(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 19th, 2015
Today was lazy day, as is every Monday here. A day without scheduled activities, with the exception of meals and an evening program after dinner. Tonight’s program is a Happiness Meeting in our small hall with the sisters. I remember attending one of these meetings last January when I was here and I really enjoyed it. From what I remember we played a game and then everyone had the option to share a song, tell a story or talk about an experience that had brought them happiness.
This morning I woke up around 4:00am with back pain that would not allow for me to go back to sleep. I had set my alarm for 4:30am so it was not that much earlier then I had planned on getting up anyway. I went to the dining hall as usual but around 5:15am the dining hall suddenly became quite busy. A few sisters came to work in the kitchen and one of the lay friends came to set up the breakfast table. I was surprised to see everyone so early, especially on a lazy day! I thought to myself, “Is it later then I think it is?” I checked the clock and looked outside. “Nope, it’s 5:15am and it’s still very dark outside.” I’m still not sure why they were setting up for breakfast so early, since it would’ve still been another almost three hours until the meal would be served. There was quite a bit of noise being generated and talking going on so I left the dining hall in search of more early morning silence. I went to our meditation hall to do some sitting and found a sister in there as well with a candle lit in front of her and some tea. I wasn’t sure I should go in but she smiled in welcome as I entered so I felt it was OK to set out a cushion and join her in the space (I didn’t want to intrude). I practiced some sitting meditation for around 45 minutes, quite naturally matching the same time frame we sit for in the mornings when we all gather together in the big hall.
After my sitting I went for a walk up the fire road and down a path I had not been before. I watched as the sky alighted with the rising sun and breathed in the green valley below. The sweeping views of Escondido, with San Diego further behind, the distant mountains, and ocean clouds are a grand vision from the high vantage points we can reach rather swiftly here. In just a few minutes we can climb pretty steadily upwards. I did stick exercise after returning from my hike.
As I was packing up my bag in the parking lot after I had finished my stick exercises I watched something very small fall from somewhere above me right by my feet. I could tell by the way it fell that it was not a leaf. It fell with more weight and purpose. I looked down and saw that it was a bee. He was on the ground just barely moving. I thought at first that he was in the process of dying and then thought about how when bees are cold they are unable to move until they get warmed up. Then he stopped moving for a long while and I thought he was dead. I was saddened to think about him being dead and then looked more deeply into that feeling. I spoke softly to him out loud and cradled him in the palm of my hand. As I was talking to him I said, “Well, we all must die some time eh?” and it was then that one of his antenna waved slightly up and down (as if to answer, “yes”). He then began to slowly wave his wings and wriggle his body. I smiled brightly and said, “It’s a miracle!” And so it seemed like it was. I held him in my hand, giving him some warmth. I walked him over to a patch of some very fragrant flowers, thinking he might like it there. I held him right up to a flower but he didn’t move from my palm. And then with a sudden burst he took off in flight, high up into the trees. And he was gone. I smiled and waved good-bye and headed to breakfast.
I hand-washed some laundry after breakfast and then did some dancing in the parking lot to my music in the morning sun. At 10:00am Mike and I met to go on a walk together. We had a nice venture to the bottom of the long driveway to the main gate of Deer Park. Originally I had wanted to go there to see the horses that resided in a small horse rescue center at the bottom of the driveway but before we set out Mike said he had been told that the rescue center had moved. I was disappointed not to be able to see the horses but it was still a lovely walk and we got to see some orange trees while we were down there in a couple yards of the nearby houses, which was a treat, and many cool cactus plants. I can’t get enough of seeing and admiring the cactus here! They are so very amazing. I can see clearly that the vegetation here has developed the wisdom of adaptation.
I took a good nap after our long walk together and then grabbed my laundry from the clothesline before setting out on a scheduled 3:00pm hike with a lay friend. We did a nice one hour loop up the fire road and around the water tower and down through the parking lot. Before we met to hike I went to check out what was being chainsawed by a local tree cutting company in the oak grove close by. I didn’t want to get in their way at all but I got close enough to see the large tree they had felled. A large oak tree had been taken down. It had been infested by the oak beetle. Taking out the infected trees helps minimize the spread of the beetles. The two men chainsawing were fun to watch. I could see the art of chainsawing in their working together. After a few minutes they stopped their chainsaws to talk with me. I immediately told them that I hoped I wasn’t in their way at all and they were very kind and said that I wasn’t in their way at all. They were very nice and they chatted with me for a few minutes about the trees and how many they had taken down in that area in the last couple of years. The one man said that the beetles are infesting because of the drought and that if there was more rain it would improve the situation for the oak trees. It was nice to connect with them. Before they began working I told them again that I hoped I wasn’t bothering them and that I enjoyed watching them work. And the other man smiled and said, “Not at all, it’s nice to have a fan. It’s helps me to work a little harder.” :)