Setting out collard starts in a bed where they may be eaten by ants overnight, I had some insights: one was that some old, unconscious programming is still alive and well in my head, and probably in my whole body. I was becoming tired from bending, and hot from the morning sun, which, though delightful at eight, was not so at ten. My body and I, conversing, as bodies and minds will, said: I think it's time to do some watering of the new plants, because they need it, having just been set out, but also, it will give your lower back a chance to recover. Fine. I immediately looked about for the hose. However, the old internalized voice (whose? Father, mother, grandparent, older sibling, teacher?) said: Now, now, you must always finish what you start! Never stop in the middle! I'm a writer, probably because I could not abide a job that required repetition. Hardest for me was a job I had for a summer once, as a file clerk. The monotony bored me. I will always feel I left a part of my life in that office. I could have done so much more there than file, left to my freedom; if only the bosses had understood that. Anyway, I have reached the period of life where it is a joy, really, to ignore ancient programming. I not only watered the tiny plants that I may never, after today, see again, but I sat right down and ate a papaya.

The second insight was: when I am mad at another person, I make myself mad. Now this is probably Insight 101 to all Dharma bums everywhere. But it seemed really fresh, this morning. I was in a snit because my greens were not as high as my knee already, and because so many previous efforts (more anon) to grow them had failed. So when someone sweetly asked if he could help me, I, exasperated, said: I needed help three months ago. I think I'm so small I can never terrorize anyone, but I think my response was dampening, at least. And then, for the next hour, I worried over it, still being mad, while he went off to do some other wonderful thing that he's good at. And that's when it came to me: being mad at him made me mad. He had nothing really to do with it. Although in truth he could have planted the collard starts three months ago, since that is his job. Even so.

This is one reason I love mornings! And gardening meditation. The clarity! The stretched muscles! The cleansing of the pores through sweating! The reward of fresh fruit!

Alice Walker is the author of the new collection of essays The Cushion in the Road: Meditation and Wandering as the Whole World Awakens to Being in Harm's Way (from which this excerpt was taken) and The Color Purple.


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