Tuesday 14 June 2022



From the first seed planted by Sister Loc Uyen to each and every aligned step, it felt as though Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh himself was pulling one of his sparrows home, after ten years. The last time I was in Plum Village, Bordeaux, was for the 30th anniversary. Incredibly I ended up in the same bed, in the same gite in New Hamlet, Dieulivol, looking out on hay bales, far from the croaking of the lotus pond frogs, close to the moon and sunflower fields.

I traveled with friends, met up with the two young nuns I teach English to and made new friends. I wrote a single poem and kept two diaries for my twin nieces, who cried the night I left. ‘We’ll never see you again!’ I’ll cry too, I told them. At some point. And I did. My friend Anh said I had cried a cup full of tears by my last day. Why the tears? Because of the hot French sun, fatigue, the desire to keep up with a monastic schedule far beyond my body’s limits, gratitude to be taken care of by loving friends when I was sick, and gratitude to have a monastic sister guide me to leave early because covid cases were spreading. People had arrived from all over the world for this first in person opening up of Thây’s practise centre, so of course the virus came along for the ride.

On my last day, June 9th, I managed to attend the 40 years celebration in Upper Hamlet, got a calligraphic signature from Brother Phap Huu, the abbot who was Thây’s attendant for seventeen years, met my friend Shantum Seth after ten years, fan girled over the sculptor Paz Perlman, ate cake and generally arrived, at home, fully present. The next morning, I was driven to tiny Bergerac airport by Zoe, a friend who offered her car and company, and the next thing I was outside our front door, with the twins not quite believing I was really real… ‘but you didn’t even tell us you were coming home!!’ 

I am writing this at 11:30am. In France it is 12:30pm. The sangha of 800 lay and monastics, are going as a river in Lower Hamlet, led by Sister Chan Khong, spreading the last of Thây's ashes into the home he created for thousands. Refuge continued. In England, I visited Mary's grave, with flowers, for what would have been her 106th birthday. Death is just a game of hide and seek.