Tea and terribles

October 23rd, 2007

“Invite him to tea.”

This was my teacher Maezumi Roshi talking, after he learned that I had a certain relationship of a certain kind with a certain guy.

And so this guy motored down to the Zen Center in Los Angeles for tea with me and Roshi on New Year’s Eve 1993. When he arrived, my guy took off his shoes, according to the custom, stepped into the tiny kitchen and we made awkward half-bows all around.

“I hear you’ve been living in Sierra Madre,” Roshi says to the guy.

“Yes, I’ve lived there for 15 years,” the guy responds, relieved perhaps at an opening question he can answer.

“What are you doing living in that dinky little town?” Roshi’s face crinkled up in a tease.

I stepped in-between to buffer the unexpected turn in this august encounter. “Roshi, do you know Sierra Madre?”

“I was a gardener there when I first came to America.”

My friend never found his shoes again that night. It was terrible. He drove home in his socks stewing about some terrible Buddhist that stole his Reeboks. But after the terrible shock of Roshi’s death the next year and after the guy and I said I-do some time after that, after a terrible year married and living terribly apart – me home in Texas and he staying put – after another terrible year married and living terribly together – he moving in and me staying put – after a terrible time deciding what to do about it, after a terrible day looking at pretty terrible places to rent for a not-too-terrible price and for not too-terribly long, because we weren’t so terribly sure we would stay, we found ourselves in a certain garden, in fact the very garden, in Sierra Madre, breathless and still with the stunning arrival in a story that was suddenly ours.

Can you believe it? Can you believe it about your own life?

Trust your life as it unfolds.


  1. This reminded me of when I was 17 and I getting ready for college. People asked me why I’d chosen a school almost a thousand miles away from home. Well, I told them, I want to be able to not blame my parents–if this works out for me, I get the credit; if not, I get the blame. I believed it would take a thousand miles for me to get my own life.

    It worked! There must be some trust in that somewhere…

    Comment by marta — October 23, 2007 @ 4:05 am

  2. So it all started with tea, huh? How fitting. How perfect. How lovely.

    With beginnings like that, no need to worry about the next, oh, several years.

    I’m trusting. Really, I am.

    Comment by Shawn — October 23, 2007 @ 11:31 am

  3. Most days I cannot believe it, have to pinch myself to see if I amd reaming and this life of mine is really mine.
    I sometimes feel I have no choice but to trust my life as it unfolds. After all, I would not have “chosen” much of what has happened to me, and yet look what it brought, look what it opened, look what happened when I said yes? More than I could ever have chosen for myself.

    Your writing is poetry.

    Comment by bella — October 23, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

  4. Oh, but this is hard to do! I want to make it unfold like I want it to! There must be something I like about banging my head against that particular wall.

    Comment by Mama Zen — October 23, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  5. I want to trust my life. I do. Yet it’s not just my life anymore. It includes someone else who is much more vulnerable than I am and for whom I responsible. I feel exposed and net-less as never before.

    Comment by kathryn — October 23, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

  6. Life is poetry, when we stop trying to make the words at the close of every line rhyme.

    Comment by Karen — October 23, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

  7. Is this what would be considered “full circle” you think?
    I am trying to stop trying. I reallly am.

    Comment by Shannon — October 23, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  8. You make everything sound so beautiful, so normal. I’m glad to hear that you came through awkward stages in your marriage. Marriage, which is something I will do soon, scares me half to death. I feel like I will be horrible at it. In some way, this post made me feel tons better about that.

    Thank you again today, as everyday.


    Karen Beth 🙂

    Comment by Karen Beth — October 23, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

  9. Geez. Maybe I’m too poetic. I think I took Shannon along for the whole trip but it doesn’t seem like anyone else got the contact high I did when my rotten life dragged me kicking and screaming back into the same garden in Sierra Madre that Maezumi Roshi gardened in 40 years prior!!!!!

    And that’s just my little U-turn. As I told Shannon, every one of you has your own little perfect circle, perfect motion, perfect complete cycle. Can you see that??? Even if you can’t. Can you trust it? Just for the moment?

    Sorry. It’s a little hot around here. Dry, dusty. Mercury retrograde.

    Comment by Karen — October 23, 2007 @ 7:12 pm

  10. I always start to type a comment. But to say every single time – “YES!” seems, well, not very commentish (vocabulary influenced by my 4 year old today). So I type more. But more isn’t it either. So I delete it and go off. I end up coming back a few hours later. Read again. Think again.

    You always get where you are going. Even if you don’t know it until you get there.

    Comment by denise — October 23, 2007 @ 7:53 pm

  11. love it!

    Comment by stella — October 23, 2007 @ 9:07 pm

  12. Did you know it was his garden right when you saw it? Fate?
    I am looking for my circle.

    Comment by Mika — October 23, 2007 @ 10:48 pm

  13. In my skin and bones. You are the circle. Sometimes you see it clearly. Other times you have to t.r.u.s.t.

    Comment by Karen — October 23, 2007 @ 11:02 pm

  14. I can be rather stupid at times-I did not get that the garden was the same garden at anytime until seeing your comment there. I read the post four or so times (playing with the idea of a post to the effect that more shoes will be lost). What a pretty picture. How ever will you move?


    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — October 24, 2007 @ 9:01 pm

  15. Chris,
    I’m not the one who’s attached to this place. There have been several times over the last 10 years when it looked like life was leading us elsewhere and I was more than ready to go . . . can’t wait to see what’s next, and where.

    Comment by Karen — October 25, 2007 @ 2:22 am

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