Saturday, September 14, 2013


Browsing in a thrift shop the other day, I picked up a copy of Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard. Originally published in 1978, in my hand was a 1996 edition, the cover image a snowy, shadowy mountain landscape. I read (and traded) an older edition (with a similarly snowy mountainscape- see above) while in Northern India in 2007, some months before I went on my own small trek in Nepal, the setting for the book.
I have already read The Snow Leopard. I own far too many books. But when I found a faded photograph nestled between the pages, a forgotten bookmark, I gave in. The photo is a glossy 3' x 5', landscape. A coniferous tree and a few power lines occupy the lower right corner. Thirty-five ant-sized birds (canada geese? It's difficult to tell) spread across the blue sky in the constantly evolving formation of migrants, some moving forward and others falling back. A thirty-sixth is entering the camera's field of vision. The blue of the sky is darker around the edges. The date is hidden among the branches and electrical lines:  '94 10 24.
The Snow Leopard is, basically, the story of a journey Matthiessen took in 1973 with field biologist George Schaller to study the Himalayan blue sheep. They hoped to catch site of the elusive, titular animal as well. The journey Matthiessen, a Zen Buddhist, depicts is as much inner as it is geographical. Travel writing like this is just my cup of tea.
Much as I like the book though, it was the poor-quality photo that hooked me. It didn't seem right to separate the two, so I paid my $1.09 and brought them home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sussex Street

I know not what it is, but I like it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"There is a Texas-size section of the Pacific Ocean that is irretrievably clogged with garbage and it will never go away."

I'm beginning to wonder if my primary objection to littering isn't aesthetic.

In preparation for an upcoming trek, I've been doing a lot of urban hikes. These walks take me to many of the highest points in the city, some of which are tree-covered. The volume of trash I see is alarming, so I've begun taking along a plastic (!) shopping bag. I typically manage to fill a bag in ten to fifteen minutes. The bag then goes into the nearest public receptacle, which is often already overflowing with refuse.

The title is a quote from a horrific article I read recently about the mess we've already made of the ocean. Plastic, the major problem, will photodegrade over time, but once its broken down into individual polymers, that's it, we're stuck with it. And now our ocean is teeming with it, tiny pieces ingested by fish that make their way into the fatty tissue and up the food chain. To us. (Or at least to those of you who eat fish.)

Yesterday while I was gathering my city garbage I began to wonder where my garbage was going to end up. How much better off are we having our trash collected in dumps rather than simply piling up around us (as is the case in many developing countries)? Would we think twice about purchasing that new toy if we knew we were going to have to hold on to it forever?

On a brighter note, the city of San Francisco has decided to expand its plastic bag ban from large supermarkets and chain pharmacies to all retailers city wide. Additionally, the law will require stores to charge 10 cents for paper bags, to encourage people to bring their own, reusable bags.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Remember You Are Awake

Mural spotted two blocks from the San Francisco Zen Center.

Monday, June 11, 2012


As seen yesterday from the bridge to picturesque Point Bonita Lighthouse.

 Weather was brilliant, scenery stunning, the Bay and environs full of sailboats.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


Today I took BART to the East Bay for the first time ever. On the ride over, I sat in the corner of the car, with a good view of the back end and its inhabitants. I pulled out my library copy of The Heart Sutra and a notebook to take notes.
Looking around, I spied a tall white guy in glasses, funky-soled shoes and overcoat on this lovely June day sitting next to the door. I couldn't help but notice that he too had a notebook out, probably because he was excitedly reading aloud from it. Soon he was discussing Zen and the nature of reality with a rather sane-looking man nearby. I overheard bits and pieces, including the second gentleman's declaration that he was a Taoist.
After the tall fellow lept off the train in downtown Oakland, another passenger commended the Taoist on his interaction with the Zenster. "Sometimes people just need to be engaged," he said.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Three Flavors

Sunday Streets returned to the Mission yesterday, and with it, some seriously pimped-out cars.