Sunday, June 30, 2019


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

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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

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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 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

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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.