Monday, January 30, 2012

Is Hair Repellent?

Are the deer eating your shrubs this winter? There are several possible deer deterrents, but today i want to focus on just one: human hair.

I used to think that i should go to the hair-styling salon and ask for their trimmings. Then i realized: i brush my hair every morning. I use a bristle brush, so every few days i rake my comb through the brush and garner a very unattractive hairball. This i place in a 6"x6" piece of net, gather up the corners, and tie with a string. Voila! An inexpensive, home-made deer deterrent. You could even say "made with (some) recycled materials."

My hair is beautiful and bouncy, and i love the daily exercise of brushing it. But what really is so attractive about hair? NOT the hairball that results from cleaning my brush.

What's the difference between the hair on my head and the hair in the hairbrush? They're both long strands of dead cells. The hairs on my head run mostly parallel with each other, while the hairbrush yields a tangle. Is it the orderliness that's so pleasant to our eyes?

Because, now we see that hair, per se, in not really attractive. How do you feel about a hair in your food?

Let's tie those hairballs onto our rhododendrons and hope they're not attractive to the deer either :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

NOT Fertilizing Your Houseplants

If you follow the directions on your houseplant fertilizer, you will over-fertilize your poor plants. More is not better. After all, the fertilizer company is in the business of selling fertilizer; they're not in the business of saving your plants.

Fertilizer should be applied during periods of active growth, and if you look outdoors, you can see this means not-during-the-winter. Plants in low light situations (e.g., 6 weeks before and after winter solstice) do not benefit from fertilizer. My rule of thumb is to stop fertilizing in November, December, and January. I stop when the spirits go into the earth (All Souls Day = November 1, and i start when the earth spirits peek up again on Groundhog Day.)

Our plants need a rest from grow-grow-grow,
and we need a rest from go-go-go.

Stop fertilizing your life with more, more, more. More is not necessarily better. Take a rest along with your plant. Sign yourself up for a meditation retreat today.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bleeding Hearts

My hospice client, D, died on Saturday, and i am sending sympathy cards to her husband, to her daughter, and to her son.

Sometimes, i make my own cards, using photos of flowers in my garden. For sympathy cards, i particularly like to use pictures of bleeding hearts. In my garden, i have both the pink and the white varieties.

Death comes to all of us. Sometimes suddenly. Sometimes slowly. I had been seeing D for 6-1/2 years.

Grief comes to those who loved the deceased. D is no longer here. I will not be going to see her on Tuesday afternoons. I contemplate the mystery of "gone." Gone where? the mind wants to know. Gone where every other person, animal, and plant goes.

The mind goes on remembering and asking unanswerable questions, trying to protect the heart, which if not bleeding exactly, is weeping for its loss.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Never-Never Plant

I love variegated foliage, so 4 summers ago, i bought a Never-Never plant (Ctenanthe tricolor) as the centerpiece of the flowerpot at my front door.

Never-Never's leaf is green and white on top and wine-colored on the underside. That first fall, i brought the Never-Never pot indoors, and by the next spring 1 sprig had multiplied to a nice handful of starts. The pot went back outdoors, beside the front door. By the 3rd summer, the pot was filled with Never-Never plant, and i began to divide it and use it as contrasting foliage for other annuals. Right now, one pot of Never-Never is nicely accented by the ever-blooming Diamond Frost euphorbia. (Never-Never with Ever-Ever? :)

Did you ever swear to yourself: "I'm never, never going to do (or say) THAT again."
"Never, never" is a sign that we have been heedless.
Quite probably
  • we have harmed someone (or ourselves) or
  • we have taken something that wasn't ours or
  • we have misconducted ourselves sexually or
  • we have said something heedless or
  • we have acted heedlessly as a result of intoxication.
We may or may not live up to our vow to "never, never," but heedlessness is our wake-up call to be mindful.

We might consider taking the 5 precepts, perhaps every day, as a reminder that we really do want to live as harmlessly as possible.

Today, i intend to
  • do no harm to anyone
  • take nothing that is not freely given
  • use my sexual energy wisely
  • speak truthfully and helpfully
  • and keep my mind clear.
The precepts are not a forever-and-ever sort of thing. Of course, we break them in little, tiny ways all the time. But the precepts assist our intention to live the best life we can.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Christmas Cactus in January

My Christmas cactus is in full bloom. Hmmm. What to call it? I've heard of Thanksgiving cactus and Easter cactus. Shall i call it Martin Luther King cactus?

Christmas cactus are short-day plants whose blooming is triggered by 14 hours or more of darkness.

My neighbor, Connie, keeps her Christmas cactus beside the sliding glass door in her basement. Since she's not in her basement at night, her Christmas cactus enjoy the cool dark and begin blooming at Thanksgiving.

My Christmas cactus live in the solarium off my living room where the lights can go on and off at any time of day. (I often read before i meditate in the living room at 4:00 a.m. After meditation, i turn on the lights again and write this blog.) My Christmas cactus, like me, find it difficult to get uninterrupted sleep--and they need 14 hours of it. So they're not blooming until after the Christmas tree with all of its lights has left the vicinity.

So it is with meditation. Some of us bloom early, some late, and some in the middle. Whenever it is, it's "just right" for us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Old Geraniums

The geraniums i brought indoors in September are getting leggy as they reach for the low light of winter. The leggy stems lose their green and become not exactly woody, but definitely "old." These old stems do not root, so when i take cuttings, i use only the young green tops.

My geraniums are of the nature to grow old--lose their leaves, get leggy, and have long, bare, tan stems.

I too am of the nature to grow old. I lose the bloom of youth; the body spreads horizontally; and the skin spots brown with age. I've lost my ability to reproduce.

Nevertheless, the old body still blooms with generosity, joy, and service to others.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Making a List and Checking It Twice

It's January. It's cold. It's icy. It snowed last night. It's a good time to curl up with a seed catalog, or a stack of seed catalogs, and dream of spring.

But before i go too far, i need to check my inventory. Don't i already have 10 half-used packets of bean seeds?

Last summer i actually organized my seed packets by month--March (start indoors), April (the cold resistant seeds that can be directly sown into the ground), and May (the tender crops and annual flowers).

The seed catalogs beckon seductively. Yes! I want.... I want....

This is a great opportunity to notice how desire feels in the body. Notice the tricks desire plays with the mind.

Checking my inventory? How boring. (unpleasant) I don't want to go down to the cool, dark basement. (unpleasant) I don't want to make a list. (unpleasant) I don't want to think too hard and figure it out. (unpleasant)

Can't i just open the beautiful catalogs (pleasant) and buy whatever my little "heart" DESIRES?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bird of Paradise

A bird-of-paradise is blooming in my solarium. Apparently "birds" come in different sizes. The leaves on my plant are 4 feet tall, so it's one of the largest houseplants i have. I give it that much space 11 months of the year for the reward of the exotic orange-and-indigo flowers.

I give meditation a lot of space in my life, because i know that it flowers into insight and wisdom. A 4-week retreat (in February) does take a lot of space in my life, and that can exasperate the person i live with. "It's like you don't even live here," he says.

But i give him lots of space, and later he admits that he does like running the house his way. And he does like the loving bloom i come home with.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vase Collecting

Prior to beginning to force hyacinths in November, i collect forcing vases. In the past, i have bought a case of special forcing vases, but in the name of economy (and recycling), i now use second-hand, narrow-necked vases.

I love to go shopping at our local thrift store, called Experienced Goods, because, in addition to having a good selection of merchandise, all proceeds support our local Hospice.

Another good place to find vases is at the recycling center at our landfill. Called the Swap Program, it's open on Saturday mornings. Its mission is to keep stuff out of the landfill, and it figures that it succeeds to the tune of 20 tons a year. That's a lot of vases, flowerpots, and old skis. I take in items that are too decrepit for the thrift store, but still have some use-ability left in them.

I love the Swap Program because i take in junk, and i walk out with treasures that are free! I can't believe my great good luck. I pick 1 or 2 narrow-necked vases off the shelf and walk out, scot-free. Amazing!

This "reduce, re-use, recycle" business is not only fun and free, it also enables us to practice the qualities of generosity and renunciation.

We give things to the thrift store (and receive a receipt to use for our itemized deductions on our taxes). My local thrift store supports a very good cause, Hospice. It's a win-win situation. And, if we take on recycling as a spiritual practice, it becomes a win-win-win situation.

About half of my hyacinth forcing vases were free, and i can freely give them away, filled with a blooming hyacinth and a breath of spring.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blooming Hyacinths

The hyacinths that i began forcing 2 months ago (see my November 15th blog) are beginning to bloom. The light pinks are flowering first.

Why the light pinks? i wonder. Why not the dark pink, the blue, the yellow, the white?

Perhaps "why" isn't the appropriate question. This is just the way life is unfolding.

Even though we begin meditating at the same time as a friend, perhaps they "bloom" first. The comparing mind wants to know why they are getting better results than we are. In this case, "why" is not a useful question. It's more a case of "different strokes for different folks." Different meditation methods work for different minds.

It's time to simply have faith. The hyacinth bulbs will all bloom in their own time. When the light pink wilts, some other hyacinth will surprise me with its fragrance.

Trust the fragrance of this path that does indeed lead to peace.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Growing New Roots

Cold temperatures are keeping me indoors now that winter has truly arrived. Zero degrees this morning holds a few inches of snow on the ground, and the fishpond is well and truly frozen.

The only gardening available to me is my houseplants, so i water them and pick off dead leaves. I give several of them a haircut--begonias, geraniums, and wandering Jew--and place the cuttings in jars of water so they'll root.

What would you like to root in this new year of 2012?
Self-compassion? Joy? Being of service? Friendliness? Patience?

In order to cultivate these (or any other) beneficial qualities, we have to grow new routes by establishing new habits. And there's no better place to begin than with ourselves. Send well-wishes to yourself right now.

May i feel safe. (Feel around inside your body. Does some place "feel" safe? After a couple of seconds, move on.)
May i feel happy. (Does some place in your body "feel" happy?)
May i feel healthy.
May i feel peaceful. (Does your big toe "feel" peaceful?)

Repeat this phrases and allow them to gradually percolate into your mind and into your body. By the time my cuttings have rooted, you will have established some new routes yourself :)