“I have arrived. I am home. In the here and in the now.”
These are words of a song by the Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh which I learned in Plum Village, France. And boy, do they apply when you end up somewhere, somehow, and don’t really know why you are there! I have learned to get grounded in myself and in the moment, wherever I am.
From Porto I took two trains. This is a challenge because in Portugal they post the train-track by the final destination, not by the stops along the way. You have to ask some kind person where to board.
Then one taxi in Coimbra, the University town, from the train station to the bus station. It turned out for a fee the driver would show me the sights of this famous university town. See the poetry inscriptions that look like tombstones.
Then a bus to Catrayia— really just a metal shed by the side of the road, where Katje picked me up to go to Quinta.
We had arranged this by email but I was working on faith that someone would be there for me, in the middle of nowhere. “Where is Quinta?” I asked her. I thought that was the final destination. “Quinta means farm. That’s where we live.” Oh.
The ride went fine until we stopped in a village to get money and for me to pee.
Then when we tried to get back into the car the doors wouldn’t unlock. “OK … What’s with me and transportation today?” I thought.
The rear trunk door did open so she crawled through it. But what to do about me and my inflexible knees? I crawled head first through the front door window and laughing we were off, mystified as to the problem, but I’m sure she was relieved that it wasn’t her car or just her responsibility. This is one advantage of living in community!!
And all was fine until we had to reverse the process, including my “too much luggage.” She saw the possibility where I only saw the obstacle. We each crawled out the window – first one leg then the other. I have a picture of her laughing! And the luggage? Easy, bend forward all the seats we could, empty most of the bag, crush it and push it through the window and then pile stuff back in. A case in point for a duffel, for sure!
But enough criticism about “too much luggage.” Here I had to sleep in a very cold tent where I needed my sleeping bag and pillow!
And now I have arrived.
Down a very dusty path to a community on many levels. Literally. Houses and pee stalls and meditation areas and decks and vegetable patches and raspberry lanes… I despaired of keeping it all straight!
In fact I got lost the first time I had to go back up the levels by myself in daylight! Forget night time! I ended up under the deck of the kitchen but not knowing how to go up. “Help,” I called. And waved my walking stick into the trees so they could see where I was. And while Katje was finding me I noticed a plump ripe grape above my head.
Yes! Like the Buddhist allegory of a man holding onto a bending branch on a cliff while above a tiger loomed and below a tiger salivated. Right then he noticed a juicy strawberry and totally tasted it. Ahhh… I also said...
At this Awakened Life Project I have a chance to stop, to arrive, to enjoy the international participants, to just be... It is vegan so I’ll have abundant fruits and vegetables and sprouted grains three times a day.
And even a non-vegan treat of gnocchi!
With meditation twice a day I’ll have a chance to look inside myself. Not at problems at home. Not forward to the next place. Not even at an churches and museums. But stopping here, now, arriving, in dusty fragrant, abundant rural Portugal.
I pick a yellow raspberry and slurp down a green fig. Rest in a hammock. I am at home with myself.