Thursday, September 18, 2008

Forced Retreat

No pix again. I am on computer 21 at the library, thinking as I stood in line to sign up that many people are standing in line in Texas for drinking water or something to eat. Here, we eat computer access; four days now without power. We all got in a bad mood last night when the rumor that our power would be back on by dark proved false.

If I had the skills to pull up a picture, it would be of Grailville, where we have gone on retreat for ten years now. When the hurricane hit, I was already depressed, having realized that I am just too handicapped now to go on retreat. Even the packing and two-hour drive is hard on me, and I get sick. I can't sleep. I ache all over.

And Ama Samy's annual Zen retreat is easy, only 7 or 8 hours a day of meditation, doesn't start till 6:00 a.m., you have freedom to wander in contemplation of nature, or not attend a sit at all. Other retreats are much harder. The only kind of retreat I could go on now would be in a luxury convention center, with a good bed. If there are retreats like that, I can't afford them. So, I thought, my retreat days are over. That led me to decide that I am done growing spiritually. God help us.

Now this; forced retreat. Despite the morning New York Times and the battery-powered radio, this is more boring and uncomfortable than any retreat. And you have to come up with your own meals. And no schedule to sustain you.

The picture I would post today would be a rendering of Napoleon's army struggling back from the Russian campaign, a military debacle I happen to know about. Everyone is showing stress, even the telephone solicitors. Nice people talk bitterly about the "A-holes" who speed through the intersections where the traffic lights are still not working. People are dying for an iced drink, the 6:30 news, dying to do a load of wash.

I wondered today, what is it that makes this so bad (once you get used to the shocking sense of vulnerability)? At first it drove you crazy, every minute you discovered something you couldn't do. But in just four days I have grown so used to it that I don't even try to turn the light on when I enter a room. In fact, it's so quiet, there's so little to do, that I find myself up by candle light resolving ancient issues, just as if it were Thursday on retreat.

Waiting an hour for my computer, I picked up a new book by Alexander McCall Smith. My daughter Cassie likes these lovely, contemplative novels. Here is a bit that struck me: "Missing names, missing persons---how remarkable it was, [Mma Ramotswe] thought, that we managed to anchor ourselves at all in this world . . . "

We took our lunch to Walnut Grove cemetery today. The dead were as peaceful as ever, undisturbed by the little piles of tree limbs, the occasional broken monument. I wondered why in the world I am ever afraid of death.

Debility, now, sickness, pain--I don't like those. I'm working on my attitude, though not working too hard. The lawn guy agrees, thinking positive just doesn't cut it.

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