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Lions Roar : March 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2007 75 I HAVE SO MANY GOOD MEMORIES—swimming in the Atlantic as a young girl; sleeping under the stars by the Chama River in New Mexico; eating cherry pie with my ninety-year-old mother at Hamburger Heaven in Palm Beach, Florida; the gray/ brown deer, considered sacred, that ripped the map out of my friend’s hand in Kyoto; eating green tea ice cream out of a Dixie cup in front of the gates to Eiheiji monastery deep in the moun- tains outside Fukui—yet it’s none of these that I recall this early January morning. What halts me like a shot of electricity is the thought of the six months I spent miserably unhappy in Palo Alto, California, seven years ago at the beginning of this new century. I had come straight from St. Paul, Minnesota, where I’d prac- ticed for a year and a half with my old Zen teacher’s priest. Even- tually I was supposed to enter the ancient lineage myself, but that all went awry. I began to trust neither my intentions nor my in- teractions with the teacher. I found myself spending more of my days at a café than in the zendo. In the evenings I retired to the small apartment I lived in, looking out through my second-floor windows at the green leaves of maples and elms, and in winter through their barren branches. Spring brought yellow neon skies and 2 a.m. downpours. I painted huge abstracts entitled “Search- ing for the Moon,” “Eye of the Storm,” “Inside the Mountain,” and “Walking in Ravines.” Something strange and powerful was happening to me up there in the North, but I couldn’t recognize it. I went there looking for a formal Zen transmission and left disappointed, with only one wish: I wanted more time on the second floor among the trees. With this ache and confused longing that began in St. Paul, I moved to California. My father had recently died and my mother was alone on the East Coast. I worried about her. We’d been strangers for so long; now she was an old woman who needed me, and instead of being with her, I was moving to the other side of the country. I NATALIE GOLDBERG recalls a time when the bottom fell out of her life, when her sense of place, purpose, and even Zen practice lost their ground. Was that a problem or the very point? NATALIE GOLDBERG is the author of ten books, most recently The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth. She shows her paint- ings in Santa Fe at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery and leads retreats in Taos, New Mexico. Cherry Pie