Rooting for Harmony

I once heard John Daido Loori, the Zen teacher, remark that karma moves forward and it can also move backward. Cleaning up your act now affects the future. It also affects the past.

In 2002 I had a temporary gig as the event planner for the GreenThumb GrowTogether. GreenThumb is the city agency that administers its community gardening program. The GrowTogether is its annual conference. And it’s a large conference–a thousand attendees. The program features workshops, plenary speakers–the usual kind of thing. And the year’s t-shirt. The design changes every year. For the conference I helped to plan, we chose a design that showed two garden forks with wooden handles. The wooden handles spiraled around each other in an embrace, and sprouted green stems and leaves. The tagline we chose for the t-shirt was slyly subversive “Rooting for Harmony.” Slyly subversive because it was a reference to the Project Harmony Garden, which seems to be perpetually threatened. (A) because it’s in the center of rapidly gentrifying Harlem, and is facing heavy development pressure and (B) because a sliver of its land is privately owned.

I hadn’t really thought of that t-shirt for years. But last night on the subway enroute to a concert (Signal playing Steve Reich–absolutely stunning), a woman across from me was wearing that six-year old, eons ago t-shirt.

I had a political falling out with GreenThumb’s direct, Edie Stone. Things got really ugly around disagreements we had about some proposed legislation, and I basically helped engineer a rather smeary article about her in the Village Voice. Good way to kill a budding friendship. And a possible career working for the community gardening “establishment.” People didn’t trust me after that. I was already seen as a loose cannon, and now I was a treacherous loose cannon. Edie had hired me for the event planning job, and I repaid her by helping to plant nasty articles in the press. I didn’t write the article, so I can’t take all the blame for its snarly tone. But I do remember being gleeful when it came out. And as soon as the link on the Voice’s website went live, I posted it to several lists.

I’m not writing this to repair a relationship. I don’t expect Edie to ever read this. I am writing this to capture a memory. And to apologize to the universe. There must have been a kinder way to have handled that. I can’t say what that would have been. But it would have emanated from a more trusting, more respectful place within myself.

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