Nipponzan Myohoji, Atlanta Dojo
Great Smoky Mountains
Peace Pagoda Work Camp

September - 2004

   After getting a late start the night before we finally arrived at the Peace Pagoda at 3:00am at just went ahead and instead of climbing the rest of the way up to the temple (those who have been there know what I mean) we just set up our tents at the parking lot and went to sleep.

The next morning we woke up at 7:30 and went up everyone was enjoying the view and finishing up breakfast. Utsumi and Denise greeted us and we had a short visit and breakfast ourselves and then off to work. Utsumi wanted a window put into the backside of the bathhouse and that's what me and Jon started on.

Kell, Utsumi and Beth worked on getting the corner blocks set and the foundation for the cistern built. Paul worked on the rock pathways. After setting the window we had to fashion some window trim. There was plenty of scrap wood to make that out of. We ended the day around 5:00 and everyone took turns having a bath. We had evening prayer and then enjoyed a great dinner and watched the sun set. Everyone was pretty tired so after a small visit we all went to our tents.

Waking up to the drums is always a great memory for me. It brings back all those pleasant memories of different walks and runs that I have been on with Nipponzan Myohoji. It's a great way to start off your day chanting and drumming while the sun rises and what a beautiful setting the sun coming up over the Smokey Mountains. After Morning Prayer we had breakfast and talked about what we had planed for the day. We decided that we should concentrate on the out door work because the weathermen were calling for rain soon so after a brief discussion we went to work Jon, Utsumi and Myself were going to work on the form for the cistern Kell, Denise and Beth would work on the block work and Paul would continue on the paths. After lunch we said our goodbyes to Beth she had to go back home. I wish I could remember their name but another couple showed up to help for the afternoon. We got a lot done today it was a good day. We ended the day the same as we did the night before but Jon has to leave tonight we said our goodbyes to him and then Paul, Denise and myself waited for Julie to get in. While we were waiting it was such a clear night you could see the Milky Way and Denise surprised us and started naming off and showing us the different star constellations we could see from the front porch. That was neat, Julie arrived around 9:30 and we were all in bed by around 10:00.

Julie and me have to leave today. Now the work camp has several day's left to go but I would like to finish building the form's today so they can pour tomorrow before the rain gets here. Today is going to be a busy day we also have to pick up the rough-cut lumber to start building. So the day was spent with everyone working hard Julie took over as the mortar mixer helping Kell out. After lunch Utsumi and Denise went to pick up the wood and they got about way down and the truck broke down. It was bad that the truck broke down but it was good timing because Kell and Julie had gone down to pick up some more block and there was Denise and Utsumi so they didn't have to walk the whole way. We all kept working while Denise and Utsumi went to work trying to find another way to get the wood up to the temple. They finally got that all together and the first load came and we all chipped in and unloaded it. Then they went to get another load and the rest of us went back to what we were doing. We finished up and cleaned up all the tools then I went to light the fire for the bath and shower. They got back with the last load of wood and we unloaded that. By dinner we were down to Denise, Utsumi, Julie and Myself. We had a real nice visit and a great dinner. Then it was time for them to head down to the truck and time for Julie and me to head home. Denise told me that they had more people coming and going for the rest of the week so I didn't feel to bad about leaving.

I am glad to be a part of the work camp good work, good prayers and great company.

Jim Toren
Jon Blickenstaff
Jules Toren