Shaking up for the new year.

It's been coming for awhile: this space has started to feel a little more workaday than I've wanted it to--and that's been feeling particularly ironic given that I generally do not get work done here every day. So: new year, new template. Vestiges of the old template are still peeking out here and there, and I can't for the life of me figure out why Squarespace insists that all links, no matter where they are, must be formatted with the same font.

It was a whizz-bang whirlwind of a winter break, to be sure. The day after I last posted, I left for London without incident, schlepping two suitcases heavy with holiday gifts and meditation materials (zafu, robe, bowls) for the Rohatsu sesshin that took me into the new year. Over the past two years, I have migrated to blue luggage. None of it matches. But all of it is blue.

I had one day in London, which I had planned to spend mostly at the London Library, my heaven on earth, but ended up spending mostly seeing a marvellous exhibit of Dickens and London at the Museum of London, doing errands and getting yet more holiday gifts, then having dinner with a student who also happened to be in the city (on her way back from Paris, as one sometimes finds oneself), then seeing a play. Then sleeping as much as I could, which was, as always the night before I travel, not nearly enough.

Twenty hours of door-to-door travel saw me from St. Pancras International rail station to London Gatwick Airport to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport to Indianapolis International Airport to the Hertz counter to my parents' house in southern Indiana. And saw me through a novel, as well--precisely the right kind of read for the plane: a somewhat salacious (and somewhat nastily so) depiction of the town where I'm spending the year, exactly what I would not have wanted to be reading *in* the town where I'm spending the year, and a book I felt no compunction about leaving behind with others in the US.

I apparently decided to test my own stamina pretty hard throughout the vacation, and it was almost uniformly excellent. The tears shed were minimal and enlightening. Even the fatigue was manageable. I had nowhere near enough time with anyone, excepting myself. But I saw many people I needed to see. And my five days at the monastery were strenuous in precisely the way I needed them to be, right down to work assignments: I shoveled and wheeled around and dumped horse manure for three days, and then I transcribed and proofread for two. I served food during ceremonial breakfasts and lunches all five days, totalling up ten meals during which I did not spill hot porridge or cold salad on anyone. Nor did I trip myself (very much) with my own robe.

When the bell sounded to tell us it was the new year, I was in this space, pretty much as far away from where I stood to take this picture (the next day) as could be. And my beloved former student from Cleveland (I don't have a good nickname for her--perhaps, now, just beloved fellow teacher) was in this space, too, having stopped in If you look carefully, you can see the blank zabuton (at the far end of the third row to the right of the altar) where my zafu (with me on it) sat all week.

And then there was one short and sweet stay in Manhattan, where I had a view both of the Empire State Building and of Macy's from my hotel room window. There was just enough time to check in with my beloved Brooklynite and her family, to exchange gifts and read a few books with her not-so-small-anymore son, to have a lovely dinner, to play some Star Wars MadLibs, to chortle over Hark! A Vagrant. The things that matter.

(It took me a lot longer to notice Macy's than the Empire State, probably because the desk clerk who checked me in only told me about half the view from my room and I was firing on fewer than half my cylinders [cf. next paragraph].)

And then, barely twenty-four hours into the new year, I was back on a plane, bound for London. A few days in the metropolis sorted out my jetlag (which had been compounded by the craziness of the last day of the Rohatsu sesshin, during which I was up for twenty-three hours straight: crazy Zen festivities! mad middle-of-the-night dishwashing and glass-packing! the impossibility of either going to bed or sleeping through the night after a week of getting up at 3:55 a.m.!).

And then, yet another train ride.

And now I am here.