Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Strawberries Next Year

How to Grow and Harvest Strawberries | Gardener's Path
Strawberry season is almost over, and a friend just gave me strawberry plants. This means i won't be harvesting strawberries until next year.

We plant ourselves in meditation and may or may not have immediate results. We are investing in our mental health by reducing our stress here and now. With care and tending, our meditation practice bears fruit.

Strawberries next year!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Purple Pod Peas

Pea, Purple Podded - Burpee
Suddenly, i have peas. And some of the pea pods are purple! Surprise! What did i plant anyway?

Plant a radish.
Get a radish,
not a Brussels sprout.

The same holds true of our mental qualities. Plant self-judgment and harvest self-judgment. As a matter of fact, plant judgment (of others), and harvest self-judgment because (here's the tricky part), since you know you judge, you assume that others are judging you--which may, in fact, not be true.

Judgments and opinions can be a lot of fun, and they can even be funny, but they will come back to bite you.

I'm biting into the purple pea pod to see how it tastes.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Garden Biceps

I know i have gardening feet, but now the masseuse tells me i have garden biceps. I smile. This is a good excuse for not going to exercise class in the spring and summer. Just as i suspected, gardening is a workout.

According to my Fitbit, i walk a mile an hour when i'm in exercise class, but also when i'm gardening. Now i know that hauling a plastic sled full of perennials uphill to my compost pile is as good as lifting weights.

Just as important as working out the body is the workout for the mind. It's called meditation. This is where we develop all sorts of wholesome qualities--kindness, generosity, patience, you name it.

A friend's sister died on Friday. She took 2 weeks to give up her body. She wasn't ready despite her dire cancer diagnosis.

Mother Earth reclaims all of us, regardless of the state of our biceps. Meanwhile, i plant and transplant for 2 or 3 hours every day.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Rotten Amaryllis Bulb

Nowadays, amaryllis in a box come with a plastic pot that has no hole in the bottom. This is a no-muss, no-fuss, and no mess way to plant your amaryllis.

My dozen amaryllises spend the summer outdoors in the shade being rained on occasionally. (In this drought, very occasionally.) So i was surprised to find a rotten amaryllis bulb--in one of those pots with no holes in the bottom. In my 25 years of keeping amaryllis bulbs from year to year, i've never seen a rotten bulb before. And last winter was the first time i had seen the pots with no holes in the bottom.

The amaryllis sellers are in the business of selling amaryllis, not in keeping my bulb alive from year to year. I am seduced by the ease of the clean pot and the peat moss potting soil. Plop the bulb in. Done.

Done, and then gone. For many people, this is sufficient. I've inherited some bulbs from people who can't be bothered with keeping the bulb and its strappy foliage over the summer.

Caveat emptor. If i want to keep my amaryllis bulbs, i need to put them in better flowerpots.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

African Violets

African Violets: How to Care for African Violets | The Old ...
A year ago, my sweetie had cataract surgery. As he lay in the recovery room, his nurse delivered an African violet--a present from the ophthamologist thanking the patient for choosing him as his surgeon.

Two weeks later, my sweetie had the cataract removed from his other eye, and he came home with another African violet.

The African violets are still alive, much to my amazement. Although my grandmother had many African violets on her kitchen's two windowsills, i did not inherit the knack of keeping them alive.

A couple of years ago, in writing group, i saw a sign posted on the hostess's African violet: Water from the bottom. I took that lesson to heart and have watered these violets, on my kitchen windowsill, from the bottom every 5-7 days, allowing them to dry out completely in between waterings.

What waters us from the bottom? What is the source that keeps us blooming even when we feel all dried up?

Being in touch with Life. Some people might call it Spirit. Allowing the Life that flows through us every day to water our roots whether or not we are blooming.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Name Your Weeds

Papaver somniflorum
A gardening friend tells me that her husband dug out all of her Solomon's seal because he thought it was a weed. This all-too-common story leads me to one of my tenets of gardening: Name Your Weeds.

I don't pull a weed unless i can name it. I've heard repeated stories of people who can't keep the re-seeding annual poppy, Papapaver somniflorum, in their garden. I give them seeds year after year. "The early foliage looks like a lettuce leaf," i say. "Oh," they often say. "I thought that was a weed."

It does take a while to learn your weeds, and you may notice that some weeds like particular spots in your garden. Sheep sorrel grows in 2 of my strip beds, but not in the parallel third one. Go figure.

Part of our mindfulness practice is becoming able to identify our emotions. Mad. Sad. Glad. and all the variations on those themes. Once you can name your emotions, you are not tossed on the sea of i-don't-know-what's-happening-but-it's-really-uncomfortable. A wave of emotion washes over you; you feel at sea for a minute or two; you remember to be mindful; you name the emotion. Oh, that's what it is. Chances are the body and mind will relax, at least a little bit.

Name your weeds. Pull them out. Give the flowers a chance to bloom.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Spike Garden

My spike garden is blooming--full of foxglove and 2 varieties of mullein.

I particularly like the white mullein, which i grew from seed i collected from some escapees from the local Putney Wildflower Nursery. The nursery is long gone, but a patch of white mullein and another patch of yellow thermopsis remain.

Speaking of which, i want to go collect thermopsis seeds for my spike-y garden.

What are the seeds you collect? Particularly those from your admirable, honorable friends. Kindness? Compassion? Patience?

I have one neighbor who is infinitely patient with the computer--which i am not. She offers her services to sit beside older people and assist them with getting what they want from their computer. I want to model myself after her.

The spike garden may sound sharp, but there's a lot of love out there.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Pocketbook Birdhouse

We decided to increase our number of birdhouses a few years ago, so when i see an interesting homemade birdhouse, i buy it.

Last year, at a farmers market, a woodworker had several unique birdhouses. I bought the one made out of an antique wooden pocketbook (I'm guessing it's from the 1940s). A wren has taken up residence. (Notice the stick sticking out of the hole.)

I hung the birdhouse at eye-level, and any number of people walk right by it without noticing.

This birdhouse is delightful. How much ordinary delight do we walk by every day and fail to notice?

Stop. Look. Listen.

Delight is all around.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Bird Spit

Breeding - Hairy Woodpecker - Dryobates villosus - Birds of the World
This morning i watched a mama woodpecker feed her baby here on my deck. She filled her beak with bits of sunflower seeds. As soon as she turned toward the baby, the baby began to squeak and cheep and beg. Mama emptied the seeds from her beak into Baby's beak. Then for a second, they were connected by a long strand of saliva.

I have never seen bird spit, and i may never see it again. I felt amazed to have seen it at all.

This is one more advantage of mindfulness. I pay attention, and then, one morning, which seems like any other morning, i see something unusual, something that makes me feel glad.

Bird spit.

Imagine that!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Dragon's Tongue

Dracula Plant
Every day this week, i have received an email with a photo of an unknown plant. "What's this?" the sender asks.

If i gave them the plant, i know the answer, but about once a week, i get a total oddball. "My daughter was out for a walk in the city where she lives, and she wants to know what this is."

I recognized the "tongue," so that's what i googled: Dragon's tongue. Yes, that's exactly what it is: Dracunculis vulgaris. Well, it is rather vulgar. One well-known catalog markets it as the Dracula plant. It smells like rotting meat in order to attract pollinating flies. Well, that's one way to make a living.

Sometimes, it's difficult to recognize one of our own rotten feelings. This is where a therapist comes in handy to help us articulate what that mushy, don't-quite-know feeling, really uncomfortable feeling is.

Meditation is great for de-stressing, but sometimes it dredges up some rotten stuff that we buried long ago in hopes of never having to deal with it. But we can't go around it. We have to go through it, and going through it mindfully often discharges it bit by bit.

Dragon's tongue may rivet my attention, but i don't think i want one in my garden.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Goodbye and Good Night Skullcap

Skullcap Organic Plant Seeds | Sacred Mists Shoppe
I'm deleting several spreaders from my flowerbeds, one at a time. We all know that bee balm (a member of the mint family) and phlox freely reproduce themselves in the flower bed. Over time, i've collected some less well-known spreaders. The first on my list is skullcap (Scutellaria)--another a member of the mint family.

In the past, i have liked to collect and grow herbs, but i never did anything with them. I just liked have Nature's medicine cabinet at the ready. But when it comes right down to it, i buy a ready-made tincture of valerian and skullcap and use 2 droppers-ful to put my body back to sleep at 2:00 a.m.

I am not going to be making my own tinctures, after all.

This is part of the general pruning off of activities and stuff that i've been doing for the past few years. Yesterday, it was good-bye skullcap.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020


Young Beauty and Old Beauty
Walking toward a protest on the Common downtown last Friday, i was following two elderly couples walking at a relaxed pace. Both women limped slightly, though in different ways.

Get out of my way! i thought. I'm in a hurry. Then i realized i knew all four of those people, and they are my age!

When we are young and our bodies work like they are supposed to, we don't have much patience for ambling, limping bodies that have lost their beauty and flexibility. It's a form of vanity. It's a form of self-hatred toward our future selves, our very own future ambling, limping bodies.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Bambi in the Neighborhood

Don't Touch That Fawn | A Moment of Science - Indiana Public Media
Yesterday, i saw Bambi standing in the middle of our private dirt road, all alone. She zipped off as soon as she saw me approaching.

Last week, my neighbor had the tractor-mower come and mow her half-acre meadow. About half-way through, the driver jumped off the tractor and waved his hands in the air. Newborn Bambi was lying in the tall grass, not moving a muscle.

I can tell you, a week later, all Bambi's muscles are in good working condition!

This morning, on my tour around my vegetable garden, i see that 3 of the tomato plants i planted outside the garden fence have been nibbled off by deer. That cute, innocent Bambi becomes a deer with an appetite.

The deer is just doing what deer do. The gardener is just doing what a gardener does. The plants do what plants do.

I don't need to have an opinion about any of it.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Perennial Onions

Onion, Egyptian Walking Onion Seeds and Plants, Vegetable ...
I love walking onions because they are a perennial vegetable. They simply show up in my backdoor garden every year. In April, just when my supply of last year's onions is depleted, i walk out the back door, scissors in hand, and cut the big, green, scallion-like leaves. Then i walk back in the house and scissor the onion leaves into the skillet or the salad. So quick and easy.

What's the perennial wisdom that is always available to us? 

Love and kindness are the first things, no matter which religion you resonate with. When we plant seeds of love and kindness--even unknowingly, unwittingly--the fruits (and vegetables) of the spiritual life pop up in unexpected places.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Walking Onions Walk

Walking onions are getting ready to set seed on the tippy-top of one of their leaves. What beautiful rococo curlique shapes they are making.

Soon, the seed heads will be too heavy for the leaf-stem, and the leaf will fall over or "walk." This is how the walking onions "walk." They are never in the same place next year.

We ourselves are never in the same place next year or even next day or next minute. Walking, walking, walking. From here, going there. Or so it seems.

The only place we are walking toward is our demise.

This year's walking onions will soon bury themselves on the ground.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Blueberry Tents

Blueberries are good for you. Don't be afraid to grow them. - The ...
My neighbor has 2 dozen blueberry bushes in his front yard. He used to have one big net to throw over the whole patch, but now that the Drosophila fly has arrived (in 2010), he covers each bush indivdually to prevent the fly from laying its eggs in the berries of other bushes. In other words, he quarantines each bush separate from all the others.

We are all quarantining ourselves nowadays. Some of us actually enjoy this quiet relief from the busy, workaday world.

Whether or not our bodies are quarantined, it is important to quarantine our minds from the pests that cause worry, anxiety, anger, impatience, and frustration. What pesters your mind?

First of all, identify the pest. What contributes to your particular "pester"? The news? The neighbors? Thoughts of the future? Not knowing what is going to happen? Not knowing, not knowing, not knowing?

In as much as you are able, quarantine yourself from the pests. Turn off the news. Take some quiet time.

It's pretty darn quiet under those blueberry tents. No buzzing of pesky, tiny Drosophila flies.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tastes Sort of Like Blueberries

Berry Blue™ Honeyberry - Honeyberry Plants - Stark Bro's
My neighbor who has 2 dozen blueberry bushes also has a honey berry. "Honey berry" is a fun and delicious-sounding moniker for these edible blue berries that grow on a honeysuckle bush (Lonicera caerulea) and taste sort of like blue berries.

"Sort of like" may be good enough for some, but for someone who loves blueberries, the real thing is better.

So it is with the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. You can fudge your way through some of the teachings. You can say, "Oh, i just don't feel like it today."

But the taste of the Dharma is a true taste, a taste of truth, a taste of Truth, of is-ness. Once you taste the real thing, you won't settle for second best.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The End of Iris Season

The end of iris season is coming soon. They just began blooming 10 days ago, and now, it's almost over. Too soon! Too soon! I feel like crying. I'm not ready for the end.

So many things of come to an end, some quite abruptly. At our meditation center, our guiding teacher has resigned, effective at the end of the year. And our meditation hall, which we shared with a small alternative school, has been pre-empted by child-care. Since the children are using the space, no one else can. We moved out all our belongings--cushions, chairs, and books.

So many are coming to a surprising end.

Farewell irises.

photo by Karen Davis

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Disabled Goldfinch

Art Lander's Outdoors: The American Goldfinch, male turns bright ...A disabled male goldfinch comes to eat sunflower seeds at our bird feeder every day. I'm pretty sure he's blind in his left eye because he doesn't startle when i move, stand up, leave the deck, and go into the house. He simply continues eating seeds. He often misses the seeds on the railing and has to make 2 or 3 attempts to get the seed into his beak.

This goldfinch has Groucho Marx black eyebrows, and his left eye seems to be squinted closed. He flies in a quick swooping pattern and hovers like a hummingbird just before he lands. My theory is that he doesn't have depth perception. There's a lot of fluttering going on as he comes in for a landing.

Although we put out a handful of seeds on the railing several times a day, we keep about a quarter cup of seeds in the bird feeder for the hours we aren't near the deck. Our goldfinch's favorite position is to grab a few seeds from the bird feeder. Then while he's balancing with one food on the perch and one foot on the feeder, he takes a power nap. His head sags; his body relaxes. I can see him breathing. He wakes up about two seconds later as another bird does a fly-by.

Today, when i came into the kitchen after gardening, the goldfinch knocked at the kitchen window 4 times. He sort of bounced off the window, not knocking himself out like birds do when they run into the window by accident.

I went out to the deck. There were no seeds on the railing and no seeds in the bird feeder. 

That disabled goldfinch is no birdbrain. He knew how to get my attention in order to get his supper.