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


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


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.