Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gone to Seed

My nurse practitioner, Maggie, died after a long bout with lymphoma. Her art work is on exhibit at a local gallery and entitled "Gone to Seed."  We are all going to seed--some faster, like Maggie, at age 62, and some of us slower.

Maybe today feels pretty much like yesterday. Maybe it feels like nothing much is happening. Yet change is slowly ripening us. We too are going to seed. Simply notice this.  Gone.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hyacinth Roots--Full or Scraggly

The winter is feeling long. We've had snow on the ground for two months now. January has been cold, very cold. We've been hibernating here in the North Country.

This time of withdrawing into the dark is a good time to grow roots. My hyacinths have been growing roots of all shapes--short or long, swirly or straight, full or scraggly.

A couple of projects i've been intending have finally rooted: one garden manuscript has come back from the editor and i'm just starting another writing project.

In this time of dark and cold, what's been rooting in your life? Perhaps you don't even see a hint of green leaves yet. But something is gestating. Life does the doing without us doing anything.

What is Life doing, offering to you?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Trash Diary

I'm keeping a Trash Diary this week as an assignment for a class on Earth Sila--acting ethically toward the earth. The Trash Diary is a way to become more mindful of just how much trash i'm creating here.

My sweetie is the recycler. (Thank goodness!) We line up our bags and bins--2 feedbags for recycled paper, a box for the newspaper, 1 feedbag for glass, cans, and plastic, 1 bin for the returnable bottles (in Vermont, most bottles have a 5-cent return).

I have one bag for which i am entirely responsible--all the plastic and paper containers that can be re-used to pot up plants. For example, hummus containers, yogurt containers, take-away containers. Right now, that bag is filled to overflowing. It's time for me to sort through it, stack up the containers, and then store them in the potting shed until spring.

It's time for me to take a look at how much packaging comes into this house under the disguise of food and leaves in its ugly form as trash.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tears of Joy

I took one of my almost-blooming hyacinths to the receptionist in a windowless office yesterday. She was so grateful that tears sprang to her eyes.

Tears like that are tears of joy.

Gift given--from the heart.
Gift received--in the heart.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Resistance: Another Name for Stress

A friend said she bought an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. Its leaves grew, but no flower appeared. So she threw it out.

I cringe when i hear a story like that. I offer her some covert advice. "Last year, my amaryllis all bloomed in March and early April." In other words, Don't give up on the non-blooming amaryllis.

But she has already given up; she's already thrown it away. If the amaryllis doesn't bloom at Christmas, like it's "supposed to," then what's the use of keeping it?

A lot of us don't bloom like we're "supposed to." One friend is still single at 38; her 14-year-old niece has had a boyfriend for longer than the 38-year-old has ever had a boyfriend. We can fight against reality. (And then we lose. But only 100% of the time.) We can want something we don't have.

Fighting against reality is called stress. Or some people call it "control" (another disguise of stress).

My friend was solving her stress (of no blooms) by getting rid of the offender.
I was trying to solve my stress (But, but, but....... Things could be different.) by offering advice.

Stress has a million difference disguises, but we can trace them all back to resisting the present moment.  Resistance: another name for stress.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Air Space

Our little fishpond has a circulating pump that we turn on every day in order to create an airhole in the ice. Otherwise, the water becomes anerobic. The fish need their oxygen too!

Every couple of months the little pump, which is slightly larger than a printer cartridge, gets jammed up with algae, even in the winter. The fish may be hibernating (well, not "true" hibernation), but the algae is not. Algae is growing even when ice covers the pond, and thus algae requires oxygen too.

Cheryl at a swimming pool in Greece in October.
There are a lot of demands on the "air" space in that little fishpond--fish need oxygen, frogs buried in the mud need some oxygen, algae need oxygen, and all the decaying leaves and fish poop use oxygen.

I know, all too well, what happens when ice covers the pond, and there's no airhole. Pee-yew! Everything is dead.

The breath may not be that interesting to us as a meditation object, but if we didn't have oxygen, we'd suddenly find the breath very interesting. Stop. Watch your breath. Look around you at the people who are sharing your air space. Look out the window and notice trees that are sharing your air space.

We all need oxygen--even the algae.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dried Up Houseplants

When i return from vacation, it takes me several days to re-bond with my houseplants. Sometimes, it's a week or more before i get back into the routine of regular watering. Meanwhile, the houseplants suffer. A visitor reminds me, "Your houseplants are really dry." Since my houseplants can't speak for themselves, it's good that someone is voicing their concern.

Sometimes, our meditation practice dries up, dries out. We lose our commitment. Perhaps a friend reminds us, "I think you should pick up your meditation practice again." Or perhaps, we just let our meditation practice drift away. Letting go, it's hard to pick it up again. Yet, my houseplants deserve better care. And our meditation practice deserves better care as well.

Mindfulness simply reminds us to come back to the present moment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Beautiful Roots

I'm giving away the hyacinths I've been growing in the basement, even before they have bloomed. The swirling roots growing in the glass vase are beautiful all by themselves. We don't often see the roots of the flowers we're growing, but the hyacinth, suspended in its glass vase, shows us its white tresses of roots, all neatly "combed" into a whorl.

We don't often see the roots of our own actions. Once in a while it will suddenly dawn on us, I sound just like my mother or Oh, darn. I didn't want to do that again.

Yet the roots of our actions are right here in the present moment. Right now, we are laying down the habit patterns, the neural networks for future actions. This is just one more reason to act ethically right now.  The mind will want to cheat. Oh, it doesn't matter if I keep the change or I don't care what they think, I'm giving them a piece of my mind right now.

Watch your actions. watch your words. See the roots of future actions and future thoughts. See your future habits. Right now.

May your thoughts and actions be beautiful. Right now.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Right and Wrong Recycling

My sweetie goes dumpster diving every time he takes the trash to our neighborhood dumpster, which serves 10 households. Earlier this week, he found several cardboard boxes, and since someone's name was on them, he knew who was not recycling. He pulled out the cardboard and stopped at the recycling bins on his way into town.

This morning he's "compost-diving" into the little bucket beside the kitchen sink. "What's this doing in here?" He pulls out the paper wrapper of a burrito i bought yesterday, melted cheese attached. "Ooh. Icky." He wrinkles his nose.

"It's going into the compost," i say. "I'll take it outdoors right now." (I don't. I write this blog instead.)

He's the neighborhood recycling police, though his warnings are usually in the form of "I'm going to the recycling bins. Can i take something for you?"

He tries to be the household compost police, but i flash my Master Composter badge and try to get the upper hand. (Well, okay, cheese is not supposed to go into the compost, but i'm not entirely P.C.)

I'm right. You're wrong. As soon as we find ourselves in this internal dialog, we are in Stress City. Just notice that. It's stressful to think I'm right. It feels so gratifying; it feels so right. But look again. We are not the sheriff--of anything.

As if the world is black and white, instead of gray--which today is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trash & Treasures

I took a bag of stuff i won't be using any more into the hospice thrift shop. Of course, i had to go shopping as long as i was there. I'm always looking for hyacinth forcing vases, and i found 2 candidates--one is a little wine carafe with a narrow neck for $2, and the other a simple little vase, also with a narrow neck, which cost 25 cents.

I'm just now giving away budding hyacinths, so my supply of forcing vases will soon be depleted. Actual forcing vases cost about $4 each, so i may as well buy carafes or vases from the thrift store, where i know the money goes to a good cause.

I take my lovely trash into the thrift store--winter boots and a beautifully framed picture that i've been looking at for 20 years.

And i walk out with treasures for the low cost of $2.25. And since i'm a hospice volunteer, i receive a 10% discount. Now there's a deal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Desert of Winter

This morning the temperature is above freezing--34 degrees. "Wow! It's warm out," my neighbors say to each other. Our coats are unzipped, and i'm wearing just a light fleece jacket. After a week or two of zero degrees Fahrenheit, 32 degrees feels like a heat wave.

Ice is melting, but we're not fooled. We're still wearing our yak-traks, our Stabil-Icers (studded snow tires for your feet), or micro-spike crampons, even to simply walk across the driveway.

My unheated garage is six degrees warmer than outdoors, so i take advantage of this heat wave to water the 65 pots of tulips and spring bulbs i have sitting in the garage. Winter is a desert of a sort, with water frozen and therefore unavailable to plants. The flowerpots have been frozen solid for the last 2 weeks, but now they are thinking of thawing. Just in case little tulip bulb roots are slowly growing in those flower pots, i don't want them to be parched.

Winter is a time when we ourselves feel parched--for sunshine and for warmth. Yet we all have a warm heart, if we simply take the time to notice, take the time to feel. Unzip the armor around your heart, and trust that your heart is indeed flowering.

If you need a reminder, check out my guided meditation A Flower in Your Heart.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hibernating Hyacinths

The hyacinths i began forcing in vases at Thanksgiving have little pale green leaves, and i can begin to see pale green flower buds on some of them. I'm bringing them up from the cool, dark basement, two at a time, and placing them on the windowsill in the kitchen. Within a few hours, the sunlight greens them up so they look like spring.

We ourselves require the Vitamin D that we receive from the sun. The sun is our source.

Sunlight creates greenery. It's a miracle, isn't it? Right now, I'm living in a world of white--snow everywhere outdoors and, today, ice covering all the branches. In the protection of my warm house, which is heated by the sun, green plants are growing.

When you are feeling pale, what "greens" you up? Your houseplants? Some flowers? A bit of solitude and resting the mind in meditation?

We and the hyacinths are hibernating now, growing roots for the blooming season to come.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pruning and Love

One of the reasons i fell in love with my sweetie, Bill, was his ability to prune a tree. When i met him, the avocado tree in his office was 4 feet tall with several leafy branches--all due to his pruning. I'd never seen an avocado tree in a pot that wasn't a single stick with leaves that fell off at the bottom. Since then, i've entrusted all the pruning of my houseplants to Bill.

I usually have to leave the room, because my mind is screaming No! No pruning! But i trust my sweetie, so i hand him the scissors or the clippers, and close my eyes.

Sometimes, we have to prune relationships that have gotten out of hand. We have to say No as a form of tough love. The challenge is not to close our hearts to the perhaps toxic relationship. How can we say No with an open heart?

We want to prune our relationship--not spend as much time with our friend as we did formerly or not allow the havoc of their lives to entangle us.

We love them. And it is time to say No.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cyclamen Cheer

We just returned from 2 weeks in London, England where window boxes are in full bloom. Cyclamen loves the English winter, which is often, but not always, just above freezing.

I came down with a cold whilst we were there, so i'm feeling a bit wintry myself. But there's nothing like a bit of blooms to cheer you up.

Cheer-i-o, then. Till next time.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Blossom of Gratitude

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
--Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Accepting the People I Cannot Change

Grant me the serenity 
to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to change the one I can,
and the wisdom to know it's me

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Wish to Be Generous by Wendell Berry

The Wish to Be Generous

All that I serve will die, all my delights,
the flesh kindled from my flesh, garden and field,
the silent lilies standing in the woods,
the woods, the hill, the whole earth, all
will burn in man's evil, or dwindle
in its own age. Let the world bring on me
the sleep of darkness without stars, so I may know
my little light taken from me into the seed
of the beginning and the end, so I may bow
to mystery, and take my stand on the earth
like a tree in a field, passing without haste
or regret toward what will be, my life
a patient willing descent into the grass.

--Wendell Berry.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Love Like That

Even after all this time,
the sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."

Look what happens with a love like that.

It lights the whole sky.