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February 16, 2021 Newsette

Dear Branching Streams Teachers and Leaders,

Last week I mentioned a number of parts of the U.S. that were dealing with winter storms – and Texas and the Gulf Coast were not included. However, an intense cold front accompanied by snow and freezing rain, has landed in that part of the country.

This morning. Reirin Gumbel, Milwaukee Zen Center’s guiding teacher, posted her concerns about sanghas in Texas on the Soto Zen Buddhist Associations members’ forum. She wrote:

“How are you doing in this weather? Are your centers safe? Thinking about all Texans and others in the South. We have a seemingly unending snowstorm here; but Milwaukee is ready for it. 

Much metta, Reirin

Our three Texas Branching Streams sanghas in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio responded within hours. 

Mako Voelkel, guiding teacher of Austin Zen Center replied, “Texans are *really* not prepared for such cold temps, and pipes freezing seems to be a huge issue. One of the buildings at AZC has lost hot water, and we’re concerned it’s due to a frozen pipe. Natural gas still works, thankfully, but we just received a recent warning statement from Texas Gas Services saying gas wells are starting to freeze due to the sustained low temps!

“While Austin Zen Center (with five residents) has not lost power yet – likely due to its location a few blocks from a major hospital – our Tanto and a few board members have not had power since 5:45pm last night. With no clear end in sight of either above-freezing weather or repairs to the energy grid, this may go on for some time. Driving anywhere right now seems out of the question, with snow on top of a sheet of ice, cars left stranded, and zero preparedness for such conditions! I myself am safe and thankful for having power (as well as Tassajara training in hot water bottles, headlamps, and bundling up).”

Gaelyn Godwin, Abbot of Houston Zen Center, commented: “Thanks for asking – the report in Houston is almost identical to Mako’s in Austin. A wide array of concerns and outages. Perhaps the biggest issue right now is that the water pressure is so low – due to everyone leaving their taps dripping and the big pumps freezing – that we may start having back flow into the drinking lines. The city asked us all to stop the dripping, but we already had frozen pipes here the first day and we are reluctant to repeat that.
“Tim told me part of the electrical shortage is due to the freeze on the gigantic wind turbine wings. No newspapers or mail, limited broadband, but we always have rumors. We’ve brought a member and her 2 dogs into the temple for refuge from the cold.The lack of hot showers was a challenge, but we are very grateful for all we have.”

Colin Gipson, San Antonio Zen Center’s guiding teacher, wrote: “Thank you very much for asking, and for your concern. We received around 3 1/2 inches of snow here at SAZC and so far have been very lucky in that we haven’t lost power or heat at the Zen Center. We are supposed to receive freezing rain tonight, but it begins warming tomorrow and the overall situation will improve rapidly over the next few days.”

The extreme cold and severe winter weather experience in much of the U.S. and in parts of Canada is related to the climate crisis, as Kritee Kanko, a Zen priest and climate scientist/activist posted on the SZBA Forum today. I will include a small part of her post in this Newsette and attach the rest to this Newsette.

“Dear fellow dharma teachers, Zen/Ecodharma enthusiasts and faith leaders, 

Yesterday I was moved to tears several times while listening to two indigenous women speak of Line 3 and repeatedly ask people to stand by their side as they put their bodies on the line to stop this pipeline in Minnesota. This issue is right at the intersection of facing the climate crisis and justice for indigenous people (especially women who are leading this effort). While Biden has put a stop on the Keystone pipeline, Enbridge’s Line 3 and other pipelines are continuing to put sacred indigenous sites, bodies of indigenous women, hundreds of waterlands where they grow their food and the Mississippi river in danger.” Kritee discusses the climate impacts of the Line 3 pipeline, its impact on indigenous communities, resources to better inform ourselves, and actions we can take in her letter.

On another note, Josho Pat Phelan, guiding teacher of Chapel Hill Zen Center, invites you to participate in a Zoom workshop with Kokyo Henkel, Questioning Our Assumptions about the World: Vasubandhu’s Twenty Verses on Mere Cognizance on Saturday, March 27, 10:30-3:30 EST
Although Vasubanhu’s 30 Verses is more well-known, his 20 Verses offers another interesting angle on Yogacara. In this short workshop, Kokyo will focus on just a few verses and go into them deeply. To register, please contact by Wednesday, March 24. After registering, the Zoom link and reading materials will be sent to you. The suggested donation is $20-$50. Donations can be made electronically through MoonClerk at: Please indicate “Workshop Donation.”

You are invited to join Jon Voss’s Zoom Clinic tomorrow, Wednesday, February 10th, from 11 a.m. to 12 PST. Here’s the Zoom link or Meeting ID: 222 402 816, Passcode: 057143.

Jon and I are still working on the Branching Streams Website to make it more user-friendly and current. We will also be correcting all the links that are not functioning.

I am also working with a staff member of the SFZC Communications Department on a new format for these Newsettes. I hope this will improve the aesthetics of the Newsette and make it easier to include photos.

I hope that those of you who are in the grips of winter storms stay safe and warm. Thank you to all of you for being part of this interconnected network of sanghas. May we continue to find ways to support one another’s practice.

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