Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hildegard at Hazelbrand

Viridissima Virga, Hildegard von Bingen,
Hail to you, o verdant branch
that burst forth in the rush of the wind
out of sacred prayers.

When your time had come
to blossom on all your branches

the word rang out:

Hail to you,

Hail to you

The sun’s warmth trickled into you
like the fragrance of balsam.

Now that the dogs have passed on, and our house isn’t filled with dog hair and a round space is missing on the couch from where Rosie sneaked up to sleep, we have decided to redecorate. 

We have loved our “Santa Fe” look for almost 20 years -- orange walls, blue checkerboard painted floors. But with the passing of time, and the passing of our beloved animals, the couch and chairs went to the upholsterer, and Margaret went to the paint store.

But first we had to decide where we were going. If not orange and blue, then what? One recent morning, I sat looking out the windows into the woods and pastures below. Well, I tried to look into the woods and pastures below, but my eyes were stopped -- since we live in a tree house with so much green and brown right at the windows that it is impossible, in summer, to see anything else.

Water oaks and tulip poplars and sweet gum trees are the tallest in front of me, except for the pines that hover over everything to the west side. Dogwoods settle underneath. Pungent cedar and juniper and balsam filter in. I love them and they seem to love me, pushing into my living room as if they are part of the family.

St. Hildegard once said, “If you are feeling ill or weak of heart, go sit in the garden, among the green, and you will find rest.”

It was immensely restful, that green and brown. I felt an embrace of God’s green energy, what St. Hildegard named “veritatas” a Latin word that means the greening of the world is God. God’s greening. The surge of green in a blade of grass or a 50-foot tree looming into my window is all God manifesting.

So: Green and brown. It was easy from then on to find paint and fabric. Every season brings its own yellow, purple, red, gold, umber, black, white, gray. But beneath all the chemical processes that turn chlorophyll into every other color, is green.

Now we have a green sofa and brown chair. A green wall, a brown floor. Hildegard would find rest here. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Corn and Beans

Storm coming! I put in my two hours today - planted the heirloom Hopi Blue Corn - 6 rows of it, and a row of old-fashioned Rattlesnake pole beans. I scattered a bit more straw, then sat down and enjoyed watching the storm come in.

the gateless gate

It is a relief, finally, to ripen into the understanding that there is no place to go, to find wisdom. It is all right here. There is no need for a goal, a special place to reach for. My garden, at 60, is what it is. If all I do is prepare a garden bed, it is enough. If I get plants in, it is enough. If I get a harvest, it is enough. Now, finally, none of it is a "have to." No production farm with endless rows of corn to be weeded.

The greatest lesson, which took 60 years to learn, is to rest in, to take refuge in, what is happening right now. Giving it my full attention. Being mindful of this bale of straw, this blackberry vine. The sun now. The rain now. Not some super garden of the future. It is just like the spiritual life - there is actually no place to get to! The place to get to, to be in union with the One - is right here! Where we are in this moment, is everywhere we wish to be.
There is no gate, there is no path, there is only the present. The Kingdom of God is right here, before us.
This is satori.
Isn't it a relief?
Why did it take so long to learn this simple fact of reality?
Read more about Hazelbrand at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

turtles and geese - oh no

I am sad to report that the snapping turtles in the pond have eaten the goose eggs. Mama goose has been sitting on her eggs for a couple of weeks. Papa goose has been guarding - swimming back and forth in front of the nest. But last night - I heard the geese squawkking  - not like them to make noise at night. In the morning, Margaret discovered the ravage of the nest. Now Mama and Papa are swimming together in the pond. We hope they will try again, and maybe move the nest away from where the turtles sun themselves on the bank.

It is the circle of life - we are all food for another, just as we take food. I know the turtles have to eat and feed their young too. I am the one who seems to have the smaller vision here.

All of life is precious. This is one reason why I embrace permaculture - or permanent culture, in which the life and vitality of all plants and creatures is honored as part of a whole - where are are all One, we are part of the cosmic, perfect interrelated dimension and rhythm of creation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Flake and Fluff

I learned a new technique today for starting the garden - taken from the work of Emelia Hazelip (check out her video's of synergistic farming). It is this simple: figure out where you want your rows or circles or spirals to be, and lay down cardboard or newpaper. Then cover with straw. That's it! No plowing, no harrowing, no rototilling. Not even turning a shovel. No pulling weeds and activating all the weed seeds in the soil. This method holds all the life going on already in the soil. It honors all the systems already in place for a vital garden.

So this is what I did.
I have to date, purchased 8 bales of wheat straw ($48). The heaviest work was to move the bales from the truck to the garden spot - you might want to find someone to move them for you. This is the hardest work of the day!

I laid newspaper down where I want the rows to be, and laid a bale of straw, and cut its cord. The bale will open like a flower to show flakes = see how I did it here:

Then, I laid each flake out flat until the hay and newspaper were all laid out. Then, I went back and "fluffed" each flake - making it as much as a foot tall:

All told, in two hours, I prepared a garden 32' by 32''. A big garden! I incorporated existing rosemary and rue plants, and a native Winged Elm tree. Then I sat in the shade of the Elm and sipped cool water.