After a very difficult week for many New Yorkers and people of many other states along the East Coast that were affected by the huge and destructive hurricane last Monday and Tuesday, some of us were looking forward to getting out of town for a day. The powerful and long-sustained winds and storm surges wreaked havoc on many low lying coastal areas of New York including Manhattan,southern Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, as well as Long Island.
Here in the Jamaica area we were spared the flooding but the winds did knock down quite a few trees. The falling trees then took out some power lines in various neighborhoods. Another consequence was the inability to unload fuel from tankers at the docks which is still causing a gasoline shortage. Most gasoline stations have been closed for days and those that are now opening have unbelievably long lines of cars, sometimes miles long.
For those who had enough fuel in their cars to get out of New York City we were able to travel north 124 miles, or about 200 Km, to Woodstock, N.Y., one of our favorite locations to hold a Joy Day. It was also one of Sri Chinmoy's favorite locations in the `countryside' to visit, especially in his early days when he first came to the U.S.
Palash organized some wonderful events with help from others such as Tanima, Dhanu, Mridanga and others. She also assured us that gasoline was readily available north of New York City, and she was right. Part of the joy of going north, believe it or not, was to be able to fill the car with gasoline without waiting for hours in line. Some of us even brought empty gasoline containers to fill up to have as a reserve, or for some who lost their power in their houses to use to run their generators for electricity in their homes.
Our first destination after the gas stations was the Overlook Mountain Trail which is a few miles north of Woodstock. We parked next to the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist Temple, a newly rebuilt complex and Temple in the mountains of Woodstock. It was a very rigorous hike uphill for two miles to the top of the mountain which offers a spectacular panoramic view of this section of the Hudson Valley.
After the invigorating hike we made our way to a nearby beautiful A-frame church in town which Sri Chinmoy himself visited once or twice on his trips to Woodstock. After the delicious Indian meal cooked by a local Bengali Restaurant, we had a peaceful meditation and then sang some songs including one of the standard Joy Day songs which Sri Chinmoy composed for these events:
"Joy Day, Joy Day, Joy Day, Joy Day,
To join my Guru's Oneness play.
Joy Day, Joy Day, Joy Day, Joy Day,
My Guru's Smile-fulfilment day."
We also sang the Woodstock song which Guru composed on July 3, 1999:
"Woodstock, Woodstock, Woodstock!
My closed heart-door you unlock.
Freedom unhorizoned, Your Choice.
Newness in fulness, Your Voice."
Finishing with the `Seven Year Old' Boy and Girl songs, we really were able to feel the joy of this kind of event and the reason why Sri Chinmoy encouraged us to have these events. Kodanda and I then performed some songs on instruments including a Japanese harp called a Koto, a Chinese stringed instrument called an Erhu, and a solo performance by him on a standard Western flute. As what was traditionally done at many functions when Sri Chinmoy asked him to play, we sang the song which Kodanda played on the flute. This time it was `Amar Jiban, Amar Maran', `My life, my death, for Your Feet'.
We also listened to a recording of one of Sri Chinmoy's favorite synthesizer performances at P.S. 86 in New York in 1999, I believe. Comments about the performance were read out first, expressing Guru's real joy in performing it and even in listening to the recording of it himself afterwards. He also suggested that we listen to this recording of the performance at our Joy Days. It was about 15 minutes long and truly dynamic, soulful, uplifting and joyful.
After some videos of Sri Chinmoy we then played a couple of games which he also encouraged us to do to help bring a childlike joy to the day. This day we played Musical Chairs and the guessing game, Pictionary.
We then had a delicious Prasad, after which we were ready to pack up and make the Pilgrimage back to N.Y.C. The joy and energy which we derived from that half-day in Woodstock was enough to fuel us for the long ride home.
There was also an unexpected joy in getting gasoline to fuel our cars in a gas station which actually had plenty of fuel and no lines to speak of. This simple fact is something that we have taken for granted most of our lives in this day in age. Now it should be another reason for those of us who drive gasoline powered automobiles to feel a sense of gratitude for doing so, unless and until we can drive more fuel efficient electric automobiles on a practical and regular basis.
As we entered the greater New York City area we began to see closed gas stations again. The few that were open had long lines of hundreds of cars waiting to desperately fill their tanks. The next day there were also drivers waiting in lines for blocks and blocks from very early in the morning after a fuel delivery was made to a local gas station. There were also hundreds of people standing in line with empty gasoline cans to fill for their cars and electric generators.
In contrast to the joy of our Woodstock experience, the difficult events of this past week in this area of the country remind us that we must face the harsh realities of life with a sense of appreciation and gratitude for what we have had readily available all these years and now may be lacking. Also in knowing that many, many people have it worse than we do and are suffering from such a powerful natural event, we should try to invoke peace, joy and a sense of security in our prayers and meditations. This is a very important way besides the financial or personal service we can render to help to alleviate the suffering we see manifested as a consequence of this recent natural disaster.