Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ash to Ashes

Temperatures are hovering around zero degrees outdoors, but our house is toasty because of the fire in the black cast-iron woodstove. Logs from trees that used to grow outside our kitchen window are blazing inside.

Bill's favorite wood for splitting is ash because it splits clean and easily along the grain. No knotty pine knots. Also, ash burns hot.

The fire turns wood into charcoal and then into ash as carbon and carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide are released into the air.

Ash to ashes.

And we are no different.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Flocks of Snowbirds

People from the North Country who head south for the winter are called snowbirds, but the real snowbirds, juncos, are having a population explosion this year. Someone who did the local Christmas Bird Count counted thousands of juncos last week.

These beautiful slate gray birds are ground feeders, so i throw some sunflower seeds onto the deck just for the joy of seeing these sleek birds.

People-snowbirds flock to warmth, but flocks of these junco-snowbirds seem to love to hop around in the snow.

Birds of a feather flock together. Let's flock together with our spiritual friends for the warmth of friendship on these chilly days.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Joy of Holly Berries

Winterberry is a form of native holly (Ilex verticillata), but without the pointy leaves. It loves to grow in full sun in marshy areas. I don't have enough full sun for it, and my marshy area is in the shade. So i have to be content with seeing it along the way in my daily travels.

When i saw these ice-encrusted winterberries alongside the food coop parking lot, i stopped to take a few pictures. Stopping and looking is one way to savor the moment. Savoring several small moments every day rewires our neural networks.

One garden friend took on the challenge of taking one photo a day for a year. It was her way of stopping and savoring a moment--or several--every day. At the end of the year, she gave a beautiful slide show to the garden club, and her moments of joy transmitted themselves directly to the rest of us.

Stop and savor the moment. This one, for instance.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Solstice Pomegranate Seeds

Another solstice tradition, after smudging, is passing out chunks of pomegranates as we stand around the bonfire.

In Greek mythology, teenage Persephone was abducted by her uncle Pluto. (#MeToo). She has to return every year to this forced marriage because she ate some pomegranate seeds while she was in Hades.

Since we of the North Country are "married" to winter and darkness, we eat some pomegranate seeds on solstice--perhaps to remind us of the sleeping life force within us. Perhaps to remind us that we are in solidarity with Persephone and all the #MeToo women and girls.

As Og Mandino says,

I will love the light for it shows me the way, 
yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

We stood around the solstice bonfire with a crescent moon hanging low in the western sky and crystalline stars twinkling above. us.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Smudging on Solstice

After a potluck at 6:00, the winter solstice celebration moves outdoors to the solstice bonfire. The first thing i do is smudge people--i offer a purifying sage smoke bath to cleanse the old year in preparation for the new (solar) year.

Smoke doesn't sound like a purifying bath, so you might think of it like incense.

Paradoxically, smoke from the sacred herb sage cleans our energy field.

What are you leaving behind in the old year?

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Santa Frog

I thought the meditating frog beside my front door needed a seasonal Santa hat. When i walked into the hospice thrift store the next day, there was a Santa hat--and it was green! Perfect for my froggy.

I continue to be amazed how Life provides me with exactly what i need, and, in the case of the Santa hat, even better than i had imagined. Green instead of red.

Trusting that Life knows better than i do how to live it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Stress-Free Christmas Tree

My Jewish neighbors aren't in the habit of Christmas trees, so this year they are having fun with a straggly succulent houseplant.

Three summers ago, they bought a hanging basket of succulents to hang next to their front door. The first summer, it looked great. They over-wintered it indoors, and the second summer it looked pretty but leggy. Now that it's 3 years old, one gangly succulent has taken over, with 3 drooping stems.

My neighbors have decorated the plant with candles made by a friend and a starfish star at the top.

Besides being fun--and a real conversation piece for our morning meditation group--this Christmas "tree" is stress-free.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Peace

I went to the garden store looking for an extra-large wreath ring and found one--3 feet in diameter made of 1/4-inch thick metal. The cost was $15. I cut bamboo stakes to fit--one across the diameter, and 2 radii, and duct-taped them all in place. Thus, i had the form of a peace sign. I wrapped Christmas lights all around, and hung it on hemlock.

The peace sign, with which we are familiar, began as a symbol for nuclear disarmament in the 1950s. It gained momentum and broadened its meaning during the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, then lapsed into 1960s nostalgia until recently.

The peace sign carries a connotation of protest--it says "anti-war" as much as it says "peace."

The current popular word for protest is "resist."
We know that
Pain x Resistance = Suffering
so how can resistance and peace fit together?

Bernice Reagon Johnson, who participated in the civil rights marches in the 1960s, said, "Sometimes you know what you're supposed to be doing, and when you know what you're supposed to be doing, it's somebody else's job to kill you."

When you know, truly know, what you are supposed to be doing, even if it's called protesting or resistance, you simply do what you have to do. And you feel at peace.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Perfect Christmas Tree

My sweetie found the perfect Christmas tree for us--about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It's a skimpy, see-through tree, which we like because we can see through it. It's airy and spacious, but doesn't take up too much space.

Perhaps you think i'm speaking in conundrums. To someone who likes a thick tree, a see-through tree would be unpleasant; but it's pleasant to us. Our minds are so accustomed to judging good/bad, right/wrong, proper/improper, yet this Christmas tree is just as it is. No need for judging, despite the fact that the mind judges anyway.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Daffodils in Pots

Last spring, i seriously focused on dividing daffodils and other bulbs (leucojum and lycoris). I gave away dozens of pots, but after the daffodils faded in May, a couple dozen pots still remained. The strappy foliage gave away to what looks like pots of naked dirt. I have now moved those "empty" pots into the garage for the winter. I know the pots are not actually empty, because white roots are sticking out of the bottom.

When we are well rooted in our spiritual practice, we too can bloom whole-heartedly.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Snow Day Retreat

What do children call a day-long retreat from schoolwork?
Snow day!

With 8 inches of snow falling today, my sweetie and i simply stayed home, retreating from the world.

Stay-at-home life is calm and beautiful. No stress. Just time to go out and play in the snow.

And the snow is silent.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Lemon Verbena Sprouts Indoors

In October, on a whim, i potted up the 3-foot tall lemon verbena that had been growing in the herb garden all summer. Its leaves immediately died, due to transplant shock, so i pruned the stems down to 3 inches, and waited.

Now, 2 months later, the bare stalks are sprouting new growth.

Patience is a cure-all quality, good for just about every situation.

Now that my indoors herb garden is growing, i can add lemon verbena the next time i cook chicken.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Stomping on the Compost

Two of my 3 compost bins were filled to the brim, so today, just minutes before the snow began to fall, i climbed into the bins and stomped around on them, lowering each one by several inches.

My sweetie had collected a tarp full of leaves that we used to fill the bins to the brim again. A few hours later, the cap of leaves is covered with a snowy quilt.

Today, the weather changed from autumn into winter. The compost bins changed from full to mostly full and back to full. Yesterday, i changed in age--on my birthday.

It's all the same, yet it's all changing, if i just stop and notice.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tulip Bulbs in the Dark

Post-Thanksgiving, tulip bulbs are on sale, 50% off. I buy 50 bulbs, pot them up into 10 flowerpots, and next week do the same thing. My garage has 4 rows of pots sitting on the floor between the car and the truck, waiting for spring equinox when they can come out of hiding.

The tulip bulbs are buried in the darkness of the soil. December 7 is the earliest sunset of the year, at 4:16 p.m. Oh, the night seems long when darkness begins in late afternoon.

It's time for us to gestate, meditate, contemplate the dark. We can't see clearly in the dark, but we can feel. Feel the closeness, the surround, perhaps the coolness. Float in the dark of not-knowing, trusting that eventually the light returns.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

100 Hyacinth Bulbs

I ordered 100 hyacinth bulbs since i couldn't find them at my local sources. A hundred bulbs! What was i thinking?

Maybe i wasn't thinking. I was simply craving. I do have quite a collection of forcing vases. I've tucked 60 vases, with hyacinth bulbs suspended over water, into a corner of the basement.

That left 40 bulbs in the bag, so yesterday, i potted them up--8 pots with five bulbs in each one. Now those pots are living in the garage until March.

I'm hoping i have 60 friends to whom i can give the blooming hyacinths.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Preparing for the Solstice Bonfire

The fire has been laid for the winter solstice bonfire. It's a brush pile covered up with rotten pallets--the remains of several compost bins.

When the pallets are new, i stand 4 of them in a square and tie them together. Voila! Instant compost bin.

It takes almost a year to fill one up, so that by the time the compost has composted, the bin has also started to compost itself.

On December 21, the pallets will take the express train to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" when i light a glorious bonfire.

Every day, we deposit our own personal compost into the toilet. Meanwhile, the composting action of the digestive system is also composting its container, the body. Over many years, the body becomes wiggly, brittle, and broken, just like the compost bin pallets.

Let your unique light blaze forth while you still have a body to carry it around.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tiny Poinsettia

While i was shopping for gazing globes, i found the tiniest 3-inch tall poinsettia for $2.95. And it's bright pink! Just the color of my office.

I know from experience that this tiny poinsettia, as well as those gigunda poinsettias, is sitting in a one-inch tall peat pot. In other words, we are buying a big pot of dirt with roots in a corset of the peat pot. No wonder poinsettias are a bit tricky to water.

It's easy for us to feel corseted by shoulds and then guilty when we don't do whatever it is that we "should" have done. Therapists say, "Don't should all over yourself." (Say this out loud for best effect.)

Can we just relax into the is-ness of the moment? Done or not done, said or not said. Can we believe, truly believe that we did the best we could in that situation?

I'm cutting that tiny peat pot open to give the poinsettia roots more room.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Glowing Globe

The seasonal decoration for the front step is a big blue ceramic flowerpot filled with greens--yew, fir, pine, and hemlock. I cut a few branches of red-twig dogwood for color. In the past, i've crowned the greenery with a gazing globe, but they keep breaking. So i went gazing globe shopping, even though December is not the prime season to buy a gazing globe. There are about 3 left on the shelf--a high shelf with several other dusty boxes.

This time i selected one that is vintage Coke-bottle green with a few white swishes. Since it's mostly clear, i filled it with a string of fairy lights, which makes the globe glow.

When i practice gratitude, i often times feel a glowing sensation around my heart. When i feel this little flicker of positive emotion, i experiment with spreading it around my body. Sometimes it spreads; sometimes it doesn't. Once in a while i feel like i can spread it all around this globe we all live on. Glowing meditation.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Season for the Squeezin'

Citrus season is here, as fresh oranges and grapefruit come to the supermarket, and fundraisers are offering boxes of citrus. Back in the day, an orange or a tangerine in your Christmas stocking was a great treat.

I pull the juicer out of deep storage and squeeze fresh orange juice for breakfast. Or how about freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice?

Although we can buy orange juice any day of the week, and although we can buy oranges and grapefruits every week at the grocery store, those fruits have probably been in storage. The season for fresh citrus is now through about April, when the juicer returns to deep storage.

It seems odd that the cold season in the North is the harvest season for citrus in the South. The end of life is the time when we harvest a lifetime's worth of learning.

A friend in California is dying just now. Her request was to be in solitude, to not be bothered by visitors. Her close family is close by as she silently harvests the lessons of this life, as she has one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat that will carry her away.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Paperwhites Are Bloomng

The first paperwhite bulbs that i began forcing 2 weeks ago is beginning to bloom. That was fast.

We too can bloom, given the right conditions--water, sun, warmth of heart.

Listen here to a guided meditation--A Flower in Your Heart.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jade Flowers

My jade plant is blooming. Visitors are surprised to see the clusters of white star-like flowers.

"Well, that's what happens when you don't water it in September and October," i say. Also, the cool--well, okay, shivering--night temperatures of October also helped. My houseplants didn't come indoors until mid-October. I was on retreat that month, so no one was paying any attention to the jade plant, and that neglect helped it flower.

Creating the right conditions for our own flowering can take some experimenting. As it turns out, having everything is simply stressful. My month-long retreat in October--with no phone, no internet, no books, no writing, and 2 meals a day--created the conditions for calm and open awareness to arise.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Does a Bear S**t in the Woods?

Does a bear s**t in the woods? Apparently not. This morning my neighbor reports a big pile of doo-doo in her driveway.

We have all learned from our forester neighbor to pick scat apart with a stick to see what the critter was eating. At first glance, we might guess Thanksgiving dinner. (Just kidding!)

The clue you can't see is that this pile of scat is about 100 feet from the dumpster shared by 10 households. The 2 dumpster divers on our private road keep begging people to wash out their food containers, and, please, don't put food-infused paper (e.g., pizza boxes or used microwave paper towels) in the recycling dumpster, which sits right beside our trash dumpster.

A fed bear is a dead bear, because a fed bear becomes a nuisance to the neighborhood, and then....

The bear is trolling her usual food sources (including our dumpsters), just like we shoppers troll our favorite stores, the places where, in the past, we found something that we like.

Unfortunately, our mind trolls our problems, turning them over and over and over and ..... Even if they are a pile of s**t.  Er, "scat," i mean.

As one Tibetan teacher says, "Have a good time with your bad time."

Eventually, we do realize that whatever s**t we are putting up with, it's just not worth it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Lone Flower

One of my Christmas cactuses bloomed a single bloom for Thanksgiving. I placed it so that it would be the star of the show in my solarium.

It's only a single bloom on a single plant, yet with that narrowed focus i am more aware of the joy arising in me as i walk by the lone flower several times a day.

This is our challenge: to savor the beautiful in our lives, no matter how small. To savor the beautiful several times each day in order to re-wire our neural networks.

Happiness arises at the sight of a single flower.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Leaf Covered Path

I spent the weekend at Southern Dharma Retreat Center (SDRC), teaching at the Fall Clean Up Retreat. Eighteen people came from Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to rake leaves and shovel rain-washed gravel out of the ditches and back onto the narrow mountain road leading to the retreat center.

Driving to the center, I crept my car along the leaf-covered one-lane road, which looked pretty similar to the nearby woods. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish exactly where our path is. In the steep Blue Ridge Mountains, a wrong turn can head you terrifyingly downhill.

As meditators, we try to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, which at times may seem to have more folds than path. How do you respond with kindness in a difficult situation? Is your livelihood harmless? Is your (and my) retirement portfolio harmless? The path is not straight-forward, after all.

I arrived safely at SDRC. The Eightfold Path leads us to safety of a different sort--safety of heart and mind.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Coconut Chia Seed Pudding

Last year, i spent Thanksgiving on retreat in Maui. I loved meditating outdoors most of the day surrounded by bougainvillea, palm trees, and chirping birds.

The vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. For dessert, we had delicious coconut chia seed pudding. In memory of that delicious meal, i made the same pudding at home this year.

Here's the recipe:
1 can of coconut milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
a tablespoon or so of your favorite sweetener (i use maple syrup)

Refrigerate and it's ready in 20 minutes.

When i'm on retreat, i often eat three prunes every morning for regularity. A day's worth of sitting plus not drinking enough water means that my internal digestive tract often slows down and dries out. At a wilderness retreat in 2016, the cook served chia seeds with every meal--no prunes at all. To my surprise, i had lovely visits to the outhouse. Therefore, i'm a big fan of chia seeds, which are high in Omega-3s.

What goes in--so deliciously--comes out in an unrecognizable form. Smooth move.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Days of Giving Thanks

The day of giving thanks is not over, even though Thanksgiving was yesterday. Every day is a day for gratitude, and this day after Thanksgiving is a day to remember.

Gratitude is an antidote to greed. Greed often comes from a sense of not having enough, or at least not having as much as everyone else has. Gratitude assures us that what we have is enough; greed and gratitude cannot peacefully coexist.

Desire is a strong emotion. Today, Black Friday, is a great opportunity to watch desire in action. "I want...." "I want...." Simply watch desire, and, if you can remember, say a few words of gratitude and feel what happens.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Dynamite Cranberry Relish

I made a delicious cranberry relish for Thanksgiving dinner. So easy! This from a person who has avoided cranberry sauce for decades.

I chopped up (via the food processor) 1 apple, 1 clementine with peel, and 2 cups of cranberries. I added a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup, but you can use your favorite sweetener.


How many things do we feel rather lukewarm about until we actually try them?

My friends tell me they could never meditate, never be silent, never go on retreat, never have a quiet mind.

You don't know until you try it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Multi-use Herb Garden

Running over the chocolate mint.
Every November, my sweetie and i disagree about my herb garden. Since it's at the back door, he wants to back up the truck full of firewood right to the back door. "But it's a garden," i plead to no avail. In truth, it's a multi-use area. For 5 days in November, my herb garden is a driveway for our truck.

Can you see how i get myself into this feeling of ill-will?

1) i resist what is happening: a truck with firewood.
2) i believe the word "herb garden." In true truth, it's an ever-changing patch of dirt. As soon as i give it a label, i create a concept, which i can then believe. The world becomes dualistic--this? or that? If it's an herb garden, then it can't or shouldn't be a driveway. But, in fact, both are happening.

Our woodshed is filled to the brim with firewood for the winter. The chocolate mint, the onions, the thyme have survived.

The kale stays out of the way of those tires.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lovely Jasmine Tea

I'm drinking a cup of jasmine tea as i write. I love the smell of the jasmine as much as the taste of the green tea. But then i wonder why i do not like Earl Grey, which is black tea infused with bergamot (which is not bee balm but a bergamot orange).

Jasmine tea is pleasant.
Earl Grey unpleasant.

Perhaps you find Earl Grey pleasant and jasmine tea unpleasant.

No matter. We actually don't have a choice about this perception. It simply occurs. Pleasant or unpleasant. Then we have a choice whether to simply let it be--a sense perception arising and just as quickly ceasing. Or whether to believe our perception and make it into a view, an opinion.

Views. Opinions. Judgments. There be dragons. And suffering.

Much safer to simply notice pleasant and let it go.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Don't Supersize My Cyclamen

Today i bought 2 little pots of cyclamen for the holidays. Little because cyclamen doesn't last that long for me. I have tried to keep them for next winter, and succeeded, but they were really looking quite elderly by their second Christmas.

Being a bit thrifty, i opted for small as opposed to large. Truthfully, the small pot gives me as much happiness as the larger pot. I don't need to super-size my cyclamen.

A line from the metta sutta says
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

I can be content with a small cyclamen. I can be easily satisfied with this small cyclamen. And yes, call me frugal--an unpopular word. I might prefer thrifty. Not stingy. Simply opting for the simple cyclamen, the small one.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Birdhouse Gourds

I grew birdhouse gourds this past summer. In October, i put the fun, pale green gourds on my front step. In November, they are turning tan, so i'm bringing them indoors to dry out. By January, i should hear the seeds rattling around inside, and that's when i can begin creating actual birdhouses.

When our own bodies dry out and begin to rattle (creaky joints, clicking knees, cracking necks), the green and growing part of our lives has passed, but we still have a lot of "use" remaining. We have even more room in our hearts for the problems of the world, and more elasticity for the problems of those we love.

I like thinking about little birdies living in the heart of these birdhouse gourds.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Forcing Paperwhites

Yesterday, i gave a gardening talk on forcing holiday bulbs--paperwhites, amaryllis, hyacinths, and tulips. I brought bulbs and vases so people could create their own containers and take them home. Even though we are full-grown, mature adults, it's still fun to come home from class with something we've created.

I had some leftover bulbs, so i created my own containers of paperwhites this morning and set them on a cool windowsill.

I may think i am creating something, but really i am simply taking raw materials and putting them together. Bulbs, vases, marble chips--all come from the earth. The glass vase is make of the element silica; the marble chips are a form of calcium; the bulbs are a softer form of elements.

And every bit of it recycled and recycling. The bulbs will go into the compost in January, to become dirt by spring. I keep using the same marble chips year after year, but they too will erode after some centuries. And the glass vase will break when it breaks.

All so temporary. All so beautiful.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sumac Staghorns

Speaking of Rhus, today i drove by a big patch of staghorn sumac, brilliantly red in the gleaming low sun.

Coincidentally, i bought a pint of staghorn "berries" to make tea at the Farmers Market in September. Recently, i decided to add sumac to my daily green tea. Delicious, herbal, and it might even be a remedy. A few years ago, i made sumac staghorn tea because it is high in vitamin C. Now i'm trying it as an anti-itch potion.

Right now, i view sumac as healing; i used to think it was a weed tree. This type of either/or thinking blinds us to one side or the other. The answer is both/and--a place where the mind does not rest comfortably. Both? Both.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Homeopathic Remedy

After trying every anti-itch salve in the house for my poison ivy, my acupuncturist told me about the homeopathic remedy Rhus Tox. Rhus is sumac and toxicodendron is poison ivy, so i'm not sure exactly what is actually in Rhus Toxicodendron, but i can tell you this: It works. Itches went from front-row fiery to distant pings. How tiny sugar pills can do that remains a mystery to me.

Mindfulness can have that effect. We sit down with worry, anxiety, or sadness. We begin to watch our breath or sensations in the body. If we can keep our attention circling around or near our meditation object, those dark thoughts become like scattered clouds in the sky with periods of sunshine. We recall some sweetness in our lives--gratitude, love, or kindness--and taste that tiny taste.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fiery Sky

The sky is on fire this morning, perhaps warning of us of.... What? Weather, yes, but something else?

The Buddha encouraged us to meditate as if our hair is on fire. Life is short. Too short.Meditate right now, right where you are sitting. Take a 3-breath trip into mindfulness.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Poison Ivy

I have poison ivy for the first time in my life. It's lasted for 2 weeks. I got it while pulling invasive bittersweet. I thought i was doing a good deed, but the poison ivy got the better of me.

Despite being good and doing good,
karma does not have to reward us.

Often being good and doing good does lead to good karma, but you just never know.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

First Frost

We had our first frost of the season last night. November 9. It's a shock to the system. Suddenly, it's November. It's actually November.

This is a great example of how delusion works. "What? It's November???"

We've been ignoring a fact of life. In this case, we just turned over the calendar page last week. The new calendar page said "November."

But we were having fun with the seemingly never-ending autumn. Maybe we could have winter without winter?

Ignoring the facts of life makes us ignorant. Ouch!

The frost is on the punkin on my front step.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Flowering Kale

The mums on the front step are nearly dead, so i've replaced them with flowering kale, which is on sale for half price--$3.49. The kale might last for 2 weeks or 2 months; it all depends on the weather.

None of us know how much time we have left--a year or a decade or several decades. It all depends on unknown circumstances. An 80-year-old friend who has been healthy as a horse his whole life suddenly has lung cancer. Our past good fortune does not necessarily predict our future.

Today, the flowering kale is beautiful.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old Mums

My 6-week old mums in pots are looking quite bedraggled now. By being on retreat for the month of October, i missed almost their entire lifespan.

It's sort of like falling in love with a child in your life; then the next time you see them, they are middle-aged. Ahhh, they were so cute and fresh and full of life energy back then. Now, their body is showing the effects of their good or bad habits. This person who was so easy to love back then has developed habits, personality, and character since the last time you saw them, and, well....

Aging. We start aging the minute we are born. For the first couple of decade, children are very cute, perhaps adorable. The second decade--the teenage years, they spring into adult form and lose their pliability, but gain a definite personality. Etcetera.

The peculiar thing is, even though we see people aging all around us, we never think it's going to happen to us. Until it does.

My mums are old.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Sprouting Onions

My onion harvest this fall was disappointing--a lot of little onions. Now some of them are sprouting in the basement, despite my best efforts to dry them in the dark.

Despite the fact that half of the onions are rotten, i'm able to "harvest" the green sprouts and saute them with other veggies. Cooking with my own home-grown vegetables--even the unexpected ones like onion greens--gives me a thrill.

You can call this making lemonade out of lemons. Seeing the good--even in the rotten--and savoring those sauteed onion greens (which smell heavenly) rewires the brain and makes me happier.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

November Iris

Irises are blooming in my garden! It's November. It's a mystery. My theory is that our British weather has contributed to the re-bloom of the iris and several other flowers. Cool, damp, and no frost here yet.

I'd love to re-bloom in the November of my life. I wonder what that would look like.

For now, meditation every day and awareness of the interbeing of life brings me to my knees with gratitude.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Last Night of Retreat

On the last evening of our month-long silent meditation retreat, we walked into the dark dining hall to find jack-o-lanterns on every table. The staff had a lot of fun carving them and then surprising us with them.

This is a feature of generosity: It feels good to think about it and plan it and it feels good to actually give. Two good feelings for the price of only one gift.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tick Heaven

I'm going on a month-long silent retreat in tick heaven. The ticks have been asleep all summer, but now that the weather has turned cool, the ticks are out and about again until the freezing temperatures arrive in earnest (like all day long).

I am spraying my month's worth of clothes with permethrin--pants, tops, undershirts, fleece, jacket, hat, and gloves. Then I use TickShield for my arms, neck, and hair. Permethrin is made from chrysanthemums, and TickShield is made from cedar oil. Natural protection.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Air is Beautiful

"Look, up in the sky.  It's a bird.  It's a plane..."

“To even mention all the things the bird must constantly keep in mind in order to fly securely through the air would take a considerable part of the evening.....The air is beautiful every day this last week of September. 85 degrees every day; 65 degrees at night. The weather is perfect. And the air.... The air--i can't describe it. I drive on the interstate with windows rolled down, just to feel the soft air buffeting my arms. I'm not paying attention to the highway noise. The sensation of air all around me is so delightful.

Mindfulness is the interplay between what we are focusing on--air, for instance--and our peripheral awareness of everything else--the traffic, the noise, the trees, the median, the bridges.

The hawks are migrating south, as the season of beautiful air will soon come to an end.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Woods Asters

Woods Asters & Phlox
Perennial Swappers swapped perennials for the last time this season, and then came to visit my fabulous fall garden. Lots of color here. One combination, i particularly like is lavender woods asters and plain old pink phlox.

Only in the past few years have i decided to just let woods asters grow in my gardens on the edge of the woods. Before that, i weeded them out. But now i love them, especially en masse. Asters have no problem with massing. They love each other's company.

Whose company do we keep? Who do we hang out with? It's important to spend time with our meditation friends. I've had the good fortune to teach the Dharma every day for the last 4 days--Sunday, i gave a Dharma talk; Monday i taught meditation at the jail; Tuesday i taught mindfulness to hospice volunteers; and today i met with a Dharma friend for tea. The result? A low-grade pervasive joy.


Phlox, Purple Aster, & Sanguisorba

Saturday, September 23, 2017


My neighbor gave me 4 acorn squash plants at the end of May, and they have yielded a dozen children including a set of twins.

Two squash from one stem reminds me that both compassion and wisdom are needed for our meditation practice to take off. They are often called the 2 wings of awakening.
Compassion without wisdom can be mushy and saccharine. Wisdom without compassion is dry.

In our meditation practice, we want to practice self-compassion, and we also want to deepen our insights with wisdom practices. When we speak, we want to to be gentle and straight-forward. Resting in the middle of these paradoxes, we find the Middle Way.

I'll be baking some compassion-wisdom squashes later this fall.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Draininge Ditch

It's been a rainy spring and summer, and already it's a rainy fall. Rainwater has drained into my garage and puddled in the basement. My sweetie has been waiting, waiting, for the road maintenance guys to put a crown on our private dirt road, a crown on our dirt driveway, and to do something about the drainage. When he flew to Portland, Oregon to meet me after my retreat, one of the first things he talked about was his exasperation with the process. "There's a great big ditch between your gardens. I can't possibly drive the truck over it. Call them and tell them to do something about it. They took away your beautiful garden soil. Now what are they going to do?!!"

Since the father of the road guys carved my driveway out of the woods 38 years ago, and his then-teenage boys were his crew, i have the utmost confidence in their artistry with a backhoe. Bill was the one who was bothered. "You call them," i said. "I can't quite picture it being as bad as you say."

When we returned home from our vacation, we found the ditch filled with crushed rock--all the better to drain the driveway. Hooray!

Worry is believing that something bad is going to happen in the future. Curiosity waits and wonders, "I wonder what's going to happen."

This ditch full of rocks is a better solution than i could have imagined.