slumming in the garden of messy delights

Each year I work away at one more hindrance by setting the intention to let it be.  Whatever “it” is, I leave it to be what it is going to be.  Well, more accurately, I set the intention to leave it to be.  What typically happens is that as “it” becomes more and more its own self, my need to cull, cut, contort, and otherwise connive it to be what I want it be asserts itself.  And nowhere it that more apparent than in my garden.

I’ve defined a new psychological disorder; if delusions are inexhaustible, so too are shrinkolexical categorizations of the impenetrable.  Gardener’s Obsession Circumscribed to Dirt – GOCD.  It is diagnosed by an uncontrollable urge to punctuate clusters of flowering plants with spaces of dirt.  It can be chronic or acute.  Typically, it is a low-level dysfunctionality (sort of like a dysthymia of gardening illusions) but can surge into a full-blown acute case in the months of July and August.  The more serious cases are found in August if one has a case of GOCD – vegetative type.

As you know I’ve spent two years away from my garden during its most formative and needy periods of development.  This might well give rise to another disorder – some sort of parental neglect of blooming potential or something.  Anyway, having left for the wilds of Santa Fe every March and August, I seem to have developed a slight tolerance for letting go of the garden I had planned to have and an acceptance of the one I do have – not unlike being a real parent of a real child.  No longer do I yearn (too much) for a neatly established garden with swathes of dark earth or mulch caressing the growth edges of Ox-Eye Daisies, Campanula, Pasque Flowers, Bleeding Hearts, and Bee Balm.  I am at one with the Azaleas with their twiggy branches and have left the Nishiki to skirmish with the kiwi vine for canopy space.  The Irises seem quite content with the Lupines and the Clematis are holding out against the Sandcherries.   Even the dreaded Peonies have re-asserted themselves quietly in the side beds.

This year, with no travel plans on the near or far horizon, I ironically find myself confronting my GOCD full on.  Where I thought there would be time to edit the garden beds, I find only time to edit out the unnecessary from the narrative of my lifeline.  And the most unnecessary at this moment is the illusion that anything can be picture perfect.  So, I am embracing my garden in its gardenness and slumming in the messy delight of its tangled growth.  Strangely, that messy English Garden I coveted for so many years seems to have manifested.  Perhaps it has only if you tilt your head a smidgen to the right which allows the echinacea to block the view of the weedy grass between the spirea and the honeysuckle.  But it is there.

Deeply embedded in the foliage and flowers, it is there.

letting go of holding on

From the Bodhidharma Anthology by Jeffrey Broughton: Entering the path through practice – seeking nothing.

The sutra says: “Seeking is all suffering; seeking nothing is joy.”

I love the twists and turns of this third practice.  Seek nothing.  This is joy.  Yet joy is one of the worldly winds that blow up the dust storms!  Gotcha!

And yet.  And yet…

Much of our path has likely been laid down by seeking and joy in the finding.  Now here’s the part we forget: it’s also tamped down by the letting go and the losing.

Broughton footnotes a story about Merit and Darkness who are sisters.  They travel together and it is not possible to invite one in without the other.  Nor is it possible to drive one away without the other leaving too.  While I like this fable, it only addresses the extremes of our clinging and aversion.  To stretch the metaphor, we can’t shine the light on one segment of our path without casting others into darkness.  Practice requires attention not only to our clinging to the lit path and aversion to the dark beyond but also to the edge where light meets dark.  This is liminal ground where transformation occurs; its presence in awareness is constantly negotiated by our open-heartedness.

In my own practice, I try (oh, I try and try) to stay with the transitions between light and dark, earth and air, heaven and hell.  The extreme manifestations are no-brainers to meet and resolve.  It’s the sliding away and into from one to the other and back again that calls for a deeper commitment.  This is where a rigid holding on to what is, what it must become, what it cannot emerge as results in suffering.

This practice of not seeking, wishing for nothing, is a practice of unhooking from a specific outcome, untying the knot that keeps us chained to the shifting winds of fortune.  It is in the merging and emerging of lightness and darkness.