I'm not sure when the idea of writing a book about "Zen Paganism" first occurred to me. Certainly it bounced around in my head for years before I made any step towards making it happen. It first really started to take shape during my three months in Japan in the spring of 2007, but at the time that wasn't a conscious intention, my intent was just blogging and journaling. The first draft was completed in January 2010, just before my fortieth birthday, and almost four years later Why Buddha Touched the Earth is finally published. (I'll probably have more to say later about the adventures of a first-time author trying to publish a niche book in today's publishing world, but for now I just want to look in wonder at a book cover with my name on it.)
The earliest writing I have on the topic, the first firm declaration that "I am writing a book!", is from November 2005. This was during my second trip to Japan, visiting the lovely and talented Robin Gunkel, friend and fellow poet, founder of the Zelda's Inferno poetry workshop. For your amusement and mine, here it is, eight years and a few weeks later, misspellings and obvious typos fixed but other errors of grammar, history, and thought preserved. Some of these ideas and sentences made it into to final version...some didn't. (If I hadn't learned something in the process, if I wouldn't say things at least a little differently after years of research and writing, the whole effort would have been a failure, no?)
As I write this, I'm on the train to Nara, home of the great Daibutsu statue; this morning, at Robin's apartment in Osaka, we listened to a recorded lecture from Naropa University about Kerouac and the introduction of Buddhism into the mainstream American counterculture through the Beats. It seems a good a time as any to begin this project of trying to explain and explore this idea I've stuck with the label "Zen Paganism".