Shoot the moon

July 5th, 2007

Tomorrow we leave on a family vacation. Georgia and I fly to meet my husband at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It will be momentous for several reasons. One, we will all be together. Two, we will (fingers crossed) watch the fruit of my husband’s labor launch into unknown worlds. And three, afterwards we will do what all national heroes do.

Amid all this, the good Zen folks in Cocoa, Florida have invited me to come over on Sunday morning and talk.

And because of all that, it seems a good time to speak a word about a topic that for me is downright unspeakable. Since some people think I have something to say about “Zen parenting” (not that I do) they naturally want to press me for some advice on “Zen marriage.”


I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about marriage. I can’t tell you anything you don’t know about relationship. Except perhaps this: true relationship is not based on desire or feeling, not on dreams or goals, but on proximity. And it seems few marriages have very much of that these days. No one is in the same place at the same time.

Discovering unknown worlds requires my husband to travel about 50 percent of the time. Since I’m exaggerating, I shouldn’t be so stingy. Make that 60 percent. To me, it seems that everything happens during that margin: things break, babies fall, fevers rise, tires blow out, bronchitis thickens into world-class pneumonia, a little girl grows up. The known world keeps going. Sometimes, my husband comes home to a resentment so chilling, so deep, that it takes days for me to see clearly. Not that we have days.

He is not a religious sort, not a spiritual kind, but rather sentimental and secretly superstitious. No matter what hour of night he lands at LAX, no matter how staggering his exhaustion through multiple time zones, he always stops on the way home at a funky landmark called Randy’s Donuts near the airport and buys two: a frosted, sprinkled kind for Georgia and a plain cake one for me. Mind you, this is usually about 10 or 11 at night that he does this, after 8 or 12 hours of travel. Gone 7 days and he takes the time to stop for a stupid donut? This is me, stiff and brittle, screeching silently into my pillow as he tiptoes into the darkened house.

For all the lessons my daughter gives me in open-heartedness, in acceptance, my husband gives me more.

And so, tomorrow, all his outer searching and all of my inner searching comes together in the most ordinary way. Orlando. And on this eve, I realize that perhaps he is a hero after all. Not for managing forays to faraway planets and stars, but for managing to return, again and again, to an even more foreign and hostile place. For coming home, over and over, to a new and dangerous world – our house – with nothing more than a donut.

Which, in the end, I always eat.


  1. Karen,
    I cannot thank-you enough for this. I feel you just tossed me a much needed flotation devise as I’m swimming through things, treading water, uncertain of so much and all of this while my own husband does the same alongside me. Your words spoke directly to me. Thank-you.

    Traveling mercies to you and Georgia. I hope you have a wonderful time.

    Comment by bella — July 5, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  2. When I’m recommending your book to people, the line that makes the sale is “Your relationship is like a garden, and the garden should be in good shape before you have kids, because you won’t have anyone gardening for a while after that.” Everyone laughs (and please forgive me for mangling a bit).

    I’m so envious of the space flight related thing – outer space is one of my first loves.

    My koan is often “My beloved life partner and I are not two.” Sometimes much ego is sliced away.

    Enjoy the family travel!

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — July 5, 2007 @ 10:01 pm

  3. Heck yeah, you better eat that donut! There is something perfect about donuts. Every other week, I buy both my girls a donut hole to eat walking back from the market. The truth is, they are just as happy with blueberries, perhaps even more so. But, donuts … they are special.

    May all of his, and your, efforts soar to the unknown tomorrow. I will be pulling for you … and for your time at Disney. : )

    Comment by Shawn — July 6, 2007 @ 10:18 am

  4. Sounds like a glorious trip…and thank you for this gorgeous meditation on donuts and the art of marriage maintenance 🙂

    Comment by Leah — July 6, 2007 @ 5:07 pm

  5. Oh Karen, thank you for this post. I relate to it completely. Wish you were passing through my area. Enjoy the launch!

    Comment by Wendy — July 6, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

  6. Dear ones,
    Because true life is nothing if not ironic, the launch was scrubbed hours after Georgia and I arrived. But in Zen parlance, it’s still time to par-tay!!

    Bon voyage wherever you are.

    Comment by Karen — July 8, 2007 @ 12:00 pm

  7. BEAUTIFUL post.

    Comment by stella — July 13, 2007 @ 5:21 pm

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