As of October of last year I wasn't aware of the existence of The Dharma Centre. My good friend Ashley contacted me with a request for my assistance to help repair a roof in that particular month. He told me of a magical place, on a beautiful piece of property and in the middle of nowhere. He knew that I would help, but I think he felt he had to do some 'selling', because I was in for a five hour drive. I presently spend my winters in Welland.
Ashley got busy and put a plan together, I met up with him and we were off on what would be the first of a few adventures across the winter season. On this first one we covered the solarium roof, at the main house, with a tarp to keep it dry for the winter. It was a beautiful day, the roof was neither too steep or too high. There's a Hornet's nest up there, but the Hornets seemed too busy wrestling with each other to bother us. We completed our task successfully, and prepared our evening meal. After leaving the very well equipped kitchen we entered the dining area to discover some of the Board Members. It was a great opportunity to meet and get acquainted. I was getting a really good feeling about the place and everyone at it. We left stating, that if any other tasks needed attention across the winter months, we would be more than happy to help.
It didn't seem like much time had passed when Ashley called again. I think it was November. I don't remember if I even let him finish asking his time, I was going! I didn't even ask if it was a higher and steeper roof, I didn't care. Before I knew it I was back in the magical paradise. On this visit we would be stocking the Main House with firewood for the winter. There was already snow on the ground so we were able to toboggan it close to the basement door, but it was a good test of teamwork which we passed handily. It was also a good prerequisite, a bunch more wood got delivered and we loaded that into Hill House.
It is sounding like all we did was work from morning til night. This is not at all the case. We worked hard, without doubt, and gave 100% effort during our work periods, but there was always time to experience all of the D.C.'s amenities, and to sit in peaceful meditation in an assortment of locations. The surroundings seem to have absorbed and accumulated all of the good energy over the years, and I could feel it oozing back out. I found myself smiling more than usual. Even though there were few people, I felt surrounded by community. As I was leaving I was already looking forward to coming back.
Ashley prefers to be on Retreat at New Years so he had been making arrangements to be at the D.C. He invited me to do my own solo retreat. As it turned out, someone was needed to be in the Main House from December 29th til January 6th, and, since Ashley could only stay til the 3rd or 4th, I would have to be the one to look after the house. What good luck for me! Another plan was made.
It was a little tricky at first, being in the same space, preparing meals at the same time and meditating while being in silence, but we had a notepad and a pen and managed to develop a working schedule. Ashley conceived the concept of 'silent streaming', we silently streamed a couple of Leaf's and Raptor's games. I was thankful of the flexibility that existed, which allowed us to remain devoted fans while remaining dedicated meditators. There seemed to be a few other Retreatants on site, all very smiley, which gave me further indications and reassurances, that I was in the 'magical' place which Ashley had originally described. I also found the extensive library. There seemed to be so many good spiritual guides and I really wanted to find something, you know, worthwhile, from this vast collection. I decided to close my eyes and let Dharma guide me. I must have been putting out a confusing message. I was thinking I didn't want anything too heavy, I want to simplify, not complicate. I closed my eyes and picked. 'Calvin and Hobbs'! I laughed, quietly. I read pretty much the whole thing. I was determined to gain as much insight as possible, and there was plenty. Guided by Dharma!
I noticed that a Retreatant was checking out and I went to see if I could be of assistance. She had disappeared from the parking lot. I dusted some snow from her car and cleared a bit of snow while waiting for her return. I spotted her coming from The Tea Room loaded with boxes and bags. I went to carry some of her load and introduced myself as I approached. She said her name was Carina Bomer. We had a short conversation on the way to her car. She pointed out the tree she planted 40 years ago. She's been coming here for that long!! She was taller than the tree then, it now stands at 10 times her height. She told me she comes to the D.C. every year at this time. The next thing she said seemed separate from her other comments, or, it did to me. It really stuck with me because of that. She stated, "I'm only here to feed the birds". I immediately thought, wow! That is so deep! Is that the only reason we're all here? I've been trying to understand a meaning or reason for us being on this planet, a life's purpose, if you will, and here it was! I'm only here to feed the birds! So simple! While my mind was racing through these contemplations Carina was busy gathering up a big bag of birdseed and giving me instructions. What a great and simple metaphor for life, I thought. Carina was thankful for my help and presented me with the reddest red pepper I'd ever seen. I carried it inside and found myself to be peckish. She had fed another bird.
We had one more adventure in February when Ashley called to see if I could assist with repairs to a leaky skylight at Hill House. It was also not too steep and not too high. In fact, it's too flat. There was a 6" thick sheet of ice covering most of the roof. We did what we could do clear some of the ice and allow for drainage, and resolved that nothing could be repaired until spring. I am, once again, looking forward to returning...