Day 5

Lower Hamlet

(written on June 5th, 2012)

I had to scroll back in my writings to jot down the date – it’s easy to lose track of the days here.  It’s a warm, sunny lazy day.  Yesterday during the very long program in upper hamlet I had to part ways with Mike before saying good-bye since my shuttle was leaving, so I don’t know if he has plans to come down today or not.  I washed some mint before breakfast and then ate our standard morning fare of oatmeal and fruit.  Back in my room I ran into Clara and she and I spoke for 30-40 minutes, it was quite nice.  She has a most lovely accent and I find myself already picking up some other dialects in my own speech.  It is a bit daunting, most people speak at least 2 languages here and many more speak 3 or 4.  I see the inferiority complex clearly.

I’m sitting in the grass with Clara (see above picture) basking in the sun and listening to the sisters soft singing and strumming carrying on the breeze and an occasional frog calling out with a strange, saddened cry from near the lotus pond.  There are plum trees and cherry trees surrounding the hamlet and people are lounging about and chatting away with, as Thay says, nothing to do and no where to go.

(time elapses)

After lunch I was introduced to mulberries growing on a nearby tree.  They look like raspberries and taste a little like blueberries and are just starting to ripen.  Clara and I parted ways, she on a walk to town and me to my tent.  I had found a note clipped onto my tent this morning, it was from Mike.  We had briefly spoken about spending the night in the tent together on the night before lazy day but had made no real plans.  It turned out that he had come down to do so and since I did not know he was out there and he did not bring his sleeping bag he headed back to upper hamlet on the long walk around 11:00 at night.  I felt terrible for not thinking to look for him outside!  The night before I had went to bed early.  His note ended by saying: I am sorry I missed you but please don’t worry about my trek, you know how much I like an adventure.  (I’ll always keep the note and consider it a love letter).

(photo taken by Elisabeth Seland)

I’m wishing my body had fewer limitations (I have RSD, a nerve disease that I have chronic pain from, as well as a very recent diagnosis of endometriosis).  I would love to bike into town or upper hamlet or walk around the hillsides.  I wish I didn’t need to rest so much.  But I also see that I am still able to do a lot too.  Earlier Clara spoke to me about a worldly adventure she took by herself, traveling for 10 months visiting places like Cambodia, Borneo, Tibet, India, China and New Zealand.  Hearing some of her tales sparked a light in me.  I would love to do that, be a world traveler.  And she went on her own, a gift to herself for finishing her 2nd degree she said – how inspiring!  She took 25,000 pictures.

(time elapses)

The owl friends are busy here, always calling back and forth to each other.  The lotus pond is still.  Mike did not venture down today so instead I spent time with Clara, browsed the bookstore for gifts and rested in my tent.  I read, wrote and took some pictures.  It’s nice to have a day off.  And a little strange too.  I feel myself grasping internally and externally for somewhere to go, something to do.  I look up into the deep sky knowing that it is the same one that blankets Montana, and I feel the world grow a little smaller.

Lower Hamlet Bookstore

Day 4

Bell Tower in Upper Hamlet

(written on June 4th, 2012)

Another sunny day.  I slept through the night for the first time since leaving Montana and awoke at 5:32am.  My morning meditations have been very easy and today was no exception.  We sit for 30 minutes.  My body has felt at ease and when the bell sounds to end the sitting time I feel a little sad it’s over.  Usually early morning sitting meditation is very difficult for me.

After breakfast I washed some clothes.  Before arriving I wasn’t looking forward to hand washing my clothes but I found it a wonderful practice: filling up the plastic tub in the Cherry Barn with warm water and soap, connecting with the fabrics, scrubbing, rinsing, wringing, hanging to dry.  I thought about all of the people in the world who hand wash their clothes on a daily basis in the river.  I then readied myself to take the shuttle to upper hamlet for the dharma talk checking for my umbrella, notebook, camera, water bottle and mirror.

Thay’s dharma talk was incredibly long and very intellectual ending with a Q & A between the scientist from yesterday and Thay.  It went on for 3 1/2-4 hours.  The hall in upper hamlet is smaller than lower hamlet’s hall and some people have to sit in chairs outside next to speakers since not everyone fits indoors – it’s also more difficult to avoid the din of the jibber jabbering of translators.  It is quite lovely in upper hamlet, the grounds more spacious than in lower hamlet and there are lotus flowers in bloom on the small pond behind the hall.  The talk overloaded my brain and my body.  Intellectual buddhism does not hold my interest nearly as much as practical information but Mike loves it – we are a good pairing!

The following are some notes I took from Thay’s talk on June 4th:

“The mind is overloaded with fear and anger.  Meditation means to have the time to look deeply.  Knowledge is an obstacle to our mind, we need to know how to release it.  The second obstacle is afflictions.  We have to let go of one step to climb to the next step of a ladder.

Lightening the mind – touching the good seeds (within us).  We organize our life in such a way not to water the negative seeds that awaken negative mental formations and help them to grow.  Concentrate the mind, liberate the mind, calm down, look deeply and concentrate.

Contemplate impermanence.  We often understand on an intellectual level but we still act as though everything is permanent.  Produce not a notion but an insight.  

To get angry at your loved one, to escalate and make them suffer is stupid (laughter).  Close you eyes and picture them 300 years from now.  

Many of us suffer deeply running after objects of craving.  Like a fish, if they knew there was a hook in the bait it would not bite.  

We have afflictions because of our views of the world, birth and death, being and non-being.  We believe reality is separate from the mind but it cannot be.”

I skipped dinner and the evening program.  Exhaustion has found me.  Tomorrow is what is called a lazy day, no program or schedule to follow.  Last night after the evening program an ice cream truck, having finished with a party someplace they were called out for, decided to come by lower hamlet and offer us free gelato.  Having already eaten some wonderful french cookies I decided to pass, later regretting my decision to try french gelato.  Things become more exciting somehow when the word french is put in front of them – french countryside, french pastry, french skies, french cookies.  I don’t think it works that way with most other places, especially america.  American hillsides, american cuisine (blech), american sunrise.  Nope, doesn’t work at all.

Dharma Hall, Upper Hamlet


Day 3

Mike in the lower hamlet dharma hall

(written on June 3rd, 2012)

At about 10:30 last night the thunder and lightening scared me indoors.  I went into the Red Candle Hall, a little meditation room next to the office.  It rained much of the night, big fat drops.  A sister came into meditate in the dark of the early morning around 4:30 and I left quietly to take a shower.  After deliberation I decided I would move back into my room in Cherry House so as not to worry further about the weather.  After the morning program and breakfast I took a soggy walk with my hot pink umbrella to pick mint in the greenhouse.  Once I washed off the mint and arranged it in small glasses filled halfway with water to keep it fresh I went to the dharma hall and, against request from the sisters on our first night’s orientation, saved a seat for Mike next to me.  When Thay began to speak I realized that I had chosen a bad location as the many translators busy talking into their microphones made it almost impossible to hear.  The microphones are wired into translation boxes that folks can plug their headphones into and are available in dutch, french, spanish, vietnamese, italian, chinese, german and portuguese.

The following are some of the notes I took during Thay’s dharma talk on June 3rd:

“Can a cloud die?  Can it pass into the realm of being to non-being?  It is impossible for a cloud to die.  It is impossible for us to die.  Let us meditate on the birth of a cloud.  Birth and death are creations of the mind.  With a flame we can see the conditions for a flame to exist before we see it – oxygen, matchbook, our motion.  The little flame says: when conditions are sufficient I manifest, when conditions are not sufficient I manifest in a different way.  

We are not the same, we are not different (middle way).  When the wave sees she is water she is no longer afraid – she goes up and goes down.  We are made of thinking, speech and action, that is what a human is.  You cannot create energy, you cannot make it disappear, you can only transform it.  Interbeing is a wonderful word.  You cannot live by yourself alone.”

(time elapses)

The evening program is now in full swing.  We’re having tea, cookies and listening to songs from the lower hamlet families.  There have been songs in mandarine, dutch, german, russian, sufi and my eyes teared during a spanish song when an older man and a beautiful old italian woman (one of my roommates) held hands as they sang.  Tears fell too when a young woman (that I later nicknamed hot pink shoe girl for obvious reasons) sang a simple folk song written by her friends to which each line ended with, “now I’m coming home.”  I think of my Missoula often, my mountains, my friends, my sangha.  My smile shines for them.  Here in Plum Village I am both home and not home in the same breath.

Before coming to the hall for this program I sat with Clara (who’s also one of my roommates) and we shared about our snoring roommates (there are 3), feeling out of place in our assigned family groups and being emotional during this time of transition.  We laughed and laughed, it was such good medicine!

A woman who reminds me fondly of my aunt Patty keeps watching for the cookies to come back around the circle to take another one and I feel comforted to know I’m not the only one craving more sweets.

(time elapses)

Now in bed, it’s almost 10:00pm and the dark of night has not yet engulfed the light of dusk.  A pale and yellow full moon is rising across the fields.  I lie in bed writing by book light with my squishy ear plugs in.

Full moon rising

Yesterday there was an OI lunch (Order of Interbeing, of which I am a core member, for more info please see the About section of this blog) for the lower hamlet.  We introduced ourselves and were prompted to share a favorite dharma door (something we enjoy that helps cultivate our mindfulness practice) – my answer was smiling.  There were about 50 of us and it took quite a while to go around.  Today all of the hamlets lunched here and there was another OI lunch.  I didn’t want to go.  Mainly because I wanted time to rest in between lunch and the afternoon program.  And also because I don’t feel like I quite belong.  It’s a bit stuffy and formal for my taste.  I also wanted to eat with Mike.  He wound up stopping by where I was eating and since I was already growing impatient waiting for everyone to show up and start lunch I left with him and we went to the Wake Up lunch.  It felt refreshing to be with more like minds.  (Wake Up is a new off shoot in this tradition and is designed for young practitioners 18-35 years old, see for more info)  At the Wake Up lunch we were asked to introduce ourselves and share a bit about our sangha and after I shared about Be Here Now, our almost 10 year old sangha in Missoula that attracts mostly folks in their 20’s and 30’s, many were interested to hear more.  I saw clearly that Be Here Now has much to share and offer the wider community as a beacon to shine some light.

There was a talk given this afternoon by an astrophysicist, Trinh Xuan Thuan, on the convergence of science and buddhism (the title of the retreat was The Science of the Buddha).  His speech was hurried as he delivered a power point presentation in the dharma hall.  He seemed self-consious and a bit un-sure of himself – which made sense since he was in front of Thay, the monastics and 850 lay practitioners.  Early on in his talk a sister gently crept up to him smiling sweetly to ask if he could speak slower as the translators were finding it difficult to keep up.  I felt badly for him for the interruption.  One can no more simply slow down one’s speech on cue in front of a large audience then the monastics can speak louder (many of them speak very softly and sometimes are barely audible).  Mid way through his talk I shut my notebook and laid down across my cushion and an empty one to my left and fell asleep.  Mike was alert and happy as a clam to my right (listening to a scientist is right up his alley) and I was glad to be next to him.

Little by little I am understanding that I am in France.  All the planning, all the saving, all of the hard work, the long journey and interrupted dreams at night.  We have made it here where the owls are thick in the trees, the lotus leaves thick in the pond and the sound of the bell carries on the breeze like a whisper.

Lotus Pond, Lower Hamlet

Day 2

Assembly of Stars Dharma Hall, Lower Hamlet

(written on June 2nd, 2012)

I woke at 4:30 this morning, an hour before necessary, due to my mini-marshmellow-like ear plugs being no match for my bunkmates snoring.  I rolled out of bed to ready for the day and take advantage of the shower and bathroom before everyone got up.  We have 3 toilets and 2 showers for 17 of us.  At 6:00am we did sitting meditation for 30 minutes followed by a practice called Earth Touchings and then we had breakfast.  Morning meditation instructions were both in english and french.  The french speaking sisters are so lovely to hear   Their soft voices and beautiful language mixing with the sound of the birds breezing through the large, square windows.

After I ate, oatmeal, bread with jam and some fresh fruit, I pondered my sleeping arrangement and opted to borrow a tent, which are on hand to rent.  Thick foam sleeping pads are free to use.  I found a grassy area across from Cherry House and my new friend Clara, from Holland, and another passerby, a woman from Brazil, offered to help me set it up.  Instead of saying “that’s alright” when they offered I said “sure, that would be great!”  And it was great – it wound up being a european style tent and though I am well versed in setting up tents this one was out of my wheelhouse and would’ve had me there all morning had they not come along.

My job for working meditation, which we have on the schedule everyday, is going to the greenhouse and picking mint and chopping ginger for fresh tea (and later on nettle, lemon balm and sage were added to my fresh herbs to pick list).  After a trip to the garden it was time for a dharma talk – Upper and New Hamlets were coming to our hamlet’s homestead.  I saw Mike in front of the hall outside and ran to him.  I was so happy to see him!  We sat together for the talk, cried together during the monastics (nuns & monks) opening avalokita  chant accompanied by violin and then chopped more ginger together before he had to return to his hamlet for lunch.

Me chopping ginger for work meditation
(photo taken by Elisabeth Seland)

The following are some of the notes I took during Thay’s (Thay means teacher in Vietnamese and refers to Thich Nhat Hanh) first dharma talk on the 21-day retreat:

“We are afraid of getting in touch with our suffering, with the world’s suffering.  If we do not know how to handle suffering we do not know how to handle happiness.  You need suffering to grow happiness.  Alone I am not able to embrace my suffering, “dear sangha (community) please help me.”  When the drop of water becomes part of the river it suffers less.  Go as a river, not a drop of water.

Sitting (meditation) is a pleasure.  It should be nourishing and healing.  Every time we are restless, we don’t know what to do, sitting is the best thing to do.  During the sitting there is no thinking whatsoever.  Our breath becomes the only object of our mind. We release the past, the future.  We become a free person.  When body and mind are together we are truly alive.

1. To be with our in breath and out breath   2. To follow our breath all the way through   3. Be with our body      4. Release tension   We should try to master these exercises.  We can do them while sitting, laying down, walking, driving, washing the dishes.  Learning to stop the thinking is very important.  You might get lost in your thinking.  Most of the time your thinking is not productive.  I think therefore I am not there (laughter from crowd).  When I breathe I am there.

You are aware of mother earth that has brought you to life (while walking).  Every step is a miracle.  To be alive, to be walking on this planet earth can be a pleasure.  Every step can be nourishment.  I am solid, I am free.  Because I am solid in the here and now I am a free person.  We need to make good use of the collective energy of the sangha.  The more mindfulness you have the more free you become.”

It’s nice to have a friend here in lower hamlet (Clara, from Holland), someone to talk with, smile to an a fuller level.  Upon arrival yesterday we quickly discovered our mutual affinity for trees, chocolate and the lower hamlet bookstore as well as our shared un-love for Plum Village songs and singing.  Everyone has been very nice here but, so far, only Clara has a similar energy and humor to my own.

I’m crawling into my red and green tent a little early tonight.  The trees are blowing and the warm air from the day is turning cooler.  Thunder rumbles in the distance.  After dinner I decided to move most of my things into the Cherry House barn in order to keep them dry in the event of a heavy rainfall.  I’m settling in quickly to this retreat and I’m grateful for having attended 3 large Thich Nhat Hanh retreats in the states before coming here so that I am somewhat familiar and comfortable with the schedule.

There are people from every continent here, except for our Antarctica friends, and I’m reveling in other dialects, languages and cultures.  Earlier in my family discussion group when someone shared with the circle we had one sister translate into vietnamese while one woman translated into russian.  It takes some getting used to, listening to three voices at once.  Soya, from up by the north circle in Russia, speaks almost no english and understands very little.  I could not imagine coming to an english speaking retreat and not speaking the language – very courageous.  Fortune intervened when one of our family members happened to speak fluent russian on top of english and her native german and offered to translate for Soya (which she wound up doing for the entire rest of the retreat for all of the discussion groups and dharma talks).

It’s 9:33pm, 1:33pm back home in Montana.  I think it may rain tonight.  Last night I went to bed quietly crying, tonight I do not feel so sad.  Though I am wondering if I made the wrong decision moving from my rain proof room.

My little tent

Day 1: Arriving at Plum Village!

Plum Village sign in Lower Hamlet

(written on June 1st, 2012)

This morning we awoke at 7:00am, brushed our teeth, packed up the few items we had out, strapped on our gear and headed out.  The train station was a well planned 4-5 blocks away.  Our train was leaving at 9:20am and we got to the station with plenty of time to spare and got some breakfast by the platform stairs at a little place bombarded with small birds and covered in droppings.  I had a buttery croissant and Mike had what he described as a gas station quality quiche.

We got onto the RER train (a rapid transit system) and sat facing backwards, which left me feeling terribly dizzy and nauseous.  Laying down in Mike’s lap help curb much of the din.  The French countryside blurred by.  After one train transfer at Libourne we arrived at Ste. Foy La Grande station and were greeted by a few monks, nuns and Order of Interbeing members to shuttle us to Plum Village.  This is where our separate journey begins.  Separate vans, separate hamlets.  (Mike and I decided to stay apart during the retreat.  Plum Village is divided into hamlets (small settlements in rural areas), I was in Lower Hamlet and Mike was in Upper Hamlet.  We thought staying apart would give us the best of both worlds – being there together and having our own space and time as well).

Before parting ways we decided that Mike would come to Lower Hamlet after registering, thinking it was a 15 minute walk between hamlets.  The hamlets wound up being a 45 minute walk so it took him quite a while to arrive.  We had about 10 minutes to visit before he needed to dash back for dinner.  I cried briefly in his arms, a mixture of missing him, being very tired and also very hungry.  He told me it was going to be alright and I gently replied, “I know,” and I meant it.

We were arranged in families.  I’m in the Drink Your Cloud Family.  We eat dinner together, have our discussion group together and do our working meditation together, we were assigned to the tea table.  Lower Hamlet is mostly all women, as is New Hamlet, and Upper Hamlet is mostly men.  So my family is all women and I was immediately a little worried about that.  My judgmental brain fears women in groups.  I think of competition, cattiness, vanity.  I’m aware of sadness from being apart from Mike, it is strong.  I’m aware that my body is in pain and that I am so tired.  And I see that while I am uncomfortable in this mix of worldly women it will be good for me too.  Headed by three of the sisters (Buddhists nuns), we eat our noodles and salad in silence.

The sisters in my dharma family
(photo taken by Elisabeth Seland)

After dinner we had a very basic introduction in the meditation hall where I found out we are 170 people here in Lower Hamlet and about 850 strong in total between all the hamlets.  The hall has small dark purple zabutans (square pads) topped with dark purple baby zafus (round cushions for sitting meditation) and round light bulbs dangling down from the ceiling.  It is quite large and still in construction.  Its walls are unfinished OSB board.  I keep nodding off, I am so tired.  Just a few empty zafus down a sister is translating into Vietnamese  into a microphone.  Sister Annabelle (a well respected sister who heads Thich Nhat Hanh’s European Institute of Applied Buddhism in Germany) sits in front of the younger sisters – her spirit aglow and childlike, smiling sweetly.

When the evening is over I return to my bunk in Cherry House, an old stone dwelling full of charm, where I room with 7 others.  Too tired to brush my teeth or wash up I crawl into bed lonely for my love and overwhelmed by the romantic notion of Plum Village fading into reality.

Cherry House, Lower Hamlet

In Paris

Notre Dam Cathedral, Paris

(written May 31st, 2012)

At the metro station we went to an automated machine to buy tickets and a young frenchman with a badge dangling from his neck swooped into help us.  He quickly motioned for us to follow him to a different machine, after ours had timed out, saying something about how the machines we were at charged more.  Thoroughly confused and racing to keep in step he proceeded to buy us day passes to ride the metro on his credit card, after our card failed to work, and have us reimburse him.  We did, later finding out he taught us a valuable tourist lesson – don’t follow along when something doesn’t feel right.  They were in fact not day passes but good only for one ride.  We paid 25 euros.  Individual metro tickets are around 1.60 euros.  He was very good, not his first American tourist rodeo.

We rode the metro with an ease that made us feel we must be doing something wrong – going the wrong way, bound for Luxembourg, something.  But no, we were in fact simply figuring it out.  The city has made it very user friendly.  Aloha Hostel (where we were booked for the night) was a quick 2-3 block jaunt from the Volontaires metro stop.  We arrived to find our 2 person room reservation smiling at us (double rooms aren’t guaranteed) and a secure baggage room we could leave our backpacking packs at while we roamed the city and waited until the rooms were ready.  After a quick regrouping and a Coke from the vending machine we set back to the metro bound for Notre Dam Cathedral on the island of Ile De La Cite in the Seine.

When we stepped up into daylight from the winding metro tunnels we searched out a sign for Notre Dam and finally found a hand made paper sign in the window of a store with an arrow pointing the way.  Apparently Paris has not seen fit to supply the only metro stop on the island with an actual real sign and the store was either helping a brother out or really really tired of everyone asking where the heck to go.

The Cathedral rose into the sky through the trees like daybreak, splintering the air with its rays.  My body instantly tingled with goosebumps, my eyes watering, mouth agape.  I was struck by age and a quivering wise and furious beauty.  We approached slowly out of a deep, unconscious respect and reverence.  I felt ashamed to even hold up my camera and snap a photo.  I was in awe.  Its lines and statues, weathered colors and textures bearing witness to my shallow breath.  It was free to enter and we went in with the masses.  I very much appreciated all of the signs around asking for silence inside of the cathedral.  We walked slowly and silently through the church.  I hardly noticed anyone else there.  I was captivated by stained glass windows, ancient statues, cracked columns, pealing ceilings and stone walls.  I was a tiny presence in the audience of artisan, devoted intention.  After we exited and I saw fit to break the silence I wondered aloud just how in the world this feat of human skill existed.  How did they build this wonder?  How long must it have taken?  How many workers?  Humbled and bewildered I limped away with sore and swollen feet.

Next up, the Eiffel Tower.  On our way to the metro we came to a bridge over the Seine.  Oddly, there were wide stairs leading down right into the river.  No bar to cross or barrier of any kind.  Just stairs to walk into the river – of course!  We kept going and then I turned around.  I couldn’t resist casually walking into the famous Seine!  Down we went on stone steps, smelling of urine and littered with broken glass, so I could dip my feet into the cool water as long tourist boats drifted by.

The mysteriously wonderful steps leading into the Seine

Perhaps it was due to our extreme exhaustion but we found the Eiffel Tower not much to look at.  I bought a book back home called Go Paris that talks about how when it was built it was the scourge of Parisians because they felt it was ugly and befuddled their city’s landscape.  It kind of makes sense.  The thrill of the tower was in seeing it simply as one of the world’s famous landmarks.  Nonetheless, it is a feat of engineering and my eyes danced around its lines.  Later Mike noted how many light bulbs he had seen on the tower and we talked about wanting to see it lit up at night.  We awoke around 1:00am, when the hostel came alive, and went for a walk around the block to see it aglow.  We could only see the top portion and it was a sad sight indeed.  Just a few lights earmarked it in the city scape.  Maybe the base was more a sight to see.

After the Eiffel Tower we got some dinner at a restaurant that caters to English speaking folks on a busy corner between the tower and the metro station where I ordered a pizza and a Coke (which we later found out cost 8 euros! – about $10) and Mike ordered the only dish under the heading French cuisine (a cut of meat we’d never heard of, we assumed to be beef, in a mushroom cream sauce) and a glass of wine.

We got to our room and collapsed on the bed after sitting briefly by our large, open faux balcony window overlooking the street below.  We fell asleep side by side in the bottom single bunk almost instantly.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

En Route

Overlooking France

(written on May 30th, 2012)

Flying south towards Denver – there were tears in my eyes as we leapt into the sky, landing gear clunking up into the underbelly of the plane.  The Mission Mountains, Evaro Hill, Flathead Lake, we could see them all as we ascended into the smokey late morning clouds where our mountains, our tribe, our Montana disappeared.

(time elapses)

I’m always amused by the almost complete lack of wonder on the faces of fellow travelers when flying through the air, like there’s nothing new going on.  The magazines and books come out, ear phones, food, ho hum.  There’s not even a need to glance out the window.  When I look deeper I see everyone’s internal landscape shifting, complex, a myriad of emotions and thoughts.  There’s a mother across the aisle, an unhappy 2 year old in tow whose cries overshadow my music.  The mother must feel terribly helpless unable to soothe her little one, stressed out to be that passenger with the crying child disturbing everyone.

Sure I’m stiff, sure I’m tired, sure my body is sore but I still love to travel.  Airplanes, grumpy travelers, arrival and departure gates, porthole windows, tray tables, metal buckles, flotation devices, Sky Mall magazine – the whole deal.  I’m starting to understand just how it works to be in charge of my own happiness.  To not put my emotional fate in the lap of anyone else.  I make this trip what it is for everything that it’s worth.

(time elapses)

Departure gate C6 in the D.C airport.  Soon to board.  One more take off, one more landing.  This time tomorrow we’ll be greeting the dark skies of Paris as the sun sets.  When we sat down across from 2 frenchmen at the gate I excitedly whispered to Mike, “those guys are French,” then I paused and added, “we are so tourists.”  France, the illusion, is getting more real.

(time elapses)

In the air en route to Paris.  A short 3,841 miles to go.  We’re at 32,727 feet in altitude, it’s negative 40 degrees outside, so says my personal screen in front of me when I click on flight map.  We’re going 616 mph in ground speed and heading north through Boston and Nova Scotia.  I love maps.  I love charting the course and seeing the progress.  And I love that tomorrow we’ll hit the ground running.

(time elapses)

I think it’s Thursday May 31st now – time blends over the ocean.  We’re over Ireland now.  Breakfast is being served, the smell of croissants fills the cabin and I just found out that Prince’s album 1999 is on my personal computer thing in the seat in front of me (which is awesome!).  I got some fitful sleep but sleep nonetheless.  It’s going to be a good day!  T-minus 1 hour and 20 minutes to land.

The day before we leave

This was me staying up way too late the night before we left for France playing with photo booth and emailing my very good friend Jennifer

(written on May 29th, 2012)

We leave tomorrow.  We leave tomorrow?  We leave tomorrow!

Tomorrow will be a day of flying and layovers, stale cabin air and airport food.  I can’t think of anything more exciting.  To touch down in another country, another culture, another language and bathe in a new reality.  The chickens are fed, the passports and train tickets are packed, the lawn is freshly mowed, the compost bucket is empty.  Umbrella, check.  Extra shoes, check.  Ear plugs, check.  Euros, check.  Cameras, check, check.

My heart is beating a little faster just thinking about how we’ll soon be in Paris, walking around with our little pop out map trying to find our way around the city, backpacks and sleeping bags slung on our backs.



Hello my friends, welcome to my new blog!  In this post blog I would like to share some of my experiences about the Plum Village 21-day retreat in southern France that Mike and I attended in June of 2012.  I journaled everyday and took lots of pictures – so I will take you on my journey outwords & inwords…