The garden, wrote British author Thomas Hill in 1577, is a “ground plot for the mind.” Granted, “but also for the heart,” I reckon early this morning, down on my hands and knees, weeding the sinuous paths of our newest, four-month-old kids’ garden.

Gardens are not created or made, they unfold, spiraling open like the silk petals of an evening primrose flower to reveal the ground plot of the mind and heart of the gardener and the good earth. At least this is the way the kids’ garden evolved when, early last March, my 23-year-old dharma buddy, Suehiko Ono, and I stood on the ragged, 40-foot-by-40-foot spit of weedy wasteland where we have been scrubbing and storing our compost buckets for a few years and watched as a new garden emerged, hissing and wild-eyed, from out of our minds.

For over 20 years Green Gulch Farm has welcomed local schoolchildren and their teachers to come work with us on the farm. Running herd over the Gulch, these children taste the fruit of wall-gazing Zen, sometimes sweet as a Black Tartarian cherry ripening at midsummer, sometimes tart as a lime-green gooseberry plucked and ejected on the run. We imagined a new garden, small and fat with food planted, grown, and harvested by kids, a secret garden well hidden behind an eight-foot high semi-permeable membrane of giant sunflowers woven into the dome of the pale blue sky. We had a missionary motive, thinly disguised: that as this garden unfolded, teachers and students would be inspired to start their own edible schoolyard plots.


We set to work immediately, composing the garden with scrounged materials and raw nerve. First we just sat on the mangy rump of the land, listening to the hum of the ground. I heard a great wheel turning deep in the earth, its sprockets engaging with the ground plot of the mind, until our garden unfolded in a wheel pattern with eight-spoke beds revolving around the central hub and planted in honor of the Eight-Fold Path, the road to enlightened living mapped out by the Buddha.

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