Remembering Lee Lipp
I remember meeting Lee Lipp in the early 2000’s when some of us practitioners of color and our white allies created a few “Diversity as Practice” events both at San Francisco Zen Center and in the East Bay. These memories also reminded me of how long and how deep Lee’s commitment was to the practices of inclusion, multiculturalism, and anti-racism within the total context of the Dharma. She was an ardent ally, maybe because of what she said, what she believed, but even more than that, because of how she moved and acted in the world. She fully understood and felt how intention-of-heart connects to action-in-world connects to impact-on-others. Her felt understanding allowed the beautiful qualities of humility and leadership to emerge simultaneously and blend seamlessly with how she was in the world.
Along with having her clinical private practice, her dedication to supervise interns and clinicians at the Haight Ashbury Clinic, and serving on the Board of Buddhist Peace Fellowship, she involved herself in anti-racism work and diversifying the reach of the dharma by being involved with the efforts at both San Francisco Zen Center and Spirit Rock Meditation Center for over 15 years. She contributed to multicultural teaching teams at East Bay Meditation Center where she brought her deeply impactful work of Transforming Depression and Anxiety workshops to diverse communities. She also assisted EBMC by managing and coordinating their Continuing Education Unit program.
From 2000-2005, Lee was the Diversity Coordinator of SF Zen Center’s Outreach program. She worked with the Diversity Committee at Spirit Rock to coordinate daylong retreats on diversity and anti-racism work that were joint ventures by both SF Zen Center and Spirit Rock. In 2007, when the Diversity Coordinator position became further woven into the Zen Center infrastructure by being moved into the Abbot’s office, Lee once again filled that role. She wrote in one 2008 report:
“A widening of focus from racism to include study of other isms has resulted in growing interest in these efforts from a greater number of people, and more enthusiasm for addressing racism. Students and staff in various locations have formed ongoing groups looking at isms. SFZC is providing Staff with conflict resolution training and empathy-building training. Tassajara recently completed a three-day diversity training and some staff from Tassajara, GGF, and City Center completed two days of empathy training. More teachers of different traditions now being invited to teach, with workshops for POC, LGBTQIQ, youth, and other specialized classes and events.”
In 2012, Lee graduated from the fourth iteration of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leaders training program which was ground-breaking in its diverse demographics and intention to serve diverse communities. She was totally in her element and was a deeply engaged participant and resource to both the training group and the training team.
Thank you, Lee, for being such an ardent ally who has been consistent in bridging the difficult complexities of culture and identity across space, time, and lineage. But even more, I bow to you as a precious member of family. You are dearly missed.
With much love,
Bodhisattvas/Angels – Relating to Cancer, the last dharma talk given by Lee Lipp, was on April 27, 2016, at City Center. You can listen here.
Here are some photos of Lee Lipp by Shundo David Haye.
- Inkin: Myoju Erin Merk
- Ashes: Sojun Mel Weitsman
- Portrait: Seiren Barbara Kohn
- Memorial Plaque (Ihai): Kosho McCall
- Staff: Tony Patchell
- Robe: Ryumon Baldoquin
- Sammotsu: Jana Drakka
- Bowls: Myozen Joan Amaral
- Whisk: Keiryu Liên Shutt
- Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
- Personal item (Pincushion): Renshin Bunce
- Doshi: Eijun Linda Cutts
- Doshi: Rinso Ed Sattizahn
- Jisha: Kyoshin Wendy Lewis
- Inkin: Tim Kroll
The Names of Buddha
Vairochana Buddha, pure Dharmakaya
Lochana Buddha, complete Sambhogakaya
Shakyamuni Buddha, myriad Nirmanakaya
Maitreya Buddha, of future birth
All buddhas throughout space and time
Lotus of the Wondrous Dharma, Mahayana Sutra
Manjushri Bodhisattva, great wisdom
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, great activity
Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, great compassion
All honored ones, bodhisattva-mahasattvas
Wisdom beyond wisdom, Maha-prajñaparamita
Harmony of Difference and Equality
The mind of the great sage of India is intimately transmitted from west to east.
While human faculties are sharp or dull, the way has no northern or southern ancestors.
The spiritual source shines clear in the light; the branching streams flow on in the dark.
Grasping at things is surely delusion; according with sameness is still not enlightenment.
All the objects of the senses interact and yet do not.
Interacting brings involvement. Otherwise, each keeps its place.
Sights vary in quality and form, sounds differ as pleasing or harsh.
Refined and common speech come together in the dark, clear and murky phrases are distinguished in the light.
The four elements return to their natures just as a child turns to its mother;
Fire heats, wind moves, water wets, earth is solid.
Eye and sights, ear and sounds, nose and smells, tongue and tastes;
Thus with each and every thing, depending on these roots, the leaves spread forth.
Trunk and branches share the essence; revered and common, each has its speech.
In the light there is darkness, but don’t take it as darkness;
In the dark there is light, but don’t see it as light.
Light and dark oppose one another like the front and back foot in walking.
Each of the myriad things has its merit, expressed according to function and place.
Phenomena exist; box and lid fit. Principle responds; arrow points meet.
Hearing the words, understand the meaning; don’t set up standards of your own.
If you don’t understand the way right before you, how will you know the path as you walk?
Progress is not a matter of far or near, but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way.
I respectfully urge you who study the mystery, do not pass your days and nights in vain.
Dai Hi Shin Dharani
Namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya fuji sato bo ya moko sato bo ya mo ko kya runi kya ya en sa hara ha ei shu tan no ton sha namu shiki ri toi mo ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra rin to bo na mu no ra kin ji ki ri mo ko ho do sha mi sa bo o to jo shu ben o shu in sa bo sa to no mo bo gya mo ha te cho to ji to en o bo ryo ki ru gya chi kya rya chi i kiri mo ko fuji sa to sa bo sa bo mo ra mo ra mo ki mo ki ri to in ku ryo ku ryo ke mo to ryo to ryo ho ja ya chi mo ko ho ja ya chi to ra to ra chiri ni shifu ra ya sha ro sha ro mo mo ha mo ra ho chi ri yuki yuki shi no shi no ora san fura sha ri ha za ha za fura sha ya ku ryo ku ryo mo ra ku ryo ku ryo ki ri sha ro sha ro shi ri shi ri su ryo su ryo fuji ya fuji ya fudo ya fudo ya mi chiri ya nora kin ji chiri shuni no hoya mono somo ko shido ya somo ko moko shido ya somo ko shido yu ki shifu ra ya somo ko nora kin ji somo ko mo ra no ra somo ko shira su omo gya ya somo ko sobo moko shido ya somo ko shaki ra oshi do ya somo ko hodo mogya shido ya somo ko nora kin ji ha gyara ya somo ko mo hori shin gyara ya somo ko namu kara tan no tora ya ya namu ori ya boryo ki chi shifu ra ya somo ko shite do modo ra hodo ya so mo ko
- Daughter Trudy Hartman
- Daughter Mitzi Levine
- Granddaughter Rebecca Huenink
- Son Joe Hartman, singing This Little Light of Mine
- Statement by Hoitsu Suzuki, Abbot of Rinso-in, read by Kiku Christina Lehnherr
- Statement by Taiho Fukuyama, Head Priest of Sotoshu, and Ryubon Kamada, President of Sotoshu, read by Rev. Gengo Akiba, Bishop of Japanese Soto Zen in North America
- Ryushin Paul Haller
- Shosan Victoria Austin, reading When Death Comes, by Mary Oliver
- Zenki Mary Mocine, reading To Be of Use, by Marge Piercy
- Daigan Gaither, reading Gone to the Unseen, by Rumi
- Tim Wicks, reading And She Sewed, by Patsy Creedy
Ushers: Jordan Thorn, Rita Cummings, Arlene Lueck, Siobhan Cassidy, Thomas Ingalls
Doan: Michael McCord
Fukudo/Shoten: Paula Pietranera
Ino/Kokyo: Caitlin Burnham
Jiko #1: Judith Randall
Jiko #2: Lucy Xiao
Big Drum: Eli Stevenson-Brown
Instrument players: 1) Erin Merk (Inkin 1), 2) Tim Kroll (Inkin 2), 3) Djinn Gallagher (Drum), 4) Eli Stevenson-Brown (Drum), 5) David Zimmerman (Cymbal), 6) Allison Tait (Cymbal)
Spell To Be Said Upon Departure
What was come here to do
shelves of the water lie flat.
Copper the leaves of the doorsill,
yellow and falling.
Scarlet the bird that is singing.
Vanished the labor, here bells are.
Completed the asking.
Loosing the birds there is water.
Having eaten the pears.
the black figs, the white figs. Eaten the apples.
Table be strewn. Table be strewn with stems,
table with peelings of grapefruit and sweetness.
Table be strewn with sweetness,
what was here to be done having finished.
Blanche, you were, with Lou, my Zen godparents, the ones who first welcomed me into this sangha. You were the head of my dining room crew at Tassajara, and in later years the warm supporter of my practice with words, the kind and steady witness of it as a path. You practiced with us undisguised. When I last saw you, at Age Song, you were discouraged, and so I told you a story of Katagiri Roshi when he was dying. You answered me with one about Suzuki Roshi. Asked if he was afraid of dying, he said, “I know who I am.” Thank you for practicing with us as yourself. Thank you for your great kindness.
Blanche had one older sister, Marge (Margaret), who was four years older than she was, and Blanche looked up to her a lot. When Blanche was born, her parents had wanted a boy. In fact, her mother had gone to a fortune teller who said she would have a boy. On Blanche’s birth announcement her dad wrote: “Damn fortune teller lied. Blanche and her mom are fine.” Later, however, Blanche’s mother did say: “Boys are with you till they marry. Girls stick to you for life.”
As a child, Blanche Gelders hung out with her dad. He taught her to be handy. They had a Model T Ford pick-up and a fire started in it. He tried to fix it and got frustrated, saying to Blanche, “If you can fix it, you can have it.” She did fix it and drove it, but things kept going wrong with it and it needed lots of upkeep. There was a rumble seat, and gas for the car was under the front seat. Eventually Blanche traded it for a 1939 Chevy.
When she was young, Blanche was a tomboy and enjoyed spending time in her father’s workshop. Her mother didn’t mind—she was feminine enough for two and was very beautiful. Blanche was allowed to take shop in school, but also had to take sewing. They were supposed to make a wool skirt or shirt, but wool was very expensive (this was during the Depression). Blanche’s sewing teacher didn’t want to waste the wool on Blanche, so she let Blanche take care of the sewing machines instead.
Blanche always loved to sing, which might have started when she was in the Girl Scout chorus as a child.
They lived in Alabama (her mother and father were from Alabama) until Blanche was 10, when they moved to New York for a brief time—her dad was there for civil rights work. They returned to live in the Birmingham area. During World War II, he was in the Army Signal Corps and stationed in Davis.
Blanche’s sister often didn’t want her younger sister tagging around. Marge was very intelligent—she graduated from high school at 16 and got a full scholarship to Radcliffe. She taught in the first Women’s Studies Department at Santa Cruz. Blanche came to feel better towards Marge after she found a copy of her sister’s autobiography. In it, Marge spoke very fondly about her younger sister.
Early adulthood and meeting Lou:
Blanche went to college at UC Davis, which was then much smaller that it is now. She went to Berkeley for summer courses—things she couldn’t get at Davis. Her idol was Lou Hartman, who did a radio show based in Berkeley. He would sing: I Will Love You Till the End of Time. So she always managed to be near him (“in his face”, she said), but he didn’t notice.
At that time Lou was writing a play about the Spanish Civil War and needed someone to play a Spanish girl. Blanche looked the part and so she was drafted. There was also a veteran of the Spanish Civil War involved with the production as an advisor, and all the girls had a crush on the idea of him (a veteran of that conflict was a very stylish thing to be in communist circles in the forties). Blanche was confused, and thought that Lou was the veteran, so she developed a crush on him. Later, she found out she was wrong, but she stood by her crush . The veteran wasn’t actually attractive, she said.
A friend, Sue Williams, said to Lou, “Blanche Gelders has a crush on you.” Blanche was then 18. So the first time they were alone Lou asked Blanche, “Sue Williams says you have a crush on me. Is that true?”
Lou was 30 and had been married before to Marjorie, who wanted children. Their first child, Landis, was developmentally disabled and needed to be institutionalized, and the second died at birth. This was found to be due to a rare chromosomal abnormality passed through the mother, but Lou didn’t know that at the time and was concerned about having children. Lou and Marjorie were no longer married at the time Lou met Blanche. Not long after he told Blanche about his past, he sent her a letter of proposal. The next time he saw her he asked her what she thought of his letter. She said that it was kind of sudden. She went to ask her father what to do and he said, “Whatever you decide is right. If you decide to get married, you can make it work.” And she decided to marry Lou.
Blanche left UC Davis after she married Lou. Her father died of a heart attack when he was 50—and when Blanche was pregnant with her eldest son. They named him Joseph Gelders, after her father.
When they had children, Lou would help at their co-op pre-school. He came home exhausted because so many boys who didn’t have their fathers wanted to play very vigorously with him. He had been a restaurant cook and liked to cook for both of them and for guests. A barbecued leg of lamb was a favorite of his.
Blanche became a chemist and originally worked for a company that made ink. When she found out that the men were being paid more than the women there for doing the same job, she quit and went back to UC Berkeley to finish her degree. She graduated when her daughter, Trudy, was 10. She then became a bio-statistician, which was a very new field. At a certain point she went into civil service. There, she analyzed levels of lead in the blood of people who lived near freeways, to see if it might be greater than the norm. But she discovered that men were also paid more than women for doing the same job in civil service.
Life at Tassajara:
Blanche was a bit older than the other students when she was at Tassajara. She wanted to be liked by them and would make them ice cream. That was in the days when dry ice was used and one time it was too hard and students and staff were upset. Blanche then wanted to be Tenzo (head cook) to get over her “needing to be liked”—it was impossible to serve food that everybody liked, and it was a practice in not taking criticism personally. She found herself putting out coffee and tea on a tray to make it easier for the students. She noticed students ordering peanut butter and so made sure there was peanut butter at the back of the kitchen snack area. She also helped with getting students access to hard-boiled eggs.
End and Beginning Stitched Together
Alone, in the City Center sewing room
Sitting on a high stool seeking natural light
Blanche and I
I draw my last stitch of teal silk thread
relief at completion
grief at completion.
Threads cannot be separated–
all friends have lent a stitch.
Three times we circle the fragile cloth–
the final dance
between teacher and student.
Each precept a piercing of a needle of truth
threads of intention, motivation, action.
Nothing is ever lost, or wasted.
Blanche, here for me. Tears of gratitude.
Beclee Wilson Ren Getsu Kei Do
In an article published in Tricycle magazine, Shosan Victoria Austin says that Zenkei “Inconceivable Joy” Blanche Hartman lived up to her name
Vicki’s article can be read here.
Zenkei Blanche Hartman studied Nyoho-e, the practice of sewing Zen ceremonial robes, with Kasai Joshin Sensei, in the lineage of Sawaki Kodo Roshi. She taught this unique form of Zen practice to hundreds of students at Zen Center, and played an important role in establishing the practice in North America.
To celebrate and honor Blanche, we have established a memorial fund in her name. The fund will be used to support the renovation of a new sewing room at City Center. Blanche could be found regularly in the City Center Sewing Room helping students to sew their rakusu or okesa, as well as passing on the practice to other sewing teachers who followed in her footsteps.
The new sewing room will be named in her memory: Inconceivable Joy Sewing Room: In Memory of Zenkei Blanche Hartman.
If you would like to support this fund in memory of Blanche, you may donate online. Or you may send your check made out to San Francisco Zen Center by mail to:
Zenkei Blanche Hartman Memorial Fund
Attn: Nancy Petrin, Director of Development
300 Page Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
For more information, please contact Nancy Petrin via email: email@example.com