mindfulness Musings

Monday Musing: Zen Again, Zen Again

On Friday, with only three weeks left to go before Christmas, I stopped at my local CVS for laser paper. It’s a little more expensive there than at Staples, but it’s a shorter walk, and I like to save my steps for walking in the woods and not the big box stores.

Standing in line with my laser paper and a mini Panettone — it’s the holidays after all — I realized I was going to be waiting a while. There was a long line, one open register, and a family having a serious discussion with the cashier:

Can we use this coupon? (No.)

How about this one? (No.)

Is this eye pencil sharpener on sale? (No, it’s the other one, with the case.)

Can’t you apply the sale to this one? (No.) (Did you want the lip balm that’s on sale?)

Oh yes. Hold on. Let me run back and get that.

The laser paper was getting heavy, and I almost dropped the mini Panettone. Plus I was hot now — and a little annoyed — and since the only other cashier was busy putting out the Valentine’s Day candy, I decided to leave.

Not huffy leave. Or angry leave. Just put down my things and move on to the next errand leave, practicing my best versions of Surrender and Acceptance.

Truth be told, I ended up having to do the same thing at the post office 10 minutes later. No big deal. I wasn’t in desperate need of laser paper (or that Panettone), and the letter I was mailing could post on Monday.

Since I’d saved all of that time not waiting in lines, I headed across town to one of my favorite places to walk. A trail that winds across a marsh, and up through the woods to an overlook with views of Long Island Sound and a monument to poet Jennie Vedder that reminds:

I would be one with Earth again,
and grieve not as the seasons pass,
but joyous in the pulse of grass,
exultant with the beat of rain.
I would be one with Earth again,
one with her joy, one with her pain.

It was such a pretty almost-winter day. Sunny with a nice chilly breeze. Quiet except for some lingering gulls and the Amtrak heading to New York. Perfect…marred only by the Festering I was still doing about the holidays, the lines, the people at the register back at CVS.

Then a little inner voice yelled: STOP!

You went to all that effort finding your Zen spot; you made decisions to leave the things that were not serving you; and here you are full-up with thoughts about those same things. STOP!

The thing is, we all have that choice every day. Do we sit in the muck of thoughts about this or that, or do we move on about our business? Get our shoes stuck down in the mud or walk around the edge and move forward?

But I’m not perfect, and mind-control is not my forte whatsoever…so I found that Festering’s thoughts kept trying to find their way back in again. You know, sort of in that same way your thoughts push through your moments of Meditation? Zen then Me! Me! Me!  Zen then Think Over Here! Think Over Here!

So we all sort of walked together for a while—me, my thoughts, the folks in line at the post office, and the family at CVS. Until I lost site of the family, and the post office line dissipated. My thoughts wandered off about a new writing project, and there I was — alone at last! Me and my Zen, again.

There is nothing like a walk in the woods to chase away the pesky thoughts. To reconnect you with Here and Now. To show you the way to Grace and Gratitude. And Zen.

©2022, Jen Payne

mindfulness Poetry

4 a.m. and I am one a part of all

Are those fireflies
come to join my meditation
or all the stars

a constellation 
above the grass
as waves crash
in a quiet ebb and flow
of breeze
that catches in trees

     and that?

a soft bowl chime

or the bell buoy
just offshore
marking time
and breeze,
the tease
of stars

Poem ©2022, Jen Payne. Image: Nicholas Roerich, Star of the Hero.

Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

Finding Leonard Cohen down a Rabbit Hole

One of my favorite things about the work I get do to for my books and zines is the sleuthing. Hunting down random (often misappropriated) quotes, getting permissions to reprint, finding hard copy proof. Evidence for my readers — and myself — that I have done due diligence to make what you hold in your hands valid and true to the best of my abilities.

As a student of English literature and journalism, and as a life-long writer and citer, I feel an incredible responsibility to validate as many of my references as possible. To remind my readers, for example, that it was Henry Stanley Haskins who wrote “What lies behind us and what lies before us are but tiny matters compared to what lies within us,” not Ralph Waldo Emerson or Gandhi, and not Buddha.

When I was writing LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, in which I used that quote, I actually spent six months researching and properly attributing quotes. That task included rabbit holes like the quote sourced to a 1970s motivational poster printed by an academic publisher in Texas written by a retired social worker in Oak Park, Illinois.

I get a little geeky when it comes to that kind of thing. Like a dog with a bone. Truth be told, I love it as much Alice loved going on her adventures!

My most recent adventure involved Leonard Cohen and a 60-year-old book.

While I was working on the spring issue of MANIFEST (zine): CRICKETS, I found a beautiful poem by Cohen called “Summer Haiku.” The poem appeared in his book The Spice-Box of Earth of which there was a rare, limited edition hardcover edition that included illustrations by Frank Newfeld, a renowned Canadian illustrator and book designer.

There were several copies of the book available online starting at around $200, which is a tad higher than my budget for the zine project. Less expensive copies did not include the Newfeld illustrations, and by this point in the adventure those were key.

I did find and purchase issue number 56 of The Devil’s Artisan: A Journal of the Printing Arts that featured Newfeld’s work on delicious, offset-printed, antique laid pages. It even included a letterpressed color keepsake of Newfeld’s illustration for Cohen’s poem “The Gift,” which appears in The Spice-Box of Earth.

I went on to find a bookseller in Canada, Steven Temple, who owns a copy of the 1961 edition. Searching through the 10,000 books he attends to in his home-based bookshop, he found and took the photo of “Summer Haiku” that appears in CRICKETS.

Of course, I was still curious. What did the rest of the book look like? How many poems were there? How many illustrations? How could I see it? Read it?

My local library did not have a copy of the book, nor did Google Books. According to a 2016 article in Toronto Life, the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library is “home to 140 banker’s boxes worth of Cohen’s archives” including “handwritten notes and letters, portraits, CDs, paintings, novel manuscripts, books, early drafts of his poetry and lyrics, and even art he made when he lived as a Buddhist monk.” Would it include a digital copy of The Spice-Box of Earth?

It did not.

Nor did the online Library and Archives of Canada or the Canadian Electronic Library. But on the Hathi Trust Digital Library website there was a helpful “Find in a Library” link that, when clicked, revealed some familiar and within-driving-distance names: Yale University, Wesleyan University, Connecticut College.

Lightbulb! I immediately emailed a woman I know at our local library, Deb Trofatter, who is the Associate Librarian for Reference Services and Technology, and asked…by any chance…can you get a copy of…

Which is how, on May 15, I came to have in my hands a 60-year-old hardcover copy of Leonard Cohen’s The Spice-Box of Earth to savor and share.


The Spice-Box of Earth, illustrated by Frank Newfeld. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1961).

• Click here to purchase my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness

• Meditations in Wall Street by Henry Stanley Haskins (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1940).

• The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When, by Ralph Keyes (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006).

• Learn more about The Devil’s Artisan : A Journal of the Printing Arts

• Discover Steven Temple Books

• Read “A look inside U of T’s massive archive of Leonard Cohen poems, letters and pictures,” in Toronto Life

• Check out the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

Alice photo from a Fortnum & Mason (London) holiday window display, possibly 2006. Photographer not found yet.

MANIFEST (zine): Crickets is a riff and a rant about the consequences of creative bravery. It’s a 24-page, full color booklet that includes a curated Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure. Click here to order your copy today!

Creativity mindfulness Nature Writing

The Healing Process

The storm took so much it’s difficult to consider — gone the familiar, the known path. Feet so sure there was no need to gauge progress. It was how I became present again, how I stepped back in the moment.

It was where I could breathe, let go, release my rooted stride. Slough off thoughts. Embrace the solitude with just a heartbeat and birdsong for company.

But her wide canopy of solace is gone now, and I have been hobbled.

Those sacred spaces of breath and respite are changed.

And so am I.

So I take a different path this morning and it comforts me.

It whispers…

This rabbit will caretake the old path.

This turtle, hopeful, lays its eggs. As does the robin.

Part of this snake is here but its heart has moved forward,

and this spider writes her poems in the spaces left behind.

Essay ©2021, Jen Payne. If you like this essay, be sure to purchase a copy of my book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, available here.