Germany 1 - Holland 0
January 30, 2011 by Yugen
Angelika on time-keeping duty
We are now in the middle of our January sesshin. We have also just started the retreat, and are close to the end, too. As the sesshin spans Friday night to Sunday morning, there isn't a whole lot of time for easing in to the schedule. There is no 'day 3' at which people often find they start settling down during a 7-day retreat. There is the first evening, day one and then it closes up the next morning. In the past I have not taken these sesshin as seriously as the longer ones, and consequently did not get so much out of them, for the sole reason that I was not putting so much into them. Although this sesshin will be over tomorrow morning, there is still all the potential that a single day offers, and if I decide that I don't want much sleep tonight, I can make today a whole lot longer than I usually would and stay up into the night to continue zazen. Not that I necessarily will - my resolution is not that firm at this point - but at least it is an option. Sesshin is a rare opportunity, even when it does come round once every month, and it's really up to me to make the most of it. Or not - and that feels pretty valid, too, at times!
Angelika, who has been training with us here at Yokoji for the past six weeks, leaves tomorrow for a trip around Central America before heading back to her native land of Germany. It has been a pleasure having her here, and she is leaving on the high of being the time keeper for the sesshin, a job which requires vigilence, a thick skin (the time keeper is a magnet for corrections of form as there are so many things to remember) and usually copious amounts of coffee to deal with the earlier wake up that is required. Tomorrow also sees the return of Jishin, our beloved Tenzo, or cook, who has been on vacation in her homeland of Holland for most of the month. Jonen has done a sterling job of covering for Jishin in her absence. The Spring Training Period starts in about 5 weeks time and Jishin will be the Head Trainee, so this trip will have been her last taste of freedom for a while (if you consider three months of full-time responsibility and commitment as a restriction of personal liberty, that is).
This week the work projects have largely been outside oriented, as they often are, but as they say, make retaining-wall-in-front-of-Roshi's-house-and-do-road-work while the sun shines. Or something like that. The weather has been blissfully sunny and snow-free for the last few weeks and it's hard to believe it will continue in this way for much longer. The guys are making some real progress on the wall in front of Roshi's house and I have teamed up with Jim Taiken Prall to figure out an effective way to move both unwanted dirt from ditching and decomposed granite for road surfacing (which we are able to dig out from a few points on the Center grounds) around the property cheaply and time-effectively. A dump truck is the ideal solution when combined with the tractor, but we do not own one and the rental fees, while not being outside of the parameters of reason, are still higher than we would like. We are experimenting with some old plywood screwed down on to the wooden bed of the Dodge truck (which is so old it has rotten through in a few places) which we are then dumping dirt on to. That part is easy - it is the getting the dirt back off the bed which proves tricky. A dump truck employs hydraulics and gravity to do the job - we are using the backhoe on the tractor (which we put the second of our buckets on, which is about 2' wide as opposed to the 1' wide bucket that has been on the backhoe for the past few years). Getting the bulk of the dirt off is fairly straight forward and this morning we realized a degree of success by using a 4' long 4x8" piece of wood in front of the bucket to scrape the remainder off. This way we get pretty much all the dirt as the wood acts like a blade with the force of the tractor behind it, and it reduces the risk of me tearing up the bed of the truck with the exposed teeth of the backhoe bucket. With practice and refinement, I think we'll have the unloading procedure down to about 4 minutes. As long as the bed holds up on the truck we then have an alternative to a dump truck - albeit one that takes more time and energy to execute but is pretty much, and here's the magic word, FREE! And who doesn't love free stuff?