In early April, after 110 straight days without precipitation, the residents, sangha, and guests of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico gathered with Wendy Johnson, renowned gardener and lover of the wild and cultivated world, to plant a garden at the gate of our community. It was an act of attention and care in a time when climate change is all too apparent, when drought portends the summer’s extreme forest fires across Southwestern ecosystems. Martin Luther said, “Even if the world were to end tomorrow, today I would plant an apple tree.” We took great hope in the act of blessing for a world gone awry. It was an act of trust—a belief that in this moment we could create something beautiful, nourishing, and inspirational.
We began by locating ourselves in our watershed and in our practice. We stood on a little plot of earth, smelling the first whiffs of smoke that would eventually be a harsh season of fire, and we considered the directions, the mountains, drainages, and local cultures. We considered our home and what we are truly made of.
Then we smoothed the earth, taking care only to loosen and not turn over delicate desert soil. We constructed a fence to deter rabbits, deer, and pocket gophers. We left many of the volunteer sunflowers and clover cover crop rooted. Our seeds were local to the bioregion and from the plant nursery down the road. In a week, sprouts of Aztec white runner beans, scarlet runner beans, Hopi blue dye sunflowers, Texas Indian moschata squash, Navajo blue corn, quinoa, and amaranth emerged and—as drought and sun are familiar conditions for them—they thrive.
This little garden begs the practice of coming home to our ecosystems, our communities, and our deepest intentions. At the end of the four vows, our Ino chanted, “Let me respectfully remind you, time passes swiftly, and opportunity is lost.” Our world is swiftly changing, and our opportunities to mitigate the damage incurred through unskillful means pass by quickly as well. What will it take to awaken for the sake of all beings? For the time being, for today: join hands, plant seed.
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