(NOTES: Here is some lingo info that may be helpful in reading these posts. Deer Park Monastery is in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who is often referred to as Thay. The monks who reside at Deer Park are called Brothers and the nuns are called Sisters. The sisters reside in Clarity Hamlet and the brothers reside in Solidity Hamlet, about a 5-10 minute walk apart. The word hamlet comes from the french and means small village. While they are not really villages they are self-containing communities. The visitors who come to stay at the monastery, like myself and Mike, are often called lay friends.)
Monday January 12th, 2015
As mentioned, it was lazy day today. Our schedule, which gets written out on the white board in the dining hall, read: 8:00am breakfast, 12:30pm lunch, 5:30pm dinner, 7:00pm Beginning Ceremony (v) (the v lets us know it will be in vietnamese). On lazy day breakfast is served a little later than usual.
I still set my alarm and woke up just after 4:30am. I went to the dining hall to do some writing and I also did some sitting meditation after singing the morning chant. When the sky began to alight with the sun around 6:30 I ventured up to the main hall to grab a stick in order to do stick exercise on my own.
Mike and I planned to meet at 10:00am to hike up the mountain to the ocean overlook spot. We also invited anyone who wanted to come along. We wound up with a lovely crew of 7 of us, 4 guys from Solidity Hamlet and 3 gals from Clarity Hamlet. After a day and night of steady rain we awoke to a sunny morning, saturated earth, and fresh moist air. Along the hike up the mountain we stopped to enjoy the sweeping panoramic views.
When we got up to the large outcroppings of rocks to overlook the city it was a bit too foggy to see the ocean, which is not uncommon. While seeing the ocean is indeed a great bonus the views of the valley below and the rocks to climb on are well worth the hike. We played on the rocks, scouted around, and then had lunch together. Mike had managed to get a whole loaf of bread, a tub of peanut butter and jar of jelly from Solidity Hamlet and some fruit to share and I made a sandwich and brought fruit to share as well. After spending a lovely time on the rocks and absorbing the view we moseyed on.
Before heading back down I had wanted to see the huge cacti plant I had remembered from my hike with my friend Llora last time I was here. Everyone was agreeable to coming along with me so we went in search of the cactus. It wasn’t far at all. And it was even more amazing then I had remembered! My delight was multiplied further because all of my hiking friends were equally amazed at the enormous size of it. How wonderful it is to share beauty and awe. Apparently it is a prickly pear cactus. It is truly a sight to be seen. There was also another cactus type tree that I had remembered just around the bend from there so I went in search of that one as well. And again we were all taken by its incredible beauty. From what we could tell it was another prickly pear cactus but it was quite different from the other one. (Hopefully my pictures do it justice :)
There is an old abandoned homestead and some out buildings just off the trail and the one large prickly pear plant sits beside one of the buildings. We did some exploring around the buildings, which have been tagged with graffiti, littered with bullet holes, and in large parts intentionally destroyed. It would be such a lovely place to live up there, in a newly built dwelling of course. The land, rocks, trees, cactus, flowers, and vantage points of the valley and ocean make that spot just incredible.
By the old homestead you can continue hiking on varied trails and if you choose the right trails you can loop back down to the monastery from other directions but as they are much longer routes we simply hiked back down the way we had come. The sun was golden and the clouds were intermittent as we wove our way back down. It was such an enjoyable hike with everyone. One of our hiking friends from Clarity Hamlet was a woman I had met last January, Andrea from Austin, TX. We arrived on the same day and it was so wonderful to see her again! It was great to catch up with her a bit on the hike.
After the hike we parted ways with our friends from Solidity Hamlet and I went to take a nap. I took a short walk up to the construction site after I woke up and then returned back to my hut to write before dinner. In Clarity Hamlet a large construction project has recently started to build new dwelling units for the sisters, which they are much in need of. The project will include 8 bedrooms, which will house 40 sisters, a laundry room, bathrooms & showers, a courtyard, and a new dwelling for Thay. They have been fundraising for the project for the past year or so and have a good portion of the projected amount needed, but not all of it. On my last day here last January my working meditation consisted of helping to clear out Thay’s hut to help prepare it for demolition. So it is very interesting to see the progress that has been made since then.
Before I meander to dinner I wanted to share something I wrote this morning:
As the hoot owl calls
darkness fades back to light
Like rain melting into parched earth
nature makes way for change in every moment
Its wisdom of adaptation the key
to its unceasing beauty