Saturday, November 30, 2013

Tulips in a Pot

I craved. And i caved.

Yes, indeed. I went and bought those tulip bulbs--100 of them for $25. That was a good deal. However, then i needed to buy 2 large bags of potting soil for another $25.

Then i spent an hour potting them up. Now i have 15 pots of tulips sitting on the floor of my garage. It's still above freezing in the garage, and it's dark. Hopefully, the tulips will have enough  time to grow some roots before they all freeze up. And, hopefully, the mice won't dine on those tulip bulbs before they freeze up.

Have you been counting the stress involved in this transaction?
  1. craving
  2. buying
  3. potting
  4. worrying about the pots
  5. worrying about mice
All for the pleasant idea, the pleasant mental image, of tulips.

Photo from

Friday, November 29, 2013

I Want....

The ground is frozen and spring bulbs are on sale. Oooh, the temptation is strong to buy those sale tulips. But then what?

Am i really going to pot them up? Am i really going to buy the bags of potting soil that effort would require?

Feel the craving in the body. Label the feeling "I want." "I want." Can you notice the "flavor" of the craving?

We see something pleasant, even if it's only in our mind's eye. Then we crave, we want, and we believe that feeling of craving is real. The actual craving comes and goes, but we don't notice its leaving, only its coming. "I want." "I want."

This Black Friday is an excellent day to notice craving. Your mantra for today, should you decide to accept it, is "I want." Notice how wanting feels in your body. Notice what happens when you walk away from the wanted object. Leave the store, and keep track of the wanting. Notice its coming. Notice when you can't hold on to it any longer, and it crumbles. It leaves. Notice that space. That's the space of peace.
 Photo from

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Pumpkin for Thanksgiving

Today is pumpkin day. Many of us are eating pumpkin pie. I'm baking pumpkin bread (with chocolate chips and walnuts :) for the gratitude sitting this morning at Vermont Insight. And since i'm using my own home-grown pumpkin, i made a batch of tamari pumpkin seeds as well.

I thought you might enjoy watching a porcupine eating pumpkin for his Thanksgiving dinner.

Let's give thanks for all creatures, great and small. Especially the ones we are related to.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lawn Loves Sleet

It's sleet-raining this morning at 35 degrees--a raw, wet day. But the lawn is loving it. Suddenly, the grass is green, the flowerbeds are gorgeously green. The moss looks utterly Irish.

Sleet--unpleasant. Green--pleasant.

By accentuating the positive, we actually feel happier. Our immune system works better too.

Let's go for a walk in the cold rain. It's beautiful out there.

Photo from

Monday, November 25, 2013

Plenty and Enough

I'm forcing hyacinths in vases. Right now, they're living in the basement where it's dark and cool. Usually, they start blooming in early February.

I've been collecting vases all year long. Every time i go to the thrift store or to the Swap Program at the landfill, i keep my eyes peeled for vases with narrow necks. Once or twice a month, i find an actual forcing vase.

Yes, it would be easier to just order a case of forcing vases, but also more expensive. I haven't found a supplier since my previous one dried up. Perhaps i could go to the florist and order a case through her.
But i have 50 bulbs in 50
vases, and really that's enough.

How much is enough? This week of Thanksgiving we give thanks for our plenty. Then some of us go out on Friday and shop for plenty more.

Enough. I have enough. My family has enough. A conversation with my 10-year-old grandson revealed that he doesn't really care about the stuff. He likes experiences--like rock-climbing camp or like shoveling manure out of Granny's truck. "Hey, I'm a farmer," he says. That's a feeling he won't forget, and that's enough for me.

Photo from

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blooming Narcissus

A minnow narcissus is blooming in the garden. It was really cold for a week, and now it's November balmy in the 30s and 40s. The weather fooled this narcissus into blooming. A friend has seen a lilac bush leafing out.

I love these fragrant Tazetta type narcissus. They are so sweet-smelling that i breathe deeply in their presence.

Some of us are so-called late bloomers. The conditions are finally right for us to show our inner beauty and follow our heart.

Let's begin our mindfulness practice now. The only moment we have.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thai Mushroom Soup, Sort Of

I found galangal at the Food Coop! This Southeast Asian relative of ginger is a common ingredient in Thai cooking. My neighbor who lives in Bangkok sent me a simple recipe for mushroom soup. Now that i have galangal, i have to find substitutes for everything else.

Instead of lemongrass, i use lemon balm from my herb garden. Instead of shallots, i use onions. Instead of straw and oyster mushrooms, i use regular button mushrooms from the fridge. I use chicken broth instead of vegetable stock. There is no substitute for kaffir lime leaves, and i leave out the chiles.

This concoction probably would not pass the palate test of an authentic Thai, but i don't know any better, and the soup tastes delicious to me.

Some of us doctor our spiritual path. We follow our own hearts and minds. We adopt a philosophy that makes sense to us, and discard the teachings that we just can't believe. Pretty soon, we have a spiritual soup, which feels good and may even "taste" good.

But just how successful are we at doctoring ourselves? Is our doctored-up path going to take us where we, in our heart of hearts, want to go?

The Buddha offered a stiff prescription:
The diagnosis:                       
     Life includes stress and suffering.
                  (The First Ennobling Truth)
The etiology of the dis-ease:
                 (The Second Ennobling Truth)
The prognosis for our case:
     Cessation. Liberation is possible.
                 (The Third Ennobling Truth)
The remedy, the Rx:              
     The Noble 8-fold Path.
                 (The Fourth Ennobling Truth)

Shall we follow the Buddha's Rx? Or our own recipe?
Photo from

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rhodendron Buds

The rhododendron buds are fat and prolific. (A rarity for me.) I can't help but wonder how many buds the deer will eat this winter. How many of those buds will survive into next spring's bloom?

Yes, i've used many deer deterrents over the years, none of which entirely work. So, now i will put my faith in fate. Or, let's say, i'll put my faith in life itself to see how it unfolds.

You might call it laziness.
I might call it settling in and letting the wind blow through my branches, letting the sun shine through my leaves. Accepting the world as it really is.

Is this what love feels like?

Photos from and

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mission Statement of My Life

The gardener is gone. For 7 months of the year, she is here in the gardens for a few hours each week, often doing the heavy lifting and hauling. Sometimes she is just keeping things looking nice, trimming, edging, weeding. But now, she's worked herself out of a job for season. She's done everything that can be done.

Have we done everything that can be done? Of course not! But how about the most important things?

What would you include on the Mission Statement for My Life? What's your purpose, really? Family? Kindness? Accepting life as it really is? Calmness? Living your Dharma practice? What are you doing today to further your mission, your purpose in life?

The gardens have been put to bed. And the gardener can stay in her warm bed in the morning as long as she likes, until i call her in early April. For gardening is somewhere on my Mission Statement.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I bought a package of tortillas, and there on the back of the bag was a recipe for chilequiles. I fell in love with chilaquiles when i had a homestay in Mexico many moons ago. But this recipe called for tomatillo sauce instead of tomato sauce. I just happen to have a bushel of tomatillos stored in my basement.

Chilaquiles usually use stale tortilla chips or a lot of day-old tortillas. I just used the entire package of fresh tortillas to make the chilaquiles casserole, which has the texture of soggy nachos.

I love the green sauce; my sweetie doesn't like the acidic sweet-tart taste of tomatillos.

Sweet-tart--pleasant to some, unpleasant to others.
Soggy--pleasant to some, unpleasant to others.
Crisp--pleasant to some, unpleasant to others.

Pleasantness drives the impulse to want more. I want more chilaquilas.
Unpleasantness drives the impulse to avoid or get away from. My sweetie is not touching the chilaquiles.

Really, our whole lives are driven by wanting more of the pleasant and less of the unpleasant.
It's just that we each find different things to be pleasant and different things to be unpleasant.

One thing my sweetie does find pleasant: fewer tomatillos in the basement :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blooming Pink

Chard has folded its colorful tents and disappeared from the fall garden. That leaves kale and a lone snapdragon. I can't even grow snapdragons, yet there one is, hugging the ground and blooming, pink.

Cold weather crops (and flowers!) are few and far between. Single Johnny-jump-ups peek out here and there.

My 95-year-old hospice client complains of cold hands. "Oh, your hands are warm," she says when i greet her. She's always dressed in pink. After a while, she says, "I want to go home."

I've heard her daughters tell her many times she already
is home, so i take a different tack. "Oh, when are you going home?" i ask.

"Soon," she says. "Soon."

Photo from

Monday, November 18, 2013

Putting the Garden to Bed

Every person i meet asks, "Have you put your garden to bed?"

I really don't want to say "yes." It's sort of feels like saying, "Yes, my friend the garden finally died this week." I want to eke out another day or two or maybe a week. But gardening chores are few and far between.

This week, when the snow tires are put on the car, is yet another indicator: Gardening season is over. Gone. Done.

Farewell, dear garden.

Photo from

Friday, November 15, 2013

Frost Flowers

Now that mornings are below freezing, frost flowers are forming. Moisture from plant stems expands and extrudes, then freezes upon contact with the air, forming ribbons of ice, ice needles, or other frosty forms.

Frost flowers only happen before the ground freezes.

Those people in the November of their lives are often still flowering. 78-year-old Bill still plays piano concerts. His 93-year-old friend George took up jogging at age 80. 88-year-old Trudy teaches painting at 2 nursing homes. We look to these stellar people as role models.  I want to be like that when i grow old.

 How will you flower in your old age when the body creaks and complains? What talent or passion or service will extrude from your life?

Photos from, documenting,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

New Compost Bin

Five of my 6 compost bins have been put to bed for the winter. That leaves just one empty bin to throw kitchen waste into this winter. But first, i need to reconstruct that bin with 4 new pallets.

Yesterday, i drove my truck to the company that uses a lot of paper; they had stacks of pallets, so i loaded up.

I do have another use for pallets, and that is a winter solstice bonfire. I use the sturdiest pallets to build a compost bin. The rickety ones will go on to the bonfire. It's actually a relief to have 2 projects done at the same time.

Mindfulness relieves our mind by sticking to the present moment. That way we are doing 2 things at the same time: interrupting the busy-ness of life and noticing the present moment. In short order, we will notice a still pool of quiet equanimity.

Then busy-ness gets the upper hand again, and we feel stress.

Throw the past into the compost pile. It's gone.
Reel your mind in from the future. The future is just an idea.
Come back, to this one thing: the present moment.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Topping of Manure

I drove to the local farm yesterday to get a load of manure so i can top off my compost bins. Putting the gardens to bed results in a lot of cutting down and thus a lot of filling up of the compost bins. I have 5 bins that are filled to the brim with greenery and brownery. Now i put the brown icing on this square green/brown "cake": about a foot of manure on top of each one.

This is called putting the compost bins to bed for the winter.

The dark time of year has arrived. It's time for us to compost everything that has gone on this year. The world rushes on around us, but we don't have to come up to its speed. We can slow down and smell the roses--or the manure.

Rest in the present moment, and taste a second of peace.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Garden Chard

My sweetie picked the last of the chard for dinner last night. Well, maybe the next-to-the last. A few shivering chard leaves are still huddled up in the garden.

Chard sauteed with onions and garlic, also from the garden delights me. I en-joy it. A home-cooked meal--in all senses of the word--makes me happy. These feelings of delight, joy, or happiness are wholesome feelings. Nowadays, researchers call them positivity.

Increasing positivity is good for your mental health. Eating garden chard is good for your physical health.

That makes me happy. And now we're on a positive feedback loop. Happy. Happy. Happy.

Photo from

Friday, November 8, 2013

Late Bloomer

Heptacodium, an ornamental tree, blooms full and white in October. Also called Seven Sons, the sepals of this late bloomer are now, in November, a beautiful rosy-red and lovely enough to be a bouquet. It's leaves are still green, and it has a tan papery bark, which birds use to build their nests.

I love a tree with multi-season interest. Plus it's shade-tolerant and good down to -35 degrees (zone 3!).

Some of us don't bloom till later in life. And perhaps our meditation practice doesn't even get started till late. Still we can enjoy the fragrance of the late bloomer, whose sepals, which once held a beautiful blooming body, are even more lovely than the flower itself.

Photos from and

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Prepping for Winter

One of my 3 compost bins has been emptied out and spread on the vegetable garden. The triple benefit is:
  • i now have one empty bin--a place to throw the winter's kitchen waste
  • the spring chore of spreading compost has already been done
  • someone got some exercise and kept warm while she was shoveling out the compost bin

November is a great time to do some spring chores, sort of like prepping for a big dinner party days (or months!) ahead.

How do we prep ourselves for the coming winter season?
  • We can prune our collection of stuff. Recycle the stuff we haven't used in the past 12 months.
  • We can focus on the mission statement of our lives. What's most important to the purpose of our life?
  • Get some exercise.

Several of my friends are in the Heavenly Messenger program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center this week.

Heavenly messengers are all around us, telling about aging, illness, and death. One of their names is November. Another is Compost.
Are we listening?

Photo from

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Alyssum Still Blooms

Alyssum is still blooming along the edges of several walkways. Despite the fact that it's November. Despite the fact that we have had hard frosts of 20 degrees. Despite the fact that it's dark out there. Alyssum is a real trooper.

In April i buy 3 or 5 big packets of alyssum seed. Then i walk along the paths through the gardens and sprinkle. By June, the seeded ones have caught up with the ones that came from 6-packs. And now, in November, when all the other annuals have given up the ghost, alyssum still blooms.

Alyssum soldiers on through the dark and difficult times, and emits a light, bouncy joy with its soft tiny white flowers. By this time of the year, it has spread into a little community.

A 75-year-old once said to me, "Aging feels like a battlefield. I look around at my fallen comrades. I don't understand why i'm still standing."

Alyssum still stands on the ground while the battle of aging, illness, and death goes on all around her.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Garden Bench Memorial

My dad died 16 years ago today, and there's a garden bench with his name on it in the tiny park in downtown Westfield, Indiana.

I don't think of my father as civic-minded exactly, yet there's that bench that he "bought" a couple of years before he died, when the town mothers were raising money for this then-new little downtown park. He was having coffee with his cronies at McDonald's, when someone approached him, and the men outbid each other in that friendly, small-town way.

I like to sit on that bench with my father's name on it during my annual visits to my brother nearby. I sit and remember my father and the way the town used to look. Everything has changed now. The name of the town remains the same, but it looks very different. The names of the streets remain the same, but Main Street and Union Street have been totally redesigned.

Change. Nothing stands still.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Robin's Egg, Blue

One of the houseplants i brought indoors has a bird's nest in it. This is not unusual. Every year or two, a robin chooses a plant hanging underneath the second story deck.

It's a pretty good location: Sheltered from above. Close to the worm grocery store of the lawn. 

But there are a couple of drawbacks: People sit on the deck above it (Ooh. Scary!), which makes for noisy neighbors. Then there are the unexpected drenching showers of the watering wand.

In the nest, in the plant, still sits one robin's egg, blue.

The death of unborn life.
An unfulfilled intention.

And what of our intentions? The good intentions in our heart of hearts.

Do we leave the nest of our meditation cushion too soon? Abandon it for greener pastures and lawns elsewhere?

Come home. Incubate that good intention.
Come home to your heart and nest there.

Photo of robin from