New Beginnings Blog

New Beginnings Blog


April 17, 2024

Spring is with us. The days are long and warming, long enough and warm enough for pickleball and working meditation. No longer must we choose between two beloved activities.
Neither of those am I engaged in today. Today I am sitting in the sun, on the new deck (yes, more about that shortly), writing this and keeping the deer company as they make their way down through the tasty treats the earth and the sun and the moisture are providing them.
For anyone involved in any kind of construction, especially post-pandemic, you know that more than ever the process rivals the Army’s “hurry up and wait” approach. Yes, there’s getting the gazebo (henceforth known as “the Gazebo,” short for Meditation Gazebo), designed and engineered and permitted, but there’s also an overabundance of building projects waiting for the same small group of builders. (That small group being the excellent builders we are exceedingly privileged to be working with.) 
Suddenly the call comes through. “Kyle is ready to put the deck on the shed.” (They don’t know this lovely structure is the new Mash Tent and still think of it as a shed—its previous incarnation.) “The guys will be there at 8 a.m., can you have the gate open?” Mais oui!
At 8 o’clock sharp the trucks start rolling in. Set-up begins and by the end of the day the only thing left was the steps. By noon the next day they were gone, leaving a gorgeous deck and a pristine work site. 

Have I whined told you the tale of the riding lawn mower? I hope not, but if so, please bear with me and think of it as processing for me. We realized we need a riding lawn mower. Yes, we will probably always have Justin mow the very large sections, but we have needed something to replace the endless weedeating around the areas the giant mowers can’t reach. Much research revealed that a zero-turn, 54-inch mower would be just the ticket. The search began. 
One local source, who shall remain nameless, had one that ticked all the boxes and at a very good price. Delivery was arranged for between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.! That’s the best you can do? Yep. Okay. Mower arrives. Won’t start. Dead battery. Call the store. No, thank you, we really don’t want to replace the battery ourselves so would you please come get this one and bring us another one? Would that be one trip or two? Much backing and forthing resulted in another delivery planned for between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Truck arrives. Mower is unloaded. Won’t start. Dead battery. Oh, my! 
Fine. Fine. We concede defeat. Maybe mowers just come with dead batteries. We know how to jump batteries. Get out the cables and as we’re preparing to hook them up, “Does that tire look flat?” Get out the pressure gauge. The PSI should be 24, one of ours is 10 and the other 8. Nooooooo! We are not going to rebuild this thing. Not at that cost.
Fortunately, by now it’s gone from a mystery to a comedy! Call the store. This time a pick up and no delivery. Yes, of course, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Good thing I’m not attached to sleeping in.)

The new mower had its own series of Mercury retrograde opportunities, but she arrived right on time, 9:30 a.m. just after the Yearlong call, as requested. I was told to be sure to check it over carefully to make sure there was no damage from transit. Trucker John and I had a good laugh about that as it came wrapped in so much plastic and a wooden case that we couldn’t have told you what color it was let alone whether or not it had damage!
Jen and I began the chainsawing operation to get it out of its cage and then approached the “small amount of assembly required” part of the program. We realized immediately that the manufacturers definition of “small” and our definition were very different. 
Kyle and I had been in conversation about the fence that will go on the north/south property line, from the gate up to the sharp right turn toward 3rd Avenue. Ashwini and I agreed it wasn’t worth it to go through the expense of a taller than standard fence (Kyle came up with an ingenious solve for creating a 7-foot fence with 6-foot boards, a real money-saver). Justin came over and used his excavator to lift out the old rail fence and clear the area for the new fence. It was truly impressive to watch all that giant equipment deliver such fine results. 


As Jen and I were YouTube-videoing our way through the mower assembly. Kyle and Klayton, the contractor whose crew built the deck, arrived to deliver fencing material. In the most delightful expression of “boys will be boys,” those two could not wait to get their hands on that mower. Out came the tools and the bantering and in a length of time that had just saved us hours it was ready for a maiden voyage. We all looked at each other then at Kyle who was clearly itching to jump on it, which he did, and there was much whooping and clapping as he took a spin. 

Here she BEe!

We name everything. Everything is folks to us and so we name. The truck is MoJo because he is able to do more jobs, my car is Scarlett O’Cara, for obvious reasons, and we’re now in the process of discerning what it seems our latest addition wants to be called. We’re pretty sure Bee is going to be a part of it, again for obvious reasons. 
I apologize if I am giving the impression that all we do around here is have a good time. And, I apologize again if you took me seriously there. If there’s something more fun than practicing Awareness, I’ve certainly never heard of it. Which leads us right up to yesterday. 
When we moved onto this property there were four buildings: the god-awful garage that first became the Mash Tent and is now where I live; the greenhouse, which is pretty much what sold us on this spot; and two ramshackle particle-board sheds that Kyle suggested we demolish immediately. But we needed places to put stuff so we spent some time fixing them up and rendering them useful. 
But now we’re getting ready for this Summer of Sangha and at least one of them no longer fits the vision. So, yesterday we dismantled the smaller one to make room for two of the little “hermies” that are currently up at the top of the property. Since people won’t be staying on the property this year, the buildings will have a new function as tool and equipment repositories, making room for us to magic the newly decked “shed” into the latest Mash Tent. Yes, indeed, it is a fast life!




A few days ago I received a note from someone in Sangha which included a story so moving, for me, that I asked if I could include it in this blog. So many people are struggling, especially with the current state of the U.S. and then with the world at large. Are things worse? Unlikely. But we’re so inundated with “bad news” that it can be difficult to remember that “good” (or as we’re exploring it in the Yearlong retreat, that which is skillful, intelligent, beneficial, and leading away from suffering) in people and in the world far outweighs what we’re conditioned to think of as its opposite. I love the stories from life that leave me in tears, smiling, and with a heart filled with yes! Here’s one:
I would like to relate one story from my childhood. My mom was very involved in our church and I attended Sunday School on a pretty regular basis. Hampton Baptist Church in Hampton, Virginia, was founded in 1791. It was, and still is, a wonderful old southern Baptist church. Unlike some of the southern Baptist churches further down south that preached fire and brimstone and made everyone feel like sinners, our pastors taught kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness. However, if you asked too many questions about the “miracles” in the bible, they would say “don’t be a doubting Thomas”.
My Sunday school teacher told us one day that his uncle said,  “There’s not a n----r alive that is not a thief.” He responded, “Well then, there’s not a white man alive who is not a thief. We are all the same.” I thought this was great! This was in the mid-1950s and racism in Hampton, Virginia, was pretty much the norm. Fast forward to 1962 (I was then 15 years old) and here’s what happened. One Sunday morning several black people from their all-black church in Hampton showed up at our church. When they sat down in the pews several of our members got up and moved to another pew. Our new 28-year-old pastor, Chester Brown, had just taken over from our old pastor who had been there for decades. He proceeded with his sermon. And then, the next Sunday he gave a scathing rebuke to how those people acted and made it clear that that sort of racist behavior would not be tolerated in our church! He then announced that the next Sunday the pastor from the black church would be preaching in our church, and that he would be preaching in their church. Unbelievable!  Years later I asked him about it and he said he thought they were going to fire him, but just enough members thought he had done the right thing that he kept his job. In fact, he would later retire after 40 years at the Hampton Baptist Church. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better example of a young man who had just gotten his dream job and was then willing to lose it to stand up for what he thought was right.”
When the ego voices giving “the news,” want us to believe that suffering is the only intelligent reaction to “what’s happening,” let’s recall Chester Brown and remember it’s up to each of us to stand up for Life and for Love.
In gasshō,
P.S. And if that is not enough excitement, we just received confirmation that the updated and revised Making A Change for Good is now available to order. Get your copy today!