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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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