"But now, if you set up a thatched hut near to where the white rock protrudes from the moss-covered hills, while sitting upright and polishing your training, in a twinkling you will be one who goes beyond being Buddha and you will quickly bring to conclusion the great matter for which you have trained and studied your whole life." - Zen Master Dogen, 1231
According to the Waterville Morning Sentinel, Lena Friedrich, a student at the New York Film Academy, is making a documentary film about the North Pond Hermit, the 47-year-old man who lived in isolation in the woods of Maine for 27 years.
Ms. Friedrich said she first became aware of the Hermit through a story that appeared in the New York Times. “What interested me was not only the story, but all the reactions, and the diversity of the reactions that I find fascinating,” she said. “This is a guy that nobody knows, but everybody feels a connection to him; so that’s what we came here to explore.”
She said she is also interested in the idea that the Hermit, who for decades was the least socially connected person in the area, has suddenly become a famous person. “Nobody has pronounced his name in 30 years, maybe, and now he is on everybody’s lips,” she said. “That I find fascinating.”
Ms. Friedrich hinted that she has uncovered new angles in the hermit’s story that have not been reported yet, but she has not revealed any details.
Visiting the Hermit's camp in the rural Maine backcountry, she said she felt a connection with him. “It’s a place where you activate your imagination,” she said. “To see what he was looking at, what he was listening at, how he would wake up in the morning.”
Ms. Friedrich said she originally conceived of the film as a 25-minute short, but she is now leaning toward a longer version, perhaps feature-length. The finished product will be screened at the New York Film Academy in early September, and she hopes to have a screening in the Maine area in September. After that, she plans to shop the movie around at various film festivals. If it gets enough notice on the independent film circuit, she said, it could allow her to secure more widespread distribution.
Zen has a long history of hermits living in seclusion. For example, Zen Master Daibai Hōjō climbed to the summit of Mount Daibai to be apart from human society. He survived on pine nuts, living alone in a hermit’s thatched hut. Lotuses were plentiful in a small pond on the mountain, so Hōjō wore clothing made from lotus leaves. He lived that way for more than thirty years, pursuing the Way by doing seated meditation. He neither met anyone nor heard anything about human affairs whatsoever and he eventually forgot about the passing of years, seeing only the mountains around him turning first green and then yellow.