Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Mad Monk Meets Gary Snyder

By Fred Owens
Hugo, the Mad Monk, broke out of the Hare Krishna Temple in San Diego. "The food was too sweet, I'm allergic to incense, and that damn song was driving me crazy."
He threw away his sandals and everything he owned but his bedroll. "I'm through with religion. I make my own path now. I find my own way," he said, to the sky.
Then he looked down at his bare feet and his dirty toes. "Feet, take me further. Take me wherever you will."
Off he went to the north. We met him in Santa Cruz. We were staying in a cabin by the creek, under the redwoods. Someone gave us a box of Swisher Sweet cigars, so that's how we met the Mad Monk -- he smelled us out.
"Call me Hugo," he said. "Can I have one of those cigars? I'm dying for a smoke. Yes. Thank you. Hare Krishna. I'm going to Grass Valley to meet Gary Snyder. God told me to go there. I don't believe in God anymore, but I still get messages."
We were not ones to ask him why or to pass judgment. Many seekers passed our way in that summer, 1975.
Hugo is going to tell the rest of the story -- the complete version -- and he will send it to me some day.... but basically, he never met Gary Snyder. What happened is that he got as far as the park in the town of Grass Valley, where he reposed a while, having a smoke, and sitting on his bedroll.
"Minding my own business. I mean this is America, but the cop rousted me and I took issue. He said show me your ID. I said I'm Hugo the Mad Monk and I mean no harm to anyone. The cop said don't get smart, show me your driver's license. I said I don't drive. Okay, then show me your social security card. I don't have one, I don't work. And no library card either because I don't read. But you ask me who I am and I just told you. I'm Hugo, the Mad Monk and I mean no harm to anyone."
"Get in the car."
"Fine. No problem. You meet good people in jail."
The charge was Failure To Identify.
"I was in for seven days," he told me later. "The food was terrible, I never met Gary Snyder, but the fellows I met in the tank, they were all right. It was a blessing. Do you have any more of those cigars? I'm dying for a smoke. Thank you. Hare Krishna."

Forty Years Pass. I remember this story because Gary Snyder, the poet, is coming to Santa Barbara in two days and we bought tickets to hear him read. It's forty years since he wrote and published his poem and manifesto called Turtle Island.
Now Snyder is an old man. He's 85. I wonder how he is doing. I remember reading Turtle Island forty years ago. I took it all in. Nature! Pretty much how I was thinking, but Gary Snyder said it better.
Turtle Island was his re-imagined name for North America, as if the forested continent was sprouting on the back of a giant turtle, and the giant turtle was paddling slowly across the universal sea.
Well, put that in your pipe and smoke it. Plenty of people did. That was forty years ago.
Where are we now? And why would Gary Snyder know any more than those fellows in the Grass Valley jail?
I called Hugo and left a message. He lives in Florida now, so he can't come to the reading. He's still mad in that joyful way, so it doesn't really matter whether he comes or not.
Bear Paws. This is my drawing of a bear paw, copied from the Turtle Island book of poems. I know nothing about bears or whatever they do in the woods. Let me know if you can't see the photo. Sometimes the G-Mail photo option doesn't work.

Rain. It's going to start raining today. This is really, finally, the end of summer heat and the beginning of winter rain. So many trees are dying, so many trees can barely make it one more day, but if it rains they might come back to life. We hope.
Shark. Peter Howorth, the marine biologist in Santa Barbara that I trust, explains the shark situation. We have a lot of sharks now, biting surfers and kayakers. He says it's not the warm water that brings them, and it's not the cold water, and it's not the presence or absence of seals for sharks to eat.
He says, and of course he could be wrong, that we have an abundance of sharks now because shark fishing was banned in 1994. It takes 10 to 15 years for a great white shark to mature enough to predate on people, and now we have a lot of sharks since fishing for them was banned.
Howorth, living a peaceful life, wishing to stay out of politics, does not draw the obvious conclusion -- we should resume shark fishing.
Politics.  You probably like the Mad Monk story better than hearing about Hillary Clinton or Marco Rubio. But we are all God's children. All beautiful souls, all marred and conflicted, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the peaceful and angry ones.
Ahhhg! You're right. I can't stand politics these days.
Gardening. I darn near got heat stroke on Saturday morning. It was too hot and I was working too hard. I was drinking water, but not enough, and it should have been ice water. And I was working too fast and lifting loads that were too heavy.
Why did this happen? Because it was such an ugly garden. Overgrown, trashy, neglected, dusty, weedy. If I worked furiously I could make it all beautiful again. WRONG. Always work slowly. Always love it how it is. You don't fix it, you're just there, and your first rule is Do No Harm, not to the garden or to yourself.
The slower you work, the more you get done. This is true. Because when you work slower, you make fewer mistakes and you don't break any bones, or smash any irrigation lines, or dig up the wrong plant. When you work slowly you do a better job.
But I forgot that on Saturday morning, and I worked myself into a lather.
Garden Update. Today is Tuesday, three days after the Saturday disaster.  The weather is much cooler. And I have a much better new customer to work for -- I spent four absorbing hours pruning 24 rose bushes. I did light pruning, then scooping out the old dead rose leaves around the base of the bush to expose the topsoil, then forking in a handful of organic rose food on each bush, then spraying all 24 bushes with a natural insecticide to ward off those pesky little green caterpillars, then giving each rose a bit of water. Well done -- I said to myself. This is the way it should be. Sustainable effort and ready to go again tomorrow.

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Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

can't see the photo. it comes up as the icon with the X through it. unix sez you haven't given me proper permissions to see it.