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Names are not a small matter in the garden

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

“This is a Dalia, and it’s not.” The gardener thinks out loud.

Every Spring it comes up, how he wants to change the flower’s name.

“Much too ornate. It’s a tough fighter.” It just bothers him. “I don’t even like saying it.”  

“How is it your business?” the gardener’s wife works around him in the kitchen. “Let it go already, my God.”

Still, he figures he has the power in his garden.

The issue is finding the right name.

And dealing with all the opinions when it comes up in conversation.

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The gardener looks at his wife and ponders

In Uncategorized on December 28, 2011 at 7:39 pm

The flowers wish they could birth fruit.

The fruit trees want to be fawned over, arraigned in vases, placed on tables in great rooms.

The grass doesn’t show any aspiration to be anything other than in the shade.

The oaks dream of a time of  only two mild seasons.

Such is the way of the garden.  

If contentment is what one is looking for, it isn’t here.

The rain

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2011 at 5:51 am

The rain challenges the gardener’s trust.
Stones must be scrutinized in order to believe each will accept him.
Tools slip and cut indiscriminately.
Trees turn on him as he leans.
In the garden one is on their own.

my first tomato

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2010 at 5:54 am

my first tomato

My dog introduces me to my teacher who introduces me to my new life

In gardening, idtenity, life, relationships, Uncategorized on September 24, 2010 at 4:56 pm

At Carl’s Jr., I like the Big Burger meal — just a bigger patty — with extra pickle. At McDonald’s, the Southern chicken sandwich has taken over the Quarter Pounder as my top pick – it’s a decent copy of the Chick-fil-A chicken classic which I always prefer but CF is further away.  At In-n-Out, I go protein style (wrapped in lettuce, no roll). At Jack’s, the chicken strips are thick, firm, good. The same goes for Arby’s and Popeye’s though, if I had my choice, Popeye’s gets best of the chicken pick. 

Recently, I have been eating at these places less frequently. I think the reason dates back to the summer of 2008 and the other -worldly man who introduced me to the garden in my backyard though he has never seen it. I hope I will see him again. I hope he sees this. I want to thank him. He changed the course of my life.

He walked out from the heavy morning mist at the dog park behind the high school. Very small, old, Asian.  Even through the haze, the bent, beat-up parked car held together by rust that he stepped from stood out. He was wearing huge orange earphones — the kind used by the guys on the airport tarmac who signal the planes into the gate with cone flashlights. He shuffled towards me. I can hear that sound now: crisp, sandpaper, took me back to me in the feet pajamas we wore as kids. What was that around his neck? An old-fashioned cassette tape deck from 1970. The thing must have weighed 4 pounds.  Still something about him — his age, size, smile, soft countenance — told me not to fear, and not to laugh, in fact to pay attention. There was something here.

“Precious dog,” he said.

I stroked Jessie’s big black Newfoundland head. “Yes, she is.”

“If this dog is in your house, no ghosts come,” he said.

Jessie had been my true comforter for 6 years; for the first two, she was a puppy and more of a floppy entertainer.

“I like ghosts,” I said.

He straightened to his full height, at which even then he wouldn’t be permitted on the big kids’ rides at Disneyland. He looked curious, stunned, in his orange headset and vintage cassette player necklace, looking me over like I was the oddball.

“You see ghosts?”

“All the time.” This was not true, and when I see him again I will make amends;  on occasion, they visit me, not all the time.

 This conversation moved onto the names of things. I told him I don’t believe in names, that they blind you to what those things really are. This is something I have thought about for a long time. Names are convenient, necessary, for daily life — shorthand — but in the speedy transaction, the truth is lost. They cover up what is really there. When you use a name, you might believe you know that which is being named, so it makes it harder to actually see it as it is at that moment. So we miss who it is, what it is really, at that moment. Like when you go home to your family as an adult and they still warmly call you the nickname you had as a toddler. They see past your beard or your children to the person you were and still partly are but not who you are now. And at the Thanksgiving table they lovingly reach to cut your food as they did 20 years ago. That’s not the best example, but it’s in the general direction.

“You Buddha.” he said pointing at my middle.

I smiled, shook my head, and told him, No, I’m not Buddhist.”

“Yes, you Buddha.”

I believed he meant it as a compliment.

“Write your address here and your name please, here.” He was insistent.

Now, I am protective of my privacy. No one comes to our home; my parents, when they visit from Queens, sleep in a hotel. But something about him convinced me to agree. I wrote carefully, legibly. I wanted him to have my address.

Giving any information about myself to anyone was as rare as meeting a tiny ancient Asian man in feety pajamas wearing a big orange headset and some 1970s cassette player bling emerging from the morning mist. As I said, he changed the course of my life. It started there in the thick mist where you couldn’t see left or right more than a few feet .

Waiting outside my front door the next day sat a brown paper shopping bag, containing six books on Buddhism and a note from my new teacher saying that when he returned from his trip he would take me into the lowly forest of Buddhism. He signed his name. I will not share it here in order to protect him. 

A year passed from that meeting to opening and reading the first pages of one of the books. And another year before I put on the blue grippy gardening gloves and started carrying away the rocks.

I have come to believe that morning in the mist directly led me to begin, among other things, a vegetable garden.

Is this true, Teacher?

found in the garden

In gardening, life, relationships, time, Uncategorized on September 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

The gardener has lost his hand shovel with the cracked green handle.

“I put it right here.” He blames his memory, his eyes, his luck, the bushes. “Right here.”

“It will show up,” his wife says.

“Wrong! Things don’t just show up, you have to go after it, nothing comes to you.”

“Then it’s in the place it should be right now. Sit with me.”

“Stubborn,” he grunts, spreading open a resistant rosemary bush.

“Go out and get another then.”

“It fits me, we have a history.”

She makes room. “Same with us.”

He stops and sits.  “Oh, if I ever lose you…”

“I will find you.”

“Can you find my shovel?”

the gardener learns to see

In gardening, poetry, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized on September 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

“This flower.” The gardener pauses over his lesson. “This leaf.”

This is not another leaf which has fallen from another tree.

This not a symbol or an abstraction.

“Not a flower.”  He studies. “This flower.” 

Respect every, appreciate each.

“I am trying.” He breathes, “I am one gardener.”

The teachers in the garden cheer.

trees don’t care about fences

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2010 at 1:58 am

trees don't care about fences, they just want to share.

The gardener measures

In gardening, poetry, Uncategorized on September 14, 2010 at 5:30 am

A flower cannot be measured. Only appreciated.

A journey cannot be measured. Only traveled.

A thought cannot be measured. Only conceived.

A life should not be measured. Only lived.

flowers’ revenge

In gardening, poetry, relationships, spirituality, Uncategorized on September 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm

We call on our friends the bees to sting him.

Again, again!

On the ripe blue vein on his hand when he bends over to snip.

At his neck as he swipes and jerks. 

Thank you,  and again, please.

Oh the joy in his agony and twisted dance.

“Ouch!” is a funny word.

His cursing upsets his wife. She loses sympathy, calls him a child and slams the door.

Spiders get him! Touch his face! Bite hard!

Breathe in his groaning prayers!

Amen brother and sister bees.

We flowers don’t belong in vases besides photographs of dead people.

Kind as we appear, we have our ways.