on gardening

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    Planting Paradise Paid Member

    Last summer about this time when the Dragon Tongue beans began to thicken their speckled fingers and clutch heavy to the vine, I helped plant a circular "house" of sunflowers with an eager passel of kids. This sunflower circle was a ragged ring of paradise planted on the far edge of the kitchen garden near our giant Rosebrook apple tree. More »
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    Radiator Charlie's Mortgage-Lifter Tomato Paid Member

    In August my gardener hands are stained nicotine dark from the resinous sap of tangled tomato vines heavy with summer fruit. In the spell of the nightshades I return to my first season of growing tomatoes at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, deep in the Ventana wilderness of central California. Anchored by a daily meditation schedule of dawn and nighttime zazen, the tomato plants of the Tassajara garden kept my practice grounded by day. Now, almost 35 years later, the intrepid tomato continues to provide long hours of mindfulness and the real wealth of a succulent harvest. More »
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    A Season of Nonviolence Paid Member

    In bitter January a black rime of ice sealed the frozen pores of the land. Trappist monk Thomas Merton often encouraged practitioners and gardeners alike to hunker down in this dormant season and “love winter, when the plant says nothing.” For more than a decade peace activists have set aside 64 days from January 30, the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death, through April 4, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, as a season of nonviolence, an ideal time to commit to sit deep in the saddle of meditation and mindfulness. Yet even in this settled season the invisible plant kingdom is not voiceless. I hear moving through stone cold earth the old music of blood-red Flanders field poppies. More »
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    Silver Thread Broken Paid Member

    IT IS high season in the garden, just past summer solstice. The land is heavy with crops while the bloodline of Redwood Creek, where I have lived, gardened, and meditated for over three decades, runs through the old-growth redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument out to the sea. Redwood Creek is a short, seven mile-long spawning stream for silver salmon, ancient members of the endangered Coho salmon line. In January of 2008, Muir Woods commemorated its centennial year. The month also marked the first time in its recorded history when not a single silver salmon returned to spawn in our watershed.More »
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    The Voices of the Watershed Paid Member

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    Spring Weeds Paid Member

    Spring comes to the coast of California in early February, like an over-eager dinner guest arriving an hour and a half before the appointed feast. We have barely recovered from bringing in the November harvest of Baldwin apples and winter potatoes when spring touches the bleak, windswept land. With a mixture of dread and awe, I watch as the white petals of our old plum tree push against their bud casings and burst open, announcing the new season. Underneath the plum is a thicket of spring weeds: black mustard and miner’s lettuce, chickweed and shepherd’s purse, and deep veins of stinging nettle. These weeds run in seams across the cultivated cropland of Green Gulch Farm. Every year in this season I walk the fields, waist-high in weeds. I feel the pulse of the land stirring awake underneath my feet. In the first years of San Francisco Zen Center, Suzuki Roshi encouraged new students by saying: More »