Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life is Short

My night-blooming cereus bloomed last night. Its petals started popping apart at dusk, and by dark it was fully open and pumping its fragrance into the room.

I was awake at 2 a.m. and it was starting to look tired. By daylight, it had become a corpse. Life is short for night-blooming cereus--a single night.

Life is short for us human folk as well.

So you should view this fleeting world
As a star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
                                                                     --Diamond Sutra
Deceased Cereus

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cutting Back Bulb Foliage

After 36 hours of rain, i waded into a few flowerbeds and came out soaking wet. I did something daring: i cut back bulb foliage (daffodils, hyacinths, and leucojum) while it is still green. I got tired of looking at all that strappy foliage lying down. There it is again: Every good thing (April-flowering bulbs) is accompanied by trouble (strappy foliage in June.)

The flowerbeds look so much better now that the old foliage has been cut down. I just hope this good thing (Ahhh! A cleaned-up flowerbed) isn't accompanied by trouble next spring (a paucity of flowers due to insufficient foliage).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Leggy Pansies

Those pansies that looked so sweet in mid-April are hanging their heads and dragging their tongues now. They are leggy and floppy. I've moved them from a planter on the front step, where they've greeted me for the past 10 weeks. Now they're hiding in a shady spot where they can loll around on the ground to their heart's content. And my heart will be more content if i'm not secretly complaining about how gangly they are.

Every good thing is accompanied by trouble. Have you noticed? Those good children of the flower world--pansies--are now gangly, floppy teenagers who have outgrown their home. It's time to turn them loose in the world of the flowerbeds.

I know where this is going to lead. They're just going to go to seed.

Oh, their pansy faces are as cute as ever, but, really, they're lost in the crowd of colorful summer annuals. Every good thing comes to an end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to Make Peace with Nature: Part II by Dawn Downey, Guest Blogger

 On the way to the mailbox, I leaned over to pull out dandelions popping up through the cracks in the driveway. I grabbed sturdy leaves in a bunch, my knuckles scraping concrete, and I yanked. Another plant seemed to pop up every time I plucked. They were cartoon dandelions, each tap root connected to the top of another dandelion in the ground beneath it, whose tap root was connected to the next, an endless chain all the way down to China. That's it. Time for reinforcements.

Give me fungicides, pesticides, herbicides, and any other cides on the market.

The idea shriveled up, dead on the vine. A sensation I'd never felt before crept across my sweaty palm, informing me I would not be using any weed killer. It stopped my bomb-'em-back-to-the-stone-age plans as effortlessly as a red light stops my car.

I quit using chemicals in the yard a couple years ago, because of the environmental impact on ground water and pollinators. Blah blah blah. This new feeling didn’t give a hoot about all those fancy words. It was unimpressed by my intellectual prowess and unconcerned with ecological issues. It simply zapped away the distance from between Dawn the Gardener and Betty the Bee.

I'll pull weeds by hand. Spraying poison would be shooting myself in the foot. Lesson two: disarm. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Coming to Peace with Nature by Dawn Downey, Guest Blogger

This year I'm coming to terms with nature. Starting right now.

Nature means trees: ticks dropping out of them, spider webs stretched between them, and snakes curled up at their roots. I dislike these things. I walk every day, but choose sidewalks and treadmills, preferences no doubt borne from my suburban upbringing.

In April, my husband and I hiked in Wallace State Park. He studied the map painted on a wooden placard and selected Rocky Ford Trail, labeled moderate. As directed, we crossed a dam and headed for the trail. Once across Ben veered right. I continued straight. "How the hell did you know to turn?"

He pointed to a spot a couple yards beyond where he'd stopped. Sure enough, a trail, but it petered out into the patch of weeds at my feet. My attempt to understand the natural world was doomed. Hopeless. Mother Nature had failed to provide me the gene that signals where to change direction in the absence of street signs.

The trail wound through oaks still naked from winter. Bone white sycamore skeletons reached skyward, as it ran parallel to a stream. We stopped where a waterfall trickled over a limestone shelf. Cardinals sang accompaniment to the gurgling creek. The music so delicate you had to hold you breath to take it in. It nourished even a room service kind of girl like me. Lesson one: listen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cosmos Capris

Radiation is over! 7 weeks of driving to the hospital every day is done.

To celebrate, i wore my "new" (used) capris from the thrift store. I love these silky pants for their flower-full beauty--cosmos to be specific. I feel happy just wearing them, even tho they don't have pockets. Since i don't carry a pocketbook anymore, i depend on pockets. Oh, i do love pockets. I'll just have to sew in a secret pocket on the inside, like i do with my travel clothes.

Every good thing is accompanied by trouble. Beautiful new pants--without pockets.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Too Many Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-me-nots, which, for 2 months, provided an understory of blue (or white in the white garden), have now gone by. I am pulling up dozens, hundreds of them. And then what?

If i put them in the compost, i will have even more forget-me-nots in the vegetable garden. If i throw them in the woods, they will grow there. Hmmmm. Forget-me-nots are already a garden escapee. I have one shrubby hillside where i throw all manner of enthusiastic plants i have weeded out. Or i could put them on a campfire where i throw invasive plants that i really do not want to see again.

What to do with too much? Especially when it gets old and goes to seed. Like us.

I'm planning now for my old, old age when i am no longer able to fend for myself. What will i do when beautiful young people no longer want to look at me--so old and withered and gone to seed? It's difficult to contemplate when my body is still lively.

Forget-me-nots remind us that life doesn't last forever.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lavender Lobelia

I went to a Farmers Market yesterday and bought some lavender lobelia. I love the looks of lobelia, but it just does not last as an edging plant. It's fried by August. So i'm adding the lobelia to some of my planters and crossing my fingers that they last.

Nothing lasts, of course. We want beautiful things to go on and on, but they don't. When something beautiful, like lobelia, has such a short lifespan, we are disappointed. Disappointment is another name for stress and distress.

So beautiful. Maybe we'll forget that we will be disappointed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New Garden Cart

I have been desperate for my ailing garden cart for more than a week, so, on Sunday, i drove to the garden store to buy a new one. When i saw the design of my old garden cart in lavender, i was smitten.

I plunked down my credit card and was driving Lavender home within 10 minutes. Oh, i do like fast shopping.

Of course, every good thing is accompanied by trouble. And this beauty had flat tires. Fortunately i could pump those up with an air pump that plugs into the power outlet (formerly called the cigarette lighter) of a car.

Lavender and i roll out to the vegetable garden a couple of times a day. Oh, do we have a good time!

Her older, aging, faded sister (see yesterday's post) is waiting to go to rehab. I haven't answered the question of what i'm going to do with a wonky, old garden cart. You might just cut her misery short and send her to the landfill. But i'll keep her limping along as long as i can.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Old Garden Cart

The tire on my garden cart is permanently flat, and i can't get it off its axle. The screws that hold the U-brackets that hold the axle in place are well-rusted. That's understandable: my cart is 35 years old. If a cart ages 2 years for every human year, i can forgive it for its parts rusting. My joints are rusting too.

The cart suffered an accident last year. It was standing innocently near the compost pile, when i backed my car into the cart, and now it is permanently si-fodling--it rolls on a slight diagonal.

I too limp a bit when i first get out of bed in the morning, favoring one side over the other.

Ahhh, my old garden cart needs to go to the cart-hospital for a little air in its pneumatic tubes, which probably need to be replaced.

Aging--me and my good friend, my garden cart.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pruning Red-Twig Dogwood

Red-twig Dogwood
Today my sweetie and i toured our shrubs and made strategic cuts, down to ground level.

The red-twig and yellow-twig dogwoods are a case in point. Left on their own they develop brown woody stems, but the new growth is bright red on the red-twig dogwood. Cutting them back to the ground enables new red growth to spring up.

I often say that i have pruned my habit of aversiveness--spouting off quick opinions and judgments, irritation stemming from frustration,  impatience when other people don't "see" what is so obvious to me. I still have all these habits, but what springs out of my mouth is not the old, hardy woody stem of deep-rooted aversion. Rather, i vent in a momentary way, and often ask for forgiveness within a few minutes or definitely within 24 hours.

This admission that i have spoken harshly, even if it was only a small prick, usually keeps my relationships on an even keel. Some of my friends find it easier to "take" my irritation because i quickly come around to softening it.

I've been pruning aversion for 14 years. And i have to say, my mind is a lot more beautiful than it used to be.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Pruned Lilacs

The lilacs have finished blooming, so some neighbors are taking this opportunity to prune their very tall lilacs. They cut one-third of the stems (i.e., 3 of the 9 stems) back to the ground. This leaves them with 2/3 of their former bush.

Some people amputate their lilacs, which makes for a stubby look. I prefer the beautiful vase shape of lilac suckers, blooming at nose-height.

When we relinquish our stuff--whether material stuff or mental stuff--it feels awkward to begin with. How do i not say an unkind thing that's on the tip of my tongue? But the more we give up the old habit, the better we feel.

Eventually, something blooms in our life--people invite us out more often or someone confides in us. They do this because we feel safe, and we make them feel safe. We have let go of our high and mighty ways and come down to earth. All it takes is a little pruning.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rain Garden

My favorite rain garden is the cloverleaf where i often enter onto the interstate. In the center of that single cloverleaf is a low spot, lower than the entrance ramp curving around it on 3 sides, and much lower than the traffic whizzing by on the interstate on the fourth "side." This drainage area is, right now, filled with blue lupines, happy daisies, and red clover (Vermont's state flower.)

When it rains, the water is held in this area, this "rain garden," so that stormwater runoff can percolate into the soil or slowly be released into the stream that drains this area.

This is what rain gardens do: they withstand the extremes of wetness and absorb the high nitrogen and phosphorous that is often found in runoff. A rain garden also guards against erosion that can be caused by a downpour.

How can we hold the challenges of our life when stress and distress rain down upon us? How can we hold difficult situations without resisting them?

Our mindfulness practice prepares us for the non-judgmental awareness to notice. "Oh, this." and "Just this." We don't have to have an opinion. We don't have to have a judgment. We don't have to launch into ain't-it-awful.

We simply hold the "too much" that may be storming through our lives. Let it infiltrate us. Feel the pain, the splats, and all the other unpleasantnesses. The mind wants so badly to make up a story about it. The story--whatever it is--guards us against feeling the present moment.

And after the storm, after all the thunder and lightning, the sun shines and daisies bloom.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Flowering Generosity

Tithonia -- Mexican Sunflower "Torch"
This morning, a friend brought me a dozen snapdragons, a dozen petunias, 2 dozen giant zinnias, and 5 dozen larkspur. And some Mexican sunflowers--the ones that grow 8 feet tall.

I put the petunias in pots. The rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

The generosity of a friend will flower and make my heart happy all summer long.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lost, but Found

I lost my favorite red-handled clippers 4 years ago. I found them yesterday, lying in a flowerbed. Well-rusted and really dull.

Maybe i can learn how to sharpen them? (on YouTube)

When we let our meditation practice go, our mindfulness becomes dull. In order to sharpen our minds, we need daily practice.

I could practice mindfulness while sharpening my clippers!

(Read my book, Lost, but Found.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Still Raining

It's still raining. After 3 days, the soil is finally soaked. It's time to transplant anything, everything so that it can settle into its new home.

After we have shed enough tears about a loved one or a particular situation, the realization finally soaks in: It's time to transplant ourselves into a new relationship with this dear one--perhaps one of greater distance.

We can still grow love, even from a distance.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Parade of Wheelbarrows

My neighbor and morning meditation friend, Whit, turned 70 yesterday. Whit is not so fond of big parties or surprise parties. Nevertheless, his wife cooked up a surprise based on her gift to him of a new wheelbarrow.

Friends planting the Birthday Hillside
Last fall they had cleared a hillside at the back of their backyard. The hillside needed to be planted or else it would return to its native goldenrod-and-sumac-and-lots-of-weeds state. I loaded up my truck with various native groundcovers and met my neighbors with their wheelbarrows at the top of the path leading down the edge of the cleaned-up hillside. We filled each wheelbarrow with one kind of plant--a wheelbarrow of Canadian ginger, a wheelbarrow of Allegheny pachysandra, a wheelbarrow of Solomon's seal, a wheelbarrow of black cohosh (bugbane), a wheelbarrow of Jerusalem artichokes.

Neighbor Connie played Happy Birthday on her trumpet as we wheeled down the hillside into Whit's backyard. He was surprised, all right. Pleasantly surprised. And in half an hour, the 10 of us had planted the hillside in the drizzling rain.

Happy plants. Happy friends. Happy Birthday, dear Whit.
Happy. Happy. Happy.