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Little Black Shorts, Mermaid Babies, Poetry of the Mountains

I'm out on another shop run for Tassajara. Dump, chlorine, straw for compost- nothing too exciting. Dropped the garden manager off at the dentist, ran into the work leader at REI. I bought a bathing suit- first time in...10+ years? I usually just swim in running shorts or shorts. Callio really likes to swim.

She went completely under for the first time when we were visiting my mother two weeks ago. Shes was down on the beach of our lake house getting braver and braver. First she got her foot stuck in some muck, and turned to us and said "Up, up, up." She says it like a little tyrant. She also says it when she wants down. She must have got both feet stuck where the imported sand turns to soggy leaf litter and mud, tried to jump, and then fell forward. She turned to her back and I could see her sharp blue eyes staring up at me from under the water. She looked like a mermaid, comfortable and curious down there.

I yanked her out. She cried a bit then pooped on the beach and continued to play.

I was totally over dressed for a graduation lake party. I recently asked my teacher when to wear samue and when to not wear it and what I should wear if I'm not wearing samue. Samue is clerical wear for a zen monk/priest and looks like a karate out fit or sushi chef uniform. She answered in the first person- when in temples, samue, when with family, something modest, dignified, which I interpreted as a black shirt, black pants.

It's tough to shop these days. I'm 34 and everything feels inappropriate at the Gap or H&M. Every leg seems to be a skinny leg. I don't even have skinny ankle. All those pants made me look like I was still in diapers.

Enter Richard at Macy's. I said, look Richard, I'm not a karate master, I'm a seminarian, and I need a black outfit to go home in. He did great! In 20 min he got me shoes, pants, shirt, and belt for about 150. And socks too! I was proud and felt good.

Then my college age brother said, "You going to the night club?" and my uncle said "Nope, it's time for a good ol fashioned revival" in reference to the white food tent and my black outfit.

Okay, so the shirt is a little shiny.

Anyway, I spent most of the time at that party in my running shorts, which are old school like my daddy wore- very short. So much for modesty.

On the inside, I was feeling nostalgia and sadness. The lake was beautiful. I drank some beer and put my feet in the water. My wife chatted with people, my daughter ran around the yard and pestered her great grandmother who pestered back. I saw high school friends float by (literally).  We waved and looked at each other incredulously.

My youngest sister graduated from the high school my parents and all of us graduated from, North Pocono. We ate pizza the night of the graduation and meat balls at the party, like we did for all of the the kid's graduations.

It felt quieter. I'm quieter. The house will be quieter as two kids are in college, and two of us are all grown up, married, working.

I ordain this September. My oldest-younger sister is a social worker. My oldest-younger brother has a great internship and is living with that sister this summer. In some ways, things are so different and in other ways, like at the morning breakfast table, nothing has changed- sister feeding us, brother is contently quiet, I'm all existential or comedic.

We fly back across the country and my little monk family descends back into Tassajara, where the sky whispers "When I see you again it will be in mountains." We give up meatballs and sausage for millet and home made indian food- chickpea dumplings, fermented tealeaf salad, and things like that.

I go to sleep in our little cabin and say to myself, I love my life, I love my life, I love my life, and it sounds true.


  1. funny, what i love which is travelling by myself i won't do anymore, too wearing or traumatic, easier to sit in what is effectively a hermitage with most of my time on the net ! ?

    steak, brussel sprouts, cooked radishes and parsnip peelings (not the skin!) for dinner !


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