I shyly accept the cheerful company of the birds who have stayed through winter with us--the urgency of their autumn wing beat calmed, and they seem to agree that we are all in it together even on the foggiest days. Now in mid-January, as spring flirts with us already, I almost fear for this first paperwhite bloom and the lightness of these birds' approach and chatter. I almostpick up the fear for them, but then lay it to rest on this rock and clay that once was red desert. And once held a river so torrential it carved great globes or stone into arches. And once formed the paths of Carthusain monks in search of a meditation cave.
The neighbors say that 50 years ago, before water was piped to this village, every corner of our abandoned valley was cared for, and people used to walk the 3 kilometers over the crest each day to pick their lettuce for lunch. Now even the most active citizen has never ventured east to visit the famous spring of Cavaloca.
Three years ago, we came here for the first time. A few months later, thanks mostly to the generosity of our families, we were able to land here. I am especially grateful to Gemma for putting her family inheritance into a place that is dedicated to the benefit of all of Life.
I keep being surprised by the feeling of purity here--like being in a wilderness, despite the crumbling stone walls and mud roads and olive orchards.
It is not a fussy purity, but one that inspires joyful action in its service.
One of around 30 visitors to Dharmaloca in 2010 put it this way:
The energy of this place is especially alive and harmonious. If a normal, healthy human would measure 6,000 on a vitality scale, and a sick person at 4,000 or less, this place measures 8,000.
Our first retreatant of 2011 arrived today, to begin the second long retreat this winter in the hermitage.
He unexpectedly has to cut his retreat from 3 months to 6 weeks, so there is still space for one person or a couple to use the hermitage for self-retreat from early March till late April. Contact gemmaji (at) gmail (dot) com