Be Aware the Bearer of News

Below is the start of a a short story in the New Yorker.  Gave me pause for thought. I’ll be noticing with more awareness when I am the bearer of bad news, or the bearer of good news for that matter. Enjoy. It’s quite funny actually.

On our kibbutz, Kibbutz Yekhat, there lived a man, Zvi Provizor, a short fifty-five-year-old bachelor who was given to blinking. He loved to convey bad news: earthquakes, plane crashes, buildings collapsing on their occupants, fires, and floods.

The King of Norway
By Amos Oz


Our Yesterdays Remembered

First published 2009. The ‘time came’ for the chap who sent me this photograph, he died this year. He left many gifts, especially his offering in Edinburgh to the Buddhist Sangha. Rawdon, you will not be forgotten.

West Allen Valley

What might I leave you
as a last gift when my time comes?
Springtime flowers,
the cuckoo singing all summer,
the yellow leaves of autumn.
Zen Master Ryokan, translated by Sam Hamill

In the 1960’s there was a TV programme called ‘All Our Yesterdays’ in which we saw what life was like 25 years previously. Mostly it was black and white newsreel footage from WW2, if I remember correctly.

This picture was taken twenty five years ago in 1982. The priory, as it was then, was switching gears from being a lay retreat center to growing into what it is now, a full training monastery with a continuing guest programme. The chap who sent me the photograph, along with many others who read this, played an important part in the growth and development that has taken place over the years. Here is an opportunity to say thank you.

And the poem? I found it today in the monastic alms box. That’s a place we can put religious items for others to pick up and use, I thought you’d like it.


Xmas card from my father, 1988!

Amazing! A christmas card sent to me by my father here at Throssel in 1988. It brought tears to my eyes to see his writing, almost illegible but all the same…what a gift. Holiday cards thought to be worth recycling are kept for future use in a box in the ‘project room’. I don’t think we even had one back 30 years ago! All those years this box has been shift about, buried and yet kept.

A few weeks ago the monk in charge of the projects room discovered this card and realizing it was sent to me years ago, gave it back. I was absolutely delighted. What did he say?

My dear H,

Happy Christmas holiday and new year. Hope you do not have to do too much cooking. (I was the cook at the time.)

Hope the Black Hole is not sitting on your back – anyway it is nearly Black Hole Day – 21st December. Winter Solstice which is far more important than Xmas to me.

We are nearly over our flu, but for a short time it does take it out of you. Just today your mother has noticed and you can see and feel the callous in her arm so it must be joined by now! (she broke her collar-bone in the summer).

Sorry that Mr. Cook is so ill. (Parkinson’s). Only hope that he doesn not have to suffer too long. Trust that you will get to see him and Mrs. Cook.

Love Daddy,

What a gift!


Trig Pillars

Trig Pillar on the moors above Throssel.

A testament to surveyors of the past
Although 6,500+ trig pillars were built, hundreds have been lost to housing developments, farming, coastal erosion and other causes. The vast majority follow the standard Hotine design, but some are stone built, and in Scotland there are some ‘Vanessas’ which are taller, cylindrical concrete pillars.

You can only imagine how hard it was for surveyors of the past to not only map Britain, but to also locate sites for trig pillars and carry the materials to remote sites to then build the trig pillars too.

It’s a true testament to their skills that such an accurate map of Britain was created from such humble beginnings as the trig pillar 80 years ago.

Ordinance Survey Blog A history of the Trig Pillar

There is something special about our Trig points in Britain to the point of fond (perhaps sentimental) affection. We love to go and visit them, some people even ‘bag’ them in the same way others ‘bag’ mountain tops. Because Trigs are located in high places the views on a clear day are 360 degrees of unincumbered Britain. Today we could see the Cheviots to the north and in all directions we had crystal clear views. It was a fun walk with fellow monks and Brenda Bear came too, named after Brenda Birchenough a fond friend in the Dharma.

With thoughts for those whose day is not clear or bright, whose view is limited and who are alone, and not by choice.

Is That Not Enough?

This was first posted late December 2009 and links in with yesterdays post, ‘Everybody has to be somewhere’.   (There were a lot of good comments added to this post by the way.)

Taken on a sunny afternoon above Ambleside in the Lake District while on a walk.
 For most of my early adult life I looked for a purpose. A purpose to life, for living. Returning after my first retreat here at Throssel it occurred to me that I didn’t need to think about having a purpose any more. It was not that I had found a purpose. I did however wonder if I had and what it might be but nothing came to mind. No it was simply that I didn’t need to concern myself about a purpose for living any more. It was such a relief.

We hear of people in extremity who derive meaning, or purpose to live from simple things. For example I heard of a girl in a concentration camp who left behind, for she died in the camp, a diary. In it she recorded how each day she glimpsed a tree and it was this tree that kept her going and gave meaning to remaining alive.

Another story is of a Korean woman incarcerated for something she had not done. Each day the guards would take her out and beat and abuse her. Each day she did her walking and sitting meditation and, she wrote, I am free!

What is it that sets us free to simply live? Free as the tree to spread its branches and send its roots deep into the earth. To have our leaves turn brown in autumn and fall off and then to bud and blossom when the sun warms us. We are not plants, we are however filled with life. Is that not enough?

An after thought. At a certain time when I was almost at the end of reasonable life options I met a person who must have seen something in me. Anyway, he most seriously advised me to learn to meditate. And I couldn’t but take notice of him, he was in earnest. I distinctly remember him saying, It doesn’t matter where you do that, under a tree for example! So there you have it a link between trees and meditation