Little Buddha Leaf

qayyum & emila

I stood about twenty-five feet from a fawn feeding in lush green, tall grass along the hillside, on a foot path at the edge of the farm, near the back forty. For a long while she didn’t see me. Then she did. Then she sprung, bounding along the ravine toward Muir Beach. And her white bushy tail soon vanished behind the grass. Perhaps an eye that discerns differences dilated in recognition before her body recoiled like a spring. Perhaps an eye of oneness transgressed a moment too long, looking beyond some threshold of harmony.

The owls are out now, hooting at twilight amidst the chirp and chatter of songbirds, trilling and whistling. Softer, fainter. Somewhere the master switch on the volume nodule turned low. Probably by a long slender arm, as the sun dips west below the Pacific. And the running marketplace, since the afternoon ticker-tape commentary of quails and crows becomes a kind of remembrance on the air. Resonance. Echo. Perhaps it’s often intuitive enough to discern vaguely some precipice where life harmonizes in the valley. That feels like much of what we practice day-in, day-out, within and without. “Ambulatory embodiments of work” that we inhabit (as Qayyum nicely phrased it in an email.) Less clear is the exactitude of that delta—what’s ephemerally contained, uncontainable, what sings beneath the current, ebbs and flows. Like counting waves. But who’s waiting for nirvana anyway?

GGF collage

While sitting zazen my first morning we could hear coyotes yowling in the near distance outside the zendo, cries volleying back and forth in the hills over an orchestra of songbirds. The muted blare of fog horns some few miles away. What doesn’t thrum or hum with life in the gulch? Last week we planted at both the back forty and at the fifth, communing with the earth, cultivating our 7-acres of farm into the full thrust of harvest.

I’ve snapped a few photos since approaching the deer on the outskirts of the farm, some two months ago and counting: Qayyum and Emila at market at Ferry Plaza; Nick, Duras and Isabelle weeding the green beans; an otherworldly sunset along Coyote Ridge; an equal parts silly and sweet, post-lunch impromptu line-up for shoulder massages near the Kitchen Garden. Even the one head of green lettuce among red-heads seems to harmonize fashionably in its rebellion. Little Buddha leaf.

GGF crew

The deer approach the yurts about every evening. “They with you?” Qayyum asked me walking out his front door. Maybe I’d like it if I were more with them. Though I’d probably hasten for exemption from chasing, or rollicking and being chased through thickets of grass. Feeding on the hillside might not be bad, before the skunk joins in furiously, nuzzling the earth for grubs—little self-possessed gorger at dusk he seems to be. And at three decades and change, I’d probably opt out from the whole ‘let’s smash our heads together and sharpen our antlers game.’ But who’s to say? Stars will soon light up the night sky with constellations. Everything changes. And then the evolving stories from antiquity that the stars tell remind: Nothing changes. Below the yurts, the fields are in constant transformation, abundant and bountiful (and beautiful) before harvest clear cuts the treasured goods back to soil. Yesterday, as the first morning: the wake up bells, far off, then near, then the scampering of feet; and the sound of the bells moving through the morning between sleep and thought awakening.

watercolor 071716


Farming the Way

Riff on Mindfulness in Farming

Mindfulness in farming involves both a close look & an expanding awareness of the big picture. Recognizing that you are seen & felt as you move in the world with beings.

What are you doing?

Mindfulness does not mean slow.

Mindfulness means knowing where you are going, attuning to an ongoingly transformative & personally engaging landscape mapped in your mind & body.

Mindfulness means making eye contact & vocally affirming that you have heard & understand. It also means asking clarifying questions if you don’t understand.

It also means imagining yourself doing the task & trying to articulate the questions that will help make the task & goal easy to achieve before you ride away.

Mindfulness is fundamentally relational.

Mindfulness means putting your energy into the task at hand, seeking to follow instructions closely—to try the method that’s being transmitted with sincere effort.

After sustained mistakes, you master the transmitted way & it becomes possible to improvise like an adept.

Mindfulness in farming oftentimes means you should look at your watch & be intimate with time.

Sometimes mindfulness means hearing crows trying to intimidate a redtail hawk or an owl; sometimes they are playing, sometimes two murders come together & try to hustle each other over an invisible border in the air.

Mindful farming happens when you look around & notice the elements—they are at work in the soil, too.

Mindfulness is curiosity.

Mindfulness means using & putting away every tool, treating every piece of equipment, as if you were borrowing it & wanted it to be available to the next person for the following project.

Mindfulness is responding to the next thing, while not forgetting what you just did.

Mindfulness means not forgetting what you are doing.

(What are you doing?)

Mindfulness means not forgetting what you are doing.

Mindfulness in farming is a way of looking for how you can be most useful to accomplish collective aspirations.

Mindfulness is remembering to remember what your own self-study is—uprightly asking: what are the ways you are bringing your life to the activity you are doing? Are you doing it with all your attention, grace & generosity; your particular talents & disposition & wish to awaken to your entire potential?

Mindfulness is energetic: your vast field expressed in simple terms.

Mindfulness is a wildness channeled into a particular form.

Mindfulness is the gorgeous inheritance of this human life.

July 15, 2016


Our Place In The Mandala

-for Alan Chadwick & the archangels


the humble specificity of white yarrow

in situ at the center of the shared world

distinct from other umbels

the hemlock’s upright white

coy horse-strong radish pink

& the incalculable others

equally self-full & self-less


we were born, learned to walk & see

& now this:

dwarfed by towering foxglove

everywhere the free coin of the realm

ten thousand poppies

proclaiming the ephemeral dharma


from season to season

moonrise to sunrise

our species scares itself toward chaos

while big quaking grass & button-seed mallow

wild apples & camellias, thimbleberries & oak

any pair of beings distinctly arranged

just so

just going on being

filling all space with fearless life


renounce smallness of vision for love!


go gently into everything

allow difference, offer refuge to the stranger

make amends for wrongdoing

bless the porous borders

& shimmering spider threads

& feel the clear wind that plays heart music

shaping the land & water

evoking this region

that births butterflies

that belongs to no one.



Yesterday Nick & I had the great pleasure & honor to chat with a visiting venerable friend of Green Gulch. Wes Jackson & his grandson Jacob eating plums at the bottom of the 3rd field! I couldn’t actually believe it was him (the Wes Jackson?, I said, when we introduced ourselves).

He proceeded to tell us of the incredible progress being made in developing perennial grain polycultures that will mimic the natural grassland prairies of the midwest. For decades The Land Institute has been pioneering this move away from annual agriculture.

In telling us about the project’s use of computational technology to do the complex selections necessary, he recited Gary Snyder’s poem, For The Children, which seems a fitting way of closing the loop with our Zen practice & agricultural practices. (To his grandson by way of explanation he said, Gary Snyder is a Buddhist Poet.)

For The Children

The rising hills, the slopes,

of statistics

lie before us.

the steep climb

of everything, going up,

up, as we all

go down.


In the next century

or the one beyond that,

they say,

are valleys, pastures,

we can meet there in peace

if we make it.


To climb these coming crests

one word to you, to

you and your children:


stay together

learn the flowers

go light

–Gary Snyder, from Turtle Island



“Things ripen of their own accord.

One day I was on the way to my teacher Sojun Weitsman and saw a small plum tree where the fruit was hanging heavy but still green. I said to my teacher that I felt like the plum: I was ripening, but not there yet.

Sojun replied: ‘The difference between you and the plum… is that the plum doesn’t worry about it.'”

-Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum, from Walking the Way: 81 Zen Encounters With The Tao Te Ching


It feels like every day these days is a Big Harvest Day.

The pulse of life is fantastic here in the Gulch. Robust, complicated, poly-vocal. The sound of ocean wind has been a near-constant soundtrack of late. The American Robin (so many jolly, cocky robins!) song struck me today as particularly beautiful: trilling like a parable of simplicity. And human speech, engine sounds, footsteps, the salad spinner.

What is an appropriate harvest of all this sensual abundance?

How do we respond in the face of such overwhelming beauty?

We try breathing deep of the clean moving air.

We try smiling, making eye contact & warming our hearts (especially here in the summer-disguised-as-winter) & with cold fingers continue harvesting spinach before the sun crests the hills above the fog.

We renounce clean clothes & look like overly happy outlaws, immigrants & itinerant monks.

We bow-in & bow-out of the day together.

We bow to each other, toward the inside of an open circle.

When in doubt, bow.

For bowing is to fall in love.

This love fills bodies & minds,

all space

the biggest harvest of all.

(Deep gratitude to the farm crew for their great & continuous effort to soften)