The enforced slowdown caused by my damaged wrist certainly clashed with the amount of things I wanted to get done before I left on my trip. In the end, I put aside just about everything that was not essential (at least in my eyes), and thus managed to do everything that was – not least cleaning my place for the friends who would stay a few nights while I was away.
This slowness also made Manhattan an interesting first stop. I had an early start to the day, but since my whole arm was aching at night (and still is, even as I get more strength and mobility back in my hand), I was awake well before my alarm.
This first leg went very smoothly, and I arrived in a hot and humid Newark afternoon. The walk from Penn station to my hotel (chosen for its relative proximity) felt like hard work under the circumstances. I showered and went for an early dinner. Few people were sitting outside because of the temperatures, but I have decided to be incredibly cautious so that I don’t have to spend part of the trip in quarantine and have to miss a few visits. There was great people-watching from my sidewalk table. I marveled in the energy of New York, so different to San Francisco, ate well, and then decided that a walk along the riverside would be nice, not least for the breeze.
It turned out that I hit upon a glorious sunset, and having decided to walk down as far as 34th Ave, discovered it was a sunset that shone straight up the street. Crowds lingered in the crosswalks to get iconic pictures.
I was also awake extremely early the next morning, and after it got light I strolled around – the traffic was already heavy on some streets, but others were quiet. Eventually the cafes were open, and then I went back and got caught up in the Alpe d’Huez stage of the Tour de France. Which meant that I got to Penn Station to catch my train, I realised that I had left my main camera battery and charger in my hotel room – though when I called they said that nothing had been found.
So with my spare battery only, I figured I would have to be pretty judicious with how many pictures I could take over the course of the gathering – no bad thing really – until I could get back to the city and try to get a new one.
The train was packed, but I enjoyed the unfolding scenery of the Hudson Valley. I did not spot any other Gen X attendees anywhere – unlike in 2015, where a group of us had coalesced for the train to a place that I realised was not so far away, but on the other side of the river. So when I got off, seeing no friends or any assistance, I took a taxi.
The driver had never been up the drive to the Dharma Center; I was encouraged that several people waved at us as we pulled up. The scene could not have been more different to New York: a tranquil location, surrounded by people I had mostly met before, with no rush, and a sense of groundedness about everything.
We have had discussions and inquiries about how we have been practicing through the pandemic, the shifts we have noticed and where we might be heading as Buddhist teachers. The weather got a little more gentle after the day we arrived, and we have had cloudscapes, sunsets and an almost full moon. I have been woken up rolls of distant thunder and by a startlingly loud dawn chorus outside. Yesterday, eating breakfast outside, the combination of early warm sun and still cool air reminded me movingly of summer mornings in Cornwall. I feel deeply nourished.