Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bloom of the Present Moment by Guest Blogger, Henry David Thoreau

There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. I realized what the Orientals mean by contemplation and the forsaking of works. For the most part, I minded not how the hours went. The day advanced as if to light some work of mine; it was morning, and lo, now it is evening, and nothing memorable is accomplished. Instead of singing like the birds, I silently smiled at my incessant good fortune. As the sparrow had its trill, sitting on the hickory before my door, so had I my chuckle or suppressed warble which he might hear out of my nest.

from , by Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, July 27, 2013

People Who Make Us Happy

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
     --Marcel Proust

Friday, July 26, 2013

BEET GREENS FOR BREAKFAST by Guest Blogger, Maggie Lake

(Maggie, our guest blogger, is about to receive a bone marrow transplant.)

Beet Greens for Breakfast will definitely be the title of one of my chapters in my memoirs. I have just consumed a large bowl of beet greens slathered with butter and salt. People complain that they taste like dirt. and they do. Which is why i ate them today for breakfast. 
The transplant team as of yesterday has cut me off from the gardens, the studio, little children (germs, germs and more germs). and so, this morning, i have been bowing down to the dirt one last time, thinning beets, snapping off garlic scapes by the dozens, picking Japanese beetles off pepper and eggplants, thinning rows of carrots, picking sugar snap peas and doing one last asparagus harvest. and eating dirt. one last sniff of peonies and iris. remove all houseplants and cut flowers from the house. 
Once again, it's time to shift my PURPOSE, this time from gardener to transplant warrior, writer, baker, seamstress, painter, reader, maybe pick up the fiddle again.... Wow, the possibilities are wide open. 
My relationship with the gardens will now change to observer of the fruits of my labors. i am heading into the unknown, but who isn't?        love, maggie

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Weeding and Weeping

My dental hygienist, Martha, tells me she bought a new house. She wasn't going to do any gardening, what with all the moving and settling in. The yard was rocky, except for one square patch of dirt. So she threw in some tomato plants, some squash, some lettuce.

Then one month ago today, her aging mother died unexpectedly.

"I've spent so much time out there weeding," she says.

"Weeding and weeping?" i ask.

"Well, you think things over when you're in the garden," she replies. "Really, that garden is a godsend. I don't know what i would have done without it."

Our gardens are wonderful place for contemplation as we grapple with the facts of life.

Choose a contemplation from The Meditative Gardener and take it out to the garden today.
Plants are blooming and dying out there.

Photo from

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Green-on-Green Garden by Guest Blogger, Lori Wong

In response to my July 19 blog, in which i complained about my green-on-green garden, Lori Wong responds:

Reveling in the textures and shades of green can be pleasant and relaxing...and I see shades of yellow and more subtle colors. 

Just like when the mind calms down in meditation, we begin to see the subtle nuances, the details which were hidden because of the showy, distracting, colorful, enchanting stuff... 

And then, we appreciate that careful work we've done!

Lori Wong has been practicing vipassana meditation since 2003. She lives in the Central Valley of California, leads two insight meditation groups in Modesto, and occasionally teaches mindfulness to children at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship there. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sun-Drying Tomatoes in the Dehydrator You Already Own

Here comes the cherry tomato (sun) gold rush. And i've just heard of a great way to sun-dry those tomatoes--on the dashboard of my car.

Park your car in the sun. Place the fruit or vegetables in a shallow box and put it on the dashboard of your car on a sunny day.

Do you have some bad habits you'd like to dry up?

Park those in the steady warmth of non-judgmental mindfulness. Notice what happens just before and just after the bad habit appears.

How does your mouth taste after the sweet goodie? (Really feel/taste that.)
How does your body feel just before you open the refrigerator door? Really feel that.

No need for the mind to get involved with judging. Low-key mindfulness will have the insight.
Don't work (the mind) harder; work smarter.

I feel joy at the thought of sun-dried tomatoes.

Photo from

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The First Cherry Tomato

The first cherry tomato has arrived. I popped that Sungold directly into my mouth and tasted joy.

How does joy "taste" to you?

Photo from

Friday, July 19, 2013

The July Garden

Just at a time when July flowers are peaking, 2 of my flowerbeds are flat green. I gaze longingly at other people's blooming gardens that shout July! I forget that mine shouted May! and are now resting from their exertions. When the July! beds are resting in September, mine will be singing again.

I want flowers now. Want. Now. But now is an oven--too hot to launch any refurbishing of the green-on-green gardens.

Want. Wanting things to be different than they are. This is the stress of gardening.

Could i let go and be content with what is?

Green is a beautiful color (especially if you live in the desert), and i have many shades of it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

To Squash? Or Not to Squash?

I picked my first summer squash yesterday. I love them sauteed in butter and fresh garlic with a dash of tamari.

Even though the noun "squash" looks like the verb "to squash," the noun comes from an Algonquin word in which the -ash is the plural.

Plural is definitely the word to use when it comes to summer squash and zucchini. Fortunately, i picked these squash while they were only 6 inches long. But i even love the ones that get away, the ones i don't discover till they are a foot (or 2!) long. These i grate in the food processor and freeze in baggies to use in blond brownies.

In meditation, we can watch the plural ways of our mind wandering off. We don't squash that thought. We simply recognize it; labeling is very effective right here.

You can "pick" some thoughts while they are young and short, but others will get away from you and develop into great long stories. "Pick" that long thought by labeling it. Then settle back in to watch the mind grow.

Photo from

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Big Basil and Little Basil

The basil in my Herb-Flower-Vegetable Medley Garden is looking great. It's ready to harvest. Meanwhile, the same basil in the vegetable garden is about 3 inches tall.

I planted them on the same day from the same 6-pack. What's the difference?

The Medley Garden is a brand-new garden just out the back door. Last fall, i filled the reconstructed beds with cow manure. The veggie garden basil? Hmmm. Well, maybe it didn't even get a dose of compost this year.

What kind of soil are you planted in? Is your life producing an abundance of joy? Or stress? Or both?

Our habits of mind can give rise to weedy thoughts of complaining or of wanting something else. Or we can focus on feelings of kindness, joy, and gratitude. Where are you placing your attention?

I'm focusing on the great-looking basil out the back door. And yes, i'm going to give some attention to that pathetic basil with some compost tea.

Photo from

Monday, July 15, 2013

Weed? or Wildflower?

Queen Anne's Lace is blooming its flat, lacy, white flowers. My sweetie, the mower, considers it a weed. I remind him of the time we held hands and walked through a  field of Queen Anne's Lace.

Weed? Or wildflower?

How do we recognize the weeds/wildflowers in our daily life? People whom we love, opportunities that sprout in our lives. 

Stress is our clue. If we feel stress or distress, then that person/opportunity is a weed.
And if we feel divine--love, compassion, joy, gratitude, peace--then it's a wildflower.

My sweetie is a concert pianist--he attends 2-4 concerts every weekend. That feels too "weedy" to me; my limit is 1/weekend. While my sweetie basks in divine music, i take a walk in a field of wildflowers.

Photo from

Friday, July 12, 2013

Going to Seed

Shall i let flowers go to seed? Or should i dead-head them right away?

Lupine seed pods
I am an inveterate starter of seeds, and as a result, my flowerbed look unkempt. I just cut the lupine stalks and spread their black seeds in a bed of wood chips. Columbine seeds are ripening, and i'm already thinking about next year's columbine crop.

All of May's beautiful money plant now looks faded and browning, but it is not yet silvery with age.
Columbine seed pods

Last evening i toured a beautiful and neat July garden. I come home to my straggling flowerbeds, some of which are booming with blooms and some of which look like way too many things are happening at the same time.

Shall i perpetuate the illusion of agelessness and only allow blooming flowers?
Or perhaps my flowerbeds, like me, are going to seed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It's raining so much that every morning we have warm fog as the moisture slowly evaporates into the 87% humid air.

As the day's temperature increases, the humidity decreases--until the next thunderstorm this afternoon. Our climate feels and smells like the tropics.

Doors and windows swell and stick. The slightest exertion, and i feel sticky too.

When thoughts stick to us, that's a clue that we are feeling stress. This is what stickiness feels like" inescapable, no way out.

Air-condition your mind by accepting what is.

Ask yourself: Is this thought any of my business? Or is it someone else's?

Even if a thought seems to be about "me" and "mine," it might be none of our business. Maybe we just have to wait for outer events and conditions to unfold.

Notice what a sticky mind feels like in the body. Notice where it "rubs" and "grabs" the body.
Then notice that the sticky thought is a thought.
It's just a thought.
And you can't hold onto that thought no matter how hard you try.

The door opens on the next thought.

Photos from and

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Glad for Glads

Gladiolas are blooming, and i am glad. I love my glads, which do require the maintenance of digging up the corms in the fall and replanting them in the spring.

Gladness is one of the divine emotions, closely related to loving-kindness. Feeling glad to see a friend is a shout-out of love.

I'm glad to see my old friends, the gladiolas.

Photos from and

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Making Peace with the Peace Lily

For several summers, i put my peace lily (Spathiphyllum) on the front step beside the front door. I thought their elegant white spathes would look nice in the transition between my white garden outdoors and the house indoors.

I finally realized that the peace lilies didn't bloom on the front step and their leaves were chewed by bugs. Instead of "nice," they looked rather ratty.

We often put ourselves in situations that we think should be nice, but instead we are riddled with doubts and anxieties. These worries and bothers should be our clue to remove ourselves from the situation. We don't necessarily have to tough it out. Let's make peace with ourselves first of all.

Now i leave my peace lilies indoors for the summer where they are blooming nicely.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summertime, and the Living is Easy

Summertime, and the living is easy.

These words were not written by a gardener.

Magazine articles and books offer us Easy Living or Gardening Made Easy and promise us a care-free garden.

But we do care about our gardens, and so we worry or we procrastinate or we are bothered. What is your un-ease about your garden today? Weeds? Harvest? Lack of color in the flowerbed? Lack of vegetables in the veggie garden? Too much to do? Not enough time?

Ease of mind and our ease of well-being is found in the present moment. Yes, it's that simple (but not easy :). Let go of the future. Let go of the past. They are just ideas anyway.

Be here in the now of summertime where life is living.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Too Hot to....

I'm dying to transplant nicotiana and spider flower that grow so profusely in my strip beds. I'd like to plop them into my front door or back door gardens where i can see them often.

Verbascum (a.k.a mullein) is blooming in all its varieties (i have 5), and i'd love to transplant the white form into some bare patches.

But.... The temperature will be 90 again today, and that's hot enough to wilt any of my good intentions.

When our body is in a fevered state, that's a good time to practice mindfulness, but often we feel too hot and bothered to even think of mindfulness.

Just one more reason to transplant mindfulness into your life. Today. While you still can.

Photo from

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Little Birdie Told Me

My sweetie and i have different methods of hanging clothes on the clothesline: i drape the clothes over the line; he uses clothespins.

Returning from vacation, he finds a bird nest with 3 little eggs in the clothespin bag, so today he's draping the clothes over the line.

The ego wants to own the right answer. How many little squawks have we had?
"Cheryl! Use clothespins!"
"No, i don't need to."

How he hangs up clothes is none of my business, even if they are "my" clothes.
How i hang up clothes is none of his business, even if they are "his" clothes.

Here's a poem by e.e. cummings. Maybe we could substitute "hanging up clothes" for "poetry"?

"Poetry is being, not doing."
Poetry is being, not doing
If you wish to follow
even at a distance
the poet's calling,
You've got to come out of the
measurable doing universe into
the immeasurable house of being.

Nobody else can be alive for you -
Nor can you be alive for anyone else.
If you can take it -Take it and be.

If you can't—cheer up and go about
Other people's business and do or undo
til you drop.
--e.e. cummings