Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gratitude--Today and Every Day

Gratitude, the simple and profound feeling of being thankful, 
is the foundation of all generosity. 
I am generous when I believe that right now, right here, in this form and this place, 
I am myself being given what I need. 
Generosity requires that we relinquish something, 
and this is impossible if we are not glad for what we have.

- Sallie Jiko Tisdale 
“As If There is Nothing to Lose”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Woodpecker's New Home

A woodpecker has made her home in the southeast corner of our house. What a great woodpecker home--totally insulated, passive solar. It even has central heating! Very cozy. And it's very close to the grocery store of the bird feeder, and just a short hop to the watering hole. What more could a woodpecker want?

Bill was dismayed to find the woodpecker looking out of the hole in the house at him. Oh-oh.

The carpenter is coming soon to do a repair, thank goodness.

The woodpecker herself is a persistent carpenter. She's been eyeballing this prime location for 2 or 3 years, and finally she has succeeded.

We need persistence too. Persistence to sit down and meditate. Persistence to remember mindfulness. Persistence to change our bad habits. Persistence to rewire our unskillful patterns.

Just look what you can do with persistence.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Stop Raking!

This news just in from the New England Wild Flower Society:

Your neighbors might disapprove, but there are myriad reasons not to "clean up" your garden this fall. Many pollinators, and some amphibians, overwinter in leaf litter and dry perennial stems. Cleaning up your leaves destroys their habitat and kills any who have already bedded down. Let your garden work for nature this winter and save the cleanup work for spring!
I, myself, don't rake because leaves are mulch in disguise. In the spring, i rake my leaves onto the flowerbeds as the underlayment for bark mulch. Leaves plus mulch = lasagna gardening.

Love your leaves, just the way they are. On the ground. Even though they look messy.

Love the people in your life, just the way they are. No matter how they are. Even if they are messy.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Planting Tulip Bulbs in Pots

I bought half-price tulip bulbs at the garden store, so today i've been potting them up. Due to critters, i now treat tulips as annuals. I'm willing to feed a chipmunk a 25-cent bulb, but i'm not willing to spend $1 per bulb to feed that cute little rodent.

When i was at the Swap Program at the landfill on Saturday morning, i picked up several biggish plastic flowerpots. I've bought a couple of bags of potting soil and some vermiculite. Mix, mix, mix. Then crowd 7 bulbs into each pot.

For the moment, the tulip-bulbs-in-pots are sitting on my front step, but after it rains, i'll move them into the garage for the winter.

Tulips are another exercise in impermanence. Still, i love to think about what my front step will look like next April.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


I live on a private road, which is 2/3 of a mile long, with 8 other households. We hire our own road maintenance, which keeps our dirt road in tip-top condition. There are times of year, when it looks and feels much better than some town-maintained roads.

The road grader comes twice a year--spring and fall--and a few years ago, he told us to rake the leaves off the edges of the road. We live in the woods, so there are tons of leaves every fall.

Over time, the dead leaves turn to compost, then the dirt road turns to mud in the spring, and then we are all unhappy. So, every fall, we hire my gardener, Elisha, to blow the leaves off the sides of the road. It takes her about 4 hours, walking behind a powerful leaf blower. (She tried the back-pack variety one year, and it took twice as long.)

The Buddha recommended the 8-fold Noble Path to us, and, if we choose to walk that path, it will help us keep our path of clean living clear. We keep that path clear by walking our walk every day, with mindfulness. Which one can you commit to today?

  1. Wise View 
  2. Wise Intention 
  3. Wise Speech 
  4. Wise Action 
  5. Wise Livelihood 
  6. Wise Effort 
  7. Wise Mindfulness 
  8. Wise Concentration

Thursday, November 19, 2015

My Vase Collection

I've started forcing hyacinths.

All year, i've been collecting narrow-necked vases at the thrift store and at the swap program at the landfill where everything is free! I love this re-using business. I take my junk to the swap program and walk away with treasures--vases and flowerpots, mostly. I have a large collection of each. I've even posted a sign in my shed, in case i die tomorrow, Take Everything in Here to the Swap Program at the Landfill. The cleaner-uppers might be tempted to throw it all into a dumpster, but i have flower friends who would love to have my collection of forcing vases. Maybe i should post Michelle's name and phone number next to the forcing vases.

Our collections disband. In the case of vases and flowerpots, it's easy to recognize their temporariness. In the case of friends and community, we think they are permanent until we realize that it's just too hard to maintain our home, and it's time to move to a condo or apartment. Good-bye dear neighbors, dear community. It turned out you, too, were a temporary collection of friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Withholding Water

My jade plant is blooming its white bright starry flowers. I didn't even know jade plants could bloom until just a few years ago. Withhold water for a couple of months in September and October (or water very, very lightly), and voila! Flowers!

I'm just re-doing my advance directives for the event when i am unable to make my own health care decisions. I am choosing to have food and water withheld. Several years ago, a nurse pointed out that tubes in means tubes out. I don't like the sound of that.

Withholding food and water from my mother when she was dying was one of the hardest things i've ever done, yet she was choking on a tiny spoonful of tapioca and choking on a half-teaspoon of water. It was time to stop.

The night before she died, i dreamed she had a crown of white flowers in her hair, very like the jade's white starry flowers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Lou's Christmas Cactus

Lou's Christmas cactus is blooming. Lou died two years ago, and her husband gave most of her houseplants away. I received her red Christmas cactus. I love to think of Lou; she was such a friendly gardener, always so bright and cheery.

Our houseplants come and go. Our friends come and go. My 90-year-old friend Trudy is moving to her daughter's home in Portland, Oregon next week. I nearly cried at her farewell luncheon today.

My dear friends move on in their journeys. And so do i.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bill Turns 80

My dear Bill turned 80 a few days ago. He has entered the November of his life. He's stacking wood, trimming hedges for the neighbors, playing a piano concert, and more. During his toast at his birthday dinner party, he said he might have 10% of his life left. Another 8 years? Maybe yes; maybe no. Death is certain; the time of death is uncertain.

The realization begins to sink in that we may not have that much time together remaining. Each day is oh-so-precious.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Golden Raindrops

Golden Raindrops Crabapple
Rain today. A gray day. An indoor day.

Garden maven Fritze sent me a photo of her community garden where she's planted several heirloom apple trees and some crabapples. Her Golden Raindrops Crabapple seems like just the right photo for today.

The leaves have dropped off the trees. Not much remains to do in the garden. The end of the season is coming, but that's no reason to feel crabby.

Rain. Relax.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Fall Garden

The fall garden is the unsung season of gardening. So many edibles are still growing out there--kale, collards, mustards, lettuces, cabbage, and parsley. It's time to harvest some leeks and jerusalem artichokes. Apples are still hanging on my apple trees; let's make applesauce.

Every afternoon, i can walk outdoors and harvest enough for dinner. It may not be bountiful exactly, but isn't that a relief! There's just enough.

When we come to the downsizing phase of life, enough turns out to be plenty. The cornucopia garden is bountiful, indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Forsythia Are Blooming

In this lovely warm autumn, my forsythia are blooming. Not many blossoms, but a few yellow flowers lost against the background of brown leaves.

The day my neighbor Esther, 94, dropped dead in her driveway, she had a custard sitting on her kitchen counter waiting to go to a sick friend. Esther bloomed until the last moment.

In her last few years, she made collages out of pressed flowers and had them made into notecards. Even in her 90s, she found a creative outlet.

The end of the year is coming. The end of our years is coming.
Collage by Esther Falk

Friday, November 6, 2015

November Indian Summer

November and we are having a beautiful Indian summer--days when outdoors feels wonderfully warm. My California friend, Sam, who does not particularly like the weather in the Northeast, is wearing shorts while i'm in corduroys and perspiring.

I think of Indian summer as September or October. This early November is surprisingly lovely and warm.

Many trees are bare. The oaks have lost their beautiful red sheen and turned brown. A few poplars shake their round yellow leaves. I live in a grove of beech, which cling to their copper leaves all winter. I never thought i'd say it: browns are beautiful.

Nowadays, many of us experience aging like Indian summer. Yes, we are past the half-way mark, maybe past the three-quarters mark of our years, yet we too remain warm and lively. Some of our friends have lost all their leaves. Our own skin is sprinkled with brown age spots. The end of the year is coming. Winter is coming. We know that. But today is warm and heavenly.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Partridge on Partridge Road

I live on Partridge Road, so named for the ruffed grouse (aka partridge) that live at the foot of the road. For years, when i meditated on my deck, i'd hear them drumming, sounding sort of like a distant motorcycle.

I haven't heard them for the past several years. Then, as i stopped at the mailboxes, a partridge flew low over my windshield, landing just 10 feet away. The partridge have returned to Partridge Road.

Several other neighbors have reported seeing the bird--it attacks their car, it follows them into their driveway. The one i saw seemed fearless and very curious.

I do know that foxes live just a few hundred feet away, and i've seen a fox jump up and grab one my neighbor's chickens in mid-air. So, even if the partridge isn't afraid, i am.

Fear assumes there is a future, and that something bad is going to happen.

What if we were like the partridge--fearless in the moment and curious?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Milkweed Seeds

Milkweed seeds were blowing today, drifting across the lawn like soft feathery snowflakes. Just yesterday, Julie said she received a bushel of milkweed pods from her husband for their 40th wedding anniversary--the best present she's ever received. They want to re-establish a milkweed patch at the edge of their lawn in order to support monarch butterflies which have been decimated by genetically modified crops. Monarch larvae feed on milkweed.

The highest form of generosity, called kingly generosity or monarch generosity, is the type of generosity that gives anonymously, without ever telling anyone. A sort of Secret Santa gift-giving, except that you never find out who your secret Santa is.

Putting money in someone else's parking meter, paying someone else's bill--some random act of kindness.

Julie's act of kindness is to establish a habitat for monarch butterflies.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Return of Ginseng

Andrew, an enterprising young man, is planting ginseng in my woods. Most of my 10 acres is a dry pine and beech woods, but as it slopes downhill toward a tiny, seasonal stream, there are more wildflowers. Blue cohosh and trout lilies indicate what is called a "rich" soil--a soil with natural calcium.

Several years ago, a hemlock blew down in a storm, taking its entire root ball with it. When i looked, i saw exposed rock that had not seen daylight since the glacial age, 10,000 years ago. That exposed rock is called brownstone around here. It's a punky, porous rock that will grow moss if exposed. This brown, porous rock is an impure limestone, and there's a band of it running the length of Vermont. The Connecticut River, which divides Vermont and New Hampshire, was once-upon-a-time the proto-Atlantic Ocean, called the Iapetus Ocean. This band of impure limestone--shells plus mud--was the beach of that ancient ocean.

I own beachfront property! Even though i'm 3 hours from the ocean.

Talk about impermanence. An ocean that used to be right here disappeared when New Hampshire (originally from Patagonia) collided with the proto-North American continent.

Ginseng probably grew wild in these woods before it was cleared for farming in the 1700s. Here, then gone. Impermanence. And now here again.

Ginseng, and many other wildflowers, grow in this rich soil. I love the idea of planting wildflowers and am happy to support Andrew in his statewide venture.