Alternative Scenarios

The past two Sundays in the Bay Area have been marked by strong winds.

On the first of these Sundays, having seen the forecast, I knew I would not be comfortable riding over the bridge. So I headed south, and positively flew down Great Highway, which had been closed again for a race, with the tail wind. Of course, on the way back up from the Peninsula, as I remember from the very first time I road up Camino Real, heading into the teeth of a wind funneling down between the hills is no fun. I did my best this time around by heading for the bay shore, more in the lee of San Bruno Mountain, and it was not so grim.

Our Embarcadero sit the next day was challenging for everybody, with the north wind cutting through many layers of clothes, unmitigated by the sunshine. I was glad to ride home vigourously and get somewhere sheltered.

Last weekend I was up at Wilbur. The wind overnight on Saturday had kept the temperatures above freezing, but again there was little warmth in the sun. Sitting on the yoga deck, the plastic sheeting rippled and a part of the frame was banging. Back in the city, the wind had brought warm air, so I did the Monday sit in a t-shirt and felt pretty toasty. Afterwards, I did a meditation in a meeting room which always has noisy air-conditioning. In my closing observations I returned to words I had used at Wilbur on Sunday: the mind is always apt to create alternative scenarios. Wouldn’t it be better if it were ten degrees warmer or not as windy? Or, in the latter case, wouldn’t it be nicer to sit outside in the warm sun? And along with that, how we impose our ideas on the circumstances of the moment: the wind is too disturbing; the air-conditioner is too noisy. Instead of pushing things away, or shutting them out, can we just let conditions be as they are?

One of the participants in the latter session asked how we can do that. Staying engaged and curious, a continuous opening rather than closing, was the response I came up with. I might need to bring these stories to another session I am doing this week, as part of a team-building off-site, where I have been told that harmonising the group is the priority.

I had had a preliminary engagement with this topic on Saturday morning, when it had been clear and frosty at Wilbur (I would say I left the city under clear skies, but unlike at Wilbur, there was the typical low-hanging brown haze visible around the bay as I drove up). I was setting up the cushions, and the cold of the floor of the deck reminded me of all the hours on the engawa – the walkway around the zendo – at Tassajara, whether I was playing one of the instruments, or waiting as part of an oryoki serving crew on biting winter mornings. That was really a practice of making the unwanted wanted (I forgot that I had brought this up in connection with Wilbur): this was the reality of being at Tassajara (just as the cold deck was the reality of being at Wilbur on Saturday), so how are you going to meet it?

DSCF2193.jpgReally clear skies on the way into Wilbur on Friday afternoon.

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DSCF2251.jpgI enjoyed spending time with Frank on Friday afternoon, and, as a cat should, he was enjoying the late sunshine.

DSCF2287.jpgThe full moon setting on Sunday morning.

DSCF2267.jpgThe bathhouse was steaming away in the freezing temperatures on Saturday morning.

Lessons Of The Landscape

‘If we go somewhere on foot, we know the way perfectly, whereas if we go by motor car or airplane we are hardly there at all, it becomes merely a dream.’ – Chögyam Trungpa.

Last year at this time, my intention to get plenty of exercise in my free time was thwarted, mainly by breaking the frame on my road bike, though the wet weather did not help.

This year I have been doing a little better, and along the way, I have been contemplating Trungpa’s quote. As I have been walking, running, riding and driving, I have felt more and more immersed in the local topography. The crosstown trail last week brought home to me how San Francisco is a built-over and filled-in version of the whole landscape of the area: intricately folded land, with long ridges, deep valleys, and water coursing down the hills to form the huge wetlands of the bay.

A shorter walk I took on New Year’s Eve was part of my continued exploring of the area around Meadowsweet and Camino Alto that I started in the spring; I found trails taking me over from the north side to Horse Hill, with views back to the city, a pair of coyotes sunning themselves on the grassy slopes; working my way back to meet the top of Camino Alto, and back down the north side of the hill on the little residential roads.

Having only run once in about ten weeks after getting back from England, over Christmas week I managed three runs in the space of seven days, without feeling too beat-up. For the first, I was drawn back to Twin Peaks, as I have been on recent short bike rides around the city, still feeling that sense of home that I experienced a few months ago – and of course there is always the ineffable joy of having climbed to the top of something.

On Christmas Day in Marin, when the forecast was wet, I had another experience of plotting a new route on a map, and finding it differently challenging in real life – mainly as it took a lot longer than I expected; heading out into what shows on some maps as Baltimore Canyon, which ties in with the inscription on the old rail building nearby. It was damp and misty, though not actually raining, and the beautiful creek valley reminded me of Jumble Hole, with fewer rocks and more redwoods. I clmbed the back of King Mountain (alas the summit was gated off), and looped round to the fire road on the bay side – where, as with just about everywhere in this area, the sound of the 101 was most prominent.

My third run was at Wilbur over the weekend – the usual outing up the soft mud of the Smelter Trail as the sun was still warming the hillsides on Saturday afternoon.

I had gone up on Friday, via the 37 which arcs across the north of the bay, through wetlands; with Tam and Diablo dominating their quarters of the landscape, this is where the water cascades down to. The sky was blue, and the expanses seemed mesmerising. Heading up the central valley north of Vacaville, it was clear enough to see the snowy Sierras to the east.

For the first time at Wilbur, I was staying in the red house, in a quaint unevenly-floored room, directly above the fridges, the same kind which in the main building often amuse me when they  kick off in a deep harmonious set of hums.

It was pleasant when I arrived, but there was no sun down at the bathhouse – like at Tassajara through the winter, the hillside was too steep to allow it. In the morning, I woke to luminous clouds and frost.

There was no heat working on the yoga deck, and for the morning session on Saturday, the vents, which I could not find a way to switch off, were just blowing cold air down the back of my neck. Because I find the cold so challenging, I imagine others will struggle with it; the people who came took blankets, wrapped themselves up, and sat happily.

Afterwards I had my lunch outside on the deck of the red house, my back warmed back up by the sun, enjoying Frank’s company, such as he offers it.

Sunday, the weather was the opposite, mild, then, cloudy with drops of rain, that turned more steady as the day went on. I had a lot of time to be creative and productive with end of year tasks, but the sense of relaxation dissipated as I navigated the slippery road out, and three hours of fairly teeming rain all the way back, as the skies grew darker, reminding me of a similar return trip a little over a year ago.

On my bike, staying north of the city allows me an hour of headstart over my typical experience of well-known routes. I have been climbing the hills and riding through the valleys of Marin, the low temperatures down below – the San Geronimo Valley on Sir Francis Drake, Lucas Valley with the redwoods – giving way to warmth on the ‘sunlit uplands’ of Mount Tam on New Year’s Eve, and the grand open hills – which remind me of Cornwall – as I made my way out to the Marshall Wall on New Year’s Day, for the first time in several years. I would have stopped at the Bovine on the way back, but I was worried I would not get started again, and the line was already out of the door. I continued along highway 1, right on top of the San Andreas fault line, so visible from the air when I have flown back in to San Francisco.

The lessons of the landscape around here are the lessons of earthquake and water.

DSCF1719.jpgThe wetlands around highway 37.

DSCF1732.jpgSaturday dawn at Wilbur.

DSCF1746.jpgDifferently beautiful on Sunday morning.

DSCF1740.jpgMorning sun in my room in the red house.

DSCF1751.jpgA wintry afternoon going home.

DSCF1777.jpgMount Tam from Horse Hill on New Year’s Eve, close to where I saw the coyotes.

IMG_2154.jpgFirst light on the mountain, New Year’s Day.

IMG_2174.jpgThe winding road to Marshall.

IMG_2188.jpgHeading south on highway 1 beside Tomales Bay.

Wind, Water, Fire and Earth

It had seemed that California might have escaped the worst of the fires this year, but the Kincade fire put paid to that notion. Before I left for Wilbur on Friday, I took a ride up Twin Peaks, and could see the smoke drifting south, as predicted. On the way up, there was a long line of it over the hills to the west.

There have been some personnel changes at Wilbur and it seemed that my planned visit had fallen through the cracks; when I arrived, I discovered that it was a weekend for a yoga retreat, who were taking over the yoga deck where I would normally offer meditation. As it happened, I had been discussing for at least a year the idea of offering meditation hikes, and had decided with a previous calendar organiser at Wilbur that October would be the perfect time to do it. I had written a blurb for the newsletter – its non-appearance had alerted me that there might be some issues.

Quickly enough it was decided that I could offer the hikes as planned, instead of doing any sitting while the retreat was here. Then it also transpired that the retreat had planned a meditation hike, and would be delighted if I were able to lead it for them. So on Saturday, having taken a couple of people up to the medicine wheel earlier in the morning, I took a large group of retreatants up there  – via the wishing tree – so that they could enjoy the view and enjoy a silent packed lunch. It was a lot of fun, and I am grateful to Katrina and Laura from Moxie Yoga for being open to it.

Hortensia in the office had warned that the wind was due to get up at eleven that night. I was woken at 11:30 by something sounding like a door banging repeatedly; the cabin shook several times in the ferocity of the gusts, and I was hoping that the power lines at the end of the valley had been turned off, as the thought of one of them falling and setting the valley grass on fire was not restful. So I did not sleep terribly well.

The wind also caused the temperature to drop a fair amount, from very pleasant days in the eighties. It barely reached the sixties, and felt colder whenever the wind blew. In the morning I took a mother and daughter – from a family who had initially cancelled their birthday celebration, but decided to come since they were liable to be evacuated from their home, having packed photo albums and passports – along the valley, to the wishing tree, the labyrnth and the wind chimes, which were making a rather spooky cacophony.

I was feeling rather uneasy all morning, and had serious thoughts about leaving. We were getting reports, initially second-hand, but then confirmed as a few of us gathered in the office, that highway 16 was closed, as was highway 80 in Vallejo. As Rebecca pointed out, with all the evacuations as well, it was not really a great day to be on the road, so I decided to stay put.

A part of the unease was discovering that my former rigged-up method for recording myself for the various apps no longer worked on my new laptop. Something I had planned to spend much of my free time on Sunday was now no longer possible, but instead would have to be added to the number of things to try and get done during the week. I could spend a little more time on the writing, but felt at a loose end, and noticed that I had absolutely no desire to go for a run to burn off the energy.

Having decided to stay though, the agitation disappeared, and the place quietened down as well, not just the wind, but most of the guests leaving after their weekend. I stayed out in the sun at the baths until it dipped behind the trees at four, and set up the yoga deck for an evening sitting. I think it was my first time sitting with the lights, and it also felt very powerful and grounding just to be sitting upright after all the movement. One person came, and she asked for the lights to be turned off, so we sat in the very last of the daylight; she did not have much experience sitting, but was raised as a sufi, and had many thoughts about meditation, trauma and healing, so we ended up talking far more than sitting, until I was ready to sleep.

Waking up terribly early on Monday, it soon occurred to me that I was unlikely to go back to sleep, as I would be turning over all the things I had to try to get done – not least of which was the fact that Zachary had said he wouldn’t be able to make the meditation on Monday, so I would have to collect the cushions, as well as dropping off my rental car by eleven, getting myself to and from the sitting, then back out to teach in the afternoon – with my student group in the evening. Rather than wait out the rush hour, or have to sit in it, I had the idea I could get ahead of it.

I had a bit of coffee and set off earlier than I have ever done before – though there was still a fair amount of traffic even for the ungodly hour. Indeed, at Vallejo, where the smoke was dense, the lines of traffic on the 80 at five in the morning stretched right through the city, as there was still a lane closed just by the bridge; and the half-hour it took to get through that meant that the Bay Bridge was starting to seriously back up as well. Nevertheless, I still got home before light.

Of course, once I had a signal, I discovered that Zachary would be able to make the sitting, and bring the cushions after all, so a large proportion of my fretting had, not unusually, been in vain. I thus had plenty of time to catch up on emails, news and football; I was just very tired during the various sittings, alleviated only by a sense of real meeting during my evening group, something that is always energising, and reminds me why I do all of this.

DSCF1268.jpgThe thinnest of new moons visible before sunrise on Saturday.

DSCF1270.jpgDawn colours at the bathhouse.

DSCF1276.jpgBright sun on the smelter trail on the way up to the medicine wheel.

DSCF1288.jpgA year’s worth of wishes on the tree – they will all be burned at the end of the year.

DSCF1296.jpgThe labyrinth oak.

DSCF1305.jpgAlthough some smoke was visible from higher up, the skies could not have been bluer.

A Long, Hot, Slow Weekend

This past weekend at Wilbur was going to be a long one, even by my standards; I was determined not to be in a rush to get there, but it is always good to get out of the city early on a Friday. As I drove out past Walnut Creek, looking at Mount Diablo, I realised that exactly a week before, I had been on its slopes on my bike – and that next Friday, I would be starting the sitting with the Dancing Mountains group in Newmarket.

It was just shy of a hundred degrees when I arrived, and just over a hundred on Saturday and Sunday. There were familiar faces there, apart from the friend I was expecting; it was nice to catch up with people, and I even treated myself to some bodywork with Shalamah, who gave me a serious going over as she has before. It is a time of transition in the staffing there, and I joined in a little celebration for Claudia and Chris, who keep things running very smoothly and will be heading to Europe very soon.

I only had one run planned, and I went out early on Sunday morning to do the ridge trail. I had trepidation – just for the climbs that come after you have already got up to the ridge, and they were as tough as I remembered, just touched by the first sunshine and already warming up. As I reached the top of the final short steep slope, I caught up with a guy walking along, sweating in camouflage, with a hunting rifle – always somewhat expected, though perhaps we were both surprised at each others’ presence. He said there were a couple of guys ahead of him, but I didn’t see them or hear them, and it was quiet and still enough at that time to hear the occasional cars passing down on highway 20, way down below.

The stillness added to the sense of heat, and I relished every minute of it, feeling, as Labor Day came around, that it really did mark a cusp in the seasons. I woke up early each day, mainly from being unused to the temperature shifts during the night, and earlier, even by my standards, on Monday morning. My first thought was that getting up would help me adjust to the time change (since it was already late morning in England), so I got up and lay in the outdoor pool, floating and looking up at the abundant stars.

The place was full all weekend – and they even managed to squeeze in a few people who had left Burning Man early; I saw the tell-tale dust-cover truck in the lot on Sunday morning, and there were a few people who stood out rather, drifting around somewhat less focused than most people at Wilbur. One made it to a couple of sittings, though I was not convinced he was totally present…

I had full houses for both the Sunday sessions and on Monday morning, even filling the cushions ten minutes before the Sunday evening session. I wondered if we had been trending on Instagram, but someone pointed out that it was a long weekend – I think people had run out of alternative things to do… I was motivated by the numbers to try to say something interesting, but by Monday, the fifth session of the weekend, I wasn’t sure I had anything new to say. I was just trying to enjoy the sitting and the heat, and not be in a rush to get back and do my laundry before heading to the airport on Tuesday afternoon.

DSCF9383.jpgPart of the light show on Friday evening.

DSCF9390.jpgFrank was unconcerned, even though the lighting flattered him.

DSCF9416.jpgNew moon following the sun down on Sunday.

DSCF9458.jpgFirst rays at the bathhouse on Monday morning.

DSCF9446.jpgThe path to the yoga deck, which was well trodden over the weekend, in the morning sun.

The Wind Blows Through The Empty Valley

Last week was by and large mercifully fog free in San Francisco, warm and with clear blue skies, reminding me of the best summer days in England – though England was then roasting in the kind of temperatures you expect to get in inland California. The fog came back in for Friday morning; this time I did have enough time to stretch my legs on my bike before going off to Wilbur. It was a round 100 when I arrived.

I was struck that afternoon by the stillness and quiet, and also my response to it, which was to feel very sleepy. Talking with Charlotte, one of the regular bodyworkers, she said it was the heat, but it was more, I think, that I find the heat so deeply relaxing.

Not so easy to sleep in the hot cabins though, even if the temperatures dropped overnight to allow a cool start to the day. Much as I don’t enjoy it, I ran first thing both mornings, as the colours on the golden hills started to reflect the orange skies to the east. On a flatter section heading up to the Medicine Wheel on Saturday morning, I had a sense of gliding, which was a nice delusion to have – it certainly didn’t feel that way the next morning as I lumbered from the cooler valley to the warmer hill tops crossing over to the Terraced Springs, my legs getting gently lacerated by star thistles which are running riot in the valleys.

On Saturday it topped out at 108; on Sunday it nudged a little closer to 110 – as someone observed, the only people to complain about the heat were those who had to work in it. I stuck to the shade, reading Shantideva and snoozing almost, despite good nights’ sleep. The guests were a very mellow bunch, and mostly quiet after the meditations. And when everyone left on Sunday, the wind picked up, as if signalling a change to come in the weather.

After the evening sits, with the sun down behind the hills, but still 90 degrees, I enjoyed lying on the stones of the pool deck which had absorbed all the heat of the day.

On Monday morning I got up early enough to sit in the tub under the stars, as the new moon rose over the hills, visible between the trunks of the pine, before I set off back to the city in the balmy early morning, meeting the fog as it rolled down from American Canyon.

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DSCF8877Late afternoon sun on Sunday in the blazing heat.

To the Top of the City

Coming into this weekend, I felt like I had a lot of time and space – there was very little on my schedule, though I knew I would have some writing and recording to do. Mostly, with the sun doing its best, I was looking forward to getting some exercise.

Between the summer weather and continuing tendon issues, I have barely been running for months; I don’t remember the last time I ran in the city, though I did make it out on my last two visits to Wilbur. So while my cycling legs are in reasonable shape – I got up to the top of Tam, well above the damp fog, a week ago, and have in mind to get up Diablo before I go to England (again!) – I realised I ought to at least try to get my running legs back so that I can enjoy the runs I typically get to do once I am over there.

It’s also a while since I felt the need to run around a roam route; mostly I am on familiar grounds now. McLaren Park was such an unknown quantity that walking round it with a phone map at hand seemed a better option. For the next roam, while I am well acquainted with the high points of San Francisco, either on foot or on a bike, the open-ended route I had planned took in a few places I wanted some refreshing to get back into my body. So on a sunny afternoon, I took the N-Judah outbound from Duboce Park to Cole Valley, and started trotting, quite slowly and self-consciously, at least until I got on the trails, where it became a matter of tackling what was at hand.

A lot of the climbing is fairly gentle – especially the trails on Mount Sutro, where I was least familiar with the North Ridge trail, which meanders about Medical Center Way to the summit; I also wanted to tackle the new Clarendon connector from the other end to the one I usually come into the mountain from.
I hadn’t planned my food intake very well prior to running, so while my legs were doing okay at the first peak, my blood sugar felt off; luckily I had a bar with me, and in time that took effect, as I sweated up both of the Twin Peaks. And then realised that I was also going to be approaching Mount Davidson from an unfamiliar angle. In the end, I was able to use visual cues – like the covered reservoir – to get me to the entrance on La Bica, and from there to the summit. On the way down, I tried a different trail to the usual one, and ended up at the top of Dalewood, a fearsome road I have not dared to climb on my bike for a few years, and only ever attempted when I was at my fittest. And then it was a short trot to West Portal station, where the T took me back home in a matter of minutes, a little stiff after the exertions.

I only hope that there isn’t a repeat of the McLaren Park roam, which was scouted on a gorgeous day, and then largely fogged in on the day itself.

Mt Sutro woods statue.jpgLooking back at my photos of the woods on Mount Sutro from a few years ago, I noticed how much more overgrown things seemed on my last visit. This water-guardian is much less visible now.

Pale Blue Skies

In this year of mutable weather, I was not especially surprised that it was cooler during my visit to Wilbur last weekend, than on the previous one. The high cloud covering the Bay Area gave way to pale skies and puffy clouds as I left the freeway and took the back route from Fairfield to Highway 16, stopping at the Full Belly Farm shop on the way, and seeing the traces of recent fire around Rumsey.

Since it was only eighty degrees when I arrived mid-afternoon, I went for a gentle run up the valley and over the creek, not having run since I was last there – it felt okay, and my new shoes probably helped. Having spent the first part of the day in the city wavering as to whether going for a short bike ride would be a good idea or would just end up making me feel rushed as I tried to get out of town,  I was glad to get some exercise in.

The times of the sits had been adjusted to deal with the summer weather, which was great, and worked well, but also left us vulnerable to flies and mosquitoes, especially the 7pm sittings. At 9am, there was a freshness to the day that felt very conducive, and I was surprised how many people were up and about and willing to sit.

On Saturday it nudged ninety, but since there was a pleasant breeze all day, I set off around noon on one of their bikes to finally get some pictures further up the Bear Valley Road, which I had visited last year on a run. It was lovely to see that again, and a nice little work out, which meant I didn’t need to push myself to run early on Sunday. I left mid-morning for an event that I will post about tomorrow.

There was some late drama on Saturday – I was just chatting with Terrye in the office before turning in, when a guest told me there was a baby rattlesnake on the steps close by. Terrye did the pick-up of the tiny little thing with the long-handled picker, and put it in the special snake box (at Tassajara we just use a ten-gallon bin); I volunteered to take it down past the gate in a cart and release it – it seemed entirely disgruntled by the whole process, and I can’t say I blame it.

DSCF8422.jpgThe view up to Cache Canyon from Full Belly Farm.

DSCF8429.jpgTraces of the recent fire by Rumsey.

DSCF8443.jpgThe long valley north on Bear Valley Road.

DSCF8453.jpgI probably have pictures of these hills from all seasons now.

DSCF8467.jpgLate evening light by the yoga deck.

 

It Is The Time Of Flowers…

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… And flowers have arrived.

I used that Dogen quote on my shuso ceremony invitation, and it came inexorably to mind at Wilbur last weekend. I knew that conditions would be different from my last visit a few weeks ago, but I hadn’t completely adjusted to the change in the weather. I remember days in March during practice period at Tassajara when it would be up to 80 degrees, and we would leave the zendo at lunchtime to take off our robes and jump in the creek; this year it feels like I was bundled up in layers until last week, when I was digging out my lightest T-shirts again.

The Capay Valley was lush and green on the way up on Friday, even if I had missed the redbuds after all, and it was pushing 90 when I arrived. I waited until it had at least started to cool, and then ran the smelter trail to confirm for myself what I had already been told: that the trails were just blanketed in flowers. Lupins, Chinese houses, blue dicks, with occasional yellow mimulus and a few banks of orange California poppies to break up the lilac monopoly; I don’t even know the name of the most abundant flower, but it was everywhere on the hillsides. The combination of colours, with the vivid green of the grass, in the low sun was magical. I could not have been happier.

It was 90 degrees on Saturday as well. I started the day going down the road a little way to where I had seen plentiful flowers around the oaks below the gate, and got completely enraptured taking pictures as the sun started to rise about the slopes. After a well-attended morning sit, I didn’t want to run again, but instead took my camera out with me on a hike to the terraced springs and Coyote Peak  – although instead of going the full distance over the ridge and down by the cemetery, I tried a short-cut that I suspected might be possible from a little side valley. It brought me out way closer to the buildings than I had imagined, though I had to navigate a ravine and bush-whack through a few yards of chamise to get to a clear route back…

The breeze kept things cooler on Sunday. I went out again first thing with my camera to catch the low sun on the smelter trail, which, like the previous two outings, was mesmerisingly beautiful and completely peaceful. Well, there were ticks to pay attention to – I brushed a number off, though one ended up biting into my belly button, and another latched on to my armpit, both of which were sore for a while. I was almost disappointed not to see one of the rattlesnakes that had been sunning themselves around the property.

Although the crowd were extremely nice this time around (including someone who remembered having met me at Zen Center when we hosted a wonderful musical event a few years ago), I enjoyed the late afternoon quiet on Sunday when most everyone had left. In the morning, with stars and the new moon, I set off back to San Francisco, where it was not nearly so hot, but just as sunny.

DSCF6886.jpgSaturday morning below the gate.

DSCF6992.jpgThe terraced springs valley, which I had all to myself, as usual.

DSCF7014.jpgThe terraced springs themselves.

DSCF7046.jpgA bank of larkspur further up the valley.

DSCF7057.jpgThe view from Coyote Peak, showing the road, and, in the distance, the hills of Cache Canyon.

DSCF7188.jpgThe smelter trail on Sunday morning.

DSCF7200.jpgStepping through the flowers.

DSCF7179.jpgMimulus by the smelter trail creek.

DSCF7278.jpgFrank was good company as the sun set on Sunday.

East Wind, West Wind

I was thinking of Hongzhi’s phrase ‘like spring arising in everything’ as the title for this post while I was driving up to Wilbur on Friday. The sky was mostly optimistic blue with bright clouds, there was a sense of burgeoning, with the luminous greens of the hills, and, in the Capay Valley, not just endless almond trees in blossom, but also bright carpets of blossoms under the trees. The redbuds were not quite there, and the creeks were running fiercely; on the hillsides there were gullies running, and signs of slides everywhere. I felt like I was done with the rain, that I had got good value out of my rain gear this winter, but it was time for spring.

I knew the forecast was not as hopeful as I was – Saturday was drear, and it rained or drizzled most of the way through the chilly day. And then Sunday was the same, until the afternoon, when the wind started to pick up from the east, and the sky started to clear. I ran on Friday afternoon, up the waterlogged trails, my first run in almost three weeks and I felt a little rusty. That night my occasional foot tendon pain flared up into a constant throbbing that impacted my sleep; I might have been tempted to run again, even at the risk of further injury (I had barely noticed while I had been running, though I was stiff afterwards) but I hadn’t brought a rain jacket to run in. Instead I read and rested, and since I had some writing to do, took care of that, and editing the many hundreds of photos from the Mountain Seat weekend.

I was totally thrown by the clock change on Sunday – I knew it was coming, but had not realised it would be that weekend. My watch said one time, my laptop another, and the three clocks at Wilbur disagreed with each other. I remembered a time when I had been in Istanbul by myself about thirty years ago, and was flying back on the day I knew the clocks were going back in England. My Turkish wasn’t good enough to find out if it was also happening there, and the people who could speak to me in English weren’t so sure themselves, so I just left for the airport several hours ahead of when I needed to, just to be sure.
Luckily I had it straightened out this time before the morning meditation, though a couple of people who had intended to come ended up missing it. Since I had Shinshu’s book with me, I took the opportunity to talk about Uji at the end of the sitting, though I don’t think Dogen said anything specifically about daylight savings. I had good numbers of people coming all weekend, and mostly very solid sitters. I hope that the next time I am there, at the end of April, it will be warm enough for the screens to be off the yoga deck. I might have missed the redbuds though.

On the way out the road was as treacherously slick and muddy as I can remember it, and there was one last downpour as I headed south on Sunday evening, with the later evening light feeling like another release from the long winter (I know people who have real winters will be rolling their eyes).
By the time of the Monday sit, there was unbroken blue sky for the first time in many weeks, and it was lovely to sit with the sun warming my back. I noticed, riding home, that the west wind, itself a harbinger of summer, had picked up, slowing me down.

DSCF6267.jpgDSCF6272.jpgDSCF6277The 505 and Highway 16 providing beautiful spring views.

DSCF6300Cache Creek was flowing strongly.

DSCF6306DSCF6308Compare and contrast with just a few months ago.

Rain and Rainbows

I don’t mind the quirks of the calendar that have me going up to Wilbur only a couple of weekends after my previous visit – except for having to lean on my friends and benefactors more regularly for use of a car…
Looking at the forecast for the weekend, I packed for the rain rather than the cold, and it was drizzly as I made my way north. I was glad to have got ahead of the rain by the time I arrived. I had already decided not to run – having been out on a long hilly run in the city on Wednesday – and since it was ten degrees colder at Wilbur than in San Francisco, and the rain set in just after I arrived, I was glad to linger in the hot plunges instead.
Watching the drops bounce off the water, I remembered a time from a couple of years ago, and it occurred to me that much of the spaciousness I feel when I settle comes only after I have quelled my initial impulse to move on to the next thing (one reason I am glad that someone else was in charge of timing zazen for most of my years of practice).
The rain got heavier as the evening wore on, and I heard later that it ended up falling as snow, as it apparently had earlier in the week. In the morning there were bright clouds, passing from orange to cream before the sun came up. I didn’t jump up to take pictures when I saw it all forming – since discontinuing my Tumblr, I have noticed that I have less of an impulse to take pictures of everything. When there was a rainbow visible after John’s lovely tai chi class, though, I did grab my camera and walked a little way down to a place I had thought of photographing the busy creek, close to the gate.
After that bright interlude, there was rapidly changing blue sky and rain for the rest of the day, mostly rain, and it never got above fifty degrees. Considering that, I was happy with the number of people who came and sat; the heating on the yoga deck did not make much difference with a cold north wind blowing through the plastic sheeting.
The storm had been supposed to continue through to Sunday, but the day started clear as if it had blown itself out. Temperatures stretched in each direction – below freezing, first thing, and while the ground temperature may not have been warmer, the sun felt good for much of the day, even if the wind was still keen.
After the last of the sits, I did run, up the boggy smelter trail, and on to the ridge for the hard climbs along the spine of the ridge, in the sun and wind. Having been getting the Coyote Peak route in my body on recent visits, I hadn’t been this way for a few months, and enjoyed the views of the mountains, the valley sides, snow to the north, and the grain silos in the wide plain. As I started to make my way off the ridge, I was quite surprised to see someone running the other way. Considering how much climbing he had just done, he looked very strong; I checked he knew where he was going, which he said he kind of did, and continued my way down to the wind chimes and the long valley return. I did see him at the baths a while later, which was good, though he said he had had to bushwhack a little, which made me wonder where he had turned.
Not for the first time, I had to pour hot water on the windscreen and windows before I left, first thing on Monday morning, to melt the frost on the glass. When I got back to the city, it felt cold there as well, especially during our lunchtime sit, with the sun disappearing for most of the hour. And now another atmospheric river is apparently on its way…

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Sun and raindrops looking downcreek…

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.. Must mean a rainbow in the other direction.

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Bright morning sun on Sunday.

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Frank likes the sun, his breakfast, and his scratching post.