Sunday, September 30, 2012

Storing Life Away

We had our first fire in the woodstove a couple of mornings ago, just to take the chill off.  Even though it's not really cold yet, it's time for long sleeves and long pants. I'm storing summer clothes away bit by bit--shorts, short-sleeved shirts, tank tops, capri pants.

Out in the vegetable garden, i'm trying to store summer away. Last night, i made lemon basil pesto and stored it in the freezer.

We try to store our lives away--in photo albums, on Facebook, in memory, on flash drives. These give us the illusion of a continuum. We think we can just reach back and touch our past. Yet our lives actually unfold moment-by-moment.

That person in the picture that you take to be you is actually non-existent. We could say she's "dead." The photo reminds us of how we used to look--when we were 5 or 18 or 30 or even yesterday. But there is no way we can reach out and touch that person. She is gone, gone, gone.

Now there is only this person, with a memory that is happening in the present moment.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Green Watering the Houseplants

Often now, in the evening, i steam broccoli or chard or kale for dinner. By the time i've finished eating, the water in the bottom of the steamer is cool, so i use it to water a houseplant.

The houseplant receives the benefit of those water-soluble vitamins and minerals, and i suppose that nutrition benefits my philodendron as much as it would benefit me if i used it for soup stock.

How does what we consume with our eyes and ears benefit us? How much does our media consumption, for instance, grow beneficial qualities in us?

Take a close look at what you are "feeding" your mind. Ask the question: Is this TV program, is this movie, is this radio program really beneficial to my mind?

Tonight, i'm having beet soup for dinner and then meditating for 30 minutes.

Photo from

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Annuals Face Certain Death

I overwinter several annuals: begonias and geraniums bloom indoors throughout the snowy months. Rosemary and lemongrass add flavor to cooking.

In May, i plant these tender plants into a flower bed or into the herb garden. While i'm at it, i plant other houseplants as ornamental edgings into various flowerbeds--spider plant babies, purple wandering jew, and Zebrina, a burgundy and green striped wandering jew.

Now, it's time to dig them up, put them in pots, and bring them indoors. I select one or two of each variety for indoors; the rest stay outdoors to face certain death in less than a month.

I saw a 53-year-old gardening friend yesterday who looks about 93. She has given her third diagnosis of cancer a good long run, but her body faces certain death in less than a month. I know her meditation practice sustains her. She follows instruction from a Buddhist monk, whom she calls frequently.

Friends, such as i, have fallen by the wayside as her energy reserves run close to empty. One meditating friend sees her every day.

What shall we bring indoors to be close to us when we face an imminent and certain killing frost?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The houseplants came indoors yesterday after a good long summer recess of more than 4 months.

The Dieffenbachia looks great. The banana tree is nearly 6 feet tall.

I had to make some hard decisions. There's just not enough room in my jam-packed solarium for the 4-foot tall jade plant. I'm sending it off to the Plant Sale on Saturday. But first, i sawed off a side shoot, which was 18 inches tall; i'm keeping that little(r) plant.

The bird-of-paradise, which blooms when it is pot-bound, busted out of its pot this summer. I divided it into 4 pots, one of which i'll keep.

Change. Change of season. Change of plants. Change of plans--the re-potting took longer than expected.

All around us, life is in a constant flux of change. Although we don't notice it, we, too, are constantly changing. You've already changed your clothes and changed your mind about something (maybe about the clothes you're wearing :). Breath has changed; blood has changed; bodily fluids have changed--some of been eliminated, some have been added. I'm drinking tea as i write this.

Summer vacation is well and truly over. Some day, the summer of our life will drift away.
Welcome fall.

Photo from

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thai Food

When i go to the Farmers Market, i always stop at the Thai food booth and buy a red curry and a fish custard as take-away.

Now i'm harvesting Thai basil and freezing it as pesto, so i can make my own Thai food.

Meditation is a do-it-yourself exercise. You can't go out and buy a calm mind, no matter how many times you go to hear the Dalai Lama (or any other guru) speak.

I love Thai food, and i love the Dalai Lama. Now if i can just love meditation enough to sit myself down every day, i'll soon be harvesting the flavor of a spiritual life.

Photo from

Monday, September 24, 2012

Harvesting Before Frost

The race is on to see how much i can harvest before frost. This morning's temperature was 40 degrees.

Really, there's not too much left in the garden, and that's good, because there's not too much space left in the freezer.

The tomatoes are in, leaving just a basketful of cherry tomatoes on the vine. The winter squash are in, but one gourd vine went crazy. I try to bring in one gourd every time i return from the garden. Then there's my 8 varieties of basil.

We plant many seeds during our lifetime--friends, family, career, spiritual path, service to others. Which shall we harvest? And which do we just let go of?

Many friends come and go. Our career ends. Family changes its definition: our parents die, our siblings drift into the distance, wives and husbands divorce, our children grow up, our grandchildren live far away. Who is our true family?

Our spiritual path may ebb and flow, yet gives us the ability to harvest kindness, mindfulness, and equanimity, no matter the season.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Basil Pesto

I'm making pesto, 1/2 pint at a time. I go out to the garden, harvest a few branches of basil, bring them into the kitchen, and grind them up in the food processor with olive oil.

In the past, i have overwhelmed myself by picking too much basil at once, then getting distracted, and eventually returning to a basket full of wilted leaves.

The small-steps method means more steps out to the garden and back, but, for me, it's more strategic than the extravaganza method of harvesting 3 or 4 basil bushes and then being overwhelmed.

Mindfulness leads us to small steps of insight and gradually awakens us so that we can let go of one stressor and then another.

I'm letting go of the idea that i have to harvest all my basil before frost. One branch at a time, one half pint at a time. So far i've frozen a gallon of pesto.

Photo from

Friday, September 21, 2012

Transplanting Our Values

A local garden club is having a plant sale next weekend--an idea i hardily approve. September and October are excellent months for gardening--a great time for dividing, transplanting, cleaning up the flowerbeds, and even working on a new garden project.

Meanwhile, garden tours have ceased, and some nurseries have already closed their garden gates--Closed for the Season.

As some of us approach the end of our working life, how shall we divide and transplant the knowledge, wisdom, and skills we've acquired?

Being generous with our time and our skills, perhaps volunteering to serve others, is a great way to transplant our values and intentions.

What's most important to you?
How can you pass that along to another generation?

The Dharma is most important to me, and i'm teaching 3 classes this fall :)
But now, i'm going out to the garden to dig perennials for the plant sale.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sun and Shade

In the summer, i go out to the garden in the early morning. By 10:00, the heat of the sun drives me into the shade.

Now, in the autumn, i stay indoors until the sun rises above the trees surrounding my house. Now i go out to the garden in the middle of the day. When the long shadows of nearby trees begin to cover the lawn, i seek out the last sunny spots and do my gardening there.

Sometimes working in the sun is pleasant; sometimes, unpleasant.
Sometimes shade is pleasant; sometimes, unpleasant.

Pleasant and unpleasant rule our actions. This gut response decides for us, then the mind (a.k.a. the ego) takes ownership and tried to define itself. "I'm a sun worshipper." or "I try to stay out of the sun."

But really, we are not one or the other. Most often, we are both...and.

I am loving these warm autumn days with a cool breeze blowing.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Sweetness of Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I have an extravaganza of cherry tomatoes, so i cut them in half to "sun-dry" them in my food dryer. In fact, i grow the meaty grape cherry tomatoes expressly for drying rather than eating.

These sun-dried tomato chips are packed with enough flavor to make your tastebuds stand up and say, "Hooray!"

As we condense our meditation into concentration, the essential "flavor" of attention is experienced as sweetness.

I store the sun-dried tomatoes in plastic bags in the refrigerator, so that some cold winter's evening i can taste the sweet flavor burst of fresh tomatoes.