Moving Through The Landscape

After the changeable weather of the first week I was here, the past week has, except for one day, been gloriously warm and sunny – and when the weather is like this, I could not be happier. It lulls me into wishing that I lived here again.

As always, it is the familiarity of the landscape and the deep presence of history that nourishes me. I feel it as I travel around by train – from the south coast, passing through the area I grew up in on the way down to the west country, content to watch the changing scenery through the window, wondering if indeed I had to live across the world to appreciate the place I come from. But I have felt the nourishment most intensely on my various runs, the main theme of which has been getting around routes I have done before, and managing to navigate various footpaths and by-ways that I haven’t always been able to find.

On Friday of last week, I went out in the warm sun and climbed up to the downs to take in the long vews north from Devil’s Dyke; away from the traffic there were buzzards and pheasants, horses, cows and sheep, and a deep sense of exhilaration for the land. On the way down I took a long straight track that followed the crown of a ridge, perhaps many centuries old, that I had missed before when coming in the other direction.

In Cornwall I have gone up and down the folds of land which rise steeply from the streams and rivers. The first run was the shortest, but still testing, round the former dog-walking route; then I went over to Cadsonbury, a Bronze Age hilltop fortress, and along the tree-lined Lynher, with several fearsome climbs to negotiate, before tackling Kit Hill on Thursday, with clear views in all directions across the county, east to Brentor and Princeton on Dartmoor; the mouth of the Tamar, and Viverdon Down to the south; Goonhilly Down and Caradon to the west – all places that have resonated in my life.

My dad’s health continues to decline; as I was here, my step-mother got a break and went to visit friends. I help with meals and anything else he asks for, and there is a kind and entertaining carer who comes to help him get dressed and washed. I walk the dog, though he is also getting old and doesn’t go far these days, and lavish attention on the cats, especially the new kitten whose horizons have expanded greatly in the time I have been here. I have kept my hand in building a little rock wall in one corner of the garden. It seems that this house will be sold after my father dies, so I have been especially drinking in the small charms of this little corner of the world where my ancestors were based for so long, and wondering if I will find a way to stay connected with it.

The corner of the field next to the house, where I walk the dog in the morning.

The road up to town, with its wonderful canopy of big trees.

My friends have been getting daily kitten updates.

Norman Fischer

Integrity literally means “wholeness.” Wholeness means everything in your life is put together as a whole – body, speech, mind and activity; relationship to yourself, to others, and to the physical world. Having integrity means you aren’t divided against yourself, blocking your energy with inner contradictions, disappointments, or defeats. When you have integrity, you may have contradictions, disappointments, and defeats, but instead of being set aside or ignored, they are folded in – integrated – into who you are.’ (The World Could Be Otherwise)

Karen Maezen Miller

‘Whatever the scenery, our practice is the same. Our practice is to face and feel everything life is, and everything it isn’t. Everything we think and feel and everything we don’t. Wall gazing is a very thorough practice in facing the fleetingness of things and not getting trapped in momentary apparitions. All apparitions, it turns out, are momentary. When your eyes are open and you are intimately engaged with what appears in front of you, it’s hard to stay bored because nothing stays one way for long. Even walls disappear.’ (from Shambala Sun Magazine)

David Michie

‘One of the most important meditation in Buddhism is contemplating the certainty of death. When we do this regularly, it helps inform our priorities on how to live. For while material considerations are important in our daily life, we need to avoid assuming that they have any greater value than this.
A helpful view of our life of leisure and fortune is to think of it like a brief stay in a luxury hotel. It’s good to enjoy the view, to make the most of the facilities, to strike up cordial relations with our fellow guests. We may have a favorite seat in the dining room, or we may talk about “my” room, but we are constantly aware that the facilities are only very temporarily ours to use. Most of us don’t suffer from a midholiday crisis on day three, thinking how it’s all going to come to an end on day five – we’re more likely to book in the jet-ski activity or beach massage, or make other plans to extract the full value from our stay. And having been mindful all along that we’re only making a short visit, we’re unlikely to burst into tears in the lobby, overcome with remorse and regret while checking out.’ (Enlightenment To Go)

Taisen Deshimaru

What is real? The world exists. Reality or not reality is a metaphysical question, existing is a physical question. It is hard to compare the two.’ (Questions to a Zen Master)

Tiantong

The void of the circle of the Way is never filled,
The letters on the seal of emptiness are still unformed.
Subtly carrying the globe of heaven and axis of earth,
Finely weaving the military warp and cultural woof,
Opening up, kneading together,
Standing along, traveling everywhere:
The mind activates the mysterious pivot, thunder roars in the clear blue sky;
The eye takes in violet light, seeing stars in broad daylight.

Dogen

‘You who rightly transmit the true eye that directly sees Shakyamuni Buddha are more intimate with Shakyamuni Buddha than Shakyamuni Buddha is with himself. With this eye you see and bring forth numerous past and future Shakyamuni Buddhas. Therefore, in order to express adoration to Shakyamuni Buddha, you should profoundly venerate this authentic face-to-face transmission and with formal bows acknowledge the extreme rarity of meeting with it. This is to bow formally to the Tathagata and to be given face-to-face transmission by the Tathagara. You may wonder if it is the self that now sees the unchanging practice of the face-to-face-transmitting tathagatas. Whether it is the self or other that sees this transmission, you should treasure and protect it.’ (Shobogenzo Menju)

Beside The Seaside

I had originally thought that my night in Newmarket would be the only time I would be spending by myself on this trip. But the friend I was going to stay with on the south coast messaged me to say that she had been invited to a film festival her friend was putting on, and that she would be flying to Chicago on Wednesday; since her husband was already away for work, I would have the house to myself for a couple of days.

Still, I got to travel down on a wet Monday, through London, to the coast – and then back with her on Tuesday for a day in the city, before that happened; my fourth different bed in a week, and finally settling into full nights of sleep, albeit woken early by the numerous gulls.

There has been an autumnal cast to the landscape, the trees starting to turn, and ploughed fields seen from the train. The weather has been a little schizophrenic in a way that I have grown unused to in California: so far I have had two sunny days followed by a wet day, a windy day, a sunny day, a wet day, a warm day, a wet day, and then Thursday was mostly grey on the coast, but tending towards sun.

I did manage the first run of my trip on Wednesday afternoon, wisely setting off along the sea front to the west, into the stiff wind, all the way to the locks at the end of Shoreham Port, and then back with the tail wind. It was dead flat, but an hour of running sets me up for my usual visit to Devil’s Dyke, which I am planning for Friday.

On Thursday I walked in the opposite direction, all the way to Brighton Marina along the sea front, and then back via the little lanes and villa-lined avenues. I would have prefered sunlight for my photos, but the light was soft, the colours muted.

In the hours of silence I write to friends and think about how my next talks are going to hang together from the material I am gathering.

Arriving into London on a wet Monday.

The photogenic West Pier in Brighton. It was not really that gloomy.

A tranquil park in Hove.

Sylvia Boorstein

‘Since everything is change happening, there is no one who owns the changes and no one to whom the changes are happening. We are verbs, not nouns, experiences unfolding, stories telling themselves as sequels to other stories.’ (It’s Easier Than You Think)

Tara Brach

‘Even when it’s hard to appreciate goodness in someone, we can send lovingkindness anyway. At first we might feel fake or irritated; our good wishes may feel hollow or flat. But if we can regard those feelings with kindness and continue the practice, a surprising thing happens. By simply offering care, our care begins to wake up.’ (Radical Forgiveness)

I have posted this before, and I still believe in its efficacy. I imagine I will be saying things along similar lines while I am in England.