a book I didn’t write

January 16th, 2019

My daughter gave this to me for Christmas. She said I could write in it.

I took it as a sign. Perhaps like me you go looking for signs. Not actual signs, which tell you exactly what to do, like No Parking On Wednesdays Between 12 and 3 p.m., but the kind of sign that you can read into. A sign that you should write that next book, for example. The book about how to be the mother of a teenager.

Shortly after Momma Zen was published a few people said I wish you would write about parenting a teenager!  Yeah, right. I had a six-year-old. It was like asking me to write about the moons of Pluto. You take it on faith that the frozen rocks are floating way out there, but who cares? Later on, in the thick of age 14 or so, I knew what those parents had been asking for, but I couldn’t write about it until I’d stumbled out of the wilderness and into the clearing.

The thing is, it’s a really big wilderness.

Along the way, I marked a trail. The first thing I learned was that the teenage years start long before the teenage years. Like around age 9 or 10, when the sunshine dims and shadows creep. Soon, it became obvious that the only thing I could carry with me on the trip was love, extravagant love. And by love, I mean wide open space and silence. Trouble is, I was a slow learner. Stripped of the false sense of accomplishment, humility was my steady companion. Determined not to repeat my mistakes, I aimed to be just a tiny bit useful. To find the way, I’d have to listen, and more than listen, trust. Every step was a lesson in letting go. It’s scariest when you’ve gone just about as far as you can. But right about then, the light dawns. You’re back home, but it’s somewhere else entirely.

There are five moons around Pluto. That’s one book I can’t begin to write.


  1. Please do! And send out excerpts along the way. My son is 13. We are definitely wandering the wilderness. I am a 25 year zen practitioner and have been studying Dogen quite a bit in the last few years. I enjoy it yet I remember so well how amazed I was at your ability to apply Dogen’s practices and views to parenting. To me, it is fascinating how tough that translation to parenting is! I was so struck by the way you brought those practices alive in Mama Zen. I’d love some company in the wilderness.

    Comment by Amy Robertson — January 16, 2019 @ 11:15 am

  2. Maybe write a book on The Nest, the empty nest. Maybe that is the Zen Nest 🙂

    My nest hums with memories, it is worn out, but it is mine.
    Most of the time.

    Yes, I’d like a book about that.

    Comment by mj — January 16, 2019 @ 2:19 pm

  3. This was quite timely, as my daughter is almost 14. We’ve managed until now, but, more and more, we’re hitting rough waters (and I can’t help but think “ What have you done with my sweet child?” And I don’t want that.). I’ll have to find a different way to deal.

    Comment by Jewels — January 17, 2019 @ 5:30 am

  4. Several of us have plans for the next book you should write, but it may be better for all of us if you consult your inner self and your wily brain and lay out there whatever rings your gong as something worth doing.

    Comment by Bill Kirby — January 17, 2019 @ 12:12 pm

  5. I look forward to what you write next, and it will always be timely.
    So is this post, being the mother to a sensitive 12-year-old on the brink of high school and all that comes with it, and an 8-year-old for whom the sunshine is still so bright, but the first shadows are appearing too.
    I just want to say thank you for Momma Zen, from myself but also from my friends I have gifted the book to upon entering motherhood. I wish you knew what it meant to all of us.

    Comment by J — January 18, 2019 @ 3:25 am

  6. Thank goodness. We will wait until it’s ready. <3

    Comment by Laura — January 18, 2019 @ 6:59 pm

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