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Noelle Oxenhandler, who wonders just when and how her practice path opened up, tells us: “For me, writing this essay was like that wonderful children’s story Harold and the Purple Crayon. It was as though I discovered the purple crayon with which I could draw my way out of a painfully confining place. It was frightening at first; I almost said 'No’ when the editors asked me to write it. What if I couldn’t find the window? Now I’m grateful to have been handed the purple crayon.”
Barbara Crossette, who writes of the fearless Buddhist nun Sanghamitta, has reported from all the Buddhist nations of Asia as a foreign correspondent for the New York Times. Through interviewing the world’s last two Buddhist kings, in Thailand and Bhutan, she became fascinated by how modern Buddhist societies try to cope with the stress most are facing. That experience led to a book, So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas (Knopf, 1995).
An honored authority on the world’s religions, Huston Smith speaks of the vital differences between spirituality and religion. He is the best-selling author of such books as Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World’s Religions; Beyond the Postmodern Mind; and, most recently, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief, which challenges the dominance of materialism, narrow scientism, and consumerism.
The Chinese poet Han-shan once asked, “Do you have the poems of Han-shan in your house?” Tom Drury responds by saying, “I do—I have them in my writing house. Reading them is like hearing from an honest old teacher who happened to live eleven or twelve centuries ago. Here they provide a way into a story about past and present, death and life.” Tom Drury is the author of three novels, including, most recently, Hunts in Dreams (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). “First Cut” is his first essay for Tricycle.
Hans Georg Berger’s “Monk Dressing” photographs form part of his extensive documentation of the monastic life and sacred rituals of Luang Prabang, the ancient capital of Laos. His work involving Buddhism in Southeast Asia also includes photography projects on the Khmer temples of Angkor, the Buddhist manuscripts and libraries of Laos, and mudras in contemporary Thailand. Berger is the author of several plays, novels, and travel books. He divides his time between Berlin, Laos, Italy, and Bangkok, where he teaches photography at the Academy of Fine Arts.
Anne Cushman, who contemplates motherhood as a vehicle for practice, writes: “My first child, Sierra, died just before she was born. My second child, Skye, greets each dawn with a shout and an arm flung up to point at the sun on the trees. Together, they’ve taught me that life is brief and astonishingly beautiful, and that my heart is vaster and more fragile than I had ever imagined.” ▼
Photos © Barry Goldstein; © Nancy Crampton; courtesy of Barbara Crossette; © Lorry Easton; courtesy of Huston Smith; courtesy of Anne Cushman.