stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do you know Atisha's cook?

No. This isnt Atisha, or his cook. Its Bodhidharma! But he does share something with Atisha, they were both famous and respected Indian sages who travelled long journeys to bring Buddhism to foreign lands.

Arent these amazing images? I found them in a couple of temples in Kyoto. This first one is about six foot sqaure, and glowers at you as you turn a corner in a corridor in Toji-in (part of the Myoshinji temple complex). Very unexpected to see something so contemporary in an ancient setting. But that is very Zen in itself. And Bodhidharma is the person who brought Buddhism from the West (India) to the East (ie China and Japan) early in the 5th century. I believe he went to the Shaolin Temple in China (but my friend Zen) may be able to confirm that.

He is shown with a big nose, I believe this is to emphasise his Indian origins, (the Japanese have cute small noses) I only found three portraits in this calligraphic and modern style. This one was hidden up in the rafters facing a delightful Japanese temple garden with lakes and winding paths.

This too was up high and I had to hold the camera above my head and hope for the best. I havent been able to find out why he has red robes. But he looks less fierce in this one. Quite a guy!

Right! Back to Atisha. He too was an Indian sage, apparently in a university in Bengal in the 11th century. He was asked to go to Tibet, to help bring back Buddhism there, which had suffered under the hands of a nasty king. So he took his cook with him on the journey, and he stayed there with Atisha.

The cook was quite a nasty character. Disagreeable. argumentative, rude and obnoxious to everyone. Including Atisha. The Tibetans said "Look, no-one likes this fellow. You dont need him. We can cook for you. For heaven's sake, send him away! He is upsetting us all."

Atisha calmly replied "He isnt just my cook. He is my teacher. I need him to teach me patience"

Do you know Atisha's cook?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Work in progress

Looking up our one acre field with some of the new fences. In the foreground, Timothy the sheep. In the middle ground, Eldest Daughter. In the background, the white blob that is Wilson, the springer spaniel. To the left is Timothy's house.

Looking down the field, the Man of the House has brought tea out to the workers. In between them you can see Eldest Daughter's boyfriend (and owner of Wilson) tending the fire. He has been remaking all the fences and clearing scrub, rubbish and unwanted fences (like the one on the left) ready for some new arrivals.

The pointed gable end and the building on the right are the back of our house. The others are outbuildings, and our neighbour's house is on the far left.

Eldest Daughter in the Krushable Kalahari leather hat I bought her for her birthday and pink gloves (you can see her pink wellingtons in the first photo). Timothy her sheep is very interested in her cup of tea, and is trying to persuade her to let him taste it, as he is sure that sheep like tea.

Friday, January 09, 2009

First foray - frosty

Its time for me to take a walk outside - a short walk, over the river to have a cup of tea with a friend - without the boot!

The foot doesn't seem to ache too much and the swelling has gone down, though I shall probably always have a small bump at the fracture site. Even after six weeks the bruising is still there, it fell like blue ink down my instep and makes an interesting shape where it puddled at the base of my toes.

It was a lovely bright day but by mid-afternoon the sun is slanting low through the leafless trees.

The overnight frosts have been hard during the last few weeks, and while the setting sun hits the church in a golden glow, the meadows are still white and hard with frost where they have been shadowed by the woods. Those evergreen trees mark the river's course.

My friends' cheeful house name has ice frosted ivy leaves.

And holly leaves are perfectly outlined, but the birds have long since eaten all the berries.

By the time I leave, after tea and a piece of Christmas cake in front of the log fire, the sun has long gone, and the mist is rising over the river and the meadows in the valley.

Walking along the river, the outline of the hill is framed by the alders on the bank.

The lovely moon keeps me company, gliding along silently, lighting my way back home.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Winter frosts

The old rhyme of the months of the year says "January brings the snow, makes our feet and fingers glow" - nearly right!

I dont think I can remember such a long hard spell of cold weather like this before. The headlines say "Britain in the grip of longest cold snap for 10 years" but I measure the time by how many weeks on end in the past that I have to break the ice in the animals' water buckets. You can see above how the sun has melted the light frost where it slanted low across the field and caught the top of the tussock, but left the hollow with icy crystals.

Luckily it has been dry for weeks, so no snow for us. But most mornings the frosts are usually harder than the one above. The BBC forecast says things like

Forecast : Hard frost tonight, cold and grey tomorrow.

Today : Much of the night will be cold and clear with a widespread hard frost again. It will turn cloudier from the north by early morning with a few flurries of light snow.

Tomorrow : A few snow flurries at first, gradually dying out. Rather cold with mostly cloudy skies.

And the temperatures hardly rise above freezing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Leaving present

When I left work at the library, even though I disappeared quietly, some of my colleagues got together and sometime later gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers and some cash (in a beautifully hand-crafted envelope, made by the person who took over my job, and who will be much better in it than I was!)

I pondered on what to do with it, and I even took the cash and envelope with me to Kyoto. Just in case I should see any beautiful thing that I normally wouldnt have bought myself. Nothing.

I looked around for something beautiful in this country that I normally wouldnt have bought myself. Nothing.

(some expensive windchimes came close though)

While I was in Kyoto, I had to wander through what must be one of the most well stocked material shops, called Nomura Tailors. Its legendary. Small and cramped, but like a jewel box.

Interestingly and by coincidence, I saw a modern kimono coat (detail above) for sale in the art and craft/antique/flea market that is held once a month in a famous temple grounds. It was exactly the same material (different colourway though) that I bought there on a previous trip, and is being used as a throw while I wait for inspiration. Only a couple of years in the melting pot so far!

There was some cute Miffy material which I didnt buy in the end.

And an amazing version of Hiroshige's iconic "Wave".

This Aladdin's cave of delight made me think that I missed having a sewing machine. So I did my research, decided type I needed, and hunted around the online New Year sales! Bingo! The money almost paid for it. Bargain!

Brother XL2130

"The Brother XL2130 sewing machine is a great starter machine which is suitable for basic alterations and embroidery. This lightweight and compact sewing machine features an auto needle threader, 8 stitch options, embroidery options and 4 step buttonholer. The Brother XL2130 sewing machine comes complete with accessories and a soft cover and is compact - making it easy to transport.


Auto Needle Threader
Button Holes - 4 steps
Soft Cover
Product Depth 17 cm
Product Height 39 cm
Product Width 29 cm
8 Stitch Options

Instructional DVD"

And it was made in Japan!
Hours of fun. Thanks guys and gals of Dorset Libraries!