—Frederick Franck, The Zen of Seeing
Here's a game: where do you think I am? Everyone who says "frickin' Sweden, of all places," gets a prize. Here's a quick catch-up since I last wrote: 10 days on the Dharma Yatra, then 9 days at the lovely Sangha Holiday, both in the south of France, followed by too much driving. Two long days to Utrecht, Holland, then one day across to the north of Germany, then I've-lost-count across Denmark and into Sweden. I've thought about coming before, but what clinched the deal is meeting up with my good friends Whitney and Kris in Stockholm for a week that is likely to end up with me selling my van and going back to work to pay for it. I'm kidding. I hope.
- The yatra: harder than some of the past ones, and still beautiful. Come join me next year, peeps! www.dharmayatra.org
- The Sangha Holiday: Seventeen thoughtful, kind people swimming in the river, jumping off the rocks, sharing meals, meditating, making ice cream runs to the local cafe. Wonderful.
- Utrecht, Holland: hands-down, the big winner was the bike drive-by along the Houseboat Red Light District! There were maybe 40 of these houseboats, virtually identical, with huge plate glass windows and sexy woman posing in them. You thought driving while shooting video was dangerous! It's amazing I survived it. Beautiful women selling themselves for money. Incredible.
- Steyerberg, Germany: I visited my old friend Nirmala and her fiance Lukas, who live in an intentional community that was built on the grounds of a former munitions factory in WWII. Hitler visited the site twice. Their motto, more or less, is "Peace, Creativity, and Diversity." It's beautiful, and I wrote in the captions below about the Forest Kindergarten, which blows me away.
- Copenhagen, Denmark: a few hours biking in the evening with only my GPS and no idea where I was going. I literally couldn't have found my van in the dark without it.
- Sweden: It's warm (surprise.) It's rainy (not surprise.) I haven't seen so much yet, but I'm working on it. More in the captions below...
- Check the Google Map of the drive since I left the Sangha Holiday 10 days ago: http://bit.ly/nrKWnP
The Dharma Yatra: since I was the official "clean-up" person at the back, making sure no one got left behind, I have many of these types of photos. Be glad I'm only showing you one.
I love this kid's expression in this photo, and it's the only time I saw it in 10 days. He looks so relaxed.
There are more than a few kid photos here. I can't help it. And don't want to!
French, Israeli, and an American living in France. There were people from maybe 15 countries.
We decided it would be easier to bring our own herd of goats and make our own cheese. That's really not true.
The talented Bryan Tucker was rocking the house most mornings as we got ready to walk, and some people got happy feet and needed to dance.
Amber, from England. I described her in last year's newsletter as my favorite model.
The real reason I come to the yatra. Nuff said.
On the drive from the yatra to the next event, the "Sangha Holiday" we came across this reconstructed windmill in beautiful afternoon light.
Sangha Holiday: like last year, we put up the yurt and used it as a meditation hall. It takes maybe six hours to erect. Every piece of it was made by hand other than the canvas cover, which isn't on yet.
The kid on the left is French, and Laya, on the right is part of the most multi-lingual family I've ever seen. Her parents are Spanish and French, and they speak those languages plus English and Catalan to each other and to all three of their children.
This beautiful kid is the sister of the green-eyed boy above. Adorable.
This is the view from what will be the bedroom of an old stone house that's being rebuilt by friends.
Nearby Olargues is a beautiful village, and the bridge in the lower left is said to be 800 years old. Cars drive over it! Hard to believe.
I wasn't sure this car would make it through this narrow alley, but he did. There was ample evidence of cars that lost part of their paint and fenders trying this. (In Olargues.)
Another photo of Olargues. My old friend Beka and I walked through these lanes and got lost. It was beautiful.
Lichen, I believe, on rock.
Back at the Sangha Holiday, we shared dinner inside the yurt one evening when it rained.
This is Lanza, Denis and Lydia's son, who was born just a month before last year's Sangha Holiday. I thought I heard Lydia call him Lanzano. I asked if that's his Italian nickname, and she said, "No - I told him 'Lanza! No!'"
The morning meditation on the last day, next to the river.
Later that night, on the way to Holland with Anke and Kristien, we "wild camped" next to some vineyards, and there was an incredible lightning storm off in the distance. It was flashing every few seconds for an hour. The light to the left is the moon, and the other light is the lightning.
After two long days of driving, we arrived in Utrecht, Holland. This is Wim and Kristien, giving me a little tour of the town. This is a tunnel that leads to the canal.
Holland is justly famous for it's biking. They don't ride them primarily for fitness, like most Americans do - it's just a part of everyday life. This is an art piece.
Pleading his case? We walked past a photo shoot of some kind.
A truck that sells Italian gelato.
Kristien getting her apartment ready so she can serve Wim and I a beautiful pasta dinner.
Kristien, who I met last year at the yatra and the Sangha Holiday, and Wim, who I met in India in 2009, and also saw last year at the yatra. I stayed at Wim's house and he talked me into a 10pm swim at the lake just in front of his house.
The amazing-to-me "Forest Kindergarten." These kids are in the forest, year-round, all-damn-day, rain or shine or snow. And it's in the far north of Germany. It gets cold there! It's considered somewhat alternative, but there are maybe 800 of them in Germany. The kids love it, it's great for their immune system, and they learn a lot about nature. Look at the little fart in the background, up on a branch. That alone would be the basis for a lawsuit in the U.S.
This shed is available for a big storm, but they normally never go inside. On the right side there's a shelter from the rain, which they also infrequently use. I'm amazed.
The toll on this bridge in Denmark costs $42 each way. But hey - I got this nice photo. The next big bridge not far from here is $57, each way. Ouch.
Artwork in Copenhagen, Denmark, where I parked and rode my bike around the city for a couple of hours.
A lively spot in Copenhagen. I didn't see that much of the city, but what I saw was lively, gritty, and looked pretty fun.
A red light in the bike lane at 9:30 p.m., and this isn't some bike rally. This is just life in Europe. People ride bikes!
I crossed into Sweden after 10 p.m., coming from Copenhagen. I looked a while to find a parking spot in the dark (it's legal to "wild camp" in Sweden if you're out of view of a house) and the next morning I saw my new neighbors.
Day 1 in Sweden, enjoying the flowers and taking goofy pictures... until...
My starter motor decided to give out. I think of all the places this could have happened where it would have been a real pain - and this wasn't one of them. The huge potato farmer (he was huge - I'm not sure about his potatoes) used my tow strap (second time!) to get me started, then led me to his friend's auto shop, where they tried to buy a new starter. Unsuccessfully...
Sweden at night. This was taken at my second camp spot - in the parking lot of the mechanic's workshop. They couldn't get a new starter, so they rebuilt mine the next day. Dang, Sweden is expensive. That and some other minor work cost $475. If he HAD bought a new starter, the part alone was going to be $600. And I'm writing this in a McDonald's, where the wi-fi is free. Free, that is, after I paid $10 for a veggie burger and large fries, with no drink. Diesel is $8.20 a gallon. Should I go on?
Many more Dharma Yatra photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/publicdave/2011DharmaYatra
Many more Sangha Holiday photos: https://picasaweb.google.com/publicdave/2011SanghaHoliday