Deer Park, Day Six
(written on Thursday January 16th)
I am quite tired but I didn’t want to miss a day of writing. I just returned from what was entitled a moon walk. It was an optional outing led by two of the sisters. I was among four lay sisters who went along for a total of six of us. We met at the dining hall at 4:00 to pack our dinner to bring along with us. Around 4:30 we headed off at a brisk pace. After bagging up our dinner I started wondering what I had gotten myself into by signing up for this walk. I wasn’t sure where we were going or how strenuous of a hike it would be. But a moon walk sounded like a good adventure so off I went. We wound up and up and up this hillside not far outside of Clarity Hamlet on a wide dirt path fire road. At times the packed down dirt trail turned to sand and the soft crunching of our foot steps turned to swishes. We walked mostly in silence at a moderate speed. We kept climbing and climbing. Around a bend towards where would soon be our final destination I saw the sun hanging low in the sky reflecting off of what looked like water. I turned to a lay friend and asked her if that could be the ocean and she said it very well might be. I still wasn’t quite sure though. We arrived soon after at a magnificent outcrop of huge rocks perfect for sitting, walking, and jumping around on. And on these rocks we were gifted with what was indeed a bird’s eye view of the Pacific Ocean. And we arrived just within minutes of watching the sun set over the sea. Watching the beauty of the sunset sink down into the water was simply thrilling. It has been a long time since last I watched the sun set and even longer since I’ve watched it set on the ocean. It brought back fond memories of when I was young and regularly visited the Jersey shore.
After the sunset our adventure was not over. It was, after all, called a moon walk. We enjoyed our dinner and one of the sisters shared some dried persimmon, which I saved for dessert and tasted delicious. We enjoyed the cityscape coming alive with lights as we talked under the unfolding stars and chilling breeze. And after an hour or so we began setting our attention behind us to the east where over a rocky hilltop the glow of our sister moon was alighting the dark sky. We all stood up and watched as she rose with slow grace. Her bright face shining light on our smiling faces. It was a double feature with an intermission for dinner! The moon was full last night and she looked just as full tonight. Looking at my sisters standing silent and beautiful in the radiant moon light tears came to my eyes. It was a feeling I cannot put into words.
At 7:00pm we started heading down the mountain. My night vision is not so good and usually walking in the dark makes me nervous without a light. And while the light of the moon lit our path very brightly in certain spots there were many turns and other hilltops that kept us in darkness. I had my headlamp but I wound up simply following behind one of the sisters and another lay friend and took to trusting their guidance and watching as they moved through the quiet of the night. After a little while I started noticing the subtleties of how the path would undulate and change texture even though I couldn’t really see it clearly. To travel in silence with my sisters while playing hide and seek with the moon, feeling as the air shifted from pockets of warm and cold, and at moments seeing our ink black shadows cast down in front of us was the sweetest ending to one of the most treasured times I can remember.
It seems fitting to end my post there. However I did have a lovely day before that adventure too! We had another open community day of mindfulness and around 15 friends came to attend. At 9:00am we met in the big hall to watch a video of Thay giving a dharma talk from late December of 2013. Then we did some walking meditation led by one of the brothers, Phap Dai. Dharma sharing groups came next followed by lunch.
After lunch I had some energy and I decided to go to my rock, as I am lovingly calling it. It is the place I stumbled upon on lazy day on Monday. It is a steep walk to get there but not far and the view over the city and valley are just amazing from the rocks. I sat in the sun listening to my music and swayed in the warm breeze. I then took a walk to the bookstore in Solidity Hamlet, which is only open during days of mindfulness from 1:00-4:00. After that I danced down the road, literally, to my cabin for a nap. To me, listening to music and dancing in the sun by myself is one of the greatest joys there is.
Before signing off for tonight and heading to bed I did want to mention my morning. I awoke around 4:00am, as is starting to become common. I got dressed and ready a little before the wake up bell at 5:00am and made my way up the steps to the big hall. Outside of the big hall there is a bell tower with a large bell that is sounded in the morning for about 30 minutes. In between sounds of the bell one of the monastics sings through a specific text in Vietnamese. As I climbed the 91 steep dirt steps (I counted this morning :) the full moon glided through the early morning starry sky lighting my path and a sister was singing so sweetly it was like a lunar lullaby. I was embraced by her voice and of the moon’s melody as they united with the sound of each resonating bell. My breath was deep and slow. My heart was cracked wide open.