Today is March 18, 2011. Tomorrow, the full moon will be the closest to earth in two decades. The day after tomorrow will be the spring equinox. It is one week since the largest earthquake in Japan’s history and the tsunami it triggered changed the lives of millions and the well-being of a nation; wiped away peoples’ past. The tidal waves of freedom movements in the Middle East break across nations with courage, against the armed forces of heartless repression.
Today is a day of rest for me. The third annual Spring Planting Festival that I was absorbed in organizing these past months is ebbing, event by completed event. We are feeling the energy not only of spring, but also of some new community growth that will come of this event, some new germination that will form the next season of action.
How apt for this time is the word spring. Spring, a coiled potential of tension that is palpable in our bodies and in the body of Earth, a potential that produces in our psyche a vacuum of compressed anticipation, the feeling that something new is going to fill our lives. Bare branches burst in delicate bloom—fragrant, soft, colorful—from bare dirt and brittle brown, sudden green; from sleeping bulbs, flowers unfold in sunlight.
Today I can respond to the call of the garden. It has done well without my doting attention, thank you. But I am compelled to dig the last sunflower tubers – sun chokes they call them – they are in need of a new name, I think. They hold the milk of the sunflower in bulbous, swollen clusters underground all winter. I uncovered their irregular truffle shapes from the damp earth and at each nipple a tiny shoot of new growth appeared. I replanted a dozen small, nut-like tubers for next year.
From a shelf, I took down baskets of dried pods to separate and store the beans. A little bag set aside to replant this year. They are of origin Hopi purple string beans. We eat them fresh in tender pods all summer and leave the last to dry for storage and replanting. This will be the third season we grow them from seeds saved. I told the Hopi elder who gave them to us that we have grown the Hopi purple bean. He replied that they are no longer Hopi beans but they are our beans, of our garden. When they grow in the dry Hopi gardens they are the children of his ancestors. Now they are our children adapted and shaped by our home environment. As we save more and more seeds from our garden each year our family will grow.
I think about a dear friend who must experience spring from behind chain link and razor wire. As birds stray into the enclosure and insect activity increases with the warmth, he stretches his senses to catch an occasional fragrant current from the desert, and mind travels to soft and green spaces filled with flowers. He is a Buddhist and recently sent me a collection of articles, poems and artwork produced by Buddhist inmates from across the United States. Each article and poem has such compassion and love, so much acceptance of the dismal and humiliating conditions in which they are living. They are beautiful, strong souls, people you would want to hold in your arms and to light your lives. He says,
Through Buddhist study and ongoing meditation I’ve come to realize I can be part of the wonderful solution needed on Earth. I can become that Peace we all need.
A poem from another inmate in the newsletter:
I am going on another expedition,
what will I dig up today?
My past is full of many errors,
that brought me this way.
I could begin with the obvious,
bring those out in the open first…
But finding the NOT in the hiding spot,
is the work that will make me thirst.
During the Spring Planting Festival, I met some young people who want to help those who have been incarcerated in the past. Their passion is to work with the earth and help grow food and heal the environment. They will be the best, strongest and most dedicated workers in the future because, as one said to me, they want to help them "return to honor.”
Today I read a few pages from a new book, Our Sacred Garden The Living Earth by the founder of Gardens for Humanity, Adele Seronde. In few words, she inspires and uplifts through her love of beauty, of nature, and of people that manifests as painting, poetry, and community activism. She writes:
Down through the decades, I’ve learned that we can translate the meaning of gardens into our daily lives as places of inner radiance in our minds and hearts. We can nurture gardens of our soul and create places in which to build communities around planning, planting, and maintaining physical gardens.
—Adele Seronde (p. 10)
Today is sacred.