Zen on the Trail
A couple of decades ago, author Chris Ives and I were colleagues at the University of Puget Sound . He covered Eastern religions while I taught Christian ethics. We've stayed in contact. That's how I learned, recently, that Chris, now a professor in Massachusetts, has published Zen on the Trail.
As I read the book this fall I appreciate it more and more. Why? Well, first, "On the trail" reminded me of nature explorations of my childhood. To get to "nature," I hiked west, up and over the hill from my neighborhood, Oakland Addition, to the headwaters of Bowers Creek, a southward-flowing creek paralleling South Orchard Street. I'd just get lost out there in a kind of childhood rapture--away from the paper route duties, school assignments and household chores.
On these hikes I generally had some company: my pet dog, Rusty and and maybe a neighbor boy.
This magnet of forest and flowing creek water appealed to me like the spiritual hiking Chris Ives so vividly describes. I call it a "spiritual appeal." Why? Because in the broadest sense I immersed myself in a Reality. I didn't name it such in boyhood, but I do so now and Zen on the Trail confirms it. That's a gift.
Here's another gift. Ives' book reminded me of a conversation with my Dad, an inveterate hiker-guy himself. I describe his spiritual genre as "ardent evangelical" in the classical sense. By "classical sense," I mean open to a broad range of depictions of Reality.
Dad told our family, with remorse, that one of his friends, Art Stanke, just never attended church.
Late last summer, 2018, Lucy and I met with our two kids and their families and hiked from Tipsoo Lake counterclockwise around Naches Peak and back to Tipsoo.
This is my Christmas-tide post. Maybe it seems odd to celebrate Zen at Christmas. Not really, because I remember that Mother Mary and Jesus were "on the trail" when they lodged in the stable. The Wise Men from the East were "on the trail" when they approached the infant Savior in the cradle. Jesus, once out of Galilee as a teenager, lived exclusively "on the trail" for twenty years until his premature death. On-the-trail spiritual experience is greater than any of our human traditions and infuses them all.