> jumping into life.


At the corner store where we were buying salsa, a 30 year old lady came in behind us, with no kids in sight, wearing a pretty tattered witch costume and four-inch heels, and said,

"Trick or treat! Damn, my feet are killing me."


I miss the chanting.

I didn't expect to like chanting. I didn't expect to like bowing, or offering incense, or any of the myriad ways in which Zen reminds you that it is religion. Not just comfy mindfulness and relaxation, and regardless of the presence or absence of God or gods--religion. It was actually a bit shocking to me, daughter of a minister's son who had never been to church, to realize how very much I loved the trappings. I loved the way all our knees hit the ground together, making the zendo shake. I loved the way all our voices sounded together, with the beat of the drum and the bells to mark the way. I loved the statue of Buddha and the statue of Avalokiteshvara, the flowers on the altar, the smoke rising up. I loved the robes, the candlelight, the worn edges of the chantbooks.

And I loved the chanting.

At 5:40 at Tassajara there is an evening service where we chant the Daihishin Darani. Often at that time of the day I would be hot and grumpy, having woken from a nap to work at 4. I never wanted to go to evening service; it always seemed like an inconvenience and a chore. But once there, with the cool darkness of the zendo and the warm buzzing of voices, somehow the grump and gore of the day would slip away. I always came out happier and calmer than I'd gone in.

On the rare morning that I skipped zazen--electing to sleep, or occasionally having to work--I felt a strange distance from the community. The mornings I had to skip service for work, I felt the same. Something about that hour spent harmonizing our voices harmonized something deeper as well.

I miss it. I miss that shared intention, the choral union, the feeling that I have a place to be and something to add. It made me reconsider my feelings about religion in general, moderated heavily what had before been a feeling mostly of contempt. Suddenly it made sense that people would take time out of their week to gather and sing and pray and praise. Suddenly it made sense that those relationships would be special, if indefinably so. Suddenly, now, it feels like an absence. I can sit on my pillow all I want, but it's hard to make harmony with only one voice.


pollen under a scanning electron microscope

There are perhaps more beauties hidden than revealed in this world: The blaze of sun that rises over the edge of sea while we are still wrapped together, our heads just touching, dreaming separate dreams. The five-pointed star inside each apple. The pattern of roots beneath the soil. The fetus sucking her perfect, tiny thumb. Blind fish in the depths, the ultraviolet messages flowers send to bees, all the colors hidden in white, the fossils buried deep in solid rock. The light of newborn stars.

I have often felt--if fleetingly--that the surest way to peace is a closer look. The beauty is there, much of it not hidden at all, merely overlooked. The leaves are all falling now, the hills shifting from gilded to burnished to brown. Cold came in hard last night, frosting the tomatoes that we've been meaning to bring in. I've felt that if I could only slow down enough, the beauty would overwhelm me, would flood me and fill all the cracks and fissures, make me whole. If I could only slow down enough, I would look closely and find myself whole, a bright five-pointed star shining right through me.


So I made these mugs for myself and my doppelganger and I really liked them and thought other people might like them. So I made a Cafepress store. If you think you might want a coffee mug with a coffee plant on it, or a tea mug with a tea plant on it, or a beer stein with a hops plant on it, click here!

And if you don't, then don't!


This video, which I love because I love Kucinich and Colbert,

also made me think of what was one of my favorite parts about living in the monastery: the robe-sleeve pocket. The Zen robe has these big sleeves,

which are often sewn up a bit at the bottom, or you wear an under-shirt with the same sleeves that are always sewn up at the bottom, and they make the best pocket.

I would like to relate to you now a list of some of the things I've kept in my robe-sleeve pockets.

My watch, earrings, necklace, bracelet; my glasses; apples, oranges, persimmons, grapes, bagels, muffins, carrots; a teacup, a coffee mug, a bowl; workshirt, bra, underwear, socks; books; my journal and a pen; tea bags; disposable camera, digital camera; rose petals, leaves, daisies; chant cards; space.


The fever-heat came finally last night, blazing higher and higher until he fled to the far side of the bed, refusing to touch me. I burrowed deeper in the blankets, stoked it with my breath, turned myself florescent, and let it burn.

This morning the rasp is still there in my throat, but the head-full-of-leaves is gone, the ache-in-the-joints is gone, and I even agreed to go into work an hour early.

I will, however, bring my tea with me.


The cold came upon me suddenly. Today, the sky froze up, dropping the outside temperature to the low forties, the inside of our uninsulated house barely warmer. I caught the cold; it invaded me, stuck in my bones, slid up to lodge behind my eyes. Yesterday I was exploring abandoned houses and gaping at the trees, and today the cold took me, threw me to bed. It rasped my throat sore, stuffed my head with leaves. It wouldn't leave me. I piled sweater on sweater, blanket on blanket, huddled in the snowdrift of my bed, shivering. He brought me cup upon cup of hot cider and tea, warmed the waterbottle, made soup I couldn't eat, went out just now in the dark and wet for more tea. Even after a long nap and the day full of the quiet, dispassionate torpor of illness, I feel worse now than when I woke.

I slept and dreamt I was a king, thought slain in battle but alive under my shroud, still on the battlefield, quietly slitting the throats of survivors, the bone handle of a dagger in my own.

Awake, I watched the clouds and thought of winter, watched the cold. We turned on the heat to still my quaking. I stood under the jet of the shower until the steam was thicker than my lungs, until some of the cold was pressed out of me by the greater weight of warmth. In bed now, waiting like a child for my tea and the cool hand on my brow, I am barely cold at all.


The rain has come. I wake in the night when the sudden cold breath of it slides over my skin, stumble out of bed to the window, then to the closet for the down comforter stashed away all summer. In the morning I lie long in bed, listening to the swish of car tires on the wet road, listening for the sounds of splatter and drip. All I can hear is the cars.

I came here in January, the land firmly in winter's grasp. I'd come before, exploratory trips, the January and November before. I had never seen this land without a mantle of snow. I loved it.

Spring eviscerated me. Spring pulled my guts out through my eyes and handed them back, all with a pretty smile. I held my hands out gratefully, greedily, smeared myself with blood. Everyday the world turned greener, until I was glad to have no eyes; everyday my heart beat stronger, pouring out the open places, drinking in the green. I loved it. There was rain then, too. There was rain all summer, in fits and bursts, in big storms and showers. Summer gave me a chance to get all my organs back in the right places, sew myself up tight. My skin reknit over the wounds of spring as the land settled back into a spectrum I understood, as the miracle of growth became mundane.

My calendar so far looks like this: Sledding, Sledding, Fiddleheads, Ramps, Dandelions, Fireflies, Swimming, Tomatoes, Canning, and Leaves. (I know I should probably have different names for January and February. Maybe next year.) I'm looking forward to learning November and December. I'm looking forward to the time when we can buy a forest house, and I will hear more than tires in the rain.


I determine to myself that today, I'm going to go next door and visit with our 90-year-old neighbor, who I adore. I've been wanting to go see her for what has become months, and yet. I even baked a zucchini bread especially for her, and it went moldy on the counter. I think, I'll go over at ten and we can have a good visit before I have to leave for work at noon. And then I think, eleven. And now I'm writing this at eleven thirty, and I'm afraid one day I'll finally make it over there and she'll have died.


Sometimes, my heartbeat becomes uncomfortable, too much. I don't mean this as metaphor. Sometimes it is like being in a small room with a loud noise, trapped in that four-chambered room with the screen door banging, banging, banging in the wind. And then I get to thinking about the heart itself, the dark and ochre muscle of it, pumping on and on. Aren't you tired, little heart? Sometimes I want to give it time to rest, just a night of solid sleep. Sometimes I feel sorry for it, working so hard. How can it work so hard?


James Watson thinks everyone over 40 is boring. And that you can tell which people in the room are stupid because they say things like "crap."

[eta: you can listen to the NPR interview with Watson here. He's 79 now, and crotchety, hopeful, and hilarious. Highly recommended, though he does blame Rosalind for missing out on her due credit.]


Fall is here, and winter coming. It has been years now since the dark, dark winter, but I still feel some trepidation, a worried stirring in my soul. Everything is different now I know, an inward turning natural and fine I know, a quieting fine, and spring will come again, I know. Fall is here, and winter coming. The wind has changed these past few weeks, the air and light have changed. There has been frost up in the mountains, though none yet in our lake-warm valley. I am hoping, as always, for rain.

Fall is here, and winter coming. Stock is simmering on the stove, and we have eaten little but soup - butternut squash, Vietnamese pho, chicken - for the past week. J makes sourdough each Saturday, this last time with rye and caraway. We're planning a giant pickle batch for next weekend to last us the winter, along with applesauce from two bushels that wait patiently in a bin on the kitchen floor.

It is getting darker. When he leaves in the early morning the light shines but weakly around the shade. I wake in the middle of the night with poems in my head, words in my head, but now it is too cold to get out of bed and I don't want to turn on the lamp and wake him. Fall is here, and winter coming. The hillsides are made of stained glass, the trails slick with fallen shards. I stare and them and think of all the water, all the air, all the pulsing trunks that made them, only to be scattered and trampled. But these leaves will mostly be soil by spring, and will mostly be leaves again. The squirrels gorge on acorns, the foxes gorge on squirrels. Gunshots echo across the beaver pond as we hike, and he takes off his green-brown hat.

The wind comes. Fall is here, and winter coming.

fan the wind as they sway.
Bushes help.
Your heart fills up

My heart fills up. Just now the sun fell behind a cloud, and as always, I am hoping for rain. Winter's coming.