Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Not Too Much Harvest This Year

by Guest Blogger, Laura Evans

Not too much harvest to worry about this year—alas. Something—maybe moles? Or voles?—found even onions tasty, munching on them from underneath. The onion would look nice and plump with its papery gold-brown top showing above ground, waiting for its stalks to flop over, indicating readiness for pulling. Then when you'd pull it, it would seem to fly out of the ground with no effort on your part, and you realized it was a trick: no roots and no onion left at all. As for other things, some never germinated or were devoured in infancy. Some seedlings were eaten early by rabbits, which we'd never had before in our 35 years of hillside gardening.

Birds, as always, loved the red “razzles,” but many got moldy before quite ripening. Chipmunks enjoyed the cherry tomatoes. I watched a squirrel delighting in our plump blackberries. The deer greatly appreciated our kale and the tops of tomato plants. Blight and tomato hornworms also joined in the tomato decimation. Weeks of rain were part of the picture too. So, we got little or no cukes, cabbage, broccoli, or squash (summer or winter).

Then there are (were) the apples. Doug comes in the door with deep red ones from the biggest tree—all five held easily in his cupped hands. I look up from chopping store-bought veggies as he announces, “Well, here's the Jonathan crop for this year.” He sets the gnarled knobby little things on the counter. Horrified at first, I grew fond of them over a few days, finding them humorous and cute—like the shrunken little old heads of apple dolls—no drying needed.

Last year, the apples did okay, and a year or two before that, even though we don't spray them, the branches were groaning under the weight of big flawless fruit. Pears too, that year; same thing. And peaches.

This year, the small seckel pears were plentiful and coming along until, after a few days away, we came back to find them just not there. Along with the hordes of squirrels, we think a gray fox participated in the feast. We saw it soon after, apparently looking through the grass below the tree for any it might have missed. (Unlike their red fox cousins, they can climb trees.) 

I love seckel pears best of all, but the glimpses of that gray fox almost made up for the losses.

Image result for gray fox climb trees

Laura Evans is memoir writer and an early childhood educator who lives with her gardening husband in Vermont.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Negativity Bias of the Mind

Image result for velcro for the negative teflon
Pam's question about the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of September demonstrates an interesting fact about our minds.

Our minds are like Velcro for the negative and like Teflon for the positive.

Millennia of evolution have created our brains to be on the look-out for danger, so, of course, we are alert to heat, humidity, and mosquitoes. This is called the Negativity Bias. It enabled our cave woman ancestors to survive.

For some of us, a positive outlook goes against the grain. So it takes some mind-training to accent-u-ate the positive.

Begin by noticing the little good things--people, events, situations--in your life. These are probably very ordinary. Write down 3 gratitudes. Right now.

Today the purple asters are blooming.
The chickadees eat seeds out of Bill's hand.
We are going on vacation.

Feel into each one of gratitudes. Savor it. Soak into it in the body.

Keep it up.
In time, this positivity and happiness will become natural. But in the meantime, fake it till you make it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Image result for always look on the bright side of life lyrics
And now for one more angle on Pam's question about heat, humidity, and mosquitoes in the September garden, along with dire thoughts of climate change.

As Monty Python sang in "The Life of Brian,"
Always look on the bright side of life.

Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best

Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life.

If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing,
When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle -- that's the thing!
And always look on the bright side of life
Come on!
Always look on the bright side of life
For life is quite absurd,
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin -- give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it's the last chance anyhow!
So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true,
You'll see it's all a show,
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!
And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
Come on guys, cheer up
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
Worse things happen at sea you know
Always look on the bright side of life
I mean, what have you got to lose?
you know, you come from nothing
you're going back to nothing
what have you lost? Nothing!

Always look on the bright side of life.
     Songwriter: Eric Idle

Sunday, October 7, 2018

September Gardening Was Awful

Image result for mosquitoI want to return to yesterday's post and Pam Baxter's real question: What about gardening when conditions are hot, humid, and full of mosquitoes?

First of all, notice the unpleasantness. Hot--unpleasant. Humid-unpleasant. Sweltering--unpleasant. Mosquito bites--unpleasant.

The mind has a difficult time just leaving the raw data of experience alone. Unpleasant. Unpleasant.

So the mind compares this unpleasant moment to another pleasant moment, and feels dissatisfied with what this present moment is offering. Notice this comparing mind--the one that compares this very seeing-hearing-feeling vivid reality moment with some dream idea, some virtual reality. Feel the dissonance. Feel the dissatisfaction. Feel the unpleasantness of the dissatisfaction. (Oh-oh. Is there an feedback loop of unpleasantness going here?)

The mind might go so far as making up a story. After all, the mind likes stories. Sometimes the mind wants a story, so that we don't have to feel our unpleasant emotions. Stories such as "This hot humidity is the result of climate change. I know it," spark more unpleasantness. Even if that story is true (and maybe it's not quite true), what can we small gardeners do about it? We are already doing our best. We do our best, and allow Life to take care of itself.

Rest in your caring compassion for the Earth and your caring compassion for yourself. Go ahead, have a good cry about it, then drink some water, and go sit in your beautiful just-as-it-is garden.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

September is Gone

Image result for september gardenPam Baxter, who writes a gardening column for the Delaware County Times in Pennsylvania, recently read my newest book Garden Wisdom 365 Days. She wondered what i would say about the September gardens and September gardening--heat, humidity, and mosquitoes.

The first thing i would say is "Gone." (Although i know that's not a very satisfactory answer.)

Look closely. This is an important lesson that's hard to see. September is gone. Heat is gone. Humidity is gone. Mosquitoes are gone. In fact, every moment of our lives is "gone." The only moment we have is this very moment. This moment of reading. This breath. This hearing. This feeling of or in your body.

Impermanence is the name of the game of life. It's an important insight to see that everything is passing away. This is not a morbid thought. Once you realize the sweetness of the present moment, this very moment, then life becomes very precious, indeed.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Swimming Squirrels

Image result for squirrels swimming across riverA few people have reported seeing squirrels swimming across the Connecticut River--about a quarter of a mile wide--the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire.

One friend reported seeing 4 gray squirrels swimming from New Hampshire to Vermont and one red squirrel swimming from Vermont to New Hampshire. Is that a political statement?

In these days of rampant tribalism (red vs blue; mine vs yours; white vs black), it can be hard to hold on to the idea (and thereby hold your tongue) that, in reality, we are all one. This is not a cliche. Just ask your deity. I've seen it during meditation, and i cannot un-see it. Boundary-less and boundless.

We are all just waves in the ocean, or, in this case, in the river. Just waves being carried to shore, where we kiss the earth and soak into our oneness. Thus has it ever been.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Gaura Re-blooms

Image result for gauraIn June, i bought a gaura, also known as beeblossom. I love the gaura's little flowers on 2-foot tall stalks, which look like the flowers are dancing in mid-air.

This was the fourth or fifth gaura i had bought over the years. If i planted it directly into a flowerbed, i could already predict that that would be the last time i would see it.

So i put it in a "nursery" bed, near the back door, so i could keep an eye on it. To my surprise, it is now re-blooming. I like plants that bloom twice in one year!

When we are learning meditation, we may try it again and again, but it doesn't "take." But when we carefully attend to our meditation by taking a class, for instance, or by sitting regularly with other meditators, then our practice blooms. Or re-blooms.