The clouds are mostly just grey today; a flat sky that only gives up its colour and texture under close examination.
I woke up at eight, to the sound of our oldest cat mewing for breakfast. I shuffled through the dark flat, fed him, and the girl cat scurrying after us, and went back to bed.
I woke up again an hour later, full of a pale wash of feeling: sadness, disappointment, tenderness, hope, love.
The temple felt quiet. Our Buddhist teacher, who had been staying with us for 10 days, had gone home yesterday; the guests we had invited for his surprise birthday party had gone as well.
He is seventy years old. While he was here visiting us, he sprained his knee walking on the hills. I took him to the minor injuries clinic on Thursday morning, and they checked him out, strapped him up, gave him some painkillers and crutches and told him to rest.
On Friday morning his cat (travelling with him) got into a scrap with one of ours and came away with a scratched eye. A friend drove them both to the vet. The cat came away with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and will be okay. On Saturday she was sniffing around our cats again. We closed the door between them.
There was a lot of love on display at the birthday party. A lot of cake was eaten. Seven people helped out making party food in the kitchen. We all spoke of our deep gratitude to our teacher.
This morning I have found a thread of romanticism in my soul, and I am letting it go.
I first met Buddhism through stories of monks and nuns staying cool under pressure, gliding through life easily, seeing things that I couldn’t see. I enjoyed hearing stories about the mystical land of the snows, and the great sages hidden there.
I was sceptical about the magic, and sometimes frustrated by the mystical language which seemed to cover up the truth as much as reveal it, and yet part of me hoped that there was a place where old monks floated up into the sky to give teachings, and where suffering was eased.
My practice does give me consolation, but it is consolation in the midst of suffering, consolation in the midst of a world which falls apart.
Dharmavidya, my teacher, says that the Buddha’s first noble truth of suffering is a truth for noble ones. The first activity of sages is to pay attention to suffering. To know the world as it falls apart.
I was refreshed when I first heard this, and it refreshes me today, as I find thin threads of false hope, wishing the world was different, in my heart.
And how do sages pay attention to the world?
Image: Levels of Gray by Thomas Hawk