Images by Patricia Pearce & Poem by Miriam Sagan

I love this artist’s work–here are some stellar examples from the Book Arts show in the round house.

And a poem I wrote for her some years ago as part of a Vivo Gallery collaboration.

Borrowed–Unreturned

What is in the sealed book?
Pages embalmed in wax:
Question or obsession
Taken from the vanishing lending library. Truth
Must speak, even as it leaks,
Something served
With a slotted spoon.

Secrets like an Egyptian tomb
Beneath this daily life
Not just the past
But those aphasic dreams
Where things seem
To be of equal weight
Like trying to cross a border
With a suitcase full of composting leaves
Foliage chosen for its skeletal shape,
Notes from a B flat clarinet
Low oboe and bassoon,
A sound without teeth.

These leaves must turn to topsoil
These pages to silverfish
This mirror to a mask
This thumbprint to clay cuneiform
Line of dominoes
Greasy pack of cards
Classification of seashells
Collection of raindrop fossils–

Where these things meet
They spell your fortune
Name where you dwell, the house, the street
Where you will be happy.

Can We Survive on One Car? By Miriam Sagan

What’s this episode of our life going to be called, I asked my husband Rich. Survivor Island? Lord of the Flies?

We weren’t trying to survive in the wilderness. No, we were trying to live with one instead of two cars.

I’ve always felt it was important for me to have at least some barriers between myself and consumer culture. Not even so much to help the earth as to save my sanity. I hate being overstimulated, and in clutter. I don’t have a strict policy about what I won’t participate in. For example, years of no television gave way to the demon spawn of Netflix (which I love). But if something is added, something needs to go. Right now I have only a vaguely functional cellphone. But the household is considering a shared smart phone for traveling.

So, time for an offset. And the beloved aged Toyota Corolla was costing a lot in repairs. And didn’t feel trustworthy for a trip. And a friend of a friend loved it and wanted to buy it.

So we are down to one car. Sharing a vehicle in New Mexico can be seen as just one more chapter in the rope course or trust game called matrimony.

But Rich doesn’t see it that way. He sees it as a return to roots. Born and bred in Chicago, his family depended on public transportation and only got a car as he approached middle school. It’s also a return to another set of roots—Twin Oaks commune where Rich worked a stint as the vehicle scheduler. (Which was not a job without stress and conflict).

Hence, large sign up sheets have appeared by the calendar. I get to sign out the car as needed. Right now, it is easy as Rich is walking to work and doesn’t need the car most week days. But the part of the year when he isn’t working full time may present more of a challenge.

However, the advantages are obvious. Our lifestyle is less wasteful, and less expensive (although we’ve factored in the occasional inevitable need to rent a car). Less maintenance. The increased simplicity makes me happy. And I get to park in the driveway!

Haiku Pathway

Launched last week! Come see it in central courtyard of Santa Fe Community College. A few additions and corrections coming soon, but it’s basically done!

Stoneware haiku created and installed by Christy Hengst. Haiku curated by Miriam Sagan. Funding from the Witter-Bynner Foundation, Santa Fe’s own extraordinary poetry foundation that enhances our lives in many venues. Support from SFCC Foundation, New Mexico Literary Arts, the ever lively Art on Campus, and my old home base–The English Department.

Photographs by Matt Marrow.

When I Took Bodhisattva Vows I Did Not Promise To Look At The Bright Side by Miriam Sagan

When I Took Bodhisattva Vows I Did Not Promise To Look At The Bright Side

Organized religion has always exerted a push/pull on me. My father was a rabid and bossy atheist who forbid his children any religious or spiritual experience or expression. When I ran off to San Francisco I soon found myself at SF Zen Center, and then married to a Soto lineage monk. In my thirties I studied Judaism with a Hassidic woman teacher, learned a bit of Hebrew, and immersed in a mikvah. Then back to Buddhism—koans with the remarkable Joan Sutherland-roshi. And now, voila, an interfaith Beit Midrash torah study group led by a thoughtful rabbi.
I’m a lightweight ping-ponger by most standards…at best a seeker …at worst shallow. I even like my friends’ religions and find myself from time to time at the Christian Science Mother Church, singing along at Christ in the Desert, or deep in a discussion about Ramazan.
But I also can’t deny that certain experiences have been central, and compelling. I took Boddhisatva vows daily at SF Zen Center, at my first wedding ceremony (the second time I got married it was by ketuba!), and I still chant them as needed, even when I’m driving.

Sentient beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to put an end to them
The dharma gate is boundless, I vow to enter it
The Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to attain it

…or, variations…I vow to let them save me, The Buddha’s way is unsurpassable/I vow to become it…

In any case, those vows cannot be undone, nor would I wish to. I cannot be a person who never took these vows, in the same way I cannot be an “ex” Jew. Of course, I—or you—could spend a lifetime working with these vows. How does each bit function? What does that mean about today’s mundane tasks? Does this mean I shouldn’t be a drug pusher, or arms manufacturer (traditional Buddhist bans). Can a classroom teacher save all beings? And so on.

Here’s the thing, though. These vows are a promise to live consciously in ambiguity. To get a hold of my reactions, to not overstate the positive or the negative. It even has a name—The Middle Way. And the moderate ancient Greek philosophers would approve.

Which leads me to social media (#drinkthe hemlock?). Sometimes when I blog or post something that has some vulnerability for me, I wish I hadn’t. Because I need encouragement to stay in the middle. Whatever our current problem is, I don’t want to eat lotuses and say life is so delightful I can just ignore it, nor do I want to flip out and declare it the worst thing ever.

And, despite my vows, I’m just not that good at this. But since I knew the vows were impossible, I continue to take them.

International Haiku Contest

GENJUAN International Haibun Contest 2018 GUIDELINES – NEW!
Genjuan 幻住庵 is the name of the cottage near Lake Biwa where, in 1690, Basho lived for a time. His residence in this ‘Vision-Inhabited Cottage’ was probably the happiest period of his life, and it was there that he wrote his most famous short haibun. The purpose of the Contest is to encourage the writing of fine haibun in English and maintain the connection between the traditional Japanese perception of haibun and what is evolving around the world. The judges are hoping that the Contest will continue to receive a warm response from all haibun writers. The award for the Grand Prix remains the same – a fine, full-size replica of a Hokusai or Hiroshige ukiyo-e print – and smaller gifts will be sent to the An (Cottage) Prize-winners. The writers of all the decorated works will receive a certificate of merit. We sincerely look forward to your participation.

Guidelines for 2018

1 Subject: Free.

2 Style: No restrictions, but special attention must be paid to honour the spirit of haikai. This includes such features as the subtle linking of haiku with prose, omission prompting the reader’s imagination, humour and self-depracation.

3 Length: In total, between 7 and 35 lines (at 1 line = 80 spaces; a 3-line haiku counts as 3 lines; the title, as 1 line).

4 Haiku/Title: At least one haiku (no formal restrictions) should be included and each piece should be given a title, however short.

5 Format: Print each piece separately on one sheet of A4-size paper (and use the reverse if long) and write at the bottom your name (and your pen name, if you have one) together with your address, telephone number, and email address. Your privacy will be strictly protected, and the judges will not see your names until the result has been decided.

6 Deadline: All entries should reach the following address between 1 October 2017 and 31 January 2018. Please send your entries to: Ms. Eiko Mori, 2-11-23-206 Jokoji, Amagasaki-shi, Hyogo-ken 660-0811, Japan. Entries received after this date might not be accepted. Kindly avoid sending by express and using extra-large envelopes. Best write your home address on your envelope, too. We apologize for not being able to accept emailed entries.

7 Entry Fee: None.

8 Restrictions: Entrants can send up to three entries, but two is what we normally expect. They should be unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. As we cannot return your entries after screening, please retain your own copies.

9 Questions: All queries should be sent to the address above or by email to moriemori55@yahoo.co.jp Email Ms. Mori 2 weeks after sending your entries if you wish to have an acknowledgement of receipt.

10 Judges: Nenten Tsubouchi (emeritus), Stephen Henry Gill (Tito), Hisashi Miyazaki, Angelee Deodhar (newly appointed)

11 Special Request: The authors of the decorated works will later be requested to send us their pieces as Word-files by email. In this, we expect your cooperation.
12 Results: The results will be posted on the Hailstone Icebox by May after awardees have first been notified by email. Later, the prize-winning pieces will be posted there on a dedicated page. Judges’ comments will, in due course, be sent to awardees, together with prizes and/or certificates of merit.

Flight of The Mariposa by Lorenzo Atencio

I walked into Tune-Up recently and ran into my friend and former student Lorenzo Atencio who was having lunch with his wife. He handed me a copy of this lovely chapbook of his poetry. What a treat!

Here is the first poem in the book, and one of my favorites.

Growing Up In Espanola

A dollar rode an iron horse into town Carrying a fat man and a little boy. The whistle screamed at the tower clock

To wake up and time the race.

Life is so different now

But I remember it was simple then:

“Swimming” in the acequia;

Making vanilla ice cream by hand;

Selling tamales out of a bucket around town;

Rocking my infant siblings while the kids play baseball;

Serving mass at 6:30 a.m. during the summer months;

Eating apples and cherries right off the neighbors’ trees when they weren’t home;

Eating grandma’s homemade bread with butter right out of the oven;

Watching my uncle butcher a cow or a hog;

Hoeing and watering the garden early in the morning before the temperature get too hot;

Camping with the Boy Scouts in Santa Clara Canyon; Chopping wood for my aunt.;

Having boxing tournaments with my cousins for a quarter; Selling apples and apricots next to the road;

Buying 37 used comic books for a dollar;

The dollar has swept that life away like a tsunami.