Zen & the Arts - Field Notes

Issue 1 • Winter 2016

Doing it Wrong

Table Of Contents

Uncertainty as Companion

John Tarrant

Take a step from the top of the 100-foot pole. – Zen koan

Lizard Society

Amy Elizabeth Robinson

I want to write a poem about / lizard society.

Two Monks

Allison Atwill

Ten years ago, koans began to form themselves into images inside me. From this time forward all of my paintings have been the lived visual record of my encounter with a koan, each piece an impression left after its passing, like a print in the earth beside a spring.

The Possibility of Being Creative

Trace Farrell

These days, when I sit down to write, I’m afraid. That sentence, the one I just wrote, has taken me most of a week to produce. Lately I’ve attempted dozens, a hundred other sentences, all about what making a creative move feels like. This one is actually true.


Todd Geist

Something brought that pair together into the house. Together. Not apart. Together. Together, they came into the house and only one left. What brought them to such circumstances?

Hollow Bodies in a Dyson Sphere

Ariadne Randall

Loud, and in the dark.


Asa Horvitz

A sharp intake of breath — my whole body electrified, my hair stood on end — the salmon hovered just below the surface, tail flashing gold, and we stared at each other.

Bang! There Goes That Theory

Steve Walker Chris Gaffney

Steve wants to know whether our most recent cosmology points to a dark and lonely future. Chris, the physics guy with the union card (Ph.D.), lends a helping hand.


Trace Farrell Chris Gaffney

Through a gate shaped like a bird, I enter a landscape of light.

Before The Law

Franz Kafka

John Tarrant introduces a celebrated predicament.

Meditation on Grasping and Clinging

Barton Stone

“…you are right to tremble… / for all things are void of self-nature and / your alkaline diet will not save you.” 

Karmic Apple / Firewood

Michael Sierchio

Introducing Deh Chun, as strange a stranger as a stranger can get.

The Apple Dream

Trace Farrell

It’s that whoa-whoa-whoa when the roller coaster, chain-hauled to its highest point, crests at last and suddenly, horribly, you’re facing vast space and a great plunge, inescapable.

Aubade for Self-Righteousness

Amy Elizabeth Robinson

It prefers the glare of mid-afternoon or the razor tooth / madness of bad dreams, because it’s a sharp thing.

Falling Together

Jesse Cardin

An excerpt on falling, helping, and Layman Pang from Jesse’s blog, “It’s Alive.”


Rachel Boughton

“Every snowflake falls in the right place” – Zen koan

Parapraxis: A slip of the tongue or pen, forgetfulness, misplacement of objects, or other error thought to reveal unconscious wishes or attitudes.


Chris Gaffney

The Misstep is a most subtle step, as it’s on the inside, not the outside.


Amy Elizabeth Robinson

My daughter / pressed some / daffodils—

The Mistakes

John Tarrant

I can’t find one. / This seems alright.

Elysium Park

Ariadne Randall

Through the trees I saw Downtown L.A. at sunset with its rose blanket of smog.

In Praise of Folly

Amy Elizabeth Robinson

This is a story about trying to feel my way into a story, the pieces of which were never lost, but which was assumed to hold too many mistakes. It is a story about passing into and out of adolescence, into and out of mortification, into and out of something like foolishness, something like light.


Ariadne Randall

after we slept i felt sarah’s / lips on my arms and legs;

Marvelous Error

Chris Gaffney

An old Zen teacher prompted, “Show me your face before your parents were born.” Modern biology also calls us to consider our true countenance. Which side is our best side may surprise us.

Reading Neruda While Waiting For An Ultrasound

Michael Sierchio

When I love you less than perfectly, it is the same.

Welcome, Eden

Amaryllis Fletcher Jamie Kissinger

Now, what shall I plant in this overturned soil?

Breaking Even

Stephen Doyle

Everything I do and everything I invest in my life give back just enough to keep going. Barely. 

Falling Down

Rachel Boughton Arni Adler

In winter of 2004, at dusk one evening, my cross country skis slipped out from under me on the lumpy grey ice. I broke my tailbone and it really, really hurt and I lay on the ground wondering what possible good a meditation practice was in such a situation. Then, amused, I wrote this haiku.

Truck Ballet

Rachel Boughton

One afternoon I got to witness, from a not-so-safe distance, a dance of physics, reminding me that sometimes we get the chance to feel immortal.

Being Vassily Vasilyvich

Trace Farrell

Seattle theater On the Boards interviews Kristen Kosmas regarding her play There There, about “being the completely wrong person in the totally wrong place at the exact wrong time saying and doing all the most wrong things”. Trace Farrell relates.

Two Trucks

Milo Schaefer

A meditation on doing it wrong.

If You Want To Dance Butoh

Denise Fujiwara

“If you want to dance Butoh, the first thing you must do is kill the self.”

The Battle

Peter Blue Cloud

By the time Coyote arrived the sides had already been chosen, the battle lines formed, and the smell of hate and future bloodshed permeated the very air.

Vermont Journal

Ariadne Randall

I step out onto a tidal river rock to meditate in the shade of the overhead bridge. As usual, I fail. I’m texting a friend a panorama of the river when a bird shits on my neck.

The Blue-Eyed Mare

Trace Farrell

A poem.