Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Surprise Lily

Image result for lycoris
Beautiful pink lily-like flowers are blooming in the garden. Lycoris squamigera, also known as Naked Ladies.

The strappy leaves were green in May, then slowly faded away. Two months later, a single stem of flowers rises up 3 feet with delicate pale pink blossoms, like a summer amaryllis.

Our meditation practice can look like this. We meditate and study, do our work. Only later does our practice come into full flower, surprising even us with an internal calm despite windy conditions in our lives.

Meditate now as if your life depended on it.
It does.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Rain Ruin

Rain every day. It feels like we live in the tropics--warm and wet. The sun shines, then we have a downpour. Repeat two or three times a day.

The daily rain ruins flowers fast. The geraniums on my front step bloom, then turn brown the next day. A day without rain and suddenly the petunias look very pink and perky. Then it rains, and they droop again.

When the rain of our life falls on us, we may cry, we may spend a lot of time crying, yet with the support of the Dharma, with the support of meditation, we find an inner strength. We might not bloom exactly, but we can thrive anyway.

As Shinzen Young says, meditation is not a quick and easy fix. But it's a deep fix.

Water your roots deeply with daily meditation.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Galloping Gardens

Image result for horse in flower gardenThe garden is galloping through the summer. No way can i rein it in--pull all the weeds i want to, transplant flowers, rearrange the design here and there. Nor can i harvest everything that's in the vegetable garden.

Company, day trips, swimming. Ahhh. Summer. It's all so delicious. And the garden comes in third, or sometimes last, place.

The mind is way ahead of the body. The mind wants this, wants that, wants a beautiful garden. The mind plans to do this or that.

The body says Relax. It's summer. Let's go to the lake and meditate beside still water.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Funeral Flowers

So many of my gladiolas this summer don't open. They are spotted, brown, and hole-y. They are old and withered looking as soon as they are born.

Apparently, the cause is a small (1/16 inch) insect--the Gladiolus thrips. The remedy is cold storage over the winter.

I wanted beautiful gladiolas, but what i got was dead flowers, not even suitable for their own funeral.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cosmos Heaven

I went to get my hair cut at Linda's, and was met at the front step by cosmos heaven. I love cosmos, though i don't have quite enough sun for them. They sort of lie down on the job in my garden. Yes, i could stake them up. Also, cosmos are not a good cut flower; they are really more showy in the flowerbed.

Do you hear the flow of pleasant / unpleasant? My mood changing each second with each thought.

I love cosmos. Pleasant.
I don't have enough sun. Unpleasant.
They straggle and flop. Unpleasant.
I could stake them up. Unpleasant.
Not a good cut flower. Unpleasant.
Showy in a sunny flower bed. Pleasant.
Linda's garden is beautiful. Pleasant.

Uh, uh, uh. Now let's leave this mental conversation right here. We don't want to add in the unpleasant thought / mood of envy and jealousy, wishing we had what Linda has. We don't want to water those weedy thoughts.

Let the mind be with happiness for Linda and her garden.  We want to train our mind in these kinds of beautiful and heavenly thoughts.

Maybe i'll just drop by and see her little flowerbed the next time i'm in town.

Cosmos, a painting by Mildred Wilfong (my mother)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Bee Sleeping on Sunflower

Image result for bee on sunflower
When i cut sunflowers this morning, i saw that bees had slept on the sunflowers overnight. I suppose that near dark, the bees are just having a nightcap, and then find themselves comatose on the floor of the sunflower head. I find them lethargic the next morning and shake them awake.

This is what happens when we indulge our cravings, our addictions. We lose clarity.

Clarity is one of the qualities of mindfulness. Shinzen Young defines mindfulness as concentration, clarity, and equanimity.

When we lose clarity, we lose another moment of our one wild and precious life.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Fennel Seeds

Image result for fennel
My neighbor has 7-foot tall fennel plants. When she first said "fennel," i thought she was talking Florence fennel, the bulb of which can be eaten like a vegetable--roasted or in salad. But no, she was talking about an ordinary fennel plant, a perennial (Foeniculum vulgare).

"Well, you could use the seeds," i said.

We looked at each other. She's a busy woman. I'm a busy woman. As much as we would love to pretend that we are farmers or bakers, neither one of us has that kind of time.

"I'm going to dig it out," she said.

One line of the Loving-Kindness sutta says,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.

Just imagine being "unburdened" by the duties of the garden and subsisting on very little.

My neighbor is unburdening herself of several giant fennel plants.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sulphur Cosmos

Related image
My neighbor has yellow cosmos growing in her garden.

“But Cosmos is pink or white, not yellow.” her friends tell her.

Sure enough, she has yellow cosmos. Sulphur cosmos—a beautiful, rich yellow-orange cosmos.

Sometimes, we express tough love by saying No. Our friends may judge us, “Well, that’s not loving. That’s not right. That doesn’t feel good. Love is soft pink or pure white. Love is not cautious amber yellow.” But sometimes, saying no is more loving than saying yes. Consider the families of wheedling addicts. No can be heart-breaking, but Yes winds up extending the heartbreak into months and years.

Sometimes Yes or Love looks like Sulphur cosmos

Friday, July 27, 2018

Hand Held Hummingbird Feeder

I recently found hand-held hummingbird feeders at the farm & garden store. Even though we have a regular-size hummingbird feeder, i put these dots, as they are called, beside my knee  every morning when i meditate on the deck.

This morning the hummingbird zoomed around me, fed at the regular feeder, then came for a few sips at the dot beside my knee. Then it sat on the wire around the edge of the deck and caught its breath--about 2 feet away from me.

I feel the thrill of sitting so close to this tiny bundle of life, the thrill of joy. What does joy feel like? Explore that thrill, and notice exactly where you feel it.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

No Slouching

Amaranthus lying down and gossiping with Veronica.
Due to the recent heavy rains, many flowers in the garden are lying down on the job. Two stalks of hollyhocks are lying flat on the ground while 5 sister stalks remain upright.

One line of the Loving-Kindness Sutta says,
Let them be able and upright.

We want to sit upright in our meditation--whether that's in a chair or on a cushion. No slouching.

We want to act in an upright manner in all our dealings with other people. We want to be honest and just. We want to be in accord with what is right. We aspire to be an upstanding citizen in our community--no low or crooked behavior.

Even when the storms of life conspire to beat us down, we do our best to remain upright.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Broken Sunflowers

Related imageSomeone has been rummaging around in my sunflower patch, resulting in several broken stems.The breaks in the stems seem high for deer. Do squirrels run up to the stalks and.... Do what? The flowers are just now blooming; they haven't gone to seed.

I'm cutting the broken stems and now have several lovely sunflower bouquets sitting in the kitchen.

Sometimes, even though we are growing lovely qualities of thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness, we are met with resistance, hurt, irritation, even anger.

It's hard not to "catch" the other person's frustration or blame. Our challenge is to have an appropriate response--of kindness, despite feeling at odds. Responding with kindness alongside the broken beauty that we had intended.

After the hurt, we can still gather a bouquet and offer it--to ourselves, to the other person, or any other person, in generosity.

Monday, July 23, 2018

10-Foot Tall Mullein

That tall candelabra mullein i mentioned last month is now almost 10 feet tall. It's so tall, it's peeking into our second story kitchen window. And as you notice, it's twice as tall as i am.

I did not plant the yellow mullein there. I did plant the white mulleins (only 5 feet tall) nearby.

Mullein has always liked to grow in this spot. In fact, i have a photo of my naked sweetie posing as Adam, using a soft, furry mullein leaf as his fig leaf (see photo below--on this blog) 27 years ago.

Since mullein likes to grow in this little patio garden, I like mullein to grow there. This is called "accepting the things you cannot change," which leads to serenity with the way things are.

I love mullein.

My sweetie in 1991

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Minced Garlic

Next week, garlic will be ready to harvest, and i have 35 heads of garlic from last year still in storage. What to do? Make minced garlic.

I put a quart of (peeled) garlic cloves into the food processor, added olive oil, and let it whir for 30 seconds.

So, yes, the thought of too much garlic was unpleasant.
The thought of peeling 35 heads of garlic (= 150 cloves) was unpleasant.
The thought of having minced garlic in a jar in the refrigerator throughout the winter was, however, pleasant.

Peeling garlic is one example of prioritizing intention over mood. My mood would almost never be right for peeling that much garlic. I have to galvanize my intention.

The same holds true in meditation. Just sitting down to meditation often requires privileging intention over mood. Mood might say, "Later." Intention says "Now."

This Sunday morning, while my sweetie was eating his leisurely breakfast, i gathered my intention and stood at the sink for half an hour and peeled and peeled. His company was pleasant. Listening to classical music was pleasant. And putting the final product of minced garlic into a glass quart jar was very pleasant. Mission accomplished!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Butterfly Heaven

Image result for yellow swallowtailIt's butterfly heaven out there in the flower garden. I'm not sure why this year is different, but five kinds of butterflies flit around the milkweed. The most showy is the yellow swallowtail, but other, browner butterflies are carousing among the flowers.

One of the primary qualities of heaven is joy. Another is serenity. These beautiful qualities are 2 of the seven factors of awakening.

Wake up to the beauty all around you. Wake up to joy. Wake up to serenity. And in turn, these qualities will wake you up to even deeper joy and serenity.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Goldfinch on Yellow Mullein

Image result for goldfinch on mulleinThis morning, while meditating on the deck, i opened my eyes to see a goldfinch perched on top of a 6-foot tall mullein.

When i say "mullein," you are probably thinking Isn't that a roadside weed? 

Even weeds can have beautiful cousins.  The mullein in my garden has yellow flowers that are an inch in diameter. It’s a cadelbra mullein so it doesn’t have just a single stalk of flowers but has several branching offshoots.

The advantage to our weedy thoughts is that they form the basis for our compassion. We know how it feels to lose a loved one, to be surprised by a scary disease, to rail against divorce. So when a friend or acquaintance pours out their suffering, we can sit still with them, and say “Yes.” Not yes that we agree with their stressful thoughts, but yes to the sound of suffering, yes to the feel of fury, yes to the pain of the body.

We ourselves know the stress of those weedy thoughts and can offer the comfort of our presence.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

I Trapped A Groundhog

I went to my vegetable garden yesterday to plant some beans and was startled by a brown furball rushing out of the weeds to the opposite side of the garden (more weeds).

Just last week, the gardener had put up a new fence with 1/4-inch holes, so i knew the groundhog (aka woodchuck) wasn't going through the fence. I looked at the gate, and sure enough, it had come under the gate.

Two weeks ago i bought a groundhog Havaheart trap, but couldn't figure out where to put it. I ran back to the house, got the trap and some watermelon slices out of the fridge to bait it with. I placed it inside the garden, on the ground in front of the gate. Thirty minutes later, a groundhog was inside it.

Like the groundhog, we dig our way into our confined lives and assume that's all there is. We can be fairly happy (or not) in our routine lives. There is a possibility of escape--in Zen it's called the gateless gate.

I released the groundhog 5 miles away from home in a town forest.


Friday, June 29, 2018

We Croak

Image result for wecroak
A bullfrog in my tiny fishpond croaks about once a minute in his basso profundo voice as if he is tick-tocking off time to remind me that life is passing by.

I have a WeCroak app on my smartphone. It peeps 5 times a day to remind me that i am going to die. When i look at the app, there's a new quote about death or dying or life.

The heedful do not die. 
The heedless are as if dead already.
Dhammapada 21

I am keeping my eye on the pulse of life.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's Raining. It's Pouring.

Related image
It's raining. It's pouring. It would be a good day for snoring, especially since i'm still recuperating from jet lag.

Okay. I admit it. I've already taken a 10-minute nap while i was meditating this morning. There's something so soothing about the sound of rain. Zzzzz.

Drowsiness during meditation is a hindrance. I've set our intention to be mindfully aware, but then delicious drowsiness sneaks up. Oh, i have my excuses. I woke up at 3:15 this morning. Still, i don't want to sleepwalk through life.

Wake up. Wake up to your one and only life.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Chipmunks in the Stone Wall

I have a little garden bed right in front of a stone wall. When the wall was first built a few years ago, i thought the little south-facing bed would be perfect for hot weather crops such as peppers and eggplants. It turns out the stone wall is a perfect home for chipmunks, and chipmunks eat pepper plants.

For the past three or four years, i've tried putting milk carton "collars" around the pepper plants with mixed success (read: many failures).

Oh, how many times do i fight the current of Life, trying to row in the direction I want to go.

This summer, i give up. I surrender my garden bed to the chipmunks. After all, i do enjoy watching them dash and dart here and there.

I'm planting Russian sage in this hot spot of a micro-climate. The peppers and eggplants are going somewhere else--farther away from the home of the chipmunks.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

I'm Looking Over a 4-Leaf Clover

When i was a child, every Sunday afternoon, after Sunday dinner, my grandmother and i would walk around our house looking for 4-leaf clovers. I still have the knack of finding them. Today i put a flat down on the grass and voila! A 4-leaf clover was staring up at me.

Today is Wesak, the full moon that celebrates the Buddha's awakening. It's a good time to take refuge in the Buddha, take refuge in the Dharma, and take refuge in the Sangha.

According to the Dhammapada:
One who takes refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, sees the Four Noble Truths:
  1. Suffering, 
  2. the Cause of Suffering, 
  3. the Cessation of Suffering,
  4. and the 8-fold Noble Path which leads to the Cessation of Suffering.

These are the 4 Truths that will bring us more "luck" than any 4-leaf clover.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Awareness of Forget-Me-Nots

Forget-me-nots form a sky-blue cloud floating on several of my flower beds. The dashes of color--purple money plant, the white bells of leucojum--poke out above the ground-hugging blue cloud. Naturally enough, our attention focuses on the taller red tulip or yellow daffodil or purple money plant. This is a gardener's definition of attention.

That blue haze at the base of the garden represents our peripheral awareness. While we focus on the beautiful, the different, the unique, we are also aware of bird song, cool breeze, and that blue haze of forget-me-nots.

Try this in your meditation. Spend one period of meditation simply noticing how the mind works. Hearing, seeing, feeling are all happening in the background, then the mind is drawn to something or other (probably a thought) and focuses on that.

Smile. You've just succeeded at noticing the difference between attention and awareness.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Still Eating Fiddleheads

We are still eating fiddleheads here at my house and garden. I don't believe i've ever harvested fiddleheads this late in the spring. I used to think that fiddlehead season was the first week of May, but in recent years, it has moved to the last week of April with May 1 being absolutely too late to pick them.

This past April was cold, so the spring gardens got a slow start. Then i was away for 5 days, and when i returned the fiddleheads had unfurled their fronds into their full fernness. The fiddlehead that we eat is the sprout of the ostrich ferns; most other fern fiddleheads are unsuitable for eating. The ostrich fiddleheads taste like a combination of asparagus and spinach.

But my sweetie found one fern patch in the partial shade. The other ferns there were up and about, but the fiddleheads were just poking up. One or the other of us goes to that wild patch every day to harvest fiddleheads. This assures that we continue to find more young sprouts, even in mid-May.

Even when life offers us setbacks, our life energy keeps on going. There's no need to take the setbacks personally. Simply notice that things change and keep on changing. Even the fiddlehead ferns.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Woodland and Prairie

Last weekend i went to a wedding in northern Indiana, just at the western edge of the Eastern Woodlands. The habitat of hardwood forests originally stretched for a thousand miles from the Atlantic coast all the way to the present Indiana-Illinois border. As i drove toward the Illinois border, i could see where the woodlands (which are now mostly Hoosier cornfields) gave way to the prairie. The fields had fencerows filled with redbuds, and then suddenly, there were no trees growing in the fencerows. No more beautiful redbuds, which had nearly lined the interstate for an hour.

I was also seeing what couldn't be seen--the results of 100,000 years of glaciers advancing and receding. The land changed from ever so slightly rolling to absolutely flat--bulldozed by glaciers, but also by sedimentation from a proto-Lake Michigan, which expanded a hundred miles beyond its current shore. Flat, flat, flat.

The woodlands are rich in ephemeral wildflowers--spring beauties, phlox divercata, trillium. The prairie is a rich grassland, a savannah.

What i was seeing was the result of soil and rain--a little more here, a little less there.

What conditions are you creating for yourself? This moment conditions the next moment. When we bulldoze a situation with our opinions, it flattens other people's response to us. When we grow flowers of kindness and happiness, our future moments are more likely to be flavored with kindness.

You choose.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Earthworms Hiding

Image result for earthwormI planted onion seedlings yesterday. The earthworms i saw were small and sluggish, hiding from the newly hoed furrow. So i covered them and the onion seedlings up quickly.

Sometimes we want to go back into hiding, stay in bed, avoid our meditation practice while we hole up with our smart phone.

We know what's good for us.
You know what's good for you.

Lethargy and sleepiness are a hindrance--to your meditation and to your life.

Live according to your heart, according to your highest intention.  Wake up to this present moment.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sweet Daphne

Sweet-smelling daphne mezereum is blooming. It's a small shrub with small flowers, but if you stand close to admire it, you can smell the heavenly fragrance of daphne.

I first saw daphne mezereum growing in the middle of a stone wall when i was on a day-long walkabout, prior to doing a 3-day Vision Quest one April. I was gathering found objects for my Quest, and, although i couldn't take the daphne with me, that memory has stayed with me through the decades. When my gardening friend Ruth asked me if i wanted a daphne, of course i said Yes!

Such is the generosity of Nature. Such is the generosity of friends.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

New Compost Bin At Long Last

I finally did a project yesterday, which had been waiting for 8 months. I rebuilt one of my three compost bins. Two compost bins were full of last fall's garden detritus. I use a third bin as compost for potting up plants i've divided from the garden. But that bin was completely empty. The pallets that make the bin were burned in the winter solstice bonfire.

Finally. Finally, i stopped procrastinating and went looking for pallets. This was the unpleasant task i dreaded. My usual sources of pallets had dried up, so now what?

As an introvert, i avoid making phone calls, except in those moments when i just pick up the phone and do it. I had managed to not drive the truck to town to scout out possible pallet sources; I'd rather drive my car to town.

So many avoidance strategies. Such a long line of unpleasant thoughts: need new bin; don't know where to find pallets; don't want to call and ask; don't want to take the time; don't want to stop and ask.

And then the day came. Someone told me where to find pallets. I drove there. I asked. I loaded up my truck. As simple as that.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lonesome Dove

Image result for one legged dove
Our lonesome, one-legged dove survived the winter and visits us often every day. She's not only single-legged, she's a single female--she doesn't have a mate--which is unusual for mourning doves. Perhaps she's in mourning?

If she's lonely, she seems to have adopted us. She spends long minutes, sitting on the railing of our deck, not eating sunflower seeds, just cogitating her dove-y thoughts.

Feeling alone is one of our basic human emotions. It manifests in various flavors, such as I don't belong... or I feel left out.

On the one hand, we all belong to the human race. And on the other hand, since it's all emptiness, there's nothing and no one to belong to.

So the next time you feel like a lonesome dove yourself, remember this poem by Kahlil Gibran.

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Q-tip Flowers

During these rainy, overcast days, white bloodroot flowers are staying curled up, poking up from their curled up leaves. One friend thinks they look like Q-tips.

The bloodroot flowers are protecting themselves from the elements, and, i suspect, so do many of us. Some of us (many of us?) protect ourselves from the slings and arrows of daily life with our own individual style of armor. For some, it's the quick wit; for others, zinging opinions and judgments. Still others just don't come out of their shell, and act like professional wallflowers.

Loving-kindness to the rescue! Friendliness toward ourselves provides sufficient warmth to begin to open to others. Say a few words of kindness toward yourself right now.

When the sun comes out from behind the clouds, the bloodroot flowers open.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

April Showering

Siberian Squill
It's April showering out there in the garden right now. The May flowers are arriving daily as i notice early delivery on blooming daffodils, bloodroot, and hyacinth. Spring is truly sprung.

And how do we shower ourselves with kindness and patience?

Spring starts with the little bulbs blooming--snowdrops, cobalt blue squill, dainty white and light blue striped pushkinia.

We start with little doses of wishing well for ourselves.
May i abide in the well-being of the garden.
We befriend ourselves, just like we befriend our flowers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Basket Desire

While i was at the food co-op, i bought a beautiful basket from Ghana. My rationale was that i need another harvest basket. Sometimes, my regular harvest basket is too small. Well, this basket is even smaller. Don't ask how this makes sense to me. Maybe it's just that this new basket is pretty.

Desire. I see something pleasant. Very pleasant. It sort of coincides with a previous desire for another harvest basket. This one doesn't fill the bill. I already have a too-small harvest basket for occasional use.

Desire deludes me into thinking / feeling I need that.

Here i am, trying to prune down my possessions, yet another new thing sneaks into the house under the guise of being beautiful and sort of what i was looking for (but not quite).

Desire. It feels so delicious. But then, second thoughts are so stressful.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring Revolution

A revolution has happened. A week ago today, we were home-bound by snow and sleet and freezing rain. Today, the sun is shining, and the daffodils are blooming. Birds and squirrels are chasing each other.

On Friday, my 95-year-old hospice client woke up to a day like any other. She fell twice during the morning, and by noon was living in a nursing home.

Change. Change is the only thing that is constant.

There's only this moment--this ever-changing moment.

Live it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Sowing Alyssum

Today, i strolled along my walkways and garden steps, sowing tiny
alyssum seeds as i went.

Strewing the seeds is so much easier than any of the alternatives--buying the plants or growing the teeny-tiny plants myself. These seeds will be blooming by the second week of June.

Now is the time to plant the seeds of your intentions. One meditation teacher practices the paramis every day (generosity, integrity, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, resolve, loving-kindness, and equanimity). Whew! That's quite a list.

Another teacher friend focuses on the five precepts a.k.a integrity (do no harm, take nothing that is not freely given, speak truthfully and helpfully, use sexual energy wisely, and keep the mind clear from intoxicants).

Choose your own list--which might be just one quality. Loving-kindness is always a good place to start.

Sow that beautiful quality and watch it grow in your life.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Pink Cereus

My pink cereus is blooming. The flower is very similar, though much smaller, than a night-blooming cereus. And the pink cereus flower lasts for several days instead of just a few hours.

Notice how the mind compares one cereus to another, one person to another, one situation to another. While this comparison is very handy for categorizing--families of flowers, for instance--it is not so kind when we compare our meditation practice to someone else's or compare our yoga pose to someone else's. This tendency to compare hooks up with the Negativity Bias (The mind is like Velcro for the negative, and like Teflon for the positive.), and creates an icky stew of unworthiness and self-hatred.

Focus on the positive for 30 seconds. Let your eyes rest on a blooming flower. Relax. And smile.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Walking Bear Foot

Somebody has been walking barefoot on our dirt driveway. Since snow is still clumped around the edges, it wasn't me.

A bear roams in the woods around our neighborhood. He was at the neighbors, half-a-mile away, day before yesterday, wrecking their composter.

"Why doesn't the bear eat your compost?" my neighbor asked.

"Well, it's full of leaves and garden detritus," i said. "And the kitchen scraps are all mixed in with that."

If we don't inadvertently feed the bear--our neighborhood bear or the bear-of-a-problem in our mind--it won't wreak havoc with our (empty) bird feeders, our leafy compost piles, or our calmed mind.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Summer Tires

'Tis the season to change winter tires for summer tires. I took the risk yesterday, had my tires changed, and veered home through the snow/sleet/slush. Very exciting driving.

One of my neighbors has already switched to his Crocs summer footwear despite the snow. He's already wearing his summer "tires," which makes for very exciting walking downhill on the snow-ice.

Sometimes, the seasons change faster than we do. Sometimes, the weather changes faster than we are prepared for. Sometimes we change faster than our friends do.

Change. By tomorrow, the snow will be mostly melted, and it will be time for summer footwear--again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Turkey Tracks

With 3 inches of snow-sleet-slush on the ground, i saw turkey tracks in our driveway, just inches from the garage door. Their arrow-shaped tracks seemed to be giving me directions, but, which way?

In March, i was at a 10-day retreat. The teacher offered us different instructions with every sit. "But you only need one practice," he said. "If the other practices don't work for you, do not, repeat, do not take that as a sign of your ineptitude. Do not take that as a sign of your unworthiness." In other words, you are not a turkey, no matter what your inner judge tells you.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Last Chance to Plant Poppies

Due to yesterday's wintry mix, there's one inch of snow on the ground. So-called snow. It's more like tiny round pellets of ice. But i don't have time to quibble because today, this morning is my last chance to sow poppy seeds.

Poppy seeds like it cold. I couldn't understand why my poppy seeds barely germinated until a gardening friend told me to sow poppy seeds on top of the last snow.

When is the "last snow"? Who knows?

And who knows when our own "last snow" might be. I have a new app on my phone, We Croak, which reminds 5 times a day that i am going to die. The We Croak website says, "Find happiness by contemplating your mortality."

I'm going to contemplate happiness by strapping on my yak-trax and throwing some poppy seeds around on top of the snow.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wintry Mix

Virginia Weather: 'Wintry Mix' Could Impact Thursday Morning CommuteIt's precipitating a wintry mix today--snow, sleet, freezing rain. The temperature hovers right around freezing. Here it's 31 degrees, but three miles south, it's 33 degrees. The earth has warmed just enough to melt the snowflakes, but the snow accumulates on my car. A glaze of ice covers sidewalks and steps.

We are in the transition zone between rain and ice, freezing and not freezing.

In fact, we are always in a transition zone from one thing to another. We think that people, places, and things have hard edges, but quite often, things are morphing. Like the weather today. A time when it's neither this nor that. More likely, it's this and that. Uncertainty and instability prevail. Take a close look to notice the ever-changing change.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Heather is in Bloom

I'm at a writing retreat this weekend at a New Hampshire farm B&B, facilitated by local editor Heather and writer Rebecca. Our group of 7 women writes from 9 in the morning until 9 at night. During our breaks we can wander around the gardens and through the nearby fields and forest.

Heather is blooming here in the full sun sloping field--just the right habitat for heather--the proper habitat, which i don't have at my house.

I'm also in the right habitat for writing, for following through with some writing projects, and for talking about writing with other writers.

I'm also in the right habitat for keeping my 6:00 a.m. date on Skype to meditate for an hour every morning with a Dharma friend. At that hour, the B&B is quiet, and i can find a quiet nook to sit comfortably in.

Writing, meditating, spending time outdoors--this weekend, i'm living according to my intentions, and feel deeply satisfied.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Goldfinches are Gold

Image result for goldfinchThe goldfinches just turned yellow while i wasn't looking. Last week, they were dressed in olive drab. This week, the males are decked out in their finest yellow.

Change is happening all around us. We are hard-wired to notice potential threats. Meanwhile, a raft of changes happens under the radar. Like the goldfinches turning gold.

This lovely change brings happiness in many ways.

  • the color is brilliant
  • the change means spring!
  • the goldfinches are flocking
  • the goldfinches are singing

Open your heart to unnoticed happiness.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Joy is Contagious

Last night, my church organist sweetie gave a pot of hyacinths to the pastor. Her face lit up with joy. "She looked beautiful," he said.

This beauty, this joy is the result of generosity. My husband was generous. The pastor's conveyed her gratitude with a beaming smile. She felt joy; my sweetie felt joy. And when he told me the story, i felt joy.

Joy is contagious.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Head in the Sand

After a month of retreat in the sunny South, i'm home. I've finally brought indoors pots of forced hyacinths, which are beginning to bloom.

One bulb in one pot of hyacinths had buried its head in the dirt and was growing into and under the soil. I pried its pale, pale green leaves out of the dirt this morning.

We too sometimes bury our heads in the sand. We don't want to look. We don't want to see. We don't want to acknowledge the truth of the present moment.

The Buddha recommends 5 Daily Reflections to help us work against this tendency to not want to acknowledge true life.

  • I am of the nature to grow old. Aging is unavoidable.
  • I am of the nature to become ill. Sickness is unavoidable.
  • I am of the nature to die. Death is inevitable.
  • Everything i cherish will change and vanish.
  • Karma is the only thing i own.
Some of my friends turn up their noses at these seemingly unpleasant thoughts. But i'm trying to pry my own head out of the sand to see and acknowledge the beautiful life all around me.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Ode to Joy

A symphony of goldfinches was singing from the pine tree tops this morning. A gray day of sprinkling rain, yet the finches sang joyfully, despite the outer conditions.

Where do we find our joy--despite outer conditions of aging, illness, or things not going according to plan?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hyacinth Smiles

https://www.tesselaar.net.au/uploads/images/product/medium/HYHVB01.jpgI took a hyacinth to my physical therapist yesterday, but when i walked in the door, there sat Doug with a walker in front of him. Doug, a fellow gardener, was not looking happy about the walker, so i gave him (his wife, actually) the vase with the forced hyacinth.

The physical therapist, who claims she is expert at killing plants, said she was happy to give "her" hyacinth to Doug, and Doug looked a lot happier to be talking about flowers.

Generosity begets generosity.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Worm Castings

At the Seed Celebration yesterday, i bought 3 bags of worm castings. To put it bluntly--worm poop, which looks like really rich soil. Perhaps we could call it worm cast-offs?

Many people use worm castings to fertilize their seedlings, but i'm putting mine directly into my houseplants.

The sustainability movement is built on the assumption that what goes around comes around. I call that karma.

Out in the garden, i want to use organic products because i can see it's a very short step from what goes into the ground nourishes what comes out of the ground--and goes into my mouth.

One woman's trash is another woman's treasure. Or in this case, one worm's trash is this woman's treasure.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Sunny Sunflowers

Today i went to a Seed Celebration and bought home-grown seeds. As you know, my seed inventory was recently decimated by mice, so i'm starting fresh. One vendor said she grew 20 acres of sunflowers last summer.

The sunflower lady said she and her husband just walked around in their sea of sunflowers, looking at the yellow petals against the blue, blue summer sky.

Can we show our sunny disposition? Even on a cloudy day? True happiness does not depend on outer conditions. True happiness might be as small as seeing a single sunflower.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Christmas Tree Outdoors

In January, I took the Christmas tree outdoors and ensconced it in a snowbank in the white garden at the front door. Instant landscaping! A snow-covered fir tree is so beautiful and so seasonal. It's fun to look out the window and see a fir tree suddenly there, or to drive in the driveway and notice a perfectly-shaped evergreen in the garden.

Many people would like to have instant meditation. I can't tell you how many students say, "But my mind isn't quiet."

Of course, it isn't. We meditate in order to train our minds. Our inner landscape won't instantly be quiet. A quiet-ish mind (for the mind is usually at least wisp-y) requires repetition of meditation.

Outdoor, the Christmas tree stands quietly in the snow.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The First Hyacinth Blooms

The first forced hyacinth is blooming--a deep magenta-purple one. It's a welcome sight on this snowy day with its 8 inches of fresh white powder.

Underneath the snow, bulbs are slumbering. Hyacinths, daffodils, crocus still sleep outdoors. But indoors, one hyacinth has awoken to sunlight.

Even though many people sleepwalk through life, we, as meditators, have the opportunity to wake up. Moment by moment. Wake up and savor this day, this flower, this life.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tiny Library on the Beach

Most Decembers, i send my annual book of writings to friends and family as a Christmas present. (Email me your snail mail address if you want your own copy--cheryl.wilfong@gmail.com)

My sweetie took the book on vacation to Aruba. These reflection books are perfect beach reading--a collection of essays, so you can start reading and stop anywhere.

Bill finished reading All My Relations and left it in a Tiny Library on the beach at Boca Catalina, where the snorkeling is good.

Passing the book on to all my relations whom i don't even know.