Monday, October 18, 2010

The Ant & the Grasshopper Meditate

In my house lives one gardener and one non-gardener. This gardener is constantly prettifying the landscape and growing, growing, growing. In the spring she is a busy bee. In the autumn, she is an ant getting ready for winter.

The non-gardener is a grasshopper as far as the garden is concerned--willing to eat flowers, fruits, and vegetables, but preferring to lie on a chaise longue in the sun while the ant toils nearby.

What is our attitude toward meditation? Sometimes we are fair-weather meditators; we meditate when conditions are good. But we let meditation go when fun or pleasant opportunities arise.

Some people meditate as if their lives depended on it. If we want to harvest the fruits of the spiritual life, then NOW is all there is.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Localvore Stress

I store garlic, onions, tomatillos, and gladiola bulbs in my unfinished basement. My sweetie built a rack of open shelving that i can simply slide trays into. The open-air concept allows me to see when the onions start to sprout in April.

We have an apartment-sized refrigerator in the basement and that's where i keep my potato harvest and ziplock bags full of sun-dried tomatoes. An apartment-sized freezer is stuffed full of green beans, broccoli, and pesto from the garden. Last winter i held more tightly to the localvore concept and actually managed to clean everything out by June. Well, almost everything--i just peeled 50 heads of garlic and stored them in olive oil.

This localvore idea is rooted in the slogan: Act Locally; Think Globally. By eating locally, we can cut down on all the oil needed to transport vegetables from the West Coast to the East.

The fly in the ointment is this: The vegetables at the store are so much more beautiful than the ones in my freezer. And the grocery store has more variety too. Even the local food co-op that sells ONLY organic fruits and vegetables (and mostly local) has a more interesting selection than i do in my basement.

I may ascribe to the idea of Voluntary Simplicity, but how does it taste?

A little local chicken broth adds a lot of flavor to green beans. Grated zucchini turns into blond brownies, heavy on the chocolate chips and walnuts. Put sun-dried tomatoes in the pesto and deplete 2 storage items at the same time.

Next week: green beans, grated zucchini, some broccoli, and oh yes, winter squash--AGAIN. Repeat for 20 weeks.

By April, my sweetie is threatening to throw out the remaining 2 trays of tomatillos. Quick! Think Mexican. Green chili. Well, there's getting used to the color, but it actually tastes great. Simmer a pork tenderloin in tomatillos, onions, and garlic for chili verde.

Finally the cellar is bare. I can buy any vegetable i want at the Farmers' Market. But wait! Late April and it's time to pick fiddlehead ferns and wild leeks. Asparagus begins to poke up. I refuse to eat the dandelion green salads i grew up on. Last year's kale re-sprouts in the garden, and has enough tender leaves for 2 meals a week.

Just when i think i can cut loose from localvoring, the season begins again. Rhubarb, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers. The cornucopia overflows into ziplock bags, and, now that we're localvoring the sun and producing our own electricity with photovoltaics, it's time to buy a bigger freezer.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Peak (Peek) Season for Foliage

This week is the peak of foliage where i live. Up in the high country, trees are already bare, but here in the foothills, hillsides blaze with red-orange-yellow. This wave of color passing, passing, then passed as it continues traveling south.

Next comes the more subtle season of red-brown oak leaves and yellow-tan beech leaves.

After months of green, now the autumn colors pass in quick succession, each day gloriously warm in the sun, cool in the increasing shadows. Red-orange leaves against blue, blue sky--my eyes unable to drink it all in, no matter how long i look.

"Everything i cherish will change and vanish."

At no time during the year is this truth felt so intensely. Change is palpable as yellow leaves fall through the air, their last dance of the season as they circle gently and come to rest on lawn, flower bed, or road. Vast numbers of leaves crunch and swish underfoot. What was up above my head is now down below my feet. Green vanishes into red-orange-yellow which vanishes into brown.

Everything, everything changes, including our dearly beloved selves.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Race to Cook My Way to the End of the Garden

I am racing to cook my way to the end of the vegetable garden. Every day i fill my harvest basket. My daily goal is to cook everything that's in it, adding ingredients from failed attempts of preceding days. After all, how do you cook a crisper drawer full of eggplant in one go? I divvy the eggplant into various recipes--Italian, Indian, Thai, Israeli, Lebanese.

In the process of cooking these volumes, i create more leftovers than we can possibly eat. So i freeze a big batch of potato-chard soup, chile verde (made with tomatilloes), corned beef & cabbage.

Next week i leave for 2 weeks of retreat. My sweetie has almost inured himself to this sort of abandonment (as he feels it). Every night while i'm gone, he pulls a contain of love out of the freezer and warms it up to nourish himself.

Intellectually he knows that i return a calmer, wiser person. He just needs a daily reminder of my care and concern for him. And his menu is actually quite extensive.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Collecting Seeds

The season of collecting seeds has arrived. Since i love to plant seeds, i also like to collect them. I hunt around the nasturtiums for little wrinkled tan balls that are smaller than peas. I shake annual poppy heads into a bowl and soon i have handfuls of black poppy seeds that i could bake with if i wanted to.

I make a special effort to collect seeds from the biennial plants i love--lupine, hollyhock, angelica, foxglove, sweet william. I want these flowers to return to my garden, so i boost my chances of seeing them again by nurturing their re-seeding.

Many seeds i simply lay in a nursery bed because i know they are hardy enough to raise themselves. A few, perhaps those that are new to me, i will start in 6-packs next late winter.

What are the seeds that we want to grow in our spiritual life? Patience? Generosity? Mindfulness? Go ahead. Plant your favorite seed now. Today. Plant the intention. Water daily, both in and out of meditation. Notice the tender sprouts.

May your gardens--inner and outer--be blessed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Harvesting Farmers Markets

Harvest Festivals abound this long weekend. Every small town around me has at least one. Also, as of this summer, each little town (population 2,000 more or less) has its own Farmers' Market. Friends--whom i wouldn't have suspected--have a booth selling basil chevre and "cinnful" rolls. Last week i bought a very local frozen chicken and a bag of pears.

These markets are as fun as markets have been for centuries. Visit friends and acquaintance while live toe-tapping music plays in the background. Sweet savories are sold at 2 or 3 booths. Then there's the Thai food booth--red curry, green curry, or fish curry--as well as Mexican tamales or burritos.

Right Livelihood is one step of the Noble 8-fold Path. By supporting our (usually) organic neighbors, we enable them to make a living while their localvore food sustains our own life.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Elements of Nature

Jack Frost crept into the flower beds last night and laid down a freezing blanket over the low spots. Fortunately, i garden in the foothills, and my sweetie has created "frost drains" so that the cold air can continue flowing downhill instead of eddying on top of the vegetable garden.

Since air is (usually) invisible, it's intriguing to think of cold air flowing downhill like water, while warm air rises. When the land flattens out, cold air "ponds."

We think of our bodies simply as bodies. Yet water percolates through the rivers and (blood) streams of our body, "ponding" (in the stomach) and "bogging" (in the kidneys), until it finally drains out at the downhill end of the torso.

Air also circulates through the body. Just as our gardens are subject to the elements of heat, water, and wind, our bodies are also subject to the vagaries of heat, water, and air. The elements are inside our body as well as outside. So what's the difference? Does the apparent boundary of skin actually differentiate "my elements" from "others"? Aren't they all simply "ours"?

Friday, October 8, 2010

End of a Season

Peppers and eggplant like it hot. Now that cool weather has arrived with refrigerator nights, the peppers simply hang on their bushes. Many have turned red, thanks to the length of the season. Eggplants are small, and it's tempting to think they will continue to grow in size--but highly unlikely. Having seen marble-sized eggplant in Thailand, i pick even the thumb-size eggplants, knowing i can cook something with them.

This season reminds me of the end of my parents' lives. I couldn't imagine life leaving them, yet life was definitely waning. No medical intervention could stop that downhill slide.

No amount of hope can reverse the path of the sun as daylight slides into darkness earlier every day.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Change of Season

The houseplants have come indoors after spending their summer in the great out-of-doors. The hot-weather vegetable plants--cucumber, tomato, pepper--are done for. Even the flower bed is looking rather piqued.

The change of season has been quietly announcing itself every day, but all of a sudden, change is quite noticeable--in the browning leaves, the cooler weather, the shorter days.

The body-mind also changes moment-to-moment, but we somehow don't "see" the change until it is marked. A girl blooms into a woman; a boy grows taller than his parents. Marriage, birth of a child, menopause, grandparenthood. Then the golden years turn into old, old age.

The garden has reached its old, old age, still creeping along, producing a few flowers, a few vegetables, until the life force is overwhelmed by the elements--cold, wind, lack of light--and dissipates by giving its own heat, its own earth body, its own 70% water, its own breath of air back to the earth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Transplant NOW

Transplanting season has finally arrived. Slightly cooler weather or overcast skies, at least, plus a bit of rain--NOW is the time to move plants around.

Many gardeners may have thrown their hands up in the air weeks ago. "I give up." But October and into November are just as good for gardening as April and March.

Now when the full-court press is off the vegetable garden, and it simply goes on growing cool-weather crops, now is the time to return my attention to the flower gardens.

For those who stick to a meditation practice, the season comes when the habit of sitting has grown and become steady enough that we can turn our attention to insight practices. (Check out The Meditative Gardener for a whole book-ful of them.)

Now is when we harvest the fruits of our spiritual path and even plant seeds for fruits--and flowers--that will bloom in some other season of our lives.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Garden Surprise

It's a good thing i like surprises.

Last spring i took buckets of compost to my community garden plot. I only planted winter squash and pumpkins there, since i figured they wouldn't need much care.

By July i had a forest of tomatillos growing among the squash. That didn't surprise me. My compost has jillions of tomatillo seeds ust as our mind has a lifetime of habits and experiences from which grows our next thought, our next action, and the next words that spring off our tongues.

By August, the squash were thoroughly parched by the drought.

Now i'm harvesting--3 winter squash, bushels of tomatillos, and growing right beside the garden gate, ground cherries! Also called Cape gooseberries, these little yellow-orange globes combine the sweetness and size of berries with a hint of tangy tomato-pineapple. Hiding in a paper husk, these little treasures loved the heat that this summer excelled in.

I offer these surprises to my community garden mates and watch them smile.