I’m still at home, rocking back and forth and biting my thumbs in anticipation, leaving tomorrow if tomorrow will ever come. Basho has decided to nest in my open carryon bag, perhaps imagining that by anchoring the bag with his body, he can keep me from going anywhere. Cats hate change. And he doesn’t even know what it means to spend nearly three weeks in a cattery–but he’ll start finding out tomorrow. Manko spent the day with me today, and I delivered her to several places where she applied for a job. And there was a last-minute change in one piece of my travel plan as a result of a stunning bit of timing. Travel magic has already started.
A few weeks ago a friend who had been to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland reported that she had met an extraordinary Buddhist woman priest who told her about Section 8 housing in Portland. That’s what started this Portland, Oregon kick I’ve been on. Yesterday I sent an email to my friend, asking for contact information for the priest, so that if I had time, I could contact her when I was in Portland. My friend is traveling and didn’t have her papers with the priest’s phone number, but today the priest, whose name is Shakti Khan (Jewish girl, born in the Bronx, whose father for some reason named his baby girl Shakti seventy years ago!)–Shakti phoned my friend. My friend told Shakti that I’m on my way to Portland. Shakti told my friend to tell me to call her. I phoned Shakti…and get this.
Shakti asked me if I can sew. She’s involved in the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project. I said I learned to sew in Hawai’i when I was a young teenager, but I haven’t used my sewing skills much since then. “Where in Hawai’i?” she asked. Turns out Shakti is a Soto Zen priest who ran five temples in Hawai’i before she returned to the mainland and settled in Portland. And Hawai’i is where I lived when I was 12, 13, and 14, and where I first encountered Buddhism in the homes of my girlfriends. Shakti lives in one of the housing complexes I’ve been eyeing, and she invited me to stay with her when I’m in Portland. So I won’t, after all, be staying at the hostel with the eco-roof.
Both Upaya and Green Gulch, the two Zen centers I’m about to visit for a week each, are associated with the Soto Zen tradition, so Shakti knows all about them, has been to them, and knows some of the people in them. For her, living independently in Portland works better than living in a Zen Center; and she is already deeply connected with Buddhist community (“Sangha”) in Portland. She’ll tell me more when I get there.
Meanwhile, “Lareina Cobre,” who has sometimes commented on this blog and lives near Portland, is doing some detective work on my behalf, scoping out the city and the various neighborhoods where I might one day live. And “Nacho,” whose Woodmore Village Zendo blog appears on the right sidebar among my Links, teaches at Willamette and may be able to meet me in Portland on my last day there, introduce me to his family, and drop me off at the airport.
I’ve been experiencing travel magic all my life. It’s like this: when you start traveling, especially if you travel “loose” with space in the itinerary for the unexpected and a willingness to say yes to it, the coincidences start flowing. You meet who you need to meet. You go where you need to go. At the very least, you have the feeling as you travel that you are meeting the best possible people and going to the best possible places for the particular journey you are making. Things happen. You make certain decisions. And your life changes. I love it. It occurs to me that travel magic happens in the meta-journey that is our lives, in exactly the same ways. If I travel loose…pay attention and practice gratitude…say yes…then in retrospect….
One more spiral spin on the Gothic plot that is my life: the friend who met Shakti Khan at General Assembly is someone I met through Lisa, who was a student at Smith when I was teaching there, and whose mom is the person I’m staying with tomorrow night in Albuquerque. This is why I love autobiography. It’s so much zanier than even the wildest fiction (even fiction written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon).
Tags: Buddhism, Portland OR, Shakti Khan, Where to plant myself