So fellow travelers, it is most fortunate the evening with Chihuly’s amazing glass art was so vibrant and colorful because the next morning I woke to dense grey clouds which soon gave way to heavy rains.
Clouds over Oyster Bay Long Island
In one sense the rains felt a fitting mood for my departure that morning as my route out of the city would take me by Woodlawn Cemetery where my paternal grandparents rest presumably in peace. Being a mix of traditional Lutheran regard for elders with equal parts of Japanese ancestral worship it would be unthinkable for me not to stop and pay my respects.
I have an odd relationship with cemeteries. I find them intriguing and mysterious rather than ghoulish. Perhaps this is due to the frequent visits we made to the cemetery when I was a child. Our family would stop after church before convening for Sunday dinner with my Dad’s family. Most of the time one of my parents would take me down to the pond to feed bread crusts to the geese who resided there year round. Honestly I found these cranky anatidae far more terrifying than the quiet denizens of the nearby graves. To my best recollection, the geese were the only cemetery residents who ever chased or tried to bite me.*
My memory of these visits is so deeply engraved, I can find the family gravesites without much wandering or the help of the new Woodlawn Cemetery Ap.
Gentle rain fell as I stood by the graves, a serene mist of holy water, washing away some burdens I had carried there. A long drive with some promising discoveries lay ahead of me that day so I remained long enough to wish my ancestors well, ask their continued blessings on those still walking earthly paths and left small tokens on the gravestones in gratitude. This last gesture is decidedly influenced by my Japanese heritage.
When my husband’s schedule kept him from joining me on my road trip, it created an open end to the dates I could travel so I decided to combine the trip with a visit to catch up with some cherished friends in Vermont and New Hampshire. This extended my itinerary to cover over 700 miles of solo driving, including several runs back and forth on various expressways and bridges in and around New York City.
“Bring it on,” said my Inner Kid from da Bronx when I laid out the maps.
I created various routes using both on-line mapping and a trusted well worn Road Atlas. While I appreciate the programmability of a good GPS (mine’s a Garmin with lifetime updates) just like hiking, I rarely leave home without a reliable set of paper maps. While mapping a trip online allows me to bookmark a nice list of coffee stops and diners along a given route, my GPS does not tell me Route 25A is an excellent alternative to the Long Island not-so Expressway. This later fact courtesy of my road atlas, surely saved my sanity on the multiple transits back and forth across the Bronx and Throgs Neck Bridge going to and from Long Island where I stayed during the New York City leg of my journey.
On-line mapping does however offer some unique perks. Take for example a serendipitous discovery made as I planned the current leg of my trip heading north to Vermont. Planning this stop at Woodlawn Cemetery gave me the option of taking the Taconic Parkway to Vermont. It’s a scenic, slower paced and far less congested route than going north via 87. However, unlike highway 87, there would not be any rest stops or gas stations on the Taconic so I wanted to plan my break points accordingly.
That’s how I found the Chuang Yen Monastery.
Who knew there was a Buddhist Monastery near Carmel New York?
Some intrepid researcher working for Google maps did and plunked a nice pin which popped right up for me to see while doing my route planning. Sometimes the stars and algorithms of social media align and there you have it:
“Site of the Largest Statue of Buddha in the Western Hemisphere.”
Wait what? (it is, I fact checked the claim) and just a 20 minute side trip off the parkway?
Given all my recent reflections on suffering and compassion it would be outright disrespectful to even consider passing up an opportunity like this. Who knows maybe my ancestors were pointing me to this hidden sanctuary.
I’m deeply grateful I made the side trip, otherwise I would have missed meeting some very mindful masters~
Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready
*On a personal note: Some 37 years after those Sundays at the cemetery, I visited Woodlawn with Favorite Older Daughter who was at the time simply Favorite Only Child and just about the same age as I had been back then. Spying the geese on the banks by the pond, she asked “Mommy can I chase them?” I hesistated for less than a nanosecond before nodding and waving her on. There is no way to measure the satisfaction I felt watching my own child scattering the geese left and right. Revenge can indeed be sweet.