Saturday, September 19, 2020

Frost Warning

It's supposed to freeze tonight, so i've spent the day harvesting the garden. I've picked all the green tomatoes and the green beans. I've also harvested calaloo.

Calaloo is a spinach-like green from Trinidad & Tobago. In July, a friend gave me a 6-pack, and now each plant is 5 feet tall. I chop the leaves and steam them for a few minutes before packing them into freezer bags. You know how greens cook down. I now have eight quart bags full.

When the first frost approaches our lives, what will we say that our lives cooked down to? All those years, and what does it add up to?

I recently heard a guided meditation on a near death experience. Here's the song that played in the background of the visualization.

Why have you come to earth? Do you remember?

Friday, September 18, 2020

Scared Katydid

I brought a basil plant indoors to make pesto, and a katydid hopped on to the counter. I managed to capture her, and she wandered around my arm for a minute, but the whole encounter obviously scared the s**t out of her.

Fear is running rampant in our society right now. The question is: Am I going to pick it up? Or am I going to leave it right there--in the TV, on the radio, in the newspaper? I don't have to take it on board.

Yes, it seems like fear arrives in the mind in the middle of the night. That's one reason i have a policy: No mention of politics and no news after sunset. I know what exacerbates fear in the middle of the night--too much news, which gives rise to a feeling of powerlessness.

The katydid hopped off my arm and onto the deck. Enable your mind to hop off of fear.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Turkeys Eating Ticks

 I opened my eyes during meditation this morning and saw 22 turkeys strolling across my lawn. Heads down, alert to their surroundings. They were all pecking at the grass--eating ticks, i assume.

Have you seen the movie My Life as a Turkey? A wildlife rehabilitator raises a clutch of motherless turkey eggs, and he himself sees much more life in the woods than usual because he is seeing as a turkey.

When we look closely at our own inner landscape, we see much more than we usually do. We might see the arising of a thought, the disappearance of a feeling. Last spring, i discovered the earliest warning sign of oncoming sleepiness--heaviness behind my forehead.

Knowing that the turkeys are cleaning my garden and woods of tick pests, i feel much safer.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Lettuce Wagon

My meditation friend Paula grew her lettuce in containers this summer and had lettuce all summer long. Here's how she did it: She put her pots of lettuce in a wagon. In the morning, she let it welcome the sunny day; in the afternoon, she wheeled the wagon into the shade. On 90 degree days, she parked her lettuce wagon in her cool basement.

What's the best climate for growing our mindfulness?

I sit outdoors on the deck at 6 a.m. The coolness keeps me alert. Even just a little warmth can make me wilt.

And what good is wilted lettuce?

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Apples Tempting Deer

 Deer - Paradise Nursery

The old apple tree in my lawn is dropping apples, so i hurry out there and pick them up before the deer discover them. Sometimes, a squirrel scurries away, so i throw his partially-eaten apple into the woods. I really do not want the deer browsing in my flowerbeds. What they don't know (i.e., that apples grow here) won't hurt them.

Sometimes, what we don't know does eventually hurt us.Ignorance is not always bliss. Ignorance is what keeps the wheel of samsara turning. Through meditation and mindfulness, we begin to see things as they really are.

Really, i should say that what the deer don't know won't hurt me, my feelings, or my garden.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Hummingbirds Farewell

On Tuesday, a hummingbird hovered near me for a few seconds. Is she saying good-bye? i wondered.

Yes. She was. Our hummingbirds have gone south for the winter. I loved it when one of them sat near me on the deck while i was meditating at 6 a.m.

We don't know when we are saying farewell for the last time. As winter approaches and we expect a surge in COVID, we really do not know when good-bye may surprise us and be the last adieu.

My prayers go with all hummingbirds, flying south.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Kiwis are Ripe


Kiwis are ripening here in the North Country and are for sale at our local farmstand. To distinguish them from their southern hemisphere cousins, they are sometimes called "kiwi berries." They are about twice the size of grapes, and they taste, well, just like a kiwi.

Kiwi season is short--mid- to late-September--so don't dally. Look for and buy kiwis soon. Now.

No dallying around that spiritual practice either. Meditate. Pray. Practice mindfulness. Practice compassion--which we need a ton of right now.

Kiwis are sweet. Let's sweeten our mind while we may.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Baby Loon

We are home now after spending a week in a cabin on a lake. A cabin with no wifi.

The small lake had a pair of loons with one chick. I was surprised that the downy chick was so young this late in the season. It still had not learned how to dive.

It often swam with its head underwater--to see what food might be down there or perhaps to see where Mother Loon was or what she was bringing home to eat.

One of the big challenges in meditation is to stay alert even when we feel our energy is sinking. If we can stay as alert as the loon chick, even when we feel underwater, it is quite an accomplishment. Interest re-ignites energy, and then we are swimming along in meditation again.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Meditating Frogs

Today 8 frogs are sitting on lily pads in my little fishpond. Suddenly, i have a bumper crop of green frogs.

Frogs remind us to be alert. They sit in meditation almost all day long--except when they take a brief swim.

I wonder if i could sit in meditation most of the day. Walking meditation, sitting at the computer meditation, sitting and watching the frogs meditation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Hummingbird Tongues

10 Tremendous Tidbits Regarding Hummingbirds | The Rainforest Site ...

This summer, i have noticed hummingbirds licking their lips. Well, actually, they are licking their beaks. They lick their lips, and then they clean their beaks by wiping them on the branch they are sitting on. All birds wipe their mouths after eating. Two quick swipes--one side and then the other. So polite. I'm not sure about the tongue-sticking-out gesture though.
Politeness can seem old-fashioned, yet it's the simple act of showing respect and consideration for another person. Or animal. 
Yesterday, a friend teased me by making a biting comment. She knew it would get my goat. I refrained from tit-for-tat and simply smiled. I'm practicing one of the mottoes of non-violent communication: Connection not correction
I do love to correct people. I like to be accurate. I like to stick to the facts. So refraining from correction doesn't come easily to me.
If birds can be polite, so can i.                                                                                                               

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Pink Queen Anne's Lace

This year, several of the Queen Anne's Lace in my garden were pinkish-burgundy. Though i've never noticed this color before, they are really attractive and coordinate well with the magenta trim on my house. I hope they reseed themselves.

This COVID summer, i've seen many things in the natural world that i haven't noticed before. This slowed-down summer has created space for my inner naturalist to bloom.

This coming slowed-down fall and winter offer opportunities for at-home retreats. I'm signed up for a silent concentration retreat in mid-October.

On retreat, i will probably see things i hadn't noticed before. Those seeings are called insight. I practice insight meditation.

The pink Queen Anne's Lace is stunning.

Monday, August 24, 2020


Morning glories self-seed and show up all around my vegetable garden. A fortuitous combination, Venice Blue (white with blue stripes) and Grandpa Ott (purple) is climbing one of my rebar fence stakes. I couldn't have planned it better.

Quite often, Life gives us something beautiful, whether or not we recognize it at the time.

When i'm pulling out morning glory "weeds," in June and July, i have no idea what color they are going to turn into. I assume they are all purple, and then, in August, one surprises me--Venice Blue on this pole; white on another pole. Mother Nature creates beautiful and felicitous combinations.

Saying "Yes" to everything, just as it is, creates happiness--even when you don't know where this situation is going.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Noisy Chickadees

FeedtheBirds 1: Chickadee birdhouse hole size
Five chickadees arrived on my deck railing at the same time. I suspect it was Mother with 4 of her brood. Wow. Chickadees have a very different family culture than the one i grew up in.

First of all, they all talk at the same time, all the time. And they are loud! No wonder Mother wanted to kick them out of the noisy nest. In addition to calling each other "Sweetheart," they yell at each other constantly. These are my seeds. Go find your own. Or Get off my branch. I was here first. Or Mom! Then they all fly off together, so they obviously do love each other.

I love individual chickadees, but five at a time was eye-opening.

For those of us who are naturally quiet, for those of us who are conflict-averse, for those of us who give in easily, can we find our chickadee voices? Can we give voice to our authentic selves?

After all, the chickadees do call each other Sweetheart.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Back and Forth to the Compost Bin

During harvest season, i make 3 or 5 trips to the compost bin every day. I actually don't mind. It doesn't feel like a chore. My 2-quart compost bucket fills up; i put on my shoes and walk out to the bin. Maybe i do this every hour before and after dinner.

Meanwhile, if i stop by a flowerbed, i fill up a 5-gallon bucket with deadheads and take that to the compost bin. Maybe i like the walk even though it's back and forth--sort of like walking meditation. Maybe i like filling up my compost bin.

A chore is something sort of unpleasant, something i need to do whether or not i want to do it. When meditation becomes a chore, it's time to lighten it up somehow. Make meditation interesting.

I love my compost. Maybe that's why taking kitchen scraps out to the compost bin is not a chore.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Now. Today. The Only Now.

The delicate pink and yellow corydalis surprised me this morning. I have only one of these plants with its greenish-blue leaves. My yellow corydalis bloomed in May.

I regret to read that corydalis is a biennial. I wonder if it will propagate itself.

Ah, well, the future is just an idea i have. The future is an idea, and then i believe it.

Now is the only now. A now of pink and yellow corydalis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Naked Ladies

Naked Ladies are blooming, all soft and pink and odalisque. Lycoris is in the amaryllis family, and like amaryllis, it shoots up a bare stalk of glorious trumpet flowers.

Unlike amaryllis, the leaves appear first--in the spring--then die back. In August, just as i've completely forgotten them, here they are, trumpeting their glorious arrival.

Once in a while, meditation feels like this. We put all this effort into green leaves, but after a while, maybe we forget to meditate.

Suddenly, one day we are surprised when the kindness or calmness of meditation blooms, right in the middle of a heated discussion.

It's a good thing to plant meditation in our lives every day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Blue Gentian

Twenty years ago, i met a 72-year-old Master Gardener, Lanice, who couldn't keep up with her many flowerbeds. She gave me a gentian that had been overgrown by a nearby azalea.

Today, i am 72 years old, and i just rediscovered Lanice's blue gentian growing in one of my nursery beds.

Gentian is an herb--one of the ingredients in bitters, which settles the stomach.

Meditation settles our mind. Interestingly, gentian blue settles my heart. When i am wearing this bright blue, i feel safe.

Feeling safe, feeling a lack of fear, anxiety, worry and such, is one of the ingredients of loving-kindness and friendliness.

One of our challenges today is to feel friendly toward those who do not share our views and opinions.  The first response of the amydala might be bitterness, but we are seeking the heart's response. How can you feel safe with "them"? And how might "they" feel safe with you?

Monday, August 17, 2020

Jenny Wren

Wrens are hopping around the tall flowering plants of August--phlox, vernonia, low shrubs. Wrens mostly eat small insects, so i assume they are cleaning my tall perennials. I hope they "clean" my houseplants (of aphids, scale, white fly) before i bring them indoors in October.
My grandmother called her middle daughter Jenny Wren, so i have a deep, affectionate feeling for all the busy wrens in my gardens. These brave little birds sing loudly and beautifully, and they are not skittish around people.
In these times, we may be called on to be brave even though we feel small. We may be called upon to speak up or speak out, even around big bullies.
Open your heart and sing your very own song--like the wren.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Onion Harvest

My onion harvest is dried. Time to store them in the basement. This is the biggest bonanza of onions i've ever had: a harvest of 225. I am ready for winter.

I particularly like the looks of the Redwing onion--a deep red northern onion.

Our local taco truck offers pickled red onions as a topping, so i've been pickling my own red onions. When a pickle jar is empty, i slice red onions into the pickle juice. That way, i always have my very own pickled red onions ready to chop into any salad.

Although we like to preserve things for the future, these things age and die, just as we do.

My onions will last until spring. Then they will sprout and be ready for their next incarnation.

P.S. Send me your favorite onion recipes.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Fortifying the Mind

 I fortified my unfenced winter squash bed early on because, last year, someone nibbled my squash plants to death. Maybe it was deer. But I suspect turkeys were the main culprits. A bed full of dirt looked like an enticing dust bath to them.

This spring, i staked out the squash bed and then ran string between the stakes until it looked like a cat's cradle. For extra protection, i added tomato cages all along the sides so deer would be deterred from sticking their noses through the tangle of string.

During these COVID times, we are setting up our own fortifying protections--some more than others. Masks, gloves, hand sanitizer. Some protections have been rescinded: i can now use my own bags at the food coop.

I'm already looking forward to my 10-day silent retreat in October--with the side benefit of missing out on 10 days of pre-election news. I'm protecting my mind from various news pests.

I have a bumper crop of winter squash setting butternuts, pumpkins, and Long Island Cheese (whatever that turns out to be). Ten days of silence will yield a beautiful harvest of calm.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Dragonflies in the Skies

Dragonflies are flying around over my four-foot wide fishpond and my lawn in the forest. I'm surprised that my "puddle" in the woods attracts them.

The dragonflies fly at an altitude of about 30 feet, so i don't notice them unless i look up. Now i realize one more reason why we don't have mosquitoes in our yard. The dragonflies are patrolling the skies.

If we can open our minds to peripheral awareness--awareness of all the sights, sounds, senses that are happening every moment--we can patrol the sky of awareness even while watching the meditation object of a dragonfly or the breath, for instance.

If we rest in awareness, then we can catch those pesky mosquito thoughts before they cling to us and bite.

Rest in awareness like a dragonfly.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

In a Pickle

 I grew up with pickles on the dinner table every night. My sweetie doesn't like vinegar, so i sacrificed my pickle habit for 30 years.

Then my acupuncturist told me that vinegar and honey tea is a remedy for acid reflux. Pickles are probiotic. So i started eating pickles again.

What do you sacrifice in order to get along with the person in your house? What do you sacrifice in order to not make waves with members of your family? What do you sacrifice in order to fit in with your community?

Sometimes we give up things that are good for us in order to not make waves, in order to "belong."

Belong to yourself first of all. Don't put your heart in a pickle Fit in with your own true heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Drooping Gladiola

 "Gladiolas look so phallic," my sweetie said. Then he showed me an aging gladiolus that had broken and was drooping. "Unh-hunh," he said.

We smiled.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Later May Be Too Late

 Our friend Paul has a night-blooming cereus that blooms profusely every year. Last night i received an email: We have 7 blossoms tonight. I looked at my sweetie. "It's 9:15. Shall we go?"

We hopped in the car and drove the 15 minutes to the cereus extravaganza. Donning masks and social distancing our extrovert friends, we walked through their house, to the little solarium off the kitchen.

"Smell them," our hostess instructed. Which meant taking off our masks for a a few whiffs.

Sometimes we receive an unexpected message: She's dying now. Come quick or it will be too late.

It's so easy to think Later. But later may be too late.

The night-blooming cereus flowers begin wilting at dawn and are dead by sunrise.

Monday, August 10, 2020

A Catio for Your Cat


I recently met a cat named Alfred who has his very own garden. His servant, Susan, designed this "catio" just for him.

The catio is fenced both above and around the sides. Alfred can get his outdoor "fix" without running across the street or roaming among the ticks. He just hops out an open window into his catio any time he wishes.

You might say that Alfred looks caged, but another way to see it is that he is restrained. 

We can restrain our own senses by not letting them run loose with the desire du jour. We can restrain our minds by not letting it run loose and continually refocusing it on the Dharma and on the divine emotions of kindness and compassion.

Alfred can meditate in his catio, and we can meditate on our patio.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Summer Bouquets

I have a dozen bouquets in my kitchen. Sunflowers, gladiolas, and zinnias.The fullness of summer is here. The glory of the harvest is right here in our backyards.

The summertime of our lives is luscious and delicious. I myself am in the fall garden of my life--full of healthy things like kale and broccoli. Flowers are still blooming, but cool weather is coming.

Today we enjoy August. Ahhh.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Drying Onions

Time to pull onions out of the garden. The Onionman, from whom i ordered way too many onion seedlings in April, sends out encouraging newsletters about how to grow onions, and, recently, how to harvest onions.

I've pulled the onions, cut off their roots, and now they are drying in my darkened and cooler-than-outdoors garage. My neighbor is drying her onions and garlic in wire baskets under her deck.

The vegetable garden is emptying out. You know what that means: the end of summer gardening is coming.

It's time to empty my bookshelves and closets. Indoors, it's called de-cluttering. And you know what that means: the end of the summer body. The autumn body is within sight. That is, as long as i put on my reading glasses to see it, do my yoga stretches to keep it flexible, and pay close attention to people who are talking to me.

"What did you say, dear? Time to pull run-ins out of the carton?"

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Harvesting Garlic

This early morning, before the tropical storm arrived, i pulled my garlic. I "only" have 90 bulbs. After subtracting 25 as seed for next year's crop, that leaves me with a little more than one bulb of garlic a week. That is not enough! What was i thinking when i planted it?

Garlic is so good as a heal-all. When i feel a cold coming on, i dice up a clove and swallow it with a glass of water. I may smell like garlic, but the cold is usually short-lived.

Dharma is our heal-all for everyday living and for these times that we find ourselves in.

Harvest some Dharma wisdom every day.

Monday, August 3, 2020

White Pine Stump

For the past 15 years, a climbing hydrangea has been growing on a 60-year old white pine next to our parking area. When a logger came by to look at some other trees, he fingered that pine as a possible problem--it's 30 feet away from the garage. What might happen in a windstorm?

The logger's father came to estimate the job, and he suggested cutting the four top sprouts and leaving a 40-foot tall stump with the climbing hydrangea. What an elegant solution!

The crane came on Saturday, and four hours later, i had a very tall pine column still covered with the climbing hydrangea. 

The four major upright limbs of the pine have been reduced to a pile of wood chips.

When the time comes, this body will be reduced to a small box of ashes and dust.

I'll use the giant pile of wood chips to freshen up my woodland paths. There are some plants that actually prefer to grow in wood chips.

Old life gives birth to new.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Mother and Daughter Hummingbirds

A mother and a daughter hummingbird are zipping around our deck. The girl rests on a branch, scanning the sky for mom, who appears out of nowhere, and they buzz off together. It looks like hummingbird wars, but actually those two are on a secret mission, known only to themselves.

The girl hummingbird still has her baby fat and her beak is shorter than mom's. She also waits around for mom instead of busying herself going from flower to flower.

When we are young in the Dharma, we rely on "older" practitioners to guide us. Sometimes, the more senior practitioner is younger than we are.

Thursday, July 30, 2020