Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Still Lightning Bugs

Image result for lightning bugs female mating with male
A few lightning bugs are still lighting up the fields and forests these hot summer nights. The males fly around and look for the flightless females lying in the grass. The males drop down to mate, and then the female eats the male. Whoa! That is not a happy ending to the story. It turns out that sex (for the fireflies) is dukkha ("bummer!").

This reminds me of a chant.

Separation from the liked is dukkha.
Association with the disliked is dukkha.
Not attaining one's wishes is dukkha.

Well, we could apply all of these to our sexual relationship(s).
Separation from the beloved is (sometimes) distressing and creates a longing.
Association with the disliked (state of aloneness and yearning) creates a desire for change.
Not attaining one's wishes (i will leave the sexual details to your imagination) can create disappointment.

Those beautiful male lightning bugs light up the darkness


Photo from nytimes.com

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Bee Rolls Around in a Flower

Every morning, when i cut a bouquet of annual poppies (Papaver somniflorum), bees are rolling around inside of them. Sometimes, it's one bee; sometimes, it's six.

I use this image of a bee rolling around in a flower when i lead gratitude meditations.

Express gratitude.
Then take one of those gratitudes, and roll around it, like a bee rolls around in a flower.
Yes, the mind will wander away, but keep bringing it back to this one gratitude.

By savoring one gratitude for at least 30 seconds, we begin to rewire our neural networks. We begin to re-set our baseline emotional state to a more positive set-point. Positivity begins to become a habit of mind. We begin to feel more joyful--sometimes, for no reason at all.

I feel joyful watching the bees roll around in the poppies.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Hungarian Bread Seed Poppies

Image result for hungarian bread seed poppy

This year i have a flower bed full of Hungarian bread seed poppies. The blue-black poppy seeds are used in baking Hungarian poppy seed rolls and strudels.

The flowers are a stunning purple that i've been trying to grow for years. Year after year i buy a packet of seeds. Finally! Success! These annual poppies reseeded themselves from last year's poppies.

We try to grow wholesome qualities in our mind. Sometimes, we plant the intention--for generosity, for patience, for compassion--over and over again. And then--It blooms, perhaps unexpectedly, in some situation.

We can't really say that those previous attempts were failures. We have faith that by re-setting our intention for a skillful quality of mind, that beautiful mind state will eventually show up.

The purple poppies proliferate.


Photo credit: https://www.selectseeds.com/annuals/poppy-seeds-plants/poppy_hungarian_blue_seeds.aspx

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Thorny Raspberries

Giraffes eat thorny acacia trees. Here on this continent, deer are eating my raspberry bushes--thorns and leaves.

Giraffes have very big hearts--weighing 26 pounds. For this reason, they often symbolize of love. And deer? Well, we all read Bambi or saw the movie when we were children, so we have a soft spot in our hearts for innocent deer.

How about a big heart when it comes to dealing with the thorny issues of our lives? It's called self-compassion--being kind to ourselves when things go awry.

If the deer and the giraffe can eat thorns and digest them, then we can practice self-compassion. Right now, i'm practicing patience and compassion toward the critters who are eating my raspberry stalks.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Too Hot to Garden

Related image
With temperatures in the 90s this week, I go out to the garden as soon as i've finished my hour-long meditation from 6 to 7 a.m. I can garden for about an hour before the sun rises over the trees, and then, it's suddenly too hot to garden.

I look for shade and pull a few weeds, but i've lost my oomph.

At the end of life, the body loses its oomph, and it's too late to....  Too late to say that important something to that beloved person. Too late to do that special, unique thing you do. The body goes all out of whack--too hot, too cold, too heavy, too loose. Too late.

What's that one special thing that silently calls your name? Listen. Listen to the stillness.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Sleepy Poppies

I went out to cut annual poppies (Papaver somniflorum) at 5 a.m., and, true, to their name (somni-florum = sleep flower), they were still sleeping. Their sleepy-head buds had not yet popped open for the day. I returned at 7:30 with clippers in hand, and they were finally out of their (flower) beds.

Rumi says,

“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don't go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open
Don't go back to sleep!”

What do you think Rumi is talking about? Why is he telling us to wake up! Why is he so insistent about not going back to sleep?

The poppies like to sleep. But what about you?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

He Loves Me

Our front lawn is now a field of daisies. My sweetie has mowed them into creative shapes. This is the first year that he's allowed the wildflowers to stand. Last month, lavender fleabane bloomed in the lawn. Now the daisies. In the past, he has hated to mow the stiffer stalks of these flowers, but this year, he's enjoying them as much as i am.

When i was young, i plucked the petals off daisies. He loves me. He loves me not. Now there's a stressful thought: "He loves me not."

But i can see that my sweetie loves me whole-heartedly. I have a lawn full of daisies and thousands of daisy petals to show me.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Swamp Azalea

The swamp azalea is blooming pink now. The name of this native shrub may not sound attractive, but the blossoms smell like cinnamon. I love to stand next to it and breathe in the fragrance.

The Buddha's teachings may not sound too attractive when we first hear them. The first noble truth is suffering? Yech.

But the closer we stand to our experience, the more we see: The Buddha was right.

And once we look closely at stress and suffering, we begin to understand that our native nature is love and kindness. That each one of us has a truly beautiful mind.

What a lovely scent.




Sunday, June 30, 2019

Geranium-a-rama

Several years ago, when we were in Scotland, our B&B had a mix of lovely geraniums in mid-summer. I came home and ordered several varieties.

The blue variety reseeds itself freely, so i weed out several seedlings in the spring. The magenta variety is eye-popping. I also have white geranium and a variegated white-and-blue.

Geraniums provide a tapestry of color in these early summer days. What keeps us blooming when life heats up (or cools down)? What keeps us blooming when life dries up (or swamps us)?

Life is happening one moment at a time. Notice this simple fact.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Country Gentleman

I grew up in the cornfields of the Midwest, and my dad was a farmer. Shucking corn for dinner was a game. Would your cob be a "city slicker" with even rows of kernels? Or a "country gentleman" with uneven teeth?

Since i've only seen "city slickers" for the past few decades, i was surprised to peel off the husk last night and find a country gentleman!

We live in a privileged society where life can go very evenly for quite a while. Then we hit some uneven bumps. Wait a minute. Isn't life supposed to be smooth? No, it isn't. This unevenness is the Buddha's first ennobling truth.

Accepting life as it is, and simply saying "yes" to the pain, grief, and despair leads moment by moment to equanimity. Tranquility that we got second or third best, instead of the very best.

The country gentleman isn't pretty, but the corn is just as delicious.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Arborvitae on a Stick

Our little local garden club toured a very local garden last evening. We couldn't figure out the story of the arborvitae, which looked like pointy popsicles on a stick. Sort of fun-looking, actually.

Then the garden owner told us the secret: The deer eat the bottom branches.

Maybe we are like the arborvitae. During our young years, the world eats up our time and energy. Eventually, we can replace busy-ness with the activities and people who are important to us. Then we can fill out with wisdom and grow into our authentic selves.

Our legs may look a bit spindly as time goes on, but our hearts are fuller than ever.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dogwood Flowers

The wolf eye dogwood is blooming. I like the variegated green-and-white leaves of this dogwood, which makes it an interesting background tree in spring-summer-fall. But the lovely dogwood flowers are lost on the variegated foliage. From ten feet away, i don't even notice that there are flowers. I have to stand close to the tree to admire the flowers.

Mindfulness invites us to notice the details of our daily experience more closely. When we are mindless, our experience becomes like background wallpaper--barely noticed. With mindfulness, we stand close to our life and notice Hey! I am alive!

Hey! The dogwood is blooming!




Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Upside-Down Birds


Image result for nuthatch
The nuthatch parents are busy feeding 4 fledgling nuthatches. The whole family comes to the bird branch I have installed on my deck. My sweetie can't remember the name of this bird, so he calls it “the upside-down bird.” Even the very young birds think nothing of perching upside-down or hopping downwards on the bird branch, head-first.

Every once in a while, I put a handful of sunflower hearts (the plain seed without a shell) on the railing. The parents grab one or a beakful of the seeds to feed the nearby child who is crying hungrily.

The nuthatch teenagers are slightly larger than their parents now, with roundish bodies and Asian eyes. They shudder their wings and call plaintively to their parents, “Feed me. Feed me.” Food is inches away from them, but they do not recognize sunflower seeds as food yet. The parents patiently pick up a seed and drop it into a nearby open mouth.

I feel impatient with the young birds, but the parent nuthatches seem to know the developmental stage of their children.

Impatience is such a useless emotion. Life is unfolding as it is unfolding. I cannot hurry the process or the person (or the nuthatch) along.

Patience my dear. The nuthatches are a joy to watch.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Big Root

One of my favorite groundcovers is geranium macrorrhizum, which is just finishing blooming. The simple flowers aren't that interesting, but the leaves smell wonderfully of geranium. I could roll around in a bed of this geranium. Or just rub leaves on my wrists and throat every time i walk past it. Ahhh!

Macrorrhizum means "big root." Macro = big.
Rhizum = rhizome, which is a root that sends up shoots as it grows horizontally.

What is your big root? What roots you into this life? Place? Family? Friends? Job? Spiritual practice?

What's your big root of stress? Family? Friends? Job? Health?

Simply notice your biggest stressor. Usually it has to do with not wanting whatever Life is offering. Wanting something different that what is.

The geranium macro-rhizum grows in sun or shade, wet or dry soils. I wonder if i could just simply bloom where ever i am planted?




Saturday, June 22, 2019

Old Lilacs

The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies was, a hundred years ago, a small farmhouse on top of a small hill. The lilacs here are old. Old.

After the addition of the new library, classroom, and dorm rooms, one of the old lilacs was featured in the back yard. This year, for the first time, the foot of the very old lilac is a little flowerbed, which looks lovely.

In our old, old age, we too can look beautiful in our very own way. Not at all, like the young, beautiful, lithe lilacs.

We are old, and we are wearing purple!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dragonflies Hatching

Related image
Dragonflies are hatching this week. The larva has been living in the muck at the bottom of pond for years. Years! One day it climbs up a reed, breaks out of its exoskeleton, and waits for its new wings to dry so that it can fly. What an awakening!

Just such an awakening is possible for us on our spiritual path. Today we live in the muck of everyday life. We've been living here for years. If we will but follow the Noble 8-fold Path, we can find a whole new view of the world.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Faith in the Dharma

I'm on a study retreat for the next few days with Dharma teachers from all over the country (and also Australia).  We meditate for half-an-hour a couple of times a day and have a seminar with a Buddhist scholar for six hours each day. What a fantastic opportunity to relax in the company of good Dharma friends and focus on Faith, Science, and Awakening--the theme of our time together.

Most of us have a shaky relationship to the word "faith." One thing i like about the Dharma is that it relies on verified faith. No need to believe something that cannot be seen or experienced. All i need is the confidence to sit the next sit, read the next book, listen to the next scholar. The pay-off is wisdom and more ease in my life.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Peonies in the Right Place

Peonies are blooming!

I dug up these peonies from my boyfriend's house 40 years ago. That boyfriend is l-o-n-g gone, but the peonies still bloom.

I've moved these peonies about 5 times over the years. Here. No, there. Hmmm. Maybe over there? Last year, i moved them out to a strip bed near the vegetable garden, and this year, they are stronger than ever. I feel they are finally in the right-for-them location.

How about us? Am i in the right location for me? Are you in the right location for you?

My neighborhood has been having potlucks for the past year and talking about Aging in Place. Many of us have been in these homes we built for 40 years. Now is the time to make plans for my house to age along with me. Bedroom on the first floor. Grab bars in the bathrooms. A ramp to one entrance.

My flower gardens are the big reason i want to age in this place.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Turkey in the Straw (sort of)

We looked out the kitchen window to our wildflower lawn of fleabane and daisies. A turkey sat in the middle, alone, just resting. It pecked at various things--ticks (i hope), flower seeds, and wild strawberries.

My mind races around trying to make up stories. Was she considering our lawn for a nest? (Nope. No egg. Besides, nesting begins in early May.) Was he a young male on his own?

Our minds make up stories about all kinds of things we don't really know. We have story-telling minds. Sometimes, we tell ourselves lies, and this causes so much stress and suffering.

Can i be content with simply watching the turkey resting on the lawn and then walking away?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Heal-All

Heal-all is blooming in my yard. This common 2-4 inch tall plant looks like a weed, but i once saw it in an English garden in the Cotswolds standing about 10 inches tall and looking quite beautiful.

Heal-all is an herb that actually does heal chronic illness. The young herb is edible and can be used in soups and salads.

The Dharma is a heal-all for the mind. Once we diagnose our dis-ease: that suffering exists and that we can never be comfortable in our own skin as long as we are looking for happiness outside of ourselves. Even happiness of the moment has a shadow side, if we will but look.

The remedy for the discontent of our minds is following the Noble 8-fold path.

I walk into my pathless lawn, and there i find it: heal-all.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Blue-Eyed Grass

Image result for blue eyed grass
Blue-eyed grass is flowering. This wildflower blooms briefly and usually singly--just one stem here and there. I have not had good luck domesticating it, so i have to be content with finding it in the wild, which, fortunately, pretty much describes my yard.

Beautiful mind states may flower briefly, but how can we get them to come back? How can we get that single Aha! to stick around for a while?

Sometimes, we just have to wait for that beautiful mind state to reappear. It helps if we put ourselves in an appropriate environment--such as meditation. The beautiful mind state may have been accident, but how can we make ourselves accident-prone?

Now that i know that blue-eyed grass blooms in my backyard, i will keep an eye out for it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Wildflower Lawn

Last month, i could have eaten my lawn--it was full of blooming strawberries, violets, and sheep sorrel. This month, my lawn is a wildflower garden. Not like the ones you shake out of can. My lawn is much too common for that. Right now, it's a haze of lavender fleabane. White oxeye daisies will bloom next. Then orange and yellow hawkweed.

My sweetie, The Mower of the Lawn, has been kind enough to leave this inadvertent wildflower garden, and we walk out every evening after dinner, just to gaze at the fleabane.

Fleabane lives up to its name--banishing fleas, but, more importantly nowadays, repelling ticks.

The Dharma helps us banish those pests of mental states that bug us. We substitute the opposite qualities: forgiving ourselves for not understanding life, practicing kindness toward ourselves and others.

The fleabane makes me smile and creates happiness.




Thursday, June 6, 2019

9 Feet of Fern Root

Hay-scented ferns are so pretty, and they smell so fresh and green. They also take over and form a monoculture. I was cleaning up a woodland flowerbed, and there, of course, were hay-scented ferns. One i ripped out had 9 feet of rhizome/root growing just under the surface.

Wow! Did that feel good to deport that fern!

Sometimes, one of our bad habits can start to take up a lot of room in our lives. Social media springs to mind. Drugs. Shopping. The internet.

It's time to uproot those bad habits. Now.

When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was asked, "So what's reborn?" he replied, "Our bad habits." He should know. He was an alcoholic who died way too young. And he did like young women too.

I don't really want to live with my bad habits any longer than i have to. Now is the time to gently tug them out of the soil.

Friday, May 31, 2019

A Bear Smells My Flowers

I was muddling through meditation this morning--the mind tired but not sleepy. So i opened my eyes into Awareness and began noting out loud. "Open." "Wide open." "Free." "Seeing all." "Seeing knows seeing." "Big black splotch ambling in the woods." "Bear." Bear?

I grabbed my smartphone and clicked away. I now have 25 photos of a bear in my back yard, on my patio, and climbing the garden stairs. Looking for food, of course. Of which, there was none.

We too go sniffing around our old familiar haunts looking for the "food" that tasted so good--whether that's actual food or the food of the senses--seeing, hearing, touching, feeling, smelling, tasting.

The bear is driven by desire, and so are we.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Gardening A Mile an Hour

Image result for fitbit in garden
This month of May i've spent about 25 hours a week gardening. My fitbit tells me i walk about a mile an hour while i'm gardening. That means some days, i'm walking (i.e., gardening) 6 miles.

Some friends who visit my garden tell me, "Oh, it looks like so much work." Work-out is more like it. I've dropped out of my twice-weekly exercise class this month, where i march in place about a mile an hour with 2 pound weights in each hand. Would i rather workout indoors? Or outdoors?

You'd have to twist my arm to get me to walk 5 miles a day. But spend 5 hours in the garden and thereby walk 5 miles? No problem.

"Skillful means" is the way to accomplish your intention using a perhaps-unexpected route. I am not by nature an exerciser, but the way to get my exercise done is simply go out to the garden. That's where the exercise happens by itself--without me doing a thing.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Daffodils Are Gone

Daffodils are gone, gone, gone. Those splashes of yellow that lit up the garden have given way to whites and purply-pinks with a mist of blue forget-me-nots.

The daffodils had an exceptionally long run this spring, which was 11 degrees cooler than usual. Although many other people complained about the weather, i loved the British spring, which gave us those long-lasting British flowers.

You might say i'm seeing the silver lining of the gray, cloudy overcast. Well, yes.

Here are my choices:
1) complain about the weather
2) accept the weather as it is
3) accept the weather as it is and maybe even find a benefit to it.

Complaining about the weather leads directly to stress. And guess what! I have no control over the weather. I can't do anything about the weather. Plus that weather is gone. Gone. Gone, just like the daffodils. Do i want to feel stressed and irritated--on purpose?

Accepting the weather just as it is leads to the peace of the present moment. "It's like this." Try repeating this phrase several times today. How do you feel?

Accepting the weather as it is and finding a benefit (It's a British-type spring!) leads to peace and joy. That's the advantage of finding a silver lining to this cool and cloudy month of May.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Volunteer Parsnips

Parsnips are volunteering in my vegetable garden! Yes, those are parsnip seedlings growing in the wood chip path.

Last year, i forgot to harvest a couple of parsnips that later went to seed. Maybe i should do that more often. Every year i scatter a packet of parsnip seeds with rather sketchy results. I'm having about an equal number of seedlings just letting the parsnips sow their own seeds.

What seeds are you sowing in your life and in your mind?

I continue to practice gratitude--particularly in irritating situations. "It's a good thing that irritating thing happened because...."

Ajahn Chah tells us to prick out the thorn in our foot. Don't ignore it. I use the mind to re-train the mind, thereby sowing seeds of kindness.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Arborvitae

Today we planted an arborvitae in front of the telephone pole in order to camouflage it.

Arborvitae is Latin for tree of life. Like the Tree of Life mentioned in the Bible? The one in the Garden of Eden?

God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Good and Evil. You know what happens when a parent tells a child, "Don't do that." Some children just can't resist the temptation.

God himself turns out to be the tempter, setting up the whole dualistic good/bad, right/wrong, heaven/earth thing.

Meanwhile, the Tree of Life, the arborvitae, stands there observing the whole dualistic world play itself out and not judging anyone or anything.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Someone's Been Digging in My Compost

Someone's been digging in my compost since i was there yesterday. Looking more closely, i could see a groundhog hole on the right side of the pile.

One thing i'll say for the groundhog, she used her trowel paws to finely mix and sift the compost/soil. It's a beautiful texture.

I baited the hav-a-heart trap with banana, partially covered the trap with mulch hay, and an hour later, there was a trapped groundhog.

Gardening offers so many possibilities for complaining--groundhogs! But i'm grateful to the groundhog for really mixing up my compost pile.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Yellow Magnolia

On my way into the hospital, i stopped to look closely at a yellow magnolia. Pale yellow. Beautiful. The little tree was planted in memory of someone.

The beautiful yellow flower blooms, then fades and falls to the ground.

We ourselves bloom, fade, and fall to the ground.

Then someone plants a tree in our memory. Our memory blooms; then it too fades, until all that remains is a tree with a lovely yellow flower.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wet Watercress

Watercress growing on mossy rocks with nearby rock cress
Watercress is growing on the wet rocks leading into my fish pond. Eva gave me watercress several years ago. Hers grew in the brook near her house and was 3 feet tall. That's a lot of watercress sandwiches!

My watercress grows low in a tiny rivulet of water. My watercress is about 3 inches tall and dense with leaves. What fun to harvest perennial salad greens in my front yard.

The watercress happens to be growing right next to rock cress. One wet plant. One dry plant. The rock cress is blooming now. I try to harvest the watercress before it blooms.

We each need a different habitat. Some of us bloom early; some later. No use comparing, though that's what the mind automatically does.

The watercress doesn't compare itself to its neighbor, the rock cress.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lawn in Bloom

My lawn is in bloom. Well, since i live at the end of the road, in the woods, my so-called lawn consists of some grass with a lot of violets, wild strawberries, and dandelions. I could eat my lawn if i had to. It's a biodiverse lawn. It's a wild lawn. And, right now, it's beautiful, really beautiful.

Each of us has a different interior "lawn-scape." Tame or wild. Flowery or grassy.

Enjoying my lawn. Just as it is.




Monday, May 20, 2019

Double Trillium

Twice Ruth has given me tiny pots of double trillium. The first time, i lost them. So when she asked about them the following spring, i was ashamed to admit it to her.

Last fall, she gave me another tiny pot, and this time i made sure to plant them, although by the time spring arrived here, i had forgotten where.

Now i know. The double trillium is in bloom!

What precious thing have you lost?

The teachings of the Buddha are priceless and oh-so-precious. In fact, the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are called the Triple Gem. Yet's it's easy to live life ignoring them or not caring for them particularly.

Then something happens, and it's time to pay attention to the rare and precious gift of the Dharma.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Random Acts of Kindness

Image result for camp out on Brattleboro common
Yesterday was practicing-random-acts-of-kindness day. I led a meditation at a camp-out fundraiser for our local homeless shelter. Then i took a truckload of give-away plants to the garden club sale. Two hours later, i returned and took away everything that didn't sell (vases, plants, and other garden paraphernalia) and drove it to the swap program at the landfill. People there nearly emptied my truck!

 Random acts of kindness is an actual meditation practice taken from positive psychology. Do 4 random acts of kindness in quick succession, and feel how that makes you feel.

Well, yes. These "random" acts of kindness were partially planned by me, but once the kindness ball was rolling, it was easy to keep it rolling.

Pass it on.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

American Toads Mating

Image result for american toads mating
image copyright Michael F. Benard
More reptile and amphibian information here.
American toads, which have been singing their beautiful mating song this past week, were mating in my tiny fish pond today. The smaller male rides piggyback on the larger female, their shiny gold eyelids glittering in the sunlight.

One couple seemed content to linger in one place at the edge of the pond. I watched their nostrils--just at waterline--breathing.

The female of the other couple was in constant motion. Was she trying to get rid of the male? Or searching frantically to find a place to lay her eggs? She hopped out of the flowers and plopped into the pond. She swam to one side, then the other. She dove down to the bottom for a few seconds; she explored the waterline, underneath the overhanging rock edge. She was not content. Up. Down. Here. There.

At times, we ourselves are in constant motion, searching for something--we know not what. Comfort, perhaps. Pleasantness. Ease.

Dukkha wants something different than what we have. Contentment is a state of wishlessness--not wanting anything, other than what is. Floating in the little fishpond of life.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Phenology

Image result for black flies bites
The black flies started biting yesterday. These gnat-like insects of the North Country have a powerful bite. People have different reactions, but, in addition to the bites being itchy, my bites bleed a few drops, so i often have spots of caked blood around my hairline, ears, and neck.

Yesterday, i also harvested my first asparagus.

I love these correlations. Some others are:

  • when dandelions bloom, plant spinach, carrots, and beets
  • when lily-of-the-valley blooms, plant tomatoes
  • when lilac flowers fade, plant squash and cucumbers


When we sit in meditation, we can begin to notice the correlations in our own internal landscape. For instance, it took me years to realize that if i eat too much chocolate (more than one square), i get canker sores in my mouth four days later. If i eat wheat, i need a nap two hours later.

Thanks to mindfulness, we can begin to notice our emotional triggers. For instance, if i don't meditate, i get irritated and lose my temper that day.

Bit by bit, our emotions calm as we either avoid triggers or become extremely mindful when triggered.

I ate my first asparagus raw--right after i picked it.



Phenology is the study of plant and animal activities and when they occur each year.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Indigo Bunting

Image result for indigo bunting with goldfinches
This morning, i saw an indigo bunting on our deck. He was mixed in with the yellow goldfinches, which made a stunning combination.

I seldom see indigo buntings--maybe for just a few minutes a year--and today is the day.

Beautiful bird. Here and gone. Pleasant visual sensation. Here and gone.

This very day of my life. Here and gone.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fishpond Gunk

Usually my sweetie rakes the leaves off the bottom of our tiny fishpond--four feet wide and three feet deep. But this year, i got there before him, so i've been using a very small bamboo rake to lift decomposing gunk off the bottom. Just think of years of leaves and goldfish poop plus the stringy green algae that clings to the sides of the pond.  When i disturb it, bubbles of methane float up through the water. Oooh. It's stinky down there.

Sitting silently at the bottom of our mental basement is the accumulated gunk of decades. Little ouches and big hurts, resentments and unfairnesses, thoughtless words and behaviors that happened so long ago.

One of my recent meditation challenges was to make a list of all the people i have ever known. Oooh. I found several pieces of gunk that i had nearly forgotten.

The next step was to forgive myself and practice loving-kindness toward each one of those gunky relationships.

After i "rake" the fishpond, the water is muddy for a couple of hours. Then it clears. And it's clearer and cleaner than ever.


Sunday, May 12, 2019

6 Hours of Gardening

I spent 6 hours in the garden yesterday. It was fun. The weather was wonderful. I was chatting with a friend while i divided plants. The flowerbeds look fantastic. And my body aches. Pleasant. Pleasant. Pleasant. Pleasant. Unpleasant.

Which story shall i tell today? The 20 percent about the aging body aching? Or the 80 percent of delight?

Which story would you tell?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Violet Season

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Violets are blooming in all their many colors. Violet, of course. White, purple, white spotted with purple, white with purple centers, yellow.  And we do say, "Violets are blue" too. Their leaves are heart-shaped, but the shape of the heart varies from roundish to long.

A heart is a heart, no matter the shape or size. We practice opening our heart--no matter the size, no matter the color of skin.

Violets cheer us up, make us smile, and remind us to open our hearts.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Blue Mulch

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I went to the airport to pick up my sweetie yesterday. Driving away from the terminal, i saw a bed of daylilies with blue mulch. Blue!

The brightly colored mulches are often chopped-up rubber tires that are then dyed. The advantage of rubber mulches--on a playground or an institutional setting, such as the airport--is that the mulches are nearly permanent. They don't need to be replaced for years.

Sometimes, we "mulch" some of our own interests and intentions in order to fit in to the prevailing norms. After a while, we almost forget that we were ever interested in ___________ (fill in the blank with your own heart's desire).

Our life is unique and precious. Sometimes it's brightly colored. Maybe it's even blue!

Go ahead and live your own one wild and precious life.


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Black Mulch

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I'm visiting relatives this weekend and staying in a trendy small city. What i see in the suburban landscape here is black mulch. Black? Black mulch? I find it both attractive and repellent.

From a distance, even a short distance, i don't notice the mulch. It looks natural, like dirt--nice, rich soil. Up close, it looks a bit unusual because the fading black mulch has a slight silver sheen--like fading wood, more like old wood pallets. Up close, it looks unnatural.

At first, i thought, Of course. The urban dweller dresses in black and wants their tiny, perfect garden dressed in black too.

Fashions come and go--even fashions in mulch. A few years ago, red mulch was popular. Now black mulch is popular.

No matter the color, mulch is impermanent. It comes. (What color will they think of next?) It goes--it decomposes right into the soil.





Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dead Rhododendrons


The rhododendrons are shockingly dead this spring. The top two-thirds of nearly every shrub has brown leaves with dead, brown buds. I see that other shrubs also have dead spots. Pieris andromeda has about thirty percent dead, brown buds; the rest of the buds have matured into the typical drooping panicles of creamy white flowers. Many ornamental evergreens are between 25-80 percent dead.

What happened?

The short answer is winter burn. The longer answer includes desiccation through lack of water and wind burn.

The lower one to two feet of the large-leaf rhododendrons are still green--the parts that were covered by snow. The exposed upper parts must have received too much hot March sun and gotten sun-burned while the roots were unable to suck water out of the frozen ground. We had a long, slow mud season here in the North Country, indicating that the frost took a long time to come up out of the earth. Wind can also be a culprit, additionally drying out the leaves. We did have some tremendous wind storms in March as evidenced by the number of dead tree limbs and branches on the forest floor.

This keystone shrub of the garden landscape now needs severe pruning.

Sometimes, one of our own personal keystones needs to be pruned from our lives. I was a Master Gardener for 20 years. Then, in March, one Friday i was a Master Gardener, and on Saturday, i resigned. Just like that. I didn't see it coming. My volunteer work as a Master Gardener was suddenly done. I pruned the Master Gardener emails by unsubscribing. I pruned my volunteer work by ceasing to give garden talks. Pruned off. Just like that.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sorrel Soup

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Sorrel is ready to harvest. I do love perennial vegetables, especially something such as sorrel that surprises me. What are those big green leaves? They are ready to make into soup! Tonight!

Sorrel has a strong lemon-y taste, so this evening i'm using broth and adding some leftover chicken.

Perennial wisdom is also good, year after year. That's the kernel of truth that is true in all religions, despite seeming differences.




Saturday, April 27, 2019

Agapanthus Blooms

Last fall, my friend Barbara gave me 3 agapanthus plants. Her agapanthus is now blooming for the first time in years.

I could be envious. Hers are blooming, and mine are not. Wanh!

Or i could practice appreciative joy--the appreciation for someone else's good fortune. May her good fortune continue.

Agapanthus comes from the Greek word agape meaning unconditional love and the Greek word anthus meaning flower.

There's no better time to practice unconditional love than with a good friend whose agapanthus is finally blooming.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Buying Birdhouses

I went on a birdhouse buying binge four years ago, and hung birdhouses in the woods around my yard. Now those houses look rather dilapidated. However, my sweetie is making slumlord repairs, trying to re-attach the floor to two of the houses and close up the gap in the roof on another.

What self-respecting bird would choose that lovely birch bark house that is full of cracks? I saw a bluebird pair inspecting it in March. ("It's the wrong location!" i wanted to shout through the window.) Today a chickadee couple is considering it.

Impermanence.

  • All birdhouses are impermanent. 
  • All nests are impermanent. 
  • All fledglings are impermanent. 
  • All birds are impermanent.
  • All birdsongs are impermanent.

But in the moment, each one is beautiful.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Hoe Your Own Row


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This morning in meditation group, one friend told us about her closest friend who is stopping medications for MS in favor of an all-natural diet approach. Since one person in our group is married to a person who has MS, we began venting our opinions. We felt we could do this with our close friend and neighbor, though we do not feel free to vent our opinions to acquaintances. We have to remember to "hoe our own row." In other words, mind our own business.
When i start minding someone else's business, i take on additional stress and distress. Why on earth would i want to do that? I may think i'm doing it out of love, but is love that stressful? Really?
Chances are i'm having an opinion because i'm attached to the outcome or attached to the person.
It's so much simpler and easier to hoe my own row, and just allow you to hoe yours--even though they may look completely different.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tea Cup and Saucer

At the church bazaar last weekend, i bought a unique garden ornament--a cute teacup-and-saucer affixed to the top of a garden stake. Supposedly, the saucer is a bird bath, and the cup can hold bird seed. 

That might happen in a tame and civilized garden. Here, however, I can too easily imagine a squirrel jumping up to devour the bird seed and bringing the whole thing crashing down. I'll just let rainwater collect in the saucer and see if any birds partake of it.

How often am i seduced by a cute idea? And it's a beautiful garden ornament. Very unique. Oh, can i rationalize my purchase.

How often am i seduced into unskillful action or unwise speech? Oh, just this little bit won't hurt, i think.

It's cute. It makes sense in the moment.

Only later do i shake my head. What was i thinking?

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Robin Reflection

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This morning during meditation i heard a robin repeatedly throwing himself at the kitchen window. This happens every spring during mating season as the robin sees his reflection in the glass and tries to scare off the "other" bird.

People do this all the time, every day, but it's hidden under the psychological defense called "projection." We "see" ourselves--our actions, our behavior, our mental thoughts--in the outside world, and if we have not been acting wholesomely, we pin our own unease on the other person.

For instance, if i can't find the keys to my car, i often think Bill! and blame him for my missing keys. They are lost, and i'm sure I didn't lose them. Then i find them in my coat pocket.

One of my recent discoveries was a judgment i was laying at the feet of a couple who were pillars of the church i used to attend. What hypocrites! i used to think. I believed this thought for decades. Last week, i reexamined this thought and the situation that gave rise to it. In my mind's eye, i saw myself acting hypocritically--shaking their hands, passing the peace to them, and smiling while thinking They are such hypocrits. I was the one who was a hypocrit in that situation: I didn't want to shake their hands; I did not want to pass the peace to them; and my smile was forced. They were simply a mirror for my own internal thoughts and emotions.

Oh, it is way past time to let that old, old grudge sink into the love and peace that they were sending my way. It's time to send them some love and peace, even though they are both deceased. It's time to send that girl Cheryl some love for her innocence and her misguided projections. It's time to make amends to her.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Hanging by Her Fingernails

This morning, i looked out the kitchen window to see a big, fat gray squirrel squirming on the squirrel-proof bird feeder. Aha! i thought. I'm going to give that squirrel a good scare.

I quietly opened the door, but the squirrel didn't run away. I walked right up to the bird feeder, and still the squirrel squirmed--and cried. Then i saw that it had one finger caught in the bird feeder. Every time she moved, her finger caused her more pain.

I got a screwdriver and put on leather work gloves. I faced the squirrel who quieted down and stared at me. Was she ready to meet her Maker? Or could she feel my good intentions? I pried the feeding gate off the bird feeder. Still, the squirrel was stuck, hanging by one fingernail.

I peered more closely to see the cause of the problem. Then, suddenly, she was free, and she bounded off.

We too are caught in the pain of stress and distress. We try to think our way through our problem, get caught in the story, and only cause ourselves more distress.

Even when we have the tool for our release close at hand, our little hands are still grasping for something we desire.

Then we drop the desire and are free. Free to live our own wild and precious life.