My mother’s blanket chest

It’s late May in New York and today I switched over my winter clothes for summer ones. Soon it will be very hot. I clear out the sweaters and pants I’ve been wearing all winter from the top shelf of my closet.

I store them  in my mother’s old Yankee blanket chest.


In order to make room for the winter clothes I take out the summer ones that are  folded in with old blankets and assorted tee shirts. I wonder why I hold on to some things.  Maybe one day I’ll be able to fit into a pair of pants that are a size too small or wear the blouse that never really worked but has a wonderful fabric.

I can’t bear to throw them away.

Today I found piles of well worn, white, long and short sleeved tee shirts and three or four ripped black yoga pants. Ripped at the seams where the legs meet the seat.

These are the clothes I used to wear under my faded Zen robe when I went to Dai Bosatsu Monastery for sesshin, a seven day silent meditation retreat.

The temperature in the zendo was often in the low 60s during the winter months and I put layer upon layer of these clothes on top of silk underwear plus a cashmere sweater to keep warm. The trick was not to move during sitting because the slightest breeze would get me shaking with the cold.

I miss those days. I miss that intense practice. I burned with a love for it that went beyond hot and cold, beyond body and mind. Those clothes, all worn and ready for next time, will probably not be used again.

After over 35 years of practice at Dai Bosatsu and now in my late 60s, I doubt that I’ll ever again have the wonderful opportunity to throw myself wholeheartedly into anything as exquisite, demanding, and wild.

Except of course this life as it is right now.

I will continue to keep those old tee shirts and ripped pants in my mother’s blanket chest – in memory and with a deep bow of gratitude.