SMC Garden Alchemy: The Life & Times of Zukes & Cukes


By Arli Brundage //

Gardening is a meditative practice. The process of preparing garden beds, planting seeds, watering and harvesting is much like the art of mindful living. Gardening reminds us to be intentional. We’re perpetually planting seeds through our actions, though it takes dedication and discipline to cultivate our ideas and actually see the fruit of our labor. Often, we visualize abundant ambitions, though lack the necessary steps to see growth. “Faith, like a mustard seed, moves mountains” is an applicable idiom. It is amazing, edging on miraculous, to place tiny seeds in fertile soil and with the nourishment of sun and water, see them fulfill their destiny. Consider what type of seeds you are planting in your life. Contemplate what daily steps are necessary to see those dreams come to life.

Seedling Village (left); Greenhouse Fish Pond (right)

Our geodesic dome greenhouse presently houses 4 koi fish, tomato plants in abundance, numerous newly planted cukes and zukes, and hundreds of seedlings, eagerly awaiting to be transplanted into the spaciousness of the garden, after the last frost. The cucumbers and zucchini are currently invisible to the eye, with the potential of life springing forth beneath the surface, much like our own hopes and dreams. Seedlings of all sorts are given the best possible start, in the warmth of the greenhouse.

SMC provides a greenhouse for people, a place to receive nourishment and instruction, with the aim to then be planted in the garden of their highest good. We’ve learned to bloom where we are planted. An even greater lesson is to plant where you’re blooming. Seeds are placed by human hands or wind, accept their position and grow roots. As people, we may notice a physical place or spiritual space where we are flourishing, and make a decision to plant, in order to receive the utmost nourishment and growth.

Oh, Sweet Summer Garden Crew! Creative, Caring Nancy (left) & Garden Goddess, Tricia (right)

In the summer, volunteers set up camp and join the sangha. Several volunteers will join the garden crew. It’s an incredibly helpful blessing and delight to produce organic vegetables as a team. We have a tiny farm of 60 beds, which provides greens galore (kale, chard, bok choy, tatsoi, sorrel, mizuna, arugula, spinach, lettuce, etc.), root vegetables and herbs. Folks often ask what percentage of the food at SMC comes from the garden. This is a difficult statistic to determine, as the scope of vegetables and herbs are quite specific. However, undoubtedly, 100% of the food grown in the garden is designed to provide extraordinarily local, organic produce for guests and staff, totaling more than 2,500 lbs/year. It is amazingly practical and satisfactory to grow food, harvest, wash & weigh it, and deliver it directly to the kitchen to be prepared with care. Our sustainable garden-to-table philosophy creates a beautiful community collaboration and camaraderie.

“The ground’s generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty! Try to be more like the ground.” Rumi

Baby Broccoli (left) Garden to Plate & back into the Soil! (right)

Composting is a magical process at SMC. As kitchen scraps and mulch layer, the cycle continues—garden to plate to compost bucket & back to the soil in the garden. Each heaping compost pile is turned with a tractor and waits in stillness. After a period of sitting, it is naturally transformed into fertile humus and then bestows nutrients and nourishment upon the garden beds. The composting process is a beautiful example of how the goop in our lives can be transformed into fertility and beauty, through the practice and art of sitting in stillness.

The organic gardener does not think of throwing away the garbage. She knows that she needs the garbage. She is capable of transforming the garbage into compost, so that the compost can turn into lettuce, cucumber, radishes, and flowers again…With the energy of mindfulness, you can look into the garbage and say: I am not afraid. I am capable of transforming the garbage back into love. – Thich Nhat Hanh

With hope in hands, steadfast strength in shovels, compassion and kindness in composting, nurturing natural nourishment, with daring depth, we dig…devotion, diligence, perseverance, passion, purpose, patience, propelling, compelling creativity and character. With audacious authenticity, we can boldly say;

We’re changing the world. This little piece of earth, we’re changing it.

Love, Arli

About Arli Brundage:

Arli grew up in New York, Japan & Maine. As a teenager, she dreamed of exploring the world & creating children’s homes in Africa & Nepal on organic farms with yoga and arts. After college, she journeyed to Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America & the South Pacific Islands, living in 30 countries in 12 years. Working with community development projects, she gained knowledge and skills in photography, poetry, farming, medicinal plants, village health care, yoga & teaching English. Living in Taiwan, with an about to expire visa, she, out of the blue, began to continuously visualize practicing yoga on a mountain in Colorado. Thus, she googled Mountain + Yoga + Colorado. Exploring the Shambhala Mountain Center website, it appeared as a Utopia, so she adventured up to the mountain to volunteer in the Programs Department & later returned as a invasive weed warrior, then an interdepartmental floater & is presently the SMC Gardener. She loves spending all day with the plants and garden crew & finds joy in taking care of the greenhouse & garden.

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