Last Sunday I had a chance to decompress after a couple days of working on the Ironman Bodybuilding Championships just outside Seattle. My mom and I headed over to Whidbey Island to a Buddhist themed nature preserve called Earth Sanctuary. My mom had the winning auction bid for a tour by the owner of the private preserve earlier in the year.
Any trip to the Washington San Juan Islands starts via Washington State ferry. In our case we started the day at Lighthouse Park in Mukilteo while waiting for the boat to arrive. I know the resolution on the picture below isn't detailed enough to read, but the plaque at the foot of the stairs reads, "Landing Site of Captain George Vancouver." If you've been to the Pacific Northwest then you know that there is both a city on the border with Oregon named Vancouver as well as a city just north of the border in British Columbia named in his honor. For those curious about fog horns, I thought I would include a picture of one. I had never seen a fog horn before, but it makes sense why it has a massive steel baffle to project low frequencies miles across a water way. It's a subwoofer than would make Jay-Z pee his pants in awe.
I won't pretend for a second to be a nature photographer, but I thought it would be nice to take a few photographs to share. The Earth Sanctuary is approximately 77 acres that has been restored to natural habitat with nearly 1700 native species trees planted. The sanctuary allows happy frogs, beavers, and birds to just go about their business. What's really nice is that when you walk along the trails all you hear is wind and the occasional bird in the distance, which is a complete antithesis to a weekend of fire-breathing heavy metal and pop music thrusting out of a 20 kilo-Watt sound system at a bodybuilding show. Ironically, I control the volume knob.
Growing up in the pacific northwest, I had an opportunity to go exploring in the woods daily. It was our playground - something I think kids now day lack due to texting and the Xbox. Climbing trees, jumping over creeks, getting our pants and shoes muddy, finding an old rusted out tractor to hop on; those were the best times with friends. People I meet in southern California tend to not understand the color green. When I talk to native SoCal-er's they say, "it's green here," while looking at a palm tree; Never mind the pale brown dried scrub brush and rocks surrounding the tree. You want to see green? Go to a truly living, breathing rain forest. See below.
Chuck Pettis, the preserve owner, is a practicing Buddhist. When we drove into the parking area he was sitting there on a rock with prayer beads in one hand and his iPhone 4 in the other. Chuck made enough money around the turn of the century that he decided to do something philanthropic to benefit man and nature, thus the Earth Sanctuary. The first picture below is of my mom zen'd out on a bench overlooking one of the marshes.
I'm sure there's a joke about "if a bell rings in the woods and no one is around to hear it...," for the second picture, but for now I'll say that it's a nice sound when you ring it with a wooden mallet. It's sort of a random act of beauty to have a bell just hanging there in the woods.
No Buddhist preserve would be complete without a prayer wheel. I learned that the prayer wheel is traditionally turned clockwise, which is good for us conventional right-handers. Chuck has the wheel connected to a mechanical counter that is just visible at the bottom right of the wheel. I think I heard him say that the wheel has 1.2 million turns so far. That may even meet my personal classification for "oodles" of turns, but it doesn't compete with my bicycle wheels which are a two-for-one deal. Maybe I should make Buddhist themed rims? Prayer flags are, of course, everywhere on the grounds.
Chuck is also building a Stupa (not shown), which is a tall structure containing holy items. The concept is that if you walk clockwise around the Stupa it will reduce your cause of suffering. One of the people we were with on the tour had a rock in their shoe so I jokingly suggested that he walk clockwise around the Stupa foundation. He opted to remove the rock, then walk around the site.