-10c as we drove over the hill to Allendale this morning. Freezing fog had left delicate tracings on grass, reed and bare twig. On the top road, high above the fog, all frosty whiteness to Scotland. Near the Health Center a Hazel Contorta, and how I wish I’d my camera with me, the frost configured into dramatic spikes jutting out horizontally from the tangle of twisted branches. Everywhere, cold! Everywhere white. Everywhere gloomy-bright.

-6c as I journey this afternoon to the other town claiming to be the geographical center of Britain. Haltwhistle. Pick up a 70 year old congregation member for the New Year festivities. I hope I’m as bright and positive at that age with as little, but not destitute, as she has. Las Vegas USA in the early 1960’s, reads Thomas Merton’s Asian Journals. Life changing. And since then, changes….

Brrr, it’s going to be cold as the year changes. Happy New Year, when it comes.

Religious Practice For The Whole Family

This last couple of months we’ve made a regular routine of reciting the ‘Sandokai’ together at our home altar after breakfast and we’ve been touched by Tora’s evident interest in what is going on. Soon after we begin saying the scripture he comes and sits beside us and often adds a few ‘meows’ of his own.

Felix religiosus? Iain of Little House in The Paddy ponders on the motives behind his cats behaviour. Great photograph of Tora too.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Allendale Baal (Barrel) fire ready for the off at midnight on New Years Eve.

Allendale Town. New Years Eve. Men with lighted tar barrels on their heads parade through the streets in the Tar Barrel Ceremony. Yes, the barrels are on fire! The the Baal fire in the center of town, where cars usually park, is lit. (Melting the tarmac perhaps?!!) People come from far and wide to watch. Then they go home to bed.

We on the other hand have no bonfire, or tar barrels. Sit and meditate from about 7.30 pm. Before midnight everybody may offer incense and make three bows of gratitude for the past year. Have a sedate ceremony at midnight. Afterwords everybody is given an apple or cake, or similar. Make three more bows asking for help in the coming year. We then strike the big bell a total of 108 times and go to our beds.

New Years Eve can bring on the melancholy (defined as thoughtful sadness) like nobodies business. Years ago that was the case for me. Now? By the time 1.00 am comes I’m just tired.

Where ever you are to welcome in the New Year, take care.

Aspire To Play


This water colour is by one of the monks, inspired by a ceiling painting in the Dunhuan caves. Interestingly enough the flying being is called an aspara. I’d like to think that she/he are there to help bring about an aspiration to play. In fact I’ve been pondering on the subject of play. That’s the merits of, the necessity of, the simple good fun of and above all, the release that play brings about. I’m talking about the spirit of play one sees in children and animals and sometimes in adults.

A thought I have of play, or image more like, is of a mumma Grizzly Bear seen in Montana sliding down a mountains side on her back with her cub on her belly. …and then climbing back up and doing it all over again, and again and again! And another image of a grizzly, not so into extreme sports, spotted on her back with front claws entwined with back claws, rocky back and forth, back and forth. Perhaps her teenage cub watched on thinking, Dah?

The above events were described in True Grizz by Doug Chadwick. An engaging book about Grizzly Bears in and around Glacial National Park, Montana.

Postings may be a bit patchy for a few days.

Rise Up And Greet The Dawn

This was painted by a good friend in the Dharma for the original Jade Mountains website, circa 2003.

*Rise up!
Rise up and greet the dawn.

Step out!
Step out and the Great Earth,
Leaps joyfully.

Walk on!
Walk on and forget…

It is said that the Great Earth is the foundation of gratitude and refers to the fundamental ground of Everything.

*This piece first appeared on April 11th 2005 with the title The green mountains are forever walking.