April brought clear and lovely weather and so people started coming again. The 3 day Silent Spring Retreat was attended by seven experienced participants and both monks. The big thing this year was that Rev. Phoebe had proposed that we try to stay away from words even more than through just not talking by also not reading in the private times. This met with some surprise and resistance at first – but when rev. Phoebe also made available paper and pencils it was not long before pictures started to appear. It was pleasant to sit together in silence and use the other side of the brain for a bit, and those who were happy to share their pictures did so. Of course we did have a dharma talk every day, and in the mornings between meditation periods we took a longish walk in the dry river bed and on the hills to see the wonderful wild flowers.
Our work days have seen many helping hands and good progress is being made on brush and weed clearing, as well as the taking down and processing of a couple of dead trees on the property. We are not done yet and invite anyone to come join us on these mornings. Work mornings end with a meditation period before lunch and a Dharma Talk after.
The first Sunday of May was the Buddha’s Birthday ( Wesak) and we had a smallish group of people here for the Saturday evening ceremony, where we read about the Buddha’s Life together. On Sunday morning we woke up to rain, which turned to snow during morning meditation. Several of the guests decided to leave before there was a chance of getting stuck on the pass, but a few stayed. The snow did not fall very heavily, and to our delight at exactly 11am several cars drove in. A group of people who meditate together in Claremont ( they have been here before on day retreats) came, and some of our regulars. Because they were disappointed to have missed the meditation, we did a short period before rev. Phoebe gave a delightful Dharma talk. After the Wesak Ceremony and taking turns to ring the Bell 108 times we walked out to the Stupa with our flower offerings. By then the sun was out and it turned into a lovely day, with a splendid potluck lunch. The back field was awash with blue-purple wild Bluebells, interspersed with yellow Goldenbush and Mustard and orange Fiddlenecks.
Our usual grocery shopper, Dee, has been incapacitated for a while now with the effects of surgery, and so the monks are doing shopping from time to time. We are even more appreciative of how much time and effort this takes and are sending blessings to those who help with keeping the temple provided in this way by asking what we can use before coming up for a visit or retreat!!
Al Cruz’ grave marker was delivered by a very friendly shipper who helped rev. Phoebe put the stone in place and then stood there with her, exchanging stories about friends who have passed. Thanks to the military to provide these beautiful markers.
One day in May rev. Seikai was sitting down in his room when he looked up and realized most of the view was taken up by something large and black. It was a smallish black bear who wandered over to the Quan Yin fountain in front of the house and settled in for a soak. The fountain basin used to be a bath tub, so it was not an outrageous idea. The bear was very careful and did not disturb the fountain or bird bath, and stayed in the water, enjoying himself, while rev. Seikai stood looking at him from about 20 feet away. Once the bear walked away we have not seen signs of him since. Unfortunately no camera was present, so there are no pictures.
We have had 2 homing pigeons for several days each, sometimes these birds get lost and need to rest for a while. We try to give them what they need and hope they don’t get in trouble with the local hawks while they recover.
We have a good garden again after a one year hiatus in 2016. Rev. Seikai has returned to gardening – he was the monastery gardener at Shasta Abbey for many years – and has filled up the “glass house” and the “green house” with vegetables. Leafy green in particular have been plentiful: chard, spinach and lettuce. Eggplant and tomatoes have been raised from seed and planted, and are waiting for warmer weather to flower and set fruit. We are hoping to get some beans and squashes: really late frosts thru the end of May have made that a challenge. Meanwhile there are also arugula, beets, carrots, green onions and cilantro doing fairly well. Over the winter we received 20 inches of rainfall, which is a very high total for our valley and this has brought about a resurgence of our ornamental gardens, trees and shrubs which had been struggling over the past five years of drought. Of course the wildflower display this year has been spectacular.
Copies of Rev. Seikai’s book are available at the temple, or you can email us to send you one. This is a dana book, meaning it has no fixed price and one is free to make a donation to the temple of any amount.