Happy Chinese New Year! It is fitting that this is the Year of the Dog because it is definitely going to be that at our house. I will try to return to some book talk soon on the blog, but pardon me if I am smitten.
Mr. Hallock brought Wile E. by my classroom while the kids were finishing a test, but I did not see either of them right away. I was confused by why my students suddenly started whining, “Awwwww!” I thought to myself, “I know this was a tough essay question, but it is not that difficult.” Then I looked up to see my husband and puppy in the door window. Love!
Thank you for suffering through all my puppy photos. (They won’t end, but they might slow down. Maybe.) But know that the Hallocks wish you all a wonderful Year of the Dog!
No, Wile E., there are no red packets for you. Your life is blessed enough!
Wile E.’s third day was a doozy. I won’t bore you with all the details, but it included some serious puppy play time, a trip to the farm, and a trip to the vet. She was so exhausted by the time she got to the vet that there was no whining at all. In fact, she mostly just slept on the table, in Mr. H’s arms, of course.
Yesterday (day four), she came to my school with Mr. H, and she got lots of attention there. She accepts pets on the head from anyone and is comfortable with anyone holding her, too. Other than the taste for rabbit scat, this pup is damn near perfect. We’re very lucky.
Today was the big day! We arrived at a parking lot to pick up our Alabama-born pup, Wile E. (“Wiley”). She was safely and carefully transported with 26 other dogs—including her eight littermates—in a single 24-hour trip.
First, a littermate was lifted out of the van, and everyone oohed and awed. Then the two-legged reached in for Wile E. and brought her out of the van. This is the first time we got to lay eyeballs on the new center of our lives. “They just keep getting cuter and cuter,” someone said as Wile E. was lifted out.
Wile E. got to play with her littermates—and others—one last time before we took her home. This little girl has the ability to look pitiful in pictures, but she was one of the happiest, most active players in the pen. Her tail was wagging the whole time. I felt so bad taking her away from them that I set her down outside the pen to say goodbye, forgetting the rule about not letting the pups walk around on public park spaces. (Their immune system is not totally developed yet, hence the bedsheets in the playpen.) Whoops! I picked her back up and took her away to the car. Predictably, she whined.
But not for long. I was expecting her to howl for an hour and a half, all the way home, but she quieted quickly in Mr. Hallock’s arms. She welcomed her new human overlords as easily as Kent Brockman:
Once home, though, she was not so sure about the snow. She tried to stick next to the house, sitting on the leaves.
Soon she embraced her new New England normal. By the time we walked around the pond a few times, Wile E. learned to love the snow.
That high tail means she’s a happy girl. She even came in close to give kisses.
And after a long day of getting used to us, snow, and everything else, it was time to drag a big bone by the fire and chew. It’s been a confusing, but great first day. Thanks to the great people at For Dog’s Sake Rescue (the adopting organization in New Hampshire) and Sasha’s Hope Rescue (our pup’s home for the first 12 weeks of her life) for bringing us this adorable girl. Both are tremendous organizations who give every possible dollar and every possible hour to these lucky, lucky dogs. You guys are the best.
In Japan, Buddhist and Shinto sacred spaces are so interwoven throughout the city, that you can be forgiven for confusing the two. While the two initially conflicted, they have since found a way to “co-exist and even complement each other,” according to Japan-Guide. The Shinto shrines were all new to me, which is why I posted on them first. They provide the people with both hope and comfort, thanks to their ever-present world of spirits.
Buddhism is more familiar to me. I began studying the teachings of the Buddha while an exchange student in Thailand, continued to meditate at Wat Thai in Washington, D.C., and have since taught 9th graders about the origins and practices of Buddhism for almost twenty years.
One of our favorite temples was one that most guidebooks overlooked. This was especially surprising since it sits only blocks from the Kyoto train station: Higashi Honganji Temple. We kept passing it in the bus, though, and I finally broke down and said, “It’s too big to ignore. Let’s go in.”
The temple was magnificent. It was made of grand beams that had been hauled down the mountains by the faithful. Inside, entire rooms were gilded in gold leaf, and the rows tatami mats were the biggest I’ve ever seen.
Higashi Honganji is part of the Pure Land Buddhism sect, the one my students find the most perplexing. After we learn all about how the Buddha instructs us to break our fetters to the material world, here comes Pure Land that offers a beautiful, sensuous nirvana with trees made out of diamonds and pearls. How do you get there? By chanting the name of the heavenly Amitabha Buddha enough times, paying to have sutras copied, or other mystical rituals. The BBC says of Pure Land: “Pure Land Buddhism offers a way to enlightenment for people who can’t handle the subtleties of meditation, endure long rituals, or just live especially good lives.”
The other extreme is Zen Buddhism, which eschews the otherworldly and tells you to look inside yourself for the answers. Any activity can provide you with the opportunity for meditation, and even a simple lesson or riddle (called a koan) might spontaneously propel you to enlightenment. For example, Chinese Zen master Linji Yixuan said: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Wait, really? Well, no, not really, because murder is against the Five Precepts, but you must kill your attachment to the Buddha, and, in fact, not see him as the Buddha but as a mortal man like the rest of us. Any and all attachment causes dissatisfaction and disappointment in life (dukkha).
Zen gardens serve this purpose. You spend all your time building a cone of sand, like at the Ginkakuji temple above, but the real point is to destroy it once it’s finished. This is the only way to prove your detachment. Yeah, it’s really hard.
My biggest attachment while traveling is to my camera. My husband had to regularly remind me not to see Japan from behind a lens. (I use a Fuji X20, in case you were wondering. It’s awesome.) Many temples ask you not to take photos inside, which I understand because flash can cause damage over time to antiquities, and people taking selfies are annoying. However, I was not using flash, nor taking a selfie, and my camera can be totally silent, so…
I broke the rules. Sorry. The Buddha would be very disappointed in me. But there was just so much to photograph. I will finish this post with the gorgeous Kinkakuji Temple, northwest of Kyoto center. Go in peace, my friend.