the simmering of the tea pot, steam rises in the air. water splashes into the cup, releasing the aroma of the tea and warming my hands. a fly buzzes against the window— I open it to let him out. the slight breeze sways the branches and leaves of late fall’s remaining life. this retreat is almost done. have I taken advantage of the hospitality and this place of intense truth? it is a blessing to this world— sonoma mountain zen center— a bright jewel in the mountains, rising like the lotus from murky water and the mud in the pond of this universe.