The method of conferring the precepts is what Tendai called “imposed poison,” which is the active conferring of precepts to unwilling recipients. It benefits recipients by provoking anger in their hearts and minds, eliciting from them verbal abuse as well as aggression with swords, knives, and sticks. This act sows the seed of Buddhahood, which is one of the three benefits of conferring karmic relations: they include sowing the seed of Buddhahood, germination and reaping the fruits of Buddhahood.
The validity of everything we do can be judged by the trials we face. We are to know that the adversity we encounter substantiates our practice of the Lotus Sutra. Schools and denominations that simply engage in easy and comfortable practices are bound to decline.
From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.
Juneau Alaska, part 10 (music and trains):
Big event of yesterday was the party last night for Tommy Sands and family, Moya and Fionan, at the nearby home of C and R (R has some sort of neuro disease, shaking, speech not quite right, seeming distant, remote, partially gone). Of course I was delighted to peer at and perhaps into the alluring character of Moya Sands, daughter, 25 years old, shapely, smiling, with a voice that is not quite fantastic, but a presence that is. Tommy chose to interview folks about their life in Juneau and Alaska—why they came here, what they do, and their music, recording samples on a fancy audio device. He has a radio show that many have listened to here.
After a few hours of this I heard him say clearly, Time to go, gotta get up early tomorrow (I think they’re going to be in Haines and Whitehorse, at least). Not listening, imploring, we kept them another hour or so, asking questions, requesting tunes, playing samples. We had dense talent, multiple instruments (I counted at least 3 guitars, 3 fiddles, a hammered dulcimer, auto harp, and banjo), and enormous enthusiasm, respect and love for the group. My instrument was the camera, which I wielded freely, invited into the circle by one of the more expansive woman, Liz I believe her name was, playing guitar and singing.
We also heard from the beautiful Kathy, who I’d not met before, a white haired lass with a compelling voice, and an older man on fiddle who’d lived most of his life on a Colorado ranch, on horseback. I tried for combo shots, Tommy with so and so, including his daughter and son.
To be in the midst of such vibrant musicality, to be playing a role by at least singing along when I could, photographing as well as I could, I felt lifted and ennobled. I’ll examine, edit, and process the photos today, if time allows, and perhaps add this to my Alaska web section, the parting gift to whoever might look at it. Tho not for me, the party felt like my goodbye to Juneau.
Feelings are running high among the crowd I circulate with that Obama-Biden might be a landslide, nationally, not in Alaska. Even that Alaska may have a Democratic delegation for the first time in recent memory. Tomorrow e MC’s a short outdoor rally in support of O-B. This amid numerous Palin jokes, and the question, how is she understood across the country? One rumor is that in the military she’s considered hot, therefore worth voting for.
A few days ago Elaine and I visited the office of the Juneau Empire, initially to drop off a collection of newspaper delivery bags for recycling. She forgot to pack them; we visited anyway, to see the art collection. Besides the high quality of local art, we noticed that the building, even tho at about 2 pm, long past lunchtime, was virtually empty. Had we inquired, we might have been told: cutbacks, layoffs, tough times for newspapers.
—October 18, 2008, Saturday, Juneau Alaska
Riding this train, the Coast Starlight between Seattle and Oakland California, second time (maybe third), virtually packed (with returning Oregonians celebrating the victory of their football team over the University of Washington team), sitting with a knowledgeable prolix gentleman (talking first about trains, eventually about the need to refurbish the US’s military, being an ex Air Force member), I would like to eat and sip coffee—and escape the “professor”—but the dining car is not yet open (10:50 am) and the café car’s stretching line daunts me. So I found a relatively quiet spot in the parlor car (sitting opposite my seat mate, too bad), looking out on a large water body (the ocean?), without coffee, but with my many snacks and so I can finally write-or read-or edit slide shows-or even play games.
Overnight with Vu, my Vietnamese nephew, who graciously picked me up from the airport (after a nearly 45 min delay—did he really park in the cell phone lot awaiting my call, then why did he take so long? I was too polite to ask.). A delicious Vietnamese hotpot meal (partitioned pot over portable gas fueled stove, on the table before us, one section for veggies and one for meat and fish), my old room with a double bed, their two sons, Eric at 5 and Robby at 8, boys watching TV after playing with cousins at Le’s sister’s house, a note to M on Vu’s computer (since mine didn’t find a wifi network) that I’ll write later, maybe on this train ride, mail when I have a connection (last train ride I wrote one of my longest letters to F, this one won’t be as long, I’ll temper myself.).
Vu and family seem in very good spirits and condition. Vu told me, countering Elaine’s contention, that he earns more in his job as deck worker on the Washington ferry than he did in Alaska, despite losing his seniority. Presently he works the night shift, 10 pm to 6, but they tie up the ferry at 2:30 AM, leaving him free to nap until quitting time. He earns $52,000 yearly but “money is tight,” he told me. Le works part-time dressing hair. They share childcare. Their house is new, about 5 years old, has doubled in value, is well-insulted, relatively cheap to heat and utilities. Gas and electricity cost between $50 and $120 monthly. Also contrary to Elaine’s report, he seems tuned to the national political scene, learning toward Obama. They watched all the debates, more than I could suffer thru.
Then a brief romp around the train station to visit Pioneer Square early on a slow cold partly foggy Sunday morning. Scores of folks were hunkered under cheap blankets, lying asleep, perhaps shivering, on the sidewalk. Opposite them the mission was about to open, another line of men, this time standing, awaited breakfast.
The station is mostly in the same shape as 2 years ago, little progress on the promised renovation. How long will this take? And will funding continue? A big local issue is funding for increased public transport. Seattle’s is at a critical point, needing improvements, yet because of the financial crisis voters may be reluctant to support costly projects. Plus the upcoming presidential election, perhaps, takes precedence.
My last Juneau day was mostly packing and bidding goodbye. As I mentioned to Linda, saying no to 2 activities Elaine proposed (a yard sale for good friends who’re moving to orca island and the autumn fair), packing is a chance to build my mindfulness practice, stay sane, make sure I’ve collected all my property, completed my tasks, fulfilled my promises, while leaving some reflection time, both to anticipate the next leg of my journey and to digest the last one.
In assessing this Juneau visit (how many have I made? If on average 1 every 2.5 yrs, since 1988, that would be 8.), perhaps the most salient feature is the problem with Juneau friends’ meeting, and my current resolve—this could change—to not again sit with them. We never reached a point of openness, enough to discuss what happened. Another aspect is Tenakee Spring, the two shows I gave there, the hot springs, the ferry ride, and the photography I managed. Also my deepening relationship with Elaine, a newly developing one with Linda, and either a slightly worsening or steady state level with Bob.
And what do I hope for from this upcoming leg to California and Oregon? As many shows as folks can find for me, or I for myself. Opening as many minds including my own as possible. Learning about the California situation, delving deep with Dan and Louise, maybe meeting others, forming new friendships. Will I gain new insights into my topics of choice: Israel-Palestine, love, USA politics, earth?
Seattle Amtrak station
Sitting in the Seattle train station (nearly 3 hrs early because Vu wanted to get back home to sleep), as I set up my computer to begin this journal entry, a young olive skinned man with a large nose sat next to me. Mind if I share your power outlet?, he asked.
Not at all, but the station does not have wifi.
No problem, I have an ATT card, costing $60 monthly. I need the Internet for my work (which is publicity and videoagraphy—he was on his way to Tacoma to attend a rally headlined by Biden).
He couldn’t connect, grumbled. Thought maybe the bricks and the metal in the building ruined the signal.
We chatted, eventually joined by another man, so I chose to postpone my writing. He showed me an animation he’d made with Photoshop CS2, using the animation tool, a tool I never knew existed. Something new to try.
While writing this on the train we are currently going thru a heavily forested region, just south of Olympia-Lacey, some 75 miles south of Seattle, just short of Centralia. The train is making good time, so far—no delays, speeding along. Tho jammed, now that I’ve found power, I’m relatively content. Trees are beginning to turn (or maybe they’ve turned, I’m not sure of the foliage progression here—perhaps as we progress south the foliage will be at a later stage.), green is fairly saturated, some leaves are down. The region looks water rich. Sky is cloudy, I imagine the air is chilly.
Late breaking: I lost my shoulder bag, almost. Sitting down next to the woman I share power with, gazing out the window, finished with my lunch of cheese and turkey slice sandwich (provided by Vu), beginning to write, I thought: where is my shoulder bag? Not under the seat. Woman didn’t see it. Toilet? Oh shit, the toilet, I left it there when I washed up! Most unlike me.
Racing back, I tried the first toilet I could find, not sure which car I’d used. 2 trainmen blocked me from the door, saying, Use this and you’ll be locked in, the train is about to stop, this is the exit door. I told them, I’m missing my bag, a black shoulder bag, my name is Schiel, maybe someone will turn it in. Or maybe I left it in a different toilet.
Racing further, as I neared the site, one of the train attendants saw me, maybe she noticed how frantic I appeared, said, Are you Schiel? She had the bag.
Did one of the other attendants radio the crew about my missing bag? And who was the honest saint who retrieved the bag, left everything inside—money, cards, notebooks, camera—and turned it in? An act of honesty and generosity for which the only reward is in the eternal. Thank you great sir or ma’m.
—October 19, 2008, Sunday, on the Coastal Starlight, Seattle to Oakland