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Everybody is a hoe

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Up at 4:30 a.m., meditation for forty minutes, and then the whole place–managers, gray heads, newbies, everybody–heads for the fields on Wednesday mornings, to work from 6 a.m till 7 a.m. I guess the idea is to keep everyone connected with the original mission of the place. Today the job was hoeing. Everybody got a hoe, and we chopped the rows, weeding and aerating the soil around the baby lettuces. The chunk! chunk! chunk! of the hoes was rhythmic in the dawn as the birds began to sing and fifty people fanned out in the field. Flaming queens in their hats and scarves; old dykes with faces like leather and painter’s pants with farm implements hanging from the belts; young and buff people, old and stiff people, couples and singles, everyone working in silence. Then breakfast. Then I had dishwashing for two and a half hours, cleaning toilets and guest rooms till lunch, then more dishwashing till nearly 3 p.m. I’m absolutely worn out, but the best part of the day was the hoeing. [read on]

GG Day 4: she loses her faith

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

Buddhism is not, of course, a “faith.” It’s a way of life, a set of principles, ethics, and stars to steer by. I have not lost any of that. But I have definitely lost a dream. For many years, I thought, “If I can just get through this, eventually I’m going to become a Buddhist nun, and then I will be fully who I am.” Hah. It was a romantic fantasy I had, that in my old age I would blossom into a saint, or something like that, in flowing and graceful robes, with a shaved head and a smile of bliss on my face. (I haven’t read Queneau’s La Dimanche de la Vie four times for nothing.) The truth is, I have have spent my life becoming fully who I am. The idea that living in Buddhist community would be a kind of glorious finale for my life is a delusion, like so many that have come before. It is always wonderful to be freed of another delusion. I felt more fully alive and more connected with the universe in Portugal, sitting on the miradouro in Melgaco, than I have felt at either of these Zen centers. That is not to say anything negative about the Zen centers. They are wonderful in their way, and they offer nourishment for many people. But not a way of life for me. [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]

Portland, here I come!

Friday, June 29th, 2007

I remain fascinated by the possibility of moving to Portland, Oregon either AFTER a spell of living at a Zen center, or INSTEAD of living at a Zen center. There are three apartment complexes–well, be honest–old folks’ homes (you have to be 62 or older to be considered): run by an association of labor unions, in three different parts of Portland, Oregon. Those who know me well will be screaming NO! You’re not THAT old! But wait. Drop the stereotypes. These places offer nice little apartment-type living spaces (all utilities included) for 1/3 of whatever a person’s monthly income is, with preference given to low income people. I love the politics of that. This could be very good. Fuddy-duddy old rich people would be screened out. Progressive labor union types, rabble-rousers and old hippies could be in. Of course I need to take a look. It’s a shock to my system to think about this option, but it might be the best thing out there. [read on]