Thursday, December 3, 2020

Native Sun Chokes


 It's time for Jerusalem artichokes, which are now marketed as "sun chokes." One friend says sun chokes are better than potatoes. Sun chokes are just a little bit sweet.

I like all the perennial vegetables (and fruits) that show up in my garden. I do hardly anything, and voila! There they are.

If i want to decolonize my diet, sun chokes are a good way to begin. They were grown by the indigenous peoples of North America. They are native to this continent. No fossil fuels were used in the transport of this vegetable. Just foot power. One foot for the spade to dig them up, and two feet to walk them from the garden to kitchen.

Delicious.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Skeleton in Bardo

That skeleton i bought at the hardware store for Halloween is still sitting on my front step. She's halfway between holidays, wearing a red scarf and surrounded by fall gourds.

The weather has not yet turned wintry. We are halfway between seasons--no longer fall, but not quite winter.

In Tibetan, the between place is called bardo. We can practice dying by being aware of the stages of falling asleep--that bardo of not awake but not quite asleep either.

The skeleton is in the bardo of between lives. The former fleshly life is gone. Who knows what happens next?

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Welcome and Unwelcome


 This morning i meditated outdoors on the deck at 6:00 a.m. The temperature was balmy and the breeze light. The sun didn't rise until after meditation ended at 7:00.

Welcome December.

I haven't meditated outdoors for more than a month, but if it's over 50 degrees, i sit on the deck and meditate with the birds and the squirrel. (They are doing eating meditation.)

It's too warm for December, and that's unwelcome, but the day was delightful. So easy to spend it outdoors doing some more last-minute chores. Putting up Christmas lights was fun.

We welcome even the unwelcome.

Empty Wreaths

I bought 3 grapevine wreaths at the last Farmers Market of the summer season. The last Farmers Market i could go to in person. Now, the Farmers Markets around me have switched to order on line with curbside pick-up.

I thought the wreaths would be fun to take to the annual wreath-making party at a friend's house, but, of course, she has cancelled that event for this year. So now i'm home alone with 3 empty wreaths. Sigh.

Empty. Thanksgiving empty of friends to eat with, but not empty of friends to share thanks with. A wreath-making party empty of party, but not empty of wreaths.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Invasive


I took a walk in the woods yesterday and found a hundred yards of myrtle. No house could be seen, but i was walking on an old logging road, probably now used once a year for sugaring. Perhaps that dip near the road was an old cellar hole? Someone lived here once upon a time, but all traces of human habitation have disappeared. Except for rampant myrtle.

In Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia, myrtle is an invasive species. Our local garden club, Perennial Swappers, forbids gardeners bringing myrtle to give away. We know what it's going to look like a hundred years from now.

Karma is like this. We indulge in just a little bit of unskillful action--gossip, one drink too many, taking something when no one is looking.

Thoughts become words.

Words become deeds.

Deeds develop into habits.

Habits harden into character.

Watch the mind and its ways with care, born out of concern for all beings.

Our unskillful thoughts, words, and behaviors follow us past death. Old cemeteries here in New England are often surrounded by myrtle (Vinca).

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Beauty

 

Three flickers sat in the winterberry shrub eating berries. So exciting to see a local bird eating local berries in my back yard.

The flickers are beautiful all by themselves. The red winter berries stand out against the tan and gray November landscape. Beauty all around me.

I love the Beauty Way prayer of the Navajo. Here's an excerpt.

I walk with beauty before me. 

I walk with beauty behind me.

I walk with beauty below me. 

I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. 

My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.

 Substitute the word "mindfulness" for the word "beauty," and feel the prayer in the body. Then return to the word "beauty."

May we all walk in beauty.

The flickers fly in beauty.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Turkey Carcass

My Halloween skeleton is still sitting on my front step waving at everyone who walks by. 

Yesterday, we took a turkey apart piece by piece, bone by bone. Today, we have an opportunity to look closely at the turkey skeleton if we are making turkey soup out of the carcass. Look at that turkey leg. It's reminiscent of our own leg bones. Look at that turkey wing. There's a single bone, and then, bent back, is the less meaty two-bone section. The neck bones, the back ribs.

The Buddha recommends a charnel ground meditation. Although we don't have charnel grounds any more, we can take a close look at the turkey carcass, see the resemblance to our own carcass, and contemplate skin, flesh, and bones.

The skeleton on my front step thinks that's funny.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

 

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. This bouquet of herbs sounds like a recipe for Thanksgiving day stuffing. 

I have the parsley, sage, and thyme in my herb garden. But alas, no rosemary.

And on this Thanksgiving Day, no true loves to visit, except the one i live with.

Gratitude is the name of the day. Giving thanks for what i have. Even if Rose and Mary can't come to the feast.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Sage

Sage is growing in my herb garden, but what can i use it for? Turkey stuffing once a year?

The ornamental Salvias are beautiful--both annual and perennial. They all have that wild sage smell.

The word Salvia comes from Latin, meaning "to feel well and healthy." This sounds like a metta benediction. "May I feel well and healthy. May you feel well and healthy."

Who knew that metta was growing in my herb garden?

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

African Violets

My grandmother always had African violets sitting on her kitchen windowsills. I, however, could never keep African violets from dying. Until now.

18 months ago, my sweetie's ophthamologist gave him two African violets--one for each cataract surgery. I'm happy to report they are still alive! 

This past summer, a gardener who came to pick up some of my give-away perennials gifted me with an African violet she had started from a leaf. I love the ruffled pink flowers edged with white.

The gift economy is a lovely form of generosity in which each one of us gives a little something to a friend, a neighbor, or a client.

Maybe my African violets are surviving and thriving on the joy of giving.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Don't Know Daffodils


My gardening friend Ruth divided the white daffodils near her front door and gave me a small bucket of bulbs in September.

Where to plant them? In the white garden. But where exactly?

Not knowing the answer, i potted them up. I now have 18 pots of daffodils, which will spend the winter in the garage. For now, they are still outdoors and being rained on today.

Don't-know is one of the most difficult mind states for me. I want to know! Yet the daffodils don't know either. They simply grow where they are planted. Pots today. Next April i will plop them in the ground after i see where other white daffodils are located.

I have 6 months of not-knowing ahead of me. The daffodils are simply resting comfortably in their not-knowing.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Putting the Garden to Bed


On October 1, i gave a talk to a garden club about Putting the Garden to Bed. Seven weeks later, my gardens are indeed put to bed, and almost everything on the check-list is done. Garden hoses put away. Outdoor chairs now sit in the garage. Birdhouses are cleaned out. Most of my vegetable garden beds are mulched with hay.

The gardener topped off the compost bins with manure on her last day. Oh, sigh. The gardener is gone. I miss her already.

The gardens have gone to bed, ready for their long, long sleep. Now that i have an extra hour or two each day, i can get going on some of my writing projects. I can work on de-cluttering the house. Again.

Getting ready for the time when i myself go for the big sleep.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Fish Under Ice


My fishpond freezes during the night and thaws on a sunny day. The goldfish are still swimming underneath the ice, though i'm not sure "swim" is the proper word. They move through the water. They are not hibernating, but they are logy. They are cold-blooded creatures in chilly water.

You know that cold reduces inflammation and swelling. Cold also increases metabolism, improves sleep, and improves your immune response. Some of my friends are practicing cold therapy--taking cold showers or other cold exposure. I'm walking around the house without slippers and even going barefoot outdoors for a few seconds at a time.

There most likely will come a time in our old, old age when cold overtakes us. Can i greet the big chill as an old, cold friend?



The goldfish will be in a torporous state until April when it's time to sow alyssum seeds (yesterday's post :).


Friday, November 20, 2020

Farewell Alyssum


 Alyssum is still blooming, but just barely. 23 degrees this morning, and alyssum's life energy is waning.

What a pleasure alyssum is. I sow the seeds along my walkways in mid-April. Alyssum is cold tolerant, so she isn't fazed by a cold snap here and there. She starts blooming June 1, and five months later, she's still full of charm.

But now, the week before Thanksgiving, her seeds are ready to be harvested. 

I like a resilient plant, and i like resilient people. Resilience is the ability to endure the pain of a dart that someone throws, often unintentionally. Yes, that thoughtless remark hurts. Can you, I, we endure that pain with mindfulness? One second, five seconds? Maybe as long as a minute.

Then we notice we are breathing. Still breathing.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Raccoon Diarrhea

Somebody who lives on or near this road has diarrhea. I could feel the sting just looking at the scat of.... What? A raccoon?  I found 2 tiny "cowpies" on our driveway, about ten feet apart. Somebody had to go and go badly. And then again. You know how that feels.

Food goes in our mouths; our bodies compost it; and the remains exit through the bottom of the torso.

The food that goes in my mouth is not me. The waste that comes out the bottom end is not me. How about that composting process? Is that me? The stuff i chew? The masticated mess that the stomach digests? Is that me? The slurry that enters the small intestine. Is that me?

When do the vitamins and minerals become "me"?

The body is constantly changing. Water in. Pee out. Is it ever me?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Winter Berries

All summer i've been looking at a non-descript shrub outside my kitchen window. That shrub is spreading. What the heck is it? What was i thinking when i put it there?

Now that it's covered with red berries, i see that it is a holly called winterberry. The red berries are a pleasure to look at while i'm doing the dishes, and the berries will last 5 months, until the end of winter.

The shrub has teeny-weeny flowers in the spring, and the plain deciduous leaves have no fall color, but now winterberry is the star of the winter garden.

Meditation practice may look boring and dull in the summer of our lives, but it really bears fruit when we are reduced to the bare bones of life. 




Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Meditating Frog Bows

 

My statue of a meditating frog took a tumble. That's 40 pounds of concrete. Who has that much push?

Clue: Hanging six feet above it was a suet feeder, which is now missing.

In my mind, that adds up to: Bear.

I really thought the suet feeder was safe since it was 8 feet off the ground. But if you use the frog as a ladder, well, the homemade suet is within reach.

Obviously, the bear is smarter than i am, because i never imagined standing on top of the frog. I have to bow to the ingenuity of the bear.

Our animal instincts subvert our meditation all the time. Desire is a big one. Aversion another. And then there's dreaming, planning, and fantasizing. The instinct that subverts my meditation is sleepiness and dullness. If i don't watch out, i'll wind up with my forehead on the floor, snoozing away.

Monday, November 16, 2020

How Low Can You Go?


Temperatures are dropping into the 20s at night. Still, the sorrel limps along--almost the only old green lady remaining in the garden. 

I've only just discovered a sorrel sauce for salmon. My sweetie can't eat citrus, so i pureed the (briefly) cooked sorrel, added maple syrup and tamari. Wow! The lemon-y sweet-sour sauce is delicious.

Sorrel is sour, so a touch of maple syrup makes it tangy and tasty.

Our sour mind states--such as irritation, frustration, impatience--can be antidoted with a bit of sweetness toward ourselves. Kindness and patience cure almost every negative mind state.

Just when you feel you want to go low, remember your long-term intention to take the high road. Go high by practicing kindness. Toward yourself first of all.



Sunday, November 15, 2020

Turkeys Giving Thanks

I opened my eyes during meditation at 6:45 this morning and saw a flock of turkeys strolling by. They seemed unconcerned that it's (ahem) November. Moreover, it's hunting season in the woods around here.

The turkeys were all busy eating something in the grass. Ticks, i hope.

Perhaps, the turkeys are having their Thanksgiving dinner already.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

November Front Step


The mums on the front step have aged, turned brown, and been thrown onto the compost pile. The pumpkins came indoors before the first heavy frost. Now what remains is one flowering kale, a cyclamen from last year, and some cute little gourds. It's slim pickin's, but it's enough to make me smile.

Sink in to the pleasantness of any one small thing. Feel the joy. Let the positivity suffuse your body. Happiness.

It's enough.

Friday, November 13, 2020

How Far Can Johnny Jump?


 A few Johnny-jump-ups brighten my back door garden, so i take my trowel to the vegetable garden and dig up a dozen out there. I transplant them, so i'll see them when i walk out the back door.

How high can Johnny jump up? Actually, the question seems to be: How far can Johnny jump? The stems for the little pansy-looking flowers are almost 3 feet long. Never mind. 

Johnny-jump-ups look happy, and so am I.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Flat Calm


The gardens are looking flat. Tall phlox, bee balm, asters, mums have been cut down and composted.

Sunlight is "flat." The sun has moved so far to the south that it shines obliquely over the landscape.

Mood can begin to feel flat on gray days as the hours of daylight shorten.

I experience calm as flat, but it's a slightly happy flat, like floating on the river in my kayak.

Calm. Let's enjoy this calm vacation from the hub-bub of news, becalmed from the busy-ness of going and doing.

How does calm feel to you?

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Second Summer


It's been a beautiful second summer here in the North Country. Last week and this, temperatures have been in the sunshiny 60s during the day. I keep taking off the layers i put on pre-dawn until i'm down to short sleeves and long cotton pants. Then, as soon as the sun sets, the day-dusk cools down to fleece weather. Even so, the evenings are lovely under a clear starry sky.

Change. So many changes of clothes during the day. Fleece pants, a long-sleeved merino wool shirt, and a fleece hoody as soon as i arise for morning meditation at dawn. By ten in the morning, i've shed the long sleeves for my short-sleeves underneath. Next to go are the fleece leggings. If i'm outdoors, even the short sleeves may be discarded for the tank top underneath that. Then one by one, i put them all on again.

Change. Change. And more change.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Blood


 Sanguisorba delights the September and October garden with its while chenille flowers. Also known as burnet, this cucumber-tasting herb can be used in soups and salads.

Sangui means "blood" in Latin. (Think: sanguine) and sorba means to soak or staunch. This herb can be used to stop a wound from bleeding.

In these politically divisive times, we want to staunch the blood-letting--the paper cuts of mean words and the deeper wounds of hateful words.

Let's staunch the blood flow between red and blue. After all, the blood in every one of us runs red and blue.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Truck in the Garden


My walking onions are now flatter than a flitter*. 

Every November, my sweetie backs the pick-up truck filled with firewood over my back door garden. This makes sense to him. Driving over any garden never makes sense to me. 

Views and opinions. There you have it. He has one view; i have another. We do not agree. Yet we do have communal harmony.

For lunch, i made a squash soup with onions from the back door garden. "What's this?" he asked.

"Squash soup with braised truck tire onions," i said.


*Etymology:  German flitter.

‘A minute square of thin metal, used in decoration; collectively, a quantity of such squares

Thursday, November 5, 2020

November Chard


 "What about the chard?" my sweetie asks.

He loves Swiss chard, and he's worried that it will freeze.

"Chard is good all the way through November." I try to reassure him.

Worry is one of the hindrances to our meditation, and it's an obstacle in our daily life as well.

My sweetie worries about the chard. I cannot un-worry him with what i consider to be facts: The chard is edible in November, so eat up.

Worry, worry.

He has to calm himself. I cannot do it for him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Excelsior


 A package came filled with excelsior a few years ago. What to do with excelsior? 

I tried to give it to the Swap Program at the landfill, thinking some craft person would know what to do with it. They rejected it. Last spring, i was desperate for mulch in my vegetable garden, so i took it out there, but never used it. Finally, i know what i'm going to do with it.

Store my turnips.

Turnips are supposed to be stored in a cool place, just above 32 degrees. My basement, at 55 degrees, is too warm. I'm packing my turnips in excelsior, and i'll store them in the garage. My garage is nine degrees warmer than outdoors, so the turnips should be okay until bitter cold arrives.

Excelsior means "very fine wood shavings," but it is also the motto of the state of New York, meaning "Ever upward."

How can we train our mental habits "ever upward"? How do we choose and take the high road?

One way is to practice the paramis--the paramount qualities of mind: Generosity. Integrity. Relinquishment. Wisdom. Energy. Patience. Truth. Resolve. Loving-Friendliness. Equanimity.

Excelsior! Let's live in accord with our highest intentions. Let's surround ourselves (and my turnips) with excelsior.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Entropy


 One of the 5 daily recollections is

Everything i cherish will change and vanish.

In other words, everything is impermanent. Everything changes. Everything.

We could also call this uncertainty, this lack of order, this unpredictability, entropy. Entropy is defined as a gradual decline into disorder.

My fall yard certainly look random and disordered. We might feel the same way about the political situation.

One of my personality traits is bringing order out of chaos. I love to organize things into categories. Categories is not a natural state. It takes work to organize stuff. We've all heard stories about people who (in the old days) get all their slides organized, and then trip, and all the slides go flying. Entropy is enough to drive neat-niks crazy, because things don't stay organized.

Maybe i'll do some work today, and go out and organize my leaves into piles and carry them to the compost bin.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Flowering Kale

Very few flowers are blooming in the chill of November. Alyssum and Johnny-jump-ups seem to enjoy the cool weather. The other spots of color in my garden are flowering kale, which will "bloom" until the snow stays on the ground.

How about you? Are you enjoying the cooler weather of aging? 

My hair has grown old. My eyes. My ears. My face. My bones. My whole body, really. Yet life goes on. I am out in the garden on a chilly day, letting the wind blow through me, and thankful to be alive.











Sunday, November 1, 2020

The November Garden

It snowed a couple of days ago, followed by a killing frost. All the annuals are good and dead now. And the fall garden is beautiful in stark relief: kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, and my lone cauliflower.

Gone is the "clutter" of the summer garden. Bean plants pulled up. Squash plants melted into mush. Tomatoes in the compost.

Summer is good and dead. How can something be "good" and "dead" at the same time? Is dead good? Well, yes. Sometimes.

The fall garden is good.

The summer garden is dead. Gone. Gone. Gone.


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Skeleton

 

When i saw a skeleton at the hardware store, i bought it. It now stands at the corner of my driveway and the road, greeting visitors.

The Buddha recommended 5 daily recollections, one of which is "I am of the nature to die. Death is unavoidable."

These Days of the Dead, preceded by All Hallow's Evening (Hallow E'en), are an excellent time to bring this remembrance to mind. Perhaps several times today and tomorrow.

All around us, people are sick and dying from COVID. Just like them, i am of the nature to become sick and die.

Our challenge is to have compassion for the suffering of others and for ourself. This is not a time to say, "Well, they were old anyway, so it doesn't really matter if they die." Put yourself in their shoes; put yourself in their bare feet. Walking on cold ground. Walking toward a grave. Put yourself in their bones. Put yourself in their skeleton.

Practice compassion.


Friday, October 30, 2020

Fuzzy Fingers of Fungus

 

Fuzzy white fingers of fungus are growing out of a birch log in my wood stack. Aaagh! They're coming to get me!

Part of the fun of Halloween is the thrill of fear that doesn't last too long. Feel the fear of fuzzy fingers growing out of a log.... Coming to get me! Aaaagghhh. (But not really. :) Ha. Ha.

Often, fear is no laughing matter. Fear lodges in our muscles and organs. Fear lodges in our minds, and our neural pathways keep running over the same ruts.

The antidote to fear is friendliness. Loving-friendliness to our self, first of all. And then, if and when we can, to the scary thing. Start with the easy stuff.

I'm feeling loving-friendliness toward white fuzzy fingers of fungus.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Canning Tomatoes


 I thought i was done with canning. No more canning tomatoes. But during these COVID months, what else do i have to do except grow tomatoes and can them?

My sweetie was told that tomatoes flare his eczema, so i limited my tomato plants to 2 sungolds. Then a friend gave me 2 Roma plants, so, of course, i planted them. As i mentioned a couple of days ago, 50 green tomatoes are slowly turning orange and losing their garden-fresh taste, so i made tomato sauce. I pour the tomato juice off the sauce because (1) i don't like watery tomato sauce and (2) i use the tomato juice (tomato broth is more apt) in making winter soups or Spanish rice.

The boiling water bath does take time to heat up. All that work for 4½ pints of tomato sauce.  And the tomato sauce is just for me.

That's what some people say about meditation: All that work, and it's just for you. Isn't that navel-gazing selfish?

Finding peace of mind ripples out to our family and friends. Practicing kindness establishes a habit of kindness, and the world--our neighbors, our community--need a lot of kindness right now.

Be a light for your world. Feed yourself some peace in meditation, and see what happens.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Love Doesn't Care


 I have a cauliflower in my garden! You may object to the black and brown spots on it, but listen to my thrill. I have a cauliflower! How many times have i planted cauliflower to harvest exactly zero?

It's true i have one and only one cauliflower, and i love it, no matter what it looks like, no matter that the slugs ate the north side of it. They left the rest for me.

Love doesn't care what the beloved looks like--old or young, short or tall. Love only loves.

The world judges. "Oh, your cauliflower has spots." "Oh, your cauliflower is not perfectly round."

Love doesn't care. Love only loves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Not So Red Tomatoes


I harvested 50 green Italian tomatoes before the first frost two weeks ago. I've been waiting for them to redden and eating the reddest one every day. But lately, well, they aren't all that red; they are a yellowish-red. I guess that means orange. And they are starting to taste like mushy store-bought tomatoes. They've lost their fresh-from-the-garden flavor.

This is what happens when we drift away from direct experience of our meditation object. The object (the breath, the body, metta) becomes mushy, not as clear, and not as delicious.

The tomatoes will never regain their true tomato-y-ness, so i'm making sauce out of them.

But we can freshen up our attention. Straight up our posture. Take a few deep breaths to energize the body. Become interested in something or other. Investigate. One of my favorite investigations is how dullness works.

I'm going to make sauce out of dullness yet!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ladybugs in the House

 



While i was on retreat last week in our guest cottage, i noticed lady bugs clumped in the corners of the living room above the windows. I had just vowed not to harm any living being for 10 days, and there were dozens of ladybugs sharing my retreat space. Oh, how i wanted to get out the vacuum cleaner and suck them up.

Now, now Cheryl. That's not a very kind or harmless thing to do.

I took a deep breath and got the broom and dustpan. I could knock the ladybugs down with the broom, sweep them into the dustpan, and then throw them into the garden.

There. It wasn't so hard to be kind, after all.



Saturday, October 24, 2020

Turnip Soup




I harvested a very large turnip. Since there was no way to hack into it, i put it in my stewpot and boiled it for an hour till it was tender. What do you do with turnips anyway?

I divided this one into 3 parts. I mashed one-third of it; i diced a third; and i stored the other (cooked) third in the refrigerator, awaiting further inspiration.

Since i didn't grow up with turnips on the supper table, i always feel at a loss about how to cook them. But two years ago, i had a glorious turnip soup for my birthday at a fancy restaurant. I've been salivating for turnip soup ever since.

But what to do and how to do it?

Doubt is a serious affliction on our spiritual path. Doubt can prevent us from even getting started at all. I could leave the turnips in the garden all winter just because i don't know how to harvest them or cook them.

So step aside doubt. Let's figure out what to do with a turnip. First, i bought some heavy cream. Any creamy soup is improved by real cream. I put a quart of mashed turnip in a saucepan, added half a cup of cream, and a cup of chicken broth. I used my immersion blender, then added garlic salt and thyme. Oh, my. Turnip soup is delicious.


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Pine Cones


It's a prolific year for pine cones, and i'm collecting bags full of them. A pine cone or two makes starting a fire in the wood stove easy; pine cones are almost as good kindling as fat sticks.

In these political days, it's easy to light the fire of righteousness. What's the matter with those people? Why can't they see things the way i see them?

But the fires of anger, worry, discontent, and even disgust are not dowsed by fighting fire with fire. The fire of fear burns hot. We are afraid of the other side, and they are afraid of us.

The Buddha said: Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.

We might say: Anger never ceases by more anger, but is healed by kindness alone.

Let's kindle kindness. Let's take the high road and extinguish our own internal fires of fear. 

 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Wind

 


Just before the rain, the wind  blows beautifully. A cool warm wind. I lie in the hammock and watch clouds skid across the sky. 

It's heaven out near the vegetable garden, surrounded by red- and yellow-leaved trees. I'm wearing long sleeves, but the temperature is just right. 

The wind blows the Cheryl-ness out of me until i can feel the clouds skating across the sky also skating through my chest. It's wonderfully wild in the great outdoors.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

BLT in a Bowl


I planted only 3 tomato plants because my sweetie is allergic to tomatoes. Nevertheless, i now have a lot of tomatoes to eat. Some days, i eat fresh tomatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

One of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes is a BLT sandwich, but who has time to fry bacon? So i buy bacon bits--fake bacon bits from the co-op or real bacon bits from the supermarket. I try to avoid gluten, so i now eat a BLT bowl. And truth be told, i don't have lettuce, so it's just diced tomatoes, bacon bits, and a dollop of mayonnaise.

Oh, how that recipe for BLT has changed over the years. I grew up with Wonder Bread and Miracle Whip. I used to eat mayonnaise (Miracle Whip) sandwiches after school.

In my 20s i converted to whole wheat bread, and in my 30s to "real" mayonnaise, Hellman's or Best on the West Coast. In my 60s, i started drifting away from bread.

I still call it BLT even though it barely resembles its former self. And come to think of it, i still call me "I," even though i barely resemble my former self.

Is a BLT in a bowl still a BLT?

Am I still I?


Monday, October 5, 2020

Big Move


The big move is happening. The seasons are changing. Potatoes and winter squash have been drying in the woodshed, along with the gladiolus corms. Now it's time for everything to move to the basement, so that the wood can start coming into the woodshed.

Onions and garlic are already in the basement, but i have to shuffle them around to make room for incoming vegetables. I need more shelf space.

They say that wood warms you twice: once when you stack it and once when you burn it. Potatoes and squash aren't nearly as heavy, but there's a lot of up and down on the basement stairs. Good exercise!

Change. It's the only thing that's constant.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Harvesting Hemp

 


A friend gave me 2 hemp plants in June, which grew to be six feet tall and 2 feet wide. So what can i do with hemp? Other than make rope. I would like to harvest some hemp seed, but all i have are buds and flowers.

For now, it's cut and drying in the shed.

Here i am, face to face with don't-know mind. I don't know what to do with hemp, and i don't know what to write about it.

I much prefer knowing what to do, knowing something, knowing anything! But that kind of knowing is not available right now.

So i settle into don't-know and feel how it feels in my body. Uncomfortable. A slight tension impels me forward to wanting. Wanting to know. Wanting to find out.

In the meantime, i have to be satisfied with "Don't know."


Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Fear-Dispelling Buddha

 


With all the political shenanigans going on, i am relying on the fear-dispelling Buddha near my front door.

Who, me? Worry? Well, yes. I find my amydala (Danger! Danger!) is activated by the news.

Yet the fear-dispelling Buddha stands, silently reminding me to let fear go.

His right hand is raised as if to say Stop! Stop that obsessive mind. His left hand is lowered as if to say Drop it. Let it go.

How do you stop the discursive mind? My favorite practice right now is to say--out loud if need be--Cancel. Cancel. Cancel that thought. I don't want to make the rut of that worrying thought any deeper.

Give it a try today. Every time a sad, anxious, or mean thought passes through your mind, simply say Cancel. Cancel. even if you have to say it repeatedly.

I find that Cancel. Cancel. allows me to drop the thought for a second. Let it go. Notice that one second of peace. That's a one-second vacation from the obsessive mind. What a relief!


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Path Paved with Yellow Leaves


Yellow birch leaves are fluttering to earth, at times looking like soft yellow rain. My woodland path is paved with gold.

Every morning, i follow my personal "yellow brick road" to meditation at a neighbor's house. 

Meditation offers all sorts of obstacles--lack of determination (the scarecrow), tension and tightness (the tin man), and lack of heart (the lion). Yet we persevere, confident that our path will lead us to our natural state, which is not Kansas, but kindness.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Lemon-y Sorrel


With the advent of cool weather, French sorrel is reappearing in my herb garden. I cut some of its spinach-looking leaves and make a lemon-chicken-rice soup--without the lemon since my sweetie is allergic to citrus. Sorrel is a good substitute for that lemon-y taste.

Some people cannot tolerate what we might say--whether about politics or religion. We want to give them a taste of true kindness whether or not they are tolerant, whether or not they are kind to us. This is a steep practice.

My sweetie, who doesn't like sour tastes, enjoyed the sorrel soup.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Datura

 


I bought a pale yellow datura in the spring. Since the summer was hot and dry, not much happened, but now that it's cool and dry, the Georgia O'Keefe flower is blooming.

I've grown the lavender daturas (a.k.a. jimsonweed) before and sworn off the thorny seed pod because next year, datura pops up in several places. Mostly, i weed out the little seedlings, but this year i kept one lavender datura out in the vegetable garden. 

Like the scattering of datura seeds, we never know how the effects of our actions ripple out, but ripple they do. That's a good reason to speak and act as skillfully as we are able.

In these days of heated political dissension, it's especially important to act and speak as calmly as we can.

 Victory begets hatred; 

the defeated dwell in pain. 

Happily the peaceful live, 

discarding both victory and defeat.

Datura is a poisonous plant. Speaking poisonous words only poisons our own heart.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Potato Harvest

 


Today i dug up 5 gallons of potatoes. I wonder how many pounds that is? One thing i know: It's heavy.

Now for the cleaning and sorting. After washing, i want them to dry out and for their skins to "heal." I know from past experience that sending them straight to the 55-degree basement will cause them to mold. So the potatoes need to dry out for a few days, yet not be exposed to the sun lest they get sunburn--their skins turn green. 

So i put each batch in a flat, cover it with a dish towel, and store it under the dining room table for a few days. We are not expecting company for dinner any time soon, so no one will know.

Digging potatoes is like searching for buried treasure. The Buddha's teachings are a treasure that will feed us for the rest of our lives.

Meanwhile, i have enough potatoes to last me several months.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mulch Hay


Part of putting the garden to bed includes mulching the vegetable garden. First, the onion beds, then the winter squash bed, and finally the potato bed.

I call my local farmer, Bonnie, who knows how to load my pickup truck with 22 bales of hay. Right now, i ask her for only 10. The mulch hay i put on the garlic bed, the gladiola bed, the potato bed in the spring has become thin. The local turkeys are taking dust baths in the dirt there. I need a new thick layer to prevent grass from creeping in to the beds. By next spring, the hay will have dissolved into dirt. Oh, the soil in those beds is so deliciously dark and writhing with earthworms.

It's hard to believe, but taking a break from the world--meditating or going on retreat--can make us feel more alive. We mulch our world by muting all the incoming texts, phone calls, emails, and news. Stress dissolves. We begin to actually feel our bodies. Hey! I'm alive! Feel that.

These winter months of hibernation are a great time to retreat. I'm doing a 10-day silent retreat in October. How about you?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Leaping Clear

 


Another frost warning prompted us to bring all the houseplants indoors. I also bring in the flowerpots from the front step, and those pots are heavy. I do believe i got in a day's worth of weightlifting.

Out the door. In the door. Suddenly a frog was sitting on the floor of the solarium. We tried to corral her through the exit door, but she leapt for the window.

That's when i put on my inner 10-year-old boy and acted like a hunter. Got her!

She tried to squeeze out of my clutching hands. I barely got out the door, and she won the contest. Leaping clear.

Sometimes, we truly do not know where safety lies. It seems like safety should be over there (sunlight through the window), but it's actually over here (through the door).

Mindfulness is the door. Open the sense doors of mindfulness--seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting. Freedom lies in this very moment.