Ah it’s been such a crazy week! It all started last Thursday evening. I had finally scheduled my road test for the 20th and was calling Tim to see if I could still use the cruiser. He told me could pick me up in the at 7:45 in the morning and asked if I could help get things ready for the Cave Hill Classic.
[The Cave Hill classic is a once a year fund raiser for the monks who live at the pagoda. Because the monks have taken vows of poverty it is impossible for them to ask for money or fund raise for themselves. As you can imagine, that can make life somewhat difficult when your life’s calling is to go on peace walks all around the world and bring about complete nuclear disarmament. So because they can’t fund raise for themselves members of the community come together to help the pagoda. Bob Lowry is one such community member. He is the owner of the Bueno y Sano restaurants in Northampton Amherst, Springfield, and Burlington. Bob decided one year that the most helpful thing he could do for the monks was to organize a 5 mile run called the Cave Hill Classic and donate all the money raised from registration to the pagoda.]
The Classic is a pretty important day at the pagoda and I was excited to be going. Last year I got there right as the festivities were winding down.
So Tim was coming to pick me up at 7:45 in the morning, which is a ridiculously early time to be ready by my standards, but a not so early time by monk standards. I had a ton of cleaning to do before I packed, plus I was thinking I might be getting a car and moving out soon. So I spent the night cleaning. A word which here means “going through literally every single piece of shit I have owned in my entire life and throwing half of it away”.
By 6:45 Friday morning I had dropped off bags of clothes to the Salvation Army, boxes of books to my Dad’s house and thrown away countless bags of trash. I had rearranged my room and made my bed. I had also showered, brushed my teeth and gotten dressed, packed up my laptop and all my stuff for the week and was driving to Dunkin Donuts to get a coffee before picking my mom up from work.
At her job, I met a new client named Mikayla* (name has been changed because I don’t know if talking about people on the internet without their permission is legal).
She had an excellent sense of humor. Her last name is Welcome and she every day my mom is like, “Hey Mikayla – you’re welcome.” and she smiles at my mom and says, “Every day”. I would definitely get sick of it, but she’s a sweet lady. I told her about the peace walks and the pagoda. “More power to ya, girl.” she said. And, “God bless.”
My mom got her things together and we went back to the house. It was seven am, and I figured I could just sleep for 45 minutes. At 7:45 when Tim was supposed to be at my house he called me and told me he wouldn’t be there until about 8:30. I was so relieved. I put my jacket over me, turned off Zorba the Greek and fell asleep. At about 8:30 my phone rang and Tim told me that he and Louis were outside waiting.
I ran outside and saw that Tim was in the passenger seat. Apparently, he was letting me drive to the pagoda. I drove the 45 minutes to Leverett, somehow subduing my extreme exhaustion. At the Pagoda, after exchanging pleasantries and greeting the Buddha, Tim, Louis and I went up the hill to start working. We started by setting up big rocks around the perimeter of the driveway so cars would know where to stop. After that we started raking leaves. About twenty minutes in, Jehann showed up and started sweeping the Pagoda steps.
Jehann is one of my favorite people in this world. She’s like a big sister to me, and I hadn’t seen her in months. The last time I talked to her I was in NY with Christian and our conversation wasn’t really that long. So we talked about how much we had to catch up on and got back to work. The day waned on and I realized how ridiculously tired I was. I told everyone I was going to grab a cup of water and walked down to the dojo. After drinking my water I sat outside on the bench in front of the dojo for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out a way to stay awake. Finally, I went back up the hill and Jehann (thank God) told me to come back down with her to get water. Back at the dojo Sister Clare was getting everything ready for lunch, so Jehann and I stayed inside with her to help. While we were setting up, a woman named Diane came in with her partner Art carrying tons of grocery bags. I called Tim on his cell phone and told him to bring everyone else down for lunch.
We sat, we ate, I tried not to collapse. At lunch I decided I would spend the night at Jehann’s house so that we could catch up. We finished lunch and went back up to the pagoda. Tim, Louis, Jehann and I were going to rake the leaves clear from the edges of the pathway.
Now, if you’ve ever been to the pagoda you have probably walked up the pathway to the top. It’s about half a mile long. Straight uphill. We were raking all of this, all the way to the bottom. And the leaves that we raked up we were putting in a small wheelbarrow and taking turns bringing it halfway down the hilll to the compost pile. I was too tired for all of this madness. Plus, the wheelbarrow really wasn’t that big, and we would have never gotten rid of all the leaves. So I had a brilliant plan: What if we took all the leaves we raked and put them in the back of Towbee Shonin’s truck? That way, we could just drive to the compost pile and shovel the leaves out of the truck.
It was actually kind of a stupid plan. Towbee Shonin’s truck is super scary and dangerous. Jehann and I went to get in and Towbee Shonin came over and said, “Don’t kick over that can, Vanessa. It’s the gas tank.” Then he turned to Jehann, “If the truck doesn’t brake just turn it off and turn it back on. Also, keep it in the lowest gear.” So we were wicked sketched out. We got in the car and the gas fumes were kind of insane. Jehann and I started laughing, fairly certain that the end was near. Going down the hill Jehann tried to turn off the truck and it wouldn’t stop. We emptied out all the leaves and decided to finally call it quits for the day. Tim had to bring Louis back home and it was getting late. It was about 4:15. I got my stuff out of the cruiser, said my goodbyes and got into Jehann’s car.
Jehann and I drove to Cushman’s to get iced coffees. While we were inside, Jehann noticed a Professor she knew from UMASS Amherst. He was sitting around a table with a bunch of his esteemed looking colleagues. When we were going outside to drink our coffees we passed his table. Jehann said hi, and invited him to run in the Cave Hill Classic the following day. He looked up at us from above his glasses, as if reprimanding us for talking to him. “I’m more of a swimmer” he said, and turned back to his friends.
After we left Cushman’s we had a fun filled evening. I’m not going to get into details, but we went to bed around 3:30 in the morning. Originally, the monks had wanted me to come back to the pagoda at 5:30 in time for morning puja. Obviously that was out of the question, so we went at 7:30 instead. So let’s recap for a moment. For 48 hours I had done strenuous physical labor and gotten somewhere around 5 hours of sleep. I was close to mental collapse.
We got to the Pagoda and everyone was rushing around to get ready. Tim asked Jehann and I to go get gas for the leaf blower (yes.. he had a leaf blower all along :|) and we gladly accepted the task. When we got back they told me to talk to Bob Lowry to see where I was needed. Bob asked me if I could take a drum and wait at the entrance to the hill so that the runners knew where to go. I would be cheering them on, drumming, and pointing them in the right direction. I agreed. Since it was my first Cave Hill Classic, and I was running on 5 hours of sleep, I got confused. So I took a drum, went out to the entrance by myself and started waiting. It was pretty brisk outside. Bob came over and told me that the runners didn’t start until after the walkers, so I shouldn’t expect to see anyone for at least another half hour. Thank God Betty came over, and I asked her to hold the drum while I put on more clothing. I opened up the back of Jehann’s trunk and put on a skirt (over my sweatpants) and a long t-shirts. I probably looked like some kind of crazy hobo. I was still freezing.
I actually have to run. But here’s a picture of my first seder!