Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Annual Letter -- written December 21, 2007

Things are very quiet here with the teachers gone, and a couple of the monks gone as well. Next week we're actually closed, and I'm planning to do a bunch of sewing, work on my car if the weather breaks at all, study for my seminary class, and a couple of little projects around here. Basically, though, take it easy. I know I need to enjoy it while I can, because January starts up with a lot of things happening. So I'm resting up.


Many of you have been getting my e-mail updates, so I don't need to say too much about this year. And yet, I find some value in reflecting and summing up some things at this time of year. In any case, my e-mail updates have been less regular than they used to be, and I don't always manage to get even those on my blog.

This has been a good year for me overall. It began with my ordination as a Soto Zen novice priest January 7. I've spent much of the year learning a little of what that means. In Zen, we learn by practicing rather than by someone telling us, so it's difficult to articulate what it is I've been learning. But I'll give it a try.
Some of it became clearer when I went to the Soto Zen Buddhist Association training Ango for the month of October in the Bay Area. For one thing, I got to see different teachers and meet other novice priests from around the United States. I often didn't know what to do or what would happen next. I found myself getting more comfortable with change and not knowing, so that when I returned home and found some things had changed in my absence I was able to take that in stride. My responsibilities are changing, and at this point in my practice, I see that it's more important for me to do new things and learn to flow with them than it is to figure out what I'm good at and stick with that. Making mistakes is something I'm still not altogether comfortable with, but I'm getting better at it.

My biological family has had an eventful year. My mother seems to be more settled and stable than she has been for a while, now that she is in a foster care home in Springfield. My sisters Josie and Marilyn live near her and keep in close touch. Also living in the area are cousins and Aunt Phyllis (my mom's sister). I get down there once in a while to see them all.

Son Nico, with his wife Alice and their sons Christopher, Matthew and baby Brendan (born November 25), moved to a bigger, better place to live where they have a yard for the boys to play in and laundry on-site.

It's been a while since I heard from my other son Alex, but the last correspondence I had with him indicated that he was doing well.

Just after I returned home from the Ango, my father died (November 2). He had been battling cancer for several years, and finally there was nothing more that could be done. Many of us went to Seattle for his memorial service November 11. It was nice to see everyone, including my brother Dave and his family, including his son Josh who flew back from the east coast.

A few other things I could comment on. I'm hoping to join the community here in a trip to China in Spring 2009. So I've started taking some lessons in Mandarin. As part of that study, I bought myself an iPod, because there's a well-done web site where you can subscribe to download podcasts of lessons. We will soon be putting most of our dharma talks and classes online as podcasts as well, so it seems like a good tool. Of course, it's also nice to have my music so accessible — I've been able to listen to things I haven't heard in quite a while.

The other thing I'm planning to do soon is to sell my car. The trip to China will cost a fair amount of money, and my available funds are diminishing faster than I had hoped they would. With no income, that's worrisome. I don't really need to own a car. I have a Flexcar account, bus tickets, a bicycle and a pair of good legs — many transportation resources. I replaced the clutch in my car this summer, and can't really afford to continue maintaining it and paying insurance. Unfortunately, just making the decision to sell it is not getting it sold – there are specific things I have to do (clean it inside and out, take photographs, post it on craigslist, etc.) to make it happen. Haven't yet done all that, but soon …


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