Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunflower Snack

The deer just ate a $6 snack--at my expense.

I bought sunflowers a few days ago because the ones i planted were unusually slow in showing up. Today there's nothing left but a stick that says "Sunflower--Autumn Beauty."

Maybe that's what i should name the deer i saw crossing the road i live on--Autumn Beauty.

Amusement is one of the factors of the positivity that can extend our life.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Accent-u-ate the Positive

Research shows that we can improve our health and our intelligence by having 3 positive interactions for every negative one.

What does our garden self-talk sound like?

Oh, dear. I should do some weeding.
Oh no! A bug!
My garden doesn't look as good as theirs.

Remember your purpose in going to the garden in the first place. Why do you garden?

Let's notice the beauty of the blooms, hear a bird singing, bring our minds to the present moment.

We may not extend our garden's life, or the life of some particular plant (particularly if it's a weed!), but we'll extend our own.

Photo from

Monday, June 10, 2013

Swords in the Garden

This past week, irises have held the point of interest in the garden. Now they are fading. This is an excellent time to divide them, while you can still remember what color they are.

A garden designer refers to iris leaves and daylily leaves as "swords." How many swords do you want in your garden?

When you look at it that way, noticing shapes of leaves--you see that a small number looks better, more balanced with the other leaf shapes nearby.

The Buddha tells the parable of a man shot by an arrow. His friend is a doctor and offers to pull out the arrow, but the man says, "Wait. Who shot the arrow? What village did he come from? Who are his relatives? What kind of wood was the arrow made of? What kind of feathers?"
Then the man dies.

We, ourselves, suffer a painful sensation, a painful emotion, a painful thought--like being shot with an arrow or impaled on a sword.

Rather than extract the arrow or sword, we ruminate on it and thereby increase our suffering. Our sorrow, our stress, our heartache can cease. All we have to do is pull out the arrow.

How many swords do you want in the garden?

Photo from

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lobelia Basket

I visited a friend who had a hanging basket of blue lobelia. Oh! How glorious. She told me it won't withstand the heat of August, but that she'll get about 6 weeks of joy from it.

Meanwhile, the pansies of April are leggy and languishing in the warmth of early summer.

My fiscally conservative self wants flowers that will last for months, but if my artistic self wants constant, beautiful flowers, i am going to have to pay.

Desire for more--more flowers, more beauty--keeps our attention on the pleasant and prevents us from noticing the facts of life. Pansies come to an end. Lobelia comes to an end. Our selves come to an end--in every moment. The fiscally conservative self dies, and the artistic self is born.

Photo from

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Keyhole Garden

I just read about keyhole gardens and immediately saw the beauty of its design. Basically, it's a circular garden with a narrow wedge cut out (the keyhole) for easy accessibility to the entire bed.

Although keyhole gardens are especially used in dry climates and constructed of rocks raised to a height of 2 or 3 feet, i'm sticking to the very simple, basic version. That one short path to the middle provides access to the middle of the bed, while walking around the edge provides access to the outer edge.

Sometimes, a short path is all that's needed to access our inner garden. A short path of a few minutes of meditation each day.

I have the Insight Timer app on my iPhone. One feature is that i can see who in the world, literally, is meditating at the same time as i am. What i see is that people in England, Brazil, Australia, or India are mostly sitting for 6 to 12 minutes each. That's all.

Begin there. Sit down for 6 minutes, close your eyes, and breathe. You can access a world of calm right there.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thirst-Quenching Iced Mint Tea

Every evening, after dinner, while my sweetie is doing the dishes, i walk out the back door to the mint patch. Last year's construction (and 2 trenches through the former herb garden) gave the mint free rein, so the mint patch is now about 8 feet long and 6 feet wide. W-a-y too big.

I pull up 5 or 6 stems of mint by the roots, clip off the roots, and bring the mint indoors to make iced mint tea for the next day. This year i've been adding hibiscus flowers and a touch of maple syrup for a truly thirst-quenching cool drink on hot afternoons.

When we pull up the roots of stress (greed, aversion, and delusion), our craving (literally, "thirst" in Sanskrit) will be quenched.

We could look at our inner mint patch and sigh in despair. Or we could put ourselves on a daily diet of meditation and mindfulness (and mint tea :). Little by little, the inner heat cools to a refreshing causeless joy.

Photos from and

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Johnny-Jump-Ups as a Cover Crop

The purpose of a cover crop is to increase fertility of the soil, to decrease weeds and pests, and to create biodiversity. Cover crops are called green manure because farmers plow these  nitrogen-rich crops into the ground where they improve the soil.

Most cover crops are in the legume family (alfalfa, vetch, clover) or in the grasses family (rye, oats, wheat, or buckwheat), but they also include mustard and arugula of the Brassica family.

Every spring, my vegetable garden and the nearby strip beds are covered in Johnny-jump-ups. They're cute, and to me, they're a weed. But now, i've decided i'm using Johnny-jump-ups as my cover crop. Here's why:
  • Jju's don't prevent weeds exactly, but each plant covers half a square foot, and nothing grows in the shade of a Jju. 
  • The bloom profusely in April and May and are a joy to behold.
  • In late June, they become leggy, so i'm pulling them out wholesale now.
  • One compost bin is completely full of Jju's. Although they don't fix nitrogen, they're adding a lot of "green" manure to my compost bins.

This is a win-win situation. Beautiful flowering beds in April and May and an overflowing green compost bin in June to really get that compost working.

By this age, we have learned innumerable ways to cover up our authentic selves. Psychologists call these strategies* "defense mechanisms," and some of them are quite cute and socially acceptable. For women, one common strategy is self-sacrifice--being sensitive to others' pain and tending to hide our own needs so that we're not a bother. That's our cover crop.

One of these days, it will be time to compost that strategy and practice more kindness toward ourself.
Acting from a base of kindness toward ourselves, we can truly be of service to others.

*Review the following schemas and identify the ones that relate to you most closely.  Sometimes two or three schemas exist together:
     My close relationships will end because people are unstable and unpredictable.
     I expect to get hurt or be taken advantage of by others.
Emotional Deprivation: 
     I can’t seem to get what I need from others, like understanding, support, and attention.
     I’m defective, bad, or inferior in some way that makes me unlovable.
Social Isolation/Alienation:
     I’m basically alone in this world and different from others.
     I’m not capable of taking care of myself without help on simple tasks and decisions.
Vulnerability to Harm and Illness:
     Danger is lurking around every corner, and I can’t prevent these things from happening.
Enmeshment/Undeveloped Self:
     I feel empty and lost without guidance from others, especially from people like my parents.
     I’m fundamentally inadequate (stupid, inept) compared to my peers and will inevitably fail.
     I deserve whatever I get, even if it bothers others.
     I tend to suppress my needs and emotions because of how others will react. Insufficient Self-Control/Self-Discipline:
     I have a hard time tolerating even small frustrations, which make me act up or shut down.
      I’m very sensitive to others’ pain and tend to hide my own needs so that I’m not a bother.
     Getting attention and admiration are often more important than what is truly satisfying to me.
     I tend to focus on what will go wrong and mistakes I’ll probably make.
Emotional Inhibition:
     I avoid showing feelings, good and bad, and I tend to take a more rational approach.
Unrelenting Standards/Hyper criticalness:
     I’m a perfectionist, am focused on time and efficiency, and find it hard to slow down.
     I tend to be angry and impatient, and I feel people should be punished for their mistakes.

This list is from The Mindful Guide to Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Passing Things On

My neighbor Connie is helping 93-year-old Esther clean out her barn. Connie called to ask me when the Swap Program at the landfill is open.

"Saturday mornings, from 8:30 to noon," i said. "They take all sorts of ratty old things and mismatched housewares of all sorts. By the way, i'm collecting medium to large-size flowerpots."

"There's plenty of those,"Connie said.

I have 3 layers of passing things on:
  • Re-sale-able stuff to the Hospice thrift store.
  • Questionable clothes to the Drop-In Center for the homeless
  • And the ratty, but still usable, stuff to the Swap program.

I love passing things on--whether it's plants, clothes i haven't worn in years, or items i haven't used in a coon's age.

The house looks and feels so much cleaner without the clutter. And i feel happier to just let things go.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Geranium Season

When we visited Scotland several years ago, we stayed at a B&B that had only perennial geraniums in its front garden. I'd never really looked at the variety of geraniums. I came home and ordered 5 different kinds, and now is the season when geraniums come into full flower. They are a big assist to color in the late spring garden.

We may think we know what the word "geranium" or "meditation" means, but then, suddenly, our understanding is enlarged.

We are not simply talking about geraniums in flowerpots nor are we simply talking about watching the breath while sitting on a cushion.

Let's take our geraniums and our meditation out to the garden.

Monday, June 3, 2013

A New Season

The garden has entered a new season of irises and geraniums, columbines and coral bells. May's daffodils and other bulbs are gone, gone, gone.

The non-gardener barely notices this subtle yet definite change. For the gardener, there's a new garden out there every month, every week, and, if we are really paying attention, every day.

For the meditator, every breath is a new breath, every sound a new sound, every sensation a new sensation.

Keeping the mind in tandem with the body is called mindfulness.
Keeping the mind in tandem with the garden is called gardening.
Keeping the mind in tandem with the body in the garden is called mindful gardening :)

Photo from

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Death in the Garden

Death comes, unexpectedly, to the garden of Eden here at the end of a dirt road. This morning, while we were eating breakfast on the deck, we heard a kerfuffle of birds in the nearby woods. Bill saw a crow for a second, we heard more songbird chirps and chatters, then i saw the crow flying low through the woods. I guess he was having his breakfast too.

When i went out to feed the fish in our tiny fishpond, i found the remains of a goldfish carcass on the adjoining terrace. Raccoon, i suppose. Last night.

I bury the 2-inch carcass under a nearby plant and contemplate the cycle of life.
Flies having breakfast

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Black Locust Trees

Black locust trees are in bloom, and the whole town smells heavenly. We went to our favorite outdoor chicken & ribs grill on a bluff overlooking a river, and sat at a picnic table under a black locust. Oh, my.

Seldom do we have the opportunity to be mindful of smells, but, this week we could notice the details of smelling. Where in the nose do you "feel" a smell? How long does it take for the nose to acclimate to the fragrance?

Who knew that heaven was as close as walking outdoors?