I move to keep things whole.

The Prompt: Mark Strand, Poet Laureate

Venn Diagrams

The self, the edge of the self, and the edge of the world.
Poetic territory.
That shadow land between self and reality.
Using paper he made by hand...
Physical self meets physical reality.
How useful to dwell in ones' own self.
Undeterred by those who say the self does not exist.
Perhaps theirs does not?
Yet here the poet dwells.
A vessel to hold his many gifts.
A vessel—like  a Venn Diagram.
Allowing him to embrace the edge of the world.
He knows himself.
There is that pesky word again “The self.”

Dwelling in His self
He finds his poems evenly lit.
The dark and light embrace
As Venn Diagrams meet and share
But do not lose their own selves.
“I empty myself and my life remains.”
He has observed the great mystery.
Emptyness is ‘not separate.’

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor


I am
what I am not
and sometimes
I am

I move
to exist
to connect the dots
from one moment
to the next

I move
so I can sit
without fidgeting
in silence

I move
in joy
pedaling, swimming,
walking, dancing
to be joyful

I move
my pen across a page
to listen to the thoughts
as they filter
through my mind

I move
I must
I always come back
to myself

to the space
In my heart
that longs to be
into the still pool

—Francine Fowler


Walking in Dark

Walking in dark we enjoy
the intimacy of not seeing.
The earth holding
our feet in the soft embrace
that remains.

Walking out of worn out shoes,
into just my own skin.

—Jeffery Taylor


Qi and Air

It is hard to be nondualistic when doing qigong, or when thinking about being separate from the air we displace. We have stale qi and fresh qi. We move out the stale and move in the fresh. I doubt that one qi is better or worse than the other. It is more like how we get hungry or tired.

In Strand’s poem, he ends with, “I move to keep things whole.” In fact, we do the same in qigong, moving qi to keep us energized.

The air moves as the man moves. They switch places for a moment until the air is returned. Is it the same air, having been displaced by a man? It now has been stirred up. It has a little tale to tell its grandchildren.

“I move to keep things whole.” I thought in college sometimes that I’d learn something and then I could ride in this sweet Cadillac and not have to struggle one bit. Ha Ha. That was a joke.

Even a poet laureate needs to move to stay alive. Even the Dalai Lama needs to meditate four hours a day. Is meditation and moving much the same? I think so. And what is movement? When I am still, I really move. My thoughts can be as chaotic as Niagara Falls. And when I move, I am still—busy but somewhere else. Is one better than another? Or are they brother and sister—one complementing the other.

Wordsworth wrote that “Art is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, recalled in tranquility.” It is one action for a man to walk around displacing air, and a much different action, after the fact, to remember and admit that one had done such an interaction with the world. It might be a obvious to a very precocious third grader, but not one ordinarily observed by an adult, unless, of course, they were a poet laureate… and a meditative one at that.

Kim Mosley

Camas Lilies

Prompt: lynnungar.com/camas-lilies-2/


When I see the field of blue camas lilies in my mind's eye,
what do I see?
I see the beauty of straight stems, crowned with sky.
I see the nourishment of native families and the fodder of animals.
Neither takes a place of priority; these plants are equally beautiful and useful.
If these lilies had not been useful to the native Americans who nurtured their growth, would they be there still in such profusion?
Such confusion.
Why should I only find beauty in escaping work?
Why not imbue my work, my usefulness, with beauty, too?
Why imply that beauty is of no use?
Beauty feeds the spirit just as bread made from roots nourishes the body.
The body benefits from a joyful spirit.
The spirit benefits from a strong, sound body.
May I work in beauty.
May I walk in beauty.
May I breathe in beauty.
May I bloom in beauty.
Beauty all around me, nourishing both body and spirit,

Donna Birdwell


I'm not into lilies today. I moaned that would be the prompt as I drove here.

Earlier I had heard that the fifth person had died in the attack at a synagogue in Jerusalem. A vicious attack, where their shawls were lying in the blood, like the Holocaust, one of the victims said.

Lilies in the field. Are there any such things? The other day someone was telling me that heaven was on earth, and, gazing out on the lilies, we might believe that. But then this or that happens, and... where is heaven?

I did mention to my heaven on earth friend that the idyllic heaven would be boring. Where would the challenges be? Where would the opportunity be to bloom, if everything were already bloomed like the lilies?

Such contrast. A pristine field of lilies, blooming their hearts out, and the shawls, laying in blood, telling a story we don't want to hear.

Do we walk in the fields and feel the wind caress our faces? Do we watch the news with a box of tissues to catch the tears?

My mom didn't want me to see the hellish side of life. She thought the challenges were enough without the sad. She hid an obituary of someone I admired so it would interfere with my schoolwork. We never went to funerals. She always maintained she lived on “heaven on earth.” After she passed, we read in her diary how depressed she actually was. But she didn't want to share that amongst the lilies. We needed our opportunity to bloom, she thought.

Kim Mosley

The Brown Sisters

In 1975, and every year after, the four Brown sisters were photographed by one sister's husband, Nicholas Nixon. You can see the photographs here and read responses to them by members of the Zen Writing Group below.

Defiance and melancholy,
independence and frailty,
stoicism and pleading,
a shrinking in, a quiet strength:
I can't help feeling that my opinions
about these photos are a lot less
interesting than the photos
or the people themselves.

—R.B. Bojan

The Brown Sisters

Girls on the verge of womanhood;
They are almost young women.
Two are tomboys,
Determined to defy labels.

It was 1975.
The labels were all changing, anyway!
Why not?

The third sister is pensive and sad,
As if a premonition hovered near.
She is a delicate, wistful beauty.
I imagine her hair is red.
She sunburns worse than her sisters.
What does she see that makes her so sad?

And who is this fourth sister with her arms crossed?
She is at once flirtatious and defiant.
Miss Independent.

And now.
It is 40 years later.
Who are they now?

Independence hugs her sister close,
More Hestia than Miss Independent.
More Earth Mother, her arms no longer crossed
But now open to embrace.

The delicate wistful beauty
With red hair and delicate skin:
Was her premonition that
Age would not be kind
To her delicate skin?
Is she comforted by the embrace
Of her once defiant sibling?

Those tomboys, how they have changed!
What have they seen?
What have they experienced?
Where are their labels now?

One looks strong and proud.
And one, perhaps the eldest,
What has life brought her?
What has she endured?
Worn and weathered as the Texas Plains.
Strong? Perhaps. She is a survivor for sure.

Life has not been easy nor age kind.
These women are
Strength, endurance, patience.

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor

When I Was 14

I was always the youngest, it seemed. I had two older sisters...and (obviously), two older parents. I was the one who had to go to bed the earliest.

I was a young freshman in high school. A new crop of students joined our class that were a year older because we had all done 7th and 8th grade in one year. And then, as I just turned 17, I went off to college. A few years later, I was the youngest grad student, and a few years after that, the youngest faculty member.

I couldn’t connect to the other faculty members, who seemed old enough to be my parents. I had many students who were older than I.

Sometimes I’d remember when I was 12 or so, that I took groups horseback riding in the woods or on the beach. Some of the men though they were cowboys and wanted to run their horses. I had to boss them around. I was as short as I was young. But somehow I managed those cowboys.

And then I had a crisis when I turned 40. I finally morphed into someone who wasn't the youngest anymore, but was far from being the oldest. I was in kind of a la la land. And by then I had a wife and couple of young kids. So what was I, a husband/father or a kid?

I was intrigued with learning about young art forms and technologies. If it was new, I wanted to have it or do it. I think I identified with these newly-born babes to see how they'd fend in a world full of seniors.

When my parents retired in 1980 I had this idea that they'd be waiting for death. Nothing was further from the truth. They lived another 20–25 years, but I had trouble imagining how they could be anything but the hard working parents I had known.

Then my wife’s parents retired. I got to know them pretty well because they spent a couple of years helping us add onto our home and build a studio. They were waiting for death, expecting it to knock on their door at any time. Funny thing is, due to the miracles of modern medicine, they are still kicking around in their nineties.

And now I'm 68. I feel better than I have for a long time. And I don't see me as the old guy. I'm older than most, but not all, of the people I see in the course of a day. I look for young doctors who will be around when I'm too feeble to find a new one.

And now I'm 68. It is hard for me to wrap my toes around that. My dad always wore a suit. When he was dying, he was looking forward to me wearing his suits. I brought some of them to Texas, but soon gave them to goodwill. I'm not the old guy in the suit. That's Mr. Rogers.

And now I'm 68. I have to keep repeating that because I can't really believe it. Last year I went to my 50th high school reunion. How my classmates had aged! I was still 14.

And now I'm 68. My wife tells me I’m going to live 16 more years, according to the actuaries, who now give us two more years than they did previously. That’s 84 or so. Will I still be writing these posts then? Will I still be 14?

—Kim Mosley

Tea Ceremony

“I’m thirsty.” Angie said. “I want a Coke. Buy me a Coke, sister.”

Maxine was looking after her younger sister for the afternoon. Their parents had left Maxine enough money to go down to the McDonalds and buy a Coke, but Maxine didn’t want to go.

“I’m not buying you a Coke, Angie,” she said. “You drink too many Cokes anyway.Go make a cup of tea instead.”
“Are you kidding me?” Angie just stood there with her hands on her hips. “I don’t drink tea… not that hot stuff anyway. Besides… I don’t know how to make it.”
“Well, you should learn, Angie,” Maxine said. “Come on, nuisance. Come in the kitchen and I’ll show you how to make a cup of tea.”
Angie rolled her eyes, but she followed Maxine into the kitchen, resting her elbows on the counter, her chin in her hands. She would watch.
“First,” Maxine said, “we need water.” She turned on the tap and out came the water. She filled the electric kettle, placed it back on its base and and flipped the switch to “on”.
“How does the water get into the tap?” Angie asked.
“Oh.” Maxine said. “I think it comes from the lake.”
“How does it do that?” Angie wanted to know.
“Pipes. Pumps. Filters – lots of stuff.” Maxine explained.
The two girls stood there, arms crossed, looking at the kettle, waiting for it to boil.
“Where did the kettle come from?” Angie asked.
“Target,” Maxine replied.
“Where did Target get it?”
Maxine sighed. “Probably from China, nuisance little sister. Don’t ask so many questions.”
“You mean people in China made our kettle?” Angie was looking at her reflection in the side of the kettle, making faces. “How did it get here?”
“Probably on a ship,” Maxine said. “In a big box inside a ship, I think. Then in a truck to get to the Target store. And people put it on the shelf. And we bought it.”
“What about the electricity to make the kettle get hot?” Angie said, poking at the electrical cord with her finger.
And so it went. The water, the kettle, the electricity, the tea, the little paper bags the tea was in, the ceramic mugs, the spoon, the honey. Angie kept asking and Maxine – getting into the game after a while – kept answering.
Finally Angie and Maxine sat down at the table with their two mugs of tea. Angie stirred her tea thoughtfully. “You know,” she said, “that’s a lot of stuff that went into this cup of tea.”
“Yeah,” Maxine smiled. “A lot of stuff.”
Angie sighed. “But I really did want a Coke.”

—Donna Birdwell

One Drop at a Time

Painting by Kim Mosley

Churning, yearning, burning Earth

The forest fire blazed, consuming desire, compassion, love, children, deer, ants, and snakes. Tree branches reached towards the sky twisting into arms filled with resistance. Their hands gestured protest. Unable to reach one drop of dew, one drop of the well, one drop of source that would quench.

—Bobbie Edwards

The bird put out the forest fire one drop at a time. The brown leaves of the trees reached up to her. Save us, they cried. And all the air was red with flame. Pity moved her wings.

Great-hearted bird, she was the tenderness of the universe.

—Sarah Webb

The bird in the picture reminds me of the planes I drew in the backs of composition books in fifth grade. My planes rained down bombs on tanks and guns that returned the attack. The bird rains down drops on a fire that returns updrafts and heat. Both conflicts between high and low. Gravity aids the high and hinders the low. Fire will spring up among the bombed structures, threatening the high and the low. Does the fire care what it threatens?

—Jeffery Taylor

The Bird Put Out the Forest Fire One Drop at a Time (carried in his little beak)

The title lets us know the bird was a success.
“Put out the fire” the title says.
Tiny drops are painted below its beak.

Suspend judgment. Believe.

Without the title—despair.
The fire is so big.
The bird so small.
One drop at a time.

Imagine. The bird did not despair.
He filled his little beak.
That is what he had—a beak.
The forest fire was put out.

Sit with this.

Remember the huge forest fire in Yosemite?
Ash fell in the streets miles away.
The smell invaded our clothes, our hair, inside our car.
Food stuck in my mouth as flames leapt in the air, so close.

The bird put out the fire one drop at a time.
The bird has wings.
Wings to fly away, escape.

And yet, one drop at a time.

What daunting blaze might I put out with what I have?
One moment at a time, one breath at a time,
One listen, one presence, one listen.

Suspend judgment. Believe.

—Janelle Curlin-Taylor

The cool breeze above the forest was the little bird’s playground.
He soared and swooped and
Joyfully flapped his
Precious wings,
Reveling in the cool, white sky.

But then, hot winds roared in
And the little bird saw trees being devoured by
Brilliant, red flames.

The burning trees now danced and jumped,
Belching smoke that turned the sky dark.

The little bird witnessed the inferno,
And its heart burst into a flame of love
For his friend the Forest.

He wept with compassion.

Each sweet tear from his tiny black eyes
Was magnified a thousandfold by
The Mercy of the Universe.

And the fire was extinguished.

Sangye O’Mara

Someone was telling me the other day that some people are lazy, and that is why they are poor. She's run in over 50 marathons and her father is an engineer who makes telescope lenses for major observatories.

There was a forest fire and all the animals left. One bird, however, kept flying back to the forest, with one drop of water in its beak. The other animals watched their home burn. The one bird however, when asked what it was doing, explained that it was putting out the fire, drop by drop. The other animals laughed at the stupid bird. As the fire became bigger and the bird became exhausted it could fly no longer. Finally it fell into the fire.

There is a similar story about a girl on a beach covered with millions of sand dollars. The girl knew that the sand dollars could not survive the hot sun, so she started to throw them back into the ocean. “What are you doing, you silly little girl.” “Oh, I'm saving the sand dollars—one by one.”

There is a third (ancient) story of the Myth of Sisyphus that Albert Camus appropriates. Sisyphus pleaded to the Gods to let him come down from the heavens for a short visit with his wife. Breaking his promise, he refused to return, so the Gods sentenced him to roll a boulder up a hill each day, only for the boulder to roll back down at the end of the day.

None of these stories are about laziness. All three characters have futile jobs. And none of them are lazy. Sisyphus, for Camus, emulates our own lives. We take one step forward, and then one step backward, over and over again. And yet we persist, dropping water on the fire or throwing sand dollars back into the ocean.

Why do some watch their homes burn, and others try to put out the fire? We could view our lives as futile. The best that can happen could be what my father wished for: that he wouldn't die of anything serious.

Why is it that some will persist with impossible odds and others why give up so easily? I asked a writing teacher in college if he had read the great writers when they were 18, like me. “Yes” he said. “And?” I asked. “Well, they weren't any good, but they wrote lots.”

I'm not sure why some can run marathons and others get tired just thinking about it. It wasn't, necessarily, that it came easy. Even Moses, picked by G_d to be his spokesman, had trouble speaking. Yet his words shaped most of our lives in one way or another.

—Kim Mosley

Another Painting by Donna and Four Responses

Painting by Donna Birdwell

She does not see the golden flecks of sunlight swirling over, around and through her.
Or the velvet footprints of passion she has made.
Or the horizon that marks here from there.
Or the soft, swirling container of mystery that cradles her.
She is sleeping.

—Sangye O’Mara


Just floating in the current moment.

—D. Royak


In what am I contained?
Where are the boundaries of what surrounds me?
Splashing through blue water the color of sky,
Gazing up at sky the color of water,
I find no boundaries,
No container.
I swim in the boundless ocean of being.

—Donna Birdwell


I'm not a believer in either original sin or karma...I don't think. But I'll give this a try. Like a bad scientist who decides what he'd like to prove before he does the experiment, I will look at this.

But first there is a difference in how Buddhists and Judeo-Christians see birth. I'm looking at a painting by Donna Birdwell that shows a woman floating in the water in an almost embryonic position. There is a path of petals on the surface of the water, and more petals rising from the woman as she breathes.

Dark petals are coming from her feet and hands. These petals tell me where she came from, while the light petals show where she is going.

The distinction of how birth is seen in Buddhism and Judeo-Christian belief is critical here.

In Buddhism there is no birth and death, nor any beginning or end. Our lives, though they appear to many as linear, are more like a circle or a spiral where “what goes around comes around. Though with each “rebirth” we get a fresh start, we inherit much. Call this karma if you want.

I read some years ago that someone taught planarian to avoid light (see: http://community.dur.ac.uk/robert.kentridge/bpp2mem1.html) and then ground up the planarian and fed it to little ones and then the fed planarian could learn faster to respond to the light. So it is with karma. Like height needed for basketballs or big brains needed in physics, we inherit karma. It is with what we start. If we were bad in the past we'd have a lot of stale stick stuff in us and we'd have to work hard to clean it up.

Original sin seems to differ from karma. Because Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit humans will forever have to pay. In the original sin scenario, no matter what is done in this life, the next time around you are born as a sinner. (Note: I don’t accept this view of Genesis.)

In the karma model, you could start as one in previous lives had done much harm. This is different existentially from one who is a sinner. In the Judeo-Christian baby, the kid is off on the wrong track from the get go, while the Buddhist Babe is born with Buddha nature, and yet may need to work through a karmic legacy to retrieve that innocence.

The baby in the painting floats in the water. There is a circle formed with her arm and head. She will wake up and see what challenges arise for her. She is naked with only the inheritance of who she really is—her Buddha nature. Her karmic legacy is what she carried from her previous life. It is not who she is, but rather that the opportunities and challenges she will meet.

—Kim Mosley

Donna's Painting and Two Poems

Anthropomorph III (Ambivalence)—Donna Dechen Birdwell

The first woman
arrived in the night,
after the sun
fell asleep.

She popped up
like a bean stalk,
with feathers
on her arms.

Her feet rooted,
unable to go
and nothing to see
and only one job to do:

to wonder.
What else might there be
and are there others
like me?

Are things like this
or different?
Will I get tired...here?
And where is here, anyway?

I hear something—my feathers are blowing.
Why can't I remember
where I came from?
My mind is empty.

I reach in
the darkness
to see
what else is here.

I lift up one foot
and then
I can take a step.

But where am I—
where will I go?
Oh I see something now—
over there.

How bright
that is!
What comes next?
I will fly.

—Kim Mosley



Roots have always eluded me.
As a child, I lived first one place, then another. Then another.
I have lived in at least a dozen different towns or cities.
Sometimes in a sequence of houses.
I have tried to be married. Three times.
My children are perhaps the only constants in my life.
But you could hardly call them roots.
Even as adults, they continue changing, moving.
But there is something that connects us.
An energy of love. Shared memories.
Caring for one another.
Always maintaining
That space in which the other feels safe and happy.
We chatter to one another across phone lines
And internet like a small flock of birds.
Calling, always connected,
Even while on the move.
Yes, they fly away.
But then they return
Or they call to me from the other trees
Where they build their own nests.
My children's freedom is as important as my own.
Our roots are in the sky.

—Donna Dechen Birdwell

What The Window Washers Did

Donna Dechen Birdwell

A window is a tentative, limited passage.
It welcomes light,
A breeze,
A few bugs and flying things,
Once, a bird,
The smell of rain,
Before we run to close it.

A door is more profound.
The light and the breeze come in,
As do the small creatures—
not so earthbound as we—
which also enter windows.
But the door also welcomes my friend,
My neighbor's dog,
At certain seasons of the year,
A pumpkin
Or a Christmas tree.

What of these other windows, then,
These windows of the soul?
These too collect grime,
Become obscured
By organic accretions of time
and neglect.
What of the open door of the heart?
Sometimes it lets in a sudden
Boisterous gale of wind—
Sometimes a thief.

Every threshold,
Every window,
Every door
Has two sides.
Maybe you and I can work together
To cleanse the windows
To mind the doors.
Meeting there,
To teach our hearts, our eyes
To trust openness
And light.

—Donna Dechen Birdwell

Is Buddha Fallible?

Lately the news has been getting me down. Between Ebola and the war in the Gaza Strip, I can hardly stand up. When someone says they don't listen to the news I feel a certain jealousy, thinking that no one deserves that kind of peace when so many are suffering. And then I think they are being irresponsible, as if to say, if you listened you could affect change and all would be well.

I like to tell this story about a girl who needs help but is turned down by a yogi in the sixth realm of consciousness. “Don't bother me,” the yogi says. “I'm almost there.”

I've been thinking about the difference between the Buddha, the man, and the Buddha, a stone statute. Did you know that stone and bronze statutes came about six hundred years after the Buddha lived? Earlier, there were sculptures of his feet, but nothing else. Feet are very special. After the Buddha ate, his attendants would wash his feet. That's a bit different from what we do, isn't it?

So the question came up about whether the Buddha was fallible. I thought he was not, but then my teacher said that not only was he fallible, but that he [my teacher] would never follow someone who wasn't.

So there are Buddhas and there are Buddhas. The stone ones probably don't make too many mistakes. They sit there and don't flinch no matter what we do. On the other hand, the human Buddha needs to negotiate every turn in the road.

The Dalai Lama was asked if he got excited when he saw a beautiful woman. I expected him to say, “of course not, I'm way beyond that.” But instead he said, “Of course, and then I realize the ramifications of an involvement with her.”

So would a perfect Buddha be like a stone? Would he always say the right thing? In fact, if he were really good, wouldn't he be able to end suffering instantly?

The bluebird sings, reminding us of a different world than that of disease and Israeli Hamas cease-fires. Is the bird irresponsible for not paying attention to the ills of the world? Is there a little message in the bird’s song that could resolve some of the world's conflicts? Perhaps!

—Kim Mosley

A Path of One's Own

When the Zen master asks, “Can I show you the path?” the proper answer, I imagine, falls somewhere between “yes,” “please,” and “thank you!”

A couple months ago, asked by the head teacher at the Austin Zen Center “Can I show you that path thing?” my response was, “Show me the path?? That’s why I came here!”

My path this past summer involved a two-month trip to Texas, Missouri, and Nebraska, the majority of which I spent in Austin. The centerpiece of this sojourn was a residential period at the Austin Zen Center, the home of my first consistent, shared Zen practice, the place where reading, dabbling, and solitary meditation found fertile ground in ritual and community. Separated from that community the previous year, I wanted a chunk of immersion, a chance to recharge the batteries of my practice and reconnect with friends.

While five weeks of near-daily sitting were marvelous, the ten days I spent living at the center were particularly refreshing and invigorating. In addition to multiplying my daily meditation sessions, I spent a lot more time in work practice. As you may know, Zen centers supplement sitting and walking meditation with periods during which one applies mindfulness to the mundane, daily tasks of cleaning and maintaining the place. The idea is that one should bring the same concentration and close attention to cleaning a toilet, say, as to something lofty, like inner peace or enlightenment.
In keeping with the intensive, retreat-like dynamic of residential practice, these work periods ran an hour and a half each day. And thus it was that I found myself staring at a corner of the extensive grounds, with the head teacher showing me a corner of the walking meditation path. Essentially, he wanted me to construct a bypass, to round off a corner so that the path didn’t come quite so close to the street. “I’d say take it from around here,” he said, as I followed his finger, “to somewhere over there. And maybe put a curve in the middle.”

That was it for instructions. At no time did he ask if I had any experience constructing a walking trail (I didn’t), or if I had even the slightest idea what I was doing (ditto).

It was at this point that a curious thing happened:


I lost my little brother this week
And the circumstances of his life
And his death
Have so cracked wide open my heart

I could never face his pain while he was here
Now I am unimaginably grieved and unimaginably grateful
For what he has shown me
About the pain of judgment

Things do not go as I wish they would
And yet things move and shift
And winds blow us all away

I see what I never saw
I know, really know in my heart
What I never could have thought true

I can't lose what I am
We are never lost to each other, brother.


Contraction, Abundance

Winter is a time
      of contraction,
eating less
      of a dwindling larder.
Lent's a virtue
      of doing without.
Will we survive
      the letting go and
find the joy of abundance
      whether Ho Tai with his
bag of treats and a full belly,
      or an abundance of sky
and roads unwalked.
      Almost more joy
at a day we've never seen,
      than we can handle
without shaking.

The juniper so green,
      so scented
it crowds out thought.

—Jeffrey Taylor

When all is said and done....

When all is said and done, we truly only have ourselves. We can spend time with people we like, people we don’t like, people that like us, or people that don't like us. In the end, it is up to us to take each situation as it is, which is sometimes hard to do.

We can find things around us to help us feel better—animals, plants, art, and sometimes even people. We can also find space and quiet so we can visit with ourselves without interruption.

Driving on an empty highway with no radio in the car has been one of my meditation retreats. It is you, the hum of the car, the scenery if it’s day, the blackness if it’s not and memories and dreams. I have relived scenes, pondered countless questions, peered into the future, and anguished over lost loves, all at seventy one miles an hour. The car is a temple hurtling down the highway, sometimes the only light for miles.

The layers peel away and I study my childhood, my children's childhoods and my father’s childhood, what I know of it.

I learn and re-learn things about myself as I climb a long steep grade. As I crest the hill and see the diamond sparkles of a small town in the black distance, I say to myself, “When you step out of this rolling temple to buy gas and a sandwich, you will be closer to God and yourself and your destination.”

—Robert Porter

Samurai Song Prompt

There is always so much going on, even when it is quiet and my body is still. Even when my eyes are closed.

We like to think we know what all of this is. We're pretty pathetic like that.

I know the light that hits the retina on the back of my eyeball presents an upside down image—the lens at the front of my eye does that. My brain makes it right-side-up again. There are glasses you can put on that flip this image over—make it look upside down, which is, of course, really right-side-up. It doesn't take long for the mind to readjust it. I know what I expect to see. I know how to be sure I see exactly that.

This is how we build the world we live in.

Eyes closed, I know clearly the sound of a creaking door. What is hard is to notice that moment before we know a thing, name it, file it, judge it. The sound I name “creaking door” is really just vibrations rippling through the air, setting the little hairs of my inner ear vibrating. Somehow my brain turns this into a sound and finds a match for it among all the sounds I have heard before, the familiar sounds, the ones I have names for.

Similar things happen with light, with smell, with tastes, with touch and texture.

I wish I could get back to that moment, that instant when a sound is just vibration, when a thing is just light and formless substance. When there is no roof, no supper, no father, no mother, no temple, no priest, no fortune, no tactic, no strategy, no thought. No wish.

This does happen occasionally and it scares the crap out of me and I'm right back in my solid right-side-up world in which everything has a name and in which I know what I like and don't like. Or at least I think I do.

—Donna Dechen Birdwell

Prompt: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/samurai-song


Each breath counts time for the Gulf clouds 
of August

Cruising silently 
through all the shades 
of blue

—Lloyd Bridges (Houston)

Ten Thousand Things

In a commentary on practice by my teacher Albert Low, I was surprised to read that he recommended looking down rather than at the scenery as one walked in nature, at least for the beginning student, in the “first fifteen or twenty years.” Since much of the long trip I take each summer is taken up with responding to the landscape, I was taken aback. I read carefully as he explained that “it is neither the trees nor the birds, the river nor the blue sky that weaves its magic: it is awareness. When we go out for a walk like this we adopt a particular mind-set, and this is compatible with practice. With the same mindset one can walk through the slums of London and feel the same communion.” One can be open and aware in nature or anywhere. We may hear the rustle of leaves; better, we may hear a police siren.

It is true that when I travel, my mind is more open and attentive, particularly to dramatic and beautiful natural things. Less so, when I am home. It’s not entirely true that I lack attention, since I have worked on being present over the years, but still, there is a differential.

It might be good, I thought, to take a look at my patterns of awareness as I stayed here in Vancouver. Certain things draw my attention on my walks with my dog and cat: flowers and shrubs, bamboo and fern borders, projections in the sidewalk, lawn ornaments, crows.

Animals capture my interest—a cat on the porch swing, ae little spaniel being walked down the block, fish in a koi pond, a dead squirrel this morning, which my cat Murphy sniffed and pawed. The squirrels that leap to tree trunks and Rex follows, jerking me round. Some of the animal-watching is protective—cats and squirrels may inspire a lunge on the lead. Other things are to my advantage too—trash cans to deposit the sack of dog poop, houses with for sale signs and information sheets (I have rarely found one I could afford), cars coming down the streets we cross.

Interesting differences in houses—roof lines, porches, towers and balconies, stonework, latticework, arbors, palm trees, brushy yards with weeds and overgrown hedges and trees hiding whatever is behind, squares of lavender or lily. Folk art—banners and prayer flags, lawn ornaments, screened images of birds (there are several on the walls around the neighborhood), hand-made signs. A child’s table with a single chair in a shady, postage stamp backyard. A paradise of wagons, three-wheelers, plastic playhouses glimpsed through the slats in a back gate.

Food being grown—grapes in arbors and along fences, espaliered apple trees complete with rounding fruit, herbs in raised beds, drying tangles of sugar snap peas, red gleams of cherry tomatoes, blueberry bushes, blackberry patches left to fruit among weeds, containers of lettuce plants and shaggy tomato bushes on decks and balconies, corn in a row along an alley fence with twine holding it upright, bruised apples on the concrete and green balls of English walnut.

Water in any form—the elaborate stream and falls at Anthem Park between apartment buildings a block away, the shine of something spilt along the asphalt near a dumpster, the shrr of water down a backyard fountain. When it rains, puddles and mud and beading on cars.

Stories—the two women, one black, with tight slicked hair, one a haggard blonde, smoking on the curb outside a residential home. The rose with a short stem abandoned on a metal table outside a Subway early on a Sunday. Underwear and jeans discarded beside the sidewalk, now covered with city grit and leaves. I look down into the gardens of Columbia House, which I believe is assisted living, and see an old man turning onto a path in his automated scooter or a group of women under a canopy playing cards. A man stops to let Rex enter the street, then waves and drives on as Rex veers to inspect a sapling. A young neighbor makes his slow way down the sidewalk, letting his cat trail behind. They cross a street and climb the steps to a porch.

Having read my teacher’s comment about everyday awareness, I let my mind open wider this morning. So many colors and textures to the sidewalk—smooth pale gray in newly paved spots, the gritty, moss-embedded dark of sections that date back to the twenties and have been lifted awry by tree roots, fish scale patterns on sloping corners where bicycles and wheel chairs need access, or red-painted metal plates there with raised polkadots for traction. Cracks and concrete patches, lines of grass or moss, a rain-melted wash of chalk, a scattering of dried fir needles. Someone has sprayed mysterious turquoise markings down the center of the alley—repairs intended?

To some degree, I always participate in what Rex sees. What has he pulled toward? what is he sniffing? He has a much different view of the world. The base of trash cans and dumpsters call him, and mysterious scents. He stops at bamboo piled at the side of the alley, and we walk over the blonde blades which have fallen across the alleyway. He sniffs and paws at a spot like any other in the mulch of a flowerbed.

Today as my mind softens, our trip down the alley is a progression of sniffings, at little nubbins of green with purplish flowers, hairlike fibers of flower or weed, the corner of a gate. On my walks I can tell myself stories about what I attend to (why does the family have peace doves and Tibetan prayer flags, are they pacifists? I remember picking brown-eyed Susans like these for my mother.) Rex’s world is full of things I cannot easily put into words. Since I cannot participate in their olfactory significance, they become random dips into the texture of life—arch of grass, board dark with rot, splay of pebbles, shadowy brown irregularity. Rex is showing me the ten thousand things that make up life—really, below the ten thousand things, not to emptiness but at least to things less codeable in language. That is valuable practice, I think. At the least, it feels good to do.

—Sarah Webb, 7/27/2014

Poem, Emeritus

A poem has achieved
  emeritus status,
when it’s yellowed and rumpled
  with crease lines and sweat stains,
a corner missing, torn loose,
  too many times re-pinned
    to the corkboard and
taken down
  to be read, again.
Stared at in comprehension
  and incomprehension.

See down near the bottom
  the ink fades and runs
in a now dry lakebed
  of evaporated tears.
  in multiple hands and hues.

This poem has retired
  and been recalled,
been re-assigned and inherited.
  And now emeritus, it no longer works
every day, but serves as advisor,
  on call.

—Jeffrey Taylor


Evening thunder
rumbles through my chest. Smiling,
hearing the rain fall.

—Korin Anita Swann


The kitchen is the heart of the home and the fridge is the quietly thrumming heart of the kitchen.
We are not a family who displays portraits of ourselves in each room, smiling in uncomfortable sweaters with animals and for a split second, being still. We know what we look like.
But on the door of our fridge is a small collection of photographs of my two sons, during mostly their childhood. Each photo is a small tableau of a part of their lives and mine.
One has them at a beach in Hawaii, early teens, with the classic shot of older brother buried in the sand, just his head showing, and younger brother laughing wildly with his foot on his brother's head.
Another has them in a desperado pose, with real guns, staring dangerously at the camera but wearing bright yellow ear plugs.
Then there is one of them, when they were small children, in a pirogue that I used to own. It's taken from behind, over their shoulders, showing the requisite bright orange PFDs, their dripping paddles lifted, about to help propel us past the old Seaholm Power Plant on Lady Bird Lake.
My favorite, of course, has me in it with them. My hair is dark red, and my face is young and confident. The boys are five and six years old, and I have one on each hip in a strong, fatherly grip. We are at the Rio Grande Gorge above Taos, New Mexico, and the land falls away behind us with blue mountains in the distance. Seconds after my wife took the photo, a huge wind came swirling up the gorge and I had to squat and hold them close so we wouldn't be blown over the edge to the river below.
And that's what I taught my sons—walk close to the edge because the view is invigorating, but always be ready to squat!

—Robert Porter

The Summer Tree

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Little boys running, wrestling and laying down in the cool shade.
They gazed at the shadow of the leaves on their tanned skin.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Teenage boys sneaking, scheming and sharing a stolen cigarette.
Their backs up against the trunk, dreaming in the moonlight.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Young men building, learning, and meeting only at vacation times.
Shaking hands under the tree before they went back to their lives.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Men in their prime, reaching, searching and talking of money.
Words too loud to hear the breeze float through the leaves above their heads.

In the dog days of summer, this tree watched two brothers;
Come to the full circle of middle age, having won and lost.
Hands with age spots patted the rough strong bark.
Wrinkled eyes looked up at the green leaves blazing gold in the sunshine.

“This tree has seen a lot of life.”

“Yes it has, yes it has.”

“It’s a good tree.”

“Yes it is, yes it is.”

—G. Elizabeth Law

It's all good...

Come here,
    my baby Paul,
        come here,
have some warm cookies,
    with cold chocolate milk.

It is alright,
    It’s alright.
It’s fine if you are upset.
            it’s perfectly good.

Come here,
    be warm.

Come here,
    let me comfort you.
        have some warm cookies and milk.
It’s all good.
    there is nothing wrong.

Don’t worry about vegetables,
    or anything else.

Just these nice warm chocolate chip cookies,
    As many as you want.
        just relax.


Come here,
    my little Paul,
        there is nothing to be afraid of.

It’s all good.
    Just come here,
        sit with me,
have some warm cookies,
                as much milk as you are thirsty for.

    take a nap if you want to.

It’s all good...

—Paul Shreeman

The Old Woman Potter

Kim Mosley
Note: The AZC Zen Writing Group used our friend Silas's story for our prompt. Silas, living in Kenya, is the newest member of our group.


Today on my way from school, i met a strong old woman with donkey carrying many pots.i ask her where she was taking the pot and she replied that she was going to sell them in the market tomorow. i ask her again how she made the donkey to kneel down and puts on the pots because donkey sometimes turn wild to people.she replied that donkey needs training inorder to cary any load.

I also ask her how she made pot and it was very interesting to hear how the make the pots. The old woman told me that they walk far along river Nyalbari to dig and pick soil for making pots. reaching home with soil she remove any sticks or grass which can harm their hand. she ensure that the soil is fine.she puts the soil on any polythene and mix it with water to make ready for kneeding.

She wrap it with this polythene for sometimes or may be later for use.

She start making the pot with this soil.after completing kneeding the pot she left it for one or two weeks to dry up.

As they dry up, she looks dry grass which she wil use to cure it to make them strong.
After one to two weeks she will put grass inside this pots and lit fire.

She told me that they add grass gradualy untill inside the pot becomes red in colour.at this point she leaves them to cool hence she finish making the pot.

I finaly told her that i have agood friend of mine from america making and teaching how to make pots. She was very much hapy with me and told me to say hi to Linda.

She request me to visit him and see how she is making pots.


In my middle twenties I moved to Colorado and lived in a teepee on land that belonged to some friends. It was a beautiful place with different vistas to be seen by merely turning one way then another.

We tried to emulate the Indians by taking advantage of the native plants, hunting, fishing and storing food. I'll admit that I wasn't very good at these things but I tried and would encourage those around me that possessed these skills.

I tried once to hand work a piece of cowhide to make a vest for winter. It still had the hair on it when I started and still had the hair on it when I gave up and went looking for the cow so I could return it and apologize.

Over time I really came to respect how much effort went into merely surviving before electricity and mechanization gave us our comfort level of today.

I did learn some basic skills however, like observing nature, fire building and how to be resourceful with basic tools.

Sometimes we would help the old timers that were still left with their farm work and learn from them about tracking, weather shifts and the habits of elk, deer and cattle. Their stories would unknowingly show how how damned tough these people had been in their youth and how little it took to make a life.

Whenever the conversation turned to how I and my friends were living in teepees, school buses and drafty wood heated cabins their response, to a man, would be "Why would you want to do that?"

I guess we did it to find a part of ourselves that valued history over progress and knowledge over comfort.
—Robert Porter


I made pots from natural clay in a workshop at Esalen. We dug up the clay, just like Silas talked about in his post from Kenya. We set our clay to dry for future classes, however, and used clay earlier classes had dug. I spent most of my time making a small bowl with a bent-over edge. I wanted to do it as carefully as I could so I could use it as an incense burner on my altar. I smoothed the outside with an agate. We fired our pots in a pit (or it may have been a half-pit dug into a slope). We burnt oak down to coals, then put the pots on the coals, and covered it over with layers of cow patty. 
The bowl came out a rusty clay color mottled with black. I use it on my altar and burn incense in it every day.

After I made that slow, careful pot, I did several quickly and with abandon. One was a bowl I wrapped around a wave-smoothed rock. The rock and bowl stayed as one unit for a long time—in fact, the rock could not be removed—until I broke the pot by accident.
In another pot-making session we sat in the surf on loose pebbles. We were actually halfway in the water, with water coming up over our legs. I worked quickly to make the head of a god. He had snake-like hair with shells and twigs and seaweed in it. I pressed shells and ribbed kelp into the wet clay to leave their imprint, but I also put real seaweed and sticks in the hair. They would burn up when it was fired, but I thought maybe I could replace them later in the spaces that were left behind.
I was concerned that the head might fall apart when fired because I was patching together many small bits of clay as I worked and there was no way to smooth them together. I felt inspired, that flow of easy energy.

I loved the head but never got to see if it fell apart or what it looked like or to have it as an object. We were expected at my mother's in Texas, and the firing was delayed just long enough that my daughter and I had to leave for the airport without the objects from the last firing. As it was, I never drove as fast and recklessly as I did to the airport to the San Jose airport. When we got there we tossed our keys to the rental car people and ran through the airport. We just made it before they closed the door on the airplane.
In a way, it's best that I didn't see the completed head. It will remain in my mind as it was when it was being made—glistening clay, the seaweed and shell tangled in the tendrils of the hair, all of it coming out of my hands and the water boiling up into my lap—the god making itself. 
—Sarah Webb


When I was a kid in Oregon, I used to run a burro rink. Kids would come, usually with their parents, and they'd give me 25¢ to put them on a burro and let the burro trod around in a circle eight times. The littlest kids I'd strap on, and sometimes either I or a parent would walk around with the kid, especially if they started to cry. The best part of the job is that girls would come and talk with me. In those days this was a poor little town and there weren't any planned activities for kids. I earned $2 a day and managed to save most of it. It was a great job until the state of Oregon intervened and enforced rules about how old we'd have to be to work and what we should be paid.

We were told that burros were a mix of a donkey and a mule, or something like that. I see from Wikipedia that a burro is just a small donkey. In those days, it was difficult to validate all the things we were told. There was a small library in the town, and perhaps they had some old donated encyclopedia. But I never though of looking up all the stuff people would tell me to check out what they said.

For years I believed that water goes down a drain in one direction, and south of the equater it goes down in the opposite direction. I taught this to my students for over thirty years when they were rocking trays in the darkroom. “Notice how the water swirls in the tray. If you were south of the equader it would....” Lo and behold someone recently told me that was a stupid wife's tale. Like the origin of burros, the truth is not what one cowboy tells you.
—Kim Mosley

I Turned Out to Be Me

I could have been anything. I knew I wouldn't be tall, but I thought I could be a pro basketball player because the Globetrotters had players like Too Tall (5'2").  And during the baseball season I thought I could turn pro and become as good as any of my baseball heroes like Minnie Moñoso. I would just need to learn to hit the ball and a few other minor things. In fact, I could steal bases with vengeance. Which was useful since I often walked because I was so short that pitchers couldn't find my strike zone.

And then there was art. I had delusions of grandeur there too. No goal was too high—even the Sistine Chapel. Somehow I didn't have too many goals for my kids. My son had enough of his own (are kids having goals a guy thing?), while my daughter didn't seem to share so many of our ambitions. (Nevertheless, both kids have accomplished a lot.)

In our Zen Writing class, we read a poem about the poet’s hurt shoulder and how it impacted her rowing. I am reminded of all the things I can't do for one reason or another. Coming to terms with one limitations seem to be synomonous with getting old, or maybe I should say, getting older.  Of course, one of the biggies is that I'm beginning to realize that I can't live forever. But beyond that, there are many things I can't or won't do because I either can't or I realize the consequences.

I used to believe I could fix anything in a house. My father-in-law could do that and he'd instruct me step-by-step. And then he'd grunt when I'd do something wrong. Now that he's not in Austin, I've hired some people to do stuff and discovered that their skill set is way beyond mine.

I sometime think I know a little about computers, but when I think of the knowledge ofvarious friendly geeks whom I know, I don't stand chance in their world. But I putter along and manage to keep things working.

I turned out to be me, I suppose. Yes, I turned out to be me. It was probably my last resort. It was what I'd become if nothing else worked out.
Some people have extraordinary talents. They can do anything. Fortunately or unfortunately, I can just be me. I wish I would have known that many years ago. Then I might not have spent so much energy trying to be someone else.

—Kim Mosley

Life Guidance

(the prompt for the evening was ʻButterflyʼ by Robert Graves)

How DID you get from there to here?
By guess, yes, by guess is best.

By should you could
By right you might

There is no map
Itʼs not a snap

A sharp turn may burn
As I could only slowly learn

Flying crooked covers ground
By good fortune, earth is round

Every story is unique
Read aloud, but do not peek

Chapter chapter, line by line
flying straight, flying blind

How DO you get from here to there?

By guess, YES, by guess is best.

—Bill Metz

Summer night, cool water calls

Swimming fast as pulse quickens
Slow down...Calm Down
When fear enters mind.

Trees dance in the wind.
Grackles claim their place
on the wall--a place to rest.

Motion and rest.
Do I hear music far across the lake?
the band plays as nite falls.

Children laugh, a toddler falls;
a pause, then the screams.
The child turns to its mother.

Water wets, earth is solid,
each in its place,
like the front and back foot in walking.

Mercifully the sun sets
and the color of day softens.
Families drift away.
Swimmers stream along as
the water sounds.
Stroke, stroke, in breath & out breath
no holding on, set free.

—Betty Gross

Snowed In

In my life I have several times
had the privilege to be snowed in.

To rise in the grey morning light
and look out the window to see
branches bent and coated with a
soft white covering of delicate
snow that tells you “be still!”.

I see the old green truck with a
white cake on its hood, its eyes
closed in deep slumber.

Stepping out to get more kindling for
the fire I hear, no, I feel the Intense
hush of the deep white blanket around
the cabin. Nothing is moving. It is a holy

Mother Nature has gently commanded
that I cease my human thrashings for a
day and surrender. She has said “Be still!
Contemplate. You have wood, you have
water, you have life. It Is enough for now.

You are snowed in.”

—Robert Porter

Inujima Island, Japan

“Listen to the Voices of Yesterday Like the Voices of Ancient Times”
by Yusuke Asai and Yuko Hasegawa (photo by Betty Gross)

Three Poems

Yellow Leaves, Blue Leaves 

Yellow and blue
blend green,
seen in leaves
in grass and vine
until dying time,
and yellow
is left behind.
What leaves
with the blue,
leaving yellow leaves
to wither, fade,
and fall?
That breath of air,
that respiring
returns to sky,
blue again
to rise, raising water.
Water blue
to condense
into its kind,
then gravitate to brown,
to ground and seed,
albino cotyledons
blue tinged, yellow grown
seed into leaf,
blue into yellow
yellow into green.

A Flight of Birds 

A flight of birds escapes
to the south under
flannel gray cloud waves,
a turn of nature I observe
in deep green reflections
traversing the automobile hood.
A cloud of feathers
festoons the antique rose,
sown in branches by a circling wind,
not blooms awaiting blossoming,
but pennants for a bird transmigrating.

Indian Spring
(In Houston, Not Where You Live)

spring fooled fall and
slipped among its foliage,
still lush from recent rain
washing winds, clear and cool
from cloudless blue,
rattle paper lantern blooms
bougainvillea blossoms quiver
carnelian on the deck,
magenta at the fence,
delicate pink azaleas
complement a hibiscus
coral corsage,
making old feel new —
too good to be true,
one week from another norther.

—Winston Derden is a former journalist, fiction writer, and poet who resides in Houston, Texas. His poetry appears in New Texas, the Houston Poetry Festival anthology 2010 and 2012, Words and Art, Harbinger Asylum, Pink-Eye Lemonade, Big River Poetry Review, and Illya’s Honey. He read on the 2013 Word Around Town tour and appears as a host and featured reader at Houston-area poetry readings.

Oh Almighty Oak

Oh Almighty Oak
With stately stillness, the branches from your trunk are like outstretched arms with palms facing upward.
This reminds me of that part in the Mass where the priests of my childhood stretched out their arms with palms facing towards heaven saying: 
“Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours almighty Father, forever and ever, Amen.”

Oh Almighty Oak
You have been ordained and are anything but ordinary.
You are a high priest with low deep roots, a sacred configuration of branches above and below growing in two directions.
As above so below.

Oh Almighty Oak
The large bowl water fountain near your trunk forms circular patterns as it pulsates--a liquid labyrinth.
The birds baptize themselves and fly up to your branches to sing your praises.
All glory and honor is yours Almighty Oak, forever and ever, Amen.

—R.B. Bojan


Slowing, stopping, looking deeply

Turning towards stillness

Sensing source, sensing center.

Taking care, giving care

I am here for you;

I hear you.

We are here in the present moment. We have arrived.

So let us just sit back and let the breath lead us.

Let us just be here.

Let us just be aware.

Let us just be.

—R.B. Bojan

Centennial Rib Cage Oak Tree

The spreading wings of the centennial rib cage oak tree,
Planted prior to the house existing in an embryonic dream cluster,
Shelters paisley winged doves who occasionally cool off
In the bubbling brook, green moss stone rippled birdbath.

A green inch worm hovers,
Hangs as in a lotus position in the expansive undercurrent,
Suspended, absorbs the animated conversation of the two gardeners
Discussing the merits of creativity and how it must be
Carefully sustained in order to produce the ripened blossom
And meaningful tasting fruit, like the green leaf vegetables
Maturing in the deep dug adjacent plot.

—Rupert Hopkins

Ordaining the Big Oak Tree

We ordained the big oak tree tonight. I felt a little funny about being part of that ceremony. That beautiful old oak tree is kind of like a wood Buddha from the 12th century. It has been around far longer that we have, and has experienced many persuasions over the century(s) that it has lived.

What about its choice? Is this like the Mormons baptizing everyone and their brother? Do we have that right to determine what someone should believe? Should we even baptize a child? Are we regulating its mind before it has the ability to say boo?

Photo by Scott Shaevel

Maybe I could sneak over to the tree some night and defrock it. I kind of liked the lack of preferences of that tree. How it reaches out in a myriad of directions giving love to all sentient beings, even those in a blade of grass mentioned in the sutra that we read at the ordination. Maybe, just maybe, that is what the tree is contemplating when it isn't struggling with challenging elements and people.

When I read this to my Zen Writing group, Bill pointed out that when the Zen center moved into our current temple that they saw that the tree was dying and both petitioned the city to move a sidewalk and changed the landscaping to give the tree more water. I started to feel that the tree might now have some major affinity with Zen. I hope so.

After our meeting, I spoke with Scott about the tree. He suggested that it might be a Buddhist for a while, but then, when its tenants change, it might adopt another persuasion. That sounds good to me.

This morning I found a paper on tree ordination in Thailand: http://tinyurl.com/m5tqzl9 Here is the abstract of the paper:

“Abstract: The symbolic ordination of trees as monks in Thailand is widely perceived in Western scholarship to be proof of the power of Buddhism to spur ecological thought. However, a closer analysis of tree ordination demonstrates that it is not primarily about Buddhist teaching, but rather is an invented tradition based on the sanctity of Thai Buddhist symbols as well as those of spirit worship and the monarchy. Tree ordinations performed by non-Buddhist minorities in Thailand do not demonstrate a religious commitment but rather a political one.”

In retrospect, I like that we ordained the tree. We take for granted much of our environment that treats us so well.

Photo by Scott Shaevel

Loving Things Equally

My father was able to love many things equally. He loved so many things that we had a two car garage that never had a car in it.

As a boy I would clamber around in the dark and dust and find things like ancient baseball gloves or WWII ribbons or patches. When I would trot something out, my father would tell me the story behind it, giving me glimpses into his life. The baseball glove for, instance, was his when he was young and athletic, wanting to try out for a team, but his father, my grandfather, who was a Methodist minister, forbade him because gambling had been associated with baseball and he didn’t want my father around it.

He still had his army uniform and mess kit from WWII, and he would tell me about his experiences of basic training and his different jobs as a staff sergeant. He was never in combat but saw a lot of the states by train while escorting AWOL soldiers back to their bases.

Each item had a story, even the old furniture of long dead relatives.

As he lay close to death in a hospital bed, he looked at me and said, “You know, I never got to clean the garage.” He was so sincerely regretful that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Now my garage is a museum of my past, my kid’s past, and, yes, even his past. I still have his uniform, some letters he wrote to my mother before they were married and his old slide projectors that he would use to torment us by showing vacation pictures on a sheet tacked on the dining room wall.

But you know, I can get a car in my garage-my wife’s!

—Robert Porter

For Now

Relaxed and sipping tea
                                    I ponder
                                                 thoughts of the day
                                                                           to the                                     
where they mix
                              cushioned thoughts from the past.
I shed my shoes
                              walk across them
                                                        feeling their
                                                                               gentle massage
      I am assured

                                                                                                 For Now 
                                                                                                 —karen smith