As you can see from the pictures on the previous post, spring seems finally to have arrived, long after New York and Boston.
Some good friends suffering from various ailments asked if we would be willing to have a healing mass at the monastery, and so the date was set for last Wednesday. Approximately 25 people attended and enjoyed a light breakfast afterwards in the new living room/refectory/conference room in the guest house. We continue to pray for you, and for all the sick and suffering who have asked for our prayers.
On Saturday morning, eight Knights of Columbus showed up, full of energy, good will and physical strength, to split and stack wood that will feed our furnace and keep us warm next winter. (Scroll back two posts to see the pictures. We have not yet figured out how to combine pictures and prose in the same post.) Thank you, Knights!!! We are very grateful for all you do to help us!
The day of recollection with the theme, “Psyche and Spirit,” held yesterday, was a great success, with five overnight guests and nine local participants. Sr. Donald gave three talks, distilled from 25 she had previously given to a group of Jungian analysts in California; Sr. Laura cooked a delicious lunch of baked chicken, mashed potatoes, baby carrots, salad, home-made ice cream, and cake, much appreciated by all.
Sr. Sheila managed to film the talks, but so far has been unable to upload them to VIMEO and thence to the blog, due to insufficient technical savvy. On the other hand, DVD’s definitely will be available. Please contact us if you are interested.
Camp Mushroom at Cornell’s Arnot Forest, April 12-13, 2013new set, a set on Flickr.
Some photos illustrating our previous post:
Last summer, when structural problems made us reconsider our plans to renovate our underground winery building, we began exploring the possibility of using the building for growing mushrooms as a way of generating income. It’s damp, cooland dark, and the inside temperature is steady year-round. Further investigation revealed the impracticality of that idea: the temperature is a little too cool, the presence of 8 different kinds of mold makes the environment insalubrious for humans, if not for mushrooms, and the ventilation is insufficient. In addition, we learned that mushrooms grown outdoors on logs are more nutritious than mushrooms grown indoors.
Why not try growing mushrooms outdoors? Shitake mushrooms are apparently in demand, have medicinal qualities in addition to being a healthy food source, and they like to grow on oak, of which we have an abundance in our woods.
More net-surfing revealed that Cornell University Extension would be hosting a mushroom camp on April 12-13, where anyone could come and receive hands-on instruction in inoculating logs with shitake mushroom spawn. The camp was held in Cornell’s Arnot Forest, about 20 miles south of Ithaca. It is an easy 2 hour drive from Windsor, but some participants came from as far away as eastern Connecticut.
On Friday night, we had a delicious dinner of mushroom and cheese lasagna in the large, chilly hall of the lodge, followed by three talks on mushrooms and mushroom-growing, by Ken Mudge, Professor of Horticulture at Cornell, Steve Gabriel, Extension Aide and mushroom researcher, and Professor George Hudler, whose dynamic, entertaining style attracts hundreds of students to his classes on forest fungi. After the talks, a trio consisting of a banjo player, guitarist and fiddler provided after-dinner music, while the participants chatted and took turns huddling around the giant fireplace, the heat from which seemed mostly to go up the chimney.
When we signed up, we had been told that the accomodations would be rustic, and so they were. There were five or six heated cabins, nice and toasty compared to the lodge, with 4 bunk beds each, and an equal number of unheated cabins on the other side of a large field. The cabins were not gender-specific, but Sr. Sheila’s nice warm cabin ended up being ladies-only.
The only sanitary facilities were in a building across the road from the heated cabins, where the bare concrete walls and floor, old painted plywood stall-dividers and grubby sinks contrasted with the presence of hot water in the taps, wall-mounted foam soap dispensers and new, oak-framed mirrors above every sink. We were told that we could also avail ourselves of the outdoors “for number one”, and over breakfast, some of us compared notes as to how long we had been able to last during the night, before venturing out onto the cold, dank lawn next to the cabins.
Breakfast was hearty: pancakes with maple syrup produced on the property, bacon and grits with mushrooms, fruit salad, orange juice, coffee and tea, accompanied by shared stories and advice concerning bears, racoons, bee-keeping, gardening and Lyme disease.
After breakfast, we walked down a hill and over a bridge to “the goat shed,” next to the building that houses their maple syrup operation. There, we divided into three groups that rotated through three different activities until lunch time. We learned how to inoculate logs with shitake mushroom spawn, make “totems” – vertically stacked sections of a log, for growing lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms, and prepare beds on the ground out of sawdust and wood chips for wine-cap mushrooms.
After lunch, we went to the “laying yards,” where logs are laid to rest in a damp, shady spot in the woods, while the spawn colonizes them and eventually begins to produce mushrooms. As we departed, we were given two logs to take home: the one we’d inoculated that morning and an inoculated log from last year, which should begin to produce this summer.
Should you be interested in more technical details, we’ll be happy to email you an attachment with our notes from the workshop.
Back at the monastery, Craig, who does logging in our woods, has cut down two trees, and hopes to cut another 8 or so in the next couple of days. Keith is working on our tractor, and when it is fixed, Craig will be able to haul the cut logs out of the woods and cut them into three-foot lengths for inoculation.
The next step will be an inoculation party, involving drilling holes in the logs, stuffing the holes with a mixture of mushroom spawn and sawdust, covering the holes with melted wax, and carrying the logs to the laying yard. If you would like to participate, let us know, and we’ll give you a log or two to take home!
It is bright, sunny and cold on Easter Tuesday, April 2, with a light dusting of snow on the ground. We plan to leave for New York City around 7:30 a.m., visit Ground Zero, which Sr. Laura has never seen, have lunch in Chinatown, and stop for a brief visit with Sr. Sheila’s nephew, Gabriel, in Bedford Stuyvesant, after which we’ll head out to JFK to pick up Sr. Marie-Benoît, a Benedictine of French nationality from Martinique, who is a member of the Montserrat community in Spain. Sr. Marie-Benoît will stay with us for about a week.
At 4:30 a.m., there is an email from Sr. Marie-Benoît: her flight has been rescheduled, and will arrive at 7:30 p.m. We try contacting friends in NY who might be able to pick her up at the airport, give her a bed for the night and help her to get a bus to Binghamton the next morning, but no one is home. At 11:30, Air France announces a further delay: the flight is expected to arrive at 8:23 p.m.
Plan B: we set out for NY at 12:30, drive past Ground Zero, which is now full of construction and inaccessible to visitors, have an early supper in Chinatown, and drive to JFK, with Sr. Donald expanding our knowledge of NYC geography as we drive. Parking is easy, we find a Starbucks on the upper level of Terminal 1, wake up with espresso and cappucino, and watch the planes take off.
At 8:04 p.m. Air France flight 006 has landed, so we go downstairs to wait for Sr. Marie-Benoît to emerge from customs. We wait for a little over an hour. Meanwhile, the passengers on AF flight 006, who have started heading toward the exit, are ordered to return to their original seats, where they wait for another 25 minutes. Finally, four policemen come on board, handcuff a passenger, and lead him off the plane, after which the other passengers are free to leave.
Sr. Marie-Benoît finally emerges, we make our way to the car, and about 200 ft. beyond the exit to the parking lot, the car dies. We call AAA. A couple of vans from the airport parking service stop and their drivers try to figure out what’s the matter. They decide that the alternator has died. Sr. Sheila tries to remember how to say “alternator” in French, without success. Other drivers honk, and one nice man hands us a few dollar bills. The triple AAA representative spends about half an hour with us on the phone, puts us on hold while she consults other AAA people, and finally tells us that because we are on airport property, they cannot come and tow us. We have to get a company hired by the airport to tow us to just outside the airport grounds, to the tune of $136, and once we are no longer on airport property, we need to call them back to make further arrangements.
The airport towing people are very nice and don’t charge us anything. Not only that, they come with two tow trucks, so all four of us will be able to ride to Building 206 outside the airport grounds.
Back to AAA: more negotiations. We get 100 miles of free towing, after which we shall have to pay $4/mile + tax for each additional mile. We can have the car towed home to Windsor, or we can have it towed to a garage in NYC, which will mean that two of us will have to drive back to pick it up in a day or two. Our dog and cat are at home, nobody besides us has a key to the monastery, so somebody has to go home tonight. The tow truck can take only two of us. By this time, it is about 11:00. We call our friend Sr. Celia, a Sister of Sion who lives in Brooklyn; she says she’ll be happy to welcome two of us for the night. AAA says they will call us back within 20 minutes to let us know when the tow truck will arrive. They call with the news that the tow truck will be there at 11:44.
Sr. Donald decides that she and Sr. Laura will ride home in the tow truck, and Sr. Marie-Benoît and Sr. Sheila will go to Brooklyn for the night. The nice men who had given us a free tow take Sr. Marie-Benoît and Sr. Sheila to the yellow cab station, where they get a cab to Brooklyn and are warmly welcomed by our two Sisters of Sion.
Sr. Donald and Sr. Laura set out in the tow truck, which seems not to have much power, and can go up hills at only about 35 mph. At one point, another truck passes too close to the tow truck, breaking the side mirrors on both trucks. The trucks stop, the two drivers get out and yell at each other, and the tow truck driver finally decides to take off. Soon they are followed by a police car with its rotating lights signaling them to stop. The two sisters are ordered to get out of the truck and sit in the patrol car, where they remain for about 25 minutes. They are questioned as witnesses to the accident. They think the tow truck driver was accused of leaving the scene of an accident, and finally they are allowed to resume their trip.
They arrive home at around 6:00 a.m., just as our chaplain is heading towards the chapel for his early morning holy hour. The AAA driver charges $500 for the tow. Sr. Donald thinks they are being grossly overcharged and vows to call his boss later in the day.
Sr. Marie-Benoît and Sr. Sheila spend a comfortable, if too- short, night in Brooklyn, where Sr. Celia serves them a substantial breakfast, walks them to the subway, and tells them which trains go to Port Authority. The Shortline bus from Port Authority follows Route 17 to Binghamton, which gives Sr. Marie-Benoît the opportunity to see some beautiful late-winter scenery under blue sky and sun. The day ends with a late lunch, brief naps, Vespers combined with Mass, Compline on our own, and so to bed.
Sr. Donald will be giving a workshop on the relationship between psychology and spirituality on Saturday, April 20. The workshop will consider the nature of soul, the spiritual journey and the interplay of psyche and Spirit, drawing on insights from Jungian psychology, as well as transpersonal, spiritual and theological traditions. It would be of particular value to mental health professionals and spiritual directors.
Schedule: 9:30 – coffee and muffins
10:00 – first talk
11:00 – discussion
12:00 – lunch, free time
2:00 – second talk
3:00 – discussion
Sr. Donald has already given five week-long workshop retreats on the theme of psyche and Spirit to a group of Jungian analysts in California. She is ready and willing to have this workshop be the first in a series, should there be sufficient interest.
SHOVELING SNOW WITH BUDDHA
In the usual iconography of the temple of the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
And sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade in again
deep into the glittering white snow.