February 18, 2015
The Environment Is a Field of Practice: A Swarm of Recent Events at Green Gulch Farm

I feel absolutely committed to the often-awkward work of agitating for greater awareness of the severe crisis our species has wrought upon the planet, much the same as I am committed to acknowledging my own mistakes and confusions.  —Qayyum Johnson

Several recent events at or involving Green Gulch Farm have underscored both the concern felt at Zen Center for the environment and the wonderful partnerships forged by leaders at Zen Center to express that concern. Here are a few notes about what has been going on, with links to related content.

arbor2015 schjeldahl11Last Sunday’s Arbor Day/Restoration Day at Green Gulch was a wonderful day spent recognizing the privilege and responsibility of being stewards of the land, in both formal and practical ways. After a Zen ceremony celebrating the nearly finished Creek Restoration Project, a group of over 100 volunteers, including many children, residents, practice period students and extended sangha members, worked to plant hundreds of California natives, perennials, and shrubs along the newly recreated meandering banks of Green Gulch Creek. The effort was directed effortlessly by STRAW (Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed), a program of Point Blue Conservation Science, headquartered in Petaluma, CA.

The creek restoration work has been accomplished through partnership with the environmental restoration firm Prunuske Chatham, with generous support from the Marin Community Foundation and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. (Visit the Restoration and Renovation blog for more information on the Creek Restoration Project.)

The timing of Arbor Day at Green Gulch coincided with a “Preach-In” on global warming that weekend, an opportunity for Zen Center as a faith-based organization and member of California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) to join other congregations around the country in a concerted effort to highlight environmental issues.

Qayyum Johnson

Qayyum Johnson

CIPL had recently posted a thoughtful article by Qayyum Johnson, Green Gulch Farm Manager, titled “Climate Change Is The Mother of All Practice Opportunities,” which appeared as part of a series called “ClimateInsights—Voices from the CIPL Steering Committee.” Central Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts, who has been serving on CIPL’s Steering Committee and is transitioning to service for the organization at a national level, invited Qayyum to share his perspective in the series. She said, “Qayyum Johnson is a passionate, articulate organic farmer and meditation practitioner, who has a wide, compassionate and inclusive view of climate change. We at Green Gulch are blessed to work with him and join with him in his great energy and commitment.”

SONY DSCIn addition to the plantings during Arbor Day, another environmental project on Sunday involved Green Gulch’s honeybees. Michael Joshin Thiele, a former Green Gulch resident who teaches apiculture, is helping to organize an effort to create a honeybee sanctuary at Green Gulch, using both wild and managed bee hives. A status check of the hives Sunday produced favorable news for the project (more details here), ahead of Michael’s introductory workshop on a bee-centered approach to apiculture on Saturday, February 28, titled Biodynamic Apiculture: Supporting the Life of Bees.

The spirit of all these cooperative efforts resonates in these words of dedication from the Arbor Day ceremony:

We have gathered at the bank of the restored lower section of the Green Gulch Creek on this beautiful, clear-skied, sunny, late-winter afternoon to celebrate and bless the restoration of this creek and the surrounding riparian habitat.

arborday_combo1We rejoice at the work of restoring this creek, mysterious and unnameable, an ancient waterway that teaches the Way, flows into the ocean, and with its native fragrance calls to the salmon on their journey.

We offer our gratitude to all those who have contributed to this project, including our state and national government, the scientists, planners, designers, and builders of the Prunuske-Chatham Environmental Consulting Firm, a wide array of volunteers, and the past and current donors and residents of this temple and all of San Francisco Zen Center.

We acknowledge any harm we have done to the seen and unseen inhabitants of this land during the course of this work and express our sincere sorrow for our harmful actions.

We invite all the fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates that live here and depend on healthy watersheds to come here for sustenance and nurturing, including coho and steelhead salmon, great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets, California quail, Swainson’s thrushes, red-tailed hawks, tree swallows, kingfishers, Wilson’s warblers, great-horned and spotted owls, river otters, deer, foxes, possums, skunks, raccoons, bobcats, mountain lions, western pond turtles, red-legged frogs, newts, salamanders and many, many more.

May they live in peace, free from harm and disturbance,
May they be healthy, safe and secure, and protected from all misfortune,
May the conditions for all beings who live here and visit this site be favorable,
And may the restoration of this habitat renew us in our vows and promote great peace and blessing for all beings.


Photo credits: Arbor Day 2015 photos by Mary Schjeldahl; Green Gulch Creek meandering in its new bed before planting (2014) by Sara Tashker; bees by Michael Joshin Thiele.