Alan Chadwick a Gardener of Souls

Inspiring Quotes about Gardening, Nature, and Life


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Alan Chadwick portrait




"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

― Jonathan Swift




Alan Chadwick in Santa Cruz (1971) This photo first appeared in the Alan Chadwick Society Newsletter (1984). Used by permission, courtesy Paul Lee.



"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without."

― Confucius, Analects


"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."

― Krishnamurti


"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

― George Bernard Shaw


"A man does not have to be an angel in order to be a saint."

― Albert Schweitzer


"It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues."

― Abraham Lincoln


"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

― Mark Twain


"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things."

― Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)


"To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."

― Elbert Hubbard


"It's more important to do big things well than to do small things perfectly."

― Ray Dalio


"One should respect public opinion insofar as is necessary to avoid starvation and keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny."

― Bertrand Russell


"Do what you said you would do."

― Traditional Zen Buddhist maxim that is considered the primary secret to a successful life.


"Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands."

― Thomas Jefferson


"Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for."

― Earl Warren


"Before the beginning of great brilliance, there must be chaos. Before a brilliant person begins something great, they must look foolish in the crowd."

― I Ching


I have found that by looking at what is rewarded and punished, and why, universally — i.e., in nature as well as in humanity — I have been able to learn more about what is "good" and "bad" than by listening to most people's views about good and bad.

― Ray Dalio


"If you want to make enemies, try to change something."

— Woodrow Wilson


"Our mind should be free from traces of the past, just like the flowers of spring."

― Suzuki Roshi


“Anthropocentric as [the gardener] may be, he recognizes that he is dependent for his health and survival on many other forms of life, so he is careful to take their interests into account in whatever he does. He is in fact a wilderness advocate of a certain kind. It is when he respects and nurtures the wilderness of his soil and his plants that his garden seems to flourish most. Wildness, he has found, resides not only out there, but right here: in his soil, in his plants, even in himself...
But wildness is more a quality than a place, and though humans can't manufacture it, they can nourish and husband it...
The gardener cultivates wildness, but he does so carefully and respectfully, in full recognition of its mystery.”

― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardner's Education




"All good things are wild and free."

― Henry David Thoreau


"Beauty is a pledge of the impossible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good."

― Santayana (as quoted by Anna Rainville, nee Peck)


"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed."

— Herman Melville


"You may say that things happen just by chance, but I don't feel that way."

― Suzuki Roshi


I also believe that one of the best ways of getting at truth is reflecting with others who have opposing views and who share your interest in finding the truth rather than being proven right.

― Ray Dalio


"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

― George Bernard Shaw


"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

― Mahatma Gandhi


"He who has done his best for his own time has lived for all times."

— Johann von Schiller, Playwright


"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

— John Muir 


"Our sky who art all light
Hallowed be thy rain
Thy sun comes
Thy rainbow will be done
On earth as it is in heaven"

— Joseph Pintauro (as quoted by Anna Rainville, nee Peck) 


"People whose myths are grounded in nature ground their religion in nature. Those whose myths are grounded in society ground their religion in society. These are radically contrasting attitudes. One divorces you from nature, a nature that is corrupt, and the other unites you with it".

Joseph Campbell


"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."



"Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes."

― Howard Aiken


“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does. They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”

― Aldous Huxley – Brave New World Revisited


"Uncertainty will always be a part of the taking charge process."

― Harold Geneen


“If we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of the earth, but also the earth's ability to produce. We will see that beauty and utility are alike dependent upon the health of the world. But we will also see through the fads and the fashions of protest. We will see that war and oppression and pollution are not separate issues, but are aspects of the same issue. Amid the outcries for the liberation of this group or that, we will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that man's only real freedom is to know and faithfully occupy his place - a much humbler place than we have been taught to think - in the order of creation.”

 ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

— Mark Twain


Sometimes we forge our own principles and sometimes we accept others' principles, or holistic packages of principles, such as religion and legal systems. While it isn't necessarily a bad thing to use others' principles — it's difficult to come up with your own, and often much wisdom has gone into those already created — adopting pre-packaged principles without much thought exposes you to the risk of inconsistency with your true values.

― Ray Dalio


"Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict."

― Saul Alinsky


“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”

 ― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


Distinguish open-minded people from closed-minded people. Open-minded people seek to learn by asking questions; they realize that what they know is little in relation to what there is to know and recognize that they might be wrong. Closed-minded people always tell you what they know, even
if they know hardly anything about the subject being discussed. They are typically made uncomfortable by being around those who know a lot more about a subject, unlike open-minded people who are thrilled by such company.

― Ray Dalio


"All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind."

― Aristotle


"Dost thou not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?"

― Count Oxenstierna


"Hell, there are no rules here―we're trying to accomplish something."

― Thomas A. Edison


"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard."

― Standing Bear


"Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink."

― Suzuki Roshi


"I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright."

― Henry David Thoreau


People who acquire things beyond their usefulness not only will derive little or no marginal gains from these acquisitions, but they also will experience negative consequences, as with any form of gluttony.

― Ray Dalio


"I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."

― Harry S. Truman


"The flavors of the peach and the apricot are not lost from generation to generation, neither are they transmitted by book learning. The mystic tradition, any mystic tradition, is of a similar nature, that is, it is dependent on direct perception, a 'knowledge' as permanent as the faculty for receiving it."

― Ezra Pound


"As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged by a mountain stream, the great door, that does not look like a door, opens." 

― Stephen Graham, The Gentle Art of Tramping


"If one way be better than another, that you may be sure is Nature's way."

― Aristotle

"Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."

― Henry David Thoreau


"If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative."

― Scott Boras


"What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

― Herbert Simon


"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats."

― Howard Aiken


"Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong."

― Oscar Wilde


"We make trifles of terrors,
Ensconcing ourselves into seeming knowledge,
When we should submit ourselves to an unknown fear."

― William Shakespeare


"In the Lotus Sutra, Buddha says to light up one corner ― not the whole world. Just make it clear where you are."

― Suzuki Roshi


Nature gave us pain as a messaging device to tell us that we are approaching, or that we have exceeded, our limits in some way. At the same time, nature made the process of getting stronger require us to push our limits. Gaining strength is the adaptation process of the body and the
mind to encountering one's limits, which is painful. In other words, both pain and strength typically result from encountering one's barriers.

― Ray Dalio


"Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw."

― Henry David Thoreau


"When I go into my garden with a spade, and dig a bed, I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover that I have been defrauding myself all this time in letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands."

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


"The highest order of mind is accused of folly, as well as the lowest. Nothing is thoroughly approved but mediocrity. The majority has established this, and it fixes its fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way."

― Blaise Pascal


I believe that our society's "mistakephobia" is crippling, a problem that begins in most elementary schools, where we learn to learn what we are taught rather than to form our own goals and to figure out how to achieve them. We are fed with facts and tested and those who make the fewest mistakes are considered to be the smart ones, so we learn that it is embarrassing to not know and to make mistakes. Our education system spends virtually no time on how to learn from mistakes, yet this is critical to real learning. As a result, school typically doesn't prepare young people for real life — unless their lives are spent following instructions and pleasing others. In my opinion, that's why so many students who succeed in school fail in life.

― Ray Dalio


The six phases of a big project:

  1. Enthusiasm,
  2. Disillusionment,
  3. Panic and hysteria,
  4. Search for the guilty,
  5. Punishment of the innocent, and
  6. Praise and honor for nonparticipants and promotion of the unworthy.

This humorous, cynical, and all-too-often accurate, commentary on the outcome of large projects is reprinted in slightly different variations in many project management textbooks.


"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way rapidly winning over and converting its opponents; it rarely happens that Saul becomes Paul. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning."

— Max Planck, The Philosophy of Physics, 1936


"Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."

― Dwight D. Eisenhower


Don't waste your time not believing in things that can't be comprehended.

― Kabumpkan


They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

― Carl W. Buechner


Suzuki Roshi washed his feet on the doorstep after working in the garden. His attendant, who was standing just inside the door, handed him a towel. She then reached down and pinched one of his toes.

"That is one of the powers of Buddha," he said.

"What is?"

"To see what someone needs and give it to them."

― Told by Louise Pryor

"It's all too vast for firmly held opinions."

― Kabumkan

"Instead of criticizing, find out how to help."

― Suzuki Roshi


"People like what is not true and they don't like what is true."

― Dogen


"Let your heart go out and abide in things. Let things return and abide in your heart."

― Dogen, Instructions to the Cook


Being unstained is like meeting a person for the first time and not considering what he looks like. Also it is like not wishing for more color or brightness when viewing flowers or the moon.

― Dogen


"Never trust anyone who says, 'trust me.'"

― Anonymous


"Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few, and the implicit submission with which men resign their own sentiments and passions to those of their rulers."

― David Hume


A student, filled with emotion and crying, implored, "Why is there so much suffering?"
Suzuki Roshi replied, "No reason."



"Man flows at once to God
when the channel of purity is open.

Man has rooted himself firmly in
the earth that he may rise
in the same proportion into
the heavens above.

It is only when we forget all
our learning that we begin to know."

― Thoreau (as quoted by Anna Rainville, nee Peck)












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