March 16, 2011

Heartbreaking Events in Japan

It's been awhile since I've spoken on this blog. The events in Japan have left me stunned, and left others sleepless with disturbing dreams. The latest problem of the potential nuclear meltdown seems like a nightmare. Can we possibly imagine what it is like for the Japanese?

With all this going on, I was still to keep my commitment to visit Stone Creek Zendo in Sebastopol, about 50 miles north of San Francisco to visit and give a Dharma talk at their practice on Sunday morning. This is a lovely Zendo run by Rev. Jisho Warner with whom I've had a long friendship. We served together on the board of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association for many years have kept in touch ever since.

On Saturday morning it was decided we'd take a drive out to the coast with her partner, and a friend, a Rinzai priest and student of Maureen Stuart Roshi who was visiting from Massachusetts.  We took a lovely scenic route through various habitats, lush rolling meadows, and climbed to the top of a ridge before getting to the ocean where we could look to the south and barely see San Francisco Bay in the distance.

We arrived then at the ocean and stopped at the scenic Portuguese Beach. Jisho and I climbed over the rocks and strolled in the deep sand, and I admit that I never took my eyes off the water. The warning sign posted clearly on the beach said that this was one of the most dangerous beaches in California.  The shore has an abrupt angle with a sharp drop off.  This creates a strong undertow and every year, people are swallowed by the ocean.  Also, there are sleeper waves that come in suddenly and mysteriously and gobble up people sitting on the rocks at the water's edge.  Every wave seemed ominous to me. The ocean never seemed more powerful.  Once we climbed back onto the cliffs I was rather relieved as the scenes of the tsunami were fresh in my mind. And, by Saturday morning, the nuclear situation was well underway.

We drove south to Bodega Bay and stopped at a gallery run by a friend of theirs that you ought not miss if you are in that area.  It's the Ren Brown Collection, a gallery that specializes in contemporary Japanese art.  Well worth a visit even on the web to see the work of such fine working artists.

We also drove through the town of Bodega Bay and went past the famous Victorian house where the Alfred Hitchcock film "The Birds" was staged.  It's a private home now and I didn't like photographing it.  Who can forget the scene of the children running up the hill to the house with the flock of birds biting their necks.  It seems rather mild now against the actual scary things that can potentially change our lives.

I had a lovely visit with the Sangha on Sunday morning and gave a Dharma talk there on Ryokan.  It was good to get out to the country for a short while, to be in the company of brilliant women with rich conversation, and to experience the flavor of the Sonoma County environment.  Nevertheless, the undercurrent was focused on Japan and the rising situation of nuclear meltdown.  This matter punctuated our conversation regularly.  

It's all so heartbreaking.  It's more immense than the mind can grasp.  More towns are being investigated and we find more and more destruction as the reporters are able to make their way north.  Constant chanting, keeping Avalokiteshvara in the mind's core is what we can do at the moment.  The urge is to go and help, but we know that's impossible.  The Soto Headquarters is accepting donations and surely many helpful funds will be sent to assist.  I've been emailing and phoning and I'm sure they appreciate knowing how concerned we are for their welfare.  Please keep the prayer rolling in.  When I return to Olympia we'll have a healing ceremony.  I don't yet know the date.  We'll talk and come up with something we can do that will be helpful.  

Two weeks from today I'll be on the road.  It's all been a dream.  Just a dream...and yet...and yet.

March 11, 2011

Chanting for People of Japan

I was yet awake last night when a live broadcast from NHK from Japan reported the 8.9 earthquake and showed the tsunami movement along the coast near Sendai in Northern Honshu.  Frightening, sad, moving, humbling.  It will be many days before we know the full extent of the damage as aftershocks continue and will continue for months.

I immediately emailed and sent my concerned thought for my friends in Japan.  My friends are in southern Honshu and emailed back that they did not feel the quake.  Of course, the Japanese people all across the country are deeply stunned and are grieving for this heartbreaking situation.  It will be a long recovery.

The tsunami has now hit the California coast and midmorning we can feel the power of the ocean although nothing here can possibly compare to what happened in Japan.  Still, to feel the water surge back and forth, one is humbled by the power of nature and aware of our fragility in the face of these elements.

Along with the members of Olympia Zen Center, I offer our deepest prayer and chanting for the people of Japan.  Namu kie Butsu.