In the early ’90s when Joan lived in Japan, she became keenly interested in Buddhism and traditional Japanese arts, particularly ikebana. Upon her return to the States, she studied and practiced Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and began ikebana instruction under the direction of Mary Hiroko Shigaya. After twelve years of study, Joan received Shihan (formal authorization to teach) from the Saga School of Ikebana headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. These experiences led to articles on ikebana and Buddhism in Tricycle, Utne Reader and The Best Spiritual Writing series, which in turn led to her first book, Heaven and Earth are Flowers: Reflections on Ikebana and Buddhism.
Joan’s second book on Japan is about a Kannon (Guan Yin) pilgrimage. A Pilgrimage in Japan: the 33 Temples of Kannon is available from Mantra Books, Amazon or your local bookstore. There are many Kannon pilgrimages in Japan but the Saigoku or Western Japan pilgrimage is the most famous and beautiful. The 33 temples of this pilgrimage have been traveled by devotees of Kannon for over a thousand years. Some of the temples are in urban areas and some are high in the mountains, but all of them contain significant icons, legends and sacred energy. You can get a flavor for the Saigoku Kannon pilgrimage by viewing some of Joan’s photos on the “Pilgrimage” page of this website.
The Language of Flowers in the Time of COVID: Finding Solace in Zen, Nature and Ikebana will be released in 2023. This book recounts the events of the 2020 pandemic as Joan takes refuge in her remote mountain home amid seasonal changes. She explores flower lore and symbolism and returns to the solace of nature time and again during a time of great social, political and environmental upheaval.
More recently Joan’s interests are moving toward explorations of NW native and pollinator-friendly plants in our time of climate-change, pollinator collapse, and habitat loss. She has begun using native and pollinator-friendly plants in her ikebana and encourages others to grow native plants in their gardens. The heart of Buddhist precepts: “Do No Harm,” informs her actions more and more.