Sunday, May 27, 2012

What's New With Me?

"To know your soil is to work with the land and to let the land work you as well. How you cultivate your ground depends on you — maybe you will dig down deep like a joyous, unleashed dog and mound up your garden as we love to do at Green Gulch, or perhaps you will choose to create a long-term, slow-pulsed permaculture garden with soil that is hardly moved at all. What matters most is that you are in relationship with your land and listening to the soil as you work, finding your true place in the body of your garden."
- In the Tangle, by Wendy Johnson

Roses are everywhere! They're big and small,  fragrant, colorful, amazing.
I took a drive up to the Russian River a few weeks ago to celebrate my grandma's 93rd birthday and mother's day; the drive is amazing, through rolling vineyards and then through cool moist redwood forests to get to the little town of Cazadero, Ca.
These German irises or "Bearded Iris" that are a rich maroon color are the color of Dr. Pepper and seriously smell like Dr. Pepper, no joke!
I am studying the ancient way of the tea ceremony.  It's super fun, I get the same feeling of playfulness that I get when doing oryoki (that special style of eating in the zendo used on days of all day meditation).  This is Meiya the tea master.

  • The apple trees are full of aphids, kinda gross!  And kinda sad.  Apparently this happens every year...but it is hard to watch the trees you love being eaten by swarms of tiny bugs
  • I have taken up knitting again, we have a little club so maybe I'll learn to knit more than a scarf!
  • My bike is finally here and Austin and I have a year pass to Muir Woods so I can just ride over whenever I want for a quick stroll through this international tourist destination (it is also great fashion watching)
  • My bff Lacey and her bf Ron are coming to visit today.  They are my first visitors after my parents (who graciously have come out several times).  We may have a bonfire with organic hotdogs, or watch the fireworks celebrating the anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and we may end up at the Pelican Inn, the local pub that welcomes Green Gulchers with open arms and sometimes even free french fries!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Comments on another blog...

Sometimes people use blogs to share something another blogger wrote because they could not have said it better themselves.  This is one of those times.  Over at Aerial Pork, (click on the link to see the post) AJ talks about work here at Green Gulch.  It is something I think a lot about and it keeps coming up in a variety of ways.  It comes up at crew meetings as we continue to integrate work into our lives in a way that doesn't treat it as a separate compartment that we close at the end of each day and move on to the other parts of life.  It comes up when I think about the large student loan debt I racked up.  It comes up when I can't imagine doing work that doesn't directly support the community in which I live.

Work practice is a big part of living at Green Gulch.  Using work as a way to learn more about ourselves and how to contribute best to the world during our precious time here.  Rev. Darlene Cohen points out in her book, The One Who is Not Busy that "we have the habit of describing our activity as either busy or not busy, either productively working or taking a blissful break from working."   I don't think anyone is immune to this feeling.  We fuel it by idealizing vacation and sometimes even demonizing the hours we have to work (ie. not relaxing).  She goes on to talk about the qualities of our leisure time that make it so blissful and the qualities of work that are so different, so goal and value oriented, or structured.  She argues that we can actually make efforts to bring more of a balance to these two realms.  Leisure tends to be more centered around experience and sensory feelings whereas work is more thinking and judgment or discernment.  "In plain English, both ways of viewing have their origin in our minds, and further, they are both ways of viewing the same thing (our activity).  So for each of us individually, the question becomes, How do we live our lives to simultaneously include the two realms of differentiating and basic nondual awareness in one activity?...Each of these two views informs the other."

In the end, the box has been opened.  I have seen that it is possible to love your work and I am not sure I can ever go back.  I will spend my days blending parts of my life that once felt separate and even opposing.      

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
              Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.             
- Wendell Berry, Mad Farmer Poems            

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kar(ma) Talk

So I am the official, you might say certified, pest control mistress of the Green Gulch Garden.  Mostly dealing with aphids and now slugs.  Some mornings I strap on my ghostbuster-like backpack with 4 gallons of a Neem oil solution that is approved by the organic whathaveyou to control pests.  Now I also sprinkle teaspoons of an organic compound that baits slugs and then kills them.  Why do we do this?  Simple answer is that aphids can demolish a whole orchard if they wanted and slugs, at a slower rate would eat up much of our tea leaves and strawberries and other young juicy plants.  But there is, of course, a longer answer, or at least question.

What kind of karma am I racking up as this killing machine?  Life is life, bugs are life, animals are life, plants and humans are life, and I am taking life.  On the one hand I feel like I have some pretty good karma so maybe I am a good candidate to take a karmic "hit for the team." I also know that intention is a very important part of the karmic equation; knowing why we do what we do and that in the end we do it to help others in some way.  What does help look like,  is the tough part.  We do our best.  Everyone is always doing their best, if they weren't, they would have done something else.

Another thought is that in trying to figure out how karma manifests in my daily life it is irrelevant to look back on what I did to bring me the current fruits of past actions but that what really matters is my intentional action going forward.  I will have to deal with my past karma regardless of where it came from or how I feel about it.  Like the priest and Heart Sutra class teacher, Charlie says, karma as a whole is sort of ungraspable.  And I am actually ok with this answer.  It doesn't mean I won't continue to explore it but it does mean that I may just have to accept some mystery in my life.  In the world of science, a world I have been/am a part of, mystery is not often accepted as the end but only a challenge.  I am trying to resist the urge to "figure it out."    Although I am curious what Zennies say when people ask "why do bad things happen to good people?" 

If it seems like I am dwelling on this subject, just know that I have it tattooed on my wrist.  We'll see where it takes me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Am I In or Am I Out?

Last weekend I went "off-campus" for the wedding of my dear friends Tara and Abe.  I had debated whether or not to go because I didn't really have a lot of time off and it would probably cost me a pretty penny.  I am so glad I decided to go!  Despite the practically tropical storm-like weather and the questionable hotel I got for a "good deal," I got to see friends, some I hadn't seen in years, and it was like the good old days.  Tons of laughing, letting it all hang out, getting ready together, staying up late, we even squeezed a movie in.  Frankly I was surprised at just how comfortable I still felt with these people.  It gave me pause.

Living at Green Gulch is something of a unique situation. I sometimes struggle with how to meet all my needs (and let's be honest, "wants") in this close knit and somewhat isolated community.  I work hard, I wake up pretty dang early and I probably have about 1.75-2 days off per week.  It is very easy to get swept up into life here and find that you haven't left the grounds in a while.  And some people cherish that or go out of their way to create that space for themselves.  There is certainly some sweet fruits to harvest from the time spent in the calm of the forest and the depths of one's own mind.  But maybe that isn't for everyone or at least maybe that isn't something I want all the time.  Relationships are really important to me.  Finding the balance between taking care of these relationships and the time and effort they require and the space to rest and create a calmer mind is very real. The key seems to be knowing just how much to give and to be able to give it wholeheartedly rather than with a sense of obligation or out of fear of loss.

Stepping out of Green Gulch into the busy of the Bay Area (and beyond) is like stepping from a babbling brook to the rushing Mississippi river.  From the quiet of the brook the river looks majestic, deep and slow but once you're in frankly it is hard to keep your head above water.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Field Trip!

Last Thursday all of us apprentices got to take our first field trip.  First, an overview: the ten of us students traveled to the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley under the guidance of environmental crusader, Wendy Johnson.  After a quick detour to the Monterey Market for some treats we headed over to Alameda island to check out the Alameda Point Collaborative.  

As many people know, the Edible Schoolyard Project is an effort started in part by Alice Waters, a prominent chef in the Bay Area.  The project takes on the challenge of engaging children on a journey that hopefully brings them into a better understanding of earth ecology and the human relationship to everything that grows.  There is also a school lunch initiative that is an effort to extend what is preached when working with the land.  Children are fed organic, healthful food that is prepared fresh daily.  The lunch was delish!  Pulled turkey sandwich and a salad from the salad bar.

The Alameda Point Collaborative is an amazing social justice force in the East Bay.  They are on an old naval base and are trying to address some of the deep-rooted problems surrounding homelessness.  Transition and long-term housing is available along with case management and a variety of skill-based learning classes.  There is an urban farm there that started in order to provide an oasis of fruits and veggies in an otherwise food deserted area.  It is a one man show on this amazing farm. They have chickens, an aquaponic system, compost and more.

We spent this day, all of us together, really examining what social justice and environmental health have to do with each other and where our Zen practice fits in.  What does sitting meditation every day have to do with saving the world?  What good does it do to live in paradise (Green Gulch Farm) when much of the world lives in desperate conditions?  I have some thoughts about this and we had some really great discussion but the bottom line is that it is different for everyone.  We never know what the consequences of our actions will be and we really have no idea what will "help" others but our Zen practice at least helps us work from a place of love and witness what we see with our eyes open.