Zen is When…

The sounds of Japan are evoked by temple bells, wind chimes, water over stones, wind in bamboo groves, taiko drums (first created, as myth assures us, from a Sake barrel!) – and one of my favorite combinations of all of the above: Jazz Impressions of Japan, the 1964 album of musician Dave Brubeck’s trip to Japan. One of the tracks is called Zen is When.

That recording had been out of print for forty-four years; then in 2008-2009 it was re-released. I learned this news just as I was dashing around the world on my 2-year book tour for The Fire, my sequel to The Eight.

Coincidentally, while I was off book-touring in thirty American cities and three other countries, something unexpected was awaiting me back home: I had just been asked, and had agreed, to rescue a legendary, though by now ramshackle, Japanese house that was locked up in litigation for six years, abandoned, vandalized, a wreck about to be demolished to make way for townhouses. But it had originally been built in the 1960s by a famous Japanese potter from the Corcoran school here in DC: Teruo Hara.

Mr Hara and his grad students had built the house by hand in 1964-1965, the same timeframe as Dave Brubeck’s own Japanese idyll. So in 2009, when I returned home from my voyages to have a look at my imprudent investment, the first thing I did was to dig out my old original recording of Jazz Impressions of Japan, and play it on my… turntable. (Yes, as readers of my books will recall, I’m still an analog person not a digital one.)

This inspired me to do three things:

1. To call the “toxic and hazardous waste management” experts (my former profession) to remove the asbestos, mold, and other icky, dangerous things from the house;

2. To call the “trash-out” experts, those experts who remove icky toilets, sinks, appliances,  from HUD-abandoned properties; and finally…

3. To call my friend Lailee Bakhtiar, nationally-syndicated host of the former PBS Authors and Critics, so she could help find the perfect architect. (Lailee knows or has interviewed everyone.)
“What would be the perfect architect for you, Katherine?” she asked.
“I want someone who knows how to drill two 400-foot wells in the front yard,” I told Lailee. (Geothermal: My other former profession was Energy!)

Moral: Zen is When… you start connecting Heaven and Earth.

All House & Garden updates from Katherine