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Soon after Cally arrived there was a week long Buddhist gathering. Even though it was a busy week for us, I was able to sit in on one course taught by a follower of Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche, whose followers ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That is a very long story, but I do feel like I am connected to it in some way. The morning was spent in meditation and arranging objects, a very interesting exercise akin to flower arranging. We were asked to bring some objects in that could represent heaven, earth and “the man principle.” We made teams of two, selected objects and arranged them on pieces of white paper, attempting to place them so that the man principle connected heaven and earth. Then our teacher went around the room examining the arrangement. He was unequivocal in his opinion that some arrangements worked while others didn’t. It was very interesting to see and hear the interaction with the participants. He warned us ahead of time that any of us who had the artist’s ego were likely to be upset by the exercise, because his function was not to massage egos.

I took charge of selecting “heaven,” picking out a small vase that seemed to be made of marble or some other heavy stone. My partner picked a piece of bark to represent earth. II chose a CD I received from Stephanie in my Christmas stocking as the man principle. The title is O Solo Mio. There is a photo of a Venetian boatman on the cover. We were very literal in our interpretation, as were most of the other workshop participants. When the leader perused our arrangement, the placement of objects was found wanting, and my parther, Helga, immediately moved heaven a few inches to the left, just above earth. Our leader nodded and moved on. I had placed heaven in a little hollow of the bark, but i could see immediately that Helga’s move was right. The puzzle is, I have no idea why.

Staying at University College has made many things much easier than they would otherwise have been– from finding a house to feeding ourselves. The staff are wonderful and many of the people we have encountered at mealtimes have been generous and interesting. Our chief cook is an Indian who spent many years in Italy. He used to have a restaurant in Rimini. He told me that the money was much better there, but the cultural mores were not what he wanted for his children. The Italians didn’t take education seriously enough for him, so he packed up and came to Australia for the sake of the children. He could not resist bragging about his daughter’s grade-point average. The food is the best I have every had in an institution.

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Saturday morning early here, January 27. Our lives now seem to be driven by the dinner bell. We are in residence at a real college, and meals are available three times a day. It is astonishing how quickly one’s stomach takes over the brain when meals get regular and there is social interaction at every meal. I noticed that this summer when I attended a writer’s retreat/workshop in North Carolina at a place called Wildacres. It is summer here, so there are very few students around, but the apartments and even some of the rooms are leased to visiting professors who are doing summer programs or are on sabatical. At the moment, the college is hosting fifty or sixty pharmaceutical students who are attending a conference. They wear T shirts around with slogans about how their mothers told them not to do drugs, so now they sell them.

Shortly after Stephanie and I arrived people began trickling in for a course in Permaculture. I learned a little about it from the doyen of the program one afternoon at lunch. It seems to cover a number of different areas, includiing agriculture, hydrology, soil analysis, banking, law and political science. Permaculture people go into “developing” countries with some expertise in all these areas to set up environmentally friendly programs for the poorest people on the planet. Their motto seems to be identical to the physician’s– first, do no harm.

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