Humming Birds and Four-Wheel Drive
August 29, 2010 by Yugen
We have recently been lucky with volunteers coming up, especially at the weekends, and today was no exception. Craig Zenkei Courtright came up to clean windows. Anne Riley did some laundry and then helped Jishin in the kitchen. Goryu, a student of Shugen Sensei from New York, is visiting for the weekend and got stuck in to some cleaning work with Ben, another new arrival who is here at Yokoji on scholarship for the Training Period. Ben stayed with us for a month over the summer and liked it so much he applied to come back. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria, but primarily are given to people who we already know to be committed to their practice and willing to do the necessary work, so in the case of Ben it was a no-brainer. As part of the scholarship, Ben will be given specific duties for the duration of the Training Period, and has to be here a week before (he arrived in plenty of time - so far, so good) and after to help with set-up and take-down. The Training Period starts Sunday September 5th and ends November 21st. It is getting pretty close now...
The past few days I have been taking care of the fleet of vehicles that keep Yokoji mobile. It is a motley crew to say the least. The old Dodge Power Wagon is legendary amongst those who have had to plow through a snowy winter up here. It is, I think, from the 60s and it's certainly from before the time when the words "comfort" and "luxury" would have been banded about as concepts by pickup truck designers. It was probably bare bones in its heyday, and now it could not be much more so. The body is beat up, the doors don't work, the parking brake went some time ago. I'm not sure if power steering was even invented when this truck was built, so it is like wrestling a bear just to turn a corner. What is does have, in a true unashamed American way, is power. It may look like it is about to give up the ghost, but get her chugging along and she is virtually unstoppable. At the moment, quite literally so, as I discovered the other day - I need to fill up the brake fluid. We also have a '78 GMC Sierra, another heavy-duty, all-American, gas-guzzling pickup that could power its way through pretty much anything. These are the two winter trucks, 4WD, both with snow plow rigs on the front. We also have a Toyota '94 pickup which is the little run around we use for odd jobs and trips in to town and Roshi lets us use his Toyota '90 flat bed truck which he bought in 1989 for his carpentry business when he was studying with Maezumi Roshi in Los Angeles. My mechanical know-how is limited to checking the basics - fluids, belts etc. I decided it was time to crawl under the trucks and check the differentials, transmissions and in the case of the 4WD, transfer cases and front differentials. I have been putting this job off for a while as sometimes it is better when you just don't know. These vehicles have been neglected at different points over the years. The oil needed topping up on both the 4WD trucks in various places, but nothing terrible. A couple of quarts of gear oil later and all was right. I greased the chassis via a series of metal zerk nipple fittings on both trucks while I was under there. The old school 4WD trucks have more metal nipples than, well... you get the picture. The Toyota's, however, were uncompromising in holding on to the filler caps on both the transmissions and differentials. Having survived for this long unchecked, I hope they will hold over until next week.
Jim Prall - Bodhisattva of Humming Birds and Things That Need Fixing
Continuing the theme of local wildlife, today I would like to draw attention to the humble humming bird. Having mentioned in my previous entry a variety of flying creatures that are not so much fun to get up close and personal with (thanks for the funny comment on the previous entry, Alasdair!), the humming bird, in contrast, is a welcome relief as a winged co-inhabitant of the valley. Last year I occasionally saw a humming bird darting around the late spring flowers, or up at the well-site. This year is a different story. Jim Prall visited Walmart's garden section in the early summer and returned with an armful of plastic humming bird feeders, which now adorn a number of trees and buildings. Slowly but surely the population around the Center increased as the mountain flowers dwindled and the birds didn't have much going in the way of natural food. They will be heading south soon for their winter sojourn in warmer climes, but for now we can enjoy them confidently zipping around our heads, one of the least timid birds I have ever seen. I took a photo this morning of the little fellas on one of the feeders - you can see it parading on the YZMC homepage as the monthly website picture as of September 1st.