Building Cultivating Mountain
Stone upon stone I'm rebuilding the wall where the world comes in touch with our garden,
Refilling the hole where a dead but once-evergreen giant has recently stood,
Preparing the ground to receive a new tree. Clearly, nothing's forever except,
(One can hope) for the unending courage we need for renewal, for growth for new life.
Across town I am also engaged in renewal of a larger, community garden,
Not only the site, but its programs and staff, and those charged with safeguarding the good
Effects of its mission: the cross-pollination of local and world-wide cultures,
The pride and the strengths of communities not always able to meet without strife.
Both projects at once might perhaps overwhelm me unless I can build a third garden:
A place I can go to regain flexibility, sap for my dry, brittle wood.
A place to retreat, find ideas, inspiration and beauty, refreshing my soul,
Make me whole to return to the heart of my world, whom I love and who loves me -- my wife.
I've spent every morning for the past several weeks lifting heavy stones and returning the soil to the deep hole, the wound in the ground, where we removed a dead, once-evergreen giant, building not a mountain but a low stone wall where our garden faces out to the world. I want it to stand firm without becoming a barrier, safe for grandchildren who will not resist the urge to climb on it, holding back the raised soil and presenting a tidy, clean and friendly face to the neighborhood.
Across the city, I'm also involved in the renewal and expansion of a much larger garden, an international, cross-cultural project to build the largest Sichuan style garden outside of China designed by Chinese master designers and fabricated of imported Chinese materials by Chinese master craftsmen. It's a joint effort between Seattle and its Chinese sister city Chongqing that, after languishing for years during which the entire project was fully designed -- and redesigned following the emergence of wetlands issues -- has recently produced a stunning courtyard that demonstrates the immense potential of this vision.
The organizational renewal it will take to complete this garden in a very few years will require difficult changes of many kinds, not least among the people at the very top of the organization, and could increase tensions between cultural and ethnic communities without whose participation the garden will never fulfill its mission. That mission is to build a legacy garden and community center that promotes cultural exchange, education and business development between Seattle and her sister city Chongqing, Washington and its sister province Sichuan, the United States and China. --(1)
My personal involvement in this process will be only one small element in the success of this adventure, but it will almost certainly produce strains within my own domestic world as well as personal stress that could potentially become as disabling as some I have experienced during past projects.
What have I learned from past experience? How will I manage both the process itself and my personal reaction to what it brings forward? How will I prepare myself to recognize and ameliorate the damage that I know potentially overwhelming situations can do to me and to the others working so hard on this project?
I think that for me the answer lies in my paying clse attention: to what the process is doing to me individually as well as to how it is affecting others in the organization. It will involve talking with people whose wisdom and perceptions I trust, because I have learned the incredible value of talking things out -- and of listening reflectively. But it will also require solitary reflection, the silent periods during which important insights can emerge, and during which deep healing can occur -- in a word (or rather two) "down time". --(2)
The community garden is planned to include a structure named Studio of Cultivating Mountain. While I have much to learn about this project, and about the culture out of which it was born (which, for any of us, is essentially why this project exists), even in my ignorance it seems clear to me that such a studio, which in this culture is often the solitary space for the cultivation of the individual scholar's mind and heart, is a place where this growth is advanced by the study of art and of reality, and by honest confrontation of realities as obdurate, often, as the mountain stone itself.
I think I will survive and even thrive during this project if I can cultivate in my interior garden a deepening awareness of reality as it confronts me. This blog, if I persist in its discipline, will be one of my silent spaces for contemplation, where I hope to find awareness and peaceful acceptance of the reality I encounter. So that reality might to be my teacher, I will build my own Studio of Cultivating Mountain as a place apart, in which to deepen my awareness of it.
(1) Thanks to Allan Chinn, begging permission for my edits.
(2) Thanks to my wife, Peggy.
Late sun light spears silent through evergreen shade
The way truth penetrates a contemplative heart.
The sudden surprise of enlightenment slips
In from nowhere and tears old conviction apart.
The white cloud dissolves, showing more of the world
To which the quiet seeker awakes with a start
Then with new found awareness, returns to the task
To work quiet restoration, renew some small part.
Be the peace you seek.