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A Hundred Gourds 4:3 June 2015

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Sonam Chhoki - Bhutan


Why the Buddha was not a gardener


Slowly but perceptibly the grey blur of hills is changing to a green haze. I can’t hide anymore behind letting the garden lie dormant in its winter mode.

With each lift of the fork, pink-fleshed worms glisten in the spring sun. Some fall through the tines and others curl back into themselves, grit and all. I read somewhere that the amputated tail of an earthworm dies.

what if
the worm is grandmother . . .
om mani peme hung

Bulbuls, wagtails, sparrows and blackbirds throng the hedge as I struggle with my conscience, and the weeds, which have the garden in their grip.

“Quick, quick! Cover the worms before the birds get them!” my six year-old daughter directs me from her swing.

The frenzied nesting has been evident in the increasingly raucous dawn chorus.

“The birds feed the worms to their babies,” I try to reassure her. She shakes her head and cries, “what about the earthworm’s babies?”

So, I don’t tell her of the ant holes I’ve plugged and the slugs I’ve left in heaps for the whistling thrush. Our neighbour leans by the fence and surveys my effort. He was featured in the local paper with his prize pumpkins and radishes. He points to a low-growing plant with marbled leaves, around which I have weeded with care and says, ‘that is no good.’ He hands me a tin of herbicide. The list of chemicals on the fading instructions seems formidable.

In a few months when the monsoon clouds unload their baggage over the valley, my attempts at clearing the garden will have been futile, as growth of every kind unfurls in the warm rain that teases new life from seeds and the residue of weeds I’ve tried to rend from the earth.

first bush lark song . . .
the cobra raises its hood
to the sun



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