April 9, 2022
Podcast with guest Len Brackett
Len Brackett was introduced to Zen as a teenager when his sister Virginia (Ginny) brought a young man named Richard Baker to Minnesota to meet her family. They were at a lake in the summer and Baker walked out on a dock to check out the view. Len was water skiing at the time and greeted his sister's friend by swooping by and splashing baker good. As a student at Reed College, in 1968, Len and some others rented a house and created a zendo. A sitting group formed and continued after Len moved on. It was known on campus as the Cosmos House. Many came to ZC from there. Len spent half a dozen years or so in Japan, studying and temple carpentry. In America he founded East Wind Inc., a company devoted to traditional Japanese homebuilding and woodworking.
Len wrote: This photo, from (his daughter) Aya’s website I suspect ( ayabrackett.com) was taken fairly recently when I was doing a broadcast burn.
East Wind Inc. - check out the beautiful work of Len and crew.
The Gift of Perceptive, Straight Observation by Len Brackett, page 13 of Roundabout Zen: Recollections in
Celebration of the 70th Birthday of Zentatsu Baker Roshi
- a cuke page for the book and a PDF of the book
Reed College and Zen Center
Len is mentioned five times in this history of Zen coming to Reed and more - TIMELESS JUST IN TIME How Buddhism Came to the Northwest By Patrick McMahon, 9-22-2014
Len on Reed and the Cosmos.
Sammy is around, and he married Laura, one of the original Cosmos people. He’s an oral history professor at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. I don’t know where the name “Cosmos” came from….that was before my time. The first year we got the house, it looked like a dump….been lived in by uncivilized Reedies for years and was dirty, smelly, cat shit everywhere….you know….student housing. . So we all arrived a week before the school year started and spent a week cleaning it up and putting it to rights.Painted everything, wall papered the wall is burlap cloth we could get for really cheap, set up a zendo with a lumpish concrete Buddha I made (ugly, but not important- I was thinking about burning the Buddha when it got cold) tatami, zafu and all the other stuff, bells, incense, you know. We all (David Simon, Laura Shill, Bob Wollheim, Frank Poliat, and Chris (forget the last name) and myself) sat in the morning, and pretty soon it was Laura, David, me and Bob, and then Bob went to jail for burning his draft card, Chris turned out to be a non-contributor (did nothing to wash the dishes, cook for anyone, clean the house) so we asked him to leave and that’s when Sammy came in the second year when we had an empty bedroom. And then people like Layla and Ricky began showing up for zazen in the morning, and (look at that!) We had a sangha! The Cosmos had a reputation of being “together” as a student house. Most other student houses were a mess, but the Cosmos was a sane place in the middle of 1967 and 1968 craziness, at Reed particularly. We didn’t have enough money to heat the place -it was about a hundred year-old house - so it was un insulated and in Ginny’s terms, “freeze-ass cold”. I lived at the head of the stairs in a funny little L shaped room, and I got a really cheap tin wood stove and it was the only place in the house that was warm, and it was crowded with my house mates on snowy days. We had a cooking schedule so we ate together most of the time and bought food together too. Either that, or they retreated to the library at Reed to get warm. I can’t think that any place was as fiery interesting as Reed was in those days. Already it had a reputation for catering to eccentrics….but add pot, LSD, Ibocaine, DMT or any other assortment of our alphabet to designate an intoxicant , and it began to levitate. And then there was the intellectual side of it which is pretty impressive. An amazing place to be…..the first time in my past puberty life I was with people I REALLY liked, had everything in common with. For the first time I wasn’t looked at askance as a little cracked as I had been in high school. Because all my friends were cracked too at Reed. I am presently drinking a Jamiesons and soda, so I raise it in a solitary toast to eccentrics!
On Len's hawk which I think has been with him for 11 years. I'll ask him to write more - like about when they'd
go hunting together. She's been free for a few years now and returns I think daily.
Phoebe is her name. Phoebe was the mother of Artemis, The Romans called her Diana, goddess of the hunt, and Phoebe was goddess of the moon. Here’s a photo of Phoebe with Baby-not an original name I know ( My cat’s name is Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke if you remember). He made himself totally annoying ( put a talon through my ear to give me incentive to give him more food), and he gratefully flew away as he should have when he was competent. I was glad to be rid of him. I had a sign on the gate into here…”DON’T COME IN HERE; YOU WILL BE ATTACKED BY AN ANGRY GOSHAWK MOTHER!- CALL IF YOU WANT TO COME IN.” So for about three months I was in quarantine….no one, not even Anna, could come in.
About hawks and falcons:
I should add I don't enjoy hunting or killing, but that’s what these birds do, so if I want to be a part of their lives I have to make myself useful to them, so I do this. It’s the only predator that one can have a relationship with on their terms. It’s an interesting relationship to have. The hawk is the main event, and my part is to serve her, not the other way around. You cannot force a raptor to do anything and since they aren’t social creatures, the only way to relate to them is to do what they want you to do, and if they accept you ( not like you ) then fine…..otherwise they fly away. A great exercise is doing what you’re told to do.
DC - I asked Len to clarify how he hunted with Phoebe.
As I sneak up on a pond, Phoebe who knows the drill ( smarter than any dog I’ve met) would wait out in the woods about a hundred yards out. When she was a young inexperienced bird she would come right to the edge of the pond and perch in a tree-the ducks would see her and refuse to leave the pond and when she’d go for them they would flush and then fly head first back into the water (SPLASH!). So she learned to stay out of sight until they cleared the pond in a flush, and then the chase was on, and usually she’s catch them in the first half mile or so. She has a telemetry radio attached to her with a backpack (tiny and unobtrusive) so I could find her on the ground with her duck. I would cut out the breast meat and take the liver of the duck ( dead by the time I found them), and give her the rest of the carcase, which she would fly off with, and I would have foie gras & duck breast for dinner and she'd eat the rest, and I wouldn’t see her for two days or so….as long at it took her to consume a mallard. Yeah, I know, kind of a goofy way to spend your free time, but then…..