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Minding the Earth, Walking

by Katharine Cook

It came to me to walk before breakfast, first thing.  Perhaps the memory of communal work was calling, where at Green Gulch Farm. after zazen meditation, we gathered in the old barn for tea and a muffin, followed by a long silent walk to the lower fields to tend the vegetables we depended on for our livelihood.

And so now, an empty bag in my left hand, a pair of scissors in my right, I began again.  Down the stairs of my apartment building, one by one, holding the hand rail, onto the asphalt parking lot, between the garbage cans – to the long raised mound of California poppies in the adjoining parking lot, where a mound of earth stretched the length of the lot.

There our coastal poppies, deep yellow with orange centers, have been increasing yearly, due to mowing, and have become a richly beautiful scatter.  I have decided I want to use my body, arms and legs, to tip the balance of plants from annual weeds to more natives, to those attractive to pollinators.  You may have heard the bees are in need of our help.

I tread the gopher-hole pocked mound mindfully, careful not to trip or twist an ankle.  I scissors down any seed=bearing annual grass stalks I see.  One snip and they fall to the ground hopefully not to germinate.  The tasty Hialyan blackberries along the old wood fence will stay, at least for now --  food for some folks who might come gathering, the beautiful quail, other birds.

Stepping the length of the mound to where it narrows into the driveway, I take in the garden hose left sprawling, the unwatered zinnias wilting in the doorway of West Marin Literacy.  I will stop by the owner’s offices and ask them to mind their hose and water their potted plants, as they are in the public view.

At the end of that walk, I enter the pathway between Station House Café and Toby’s, where some days I bring tools a sharp-edged hoe, spading fork and small shovel.  Weeds, wood chips and sawdust have accumulated along the nooks of the pathway,  Taking to them with a long-handled, flat sharp-edged hoe, I cut them at the crown, stake up and sort the refuse, when the compostables to the back corner of Chris’s lot.  The edges of the pathway are now clear.

I am pleased that plants, earth and stones all seem to respond to my tending.

After zazen at Tassajara, we raked the pathways.  During work time we watched Suzuki roshi pull stone out of Tassajara Creek,  build stone walls and gardens. 

Was he teaching the “mind of stones?”  It was hard to believe that stones were responding to my tending the earth around them, but there it was.

Soon I will plant some perennial grass and wildflowers.  Wht the rains I will scatter more perennial grass seed, the same kind that greened both east and west shores of Tomales Bay all year.

Katharine Cook  was trained in “French Intensive Biodynamic Gardening” at Green Gulch Farm,  by followers of Alan Chadwick, now said to the founder of organic farming in California.  She lives in downtown Pt. Reyes Station.


First publihed in the Pt. Reyes Light

Send 09.04.13

Posted 9-24-13