Fall always seems so brief here in the Pacific Northwest. We seem to go from summer nearly instantly to winter, with only a scant few days of "fall". A week of colorful foliage, then a hard rain quickly stripping the "color" off the trees, plugging up the storm-drains and causing lower Hawthorne Blvd to flood, leaving the world a palate of wet browns and shiny grays. Not that that's "ugly"; As Ray Stevens reminded us in the 70's, "everything is beautiful in its own way". Very true, Ray.

Ms. Jasmine is growing more and more comfortable in her new digs. I'm very happy about that. She is so much more social than she was last week. Every day I get greeted now with little soft paws on my leg. She hops up to be with me now, on my desk or at times in bed, which was quite a surprise. Still not much of a snuggler, but what I do get is nice.

I was supposed to be headed to Great Vow next week for a Generosity Sesshin, but this cold I've had the past week has developed into a respiratory infection (but NOT pneumonia--I was rather smart enough to have gotten vaccinated for that about 6 weeks ago) and while it's not contagious, I am still hacking and coughing, and I really don't want to bring that level of distraction to the monastery for my first major sesshin. I am actually really annoyed that this happened now. I took great care to make sure that I got all my vaccinations this fall (seasonal flu, pneumonia and H1N1) as early as I could, and I still wound up getting sick! Not only that, but I really need to start doing sesshin practice. I think I'll go up in December to the Beginner's Mind retreat again to dip my toe back in, then go to the Life Vows Sesshin in January. I was asked to transcribe a recorded talk by Hogen from last years' LVS, and it was very powerful. I took the Portland-based weekend class he taught a few years ago, and found it very enriching.

I still get nervous about sesshin practice. I've spent many weeks at a time alone and by myself in silence, but there are a few outstanding issues regarding my participation in this very important practice that I want Hogen-sensei to address before I commit myself to it.

On other fronts, though, I have made great progress on my wagessa! The entire body has been sewn, and I even took a swipe at the invisible ladder stitch used to close it up, with some non-ugly level of success! It's rather odd: this gave me so much trouble at first (even taking two attempts) but once I realized that my problem wasn't so much the physical sewing of the wagessa with the limited motor skills of my right hand, but a mental block I've been having regarding my practice and this past year, it suddenly came together in less than a week. I'd take it with me, and work on it at the laundromat, or simply sitting here with the cat in her bed on my desk, and some music playing while I recited the Verse of the Kesa to myself. Well, I suppose Jasmine would say I was chanting it to her. But it felt very good to work on this time.

I didn't feel the pressure to "get it done," "that stitch is messy," "you're running out of time," and the ever-present inner-critic chart-topping hit "YOU SUCK". None of that was there this time. It was already "too late". I'd already "screwed it up" three times. I was finally aware that I was only doing this for me. On one hand, yes, certain people were looking at me to get this done, not for any reason other than they want to see me walk this path further; My teachers, my sangha leaders, my fellow dharma brothers and sisters want this for me, that's true, but nobody was drumming their fingers waiting for me to get this done. The expectation was there that I would because these people know how deeply this practice resonates with me. These people just want to see me happy. They know what I've gone through this past year, and all they want for me is peace, and progress on my path. It feels like dozens of people reaching out to hold my hand when I need it the most. "Humbling" is so anemic when it comes to describing how this makes me feel.

All that from a silly blue cotton ribbon. A Zen Blue Ribbon, I suppose.

Truly vast is this robe of liberation...