Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lazy Day

All families were invited to bring something to the Peace Festival last night – a poem or a song or I dunno… piece of interpretative dance. En route, I wondered how many would be taking part. Would they be any good? Would it be like sitting through a very long school concert?

The Constellation of Stars Meditation Hall was beautifully decorated. The children kicked off the performances, and the other families followed. The teenagers introduced each act with a peace-quote, dressed up as Jim Morrison or Ghandi or John Lennon or the Virgin Mary (who looked to be having twins).

Despite misgivings, The Potwashers had put together a quick song. Very quick. We brought our cooking pots and utensils from the kitchen. We wore aprons and massive yellow rubber gloves. We sang with gusto. And we killed it! We did our exit-conga through the crowd to rapturous applause (okay, there’s no actual applause in the Hall, instead people raise their arms and wiggle their hands. There was much wiggling. People wiggled with gusto). “Next year, I want to be a Potwasher!!”, one man says.

The festival ended with a procession. We leave the Hall to put on our shoes. Outside are hundreds of origami flower night-light holders. Through random shoe placement, I end up at the front – walking with the children and the abbess. We process in silence to the bell tower, and we set down the first lights. I turn to look back – a line of hundreds of people is approaching us.

A nun begins to sing the evening chant. The children crowd together beneath the bell, waiting for its next booming vibration.

When the ceremony has ended, I walk to the edge of Plum Village with a fellow Potwasher. We watch in silence as an enormous harvest moon rises over the vineyards. Then we bow to each other and say goodnight.

Today is Lazy Day - no scheduled activities. After breakfast I watched a great documentary about Thay’s return to Vietnam this Spring. The media-controlled government didn’t advertise the trip, but word spread - crowds of 5,000-10,000 people came out to meet him wherever he went. Thay travelled the country for 11 weeks, held 50 major ceremonies and a zillion retreats. Did I mention he was 81 years old?

Lazy Day is also No-Car day for Plum Village. Everyone’s doing their own thing across the hamlet. As for me, I’m off to play in the sunflowers…

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