Mistakes are the golden threads in the tapestry.

When mistakes hurt someone, regret it.

A heart with a sky full of guilt can help.

A thimble full of shame can kill.

Make amends if you can.

Ask for forgiveness always.

And be sure to forgive yourself.

Learn what forgiveness feels like.

Forgiveness feels like peace.

Like “I’m done, here.”

And when you’re done, let it be.

A mistake held onto sparks resentment.

All wrong turns are eventually right turns.

Mistakes are the stepping stones to perfection.

Tending the Garden

Pam works outside the zendo windows weeding the front
garden; me inside meditating and writing, working
with the “mind weeds” that Suzuki Roshi talked about
so fondly, almost 50 years ago.

Roshi saw mind weeds as a treasure. I’m not sure
Pam would agree — though, they did get her outside today
under the big blue sky on this cool summer’s day; and
perhaps that’s the treasure.

One time, a retreatant asked Pam, “Do you get up at four
in the morning to meditate, too?” Pam smiled and replied,
“Oh no, I work on the outside, Joe works on the inside.”
That partnership is the secret heart of Loose Leaf Hollow.

Like rust, weeds never sleep. Unless you do the weeding,
the constant practice of weeding, you can kiss your roses
or your soul goodbye. So, you reading this, ask yourself:
What have you done with the one garden entrusted to you?

A Soulful Prayer

May you tend



veils your Heart.

May you be



your difficulties.

And may you


Great Kindness

to all sentient beings.

Black Crows

Every time I went to the Homewood Theatre in the 50s
to see a movie, I would always buy
a box of Black Crows.
There was something about that perfect blend
of bitter and sweet that attracted me,
even as a young boy. This morning there were
three black crows pecking away on the road ahead of me
as I walked past the hermitage.
They flew away, cawing, as I got near
and then they’d land on the road again, a bit further on.
By the time I reached the end of the road,
at the White Cottage, they flew off south
into the morning mist that shrouds
the knobs, and you and me, in such bittersweet mystery.

Holy Communion

Thomas Merton discovered, some five decades ago,
that the deepest level of communication is not
communication, but communion. It’s wordless.
It’s beyond words, and it’s beyond speech, and it’s
beyond the cramped confines of the superficial ego.

So, deeper and deeper we go — down into the body,
into a vast heart that ponders mystery in silence,
the sacred heart that knows all, that guides us all
to the palace of nowhere — and we fall, fall into
holy communion with the one who loves us always.

On the Road Again

The fierce and awesome dragon tail of Hurricane Harvey shook out
five inches of rain over Kentucky yesterday.
After three weeks of being laid up with sciatica,
I don my Tilley hat, my rain gear and grab my staff
as I head out the door
to walk to the end of the road and back home again.

The sassafras, beech, and oak leaves are glazed and dripping;
sprays of humble jewel weed and partridge pea
commingle at the feet of the stern, upright ironweed.
I’m amazed how much has changed along this road in my absence!

And how much has ripened in my heart as I learned, slowly
and fitfully, to walk the path of the lame goat.
I saw how much my ego craved the comfort zone,
and how much my soul thrived amidst the hurt and the disease.
So much compassion welled up for the lame
and the halt, so often left behind by the young gods.
And how grateful I am to, simply, take a single step without pain.

Further down the road, the verdant sea of soybean
on either side of me,
was glimmering with tawny patches
of ripened leaves that swirled like galaxies of gold.
Clouds of vapor sat like derby hats
on the knob tops. The wind was wet and cold and fresh,
and my soul soared like a hawk to be back on my beloved road again.