Gutradt's work has appeared in the Japan-based Kyoto Journal, Utne Reader and Ashé Journal, and this month she published In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot, a first-person account of her time spent at an orphanage in rural Cambodia. The author, who describes the orphanage for children and women affected by HIV and AIDS as "a workshop for souls,'' has made four trips to Wat Opot since 2005 as a volunteer. Her first article for the Kyoto Journal, "The Things We've Gone Through Together," was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2008, Gutradt was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment between trips to Wat Opot. During a phone interview Aug. 7, we asked her to share the experience of being with the children once they learned she had cancer. "Because they had so much experience with illness, they understood what it's like to be looking at the whole thing. They are caretakers and seem to heal each other in so many ways,'' she said. The cancer returned in 2012 and Gutradt, 68, continues to undergo treatment near her home in Bar Harbor, Maine. But this has not stopped her from planning to return to Wat Opot. "The other day I was talking with my oncologist, and it came up that I'd like to go back. The doctor told me, 'Hey, go back for a month. Do it.' I hope to go in January,'' she said.
What's on your nightstand?
I've been on a George Orwell jag, but not the usual stuff, not Animal Farm, his lesser-known works. There's Down and Out in Paris and London and Burmese Days. He's such an amazing craftsman. I had been thinking about a return trip back to Cambodia, but a friend of mine is running an outfit called Luminous Journeys. I was wondering whether or not I had time to stop off to do one of the short tours. ... So I had been thinking of Burma and picked up Burmese Days. I'm also reading Rudyard Kipling's Kim. ... Here's a guy, Kipling, usually sketched out as a colonial, and he's writing very insightfully about Buddhism and passion. I also have Aubrey Bart's book, The Bluesiana Snake Festival. It's written in dialect. It would be a wonderful book on audio, and once you get the ear, it's a fun, crazy book to read. I've also got A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen by Robert Aitken. He uses the haiku for Dharma talks and Zen translations. Zen is about being in the present moment and so is haiku.
Do you want to write more?
For me, the big question is time, but I'm very anxious to keep writing. It keeps my mind alive. I feel the nerve cells light up in my head. I've been writing short pieces. I wrote an article for an online cancer platform called Reimagine that just started. I've been writing on and off for the Kyoto Journal, but I feel like Rocket was a book that was handed to me to write. I think I have to be given a topic.
By the universe.
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163. Follow @Florida_PBJC.