Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tick Season Has Arrived

Image result for deer tick
The nymph on the right is about as big as a period. Period.

I hate to mention it, but it's above 28 degrees outdoors. The snow is still on the ground, and the temperatures in recent days have reached a high of 50. So pleasant.

Now for the bad news: Tick season has begun. Yes, ticks like it cool. They creep into action at around 28 degrees.

It's easy to think that snow = cold = ticks are still asleep. But the snow is no protection. The snow lulls us into a false sense of security.

It's time to spray all my clothes with permethrin. Or send them off and let Insect Shield do it for $8 a piece.

We protect our bodies. How do we protect our minds?

Protect your mind by practicing loving-kindness. You don't have to start with loving-kindness toward ticks. Start with someone easy--such as your dog or cat. Protect them from ticks, and thereby protect them from smuggling ticks into your house. Protect yourself and love your pet.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Love Flower

Agapanthus is blooming in my solarium. A friend gave me 3 pots of agapanthus 3 years ago. One bloomed last summer. Now the other two are blooming.

I love its delicate blue flowers on a tall stem. "Love" is part of its name--agape. The love flower (agape + anthos) reminds us to open our heart. It's easy to begin with a flower. Gaze at it for five minutes, ten, half an hour, and feel the joy as the mind quiets to reveal love is all around us, all the time.

I love the friend who gave me this love flower.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sweet and Sour

Image result for sugar on snow pickle
Hot maple syrup poured over snow
so it becomes like taffy.
Served with a dill pickle.
Did i tell you that the sugar-on-snow church dinners include a dill pickle with the maple syrup drizzled on the snow? Sweet and sour, New England style. Sweet and sour--like life.

The 8 Vicissitudes sum up sweet-and-sour perfectly.

Gain and loss,
Pleasure and pain,
Praise and blame,
Fame and disrepute

come and go like the wind.

Stand like a great tree 
in the midst of them all.

As much as we only want the sweet of life, the sour is often served up soon thereafter.

When i am praised, i don't take it seriously, because i can guess what's coming down the pike--today, next week, or next year. Blame. Ouch!

Take the sweet and sour together, and you have the whole world.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Drilling for Maple Sap

Image result for drill maple trees sap
The drills were out today--drilling holes in maple trees to tap them for sap. Oh, boy. I know what that means: fresh, hot maple syrup coming my way very soon. Maple syrup church dinners with hot syrup poured on snow. Oh, my. I'm melting just imagining it.

But first: 40 gallons of sap boils down to 1 gallon of syrup. Sort of like our life. 40 years of experience boils down to a small amount of wisdom. Now i know better than to....  Now i know when to shut my mouth. "Life is short" and other pithy sayings.

Wisdom. Isn't that what we really want? Peace and wisdom.

Drill past superficial appearances. Drill down into your base of love and kindness. That's where the sweetness is.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Red-Twig Dogwood

Image result for red twig dogwood snow

Red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) is especially beautiful in the winter when its red twigs stand out against the white snow. My red-twig has variegated leaves, which make it interesting all summer long. The dogwood flowers do not look like dogwood flowers; instead, they look like an umbrella cluster of small white flowers.

I have to prune it back to the ground every two or three years in order to obtain the bright red young growth. Old branches are thick and brown, sort of like old people.

Ah, the beauty of youth.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Half-Price Roses

On Valentine's Day, my sweetie had knee surgery, so 3 days later, when he drove to town for physical therapy, he brought home a bouquet of red roses.

"Happy Valentines Day," he hugged me. "The roses were half price."

That's my McSweetie--scotch with his dollars. Sometimes, he's a thrifty Scotsman; sometimes he's frugal. Sometimes, he's just plain stingy.

Generosity is the antidote to stinginess.

My McSweetie was generous to me: red roses for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Pileated Woodpecker

Image result for pileated woodpecker
A pileated woodpecker is visiting our maple tree. Again. She was here last winter and left foot-long holes in one of the big branches. A living branch. The one next to it was dead. But i have to trust that the woodpecker knows her business. She knows where to find carpenter ants.

So it is with our bodies. My body looks healthy, feels healthy, and then the doctor finds something and cuts it out.

Maybe the pileated woodpecker is a tree surgeon?

Photo courtesty of audubon.org

Monday, February 17, 2020

Old Potatoes

All my red potatoes have sprouted down in the basement, even though i covered them with a towel to keep them in the dark.

Planting season is 3 months away, so i won't keep them for seed potatoes--although that idea is quite enticing.

Instead, i'm cutting off the sprouts and grating up those wrinkled red skins to make hash brown potatoes. Yes, the skins are wrinkled. They look old. The potatoes are not pretty, but they still are a vegetable contributing to my well-being.

We get old and wrinkled too. We sprout hairs in unexpected places. We sprout brown spots in unwanted places. But we are still good for something.

An old person eating old potatoes. Why not?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Frozen North

Image result for sun shining blue sky frozen

It is C-O-L-D here in the North Country. Freezing. Below freezing. Way below freezing. Frozen. Frozen hard.

And the sky is blue. The sun is shining. It's a beautiful day.

The house was cold when i got up this morning, but 5 hours later, it's tropical in here thanks to passive solar sunshine.

Just when i want to categorize something (or someone), i see that the opposite is also true at the same time. Cold AND hot. Inside AND outside.

Identity is a peculiar thing. It keeps changing. Just like everything else.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Blooming Paperwhites

On New Year's weekend, a Dharma friend came to our guest cottage for a self-retreat. He gifted me with a narcissus bulb, which is blooming now.

I offer him a gift. He offers me a gift. Generosity all around.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Heart Day

I love going to the Kids' Craft Fair in early December to buy handmade gifts from kids. A scarf from a 10-year-old knitter, cardinal cards from a 9-year-old artist, votive candles from an 8-year-old.

I bought a few sunflower seed hearts specifically for Valentine's Day. The seeds are glued together with gelatin, which dries clear and invisible.

I'm wishing a Happy Heart Day to the birds who visit our bird feeder. Generosity makes my heart feel happy.

And a Happy Heart Day to you too, dear reader.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Ceramic Birdhouse

While i was at the hospice thrift store, i found a ceramic birdhouse. I bought it for $3. It's cute with painted flowers and butterflies. But ceramic?

For now, it's decorating my solarium. In the spring, i'll take it out to the front step with the flowerpots. I do wonder how it will look hanging from a tree.

The ceramic birdhouse has two drainage holes in the bottom. That's good. But how am i going to clean it out next fall?

The entrance hole is big, so maybe a mid-sized bird will make a home in it. Little birds would be at the mercy of big bird (or squirrel) intruders.

Some things look good, look beautiful, but turn out to be useless.

A lot of the things we decorate our lives with turn out to be clutter.

Maybe the ceramic birdhouse will turn out to be clutter too, and i'll clean it up and give it back to the hospice thrift store so they can sell it to someone else.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tulip Bouquet

When we returned home from our Caribbean vacation, we found a bouquet of tulips in the kitchen from our house-sitter. What a lovely and generous gift.

The house was warm and clean. Tulips on the table. Welcome home!

How would it feel to welcome every event? Welcome snow. Welcome slippery roads. Welcome seeing. Welcome hearing. Welcome feeling. Welcome thoughts.

Welcoming everything is another way to come home to our true self.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Searching for Hyacinth Forcing Vases

I often cruise through our local hospice thrift shop. I'm always looking for hyacinth forcing vases. Wine decanters work perfectly with a narrow neck to hold the bulb and nearly a quart of water to see the swirl of white roots.

Right now, my basement has 50 vases of hyacinths getting ready to bloom. Today, i gave away 3, so, yes, i'm already preparing for next year's batch. I never have quite enough forcing vases.

I love his win-win-win of shopping at the hospice thrift store. I get to support an organization i love; i buy forcing vases; and they are inexpensive--sometimes just 25 cents, sometimes a dollar.

So when i'm giving away hyacinths i can freely offer the vase as well.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Bowing Birch Trees

The last ice storm bent birch saplings to the ground. Those birch trees can touch their fingers to their toes.

The trees surrender to the weight of ice. Can we surrender to Life? Let go of our need to control things? Let Life take us where it will.

Sometimes, we just have to bow down of Life. Not my will, but thine.

The birch trees are beautiful.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Purple Heart

Purple heart (Tradescantia pallida) grows in masses here in the Caribbean. I love to take cuttings of it at home because it roots easily in water. Using it for a massed planting in my flowerbeds always brings comments. "What are those purple leaves?"

Those purple leaves are related to spiderwort.

In this election year, as we become acutely aware of so-called "red" and "blue," we might unstick our minds from that concept and realize that everyone of us had red blood in our arteries and blue blood in our veins. In one sense, our hearts are "purple."

Loving what is, even when it is difficult.

Friday, January 31, 2020


Jasmine grows wild here in the Caribbean. Small white flowers beckon me from the roadside. Ahhh. The heady, sweet fragrance of jasmine--one of my favorites.

Jasmine's named is derived from an Arabic word meaning "gift of God." What are we doing with our god-given gifts? What am i doing with my God-given gifts individually? And what are we as a society doing with the gifts that God (or Nature) has given us?

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Houseplants in the Tropics

The very small garden (4' x 4') at our vacation condo's front door is crowded with plants that i have in my solarium at home. Banana tree, variegated scheffilera, agave.

Here in their native habitat in the tropics, they thrive and look lush. My houseplants at home--banana tree, plain green scheffilara--look pathetic in comparison.

During their summer vacation outdoors, my houseplants perk up and look lush. Then i bring them in doors and they start to decline and look piqued.

I have houseplants in the first place for the joy they bring me. Ahhh. Green and growing plants. Some, like geraniums, with flowers.

When the mind compares my housebound North Country plants to the tropics, i and my houseplants always lose.

The comparing mind can't help but compare. That is its main job. And the comparison? Useless. Really useless.

I'm sinking into the beauty of what is. Right here. Right now.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Blue Sky

We are on vacation in the Caribbean, expecting sunshine every day. Yet a few days have been overcast with sprinkles or easy tropical rain. By afternoon, the clouds clear and the sun is shining in the blue sky again.

The Blue Sky vine (Thunbergia) is a lovely familiar tropical vine whose periwinkle flowers drop on the ground.

Rain falls. Flowers fall. It's all impermanent. Things change. The weather changes. Flowers change. Yesterday the blue vine flowers were fresh and lovely. Today they are old and brown.

I'm enjoying the blue sky here in the Caribbean.

Monday, January 27, 2020

No-see-ums on the Beach

Every evening on vacation, we walk down to the beach to watch the sunset and marvel at the colors.

Just then, no-see-ums come out and start to crawl on my skin--one on my arm, another on my toe. Annoying. They're not quite itchy, but they will be if i scratch the itch. If i can bear to let the itch just itch, then i won't be scratching the same bite for the next 4 days.

This is how it is when we try to break a habit. Oh, it's so enticing to just do that same thing again. Scratch that itch. A moment of relief. Then the itch starts again. This is the price i have to pay for succumbing.

The beach is so beautiful at sunset.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Caribbean Milkweed

Here in the Caribbean, they grow BIG milkweed--about six feet tall with leaves as big as my hand. The purple-and-white star flowers are about an inch across, which is big for a milkweed.

Interesting that this toxic plant is named after the Greek god of medicine--Asclepius.

Sometimes we take a little bit of poison for a cure or as a prevention. Radiation and chemotherapy for instance. Or the blood thinner Coumadin, which is rat poison.

Several of my friends who have refused radiation have since sailed out into the ocean of life and death. Sometimes, Nature simply takes it course.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Beautiful Bougainvillea

Miracle! Suddenly, we are in Caribbean. Going barefoot. Wearing shorts. Beautiful bougainvillea outside our bedroom window and draping over the patio below.

A couple of days ago, i was surrounded by snow and ice. The temperature was in the single digits. I kept chucking wood into the woodstove.

Change. All sorts of change--weather, clothing, location. Only one thing is changeless: can you notice the invisible Presence of the wordless? The screen upon which this entire play of life is projected. That which is with you all the time--closer than close.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Icicle Moon

A fingernail of the waning moon hangs in the sky at dawn, flirting with a small pink cloud, which drifts away as the sliver of moon rises into the day and disappears. A nearby icicle watches all of this, frozen as it is on a freezing day.

The moon disappears though we "know" it is still there. Sort of like Awareness, there but invisible to ordinary eyes. Our ordinary eyes focus on icicles, freezing the ever-changing movement of Now into things. And we play with these things as if they are real. As one teacher says, "Nouns are just slow-moving verbs." Nouns make us think that things exist. Nouns delude us into everyday reality.

We catch glimpses of Awareness, just as we catch glimpses of the fingernail moon. Awareness is always there--quietly saying nothing.