Last week a friend forwarded me an e-mail about a Buddhist weekend retreat to be held at a local State Park. Both the subject of the Retreat “Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment" and the sponsoring group were of interest to me so I pre-registered online.
Yesterday, I packed my gear and headed out to McKinney Park, only a 20 minute drive from home. When I got there and inquired about the retreat at the Park Office, no one knew anything about and they had nothing in their computer about the Plum Village Group. However, someone by the name of “Ted Miliken” had reserved the dining hall and three shelters for the weekend. I assumed that Mr. Milliken was one of the group leaders and settled down to wait his arrival. I’d been waiting about half an hour in the office when a Park Ranger told me that they would be closing in a few minutes and would I like to take the keys for the shelters and wait for the group there. By this time it was around five p.m., and according to the preregistration confirmation e-mail , check-in was scheduled between 3:00 and 5:00.
I decided to check out the shelters and wait for the others up at the site. So I drove up to the shelters.
We are having a very sudden and dramatic cold snap in Austin; the temperature was hovering around 40 deg.. and the wind chill factor made it feel like 25. The shelters were very spartan the bunks had plywood boards for mattresses, there was no heating and although the screened windows were completely shuttered- the wind whistled through the shacks with a menacing moan.
I waited in my truck until a little before 6:00 p.m. without seeing another soul and then returned to the closed park office where I met the Park Hosts who were just starting their evening checkup and lock-down. I told them my story which sounded a little crazy when I told it, we all had a good laugh and then I handed over the keys to the shelters, got in my truck and went home.
Once home, I checked my e-mail for some notice of cancellation or postponement and after I found nothing I rechecked the preregistration e-mail. It included a list of things to bring and not to bring (no radios, CD players or hair dryers) and directions to “McKinney Roughs Park”. There are two Mckinney State Parks near Austin; one is about six miles from my house and is in Travis County - that’s McKinney Falls Park and that’s where I had just returned from. The other, about 20 miles from home and in Bastrop County is McKinney Roughs and that’s where they were holding the retreat.
Since early childhood I have had a difficulty in recognizing errors in math and I’ve always been one of the world’s worst proofreaders (Spell check was created for me). Now at my advanced age, my hearing is somewhat impaired, I can’t read anything but super size type without glasses and short-term memory is virtually nonexistent.
When I woke up around four a.m. this morning , I realized that the windows of my mind are badly fogged. I am missing a good portion of the information I’m exposed to but up until now, I have been unaware of the degree of my disability or “challenge" as we say in the 21st century
The good news is that I’m now fully aware of my limitations. The question is what am I going to do about it? I obviously need to read and check everything very carefully and try to position myself to hear what people are saying but what about memory? How do I compensate for that? How can I be sure to remember all the things that I forget?
It is “Bleak Mid-Winter” in my heart and I’m not sure that Spring will come again.