Friday, August 27, 2010

Harvest Time

Here's a little shot of some of the work I did at The Altered Image workshop I took a couple of weeks ago. When I wrote the initial post about the workshop I talked about how much I liked the instructor's (Tony Bounsall) suggestion that we look on our work as creative compost and then as a lover of metaphor I stretched this to include all of our life's material as creative compost.

Our wonderful blogging friend 108 Zen Books ran with the compost analogy in a fun series of 5 posts which you should definitely add to your life/garden manual. A couple of days ago I noticed the weather in the garden take a distinct turn in the direction of fall, the air cooled, the sun's intensity waned even though it remained bright. The quality of the light changed in a way I can't quite pinpoint and a feeling of quiet and order settled over everything. Clouds roll around forming, disintegrating and reforming, the weather changes a myriad times each day. The manic intense energy of summer has headed off to another hemisphere.

I have been doing some seed saving: kale, parsley, mustard greens, foxglove, lettuce, onion, nasturtium, cilantro, radish. And this morning I decided it was time to remove the lavender of it's dried stalks. As I rubbed the tiny flower heads off onto a piece of newsprint, it's intoxicating scent filled the air and I thought "harvest". We have been talking about compost in terms of our practice, our training, living our lives, whatever you choose to call it. How about the harvest? Where does that figure into the picture.

We could talk about karma and that we harvest what we sow. Trite perhaps but seemlngly true enough. It is like the story that the grandfather tells the small child about the 2 wolves that live inside us, the angry one and the kind one. When the child asks which one will win, the wise grandfather reminds her that it is the one we feed that grows. So it is with harvest, I think. The seeds we nurture and cultivate, watering and tending, giving them our attention, those are the seeds that will grow in our hearts. The choice is always ours. It is easy to fall back into the dark tangled weed patch of unconscious habit but at some point we stumble out, hat askew, morning glory twined around our left ear. You get the picture. Such is the gardener's life.

When I think of harvest I am reminded of something my Zen teacher used to say to me when I told a story of where I was astonished that something had gone so well . She would say, " those are the fruits of your training." And so I think that about the harvest, that if we are diligent and train and work with our "stuff" in earnest then gradually, often without notice, change comes about. Slowly, surely, we advance in the direction of the little rows of compassion and , the patch of letting go and a basket full of all acceptance. This is the work of a life time, many lifetimes, if you will. If we can remember that this is the most important work we will do in our lives, then there will be something to harvest. And being human, of course sometimes we forget, get blown over in a ferocious storm and fall into the thistle patch, but that's okay. We just get back up, pick out the prickles and gather up the hoe again.

All this harvest talk makes me think of ripe tomatoes and fat squash but it also make me think of a line from Daishin Morgan's little book "Buddha Recognizes Buddha". He says "training and enlightenment are not separate". And so the spiritual garden is like this: we are always planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. It's all going on at the same time. And all the while if we are good organic gardeners we keep adding to the compost heap, because it will feed the garden and make our harvest rich and strong and luscious. Hey, is that a hay seed I see behind your ear?


  1. I love the luscious imagery here! And the descriptive noticings of weather and season, and the importance or recognizing the harvest as part of the cycle of living; the importance of resting in the garden as well - enjoying the scenery - constantly returning to the place of rest in our Heart of Hearts - which is why we tend our gardens it seems.

    "This is the most important work we will do in our lives." I feel that too. Tending our inner gardens, our inner landscapes, clearing through the thicket of the unconscious weeds. And sometimes I'm surprised to discover that even those weeds end up blossoming into their own beauty...

    The book you refer to sounds like something I'd like...

  2. Thanks for the shout out! I was wondering why my stats skyrocketed after 8PM last night!

    Another wise post, ZDS. Makes me think, we sow what we reap. I'm looking out at my mangled garden at this moment and the little herd of deer that went flashing across the front lawn up into the woods. It is, indeed, time to get out there and look at the karma of Summer. Thank you for the encouragement. I'm also chuckling because your blog reply box is exactly lined up with "The Earthworms of Synchronicity" in your Archive roll. We have all shared suchwondrous synchronicity in our writings this year. I'm deeply grateful!


  3. dear carol, it's been a while since i last read through your posts. It seems that you've found a good home on saltspring island. your detailed descriptions of nature and your intimate relationship with it/her (e.g., collecting seeds) speaks of mindfulness at its finest: being aware of things within and around us from moment to meoment. thank you. daishin

  4. Beautiful post and imagery - indeed it is a choice to crawl out of the weeds, yet we need constant reminders. And so we remind each other - how lovely. I love your description of the subtle changes in the weather.

  5. Thanks to all for stopping by the garden at harvest time! It is indeed my favourite season.

    MeANderi - lovely thought and so true, weeds have their own beauty. I once wrote a piece on weeds and the dictionary defn is "a plant growing where we don't want it."

    Genju - I like that, "the karma of summer", each season has its own karma, summer with its intense energy, long days, brilliance, and laziness born of heat.

    Peter - great to have you stop by. yes this truly does feel like home! as town must now feel to you?

    DQ - I so need reminders to put me back on the path and that is the lovely part of reading each others blogs. You think of something that doesn't come up on my radar, as do others, & vice versa and our practice and lives are expanded.

  6. Now that I'm home at my Mom's house, I am enjoying the summer fruits and vegetables and realizing how much I missed having a garden.

    Beautiful metaphor for life- seed, cultivate, harvest.

    First time for me to hear the two wolves story. So true ... what we feed will win.