Growing Eden

I take pleasure in looking at my garden throughout the day. Its opulence is a creation of imagination and nature, a space where my vague idea about growing Eden in the backyard, and then hauling soil, planting seeds, transplanting seedlings, hauling water up and down the stairs, has become a prolific transformation of elements under sun and sky.

The garden is an accomplishment that is mine and not mine, for its abundance comes from our only provider, and best teacher, Mother Earth, and the inescapable yet ignored truth that life is interdependent. A garden’s wisdom surpasses the little anthropomorphic understandings that we strain in and against daily. Planting, caring, working, watching usher a garden’s caretaker beyond human concerns and into immanence, for the gardener.

I doubt anyone wanting change for themselves or the world can do so until they have planted a few seeds in soil, participated in life’s effortless expansion, and observed the interplay and interconnection of the beautiful and so-called repugnant elements that make life possible. Seeds, soil, water, bugs, and sun change the one who plants, because life is resilient, persistent, and necessarily loves itself: life harbors no doubts, no expectations, no cynicism.

Life is, and there is no qualifying adjective.

And where life is, there is hope. Hope is the word we use in English, but it is an inherent quality of life that defies language and requires only attention, or awareness. It’s not a feeling, an emotion, or something that exists when we move beyond despair.

Hope is, because life is.

Distinctions break down in the zen given by a garden, as life’s particulars dissolve in moments of lucid acceptance that everything changes every moment yet life unfailingly persists. For as I meditate on my backyard garden’s glory, and the indiscernible yet profuse changes that take place daily and weekly,  I know another reality waits. In a few short months everything will die, that everything may come once more to life.  Then again. And again. This is the promise, for in the intimate coupling of life and death there are no discrete beginnings and endings, only an unbound continuum.

I planted a cucumber last year that was deliciously prolific. It died during the winter. I cleaned out its grow pot this spring, and then heavily seeded the soil with zinnias. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed odd fuzzy leaves with yellow flowers sprouting underneath the zinnias, around the pot’s edges. “Those look like cucumbers,” I thought, not remembering if this pot once held the cucumber. The zinnias crowd the grow space while reaching for the sun, but my guess was confirmed yesterday, when I saw the tiniest cucumbers growing from the fuzzy leaves under the zinnias. Less than half an inch long, and thinner than a pencil, they have found their way from the soil’s depths. In the cucumber’s roots, after the plant died, life waited.  I am happy to let them do as they will, allowing them to push themselves against the zinnias and reach for the light: they remind me of life’s quiet, unstoppable, inevitable hope —  its volatile power.

Two-fer Post

I received a complimentary email about my latest post that revisited the idea of radical self-love (“charismatic feistiness” is cool), but with some confusion about the time frame; the time line jumped from the eviction reprieve to the amount of time I lived in that building, and that was confusing.

I’ll briefly explain why I so jumped.

The post was about radically loving ourselves, despite ourselves, and moving beyond those things that we too often castigate ourselves about.   For myself, it’s that contrarian-hubris thing.  Too many people would have taken the advice of those presumably well-meaning attorneys.  I refused to do so, because I knew best for myself.

And I did.

What didn’t translate well in that twenty-minute, hastily proofed post, was that because I refused to listen to the lawyers, I remained in that same building for most of my adult life, no exaggeration.  I lived on Irving Street in Cambridge for nearly half of my life, moving from the boarding house room, to a charming room with a balcony, then finally to a full apartment.  All in the same building.

There’s a compelling back story to how I found that building, a story which sits as an important set-piece in my memoir, but for now I’ll just say that landing in that building was a “miracle.”  The circumstances circling around my finding that building, that I wasn’t evicted, became self-employed, went back to school, and enjoyed the amenities of living in Cambridge for so many years, well, there’s too many convergences for this entry, this morning.

I may revisit this as an entry later this month; know that it sits prominent in the memoir.

To clear up any confusion: it was a building that I was nearly evicted from, the building I escaped to while avoiding eviction in Manhattan, and it become the building I lived in most of my adult life.  It became a book-lined home merely two blocks from Harvard Yard, and my life’s domestic, professional, and academic epicenter because I walked out of the good advice of two well-intentioned attorneys.

That is, I once again refused to do as told, without blinking an eye.

Radical self-love embraces this stubborn “I don’t give ten fucks” attitude as part of The Great Dance.

No questions, just acceptance.

I hope that clears up any confusion, and fills in the leap from eviction to planted butt.  I refused to listen, because I knew what I was supposed to do.

Some folks call that hubris; I call it faith, in the broadest, most meaningful way possible.  As Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”  And despite the fact I was yet to enter my deepest, darkest psychic hole, I lived two blocks from the yard, around the corner from my academic aspirations, and I wasn’t about to leave, eviction be damned.

If I have only muddied the waters, wait for the book.

Or perhaps a future entry.


Now, another meditation.

About a week and a half ago I fell down an entire flight of stairs.  I mean, from the top of the stairwell to the bottom.  I hit my head first, hard and with a frightening thud, and before I knew what was happening, I felt my body go down the stairs as in slow motion. I thought to myself, “you are falling down the stairs, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”  When I reached the landing, I rolled into my bike which sits opposite the stairwell, and it crashed on top of me.

Yes, I am fine.

Yes, it was scary.

Had an enormous black-eye, serious bruising all over my body, racked my knee out, and the like.

All is on the mend.  This happened after a strenuous two-hour workout.  I wasn’t paying attention, my quads were trashed, and I was trying to get several bags of fresh produce up the stairs.  Trying to do too much at once, not paying attention.

But I’ve had a series of insights after the fall that I wanted to share.

I wasn’t paying attention because I still lug around that “do more, be more” story in my habits and behaviors.  A completely, totally, unqualified line of b.s.

We can only do one thing at a time.  That’s it.  The rest is mind chatter, and a waste of energy.

Trying to do more is a big old myth and a hydra that siphons our energies by squandering our focus.

The less we do, the more we get done, and the better we accomplish our priorities.

Because of my meditation practice, I simply went with the fall instead of fighting it.  I believe otherwise, I may have broken my leg, arm, or neck.

As I work through another injury, I realize the gift of injury is that it forces us into deeper consciousness, if we choose to use it as a tool instead of a set-back.  One step at a time, one breath at a time.

Thankfully, I’ve been using the Chi Running and Walking program (highly recommend) to focus on form and breath, and I expect to be where I want to be sooner rather than later.

Not despite my injury, but because this fall and injury have shown my need for an even deeper and broader awareness, and a lived consciousness that less is more.   Choose what’s important; be present.

Now, that may be an obvious platitude for any meditator, but sometimes we’re given something to show us we need a little more work in this awareness thing.

A gift beyond measure.

A friend said, “you’re damn lucky.”

I replied, “no, I live in Grace.  I try to build on it.”

(I then mentioned  that my head is the hardest part of my body, for which I am also grateful.)


Have a safe and happy Fouth of July.

Peace, love, and good stuff.