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    Food with the Farmer's Face Paid Member

    Over the last 5 years or so my formal Zen practice has begun to dematerialize, dropping down below the horizon where blue earthworms mix raw manure with the guts of the ground. For original teaching I summon the first Zen pilgrims who came to North America in the early 20th century. Nyogen Senzaki spent 20 years working as a farmhand, a waiter, a houseboy, and a translator before establishing practice places in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “Zen is not a puzzle,” he insisted. “It cannot be solved by wit. It is spiritual food for those who want to learn what life is . . .”  More »
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    Window Guest Paid Member

    This fall a large orb weaver spider of bulbous abdomen took up residence in the southeastern window of our living room. A summer refugee from the garden, it clearly did not belong there, and yet it settled in as if it would be staying awhile. She built an exquisite web, anchored by three mainstay threads to the windowsill. The concentric circles of gossamer silk were stitched together at regular intervals, forming a flat food net. Every night the spider would come to the middle of the web and hang in place, waiting for prey. When day came, she would climb up to the edge of the frame and tuck in for the day, legs outstretched on the web to receive vibrations from visitors. One early morning before dawn I found the spider carefully repairing the net, one small stitch at a time. More »
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    Vegetable Nirvana Paid Member

    At the waning of the hunger moon in early February, frozen ground thaws. The ancient pagan calendar marks this season as a time of rebirth and growth of imagination. New fire lit on the cold ash of winter’s bone illuminates the primal trinity of poetry, smithcraft, and rising fertility at the pale rim of the year. More »
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    An Earthly Paradise Paid Member

    At the dark nadir of the year, burly raccoons feast past midnight on the dead-ripe fruit of autumn. Overhead, Orionid meteor showers leave no trace across an onyx sky. November wind scours the world. Early in the morning toward the end of the season, I plant a solitary Yellow Bellflower apple tree at our local community college in the cold ground. I have been tending this maiden tree for almost a year, ever since a celebratory gathering held last October, dedicated to the propagation and preservation of rare and endangered heirloom fruit. The apple is an ancient member of the extended rose family, radiating out from a parental matrix that includes wild strawberries, blackberries, tiny currants, and quince, as well as pears, plums, peaches, cherries, nectarines, and apricots. More »
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    A Tide of Pollinators Paid Member

    Every summer for the last 20 years I have made a pilgrimage to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center with my dharma sister of three decades, Annie Somerville, executive chef of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. We offer a rambunctious retreat weekend of applied Zen: two full days of cooking and gardening deep in the mountains of the Ventana Wilderness. Seasoned with the silence of daily meditation, peppered with long walks on the ragged edge of the California Coastal Steppe, this retreat follows the dragon veins of undomesticated practice. More »
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    Bodhi Tree, Bodhi Mind Paid Member

    On New Year’s Day I flew to India with my 23-year-old daughter, Alisa. She had won a journey to India in the annual employee raffle held at the fine restaurant where she works in North Berkeley. “Come with me, Mom,” she implored, and since this grand prize coincided with her college graduation, we set forth together on a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the Buddha. Auspiciously, my close friend Shantum Seth, a fellow lay dharma teacher in the Order of Interbeing and a longtime student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, was coleading the 2012 winter pilgrimage In the Footsteps of the Buddha with Bernie Glassman, seasoned Zen teacher and founder of Zen Peacemakers, an organization committed to the practice of socially engaged Buddhism throughout the world. More »