Blogging The Path Taken
The picture above, is where the tea-way path begins and defines who I was as a child and who I was to become as an adult. A loner, a lover of nature, a person who talks to trees and all of nature and a traveler, both by mind and by connecting with an object and following its roots as far as I could. In this case, on this day and for the weeks to follow, I used to get up each day and make friends with this Birch and perch myself on a branch and talk to the tree and follow its water and sap and its roots and observe those below me. This tree has always been my best friend. After it was gone I followed its’ roots to places thousands of miles away and always kept its’ spirit and spiritual teachings within my being. What you can’t, easily, see, in the picture is that there are two other people with me in the tree that day and of course you cannot see what I am observing below me. We’ll get to my friends later, but first to the setting, the people beneath the tree and it’s connection to tea. The tree is located in the yard where my father was building a country house, in Prefontaine, Quebec, Canada. The yard is surrounded by a picket fence. Outside the fence is land that was sold off by Mr. Trudel, a French Canadian farmer, for a relatively small amount,. Many of the original settlers to this part of the Laurentians were now selling off land for people to build cottages to make ” easy money” . The land in this location could only have been sold by Mr. Trudel because he, unlike many in the surrounding towns and villages, had nothing against Jews, who were the ones doing most of the buying and because he was a soldier for the Canadian Military during the second World War and was on of the first people to enter one of the Concentration Camps and so was very happy he could be a part of a story that was enabling Jews the pleasure of Country Life. Mr. Trudel, long before Eco-psychology became a Professional practice, knew the healing power of nature and because he had this respect for the wild land he inherited from his father, the land in turn had this relaxed relationship with the people who walked on it. The location was perfect for the people who bought there. The first purchasers bought, as I said, because the land was cheap, since there was no lake, which automatically increased the value of the adjacent land. But it had other attributes. The train from Montreal stopped there, so many people who did not have a car, could get there easily. There was enough land for enough Jews to build cottages so they could also co-operate to build a Synagogue, and it was in a deep valley surrounded by mountains all around. In all, it was a great place for Survivors of the Holocaust and the Pogroms to feel safe, but that became irrelevant,relatively quickly, except for my family. For children of survivors, as those that made it out alive from the Camps, they were not going to be pushed around, forced to live away from the most prestige lakes and were not going to let the Protestant School Board, where their children had to go to school, force their children to sing “Jesus loves me and other Christian hymns every day and so as soon as they could they left for Lakes; to be replaced by Chassidic Jews, who lived by the following “ One thing I ask of G-d, only this do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of G-d all the days of my life, to gaze upon the pleasantness of G-d and to visit His Temple - King David (in Psalms 27, recited during the month of Elul).
The Chassidim liked the location because they were able to be separate and away from the unknown and from all non-believers, including the Jews that followed any other path that was less fundamental. They worked hard to be separate from others but also to build their own personal environment of piety and reverence. A Chassid creates an environment. If he does not, he had better check his own baggage carefully, to see whether his own affairs are in order. The very fact that he fails to create an environment should make him as broken as a splinter. He must demand of himself: What am I doing in this world?
So what does this have to do with tea and how I became a caretaker to one? Everything.
An Eruv becomes a Tea House
Because we were surrounded by very pious, my Mother who would have been one of them, had she not met my Father ( who would have been a Communist) knew the 39 forms of work not permitted on the Shabbat: sowing, plowing, reaping, making sheaves, threshing, winnowing, picking the chaff from the grain, milling, sifting, kneading, baking, shearing, bleaching, hackling, dyeing, spinning, stretching the threads on the loom, making meshes, weaving, dividing, knotting,untying, sewing, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, skinning, salting hides, curing, scraping, cutting, writing, erasing, building, dismantling, extinguishing,kindling, finishing, and carrying out from one domain to another.
To get around these proscriptions, God or someone who had the authority to interpret for God allowed Jews to design Eruvs which is is a ritual enclosure that some communities construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to transfer objects from one domain type to another, such as carrying an object from indoors (a private domain) to a public street (a public domain) on Shabbat, which they would otherwise understand to be prohibited by Jewish law. But for my Mother, being a survivor of the Pogroms, an Eruv was much more than this; it was a sense of protection. It was what my Mother tried to build around all of her loved ones. A mystical, invisible wall made up of angels holding hands and circling the ones she cared about. It was part of a pact she made with God that if she kept the Commandments, and, in particular, kept a kosher house, that no harm would come to any one near to her, unless of course , God, in his wisdom and as part of his plan, decided there was a need to do otherwise. For my Mother and many Jews, in general, bargaining with God was the natural thing to do.
Now I would never be so sacrilegious as to say my Mother felt she had a better understanding of how things should unfold than God or his Angels, but she did think he was far too busy and needed a rest; so if he would take care of the rest of the world and prevented the troubles from reaching our door, she would help out and give him less to worry about by making sure her loved ones did the right thing. This meant she became an expert at being the family’s dictator and would direct our future choices. For my sister it meant marriage at as early an age as possible and for me she was going to make sure I was a Plumber. Why a Plumber, you might ask? Well, she was convinced I was not going to be smart enough to be a Doctor and she saw how my father, who was a carpenter always struggled to find work and suffered from the cyclical nature of construction and as far as she was concerned every one needed a plumber and so she decided early on, that I was not permitted to help my father in his work around the house unless it was to put yeast into the septic tank at the end of the season. She also thought it was a good idea if I helped Mr. Trudel carry the ice into the house and into the ice-box so I would get used to working with dripping water and appreciate the value of ice.
My Mother decided that her deal with the Lord required much more than just ensuring her husband and children would not be a burden she’d lift from the Angels, she was going to go the extra mile, so she found ways to work at menial jobs to make enough money to bring her parents and siblings out of Europe in time to save them from the Holocaust; she had all her family and their family come to the Eruv each week to cater to them and give them a place to discover true safety and she spent hours in the bush providing food for the animals and occasionally saving a baby bird that fell out of it’s nest.
But bringing all these diverse folks together was not a recipe for calm, meaningful interaction. There was the older generaton that wanted peace and quiet and lamented the fact that the world never became a socialist utopia. There were others that just wanted to connect with their history, for a day, and then get on becoming the nouveau-riche and true Canadian Capitalists and then there was my Father who constantly was building the house and was in bliss every time he was able to make a piece of wood find true expression and meaning within his creation and was believed that Don Quixote. They all had a connection through my Mother , but they also seemed to have far too many reasons to argue about everything; politics, the British, the Quebec Separatists the Orthodox Jews, the anti-Semites, the state of the roads, who had the best bagels, Montreal or New York; basically everything was an argument, except when they sat around taking tea together. There was something about the act of taking tea together, a ceremonial rite, that calmed everyone and got them to slow down, ignore the next moment, focus on the present moment and focus on the unity of the Group, the clan and on nothingness. To me this was what a true Tea House could accomplish and it was a feeling I wanted to sense again and again in my life going forward.
The Road to the Present
So that is what a Tea house meant to me back then and perhaps it is that sense that made me an acceptable candidate for the job I am doing now, i.e. caretaker at a Mystical tea house, a roadhouse, for damaged spirits to heal so that they can pass over.
Who were these damaged souls and what was the Tea house doing in this location and why couldn’t enter the teahouse ? These are questions I am going to start answering in the coming posts.
Fear and Fearlessness
One of the reasons I have not been allowed to enter the tea house is because I have many issues around fear that needed to be dealt with. The truth is I have had many experiences which I am going to share with you that have generated fear in me, which in turn, have caused me to remove myself from the world and from situations where I can be hurt. At present I am studying ways to be more mindful and rid myself of negative thoughts from the past and fears of future events that have nit happened. I am also dealing head on with moving from fear to fearlessness, which is the title of an audio CD I purchased from Sounds true and which is helping me deal with my issues. In the CD, Pema Chodron relates that a fully enlightened being is someone who is fearless and being fully awakened means being open to events and people without centralizing matters back to oneself. She reminds us that the path is the goal and what matters is how you relate to now. I will be discussing fear in the next number of entries and will open to you to explain the events that have happened. However, my fear is also a cellular gift given me from my parents who were raised in a world that fear meant survival and I have inherited that from them. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming them for my fear, rather I am expressing a theory of evolution that is at the heart of this Blog and which will also be explained in the coming posts. If you are interested in learning more about these topics I highly recommend you have a look at the offerings from a Company named Sounds True.