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Dear Zen friend
A Happy New Year!
1) January Sesshin from 01/18 to 01/22
February Sesshin from 02/08 to 02/12
2) On last day of the sesshin 31st, we found a big owl perching on a white birch and watching us. Each sesshin gives us something more than we expected.
Last year was windy. Strong wind broke tree tops. Many branches fell. On each windy day numerous leaves and twigs were blown off . Too many twigs were on the land, so cleaning driveway became a daily job. Power outage occurred frequently.
First snow was on 10/18. I expected a long winter. So far we have had little snow and mild temperatures. This weather pattern was new to our community. When I take a long walk, I bring an umbrella with me on days of cloud. We seem to have moved to London in England from New England.
Looking at broken tree tops and fallen countless twigs, a theory came across. In windy areas trees cannot continue growing because wind blows tops. Leaves and flowers come out of twigs. Fewer twigs mean fewer leaves. Fewer leaves mean less nutrients for a tree. Little nutrients result in smaller trees and leaves. An existing big tree dies due to few leaves.
A maple leave would change under a severe condition. If a windy season continued, the size of a maple leave would become closer to the size of Japanese maple, which is one tenths of American maple. We might be witnessing the change of woods. A mammoth on a small island was the size of a donkey. .
New year is the year of Boar. By astrologists violent things happen this year. We do not need to believe in such thousand year old knowledge. Have we, however, truer knowledge?
Wish to be a good year for all.
Dear Zen friend
1) December sesshin: from 12/07 to 12/09
Year end sesshin: from 12/27 to 12/31
January sesshin: from 01/18 to 01/22
2) November is in winter with half foot snow. Snow this year is wet and heavy, fallen near 32 degree temperatures . Many branches and tree tops were broken. How long would this season last?
Snow used to be dry and light here under cold temperatures near zero Fahrenheit. The difference between heavy snow and light one may be caused by the warmth of air.
3) 10 years ago, 3 adult deer ran around the land of Valley Zendo. They were young, healthy, and strong. Their violent running was noisy and somewhat harmful. They were shot one by one by a neighbor hunter.
In the meantime a baby deer, fawn is born every June in the zendo land. A fawn is middle dog sized and accompanied by its mother deer. They eventually walked away in a month.
This year a fawn was born in June. A sesshin participant took a picture. In a month I found the fawn hiding in fern. Fern may be favorite food and a shelter for a fawn.
In August two fawns came to eat grass together while two mother deer were watching them. Since then the four deer have been seen frequently. They look good friends and enjoy calm environments.
They eat grass while looking outwards. If they were anxious, their heads turn towards zendo with caution.
Once met a mother deer on the road, she greeted me by waving her tail.
Now is hunting season. I wish they would survive.
Dear Zen friend
1) November Sesshin:: from 11/09 to 11/13
December Sesshin: from 12/07 to 12/09
Year End Sesshin:: from 12/27 to 12/31
2) I used to start stove in the beginning of December. This year stove has been used since middle of October.
It used to be fine in Autumn for a month. It has been many rainy days this autumn.
I used to stack firewood in the shed at the end of November. This year firewood are wet.
I used to drive country roads for seeing beautiful foliage. This year I see ugly foliage.
Why was foliage beautiful? Because all leaves of mountains turned red and yellow at the same time.
This year some turned red, some remained green. Colored leaves were blown off by wind while green ones sticking to branches.
Sporadic foliage is seen ugly in dark light under clouds.
3) Zen is said as a way to find the Self.
So everywhere and any time questions “Who am I?” or “Who are you?” have been asked and discussed.
Especially for Koan zen, a student has to show his answer for his teacher. It is ceremonial at the same time is essential.
I have a question. Why are they asking by present tense?
I have a feeling now that a person is growing with aging.
Aging is not only a matter of time but also identity for a person.
Dear Zen friend
1) October sesshin from 10/12 to 10/16
November sesshin from 11/09 to 11/13
2) There are many rainy days. Stacked firewood does not look dry. A worry for winter.
3) There are many steep hills covered with woods in Japan. Anyone can start climbing training in his backyard.
One day a friend of mine and I challenged to walk a middle class mountain. As we proceeded, I found a piece of paper with haiku written on it. We read it and walked further. Then another paper with haiku was found. Hundreds of yard after that, another note was attached to a tree. Then we came to expect where is next paper.
After 5 or 6 papers were seen we wondered who stuck these notes to trees. Immediately we recognized that we did not climb but look for notes. While looking for a note, we forgot tiredness and effort. We thanked somebody who stuck notes for helping climbers.
In Iowa or Nebraska I do not desire to walk. A flatland does not give us motivation to walk or climb.
Warner Hill Rd goes through 3 steep hills. I walk down to a bus stop one or two times a week. It takes 50 minutes to arrive. It is the same time for sitting one period. Who built the zendo here and began a local bus stop there? I thank all of them.
A hundred years ago, almost all people walked in daily life. They walked for shopping, school, church, and work. We drive now and even forget how to walk.
If I could not walk, it would be the time to completely retire. If I were born I would like to become a logger.
Dear Zen friend
1) September sesshin: from 09/07 to 09/11
October sesshin: from 10/12 to 10/16
2) “Alan Watts – in the Academy” compiled by Peter Columbus and Donadrian Rice, published by Suny Press won the Gold medal of the year in the category of academic publication.
3) New novel, “T.T.Mann, Ace Detective” by Gerald MacFarland was published in August from Levellers Press.
4) It has been hot and humid at valley zendo. There were many rainy days in July and August here. Flooding disaster in Japan happened near my home town. Hottest temperatures there were record breaking. Something unusual must be going on.
I was not an advocate on global warning nor climate change. But finally become worried about extraordinary weather.
I have watched DVDs from library about environmental matters. Among them a movie showed fracking shale gas. Fracking is done deep under the earth. Logically released gas would go up any place, leak into air. The movie says leakage is not only logical but real. Natural gases are found in many places around the fracking field.
How much gas has been leaked? Corporate agencies and research firms do not inform of data. Fire at faucet or on a pond did not open their minds. We even do not know if they have gathered data.
When global warming was talked about, carbon dioxide was hated as major factor. How about natural gas? Isn’t it helping the warming?
America is No.1 on oil and gas production thanks to fracking technology. Mass production always changes environments in a big way. Has fracking not brought free natural gas into air in a big way? The fact should be checked.
Dear Zen friend
1) There is the Summer Lecture at 11:10 am to noon on 12th, Sunday.
Guest speaker is Rev. Eve Marko who has presided Green Valley Zen Center for years.
Potluck lunch follows.
Hope everyone would share her sense of the Dharma.
2) There will be One Day Zazenkay at Shantigar on Saturday August 25th.
The session starts at 9 am and ends at 5 pm o’clock.
Dharma discussion, walking into the woods, and general Q&A are included.
Shantigar: 63 Davenport Rd. Rowe (413)339-4332
Last Sunday while having lunch, 2 young deer visited Zendo.
They were standing about 10 meters distant from us and eating grass.
They may know a hunter moved away.
Sunday afternoon I stepped on a nest of wasp bees. Sharp pains were sensed. As I was taking shirts and trousers, 6 or 7 wasps came out inside clothing. They bit me on the skin at least seven places. They have been itchy and uncomfortable for 4 days. I chopped fire woods as much as possible for washing away poisons through sweat.
Another bee problem. Bees have tried to make a big nest at the entrance of Zendo. I removed it by water, but they do not give up their project. The fighting may continue for a while.
Have good time for the rest of summer.
Dear zen friend
1) Summer Lecture: 11 am to noon on 12th of August.
Guest speaker : Rev. Eve Marko who is head teacher at the Green River Zen Center and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order. She is also a writer of fiction and nonfiction.
2) September sesshin: from 09/07 to 09/11.
3) I like clear plastic wrap which is clean, convenient, and useful. There are 4 rolls in the drawer. While using it, I always wondered how the plastic sheet could be sticky.
At a supermarket tiny labels are stuck to everything these days. Why does each tomato and each apple need a label? I take all labels away and wash them. How far should these fruit be washed? Is sticky stuff harmless? What happens when that stuff is dissolved into water? What is it anyway?
Recently I found a DVD titled “Bag It.” It is funny and entertaining with comedy touch edition. It talks about shopping bags, coffee cups, and plastic straws. Then the story goes from fun to fear, convenience to danger.
The DVD shows a shopping bag ends in a stomach of a turtle. A lid of a water bottle is found in fish intestine. A bird eats tiny beads instead of berries. Bottoms of oceans are covered with all kinds of plastics.
Sticky stuff is a kind of PCB and we may have taken it into ourselves by eating fruit or touching plastic wrap.
Nations have had competition for producing oil. Gaining oil has been major reason for wars. A shopping bag is made from oil. Unlike tomatoes or apples, plastics do not die, they stay somewhere on earth for long, long time. We have to live with plastics.
More oil production means that more oil products stay on earth. Oil producers and governments seem not to take care where oil products go. The DVD films an ugly fact. And we don’t know how much ocean water is contaminated.
I did not drive my car for last nine days. During the same time, I bought 2 plastic bags only. I watched “Bag It.”
I am practicing “Less is better.”