Friday, February 28, 2014

Tender Sweet Freesia

Several years ago, i planted freesia bulbs in various large potted plants. Today i discovered a purple freesia blooming in the plumeria.

Freesia are so sweetly fragrant, i love their perfume. Yet, i really don't have the oomph to focus on this tender bulb, so i hid the freesia bulbs in houseplants so that they would surprise me. As they have been doing for years.

Our tender qualities of heart are sometimes hidden behind our rough exterior or the thin veneer of nice-ness we show to the world.

Let your kindness bloom today. What one thing can you do? What random act of kindness can you offer to your world? Without expecting anything in return. Without even expecting that people will like what you have done. Without even expecting that people will like you.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What's in the Front Row?

It's time to start making space in my solarium for the spring plants. I'm potting up the rooted cuttings of many of my houseplants. I need more space even though I've decided not to start seedlings (although it's not too late to change my mind).

So it's time to take the front row plants and give them seats either in the balcony or the pit orchestra (i.e., my sweetie's music studio in the basement). Then i can push other, younger, more tender plants into the sunny front row.

What are some of our front row re-actions? Impatience? Anxiety? Frustration? Worry? Planning? Yearning?

The Buddha spoke a very clear poem on just this subject:

The thought manifests as the word;
the word manifests as the deed;
the deed develops into habit;
and habit hardens into character.

So watch the thoughts and its ways with care,
and let it spring from love
born out of concern for all beings.

We take one of our bad habits and start working backwards, mindfully.
We mindfully suppress the deed, the action.
We mindfully suppress the words on the tips of our tongues. Oh, this is hard work.
We mindfully feel the thoughts and emotions in our body. Oh, this is painful.

After several workouts of our mindfulness muscles over the course of a month or two, we will be surprised by the occasional arising of patience and kindness, concern and compassion.
Born out of concern for all beings, ourselves first of all.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Delight of Giving

My friend Trudy, aged 88, goes to the supermarket every Monday morning to pick up the flowers they are about to throw away as the fresh shipment arrives. She takes the flowers to the soup kitchen where she volunteers every Tuesday and Friday. Although she used to help make the salad or the main course, new volunteers have taken over those responsibilities. Now her "job" is to arrange the flowers into vases for each table.

Trudy is also a painter of flowers, so many of these cast-off flowers show up in her daily water colors. Sometimes she takes an arrangement of flowers to one of the 2 nearby nursing homes where she teaches painting once a week.

Generosity takes many forms. The supermarket is generous with its cast-off flowers. Trudy is generous with her time. Arranging flowers on the tables delights her.

What delights you about giving?

Photo by

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Joy of Giving

I've gotten a whole month of blooms from those hyacinths in vases, but now they are nearly all gone. So i turn my attention to the 25 pots of hyacinths and tulips that have been living in my garage since November. One by one i'm bringing them indoors, and one pot has begun to sprout.

You could say i am a flower localvore. Instead of buying cut flowers at the grocery store, i'm growing my own. And i must say, these hyacinths and tulips are bringing me a lot of happiness. I even love to see them sprouting, before they have any flowers at all.

The Buddha tells us:
Giving brings happiness at every stage of its expression.
We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous,
we experience joy in the actual act of giving something,
and we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.

I have so enjoyed the intention--planting the bulbs and "hiding" them in the basement or garage. (Feels sort of like a Secret Santa.)
I also enjoy the intention of bringing them indoors and watching them sprout.

I definitely get a kick out of giving away the hyacinths and soon the tulips.

And i do love the thought of all those spent hyacinth bulbs being planted in the ground in dozens of friends' gardens about a month from now.

Joy, joy, joy.
I've got joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.

Photos from and

Sunday, February 23, 2014


A skunk waddled across the road as we were driving home last night. Spring! The smell of skunk is the first sure sign of spring. The unpleasant smell gives rise to a pleasant thought.

We often want to push away the unpleasant. No, thanks. I don't want any of that.

But, really, we can't hold on to anything. Neither the sighting of the first skunk nor its lingering odor. And not the thought of Spring! It's actually sort of useless to push away or grasp for, but that's what we spend our whole lives doing.

The skunk, the smell, the thought, the reading of this blog are gone. Gone. Gone.
Leaving us with only this present moment.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Flowers in vases don't transport very well. I took a hyacinth to my step-daughter in a vase that fit into the cup-holder in the car. (And it's no small feat to find a vase that has a bottle-sized bottom.) Nevertheless, by the time we had driven 2-1/2 hours, the flower stem had broken off the bulb. Sigh.

In the full bloom of life, the flower breaks. Things break. Things change. Things don't go as we wish they would. The body gets sick. Perhaps very sick.

The Dharma is teaching us something. Do we have the eyes to see? The ears to hear?

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Flower Friend Dies

My flower friend, Lou, died Wednesday night. Since i mostly see her in the summer at Perennial Swappers, i was surprised to learn 2 weeks ago that she had cancer. She had been on the downhill slide since October.

Lou often thanked me for the flowers in her flowerbeds--several of them came from my garden. Now, like those flowers, she has withered and died.

Dear sweet Lou.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blooming in Order

The hyacinths i forced bloom in a particular order, even though i started them all on the same day.

The blue blooms first, followed by the raspberry pink, then the light pink, then the creamy yellow, and finally the white. It's taken about a month for them to go through this cycle.

Our spiritual development also progresses along a predictable path. The first step is to live with integrity. The second is to practice generosity.

Let's begin then, growing our integrity, practicing harmlessness toward ourselves first of all. Pretty soon, we too will bloom.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The houseplants are all leaning toward the sun. They look like they'd jump out of the window, if they could. I can practically hear them saying, "Let me out. Let me out of here." They are yearning for the sun.

We too yearn for something, perhaps something we can't quite put our finger on. We are hungry for Truth. I don't mean "truth" as opposed to "lies." We are looking for something genuine, something authentic.

We busy ourselves pursuing the things we think will make us happy: children, money, career, family, marriage, clothes, flowers, gardens. Our lives are filled with busy-ness, even with good things. Still the yearning remains.

Oh, days, weeks can go by, and we don't notice. Then some thing, perhaps some little thing, triggers it.

Stop. Come home to yourself. Retreat for an hour, or a day, if you can. I've just signed up for a week-long retreat at the end of March.

Photo from

Monday, February 17, 2014

Dried Up

The potting soil that i used in January to pot up rooted cuttings was too dry. Almost all the cuttings have dried up and died, which so disappointing that i don't even want to write about it.

Now i'm ready to plant the next round of cuttings, and i'm fretting over a potting soil recipe.

I added about 1/4 vermiculite to the last potting soil, and that was not sufficient to keep the soil damp enough. Now i've bought a bag of perlite, also for water retention, and i'm crossing my fingers that the new mixture will work.

Sometimes our meditation practice dries up. It seems like it's not going anywhere, and we lose interest. How can we retain interest in this practice that we know is good for us?

Some people switch to a different form of meditation. Some people give it up altogether. I rely on my spiritual friends to keep me in the vicinity; at least i sit for 20 minutes every day with them. I'm also signing up for a retreat because retreats usually inspire me.

It can take a bit of creativity to find the "recipe" that's right for you. Add some loving-kindness practice or some gratitude practice to get the juices flowing. Do mindful movement or walking meditation instead of sitting meditation.

The key is to bring mindfulness to this very moment. Even this very unsatisfactory moment.

Photo from

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Instant Karma

This morning i gave a Dharma talk on generosity. I took in a pink hyacinth and gave it to Chris who came early to set up the room. Then Linsey gave me a potted pink hyacinth as an offering for teacher support.

Talk about instant karma! What goes around, comes around.

The joy of giving multiplied by the joy of receiving. So lovely.

Photo from

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sumac Tea--High in C

My friend Trudy gave me a staghorn of sumac 2 months ago, and i used it yesterday to make sumac tea, which is high in Vitamin C. Just the remedy for my drippy nose.

The flavor of sumac is almost lemon-y, and the color of the tea is pink. I'm drinking my sumac tea hot; i'm drinking it cold; i'm using it to flavor fizzy water. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Thanks to the generosity of Trudy, i can enjoy this cold remedy from the wild.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Garlic for Colds

Garlic Scapes
My home remedy for colds is to eat a lot of garlic. Sometimes i dice up the cloves. If the clove is small, i swallow it whole, like a pill. I really do believe garlic shortens the life of a cold.

Although i have plenty of garlic heads stored in the basement, this cold has knocked the energy out of me. It is much easier to grab some garlic scape pesto from the freezer. When i say "pesto," i mean a "paste" made with olive oil. Garlic scape pesto is simply garlic scapes that i ran through the food processor last June with enough olive oil added to make it a paste.

I froze 2 quarts of the stuff in half-pint containers. Today i'm using one batch to make pesto pasta. Straight garlic that is way too strong for my sweetie, but I think i could acquire a taste for it. It's probably a good thing i'm not seeing anyone today, not even my morning meditation group.

Buddhist teachings sometimes come across as strong medicine. Medicine that is counter-intuitive, or that we don't want to take because it "tastes" bad.

Dr. Buddha diagnoses our existential dis-ease with the First Noble Truth:
"Stress exists."
He tells us the etiology of our dis-ease with the Second Noble Truth:
He gives us the prognosis for our dis-ease with the Third Noble Truth:
"Cessation" of craving
And he prescribes the remedy for our dis-ease with the Fourth Noble Truth:
"The 8-fold Noble Path"

We may not like the sound of this diagnosis and prescription. Hey, i don't like the sound of my cold. But i'll do what's good for me.

Photos from and

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wilted Daisy. Wilted Me.

One stem of my Valentine's bouquet wilted. When i looked closely, i saw that the stem had mildew.

Sigh. One stem of daisies became sick and wilted. Sort of like me--i have a drippy cold today and feel better when i "wilt" onto the sofa.

Sickness is a fact of life--for us and for our plants and flowers. We get sick whether or not we want to. Our flowers become sick even though we don't want them to.

The Buddha recommends we contemplate this fact of life. Even when we are in the pink of health.

My daisies are pink. And i am wearing pink today. But the pink of health eludes both of us.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dyed Daisies

My sweetie bought me a bouquet of daisies at the supermarket. Daisies in my favorite pink and magenta colors. Dyed daisies.

"Dyed daisies?" he asked. "How do you know they're dyed?"

Well, first of all, their leaves are maroon. And secondly, the water in the vase is now pink as the color slowly leaches out of the stems.

He felt cheated. I still love looking at this ever-so-vibrant bouquet.

We expect our flowers to be natural, to have the au naturel look, so, naturally (ahem), my sweetie feels cheated when he finds out the flowers have been "made up" to look more beautiful.

I'm very fortunate that he likes my au naturel looks, because my beauty leached away some years ago.

Good looks leach away from all of us. When we're young, we're cute or maybe beautiful. Some people's good looks stick longer than others. One thing for sure. We will all wind up just like the daisies. Beautiful today. Faded tomorrow. And then after that, out to the compost pile.

Meanwhile, i can appreciate the pleasure i receive from looking at them. And i can bask in the thoughtfulness and love of my sweetie.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Hiding Things in the Dark

Yesterday i discovered a dozen hyacinths growing in a cabinet where i had stored them in the dark in November. And then forgotten about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Those bulbs had sprouted and some had even bloomed!

This is exactly what we do when we suppress feelings and thoughts that we either don't have time for ("I don't want to cry in this meeting at work.") or that we are embarrassed by ("I shouldn't say what i'm really thinking out loud." or "That hurt, but big girls don't cry, so i'm not going to show my true feelings." "Stiff upper lip.")

We hide these suppressed thoughts and feelings in a dark cabinet, shut the door, and forget about them (or try to forget about them). [This is called repression.]

If we are successful at forgetting about them, these thoughts and feelings will "bloom" as projections onto other people. We truly cannot see that the person we are so upset with out there is actually ourself. We really believe that it's all about "them." It never is.

Equanimity helps us ride the waves, yes, even the tidal waves and tsunamis of our emotions. The pain comes, and it goes. Really. Really.

Finding our balance is daily life is an on-going practice of equanimity.

The 8 Worldly Winds

Pleasure and pain,
Gain and loss,
Praise and blame,
Fame and disrepute

Come and go like the wind.

Rest like a great tree
in the midst of them all.

          --the Buddha

Photo from National Geographic

Saturday, February 8, 2014

More is Too Much

I wanted more. And, boy, did i get more!

I found 2 hyacinth forcing vases at the thrift shop yesterday, and as i was storing them away in my vases cabinet, i discovered a dozen hyacinths inside the cabinet, blooming in the dark. Yes, their leaves were the palest green, practically white. And the flowers were stooped over, the flower stalk having hit the "ceiling" of the shelf above.

"Be careful what you ask for," conventional wisdom tells us. Yesterday i wanted more, and, sister, i got more.

What, really, do we do with our "more"?
More clothes. More flowers. More food. More knickknacks.

As my neighbor, Whit, wisely said when we were talking about a wealthy person's McMansion:
"You can only sit in one chair at a time."

We can only wear one coat, one sweater, one undershirt at a time.
We can only drive one car at a time.
We can only smell one flower at a time.

And the more? More is actually quite stressful. Take a close look.
I can tell you, a dozen bent-over blooming hyacinths are stressing me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

More. More. More

Okay. Okay. I have 20 hyacinths that are blooming or about to bloom, but when i went into the farm and garden store for bird seed, there, at the check-out, was a pot of little daffodils for $3.99. An impulse buy.

I brought them home and put them where? Next to the paperwhite narcissus. More is better. Right?

More hyacinths: i have 5 in bloom today and 15 that are about to bloom--soon.

I need more flowers. At least that's what it's feels like.

Just yesterday, i was singing the praises of one. Just one. Just a single hyacinth.

Then craving strikes. And i want more. More. More.

What am i hungry for? What am i really hungry for?


Photo from

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Where Daffodils Are Rare

We were on vacation in Mexico last week, and i chuckled to see one particular sidewalk vendor who was selling single potted daffodils, a hyacinth, and a stargazer lily. This vendor always sat on the north side of the block, in the shade, to keep his 10 pots of flowers as cool as possible. These cold-weather plants are as rare for Mexicans as bougainvillea and bird-of-paradise are for us here in the North Country.

It's startling to see something you take for-granted, like snow, treated as a rarity by someone else--a visitor from Burma or Uruguay, for instance.

The first step of our spiritual path, according to the Buddha, is generosity. This week, i am giving away blooming hyacinths in their vases. The recipients are always appreciative. "Oh, spring," they sigh.

But, once in a while, someone will say, "Why do you do that? Don't you want to keep them? Or at least keep the vases?"

Our spiritual path is all about letting go. Giving with an open hand. Eventually, we will have to let go of everything. Even our bodies. I'm just practicing by letting go of little things.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy Hyacinths

When i came home from vacation, 5 hyacinths were blooming in vases in my basement, and the other 45 were budding. In the past 4 days, i've given away 20 vases with a hyacinth in each one. Yesterday, i gave one to my writing group leader, Ginnie, and she told me it was her birthday!

On these snowy days, it is amazing how much difference a single blooming hyacinth makes. All our attention rests on this single flower and its beautiful fragrance. In a few months, we will be inundated by flowers, and we will barely notice them. Today i am inundated by snow (6 inches so far), and unless i am out in it, i barely notice it.

My attention is resting on the blooming hyacinth on the kitchen table. And i feel happy.

Photo from

Monday, February 3, 2014

Hot Weather / Cold Weather

My brother just returned from a vacation in Palm Springs, California where he saw a little flowerbed that made him think of me. Poppies and pansies growing together.

Poppies are a hot weather flower and pansies are a cool-weather flower. They don't grow together in my garden. Pansies bloom in April and May, and poppies bloom in June and July. But they're both cute and their colors complement each other.

Sometimes we want both-ness in our own lives. We want friends or family to visit and we want our solitude. We want a paycheck and we don't want to go to work. We want a garden and we don't want to garden.

Our minds think we can have it all, just as we want. Our bodies act out another message. Still, our mind believes it is in control and drives the body to do its will.

What does your mind want? And what does your body "say" about that?

Palm Springs, a city in the desert, has more than 100 green and luscious golf courses. What might the body of Mother Earth "say" about that?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Groundhog Day. Again.

I came home from vacation to find forced hyacinths blooming in their vases in the basement.
These harbingers of spring are emerging from the darkness.
Every year, the same bulb blooms again.

Even though it looks the same, it's actually different.

Perhaps this reminds us of the movie Groundhog Day. Each day different, yet always the same too.

On this day, halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox, what do we notice about our own response to sameness/difference?
Boredom? Anxiety? Security? Worry? Seeking escape?

How many repetitions does it take to let our heart flower?

Photo from