Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid

I have lost count of how many coming-of-age books I’ve read in my life. It seems like every author, at some point in their career, writes about someone growing up. Growing up is a universal commonality, and so the success of this type of narrative should be no surprise. I happily admit that when well-written,…

A Girl in Exile, Ismail Kadare

Ismail Kadare is Albania’s best-known author and poet, and while my goal with this world literature challenge is to read less popular books , the release of Kadare’s newest work, A Girl in Exile, was too timely to ignore. That it deals so intimately with the culture and land of Albania is a major plus…

Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin

Fever Dream is the first book that I am reading for my World of Books project. Samanta Schweblin is an Argentinian-born writer who now lives in Berlin, and this is her first novel. I found this book on Ann Morgan’s blog, and while it doesn’t appear to be set in any particular country, there is…

A World of Books

I was watching the opening to the Winter Olympics in Seoul a few weeks ago, and despite the shame I felt at the aggrandizing of the United States in their ridiculous cowboy gloves, I did manage to open my eyes long enough to notice that there were dozens of countries of which I had very…

Zen Center Day 6 – A Redwooded Farewell

I decide upon waking that I need to try to meditate one more time before I leave this place. While the entire experience has been meditative in its own right, I have not consciously sat and cleared my mind very often, which in some ways was the entire point of this trip. I slip into…

Zen Center Day 5 – The Heights

Thursday marks our last full day of work, and I spend it with a variety of people. As we stand in the circle to mark the beginning of the day, I feel at home. It’s easy to fall in to the rhythms of these people. I don’t really know anyone here, even if I’ve met…

Zen Center Day 4 – Trees of Liberation and Prayer

I sleep in on Wednesday, which means I linger in bed until 6:30am. It’s easier to wake up at the zen center because everyone goes to bed between nine and ten every night. The rhythms of nature are the alarm clock, and people seem content to follow that. I clear trails again today with Carlos,…

Zen Center Day 3 – Oceans and Pubs

On Tuesday, I awake from my ten hour slumber and feel refreshed but melancholy that I let a night slip away from me. I skip the morning meditation and instead write for a bit before breakfast. My goal for the day is to see how the pre-dinner meditation at 5:15 is, and if I will…

Zen Center Retreat – Day 2, Meditation and Work

Day two of my retreat begins at 5:50 in the morning, which is one of those times I’ve only seen a few times in life. My advantage lies in the fact that 5:50am in California is actually 8:50am in Michigan, but the lack of sun makes it feel early. I don my brand new mediation…

Zen Center – Day 1, Meet and Greet

After tea, there are a few hours left before dinner and the official start to the work week. I use the time to acclimate myself to my room, change out of my travel clothes, and shove my useless, mangy socks into some deep dark hole in my suitcase. I decide to wander the grounds. What…

Zen Center Retreat – Day 1, Tea House

I drop my things in the guest house; also in the Japanese style and pushing my geek buttons pretty hard. All the rooms revolve around a central hub, two levels high, and there is an openness that doesn’t exist in Western architecture. There are paper windows open to the common area, and though I can…

Zen Center Retreat – Day 1, Arrival

The flight from Kalamazoo to Chicago only takes 30 minutes. I’ve never flown in a plane so small. Walking down the aisle to reach my seat is an effort of contortion, but the one long row of seats on my side is comfortable in its elbow-roominess. A 6:00am flight is beautiful in September. The darkness…