Deer Park, Day Seventeen
(written on Monday January 27th)
Lazy day. I slept in today and woke up a little after 5:00am (yes, 5:00am is now sleeping in!). I then went to the small hall and did some sitting meditation by myself. At 6:00 I headed to the dining hall and at 6:30 one of the sisters, Llora, and I started off on a hike up to the rocks that overlook the ocean. Llora later told me the sisters call that spot Helen’s Mountain due to a woman named Helen having lived up there in a now abandoned and completely disheveled house only 5 years ago. A couple of the sisters had left earlier and the abbess arrived after us. There were a total of six of us and we brought breakfast with us and ate together in the morning sun. Llora and I packed our breakfast together before we set out on the hike and made some trail mix with almonds, banana chips, cranberries, and cacao nibs to share and we also brought an almond butter and grape jelly sandwich that we split along with some apple slices and an orange. The sisters always bring tea with them so we also brought teacups.
The view of the ocean was shrouded by mist and clouds and was only just barely visible by the time we left around 10:00. And really I think what I could see of the ocean was due more to my mind’s eye creating the vision than it actually being revealed through the clouds. Sometimes the world blends together in way where it becomes hard to discern between the land and sky.
After breakfast I spent time walking barefoot around the rocks and making cairns (rock sculptures). I gravitate very much towards rocks and trees especially and making cairns is something I whole heartedly enjoy doing. I make them often and find it to be a good mindfulness practice. The rocks I use call to me and seem to almost stick out from the rest as though a soft light surrounds them. As I stack them I feel how they fit together and they tell me how to make good use of them. Building cairns is an art form and it is very easy to do when I listen deeply to the rocks. I also like to add wood, leaves, and sometimes flowers to the cairns.
The sisters headed back down the mountain and Llora and I left soon after. We checked out the run down house along with a couple of out buildings and the surrounding area. The house was totally destroyed and we both found it hard to believe that only 5 years ago someone had lived there. There was graffiti sprayed around the house, no glass in the windows, smashed porcelain in the bathroom, caved in ceilings, huge chunks missing from the walls, and what looked like bullet holes scattered in the outside stucco. From the looks of the house it had become a place where rebellious youth came to destroy for the sake of destruction. The land surrounding the homestead was beautiful. With open flat spaces, groves of trees and huge cactus plants, rocks formations, areas of soft green grass, and wildflowers I could see easily how lovely it would be to live there. I’m not sure how the woman used to get up there. I suppose the road we hiked up on would fit a good rugged car or truck on it – but it would be a bit of an adventure every trip!
At 12:30 we had a picnic style lunch, which means we can eat outside and we can talk as well. Most days in the sisters’ hamlet every lunch meal after we serve ourselves we wait for everyone to sit down and for the bell to sound before we begin eating. We also read the Five Contemplations. And then we have to wait for the bell to sound again, 15 or 20 minutes later, before we can get up from the table. But at breakfast and dinner after we serve ourselves we can simply begin to eat when we sit down and we can leave when we’re finished. The brothers’ hamlet does meals a little bit differently. Each of their three meals seems to operate like our lunch meal.
I ate lunch outside with Llora and my roommate Lorna. We leisurely soaked up the sun talking, eating, and enjoying having nowhere to go and nothing to do. After lunch Lorna gave Llora a reiki treatment in our cabin and I took a chair, small table, and some of Lorna’s art supplies and sat under some trees a few feet away from our front porch. I had some paper, calligraphy brushes made of goat’s hair, ink, and some colored pencils. I listened to some music as I happily made some small art pieces, one for each Lorna and Llora and two more.
Lorna and I went for a walk up the fire road after she was finished. Before we left the cabin we saw a coyote just outside the window. He looked very focused, as though he were hunting something nearby. I felt it was good medicine to see him so closely in the daytime.
I did some sitting meditation in our small hall before dinner and Llora happened to walk in just as I had sat down so we meditated together. Then at 7:00 there was a Beginning Anew Ceremony in our small hall. The chanting was in Vietnamese and as I’ve been recently inspired to learn some of the language (since much of our time here is spent listening to Vietnamese) I’ve taken to chanting along with the Vietnamese text, when it’s available, instead of reading it in English. I listen to the sisters’ and their pronunciation. The cadence has been easy for me to pick up and I can follow along well from the chanting book. It has been a very enjoyable practice of learning something new.