August 27, 2009

Out and About

I've had a trip to San Jose that included seeing Cornelia Shonkwiler's new zendo in the Japantown area of the city and enjoying the palm trees that line the downtown blocks. Cornelia is Keido Les Kaye's Dharma transmitted priest who came to Olympia a few years ago and spent some time with us. Her zendo, named Middle Way Zen, is small and is in a section of an art gallery run by the stone sculptor who owns the studio. She sits each morning at 5:30 a.m. and has a Dharma talk on Thursday evenings. It's definitely a 5:30 a.m. crowd down here. Perhaps this is because it is not so dark. If we sat at 5:30 a.m. in winter in the Pacific Northwest, we'd still have two hours of darkness to contend with. When it gets as light and bright as it does in the Bay Area and it's not so cold, it makes the 5:30 manageable. But, my artsy spirit loves nighttime and I'm game to keep it at 6:15 a.m. to allow for a little moon viewing. Who could not want to see the moonlight?

The San Jose venture included the San Jose Art Museum which was rather disappointing since the current exhibit was contemporary, stomach turning surrealism that reminded
me of very bad indigestion. Nothing inspiring. A bit like a modern Hieronymous Bosch without any message. But the museum itself it great and I recommend it when the exhibits are better. Ansel Adams is coming next week and an exhibit by or about women is also about to be unveiled. The Basilica of St. Joseph is right next door. Built in 1803 or so, it's worth stopping in if you are in the center square. The interior has been redone and the seats set in a semicircle have replaced old style pews. They are comfortable and the wood is warm and soothing. The windows are lovely and there's plenty of statuary to get yourself into a guessing game and a discussion of saints' lives.

But, a great thing happened. I went into the Los Altos Library and saw a flyer advertising a poetry reading by my poetry teacher, Nils Peterson, from San Jose State where I did my undergraduate degree. Santa Clara County has decided to create a Poet Laureate since it is trying to bring the literary arts more deeply into the culture. Nils was named out of a hundred candidates. Nils' poetry and teaching style are so open-handed and inviting and he will be giving readings around the area. I was saddened however to see that the reading that was advertised would take place after I return to Olympia, but I was able to write him a note and have it delivered to him. He is a teacher whom I will never forget. He taught creative writing and Shakespeare and both courses have enriched my whole life. It was a thrill to be here and to walk into a space and have a teacher be familiar after so many years.

I did not give a Dharma talk at Kannon-do last evening since the Sangha was having a discussion of one of Suzuki Roshi's chapters from ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND. It would be far too difficult to recount the various observations and ranges of thoughts. About 40 people were there for Zazen and it's always encouraging and invigorating to sit with a large group. I'll be giving the talks for the next two weeks. And, after that I'm headed back north. Time goes by very quickly.