By Donatella Jackson
Is there a simpler therapy than sinking our fingers into rich soil and uprooting what prevents us from growing into our best selves? I arose early on Thursday morning, surrounded by air still heavy with mist, to weed the ground of what prevents its lasting success. Anticipating a rain that wouldn’t grace our skin until Christmas Sunday, the first gift to be opened by many, my bike cut through the fog from the Tibetan Pavilion to a garden rooted in the spirit of peace and giving. With morning gusts of wind gliding past my sunscreen-soaked cheeks, I was reminded of summers spent with my nose buried in tomatoes, slapping watermelons and pinching peaches, white sneakers meeting the caress of wet grass and suddenly when the gravel rocked my front wheels and I struggled to keep steady I hit the brakes.
Buddha Garden is the oasis that Octavia Butler dreamed of. A garden, curated with the intention of growing food with the awareness and love of community. Buddha Garden is the promise of life everlasting. Their produce is grown with the purpose of connecting and nourishing every part of our physical and spiritual being. How many gardens are conceived with the dream of food produced with the aim to nurture our loved ones and the earth that we receive it from?
Buddha Garden pledges sustainability by possessing everything it needs to grow food on its ten acres of land. They use three out of the ten beds in the garden to carry out smart water research that hopes to avoid overwatering and subsequent waste of water on crops. Paces away from abundant plant beds stand a chicken coop where surely eggs are harvested for the morning egg white omelet -a personal favorite- but the compost composed of the chicken waste is then repurposed into fertilizer for the very herbs that add the finishing touch to any meal.
For Buddha Garden, sustainability is about teaching and ensuring the value of farming so that the next generation is not only able to sustain themselves but that they become active participants in the maintenance of their ecosystem. It falls perfectly in line with UN SDG goals of zero hunger and responsible production and consumption. Sustainable gardening’s more than just an ethical practice, the prohibited use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides ensures the safety of local wildlife and the longevity of the ecosystem overall. The maintenance of healthy soil and vibrant plant life also prevents flooding in an area rocked by the monsoon season. This model of gardening is something to aspire to. As the world around us changes for the worst due to our own negligence, it is inspiring to appreciate a pocket of lush, green, hope where we emphasize being present in a system that values our added contribution rather than senseless extraction.
Sustainable gardening can also strengthen communities. By sharing produce with neighbors and participating in community gardens, you can build relationships and create a sense of community around healthy and sustainable food production, as we did.
Early this morning, my fingertips rooted themselves in the holes left by the weeds, and I laughed. I laughed as someone with exhaustion sitting heavy on my shoulders and wrapping its arms around my forehead, but also as someone who had finally laid on the couch after a long day away from home and put that child to rest. The soil beneath my nail bed had never known comfort like this and even when they were later scrubbed into oblivion, swirling down a drain alongside the element that breathes life into them and 70% of which flows through me, it was not a goodbye but a see you in the next field.
There is an unspoken romance… a poem – yet to be written-about giving a piece of yourself to a planet that has already given so much to you. I think that Buddha Garden captures that love story in a way I struggle to depict with words. What is love if not pouring the best of ourselves into something so that it may be returned to us ten-fold?
If there is anything to be taken away from this experience, it’s that to be in community with each other, we must first be in community with the ground that sustains us. To give to her is to give back to us, and her perseverance ensures our longevity.
Wow, Born writer! You transformed your few hours of volunteering at the Buddha Garden into a rich, enriching, inspiring meditation and then meditation into a melody of words. From the very first sentence the symphony took off and grew and grew weaving philosophy and environmentalism and spiritual aspiration.
Much thanks for this beautiful portrait in words. I live in Auroville since more than three decades. Have been to the Buddha Garden occasionally, have met its English founder Priya but it is only now came to grasp the refined and nuanced way of looking and understanding the efforts there and in fact all such sincere attempts not just in Auroville but elsewhere too in what is called alternative or intentional or utopian or sustainable communities.
Would appreciate getting in touch with the talented writer!