the valley, and when I got back the clouds had already covered the sun. They say we are in for more ‘weather’ in the next few days. Before I left I did manage to catch a quick shot of our cat, Smudge, in the window of the Novices Common Room.

Smudge and tree, with reflection of a Buddha. There is the cult of the Beckoning Cat which you may know about. It’s has an interesting monastic cat origin.

Written in loving memory of Rev. Master Daizui and our day out in Cornwall, one cold and frosty morning in 2002. And in gratitude for those meals, and so much more too.