images of the crossing over


It’s time for a hiatus.

This blog was the outgrowth of two things: one, pursuing photography as a hobby, and two, my position as campus photographer at school. I wanted to be able to show from a respectful yet intimate perspective the often un-witnessed aspects of monastic life, and the camera and photography became the medium through which to do that. That is the stated purpose of this blog, after all: “to document and express the lives of Buddhist nuns.”

Two major difficulties arose not long after FTS got up and running. One, every time I left school and came back to my home temple for vacation, I lost the leisure to stand beside the life of the community and observe it in the way that photography requires. It’s a beautiful and subtle relationship, how it is through observation that you’re able to express what it is you observed–and through that expression, participate. Any meditator or documentary photographer will tell you, observation is not passive, it’s active; but not active in the way that I’m required to be at home. At home, where I conduct the ceremonies, serve as attendant, answer the phone, sit in the office, I began to think that FTS may not have much viability beyond school.

Then, last year, the photographer position was cut. This was very disappointing, because this blog had been up and running only half a year before I lost the time and resources required to bring integrity to a project like FTS. I soon found myself in the same position I was at home–a part of the action, rather than observing it–and this, combined with the lack of permission to shoot even during free time, meant that I could no longer photographically witness the community. Sure, I can take pictures, but I find myself reverting to the pictures I took before I went to school: inanimate objects, still-lifes, studies of light. Photographs, sure: but not the project I want to work on, and not suited to the purpose of FTS.

I never intended this blog to become a personal blog, a running commentary on my own life, vocation, and practice. I wanted to show the greater picture of the sangha, from an insider’s perspective. Not being able to do this has been difficult, because this, this witnessing of our lives, is something I believe is necessary and skillful. Additionally, I don’t feel it’s appropriate or helpful to have a personal blog at this point. And yet, in the absence of being able to work as I wished and originally intended to at school and in the continued presence of a blog, I’ve found myself veering more and more in that direction.

Taking a break, then, seems the most appropriate thing. If I can’t keep working on the FTS project for the foreseeable future, there are other projects I have in mind that don’t require the unique position that photography does in order for me to actualize them. Also, I graduate school in about five months, and I was uncertain what I would be able to do with FTS after graduation anyway. Lastly, as the over-exposed picture taken over a year ago above proves (I’m having technical problems and can’t upload anything recent right now) I need to work on my technique and skills, both with the camera and in processing, before I can begin to feel confident that I’ve done justice to the community I hope to photograph.

I’m going to let this project rest for awhile. It’s not like I don’t ever get the chance to take pictures, but I would feel more comfortable thinking that I had communicated both what I had hoped for this project, and why I feel that, in light of the severe restrictions on time and activity that have come up, setting it aside indefinitely is appropriate.

What I will continue to do is make formatting and style changes to FTS. I have yet to find a template I like; there are other housekeeping things I’ve continuously put off. Other projects I’m considering will probably also use WordPress as a foundation, and so from a strictly utilitarian point of view I can mess around with the nuts and bolts of this blog with an eye to other projects. And, who knows when, but some day I do hope to resume the photographs and project that formed FTS in the first place.

There’s a small but dedicated group of readers of this blog: thank you.


9 responses

  1. I am going to miss this blog! I have deeply enjoyed these glimpses of monastic life. I often think of the images I have seen here; they have touched me and have opened a window for me into a life I do not, and cannot, know. I am grateful to you and to your sangha for that opportunity.

    It has also been a joy to feel that I have a glimpse, however scant, of some of what your life has been like since you departed these shores. I hope we will have more opportunities for connection once you have finished your schooling — whatever form your life takes, and wherever your journey may lead you.

    I send love to you from a coffee shop in western Massachusetts, where I am eating a bagel and drinking iced coffee and waiting for a handful of clergy colleagues to show up so we can study some Hasidic texts together. Blessings, blessings to you always.

    August 10, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  2. Bill Young


    I understand your reasoning, but I’ll miss FTS. It was an always anticiapted was to see and learn about the daily happenings of your life and that of Eun Mun Sa.

    All the best.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm

  3. Roy

    Dear Sunim,

    Thank you for doing this blog. I, like Rabbi Rachel, have enjoyed the open window.

    May you be peaceful.
    May you be happy.
    May you be safe.
    May you awaken to the light of your true nature.
    May you be free.

    – roy.

    August 10, 2011 at 1:15 pm

  4. I’ve valued this blog especially because it wasn’t personal in the ordinary sense, because it reflected the life of a community, and because it blended keen-eyed imagery with thoughtful text. For these reasons, I’ve experienced it as a great gift. So . . . thank you!

    And, should you find another medium for describing your experience on those shores, I hope you’ll let us know. And I hope to see you in October!

    August 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm

  5. Our thanks should be for you that all you have shared with this blog. May your journey bring you continued opportunities for growth and joy.

    August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm

  6. Everyone…thank you. I intend to work on this project again, but because I can’t say when I’ve just had to leave everything at “indefinite…” but keep your RSS feeds open, if you’re a subscriber, or check back every so often. I’m deliberately not shutting the blog down.

    Rachel, I’m so glad to hear that this served the purpose I’d had for it, to open a window! And I hope we’ll connect again later, too. I’m kind-of working on something that I hope will, after school and after my obligation to my temple is over, bring me back to the States. I’ll let folks know when plans seem firmer. Also–since you’re on FB–I’ll probably be relying more on that particular format for updates…so we’ll see. (Ooooh, enjoy that coffee and the study group!)

    Mr. Bill Young–

    Thanks. Maybe I’ll have to see about a Flickr account just so that you and Miss Maggie can stay on top of things. *grin*


    Thank you, again and again.


    How wonderful to “see” you here for the first time! Thank you.


    I have an email in draft for you…October’s a date! I’ll send that email.

    August 10, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  7. Thanks for all the great blogging, and be sure to drop the link here if/when you start another project. Cheers.

    August 11, 2011 at 3:00 am

  8. Bob Erb

    Your “small but dedicated group of readers” might be larger than you imagine.

    Thank you and good luck.

    August 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm

  9. I was saddened to read that your blog will be put on pause for a while. I just discovered your blog through Chong Go Sunim, and am saddened to hear this news. Over the past couple of days my wife and I have really enjoyed your pictures and personal essays. May you remain happy and healthy until you resume this blog; hopefully, in the not too distant future!

    Thank you again for sharing.

    August 14, 2011 at 12:29 am

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