Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Offering Bowls

Yesterday I had a enjoyable phone chat with a man who is thinking about Buddhism and how it may or may not fit into his spiritual path. I'm not sure our conversation was useful to him, but I enjoyed it. It made me think of this small essay that I wrote a long time ago. It is a meditation on the offerings typically found on a Buddhist shrine, but with my own particular slant, of course!

Offering Bowls

The first offering is drinking water. I think about how dry my throat felt when I worked on a limestone parking lot when I was 17 in Central Texas and then Mr. Teague brought me a drink of water. Water coming out of a cold well. The water pitcher in my mother's refridge. The sound of the ice cubes when the are half melted and the condensation is dribbling down the side of the glass. My daughter taking the cup for the first time. Ice chips on my tongue when I was in the hospital. Holding my grandmother in my arms and offering her a cool drink on the hot July day when she died. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The second offering is washing water. I think about my shower this morning. Bathing my daughter the first time. The wonderful feeling of a shower after a long camping trip. The cold shower on our retreat land, the feel of the pine boards under my feet, the shivering cold wet plastic that brushes against me as I go out. The different feelings of ocean water and lake water. The amniotic fluid rushing out of me as they ruptured my membranes. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The third offering is flowers. I think about the strong smell of lilies in my lily garden. The flowers in my bridal bouquet. The thousands of small bunches of iris my ex husband gave me. The flowers in the wreath for my daughter's First Holy Communion. The wreath of wild flowers Eva wove for Garchen Rinpoche and how delighted he was and how wonderfully silly he looked. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The fourth offering is incense. I think about the incense in my childhood church, which was a wonderful maple syrup smell. I think about the sensor clanging against the metal chain, the smoke rising. I think about the smoke of hundreds of campfires, as a child and as an adult. I think about fireplace fires. I think about the strange smells of the incense that the monks used on retreat last summer. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The fifth offering is light. I think about the light of my kitchen window when I drive home on a snowy night. I think about my bathroom night-light, the flashlight I dropped down the "unflushable" at camp, of lying on the ground and watching the zillion stars in a summer Texas sky, not being able to sleep because of the unbearable beauty of it, total eclipses and sunburns, the meteor shower. I think about the Advent wreath, Christmas tree, and a romantic candlelit table. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The sixth offering is perfumed water. I think about my mother's perfume (Channel #5), I think about the smell of my daughter when she was a baby, the smells of cinnamon rolls, sauteed onions, fresh mown grass, the smell of rain, the smell of gin and tonic and lime. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The seventh offering is food. I think about what I had for breakfast. I think of the tastes of Altoids, of thanksgiving turkey and dressing, of chocolate cake, of Popsicle. I remember my favorite meal and offer that. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

The eight and last offering is sound. I think of the chirping of crickets, of the sound of birds at dawn, my daughter's first words, of church bells, the no sound when Grandma died, the sound of my Vajra brothers and sisters singing long life prayers, the rattle of my gau, the sounds of lovemaking, the sound of the Chod trumpet. The sound of my own voice. I offer all these to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

By the merit of these offerings, by the merit of samsara and nirvana, may all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vancouver: VanDusen Garden

Miss J contemplates what lucky girls are we!
 J an I share two passions: gardening and photography. I think I'm a better gardener than photographer, but whatever. Nothing is as relaxing to me as looking through the viewfinder of a camera. So our trip to the Northwest was going to include a lot of camera time, and if we could be in a in a garden at the same time, well, that was about perfect.

J with an Umbrella Leaf plant
So our first stop was to the VanDusen Botanical Garden. And what a spectacular garden it is! After fortifying ourselves at their lovely cafe, we chose one of the suggested hikes around the garden. The garden is 55 acres, and having once owned 55 acres of land, I know exactly big and small 55 acres is. The designers of the garden (it was opened in 1975, by the way) have laid it out in such a cunning and artful way that every turn in the path revealed something new and unexpected and totally beautiful.  The stroll we chose wandered through the reflecting pond, with beautiful water lilies, a perennial flower gardens, rock gardens, statuary, Himalayan gardens, and roses. The climate in Vancouver is such that even plants like Yucca and Umbrella Leaf plants from Costa Rica can be represented, as well as what you would expect to find in North America.  Every thing in the garden was in perfect condition. Staffed largely by volunteers and managed by the Vancouver Park Board, nothing looked unkempt. Frequently when we visit large public gardens, even beautiful ones, we wish we could just help out a little bit. Just a bit of deadheading and clean up. That wasn't the case at the VanDusen.

The Felgerts Conquer the Canadian Rockies!

Someone wants to go with us!
J and I have just returned from what has to be our most adventuresome adventure yet: an eight day conquest of the Canadian Rockies. Although we originally had hoped that some of our friends would be able to join us, we traveled alone this time. Here's the itinerary:
  • Sunday, July 24:  Fly to Seattle. Shuttle to Vancouver, BC and check into the Holiday Inn on Howe Street.
  • Monday, July 25: Tour Vancouver
  • Tuesday, July 26: More Vancouver, then Via Rail to Jasper
  • Wednesday, July 27: Arrive in Jasper, rent the car and overnight at the Tonquin Inn
  • Thursday, July 28: Drive to Banff, check into the High Country Inn
  • Friday, July 29: Tour Banff
  • Saturday, July 30: more Banff
  • Sunday, July 31: Drive to Calgary and return the car. Check into the Airport Hilton
  • Monday, August 1: Fly home to Rochester.
The hardest part of the planning -- other than the fact that there were a lot of changes of location -- was trying to figure out what to pack. (Other than the cat, that is!) Usually summers in Rochester run in the balmy high 80's -- but we were experiencing a true heat wave. When we read the forecast for Vancouver and Banff, 70 degrees sounded like winter. "Pack the long johns" advised Miss J. As it turned out, we should have gone with fewer fleeces and more shorts. As a result we found ourselves washing out the few short sleeve shirts we had and wishing for cooler weather.

But finally we were packed, the cat's care instructions explained to a neighbor, and on our way to the airport, thanks to our friend Liz. It was then that the first moral crisis occurred. While we were waiting for our flight, I heard: "Ms Dygert, please approach the podium." When I approached, the Delta representative smiled broadly at me and announced the news that all air travelers hope to hear: I had been upgraded to first class! However, J had not. This was not good. There was no way I was going to be able to enjoy first class while my better half was back in coach. Not if I wanted to *have* a better half when I arrived in Seattle! I gallantly offered the upgrade to her, and she gallantly refused. The Delta representative then had to do some fancy footwork to get me my original seat -- I guess no one has ever refused an upgrade before. I hope the person who got it enjoyed it!

We had originally planned to take a 5:30 shuttle to Vancouver using Quick Shuttle service. That would get us to Vancouver about 9:30. Our flight was supposed to get in to Seattle about 2:30 and I thought it would be just a tad too tight to try to make the 3:30 shuttle. But with the plane arriving a little early, some luck, and quick decision making, we were able to get our luggage, grab some dinner and make the earlier shuttle. Before we knew it, we were across the boarder and checked into our Holiday Inn in downtown Vancouver, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. And I have been to some beautiful cities! More about Vancouver in the next post!