Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ring In The New

There seems to be a consensus in the building that we did a good job bringing in the New Year here, and also that it will be a good year. It was certainly a beautiful day in San Francisco, and when I went out for a brief ride around the city, there were a lot of people out and about enjoying the weather.
It is always hard to start an event at a time when most of us are usually thinking about bed; even after resting for a part of the afternoon, I had a headache for most of the evening, but I knew - and it transpired this way - that once we got into the activities, I would find the energy to keep going. There was a huge crowd at the work meeting, and over the course of the evening I burned through the whole range of emotions from 'Who are all these people, and why do we not see most of them at any other time of year?' to 'It is so wonderful that they want to be here with us, and are working so hard to help us get the temple clean'.
I didn't get to clean anything, but was running around making sure everything was prepared for the later parts of the schedule and for the morning, and with a lot of help from Daigan and Konin, it was. I made sure I was in the zendo promptly after the serving of noodles, and was soon faced with a crowd eager to come and sit. So much so, in fact, that many of the residents were caught out, and, arriving after the first roll-down, found the only spaces left were in the gaitan. Before the second roll-down I had to send Daigan to fetch the extra zabutons and zafus from the library to put in the hallway by the dorm, which meant we must have had a hundred people sitting zazen. Almost all of them wanted to take a turn on the bell as well; it is just as well we ring it 108 times. I stayed in the zendo and listened to the individuality of each strike, as well as the slightly inebriated and increasingly desperate conversations that people were having out on the street as midnight approached (one guy, presumably on the phone, after having listed any number of local bars:"Duuude, you are totally letting us down here...").
For the first time I can remember, we didn't have the countdown from our neighbors in Lily Alley; the densho ended, and for a minute or so there was a kind of stillness before the fireworks all got ignited and the whooping and hollering started. I was moved just to sit there and take that in, before the sitting was ended and we went up for the bonfire.
Happily this year, there was less to burn, and it went pretty crisply; I may have got to bed around one, but didn't sleep so much between the sirens, the loud revellers passing by at four, and the sun streaming in at seven thirty. This did mean I had time to clear up the remnants of the fire, try to make the ceremonial mochi offering look a little less haphazard, and set up the altar on the roof before I rang the wake-up bell. I think it was a year ago that I observed that I enjoy doing this provided I am not in my robes and we are not running behind on our usual timings. It seemed that everyone was up already, but I liked the ceremonial aspect of it.
Rosalie had decided to go to town for the procession, so we included a few extra altars, heading from the Buddha Hall outside and around the corner to the zendo, where I again got to say some encouraging words, the office, the bookstore, the hallway altar, the kitchen, the dining room, the kaisando, the second floor bathroom and the roof, so by the time we had done all our bows, made our statements, filled our glasses and offered a series of toasts, it was already ten o'clock, and I was ready for breakfast and coffee and to get out for a ride.

The fire, from the kaisando window. Note the persimmons drying in the background

The altar on the roof in the early sun


Dennis said...

I must say I had an interesting reaction to the "Dude, you're totally letting us down" guy. I was in the gaitan, and he sounded as though he was about two feet from me - a very penetrating voice. And of course he went on and on, trying to cajole his friend to come out with them. When I first heard him it was easy to simply let the chatter flow through me, but as it went on and on, I found myself contrasting his slightly frantic desire for entertainment with what was going on in the zendo. I might otherwise have reached the point of being annoyed by it, but instead - and somebody else had the same reaction - it started getting very funny, and I had a chuckle as that period of zazen ended and we went to line up for the bell ringing.

Shundo said...

I do feel that if he and the people he was with hadn't sorted anything out by the last hour of New Year's Eve, their expectations should not have been especially high...

Anonymous said...

Yes, where are all the people the rest of the year. After 50 years in the City one would think there would consistently be at least 50 souls sitting every morning and afternoon. Living out of the City, I only get there when in town and sit on my own at home. I am always surprised by the small showings for the regular daily Zazen. Back when it all started in Japan town, and then later at Page & Laguna, there was always a good showing. Where is everyone?

Shundo said...

Well we usually have fifty people in the morning, when most of the residents are there. The afternoons can be much quieter, but then Saturday mornings are also busy. Of course we never force anyone to come and sit, we just have an open invitation. Perhaps the big difference between now and fifty years ago is that people have many other places they can sit in groups as well - there are many options all over the city in many different styles.