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.
It’s been a fairly dry and warm winter thus far, here in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It’s practically ungodly. Yet a few days ago I rose early, and I actually felt a little cold, even seeing a frost covered soccer field. It may not be looking a lot like Christmas, at least for me, someone from northern Midwest states, but I’ll take the nice hiking weather.
I live within striking distance of the Bay Area, but I rarely spend much time in the city. This afternoon, however, I went up to Oakland to meet with my meditation teacher. I left his house and started down the sidewalk. Just as I had kicked into a good walking stride, I stopped. Amidst the concrete and the cars, someone was growing kale.