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.