Creating Community One Stone at a Time

I first experienced Zen sculptures about ten years ago when I visited Sedona, AZ and walked along a riverbank that was crowded with such towers. Each of us on the trip built one, but recently, I haven’t thought much about them until I went to Thoreau’s cabin site near Walden Pond. Visitors had built rock towers around the periphery of his cabin’s foundation, and I was quick to add one of my own.

Zen rocks, Brian Potts, photo credit

One morning afterI returned from visiting Walden, I was walking in my neighborhood and passed a large, flat rock that is in a median strip in front of an apartment complex about a block from my home.  On a whim, I picked up a few stones and built a Zen tower.  For the first couple of months, I was the only one building towers, sometimes every day, and sometimes I’d build two.  Building the towers became a vehicle for mindfulness because  I walked the same route nearly every day, and it was easy to let the scenery slip past.

But like a seed that takes awhile to germinate, one day I noticed there was a tower that some unseen friend had built. Hooray! I thought, someone connected with me and is joining in the fun. By early October, when I was about to leave for a two-week trip to Europe, there were three towers on the main rock and one tower on each of the rocks in the back of the median.  I smiled. The idea was catching on and gaining a life of its own.

The rock towers were still there when I returned.

Close-up of Zen rocks, Brian Potts, photo credit

Why is this important to me?

Sometimes when I think of how busy all of us are and how much we’re isolated in spending time with our screens, I lament that we’re losing a sense of community. I never see my neighbors in the apartments and have never met anyone who lives there. I know a few people in my immediate area, but I rarely see the folks who live on my street, and I’ve never told anyone about my Zen project. But I am a firm believer in the power of positive energy and shared consciousness. And now I have proof of my connection–or at least my idea’s connection–with my unseen neighbors. We’re truly in this together–one stone at a time. One idea at a time. One good deed at a time.


School’s Out, Vacation’s Here!

I love June–the weather, the strawberries, and the end of classes. June has always meant time for lots of reading, swimming, and vacation. And this June, I’ve decided to take a vacation from blogging.

Toad Hall's cabin by the pond
Toad Hall’s cabin by the pond

Since my book, The Altar of Innocence, came out in January of 2015, I’ve blogged every week, with either my own thoughts or the thoughts of several wonderful guest bloggers. Like many writers, I work hard to offer fresh ideas to readers and to engage people on a variety of topics. But for the next couple of months, I will be reposting some of the favorite blogs that continually get lots of readers.  I’ll also post several of my favorite poems for reflection. Then in September, I’ll start back up with blogging again.

Because I’ve been a teacher for my whole career, I’m attuned to the school calendar. So stopping for a break in June and resuming in September feels right to me. I will be working on my new book of poetry, No Barking in the Hallways: Poems from the Classroom, and planning a book launch for the fall. I hope to see many new and old friends at the readings, and most of all, I hope everyone will enjoy reading the new book as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Here’s a preview of my new collection from the latest edition of Dragonfly, a magazine put out by HopeWorks in Howard County. They graciously published three of my poems. I’ll be participating in their launch reading on June 16, 2016, at 7pm at the Owen Brown Community Center in Columbia, Maryland. Come on over if you’re around.

Freshman’s Lament

Because no one saw him steal in the side entrance
and creep into the locker room
that echoed with the silence of steel boxes.

Because no one saw him grab the girl
as she stuffed her blue gym suit into a duffle bag.

Because no one saw him shove her to the floor
and steal her freshman smile.

Because no one heard her cry
echo through the deserted basement.

Because all the mysteries of sex and power were twined for us,
as inseparable as the white laces of our saddle shoes,

we blamed her for what happened. All that year, we whispered and jeered,
smug in our little homeroom cliques.

Who would want to have sex with her?
She’s so plain. And she’s fat.

I wish I could hold her now, apologize
for all I didn’t understand
about violence and force and shame.

I’d sit with her at lunch time, promise to stand by her.
Give her back
her innocence.