My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan

My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan

by Tracy Franz
My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan

My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk's Wife in Japan

by Tracy Franz


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In February 2004, when her American husband, a recently ordained Zen monk, leaves home to train for a year at a centuries-old Buddhist monastery, Tracy Franz embarks on her own year of Zen. An Alaskan alone—and lonely—in Japan, she begins to pay attention.

My Year of Dirt and Water is a record of that journey. Allowed only occasional and formal visits to see her cloistered husband, Tracy teaches English, studies Japanese, and devotes herself to making pottery. Her teacher instructs her to turn cup after cup—creating one failure after another. Past and present, East and West intertwine as Tracy is twice compelled to return home to Alaska to confront her mother’s newly diagnosed cancer and the ghosts of a devastating childhood.

Revolving through the days, My Year of Dirt and Water circles hard questions: What is love? What is art? What is practice? What do we do with the burden of suffering? The answers are formed and then unformed—a ceramic bowl born on the wheel and then returned again and again to dirt and water.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611720426
Publisher: Stone Bridge Press
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Pages: 308
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Originally from Alaska, Tracy Franz lived in Japan for ten years. She now resides in Nova Scotia with her husband—Soto Zen priest Koun Franz—and their two children. Her essays have most recently appeared in Lotus Petals in the Snow: Voices of Canadian Buddhist Women (Sumeru, 2016), Lion’s Roar, and Tricycle Magazine. F
ind her at

Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Sunday, February 29, 2004

Today marks a leap year—a day that does and does not exist. And so I am and am not driving the toll roads through night to the outskirts of Kumamoto City, Japan, from the Oita Ferry Terminal, my mind returning to one image superimposed on the rush of blacktop: my husband—a tall, shorn-headed American with his hand in the air, black monk’s robes jerking in the wind around his body. The sun swiftly sliding into the Inland Sea. The ship receding to a single dot of light and then, finally extinguished.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents


March: The First Month of Waiting

April: Unsui (Clouds and Water)

May: Authentic Experience


June: Being Here

July: Homecoming

August: Legacies


September: Returning

October: Monastics

November: Practice


December: Impermanence

January: Ikasu

February: Beginnings

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