Deer Park, Day Eighteen
(written on Tuesday January 28th)
Today was essentially another lazy day for the most part. We had no program or activity after breakfast and then after lunch we were simply asked to clean our own cabin and decorate for TET. The laywomen were asked to choose one of the three lay cabins here in Clarity Hamlet to decorate so that on Saturday we can host guests who stop by. On Saturday there will be an opportunity for people to come to Clarity Hamlet (the sisters hamlet) for the one day a year that friends are invited into the nun’s quarters (on Friday the same happens in Solidity Hamlet with the brothers). I’ve been told that tea and snacks will be offered in every room. I’ve also heard that bus loads of people will be arriving to temple hop, which means to visit many temples over TET in order to earn merit. It should be quite the experience!
We chose the cabin called Baby Elephant due to the fact that it’s the first one you come to when walking to the lay cabins. Sue, one of the women staying here for the whole winter retreat, told me I had been nominated to be in charge of decorations, which just meant that she thought I should do it :) I enjoy making spaces look and feel pleasant so I happily accepted. I like to use nature to decorate with and find that it provides everything needed to make a space feel grounded and look beautiful. After breakfast I took off in search of inspiration with some garden shears and a small crate. In the parking lot I found some green draping branches (later I learned that they were from the pepper tree). I trimmed some from the tree to string together and made two garlands, which I hung outside on either side of the front door. Then I went around collecting fallen branches with pinecones still attached, fresh leaves, and other tree trimmings to make arrangements with. I also went scavenging around the hamlet in sheds and out buildings and found some baskets and flowerpots to use.
After lunch I was inspired by the decorating energy and took to rearranging the laywomen’s tearoom, which was in major need of some care and attention. It was a very drab room that seemed to just be thrown together and lacked warmth, not the sort of room you would want to hang out in. I changed around the placement of the futon couch and two matching recliners and also moved the small bookshelf. There’s a tv in one corner, some meditation cushions, an electric radiator, and a broken floor lamp with some off centered pictures on the walls. The tea station was a very small, low table made of left over wood scraps with an electric teapot, a few boxes of tea, some cups, and a jug of filtered drinking water. I found an oak tree slice of wood that was relatively flat and two cinder blocks and made a new tea table that had much more room and sat higher. My plan is to also make two shelves that will slide inside the holes of the cinder block for cups and tea. I topped off the room with a welcome sign on the door and it looks and feels much fresher and inviting now.
Earlier I also decided to finally tackle a project I wanted to take care of. The door to the women’s restroom by the oak grove wasn’t latching and would open easily, attracting bugs and wind blown dirt and leaves. After some chiseling and re-drilling of the screw holes I was able to fix it – it felt great to see it all come together, very satisfying! I also fixed one of the stall doors that wasn’t latching – I was on a roll :)
Llora and I worked on decorating in the afternoon and two other lay friends swept all the leaves and tidied up out front on the walkway area and around the cabins. Since it will be turning the year of the horse and the color red is very traditional for TET we decided to draw a horse on some bright red paper. Our plan is to have people write down their aspirations for the new year on the paper and have it displayed where everyone can see it. I made a welcome sign and some calligraphy type art work and put together some natural arrangements to place around. Llora will be putting together a couple of fun activities that we can do when people stop by and another lay friend will be taking care of the snacks we’ll be offering so I think we should be all set!
It was a fun project day of fixing, scavenging, rearranging, decorating, creativity, and beautifying.