Monday, May 30, 2011

We Are Always A Little Late

Among the stationary things I got to do on this trip was catching up with some recent New Yorkers. One article that I particularly enjoyed was ostensibly about an attempt to measure the slowing of perception that people seem to have during near-death experiences (there is a teacher at Zen Center who came to Buddhism as a way to make sense of her near-death experience). I was struck by one quote from a neuroscientist: "We are not conscious of the actual moment of the present. We are always a little late". It reminded me that I heard Daigaku several times quote his master, Sekkei Harada Roshi, saying that we cannot think about the present moment, and also brought to mind Dogen in the Genjo Koan, one of my favourite lines: "Do not suppose that what you realise becomes your knowledge and is grasped by your consciousness - although actualised immediately, the inconceivable may not be distinctly apparent; its appearance is beyond your knowledge". I always feel comforted when Buddhist teachings have long covered the ground that western science is now trying to fathom.

A lot of this trip has been about the gap between experience and perception as well, albeit in a different way. Mostly my itinerary has been worked out by looking at the map and saying, okay, there, then there, then there (this even goes for some of the bike rides I have been on; today's was about ten miles longer than I expected it to be). I had very little idea of what these places would be like, even if I had seen pictures of some of them. So there was the experience of driving through the terrain that is on the map, and also the experience of being a little more integrated into the landscape than you can be in a car, when I went riding or hiking. Even then I was thinking of the difference between visiting a landscape, inhabiting it temporarily, and becoming familiar with it, living with it - a number of times I found myself comparing places I saw with Tassajara, as that has been my defining experience of living both in the mountains and in the midst of wilderness. This didn't stop me from having any number of wonderful moments on the trip, but they came with the knowledge of their fleeting nature, and were also usually accompanied by the desire to take a photograph to show how beautiful it actually had been - it was interesting just to watch the sun set from the warm pool last night and tonight with no access to my camera; I just let it come and go.
This has probably all been an excuse for another batch of pictures...

The snowy first day in Yosemite
Classic Yosemite Valley view from the Inspiration Point trail
King's Canyon, evening light
The start of Highway 190 into Death Valley
Sunset at the Mesquite Dunes
A bike ride before sunrise in Death Valley
Ditto, the next day
Artists' Drive, Death Valley
Wild Rose Canyon, Death Valley
View from near Wild Rose Peak, Death Valley
The road to an undeveloped hot springs in the woods near Bridgeport
The north end of the Sierras from Highway 395


Sandy's witterings said...

More excellent pictures of big.

I would think for many people that you actually see more of a place by visiting it than you do by living in it. It's just so easy to take your own home place for granted and not look at it.

Shundo said...

Now that's a very interesting point Sandy, and makes me think of all the people, myself included, who never go to see the major attractions in their home towns because they are always there. I have been mostly thinking of the difference between seeing somewhere fresh for the first time, and really knowing it in all kinds of conditions.

Melanie G, Austin Zen Center practitioner said...

Oh! Gorgeous photos!

Ruth said...

Wow, stunning images (as always). Thanks for sharing those.

Shundo said...

Thank you both - Ruth, sorry about the lack of a postcard; it is directly related to the lack of an address to send it to.

Mike said...


I enjoyed your posts and photos. Thanks. When our temple celebrated its 5th anniversary a few years ago, we sent out the following quote along with the invites:

"When the World-Honored One was walking with his disciples he pointed to the ground and said, 'It would be good to erect a temple here.' The god Indra took a blade of grass and stuck it in the ground and said, 'The temple has been erected.' The World-Honored One smiled faintly."

I thought of that quote often when I looked at your photos. To me, it means the entire world is a temple and that practice is there whether in the Zendo, in the wilderness, or in the city. Welcome home!

Shundo said...

Thanks Mike, I enjoyed your words - and your comment about bowing did finally reappear too, I am glad to see. By the way, I did also get to watch the Giro online a few mornings, which was nice.

Sierra said...

fantastic pics, I'm quite jealous you were in yosemite when there was snow on the peaks- this must have been planned. I wonder how Tassajara compares...
very excited for the YUZ work trip in the fall!!

Sandy's witterings said...

I come to this almost a year after it was posted - a small travel review before your travels. It also encompasses almost any temperature you're likely to encounter in Britain in May (seems you've struck it lucky this time)

Shundo said...

Sierra, that certainly wasn't planned at all, and it was a real chore getting diverted round to the only accessible entrance to the south. It was pretty chilly, like Tassajara, but also spectacular.
Sandy, I really did strike it lucky this time round. Glorious weather on the whole.