November 11, 2013

Ryokan's Story

New Book Announcement:

KAKURENBO Or the Whereabouts 
of Zen Priest Ryokan
by Eido Frances Carney 
with translations by Nobuyuki Yuasa
Temple Ground Press, 2013.  
ISBN-13: 978-0985565114

Written for a general audience, this is an exploration of the life of the Zen priest-poet Ryokan interwoven with memoir of the author as she observes Ryokan’s life during her own training as a Zen priest in Japan and encounters Ryokan in contemporary life as a model for learning and renewal. Ryokan loved the game Hide-and-go-Seek, Kakurenbo in Japanese, and this provides a metaphor as the author seeks to uncover the mysterious pathway of the hermit priest. The book includes a generous amount of Ryokan’s poetry by the award- winning translator Nobuyuki Yuasa.

Available at Amazon or your local bookstore

May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Poem

In recent years, my brother
John Carney, a Vietnam veteran,
has written a new poem for
Day.  Once again,
we have a poem
he has just
penned and
I'd like to share it.

 Memorial Day......and.....
                   John Carney - May 2013

Four or five years now
I've written poems for Memorial Day
Looking for the right words
To write thoughts I had to say 

This year those heartfelt thoughts
Are as clear as ever they were
But there is a nagging sense
Inside me that is also astir

Wars are fought by countries
organized against each other
soldiers go into battle
to kill and maim one another

But societies help to put them there
in so many ways they aid
Uniforms food and bullets
Is a small list of the effort that's made

Not all the people always agree
There are often those who dissent
Some are quite vocal about it
Their feelings they must vent

That is where I am this year
In regard to our undeclared war
No declaration has been made
No armies on a foreign shore

But thousands of our citizens
Die in battles not far away
We read and hear about them
On local news reports each day 

By ones and twos and often more
Americans die in some fight
Families are filled with sorrow
Tears fall on some lonely night

These are Americans, our own
Where is society's outrage
Who is this enemy army
What is this war that is waged 

Our leaders don't have an answer
And many of our fellows don't too
Most of us are usually indifferent
Unless it comes close to you  

It's an awfully sad state
It's like a war, and we all know  
Would we accept such cost
If it was caused by some foreign foe

I served my country in a war
and took my chance like the others
I take this time to pay respect
to my fallen brothers  

But this year I am also struck
by the tragedy that goes on
it isn't marked by any day
But thousands each year are gone. 

March 20, 2013

Life at Stanford

 There's never enough time to do everything, so I've stopped trying or even making a list.  What comes forward is how it goes.  Much easier, more relaxed and it gives the feeling that I'm living here and not just being a tourist.  Some things, of course were planned.  Seeing various people and a few trips to the museum, walks with some folks across campus.  These were quiet treasures.

I did visit Mr. Richard Diebenkorn in the Cantor Museum and spent quiet time around his two representative paintings.  "Ocean Park #94" on the left and "The Window" on the right.  Could spend hours looking at them particularly Ocean Park which has an enormous vocabulary when you get up very close and see the brush strokes, the layering, the scratches, the casualness of the lines purposely done so as not to seem perfect in a geometric painting.  The signage said that he was influenced in this particular Ocean Park painting by Matisse's "View of Notre Dame."  Other visitors to Diebenkorn's studio noticed that there were large windows with a transom window at the top and suggested he was simply painting his surroundings.  He seems to have laughed and said "well, sure, if you think so."

 It's spring break this week and the campus has quieted down except for groups of families walking around campus obviously visiting their kids.  There's always tourists photographing and carrying bags of souvenirs they've gotten in the bookstore which is loaded with clothing stamped with the Stanford emblem and which takes up far more space than the books.

I went up in the Tower with a friend the other day, and from there you can see all of the Bay Area, from the San Francisco skyline, to the UC Berkeley Campanile, to San Jose and all the surrounding hills including Mt. Diablo.  I posited that this was built to address a challenge to the Berkeley campus, but that's just me, it isn't truly a fact.  The Stanford campus was begun because Leland Stanford couldn't get into Berkeley so he started his own university.  If you are going to do that, you might as well make it as visible as you can and thumb your nose in that northerly direction.

Tonight is my last night and I'll leave in the morning to return to Berkeley.  I'm having dinner with the Schireson's who live on campus in faculty housing.  What is wonderful here at Stanford is the sense of community among the people who live on campus.  Many have lived here for 35 or more years and chat on the street, get together socially, continue a rich cultural life.  Even after retirement, they remain in their homes till they die, unless they choose to sell.  Where could anyone go to have a more excellent lifestyle and climate?  Yes, some people have all the luck, and they've worked hard to earn it.  

March 02, 2013

Activities and Travels

The power of this guardian archer sculpture facing out to the Bay always impresses me when I visit the Berkeley pier for a walk by the water with the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline in the distance.  Days are most often sunny so I follow the urge to be in this open space as often as I can.

It has been an active month.  Had visits with numerous friends and began the writing workshop at OLLI lifelong learning series, part of the UC Berkeley connections.  The teacher Deborah Lichtman, former chair of creative writing at U. of San Francisco, is a superb teacher of memoir and autobiography, and the students are mostly advanced writers.  The questions and discussions are right on target.  I've learned a lot in this class and will be sorry when it's over next Friday.

I attended several lectures in the department of philosophy and the Buddhist studies department at UC Berkeley.  It was easy enough to follow the arguments and discussions even if they were steeped in shades of differences between Kant and Schopenhauer and the philosophical gang.  I found myself wearying of the amount of words without the notion of application or activity toward the alleviation of suffering even when that was the aim.  Reminded me of the old warning to Zen students: get rid of intellectualism and philosophizing before you step into the Zendo.  Otherwise, the Zen master will hit you over the head.

Went with my daughter to see "Girl With the Pearl Earring" at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.  Always a great pleasure to see any work by Vermeer, one of my favorite painters.  But two Rembrandt's were almost more thrilling.  The Vermeer work was behind bullet proof glass so it was a little hard to enjoy the crackles that have resulted in the canvas due to aging.  You'd see it better on a print.  The Rembrandt paintings, also under glass as were all of the paintings in this exhibit (they are 500 years old and can't stand much light without deterioration), were masterful by right of their painterly nature and relaxation of subject.  There was also a large adjoining exhibition of etchings by various artists of the same period well worth viewing.

The last weekend in February I returned to Olympia for several days to attend and support a Celebration of Life service for my niece Jamie Steele, who died February 8, way too young and before her time.  Other family also came and Jamie was adamant that we not mourn and weep so we started out the service with one of her favorite pieces of music: "Oye Como Va" by Santana.  Jamie also had loved Wagnerian operas so we closed the gathering with "Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla" from Das Rheingold.  Not much of "Amazing Grace" or "The Lord is my shepherd...." in this gathering!

The day after I returned to Berkeley, I drove down to Mt. View and Stanford to give a talk at Kannon-do.  I spoke about the manuscript I've just finished (at least as a good first draft) and the subject of Kakarembo, Hide-and-Go-Seek, Ryokan's favorite game.  Of course the Hide-and-Go-Seek acts as a metaphor for many of our lives as we move in and out of hiding and appearance.  Also received the key for the place I'll be staying for two weeks in Stanford faculty housing in the middle of March, watering plants and taking in the mail for old friends.  Can't wait to be down there.  It's gorgeous, gorgeous and the Stanford Museum is excellent and free.  I can walk in and out all day if I choose and there's a free bus that runs around the campus all day long.

Seeing more friends before I drive down to Stanford next Friday where I'll see some more.  It's only four more weeks before I return to Olympia.  Time is suddenly racing.  I haven't written so much on the blog because I too easily write myself out and the manuscript had to come first.  I'm soaking up the vitamin D every chance and loving the views of cows grazing on green hills just above the Stanford campus.

January 23, 2013

Stanford cactus and the dream life

Stanford cactus garden

Mrs. Stanford's cactus garden 
Went to Stanford at the start of the weekend to see some old friends who live on campus.  We walked to the cactus garden which was built by Mrs. Stanford from plants she brought back from her travels.  After she died, the garden was neglected and forgotten.  It was revived in recent years when some benefactors discovered its importance and restored the beauty of the gardens.  Above you can see a Joshua tree which has curled over the walking path.

The species are rather wild and some look like they've been knitted and placed over forms.  They don't look real at all.  There's an otherworldly look as if they're common on another planet.

A bell at Jikoji
On Friday I drove to the mountains over Los Gatos to temple Jikoji which sits on Skyline Boulevard  along the mountain ridge.  Beautiful country indeed.  I attended a program on lucid dreaming and Tibetan Dream Yoga.  My point was to visit Jikoji to see some friends, and the program just happened to be scheduled for the weekend.  Nevertheless I very enjoyed the spirit of the program and learned a great deal about dreams, sleep, and incorporating dreams in spiritual practice.  I learned that we'll have slept 30 years of life if we live to 90.  We'll have dreamed, that is, been in REM sleep for seven years of our lives. So, the point is, why not learn to dream in such a way that we are aware that we are dreaming and can enjoy the content, learn from the information, restore the soul, increase creativity.

Looking toward the Pacific Ocean
The road home along the ridge showed off the Pacific Ocean on one side and the great Santa Clara Valley on the other.  Few drivers were on the road midday and I enjoyed the hairpin turns on the way back to the freeway and the drive north.  I've a new appreciation for dreams and realize I've been occasionally REM deprived since I love to stay up late but have to get up very early.  REM occurs in the last few hours of an 8 hours sleep.  It could be that that's the situation for many, many people.  They don't get an active dream life because we're all short on sleep.  I'll do my best to get to bed earlier so I can wake up without an alarm and loll around in bed to try to recover the content of the dreams.  Yes, I'm sure I'll do that.  I'll be rousing myself at 5 a.m. instead of 5:40 a.m.!  Yes, I'm sure that will happen regularly!

January 12, 2013

Article by Allan Johnson in Voice Male

Friends, I received the following email from Allan Johnson, a member of Voice Male magazine's national advisory board who has written several books, including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, and the domestic violence novel, The First Thing and the Last.  I hope you'll take a look at this article.  He explains his thought in the email which I copy here:

"In the aftermath of the latest incident of mass murder, I have felt compelled to respond to what is profoundly missing from the national conversation about gun violence: serious consideration of the fact that the overwhelming majority of violence in this society--and all mass murder--is perpetrated by men. Our failure to look at this in productive ways all but guarantees that the United States will continue to be the most violent society in the industrialized world.
"I have written an article -- "Fatal Distraction: Manhood, Guns, and Violence" -- which will be featured in the Winter issue of Voice Male, a progressive magazine that chronicles the transformation of masculinity(ies). Voice Male includes on its advisory board Eve Ensler, Jackson Katz, Michael Kimmel and others known for their work on issues of gender and social justice."
The article is available at the magazine's website:

January 07, 2013

On the Street and Getting Around

Hobo signage for getting along on the street.
It's been so cold this past week that the libraries are all full of homeless.  Every computer station, every desk space is taken and the bathroom stalls in the ladies rooms are full of women sleeping in some relatively safe place.  Poor things.  It's nearly impossible to imagine not having a place to go home to in the evening.

I'm getting along and finding my way fairly easily now.  In past years when I've had to go someplace new, I've been memorizing the map and getting there without any other reference.  It's been a helpful brain exercise because I have a good picture of my location in relation to the campus and the key places that are helpful to know.  Now I can get around and even return from a place by a different route without getting lost and without referring to a map.

If I were homeless, I'd know every place that would allow me to hang out in some comfortable chair and warm place.  I'd know where all the public bathrooms are, and where I could pick up leftover food.  The street people up by campus are a rowdy bunch but there is rich camaraderie among them, they seem to laugh together easily.  But it can't be easy when the weather is cold and they are relegated to the street.  I don't care what anyone says begging is hard, cold work.  Having experience begging as a monk, I can attest to the difficulty of it.  Whatever any homeless beggars receive in their bowls, they earn every penny.

January 03, 2013

The Solitary LIfe

Many of us may have a romantic notion of the hideaway cottage where we live in seclusion tucked away from the happenings of the world.  This cottage I'm in is like that, but the reality is lack of heat, old plumbing, slanted floors and a myriad of other interesting and unusual ailments that visit an old building, much like an aging human body.  Asleep for the first night in this 'other world', I wondered about my unconnectedness in this experience.  Not that I was out of contact with many people, but my existence seemed suspended, the way life seems to float in an unreality when we  lie awake in the middle of the night and dwell in an imagined world.

Then yesterday I received word that Lynda Swanson, a former colleague and supporter of Olympia Zen Center, had been found dead at home when she didn't arrive for her classes at community college.  There's a sad feeling that she died alone and maybe we think someone should have been with her at that final moment.  There's that awful pull between living alone and the idea that we should witness another person's end which is, at the same time, the most alone and necessary work we do.

It's just true that to enter "the cottage" is to accept the ultimate solitude, otherwise we might not quite reach the space that the heart longs for, which is the space to know ourselves.  Loneliness is a given in this human experience.  But the solitary heart is a cultivation in the midst of others that we die into again and again perhaps as practice for that final breath when we might, if we are lucky, get a flashing glimpse of who and what we truly are.  Sometimes there is another witness to this, and sometimes not.