transpersonal living thinking and living beyond the self

A City Boy With Centered Tendencies

By Julian Gudger

I was born and raised in the inner city of the Nation’s Capital. The rule for Saturday mornings was to disappear until Momma finished cleaning the house, which meant I was out playing from the moment I awoke until I was hungry for a midday refueling. Most of my memories about early school surround playing on the field, running at neck-breaking speed, and feeling like that hour of recess lasted a lot longer. I was a latchkey kid, so after school agendas usually involved more outdoor play until dinner. In the summer, you went back outside until the streetlights came on.

As a child, I watched the old folks do things old folks do. On weekends, it wasn’t unusual to see a gathering of old men in those canvas folding chairs along some field’s edge.It seemed like every older person, man or women, kept little garden plots in the small front yards or, if they lived in apartments, their window boxes. They sat out on porches at night. A “Hello, Mr. Jenkins!” usually initiated a quick interrogation about your academic performance or a request to run to the store for lunchmeat, beer, and cigarettes. Hey, it was the early 80s. Regardless of levels of intoxication, however, it felt like older people had a connection to their land.

Although we lived dangerously close to the poverty line (I rarely saw my mother during the week because she was up and off to work early and returned home tired with barely enough energy to eat and go straight to bed), food was rarely an issue. We ate simply prepared meals so much so that my present gourmand tendencies are probably a backlash to my childhood. As my grandmother would say of her early-19th century North Carolina upbringing, “We may have been poor, but we were never hungry.” I kept my love of fresh vegetables and I am always on the verge of starting a garden.

As much as I pretend to deny my tree-hugging tendencies and feign annoyance with a certain co-worker who spouts transpersonal ideals, I am fully aware of the connection between EVERYTHING. I enjoyed the summer camp in Rhode Island learning to sail in high school. I appreciated friends in college whose families hunted and fished together religiously and respectfully treated their catches for providing life-sustaining sustenance. Many of the Marines I served with shared the same connection with the land and transferred that mindfulness to all aspects of their daily work.

In graduate school I was a part of a meditation study. When asked to participate, I had a tugging within to investigate ways to learn more about myself, and to connect with myself. I know when life feels hectic to me it’s because I’m inconsistent in my mindful practices. Although I don’t “assume the position” always, I try to be mindful in most of my daily rituals from reading to driving to teaching to cooking. Friends laugh when I get all Master Yoda on things, especially when I offer some “do or do not, there is no try” advice.

Though I mock my vegan buddies and debate arguments of life force and Ch’i, I am a city fella who loves nature in the way the old folks from my childhood enjoyed it. A park kept by the city or a small garden plot. I reconcile my urban dwellings with my need for connection by appreciating and being present in the things I do. And at some point, I’ll get that garden going.


* Julian Grudger is an educator, and currently teaches in Seul Korea for the Department of Defense. He is an urban gardner, and  “cultivarian”, as he likes to describe it. His passion for teaching and nature has led him to integrate gardening in education settings.


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