Sunday, January 31, 2016

Applesauce Pancakes

My sweetie is on a limited diet right now, due to a nickel allergy. Because nickel is the third most common element on earth, nickel is in just about everything we eat.

This morning, i made pancakes for him, using one cup of flour, one cup of yogurt, and one cup of homemade applesauce. The batter was thick, and the pancakes tasted like applesauce with a crust. Delicious! Add a touch of maple syrup from the sugar maple trees in the woods behind our house, and it's a locavore breakfast.

I'm beginning a month-long self-retreat tomorrow, here at home, in our guest suite, which i call The Sweet Retreat. I could call it a locavore retreat because it's so local. I'm putting myself on a limited diet--no cyber-communication, no reading, no writing, no phone. And the darnedest thing is that the mind becomes very sweet. It turns out that I'm not as crusty as i thought.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thawing the Frozen

The flowering kale on the front step has had a long run. I bought them the day before Thanksgiving, and, due to our nearly snowless winter, they have looked pretty good for 2 whole months. But it is time to bid them farewell, except that they are frozen in place.

This is just like our habits, which we adopt at a younger age because they are pretty or funny or sassy. Then, as we become older, some of those habits just don't look so good on us anymore. Imagine if you were still as loud and self-conscious and self-loathing as a teenager! No thanks. But some of those old habits are frozen in place, and they show up at inconvenient times. They are one of the nubs around which our ego coagulates.

It's time to let go. But how? The thaw happens, not by kicking at that old frozen-in-place habit. Breathe. Relax. Release the wanting. It will return. Watch it return. Watch it leave again, maybe for just one second. Notice that.

I'm waiting for the frozen flowering kale to thaw.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Last Christmas Present

Bill's last Christmas present arrived in the mail yesterday. One of those little gizmos you attach to your wallet, your phone, your keys, your dog, so that, when you lose them, you can find them.*

Fair, the cleaning lady, brought me a present yesterday--2 gigantic poinsettias. The owner of the house she cleaned earlier in the day was about to throw them out, but she said she would take them.

This was our welcome home present from our vacation in the Caribbean. I feel like the tropics followed us home. A final Christmas present.

Thanks to the generosity of Fair.

* For the further adventures of Bill's lost wallet, read Lost but Found.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


I first met a pomelo in Thailand a few years ago. It looks like a really big grapefruit, but the fruit is sweet and not at all sour or bitter. The pomelo skin is quite thick. In Thailand, they are sold already peeled and sectioned.

Pomelos are now available at my local food coop for $1.99 a pound, and each pomelo weighs almost 2 pounds. They are expensive, but they are worth it.

I actually aspire to be like a pomelo. Maybe i could take it as my totem fruit? Thick-skinned, in the sense of not taking criticism or insult personally, yet sweet and mild at heart.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Old Christmas Tree

Today i am taking down the Christmas tree. Actually, i'm just taking the lights off of it, and setting it outside the front door, in its tree stand, in the white garden. Instant landscaping! Suddenly, i have a nice little wintry fir tree in my front yard.

At the end of our lives, we still want to be useful, even if we are old and brittle. Doing good deeds, even little good deeds, makes our lives worth living. Even invisible good deeds, such as acting benevolently toward others and wishing them well is a way to make ourselves useful and to benefit our fellow human beings.

My dried-up old Christmas tree will bring a smile to my face for another 2 months.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Too Late to Plant Bulbs

Yesterday, on the last above-freezing day, i finally put all my spring bulbs into the ground. People often ask me if it's too late to plant bulbs. "You can plant as long as the ground isn't frozen," i say.

Today the ground is frozen. Today it's too late to plant bulbs.

I planted most of my bulbs in pots, which are now hibernating in my garage. Next spring, when they bloom, i'll be able to pop them into the ground, exactly where i want them.

Now, with no more gardening projects hanging loose, i too can hibernate. For me, that means a tropical vacation with my sweetie, followed by a one-month self-retreat.

While our energy is dormant is a good time to go on retreat. Where and when are you going?

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Epimedium in January
Epimedium's burnished burgundy leaves line my driveway. Also called barrenwort, this plant thrives in the dry shady woods around my house.

Epimedium's little flowers come early, in April, along with the daffodils, but the flowers can be camouflaged by last year's spent foliage, so you have be the quick observer. Otherwise, the lovely little flowers are gone.

I like a colony of epimedium, which forms a lovely wave of green during the next 4 months of the gardening season. In other words, epimedium has staying power.

We've heard that beauty is skin-deep, and, perhaps we know from experience, beauty is brief.

Let's cultivate the beautiful mind and the beautiful heart.

Epimedium in April

Saturday, January 9, 2016


We have 1 minute more daylight at the beginning of the day! Yay! More light!

Right now, we have snow that looks like meringue--shiny (read: icy) and smooth. Sunlight bounces off this meringue-snow creating more light.

Practicing the 4 divine emotions--loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity--our joy or compassion begins to double, triple, quadruple, until it's infinite.

Now that we have more light, let's make the 4 boundless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity shine forth.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Rainbow

I love shrubs that look interesting in different seasons. Right now i am really enjoying looking at Leucothoe fontanesia Rainbow, sometimes known as drooping fetterbush or dog hobble.

The variegated green-and-cream leaves are still hanging on bright pink branches, which are eye-catching with snow in the background. In the spring, this shrub for shade has drooping creamy flowers.

There are 10 fetters that bind us to our stress and suffering. The first 3 are
  • belief in a self
  • skeptical doubt
  • belief in rites & rituals
As always, we begin with mindfulness. Mindfulness of what having a self feels like, noticing how building our ego leads to stress. Noticing that a self is as ephemeral as a rainbow--visible, yet without physical reality. Really looking into the construction of the self leads to insight. Eventually, insight leads to letting go.

Let go. Let be.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Evergreen Wood Fern

The wood fern is the other evergreen fern here in the North Country. The wood fern's lacy fronds look like spring or summer against the whiteness of snow. A reminder of the possible.

An image of a fern came to me during a month-long retreat. A fern unfolding. Forever changing. New fronds arising, old fronds dying.

Just like life.
Order your fern stamps from the U.S. Postal Service here.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Ferns

Here in the North Country, we have two types of evergreen ferns. The Christmas fern has straight-edge leaves and are lovely to behold in a dusting of snow, such as we have now.

The winter snows beat them down, so that by spring they are lying flat on the ground. Then the new fronds spring up.

Sometimes, life beats us down. It can especially feel that way in the winter. Whether we realize it or not, we do still have an internal springiness, but we may have to wait for it to show up in our lives.

In the mean time, during these chill, dark, winter days, you can retreat to mindfulness. That's what i'm doing these first two weeks of January--making a commitment to sit for 2 hours every day.

The Christmas ferns are green under the snow.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Don't Go Back to Sleep

When i bought pots of flowering kale on sale the day before Thanksgiving, i truly did not expect that they would still be decorating my front step 6 weeks later.

I feel so happy to see them every time i walk into or out of the front door.

Every time we go in and out of a door, we are crossing the threshold of a new moment. Most of the time, we sleepwalk through this moment as we hurry out to the car or hurry into the house.

Rumi says:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Friday, January 1, 2016

It's a Bit Scary

When i was checking out of our local farm and garden store, i saw a lovely hand-drawn card of flowers taped to Florence's cash register. Florence has been at the store for as long as i've been going there--a few decades. "What a lovely card," i said.

"Oh, that was for my birthday," she said. "Last August."

"So, how old are you, if i may ask?"

"93," said Florence. "Sometimes, it's a bit scary."

Yes, living in an aging body is scary. You're on a roller-coaster ride, and you don't know what's going to happen next.

Today is the birthday of a new year: 2016.
May we all recognize the true causes of happiness in this new year.

Maybe one of them is working until you're 93?