23 July 2008

Letter 2.45

The difference between August and September is greater than that between any other two consecutive months. August 31 is still summer and September 1 is already looking towards another winter -- an attitude which persists even here in the tropics, where it doesn't hold true. The rainy season ended in early August (well water after a rain is both ice cold and muddy making washing more difficult -- and I'd used up all my firewood and no more could be collected that wasn't wet -- though I could heat a bit of water on a small kerosene stove) and we've had three weeks of fine balmy weather, but the last week has been again cloudy with frequent rain and some fog. The rain was not entirely unwelcome, for it allowed me to collect water (off the roof) into some barrels, so I've a fresh supply of water now and need not go to the village to bring it up. I can collect enough now for about a month, though would increase my storage capacity with some more barrels. At any rate, we've not gone so long as a month between rains since I've come to Kandy.

A few weeks ago I took a walk to the top of the mountain which I look at from my kuti. It seems to be about 1500 feet above Kandy (Kandy is 1600 feet above sea level), and is often shrouded in clouds. The weather was fine the day of the walk, though, and the climb was very pleasant except for the last 150 feet or so, which was very steep, rocky, and difficult, requiring a lot of caution and effort. At the top there was a grand view of Kandy town and valley and also several of the other valleys which I hadn't seen before. I could just make out the kuti in the distance, a small white dot which I could identify only by location in relation to roads and landmarks. A 12 hour round trip. If I ever go again I'll try to borrow some binoculars. The climb seems to be popular -- I met 3 other parties when at the top, mostly students from Peredeniya, about 6 miles outside Kandy (the main campus in Ceylon), which was fortunate, since they had brought water with them, and I hadn't.

The Mahaweli Ganga, the largest river in Ceylon, is only about a mile or so from my kuti at its nearest approach. It begins in western upcountry and flows down in a big loop around Kandy, going south and finally turns NE and flows to the sea. So another day I went for a walk down river some miles, but found the entire bank on both sides was already occupied by hundreds of people swimming, washing, doing laundry, gossiping, etc., so if I go for another walk along the river it will have to involve either a bus ride out of the inhabited area around Kandy or else a trip of several days.

Some time ago a telegram arrived from Bundala announcing that Ñānasumana was dead. It took some days to find out what had happened -- he seems to have been bitten by a viper (vipers are prevalent in the dry area) and for some reason -- I still don't know the whole story and have heard conflicting details -- there was a long delay in getting to a doctor (vipers are not all that poisonous, and if promptly treated are not normally fatal to a healthy adult). Strange and sad news. You may recall that the goal of my first carika -- or wandering -- in Ceylon was to visit him in his jungle seclusion. He was an American, as I think I've mentioned, and a friend. A good man; earnest in his endeavors. His death also appears to be the death of the project to publish Ven. Ñānavīra Thera's writings.

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