New Beginnings Blog

New Beginnings Blog


May 9, 2023

There is so much to report as we get ready for the Summer of Sangha; you might want to get a cuppa before you tackle this. 
I tend to think of myself as unsentimental and not particularly attracted to tradition, both of which go a long way toward demonstrating just how inaccurate one can be in one’s self-image. For example, when we purchased the 320 acres in Murphys, the first hermitage built was for the guide. This was in large part because I was the person who spent the most time there. Turns out all our hermitages got names and the name of that one, not surprisingly, was Guides. Here we are at Four Acre Zen Center and I’m writing this from the first hermitage being made ready for habitation and its name is Guides. Coincidence? Accident? I don’t think so. Do you? We still call the big building (all 576 square feet of it) the Mash Tent. And when the Shamiyana is erected we will, of course, call it the Meditation Hall. No, FAZC is not, and won’t be, a monastery, but old orientations linger, and while we don’t want to cling as we go forward we do want to honor where we’ve been. 
Tree CoveredThere are always unexpected difficulties in any new location, but our biggest difficulty was not at all unexpected. If you’ve been following along you recall the desecration of the magnificent Sequoia, carved up with a depiction of a wolf howling at a full moon. The violation became a regular conversation starter as people came to the property, saw the tree, and pretty much to a person let out an awed, “Wow, that is so cool.” For me this was a regular opportunity to practice “restraint and religious observance.” Never once did I scream, “No, it is not cool; it’s an obscenity!” I did point out how damaging it likely is to a spectacular wonder of the natural world and usually got an agreement, quickly followed by something along the lines of, “It seems to be okay though.” We would leave it at that.
Finally deciding to do something temporarily to end those conversations, we put up a brown sheet to cover the whole mess. The first sheet was the wrong color, and while replacing it with a better color we noticed the tree is doing what looks like bleeding. Talking with a recent visitor about just why we have a sheet tacked up on a tree, the suggestion was made that there might be someone who knows of a method of assisting a tree to heal from such an injury. Hence my request: If anyone knows of a “medical intervention,” would you pass along the information to us? Even knowing who, what field of study, might be able to inform us would be greatly appreciated.  
FencingThe old rustic fence wending its way around the property had a hard time of it during the winter. As it became clear that its time had come, we got clear that having a fence bisecting and re-bisecting the property wasn’t what we wanted. By removing the tumbling down split rails, we could open up the acreage where we want it open and use the rails to create a fence where we’d like to have one. 


We don’t have any major building projects, but there are bunches of little ones. All supplies, especially wood, are wretchedly expensive now, as anyone who has bought anything recently knows. In a conversation with our very wonderful contractor, Kyle, I explained how we’re into recycle, refurbish, reuse, repurpose and such, asking if we might have a chance to go through their leftovers before they’re taken to the dump. He told us that he has mountains of stuff that comes back from jobs, good, could be used later, usually doesn’t get used because people don’t want to make old stuff work, preferring to go to the store and buy new (especially if the boss is footing the bill!). He indicated that he takes it hard that so much stuff goes into the landfill, but doesn’t really see a way around it. I offered for us to be a way around some of it and his response was, “I’m going by the shop now if you want to follow me there.” Do we!!! We hopped in Mojo, got the jaw-dropping tour, and came back with enough wood to do all our currently scheduled projects. The “supply depot” is open from 8-4 Monday through Friday and we are welcome to shop. What a gift. 

Scavenging from roadside—we also pick up everything folks put out on the street with a “free” sign. If it’s a board, it has a home. 




We are living in Paintville here, profoundly grateful for Greensheen’s recycled paints, for a local handychap who is primarily a painter and donates all the paint he can’t use—guess who raised their hand on that one—and for a little group of people who are assisting us with everything from getting the Mash Tent and the hermitages painted to weed-eating, blackberry bramble eradicating, trash collecting (mountains of trash hidden in brambles, weeds, over the sides of the creek bank), and an endless list of tasks that we were just not going to get through before June 15. 

The sink area in the kitchen is rather small, nowhere to put dishes before or after washing, nowhere to prepare food. We’re in the process of building an island, butcherblock with lovely 4X4 legs, that will give us the space we need and act as a divider between the kitchen and the meditation hall. (All of those could really use quote marks, as calling them kitchen, island, and meditation hall is kind of a stretch.) Note the lovely skirt on the sink provided by a Sangha seamstress. 
One of our favorite parts of the changing seasons is getting to spend time with Justin as he beautifies the fields—FAZC this week, two or three weeks from now Lost Mountain Road. It’s a lot and we’re so grateful to have found him and his pal Eric to mow the 25 acres in exchange for the hay. 











Two other items from the “seems like a small thing, but what a difference it makes” list. One, we were losing some of our fence line on the south edge of the property due to rotting posts. We used some of the rails to do a temporary prop up, giving that area a much-needed cared-for look. And, two, from my first walk around the property I’ve had a concern about someone climbing down to a platform the previous residents had cantilevered out over the side of the bank down to the creek and falling to their injury. (Death? Unlikely, but it would be ugly.) Even taking it down was iffy as it required chain-sawing from very shaky perches. Down it is and we just need to see if we can get the concrete pilings out and disconnect the various “rappelling” lines (garden hoses, irrigation lines, old ropes, etc.), that have been nailed into trees. 
Last, for this report anyway, the area just outside the Mash Tent that was dug up in the process of putting in the drainage field needed to protect the building has been smoothed and made ready to receive a covering of top soil. That step is necessary because the entire area is layered with plastic materials of various stripes. One guesses it was an effort at “weed” control, but of course the result is garbage creeping up to the surface on which nothing can grow. A little top soil and we’re confident that with the marvelous climate for growing that is Western Washington our green friends of all types will be joining us soon. It can sound as if it’s a burden to do all this reclamation, but it emphatically isn’t. We’re so happy to be able to give back even a little to the nature that gives to us so lushly and abundantly. 
A request: We want to put some hooks in the Mash Tent to receive bags and jackets, and some in each of the hermitages for same. Large hooks. Suitable for towels and robes and coats. We have come up short. Do they exist? Absolutely, though not nearly as nice as I remember them being when I’ve looked for them in the past. $5-6 a pop. For nothing special. So, here’s what has occurred to us: How about if you have a hook you like—large enough for heavy-duty monastic life—you send it to us. We’ll find a lovely spot for it and then you can come visit it. Now, it is true that your hook might find a home in a hermitage you don’t have access to. This simply means that you will need to come back often enough to visit all the buildings and eventually find “your” hook. What say ye? Anyone who wants to play can send their hook to PO Box 166, Sequim, WA 98382. 
In Gasshō,

Other fun shots!



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