Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fresh Oregano

Roger and Joyce have moved back into our neighborhood after living in her house in town for the past 4 years. We had a Welcome to the Neighborhood party for them. What do you give the mature couple who has everything? Plants are a good gift.

Joyce had asked about oregano, so i gave her a clump of oregano. Oregano needs to be divided every year, and it's hard to find takers. Someone wants oregano! Hooray! I'm so happy to give it away. Plus it's so fun to walk out the back door and just pick a stem of oregano whenever you need it for an Italian tomato sauce or zucchini.

What is bountiful in your garden? What is bountiful in your life?
Focus on that right now. Feel abundance, even if it's only 1 on a scale from 0 to 10.
Wow! I have fresh oregano.
Sink into the feeling of bounty from the garden or other bounty in your life.
Stay in this feeling for at least 10 seconds. Thirty seconds if you can.
Focusing on abundance is one mundane way to hardwire happiness into your brain, into your mind.

Wow! I have fresh oregano, right outside my back door.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Saying Yes to Astrantia

I drove my sweetie to his church organ-playing job on Sunday morning, and one of the congregants, Heidi, drove him home. While she was here, she toured the gardens and commented on astrantia.

"Do you want some?" i asked.
Most people have a hard time saying "Yes."
Heidi asked about sun or shade. She asked about soil. She told me about her garden. Eventually, i picked up a shovel and dug into a large patch of astrantia that desperately needed dividing. I gave her a giant clump.

I love giving plants away.
And i love dividing my perennials. A smaller clump really does look better.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wedding Flowers

Alison from Floral Artistry
My sweetie, whose right leg is still in a brace after emergency knee surgery 5 weeks ago, played his keyboard for a wedding at the Grafton Inn yesterday. When we arrived early in order to get him set up, Alison, the florist, was at work on the wedding arbor.

So beautiful. And so temporary. The bride throws her bouquet. We could say "throws it away." The flower girls litter the aisle with rose petals and leave their baskets sitting in the grass.

The piano plays. The wedding begins.  The wedding ends.

The music is gone. The wedding is gone. The flowers are gone.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Mow the Garden Down

Yesterday i went with my friend Aew to the Temple Forest Monastery in Temple, New Hampshire. In Thai, this sounds something like Wat Paa Wat.

After the 6 monks had lunch, i walked around the grounds with the "work monk"--Ajahn Caganando. The potential for gardens is beautiful. My advice to him: Mow everything flat green.

Aew kept pointing out where we could plant a bed of day-lilies. "But who's going to maintain them?" i asked. A garden needs a gardener.

The Forest Monastery runs entirely on volunteer labor and gifts. If no one brings food, the monks don't eat that day. Since the volunteers and volunteer schedule is haphazard for this brand-new monastery, it's better to mow down the raspberry patch, the herb garden, and the former grape arbor. In fact, maybe it's best to not even have a compost pile either. Maybe the compost can be given to a local farmer?

What kind of garden advice is that? Practical. This advice is accepting things as they are. Period.
"You really understand us," said Ajahn Caganando.

Less is more. Less garden is more time--more time for meditating and more time for waking up to this very life.
Right now.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lupine Seeds

Lupine have gone to seed, so i cut down the stem of seed pods and carry them to my lupine nursery bed. I had noticed that lupine love to grow in my wood chip paths, so a few years ago, i dedicated one narrow bed beside the vegetable garden as my lupine seed bed. I covered the bed in old wood chips, and Voila! Next year: lupines, which i can transplant to where i want them.

For decades, i had been inspired by the children's story of Miss Rumphius, since i am a Miss Rumphius-type character myself. I spread lupine seed in many locations with no luck. But the wood-chipped flower bed works great!

Miss Rumphius scatters lupine seeds and the neighbor children are inspired by her and the stories of her world travels.

We never know what seeds we are planting and what might bloom long after we are gone. I have certainly planted enough irritation seeds in my lifetime that i hope most of those "weeds" get weeded out by my meditation practice. Nowadays, i try to plant joy and happiness, gratitude and calm at every opportunity.

What seeds are you planting today?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Noxious Knotweed to the Rescue

During my post-cancer treatment, i go not only to the oncologist, but also to a naturopath. The naturopath suggests several supplements. The one she prescribed for me yesterday is Resveratrol, which i found in the health section of the food co-op. Here's the kicker: Resveratrol is made from Japanese knotweed!

Japanese knotweed is a loathsome invasive, growing along roadsides and streams, and crowding out native plants. My sweetie Bill, who is on our town's Conservation Commission, goes every summer month to cut down 4 patches of knotweed along nearby U.S. Route 5. It takes years of dedication to knock out a single stand of knotweed. One gardener told me a shoot of knotweed in her backyard came from a neighbor's patch, 65 feet away.

Noxious knotweed turns out to be a stellar anti-oxidant. Our "enemy" becomes my friend.

The Buddha called everyone he met "friend." Could we call everyone we meet today "Friend"? Could we call every irritating, unpleasant thing "friend"? Quakers call themselves the Society of Friends, and work toward peace in many different ways.

Yes, some friends are sneaky and underhanded. We still keep our guard up--for our own safety and for the safety of others. But we don't need to hate. We keep talking, communicating, and connecting in a friendly manner, like the Dalai Lama's attitude toward the Chinese who have tortured so many of his fellow Tibetans.

Hate only harms ourselves. Even if we are only hating Japanese knotweed. Right now, i am grateful to this particular enemy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Full Garden

July gardens are full and blooming and green. Ahhh. Summer.

It's also a time when less is more. Every plant is full, according to its wont. But in order to show each blooming plant off to best advantage, it's time to cut back its neighbors, which have finished blooming or which are scraggly or drooping.

Sort of like our mid-life. Finally, our house is full of beautiful things, but in order to make room for the next shiny new thing, we really should discard something. One by one, things go--children's books, stuffed animals, toys. Then the child leaves home, and it's time to send off bags of clothes to the thrift store. And slowly, slowly, we dispense with other knick-knacks and heirlooms. According to Feng Shui, this promotes better energy flow in the home. And it certainly feels like more breathing space.

Our gardens need more breathing space too. And we might take our lesson, finally, that less really is more. More time, more money in our wallet.

Slowly, we relinquish stuff, and perhaps begin to realize that it was really never really "ours" in the first place.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Installing a Plant in Your Habitat

When i visited the Devonian Botanic Garden in Edmondton, Alberta, 20 years ago, i bought several packets of seeds from that zone 3 garden. The only one that survives today is the Siberian Delphinium. Eight feet tall with cobalt blue blossoms, the flowers are more simple than delphinium as we think of it.

Delphinium is usually a short-lived perennial, but this Siberian cultivar has lasted 20 years.

Our good intentions--to meditate, to drop a bad habit, to develop a good habit--are often short-lived. Yes, they are all good ideas, but we don't take the time to "install" them into our lifestyle. The last thing we need is one more thing to do. So how can we work with our already-overloaded bandwidth to really take on a new habit?

When i first came across The Work of Byron Katie 8 years ago, i knew it was one of those good ideas that would soon get lost in the busy-ness of everyday life. So i made a weekly appointment with a nearby certified facilitator of The Work. Three years ago, i installed The Work app on my smart-phone. By now The Work is pretty much installed into my life. It was a life saver during my recent cancer diagnosis.

My Siberian delphinium blooms vigorously 20 years later. It is definitely "installed" in my garden. And this good habit, this "skillful means" of The Work is installed in my mind.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blue-Flowered Borage

Borage has volunteered in my back-door garden for years, but this year, a dozen plants stand strong. When i walk out the back door, i pluck a beautiful blue flower and pop it into my mouth. The cucumber-tasting flowers can be used in salads. The leaves can be used too, but they are a bit fuzzy for my taste.

Borage is a good companion plant for spinach, the brassicas, and strawberries. Planted near tomatoes, borage confuses the tomato hornworm when she is looking for a place to lay her eggs.

Our meditating friends, our sangha, are our meditation companions, and we should plant ourselves among these companions as often as possible. The Buddha extolled the value of spiritual friends. When we are confused, our spiritual friends keep us on our spiritual path.

I'm feeling pretty friendly toward borage--beautiful alone and helpful to its neighbors.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Morning Glory Children

Morning glories are clambering over my arbor, their heart-shaped leaves a charming green background to the intense blue, pink, and purple flowers. Mixed in among them are a few Venice blue and Venice pink for contrast.

All these morning glories are volunteers, children of previous generations of morning glories. The line from a song in The Fantasticks goes,
"Plant a radish,
get a radish,
not a Brussel sprout."

In my garden, it's plant a morning glory one year; get dozens of morning glories next year.

We, too, have to plant and tend the qualities we want--kindness, patience, generosity, caring.

My cousin, Nadine, tries to be nice to me, even though i consistently annoy her. She's nice to me. Then something i do or say sets her off and breaks through her veneer of niceness. Maybe she thinks she's being nice by correcting me or by being critical? There. That should help me do it properly next time.

What if she practiced kindness instead of niceness?

We are not going to grow kindness by planting nice-ness. Maybe we won't grow too many friends by planting our opinions and critical comments either.

As one woman in the county jail said yesterday, "I can't slap every mouthy teenager. Otherwise, i'd be in jail for the rest of my life. Now I pause before reacting. The other women here on the block, even women who i didn't like at first, have started to like me."

Plant a pause before reacting. Pausing can be the first step to creating a beautiful mind.
Venice Pink & Venice Blue

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Good-bye Dear Bleeding Heart

In May, bleeding heart is beautiful with its arching stems and pink heart flowers. I take photos of the flowers and use the pictures to make notecards. I use the pictures of bleeding hearts as sympathy cards, sending them to people who have recently lost a loved one.

Two months later, the once-green foliage of Dicentra spectabilis has faded to yellow and the plant has set seed. I cut the foliage down to the ground and bury it in the compost.

Good-bye dear bleeding heart, until next May.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sunflower Appreciation

I led a meditation at Northampton Insight last evening. One of the meditators, Susan, offered me a bouquet of sunflowers.

We all have the need to feel appreciated. This offering of flowers is a tangible form of appreciation. It says so many things: Thank you for coming. I'm glad you're here. I feel happy, and i want to share my happiness with you.

Appreciation appreciates--it increases the value of your relationship.

Practice appreciating someone today. With words. With flowers. Or with some other action of kindness.

Notice how the sun of kindness illuminates your own heart.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Flowers Left Behind

I've fallen in love with moth mullein these past few weeks. Mullein likes the habitat in my vegetable garden, so dozens of plants spring up there. I keep transplanting them to various flowerbeds, or i give them away.

After the heavy rains last week beat down the long tall stalks of flowers, i harvested the stalks lying flat on the ground and brought them indoors.

Now they drop their flowers, one by one, onto the kitchen floor.

We, too, drop the flowers of our lives behind us.
People don't remember what you said, 
but they remember how you made them feel.

May we leave only the traces and fragrance of flowers behind us.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Enriching the Earth (or Potting Soil)

from the Rich Earth Institute
My sweetie slipped while hiking last week and had to be carried off the mountain by 10 EMTs. The next day he had emergency knee surgery to reattach his quadricep tendon to his knee. He's now in a leg brace and on crutches for 6 weeks. This makes getting up to pee in the middle of the night very difficult.

His solution is to pee into a pint-sized glass canning jar (and then screw on the lid). By morning, i have about 2 pints to empty. Rather than flush the contents down the toilet, i use them to water the flowerpots on my front step.

While using urine as fertilizer may make you cringe, hundreds of people around here are collecting their urine at home for use in fertilizing selected fields--a project of the Rich Earth Institute.

Water comes into our system, via the front door of the mouth, and water leaves our system, via the trap door at the bottom.

By fertilizing our plants with pee, we can also fertilize our contemplation practice, and begin to see things as they really are.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Transplanting, Pre-Heat

It's a cool morning. It rained heavily yesterday. So i happily transplant volunteer flowers from the vegetable garden into various flowerbeds--a purple-striped malva, white mullein, and Chinese forget-me-nots.

I sort of recall that the forecast calls for 82 degrees today, but, right now, it's such beautiful transplanting weather.

Do you notice the tendency of my mind to believe that (transplanting) conditions are going to remain just as they are? We know that everything changes, and yet we forget it again and again.

White Mullein (Verbascum)
This not seeing-the-world-as-it-is is called delusion. We want the world to be the way we want it to be. We want conditions to be they way they should be. Ha! As if that were possible.

And yet, if we simply agreed with things-as-they-are, we could be happy, 100% of the time.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7 Night-Blooming Cereus

7 night-blooming cereus flowered last evening. So spectacular i don't even have words for it. I looked. And looked again. Beauty is so pleasant to look at. Then my eye drifts to another beauty.

I compare them. This one is a tiny bit more...., but that one is a tiny bit more in a different way.

My eyes drift away. I talk to my partner. I look back at the stunningly beautiful blossoms. I can't hold it.

Finally, i go to bed. I can no longer see them, except in my memory, which is not nearly so vivid as the real thing. My memory turns into a story about the purity of the beautiful flowers.

You can only take so much beauty before you become satiated. Enough. Beauty loses its oomph.

Until next year.