3 May 2008

Journal 25

December 10 - Yesterday: I left Nugagala immediately after noon dána, but not before I came face to face with a cobra. I was about to open a gate opening onto the porch of the kuti, when I saw it - black-grey, with indistinct white markings - coiled on the pillar right next to the gate, resting its head on the gate itself. It more or less ignored me for a while, then finally slid off the post to the porch floor, went once around the porch, out the partly-opened gate and away. All very polite, no threats, but not friendliness either. We both seemed perfectly willing to simply leave each other alone and this, from what I have been told, is the normal attitude of snakes, who will only bite if attacked (or if they think they will be attacked).

I was a bit sorry to leave, since the place was great: only the manager, so to speak, left something to be desired. Mahathera – Ven. Saránadoti (Sarána, by the way, is Pali for 'refuge'), who is a very active 72 years old, gave me an umbrella which I have since discovered to be a more useless item than I formerly thought, since it is awkward to carry about. But I could not refuse: he was scandalized to learn that I didn't have one, for in Ceylon one is hardly considered; a real monk without such props. Now I'm stuck with it, unless I can find a monk who will accept it - it would be improper to give it to a layman (it's yellow, considered a monk's color), and wrong to discard it.

I left with the dáyakás, taking a different route out, which brought me to the other side of the bend in the road through a much easier path, which gradually disintegrated from very fine jungle to jungle, then to scrub, and finally marsh through which we had to wade - very muddy. At last we came to a high ridge which looked down on the valley through which the road ran - splendid view - and then we descended to the valley floor, with its rice fields and civilization…

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