Saturday, February 4, 2012


Many weekend afternoons will find me, at some point, beside the compost bins of our yard. Turning the compost, arranging the materials, making good soil for the garden is one of the most basic activities of anyone who would attempt organic gardening. This is where I once again found myself, pitchfork in hand, putting together the pieces that will be, eventually, the quality garden soil that will support the vegetables that we will consume with gusto. As I labored, I was surrounded by the sounds of my neighborhood.

There is a juvenile disco beat emanating from a few doors away, a soundtrack for the kid’s party with the big inflatable bouncy house that peeks up through the trees. And right nearby, my little flock of chickens are lined up at the fence of their run, watching me and letting me know that a worm or two tossed in their direction would not go unappreciated. Down the block comes the ice cream truck, with its looped tune designed to attract the sugar starved youth. Above me in the bottle brush tree humming birds are chirping their territory while a toddler in the next yard is plinking on a toy of some sort.

Now often I deplore the nearly constant noise of modern day semi-urban living. I can find noise bothersome, irksome and don’t get me started about gas-powered leaf blowers. But today, the sun is out, the garden is watered, and the compost is full of red worms and smelling sweet. I feel strong and happy. I open my heart to the cacophony of my neighborhood, to the Buddha-nature soundtrack, to lighten my task. The pitchfork is earning its keep and compost is being turned.

In the middle of this, I notice the most interesting thing. Somehow, for a few beats, all the disparate sounds entrain, as if they had all become the most amazing and unlikely jazz combo. A sudden and strange meshing of agendas into the uber-song, some arcane meta-rhythm heretofore unheard.

And then it happens.

A crescendo then a silence for a beat or two, all the sounds quieting at once, in perfect timing. The chickens and I pause, and lift our heads, suddenly together in the crystalline stillness. It seems as though a curtain was pulled back for a glimpse into the pattern in the chaos, into the great synchronous clockworks of the universe. I open my heart to the silent rhythm, to all of life, to the whole world, to the cosmos. A Rhode Island Red named Maggie bounces her head twice to the invisible but still existant beat, and with a poultry caw sets off the refrain. The toddler starts up again and is a half step ahead of the disco beat. Above me in the bottlebrush the hummingbird chirps a syncopated tune to a new loop from the ice cream truck, saying stay out of my territory. The cacophony returns and the uber-song retreats to the shadows of our synapses once again, only to appear in dreams and the deepest meditations.

The compost should be ready in about 3 weeks.

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