Snow Slowly Going

While snow melts from the rooves….
it still accumulates.
And on the lawn infront of the Hall of Pure Offerings….
the benches are full. (this photo by Maria & published with pride).

These photographs were taken a few days ago and kindly sent to me via email. Here in Kirkby Stephen it has warmed up considerably, and thankfully. The task I am here for is almost completed. On Wednesday I’ll be able to see first hand how things are at the monastery. Apparently the gutters are suffering under the weight of the icicles.

Guest Post – Up Against It

This is what came out when I set to writing. It’s not what I expected but it’s what came…Karen.

I have an altar in my bedroom; an altar that one might politely say is more in the ‘Chinese style’ than the Japanese. It has a Buddha, once white, long since painted gold but with the original colour creeping out around the toes and edges of His flowing robes.

The Buddha stands on an old turquoise gift box, the type you buy to send shirts, or hats and scarves to fathers, sons, brothers, husbands…. It is turquoise because it is a favourite colour of mine, it is the colour of the lay minister’s small kesa and also because it matches the room. It has an incense burner that could use a little TLC in the cleaning department, a stylised lotus flower in a glass bowl, also turquoise, a large ceramic vase, once again turquoise that appeared after a friend had stayed in the room overnight and which, after due deliberation, I decided to leave there, a wedding invitation which, once received, I placed as an offering of future peace and happiness for the bride and groom, a remembrance day poppy, a text that I purchased from the Throssel Hole bookshop many years ago, which states Dogen’s teaching ‘When the opposites arise, the Buddha Mind is lost’ (the latter two items both fall into the category ‘lest I forget’), a copy of The Kyojukaimon (also ‘lest I forget’) and a photograph, in a pewter and turquoise frame, of my husband David and me.

There is no water offering on the altar, a fact that, as I write, I am slightly puzzled by, until I remember that there always used to be one before life became so spectacularly ‘interesting’! I recall the thought and the subsequent decision that willing as I was to accept this latest offering, from the Universe, into my ‘fathomless begging bowl’, I simply didn’t have the time to ‘deal with all that’ and be topping up water offerings and keeping them clean and free from limescale, so I replaced the goblet with a large gold and turquoise pendant, a colour co-ordinated jewel at the Buddha’s feet!

Now, whilst I could be commended for my pragmatism, I’m fairly certain that my thinking was a little ‘out’. For beautiful and awe inspiring though the Buddha jewel is, it cannot be fully seen, experienced and appreciated without the constant flow of the water of compassion. Deciding to ‘set it aside’ at any time has to be a mistake but to do this when we are ‘really up against it’ is surely a recipe for disaster and ‘up against it’ is how I would describe life for the past three years, since my husband David became seriously ill.

So, this is why I write, to turn the wheel of the Dharma, to let compassion flow by telling the story of life with David. It is a life both unique and very ordinary. It is our own but not unlike yours, I am sure. It has its highs and it has its lows, it pain, its joy and it is abundant in its daily opportunities to train with a bright mind and an open heart.

These are my first thoughts and there will be more but first I am off to get the goblet from the cupboard and make my offering.

Karen and her husband are long time congregation members and lay minister within our Order. I look forward to more articles, hope you do too.

Wind, Water, Ice On – Shetland

Loch of Drigeo Shetland New years Day 2010, wind blown water over the frozen loch. By Didgykev

I find this short video most appealing. Hope you enjoy it too. Kevin who is something of an expert on all matters Didgeridoos, is a regular Jade reader and Throssel congregation member. He recently moved from the North East of England with his wife and young son up to Shetland. That’s and island very much north of the mainland of Scotland. By all accounts it sounds like a great place to be.

Meanwhile where I am, it is cold. Sub zero this morning. There is a quality to snow, about walking on it, at around -9 or -10 that has me transported into being impossibly jolly. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, the light reflected off the snow is blinding, the air is simply…crisp! Wonderful! But I’m alone in my jolliness and I must remember to tone it down. People in Britain just don’t appreciate deep coldness. I learned to love and respect deep cold in Edmonton during a couple of winters there.

Gradually the house move I am helping with is taking shape. Iain of Little House In The Paddy, whose house move this is, writes about Clearing a path up the back yard. House moving is a high stress business and this weekend is the final push to get all the furniture moved in. Weather permitting.

Long time readers may remember that Iain escorted me during my travels in Japan and China back in 2005. He has just posted on, and about, perhaps the most beautiful section of British motorway where the road passes up along the edge of the Lake District. That section of the M6 should be filmed and set to music…especially when white with snow. Tomorrow I drive south with Iain through that beautiful valley. Perhaps I will manage to take a photograph as we go.

Let Us All Be Careful Out Here

A thought for all those people caught up in the drama of the severe weather here in England. My huge sympathies for the hardship it is causing so many people. I’d hope we, collectively, can maintain a level of walking forward, looking up and generally acting in a way that keeps everybody safe.

My, now about to be disclosed, location is Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. There is not that much snow here although bitterly cold. The current project is…to get out of where I am now, sitting on the floor of a guest house room. Walk down the very icy street, calling in at the Spar shop to top up my mobile phone with air time – and buy some vegi. And then make my way to the house where I am cleaning and painting walls, and shifting stuff in preparation for furniture to be moved into next week-end. Weather permitting.

Sometimes I end up helping people, in this case a person who studies with me, in very practical ways….and gladly done.

Let’s be careful out there.

Asking The Bell to Ring

Chion-in Temple in Kyoto, Japan on New Year’s Eve is home to an amazing New Year’s Eve scene: 17 monks ring the largest bell in Japan 108 times.

Within our tradition we too ring the bell 108 times at the start of the New Year. Our bells are considerably smaller than the one seen in the video. Apparently the last cry (heard on the video) before the bell is actually struck goes something like, Ring Out!, or Sound!

We have started to NOT talk about the weather…it is THAT bad! And I will be away across the Pennines tomorrow. I hope to continue to post from my, as yet, undisclosed location.