ChopWood, Carry Water, and Open our Eyes

- an excerpt  from The Daily Muse - Tom Spencer's Soul of the Garden

Before enlightenment,
I chopped wood and carried water.
After enlightenment,
I chopped wood and carried water.

- Zen saying

September 7 - evening

I spent the better part of this weekend working in the garden. For the most part, it was all grunt work... weeding, cutting up fallen branches, mowing, fertilizing - not the kind of stuff that makes for poetry. However, there is a deep satisfaction knowing that I have attended to the necessary, to have chopped a little wood and carried more than a little water. Slowly, the garden seems to be recovering from the summer and the relative coolness of the early mornings has energized me for the days ahead.

This morning, before I started my chores, I took my constitutional wander down the garden's paths and enjoyed the company of the various hummingbirds that have laid claim to our salvias, hamelias, flame acanthus, and obedient flowers. They  were already hard at work chasing one another between sips of nectar. I stopped to enjoy their brilliant plumage and the sharp whir of their wings as they passed by. They were far too busy looking for interlopers to care about the idler sipping coffee in the slow lane. The sun was barely up and a soft light was falling through the neighbor's trees -  for a brief moment I felt my world expand, it seemed as if all of the hundreds of thousands of universes aligned themselves just for me - everything felt so right.

Just yesterday, I gave a talk about "finding the Soul of the Garden" at a local church and shared a few remembrances of similar moments where I felt a profound sense of wonder and gratitude. We live in a very precarious world, everything could fall apart tomorrow, and sometimes it feels as if it will. However, I am profoundly thankful for the amazing accident of my own awareness.  I thought of a quote from Borges, "Nevertheless, it means much to have loved, to have been happy, to have laid my hand on the living garden, even for one day."

Creation offers us so much - in fact it offers us everything. All we have to do is chop wood, carry water, and open our eyes.


Excerpted from the September 2004 edition of  The Daily Muse

All material 2000-2006 Soul of the Garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.