Woodland paths lead up from the Zen Mountain Monastery
, to a run of cabins with views out to twin peaks in this area of the Catskill Mountains - the peaks presumably of Mount Tremper, the name of the local village. Nestled beside the path is a graveyard, with this stupa to the Japanese Zen master Taizan Maezumi Roshi
I met Maezumi just once, in the mountain setting of the Mountain Zen Center in California. He explained how his name Taizan meant 'Big Mountain', and how moutains were living beings to him. The abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery is John Daido Loori Roshi
, a successor to Maezumi who has given his life to establishing that mountain strand of Zen. My journey here is my opening step in a project to write the biography of Maezumi Roshi. It's a process of taking full part in the daily order of the monastery, awaiting the opportunity to claim my interviews.
It's useful simply to have the time to enter into the spirit of the place. Someone asked me this morning whether I had a list of prepared questions, and that Daido might welcome such a thing. I had been presuming to run on initial reading plus intuition, but I took the question as wise prompting and now have these questions to hand. Whether or not I use them, it's been a useful exercise.
The place has been in a period of Hosan, essentially downtime. At 1.30 gongs will sound and a full and busy monastic round will doubtless surprise me. Preparation for this initial biographical foray has already been different ... I have new sandals, dark clothing and drawstring pants with me to facilitate the process of zazen, the sitting meditation that is at the heart of the practice. Otherwise for me it's a practice of preparedness and patience, waiting to see how this biography starts to reveal itself.
In the meantime it's sweet simply to be in a sacred space. I stepped out onto the lawns at dusk last night, three deer edging out of the forest to work a hesitant yet constant way toward and then around me to reach some fallen apples.