Postcard 37 from Robina: Idaho, Sunday, March 9, 2014

2014-03-09 11:00:00

We’ve finished our two weeks now. Maria and Paula drove me back to Miami, where they live, on Sunday night February 17 after our final teaching. I like Miami, for sure! Another of these big, vibrant, energetic cities. I stayed at Maria’s for two days, and they invited me to teach there next time round, which will be early 2016, two years from now.

Having lunch in Miami with Maria, left, and Ana Paula, right. I stayed with Maria before flying to Toronto on Tuesday.

Then to Toronto for a five-day retreat for Lama Yeshe Ling in Burlington, forty miles southwest.


With the group at Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s center in Toronto. Photo Lama Yeshe Ling.

Toronto was the home of my father’s brother, who came here in the 1920s, from London in the UK, with his mother when she divorced my grandfather. She left my father behind in London. We met just once, Uncle Lennie and I, in the 1970s. I met my grandfather for the first time in London in 1968. He was one of 12 children in a family of French perfumers, originally from Caen. My father Edward Courtin, known as Teddy, went to Melbourne when he was 12, where eventually he worked as an apprentice for Uncle Bert, his father’s brother, who ran a film processing studio.

In his late 20s, my father, an aspiring writer and poet, studied music with my mother, Agnes Bliss. That would have been in 1940. She had graduated in both classical piano and singing. She had her ambitions to perform, like all artists, which she did here and there, but romance intervened. They married in 1943. My mother, who was 33 then, effectively spent the next nine and a half years pregnant, producing seven daughters and, finally, a son. All the years of our childhood she was teaching music as well as running the family house and helping my father in the printing business he had established.

My parents, Teddy Courtin and Agnes Bliss, on their wedding day in 1943. Photo Courtin Family.

My father, who fought in the Second World War, called it Commando Printing Services and as and when my siblings and I left school we all went to work there: typesetting, designing, making the negatives and plates for the litho printing machines. Our clients, whom my mother looked after, were mainly the Catholic church and the Communist unions! It was my apprenticeship, basically, for my future editing and publishing work, and I’m grateful for it.

And for a while, when I was 19, I also had to do the selling. Our clients included many of the top Melbourne advertising agents and my mother made me dress up in nice clothes and high heels, with my waist-length hair in a French roll and wearing eye-liner and lipstick, and go the agencies to discuss jobs or get new clients. I hated it! More than anything I remember the terrible self-consciousness. I would drive our big Holden station wagon.

Then I ran away from home, to Adelaide. . . but that’s another story.

My debut, or debutante ball, in 1961. I was almost 18. Photo Courtin Family.

After Lama Yeshe Ling I flew to Miami and then on to San Juan in hot and sticky Puerto Rico. One of Yangsi Rinpoche’s centers is there, Ganden Shedrup Ling: a lovely, dedicated group of people. As always, I stayed with Veronica, who used to run the center.

In Puerto Rico I always stay with Veronica, who used to run Ganden Shedrup Ling, Yangsi Rinpoche’s center there. Photo Verónica Fernández.

Teaching at Yangsi Rinpoche’s center in Puerto Rico. Photo Ganden Shedrup Ling.

Then to chilly Boise Idaho – starting at 8 in the morning flying out of San Juan and stopping off in Miami, Los Angeles, and Portland before arriving in Boise at 11pm. I hadn’t seen Dan Black for 10 years at least. Now he’s started his own Buddhist group, Boise Institute of Buddhist Studies. One of the things I admire about Dan, his being a journalist, is the clarity and simplicity of his website. I must say that many of our centers’ websites are very complicated and confusing. His is a good model, I think. http://bibscenter.org/

With the group from Dan Black’s center in Boise. Photo Boise Institute for Buddhist Studies.

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