Friday, October 17, 2014

What have we here?


Leaden skies, scudding clouds, a bit of rain and wind. Well, they are welcome; that was the longest summer, I think, we've ever had here, and the water in the well was getting low.

It's that time of the year, for us Northern Hemisphere inhabitants: inventory is on my mind. I'm going to prowl about in the kitchen, the pantry and the cold room to write down items and, for some, their current weight. This will help us with the upcoming Hummingbird order. Here is an inventory, with remarks, from a post here from four years ago:
February 2010 Stored Food Inventory
We've always bought bulk and stocked up. Not all that much of it is local; many things we get from our food cooperative turn out to be from Texas or somewhere, and of course there's the rice ... on the other hand, we eat a lot of fresh vegetables and fruit, grown right here, that would not show up in a midwinter inventory; organic, though not "certified."
What's on hand? I mean other than in the refrigerator, like yogurt, or the cabinet where the incidental canned goods live? For example I don't list below some things such as the peanut butter, which we used to buy in ten pound lots but now grind for ourselves at the grocery store, a pound at a time.
Taking a spiral notebook, a pen, and a flashlight, I give myself a tour. Hmmmm ...
Under the kitchen work counter there are two galvanized steel trash cans on casters.
Can #1
  • 10 lb. stone ground WW flour
  • 10 lb. spelt flour
  • 5 lb. rye flour
Can # 2
  • 20 lb. pinto beans
  • 10 lb. short grain brown rice
  • 15 lb. Basmati brown rice
  • 30 lb. rolled oats
In the cold room are three more such cans.
Can #3
  • 5 lb. flaxseed
  • 25 lb. wheat berries
  • 25 lb. stone ground yellow cornmeal
Can #4
  • 18 lb. textured vegetable protein (20 lb. sack, opened)
  • 12 lb. Bear Mush (wheat porridge, remains of 20 lb. sack). We like this. But now we mostly grind our own.
Can #5
  • 25 lb. Basmati brown rice
  • 25 lb. long grain white rice
  • 5 lb. sunflower seeds
There are lots of shelves in the cold room, too, which are looking bare compared to last November. Much of what's missing now is most of the beets, apples, winter squash, pumpkins and small potatoes, and all the turnips and cabbages, all home grown.
  • 5 lb. spaghetti (angel hair)
  • 11 lb. stored apples (individually wrapped; some are only fit for the chickens by now, though)
  • 1 lb. beets
  • 170 lb sacked potatoes (most for seed), mostly reds and some Yukon Golds
  • 1 gallon jar dried peppermint, home grown
  • 1 gallon whole wheat pastry noodles
  • 15 lb. box sesame tahini
  • 10 lb. assorted bulk spices
  • 2/3 gallon pumpkin seeds
  • 1 gallon fava beans, home grown
  • 1 gallon dehydrated apple slices
  • 15 winter squash (the delicatas are out-keeping the butternuts), home grown
  • 1 15 lb. pumpkin, home grown
  • 10 liters home brew
  • 42 bottles homemade grape/apple wine
  • 1 1/2 gallons molasses
Some of the shelves in the kitchen are dedicated to gallon, half gallon, and quart jars of miscellaneous items, from which we do much of the actual cooking.
  • 1 gallon dehydrated tomatoes, home grown (we've used about half what we made)
  • 1 quart dehydrated pear slices, home grown (ditto)
  • 1/2 gallon dehydrated zuke slices, home grown (ditto)
  • -- just wiped out a gallon of apple slices, these are popular
  • 3 gallons whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 qt. fava beans, home grown
  • 1 pint runner beans, home grown
  • 10 pounds of elephant garlic in ropes and baskets, home grown
  • 1.5 gallons rolled oats
  • 2/3 gallon buckwheat flour
  • 2/3 gallon cornmeal
  • 2 lb. electro-perk Colombian coffee, self-service ground at store
  • 1 pt. wheat berries (these are going fast)
  • 2/3 gallon TVP
  • 1 gallon dried peppermint, home grown
  • 1 pint flaxseed
  • 1 quart quinoa seed
  • 1/2 gallon white sugar
  • 1 gallon pinto beans
  • 1/2 gallon black beans
  • 2 gallon molasses
  • 1/3 gallon confectioners sugar
  • 1 pint short grain rice
  • 1 pint long grain rice
  • 2 pounds sea salt, 2 pounds regular salt
  • 1 lb. raisins
  • 1/2 gallon red beans
  • 2 gallons dehydrated mixed vegetable greens, home grown (these have proved extremely useful)
  • 1 qt. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 gallon stevia (not as popular as we had hoped)
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 gallon dehydrated medicinals (haven't been sick much), home grown, mostly comfrey
  • 1 pint homemade rose hip cordial
  • 1/2 gallon whole wheat pastry noodles
  • 1 gallon sesame seeds
  • 1 gallon powdered milk
  • 1 gallon spelt flour
  • 1/2 gallon amaranth seeds
  • 2 cups chickpeas (from a gallon it took decades to go through)
  • 1 lb. Sri Lanka tea, loose packed, and assorted herb teas
On the spice shelves are quart and pint jars of home grown and bulk bought items, as well.
  • 3/4 qt. flaxseeds
  • 1/2 qt. cocoa
  • 2 qt. whole cloves
  • 1/2 qt. nutmeg
  • 1.5 qt. curry (2 kinds)
  • 1 qt. paprika
  • 1/2 qt. chili powder (this has suddenly become popular with all the bean growing)
  • 1 pint powdered ginger
  • 2 qt. dried allium blossoms, homegrown (we like much better fresh)
  • 3/4 qt. ground cloves
  • 1/2 qt. cajun spices
  • 1 pt. dried myrtle leaves, foraged (like bay leaves)
  • 1 qt. baking powder
  • 1 pint cream of tartar
  • 2 lb. baking soda
  • And some of the little jars of things, like black pepper
On the canning shelves, things are disappearing fast. As this space is unheated, you'll also find the seeds for this year stored here as well.
  • 13 pint jars tomato puree
  • 24 quart jars tomato puree
  • 25 quarts applesauce
  • 4 pints blackberry jam
  • 1 qt. maple syrup (bought)
  • 1/2 gallon dried runner beans (these are for seed)
  • 1 pint buckskin beans (ditto). Bought at a sustainability fair; said to be good in a drought
  • 2 lbs basmati puffed rice (a luxury item)
  • 1 lb. popcorn
In the freezer there is lots more space than there was in November, shown here.
  • 18 pints blown goose eggs, home grown free ranged
  • 4 pints homemade chili
  • 2 loaves homemade bread
  • 4 pints filberts, home grown
  • 1 quart plum sauce (last of about 24 from 3 years ago, 2 bad years since)
  • 30 pounds assorted homegrown vegs
  • 10 pints chicken broth, homegrown free ranged
  • 3 ducks, homegrown free ranged. Drakes, actually. All named Andrew ...
  • 6 pints boned chicken, homegrown free ranged
  • 70 lb. lamb, assorted cuts, local free ranged.
  • 8 small trout (getting freezer burn, must use and go for more), local. Definitely free ranged!
  • 15 lb. ham, local free ranged.
There are still some blueberries and blackberries in there somewhere; I just can't find them right now. There are also some highly processed foods in there, of the kind called "take and bake," that belong to Last Son; but with any luck I will stay out of those!
The things in the kitchen stay fresher than you might think, as our wood heat is in the dining room, where we hang out. Kitchen temperatures hover around 55F all winter, except during baking. This year, an especially warm winter here, even the cold room seldom drops below 50, which is really too warm for the potatoes and apples.
You'll see that our meat, especially red meat, consumption is relatively low. We're not consistently vegetarian but we do not care for CAFO's and the horrors those represent, preferring to raise and butcher for ourselves, or buy from neighbors.
What would we do differently? Well, we'd remember to put dates on things. Some have been here for years and lost some of their food value and flavor. And I know from this list that I want to try and get a big bag of barley at some point.
There is not an especially TEOTWAWKI-oriented storage plan here. We simply took advantage of cooperative bulk-buy savings, sales, gardening, orcharding, and poultry raising, mostly, in order to have a low average monthly food bill and not have to run get things, spending more on gasoline than necessary. But it is certainly an inventory on which such a plan could be founded.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stony Run Farm garden year 2014




Our worst garden year ever -- drought played a part, despite our throwing a lot of well water into the breach, and old age -- I can't weed like once did, and throwing mulch around takes some oomph too -- but a decent fruit year. All the canning jars are in use. So, gratitude. __()__

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mucking about in the print shop

New rollers arrived, necessary because the old ones were thirty years old and past saving. I remember what those cost, and I can tell you they've gone up about two hundred percent. They also arrived without roller trucks.

Trucks are the rubber-tired wheels at the ends of the rollers, whose job is to roll on tracks on either side of the bed of the press. I could see that the ones I had might fit the new rollers, but they were fused onto the old rollers by bimetallic corrosion. I could order new ones, or ...

... several hours later, having banged on every tool in the shop with every other tool, the air reeking with WD-40, I had separated the trucks from the old rollers without mangling them (somehow), and installed them on the new rollers. Time to kick the treadle and see if we have a press ...


... and it appears we do.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Into the woods


I don't know if we can make it an annual event; I'm 65 and seem to be fading on schedule. But my mom and dad's ashes are interred in a secret location and Emily and I went to pay our respects before the weather changes, which should be about in a week. Last year we were there in July. Good thing -- in October on this date there was snow -- a foot deep. Very different year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A pressing matter

Way back in time I was a letterpress printer, linotypist and bindery operator, and such people tend to acquire a "hobby" shop somewhere along the way. I have had a Chandler & Price 10X15 press and a type cabinet (48 cases of type) since about 1986, and for most of that time the shop faced away from the window into the garage. Its footprint assured that ours would be a one car garage, and we need that space now -- for one car and a teardrop trailer.

So I got out the jacks, straps, come-along and pry bar and turned everything sideways. I actually like it better like this. This shop has been disused for awhile, as you can see by the jumble on the worktop, but it's still somewhat functional. 


The old variable-speed motor that came with the press has died an honorable death, and for some time I've gotten by with a homemade treadle, which I improved a bit yesterday by adding a rope pulley.


Although I really should be putting away type before starting any jobs, I'm procrastinating by running a small test job to reward myself for not getting killed by the move. The press weighs 1500 pounds. Here we have an angel with a trumpet on a venerable (and hoary with corrosion)  magnesium cut -- the oil that had protected it vaped away a decade ago. I'm locking it in the chase with furniture and speed quoins, inking it up with a galley roller, and locking the chase in the press to make a kiss impression on the tympan paper.


This will tell me where to set my guide pins to run the job -- a holiday card for the family's use come December.


The impression, though light, tells me the cut is still usable. Nice! I'll go out and get some paper and envelopes.

Meanwhile, there are tomatoes to go get and process before the poultry, whom I've let into the garden for cleanup, can find them all.




Saturday, September 20, 2014

A forest road

Everyone takes a break sometime; we are fortunate here in having the hills very near us to run to, and so we did that last week.

Our first stop was the place, thirty-seven years ago, that we honeymooned. I had been part of a Hoedad crew parked there for five or six weeks by the Forest Service on a tree planting contract, and had fond, if still fresh, memories of the place, with its grove of seven-foot-diameter Douglas firs and mystical bend in the river.

Beloved and I owned at that time a housetruck -- a cab-over-engine 1946 Chevrolet two-ton flatbed with a cedar-shake house built onto its flatbed. We lived beneath the oak trees in the meadow for a month in August 1977, getting to know each other better.

The place has now been marked off by the Forest Service as not-for-camping-or-vehicles; it's has a pressure-sensitive biome. But we knew no better at the time, and neither did they. They'd used it for a work-camp site for many years; babies had been born there.


We walked around the site, reminiscing. We'd car-camped here in the Eighties, with small children, and explored huge fallen tree trunks, upended towering root-wads, tiny frog-serenaded springs, and gravel bars filled with black rocks shot though with white like photos of night lightning.

We then traveled up the road beyond "Honeymoon Flat," checking the accessibility of various unofficial campsites, some of which nestled among trees almost as big as the ones at the Flat.


This route does not open huge vistas of lava flows, glaciers, and remote peaks, but it does give one a sense of what the old growth forests of the Cascades had once been. At over five thousand feet, we settled into an otherwise unpeopled campground for the night, and spent the evening listening to a hundred tiny waterfalls.


As we are in our sixties, we were once again reminded that tent camping is becoming difficult for us, and we suffered a bit, I'm afraid, from our communion with the hard ground. Nevertheless, the journey was good for us in more ways than not.

We returned to our tasks and routines refreshed.


Stone Buddhas


It looks like the peppermint oil soap misted onto the kale has saved it, just barely. From a distance the greens don't look too bad, but from up close the older leaves are fine green lacework. But the flea beetles are gone, who knows where.

I gather the worst leaves and give them to the residents of the poultry moat. I'm also delivering to them a fair amount of zucchini, sliced, some comfrey, and bunches of seeded grapes. I stand companionably among them, munching my own grapes (the seedless ones). The chickens are quickly done with theirs and gather round my feet, waiting for the ones that get away. 

The not-so-bad leaves are carried to the dehydrator. They're a bit too tattered to interest the people in my life, but dried, crumbled almost to a powder, and stored in a jar close to the soup-making and bread-baking, they'll find their uses.


It's hot out, 97F yesterday and 94F today, and smoke from the fires has settled in the valley. An old firefighter, I tend to think the wood smoke smells like money, but I was step-tested out of that line of work three decades ago. I know breathing the smoke's not good for me now (if it ever was) and so I wear a mask when out of the house.


My shadow is tinged with red. Heat waves shimmer on the street beyond our place. Behind the heat waves there's a curtain of brown -- can't see to the other end. Maybe I shouldn't stay out too long.

I'm here to pick tomatoes, but I'm getting distracted. A couple of ears of corn would be nice at dinner, some of the pumpkins have turned, the gourds are ready, and as usual there are zukes -- half for us, half for the birdyard.

I pile my winnings around the stone Buddha and bow before bringing them in.


To make this kind of Buddha all you need is three rocks in three sizes. Find a nice place -- I've turned up a terracotta dish among the rhubarb plants for a platform -- set down the big one, then the middle sized one, then the little bitty one, in a bit of a balancing act.

There's no actual need to do this, of course; I'm one with everything, so why single out some rocks and put pietistic freight on them, neh? My son saw the rockpile in the rhubarb patch, immediately kenned what I was up to, and said, "why don't ya put a soup can there and bow to that? You're looking for trouble."

We laughed.

I'm old now; sixty-five. I might need reminders of stuff. Three rocks can be the legs, body and head of Shakyamuni or any bodhisattva or practitioner of zazen -- all of the above. I'm reminded of my commitment to spend some time sitting. And I appreciate that, so I bow.

Three rocks can also be the Three Refuges.
I take refuge in the Buddha
I take refuge in the Dharma.
I take refuge in the Sangha.
Sometimes the Buddha is the bottom rock, upholding the Dharma (the four great truths, the eight great ways, and the five right doings), which upholds the Sangha (the community of those living the Dharma). 

And maybe the Buddha is the little head rock, the one that falls off sometimes when a busy gopher tunnels by. Many a budding Buddha falls off the Dharma from time to time, but the Sangha waits, rock-steady for that Buddha's return.

There's a rock stack on the bureau in my bedroom, and for the life of me I can't find the Buddha's head, which fell when I went to get a pair of socks. Rolled into a corner somewhere, and is enjoying a stint as a spider's web anchor, perhaps.

Or, the rock stack can serve as a reminder of Permaculture's three ethics.
Earth Care
People Care
Fair Share
Well, that's all right, too. I mean about falling rocks. Sometimes I flub earth care, as when I drive the truck to town, having chosen to live too far away to ride a bike. Or I flub fair share, as when I dip the serving spoon one too many times into the nicest dish.

But it's good to have the reminder right there, three stones doing what stones do, which is remain rock steady.

So, out in the zendo, my day in the kitchen garden and the garden kitchen done, I pull up a bench and sit, imitating the stone buddha that I've stacked on the side table that serves as an altar.


I take refuge in enlightenment and earth care.
I take refuge in right doing and people care.
I take refuge in mindfulness and fair share.
Something like that.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The Autumn cycles begin

There is fog along the river in the mornings now, geese are honking their way over the pass, pumpkins are turning bright orange, and the cornstalks are falling all over like tiddlywinks.

I'm not sure what that's about with the corn; in the past it has meant the arrival of raccoons but the ripe ears have not been molested (except by us).

I have been carrying a cloth shoulder bag on walks and doing a bit of foraging. There are apples and plums along the fencerows, but I'm looking for things for tea: crimson clover, blackberry leaves, chickory, dandelion, thistledown, oregon grapes, and rose hips. I add these to the mint, which has gone to flower but is still very good. The tea comes out a golden color and has a meditative quality.

An annual event, the pulling up of bean roots, letting the vines die, and collecting all the uneaten green beans and scarlet runners for seed, heralds the fall season. As it is often raining here by this time, we have formed the habit of moving the beanpods indoors and shelling them over time as their green turns to brown. To prevent them molding, we hold them in a washing tray made of two-by-fours and hardware cloth, for better air circulation.


Currently the potting shed/greenhouse is also home to the Excelsior dryer, which has found employment all summer. At the moment it's waiting for a load of tomatoes.


 The Gravenstein apples are done and it's the Roxbury Russet's turn. More apple butter and apple juice on the way.


This tree toppled over years ago and leans on a crutch made from an eight-by-ten post.


I use a fruitpicker to go after the few apples that are out of reach but also fill it up with apples from lower parts of the tree and dump it into the wheelbarrow so as not to have to walk back and forth as much, or trundle around the barrow trying to keep it near me.


The day begins and ends with a little bit of zazen in the zendo. Birds that are gathering to head south like to hang out around the zendo and sometimes quail run across the roof. It's a good place to ripen oneself.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A place to sit

The summer has been a crowded one, not so much in terms of projects as lots of good company. We're equipped to handle the traffic nowadays, and we enjoy seeing the people we love, from near and far. Yet Beloved and I are essentially loners, and so we have to recharge a lot when we've been visiting for hours or days on end.

She recharges by working on correspondence in her office, changing out the duck ponds' water, or walking in a nearby park.

I putz around in the potting shed, or lie down with the laptop and post evidence of doom to fb and Twitter, or head out to the zendo.

The "zendo" isn't what you might think; our offspring had a plywood playhouse that I built them at our last place, in the late 80s, and so when we moved here I built them a bigger one, post-and-beam, 8'X10', using dimensional lumber from scrapped wooden fences. It never really caught on like the old one, perhaps because there is a lot of glass (large scavenged windows) and they were big on stick fighting. 

Occupying a quiet corner of Stony Run, on the edge of the pasture across the creek, the empty building beckoned to me after the kids grew up. I moved some furniture in and wrote seven books there. So its name, until recently, was the Scriptorium.


By and by, as I became aware of the level of destruction we've already wreaked on our biosphere, and began to despair of doing much to reverse the trend, I began to need to recharge more often and more deeply, and decided to try a couple of fb friends' advice to try some meditation. 

It's something I did a lot of at one time, but it had fallen off the calendar during the last couple of busy decades. What I was familiar with was the Soto Zen Buddhist practice of "just sitting" -- a little more than theoretically, but being terribly shy, I had almost never actually practiced with others.

Just as I began to wonder about doing so, an old acquaintance turned up in our area after a long stint in California, who had become a Zen priest in the meanwhile, and took a house in the woods and turned it into a zendo. We reconnected, and I found myself attending monthly zazenkai -- daylong intensive retreats. These I felt to be so helpful at this stage of my life that I began sitting more and more at home. But, as I said, lots of folks are in and out, so the urge to settle down to practice alone often clashes with the need to be present as a friend and hostess.

I told Beloved it had occurred to me to clean out the Scriptorium, which was becoming disused and cobwebby, and find times to "recharge" there.

"Are you going to go out there and sit?"

"Yes, and read Dogen and stuff. Maybe have a few quiet meals, too."

"Okay, so, it's not really the Scriptorium anymore. Can we call it the zendo?"

"Yes. let's do that. But not capitalize it or anything. It doesn't want to be pretentious."

"You bet."

I sit in the seiza posture, using a bench that I've been given, because I'm too stiff for that cross-legged stuff and because chair sitting doesn't seem as beneficial. 


I don't have a zabuton because they tend to put my feet to sleep; the ugly discarded deep pile carpet that I installed twenty years ago seems really adequate.

Toto, my late mom and dad's terrier, who is living with us in his retirement, generally sits with me and rests his head against my knee. So I give up the traditional Dhyana mudra and rest my hand on his head, until he sighs and falls asleep. It's all very informal here.

In one corner of the little room I've set up a "kitchen" on an old crate. It supports longer stays than the half hour sittings that I've been doing. There's an old rice steamer, some pre-seasoned rice and millet, and usually some vegs and fruit, water and solar tea on hand. The "seasoning" is dehydrated vegetable leaves, herbs and tomatoes all grown here at Stony Run, and really the meals can be quite sustaining.



The point of zazen, according to Kosho Uchiyama, is to remove false distinctions between self and other and to lose that discomfort which we tend to have when contemplating the eventuality of our demise. If you lack dualism you will lack anger and you will lack fear.
Behind a temple there was a field where there were many squashes growing on a vine. One day a fight broke out among them, and the squashes split up into two groups, making a big racket shouting at one another. The head priest heard the uproar and, stepping outside to see what was going on, found the squashes quarreling. The priest scolded them in a booming voice. “Hey, you squashes! What are you doing out there fighting? Everyone do zazen.” The priest taught them how to do zazen. “Fold your legs like this, sit up, and straighten your back and neck.” While the squashes were sitting zazen in the way the priest had taught them, their anger subsided and they settled down. Then the priest said quietly, “Everyone put your hand on top of your head.” When the squashes felt the top of their heads, they found some weird thing attached there. It turned out to be the vine that connected them all together. “This is really strange. Here we’ve been arguing when actually we’re all tied together and living just one life." After that, the squashes all got along with each other quite well.
From Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama




Saturday, July 26, 2014

Use what you have


On the principle of Use What You Have, I am eating steamed zucchini, dried zucchini chips, zucchini waffles, and zucchini bread. I grate zucchini into just about everything but the coffee. I slice the zeppelins into thin wedges that go over all the poultry fences, where they soon disappear. Occasionally, I have beans. Tomatoes are still a treat, though.

When I collect my empty basket and zuke knife and head out of doors, I stop by the Bonshō to give it a ring. (It's nice to live far enough from the neighbors to have this option.)

Bonshō = Buddhist bell.
In Zen there is a fair amount of bell ringing, drum thumping, stick whacking, and so on, generally at set times, and sometimes accompanying the chanting of the Heart Sutra.

That's all well and good, but if I clattered the bell much it could get old for the neighbors, and I'm awful at keeping to a schedule. My own attitude toward the bell is that when I notice it, I invite it to ring, as explained by Sister Dang Nhiem who lives at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California.

The bell is a piece of steel pipe about two feet long, which I've hung in a lilac by the path to the barn, and the "inviter" is a handy piece of rebar that's lodged in the same tree. I hold the pipe and give it a light tap to let it know an invitation is coming, then inhale slowly, clear my mind as best I am able, exhale, release the pipe, and bring over the rebar smartly. The tone is acceptable without my having spent a bunch of money on a religious artifact -- use what you have.

The first order of business after a bell ring in the morning is the poultry check. I let them out of their coops, check feed and water, gather morning eggs (these are duck eggs generally), make sure the gates are shut behind me, and return to the house for breakfast.

Then I head out to see what's happening in the garden. If there are zukes and beans, I gather zukes and beans. If a small apple tree needs its apples removed and placed at its base to give it another year of root-building before demanding a crop from it, I do that. I cover weeds with handfuls of straw. And always I pull some morning glories, which I know will defeat me, but, please, not yet. If it's a dehydrator day for greens, I may fill the basket with large side leaves from kale, collards and the like and bring them to the potting shed to dry up in the Excelsior. If I need to do a lot of this at once, I may bring out the solar dehydrators. They were made from scraps yet seem to be holding up very well. Use what you have.

I also check to see if the irrigation should be turned on. We're using the center pivot sprinkler again this year, which allows too much evaporation of our precious well water, but helps to not buy too much plastic. We have it, and we have the tall pipe on which it stands, so we use it. The corn patch is within reach of the sprinkler, so I look at the corn. If the leaves begin to fold, I water, either early in the morning or at dusk. About every third day in the 80s, every day in the 90s.

Dogen said: "The body and mind of the buddha way is grass, trees, tiles, and pebbles, as well as wind, rain, water, and fire."

That sounds kind of comforting, and it is, but thinking of one's natural surroundings as benign smacks of privilege. Grass can take over the garden, trees can fall on the house, tiles can slide down and hit you, pebbles can dull your shovel. Wind can knock down the barn, rain can carry away the soil, water can drown you, and fire can wipe ou the whole neighborhood. None of these events are malevolent. We are not more important than the world. We're just part of it.

It's with this perspective that one respects all these things, rings the bell, and uses what one has right now. As the sun rises over the mountain, all things become possible.

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