I got out on the bike for a few rides this spring, out among the big trees. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is only a short ride from the house — round trip of a little more than 20 miles or so — and there are several low-traffic roads to cycle on, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here’s a few pics:
The North Fork Vipassana Meditation Center is located in the foothills of the Sierras, just south of Yosemite. Not a bad place to do a retreat. I wasn’t, in fact, sitting for this one, though, just serving. 10 straight days in the dish pit, though, was enough to leave me feeling just a bit not my self, which of course is somewhat of the point of the path of the Buddha, the no-self thing, etc. So a service retreat is sort of its own form of growing process. We had some wacky weather: snow, sleet, heavy rains, and even a bit of thunder storm. All that plus a good soaking of sunshine. The place was starting to green up and will soon be popping with spring colors, what with the mix of rain and sunshine.
Off I go, for another retreat – this time though, I’m serving not sitting. There’s a few hours of meditation each day in group sits, where everyone sits together in the meditation hall, so I’ll get in at least 3 hours a day, maybe more, but most of my time will be spent making meals and cleaning up. KP duty.
I tried a long hike today but an hour and a half in I found myself completely drenched. My rain jacket has seen better days, days that are, at this point, a distant memory, and the goretex lining on the inside felt as futile in staving off the elements as our democratic process has been these days in keeping cronies and corporate lobbyists out of Washington. It was windy as well, and cold enough that hiking for another four or five hours might be hazardous to my health. So I decided to turn back and call it quits. The rain is good, though. It’s been a relatively dry winter, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, or so it’s seemed to me. This is, after all, a freaking rain forest, by technical classification: very dry summers but pouring buckets in the winter months. And of course California needs all the precipitation it can get. My hike notwithstanding, I welcome the downpour. No pictures today, from this hike. Smartphones don’t like monsoon-like rains, fickle bastards that they …
I thought that I knew Fall Creek State Park, the Redwood forest that’s only a stone’s throw from where I live. Yet I recently uncovered a network of undiscovered trails, and so a week ago I went off the beaten path, then wound up off the path altogether. Eventually I came to a residential area and from the looks of things on Google Maps, I realized that I wasn’t far from the town of Ben Lomond, so I hiked down a very long, very unknown road, along the way encountering castles and copulations and, of course, a lot of redwoods.
One thing that was unique about my last meditation retreat: I carpooled with three other guys, also fellow meditators. It was unique because we had a chance to chat about the retreat on the way there, and then on the ride back, we debriefed. Even so, conversations don’t always dwell solely on the topic of meditation. I said something about my summer job in McCarthy, and I mentioned my favorite bar in the whole wide world, The Golden Saloon. Suresh, a Bay Area consultant, was sitting beside me. Normally the most reserved in our bunch and the last one to speak, he cut me off and enthusiastically began to extole the virtures of a bar. By his second sentence, he was getting philosophical. Hospitality, he said, is the supreme act of creativity.
Since my winter home is twenty minutes from the beach, in a place that gets no snow, my perspective on winter and the holidays have shifted a bit.