Sunday, November 29, 2020


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



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 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


 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


 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


 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.