JAN. 22, 1973: THE DAY THAT CHANGED AMERICA ~ The Washington Post … This is a quick but thorough SYNOPSIS of the beginning of the BIG change in contemporary America ~ rŌbert


Protesters march around the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul on Jan. 22, 1973, after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. (AP)

By James D. Robenalt

It was a day unlike any other in U.S. history. Jan. 22, 1973, was the day Henry Kissinger flew to Paris to end the Vietnam War for the United States. It was the day the Supreme Court issued its opinion on abortion rights in Roe v. Wade. And it was the day the nation’s 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, died of a heart attack in Texas at 64.

Few days have represented such a turning point in the trajectory of our history, and what happened that day started a chain reaction that turned politically nuclear, leaving us with the current landscape of unbridgeable divides.

Less than a decade earlier, the American populace had seemed as united as ever in a time of landslide elections and political consensus. The disintegration of that unity began well before Jan. 22, 1973, but no date more fully captures the end of the spirit of the ’60s and the start of a darker era of seemingly permanent political schism.

More than anything, the Roe ruling drew an enduring red line through American politics, where compromise was impossible and opponents were not only wrong but wicked. Every year since 1973, D.C. has been flooded in the days around Jan. 22 with antiabortion protesters for what has become known as the March for Life. (Last year’s events were called off because of the coronavirus, yet many still came to Washington. This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, the gathering took place Friday.) Promoters refer to the event as “the world’s largest annual human rights demonstration.”

The vaccine requirements for certain events at this year’s march sparked a vicious online battle, with many abortion opponents asserting that vaccines cause abortions or are produced using fetal cells. “It is tragic that a PRO-LIFE organization would be coerced into promoting ground-up murdered baby injections!” one person posted in the comments on the March for Life website. “This is evil.”

The radicalization of our politics would not have seemed possible to the actors who made Jan. 22, 1973, such a fateful day.

The justices of the Supreme Court in 1972, including Chief Justice Warren Burger, front row center. (John Rous/AP)

Warren Burger, chief justice of the United States, was concerned that the edition of Time magazine that hit newsstands that morning scooped the forthcoming ruling, reporting that the “Supreme Court has decided to strike down nearly every anti-abortion law in the land.” Burger was especially miffed at the article’s headline, “The Sexes: Abortion on Demand,” when his own concurrence confidently asserted, “Plainly, the Court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortions on demand.”

Burger sent a letter to the other justices demanding that they find the source of the leak, even suggesting lie-detector tests for their law clerks.

President Richard Nixon met with Kissinger in the Executive Office Building next to the White House about 8:15 a.m. “You all set for your trip?” Nixon inquired, the soon-to-be-infamous tapes running. They chatted about the initialing of the accords in Paris that would finally bring an end to the long war that had ravaged Vietnam but also had torn apart the United States, especially dividing young from old. The terms would be anything but the “peace with honor” Nixon had promised. Hostile forces from the North were permitted to remain in place in the South, all but ensuring its eventual fall.

Nixon thought little about abortion and was only mildly irritated with the Roeruling later that morning. Of the four conservative justices he had nominated to the Supreme Court in his remarkable first term, three — Burger, Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell — joined the majority in permitting abortions. (William Rehnquist dissented.)

Days later, Nixon would tell his adviser Chuck Colson that there were times when abortion was necessary. “Let’s suppose there is a Black and a White,” he offered. The casual racism that spilled forth from Nixon in the tapes infected almost all of his political thinking and was at the heart of the political counterrevolution he was leading in 1973. Black people, in his view, were entitled takers, and it was the Whites who were being taken.

Two days earlier, on Jan. 20, Nixon had been at his zenith when he delivered his second inaugural address. Riding a historic landslide in November 1972, Nixon now felt empowered to let loose on Johnson’s Great Society and his programs to end poverty. Americans were no longer to ask what they could do for their country; they were to concentrate on what they could do for themselves. “Let us remember,” he declared, “that America was built not by government but by people, not by welfare but by work, not by shirking responsibility but by seeking responsibility.”

Johnson was a man broken by the war he kept trying to win, despite its futility. His civil rights record was unmatched by any president since Abraham Lincoln, yet as Johnson predicted, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 allowed Nixon to capture the formerly Democratic South and place it firmly in the Republican column. Culture wars would replace the War on Poverty.

President-elect Richard Nixon, left and President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House in December 1968. (AFP/Getty Images)

Johnson spent the morning of Jan. 22 touring his vast ranch in Texas in a car with his aide Jewell Malechek. So advanced was his heart disease that he could barely take 10 steps without having to catch his breath. He took a nap after his lunch and was awoke by stabbing pains in his chest.

When Nixon heard that Johnson had been airlifted to a hospital in San Antonio, he declared his predecessor a hypochondriac. Once it was clear Johnson had died, Nixon’s main reaction was that he would have to delay a TV address he planned to give attacking the Great Society. “I am just not in the mood,” he told his chief of staff, “after doing another funeral on Thursday or Friday, to go on national television and kick the hell out of the Great Society and while we’re scuttling all these programs.”

Nixon offers condolences to Lady Bird Johnson at the funeral for Lyndon B. Johnson at the Capitol on Jan. 24, 1973. (Library of Congress)

As the sun set on Jan. 22, the nation was changed. Symbolically and in practice, the country’s commitment to ending racism and poverty died with Johnson in Texas, the state where Roe v. Wade had originated. The end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam presaged a superpower in decline, unable to impose its will on the world despite its stunning military superiority. The opinion in Roe, which now stands a good chance of being overruled by the current Supreme Court, supercharged a political split that was already being driven by racial resentments. It all worked together.

How Democrats managed to beat the filibuster — 58 years ago

In some ways, the political forces that led to Trumpism were born that day. Donald Trump campaigned on White working-class resentments against the social welfare state, a promise to curtail abortion access, and an “America First” disparagement of involvement in foreign wars. He wouldn’t have framed it this way, but he was more or less elected on the currents that radiated from Jan. 22, 1973, with the Roe ruling and the end of Johnson’s Great Society dream and the Vietnam War.

These issues continue to overshadow our national agenda. Jan. 22 brought a close to New Deal and Great Society notions of the government lifting those in need. It began an age of cynicism, starting with the “Me decade,” and a sense that when it comes to major political issues, the United States is a country irredeemably divided.


By James D. RobenaltJames D. Robenalt is the author of “The Harding Affair, Love and Espionage During the Great War” and “January 1973, Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever.” He practices law in Cleveland at Thompson Hine LLP. 



The Monastery of Christ in the Desert is set in a canyon along the banks of the Chama River in northern New Mexico. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)

By Chris Moody

CHAMA RIVER CANYON, N.M. — Hidden in this canyon of crimson sandstone cliffs encompassed by miles of federally protected wilderness, the Monastery of Christ in the Desert seems like an ideal place to ride out a pandemic.

For more than 50 years, a small community of Benedictine monks has quietly lived, worked and worshiped here in a cluster of off-grid adobe buildings along the banks of northern New Mexico’s Chama River. Considered the most remote Catholic monastery in the hemisphere, it can be reached only by a 13-mile single-lane earthen road that winds through the canyon. Abiquiú, the closest village — population 151 — is 25 miles away. Groves of cottonwood and willows line the river where bald eagles hunt for rainbow trout. Black bears, coyotes and cougars prowl the pinyon- and sage-scented Santa Fe National Forest, which surrounds the monastery.

Despite the difficult journey, outsiders have flocked to this serene abbey for decades in search of spiritual renewal. As adherents of the sixth-century Rule of Saint Benedict, which teaches that monasteries are to treat visitors as they would Jesus himself, the monks graciously welcome outsiders. As many as 30,000 people make the pilgrimage each year, including past notables such as the artist Georgia O’Keeffe and the actor Matthew McConaughey. Guests are an integral part of Benedictine monastic life and have been for 1,500 years. “Monasteries,” Saint Benedict wrote, “are never without them.”

That was true for Christ in the Desert until March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the monks to close their doors to the outside world. For nearly two years now, guests have been prohibited from staying at the monastery, leaving the monks in a position they have never faced before.

“Guests are part of who we are,” said Brother Chrysostom, the monastery’s bearded guestmaster, who joined the fellowship in 2017. “We can only go so long without guests, and not just for financial reasons. For identity reasons. Not having visitors would betray the whole Benedictine charism.”

“We can only go so long without guests, and not just for financial reasons. For identity reasons. Not having visitors would betray the whole Benedictine charism,” Brother Chrysostom says. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)

The monks had little choice. Given their communal living arrangements, monastic communities are particularly vulnerable in a pandemic. Nine monks from the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece have died of covid-19. Last February, two nuns at the St. Walburg monastery in Villa Hills, Ky., died after 28 sisters were infected with the coronavirus. Outbreaks occurred in monasteries worldwide, including in Italy, the Philippines and Ukraine. With elderly brothers at the Christ in the Desert — the oldest is 95 — a coronavirus outbreak could have proved a death sentence.

To protect themselves, the monks blocked the entrance with a gate. “PLEASE DO NOT ENTER OUR PROPERTY,” a prominent sign pleaded. “WE HAVE HIGH-RISK INDIVIDUALS IN OUR COMMUNITY.”

Some outsiders ignored their request.

“People tried to storm the door, and I’d say, ‘No, you can’t come in here,’ ” Brother Chrysostom said. “They just disregarded the gate and came in anyway. Some understood, and some were very upset about it. It was just what we had to do. If one of us gets covid, we all get it.”

It was a decision they did not make lightly. The guesthouses and gift shop have traditionally served as the monastery’s primary sources of income, a necessity to fulfill Benedict’s order that monasteries be self-sustaining. In exchange for a donation ranging from $85 for individuals and $170 for couples, guests receive a simple room and three daily meals. They may attend services and Mass in the chapel with the monks, explore the canyon and, if they wish, work alongside the brothers during their morning labor period. The monastery has eight guest rooms available and can accommodate 13. Guests stay a minimum of two nights and can arrange visits lasting several weeks.

The monastery’s guesthouses and gift shop have traditionally served as its primary source of income. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)
Guests are welcome to attend services and Mass in the solar-powered adobe chapel with the monks. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)

Benedictine monasteries have always provided spaces for refuge, peace and reflection, a reprieve from the stormy fellowship of human life, as Saint Augustine put it. World-weary pilgrims have especially sought them out in times of collective national distress and hardship. After World War II, monasteries worldwide received an influx of applications. In the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Christ in the Desert was flooded with guests seeking spiritual guidance. But in this present moment of collective trauma and loss, the monks have been restricted from providing such a haven, unable to fulfill a part of their divinely ordained mission.

While the monastery was closed to guests for the first time since it was founded in 1964, the brothers turned inward. The community also shrank, from almost 60 in 2019 to 23 today.

“One thing that has changed is that it has allowed us to consolidate and coalesce as a community. Without visitors, we just have ourselves,” Brother Chrysostom said. “We’re less self-conscious about what we’re doing, especially younger monks. It’s so easy to get into a performance sometimes.”

The monastery keeps a tight schedule, and in that regard, life among the brothers changed very little while it was closed to guests. They still rose before dawn for Vigils at 4 a.m. and returned throughout the day to chant the psalter together inside the solar-powered adobe chapel; they attended Mass every morning and ate communal meals in silence. They worked on projects to sustain the community, focusing on weaving, cooking, laundry and maintenance. And they prayed, continually, for those suffering from covid-19, for the world, for God’s grace in exceedingly trying times.

The monks also responded to the pandemic in ways that feel relatable to those who have experienced it beyond the safety of the canyon. Brothers who made trips to town for supplies quarantined before reentering the community. Before health officials brought lifesaving vaccines in early 2021, the monks kept their distance from one another during services in the chapel and meals in the dining hall. For more than a year, some monks never left the canyon. Because of these measures, no one at Christ in the Desert has tested positive for the coronavirus.

When Brother David quarantined as a precaution for two weeks in March 2021, he passed the time by painstakingly lining up 2,000 dominoes that wound through his room in a dazzling display of brightly colored labyrinthine loops, spirals and patterns. He posted a video of his achievement on YouTube. “Being quarantined for 2 weeks has been wonderful,” he wrote on his channel. “I could go [on] for a few more weeks if it was not for the fact, I am unable to attend Mass.”

The isolation allowed the monks space to devote time to new projects. Since 2020, they have transformed their property through an ambitious agricultural program spearheaded by Abbot Christian Leisy, who was elected to the position in 2018. The monks acquired a herd of Navajo-Churro sheep, goats, chickens and a black-and-white guard donkey named Matty who chases away predators. They continued to work on a five-year program during the pandemic to develop gardens, livestock, pastures and orchards on the land. They recently constructed a greenhouse to grow fresh fruit and vegetables.

Brother David stops to greet Matty, a guard donkey, while walking the grounds of the monastery. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)

The isolation during the pandemic has provided the monks the opportunity to experiment in ways that would have been more difficult with guests, said Father Columba, a monk from Canada who is overseeing much of the monastery’s agricultural endeavors.

“It gave us the enclosure, to be honest, to develop unhindered,” he said. “The donkey is very territorial. When we have guests we won’t be able to do what we’ve been doing. We’ll have to enclose.”

The agriculture projects have allowed the monks to become less reliant on trips to town for supplies.

“We’re not anywhere close to self-sufficient,” Brother Chrysostom said. “We rely on our Our Lady of Walmart and Costco.”

Unable to share their life and work in person, some of the monks created YouTube channels, which provide a glimpse of life behind the adobe. Brother David, who goes by the social media alias “The Desert Monk,” has showcased the brothers building a solar-powered irrigation system, cooking in the kitchen, installing an electric fence, harvesting Christmas trees, weaving wool in their shop and raising a baby lamb named Shadow. On the monastery’s official YouTube channel, Abbot Christian led a tour of spring flowers, introduced viewers to a new hen, Linda, and walked through the vegetable garden full of squash, lettuce, onion, pumpkins, cherry tomatoes and kale. “Wish you were here,” he laments on camera, standing next to a new chicken coop. “We all know why you’re not.”Advertisement

Father Zachary works in the weaving room at the monastery. A YouTube channel has showcased the monks at work. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)
The monks have acquired sheep — as well as goats, chickens and a donkey — as part of an ambitious agricultural program. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)

The entrepreneurial spirit is nothing new for the monastery. To support themselves financially, the monks have adopted creative income streams over the years. Until recently, they grew hops and sold Monk’s Ale beer; in the mid-2000s, they played a starring role in a reality show on the Learning Channel — “Truly it is a challenge to use television to spread the Gospel,” the abbot at the time remarked afterward — and they signed a record deal to make albums of their chanting.

As early adopters of the Internet in the mid-1990s, they built their own website and realized that they had a knack for Web design. Using a modem connected to a mobile phone powered by solar panels, they started a business building websites that became an international media sensation. They consulted with the Vatican on the Holy See’s website. At one point, the high level of traffic to their monastery site caused the entire Internet in the state of New Mexico to crash. The enterprise was so successful, however, that they had to shut it down; monks work only a few hours a day, and the website-design business risked crowding out other spiritual disciplines.

Without guests to care for, Brother Chrysostom, 57, has explored new pursuits. He writes the monastery newsletter and he built an apiary to provide honey for the community. Years ago, the monastery’s last attempt at beekeeping was thwarted by a bear that ransacked the hives.

As a former academic with several advanced degrees, including from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania, Brother Chrysostom spent the pandemic earning a certificate in hotel management from Cornell University and he’s pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. As a musician who was part of a civic orchestra and a jazz trio in his past life, he occasionally retreats to a small adobe outbuilding — where he stores a double upright bass and a keyboard — to play in his free time. The walls are decorated with icons of Saint Ruth, Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint John Chrysostom, his namesake. A photo of jazz bassist Charles Mingus sits on a small table.

Brother Chrysostom and his fellow monks are looking to 2022 as the year that normalcy returns. In late August, the monks began receiving day visitors. They plan to finally welcome back overnight guests at the end of February, nearly two years after the gates went up.

Like much of the rest of the world, the pandemic, despite all its horror, gave the monks an opportunity to pause and reset. Guests who return may discover a different place from the monastic community they visited before the closure.

“I think that it’s been a very good time for us. A restful time. It has been a chance for us to slow down and actually become acquainted with one another,” Brother Chrysostom said. “People will probably notice a different feel in the community as a result of it, in a positive direction.”

A wooden sculpture stands on the grounds of the guesthouse at the monastery. (Ramsay de Give for The Washington Post)


In a new documentary, “Torn,” Max Lowe grapples with the death of his dad, and the presence of the man who replaced him.

By Nick Paumgarten

January 22, 2022

Alex  and Max  in December 1991 in Zion National Park Utah.
The director at age three with his father, Alex Lowe, in Zion National Park, in Utah.Photograph by Jennifer Lowe-Anker / Courtesy National Geographic

“This isn’t going to be very fun, Max.” A filmmaker named Michael Brown says this to Max Lowe about a third of the way through Lowe’s new documentary film, “Torn,” an autobiographical exploration of his family’s experience with tragedy and its aftermath. By “this,” Brown means the experience they are about to have watching footage from the day, in 1999, that Max’s father, Alex Lowe, perhaps the greatest American mountaineer of his generation, died in an avalanche during an expedition in Tibet. Brown and Lowe have just dug a stack of videotapes out of a box and popped a promising one into a VCR.

We then see what Max is seeing, for the first time in his life: the climbers at base camp waking up to fresh snow, brewing espresso on a gas-jet stove, setting out on an exploratory ramble to a moraine. An avalanche engulfs them. Two men, Alex Lowe and a cameraman named David Bridges, are buried. One man, Lowe’s best friend and tentmate, Conrad Anker, survives. We see more footage of the aftermath—Anker back at base camp, near-catatonic, as his wounds are dressed and the finality sinks in; a futile search amid the debris—and then we return to the scene of Brown and Max Lowe, the son, solemnly taking it in. Brown stops the tape. “Well, that’s, um—”

“What else is on that one?” Max asks.

“It’s just—more stuff like that.”

They are both choking up.

“Thanks for shooting it,” Max says.

“I’m sorry.”

Max was ten, the eldest of three boys, when his father died. The news reached his mother, Jenni, in Bozeman, Montana, via a satellite phone call from another member of the expedition, Andrew McLean. Grief-stricken, she found herself, within months, falling in love with Anker, the survivor and friend, who’d come to Bozeman to provide, and seek, emotional succor and support. Within two years, they were married, and Anker adopted her sons, and Lowe’s, as his own. A modern family, of a kind.

Perhaps it seems unsporting of me to give so much away. But the Lowe-Anker story has been told many times, in many media. I have written about it twice myself, in pieces about Anker and McLean. It has almost become a kind of climbing-world folk song, a dark and wondrous mountain myth open to new versions and interpretations. And yet, even for someone familiar with the details and reverberations, the experience of watching “Torn” is emotionally wrenching, and uncommonly intimate. Its earnest and unadorned affirmation of love is a fine bracer, in these sour, suspicious times.

“Torn” is Max’s story—his attempt to come to grips with what he has lost and gained, as well as to absolve and commend Anker, for his taking of Lowe’s place. Alex Lowe, Anker, and Jenni Lowe-Anker are the film’s principal characters, in many respects. One marvels at the dead father’s incandescence, the widow’s frankness and courage, the survivor’s taciturnity and inner turmoil. But the film’s protagonist, its quiet heart, is Max. We see him as a young boy, in home videos shot mainly by his father, and then, after Alex’s death, as a witness to the presence of his replacement. We watch young Max watching, and then thirty-year-old Max watching his younger self watching. He doesn’t need to say much; his gaze—as child, man, and filmmaker—does the talking.

The seed of this project was the discovery, in 2016, of Lowe’s body on Shishapangma, on the glacier where he’d been buried by the avalanche. Two climbers, David Goettler and Ueli Steck, came upon his corpse; after seventeen years, the ice and snow had released him. The family travelled to Tibet to retrieve and cremate the body in a pyre at base camp. They brought the cameras, of course, and, as Jenni and the boys experienced some measure of closure, Anker wrestled with a flareup of long-simmering survivor’s guilt and impostor syndrome. He had suicidal thoughts.

Max, as the eldest, had been more hesitant than his brothers to accept Anker. He’s the only one who didn’t change his surname to Lowe-Anker. The other boys hardly remember their father—to them, he is “Alex,” more legend than man, and Anker is “Dad.” On camera, Max questions his mother about her haste in taking up with Anker (“Why?”), and she offers a piquant declaration of both her love for Anker and her practical considerations for bringing him into the family. “ ‘Why?’ Why is it worth it to love someone?”

“I mean, I just can’t—I can’t imagine, in the wake of something so crushing—to come out of it so quickly in that way that you did.”

Jenni explains herself and says, “There wasn’t time to overthink it, Max. I just acted.”

At the same time that Max Lowe was making his film, I happened to be reporting a piece that was partly about Anker’s psychological and emotional struggles. I was the latest curious outsider to gawk and pry, while Max was taking it up from inside. I spent days with Conrad and Jenni in Bozeman, had dinner at their house, and had frank conversations with them about all they’d been through. I spoke with Max about the delicacy of his project. I found myself wondering if Anker had let me into his world and his head (a little ways, at least) to inoculate himself against the deeper exposure of the film. Jenni seemed to regard my project with some wariness, focussed as it was on the men who leave, rather than the women who get left behind.

“Torn” is one of several prominent new climbing films. “14 Peaks” follows the Nepali mountaineer Nirmal Purja’s quest to climb the world’s fourteen mountains that rise higher than eight thousand metres in just seven months—an unfathomable feat. Such is his strength that the threat of death (his, anyway) hardly comes into play; the film, curiously, depicts fund-raising as a steeper challenge than Annapurna. “The Alpinist,” a documentary directed by Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen, about the elusive Canadian free soloist Marc-André Leclerc, features what may be the most vivid and harrowing climbing footage I’ve ever seen. (After Mortimer’s previous film “The Dawn Wall,” co-directed by Josh Lowell, and Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s “Meru” and “Free Solo,” that bar is not low.) “The Alpinist” takes up questions of risk, loss, and grief, but perhaps in the genre’s more conventional way of accepting death as the cost of pushing limits. The sadness is raw, unprocessed. And no children get left behind, so there’s apparently no one around to parse the mythmaking or the long-term consequences of untimely death.

In “Torn,” the family members have been contending with the reverberations for two decades, even if they haven’t worked through it all together. Early on, Max’s brother Isaac says to him, “I’m curious as to why you want to make this film, considering it’s something that we haven’t really explored with just ourselves very much at all.”

The other brother, Sam, says, “I feel like it’s probably just going to bring things out in the open, and then we’ll just see if we can recover from that.”

The film turned out to be both a vehicle for, and a chronicle of, the family’s self-therapy. I got the sense from family members that it was not uncontentious. Jenni, who in 2008 published a memoir, “Forget Me Not,” has long served as the guardian of Alex’s legacy, and of her own story. It seems she had some trouble ceding control to her son. “Wouldn’t it have been easier just to go to therapy?” she told him.

“My biggest worry was that Alex might not be fairly represented, and that he and Conrad would be vilified for their passion for climbing, which would be their life,” Jenni told me recently. (She’s fully on board now, accompanying her son to festivals and screenings.)

Anker, meanwhile, was extremely reluctant to participate in the film, Jenni and Max told me. “I don’t want to do this,” Anker said.

She replied, “You don’t have a choice—this is your son.”

In some ways, like most good films, “Torn” is a film about filmmaking—about the consent of one’s subjects, and the act of shooting them, and the effect of time on the raw materials. Our home movies and commercial projects both gather power, as the years lay waste to us all. Most old expedition footage is a result of professional climbers bringing (or doubling as) film crews, at the behest of their sponsors—gear companies such as the North Face. We owe its existence to the economic circumstances that propelled these athletes to keep taking trips and risks when they might have had misgivings. (Lowe, in old footage and in conversations with his surviving partners, expresses increasing regret, throughout the film, about leaving home for such long stretches; our knowing that he’ll soon be gone for good makes such statements even sadder.) The family footage exists because parents are film crews, too, working in that most innocent and accidental of genres. The impetus, conscious or not, is to preserve memories and nourish nostalgia, if not to refract the past through the evolving contexts of an unknown future, one that is more often than not carelessly considered to be guaranteed.

The audience projects its own experiences and traumas. If you’ve lost people to the mountains, a film like “Torn” can seem like a séance. I couldn’t help thinking, throughout, of my own father, whose father died in an avalanche in 1952, when my father was just six years old, and of his older siblings, who knew my grandfather better than he did, and how that range of familiarity with the absent paterfamilias may have colored their lives. Film footage of my grandfather is scant (and soundless), but there are eyewitness accounts of his final hours. To my generation of cousins, he is pure myth, a concoction of photographs and letters and, possibly, tall tales. But to our parents? In the absence of a Max, or even a Conrad, it’s hard to know.

In memory of Thich Nhat Hanh


Beloved teacher the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh has passed from this world. At Upaya right now are close students of his, including Natalie Goldberg, Wendy Johnson, Valerie Brown, and Roshi Joan. We will be offering a memorial service for Thay this afternoon 5:30PM MT. This will begin with sitting meditation and followed by a service. If you are in Winter Practice Period, please join by zoom. Or you can join here: https://www.youtube.com/user/upayazencenter/live
To register for a Upaya program by phone, contact us at 505-986-8518 or email us for more information: upaya@upaya.org.

When registering, please consider becoming a Member of Upaya. Become a Member here.

• Check our Daily Zazen Meditation Schedule and join us on Upaya’s YouTube page.
• Visit our website for Upaya Programs.
• Sign up for Upaya’s weekly Dharma Podcast email here.
• Check in with our Local Sangha.
• Join the dialogue on Facebook and Twitter @upayazen.

You may unsubscribe from this newsletter or request fewer emails here.

If you no longer wish to receive any of our emails, you may permanently remove yourself from our list.
Copyright © 2022 Upaya Zen Center, All rights reserved.

Merrill Bitter found dead

Merrill was one of those rare types who shunned fame, but his climbing could have put him up there with the ‘greatest’. Peter Lev

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah (ABC4) – We’re learning more about a skier found deceased in Utah’s backcountry Thursday.

68-year-old Merrill Bitter, of Cottonwood Heights, was discovered by search and rescue crews near Alta Ski Area Thursday morning around 9 a.m.

Rescue crews discovered him in the Wolverine Bull area of Grizzly Gulch. The area is considered a backcountry area with an intermediate-level run amid several expert runs.

Family members say Bitter spent his entire life devoted to the outdoors. As an expert rock climber, he also loved backcountry skiing. 

His cause of death is still unclear. 

But what is clear — is that Merrill Bitter was an icon in the outdoor community and family members tell  ABC4 they are shocked by his passing.

When family didn’t hear back from him by afternoon, search and rescue teams mobilized.

It wasn’t until this morning that his body was recovered.

Usually — when talking backcountry danger, it’s avalanches. But avalanche danger is low in Utah right now. What can be dangerous are, though, are these slopes that face the sun all day.

“And in the morning or late in the day, that is a very hard slick surface. So it’s super easy that we lose our footing under our skis, our board, our snowshoes. and once you start sliding on a steep slope, you accelerate extremely rapidly,” Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center told ABC4.

Family members of Merrill Bitter describe him as just the healthiest outdoorsman, cautious and experienced.

Knowing he died in these mountains, they say is bittersweet.


‘His stories are legends’: Friend remembers life, impact of Utah skier killed in backcountry

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Merrill Bitter was an icon in the rock climbing community.

The 68-year-old from Cottonwood Heights went skiing Wednesday and was supposed to return at 3 p.m.

According to officials, the Alta Ski Area received a call at 9 p.m Wednesday from someone who knew Bitter, concerned he hadn’t returned. Bitter was then found dead Thursday morning in the Grizzly Gulch skiing area, adjacent to Alta Ski Area. 

Lance Merrill called Bitter his friend for the past 50 years. Merrill respected Bitter so much that he included him in his book, “We Should Have Died Young.” 

The book includes stories of people who Merrill thought were the best of the best at their craft.

“Merrill was more of a technical climber, where he would take a specific route on a section of a route and climb the part that everyone thought could not be climbed,” Lance Merrill said.

Merrill says he talked to Bitter just two weeks ago.

“I called him at about 11 in the morning and said, ‘Hey, Merrill, let’s go to lunch,’ and he was like ‘I’ve got plans today, Lance, let’s get together sometime this month,'” said Merrill, which is why it hit him hard when found out Bitter had died.

“I sat right here and cried this morning, there are some people you meet in your life that have a huge heart and they get along with everybody, and that’s how Merrill was.”

Merrill says Bitter took a strong interest in rock climbing in the 1970s and he even climbed with him from time to time.

“He wasn’t super human, but he just, because he was in such incredible condition and he had so much stamina, he just had this fortitude that allowed him to do things that a lot of people wouldn’t even consider,” said Merrill.

That’s why he feels that Bitter left such an impact on the rock climbing community.

“His stories are legends and I’m sure they will grow as time goes on,” said Merrill.




The beloved teacher and civil rights activist was a pioneer of engaged Buddhism who popularized mindfulness around the world.

By Joan Duncan Oliver

JAN 21, 2022

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master, Dies at 95
Thich Nhat Hanh at the Plum Village monastery in southern France | Courtesy Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh—a world-renowned spiritual leader, author, poet, and peace activist—died on January 22, 2022 at midnight (ICT) at his root temple, Tu Hien Temple, in Hue, Vietnam. He was 95. 

“Our beloved teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has passed away peacefully,” his sangha, the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism, said in a statement. “We invite our global spiritual family to take a few moments to be still, to come back to our mindful breathing, as we together hold Thay in our hearts in peace and loving gratitude for all he has offered the world.”

Thich Nhat Hanh had been in declining health since suffering a severe brain hemorrhage in November 2014, and shortly after his 93rd birthday on October 10, 2019, he had left Tu Hien Temple to visit a hospital in Bangkok and stayed for a few weeks at Thai Plum Village in Pak Chong, near Khao Yai National Park before returning to Hue on January 4, 2020. He had returned to Vietnam in late 2018, expressing a wish to spend his remaining days at his root temple.  

Known to his thousands of followers worldwide as Thây—Vietnamese for teacher—Nhat Hanh was widely considered among Buddhists as second only to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama in the scope of his global influence. The author of some 100 books—75 in English—he founded nine monasteries and dozens of affiliated practice centers, and inspired the creation of thousands of local mindfulness communities. Nhat Hanh is credited with popularizing mindfulness and “engaged Buddhism” (he coined the term), teachings that not only are central to contemporary Buddhist practice but also have penetrated the mainstream. For many years, Thich Nhat Hanh has been a familiar sight the world over, leading long lines of people in silent “mindful” walking meditation. 

It is difficult to overstate the importance of Thich Nhat Hanh’s role in the development of Buddhism in the West, particularly in the United States. He was arguably the most significant catalyst for the Buddhist community’s engagement with social, political, and environmental concerns. Today, this aspect of Western Buddhism is widely accepted, but when Nhat Hanh began teaching regularly in North America, activism was highly controversial in Buddhist circles, frowned upon by most Buddhist leaders, who considered it a distraction from the focus on awakening. At a time when Western Buddhism was notably parochial, Nhat Hanh’s nonsectarian view motivated many teachers to reach out and build bonds with other dharma communities and traditions. It would not be an exaggeration to say that his inclusive vision laid the groundwork for the flourishing of Buddhist publications, including Tricycle, over the past 35 years. 

At the heart of Thich Nhat Hanh’s approach to Buddhism was his emphasis on dependent origination, or what he called “interbeing.” Although this is a core teaching shared by all schools of Buddhism, prior to Nhat Hanh, it received little attention among Western Buddhists outside of academia. Today, it is central to dharma practice. Nhat Hanh viewed dependent origination as the thread that tied together all Buddhist traditions, linking the teachings of the Pali canon, the Mahayana teachings on emptiness, and the Huayen school’s vision of radical interdependence.

While Thich Nhat Hanh was a singular and innovative teacher and leader, he was also steeped in the Buddhist tradition of his native Vietnam. More than any other Zen master, he brought the essential character of Vietnamese Buddhism—ecumenical, cosmopolitan, politically engaged, artistically oriented—to the mix of cultural influences that have nourished the development of Buddhism in the West. 

Thich Nhat Hanh | Courtesy Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

Born Nguyen Xuan Bao in central Vietnam in 1926, Nhat Hanh was 16 when he joined Tu Hieu Temple in Hue as a novice monk in the Linchi (Rinzai in Japanese) school of Vietnamese Zen. He studied at the Bao Quoc Buddhist Academy but became dissatisfied with the conservatism of the teachings and sought to make Buddhist practice more relevant to everyday life. (Tellingly, he was the first monk in Vietnam to ride a bicycle.) Seeking exposure to modern ideas, he studied science at Saigon University, later returning to the Buddhist Academy, which incorporated some of the reforms he had proposed. Nhat Hanh took full ordination in 1949 at Tu Hieu, where his primary teacher was Zen master Thanh Quý Chân Thậ. 

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Nhat Hanh assumed leadership roles that were harbingers of the prolific writing and unrelenting activism that his future held in store. In the early 50s, he started a magazine, The First Lotus Flowers of the Season, for visionaries promoting reforms,  and later edited Vietnamese Buddhism, a periodical of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), a group that united various Buddhist sects in response to government persecution at the time. In 1961, Vietnamese Buddhism was closed down by conservative Buddhist leaders, but Nhat Hanh continued to write in opposition to government repression and to the war that was escalating in Vietnam.

Nhat Hanh first traveled to the United States in 1961, to study comparative religion at Princeton University. The following year, he was invited to teach Buddhism at Columbia University. In 1963, as the Diem regime increased pressure on Vietnamese Buddhists, Nhat Hanh traveled around the US to garner support for peace efforts at home. After the fall of Diem, he returned to Vietnam, and in 1964 devoted himself to peace activism alongside fellow monks. Nhat Hanh became a widely visible opponent of the war, and established the School of Youth for Social Service (SYSS), a training program for Buddhist peace workers who brought schooling, health care, and basic infrastructure to villages throughout Vietnam. In February 1966, with six SYSS leaders, he established the Order of Interbeing, an international sangha devoted to inner peace and social justice, guided by his deep ethical commitment to interdependence among all beings. 

On May 1, 1966, at Tu Hieu Temple, Nhat Hanh received dharma transmission from Master Chan That, becoming a teacher of the Lieu Quan dharma line in the forty-second generation of the Lam Te Dhyana school. Shortly thereafter, he toured North America, calling for an end to hostilities in his country. He urged US Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara to stop bombing Vietnam and, at a press conference, outlined a five-point peace proposal. On that trip he also met with the Trappist monk, social activist, and author Thomas Merton at Merton’s abbey in Kentucky. Recognizing a kindred spirit, Merton later published an essay, “Nhat Hanh Is My Brother.” 

thich nhat hanh with dr. martin luther king jr
Thich Nhat Hanh with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at a joint press conference on May, 31 1966 Chicago Sheraton Hotel | Courtesy Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism

While in the US, Nhat Hanh urged the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.to publicly condemn the war in Vietnam. In April 1967, King spoke out against the war in a famous speech at New York City’s Riverside Church. A Nobel Laureate, King nominated Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace Prize in a letter to the Nobel Committee that called the Vietnamese monk “an apostle of peace and nonviolence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war.” Nhat Hanh did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize: in publicly announcing the nomination, King had violated a strict prohibition of the Nobel Committee.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s anti-war activism and refusal to take sides angered both North and South Vietnam, and following his tour of the US and Europe, he was barred from returning to his native land. He was granted asylum in France, where he was named to lead the Buddhist peace delegation to the Paris Peace Accords. In 1975, Nhat Hanh founded Les Patates Douce, or the Sweet Potato” community near Paris. In 1982, it moved to the Dordogne in southwestern France and was renamed Plum Village. What began as a small rural sangha has since grown into a home for over 200 monastics and some 8,000 yearly visitors. Always a strong supporter of children, Nhat Hanh also founded Wake Up, an international network of sanghas for young people. 

After 39 years in exile, Nhat Hanh returned to Vietnam for the first time in 2005 and again in 2007. During these visits, he gave teachings to crowds numbering in the thousands and also met with the sitting Vietnamese president, Nguyen Minh Triet. Though greeted with considerable fanfare, the trips also prompted criticism from Nhat Hanh’s former peers at UBCV, who thought the visits granted credibility to an oppressive regime. But consistent with his stand of many years, Nhat Hanh made both private and public proposals urging the Vietnamese government to ease its restrictions on religious practice.

Fluent in English, French, and Chinese, as well as Vietnamese, Nhat Hanh continued to travel the world teaching and leading retreats until his stroke in 2014, which left him unable to speak. But Nhat Hanh’s legacy carries on in his vast catalogue of written work, which includes accessible teachings, rigorous scholarship, scriptural commentary, political thought, and poetry. Beloved for his warm, evocative verse, Nhat Hanh published a collection of poetry entitled Call Me By My True Names in 1996. His instructive and explicatory work includes Vietnam: Lotus in a Sea of Fire, published in 1967, and such best-sellers as Peace is Every Step (1992), The Miracle of Mindfulness (1975, reissued 1999), and Living Buddha, Living Christ (1995).

In addition to his followers worldwide, Nhat Hanh leaves behind many close brothers and sisters in the dharma, most notably Sister Chan Khong. A longtime friend and activist in her own right, she has assumed a more pronounced leadership role in the sangha in recent years. 


Interbeing with Thich Nhat Hanh: An Interview 
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh was born in central Vietnam in October 1926 and became a monk at the age of sixteen.

The Fertile Soil of Sangha
Thich Nhat Hanh on the importance of community.

The Heart of the Matter
Thich Nhat Hanh answers three questions about our emotions

Walk Like a Buddha
Arrive in the here and the now.

Free from Fear
When we are not fully present, we are not really living

Cultivating Compassion
How to love yourself and others

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Little Peugeot
The Zen master reflects on our culture of empty consumption and his community’s connection to an old French car.

Why We Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Suffering
Instead, we should fear not knowing how to handle our suffering, according to Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Fear of Silence
While we can connect to others more readily than ever before, are we losing our connection to body and mind? A Zen master thinks so, and offers a nourishing conscious breathing practice as a remedy.




~~~ CONTINUE ~~~


Probes in Georgia, New York and Washington target the former president, potentially jeopardizing his future — or perhaps yet again allowing him to escape unscathed

President Donald Trump and his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump make their way to Air Force One on Jan. 4, 2021, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base north of Atlanta. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

By Felicia SonmezJosh Dawsey and Jonathan O’Connell 

A flurry of decisions by the Supreme Court and federal and state investigators has forced Donald Trump and his adult children to defend their conduct on multiple fronts, potentially jeopardizing their futures — or perhaps yet again allowing the former president to escape unscathed.

On Tuesday, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) submitted a 157-page filing detailing much of the evidence her investigators have gathered so far on the business practices of Trump and his children, focused on a possible pattern of fraud. The civil investigation is separate from a criminal probe James is running in tandem with new Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D).

Then, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to block the release of some of his White House records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Thursday brought a double whammy: The House committee sent a letter to Ivanka Trump requesting her voluntary testimony. In the letter, the panel said witnesses have told investigators that the former White House adviser might have direct knowledge of her father’s actions before, during and after the mob of his supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.

And in Atlanta, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) requested a special-purpose grand jury to aid in her investigation into whether Trump and others committed crimes by trying to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn his loss in the 2020 election.

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~



Zara Rutherford, 19, carries the Belgian and British flags on the tarmac after landing her Shark ultralight plane at the Kortrijk airport in Belgium, on Thursday at the completion of a record-breaking solo circumnavigation.Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

Nineteen-year-old pilot Zara Rutherford touched down at an airfield in western Belgium on Thursday, becoming the youngest woman to fly solo around the world, as she closed the loop five months after taking off on her record-breaking journey.

Rutherford’s circumnavigation aboard her Shark UL plane took 155 days – two months longer than planned, thanks to loads of bad weather and visa holdups. Along the way, she crossed enormous stretches of desolate ocean and had to spend weeks in a tiny Siberian village. She also had to alter course to avoid North Korean airspace and wildfires in California.

And, of course, she chronicled it all on social media.https://www.youtube.com/embed/b8xGBV-naac?rel=0&start=8YouTube

“It’s just really crazy, I haven’t quite processed it,” she told reporters after landing in Kortrijk.

Since her Aug. 18 departure, Rutherford covered 28,000 nautical miles, stopping in 41 countries and five continents. It’s a journey that will land her in the Guinness World Records book, supplanting U.S. aviator Shaesta Waiz, who set the previous record in 2017 at age 30. Last year, Travis Ludlow of the United Kingdom set the overall record for youngest aviator to solo circumnavigate — at age 18.

~~~ LISTEN ~~~


NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to Haggard’s biographer Marc Eliot about his book: The Hag. Haggard spent his early years going from family tragedy to odd jobs to broken marriages to petty crime to prison.


The definitive biography of country legend Merle Haggard by the New York Times bestselling biographer of Clint Eastwood, Cary Grant, The Eagles, and more.

Merle Haggard was one of the most important country music musicians who ever lived. His astonishing musical career stretched across the second half of the 20th Century and into the first two decades of the next, during which he released an extraordinary 63 albums, 38 that made it on to Billboard’s Country Top Ten, 13 that went to #1, and 37 #1 hit singles. With his ample songbook, unique singing voice and brilliant phrasing that illuminated his uncompromising commitment to individual freedom, cut with the monkey of personal despair on his back and a chip the size of Monument Valley on his shoulder, Merle’s music and his extraordinary charisma helped change the look, the sound, and the fury of American music.

The Hag tells, without compromise, the extraordinary life of Merle Haggard, augmented by deep secondary research, sharp detail and ample anecdotal material that biographer Marc Eliot is known for, and enriched and deepened by over 100 new and far-ranging interviews. It explores the uniquely American life of an angry rebellious boy from the wrong side of the tracks bound for a life of crime and a permanent home in a penitentiary, who found redemption through the music of “the common man.”

Merle Haggard’s story is a great American saga of a man who lifted himself out of poverty, oppression, loss and wanderlust, to catapult himself into the pantheon of American artists admired around the world. Eliot has interviewed more than 100 people who knew Haggard, worked with him, were influenced by him, loved him or hated him. The book celebrates the accomplishments and explore the singer’s infamous dark side: the self-created turmoil that expressed itself through drugs, women, booze, and betrayal. The Hag offers a richly anecdotal narrative that will elevate the life and work of Merle Haggard to where both properly belong, in the pantheon of American music and letters.

The Hag is the definitive account of this unique American original, and will speak to readers of country music and rock biographies alike.


LISTEN· 17:50

Monday marks the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. Below is a transcript of his celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered on Aug. 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. NPR’s Talk of the Nation aired the speech in 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders gather before a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington.National Archives/Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition. In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.