February 23, 2011
In late September 2010 I traveled by train to Cambridge, Massachusetts. As I passed through Rhode Island, bored, tired, hungry—all the small negatives that combined make travel a magical experience—I remembered some snippets of history, King Philip's War, William Blackstone leaving Boston on the back of a bull ("The Puritan court ordered his house burned down"), the birthplace of American industry, and so on, and read about it in fragments and snatches on my cellphone.
I was headed to Cambridge Insight Meditation Center to film a Tricycle Retreat with Insight Meditation teacher Larry Rosenberg, who I hadn't yet met but whose books, Breath by Breath and Living in the Light of Death (both available from Shambhala Publications) were some of my favorites, so he was kind of a hero of mine. I was also going to visit my brother. If I were telling this story to my grandmother (I owe her a phone call, come to think of it) that would be the important part.
I visited Larry at the center and together with the videographer we set some things up for the shoot. The following day, a chilly rainy day (this was late September—September and October will drive you crazy, weatherwise) the videographer Denise and I arrived at CIMC, a truly beautiful urban oasis, for the first day of shooting. We walked around in the gray Puritan drizzle, filming the outside of the place just for something to do while we waited for someone to let us in.
The audience for the talk was me and the videographer and a few members of CIMC kind of enough to endure all our fussing and adjustments. We broke several times, once for lunch, once to run some errands. During one of the breaks I snapped this picture of Larry, deep in thought. The setting is the CIMC shrine room, which was once Larry's apartment. He pointed out where the various rooms were and looked around thoughtfully, then shrugged. "Impermanence!"
It was a great privilege to watch all his talks. We had a great visit. You can see the videos here, at Larry's retreat, "The Challenge of Change: Living Skillfully in an Uncertain World," which ran in October, 2010. Denise and I drove back the next day in a blinding downpour and she dropped me off at the George Wahington Bridge Bus Terminal, a melancholy liminal bardo-like space of journeys beginning and continuing but never ending.
Fast-forward a few months to December. Tricycle's managing editor, Rachel Hiles, thought Larry's retreat might make good source material for an article in the Spring (February 2011) issue. Monty McKeever, who works with me on the website and knows every retreat video and a lot of other things backward and forward, went to work and pulled out the piece now known as "The Weather is Just the Weather," which, after several rounds of editing, meetings full of alternating doubt and enthusiasm, the design and layout processes, and still more editing, was written onto the huge rolls of paper at the printing press in Vermont, and finally appeared on pages 30 and 31 of that issue. You can read it here. It's one of my favorites because I witnessed its birth.
King Philip image: Penguin Publications