most intimate

May 14th, 2013


This photo of my grandmother as a teenager teaches me how little any of us knows about another. She died with her secrets intact. And yet, her secret is me. How much more is there to know? Not knowing is most intimate.

She pointed a finger
in my direction
and said “You remind me
of someone.”
I said, “You remind
me of someone, too.”

Mothers and daughters
have their own stories
my mother
was an open book
nonfiction, but a
complete mystery

It didn’t stop me
from searching
her stories for clues
there was a lot
to read into

In my story
I couldn’t
save my mother
but in the retelling
of every tragedy
involving mothers
and daughters
the script is the same
regardless of setting
all mothers cry out,
“Take me! Just save
my daughter!”

She is the reason
I cannot deny
anyone food
or love
and the reason
I have known
hunger and desperation
she is the reason
is my first commandment

I never hold back
on telling people
how much they mean
to me
and people mean
everything to me
because of my mother

My mother is alive.
I saved her daughter.

— Taken from Mani Canaday’s memorial poem to her mother.

Posted on the eighteenth anniversary of Maezumi Roshi’s death. Don’t ask him any questions; he won’t answer.


  1. Live forever.

    Comment by Jena — May 14, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  2. Comment by Mani — May 14, 2013 @ 9:51 am

  3. Breathtaking. xo

    Comment by Lindsey — May 14, 2013 @ 10:32 am

  4. This goes so very deep and through my tears, all I can say is that forgiveness ahould be everyone’s first commandment. You’re so brilliant! Thank you!

    Comment by Daisy Marshall — May 14, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  5. I see your daughter, her great-grand daughter, in the photo. Wow.

    Comment by mj — May 14, 2013 @ 7:15 pm

  6. I had the same instant reaction as mj—saw an expression I’ve seen in a photo you’ve posted of your daughter.

    Comment by Laura — May 15, 2013 @ 3:31 am

  7. Hi Karen,

    I just wanted to write to thank you so so much for your last postings. I forward them often to friends. . . My mother died a year ago tomorrow. The little glimpse I have of your relationship with your mother and how you express your relationship in your writing has given me such comfort and joy.

    My mother was stunning in the end. She said, “I am so proud of your love for me.” The perfecting wisdom and boundlessness of relationship was such a teaching for me. I have practiced Zen meditation for 20 years and was also ordained. Near the end, my Mom said, “Tell me about sewing your robes. . . ” which was ten years earlier and she was able to sew some stitches. . . she remembered me telling her about having a sense of timelessness when I was sewing. . . she called me after leaving me just after sewing with me (the youngest of her six children) and saying. . . I always had such a hard time saying good-bye to you. . but I have a sense that there are no comings and goings. I still feel you with me.” Such gratitude for the Dharma unfolding together. . . Our relationship wasn’t always easy. . . but it was a practice relationship. It sounds like your relationship with your mother was also a practice relationship. How fortunate we are. . . thank you for giving words to such deep felt experience. Much gratitude.

    Comment by Amy Robertson — May 15, 2013 @ 7:15 am

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