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Good Buddhist, Bad Buddhist

Gardening practices of to not too rightious soul

For much of my adult life I have studied the teachings of Buddha.  I have found them to shed light on my temporal existence. Because I value these teachings, I have sought to embody them.  Lama Thapkay has said “Save one and you save the world” and Suzuki Roshi said something like “Pick up a pebble and you pick up the universe.”  These quotes are relevant to this story because it occurs in a small personal part of my world – my garden.  Lately, I found insight in something that occurred in my garden.  As a result it has  become clear to me, more exactly, who I am.  I built a raised bed garden in the yard beside our house.  Its one of the few places on our lot that gets a good amount of sun.  In fact, in this spot, we even get enough sun to grow lettuce in the winter.  We live in Sonoma County.  Its one of the best places in the world to grow things.  That fact Luther Burbank set up shop here and more people suffer from plant allergies here than any where else in the world, supports this fact.  Gardening in this area is a slam dunk, or so I thought.Over the years my gardening practices and methods have evolved.  My current gardening  practice includes a raised bed built out of pieces of concrete from a demolished  slab.  They work well for building walls because they tend to be somewhat dimensionally uniform and therefore stack well.  It was built over my former garden bed that had served for my first attempts at gardening.  It was an improvement in that it was higher – about three feet – which meant it was more easily defended from one of the two major enemies gardeners have in Sonoma County – snails.  In fact the jagged edge of the broken concrete seemed to discourage the slimy buggers from making the the climb up the walls to get into the bed.  It seemed to act as a passive barrier for the snails.  I like forms of passive protection or natural barriers when it comes to protecting my garden because one of the things I strive to grow with my garden is peace of mind.  I find it counter-productive to be faced with killing sentient beings to achieve my gardening goals. This spring I harvested the last of the winter lettuce and made room for the new crop of seed planted spring lettuce.  With what I had learned last year about preparing the the soil before planting, this year my garden promised to be more productive that ever.  I carefully planted the tiny seeds in three neat rows, neatly covering them with 2 to 3 inches of soil and watered.  I had high hopes.Two days later I was alarmed when I noticed that something was energetically digging up what I had so carefully planted. I couldn’t figure out what was occurring until one row had been entirely excavated.  It was then that I saw the feathery buggers cheerfully tossing dirt over their feathery shoulders in pursuit of my well laid seed.  With my hard work at stake I sought a remedy to my problem and reacted with a solution I had learned a boy on my Dad’s farm in New Jersey.   There, I had discovered something about birds.  That is,  when you shoot at them they disappear and you don’t have to hit them to keep them away for quit a while. With this in mind I knew I could deal with the my issues with the birds and keep intact my more lately acquired Buddhist image of myself.  I found a sling shot one of my son’s had discarded and placed it ready by the door.  It wasn’t long, maybe a day or two, and I saw the birds again zestfully destroying my vegetable ambitions.  I rushed out with all the fury and bluster of a one man Light Brigade – sling shot in hand – and fired widely but convincingly near the offending birds.  Now terrorized and duly respectful the birds were once again my friends and since I had not actually hurt anything I could again assume the identity as someone who is compassionate toward animals – a Good Buddhist. Spring progressed; it rained a few times and there is nothing a slimy bugger likes more than wet ground and new leaves.  My newly sprouted lettuce starts began disappear under the onslaught of an army of snails.  Like James Wolfe’s men at the Battle of Quebec they had scaled the the seemingly unassailable craggy walls of my defenses.  My serenity was at stake, once again I must engage human ingenuity to maintain human dominance over the environment.      “Cory’s Death to Snails” was way too obvious a violation of my firmly held beliefs.  So the more expensive monetarily, karmic-ally cheaper, ” wildlife friendly”, snail eradicator was the right choice. I happily sprinkled the “friendly” poison around my plants and Volia! Problem solved.Time passed, spring progressed, all was well in my Peaceable Kingdom. Little plants got bigger and vegetable promises were coming true when, abruptly, my bean plants began to disappear.  In fact they disappear so completely I wondered whether the plants were real or imagined in the first place, which lead me, naturally, to contemplate the difference between dream and waking reality.  In the mist of this metaphysical reverie dirt brought me back to earth.  I noticed small holes in the soil and small mounds!  My deepest vegetable fears are realized – Aye Carumba!!  Gofers!  This means WAR!The generals are summoned and counter attracts  are discussed.  Strangely, none of the remedies include diplomacy.  They all involve different methods of extermination.  Jeff at Rex Hardware suggests traps and when I ask him about gas, he says, he does not know since he has not had any gofer chili lately.  Ha, Ha.  Michael, who lives next door, a professional landscaper, gives me the bleak news that nothing works except, maybe, dope and guns.  He suggests I get a gun and, since it may take all day, find a shady spot where I can watch the garden and get stoned. He loans me his gun.So with my experts consulted and my research complete I opt for a three pronged attack.  I will gas, poison and shoot them.  Oops, where is Buddha in all this? I struggle with “greater good’ arguments  and positive karma of locally grown food, but in the end, I knew something more primative had been awakened.The battle raged on.  For weeks I see my best plants continue to fall. None of my defenses were working.  Now the furry buggers were into the cucumbers and the biggest plants with blossoms and little budding cucumbers tumbled over like GIs on Omaha.  I remember one battle as being particularly fierce:I came out late in the afternoon.  The garden had just slipped into shade and I saw that one of my egg plants had been pulled under.  Then there he was!  I saw the little bugger jumping back down into his newly made hole.  Quickly I lit the gas bomb and shoved it down the hole.  A loud hissing came from the the bomb as it forced  the poisonous gas through the chambers of my enemy’s liar.  Then I saw a neighboring egg plant shivering as a I supposed the varmint was trying to make his escape. Grabbing the the 22 rifle I fired into the shaking soil.  The soil stop  moving; the gas blasted on.  Victory was surely mine.  One day, two days, three days went by and all was quiet.  The war was over.  It was early in the season; I could replant and have a late season harvest.  All had not been lost; one of my cucumbers had survived and was soon to deliver delicious lemon cucumbers.  I went about putting new plants   Then the unspeakable happened; my remaining lemon cucumber, yes the one I had pinned my hopes of redemption on, fell.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had prevailed against the Feathery Buggers and the Slimy Buggers only to fall in final defeat to the apparently immortal Furry Bugger.Crestfallen, I considered my options.  All my toxic and violent remedies were to no avail. It seemed this little piece of dirt I called garden was as much the mole’s as mine, but as I said, it was still early in the growing season.  After all, real farmers in this area manage to farm all year round.  I could begin anew, dig up the entire raised bed and put in new wire mesh – something I had planned to do  in the fall.  That was a lot of work and would mean that I would be destroying what was left of my garden. Or I could  just accept the few remaining plants in the garden were the property of the mole and put any new starts in wire baskets.  This form of “passive income” was requiring way too much work.  Neither option seemed particularly attractive.  The answer came from an unexpected source.What was it that G.W. said he was allowing to happen before he invaded Iraq?  What is the nature of the communication when opposing forces resolve their differences without force or violence?  DIPLOMACY.  What is the physical nature of diplomacy?  Sound.  And what is sound?  Vibration.  Well, after I finally understood the mole believed I had no interest in my garden when I was not physically there; I realized I needed to maintain a physical presence in the garden at all times.  I had to station a diplomat to convince the furry buggy even though I was not actually in the garden at the time, I still had a “vital interest” in the region. Enter the solar powered “Sweeney’s Sonic Spike”.  It, “Drives Moles and Gophers Away”  That just what I needed; a diplomat to come and drive my mole away.  I didn’t care where Sweeney drove my mole.  He could drive him to some foreign garden to live in luxurious exile for all I cared; I think he ended up in Laurie’s flower bed – Oops.Despite Sweeney’s high salary – $30, I would recommend him to to any other sovereign garden.  He does a fine job communicating, vibrating, driving and all.  I wish I had considered using it in the first place.  It would have saved me time and money; let alone been a more compassionate solution to the problem.  The fact that it was the last thing I tried, is informative in my quest for self knowledge.  Without extracting too many conclusions from this relatively small series of events; I can see quite clearly my own hypocrisy.  This little garden drama showed my closely held beliefs about the effectiveness of violence.  If I imagine my responsibilities to be greater than this little garden and my power subsequently greater as well, I can also imagine myself resorting to violence in the endeavor to protect my domain.I don’t know what I will will do with this new won self knowledge.  I can’t promise it will change my behavior in to future.  It does allow me some understanding for those that do resort violence whether they be world leaders or simple gardeners.   To view complete blog or subscribe to “Travels with Vanny” go to:


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