Robes Are For Life

There is quite a lot of wear and a huge tear in the robe I’m mending for one of the monks at the moment. I really enjoy the challenge. The cuffs, hem, collar and under arms are the most vulnerable areas for fraying and ripping. Sometimes material from a hem can be cut out and used to make a new collar thus giving the robe literally years more usable life. But one can only go so far. A hem can only be mended so many times before the whole thing is too short, cuffs likewise. Then there are stains to deal with. Oil, grease of any kind and paint are the worst although bleach stains, in the wrong place, can spell the end without any question.

When one wears the same thing day in and day out it’s hard to retire it. My late Master would say with a kindly chuckle, You can take loyalty too far you know, when she’d see a monk walking about in robes well past retirement age. As a young monk I’d mend and patch for the senior monks who were too busy to do it themselves. I knew they would wear what they had into threads and when caught early enough I could extend its life considerably. However those older monks would take a lot of convincing when the moment really had come to hang up that robe for the last time. The one I’m dealing with at the moment will be good for a few more years when I’ve finished with it. Hurrah!

I’m thinking of robes because they are so closely associated with their inhabitants. After my Master died, eleven years ago to the day, I inherited one of hers. Having remade it to fit me, I wear it. Sometimes I think I wear it for her. When it’s time has come though I’ll be washing windows with it. You can take loyalty too far!

All is Well Here

I left Telford Buddhist Priory at 9.00 am yesterday and arrived at Throssel around 4.00 pm. That’s travelling by car then train and car again. This morning I felt like I was under a train, at least! The impact of covering distances at speed, even slow speed in yesterdays case, cannot be ignored any longer. Perhaps there has always been this pain, this road/rail lag as I think of it. Now with a few extra years on the clock, and hopefully less of a tendency to bash on, I’m giving myself permission to stay with it. That’s to stay with the basic pain and allow all systems to re-calibrate, which happens in due time and with adequate rest.

All the same, and in spite of the pain, it is good to be out and about. In Germany a lay woman asked a question at a gathering about a certain consciousness of being around monks and her noting the difference. She was wondering aloud if one was ‘better’ than another, while at the same time knowing in her gut that there wasn’t. This is a conundrum that frequently befalls the seriously minded, lay and monastic. There’s many ways to answer but all I could come up with was that most of the time I don’t have an awareness of being a monk. Also I don’t think, ‘I’m now talking to a lay practitioner’, or a monk. The contact is more direct than that. What ever exactly I said it seemed to strike home. There is a difference in appearance of course. Robes and a shaved head are still how a monk appears in the world. However there is something deeper than how any of us appear.

Yesterday I travelled in what we call town clothes. We do that when it seems wise to be incognito. From Manchester to Carlisle the carriage, the quite coach in fact, became markedly rowdy. Then at Preston the P.A. announced, due to staff shortages, that the buffet car was now closed. The flow of beer slowed, the mood took a decided dip and turned a bit nasty as well. At times like this I’m glad of trousers, tops, hat and coat to sit inside of.

Alighting (a lovely train term), alighting at Carlisle and leaving the station I came exceptionally close to the whiskers of a mounted police mans horse! There were perhaps four or five in all along with a wall of policemen and women on foot. That’s the closest I’d ever been to a police horse in my life. Even in demonstrations in the 1970’s the most we ever saw was a truncheon. No guns and horses, if there were any, would be hanging back in a side street. What about us? I announced to an officer on foot as we passengers were being ushered firmly towards awaiting coaches, parked in readyness to transport the visiting football fans. The police ranks broke and I popped out into Carlisle town and was soon loaded into a waiting car and driven home

Just 24 hours later and I’m sensing that systems are close to being back to normal and my ability to string words together is returning, somewhat.

A kind monk had left a welcoming card in my room. Welcome back home Rev. Master Mugo, All is well here. Yes, all is very well here, within and without.

Images from Germany 1

I had a plan. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked. So here are random photographs, rather than organized ones. They were taken while visiting one of our temples in the Black Forest in Germany. It is good to be back on the blogging trail once again.

This was too hard to resist. Bad means bath, this is a spar town, with baths.

Black Forest Gateaux.

The autumn colours were at their height and the forest was easily accessible. I was able to amble in the afternoon sunshine.

Bad Teinach

In this part of the Black Forest there are small wooden huts everywhere. A hut fanciers paradise if ever there was one. This hut next door to the temple is in poor repair, most are immaculate.