I’m humming “leavin’ on a jet plane.” Some of you may recognize the allusion. (The remaining lyrics to that song have never held any meaning for me, but I’ve hummed that refrain to myself for so many years it’s almost a theme song; that, Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire,” and Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” I love these leaving-town, heading-into-the-sunset songs.) So here’s the deal: I’m packing my sleeping bag and my carry-on, putting my toiletries in a clear plastic baggie for Michael Chertoff’s benefit, and heading west on Southwest Airlines.
This is the plan: I’m going to spend a night in Albuquerque with my friend Diane, and then I’ll spend a week at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, NM: meditating, cleaning toilets, polishing floors, exploring the nearby mountain trails, chopping vegetables, sleeping in a dorm, and finding out what their community feels like. I’ll take my camera, but Upaya already has a gallery of photographs on the website, including photographs by their resident teacher, Joan Halifax, and by famous photographers, so I don’t imagine I’m going to take pictures of anything there that hasn’t already been photographed skillfully. Then a night in Albuquerque with Diane again, and I’m off to California, where I’ll spend a night in a fancy motel in Marin County with my friend Carolyn, followed by a week at Green Gulch Farm, an older Zen Center. The one photograph on their home page is spectacular. I’ll spend a week doing whatever simple labor I’m asked to perform at Green Gulch, meditating, sleeping in another dorm, learning how their community feels, strolling out to put my feet in the Pacific, and eating organic food produced onsite. Then I’m headed for Portland, Oregon, where I’ll stay in an eco-friendly hostel for two and a half days (the roof of the hostel has its own website here) and explore the six housing complexes in Portland that might be sufficiently affordable that I could live in one of them on my social security, keep my cat and enough possessions to furnish a small studio apartment, and create a new and vibrant life. There are web sites describing some of these housing complexes here and here.
I’m leaving with these questions:
1) What does it feel like to be in this place? What is the energy of the place? Who else lives here and how does it feel to live with them?
2) If I have a choice of these three places, which calls to me with the most irresistible siren song? In which place might I put down roots, settle in, and become intimate with the landscape? Is this where I want to open my eyes in the morning?
3) Is this where I can learn the most and grow the most? Is this the most adventurous place, the most exciting place, the place with the most unknowns, the place where I can unfold what is left of me and make something new?
4) Is this where I can try my utmost to do no harm, be of use, raise hell and kick butt, drop into silence, live in peace, have solitude sometimes and community sometimes, and have a truly splendid time of discovery?
Don’t know. Hope to find out. If there are computers available for me to use in any of these places, I’ll blog in and give impressions, just as I did last year this time in Portugal. I’ll be taking photographs, but I probably won’t be able to upload them to Flickr till I return to Houston. I’m scheduled to return August 13.
One last thing: a deep bow of gratitude and thanks to Jessica at Bootsnall, for highlighting this blog on a site called Vagabonding (yes, I love thinking of myself as a vagabond, a Goldmund, and yet also a Narcissus, being very still and contemplating the meaning of it all). What an honor. I’m off! (Actually not for three more days, but I can’t bear to bore myself or you with any more circular thoughts when all my energy is really focused on breaking out of the circle.) I don’t know where I’ll be or how many days will pass till I blog in again.
Tags: Buddhism, Green Gulch Farm, Preparation, Upaya Zen Center, Where to plant myself