The day began with incredible views driving over the hill from Mill Valley. As the fog pulled back, the coast was clear as we pulled down the long driveway into the verdant Gulch. While we were here to see the gardens and the farm, we were privileged to make a couple of detours along the way. After gathering in Cloud Hall for a brief history of the Zen Center, we paused for a 3 minute meditation in the former barn now used for group meditation. Here such alter figures as Tara and Quan Yin are present, not to worship, but to remind us of our purpose: to be kind, to show compassion, to protect and to serve. Wendy enlightened us to the origins of the finger sign for "okay"exhibited by Quan Yin: thumb and forefinger meeting in a circle connecting wisdom and compassion, with the remaining three fingers, Buddha/Karma/Sangha, outstretched.
Our next stop was the equally hallowed bakery. I could tell you about Master Baker Mick, about wild yeast vs. cultivated, about the tremendous variety of breads produced by 4 simple ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast) but instead I will simply report that sampling Mick's freshly baked rolls was, to mix religious affiliations, heavenly. I can't say I reached full enlightenment, but the light, crusty outside and soft, fluffy inside dipped in a modest olive oil certainly took me down the road. Mick felt these rolls were flawed, not airy enough, but to we humble students, they were perfection.
We finally made it down to the farm, led by Sarah, the Farm Manager. The realities of farm life were evident (the soggy soil those late March rains brought push back the planting schedule), but the life present in the kitchen gardens was evidence of Sarah's determination. Gorgeous baby lettuces, planted tightly, made for a colorful show, highlighted by the volunteer poppies and calendula. We also observed the "behind the scenes" reality of seeding endless styrofoam (good for insulation) flats, made slightly easier by the use of a vacuum seeder. But make no mistake, even with mechanics, this is a labor intensive, slow (some might say tedious) process. We concluded our visit with chamomile tea and freshly baked cookies, provided by Wendy's husband, as we sat in a beautiful, formal garden designed by Wendy 26 years ago. Some of our classmates were similarly "planted" in 1983 and it was interesting to see the juxtaposition of flora and fauna birthed the same year.
Realizing the time, we beat a somewhat hasty (hurrying is not something done lightly in a place like this) retreat to the parking lot where our carpools moved out to our next stop down the road. More to come...