Friday, June 29, 2012

Sangha of the Fields

Sick today, and it's been coming. Running a rest deficit. Woke at 3am today to deliver food in the city. Returned to harvest for tomorrow's market and was benched by the farm elder, 70 year old Emila who wears two harvest knives and out cuts every young whipper snapper on the farm on lettuce and wit.

She said, "Your eyes look small. They're talking about if you're okay, and you've been pushing hard, we don't need you today."

I laughed it off and she told me to go to bed, not get sick. I said, I thought we chop wood and carry water. After a nap, she suggested. So, I slept until about 10:30 and my right eye was pinned shut by a headache and I felt nauseous (on pancake day?!). I didn't feel any better in the rack, so out to fields I went, looking like what my mother used to say was death swarmed over.

The farm elder let me slip in, and the manager gave me an easy job: cutting wild nettles that pop up in our rows. My headache receded to the background and nausea was just a strange feeling as I walked carefully through our huge broccoli plants, hunting the sharp little plants. Not a heroic assignment, but a wonderful way to spend time being sick.

What made me go back to the fields was this sangha, this farm crew, who were really concerned for me. Emila laid down the law and benched me, but everyone expressed their concern. And harvest knife in hand, I could focus.

This is an amazing life. Thick fog has set in over the temple and green dragons play in it. Below, we play in the fields. Our customers can't fathom how we sell such huge bunches of greens for just 2 dollars, and it's because love of the dirt is our investment, our return is being able to live here, together.

The 2 dollars is just for fun.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mind-Only Hot Dog Wrapped in Bacon: Do Not Intoxicate Self or Other

As a Buddhist, I sometimes catch a sideways glance for drinking a beer or eating a hot dog wrapped in bacon.

But no one ever questions me reading Dogen's Zuimonki. Or heading up to John Jeavon's Ecology Action to talk about eating our own poop. Or that I have picked up a book at all, like ANYTHING by Derrick Jensen.

In the last three weeks, I've seen Derrick Jensen and John Jeavons Speak. Do you know what I learned? I was "drinking" again. I wasn't just listening to what they had to say, but I wanted the answers, I wanted stable ground to stand on so I could figure out how to save all beings.

When I think of our vow to save all beings, a trench is deepened across my heart. If only these beings would get out of my god damn way, I could save them. If only they'd let me mow down their mono-cropped fields and allowed me to plant their 30 high caloric, 60 bio mass, 10 nutrient rich percent of organic crops, we could start saving their soil. If they'd just let me call their boss and tell them they quit because they have Zazen to sit and a front lawn to peel up and plant. You can e-mail the required phone numbers.

If we could just give money up and start investing in cultivation of body and mind, of the land base, we could move toward being "saved." It's really simple: We are deluded and we are salting our fields.

And then I know this koan and I know that being saved is more than a rearranging of this consciously constructed reality. But I think this rearranging would at least provide a little more time to "get it."

Being a Buddhist, I want exactly what DJ and JJ want and more- after saving the land base and ALL beings (JJ seems to only care about humans), then I want to talk about mind-only and emptiness. That we did all of this together, and guess what, it's not even actually there like we think it is, and we're still suffering.

This is a rare moment for me, where everything relaxes, and I stop clutching the sutra or the shovel or the pen.

I give this another 5 hours.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

One Final Paragraph

"One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out  Be as I am - a reluctant enthusiast...a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic.  Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure.  It is not enough to fight for the land: it is even more important to enjoy it.  While you can.  While it's still here.  So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space.  Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators.  I promise you this: You will outlive the bastards." - Ed Abbey

Monday, June 18, 2012

"I don't want to dance if there isn't a revolution."

Derrick Jensen did a quick spin on Emma Goldman's " I don't want your revolution if I can't dance." 

We saw him speak in Berkley:

"By now we all know the statistics and trends: 90 percent of the large
fish in the oceans are gone, there is ten times as much plastic as phytoplankton in the oceans, 97 percent of native forests are destroyed, 98
percent of native grasslands are destroyed, amphibian populations are
collapsing, migratory songbird populations are collapsing, mollusk
populations are collapsing, fish populations are collapsing, and so on.
Two hundred species are driven extinct each and every day. If we don’t
know those statistics and trends, we should." 

I woke up this morning, my blog writing morning, and had two dreadful feelings:

 1. I didn't feel I had anything to write about.

2. I didn't call my fathers yesterday because I was in the San Joaquin valley from 9am to 9pm, looking at farmland using stolen water (water that did not fall on that ground and was pumped from the delta, channeled, imprisoned and used to irrigate...corn?) Acres and acres, rows straighter than the horizon, and not one weed in that dark, poisoned soil. 

And this is to say that I've been holding out on folks that read this blog; I also don't want to dance unless there is a revolution. I was out looking at the dance floor yesterday.

I don't want to dance unless we can stop killing our planet, end patriarchy, and dismantle capitalism. 

I don't see these issues as separate. There's someone at the top, someone to step and stand on, and the planet underneath it all, stomped to mudholes.  This conventional truth is not separate from universal truth. Samsara is an illusion but karma is relentless.

I do wonder if this is "political" or "radical"  and if I can be available to all beings and still feel the way I feel. 

This brings to mind the image of a massive fire, which Tenshin Reb Anderson likens to Camu's philosophical question of suicide as the only real question, and that touching and turning away are both wrong. The Buddha saw the caste system; I see Derrick's quote above.

The way is not political or radical, but it is in solidarity with all beings. I fear violence, but touching or turning away could lead to its support- If I don't support the resistance out of fear of our precepts, I may be supporting the other side of that resistance, which knowingly kills in ten directions, every day. We don't want to pick sides, but I think we are always on some side, whether we want to be or not. Our hands are covered in blood, whether we want them to be or not, every time we get in a car or even eat a piece of nitrogen hungry organic lettuce. 

What is most controversial is that I don't think people will stop killing the planet, patriarchy will end, or capitalism will fall without an armed resistance.  As a Buddhist, as a person training to become a priest, I know this is a red flag for most.  I'm looking at this red flag. I don't think it is what I think it is. 

What do you see?

How do we walk through life upright with joy and enthusiasm and compassion?

I need to call my fathers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Look Around

I'm getting tan. I know the birds around here- the Wren Tit, the Red-Winged Black Bird, Quail, Robins, Swanson's Thrush, Hawks, Owls, and the tiny Wax Wings all the way from the Amazon. My fingers are getting tough, too. No more bleeding from my share of planting 4,000 seedlings in the field. Hearing the coyotes at 3:30 am opens my ears to another realm. The 3 mile run up and down these rocky hills is not so hard, either. 

I love this place best- this gulch, this coast, these trees, this temple. 

Before us, natives lived here. They used to find arrow heads in the field. They're gone now, of course. 

And it's hotter this summer than usual. 80 degrees in the sun. 

And I've never seen a mountain lion here. 

And just one whale out in the sea in my 5 years of visiting here. 

And we've experienced water draw down. Our well is not deep enough anymore. The spring runs turbid, due to the mud it picks up on its flow here, due to dirt that is exposed from deforested mountain sides. 

We fight soil loss by composting and amending with minerals and peat moss and feather meal, all extracted amendments brought to us by petroleum. 

So how do I know that civilization is not redeemable?

Derrick Jensen urges us to look around: 

"Ninety percent of large fish in the oceans are gone. Salmon are collapsing. Passenger pigeons are gone. Eskimo curlews are gone. Ninety-eight percent of native forests gone, 99 percent of wetlands, 99 percent of native grasslands. What standards do you need?"

I sit in this temple and study dharma and work the land. Please don't let me forget the other truth. This is a dying planet. What does taking care of it look like? How does saving all being apply? How do we go forth, perceive old age, sickness and death, perceive no old age, sickness and death, and still take Bodhisattva action to fulfill our vow? 

Is living a lifestyle that does not kill the planet the same as not letting the planet die like this?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Knife You Believe In

A guest student asked so, "why farming, why Green Gulch?"

The answer to this question gets shorter and shorter each time I'm asked.

I'm here because the knife you believe in is the knife that cuts best. Down in the 4th field, we have a spinach crop and a can of knives. Some are serrated, some are straight blades, like a fillet knife. Then there are our pocket knives and harvest knives, though I've never seen anyone harvest spinach with a harvest knife, as it's too big for that action.

Considerable time is spent with our knives; first we pick one, and then we need to sharpen it. I think it's all about this sharpening. I don't think any of the knives actually cuts better than the one before and after and I think our lives, where we choose to be, what we choose to do, are also like this.

I used to sit down and map out my life. I'd write down some important activities -like reading, writing, running, sitting- and then evaluate how well a place or job would support me in those activities. A teaching job still wins this contest on paper.

Of course, that wasn't my experience. For whatever reason, teaching made my heartache, which made my feet slow, and I slept too much. I also think that whatever made teaching difficult was a fiction. I miss my students.

For whatever reason, I pick my little my little 12 dollar pocket knife. It's serrated at the base and honed at the tip. It's familiar, it's usually nearby, and I just believe in it.

This life -this knife- of zen practice and farming is my response to Suez, Monsanto, Academi (formally known as Xe, formally known as Blackwater) and other corporations and war mongers intent on destroying the planet and each other.

Sharpen and cut, sharpen and cut.