Archives for posts with tag: friendship

Mint, year 2

I met her in spring.

She moved into an adjoining studio at the art space we rented–her space transformed into rows of books and curios. A quirky table supported her laptop and the walls became creative collages and paintings. Ken met her first–and said, “you’ve got to meet her! You’re going to love her.” He was excited–hoping she and I would bump into each other sooner rather than later.

We instantly hit it off. She was an artist and writer–vibrant, in touch, full of energy. Gardening was one of her expressive connections to the world, having owned a nursery, and plants just seemed to leap into being at her touch. She turned the sandy yard around her adobe house into a bounty of vegetables and fruit–Moonflowers clinging to the fences and corners. A few native silver nightshade cultivated to add punctuation.

She shared seeds and mint cuttings with me the following year. They were from plants she’d cultivated herself. Beans, peppers, tomatoes, hollyhocks. The mint arrived in a glass Pepsi bottle, fluffy and bright green–ready for transport. New roots suspended in clear water. I planted everything. The seeds went from seedlings to plants, to fruit and beans–from which I again saved seeds to grow the next year. Mingled with seeds my dad had sent me, that year my garden thrived–even in the poor, alkaline, sandy soil that I had to work with.

I planted the mint at 5 locations in the yard and carefully tended it.

Mint, year 2

In mid-summer, we had a falling out. The ebb and flow of human connection. The mint seemed to suffer briefly–curling back a bit, but every time I saw them and the young plants, I thought fondly of her, and of all of the plant ancestors from which the seeds and cuttings had come. We had participated in an age-old technique, growing and sharing seeds, so that if we could pull the camera back past our present day, we could see the connections between all of the plants and seeds in our area, our state, our country, the world. A hundred seed traders, a hundred thousand plants, a hundred thousand years.

Winter came, the plants died back. The mint curled in on itself, waiting for spring. I saved seeds again.

This year, the garden is growing again. Funded now, at least partially, by second generation seeds from our original share. The mint is back in full force, bigger, bolder, healthier, more green than ever. The hollyhock seeds that she shared, while silent last year, have now popped up–rising, renewing.

And I hope to keep it going for as long as it’s willing to provide.

The roots and seeds we lay down are forever.

Planted, they grow and change–descended from the original gesture. Plant kind seeds, kindness grows.

Though we may move around and change, the roots and seeds we put down leave a trace. Seeds form such a simple, kindly gesture are now deeply rooted in the earth. After I move, the mint will still be established. The hollyhocks will still grow. The legacy is there.

The roots, underground, will return to share again.

Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the universe
and the universe will sing.

How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

–from the Tao Teh Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation.

Beans, second year


Zhuge LiangDaily Musings -7/3/09 – “Honorable People”

Zhuge Liang, a brilliant strategist, philosopher, artist, musician, inventor, and prime minister of the Three Kingdoms era in China (he was born about 180 C.E. {AD}) was a student of Taoism and studied the Tao Teh Ching, the Art of War, and the I Ching heavily.

Known for his idealistic attempts to cause as little harm in war as possible, he wrote many scrolls on leadership, crisis management, and personal cultivation–some of which have been lost to antiquity. We are lucky to have some of his writings preserved even now, millenia later. Thomas Cleary offers a commendable translation of his timeless thoughts.

Zhuge Liang’s personal motto was:

“Opportunistic relationships can hardly be kept constant.

The acquaintance of honorable people, even at a distance, does not add flowers in times of warmth and does not change its leaves in times of cold: it continues unfading through the four seasons, becomes increasingly stable as it passes through ease and danger.”

Sounds like a warning against fairweather friends, tenuous networking, and social-ladder-climbers who would use you in times of success and abandon you in times of distress? You’re absolutely correct. Zhuge Liang warned that many are treacherous, appearing to be warm and friendly, while keeping an eye out for what they can get, how they can gain more, who they can entrap and connect with, and how they can use others. This reminder to be mindfully aware and cautious permeates his “Way of the General” scroll. When you are surrounded by honorable people, they won’t add a feather to your cap in times of success–and they also won’t flee when you’re in trouble. They are there, all the time. Unfading. Permanent. Reliable. Trustworthy.

No–this isn’t entreating an X-Files-like sense of paranoia, that everyone is out to get everyone else, and that they’re all plotting against one another. Rather, it’s a gentle reminder to keep your eyes and ears open for both the honorable AND the dishonorable. In every situation. Just be aware. Receive life, but always be open.

It seems silly that we would need to remind ourselves to surround ourselves with people who are true and forthright, but it’s a concept easily forgotten in the modern world. Especially when people are fradulently nice and no one could ever see them as anything otherwise.

The Tao Teh Ching reminds us that:
“True words aren’t beautiful. Beautiful words aren’t true.”

(sometimes translated as sweet/nice words). The sickeningly sweet layer of falsity that so often conceals mal intent was a problem over a thousand years ago. It’s still troubling today.

Hold onto the center. Trust your intuition. Be true and compassionate toward yourself. Be true and compassionate toward others. The honorable will rise to the surface. They are the ones who will be there for you, whether you’ve brushed your hair, failed that big test, lost everything, won everything, given everything up. They have got your back, even when they don’t seem to know where you are. Trust is everything.

And always remember the other side of the coin:

“To lose trust by trying to gain an advantage is a mistake made by men of old.” – Zhuge Liang.