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.