The hike on lazy day survived our constant rescheduling. We rounded ourselves up at the old Linden Tree to pack lunches and perform embarrassing song and gesture combinations. There was some debate about whether our plan technically counted as a hike. An English sister who I will refrain from naming said that it would be an “American style hike, just for a couple hours on a paved road.” What?!? Americans invented hiking. We have more mountains than there are pebbles on England’s rocky shores, Hien Nghiem. Oh, I’ve said too much. Anyway, it turned out we’d be crossing fields and woods all the same.
After about an hour and a half of walking in silence, we circled up in a field full of wildflowers. Phap Linh, the leader of our expedition, had everybody pair up for a bit of walking with eyes closed. One person would lead, the other person would trust. I was the odd man out, and I’m glad I had the chance to take pictures. The grass here is tall and lush, fresh spring grass, and it rained the night before so the earth was soft. Most of the sighted people led their partners gently across the field but I may have seen a bit of mischievous exuberance as well. After the session officially ended, a few people were inspired to continue and even to innovate. Some were running in circles across a freshly plowed field. At last glance I saw two people guiding a blindfolded Jerome, all three standing at the edge of a drainage ditch. They were swinging their arms, apparently getting ready to jump across. I didn’t have the heart to watch, but I know for sure that Jerome survived so it couldn’t have gone too far wrong.
We wound around a nearby hill and settled in at our destination. I think it’s a guard tower from the 100 Years War, but I’m not an expert on these things. It’s a popular picnic spot. There’s a great horse chestnut tree where the path turns and right now it’s in the middle of a wild garden. Reinforcements arrived by van with the guitar and provisions of the cookie sort. Camp songs followed close behind.
Now for a spotlight profile. Let me introduce an old friend of Plum Village, the J5. Experts dispute her true age, but she can be seen clearly in cave paintings of the late Cro-Magnon period. She’s got around 300,000km on the dial, a 5-speed transmission on the tree, no power steering or breaks and a driver’s seat that’s stuck a meter back from the pedals, guaranteeing an edge of your seat driving experience. It’s more like riding a stubborn Clydesdale than driving a car, but we love her all the same. This photo was taken just after she jerked to a halt, either because Tracy dropped the clutch, or because our trusty steed saw a rattlesnake on the road and tried to rear up on her hind tires.
That night I sat in on a meeting of Wake Up Dublin. They were discussing day to day logistical stuff, and I was curious to see what it would be like. As a brief aside: maybe you have the idea that Buddhist monks are quite austere, self mortifying fellows. Here in Plum Village we’re pretty easygoing. We eat three meals a day and enjoy ping-pong and chocolate like anyone else out there. We don’t wear hair shirts, or sleep on beds of nails, or eat glass or anything intense like that (Although though there was a time when Pham Hanh regularly ate mud. More on that later). We do have one self-torturous vice though: frequent meetings. They follow a certain form. We sit in a circle, people take turns to talk, decisions are made by consensus, and every so often there is a sound of the bell to remind everyone to take a breath and chill out. Wake Up Dublin spiced it up a bit with some amendments. Interruptions abounded, especially encouraging interjections like, “Nice one Gavin!” and the walls blushed a few times as hitherto unheard profanities struck their virgin ears. I was of course delighted. I was also delighted and moved by how much care they put into the logistical humdrum, both utterly boring and utterly necessary to maintain harmony in a community.
Due to the aforementioned scheduling, eh, let’s call it optimism, by the third day we knew that nothing would go as planned. But we did manage to pull together an afternoon session on how to facilitate meetings and group meditation. I did little more than slink in at the last minute and take a few pictures, but among other things we learned how to invite the bell properly. You might not believe what a sweaty, anxiety inducing experience it can be to use one of these things in front of a big group. For me I guess it’s because people start to watch with a slackened look that says, “Hey, that dude in the robe is gonna do some, like, monk stuff.” Well they were naturals and it seemed like the group got a lot out of the session. More, I would hope, than how to swing a tiny stick at a brass bowl.
More on the way. Take care everyone.