Another Buddhist Monastery Morning?

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2:17 a.m.

This happens often when I spend my nights in the country at my favorite hideaway—I’ll retire to bed around 8 or 9:00 and find myself awake at this mystical/magical/meditative hour.

Waking in the midst of yet another night, I lay in the quiet darkness and could not stop thinking about the enchanting day I spent yesterday at this place. Having slept late into yesterday morning, I made the decision to spend the entire Sunday here and not make the fifty-minute drive to the gallery. Sundays in the gallery usually are spent completely alone; hardly anyone comes into the Redlands Hotel or gallery on Sundays. I manage to get plenty of work done then, but this time I just wanted to let the day drift by slowly with reading and contemplation.

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The owners of the Gallery at Redlands own this property where I am privileged to spend weekends when the Redlands is completely booked. They come out to their ranch to feed livestock daily, and I always enjoy moments visiting with them. But yesterday was different; they had more time on their hands, and stopped by for a visit on the veranda that extended for quite a stretch. The conversation inspired me so much that I wrote the rest of the day in the journal, fleshing out the ideas we discussed. They are just as inspired as I with the possibilities now for an art culture to take root in Palestine. With the arrival of the radio station in the gallery and the enthusiasm of the personnel there, I was able to see during the weekend’s Hot Pepper Festival the possibilities now awaiting all of us. We have decided to launch an art festival next fall for the very first time in Palestine. I’ll be discussing more of this in the months ahead.

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As evening descended, I sat motionless in the rocker, hoping for deer to come and visit. I wasn’t disappointed. Looking way off across the pastureland to my right, I saw one, two, three, four, then five deer emerge from the edge of the forest and slowly make their way out into the pastureland to graze. Turning my head back to the yard in front of me, I felt a jolt like electricity flashing through me—a deer was standing thirty yards directly in front of me. She had stepped out from the shadows of the trees behind the barn. As I continued to watch her, a second one then materialized out of the darkness. Then a third. A fourth. A fifth. A sixth. And as I continued to watch, I then saw silhouettes of more in the shadowed woods—seven, eight, nine and ten. I continued to sit still for about fifteen more minutes, watching all of them, grazing, suddenly jerking their heads up and standing erect, ears out, listening, then lowering their heads to graze, then heads up again—a continual rhythm of eating and watching for potential danger. Then, as if following a signal, one exited stage left, followed by the next, then the next, and in less than a minute they were all gone. I then looked out over the pastureland, and all the deer out there had vanished as well. The moment had passed.

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all . . . 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature 

Most of yesterday was spent on the veranda reading slowly and taking observational notes from Philip Kapleau’s The Three Pillars of Zen. Fifty-four pages into the text, I find myself very absorbed with this practice of zazen, having already become acquainted with it from occasionally teaching World Religions at TCU and Texas Wesleyan University, and reading Natalie Goldberg the past couple of days has once again brought these ideas to my attention. I cannot honestly say that I have spent time seated in the lotus position, and have yet to spend time counting my breathing, but I am intrigued at the Buddhist writings concerning enlightenment, and these writings convinced me to stay here at this country retreat for an extra day yesterday. Now, having risen at this hour, I have a few more hours to spend with these writings before driving to the gallery to join my radio friends.

7:25 a.m.

Smooth Rock 93.5 FM is in full swing with the “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show underway. Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell are always in good spirits when I see them in the studio, and this morning is no different, though they were stretched considerably by the weekend’s festivities. It has to be rough rising before daylight on Mondays when you have hosted a huge weekend event. The Hot Pepper Festival is in the books, and I’m sure they feel no regrets over its success.

And so, this is Dave, along with Kevin and Marc wishing you a splendid day as we send out our greetings from The Gallery at Redlands and Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, live from the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas.

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