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Mountain Rain Zen Community April Newsletter

Anna’s hummingbird   Calypte anna
Dear sangha friends,

We hope you are spending time outdoors, enjoying the spring flowers and somewhat warmer days. It’s an ongoing practice of finding ways to stay grounded and connected, as of us some get their vaccinations, others continue to wait, and infection rates remain high. You can read commentary on the pandemic everywhere, so instead of adding more, we’d like to share one thing that has helped us get through the past year: watching hummingbirds! 

Here in coastal BC the Anna’s hummingbird stays year-round. This small marvel has extended its range northward over the past 50 years. Kate saw her first in mid-winter, in Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver soon after moving from New Brunswick in 1977, and could not believe her eyes. How could a hummingbird live through the winter? As she watched, it repeatedly darted out from its perch and snatched tiny gnats from the air. Mystery solved.

Anna’s hummers arrived here on Blue Mountain about seven years ago, and have been a source of daily delight ever since.The males flash their iridescent magenta head feathers in the sun. The females are the earliest nesting bird in North America, and just this past week we saw a fledgling at the feeder. Also, a few days ago we saw the first flashy male rufous hummer, returning from wintering in Mexico–no quarantine required. They arrive reliably every year just when we see the first pink salmonberry blossoms, and the females a week or so later. Soon the yard will be buzzing with hummer activity–feeding, display flights and chases. 

How can we humans take ourselves quite so seriously when hummingbirds are around? Yes, we need to find our way forward, and address the serious and urgent issues of climate and social justice that will continue beyond the pandemic. And we need to do that well-rooted in our dharma practice and insight, with wisdom, compassion and skillful means. But we need not only, our formal meditation practice in the zendo, but direct experience of the world around us, the more-than-human world of such wonder, diversity and resilience. The mountains and waters, red cedars, hummingbirds, salmon, and dragonflies are our source and sustenance, our teachers. 

Let’s celebrate Earth Day by going outdoors with a companion or two, and re-sourcing ourselves. And joining in community to take skillful action.

Myoshin Kate and Shinmon Michael

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New Book: Clean Slate, by Marcia Lieberman

Clean Slate by Marcia Lieberman
Clean Slate by Marcia Lieberman

Marcia Lieberman has authored a new book, Clean Slate: Images from Dogen’s Garden. Here is a blurb from Dale Wright, author of The Six Perfections: Buddhism and the Cultivation of Character: It’s hard to imagine a more apt portal to the heart of Dogen’s Soto Zen sensibility than Marcia Lieberman’s Clean Slate. Her brilliant photographs isolate fragments of plants from Dogen’s Japanese gardens in various stages of life’s impermanence so vividly that the fragrance seeps through the medium. Breathe in: black pine, camelia, wisteria, magnolia. Responses from five lifelong Dogen affectionados and an introductory doorway to Dogen from Soto teacher Taigen Leighton let the extraordinary Zen master and these botanical sentient beings speak to us directly. Just breathe, savoring “mountains and waters”– no translation required.

See more on the book, including a letter from Marcia Lieberman introducing the book, here.