These entries were my on-line journal of a pilgrimage I undertook from March 2013
through September 2014, during which I visited Zen Centers throughout North America. The tour took me from San Francisco, on the west coast, to Portland, Maine, on the east; from Montreal in the north to New Mexico in the south. I interviewed more than 75 teachers and otherwise significant individuals (the doctor operating a Zen-sponsored hospice, the former wife of a well-known teacher now dead), as well as senior and not-so-senior students. In almost all locations, I was welcomed warmly and had the good fortune to encounter impressive, friendly, and approachable individuals who responded to my (at times impertinent) questions with frankness and good humor. Meeting them was a joy and deepened my respect for both the tradition and the practice of Zen.
The material gathered in these interviews form the basis of Cypress Trees in the Garden, published by the Sumeru Press.
This blog was a journal of “first impressions.” The discipline I imposed on myself was to compose each entry within twelve hours of the interview and to do so extemporaneously, typing the first 800 words to come to mind à la Jack Kerouac (who was, like me, something of a Zen dilettante). I did go back to correct spelling, grammar, and errors of fact brought to my attention, usually by the subject of the piece; otherwise they remain largely unedited.
The entries are, of course, in inverse order. They read better if one starts with the first—San Francisco—and moves forward in time to the visit to Great Tides in Portland, Maine.
In addition to this blog, I maintain another which focuses on the Zen teachers I profiled in my earlier books. It can be found at