Sunday, September 15, 2019

Bouquets for the Wedding

Image result for dahlia zinnia bouquet
I was on the flower committee for a neighbor's wedding. She choose dahlias and zinnias from a local flower farmer, plus a scattering of celosia, dianthus, and even spider flower. Five of us spent the morning arranging flowers into 30 vases for the dinner tables. They were beautiful.

Sunday morning, the flowers traveled to the post-wedding brunch. And then, they dispersed. I brought one bouquet home with me.

The flowers, the wedding, the preparation, and all those worker bees created a beautiful setting for the wedding, the reception, and the brunch. The wedded couple launched into their married lives. All around me sat divorced women, widowed women and men, a young woman married two years ago and now separated. In the moment, we rejoiced in the happiness of the wedding and ignored those other feelings.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Red Malabar Spinach

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In July, i bought Red Malabar Spinach to spruce up the flowerpots on my front step. Even though the name sounds like a vegetable, the plant looks very decorative--shiny green leaves on a red-stemmed vine with small white-pink flowers. Best of all, the spinach continues to grow happily during the hot days of summer since it comes from Malabar in the southwest coast of India.

My green, leafy vegetable is waiting for me every time i walk in the front door. Mindfulness is waiting for me every time i walk from the garage to the front step.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Snake Skin

Last evening was cool, so i fired up the woodstove. In between the first two logs i pulled out of the woodshed was a snake skin. Which gives the word "woodshed" a whole new meaning now that a snake has shed its skin in it.

I am shedding my summer clothes in favor of long sleeves and corduroy pants and fleece vests.

A change of seasons. A change of skins. From warm bare skin to cool.

Summer changes slowly, quickly to autumn. Wriggle out of warmth into a new day of freshness.




Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sweet Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I came home to a pile of cherry tomatoes, and, yesterday, i finally got around to drying them. I particularly like grape tomatoes for their meatiness. They are okay in salads, though i prefer the sweetness of sungolds. But the grape tomatoes make very flavorful sun-dried tomatoes.

Some of us are sweet when young; some of us learn to be even sweeter when we are old and wrinkled and dried out.

Sweetness happens when we stop resisting the flow of Life.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Departure Time

Image result for hummingbird migration
Hummingbirds are still here, but they will be leaving on a jet stream any time now. They arrive in my garden around May 10 and usually leave on September 10. That's 3 short months of hummingbird joy.

Sometimes, our dear ones leave us before we are ready. We want them to stay around longer. But it's time for them to go. Early departure is especially hard when friends younger than we leave this life.

But they are migrating on to a place we cannot go with our physical bodies and cannot know with our physical minds.

Trust the spirit, trust Life to know exactly what to do. Life knows far more than our little birdbrain minds ever can.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Butterflies on Boneset

While i was in North Carolina, my sweetie broke a rib. When i returned home he excitedly told me that he had seen 10 monarch butterflies on the Joe Pye Weed. "The common name for that flower is boneset," i said. "Bone-set."

He's not complaining much about his broken rib. When his car crashed, the seat belt and airbag jolted a few other parts of his body, and he feels those aches and pains more strongly.

Our physical bodies surprise us with various breakdowns. But i feel confident that my sweetie will heal. After all, he seems to have 10 monarch butterflies on his side.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Okra. Well, Okay.

I'm visiting family in Georgia, and on Saturday we go to the Farmer's Market. All the vendors are selling okra. I am a true Northerner. I have no idea what to do with okra, but my niece buys a batch and fries it up for our fish tacos. Okra is delicious.

Okra has a reputation. People who love it, love it. And people who aren't so sure about it are relying on word-of-mouth instead of taste-of-mouth.

We don't like it when someone sullies our reputation. We want a fair hearing, and we want people to like us for who and what we are.

Let's give okra a fair hearing, a fair tasting. We might even like it, just as it is.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gardening for Bear

A bear wandered into my meditation at 6:45 this morning. I opened my eyes just as he walked out of the woods and across the lawn. He meandered over to the hobblebush at the other edge of the lawn, and breakfasted on some hobblebush berries.

I have heard of bee and butterfly gardens, but i didn't realize i have a bear garden.

Sometimes, our minds are too welcoming for our particular bear-of-a-problem. In his sermon on dealing with distracting thoughts, the Buddha outlines 5 methods. The first is to change the subject. Another way to say this is "substitute the opposite." "The opposite" is usually a form of kindness--metta or compassion or gratitude. Choose your kindness now, so that the next time that bear-of-a-problem wanders into your mind, you'll be ready to feed yourself some kindness.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Rocky Soil

Image result for garden rocky soil
I have visited my sister in northern Idaho each year for 15 years. This visit, she took me to her neighbor's garden, and Barb explained to me that her entire lawn is rocks. No wonder everyone has raised beds or a dozen flower pots brimming with flowers--or vegetables. Gardeners being who they are, some homes do have a small flowerbed beside the driveway or near the front door, but really, the rocks prevail.

Another of my sister's gardening friends Carolyn said she didn't have rocks; she had clay about four inches down. Her flowerbeds were slightly more extensive, surrounding her deck, but there were those raised beds and flowerpots again.

Some of us plant our meditation practice in rocky soil where it's difficult to make it grow. When our friends proceed along the path of "eat, drink, and be merry," it's hard to find support for following the 8-fold path of Wise View, Wise Attention, Wise Action, Wise Speech, and Wise Mindfulness, to name a few.

Here's a verse from the Buddha:

Life is swept along, next-to-nothing its span.
For one swept to old age no shelters exist.
Perceiving this danger in death,
one should drop the world's bait and look for peace.

     Saṃyutta Nikāya 1.100

Let's look for peace in the sanctuary of our garden, and follow our heart's true intention.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Gardeners of the Spirit

Image result for seedling


















Help us to be the always hopeful


Gardeners of the spirit
Who know that without darkness
Nothing comes to birth
As without light
Nothing flowers. 

(from A Grain of Mustard Seed by Kali)











Thursday, August 8, 2019

Clear Seeing

The teacher at the retreat talks bout sati-sampajanna. Sati means mindfulness. Usually sampajanna is translated as “clear comprehension,” but I’m trying to expand my sense of the word. Sometimes it’s referred to as “seeing and knowing” things as they really are.

English has a huge vocabulary for the material world, but it’s rather poverty-stricken when it comes to words that describe the inner world and the spiritual world.  Just think. Until just  25 years ago, we didn’t have the words metta, loving kindness, and self-compassion in the dictionary. The words Dharma, karma, and mindfulness were known only to a select few; now they are the n common usage.

Sam- means  whole or complete, though it’s often translated at “right” meaning proper. The ending -nna is the same as our word know. (In Greek, gnosis.)  Now the question is: Which kind of knowing?Eskimos May have 28 words for snow, but English has only one word know to cover many shades of meaning.

As I contemplate this, my personal translation of sampajanna becomes “complete knowing.”

Hmmm. I walk down to the end of the driveway, and there is beautiful Mount St. Helens with a blanket of snow on top of her two rounded peaks. On this clear day, I can clearly see. And knowing (which kind?) is omnipresent.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Aging Maple Leaf

Here in the Pacific Northwest, the understory for the 200-foot tall firs and cedars is alder, oak, and big leaf maple. The leaves of the big leaf maple are big, sometimes really big.

A big maple leaf drifted down to the welcome mat outside the door to my single room. The first day it was beautiful yellow with green veins; the next day it faded a bit. Then it wilted, and now it’s dry and crinkly.

Welcome, aging!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Spritz of Metta

My chore at the retreat center is to wipe the dining tables after dinner and then spritz them with three puffs of mild bleach water.

During meditation, I realize I feel like I’ve been spritzed with loving kindness. Ahh. Deep cleaning without the scrubbing.

Friday, August 2, 2019

A Lone Robin Calls

Jut after sunset, a lone robin sends her distress call for more than half an hour. I can hear her flying from here to there, but the dark woods reveals no specifics.

Last evening at this time, two robins were distressed while an owl perched nearby.

A lone robin sends her SOS. I can do nothing

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Thistle Puffs

Little white cottony fluffs of thistle seeds float on the breeze, meandering up and up and over. floating any which way. Each tiny thistle seed attached to one silky puff, which has no opinion about where it’s going.

Content with life as it is.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Robins and Owl

At dusk, an owl sits in a willow tree beside the pond.

Mama and Papa Robin are chirping constantly. they fly into the willow tree, perhaps trying to scare away the owl.

Dark is coming. The robins will go to sleep. The night owl will stay awake.

Patience.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Forest Bathing

Cloud Mountain Retreat Center is located in the coastal range of Washington state, about an hour north of Portland, Oregon.  The meditation hall is nestled on a wooded hillside of Western red cedar, Douglas fir, and Western hemlock. The evergreens of this Evergreen State are tall. Really, really tall.

Walking in the silence beneath the giant trees, I am surrounded by three-foot tall ferns, Oregon grape, moss on the ground, and more moss hanging from the trees. I smell the forest floor. In splotches, I feel hot sun. I am not carrying a camera. My inner naturalist delights at the sight of spiderwebs glistening in a ray of sunlight. A deer ambles across my path and stops and looks at me.

I feel calm. My mind is quieter than usual.

I’m forest bathing.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Silence is Medicine

On a 10-day silent retreat, the teacher, Willa Thaniya Reid, says, “Silence is medicine.” I like the sound of this idea, and so I puzzle over it for a few days. This is what is called contemplation or investigation.

Noble Silence is one of the cornerstones of a silent retreat. Turn off the mobile phones. Put away my books. Even put away my writing, though I do jot down notes to myself, such as this blog post.

Sink in to the Nature all around me. Meditate on a cushion or chair seven times a day. Walking meditation in between. Eating meditation at mealtimes. And work meditation while doing my assigned chore (pot washing, for instance). Maybe meditation will even follow me into sleep. Or not.

Silencing all the devices, silencing the input of information cleanses my smogged-up sense perceptions. Colors are brighter. My skin even feels cleaner. My mind is more alert. Tranquil and alert. No worries. No anxieties. Calm arrives as the pace of daily life slows way down. I practice loving kindness. “May I live with ease.”

Silence antidotes the dis-ease of my mind. Silence is medicine.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Gardening Feet

I went to the hot springs for a long soak in a 1920s style bathtub. The dim room of a dozen bathtubs for women, separated by white curtains, smelled faintly of Sulphur. After the soak, I wrapped in a large thin towel and walked into the adjoining room of a dozen cots. The bath attended mummy-wrapped me in a sheet and covered me in a blanket to sweat out toxins for half an hour. She placed a cool washcloth over my forehead eyes.  I snoozed.

Afterwards, I felt clean down to the bottom of my pores. As I walked out the door, colors were brighter, sounds were crisper, and smells more fragrant, as if my air filters had been de-smogged.

My April-May-June gardening toenails were clean.

In the spring and early summer, I make my excuse to the masseuse every week.  “I’ve got gardening feet this week.”

She says that most of her Vermont clients have gardening feet in the spring and summer.  It’s just part of the landscape. But women from the nearby city do not. They are much more conscious of their image.

And the point of being image-conscious is...? What? So other women won’t judge us? So we won’t judge ourselves? Or is it that we judge others and then don’t want them to say the mean things about us that we mentally say about them?

If we practice kindness, our self-judging recedes. And when self-judging fades, so does the judging of other people.

Maybe city women prefer clean feet to gardening feet. Who’s to say?




Solitude

"Solitude is a silent storm that breaks down all our dead branches. 
Yet it sends our living roots deeper into the living heart of the living earth."
― from "Kahlil Gibran's Little Book of Life"

Friday, July 26, 2019

Perfect

I'm in Portland, Oregon, visiting friends. Every morning, Mary Beth walks her dogs in her neighborhood. One home has a perfect front lawn with flowerbeds of orange marigolds and red begonias and accents of blue lobelia and blue salvia. Spectacular!

My friend says the flowerbeds have the same design every year. It obviously works.

Some people strive for perfect flower beds or perfect bodies or perfect clothes. "Perfect" comes and goes, just like everything else in this material world.

What if everything is perfect--just as it is? Tangled, cluttered, weedy. (I'm thinking of my vegetable garden, which is "weedy" with volunteer flowers.) This beautiful life we are living is just-so.

Perfect.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Night Sky

My friend Mary Beth has a hanging basket of petunias near her back door. The petunias are one of my favorite varieties—Night Sky. White dots scattered on a purple background remind me of a clear starry night. Each flower has its own unique markings, which are caused by the temperature conditions of each flower’s birth. The wider the nighttime and daytime temperatures are, the more white markings.

Each flower is unique. Each snowflake is different from all others. And each of us is unique, depending on various causes and conditions of our birth, childhood, young adulthood, etcetera.

Yet how much time and suffering have I spent trying to shoehorn myself into “normal”? Trying to look and act and even think like “other people.” What a useless waste of energy.

Each Night Sky petunia is unique and authentically itself.

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

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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.