June 27, 2011

Upcoming events & Fall-a-thon results

First, two event reminders/updates:

1. This coming Friday, July 1st, the annual memorial service for Tenzan Toyoda Rokoji (1947-2001) will be conducted at 3717 N. Ravenswood, #113, Chicago. Toyoda Sensei, who immigrated from Japan to Chicago in 1974, was a dharma successor of the late Tenshin Tanouye Roshi in the line of Omori Sogen Roshi. A lay Zen master and teacher of Aikido, he spent his career working to transmit our Zen lineage, as well as traditional Japanese martial and cultural arts, to the West. This year marks the 10th anniversary of his death.

Aikido students will practice in Toyoda Sensei's honor from 5:45-6:45pm; the ceremony will start promptly at 7pm. Please dress appropriately (training uniform, or modest clothing). Following there will be internal training and meditation.

2. Update: the July 2-3 monastery work weekend at Korinji has been canceled. Again, a professional crew will be on site July 18-22 working to construct the soffit and fascia of our roof and to drop in our new windows. We'll be on hand to assist the crew, and welcome you to join us. Please contact Korinji to volunteer (info@korinji.org)!

Second, we're thrilled to announce the results of the recent Fall-a-thon fundraiser. This past Saturday, 11 Aikido students performed 1,958 falls and raised just under $10,000.00 in pledges for Korinji. There are still a few fallers needing to make-up their sessions so final numbers will change...but for now, thank you to these martial artists whose sweat and effort have helped fund Korinji. It is fitting, as we approach the 10th anniversary of Toyoda Sensei's death, to recognize that without these Aikidoists Korinji would not be taking form as it is today...

June 21, 2011

June 18-19 report, July plans and the Fall-a-thon

The most recent monastery work weekend has added a few new features to the Korinji grounds.

The area in front of the zendo is now graded to its final form, with a new path leading up from stone steps, skirting the building's perimeter and then ascending up to what will eventually be the site of our residential structure. At one point in this ascent another new path, nearly obscured by dense foliage, now winds off some 30 yards into a hidden, silent grove of old oaks which shelter a cluster of flat-topped boulders. These stones are ideal for yaza, the "free" periods of meditation concluding the monastic day, when it is customary for monks to sneak off outside to some solitary spot to sit. The image shows the largest of these.

Meanwhile below in the main ravine, our small footbridge has been nearly completed from recycled railroad ties and leftover zendo lumber. Drystone ramps will soon join to both ends of the wooden span.

Though our focus in the past two months has been grounds work like this, we're pleased to announce that the next major phase of building construction has been confirmed. July 18-22 a professional crew will be onsite to complete our wall framing, the roof soffit and fascia, and the installation of our windows. These windows and the lumber needed for this work have been ordered. We're on track now to complete the exterior entirely by this fall.

Though the actual work that week will be completed by pros, we still need assistants! If you'd like to come up to lend a hand, please contact Korinji: info@korinji.org.

Finally, please remember the annual fundraiser benefiting Korinji which Shinjinkai, the Japanese Martial Arts Society (http://www.shinjinkai.org/) is holding this coming Saturday the 25th in Chicago. During this event Aikido students demonstrate their martial art by being thrown as many times as they are able within 15 minutes. Similar to a walk-a-thon, they gather pledges for the number of falls they take. In years past as much at $16,000.00 has been raised by this event. Right now there are fallers who need sponsors: if you'd like to be matched up with one of these amazing volunteers to pledge a certain amount per fall (or just contribute a flat donation of any amount) please contact Shinjinkai: info@shinjinkai.org.

June 10, 2011

Memorial day weekend report

Another weekend of progress at Korinji. This time we'll use mostly images to tell the story (courtesy of JC Epong, our photographer):

Like all work weekends, zazen (meditation) begins and ends each day. We sit as a group in the unfinished interior of our building. Early or late in the day, however, you may catch glimpses of volunteers doing solo sitting on a flat rock in the woods, or perhaps on the future back engawa.

The samu (work) schedule for this weekend was mostly centered on the grounds: trail building, gardening and other such things. More than 40 plants - purple coneflowers, woodland poppies, ferns, lillies, phlox, yarrow, valerian, lamb's ear, pachysandra and scilla - were dug in along the trail. They join the maidenhair ferns, may apple, thimbleberry and blooming trillium which were everywhere in abundance. Many thanks to Karen Radtke, who began stockpiling many of these additions last fall and lovingly cared for them over the winter in anticipation of this day.

While this was going on, the chainsaw crew was hard at work felling dead wood and in general cleaning up the place. Trees don't always lean the way we'd like them to fall, and so the rope teams applied their skill and muscle. Other volunteer teams were also wandering the woods locating and digging up suitable stone to finish lining the main stretch of trail between our parking lot and the zendo. In the main ravine, it often makes sense to roll the stones down to where they're needed, rather than haul them. A slow but steady avalanche of these sandstone rocks allowed us to complete the trail and establish the foundation of the small footbridge that will span the muddy ravine bottom.

Let's return now to the work of our planters: this bit of trail, which is one of the switchbacks on the initial stretch below the parking area (and the point where future visitors might catch a first glimpse, far off and above the trees, of the monastery building roofs), has been dubbed "fern alley".

Some other minor jobs: raking the gravel of our new construction access drive, which is beginning to set nicely. This is the dreaded stretch of steep hill that tested our volunteers' endurance in the past, when construction materials were often hauled down to the work site by hand. Those of us who were there in those difficult days tend to wax poetic about this drive in a way that most folks can't understand. It's beautiful!

The end of a day: relaxing on the front porch. The special meal this time was okonomiyaki, a type of vegetable pancake which is a famous dish in Japan's Kansai region. Many thanks to Greg Dekker for his chef skills and generosity in feeding the hungry crew.

We hope these images give you a sense of a typical summer weekend at Korinji. Please join us! A listing of future work weekend dates may be found on the Korinji site, here. Our schedule now calls for the completion of the building's exterior (soffit/fascia, windows and siding with trim) before the fall, allowing us to continue interior buildout throughout the year in a fully-sealed building. We welcome you to be a part of this immensely rewarding project, and most important to practice with us.