For both writers and Zen Buddhists, paying attention is important. It stands to reason, then, that Tracy Franz’s recently published memoir, “My Year of Dirt and Water: Journal of a Zen Monk’s Wife in Japan,” is full of carefully observed detail — a praying mantis tucked into a corner, the rice-grain-length stitches on a monk’s garments, an urn containing the bones of a beloved cat.

Franz, 44, says that she has been deeply observant since her childhood in Alaska, where she was frequently alone and outdoors. “I spent a lot of time with my mind,” she recalls, “wandering in the wilderness.”

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