Home / Blog / An Uneventful Walk in the Snow

Delivering supplies to a retreatant is a nice way to spend half an hour, especially if you’re open to having the rest of your day completely up-ended. 

We call our Ford F150 “The Brown Truck.” It loves the Retreats Road. It’s chained tires eat snow like hungry barracudas in a school of mullets. It’s deep, throaty, muffler-less voice tells retreatants their supplies have arrived — half a minute before they actually have.

It beats pushing buttons on a keyboard, I’ll tell you that — even when things go wrong, and the schedule you’ve carefully laid out for the rest of your day reveals itself as emptiness.

I hadn’t seen Jon for about a year. So when The Brown Truck roared up to Yeshe’s woodpile on Tuesday, we had a nice, socially distanced catch-up. Some retreatants prefer silence. Jon enjoys a chat — which strikes me just fine. He recently adopted two dogs. Brothers. 

When we had finished our yack, and said goodbye, I climbed in the truck and turned the key. That’s when I heard the sound a starter makes when it’s not starting.

There’s nothing to do at this point but accept the situation. I’d be walking through shin-high powder to fetch the battery charger in the shed (providing it’s charged up), then hiking back to Yeshe, attaching clamps to random places on the engine and witnessing the magic.

There are worse ways to spend time than walking through the snow at Karmê Chöling. 

Naked shrubs in the snow at Karme Choling.On my left, along Yeshe’s entry road, thousands of thin, angular branches with withered nodes poke through the white landscape. I love how snow collects on each branch uniformly, yet still leaves room for infinite variation.

At the base of the path to Thögyal Ridge, an apple tree planted by Jamgön Kongtrül reaches three gnarly arms to the west and three more to the north, pointing dark, shrubby fingers toward the sky. As time passes, and things warm up, these cold fingers will be wrapped in green, leafy gloves, I tell myself.

The deer love this spot in the fall, curiously watching that bearded fellow with a camera tilting his head. But what they’re really here for is the apples. I suppose in a matter of months we’ll be smelling pie baking in the kitchen.

Most of the snowscape remains untouched throughout the season, but the Purkhang, on my right now, is perpetually surrounded by boot prints. I wonder how my circumambulating housemates were feeling this morning. 

I look at this whole scene with different eyes since I spoke to Raven Fennell last year, as she brushed bright, fresh color on the Purkhang and told me about the day it was used.

I reach the bottom of the hill and notice the sun barely clawing through a thick, gray cloud cover. It looks distant, like a star shining dimly on some alien planet. But I Googled it later on; it was just the regular old sun. 

The charger is charged (yay!), but I go inside anyway because tea snack is offered, and I want to tell someone, anyone, about my battery woes. I make four people listen to my troubles, declining any offers of help; I will martyr on alone, I tell them.

The climb back up the hill was equally uneventful.Retreats Area, Karme Choling



  1. Lovely story about the best job at KCL. Reminds me of a time during one of the coldest winters that I was driving Up the hill in the old black Jeep we used to use for deliveries to the retreatants. The days were 20 below and the nights were getting down to 40 below. I was coming back down the hill as the sun was going down, just passed the Purkhang the Jeep got stuck in a snow bank. So I had to make a trek down the hill to get the old red tractor to pull the Jeep out as the temp was falling fast. I got the tractor, pulled it in front of the Jeep, got everything hooked up to pull it and surprise surprise the tractor wouldn’t start. It had a sticky starter motor. By this point the sun was down and it was terrifyingly cold but I had to take my gloves off to loosen the starter with a wrench, bang on it a few times with the hammer, tighten the starter back and try to start the tractor. It took about three rounds of that before it started ( just when I gave up hope), got the Jeep pulled out and made it back for dinner. One pinky took about 6 months to get the feeling back, it was an adventure I won’t forget. It felt as though I might have ended up like Jack Nicholson in the Shining.


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