Saturday, August 30, 2014

Compost Camouflage

My compost bins are camouflaged with morning glory vines, just as i had been hoping for. In fact, the compost bin is so well camouflaged (okay, you can call it overgrown), that a guest could not see it even though it was literally right in front of her eyes and right beside where her car was parked.

Our life is overgrown with clinging vines of attachment. We are so distracted by the beauty (of the morning glories) or so repelled (by the weediness of the overgrown-ness), or just plain oblivious (What? Where's the compost pile?), that we fail to notice the Life that's right in front of our eyes.

Relax. Breathe. What does it feel like to be alive?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tomato Sandwich

Ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. Juicy red, red tomatoes.

The tomato harvest is coming in, so every day, i have a tomato sandwich for breakfast, and maybe one for lunch as well. One slice of toasted multi-grain bread, Hellman's mayonnaise (which i still love), sliced tomatoes that are salted and peppered. The bread is just a conveyor of the tomato to my mouth. The bread is just an excuse to eat tomatoes. How many tomatoes can i pile on one piece of toast? How much summer can i eat?

What do we want to consume for the harvest of our lives?

A friend who is politically right of center is infuriated by Democratic women politicians. He hates them all. Do we think we can hate free-of-charge? Do we think we can hate some people, and, when it comes time to meet our maker, that He'll understand and let us off scot-free? Do we think we can hate some people and only love the people we want to love? If we hate our enemies, how are we any different than them, really?

If we sow hatred now, we will reap hatred--now or later. Contemplate this now. Before it's too late.

It's a tall order, but it's up to us to love the people who hate, especially our good friends and relatives, with whom we may disagree on some subjects, like religion or politics.

We want to harvest those big juicy tomatoes, not throw them in the face of someone we disagree with.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Garlic Generosity

The garlic harvest is in: 200 heads of big fat garlic cloves. (I get these great results with stiff-neck garlic, not with soft-neck.) So, perhaps you can imagine why i had about 40 heads of garlic left over from last year.

By this time, the old garlic are so easy to peel. The papery skin falls right off of each clove. But, the cloves are beginning to dry out and look a little aged (sort of like moi). Still, they are good for throwing into sauces or sautees where they pretty much disappear.

In the past, i have peeled my excess garlic cloves and stored them in olive oil. But i am so rich in fresh garlic that i don't get around to using the olive-oiled garlic. So it's time to give them away. I take them with me to every meeting and class i go to (yoga, writing, trapeze), and it's not long before last year's garlic have gone to other women's kitchens.

Now i can start giving away some of this year's harvest as a hostess present every time i go visit friends.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Fragrant Phlox

Last evening, i gave a Dharma talk at Northampton Insight, and Susan, the facilitator, brought me a bouquet of phlox from her garden. By the end of the 2 hours, the fragrance of the phlox drifted lightly in the room, and several people came for a closer look-see and a closer sniff-smell.

Although my talk was about our immortality projects, one of the questions took us on a delightful detour into generosity.

A wonderful Chinese Proverb says, The scent of a rose always lingers on the hand of the giver. We could also say: The scent of generosity always lingers on the hand of the giver.

Right now, the fragrance of phlox is lingering in my kitchen, thanks to Susan.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lucky Mouse

While meditating in the dark at 5 a.m. the other morning, i heard a little nibbling noise in the kitchen. I had been seeing chewed cherry tomatoes on the kitchen counter, but that morning i saw a half-nibbled sungold cherry tomato at the back corner of the stove. It was too big for somebody to haul into their hiding place.

My sweetie put out 4 mousetraps with his usual gourmet treat of a raisin and a dab of peanut butter. Next morning, no snap-traps were sprung, and more cherry tomatoes were nibbled. He tried adding half a tomato to each trap. Next morning, the innards of the tomatoes were missing on all 4 traps. Oh! What a delicately dining mouse.

The old hav-a-heart mousetrap was soon sitting on the kitchen counter, and within an hour, someone was rattling around inside.

Every morning i take a vow not to harm living beings, so my sweetie takes on the role of hunter in our house. This doesn't seem quite fair, but he is adamant about no mouse in the house.

Sometimes, we joke that we give the mice a choice: snap-trap or hav-a-heart. This mouse really did take the hav-a-heart way out of our house and enabled us to have--and feel--our hearts. Even when it comes to annoying, noisome little critters.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Naked Ladies Dancing in the Garden

Naked Ladies are blooming! In fact, they are dancing throughout one of my flowerbeds. Lycoris has pink amaryllis-type flowers atop a 3-foot stem. Its strappy spring leaves are nowhere to be seen, having dried up last month. Thus the stem and flowers are "naked" of any foliage.

What's the naked truth of our lives? The unadorned, yet surprisingly beautiful truth of life?

The Buddha offers us 4 unadorned truths:
  1. Life is challenging. We experience stress every day.
  2. The cause of our stress is craving.
  3. Our stress and distress can end.
  4. The way to end our stress is through 8 steps of mindful living.
These naked truths are called The 4 Ennobling Truths because they ennoble those of us who follow their guidance.

At first glance, these Ennobling Truths don't seem very pretty and certainly not beautiful. But they point the way to a beautiful mind. A beautiful mind that is calm and peaceful. A beautiful mind that is wise and skillful when we come face to face with the naked truth of our life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


The lacewing is a beneficial insect that eats aphids. I particularly love the lacewings' diaphanous green fairy wings.

The larvae of the lacewing pile the sucked dry aphid carcasses on to their backs to disguise themselves from being prey to larger insects. What if we piled on to ourselves our flakes of dead skin, our fingernail parings, and the remains of our dinners?

Lacewing larva, covered with aphid carcasses
These things, which we once called "mine," are no longer mine. My fingernails: cut and gone. My hair becomes stray hairs on the pillow or in the sink and are no longer mine. The food we eat is, 24 hours later, flushed down the toilet. It was "me" a minute ago, and now it is not.

We could carry all this detritus around with us. Or we could realize that our entire body, as stable as it seems, is constantly in motion--breath, blood, digestion. Although we can feel the motion in the breath and in our pulse, we still feel fairly stable. Meanwhile, everything is changing.

I love the lacewing, which, having gone through its metamorphosis, appears to be light as air.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Really Tall Hollyhock

A 12-foot tall hollyhock is growing just outside my back door. And the miracle, to me, is that it's standing straight; it's not falling over. It has reached past the rooftop, headed for the sky. When i see it, i want to stand up straighter myself.

An erect posture is important for our meditation, whether we are standing or sitting. Since we, in our society, are accustomed to slouching--on the sofa, in an easy chair, even in our cars--we often don't have the back muscles to support an erect posture, which actually enables the rest of the body to relax. Think of the spine and shoulder blades as the hanger on which the flesh of the body rests.

Do a quick body scan, even while you are reading this, and notice where tiny tensions reside in your face, neck, shoulders, hands, back, gut, thighs, feet.

Now relax. Settle in. As your crown heads toward the sky, and your sitz-bones settle down toward the earth, relax.
Relax; don't collapse.
We maintain an alertness of posture and, thereby, an alertness of mind.
Feel the tranquility, the calmness, which is different than sleepiness, different from laziness, different than torpor.

Be inspired by a tall, really tall, hollyhock.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tricolor Zucchini

I planted a packet of Tricolor Zucchini in May--the lovely pastel green Clarimore, buttercup yellow Golden Dawn, and striped Green Tiger zucchinis. It's actually fun to go hunting for zucchinis and to find one (or more) of each color. Somehow, each color calls forth a different recipe, and, i don't know why, these colors are much more exciting than plain old dark green.

Our meditation can be more fun if we have a variety of meditation objects. Some days we feel the warmth of loving-kindness or compassion; some days we feel the strong intention of following the breath or doing a body scan; some days we want to relax into hearing meditation. We can "cook" up a different meditation every day, according to our tastes.

Maybe i'll sautee the yellow zucchini in butter with garlic, and mix the striped zucchini with onions and tomatoes.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Eat More Kale

There's a t-shirt that says Eat More Kale, and that's what i am doing. I finally landed on a recipe that i really like.

We know that meditation is good for us. Even better for us than kale is. But how to actually make meditation part of our daily diet? You have to love it. You have to find something about meditation that you love.

I've finally, after many years, found a way to love kale.

Baked Kale Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

Strip kale leaves from their ribs into a large mixing bowl.
Fill the bowl.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Mix with your hands.

Spread the oiled kale leaves onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
(This should be about halfway to Kale Chips.)

While the kale leaves are baking,
place 1/4 cup pine nuts in a small skillet on a burner and roast. (About 4 minutes.) Turn frequently.

Chop the half-baked leaves into strips.
Add a few dashes of your favorite vinegar. (I like balsamic.)

Add 1/4 cup crumbled feta.

Serves 2.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Generosity Means Letting Go

At the local fabric store yesterday, i saw 2 beautiful daylily bouquets. Gayle, who was checking me out, had brought in bouquets from her garden to give to friends. Meanwhile, we customers were able to enjoy her extensive daylily collection in a vase.

I often speak about generosity on this blog because it is such an important step on our spiritual path. Generosity means letting go of something, giving with an open hand. And "letting go" is an entire spiritual exercise that we could practice every day, every hour for the rest of our lives.

But the thing i noticed, felt really, was an immediate kinship with Gayle and the other clerk at the store. Instantly we were speaking as friends speak, appreciating each other. This friendliness, also called loving-kindness, is actually all around us, if we will simply notice it.

Gayle's daylily bouquet was not only a gift for her friend, but also a gift to all the strangers (customers) who walked in the door of the fabric store. Now, there's a friend.