Monday, September 30, 2013

Root Vegetables & the Compost Bin

I made some roasted root vegetables for dinner the other night. Everything from the garden: potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, garlic. By the time i finished peeling and chopping, slicing and dicing, i had 2 quarts of compost. (Carrot fronds take up a lot of space.)

I also wound up with about 2 quarts of dinner.

Out in the compost bin, i can almost see the pile compacting. The bin was totally full in July with fresh green pachysandra leaves; now it's sunk and compacted, so that it's about a foot from the top. Every day i add another quart or two of kitchen waste, but at this rate, the bin never fills up.

Meanwhile, one of those 2 quarts of dinner is still in the refrigerator. The missing quart disappeared into our mouths and is wending its way through the digestive systems of my sweetie and me. This "compaction" process is much shorter--about 12 hours for him and 24 hours for me. The end product is almost unrecognizable, and it has a totally different name from "roasted roots" or "dinner," so i mostly fail to notice the relationship.

The fruits (or vegetables) of the earth go into my body via my mouth, are "composted" by the heat and metabolism of the body, and exit via the rear door. The "solid waste" returns to the earth from which it came via another circuitous route of pipes--toilet to PVC pipes to sewer (or septic tank in my case) to waste treatment (ahem) plant and then back into the streams and rivers of nature.

By this time, we've totally lost interest and thus fail to see the whole ecological cycle that binds us together with people downstream from us.

Mindfulness is about paying attention and maintaining our interest and curiosity, even when the mind wanders off to something more "interesting."

Photo from

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hard to Swallow

"It's time to make pesto," i tell my neighbor.
"Oh, my basil turned brown," he sighs.

Wait a minute. Isn't "brown" basil dried basil? The stuff you buy at the grocery store?

Yes, the prime time for making pesto would have been August, but once those late-September green-with-brown-spots basil leaves are chopped up in the food processor and soaked in olive oil, my taste buds won't know the difference.

What else do we reject out-of-hand because it doesn't meet our standards of beauty or pleasing-ness?
We can even reject a spiritual path or outright wisdom because it rubs us the wrong way. Oh, no, we think to ourselves. That can't be right.

One friend, for instance, rejects Buddhism because, she mis-quotes, "'Life is suffering' can't be right. Why, life is beautiful!"

The Buddha tells us that stress exists. It's a difficult-to-swallow message, but we don't have to look to far to see that, yes, our life is stressful at times. The Buddha then offers us a remedy--a path to not only reduce stress, but to release stress altogether.

You don't have to swallow the whole path at once. Just take bite-size pieces. Just for today, notice stress when it happens.

Now, i'm going back to making pesto because i salivate at the idea of swallowing that :)

Photos from and

Friday, September 27, 2013

Zinnias--Cut and Come Again

"Oh, your zinnias are so beautiful," my friend Fair says.

Somehow, this year, i wound up with both dwarf and giant, single and double, quilled and pom-pom. Zinnias are quite a rewarding cut flower--a colorful vase-full lasts a week. One variety is called "Cut and Come Again."

What's rewarding about our meditation practice? The calm. The decrease in anxiety or irritability. The solitude. The "centering."

Every day we cut out of the world for a few minutes and come again to that quiet (and sometimes not so quiet!) place that nourishes us.

Zinnias rest the eyes. Meditation rests the body.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Not the Same

A garden friend came yesterday, and i dug seeral boxes of plants to give her for her newly constructed garden.

"I've only been here in the spring," she said. "Your garden looks so much different now. I wouldn't have recognized it as the same garden."

Of course, it isn't the "same" garden that she sees in the spring. Only the word "garden" is the same.

Those who saw us in the springtime of our lives might not recognizes us as we enter the autumn of our lives at our 30th, 40th, or 50th class reunions.

Still, the garden is beautiful, and there's something about the basic arrangement that still feels "the same."

But oh-so-many things have changed. And are still changing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Seasonal Shift

Nighttime temperatures are dropping into the 30s, now that it's fall. It's time to think about making the seasonal change on the front step: bring the pots of annuals indoors and let mums be the welcoming color for the next 6 weeks or so.

It's hard to know exactly when to make this seasonal shift. No frosts are predicted for the coming week.

I watch as friends struggle with aging parents, trying to shift them into assisted living or perhaps a nursing home. Often the 80-somethings don't want to make the change. Even if they are willing, the transition can feel difficult because so many things have to be let go of. One 80-year-old friend broke into tears at the sight of the washing machine in her new condo near her daughter, a thousand miles away from "home." Her old washing machine, her usual washing machine, was gone. Gone.

We too might feel like shedding a tear. Summer is over. We enter the fall of our lives.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Latchkey Gardens

Cheryl in the San Juan Islands of Washington state
I'm home! After leaving my garden to fend for itself for almost 3 weeks, i've returned to pick it and to pick it up.

The vegetable garden is sort of a mess, but it is still producing, so i'm getting back into the routine of harvesting, cooking, and freezing food for the winter.

"How does it feel to be cooking?" my sweetie asks me.
"How does it feel to not be going out for dinner?" i ask him.
"Good. We're eating healthy food, and it's just more relaxing to eat at home."

Traveling has its stresses, every day. Being home, confining ourselves to being home, is actually pretty relaxing. Confining our attention to meditation is also relaxing and calming.

There's a lot of worldly stuff out there to pick from--all sorts of shopping and gizmos, all sorts of media and distractions. Confining ourselves to the home base of mindfulness is just more relaxing, no matter where we are traveling.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

First Day of Fall

Today is the first day of fall. To celebrate, i picked up 8 pots of mums on my way home from the airport. The houseplants have come indoors. Mums are sitting on the front step. It's official. A new season is here.

Sometimes, the seasons of our lives have official markers--birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, marriage, birth of a child, death of a parent--but mostly, day rolls on after day with little noticeable difference.

"Noticing" is another word for mindfulness. We notice not only the big changes--of season to season, of leaving home and arriving at work--we also notice small changes, incremental changes. The light in the room is changing. Right now. The breath in your body is changing. Right now. Your heart is beating. Right now. Your eyes are shifting their focus. Right now.

I'm going outdoors now to notice the changes in the gardens. The tomato plants are dead. The summer squash production has slowed down. The broccoli and chard look ecstatic, now that the weather has cooled down a few degrees.

Simply sit still for a minute, and notice life. Your life.

Photos from,, &

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grape Tomatoes

I've come to a deeper appreciation of grape (cherry) tomatoes this week. I grow them specifically to sun-dry them. I like their firm meatiness. As i sliced hundreds of cherry tomatoes in half for the food dryer, i eventually noticed that the grape tomatoes are, by and large, stemless while about half the Sungolds still have their attachments (their stems).

What about our attachments? Sometimes we can detach from the mother ship (or mother plant) or any situation in our lives and go on to the next moment.

But sometimes we are still carrying our attachment to what was said in yesterday's meeting or what was done (or undone) last week. We cling to these sorts of attachments and can't shake them off even though we know it would be a whole lot better for our mental health if we could just "let go."

Let go of our guilt or the opinions we keep raking over or the hurt which is creating sorrow or distress for us.

If the grape tomatoes can just let go, can I?

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Single Night

The night-blooming cereus blossomed last night. Its petals began springing open at dusk, and by dark the white flower is pumping out its perfume to attract nectar-feeding bats and certain moths. By dawn the flower is wilted, drooping forlornly.

It's a short life for the night-blooming cereus flower. I keep the straggly succulent as a houseplant all year long just for this single night. (Thank goodness i was home!)

Our own bloom time is less than a single century. Yes, 70, 80, 90, 100 years sounds like a long time when you are 5 or 20 or even 30, but then various parts of the body start to wilt and droop--breasts, various muscles. The first wrinkle appears.

Oh, we are so beautiful. And then a new day dawns.

Photos from and