Category Archives: Out and About

Driving Windscreen Wiping

Driving over the Pennines to Penrith. Driving on the M6 motorway. South to Preston Lancashire yesterday, back north this morning. In and out of Westmorland Services for coffee and scone. Listening to the car radio, Radio 4 exclusively. Whizzing along, passing lorries, cars passing me. Sometimes raining and sometimes foggy. Headlights on. Headlights off.

Then, getting back to the monastery, walking up the lane with my bags. Monks from A, or B, Team coming out of kitchen clean-up. Walking up the lane. Trees bare. Sky grey and low. Find my slippers in the gloom. Unpack. Place the donation envelope in the Alms Bowl. Put a receipt for petrol on the Bursars desk, for reimbursement. Secure it under the stapler to make sure it’s not lost. Return the satnav to the Bursars cupboard. (What a gem that gadget it.) Quick nap. Hunt up lunch from the kitchen fridge. Microwave. Eat while chatting with a visiting monk from the south.

Yes, it is good to get out and about. To connect up with old friends. To look in the window of peoples lives. To step inside and join them, for a short while. People doing their best to live the practice where they are. Proving the teachings true for themselves. Proving that it is possible to sit still in seemingly intolerable circumstances. To completely live now.

A hat tip to my hosts, and the offer of a brief peek into the window of my driving, windscreen wiping, life. Good to get out and about, and good to get back. And no doubt this is how life is for everybody.

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Over the Hills and Far Away

The woman behind the counter at Boots the Chemist had yellow fuzzy ears on. Owww! she said they do pinch. They’re giving me a head ache. I’ll ask them in the dispensary if they’ll give me something. All in a good cause though. It’s the BBC Children In Need fund raising day. Oh, and here’s a £2 off voucher for hair care products. I’d got my hat on but she knew I was a monk. Well sometimes you grow some, don’t you? Finally I agreed to accept the voucher and give it to somebody who could use it. At the electrical shop the man knew right away what size night-light bulbs I needed. The good people of Hexham know us through and through. I enjoy the familiarity of strangers, their kindness and their openness.

And later, after a Chinese lunch back at the monastery, back on the road again south to Harrogate. My chance to sample the tranquility of Northumberland. Perhaps however a tad more solitude than I’d intended having entered into yet another adventure with the TomTom satnav. Climbing up a thin ribbon of black, single track, tarmac out of Weardale I did wonder if this was the fastest or the shortest route I’d chosen. A distinction that is really important when it comes to travel in these parts. As the high moors opened in all their bleakness I’d have been glad of some familiarity of strangers, anybody even a sheep!

I last traveled this road over from Weardale to Teesdale on Good Friday 1990. I remember it well. I remember the stopping and opening and closing of gates, three of them this time! Even then the gates where potent symbols. I was on my way to Reading to be introduced into the ins and outs of running a small church, priory as we called them. That day marked a huge change, from living in the middle of moors to living in a notoriously rough housing estate. Thankfully I came to know that practice is not dependent on tranquil surroundings, I even came to see beauty in the litter blowing in the street.

A good friend is heading off for a big adventure tomorrow. I hope she experiences the kindness of strangers, and chooses the fastest route to return by. I’m still not sure if it was the fastest or the shortest route I took to Harrogate but it certainly gave me enough time and space to contemplate my friends adventure. In the end I chose not to say goodbye. Just good fortune.

To Leeds tomorrow for a day retreat and then back to the moors.

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Tourist Bewilderment Devices

Antony Gormley, the artist who produced the Angel of the North, photo above, is currently showing tourist bewilderment devices (TBDs) on roof tops in London…

The installation, called Event Horizon, consists of 31 sculptures cast from the artist’s own body. Gormley’s clone army will be placed atop buildings and public walkways in Westminster, Lambeth and Camden. Gormley told the BBC he wanted “to recognise that…over 50% of the human population on this planet now live within the city…a totally constructed humanly made environment and what that means.”

If you are in London there is an exhibition of Antony Gormley’s work, titled Blind Light, at the South Bank Center. The event ends August 19th.

See also Another Place, Crosby Beach, Liverpool.

Apparently in a documentary Antony Gormley indicated he has a background interest in Buddhism. I’m starting to warm to art in the landscape.

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Leaves Fest

Rarely do I pause and get up close to observe patterns, shapes and textures. Now these frost covered leaves, isolated and framed, show their delicate beauty. In each frame dead leaves, with green life there also.

It’s been a good day. A walk up to the ‘trig’ point high up on the moor above the monastery. Mist covered the Tyne Valley floor and by afternoon we were enveloped in freezing fog. That too has its beauty.

Whether it is cold or blazing hot where you are, if you are alone or in company I hope you have had a good day. To be followed by many more good days.

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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!
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