As the high summer sun puffed out his chest and preened himself, we made like the chip-monks stuffing our boots with seeds and gathered pears by the wagonful.

With the triumphant return of crickets to the monastery soundscape, the amazing mullein growing neck-high from a gravel driveway with nary a drop of water finally burst its fuzzy cones with yellow flowers- a real Clatskanie lotus rising from the mire. As we circled round in awe, Brandon shared the medicinal properties of mullein roots and how the plant often appears in disturbed areas to rehabilitate them. Just beautiful.

Similarly sprouting from the remains of an old landfill, the residents witnessed another miraculous lotus. We took a Portland field trip to the budding Dharma Rain temple and Householder Refuge site to help out. We marveled over the elegant winding paths that used to be a pit of solid blackberry thorns before the Herculean human bulldozers of Dharma Rain arrived. As Kakumyo directed our work like a Sorcerer magicking the room into cleaning itself, we Zen students tried to step our brains out of the way and just watch the landscape rearrange, tidying up corners and straightening edges. There’s nothing for community building like spending a hot windy day shoveling rocks into a trench together. Or tucking away a Dharma Rain feast of liberally-scooped egg salad, coleslaw, and watermelon.

We hosted our annual Grasses and Trees sesshin, where we toted our zafus to the Great Out-Zendo and let Mother Earth be our dharma teacher. We all tested our strength of will to sit sesshin largely without the support (also read: necessary peer pressure) of the zendo. Chozen instructed us to walk through the golden grass as if it were the blonde buzz-cut of an enormous head. Like puppy dogs searching for that perfect spot, we sniffed left, sniffed right, wagged our tails and turned around three times before plunking down on our mats. Got nice and cozy with our mosquito brethren – for, as Bansho pointed out, to the nose “putting on Deet is like wearing shoes for kin-hin” (walking meditation).

Photo by Sophia Wolfe.

Courageously we sat in the forest through the deepening night. As Chozen said, if you want the creatures to come out you have to let go of being human, the most feared animal in the forest. Late-night sitters sprinkled themselves across the meadow as Perseid meteors streaked overhead. Tyler strode to the Jizo garden for his nightly walk with red poi lanterns dangling beside, and those of us sitting followed the two red eyes winking through the dark woods along the path. The sesshin instilled in us a kind of wildness that can only come from gulping so much fresh air. For days after we scampered from place to place, perched on chairs, nibbled nuts and fruits, and hid in dark corners around the monastery, listening to the wind in the trees.

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