via Katagiri Roshi
Well a year or so has passed since I began this blog about a potential Wildseed Zen project and maybe it is time for a review. I’ve been looking through my previous posts and they brought forth a smile – a somewhat knowing one with a taste of – good grief that was some project you set out to accomplish. The knowing bit comes from the understanding that whatever we imagine, plan or construct around what a future project might be it is never ever going to be much like it in reality, though it may have a flavour of it.
Many things happened last year that I was pleased to be part of and sometimes even initiate. Out of the many folk I contacted about being board members three people agreed to take this on and may other s offered support and good wishes in varied forms. As the year progressed I came to realise that we are not really anywhere near the stage of needing a board yet and that Wildseed Zen has some way to go and has perhaps taken on a more straightforward and practical form. At the moment Wildseed Zen is my take on zen buddhist practice and whoever turns up for a session… Over the year I took a good look at the why’s and wherefores and at the practicalities and as I did this other realities simply happened.
I began Wildseed Zen practice by simply planting some wild seed and watching to see the development of random flourishing – acorns, dog rose, hawthorn, elder, rowan. Used the randomness of dispersal and growth and the unpredictability of conditions as a metaphor for Wildseed Zen. Some seed really took off, particularly the acorns, hawthorn and dog rose and of those some are growing more successfully than others…
At the start of last year, or rather the October of the previous year, I began volunteering at a Walled Garden restoration project – in the grounds of Gilmerton House, just on the outskirts of the village. We began by getting the sheep off the land and clearing much of the accumulated debris from demolitions of old buildings and projects – so much plastic in one form or another was found. We made a new start by taking over four hundred willow cuttings from a local grower and laying them in for planting in the Spring. As this project has evolved I have become very connected to it and it’s ethos of developing both a designed garden but also a place of safety that will offer Horticulture Therapy and support to anyone who might benefit. Over the year this idea has evolved and we realise we areable to support people who have some quite severe mental health difficulties and they support us – there is little difference in our mutual airing of concerns and anxieties and our support for each other. I cherish the collaboration that goes on here. The garden has taken shape over the year with the planting of an apple orchard, planting out of the willows, building of compost heaps, putting up a poly tunnel, making a fruit garden and planting out raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, currant and blueberry bushes, sowing seed for cut flowers next year, we have also dug out and planted up a shrub border and kept some areas wild for wild life – much has been spotted – butterflies, moths, birdlife, buzzards, rabbits and hares, mice ( all of which seem to have had a go at the willow shoots!). We did a beekeeping course together over the summer and now have our first hive. The idea now is to develop the horticulture therapy programmes, use our fruit produce to make jams and preserves and hopefully develop a working kitchen. W have also provided a space for young folk still in school to come and learn about the garden and take part in tasks.
This garden project has been becoming more and more part of my Wildseed Zen practice and there is room there for me to cultivate it further. One Saturday last August we pitched the Bell Tent down at the garden and l led a Wildseed Zen session. This consisted of zazen, samu (work practice), a dharma talk around self nature and our interconnection within nature, kinin and mindful walking. Folk seem to haveenjoyed this brief session simple practice and are keen to do more.
Alongside these developments and activities I have been learning basketmaking and also made some willow woven bee skeps, which will be covered in dung and clay for warmth. I hope to place them in the woodland outside the garden, within a shelter, and we will introduce a swarm in the spring. My aim here will be to practice natural beekeeping – to provide a place for bees to thrive and not for honey production.
Basket making is quite a rhythmic meditative practice and involves, dexterity and the practice of recognising mistakes – at the garden we aim to run courses and to use our willow to make baskets.
Other than in the garden Wildseed Zen is simply simple, paying close attention to nature, the natural world and it’s interwoven interconnectedness – to realizing that we are all part of this. For me it also involves questioning the damage we do to the earth and doing what I can to protect and encourage the wild. I sit zazen twice a day in the hut in our garden – in the mornings I recite to myself the metta sutra and the heart sutra. I walk mindfully around the garden I have created with my wife and cultivate open awareness.
Wildseed zen will take its course depending on what occurs and who else wishes to join me. It seems to involve letting go of the conceptual and critical, seeing that we are one with the flow of nature and the universe, realising impermanence and our connection to all things, nurturing, growing, supporting, collaborating, sharing. It is also down to earth and practical – collecting seed and scattering or saving, planting up seedlings, planting up wild and not so wild places, enabling flourishing. Appreciating all that surrounds us, sitting out in nature and connecting, being Buddha sitting under the tree and connecting to earth.
If anyone would like to join me in some of this practice and in developing it further – let me know…in the meantime I’m just getting on with ‘it’.
With a bow