Friday, November 23, 2018

Blood Spatter

There's blood on the railing of the deck. Right where we scatter sunflower seeds for the birds. And the squirrels.

Is it a murder mystery? Blood spatter? Or is it the estrus cycle of the female gray squirrel?

Death? Or birth? (It's seems too early and way too cold to be thinking of little squirrel kittens.)

Just in case it's death, i pause for a moment at the sacrificial altar of the railing where we feed the birds. Such easy pickings for a predator.

It's easy to imagine an owl swooping down in the cold winter night.

Death is certain. The time of death is uncertain.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Prayer

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Max Coots’ Thanksgiving Prayer

Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For children who are our second planting, and though they grow like weeds and the wind too soon blows them away, may they forgive us our cultivation and fondly remember where their roots are….
For generous friends with hearts and smiles as bright as their blossoms;
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends, who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them;
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn, and the others, plain as potatoes and as good for you;
For funny friends, who are as silly as Brussels sprouts and as amusing as Jerusalem artichokes, and serious friends, as complex as cauliflowers and as intricate as onions;
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as delightful as dill, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter;
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time, and young friends coming on as fast as radishes;
For loving friends, who wind around us like tendrils and hold us, despite our blights, wilts and witherings;
And finally, for those friends now gone, like gardens past that have been harvested, and who fed us in their times that we might have life thereafter;
For all these we give thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Undone Projects

Image result for snow before thanksgivingIt has snowed 3 times in the past week--all before Thanksgiving. I keep thinking, Oh, it will melt, but temperatures here are dropping into the teens. The ground will freeze, and that's the definite end of gardening season.

Oh, the projects left undone. Things not put away. Stalks and stems not cut down. Bulbs not planted. Sigh.

We thought we had a future, but the future turns out differently than we expected. The future was a figment of our imagination. And now we are disappointed that reality doesn't match imagination?

The future is always in the imagination. The future is only in the imagination.

We live and breathe in the present moment, and every new moment is a surprise.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Brown Waterfall

Walking across a bridge, i looked at the brown water falling over the nearby little dam. The water is brown not from dirt or erosion but from tannin. The oak leaves that fell off the trees in the recent snowstorm are loaded with tannin. Tannins are part of nature's fermentation process, resulting from decaying vegetation or peaty soils. Surface water, such as ponds and rivers, that have a lot of tannin turn the color of iced tea.

How often do i judge appearances because that person doesn't look "normal" (whatever that might be)? I have to give myself an inner pep talk. That person looks how they look. Period. They can't help how they look. If i find it unpleasant, that's my problem. P.S. Cheryl: Look at yourself and stop sticking your nose in someone else's business.

The brown waterfall is beautiful.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Deer in the Yard

It's snowing today, and a beautiful buck visited my garden.

What a collision of thoughts and feelings!

  • Bambi!
  • deer ticks
  • So beautiful.
  • Lyme disease
  • Wow! A deer!
  • Is he eating my garden?
  • Way too many deer in the neighborhood
  • It's hunting season.
  • He knows he's safe in our yard.

All these thoughts cause a variety of emotions: happiness, irritation, anger (at the ticks), fear (at Lyme disease), anxiety, desire for him to stick around, sadness when he leaves.

It's not that one thought or one feeling is right and the other(s) is wrong. The challenge is to feel them all and keep breathing.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Who is Freeloading?

My sweetie is training the chickadees to eat sunflower seeds out of his hand. This has the side effect of the chickadees eating out of my hand too. Such joy!

We give the chickadees a handout. Why is it so much easier to give them some food than it is to give to the panhandlers in town?

A friend who works with the homeless says she never gives money, but she might offer a snack of some sort. Sometimes, i buy an extra bag of chips so that i can give it to a panhandler near the grocery store. I also quiz him on whether he's had lunch at the church. Two churches in town offer lunches 5 days a week. The Overnight Shelter offers supper 7 nights a week.

Freeloaders irritate us. Freeloading goes against the grain. How do we distinguish between freeloading and genuine need?

We are confident that the chickadees are not freeloading. If we didn't have an opinion about the panhandlers, we wouldn't be stressed by thoughts such as They're freeloading. He should get a job. Get away from me!

We are the ones who are uncomfortable, yet we blame our discomfort on "them."
When we feel joy, we "blame" our joy on them--the chickadees.

Can i treat the next panhandler as a chickadee, give him a little bit to eat, and feel the joy of my generosity?

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Tetanus Shot

Image result for tetanus for gardeners
I went to the doctor for my annual physical exam and received a tetanus shot. It's a good idea for gardeners to get a tetanus booster every 10 years, since 30 percent of tetanus injuries occur in the yard and garden and another 25 percent occur somewhere else outdoors. There's enough rusty garden paraphernalia around my property, and occasional manure too, that a tetanus shot seems like a good idea to me.

Of course, some people don't believe in vaccinations or suspect them of harboring some danger. Yes, there is a minuscule risk. On the other hand, when i hear about a 3-year-old child dying of tetanus because his parents didn't believe in the vaccinations, well, i feel very sad.

How can we inoculate ourselves against the vagaries of life? Can we feel happiness despite conditions?

Contemplate this chant today:
All things are impermanent.
They arise and they pass away.
To live in harmony with this truth
brings great happiness.

How can it be that looking, deeply, at arising and passing away brings us happiness?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Few Remaining Leaves

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Leaves have mostly fallen off the trees, with a few exceptions:

  • oak leaves are still clinging to their branches, but should fall any day.
  • beech leaves stay on trees all winter until the end of April
  • buckthorn leaves are just now turning yellow.

Oh, that rascal buckthorn--an invasive shrubby tree with tasty berries. But those berries are like eating chocolate Ex-Lax. After all, buckthorn's Latin name is cathartica.

Now is an excellent time to take a walk in the woods or along the roadside and play I Spy with yourself. You can easily find those buckthorn culprits, and pull them out.

Stress is like the buckthorn--hiding in plain view, even seeming to be tasty. But beware! Those tasty pleasant people or experiences or situations can be stress in disguise. We so easily focus on the pleasant, it can be difficult to even see the unpleasant.

Every pleasant thing comes to an end--friends fade away, relationships end, homes are sold, children grow up and move away. Each beautiful thing turns into stress.

If we can recognize those culprit stresses, we can rise above the pleasant--unpleasant dichotomy, enjoying the pleasant, but not clinging to it; noticing the unpleasant and not wishing for anything different.

The buckthorn are turning yellow in the woods. Can i pull them with equanimity?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Homemade Suet for the Birds

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I fry bacon once or twice a year--maybe in deep tomato season for a BLT sandwich. What to do with all that bacon grease?

My mother used to cook with bacon grease, but that's not politically correct any more. 50% of bacon grease is the good-for-you unsaturated fat, but another 40% is the bad-for-you saturated fat.

Last summer, i poured my extra bacon grease into a half-pint plastic container filled with shelled sunflower seeds. Then i put it in the freezer, where i just re-discovered it. Time to get out the suet feeder! The chickadees and nuthatches are loving this homemade suet.

Our meditation practice is a homemade project. What's the delicious recipe that works for you?

Right now, i Skype at 6 a.m. with a woman i met at a meditation retreat last year. Then i meditate with my neighbors at 8 a.m. for 20 minutes. Right now, i'm teaching 2 or 3 meditation classes a week, and i sit at our local meditation center about once a week.

Just like the chickadees, i keep coming back to meditation.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Bread of Flowers

When i saw Le Pain des Fleurs at the food coop, well, i just had to try it. The Bread of Flowers--that sounds like the staff of life for gardeners.

I'm always looking for a non-gluten alternative because wheat makes me sleepy. If i succumb to home-baked bread or delicious pizza, 2 hours later, i just have to take a quick nap.

This is the way of craving. We grasp something (whatever it may be) out of habit or because it's pleasant. Later on, we pay the price of that desire.

I don't want to sleep through my life. I want to wake up to my life. It's the one and only life i have.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Clean Out Birdhouses Now

Image result for bluebird house
It's time to clean out your birdhouses. Yes, it's a bit counter-intuitive. You might think that birds would use nests to keep warm in the winter. No, they don't. Nests are for nesting in the spring. During the winter, birds are looking for places to roost, perhaps with others of their own kind. So clean those old nests out of the birdhouses now.

I'm always surprised to see bluebirds checking out my bluebird houses in March. Wait a minute! It's not even spring yet. I haven't done my spring cleaning and cleaned out the bluebird house. By the time i get around to it, later that day, or the next day, or the next week, Mrs. Bluebird has made her decision. She likes a nice clean house. That's the reason we want to clean out our birdhouses right now, while we are thinking about it and while we don't have much else to do in the garden.

Now is also a good time to clean out our own house. Time to let stuff go. Time to downsize. Time to give away stuff we haven't used in how many years?

Everything we cherish will change and vanish. Sometimes we make it vanish on purpose. Give away the too-small clothes. Pass some of those heirlooms on to the next generation.

Then the bluebirds of happiness will be much more likely to stick around.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Image result for yellow maple leavesSugar maples stand out now with their beautiful yellow foliage, especially this late in the season. Peak foliage, about a month ago, was rather muted. But now that there have been some frosts, the yellow maple leaves against the blue sky look spectacular.

Sometimes, it's not until the "first frost" falls on us that we take this ending of the season seriously. A friend who had a heart valve replacement earlier this year is selling her house and moving into a retirement community. She was out of commission for six months after surgery and realized that house upkeep is not how she wants to spend her remaining life energy. She is loving downsizing.

The yellow maple leaves are beautiful. And short-lived.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

High View

I was on retreat last weekend, visiting the Bhavana Society in High View, West Virginia. I love the name of the town--High View.

It reminds me to take the high road, the path with the high view.

Wise View is the first step on the 8-fold Path. Wise View is the view that leads to non-suffering. Any view, opinion, or judgment that causes stress is not Wise View.

Having a "high view" also alludes to seeing the big picture. Little details fade as you see the overall scheme of things. A big-picture view leads to equanimity.

On this post-election day, as i feel bits of sadness and fear, i search around for the stressful view, the unwise, unskillful view that gives rise to those unpleasant emotions. If i find it, i apply the acupressure of mindfulness to that very spot.

If i don't find it, i apply the temporary relief of an antidote: loving-kindness and self-compassion.

May i be free from fear.
May i be free from anxiety.
May i have ease of well-being.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pieris andromeda, also known as Japanese andromeda, is looking quite lovely right now, with a mist of next year's pale pink flower buds.

I do like a shrub that "blooms" in October and November (!!!) (even though it is not literally blooming).

Pieris has glossy, evergreen leaves and grows in partial shade. It blooms for 2 months in the early spring. All this to say that this shrub has multi-seasonal interest from October through May.

During these darkening months of fall and winter, we need some bright spots in the garden.

During dark times, we need to look on the bright side of our everyday lives. This brightness can give us the courage to do what needs to be done, when the time comes.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Columns of Water

This weekend i visited a greenhouse that has plexiglass columns of water as its inside wall. During the day, the sun heats up the greenhouse, the tile floor, and the columns of water. During the night, the tile floor and the water columns release their accumulated heat back into the room full of houseplants.

These columns of water emit a translucence of light from the adjoining room.

We practice meditation and warm our heart with loving-kindness meditation that warms the people around us.

Be a beacon of light in these cold-hearted times. Warm yourself and others with kindness. Let your heart light shine.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Half-Price Tulips

I succumbed. I bought 2 packages of tulip bulbs at the hardware store. Usually, i don't buy bulbs until they go on sale for half price after Thanksgiving. After all, the chipmunks are going to eat the bulbs, so how much do i want to pay for chipmunk food?

But the bags of bulbs at the hardware store were already half the usual price i pay for bulbs. Yes, i know. Bulbs at the hardware store are likely to be second-class, second-rate bulbs. Small bulbs, not full-size. Well, the chipmunks won't care. And i do like the colors--a blend of pink-and-white bulbs.

So i feel good; i feel happy about buying the bulbs. And i feel unhappy as i tell myself i "shouldn't" have done that. At least, not yet.

This is one daily example of the civil war of the mind. Yes-No. Good-Bad. Should-Shouldn't. Now-Later.

Then there's the second-guessing. Let it go, Cheryl. The bulbs have been paid for. You are happy about that. You are just unhappy with your mind. Going back and forth between should and shouldn't is useless. Really useless.

Plant the blooming bulbs and be done with it. Let the bulbs and yourself rest.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Glass Wall

My neighbors have a greenhouse attached to their kitchen, and it is looking spectacularly summer-ish right now. Impatiens, begonias, and verbena are still blooming. Add 2 dashes of mums--pink and yellow-- and i smile every time i look into the greenhouse.

Just outside the glass walls and glass roof, the temperatures are below freezing. The greenhouse is cool, yes, and the flowers love it.

One description of the meditative absorptions (jhanas) is that it's like sitting under a glass jar: Outer sounds are muted, and body sensations drift away to a distance, so the sense of the body becomes rather amorphous.

"Inside" the meditative absorptions feels happy and calm despite whatever may be going on outside.

The greenhouse is a protected space. So is meditation.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Day of the Dead

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Photo credit: Eneas de Troya via Flickr
It's the Day of the Dead, a Mexican celebration, which is slowly becoming more popular in the rest of North America.

So much dead vegetation surrounds us in this season. Annual flowers are brown and gone. Summer vegetables have bought the farm. Leaves have fallen, are falling from trees, which themselves look like timber skeletons reaching toward the sky. The compost pile is full of garden detritus and resting in repose.

Spend this day considering death--of the garden, of friends, of you yourself.

You might consider downloading the WeCroak app on your smart device to receive 5 daily reminders of death.

Find happiness by contemplating your mortality.