on gardening

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    Gone To Seed Paid Member

    Upright, well-mannered gardens, with tidy beds of manicured lettuce corseted by tightly clipped boxwood hedges, make me itch. I have a naughty mind that wants to scratch rank pigwood seed between all neat and trim rows. Give me a wild garden any day. One of the most inspiring autumn gardens I ever saw was just such a wild patch growing in a deserted city lot in the heart of industrial West Berkeley. There, in the midst of upscale, gentrified businesses and a thumping lumberyard and sand factory, this forgotten garden dominated the landscape. The garden was originally a market enterprise, designed to grow specialty organic produce for high-end purchase. This project, which had been a huge success at first, mysteriously went belly-up. The ripe garden crops were harvested for sale and the rest of the plot was abandoned, left to go to seed. More »
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    A Prayer for the Forest Paid Member

    “Draw your chair close to the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald I recently returned from a pilgrimage into Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County in northern California, where eight of us buried an earth treasure vase in the heart of old growth redwoods. We went into this remote forest 275 miles north of Green Gulch Farm by foot, crossing the line onto barricaded private land and tracking a maze of muddy logging roads for hours to reach the Headwaters grove, high in the saddle of the Elk River drainage system. Our journey had actually begun three months earlier, when our sangha was presented with an earth treasure vase. The tradition of the treasure vase has its roots in Tibetan Buddhist practice: an earthen jar is filled with prayers and precious life-enhancing materials and buried in endangered ground, for the healing of the earth. More »
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    Winged Messenger Paid Member

    In high summer, when soft green butter lettuce is woven into a tapestry of opal basil and garnet radicchio, I stand in the center of the garden stretching my tired back muscles and watch the dragonflies work the warm afternoon air, harvesting a feast of insects. One of the fiercest and most effective carnivorous predators in the garden, a single dragonfly consumes twenty percent of its body weight daily by ingesting beneficial and pestiferous insects, including up to three hundred mosquitoes a day, as well as a few tender larvae from its own Odonata order of the “toothed ones.” More »
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    Original Flavor Paid Member

    “Love winter,” wrote the poet-monk Thomas Merton, “when the plant says nothing.” Would that this were so for me, but when the ice winds of late January undress the last of the garden fruit trees, rather than abiding in dormant silence these plants begin to whisper in tongues, unraveling their long, winding stories. Whether I know the plants well or not makes little difference, as I learned last year while visiting the garden of some dharma friends in Sacramento for the first time. More »
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    A Harvest of Learning Paid Member

    One day a week my Zen Center work includes leaving the well-ordered calm of our windbell meditation garden and heading east to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where I work with a rowdy, rotating population of eleven- to fourteen-year-olds and their dedicated teachers cultivating a one-acre Edible Schoolyard garden in the heart of north Berkeley. “A school garden carries the life of the community,” proclaims a 1909 pamphlet on suggestions for garden work in California schools. This has been true for the Edible Schoolyard since its conception in 1995, when a local resident and the founder of Chez Panisse restaurant, Alice Waters, met with King Middle School principal Neil Smith to plan not only a garden within the school community but a school within the lively continuum of its garden and kitchen “classrooms.”More »
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    Medicine and Disease Subdue Each Other Paid Member

    On the summer solstice of this year my youngest sister, Debbie, was diagnosed with breast cancer, revealed in a routine mammogram. The mother of two young sons, ages six and seven, she wasted no time in responding to this diagnosis, and by early August I found myself in her tenth-floor New York Hospital room awaiting her return to life following eight hours of major surgery. More »