Tag Archives: Buddhism

*** My Year of Dirt and Water by Tracy Franz

I wish the cover My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk’s Wife in Japan would be less drab and more appealing to the prospective reader — because it’s such an interesting book. That said, much of the year seems to be mired in bitter cold (appropriate indoor heating is not, apparently, a Japanese forte) as the author spends a year, mostly in Japan, waiting for her husband to complete training as a Buddhist monk. The best part of the book are the many commentaries on Japanese customs, far from the obvious ones a visitor may observe. The burdensome ritual of omiyage (bringing back souvenirs to everyone one knows), the very personal questions, the onsens, and the misunderstandings despite her (apparently excellent) Japanese.

I tried hard not to think too much about the subtext: the wife waiting as her husband accomplishes his dream; the expectations that she will make his clothes (by hand!); her being allowed to visit the monastery only on certain days, and under strangely restricted rules, and so on…

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