Monday, June 30, 2014

Cilantro Roots

Cilantro (a.k.a. coriander) reseeds itself in the garden and is blooming now, so it's mostly gone before the salsa ingredients--tomatoes and cucumbers--ripen.

My neighbor Connie digs up cilantro roots and puts them in her freezer. They are a great addition to winter soups. Cilantro root is also a key ingredient in Thai curries. In the Republic of Georgia, stems of cilantro are served on a plate, along with chives and stems of parsley as a salad, but eaten by hand, like an appetizer.

Cilantro is one of those herbs that people either love or hate. I have several friends who can't stand the taste of it, and other friends who adore it. It doesn't matter to cilantro if someone hates it. Cilantro just keeps growing, doing its own thing.

How do we respond when we feel someone doesn't like us? Most likely, we close down and send the dislike right back to them. I have a few friends who are able to shrug being disliked off with "That's their problem." But, i, for one, take it personally.

The Buddha challenges us to practice loving-kindness in these sorts of situations.

The kindest thing i can do with cilantro is eat it.


When i came home from a 3-day retreat on Friday, i saw a chipmunk in the kitchen. I set up the hav-a-heart trap, complete with sunflower seeds. An hour later, i saw the chipmunk in the solarium; then it hopped into the cabinet under the sink in there. I moved the hav-a-heart trap to the solarium.

Finally, Sunday afternoon, i heard a familiar rattling. Some inside the hav-a-heart wanted out.

What are we trapped by? Home maintenance? Family? Job? Money? And how are we going to get out?

The simple answer is "Let go," but that is not easy.

We can begin by letting go of our stressful thoughts, one by one. We can do that by practicing RAIN.
  • R   Recognize what is happening 
  • A  Allow life to be just as it is
  • I   Investigate inner experience with kindness
  • N  Non-Identification.  
Simply begin by being mindful of the stressful thought, the stressful emotion and, at the same time, being kind to yourself.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Garden Tour

My friend, Sam, and i went on a garden tour yesterday--the first of the season. It began at the spectacular garden of a British garden designer. We had barely set foot in the garden before Sam was overwhelmed with its utter neatness. "He's a landscape designer," i said. "He has a crew of gardeners."

The next garden we visited was a small garden around a very small house. "Oh, i spend about 2 hours a day in the garden," Caitlin-the-owner said.

How much time do we want to spend meditating--or gardening--each day? An hour in the morning and an hour in the evening leads to a beautiful garden. If we garden--or meditate--all day every day, as we might at a retreat, we will pull a lot of weeds.

How important is your garden to you? How important is meditation to you? Do the first things first.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Orange Blossom. Oh, Honey.

My orange-tree-in-a-flowerpot is blooming. Oh, my. Orange blossoms (which are white) deserve their reputation for perfume, bridal bouquets, and honey.

We moved the three-foot tall dwarf orange tree from its summer vacation spot under the second story deck up to the deck where we sit morning and evening to sip our tea and admire the gardens and smell, smell the fragrant orange blossoms.

Seldom do we have the opportunity to practice smelling meditation. Well, sometimes we get to practice smell-y meditation. Pee-yew. Unpleasant. Get me out of here. Even perfume can be overbearing. Cough, cough. But orange blossoms are delicate and delicious. More. I want more orange blossoms. I could take a bath in orange blossoms.

The goldfinches are loving their new perch in the orange blossom tree near the bird feeder.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Proper Name for Goatsbeard

My favorite variety of goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus kneiffii) is blooming. I burden you with the technical name because when i googled "goatsbeard," i couldn't find the image i was looking for.

I love this variety for its ferny foliage, which provides a lacy green background for the entire growing season. This week, it has the added attraction of the typical goatsbeard creamy white panicles floating above the foliage.

Aruncus, schmaruncus, you may think. What difference do those foreign words make, anyway? I can't remember them. And i certainly can't pronounce kneiffii. (K-neff-e-i)

Yet when we label our emotions, when we are mindful enough to label our emotions with a word--frustrated (with Latin names), happy (with beautiful flowers), calm, contracted or whatever the emotion may be--when we label our emotions, we actually sooth ourselves. Oh, i am feeling irritated.

We label the emotion. Then we feel the emotion. In this way, we are being kind to ourselves.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Chive Balls

My chives are blooming with the largest flower heads i have ever seen--as big as purple ping-pong balls. This would be a great year to make chive vinegar. But, alas, my days are booked full with no time to make herb vinegars.

Two years ago, i transplanted the chives into a new bed of straight cow manure. This year they are feeling the effects of growing in rich soil.

Let's plant our meditation in the rich soil that will nurture mindfulness and calmness. That includes daily meditation, weekly sitting with meditation friends, and an annual retreat.

Start small--meditating for a few minutes a day. In a couple of years, you too will have a big and beautiful bloom.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fleabane in the Yard

My sweetie mowed around a large patch of the weed/wildflower fleabane in the center of our lawn. As i drive to town, i notice that several other lawns are also freshly mowed with a tall patch of lavender fleabane blooming.

We try to present a neat appearance to the world, mowing down our inner wildness. But our native nature can bloom beautifully with kindness and compassion.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Geum. Yes. No.

Geum makes a good edging plant: it colonizes and forms a definite border between lawn and garden. Usually, geum is orange, but i like the Prairie Smoke variety.

The bloom time for geum is about 2 weeks. Then it becomes a mass of green leaves, growing next to other green leaves and green grass. Geum just doesn't provide enough bang for the buck, not enough bloom for the bed. So i'm digging out geum and replacing it with variegated hosta. I do like variegated leaves, which 
provide visual interest from spring to fall.

Once upon a time, my inner botanist wanted one of every kind of flower. But now, my gardener-self prevails and decides to focus on good-looking flowerbeds close to the house.

Notice how "pleasant" changes. First, one thing is pleasant--like geum. Then geum becomes unpleasant, and another thing is pleasant--like absence of geum. Pleasant or unpleasant has nothing to do with geum itself. Pleasant and unpleasant simply reflect my inner thoughts. Changing. Changing. Changing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tulips in a Tree

We went to breakfast at a friends' home this morning, and their tulip tree was in bloom!

We usually don't see these green/yellow/orange flowers because they are 20 or 60 feet above our heads. I lived next door to a tulip tree when i was growing up, and i never knew they even had flowers.

There's a beautiful, peaceful state of mind that most people are not cognizant of. It's the peace that passeth understanding. It's the Third Noble Truth called Cessation.

We walk through the forest of our minds every day and never notice the beauty that's right above us. So near and so unnoticed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Reciprocity: The Heart of Generosity

I went for a weekend retreat on Generosity at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and took a walk in the woods to see dozens of ladyslippers blooming.

These delicate wild orchids do not transplant because they depend on certain fungus in the soil. The pink lady’s slipper requires threads of the fungus to break open its seeds. The fungus helps the ladyslipper procreate, and, in turn, the ladyslipper feeds the fungus.

This sort of reciprocity is an excellent description of dana or generosity. We rely on the Dharma to help us create wholesomeness in our lives. In turn, we offer generosity to our Dharma teachers, often through money, but also through our service to the Dharma in our own community. In these ways, we rely on each other.

Generosity: it's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Mud in Your Eye

I was pulling a large geranium out of a flower bed yesterday and splashed some mud in my eye. Unpleasant! Uncomfortable! I rushed into the house to pop out my contact lens and wash the mud out of my eye.

Why on earth would someone wish mud-in-your-eye on anyone else? It's a drinking toast, but when we stop to think about it, how does muddy vision help anyone?

Or is it that drinking impairs our clear seeing?

People drink for a lot of reasons. "To relax" is the one i hear most often. We meditators can relax simply by closing our eyes for a minute or for 20. That's where we find our relaxation and our clear seeing.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Daylily Tubers

At the bottom of my compost pile lives an orange daylily with all its tubers ready to spring back to life. It's been suffocating there for almost a year--no dirt, exposed to the air, without any life-sustaining greenery, and under a few hundred pounds of garbage. I know it's orange because i dig out every orange daylily i find, in favor of the yellow ones or the pink ones.

Usually, i lay the orange daylily tubers on my dry-and-die pile and leave them there for an entire summer to cook in the sun. I now believe there are a few things that will survive environmental collapse besides cockroaches: ticks and orange daylilies.

To uproot our own bad habits requires as much persistence as an orange daylily. The roots of anger, irritation, and frustration, for instance, are considered to be so strong that a moment's anger can undo years of good karma. We constantly guard our own mental happiness and safety against surges of anger.

Mindfulness of anger is the strong spotlight of sun that can wither this unwelcome visitor. Simply feel how anger feels in the body. Feel it. Feel it. Keep your mindfulness right on that unpleasant, uncomfortable sensation. Use noting to name it: "Irritation. Irritation. Irritation."

By the end of the summer, i can safely throw the desiccated daylily tubers back into the compost pile.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kale is Good for You

I'm thinning the lacinato kale--that wonderfully sweet kale that is the easiest to eat.

Kale was a hard sell for me. My inner 8-year-old eyed those cooked green leaves and was not impressed. My sweetie, on the other hand, has thoughts for tastebuds. If he believes it's good for him, it tastes good to him. Then i read that kale is good for lowering cholesterol, and i dutifully began to enjoy eating it.

Some of us can see the benefit of mindfulness and simply proceed from there. Others of us have to be convinced. We have to experience it for ourselves.

Meditation is an experiential path. And so is kale.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


A wildflower named gaywings is growing in a shady spot beside a sidewalk. I transplanted it there last spring and am astonished that it "took."

Gaywings takes my breath away with its magenta airplane flowers.

Gaywings has been growing in one spot in the woods ever since i bought this land 35 years ago. Recently, we have cut down some trees, and now the colony of gaywings is threatened by sunnier plants such as sensitive fern and hawkweed.

Transplanting joy is really as easy as transplanting gaywings turned out to be. Place the mind into a secluded spot, such as meditation. Then focus the mind on gratitude or loving-kindness. Or just simply gaze at gaywings for ten minutes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ticks Off

My forester neighbor, Lynn, took a friend out to the woods with her. Lynn was wearing permethrin-treated gaiters. When they got back in the car, her friend had 4 ticks on her socks; Lynn had no ticks on her.

Okay. Now I'm serious about ticks. This morning i sprayed half of my gardening clothes with permethrin, an anti-tick spray. It's probably the same spray i used to spray all my clothes before i packed for India and again for southeast Asia.

While some people bewail the preponderance of ticks outdoors, i think of Lyme disease as our version of malaria. We have had the great good fortune to live in a safe area until just a few years ago. Now we join the rest of the world in having a nasty insect-borne disease.

We are of the nature to become ill--whether or not we want to. My friends with Lyme disease have on-going health issues. My heart goes out to them.

It's hard to have any sympathy for the ticks, but if they stay off me, they will have a much better chance of staying alive.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Farewell Tender Young Spring

Welcome to late spring. Cool days are wafting away in favor of heat by mid-day. The lettuce-green leaves of trees have been replaced by a hardier green. Heat-loving plants will jump this week.

Farewell to early spring and mid-spring as the sun leans toward summer.

We ourselves were tender young hearts once upon a time, prone to cry, not only when we suffered pain, but also when our feelings were hurt. Before we had words for emotions--sad, mad, scared, frustrated.

Eventually, we hardened off our feelings and stopped crying because big kids don't cry, and bigger kids didn't cry.

Our tender young heart still beats within us. Listen. Make room for those feelings to grow. Recognize the various flavors of grief, sorrow, despair, irritation, annoyance. Now we are big kids, and we have the words to express ourselves.

Sitting very still, right beside the painful feeling, so still you don't notice it, is joy. Joy is holding the hand of those painful feelings. Give joy a chance to express herself, simply by being present with what is.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Columbine Space

Columbines and lupines are blooming in my wood chip paths. I'm not surprised that columbines prefer to grow in the more acidic conditions of wood chips, but it's rather inconvenient. The walking paths are supposed to be for walking, not for flowers. At least, that's my view of the world.

Columbines and lupines have a different view of the world though. Not only are the wood chip conditions perfect for germinating their seeds, there's so much more room to spread out than in the crowded flowerbed.

Sort of reminds me of the person i live with. I like a clear flat surface, such as tabletops, the tops of bureaus, even empty chairs. He finds these clear surfaces perfect for putting down his shirt, his jacket, or his mail. Just like i move the columbines to a different flower bed, i move my sweetie's paraphernalia to his dedicated spot--his place at the kitchen table. His spot is sometimes piled high, and i put his dinner plate and silverware right on top of his piles of newspaper and mail. My place at the table is clear, just the way i like it.

Stress is in the eye of the beholder. I move the columbines and lupines to a different spot and feel much better. My sweetie's "overgrown" spot is within inches of my cleared off space. My space. His space. The columbine's space. Is there really such a thing as "my" space?