Sunday, December 30, 2012

Clogged Openness

Our 3-week-old Christmas tree hasn't lost any needles yet. My sweetie has been watering the tree with boiling water. The other day, the tree drank almost all the tea kettle. Supposedly, boiling water melts the resin that clogs the pores in the stump.

The 91-year-old neighbor who taught us this trick said her tree sprouts new growth in February.

What clogs up our own openness?

We try to protect our feelings, our hearts, and our sense of self. We each have our own methods--irritation, anxiety, denial, or many others.

We can warm up our heart, perhaps simply by placing our hand on our heart. "Yes, yes. There, there now."

Our heart melts, and we too can have the resilience of new (personal) growth.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Local Salad

Company's coming, and i know they have a salad with every dinner. But when i peruse the vegetable section at the food co-op, i see that all the lettuces come from California. The cabbage, however, comes from 10 miles away. In my spotty attempt to be a localvore, i buy the cabbage and leave the petroleum-driven lettuce alone.

Fortunately, my 12-year-old granddaughter is game for the challenge of cabbage salad. She chops and dices, and makes her own salad dressing. Yes, there's a yellow pepper from Holland in the mix. What can i say?

The voluntary simplicity of localvoring can feel like insufficiency or it can feel like a challenge to our curiosity and creativity.

"I don't have enough" vs. "I wonder how we can make this work."

The cabbage salad is beautiful and tasty.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Seeds--for Good or for Ill

I love collecting seeds. Yes, it's a bit time-consuming, but i feel like i'm on a treasure hunt. Then in the spring i plant free seeds! Or i can give free seeds away.

I have a bottle full of poppy seeds, so i'm doling them out into little glassine envelopes. Glassine is translucent, a sort of thin waxed paper. This is a good project for snowy days.

Our minds have the seeds for irritation and peace, desire and letting-go. Which seeds shall we pass along?

I'd be happy to send you annual pink poppy seeds (Papaver somniflorum) or seeds for birdhouse gourds. Send me your snail-mail address at cheryl.wilfong (at)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The End of Bulb Planting

Three inches of snow this morning means bulb-planting season is officially over. The opportunity for planting flowers that will bloom in the new year is gone. Gone. The ground may not be (too) frozen, but how could i see where to plant the bulbs?

What are the wholesome intentions you'd like to plant in your life before the snow falls on your head?

Sometimes we get snowed-in by our bodies before we're ready. Wait! Wait! There was something important i wanted to do! Every winter the snow delivers its silent message to us--the winter of life is coming.

What's most important to you? Family (a slowly changing collection of dear ones. Notice the changeability.) Career? Money (ever-fluctuating)? Your spiritual path?

Now, in these between days, when busy-ness has abated and the new year hasn't yet revved up, breathe. And notice you are breathing.

Photo from

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ivy Desire

Last week i couldn't resist buying a very cute Christmas ivy plant. The ivy twines around a circle of shiny balls and gifts. I rationalized that i would give the ivy as a present to someone, but now Christmas is over, and the ivy is still sitting on the window sill.

Maybe i am giving it as a present to myself?

Apparently 1/3 of our Christmas shopping is for ourselves. "I just want to treat myself," we say, as if we needed more treats. We know how we feel about the Halloween bag of treats: Too much sugar! Too many Christmas gift-treats leads us to the same slightly ill feeling when we review our credit card bill in the new year.

Desire is a strong feeling, and it clings like Velcro. Notice the ceasing of desire; notice how it slides away like Teflon. Desire ceases once we have the object of our desire in our grasp. Notice the end of desire. Notice the lack of desire a moment or a day or a week after you've made your purchase. Every desire ends.

Desire wraps its tendrils around us like ivy, and we feel powerless. Notice that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Cactus Blooming

My Christmas cactus is blooming for Christmas :) Wouldn't we like to bloom at just the right time?

Last week i did a solo trapeze performance for Rotary Club. It all went perfectly because i had practiced my routine every day. My concert pianist sweetie keeps telling me the secret to performing is the "daily diet." In other words, practice every day.

In order for our meditation to bloom, we need to practice every day. That way, we'll be able to bloom, no matter the circumstances. Even if it's snowing outdoors this white Christmas, even if we're snowed in with busy-ness, we can bloom with joy and peace.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Gazing Globe Reflections

The landlady of our meditation center has a flair for flowerboxes and flowerpots. Now that it's winter, she fills a big empty pot with greenery, some contrasting foliage, a few berries, and a big shiny red gazing globe. I gaze at it from 50 feet away as i walk toward the door.

These decorative pots at the entrance to the meditation center inspired me to try my own. I went to the farm & garden center and chose a blue gazing globe. I had one big empty blue pot which i filled with the bottom branches of the Christmas tree and easy-to-obtain hemlock. Looking around the gardens for color, i chose gray sage, which contrasts nicely with the blue gazing ball.

When our body ages into late fall and winter, what will people "see" in us? Kindness or complaining? Gratitude or grumbling? Now is the time to practice beneficial qualities of generosity, joy, and wise speech. Let's reflect our inner light into the world around us.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Birdhouse Gourds

Last summer, the birdhouse gourd vines covered everything in their path. These vines crawled over nearby shrubs and continued into the lawn for 30 feet.

I harvested a couple dozen gourds and gave many away. The remaining dozen i stored in the basement. I thought it would take 6 months for them to dry out, but already you can hear the seeds rattling inside if you shake them.

Some friends came over yesterday and with a drill and 3 sizes of drill bits, we made our individual birdhouses. The 1-inch-wide drill bit makes an opening just big enough for a wren (but not a house sparrow).

In this season, busy-ness is running amok in our lives. What can we harvest from this tangle?

The Divine Abodes--loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity-- are the homes where our hearts can dwell and sing songs of joy, just as sweetly as a wren who sings its heart out.

Let's make space in our lives for these heavenly houses of kindness, compassion, joy, and peace. This protected space we can dwell in.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Poinsettia Re-blooms

My poinsettia has been blooming for a month now. What fun to watch the resurrection of last year's plant.

I repotted the poinsettia last spring. Just as i suspected, the roots were bound into a very small peat pot, used for starting seedlings, that had not quite biodegraded. I broke the peat pot open and spread the roots into potting soil in a slightly larger plastic pot than the one i was taking it out of.

From previous experience of trying to keep poinsettias over the summer, there would come a time in April or May when the plant would wilt and look beyond help. Eventually, i discovered the roots were constrained into a 2-inch ball, even though the plastic pot was much larger.

How do we constrain ourselves? What keeps us knotted tightly and prevents us from living our authentic life?

Self-judgement, self-pity, self-isolation, self-absorption are some of the familiar ways of getting locked into the small world of our own thoughts.

Let's tend and befriend ourselves by applying some loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves. Starting with ourselves is not selfish; we need to put our own oxygen masks on first, so that we are better able to express kindness and compassion toward others.

Spread out your roots in your own life, so that you can bloom--even in the winter.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Birthday Bouquets

My sweetie gave me a birthday party this past weekend. I had requested "No Gifts Please," so some people brought me flowers. Flowers delight the eye and the heart and make me smile as i pass by the bouquet on the kitchen table, on the dining table, on the coffee table.

My birthday flowers are beautiful. And they are impermanent.

My sweetie's birthday bouquet of 4 weeks ago has browned and withered (sort of like me), but retains sufficient beauty and interest that he is still keeping it in his music studio. I even borrowed the eucalyptus from it to add to one of my bouquets.

In a few days, i will toss away the bouquet. And as our own beauty fades, what then?

Monday, November 26, 2012

I love my herb garden most of all, and i collect herb plants. Some years ago, i found horehound.

When i was young, Dad would occasionally bring horehound candy home--an old-fashioned hard brown candy (i.e., mostly sugar) in the shape of a lozenge. Horehound is a bitter herb used in traditional cough medicines and for upper respiratory conditions.

A few years after i planted horehound in my herb garden, i found horehound seedlings sprouting nearby. I potted up the extras, but since gardeners don't know what horehound is, they didn't take them. I couldn't give the horehound away.

This fall, i decided to plant the ruffly gray-green foliage in the white garden. It looks rather nice as an edging. Conveniently, it has small white flowers.

Sometimes we can't give away our advice about the spiritual path that has remedied our dis-ease. All we can do is "show and don't tell." "Show, don't tell" is not only excellent advice for writers, it's also good advice for those of us with a spiritual practice. We act with kindness and integrity, and wait for people to ask us, "Hey, what's that attractive plant growing there on the edge of your garden?"

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Stress of Shopping

My policy is not to engage in Black Friday shopping, but today i am looking for half-price hyacinth bulbs. I like to force hyacinths and give them away in February like a breath of spring.

Whether or not you shop-till-you-drop today, notice the stress of shopping. While it's fun on the one hand, on the other hand keep a tally of various stressors--driving to the store, parking, crowds, waiting in line, and even getting tired of shopping. Simply conduct this scientific experiment today. Notice stress and notice happiness.

I'm going outdoors for a walk in the woods.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dis-ease of the Body

I picked up a load of manure on Saturday. Farmer Charlie said he has Lyme disease, and thinks he's had it for a few years. This is a man whose very life is physical activity from dawn to dusk.

We are all subject to illness, no matter that we eat organic, grass-fed beef or that we eat only organic vegetables. We  are all subject to dis-ease. Whether it's a cold that hangs on weeks or the aching of the body, the body does become sick.

We are pretty clear that "I have a body, but i am not my body" until illness strikes us with aches, pains, and discomfort. Then we are overwhelmed by sensations and claim them as "mine." "I" hurt, "I" feel awful, "I" want things to be different than they are. "I" want my old self back; "I" want a healthy body, not a sick one.

The body is doing its best to survive. The physical organism responds to its needs. The body is a vehicle.

And we? We are awareness--a non-complaining, simple awareness.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Puny Cabbage

I harvest my last cabbage from the garden. It's a puny cabbage, but i'm grateful that the voles left a couple of cabbages for me. (Remember last May, the voles demolished my 36 broccoli seedlings.)

On her 50th birthday, my friend Mary Beth said to me, "Is this it? Is this all there is?"

Sometimes, our life's harvest looks rather puny. Children grow up and have their problems; we separate or are separated from loved ones; we feel daunted by the prospect of 4,000 more days of work until retirement with only 160 vacation days to break the monotony. Is this it?

This moment is it. I'm grateful for my pathetic cabbage, which i boil into soup to warm me on a chilly evening.

Photo from

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sorrel Soup

French sorrel is enjoying this cool weather. I collect a bunch of the spinach-looking leaves to boil in chicken broth and then puree for a delicious lemony soup.

I usually think of sorrel soup as a spring tonic, but the sorrel is performing much better since i transplanted it into my spring/fall garden--a south-facing inclined microclimate that is protected from the prevailing northwesterly winds.

How can we transplant ourselves into a microclimate that supports our mindfulness practice? Our protected area may be as close as the other side of the house, sheltered from the prevailing winds of family life or of the media.

Plant yourself in your meditation area for a few minutes every day, and in a few months, you may be surprised by your own harvest. Taste delicious calm.

Photo from

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mint Spreads

Mint is still growing green in the herb garden. In the summer, i use it to make iced tea. Now that ice forms on the birdbath every morning, i cut mint for a cup of hot tea.

Mint is a spreader. It will take over, if left to its own devices. That's the reason i pull it up by its roots when i go out to harvest 3 or 4 sprigs for tea.

Our obligations and responsibilities, our anxieties and planning can spread over our day-to-day life. We cannot cram it all in.

We could pull each one up by the roots and look closely at it. Is it really worth our time, money, and frustration to read the newspaper? to stop and buy a cup of coffee? to race off to the supermarket for one or two items?

What--really--is most important to us?

I'm going to the mint patch now to pull 4 plants out by their roots, then sit down on the deck, have a cup of tea, and enjoy this beautiful sunny day.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Planting Bulbs

November is bulb-planting season. It's time to dig holes in the earth and bury little treasures in them, confident that our effort will repay us with interest 6 months from now.

We plant meditation in our lives, perhaps uncertain as to what it will yield. We may even forget we have made a down payment on calm or happiness. Yet incubating our meditation practice for some months produces a lily growing in the field of life.

I'll meet you there.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pruning Stuff

Those sneaky forsythias entice us with the first-of-the-season early yellow bloom, then they meld into the background greenery for 7 months where they branch out and root, unnoticed. A single bush becomes an ever-widening mound. Today is a good day to prune that forsythia. Actually, i'm going to rip one out entirely.

I don't really expect to win. This is just the first round in decreasing the reach of a single multiplex of forsythia.

Possessions sneak into our house in the guise of loveliness. Soon we're drowning in stuff that we don't know where to put. That's when lovely becomes clutter.

Too much forsythia and too much stuff. One day, it's time to wade in and prune.

Today, i'm passing my grandmother's crocheted afghans along to my nieces. I'm keeping 2 and giving 4 away. Then one drawer will have space.

Ahhh. Beautiful space. Now i can breathe.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Winter Garden

The winter vegetable garden still abounds with bok choy, kale, mustard greens, arugula, parsnips, and leeks. In the basement, at the ready, are butternut squash, onions, garlic, tomatillos, and Jerusalem artichokes.

The winter of our lives is still fresh for the harvest of wisdom. No longer are we a hot tomato, nor perhaps cool as a cucumber.

Now, with equanimity, born of seeing things as they really are, seeing life as it really is, we can relax into the unfolding of life. Precious life.

Photo from

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crunchy Jerusalem Artichokes

I did it! I popped a raw Jerusalem artichoke into my mouth and chewed. The flavor is ever-so-slightly sweet, and the crunch--like a water chestnut--is fun. I'm making raw kale/raw Jerusalem artichoke salad today.

Sometimes we prefer to hear the Buddha's teachings as they've been "cooked" by popular teachers. Sometimes, we're ready to read the raw words straight from the scriptures of the Pali Canon.

The phrase i've been crunching on this week comes from the Buddha's list of improper topics of conversation (for monks, anyway). The list begins, "Kings, robbers, ministers of state..." It doesn't take much to translate that into "Presidents, lobbyists, and Congress" or "Presidents, white collar crime, super PACs, and international affairs."

In this election week, it's hard to refrain from all the juicy news, so i limit my intake. Yes, friends bend my ear with their political views (Are any of these Wise View?). I listen to their fear, their anger, their relief.

It's an excellent opportunity to practice compassion--for everyone.

Photo from

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Decreasing Stuff

The cold has wilted the Swiss chard. The Rainbow Lights mixture that delights me with its beautiful colored leaves is not as hardy as the white-stemmed variety. I wonder if i could remember to plant the white-stemmed Fordhook's Giant next August?

Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard
The cooling of the fires of desire causes us to look twice at the beautiful things we collected in our salad days. Some os us start to thin out our collections, prune back on our belongings.

Right now, i'm ready to part with my great-grandmother's rocking chair and my grandmother's sheets with the crocheted top edges.

Notice how our collections of stuff are constantly changing. This includes the collection that constitutes our body.

My collection of winter veggies from the garden has just decreased by one row of wilted Swiss chard.

Photo from

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crowding Mindfulness into Our Day

The gardener cut down the 7-foot tall greenery of the Jerusalem artichokes last week. The 3' x 3' patch was beyond crowded. This week she harvested 3 grocery bags full of the sweet tubers that are bumpier than potatoes.

I give small bagfuls to the carpenter and to 2 neighbors. Now it's time to get creative with recipes. Last night, hash browns; today, mashed. Tomorrow, soup. Then there's eating them raw in a salad with their water chestnut-like crunch.

This week, i finished teaching 2 classes of Introduction to Insight Meditation. I'm delighted to see how mindfulness has rooted itself in people's lives, whether or not they've managed to establish a formal meditation practice.

Over the course of 7 or 8 weeks, we practiced
mindfulness of walking (perhaps with the dog),
mindfulness of standing (in line at the grocery store or at the kitchen sink),
mindfulness of lying down (a body scan while awake in the middle of the night),
mindfulness of driving (by practicing loving-kindness toward other drivers),
mindfulness of eating (probably a snack), and
mindfulness of a daily activity, such as showering or walking through a doorway.

By crowding our days with mindfulness, the mind calms down and doesn't leave much space for worry and anxiety, and not much space for obsessing.

I love giving away bagfuls of mindfulness :)

Photo from

Monday, November 5, 2012

Who Can Last the Longest?

I'm in a race with my last zinnia bouquet to see who can last the longest. Them? Or me?

They've been standing in a vase for 3 weeks--since before the first hard frost that killed the zinnia plants. If i could pick a fresh zinnia bouquet, i would, but that's no longer a choice.

The 5 remaining zinnias still look like zinnias while their many compatriots have shriveled and turned brown. But the survivors are pale. They don't look fresh, young, and colorful. Sort of like us as we age.

Around us, people shrivel and die, but we are still vibrant. Maybe we don't look as good as the fresh young things, but we still have plenty of life left in us.

I appreciate my zinnia bouquet more and more with each passing day.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sweet Alyssum

In April, i buy 3 packets of sweet alyssum seed and sprinkle them alongside the walkways and edges of my white garden, the patio, and the little terrace beside the tiny fishpond. Then i forget about them until i see tiny alyssum seedlings a couple of weeks later.

The Farmers Markets open in early May, and i may be tempted to buy a 6-pack of alyssum, but by late May, my seed-sown alyssum start to bloom, and in early June catch up with the plants from the 6-packs.

For 5 months, alyssum are just a frothy white edging like he hem of the flower-ful garden bed. But now, in November, each sweet alyssum is a mound of white foam, and nothing remains in the flower bed to distract me from these steady 6-month bloomers.

Last evening at a hospice fundraiser, a friend listed the friends who have fallen ill or died recently. "So many," she said. "What's happening?"

What's happening is that we, like our flower beds, are aging. Some of us still bloom--like the sweet alyssum.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mum Impermanence

The mums beside the front door lasted a good long time, but after 6 weeks, they've faded and turned brown. Another example of impermanence. Those flowers are gone. It's past time to plant them somewhere in the garden (and cross my fingers that they live).

Meanwhile, my fingers turned the steering wheel into the parking lot of the a nearby farmstand, and i bought 2 more pots of glorious mums.

I tried to talk myself out of it, but "30 days hath November." 30 days of late fall plus possibly a few days of early December. I handed over $10 for 2 pots of fresh mums. It seemed a small price to pay for a few weeks of flowers on the front step.

Impermanence always wins. These beautiful flowers will also come to an end, perhaps even very soon. We can easily see the impermanence of mums and mum "bodies". How about the impermanence of our bodies?

Set your impartial, equanimous mindfulness on the subject of the body to simply notice impermanence. Hairs fall out; skin flakes off; noses are picked; water flows into and out of the body; solid food flows into the body and solid waste flows out. A moment ago, these bits seemed to be "me," but now i see they are not me. The body is constantly changing--breath, heartbeat, eyeblinks. Yet, here i am, walking, talking, and breathing. What a miracle!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Growing Quietly Underground

I love cold weather crops :) Garlic is growing in the garden. How delightful and how rare to see small green shoots in these days of early dark.

Garlic is the only bulb that's sprouting. Well, the onions that escaped the hide-and-seek of harvest are also sprouting. Now that they've revealed their hiding places, i may pluck them any time for a soup or a stir-fry.

Many other bulbs are growing quietly underground. In fact, we gardeners may even be planting some--daffodils, snowdrops, or squill.

As we enter the darkest quarter of the year (October 31 to February 2), what is growing underground in your heart? Perhaps it's time to practice self-compassion.

For some of us, the outer darkness is reflected by an inner darkness, an inner heaviness or feeling of blah. Now is the time to practice the equanimity of "Hello, my old friend blah." Invite heaviness in for a cup of tea, and just listen to what she has to say. You don't have to believe every word she says. Simply be a good friend. Be a good friend to yourself.

Photo from

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mum Meditation

The mums on the front step are looking well-worn, so i plant them into the garden. Ah, yes--the ever-hopeful gardener. Will they survive the winter?

Most will not, but one or two might. My garden is just now coming into bloom with mums i planted years ago. I pick a bouquet, and it last 3 weeks :)

Often these late mums don't have much of a season, but these late October days are warmish with temperatures in the 50s, so the perennial mums are smiling.

It's never too late to plant ourselves in meditation. If we get an early start, we may bloom early, but some of us don't get started meditating until late in the season of our lives. Still, our meditation practice can bloom:)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oak Leaf Lessons

Oak leaves are floating down to earth today. A breeze rattles them, shaking them off their branches.

Earth returns to earth.

We know that last spring, the branches were bare. Sap made of ground water and minerals (i.e., an aspect of earth) rose into the tree and branches, and oak leaves unfurled. Now their 6-month life span is over, and these leaves, made of earth and water are returning to earth. Oak leaves are already pretty crunchy, having lost most of the water element that made them glisten red just a week ago.

Our very own earth element returns to earth, every single day. Dead skin cells, nail parings, poop. The fruits of the earth come into our bodies via our mouths and leave via our back-sides. What of this can we claim as "me?"

We walk through piles of leaves, piles of dead leaf bodies. Our compost is a pile of dead plant bodies. And the earth we walk on, the dust on our shoes, the dirt under our fingernails are the remains of hundreds and thousands of dead bodies.

Oak trees are baring their secret selves to us now--skeletons against the sky.
And our secret self? Earth, water, air just passing through.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mint Meditation

With the uproar of construction this past summer, and the deconstruction of my herb garden, i got out of the habit of making mint iced tea every day.

My mint patch is supposed to be about 8 feet long and 2 feet wide, but mint oversteps its bounds when no one is looking. So i pull 4 or 5 mint stems out of the ground, cut off the root, smoosh the tall "sprigs" of mint into a big glass pitcher, and pour boiling water over them. My sweetie calls this "iced mint water."

The mint is still vigorous and green, and cold mint tea in the fridge offers variety to my attempt to drink 8 glasses of water each day.

In the uproar of your life, pull out your old meditation practice. You remember how to do it. It's sitting there with you right this moment, just waiting to refresh you.

Photo from

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Woodland Walk

My woodland walk is covered with dead leaves so that you can no longer tell where the path is. The beginning and end of the path are lined with big rocks, which point the way. Then what?

Sometimes, our path is not clear. Our daily life gets covered up by too many things to do.

Mindfulness is the ground we walk on. Mindfulness is NOT one more thing we try to add on to our too-busy lives. We simply change our attitude toward every mundane moment.

Get out of bed mindfully.
Pee mindfully.
Brush your teeth mindfully.
Get dressed mindfully.
Drink your cup of tea or coffee mindfully.
Eat breakfast mindfully.
Walk to your car mindfully.
Feel and hear the crush of fallen leaves under your feet.
Drive mindfully.
That way you'll be safer and so will everyone else around you.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Shrub Season

Except for oaks and beeches, most trees have lost their leaves. The landscape begins to look rather bare, but around the edge of the lawn, shrubs are shining red, orange, yellow, and even pink. Thank goodness for shrubs!

We love our shrubs when they bloom in the spring. Now they draw our attention again as their late autumn leaves color our personal landscape. Spectacular Japanese maples redden or else yellow into orange. Weeping cherries and magnolias are yellow. Double-file viburnums turn dark red. Even that lazy old forsythia, who has been resting on its early laurels for six months, finally DOES something as its leaves tinge toward red potato skin.

The lives of many octogenarians are weakening of failing as their limbs stand bare in anticipation of the coming deep freeze. But some few of these 80-somethings are still going full steam, and they draw our attention. I want to be like that, we think, as if we have the choice.

Our choice is now, while we are young: daily exercise, a nourishing diet, and mindfulness.

When the body finally becomes completely bare of energy in the late autumn of our lives, mindfulness is the only thing that remains.

As one dying friend quipped: her life is now only "Bed, Bath, and soon to be Beyond."

Her advice: Be present.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Glorious Oaks

Two weeks ago, we thought foliage season was a bust, but now that the tourists have gone home, the hills are alive with the colors of oaks--crimson, russet, gold.

Some hillsides are bare of leaves, and some shine oak-ly against the blue sky. The light is delightful, as the naturally shiny oak leaves reflect and refract the sun's brightness. The late afternoon light slants low across the sky illuminating the hills gloriously.

When i take pictures of fall leaves (for this blog), i see that every leaf is aged with black spots, brown spots, or barnacles. Sort of like my aging skin.

From a distance, the aging forest, the aging leaves are beautiful. Up close, we see a leaf's moles and blemishes.

Everything is aging.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Harvest Basket is Gone

In the summer, i keep my harvest basket near the front door. While harvest season isn't over exactly--kale, chard, and bok choy are still growing happily--it's time for my harvest basket to go south for the winter, into the basement, and be replaced with a basket of slippers for visitors to my home.

The summer harvest is over. Done (whether or not it got "done.") Gone.

We could just spend the rest of the day noticing "Gone."
Noticing everything that changes (which is everything).
Reading this blog. Gone.
Moving the mouse. Gone.
Pushing keys on the keyboard. Gone.
The blink of an eye, and for a split-second, sight is gone.
Breath. Gone.
Heartbeat. Gone.
Saliva swallowed. Gone.

Go on. Notice "gone."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Tender Annuals Are Dead

The tender annuals are dead--basil, tomatoes, morning glories, and marigolds.
But other annuals still live--alyssum, petunias, nicotiana.

I read the obituaries every day, and note when people my age (or younger) have died. It feels like a mystery. Even though i don't know them, i feel my cohort--the group i was born with--is disappearing. The tenderest annuals have died.

With foresight, i can see that death is coming to me as well. I was at a workshop on Friday, and the presenter asked, "Who here is going to die?" About 10% of the people raised their hands.

We really don't think (or don't want to think) that WE are going to die. Those other people, but not me.

I'm going out to the garden now to pull out the dead and take them to their compost pile grave.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Grateful for "No"

I drove to Boston yesterday to see the Dalai Lama in dialogue with Father Thomas Keating (an architect of Centering Prayer) and Brother David Steindl-Rast (

The Dalai Lama encouraged us to cultivate seeds of compassion. I passed out free seed packets from The Meditative Gardener, which say "Planting Seeds of Kindness and Mindfulness." (I'm happy to send you a free seed packet :)

I was surprised and a bit put-off by the number of urbanites who gave their well-practiced lines, "I'm good" (meaning "No thanks") as they put their right hand up, palm-out, as a shield between our eyes.

And then i remembered to be grateful to them for not taking seed packets, (which cost me 35 cents apiece) which they weren't going to use.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Frost

The first frost felled the annuals last night. And yesterday, i signed up for my Medicare supplement. In the world of meaning-making, (and i do love metaphors), i might cogitate on the season of frost arriving in my body and in my hair.

Today dawned clear and sunny; it's a beautiful day, and i am happy to be alive. My body runs well; i take it in for preventive maintenance (exercise, massage, physical exams) on a regular basis.  I eat vegetables straight from the garden.

The next frost isn't forecast for 2 more weeks. My body could run 2 more weeks, 2 more months, 2 more years, or 2 more decades before the "frost" falls on it.

You just never know.