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
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

Image result for violets
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

Image result for blue mulch

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

Related image
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

Image result for sorrel
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


Image result for hoe row
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

Related image
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.


Thursday, April 11, 2019

Firth of Forth

Related image
I suppose it had to happen while we are in Scotland. We spent the night at a lodge on a golf course--not my usual milieu, but Scotland is the home of golf, so when in Scotland....

The stunning view looks across the golf course and across to the Firth of Forth to the Fife peninsula beyond. Translated into American English, "Firth of Forth" means the inlet where the Forth River flows into the North Sea. I can see cargo ships in the distance cruising in and out of Edinburgh.

I've been asking the lodge staff about other Scottish-English words i'm not familiar with. We are staying at the Craigielaw Lodge. What does "law" mean in this context? One archaic meaning of "law" is "low," which makes sense as the low land of the Craigielaw Estate.

We hear many words in Scottish English that i've never heard in American English. What???

When we start meditating, we become more familiar with words we may have had only passing acquaintance with. "Equanimity" is one. Several people have asked me what that means, as if they've never heard the word before. Once we experience equanimity in meditation, we have a visceral sense of what the word means. Calm, yes. Tranquil, yes. Balanced, yes. But there's an emotion that cannot be put into words. We say "equanimity," and know, really know what we are talking about.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Beech Hedge

Here in England and Scotland, we often see beech hedges--an inventive way to make use of those copper-y beech leaves that don't fall off until the very end of April. A beech hedge can be one "wall" of a garden "room."

The idea of a beech hedge is particularly attractive to me since i live in the woods, which is full of beech saplings. I recently heard the state archaeologist give a talk, and he said that 6,000 years ago, just after the Ice Age, beech made up 36 percent of the forest in Vermont. My guess is that it still does.

My neighbor, who lived in England 40 years ago, is trying to create a beech hedge to keep the deer out.

How do you create a protective hedge so that the positive qualities you wish to grow will actually grow? For instance, it's difficult to listen to the news and cultivate happiness at the same time. The news gives us many opportunities to practice compassion, but i often get stuck in ain't-it-awful or some other form of aversion. Aversion is a mental weed that i do not want to propagate.

My "hedge" means i don't read or listen to the news very much--maybe 5 minutes a day reading the headlines in our town newspaper. It's amazing how much i absorb through osmosis.

Here in the U.K., the news has been interminably of Brexit for the past two years. People are good and tired of that "news," which could just as well be called "olds."

It's time to build a hedge around your precious time, your precious life.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Giant Hellebores

At the Lindisfarne Gospel Garden on Holy Island, way up in the northeast corner of England, the hellebores were gigantic.

So this is what hellebores can look like when they are in a perfect climate--cool and damp and just barely freezing in winter.

Our meditation practice can bloom profusely when we get serious about our personal meditation climate. Yes, "cool and damp" may sound unattractive to our friends, but we know that cooling down the demands of the world and damping down our social media time can be its own reward.

In fact, there's a new acronym now: JOMO--the Joy Of Missing Out. Missing out on the ups and downs of the lives of our acquaintances; missing out on the daily news; missing out on social media--all this missing out gives us time and space and heart to practice joy.

And feel the wonder of giant hellebores.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Poison as a Remedy

Image result for aconitum napellus
Monkshood -- Aconitum
Since i was coming down with a cold, which several other people in our tour group had already had, the tour leader gave me a homeopathic remedy--Hyland's Cold Tablets with Zinc. I dissolved 2 little tablets under my tongue. First, they dried out my mouth, then they dried out the drip, drip, drip.

I was surprised to read on the label Aconitum and Gelsemium--both of which are poisonous. Aconitum is monkshood, and Gelsemium comes from the Italian word for jasmine, also called jessamine in the southern states.

It's surprising that small doses of poison actually act as a remedy. Radiation and chemotherapy spring to mind as modern-day examples of poisons used to heal people.

In our daily lives, too much stress may finally lead us to the decision to simplify our lives. We eventually decide we would rather be happy than stressed; we prefer a peaceful mind to a stressful mind.



Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Pollinating

Walking through a London park, i saw dandelions hiding among perennial sage. The cheery yellow flowers made me smile, and when i looked more closely the little bee made me smile even more.

What is it that you want to pollinate in your life? Cheerfulness? Or stinging comments? What do you want more of in your life?

I keep angling toward happiness. My particular flavor tends to feel more like cheerfulness. How does happiness feel to you?

Friday, March 29, 2019

Bug Hotel

While cutting across Russell Square in London, i stopped to have a look at the bug hotel.

Russell Square is surrounded by hotels for people, so it seems appropriate that bugs should have their own "hotel" in an effort to promote biodiversity.

Bees might make their home inside hollow reeds. Dead leaves and bark provide homes for other insects. My insect "hotel" at home is a dead tree. One dead tree can host 52 different creatures, so we keep several dead trees standing in the woods near our house.

Our own dead bodies can host several creatures. One friend who died last fall had a green burial for this very reason. Her shrouded body was not embalmed and was placed in a cardboard coffin that was decorated by her family and friends. The coffin was then placed in a shallow grave also with several worms.

Our compost piles are excellent bug hotels. Kitchen scraps rot and become dirt, thanks to bugs and bacteria.

Life springs forth out of dead stuff.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Coltsfoot--Early, Early Sign of Spring

Image result for coltsfootColtsfoot is blooming in damp sunny places--one of the first flowers of spring. So named because the leaf supposedly is the shape (or size?) of a colt's foot.

Many people assume the bright yellow flowers on the side of the road are dandelions, but hold your horses. Yellow, yes. Dandelion, no.

We are often confused by look-alike emotions. One of my favorite targets is niceness. Niceness is not the same as goodness. Goodness comes from the heart. Niceness comes from wanting other people's approval.

Of course, we need other people's approval. We want to belong. We try to be nice to them.

Goodness doesn't really care if the other person likes us or not. We act wholesomely for our own benefit. We practice goodness simply because it feels good.

Coltsfoot is blooming in the ditch alongside the well-traveled road. Sometimes, we need to practice goodness even in the ditch of life.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Espalier

Driving on the backroads of Wales, i passed this magnolia tree, espaliered on the front of the house. Normally, a magnolia tree is 15 feet wide, but this espaliered tree has been trained to grow flat against the house, thereby taking up very little space in the already small front yard.

Some of us learn early on to take up very little space in order to be accepted. Women often allow men to do the talking, for instance, thereby confining the female voice to a very narrow role. Reticent people also take up very little space. And i'm sure we all know people who take up more than their share of space--physical space or conversational space.

Those of us who have been trained to take little space or who learned to "give way" to others may have to learn--uncomfortably--to express ourselves in public.

When my father died, 22 years ago, i felt like a big oak in the forest had fallen. Suddenly, there was space for me to breath and grow up toward the light. I had no idea how constrained i had felt previously--living my "supposed to" life.

What is one thing that makes you feel authentic?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Primroses and Gravestones

We walked past a church graveyard that was carpeted in primroses. Old tombstones stood all around the edge of this small graveyard in the center of Caerleon, Wales.

The beauty of spring takes our eye off the old, indecipherable gravestones, which are now moved out of the way to make way for younger, more modern graves.

Spring is springing--fed by the graves below.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Visiting Roman Ruins

For years, my sweetie has wanted to take a tour of spring in The South. I drag my heels on this idea because April is my get-started-gardening month, and i don't want to miss a single rainy day of it.

This year, we find ourselves in the British Isles in March where... It's spring!!! Yellow daffodils everywhere. Primroses and pansies. We are staying at a hotel in an old abbey where our room has a backyard and a magnolia tree in bloom! Ruins of a Roman fortress are also within sight.

The ruins of our own life are within sight, but it's so much more delightful to focus on the new, on the spring of life.

My traveling companion is older and slower. We tour the Roman baths, the Roman amphitheater, the barracks--all now just rock walls at ground level.

We too are returning to Mother Earth.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

APPLESAUCE PANCAKES


My sweetie is on a limited diet right now, due to a nickel allergy. Because nickel is the third most common element on earth, nickel is in just about everything we eat.

This morning, I made pancakes for him, using one cup of flour, one cup of yogurt, and one cup of homemade applesauce. The batter was thick, and the pancakes tasted like applesauce with a crust. Delicious! Add a touch of maple syrup from the sugar maple trees in the woods behind our house, and it's a locavore breakfast.

I'm beginning a month-long self-retreat tomorrow, here at home, in our guest suite, which I call The Sweet Retreat. I could call it a locavore retreat because it's so local. I'm putting myself on a limited diet--no cyber-communication, no reading, no writing, no phone. And the darnedest thing is that the mind becomes very sweet. It turns out that I'm not as crusty as I thought.
 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


IS HAIR REPELLENT?

Are the deer eating your shrubs this winter? There are several possible deer deterrents, but today i want to focus on just one: human hair.

I used to think that i should go to the hair-styling salon and ask for their trimmings. Then i realized: i brush my hair every morning. I use a bristle brush, so every few days i rake my comb through the brush and garner a very unattractive hairball. This i place in a 6"x6" piece of net, gather up the corners, and tie with a string. Voila! An inexpensive, home-made deer deterrent. You could even say "made with (some) recycled materials."

My hair is beautiful and bouncy, and i love the daily exercise of brushing it. But what really is so attractive about hair? NOT the hairball that results from cleaning my brush.

What's the difference between the hair on my head and the hair in the hairbrush? They're both long strands of dead cells. The hairs on my head run mostly parallel with each other, while the hairbrush yields a tangle. Is it the orderliness that's so pleasant to our eyes?

Because, now we see that hair, per se, in not really attractive. How do you feel about a hair in your food?

Let's tie those hairballs onto our rhododendrons and hope they're not attractive to the deer either :)

 


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

LOCALVORE EATING MY OWN STOREHOUSE



Last summer i read Animal,Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Although I didn't make a conscious decision to become a localvore, as she did for a year, I've been much better this winter at using local produce, beginning with the foodstuffs stored in my basement.

It's never difficult to use the onions and garlic. Any recipe that calls for 1 clove of garlic, I use one head, and i still don't work my way through my garlic supply by July. The onions last until April.

The potatoes require some effort because the weight-watcher who lives in my house complains about starch.

The pumpkins are starting to show their age; so it's time to have my own personal pumpkin festival. Just a few pots of green chili, and I could work my way through my extensive supply of tomatillos (and make a dent in the garlic too!)

Why is it so hard to open the freezer door downstairs?

This winter I have refrained from buying the cornucopia of local vegetables offered at my local food coop. I simply buy one thing at a time--for instance this week, 1 small head of cabbage.

This means that some evenings I have to open the freezer door and pull out a package of home-grown green beans, grated squash, or pesto. I expect I am going to achieve a long-sought-for goal: a nearly empty freezer by June.

All I had to do was apply a tiny bit of Renunciation (not buying fresh veggies) and Determination (to use the frozen organic veggies I grew myself). These 2 Perfections (paramis) are feeding my household perfectly well this winter.
 Autumn cornucopia and vegetables

Monday, January 28, 2019

THE FROZEN THROES OF WINTER




Arctic winds are racking the body of Mother Earth here in the Northeast. After the rally of the January thaw, and just when we thought, Yes, we're going to survive winter after all, the death rattle begins and the house shudders.

Outdoors, the wind sounds like a never-ending train roaring down invisible tracks a block or two away. The furnace fights the chill, turns on and off and on again, trying desperately to maintain a temperature, but the extremities of the house cool down nevertheless.

The house groans as we internal organisms snuggle deeper into rest, hiding under blankets and fleece to protect us from polar gusts.

Just 4 more days until the groundhog pronounces that winter is terminal.


 


Sunday, January 27, 2019

FIRST HARBINGER OF SPRING


Sitting on the sofa in the evening, looking through seed catalogs is surely the first harbinger of spring. Page by page, possible vegetables and flowers take root in my mind. Papaya Pear summer squash; Russian Banana fingerling potatoes; White Swan echinacea.

Desire strikes again and again until my order, which will be charged to my credit card, is over $100.

The credit card allows me to ignore the fact that i am putting myself into debt. I am enslaving myself to work for another 5 or 10 hours to pay off this particular debt.

Sense desire begs for more--more tasty summer squash, more sweet-smelling lavender, more beautiful gladiolas. The mind pleads for satisfaction. I smile and agree that I need another treat.

The promise of the garden calls.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

JANUARY THAW

 

The January thaw has arrived. Drip. Drip. Drip. The snow on the roof is melting and will soon avalanche off the north side of the house. The front walk puddles in between last night's crusts of ice. The glacial shield that has covered the driveway has begun to crack and fissure and run off.

Outdoors change is visible today. Snowmen are dying; snow forts have collapsed; ski trails are useless. The structures of the season--flakes, drifts, and banks--age and disappear.


Friday, January 25, 2019

Coqui--The National Frog of Puerto Rico

Image result for coqui
The signature sound of Puerto Rico is the coqui (ko-KEE), a tiny frog who sings all night long. For a miniature frog, it has an out-sized voice. At any given moment, and anywhere i am, i can hear at least a dozen male frogs singing.

Yesterday's yoga retreat focused on the throat chakra, and our mantra for the day was I own my power. The coquis certainly own their power. They have a very well developed throat chakra!

For some of us who are introverts, claiming the power of our voice is challenging. I take my intention from a line in the Metta Sutta: Straight-forward and gentle in speech. How can i be straight-forward and say what needs to be said? How can i be gentle in speech without bottling up my feelings or without telling a white lie?

The coqui can be my guide.






Thursday, January 24, 2019

Birding for Iguanas

We thought we were going birding at dawn, but what we actually saw were iguanas. A lot of them. Two of the birders had excellent binoculars. They kept zooming in on iguanas perched on the limbs of dead trees, enjoying the early morning sun. One of the birders got the knack of sighting them and could see more than a dozen iguanas with her bare eyes. Later, we read that there are 110 iguanas per acre here in Puerto Rico.

This seeing of what we were oblivious to is something that happens in meditation. It's called mindfulness as we become aware of the details of our experience. Seeing and really seeing. Hearing and really hearing. Touching and really touching. Feeling and really feeling. Mindful of the hills and valleys of the mind.

Those iguanas have been there all the time, and i never even noticed.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Red Ginger

Another ornamental plant here in the tropics is red ginger. Native to Malaysia, it is now found all over the world. It's a great cut flower, and is often found in Hawaiian flower arrangements. This plant does not provide an edible ginger root; it is simply a beautiful flower.

Buddhism used to be found only in Asia. It was introduced to the West in 1893 at the Parliament of World Religions. Now it can found, if not everywhere, almost everywhere.

Our Western culture has been transplanted in many places all over the world, many times to ill effect.

What is it that we want to to transplant? What do we want to ripple out from our lives? Stress? Or happiness?

It's your decision.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Heliconia

One of the aspects about being in the tropics that i love (besides sun, warmth, beach, and swimming in the ocean) is the tropical flora.

I test myself, trying to remember names of commonly seen landscape plants. Here at our yoga-villa is a heliconia. Yay! I remembered its name. (Pleasant.)

I love knowing the names of plants. Most of the Latin names (some derived from Greek) are descriptive of some aspect of the plant. Heliconia comes directly from the Greek word helikonios.

I also enjoy the Sanskrit or Pali names that are used in English. Although English has a gazillion words for the material world, the vocabulary for the inner world turns out to be quite limited.

In English, we have the word consciousness. In Buddhism, consciousness is delineated much more precisely: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, touch-consciousness, taste-consciousness, smell-consciousness, and mental-consciousness. Come to think of it, when we are conscious, we are conscious of something. Hmmm. Maybe the Pali language is on to something here.

Karma and Dharma have already migrated into English. The next words to migrate will be metta (loving-kindness) and dukkha (unsatisfactoriness, stress, suffering).

Today i am visually conscious of the heliconia and mentally conscious of how much i love knowing its name.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Flowing with the River of Life

Today's theme for our yoga retreat is "I flow with the river of life."

I like this theme because i've just written a book on Surrendering to Life.

Today, while i was lounging on the beach, a man on a stand-up paddleboard paddled up and said, "Do you want to try this?"

Well, since Life was offering me a ride on a paddleboard, of course i said, "Yes!"

Sometimes, it feels pretty obvious that i am not the one making decisions here. Life offers opportunities, and i simply say "Yes".

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Yoga Retreat Begins

Our yoga retreat has begun. My neighbors flew down yesterday (and avoided a big New England snowstorm). Now 10 of us are living at an Italian villa here in Puerto Rico.

The top floor is our yoga room / balcony. The middle floor is a 3-bedroom condo, which sleeps six. And the bottom floor is a 2-bedroom condo, which sleeps 4.

We had our first yoga class at 9 this morning--a leisurely hour-and-a-half. What a great way to start the day. Actually, one neighbor and i meditated at 7. That's how we started our day.

Meditation. Yoga. Meals with friends. Relaxing in the warmth and grateful for this blessing of neighborly love.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

In Honor of Mary Oliver 1935-2019

Related image

Red Hibiscus

Puerto Rico's national flower is the red hibiscus--a beautiful flower that lasts for one day.

We can relate to temporary beauty. Our own beauty also lasts just a short time. Dating may be hot and heavy in our twenties, then dry to a trickle in our thirties, even though we still look great. By 50, we are no longer sex objects, and by 60, we have become invisible to all genders and all ages.

Outer beauty fades, but inner beauty still shines.

The hibiscus last for a day. Then it is gone.

We last for a few brief decades, and then poof! Gone.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tree Spirits

This morning, i again meditated out in the "paradise" parking lot behind the condo where we are staying. My Rhode Island meditation friend, with whom i Skype-meditate every morning at 6 a.m., said that she saw how perception worked this morning. She was looking at the Skype image of the trees in the woods, and she saw a face. A sad face with deep compassionate eyes. A face of benevolence.

People of the Buddha's time believed in tree spirits. Cultures who have had animistic beliefs still have many of those old beliefs. Thai people provide spirit houses for the tree spirits to live in after their tree homes have been cut down.

Our culture doesn't believe in such spirits. Perhaps it's more accurate to say, we don't see such spirits. Our perception has been trained to see trees, so we see trees.

Unless you see something else.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Paved Paradise

Our Airbnb condo in Puerto Rico faces a beach park, so we are in a great location. But every time we go out the back door to the parking lot to get in the car, we slow down and listen. It's so quiet back there. The parking lot faces a woodsy low land of about 5 acres. It feels like a bird sanctuary. The parking lot is not only quiet and spacious, we hear birds singing, and we feel.... What is that? Paradise?

How can a parking lot be paradise? I am reminded of the Joni Mitchell song, "They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot." That's what this parking lot feels like.

This morning i took a beach chair out behind the industrial-sized generator and sat there for an hour meditating, gazing at the woods, and listening to the birds of paradise singing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Meditating on the Beach

This morning in Puerto Rico, i meditated on the beach, listening to the little waves breaking on the sandy shore.

Hearing. Hearing.
Also hearing some distant traffic noise.
Also hearing the constant ringing in my ears that i live with.
Hearing occasional bird calls. Doves. Mynah birds.

Everything in constant flux. No one thing staying the same for a second. The light moved gradually across the sand into full sun.

Water flowing, back and forth. Not unlike the tides of my own body with every pulse. I can't see the constant change inside the body. I see the outer "earth" element of the body, which like the sand appears stable.

And i am fooled into believing there is permanence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"House" Plants Living Outside the House

We are in Puerto Rico for a yoga retreat. Walking into town for breakfast, we passed by this collection of "house"plants--all living outdoors, suspended on a tree.

The Buddha suggests that meditators seclude themselves in an empty hut or at the base of tree. These potted plants are secluded from the heat of the sun by the shade of this big tree in someone's front yard.

I am renting an Airbnb condo, which is not exactly a secluded hut, but at 7:00 in the morning, i Skype with a meditation friend, and we sit together in cyberspace for an hour--secluded from all the possibilities that life has to offer.

In this way, we clear away the clutter of life to make time for what really matters.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Walking on Ice

Baby, it's cold outside. 
It was 8 degrees this morning. The driveway has turned into a rutted ice sheet, which fortunately has been sanded. Still, i strap grippers onto the bottom of my boots, just in case. Last week, Bill slipped on a patch of ice hiding under snow, and ka-boom, was suddenly lying on his back. Our 81-year-old neighbor strapped on his ice skates for the first time this season, fell on the ice 5 minutes later, and broke his elbow. Ouch!

I'm very grateful that Bill was unscathed from his fall. We are leaving soon for a tropical vacation, so i'm thankful Life didn't throw me a curve ball last week. For the moment, we can go on pretending that we are in charge of our lives.

I walk across the ice gingerly--never knowing, for sure, what will happen with the next mindful step.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

MY FATHER'S LEGACY


My father died 16 years ago, but today is his birthday, so I'm thinking of him. He had absolutely no
idea about flowers, but, as a farmer, he knew his grasses, something I do not know. He could identify
wheat, rye, oats, and timothy. And he knew alfalfa and the clovers that he cut for hay 3 times every
summer.

His idea of gardening was to plow up a quarter-acre with a small Massey-Ferguson tractor, then put
us kids to work with hoes while he went to jog his harness horses. He himself was not much of a
gardener, having plowed too many fields barefoot with horses during the Great Depression. He liked
to move earth with equipment of any sort.

He did like to grow tomatoes and cucumbers though. That was his idea of a garden, out behind the
horse barn, fertilized with horse manure, and growing plenty of weeds.

Three of his four kids (including me) got the gardening gene. The other one got the mechanical gene.

My father is gone now, but the fruit of his actions lives on. Three of us will be starting tomato
seedlings sometime soon.