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Archive for July, 2007

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Upaya Day 6: I want to run away

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

I’m not doing this well. Most of my new friends have disappeared. Dawa and Hiumaya were gone for a second day today, Soham left last night for a week, Saro simply vanished, and if it weren’t for Rebecca and Rose (both of whom are generous in putting up with my neurosis) I’d have had no company but my own sour judgments of myself, although there are plenty of new people here. The big shots arrived today. Roshi Joan, the two nuns, and other people I don’t know. I feel overwhelmed by a thousand ways to be wrong. Today Rebecca (one of my four roommates, a woman in her fifties with good sense, my best confidante, who has been here three weeks and has committed to be here three months) and I had our instruction in “Temple Etiquette.” It lasted an hour. Our teacher was a lovely young nun with a beatific smile, who said something really lovely that I can’t now remember, as a way of introducing us to the “form.” I came back in a state of panic and wanted to make a funny poem out of it. I was going to just repeat what I’d heard, and my sense was that any sane person would find it hilarious. But I found myself really trying to repeat it, and the poem ended up being eight pages long, and not funny at all. [read on]

Upaya 5th day: cooling off

Monday, July 30th, 2007

OK, it’s my fifth day, and the toilet thing and the vacuuming thing and the dishwashing thing are getting a little tiresome. So far, it’s like Rebecca said: sit, eat, work, rest. The emphasis is on the work. One retreat finished today, and the next begins the day I leave. So maybe, for the next two days, I will get a different sense of what it is to be here. Roshi is here. I haven’t seen her, but they say she’s here. Wednesday, the day before I leave, she’s set to give a dharma talk. At the moment I can’t see how being here is any different from being a laborer at a fancy summer camp for rich adults. There are moments when my neurosis links with someone else’s neurosis and we have interesting developments. [read on]

The purpose of all this

Sunday, July 29th, 2007

It’s my fourth day at Upaya. My time here is a little more than half gone. Spent the morning dusting the art and then polishing windows at Upaya House, a rust-colored two-story adobe building that provides rooms for a dozen retreat guests and has a meeting room, a large dining room, and two rooms upstairs marked “Private,” Roshi Joan’s personal space. She’s rumored to be arriving tonight or tomorrow. I loved dusting the art. There is shaman art all hairy and wild, Hindu art (Mother Durga, my personal favorite among the Hindu dieties), Hopi pots, Buddhist art (of course: statues, paintings, weavings, calligraphy), and a three-foot by two-foot rendering of the Virgen de Guadalupe surrounded by artificial roses. After the dusting and window cleaning I went back to my dorm and (are you ready for this?) cleaned three toilets, the small kitchen, and the laundry room, and I swept the walkways. By then it was almost noon. It started raining, so I lay on the comforter and listened to the rain. At what I thought was about 12:15 I headed out, checked the clock, and it was 12:25. Oops. Meditation starts at 12:20, and you can’t go in late. So here I am. [read on]

News Flash: Dawa has a website!

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

In the last 3 posts I’ve mentioned Dawa and Humaya, a Nepalese couple who live here at Upaya. This afternoon when I was checking my most recent blog post, Dawa passed through the computer room and saw my front page, with the picture of the Potala. He gasped. “Potala! Mama, I know this place! I been there many times. You know it has the highest toilet in the world.” That was totally apropos of my most recent post, but he went on to talk to me about his trekking experiences, and it turns out that a few years back, a woman from California made him a web site. So here it is, complete with photo gallery that shows you Dawa, his wife Humaya, and if you scroll down you can see his kids, his house in Nepal, the picture of him summiting in 1984 (just before he was in an avalanche and damaged his back): it’s and go to the photo gallery. (The Zen Center has a Mac with Mozilla, and I can’t make the WordPress link thingie work, so you’ll have to work it out for yourself if you’d like to see my new friends.) Dawa and Humaya have a story that would make a fascinating book. If I end up living at Upaya, I’m sure I’ll try to help them write it.

Upaya: Day 3 of the time of my life

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

It ought to be illegal to have this much fun. I’m deliriously happy, and delirious might be exactly the right word, but I don’t care. Happy works for me. Today I’ve cleaned five bathrooms with toilets, assisted at two meals and washed dishes, nursed a very sick Humaya (vomiting, headache, fever–but she’s better now after rosemary tea, peppermint tea, and a long time breathing with Kendall’s cold hands on her head: “Your hands so cool, they feel like water, Ma.”), and what else. Meditated twice so far; second time it was just Dawa and me. Oh yeah, best of all, cleaned up after lunch and then swept and mopped the kitchen and serving room floor with Soham, the coolest guy I’ve met yet. My altitude issues have passed, and I feel terrific. Want to hear more about all of this? [read on]

Upaya Day 2: still in heaven

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Woke at dawn to a spectacular sunrise that went on, shifting through every shade of red on the spectrum, for about twenty-five minutes. I can lie in bed, covered in a fluffy white comforter, and watch a great stretch of sky. After the sunrise I drifted out to the kitchen to find my “buddy” Rose (who tells me she is 64) peeling potatoes alone. I joined her till time for meditation. After meditation, temple cleaning (I got to dust mop and then damp mop the floor of the meditation room). Humaya worked along with me, silent and powerful, her Nepalese cheek bones shining in the morning light. Then breakfast. Rose’s Swiss treat: shredded potatoes rolled with a little buckwheat flour and oven-baked on big cookie sheets and then topped with fried eggs, and then the most glorious concoction: oat flakes, walnuts, strawberries, blueberries, white grapes, and fresh cream, all rolled together. We’re cooking for 45, because there’s also a retreat going on (non-residents rent the space). [read on]

Arriving at Upaya: Day One of Seven

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

I’m here, and my first impression is that this place is fragments of pure heaven. Fragments because of me, not it: I am dazzled by the surfaces of things. First of all, it’s adobe, and that is the most sensual architecture in the world. Everything invites the hands to touch. A window sill becomes a thigh; a window opening is curled into a bend like an elbow or a knee. Exterior colors range from purple to rust, interiors orange to white, exteriors streaked by the rain or dimpled and full of shadows. More rain this year than anyone remembers, so the desert is green, sage green, soft green, undulant green, FRAGRANT green, flowering green. Scents of wild sage, wet sunflower, wild lavender, and many plants I don’t know. And the people: smiling, bowing, laughing, speaking softly. It’s a United Nations kind of place, and every one of the people I have met has a story. [read on]

New Mexico and the Selling of Georgia O’Keeffe

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m in Albuquerque at the Howard Johnson’s, waiting for Diane to arrive. We’ll go to breakfast, and then she’ll drive me to Upaya. So far my trip has been airports, expressways, and this generic motel, though I had good talk with Diane in the motel room last night, and this morning when I woke at 5:30 a.m. local time, I stood at the motel window and saw to my right a smear of mauve sunrise and a hill, black against a pale sky; to my left, the expressway. The hotel “guide” (info on room service, pool hours, etc.) has an O’Keeffe painting on the cover. Lying on the table next to the TV is a copy of New Mexico Magazine for July 2007, with a black and white cover shot of Georgia O’Keeffe at about 35. Inside there’s an article about the 10th Anniversary of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. In the lobby of the motel there’s a Georgia O’Keeffe poster. A big flower. There’s another one in the elevator. [read on]

Travel Magic

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

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. [read on]

Packing up, moving out

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

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. [read on]