I took a break from writing on the culture of science and American Indians with a retreat to a zen monastery in the Oregon countryside.
Purpose was to clear my head and spend time with my beloved for an unplugged weekend.
The book nipped at my heels.
At home, when I walk or exercise, I listen to a tape of The Oregon Trail to help frame my thinking. Luckily Francis Parkman describes my French, Osage and Oglala relatives whom I picture while I write.
I listen to how Parkman’s guide, my great-great-great-great grandfather, Henri Chatillon, hunted buffalo.
Parkman recalls how Chatillon fired two shots into tatonka’s lungs from 150 yards: “The true mark in shooting buffalo.”
I consider this as my beloved and I sit on cushions in the zen monastery, practicing our meditation as dawn breaks Saturday.
Then I hear the report of a rifle. And another. And another.
For a moment I’m transported to Dakota territory—to the Platte, where the Oglala set up camp.
I realize the rifles are right outside the monastery.
In Parkman’s reminiscences, the Oglala and the settlers share a strained truce.
Today, I wonder: what is the relationship between the zen monks and their gun-bearing neighbors?
Copyright free buffalo image from