This has been a challenging winter weather-wise, beginning with fierce Santa Ana winds in December, which fanned the Thomas Fire into a conflagration, the largest fire in the history of California, which consumed over 700 private residences. The temple was not affected by the fires, other than the fact that Highway 33 was closed for a period of time, necessitating a longer trip to get to the cities of Ventura and Ojai from here. The fire was followed immediately by a heavy rain which caused massive damage along the coast, particularly in the town of Montecito, adjacent to Santa Barbara. That heavy rain storm in early January has been the only really significant storm this winter. Only now, in March, have we gotten more measurable rain—putting off, perhaps, the onset of drought conditions, which were interrupted by last year’s very wet winter. Such is life in California.
This winter has also been one of the worst flu seasons in several years. Rev. Seikai became ill during the last week of December, and it took a full two months for him to completely recover from it, the bronchitis form of flu. The monks had a relatively restful month of January in the midst of all the conditions bearing upon us.
The end-of-year meditation retreat went well this year, and our small group enjoyed the quiet and their time together. We welcomed in the new year with a ceremony on the evening of the 31st, followed by the festival honoring Maitreya Buddha, the incoming future Buddha, on January 1.
In February, Rev. Phoebe traveled to New York at the invitation of the Buddhist Insights NYC group, led by the Theravada monk Bhante Suddhaso. Rev. Phoebe gave a Thursday evening public talk and then led a weekend retreat from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon. Both events were pretty well attended, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for Rev. Phoebe to return and lead another retreat, which tentatively is planned for this coming November. Whilst in New York, Rev. Phoebe was given a tour of some of the sights: parts of Manhattan, the Museum of Modern Art, the Cloisters—and, of course, the New York subway system. The Buddhist Insights group rents a building on Long Island just outside of Brooklyn. Rev. Phoebe loves to travel and this is a perfect way for her to share some of her wisdom with others.
On March 9 we welcomed James Ford and his wife Jan for a visit. James is a well known Buddhist author who now lives in Long Beach after many years on the East Coast, where he also served as a Unitarian Universalist minister. James, who has the Buddhist ordination name Rev. Myoun, was originally ordained by Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett in 1970. He is currently working with a newly-formed chapter of the Boundless Way Zen organization located in Long Beach. We discussed the possibility of their group holding a retreat at Pine Mountain Temple.
On March 14 Amanda Estremera received the Buddhist Precepts from Rev. Phoebe. Amanda has been visiting and attending retreats for two years; we offer Amanda our congratulations and welcome her as a member of our congregation. She was accompanied by her fiancé, Dan; they are planning a wedding ceremony for this coming summer, to which they have invited Rev. Phoebe to officiate.
We hired our roofer and general handyman, Ryan Self, and his crew to enclose the front entrance of the Sangha House to make a coat room. We already had the window, left over from a job many years ago. The crew also rebuilt the roof of the patio, replacing the roof joists and the shade cloth, making the entire thing stronger and good for several more decades of use. These guys work really hard and we are grateful for their work on these two upgrades.