Join us for one of our services at the Zendo: 18005 Vashon Highway SW, Vashon, WA 98070, (previously Island Funeral Services.) Feel free to come 10 minutes early for instruction, or just jump right in.

  • Sunday Service: 10:00am-12pm
    Early Sunday Sit: 8:30-9:30am
  • Monday – Friday: 6:30-7:30am
  • Monday Evening: 7:00-8:45pm
  • Wednesday Evening: 7:00-8:30pm

The Terrarium

The Terrarium

Driving on the highway for the first time in a long time the other day, I was, for the first time in a long time, alone.

I was listening to my own music, with no grief from anybody about it.

I was outside the confines of my usual terrarium, my family home, and I thought I might be free from it.

But the whole world is a terrarium right now. Everything has stopped.

The swift motion of my driving slowed down and then stopped. The road, once a fast-moving thing with my music on it, was a parking lot.

A man next to me turned off his ignition and went for a smoke. He knew the deal. The bridge was up.

I turned off my ignition and just sat there on the highway for a solid 15 minutes, trying to will myself into loving or even appreciating the blue sky, something, anything, about the scene. Trying to be a good Buddhist. But the truth is I just wanted to move.

We’re not meant to be motionless like this. We’re not meant to be rocks in a terrarium, only interacting with the other rocks right in the terrarium where we are.

As parents, we’re not meant to be the only people raising and supporting our kids. Our kids need their teachers, their routines, the rumble of the bus wheels under their feet, the sports, the clubs, the parties, the dances, the friends, the games, the crazy wiggle giggles. They need the moving from place to place; the changes that happen outside the home, so that the sameness and familiarity of home is a comfort they come back to, not a bore.

Roger Mitchell, in his poem about driving, called “The four hundredth mile” says:

I have tried to love what I thought was the world,
but the world moved. I will love the move instead.

This is my practice these days: learning to love this move we’ve all had to make into collective stillness.

Learning to love the moment when I have to turn the car off, turn the music off, and just wait.



-Elizabeth Fitterer is a preceptor at the Puget Sound Zen Center