Sunday, May 31, 2020

Vain Cowbird

Brown-headed Cowbird | Bird Gallery | Houston AudubonA cowbird has taken up residence near our deck. He loves to sit on the back of a chair and gaze at himself in the window. When we moved the chairs away from the window, he scooted around to the front porch where i have a glass gazing globe, filled with fairy lights, in a ceramic flowerpot. He gazes at himself in the gazing globe. How appropriate! That bird loves gazing at himself. What a vain guy.
Looking at ourselves in a mirror is one way we affirm that, yes, we do exist. If we had no mirrors, we would have no proof that we are separate from the world we experience. 
The Buddha's most difficult teaching is not-self. The ego's mind cannot understand this, so we may as well stop trying. Once in a while, especially on retreat, a glimpse arises. It's surprising. But once you've seen it, you can't unsee it.
Meanwhile, the cowbird looks and looks and looks at himself.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Early Bird, Late Bird

Northern cardinals are at their noisiest in spring | Star TribuneA cardinal swoops onto the railing of the deck before the sun rises. He's the early bird, the earliest bird to come for a breakfast of sunflower hearts. Soon, chickadees and goldfinches swarm the railing, which we keep well supplied with sunflower hearts. The chickadees eat from our hands; the goldfinches fly off in a flock as soon as we open the deck door. The cardinal does a fly-by, but will not land if we are anywhere to be seen. Instead, he perches in a nearby apple tree, perhaps hiding from us, though we can see him perfectly well.

Cardinals are shelf-feeders, not perching feeders, so occasionally I see him coming in for a landing, but, changing course at the last moment, he continues on down to the ground below our second story deck, where cast-off seeds are hiding in the grass.

After sunset, as the bird chorus quiets into the dusk, the cardinal makes a final visit to eat whatever remains on the railing. Quiet, alone, not bothered by or competing with anyone else.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

When the Robin Comes Bobbin'

Why two American Robins would sit on eggs in one nest - BirdWatchingLast fall, Bill cut down the climbing hydrangea that was crawling up the front of house and threatening to devour our metal roof. Its roots and tendrils had snuck into the cracks between the boards and battens of the siding, into the cracks under the eaves, and between the eaves and the roof.

Every spring a robin nested somewhere in that hydrangea tangle near our open bedroom window, and Bill, who likes to sleep late, would be awakened by the whinneying of the robin and its cheer-up-cheer-ly song. Bill was not cheered by this unwanted wake-up call.

This year, a robin is nesting in the euonymous climber on the other front corner of the house. I walk past it many times a day and hear the cheep-cheep of little birdies. I see one robin and another strolling through the flowers of my flowerbeds, successfully hunting worms, then flying three or six feet to the nest. 

Sometimes I wish I lived that close to my grocery store.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Tulip Surprise

Tulips surprise me every year. I buy them half price after Thanksgiving and force them in pots in the garage. By early March, their green shoots poke up out of the dirt, and I bring them indoors to warm up. As soon as one blooms, I take it and its pot full of sister tulips outdoors to the front step. Soon, a dozen pots of tulips decorate the front door.

Left in the refrigerator of outdoors, the potted tulips bloom for about three weeks, though this year, they held their color for nearly six weeks. Then I dig a hole in a flowerbed and plop the spent tulips into it.

A year later, a few tulips survive and surprise me. The chipmunks did not eat the tulip bulbs. It feels like a miracle, and I am grateful.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Day 44 by Guest Blogger Ellen Pratt

Goose Pond Swimming - Free photo on Pixabay
Day 44 of Vermont’s stay-at-home order and my life has taken on a dreamy quality, a feeling of being suspended in time and space. The minutes blend together into hours, the hours into days. I no longer need to check the time and I rarely look at my calendar as there are so few obligations now.  My life has shrunk to a five square mile Eden that I can reach on foot from my front door.   

I’m reveling in this new life. There’s a pervasive calm and a feeling of boundarylessness between me and my small world.  There’s no bracing against the sharp, early spring air, no automatically reaching for a coat when I leave the house for my daily walk. I stuff my scarf into my pocket, preferring to feel the wind against my face and neck. 

When I walk in the woods I am the stillness and the world is entering me. The tall oak and locust trees I once saw as foreboding now stand as serene sentinels granting me entry into their mystical palace.  I hike the hemlock ledge trail, climbing through the brown, dry, deciduous forest to the highest elevation in the neighborhood, a verdant world where moss-carpeted trails blend into moss-covered boulders sprouting miniature, feathery ferns. The lacy, emerald hemlock branches screen the cerulean sky, and a small, orange moth floats on a sunbeam and dances before me.

I’m captivated by the diversity of birdsong washing over me as I spend hours in the backyard lounge chair.  I’m as thrilled by this as by Yoyo Ma’s cello I listen to while making dinner.  If life doesn’t return to its pre-pandemic state I’ll never again want for anything as long as I have the birds and the music. 

I watch the fat female robin nesting in the eve of the woodshed. The chicks must be newborn for she hasn’t moved in a few days and her partner is busily delivering her meals and feeding her. I’ve spied on him through my field-glasses, hopping through the grass and cocking his head, aiming his one eye down and then stabbing his fierce beak to nab the prey. The worm looks impossibly fat through the binoculars and I almost think it’s a snake. The robin swallows it in one gulp.  Later I see him dangling a short, skinny worm in his beak to bring to his mate during her vigil. 

I notice the budding, origami leaves of the lilac unfolding each day. And the modest trillium in the woods, all dressed up and no place to go. My husband brings into the house a few flowering peach tree  branches that he pruned from the tree out back. He carefully trims the stems and gives them center stage on the cold wood stove in the front room.

At night I walk down the dark road, open to the mystery that has been revealing itself to me lately as I’ve opened to it.  I hear a soft flapping above me and look up to see a lone Canada Goose flying low,  just above the stand of pine trees at the edge of the road.  The moon is full and encircled by a hazy halo.  Down by the pond, where the goose has landed, the wood frogs are croaking their riotous anthem to the brilliant stars overhead. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Red Tulips

red tulips open in the sun in spring at Phipps Conservatory in ...

Red Tulips

by Denise Levertov
Red tulips
living into their death
flushed with a wild blue
becoming wings
ears of the wind
jackrabbits rolling their eyes
west wind shaking the loose pane
some petals fall
with that sound one
listens for.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Soporific Lettuce

Beatrix Potter wrote that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific, and so the Flopsy bunnies all fell asleep under a lettuce plant.

Indeed, the white milky sap of a lettuce plant, especially wild lettuce, does have a slight sleepifying effect.

What are your soporifics? Pills? TV? Reading?

One of my soporifics is wheat. Wheat makes me sleepy. Two hours after a piece of toast, i feel like i need a nap. Therefore, i don't eat bread or pasta products on retreat. I renounce that delicious bread that the retreat center serves with the soup dinner.

There's a time and place for inducing sleep, but during meditation, sleepiness and laziness (aka sloth and torpor) is a hindrance.

We are on the path toward awakening. Therefore we need to be awake for our meditation. Wake up!

Then eat some lettuce before bedtime.