Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's Snowing

It's snowing. I kid you not.

The first killing frost last night, and winter has begun. Whaaaa....???

Wait a minute. I still have garlic to plant, lime to spread on garden beds, kayaks to store away, and a dozen other change-of-season tasks. Suddenly, it's time to put up Christmas lights? And it's not even Halloween yet!

A friend emails me that her brother who has outlived his cancer diagnosis by 2 years now has cancer metastasized to the brain. The doctors say he has maybe a month to live.

We have a day to live. This day. Don't resist it. Go jump around in the snow now.

Birds' Nests

Now that the leaves have fallen off the trees, i am suddenly seeing birds' nests. All at once, the nests are in plain sight. That means i've been walking by them all summer and never even noticed.

This "not-noticing" is an aspect of delusion, which is one of the 3 roots of stress and suffering. Mindfulness is all about noticing--noticing the foreground and noticing the background.

When we don't notice our life, we are running on automatic pilot. We proceed based on our assumptions, which usually works out well enough for us.

But the unexpected always happens eventually, and then we are shocked by the change. Living on automatic pilot is so much more comfortable than actually noticing moment-to-moment change.

Change. The season has changed. The tree leaves have changed. The weather has changed. We are changing.

And birds are flying south.
The long strands are shreds of plastic.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Change of Life. Change of Season.

Suddenly, the trees are bare. Two days ago, the maples still wore their red and yellow leaves. Then a tremendous wind blew through, ripping everything to shreds. The bare trees look unlovely now. Change of life; change of season.

When we women go through the change of life, our beauty leaves, and people (men, in particular) no longer look at us or even see us. They look right through us.

But suddenly we can see clearly. All those decades we were at the mercy of our hormones. It turns out, that's not who we really are.

Now that the trees have lost their leaves, i can see so much farther into the woods.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Two Months Worth of Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes from One Plant
Frost is coming so i'm harvesting the very last of the cherry tomatoes--from one plant. This is the single plant that i blogged about on September 17. It turned into a jungle as it clambered down a stone wall. (Think: heat!)

What abundance! That's 2 gallons of tomatoes from one plant--in October! I smell like tomato leaves.

We are a month away from Thanksgiving, but i am feeling very grateful for this overflowing harvest.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Exercises for the Gardening Back

My precious gardening back went out last spring when i was in handstand class at the circus school. My back (my sacro-iliac joint, to be specific) had been sending me warning signals for a couple of months. It turned out my problem was too much bending forward.

The physical therapist now has me doing lots of back bends. When i go to yoga class, i don't do any of the bend-forward positions (cat-cow, downward-facing dog, happy baby, etc.) I only do back bends, like upward-facing dog, sphinx, cobra, bridge, fish, and camel.

The ache in my back is very minimal now, but the physical therapist assures me it can be totally zeroed out. At my last appointment, she asked what my pain level was, on a scale of zero to ten. "It's not really pain," i said. "It's a twinge. Maybe about point five." Then she asked me to do upward-facing dog. She asked about pain level again. "Oh, maybe point three," i said.

That's when i noticed that the exercises do make a difference. This is the effect of mindfulness--noticing even these minute changes.

I'm a very haphazard exerciser. Oh, the exercises don't make that much difference, i think to myself. But now, i see/feel that even the tiny difference from .5 to .3 is a difference.Mindfulness of this tiny improvement gives me more confidence in my exercises.

Mindfulness of the tiny improvement meditation makes in our life gives us more faith in the value of meditation.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Feather Red Mustard

A couple of years ago, i bought Feather Red Mustard, more for its decorative qualities than for culinary purposes. To my delight it has reseeded itself again and again. I had one crop last spring. Now that the weather is cool, i have another crop.

Since color in the fall garden is fading, these burgundy red leaves add a welcome dash of color to my herb garden. And the featheriness of the leaves adds interest.

Even in the autumn of our lives, when we've lost the pzazz we once had, when our looks have faded, when our bodies become feather-light and fragile, we can still  offer a dash of color to the world around us--through our good deeds and open-heartedness.

Changing Seasons, Changing Tastes

It's fascinating how my tastebuds change with the seasons. Even though i have ripe garden tomatoes sitting on the window sill, i don't get around to eating them. I'm hungry for winter squash and kale. I'm done with fresh corn, even though it's still available at the nearby farm stand.

When we are young, we think we are our hormones. Oh, how sexy we think we are. But then, the sexy season changes, and i'm not hungry for sex any more. In middle age, we are so smart and know-it-all, but then the career season changes, and we look at middle-aged people and smile. We are married, and we think we are such a strong, dynamic couple, but then one dies, and suddenly we see that what we thought was "me" was really "us."

Seasons change. Our tastes change. Our very selves change. So who are we? Really?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pumpkin Seedlings

Two pumpkins rotted before i could pick them. I was thinking, Oh, boy. Pumpkins will grow right here next year. But they are growing right now.

Pumpkin seedlings in October? This does not augur a good outcome since frost is due next week.

Our rotten old experience sometimes composts in amazing ways. Like growing something new and beautiful.

Nevertheless, nothing survives. Impermanence comes sooner or later. In this case: sooner. Much too soon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


I bought some flowering kale at the farm & garden stand. Even though i'm not a frilly type person, i love the kale's feathery foliage.

Each one cost $5, and i know their lifespan will be about 6 weeks, through the month of November. At the first snowfall, it's bye-bye kale.

At the same time, i bought a few pots of perennials for $5 each. Even though they were the same price, I consider the kale to be expensive, and the perennials to be a deal. The kale will live for 6 weeks. With luck, the perennials will live for many years.

I tend to spend my spiritual dollars for retreats in which i have to do the work. Insights of perennial wisdom come to me, drop by drop.

Other friends like to go to big name weekend workshops. The showy, big names talk; we listen and nod our heads. But what sticks? How long do we derive benefit?

Sometimes, i like to go with my friends to the big name weekends. But mostly, i prefer the solitude of a calm mind suddenly seeing a perennial truth. That's something i don't forget.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Monarch Hanging Out in the Garden

While pulling dead morning glories off the garden fence, i happened to see a monarch butterfly resting on a vine. I tiptoed away to the compost pile, laden with dead vines, but did not return to that area to do any more pulling and yanking.

When a beautiful mind state happens to arise, it's good to first of all notice it. Despite the tossing and turning of the mind, suddenly the mind is calm or peaceful or infused with love.

We sit with that beauty as long as we can pay attention.

And then it flutters away.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Flock of Ladybugs

Ladybugs are flocking in the air this warm autumn day. One alights on my body every minute or two, stays a few seconds, and then takes off again. Open the door to go outdoors and a ladybug or two fly into the house.

Ladybugs are beneficial insects because they eat aphids and scale, which seem to show up on my houseplants about mid-winter.

What if we developed our own beneficial qualities? Which ones would you choose? My top 3 are patience, kindness, and skillful speech.  Generosity, compassion, voluntary simplicity, calmness, tolerance, gratitude, joy are other possibilities.

Let's develop a beneficial quality and watch it "eat up" frustration, annoyance, bother, anticipation, or desire--whatever the "pest" in your mind might be.

Today, the air is thick with ladybugs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Wild Asters

Wild asters have sown themselves in my flowerbeds, looking like a lavender mist over the ground. The wild asters are small-flowered and rather puny, but en mass, they are beautiful. And, at this time of year, any color at all is welcome.

I could consider wild asters to be a weed. After all, they grow on the roadside, and they're not spectacular.

But at this season of life, I am simply grateful for the favors that nature bestows on me. Like a purple mist in the garden.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Broccoli in a Bag

I emailed my 10 neighbors asking if they wanted some broccoli. Two said "yes," and one came over to pick it up. I wasn't home, so they raided my refrigerator, and took a bag of broccoli home with them.

Now that's what i call making-yourself-at-home. That feels so family. So friendly.

Love that looks like broccoli.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Broccoli in Bloom

The problem with having 40 broccoli plants is that i have a lot of broccoli in bloom. It's beautiful. I harvested several of the yellow brocco-flowers for a bouquet on the kitchen table. Of course, the kitchen now smells like broccoli!

My sweetie, who loves broccoli, is sick of broccoli. He's frozen 2 dozen bags of broccoli for the winter. Too much of a good thing is. . . a bad thing. Not "bad," really. It's just another flavor of stress and suffering. (dukkha)

Broccoli-flavored stress.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Burning Bush vs. Sumac

Leaves are turning red and yellow and orange. One of the reddest reds (besides sugar maples) is the invasive shrub burning bush. I can talk myself blue in the face trying to convince people to rip out the burning bush in their yard because it's reseeding itself all over the woods.

"But i love burning bush," they say. Or, "I'll keep an eye on it." Ha!

Meanwhile, native sumac turns brilliant red, orange, yellow, and purple (!) with a tinge of green. I like the calming airiness and regularity of sumac leaves.

But sumac has a bad reputation as a weed tree. I like it because it's an intermediate tree, forming a background to a flower garden and a step up toward the tall woods trees. No matter how i sing the praises of sumac, i cannot rehabilitate its reputation among my friends.

"I want to chop it all down," they say.

The bad boy wins, and the beautiful native loses.

The bad boy can seem very glamorous, but we delude ourselves if we think we or he can get away with something.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Foggy Mornings

These autumn days dawn foggy as Mother Earth loses her heat to air. Last night i sat vigil for a 94-year-old woman who is losing her body heat. Her life energy is slowly leaking away, and she must have had plenty because she had 15 children, four of whom have died before her.

"Everything dies at last.
And too soon."

Summer dying into fall.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sharing Butternut Squash

Last night at 8:00, i went down to my neighbor who has chickens to get a couple of eggs so i could make scones this morning. In her garage sat 2 dozen butternut squashes. Wow! We are ready for winter. I have a dozen butternuts myself.

It's time to share the harvest of the garden. Or of the chickens.

So, this morning i made pumpkin scones, with cranberries, to take to my writing group.

Sharing squash. Sharing eggs. Sharing scones.
Share your life. It feels delicious.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Picking Paw-Paws

Visiting my brothers in Indiana, the 3 of us went hunting for paw-paws. In an hour, we found 5.

My brothers were generous enough to give me the 2 ripe ones. Oh, my. I haven't tasted a paw-paw in decades. Maybe this paw-paw is the last one i will ever eat in this lifetime.

I tried to savor each and every bite, each and every breath that brought that familiar smell to my nostrils.

Savoring every moment as if it's the last. Because it is.