on gardening

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    Against the Grain Paid Member

    For the last few days I have been lost in the thicket of the Indian summer garden, gathering the ripe seed of Galactic lettuce, Russian sunflowers, and multi-hued quinoa that hails from the Andean highlands. My hands ache from cracking open brittle pods and threshing autumn seed treasures to plant in next year’s garden and to give away. More »
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    On Gardening: Steaming With Buddhahood Paid Member

    While I have been working and meditating at Green Gulch Farm Zen Center for almost three decades, a few seasons ago our family moved “off campus,” about a mile or so up the road, to the coastal community of Muir Beach, where an active clutch of former Zen Center residents continues to practice in the wide embrace of the so-called real world. More »
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    Heavy Grace Paid Member

    Both my parents died at the end of 1998, each of them on a Monday, a little less than three months apart. Although they had been divorced for forty years, they flared out together like two long-tailed meteors burning a nasty parallel gash in the cold dome of the winter sky. Even though I have been practicing Zen meditation for twenty-eight years and working as a front-line hospice volunteer for ten, nothing helps. Nothing. The back of my head has been ripped off and I’m immune to that unctuous snake oil salve of “no coming, no going; no birth, no death” that well-intentioned Zen friends dab on my raw scalp. Give me good old Rujing from twelfth-century China any day, who, when setting fire to Elder Yi’s funeral bier, cried out, “Ah, the swift flames in the wind flare up - all atoms in all worlds do not interchange.” More »
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    Whitefly Zen Paid Member

    As a front-line organic gardener allergic to pesticides of any stripe, I have ample opportunity to practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in our huge, teeming garden. Lately, as clouds of pests and beneficial organisms descend onto our spring crops, I begin to see that Zen practice itself if a kind of “integrated pest management.” “Keep your enemies close, and practice diligently as if to save your head from fire,” I mutter to myself as sucking whiteflies blanket the lower leaves of our heritage tomato plants growing in the greenhouse. IPM has some very simple guidelines for practice that arise out of an ecosystem approach to working with pests in the garden. In these guidelines I hear echoes of naturalist John Muir from almost a century ago: “When we try and pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” This is sound Buddhist teaching, and so are these IPM guidelines from which core Zen principles step boldly forth: More »
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    On Not Cutting Corners Paid Member

    I am a steadfast refugee from the computer age, a modern dinosaur, born too late and disinclined to type, send e-mail, or surf the Net. I know that in the time it would take me to learn to use the computer I could bud and graft disappearing strains of heritage apples, a far more compelling task for my hands and mind. More »
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    A Taste as Old as Cold Water Paid Member

    Timeless spring has its sharp teeth buried in my back flank, urging me to finish the last plantings of April before summer rises up out of the warm ground to claim the garden. Today, Sarah and I are planting a young olive tree on the edge of the Edible Schoolyard garden at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in north Berkeley, with the help of a few rapscallion seventh graders. And, hard as I try to resist, the primordial olive is pulling me down again into the well of time. More »