July 2004

Reggie wades at Goose Pond

Yesterday Chris and I packed a lunch and headed to Goose Pond with the dog in tow. Unlike the last time I went (alone) to Goose Pond, yesterday I did not swim, but the dog did. Although yesterday I only waded at Goose Pond, I was heartened to see some half dozen brave locals disregarding the City’s prohibition against swimming there: while a handful of folks splashed and swam from the same piney peninsula where I myself had taken my surreptitious dip, several others sunned and swam from the concrete platform at the head of pond (visible toward the upper right corner of the above photograph, snapped not yesterday but back in June when I had the pond to myself). One man and woman even transversed the pond, swimming from the concrete platform to the piney peninsula then back again, casually chatting to one another the entire time. And to think that the City of Keene deems it necessary to forbid such innocuous pursuits!


These days I’m lying low, cooling my heels, trying to settle into some semblance of a summer routine. After having planned to take a two-month hiatus from my “Pedestrian Thoughts” essays while finishing the dissertation, I’ve struggled to climb back into that authorial saddle: gradually and inevitably, my two-month hiatus elongated into a five-month silence. This morning, though, I woke and then wrote first thing: progress. And today I am going back into my own personal archives–the pages I scribbled some two weeks ago–to patch and paste together some sort of polished essay, something more crafted than a blog-post but less daunting than the dissertation. Although the nature-writing persona of my “Pedestrian” essays is nothing like the scholarly prose of my dissertation, on the heels of that great traumatic push, I’ve been gun-shy about writing anything that requires much in the way of revision. Blog-posts are safe: you can explain away errors and inanities with the excuse, “But I dash off something everyday…this doesn’t represent my best, most careful work!” But in my mind at least, my “Pedestrian” essays represent the writerly “me” that I want to be remembered for: this is Lorianne’s prose all cleaned and gussied up. Before I could stomach the thought of piling my prose into its Sunday best, though, I had to cool my heels a bit from the final drive toward the doctorate.

Colonial Theatre

In other Keene-related news, if you are a reader of Shane Nickerson’s Nickerblog, you know that Shane, his wife, Elisa, and their daughter, Lucy, have been road-tripping through the northeast. Shane and Elisa are Keene State College alumni, so I’d hoped to meet up with them when they ventured back to New England from their adopted home in Los Angeles. But, alas, the fates intervened: Shane and family were in Keene while I was in Boston last week, so any eventual face-to-face meet-up will have to wait. In the meantime, though, you can compare my night-time photo of the Colonial Theater’s Michael Moore marquee (taken on opening night, June 29th, 2004, the night before my illicit swim at Goose Pond: notice in the shadows the ladder still standing from where workers had just updated the marquee) with Shane’s daytime photo. (You’ll need to scroll halfway down to see Shane’s Colonial Theater photo; if you scroll all the way down, you’ll see a precious shot of a pouting Lucy.) Although I’m disappointed to have missed Shane, it’s good to know that others were watching the town while I was away: a better blogger than I, Shane even blogs (and posts pictures!) from the road. It’s good to know that even when I’m cooling my heels, others will swim, snap photos, and blog in my stead.

Words of wisdom, Boston, MA

Just in case you thought God was dead, here’s proof that the Supreme Deity is still roaming the greater Boston area with a piece of chalk. Apparently God and Zen Master Seung Sahn have a lot in common teaching-wise since the latter is always exhorting his students to “Find your true self and save all beings from suffering.” Personally, I’ve always deemed the latter task to be beyond my humble powers, so I’d be content to achieve merely the former. I figure that if and when I find my True Self, the “All Beings” part will take care of itself.

I suppose that finding your True Self is more difficult than this chalked message would have you think: I’ve known Zen students who have spent most of their adult lives on this single, seemingly simple quest. Unlike pursuits which have a defineable End, Zen practice is an ongoing process: at every and all moments, the task is to “Find what you are and love it.” Even enlightenment, the ultimate carrot luring many a jackass practitioner, isn’t an end-all or be-all proposition. Just the other night, my friend Jane Dobisz (aka Zen Master Bon Yeong) told a roomful of curious seekers that enlightenment is like the life-cycle of a peach tree: first seed, then sprout, tree, flower, green fruit, ripe fruit, fallen fruit, decayed fruit, then once again seed. The problem with our acquisitive mind, Jane explained, is that we fixate on one particular moment in this life-cycle: we imagine that the moment when the fruit ripens and falls is the moment when enlightenment occurs. This fixation then leads us to underplay all the other wonderful moments that make up the process called “peach.”

Those of you who’ve read my introduction to Zen meditation know that Zen is nothing more than what you are doing at any given moment. At one moment, Zen is reading this blog-entry; at the next moment, Zen is checking your email. Moment by moment, each thing is complete; moment by moment, we try to attain that mind. And so “Find what you are and love it” could be phrased as “Find what you are and DO IT”: whenever and wherever you do something (and whatever it is that you do), simply do it. In that and every moment, you’ll find your True Self is always right in front of you.

Lorianne at the Greenhouse Cafe, Cambridge, MA

And so with this notion that my True Self is always right in front of me, I’m dedicating this blurry self-portrait to my friend Tom Montag, who commented several days ago on the scowling expression in one of my reflective images. For some reason, I have a difficult time smiling when I’m taking my own picture: because I’m concentrating my feeble photographic powers on capturing a semi-decent image, I invariably forget to pose for the camera. When I do remember to smile, like in this shot, I always seem to take a blurry image: for good or ill, I can’t seem to smile and take pictures at the same time. (I took this particular image in the Greenhouse Cafe in Harvard Square, where I’ve never succeeded in taking a decent reflective image even though I eat there every time I’m in Cambridge and an entire wall of the restaurant is mirrored.) So, is my True Self a smiling self or a scowling self, is it blurry or sharp, and does it take pictures or have it’s own picture taken? Whichever option you choose, “Find what you are and love it” still applies. Just don’t forget to smile.

    Although I took very few photos while I was in Boston last week, luckily Ron Cillizza of du jour recently posted many interesting photos from his recent trip to Bean Town. I wonder whether Ron smiles when he’s photographing?

Footpath, Keene, NH

The weekend before last, I got together with my friend A (not her real initial) for an afternoon of bookchat, woods-walking, and beer-and-burrito frivolity. A and I have been friends for several years now; like all of my close current friends, our meeting was all-but-accidental, an in-person friendship that flowered from an unlikely exchange of emails between perfect strangers. “How do you know I’m not an axe-murderer,” I quipped before our first face-to-face meet-up several summers ago. “Well, how do you know I’m not an axe-murderer, too,” A smartly replied. And with a wit that sharp, I knew I was safe from bodily harm, an intuition that was corroborated when I met A that first time only to discover she eerily resembles one of my three sisters.

It’s been several years now that A and I have gotten together every month or so to talk books, swap life’s little war stories, and otherwise check-in over beer and burritos or other fare. Although I usually like to walk alone, A makes for a wonderful walking companion. The past few times we’ve gotten together, we’ve caught up on one another’s lives while taking a good long stroll: first at MacDowell Lake in Peterborough, NH and most recently at Estabrook Woods in Concord, MA. A has a strong stride and hearty endurance; she is one of those rare folks who really can walk, talk, and think at the same time. And A understands the importance of conversational pacing, the way to balance talking with listening, listening with asking, and acceptance with advice: a delicate balance.

Pasture turnstile, Concord, MA

While we were walking at Estabrook Woods the weekend before last, A and I came to a sun-drenched pasture ringed with split rails and barbed wire. Concord, MA is horse country, so good fences do indeed make good neighbors. Wanting to explore a nearby field where woodcocks are rumored to court and nest, A and I came to an old-fashioned pasture turnstile, a contraption that allows a solitary walker to pass onto a footpath without letting the livestock loose. “Shall we go ahead and look for the woodcock meadow?” A asked. “We’ll have to watch out for ticks.” As I compared A’s sneaker-clad feet with my own bare feet in sandals, I eyed the profusion of poison ivy and raspberry prickles that wended greenly up the turnstile: ticks would be the least of our worries. “Sure!” I said in a typical moment of obstacles-be-damned impulsiveness. “Let’s do it!”

That path, it turned out, didn’t go to the woodcock meadow; instead, it went straight through overgrown pastures and weedy woods to another larger horse pasture, this one barred with a wooden gate and a sign proclaiming “Keep Out.” We turned around to go back through the turnstile, back through the woods, and back to the car and those beer and burritos, the sun already starting to droop toward the western horizon. Rumors of woodcocks in other sun-drenched meadows would await another day.

Footpath, Keene, NH

Contemplating that rural turnstile along with the various fence-fringed paths right here in Keene, it occurs to me how many turnstile-like transitions we each face in this journey called life. A, like most of my close friends, is somewhat older than me; as we’d sat earlier that day talking books with one of A’s college associates, it dawned on me how truly green I am at the tender age of 35. “I’m turning 41 next week,” A admitted, “and I’m thinking 41 is going to be much better than 40.” A’s college friend agreed: “Yes, 41 was good…but it gets even better.” I sat silently sipping my lemonade while A and her friend savored their iced teas: having weathered their 30s, their first marriages, and the sturm und drang entailed in each, A and her friend wore a comfortable wisdom, the battle scars and medals of a fight well-endured. Having lived their 20s and 30s for their husbands and kids, their 40s and beyond are now their time: with her daughters having reached the threshold of maturity and quasi-independence, A’s reached a turnstile where she’s successfully juggling parenthood, work, and an active social life. Is it any surprise, then, that A’s now embarking on the very journey I just finished, the poison-ivied and raspberry-prickled path toward a PhD? No, it’s no surprise; indeed, it’s entirely fitting. Having worked in both the private sector and academia for years, A knows what she wants and what she’s getting into. She’ll weather this coming path as she’s weathered all the others: there ain’t nothing she’ll encounter that a little beer and burritos won’t fix.

Footpath, Keene, NH

This past Sunday Chris and I had a small gathering here at our apartment to celebrate (belatedly) my completion of the doctorate. Although she would have loved to have come, A had her hands full with those daughters of hers: at 13 they still need Mom in her role as private chauffeur. I was happy, though, that two of my other close friends, C and D, took the time to come to my party even though they unfortunately missed the chance to meet one another: D arrived at the party late after C had left early.

Both C and D, like A, are what I like to refer to as Phoenix Friends: in the several years that I’ve known all three of them, they each have re-invented themselves, rising up from fires that would have destroyed many a weaker soul. Whereas A just turned 41, both C and D are “women of a certain age,” discovering firsthand that a woman’s fifties can indeed be nifty. “I”m the oldest one here!” C proudly proclaimed at one point during the party; at 57, she’s engaged to be married to a man 15 years her junior. “He’s like this unopened flower,” C gushed about her fiance, “it’s so wonderful to see him as he grows into his full potential, with me as his watering can!” As the rest of us smiled and chuckled at this delightful switch on the stereotypical May-December romance, C joked about her fiance’s response to this age differential. “When we first started dating, he called himself my boy-toy. ‘What, am I Madonna?’ I asked?” Ah, my friend, you’re not Madonna…you’re the real deal. When I first met C a handful of years ago, she’d survived a debilitating car crash only to be unceremoniously dumped by a husband who didn’t want to care for her. In the years I’ve known her, C’s overcome the physical, neurological, and psychological challenges of both those disasters to reinvent a life that’s full of joy: now she’s a bike-riding, mountain-climbing, Sanskrit-teaching yoga instructor whose body glows with tattoos, a nose-jewel, and more confidence than you can imagine. She’s been through the ‘stile, you see. Ain’t no ticks or prickles that can deter a woman on a mission.

Footpath, Keene, NH

And then there’s D: the “beautiful lady” as my four-year-old niece termed her. When I met D some three years ago, both she and I were stuck on our dissertations: mine in American literature, hers in public policy. It didn’t matter that our studies were in entirely different fields; what mattered was that at the time we lived not more than 20 minutes away from one another. As ABDs who were slogging on dissertations in geographic isolation from our parent institutions, we relished the ability to get together over lunch to commiserate over chapter drafts and advisor woes. Over the course of many a plate of Japanese food, D and I picked our way through the poison-ivy of academe: when she finished her eight year slog toward the doctorate, D packed her bags, left her floundering marriage, and moved to a city, Philadelphia, where she knew no one but the folks who had chosen her for a post-doc fellowship. D’s in Hartford now: she moved there to be near her college-aged daughter. Although she doesn’t yet have a job and doesn’t know exactly where her path leads from here, D is obviously and radiantly happy, striding into my party looking electric in a ruffled black tank top, black yoga pants, and purple-sequined slippers. “You look fabulous!” I gushed as D gave me the requisite PhD-congratulatory hug. “You look fabulous too, Doctor!”

I remember when D made the decision to leave her husband, family, and the home she’d lived in for decades in order to move to an unknown future. “I need a bed,” she’d announced. “I have no furniture, but first I want a bed!” She had little money: her divorce settlement hadn’t yet been finalized and her post-doc stipend would be modest. “I don’t care what else is in my apartment; I want a nice bed!” At such a fragile, fear-inspiring moment, D asked me–me!–to go along as she picked out that bed: in wondrous D fashion she went to the most upscale furniture store in Concord, NH and chose without apology a beautiful handcrafted bedframe and mattress. “The saleman probably thinks we’re lesbians,” I fretted as D asked me lie down on one of the mattresses she was considering. “Why the hell should we care what he thinks?” D replied with an insistent look. She’s right, of course. The others would have told her she was crazy to start a PhD program well into her forties; they would have told her she was crazy to start a third career now in her fifties. And maybe D is crazy; I’m sure there are times when D herself wonders what she’s gotten herself into. But at this point, if you call her crazy, you’ll have to call her Doctor Crazy, and I bet she’ll ask you to kiss her purple-sequined toe if you have anything bad to say about it.

The wonderful thing about D, of course, is the same thing that’s wonderful about both A and C: none of them have ever listened when the naysayers have said “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t.” Although they’ve seriously considered the advice of those who know and love them–the warnings of those who truly have their best interests in mind–none of these Phoenix Friends of mine have ever let a little itch-inducing ivy or any sort of prick get in the way of what they want. They’ve all been through the ‘stile, you see: even if this path ends with a wooden gate and a keep out sign, they know their way around these or any other woods. The journey of life is never straight or smooth, but these fabulous females have learned their way over or around just about every obstacle.

Reflections, The Artful Hand Gallery, Copley Place, Boston

I returned to Keene from Boston on Saturday, took Sunday off from teaching, writing, and blogging, and now am back in the saddle again. While I was in Boston, I carried both my digicam and my pencam, but I took very few pictures. Indeed, I consciously gave myself an official shutterbugging hiatus; although both cameras were on hand if I saw something I absolutely had to capture, I consciously tried to keep my attention in the moment rather than focusing on how that moment could be captured and potentially blogged.

Reflections, The Artful Hand Gallery, Copley Place, Boston

One shop where I couldn’t help but snap a handful of pencam images was the Artful Hand Gallery in Boston’s Copley Place mall. The Artful Hand is precisely the kind of shop I love to browse. It’s full of fun, funky, handmade objects by local artisans: one-of-a-kind furniture, pottery, glassware. And it has lots and lots of mirrors, all of them framed with hand-crafted, intricately decorated wood, tile, and metalwork frames. Besides being a delight to the eye, the Artful Hand is a mecca for fans of reflective photography. So although I’ve submitted three of these pictures to the Mirror Project, I’ve posted them here, too, so you can see larger versions of them. (Click on any of today’s images to see an enlarged version.)

In Zen, we often talk about having a mind that is clear like a mirror: red comes, only red; blue comes, only blue. This means in any given moment we strive to respond only to that moment, our perception unclouded by the residue of the past nor the wisps of the future. When I arrived at the Cambridge Zen Center on Wednesday night, I was surprised to learn that Zen Master Bon Haeng (aka Mark Houghton) wanted me to give consulting interviews to the people who had come to Wednesday evening practice. Never having given consulting interviews before, I had a moment of panic and self-doubt: what if someone asks me a question I can’t answer? What if a problem arises that I can’t handle?

Reflections, The Artful Hand Gallery, Copley Place, Boston

In the split second in which I could have said, “No” (an answer that Zen Master Mark wouldn’t have taken anyway), I fully reflected “panic mind”: when panic comes, only panic. But in the next split second, the mirror flashed clean: no problem. A clear mirror doesn’t have to know the right answer to any given question: a clear mirror doesn’t have to know anything. And so on Wednesday night a somewhat shaky, entirely uncertain Zen Mama sat next to a rock-solid veteran Zen Master as a dozen-some practitioners entered the interview room one by one to reflect their mind. “Consulting interviews aren’t about teaching anything,” Zen Master Mark had reminded me. “They’re simply about sharing an experience in the moment.”

And he, of course, was right. During each interview I followed my breath, trying to center my attention not on my racing thoughts (“What should I say?”) nor on my pounding heart (“Panic! Run away!”) but on my own rock-solid center, my breathing belly, the True Self that doesn’t need to know anything. Moment by moment, faces came and went, each reflecting a different color of human experience: a shy-smiling woman who struggled to find strength; a sad-faced man who struggled to quiet his restless body; an acquaintance who shared a particularly traumatic challenge he’s facing, a situation that stunned me with the level of pain it involves and the simple fact he felt comfortable sharing that pain. Humans are vulnerable creatures: our hopes, tragedies, and joys are written in tender, one-of-a-kind lines on each of our fragile faces. When pain comes, where can we find solace? When joy comes, where can we share?

Reflections, The Artful Hand Gallery, Copley Place, Boston

When sadness comes, only reflect sadness; when joy comes, only joy. In my own experience sitting on the other side of the interview room cushion, the teachers I’ve appreciated the most are the ones who didn’t try to teach anything: when I entered the room with a troubling problem, riddling question, or just plain and simple pain, they only tried to reflect (and be present with) that mind. Sometimes the simplest statements are the most profound: “I’m so sorry” or “How can I help?” And sometimes the best answer is silence, the courage (and centeredness) to simply sit with someone who is suffering, saying all there is to say through the unspoken language of presence: “I’m here, I’m not judging nor rejecting you, and I’m not running away.” The world is full of mirrors that reflect our bodies; where do we find compassionate companions who in a moment are courageous enough to reflect our fragile souls? If you find such an artful hand, buy and then cherish it at any cost: such a clear-shining mirror is truly one-of-a-kind.

Ashuelot River Park, Keene, NH

More than three months after finishing and defending my PhD dissertation back in April, I’m finally getting a chance for a mini-getaway. Most folks would hit the beach or retire to a secluded forest cabin for some serious R&R, but I’ve chosen another approach to clearing my head of post-diss static: I’m headed to Bean Town, baby!

Bullfrog, Keene, NH

So, while I’m spending the next couple of days at the Cambridge Zen Center recharging my Zen battery during morning and evening practice then hitting the town the rest of the time, I won’t be blogging. So until I return to the blogosphere on Monday, I leave you in the capable hands of Mr. Henry David Thoreau, who’s recently started a blog of his own. It’s not often you get to learn at the feet of a master, so it’s a rare treat to see the inner workings of Thoreau’s mind (and the sharp acuity of his naturalist’s eye) on a day-to-day basis. Thanks to Greg from grapez for taking the time to bring HDT to the blogosphere.

Enjoy the rest of your week, everyone, and I’ll see you when I come back rested, rejuventated, and maybe even a bit enlightened.

Sign, Keene, NH

You know it’s summer in Keene when the civic-pride banners appear on Main Street. (Click here to see an enlarged detail.) Furling from every Downtown lamppost, these banners feature sepia-toned photos accompanied by various quotes about the streets of Keene. On one sign, for instance,
Edward Everett Hale states that “All great cities are alike. If you want to see America and Americans as they are, go to one of our smaller towns; go to Keene, New Hampshire.” And on my favorite sign, none other than Henry David Thoreau sings the praises of Keene’s famed Main Street: “Keene Street strikes a traveller favorably, it is so wide, level, straight and long.” The streets of downtown Keene are remarkably lovely…but presumably if you are standing at the foot of one of these proud lampposts, you’ve already discovered that. Isn’t there something odd about a Downtown that has to tell you how lovely it is, as if passersby wouldn’t have noticed the scenery around them without a sign to recommend it?

Sign, Keene, NH

Of course, one could argue that most signs are similarly silly. Signs often remind us of things we should otherwise know. Yes, we should keep the doors to office buildings shut; yes, we should clean up after ourselves in the company lunchroom. It’s seldom a good idea to run around a swimming pool, and it’s usually a good idea to beware of any unknown dog. Signs, then, strive to remind us of our true nature: in an ideal world we’d instinctively refrain from littering, we’d slow down as we approached playgrounds, and we’d look both ways at every railroad crossing. Living as we do in the real world, though, we often forget these seemingly obvious truisms and thus need bone-headed reminders. It’s as if we need to have the slogan “You are here: pay attention” hanging like a banner from our otherwise clueless skulls.

Sign, Keene, NH

Keene’s summer banners are interesting not only because they strive to remind passersby of a loveliness that should be already amply apparent. These signs are intriguing as well because they try to capture a specific appealing aspect of Keene. The photos in these banners do not show contemporary scenes. Instead, they offer snapshots from the past: Central Square before the elms died off, a vintage car car puttering down Main Street, a railroad car bedecked with patriotic bunting and a sign declaring “You’ll like Keene.” These scenes are unmistakably old fashioned, but their sites are still recognizable: although Central Square is no longer planted with disease-prone American elms, today’s scene looks remarkably similar to that of yesteryear. The beauty of Keene, these banners suggest, is that is both storied and historied: bearing a recognizable resemblance to their own past, the modern streets of Keene allow appreciative passersby to look, admire, and remember a presumably more idyllic past that still sounds echoes today.

Garden lilies, Keene, NH

Like opinions and assholes, everyone necessarily has a least favorite color. My least favorite color is orange. I don’t look good in orange and currently have no orange articles of clothing. (I used to have an rust-orange corduroy jumper that looked remotely okay when worn with a brown turtleneck, but I never felt that outfit was flattering to me.) I don’t like the way that orange tends to dominate a palette and refuses easy coordination: orange, like many a bratty child, doesn’t play well with others. Whereas my two favorite colors, green and red, are soothing and invigorating, respectively, orange is alarming and unsettling. Orange walks by you on the street and knocks into your shoulder without apology: Hey! I’m sure there are many a lovely thing that people are doing with orange these days, but I’ve always felt the color to be something of an affont, a hue of visual violence.

Traffic cones, Keene, NH

Many of my favorite photos these days, though, have touches of orange in them. This isn’t something I planned or expected: being totally uneducated when it comes to photographic composition, I simply snap shots of things that catch my eye. When it comes to choosing pictures to post here to my blog, I tend to choose the photos that I like the best, photos that work well together, or photos that complement whatever I’m writing about on a given day. Sometimes on a given day there’s a connection between my blog-copy and the accompanying photos; on other days, the photos don’t relate to the written text, but at least they work well with one another. Sometimes, though, I have random photos that simply jump out at me for no particular reason: they don’t relate to anything I care to write about, they don’t relate to any other pictures I’ve taken, and they don’t really relate to anything at all. They are, in a word, just plain orange. They are what they are, and they refuse to either apologize or compromise.

Construction signs, Keene, NH

The Zen Master who founded my Zen school always tells his students, “Don’t make likes and dislikes.” By this he means that much of our mundane suffering is caused by having opinions: I like this, I don’t like that, I want this, I don’t want that. If you like chocolate and don’t like vanilla, you’re going to be unhappy when the ice cream man has only one flavor in stock. If you want to wear designer clothing and don’t want a closetful of no-names, you’ll be cranky when Aunt Mildred gives you a lovely but non-designer sweater. In a word, if you have likes and dislikes, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment since the Universe tends to give us what we need, not necessarily what we (think we) want. Although living entirely without opinion and desire is impossible–opinions are like assholes in that everyone both has them and needs them–we can miss out on a lot if we walk through life rejecting the things we don’t like or want in favor of the things we allow ourselves to prefer. Sometimes the color you thought you hated looks inexplicably good to your eye. And sometimes the blind date who makes an awful first impression by doing Everything We Don’t Like turns out to be a perfect albeit surprising match. The universe is full of surprises, but Likes and Dislikes tend to make us into crotchedy, predictable grumps.

This notion of not making likes and dislikes isn’t necessarily “Zen”: it is, in fact, downright Dr. Seussian. The whole point of Green Eggs and Ham, after all, is that you shouldn’t judge a meal by its color: in a word, you should be daring enough to taste life’s random and surprising oddities. Do you think you don’t like the color orange? Why don’t you go on a color scavenger hunt for your least-favorite color, leaving yourself open to the possibility that there are orange gems blossoming right under your oblivious nose? What would life be like if we tried to understand or at least appreciate a person whose opinions are wildly different from our own? What would happen if we occasionally tried something new and radically different from our usual comfortable routine? What would the world look like if we praised people for changing their minds rather than condemning them for waffling?

Precepts ceremony, December, 2003, Cumberland, RI

The irony of orange is summed up in this picture, taken at a precepts ceremony at the Providence Zen Center last December. Whereas Senior Dharma teachers like me wear green ceremonial kasas, monks who are Zen Masters wear, yes, orange ones. So would I prefer to see Zen Master Dae Kwang in my favorite color or my least favorite color: given a choice between green or orange, which do I prefer? Ah, Dae Kwang Soen Sa looks perfect–positively glowing–in orange; in fact, back when I as a new Zen student took five precepts and was asked by Dae Kwang Soen Sa the “true” meaning of my Buddhist name (Won Jin = Original Truth), my spontaneous answer was “Your kasa is orange!” So although I might not prefer orange, I still can see it, and in the end I can’t imagine a world without my least favorite color. So maybe an order of orange eggs and ham–with a glass of OJ, of course–is just what I’ve been hankering for after all.

    While you’re in the mood to try something new, check out Evolutions, a new blog by a fabulous friend of mine who prefers to remain anonymous. And for those of you interested in nature writing, check out Wild Thoughts, a new nature-focused web magazine edited by my not-so-anonymous friend Hank. Wild Thoughts is looking for contributors, so if you’ve ever tried your hand at nature writing (or if you’re game to try something new!), check out their submission guidelines and then send something Hank’s way.

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