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 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

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.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Roots of Forcing Hyacinths

It's time to bring hyacinth bulbs up from the basement. By this time, they have a vase full of swirling white roots and an inch or two of green leaves sprouting. On a few, i can even see the buds of the hyacinth itself.

Although i collect forcing vases from thrift store, i really like carafes. They are large enough to show off the roots, which are fascinating all by themselves.

If we could see the roots of our actions, we might think twice before we speak or act. Knowing that we ourselves carry the historical trauma of our ancestors, how can we bear to send any of it downstream to the generations that succeed us?

I say "trauma" with a small "t," though many people have deep Trauma (with a capital T) from this very lifetime. I am talking about the ordinary trauma of daily lives. My mother was a child of the Great Depression and collected stuff in case the Depression returned tomorrow. By osmosis, i have "inherited" her pack rat tendencies.

The best way to clean up our act today is to commit to the 5 Precepts, which guide us to a life of integrity.

Today, i intend to
  1. do no harm to anyone,
  2. take nothing that is not freely offered,
  3. use my sexual/sensual energy wisely,
  4. speak truthfully & helpfully, and
  5. keep my mind clear.
The hyacinth roots look so white, and clean and pure.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Someone's Been Eating My Seeds

During meditation at 5:30 a.m., i hear the unpleasant sound of something chewing something underneath the sink. It's all i can do to restrain myself from jumping up off my cushion, grabbing a flashlight, and looking for the rodent. It sounds bigger than a mouse. The sounds start, stop, start again.

Last month, i complained that my pumpkins in the basement had been eaten. My sweetie set mousetraps. No luck. Now, all my seed packets have been shredded.

More mouse traps. Plus a hav-a-heart trap. And, finally, a rat trap. Still, no luck.

The imagination runs wild. (Doesn't it always?)
Aversion is rampant. (A rat? A squirrel? A hibernating chipmunk?)
All stemming from unpleasant stimuli:
a sound--unpleasant
which i then imagine to be "chewing"--unpleasant
More imagination: "bigger than a mouse"--unpleasant
Evidence: pumpkins with chewed holes--unpleasant
More evidence: seed packets chewed open--unpleasant
Stories: "How did that critter get into the house?"--unpleasant
Not knowing--unpleasant.

Someone's been eating my seeds. (Some of which were 20 years old!)
Guess i'll have to start afresh.
Open the seed catalog.
Ahhh. Pleasant.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Slightly Sweet the Farmers' Market, i bought a pound of yacón, sometimes called Peruvian ground apple. This potato-looking tuber is crisp like a jicama, but tastes ever so slightly sweet.

The mind training we cultivate in meditation is a crisp attention to the meditation object--sounds, breath, or touch (whatever interests you the most). As we relax into the object (instead of holding it tightly), we notice a slight sweetness. A tiny happiness, a little bit of joy.

Taking a crunchy bite of yacón makes me smile.

Friday, February 2, 2018


Two days ago, i was feeding carrot sticks to ostriches and camels at Philip's Animal Garden in Aruba. Today, a friend sends me a photo of a fox walking across her snowy backyard.

Change. A big change. From 80 degrees every day in Aruba to 20 degrees her at home in the North Country. It's all in constant flux.

Sometimes, i play a mental game with myself. Could i commit Aruba to memory? But which moment is Aruba? It's impossible to disentangle any one moment from the whole experience of Aruba.

My tropical vacation is gone. Gone. Memories linger, of course. My skin is tanned. Another friend tells me i look deeply rested.

Delicious change.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ohana: No One is Left Behind or Forgotten by guest blogger Cherie Attix

Today's post comes from guest blogger Cherie Attix who lives on Maui.

In the Aloha State we have a word that is dear to us. The word is "Ohana." To quote from the Lilo and Stitch movie, "Ohana means Family. Family means no one is left behind or forgotten."
lilo and stitch.jpg new.jpg
Family is an important aspect of life in Hawaii. I remember being called Aunty in a grocery store for the first time from a child I didn't know . That sealed the deal for me, Hawaii would be my forever home. I always considered this to mean that every adult near a child had an unspoken responsibility to that child, and the children always showed respect for their elders.
Being blessed with ohana who is there for each other means everything. Near or far, ohana is always with us.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Aloe for Sunburn

After a week on the beach in Aruba, i have a slight sunburn. Pinkish skin that doesn't turn tan overnight is re-exposed to more sunshine the following day. I need aloe, but i forgot to bring aloe gel from home.

Here I am on an island with an aloe factory, and it takes me a week to realize i can just break a leaf off of an aloe plant in the landscape and rub the pale green gel directly on my burned skin. Instant relief!

Aruba aloe is a bigger plant, and the leaves have more spines than our houseplant aloe, but the inner succulence is the same.

The Dharma teaches us some hard lessons. But if we continue past that spiny first noble truth that suffering exists, we come to the sweet inner truth that heals our constant, niggling dissatisfaction.

I'm applying more aloe to my sunburned skin.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Cactus Fence

Aruba has a dry climate with trade winds constantly blowing from the east. It is in fact a desert island. (Though it is definitely not deserted!) Outside of the tropical landscaping in Tourist Central, the landscape consists of 3 species of cactus and the invasive and thorny acacia shrub.

While driving around the island, we saw cactus fences, which look very good at keeping something out (wild goats or wild donkeys) or something in.

We all know prickly people whose main mode of protecting themselves is thorny comments and stinging judgments. People who bristle easily. People for whom aversion is their predominant defense against the world and their own suffering.

It took me several decades to recognize my own bristly tendencies and to commit to taking down my own inner cactus fences. A much more useful form of protection is loving-kindness, because metta deals with the fear that underlies the felt need for protection. After all, what are we protecting ourselves from? A perceived danger.

It turns out that bristling, thorns, and stings just perpetuate dissatisfaction rather than relieving it.

Let's build our open-gated fence with kindness and compassion.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Ixora is blooming right outside the front door of our Airbnb condo. Due to its evergreen leaves and constant blooms, ixora is used often and everywhere in the tropical landscape.

The one blooming outside our front door is a beautiful sunset color. The young blooms are yellow; the middle aged blooms have streaks of pinky-orange; and the old blooms become almost completely salmon-colored. Sort of like an aging sunset, which begins sunny yellow and morphs into a pink-orange sky.

We too age and our skin changes color. Our skin starts off clear and unblemished, then becomes splotchy and more colored as we age.

In our culture, our eyes prefer the "young" color and fail to see the beauty of the "old" color.

Can we look without judgment? Can we see nonjudgmentally?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Changing Our DNA

We went to a Butterfly Garden yesterday and saw 35 different species of Lepidoptera. The tour began at the pupa case where many beautiful chrysalises were hanging.

The guide told us that the DNA of a caterpillar is completely different than the DNA of a butterfly. What a brain twister! How is that even possible?

A two-week "retreat" into the solitude of a chrysalis and the creature becomes completely different.

A two-week meditation retreat of solitude can change our minds, change our mental habits in ways we never dreamed of.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Safety of Uniformity

Just outside our Airbnb condo in a gated community in Aruba, Nicola is trimming a hedge of silver-gray foliage. He shears off the straggly foliage and shapes the shrubbery into a rectangular box. This uniformity helps create the feeling of safety in our surroundings.

Our senses are constantly scanning the outer world for difference. Is that difference something that i need to pay attention to? Is that difference dangerous?

Because Nicola is a gardener, and i am a gardener, I feel safe and secure with someone who is doing an admirable job.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

AstroTurf in the Backyard

The Airbnb condo we are staying at in Aruba has a backyard covered with AstroTurf. I've never lived with AstroTurf before, but it's a great solution for this enclosed yard that's the size of a living room and in a desert climate.

Of course, AstroTurf looks fake. It looks like green carpet, which it is. And i have to say, it looks boring because it's so uniform. Yet, the green (plastic) grass feels cool and inviting.

This is just the formula for how we are seduced into things / people / situations that we think will make us happy. It (whatever "it" is) looks lovely and inviting. Not until we are walking on it or with it or through it do we realize "it" is fake--that mundane happiness doesn't last.

Yes, this mundane happiness of vacation in Aruba won't last either.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

National Rhubarb Pie Day

It's National Rhubarb Pie day. Now that sounds like a delicious holiday to me. Time to take the rhubarb out of the freezer and bake up something with rhubarb. I like Rhubarb Squares--a rhubarb filling on top of a shortbread crust. Or maybe a rhubarb crumble? Mmmmm. Sometimes, I sneak rhubarb into my sweetie's pancakes, where he barely notices it.

Rhubarb is one of those tastes that you either love or you avoid. And i might even say the taste for rhubarb is a bit like the taste for the Dharma. At first, the Dharma seems like a bitter pill to swallow. The first Noble Truth is suffering?????

But when we look closely at our lives the sweetness of this sour truth tastes true. Yes, dukkha (suffering, stress, dissatisfaction) is all around us. And once we recognize that, well, the Dharma fixes everything.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Pumpkin in the Bathtub

I'm storing my last pumpkin in my bathtub. Why? you might ask.

Three pumpkins and one butternut squash were sitting on a shelf in the basement when my sweetie noticed that someone was eating them from the backside. The seeds were neatly piled up to one side.

He set mousetraps and caught 5 mice, but the pumpkin-eating continued. He set a hav-a-heart trap with bird seed. Rat? Squirrel? Chipmunk? (Chipmunks are supposed to be sleeping this month.) No answer.

I decided to store my one remaining pumpkin in the bathtub. If the rodent went for the pumpkin, he would have a hard time escaping the bathtub.

So far, the pumpkin is safe.

What's eating you? Come on. 'Fess up. I know there's something, though you don't have to tell me.

How do you just "let go"? Start with forgiving yourself. "I forgive myself for not understanding...."

I forgive myself for not understanding just how delicious a pumpkin is to a hungry rodent.
I forgive myself for not understanding how the rodent gets into my house in the first place.
I forgive myself for not understanding....

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

No Blame

At the Martin Luther King interfaith celebration last evening, I read the following quote by Thich Nhat Hanh, whom MLK nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. 

"Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. 

"No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Applause is Short-Lived

My sweetie played a piano concert yesterday afternoon at the Brattleboro Music Center. The program was easy classical--Debussy, Ravel, Moussorgsky, and well, Rachmaninoff too. The tenor sang short songs in English by Vaughn Williams, Aaron Copland, and Randall Thompson.

When the short concert ended, while the audience was applauding, the tenor's wife and i presented the tenor and the pianist with flowers. Lucky for me, the pianist's flowers are now sitting on my kitchen table.

Flowers for the performers teaches us a great lesson about praise: It doesn't last long. Applause only lasts for a minute or so. The flowers, a bit longer.

During the performance, every musical piece was applauded, and the audience enjoyed the performers as well as the music. Then, an hour later, it was all over. This performance, which my sweetie has been rehearsing and committing to memory for the last 9 months--Done. Gone.

Praise is short-lived. Now back to our regular scheduled program of daily life.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saving Ourselves

A garden club member died suddenly last week, and the club members want to make a contribution to one of the organizations she loved--the women's shelter, the animal shelter, or her church. Each member is voting by email as to which organization our contribution should go to.

As i reflected on this woman during meditation, i realized that the women's shelter saves women from abusive marriages, the animal shelter saves animals from abusive homes, and the church saves souls. All 3 are worthy.

How do we save ourselves from suffering, perhaps deep and painful suffering? Where do we find shelter from the storm that rages in our life or that rages all around us?

Take shelter in the present moment. This very moment. Notice the body sitting, reading. Notice seeing. Notice hearing. Notice the mood, even if you can't put a word to it. Notice the breath. This moment. Now.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Every Woman Knows the Smell of Her Mother's Face Cream

Cheryl's purple birthday presents
Before my morning meditation group got started, my neighbor Connie asked about cracked fingers;, and another neighbor mentioned hangnails. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small tube of hand cream to pass around the group. The scent was Crabtree & Evelyn's Evelyn Rose, which i received last week as a birthday present.

Connie took one look at it and said she had just talked with her daughter about the nostalgia of smells. Her 35-year-old daughter remembers her grandmother (Connie's mother) every time she smells Crabtree & Evelyn's Rose Water. Connie's mother died 24 years ago.

Connie smiled as she applied the hand cream to her finger tips. We all smiled to remember Connie's mother, who spoke so forthrightly, yet kindly.

Our reading for the morning was on Right Speech. Our role model for wise speech used rose water scented face cream.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

One-Legged Dove

A one-legged dove has been visiting our bird feeder all winter long. It hops along the deck railing where we scatter sunflower seeds each morning. Every time it loses its balance (often), it flutters its wings and resettles itself.

Our equanimity can be like this--subject to the worldly winds of pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disrepute. Just when we are about to lose our balance in one direction or another, mindfulness comes to our aid and settles us into this present moment. This very moment.

Ahhh. I feel steadiness again.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Let Your Light Shine

Our hospice thrift store has a "quarter shelf"--everything (that has been in the shop for over a month) for a quarter. Last week, i found a used pillar candle, hand-painted with roses and lilacs. I tried to talk myself out of it since i'm not that fond of pillar candles, but then i talked myself into it. After all, it was only a quarter. Also, the hospice shop is one place you cannot have second thoughts--if you come back the next day to buy that thing you liked, it will be gone. Gone. And there aren't any more like it.

I like the candle. Now that i'm using it on the kitchen table on these dark evenings, i like it even more.

We each have one unique and only life. Choose the life you have. Let your light shine, even in the darkness.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Shining a Grow Light on Our Meditation.

My brother has a grow light for his indoor geranium, which is sitting near a south-facing window. The geranium has steadily flowered since fall.

What’s the light that helps us grow when days are dark? Meditation pulled me out of a black pit when I was 25. Twenty minutes of serenity meditation coupled with a contemplation on not-self. Calm and insight continue to be my favorites all these years later.

Shine a grow light on your meditation with something that makes you happy.