(a Retreat atop an Island of Serenity).
Well, two days is not a long time to spend in Paradise. Fortunately, Paradise has many forms, fingers and flavors. It seeps into our lives through the Cracks In Things.
Judith has been care-taking at the KDOL Buddhist Retreat Center on Saltspring Island for some time. She’s in charge of Gardening, occasional meals & errands and helping take care of the resident Lama, Lama Karma Phuntsok.
Besides her duties in taking care of residential business at the KDOL Center, Judith has organized a casual, “come-as-you-are” retreat for the end of August / early September 2013. I was pleased to partake of 2½ days of sublime beauty, nature and gourmet cooking from the Mountain Diva Herself!
One of the most pleasurable and spiritually-beneficial aspects of my stay on Saltspring was the delightful culinary creations, offered by Judith, any time of day that struck my fancy.
And being somewhat ‘city-lagged’, my waking hours were an odd combination of unpredictable sleeps, hikes, silences and star-gazing moonlight indulgences, that, all in all, had no rhyme, reason or season to them.
The women’s side of the retreat center, where Judith had staked out her territory, is a rustic village of small 1-room cabins, set around a temple or meditation building, and a kitchen. The Kitchen was our favorite hang-out, basically because this is truly the temple of the digestive system! And what offerings this temple does provide!
We share this idyllic setting with Denizens of the Animal World. Actually, didn’t see much else than Deer. And plenty of them. Apparently, there’s nine or so that frequent the hill beside the kitchen area. Four pairs of Does & Fawns and one occasional Buck.
Judith offers them kitchen scraps, which they make a nightly pilgrimage for, and who’d-a-thunk? It seems that this indeed is their “pizza-of-the-day” treat; they come from miles for their evening rituals. They kind of look at you funny. With those Big, Deer Eyes. So Cute.
But nervous creatures. Make a loud noise, and they’re history. I tried my morning Elk imitation, but they weren’t impressed.
One of my favorite parts of the whole journey is the Ferry Ride. It’s always kind of a “religious experience”, riding these huge white honking boats across the scenic channel of water that separates the Mainland from the Gulf Islands, and the largest island: Vancouver Island. Nice on sunny summer days, but nicer still, in its own damp, oceany, “west-coast” way, when the seasons turn – when grey skies prevail and the cool winds sing in the sails (so to speak: ferries have no sails).
Ferry Rides, for those living in this part of the world, are some kind of Right of Passage. You leave behind some fragment of lives lived, and, face to the wind, breathe in the fragrance of the Unknown, the Vapors, the mists of Uncertain but Fragrant tomorrows.
It’s kind of like a “going”, with no easy and certain picture of where you’re going to. Perhaps a mini-re-birthing session of sorts. With onboard Starbucks’ and Boat Burgers to boot. It’s a treasure-chest of rich sensations.
Sometimes, you can even see another ferry going the opposite way, in a neighboring “Parallel Universe”. All for a seventeen-dollar foot-passenger ticket. Cool, eh? It even gets better when you’re a decrepit 65 years of age: it’s free to travel the ferries on week-days! Whoa!
So, that’s a little bit of “how we got there”. There’s two ways from the Vancouver side, one is direct from Tsawwassen; downfall is it’s only 1-2 times daily, and it takes a long time: total of 4 island stops, Salt Spring is the last! The other way is Tsawwassen to Schwartz Bay (near Victoria), a 1.5 hour ride on the Big Ship, then a short half-hour ride to Salt Spring, one stop. Advantage: many sailings throughout the day.
Well, back to the Retreat.
One of the lovely things about this location, is the view of the ocean, in both directions – north and south, along the east edge of the Island. You’re far enough above the water – 900 meters or so to scope out a majestic offering of blue shadow and lagoon, enough to inspire an artist, meditator or photographer for sure!
MUCH MORE TO EXPLORE in JUDITH’S BUDDHIST MOUNTAIN retreat … stay tuned!
(“Oh to Live on … Buddha’s Mountain … with the Barkers and the Colored Balloons… you can’t be twenty, on Buddha’s Mountain, but you’re thinkin’ that you’re leavin’ there too soon … you’re Leavin’ There too soon.”)