Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Not Too Much Harvest This Year

by Guest Blogger, Laura Evans

Not too much harvest to worry about this year—alas. Something—maybe moles? Or voles?—found even onions tasty, munching on them from underneath. The onion would look nice and plump with its papery gold-brown top showing above ground, waiting for its stalks to flop over, indicating readiness for pulling. Then when you'd pull it, it would seem to fly out of the ground with no effort on your part, and you realized it was a trick: no roots and no onion left at all. As for other things, some never germinated or were devoured in infancy. Some seedlings were eaten early by rabbits, which we'd never had before in our 35 years of hillside gardening.

Birds, as always, loved the red “razzles,” but many got moldy before quite ripening. Chipmunks enjoyed the cherry tomatoes. I watched a squirrel delighting in our plump blackberries. The deer greatly appreciated our kale and the tops of tomato plants. Blight and tomato hornworms also joined in the tomato decimation. Weeks of rain were part of the picture too. So, we got little or no cukes, cabbage, broccoli, or squash (summer or winter).

Then there are (were) the apples. Doug comes in the door with deep red ones from the biggest tree—all five held easily in his cupped hands. I look up from chopping store-bought veggies as he announces, “Well, here's the Jonathan crop for this year.” He sets the gnarled knobby little things on the counter. Horrified at first, I grew fond of them over a few days, finding them humorous and cute—like the shrunken little old heads of apple dolls—no drying needed.

Last year, the apples did okay, and a year or two before that, even though we don't spray them, the branches were groaning under the weight of big flawless fruit. Pears too, that year; same thing. And peaches.

This year, the small seckel pears were plentiful and coming along until, after a few days away, we came back to find them just not there. Along with the hordes of squirrels, we think a gray fox participated in the feast. We saw it soon after, apparently looking through the grass below the tree for any it might have missed. (Unlike their red fox cousins, they can climb trees.) 

I love seckel pears best of all, but the glimpses of that gray fox almost made up for the losses.

Image result for gray fox climb trees



Laura Evans is memoir writer and an early childhood educator who lives with her gardening husband in Vermont.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Negativity Bias of the Mind

Image result for velcro for the negative teflon
Pam's question about the heat, humidity, and mosquitoes of September demonstrates an interesting fact about our minds.

Our minds are like Velcro for the negative and like Teflon for the positive.

Millennia of evolution have created our brains to be on the look-out for danger, so, of course, we are alert to heat, humidity, and mosquitoes. This is called the Negativity Bias. It enabled our cave woman ancestors to survive.

For some of us, a positive outlook goes against the grain. So it takes some mind-training to accent-u-ate the positive.

Begin by noticing the little good things--people, events, situations--in your life. These are probably very ordinary. Write down 3 gratitudes. Right now.

Today the purple asters are blooming.
The chickadees eat seeds out of Bill's hand.
We are going on vacation.

Feel into each one of gratitudes. Savor it. Soak into it in the body.
Smile.

Keep it up.
In time, this positivity and happiness will become natural. But in the meantime, fake it till you make it.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Image result for always look on the bright side of life lyrics
And now for one more angle on Pam's question about heat, humidity, and mosquitoes in the September garden, along with dire thoughts of climate change.

As Monty Python sang in "The Life of Brian,"
Always look on the bright side of life.


Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best
And 

Always look on the bright side of life!
Always look on the bright side of life.

If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten!
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing,
When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps,
Just purse your lips and whistle -- that's the thing!
 
And always look on the bright side of life
Come on!
Always look on the bright side of life
 
For life is quite absurd,
And death's the final word.
You must always face the curtain with a bow!
Forget about your sin -- give the audience a grin,
Enjoy it, it's the last chance anyhow!
So always look on the bright side of death!
Just before you draw your terminal breath.
Life's a piece of shit,
When you look at it.
Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true,
You'll see it's all a show,
Keep 'em laughing as you go.
Just remember that the last laugh is on you!
 
And always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
Come on guys, cheer up
Always look on the bright side of life
Always look on the bright side of life
Worse things happen at sea you know
Always look on the bright side of life
I mean, what have you got to lose?
you know, you come from nothing
you're going back to nothing
what have you lost? Nothing!



Always look on the bright side of life.
     Songwriter: Eric Idle

Sunday, October 7, 2018

September Gardening Was Awful

Image result for mosquitoI want to return to yesterday's post and Pam Baxter's real question: What about gardening when conditions are hot, humid, and full of mosquitoes?

First of all, notice the unpleasantness. Hot--unpleasant. Humid-unpleasant. Sweltering--unpleasant. Mosquito bites--unpleasant.

The mind has a difficult time just leaving the raw data of experience alone. Unpleasant. Unpleasant.

So the mind compares this unpleasant moment to another pleasant moment, and feels dissatisfied with what this present moment is offering. Notice this comparing mind--the one that compares this very seeing-hearing-feeling vivid reality moment with some dream idea, some virtual reality. Feel the dissonance. Feel the dissatisfaction. Feel the unpleasantness of the dissatisfaction. (Oh-oh. Is there an feedback loop of unpleasantness going here?)

The mind might go so far as making up a story. After all, the mind likes stories. Sometimes the mind wants a story, so that we don't have to feel our unpleasant emotions. Stories such as "This hot humidity is the result of climate change. I know it," spark more unpleasantness. Even if that story is true (and maybe it's not quite true), what can we small gardeners do about it? We are already doing our best. We do our best, and allow Life to take care of itself.

Rest in your caring compassion for the Earth and your caring compassion for yourself. Go ahead, have a good cry about it, then drink some water, and go sit in your beautiful just-as-it-is garden.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

September is Gone

Image result for september gardenPam Baxter, who writes a gardening column for the Delaware County Times in Pennsylvania, recently read my newest book Garden Wisdom 365 Days. She wondered what i would say about the September gardens and September gardening--heat, humidity, and mosquitoes.

The first thing i would say is "Gone." (Although i know that's not a very satisfactory answer.)

Look closely. This is an important lesson that's hard to see. September is gone. Heat is gone. Humidity is gone. Mosquitoes are gone. In fact, every moment of our lives is "gone." The only moment we have is this very moment. This moment of reading. This breath. This hearing. This feeling of or in your body.

Impermanence is the name of the game of life. It's an important insight to see that everything is passing away. This is not a morbid thought. Once you realize the sweetness of the present moment, this very moment, then life becomes very precious, indeed.






Friday, October 5, 2018

Swimming Squirrels

Image result for squirrels swimming across riverA few people have reported seeing squirrels swimming across the Connecticut River--about a quarter of a mile wide--the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire.

One friend reported seeing 4 gray squirrels swimming from New Hampshire to Vermont and one red squirrel swimming from Vermont to New Hampshire. Is that a political statement?

In these days of rampant tribalism (red vs blue; mine vs yours; white vs black), it can be hard to hold on to the idea (and thereby hold your tongue) that, in reality, we are all one. This is not a cliche. Just ask your deity. I've seen it during meditation, and i cannot un-see it. Boundary-less and boundless.

We are all just waves in the ocean, or, in this case, in the river. Just waves being carried to shore, where we kiss the earth and soak into our oneness. Thus has it ever been.




Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Gaura Re-blooms

Image result for gauraIn June, i bought a gaura, also known as beeblossom. I love the gaura's little flowers on 2-foot tall stalks, which look like the flowers are dancing in mid-air.

This was the fourth or fifth gaura i had bought over the years. If i planted it directly into a flowerbed, i could already predict that that would be the last time i would see it.

So i put it in a "nursery" bed, near the back door, so i could keep an eye on it. To my surprise, it is now re-blooming. I like plants that bloom twice in one year!

When we are learning meditation, we may try it again and again, but it doesn't "take." But when we carefully attend to our meditation by taking a class, for instance, or by sitting regularly with other meditators, then our practice blooms. Or re-blooms.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Aloha Hummingbird

When we were in Hawai'i a couple of years ago, i bought a locally-made pillow that says, "Aloha served daily."

I love the idea of aloha being served daily. Aloha means much more than hello and farewell. Aloha feels friendly; aloha feels affectionate; aloha feels like welcome.

These mornings, i meditate on the deck for an hour at 6:00 a.m. Every morning i can hear a hummingbird whirring nearby. She comes to check out my pillow. It looks like flowers, but....

Welcome, dear hummingbird. And zip, away she goes. Aloha, my dear.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A Monarch in Ochre

Image result for monarch butterflyAn abundance of monarch butterflies flutter around the flower garden this late summer.

The Buddha was a monarch (the prince of a small kingdom) before he left home at age 29 and became an ascetic wearing ochre robes.

Though very few of us would choose such a lifestyle, we can simplify our lives, especially when we recognize the stresses--large and small--of our busy lives.

We too have the possibility of transforming our minds from caterpillars to butterflies, which do not even have the same DNA as their previous incarnation.

It's a mystery.




Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Turkeys in the Lawn

Image result for wild turkey and poultsI glanced out the window and saw a mother turkey and ten poults slowly pecking their way through the grass. Good, i thought, they are eating ticks.

I was happy for the turkeys and happy for myself, but a bit too gleeful about the demise of the ticks.

As we delve down in our feelings of happiness, we can contemplate whether a certain situation is good for everyone concerned. Does my child's benefit cost another child something?

My happiness for the turkeys is perhaps mostly for my own benefit: fewer ticks. This sort of happiness looks like the real thing, but it has the tinge of self-interest. We could call it the "near enemy" because of its decoy nature.

On the other hand, this is Nature: turkeys eat ticks. And equanimity is accepting life as it is. Right here, right now. Without any opinions.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Veronicastrum

Image result for veronicastrumVeronicastrum is blooming now. It's one of the late summer plants that add color and interest to the garden when most other summer flowers are fading.

Its spikes of white racemes point heavenward, but i am always fascinated by the whorl of 5 leaves around the stem.

This 5-pointed star of leaves reminds me of the 5 precepts--the guiding star of my daily thoughts, words, and deeds.

The first precept is to do no harm--to anyone or to any being.

The second precept is to refrain from taking that which is not offered. Yes, that means not stealing, but it is also a more nuanced guidance.

The third precept is to refrain from sexual and sensual misconduct. This instruction too can be deepened to refraining from flirting, and thereby acting as a trustworthy person.

The fourth precept is to speak truthfully and helpfully--gently and straightforwardly.

And finally, keeping the mind clear, which is no small task nowadays.

I take these precepts every morning to remind myself to act honorably in the world. And what do you know? When the mind isn't bothered by little, tiny misconducts, the mind settles easily into meditation and flowers.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Refuge from the Storm

I stopped at the Farmers Market in St Albans, Vermont on my way to vacation on Lake Champlain and again when i was returning from the lake. Both times i bought birdhouses. A creative woodworker named Ron puts together some really inventive birdhouses. I liked the one that looks like a tree cavity. (Notice the shelf mushroom perch.) What a lovely refuge for a bird or some other creature.

Where do you take refuge from the storms of life?

Friends are the first place i go--usually Dharma friends. I can talk through the distress of the moment. My friends encourage me to keep my mind and my intention on the high road. They discourage me from snarky remarks. Thank you, dear friends.

Another refuge is the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. The Dharma lays out an ingenious path. And the Buddha's response is, "See for yourself. Don't take my word for it." (Don't take my word for it either. :)

It's tempting to take refuge in the internet, TV, shopping, food, or your other favorite addiction. But the refuges that stand the test of time are Dharma friends, the Dharma, and, if it's not a stretch for you, the Buddha. The Buddha beckons us to see for ourselves.



Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Loose Strife

Image result for loosestrifeI did find 3 weeds to pull here at the vacation house on the lake. Down on the beach, i pulled up 3 plants of the invasive purple loosestrife.

"Oh, but it's so pretty," more than one gardener has said to me. "I'll keep an eye on it."

Keep an eye on 3 million seeds per plant?

Listen to the name again, my dear: loose - strife. Strife means conflict, discord, and opposition. Why would anyone want to let strife loose in their garden?

Oh, this loose strife has such a lovely disguise. Perhaps not unlike the opinions and judgments we let loose toward friends and family. Ouch, that hurt.

"Oh, they're just a wuss if they can't take it," we rationalize.

Once we have loosed strife into the world, we are the owners of our actions. We cannot retract our words.

Our tender hearts are kind and friendly. Pull those strife-causing opinions, and don't let them go to seed.

Remember your intentions: We want to harvest calmness and happiness.




Monday, August 20, 2018

Vacation from My Garden

I'm relaxing at the lake this week. The vacation house has a lawn, a few trees, and a view of the lake. Ahhh. So relaxing.

The flower gardens consist of 2 flower pots on the deck. That's it. There's not a single weed for me to pull. And i have to admit, it's pretty relaxing not to have to be at the mercy of pleasant and unpleasant. It's pretty relaxing to simply relax into is-ness. The lake is lapping. The breeze is blowing. That's all.

As much as i love my gardens, it is very relaxing to have a vacation from looking at them.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Not Chipmunk Food

Image result for chipmunk eating bulbI love the delicate pink Lycoris (aka Naked Ladies or Surprise Lily) because it looks like a lily (even though it isn't one) and, most importantly, the chipmunks don't eat the bulbs.

Oh, those darn (but cute) chipmunks. They love to eat lily bulbs (and tulip bulbs).

You know that definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

So i finally stopped planting lily bulbs. Instead I plant stressless Lycoris.

Image result for lycoris squam


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.

Freedom.



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.