Sitting under the olive tree

This Monday lunchtime, Zachary and I will be sitting on the Embarcadero, as we try to do every week. I will be coming by bike and taking the cushions away on a trailer borrowed from the Bicycle Coalition, as I have done a few times. Looking back, I noticed that this week marks the one-year anniversary of our first sit.

Sometimes we have sat alone, sometimes we have filled the cushions. We have listened to cars, trucks, buses, boats, streetcars, helicopters, seaplanes, drilling, horns, and sirens, and watched birds (pelicans and cormorants in line over the water, seagulls facing off pigeons on the lamp-posts, parrots squawking in the distance, hummingbirds zipping by, sparrows grubbing around us), dragonflies, drones, bikes, scooters (ubiquitous for a while, and no doubt they will be back), dogs, skateboards, dogs on skateboards. We recognise many regulars, especially among the joggers – there are three or four very elegant athletes we see every week (last week I saw two of them for the first time gliding by together, which made me wonder if they had just met, or known each other all along) – but also the chef from the nearby restaurant with his electric buggy carrying supplies around, and the elderly stall owner from the Ferry Building who trundles his wares behind him on an electric scooter.

Sometimes people have offered us donations; I have been given a loaf of bread, and bought lunch. Other times we walk away empty handed, without even covering the cost of the parking meter. It’s an offering we make – part of teaching the dharma is being generous with the teaching, and we agree constantly that it is a wonderful thing to do, regardless of financial reward.

People often stop to read our sign, to eye us up, or take photographs – we were even filmed recently by a local TV crew who told us they were looking for shots demonstrating for tourists what people in the city get up to. Very occasionally a passer-by will come and sit with us. As I say in other contexts, we never know just what impact it may have (I wrote about this when I was the ino at Zen Center – the comment underneath is as important as the piece itself).

Amazingly enough, despite a couple of close shaves, we have only once had to go indoors to sit. Every other time, we have had the privilege of sitting in the open air, gazing on the sky, the water, the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island, not moving in this bustling little corner of the world. As we say on the sign: we bring the cushions; you bring your busy mind and give it a little rest over lunch-time. We will be there from 12:30 – 1:30; you can drop in any time.

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