Thursday, June 22, 2017

Black Lace Elderberry

This week, the plant i'm in love with is Black Lace Elderberry with its creamy pink flowers.

A few years ago, i gave up gardening on one of my hillside gardens. Of course, i didn't exactly give it up altogether. I planted shrubs, so i could let the understory do whatever it wants.

I placed the dark burgundy foliage of Black Lace next to the chartreuse foliage of physocarpus, aka nine-bark. The effect is spectacular. And i don't have to do anything. I'm not weeding in there.

This is the benefit of renunciation. In this case, less gardening is more pleasure. Beautiful.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

North Wind Maple

For the past month, i've been talking about and shopping around for a Japanese maple for my moss garden. I finally bought a threadleaf  variety a couple of weeks ago.

Last week, while i was on retreat, my sweetie reported to me that a box with a Japanese maple had arrived in the mail. Wow! I better watch out what i ask for! I don't think of myself as a "manifester," but it has happened a few times this past year. My brother, who prays to God for an hour and a half every morning, can manifest amazing things, but i don't have that kind of relationship with the divine.

Because i'm a member of the national Garden Writers Association, a nursery in Oregon sent its members (its northern members?), a cold-hardy North Wind Maple. This is a cross between a Korean maple and a Japanese maple, but
I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth.

An unexpected gift is a gift. Thank you Iseli Nursery!



Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Broken Bowls

Two of my grandmother's everyday-china bowls broke last night. For the first many years after she died, i kept these bowls as heirlooms to pass on to her great-grandchildren--my nieces and nephews. Then, during one meditation retreat ten years later, i realized that although my grandmother's china brings up feelings of nostalgia and sweet memories for me, those same bowls and plates would be neutral for her great-grandchildren. They wouldn't really be interested.

I came home from that retreat and began using Nonnie's china. Since the red strawberry motif didn't match a single thing i had, i put the plates and little dessert bowls under houseplants.

Last night, 30years after Nonnie died, two of the bowls broke.

This story is told about Ajahn Chah, a Thai Forest master:
A monk-attendant was cleaning Ajahn Chah's little cabin and saw a beautiful cup. Since monks live an extremely simple life, a renunciant life, the novice monk commented on the beautiful cup. Ajahn Chah said, "I see that beautiful cup as already broken."

Can we see everything we "own" as already broken, already worn out, already decomposing in the  landfill?

Everything i cherish will perish.
All things are impermanent.
Everything dear and delightful to me will change. Even my memories of my grandmother.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Peter Rabbit in the Lettuce Patch

The retreat center has a large organic garden, thanks to the housekeeper Dawn, who is making sure that retreatants have probiotic kim chi and pickles, fresh lettuce salads, and, soon, fresh tomatoes from 100 heirloom tomato plants.

I saw Peter Rabbit in the lettuce patch yesterday. In a place like this, which deeply practices "doing no harm to any sentient being," the next challenge may be putting in a fence. The current fence is beautiful, hand-made from branches of pine and birch trees.

When we begin our meditation practice, we may take the 5 precepts sort of half-heartedly.

I intend to 
  • do no harm to anyone
  • take nothing that is not freely giving
  • speak truthfully and helpfully
  • use my sensual energy wisely, and
  • keep my mind clear.
 We might interpret the precepts loosely, and, of course, we cheat a little, here and there. We keep the big no-nos out, but there are those cute little rascals--a little gossip, a third glass of wine, flirting with someone else's partner. Those things are fun. And they do bother our mind.

Eventually, we renounce those rascally behaviors, and keep the rabbits out of the lettuce patch with stronger determination.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Chipmunk Life

Last evening, our group of meditation teachers talked about what we were doing, if anything, regarding fear in our various communities. Activist groups have arisen in some practice communities, and other communities aren't talking about the great divide since that's not their main message.

One of my more political friends talked about what is going on on college campuses, and i could feel fear begin to zing around in my body. Oh, no, i thought. I'll wake up in the middle of the night with a ruminating mind if i don't fully experience this fear right now.

An hour later, as i was lying in bed, i thought about all the cute chipmunks that are darting around these New England stone walls, chasing each other, and diving into their holes under the lilac bushes. A mother fox with 5 kits has a den in the stone wall a hundred feet away. The chipmunks don't appear to be afraid. They are simply living their chipmunk lives. Can i live my chipmunk life?

And then, i fell asleep.



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Which Aging Model Do You Subscribe To?

cartoon by Cecigian
Last evening, David Chernikoff led a workshop on Aging for us. He outlined 4 different models of aging. Which one do you most relate to?
  • The socio-medical model in which aging is a collection of symptoms and a litany of diminishments.
  • The productive model. This is the use-it-or-lose-it approach for people who want to die in the saddle. An extended middle-age.
  • The consumer model says,"I paid my dues. Now it's my turn." These people go on cruises, play golf, spend time at the mall, and retire to the sunny South in communities of like-minded people.
  • The transpersonal, spiritual model changes the conversation from aging to sageing, assuming that an elder is still growing and thriving and still interested in the future. The task here is to synthesize their personal wisdom and pay it forward in the form of a legacy or by mentoring.
I think i'll take a spoonful of each of the first three and let my cup runneth over with the last one.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mental Weeds

I'm on retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. It's an annual seminar-retreat with 20 other meditation teachers, so i can be on my computer and writing this blog. Even though we're all talking to friends from across the country whom we haven't seen for a year or three, even though we are all connecting through cyberspace, there's still a feeling of retreat--silence from 9 p.m. until after breakfast, 3 meditation periods a day, a daily chore (I'm washing pots after lunch), and living out of a small suitcase for 5 days.

Gardening is one of the things i have renounced for the time being. This is hard for me, so i pull a few invasives (buckthorn or bittersweet) on my daily walks.

I pull a few weeds in the garden, and learn more about the mental weeds that sometimes slip by unawares.