on gardening

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    Raven's Edge Paid Member

    IN MEDITATION PRACTICE, as in the garden, often the best learning happens at the edge of what you know, where the sorceress hills at the back of your brain go stone dark and you push through onto new ground. “Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite beyond it,” observed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson of the garden. This is the landscape I happened upon this winter, standing in the last Green Gulch field before the ocean, when a flock of ravens dismantled my notion of what it takes to make a garden. More »
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    Socrates' Friend Paid Member

    Much as I love to grow rosy-cheeked apples and long stripes of pale green butter lettuce, I equally welcome the presence of poisonous weeds and flowers in the garden. No paradise is complete without the murmur of these dark sorcerers from beyond the fringe: snakeroot and henbane, monkshood and deadly nightshade. Chief among the poisonous plants I respect is Conium maculatum, or poison hemlock, also known as the executioner of kings and philosophers, or “Socrates’ friend,” for the swift and fatal hemlock dose the Greek philosopher was condemned to drink by his political enemies around 400 B.C.E. More »
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    Kokopelli's Sack Paid Member

    For the late-season gardener there is no escape from the great ripening of August. The hands of every gardener are stained tell-tale brown with the gummy residue of unruly Ailsa Craig tomato plants. Try as we may to find a place of repose away from the incessant chatter of the cockscomb plants gossiping with the whirligig zinnias, nothing works. The tendrils of the lemon cucumber push open the stoutest sanctuary door, creep over the threshold, and wind clockwise around the gardener’s wrist. Once, twice, and again . . . the servant is pulled back to the garden. More »
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    Daughters of the Wind Paid Member

    EVERY YEAR around the spring equinox, the prevailing westerly winds begin to gust, battering the California coast just a scant half-mile from Green Gulch Farm. These westerlies are a swollen river of air moving across the face of the Pacific, blowing shoreline sand into long drifts and heaving spindrift spume against the dark bulk of the March headlands. More »
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    Pea Pod Practice Paid Member

    At Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, I worked in the garden with a woman about ten years older than me and a very serious Zen student. Marga was an ordained priest who wasn’t thrilled about being assigned to work in the garden with a brand-new Zen student as her supervisor, and I was always a little tentative around her. She was formidable and ruthlessly methodical. Whenever she questioned my stammered directions, she would raise both eyebrows at me, slowly, like a heavy velvet curtain rising on a performance of Waiting for Godot. But Marga believed in the dignity of real work, so she followed my directions efficiently and energetically. More »
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    No Trace Paid Member

    A few miles north of Green Gulch Farm is Muir Woods National Monument, a pristine stand of old-growth redwoods. Lately, I’m there a lot helping to pickax open the seized soil in Bohemian Grove so that broad-rooted native grasses can reclaim the tight ground. For the last five years, it’s been my civic duty to volunteer in the woods and work on the compacted ground where a giant Buddha was once constructed. More »