In Belfast, I started to have the sense of my trip coming to its close, though I still had some adventures ahead of me in the final week.
On Friday we did go and sit in the zendo, and with a small number of people in attendance, Djinn invited me to be the doshi, so that she could double up as doan and kokyo, which felt very sweet. At the end of the morning it was off to the airport; my plane was about an hour late, which meant that I didn’t have much time in hand to get over to Glastonbury. A friend who I have known for more than thirty years- we met in our year of teaching in Paris – but who I had not seen in almost twenty, was kind enough to drive me to Bev’s; we had tried to meet last year, but care for her family had made it impossible.
Bev and Jez, and baby Jemima (who regularly stole the show, of course) greeted us very warmly. There was an abundance of food and care, and I got to sleep in the converted garage, which also converted to the zendo once the bed was flipped up against the wall.
A few people had been unable to make the whole weekend, but there was a good strong group for the sit on Saturday, most of whom I had met before – from Bev who I met at Tassajara in 2003, and Josh who sat with me in Totnes in 2011 and 2012 on my first teaching visits to England, to John who had hosted me in Norfolk a couple of weeks ago.
It was a rainy old day on Saturday, a low dark cloud following the long line of the Mendip hills visible to the north, though once again it stopped raining in time for us to take a short walk around the block after lunch. By the end of the day, there were flashes of low sun from beneath the cloud, and a colourful sunset.
Apart from the sitting, and the dharma discussion over tea and chocolate cake at the end of the day, the group was convening for the AGM of Dancing Mountains, and I was happy to contribute to the preliminary conversations about the issues that would be raised at the meeting; everyone wishes to further the reach of the Suzuki Roshi lineage in England, and there are a variety of ideas about what would be most helpful. For the meeting itself, on Sunday morning after a forty-minute sit and another hearty breakfast, I left them to it, and took myself off to the Tor.
I had only visited the town once before, for the sitting that Devin organised (which took place a couple of streets away), but not had a chance to look around. Sunday was bright and clear, and there was a stream of people making their way up the slopes. Once again I noticed my urge to want to run up to the highest point around; walking briskly was a good enough workout for this visit. The views were splendid, the sheep pleasingly photogenic. I walked back into town via a couple of quiet lanes, enjoying the rural beauty, but not managing to tune in to the deep energy that draws people to the town.
The last of my long train journeys in England (running late as had previous Sunday journeys) brought me back to London. I had thought of running a loop of the Thames from my sister’s house, but the chance to watch some football live on a large screen took precedence (and then the match did not live up to its billing).
So instead, I ran at first light again, crossing the Thames at Barnes Bridge, following the north bank all the way to Putney Bridge, and returning on the inside of the great curve of the river. Rowers were already on the water: eights, fours, pairs, and single scullers, some coached from a following boat, headlights gleaming. There was another tremendous sunrise, the river reflecting the still sky as it shifted from deep orange to yellow. The tide was low, and it was tempting to try to run on the strand, or cross over to Chiswick Eyot, but I knew how muddy and slippy the surface would be.
And I had time constraints as well; hopefully, when this post is published, I should be on my way to Luton Airport for the final adventure of this trip. Stay tuned!
The tor is definitely inspiring.