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A Mark Doty Preview

Poet Mark Doty comes to City Center on Saturday, July 21 for Glow at the Extremest Verge, a reading from his forthcoming book, What is the Grass.  For a taste, see the below video of Mark reading on PBS Newshour.

Poet Mark Doty reads “A Display of Mackerel”


They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity

For more about Mark, see his website.


Recording of the Chant from RaKU

Back in February, monks from SFZC’s City Center had the rare opportunity to perform with the SF Ballet orchestra. At the invitation of composer Shinji Eshima, they chanted the Enmei Jukku Kannon Gyo, with a haunting orchestral accompaniment, in the original ballet RAkU.

We’ve posted a recording on SoundCloud; take a listen.

The SF Examiner called RaKU “glorious,” saying:

Eshima’s music pulses with desire, passion, drama and eventually stark tragedy. Under Martin West’s baton, the orchestra and soloists are glorious.

Shinji will be teaming up with monks from SFZC again on Monday night for the premier of his eclectic, poetic Resounding Compassion: A Concert for Peace. We hope you can join us!


We Do Indeed Live in a Dream

Over at KQED Arts, a thoughtful write-up of the evening with Laurie and Reb Anderson that conveys a nice sense of their conversation:

It is something of a novelty to see so practiced a storyteller being asked questions by a teacher of Zen. After words of greeting, Reb Anderson stated his first question: “Are we living in a dream?” Laurie and the audience laughed, and then decided it was too early in the evening for such a question. When laughter or solemnity waved through the audience, Reb Anderson’s expression was unchanged. Instead he smiled a content smile, while his eyes fixed deeply at Laurie’s.

There were many questions for Laurie Anderson.


Home Movies of Hope Cottage Construction

We recently received these ‘home movies’ from Arthur ‘Arturo’ Richardson of the building of Hope Cottage for his mother, Hope, in the early 1950’s. They were shot by Hope’s husband, George Wheelwright, co-founder of Polaroid, who purchased the 800-acre Green Gulch property as a cattle ranch and moved there from Massachusetts with his new wife Hope and her 3 children in 1945.

The film is silent and moody and thoroughly enchanting, especially if you know a bit of the background story.

According to the New York Times obituary of George Wheelwright:

Although Mr. Wheelwright was now officially a rancher, at heart he was still a scientist. Before long, he was experimenting with breeding different types of Hereford cattle and planting exotic grasses from New Zealand to feed them. When his wife developed lung cancer, Mr. Wheelwright dived into research and experiments with laetrile and other controversial drugs in an unsuccessful attempt to cure her.

While George was searching for cures, Arthur built a cottage for Hope as a sanctuary, high above the ranch. It was, as he recently described, “a place to go and be quiet… She used to walk up there several times a week with her big Saint Bernard.” Hope died in 1967, about 10 years after the cottage was built.

But the story behind Hope Cottage remains, “a history as romantic as its setting,” as a recent article about the Cottage put it in the New York Times:

A faded photograph of Hope Wheelwright is still on display in her cottage. Below it are Emily Dickinson’s lines:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul.

The article continues:

Mr. Wheelwright planned to give all his land to the National Park Service, but the agency would have torn down all the farm buildings and Hope Cottage to return the land to its natural state. That was unthinkable. So in 1971 Mr. Wheelwright sold 155 of the acres, including Hope Cottage, … to the San Francisco Zen Center; the rest of the land went to the Park Service.

George Wheelwright loved the land — he sold the property to Zen Center with the stipulation that it be preserved and open to the public — and spent a good part of his career as an evangelist for polarized glass. When you watch his home movies of Hope Cottage being built, check out the views.

And also watch for shots of Hope perched on the windowsill, about halfway through. The man knew how to wield a camera and the love comes through.

For the upcoming benefit for the restoration of Hope Cottage, see Anderson & Anderson in Conversation. You can also contribute directly to the Hope Cottage Restoration fund.


"Its reach is beyond meditation"

Tova Green, director of the San Francisco Zen Center, opens windows in the Suzuki Roshi Room. Photo: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle

“What’s unique and wonderful about the Zen Center is that it serves the community in a wide way. You can come to deepen your commitment to Christianity or Islam. You can come seeking a deeper understanding of what lies within. It’s just unprecedented.”

—Norman Fischer, former abbot of SFZC,
quoted in the Chronicle

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a generous feature article by Julian Guthrie on Zen Center’s 50th anniversary. It was on the front page of the print edition and is still available online: SF Zen Center’s 50 years of opening hearts, minds