Saturday, April 17, 2021

Call Me Crazy

On Wednesday afternoon, before the predicted snow of Thursday and Friday, i planted my banana tree outdoors near the back door, in the semi-shade of the north side of the house.

You know what happened.

The question is: Did i suffer? 

Did you stress out in reading this little vignette? Did you have an opinion? Or make up a story?

I "knew" that the temperature would be above freezing. (It went down to 37 degrees.)

So, i wasn't stressed. I tell this story as a joke on myself because i want you to notice the relief of tension. Snow! Oh no! Whew! Everything's okay, after all.

It is possible to have no story and no opinion. No judgment. And therefore no stress.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Generosity Blooms

One of the last errands i ran before leaving for Florida for 2 weeks was delivering pots of budding tulips to friends. I gave one to Karen, a Master Gardener friend. Three weeks later, they are still blooming.

This is what happens when you allow generosity to bloom in your heart.

What easy (and maybe fun) thing could you give to a friend today?


Monday, April 12, 2021

Lotus

 

Lotus is an often-used image in the Buddha's teachings. Part of the devotional ritual includes offering a lotus, 3 sticks of incense, and a candle to a statue of the Buddha.

I don't find lotus in the North Country where i live, so i was happy to see it in hot and sunny Florida.

The magic of lotus leaves is that they self-clean; they don't collect water.

Wouldn't i love to have a self-cleaning mind?

Mindfulness is the quickest self-cleaner. Mindfulness of this moment doesn't allow gunk from those past moments to accumulate. Past gunk is washed away by the present moment.

No future fog either, because the present is all there is.

Just look at that lotus with its roots in the mud, standing beautifully in the water of Life.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

I Want. I Don't Want


In the rush to catch up with spring at home, i conveniently forget that it is time to tick-spray all my clothes. I don't want to. I want to go out to the daffodil garden. I want. I don't want.

I don't want to spray my clothes. I also don't want ticks biting me. I do not want Lyme disease.

I throw a drawerful of shirts down the stairs. I hang them up in the woodshed. I spray them. Three hours later, i take them off the hangers and cart them back to their drawer. I throw the next drawer full of undershirts down the stairs. Etcetera. Etcetera.

The civil war of the mind: I don't want. I want. I don't want. 


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Flying Home


We flew home from Florida yesterday. This early morning, before dawn, i heard Canada geese flying north. Homeward bound to Canada.

Where is home anyway? Do you have a place that feels like home? 

I didn't recognize falling in love with my sweetie. He simply felt like home. Comfortable. No fireworks. Restful. Contentment. I didn't need to go anywhere else. I didn't wish for anyone different.

Every morning i take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the sangha. That's my spiritual home. Not a physical place and not dependent on a physical being, although i deeply appreciate the beings in my various sanghas. Refuge--a place of safety. Home.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Your Mind is a Garden

"Your mind is a garden;

your thoughts are the seeds."

So are you growing flowers? Or weeds?

I recently taught a class on the Noble Eightfold Path. One of the first investigations we did was to divide our thoughts into wholesome and unwholesome. Do this for 3 minutes during your next meditation.

Once you become aware of the unwholesome, the unskillful, the "weeds," you can apply the antidotes.

Loving-kindness and patience antidote just about everything.

You can practice loving-kindness during meditation or on a walk or while you are driving or while you are washing the dishes. You can grow flowers in your mind all day every day.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Amaryllis Blooming

At home, my amaryllis are just starting to bloom. In the gardens at the University of Florida, amaryllis are blooming full-blast.

Notice how close the stems are to each other. That means the bulbs are packed together tightly, sort of like daffodil bulbs for us in the North Country.

It looks like the closely packed bulbs encourage each other to bloom. If we stay in close touch with our Dharma friends and a Dharma teacher or two, they encourage us to bloom in the Dharma.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Blue-Eyed Grass

On my walk this morning, i saw blue-eyed grass growing on the roadside. I love blue-eyed grass. Such a simple wildflower. A single blue flower on a single stem of grass. I've tried growing it and always lost it. Today i saw it in profusion--growing in sand (read: limestone) in Florida (read: hot). I don't have those conditions in my garden.

In meditation, i don't have the proper conditions for the meditative absorptions, which require deep concentration. To some people, deep concentration comes easily, naturally, even spontaneously.

I am content with what i have--good enough concentration and deep enough insights to understand. And if, once in a great while, a beautiful concentration arises, i am at peace with what is. No blue-eyed grass in my garden. Not much concentration in my meditation.


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Florida Lobelia

 

Lobelia grows wild along the roadside in the Florida panhandle. It's a short, light blue flower here.

I love recognizing the close cousins of familiar flower friends when i travel to new habitats. So often, in a new place, it takes a while before i recognize the features of a place. Stopping the car on the side of the road to look closely at the bluish haze of wildflowers reveals my old friend Lobelia.

Not being a people person, i often look at new people as strangers. My sweetie, on the other hand, has never met a stranger. He chats up everyone and has them smiling within a couple of minutes. His mission in life is to bring joy to everyone he meets. He inspires me to do likewise.

This kind of inspiring friendship supports us in practicing kindness in ways that may not come naturally to us. I can look at strangers along the road and say "Hello Friend."



Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Rusted Vehicles

Today, our local tour began with Rusted Ford Trucks on the side of the road. I recognized two or three of my grandfather's 1940s and 1950s trucks. I recognized my Aunt Jenny's 1949 Ford sedan. All the vehicles completely rusted--rather like my body.

My sweetie and i looked at the new cars on the road and the rental Kia we are driving. In 20 or 50 or 70 years, they will look so old-fashioned, so rusty, so impossible to imagine as new. Just as children and young people cannot imagine that we were ever their age. They are young, and we are old. Thus has it ever been.

My dear Ford Ranger truck--the one i use to haul manure, wood chips, mulch, mulch hay, and dozens of plants--even it will, one of these days, rust in peace.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Azaleas in Bloom

We escaped mud season and fled to Florida since we have both been double jabbed. Down here (near Tallahassee), young leaves are just coming out in spring green. Azaleas are in bloom everywhere!

Spring is indeed sprung. A unique smell is in the air--beautiful and delicious. To someone from north Florida, this is how home smells, especially in the moonlit evening.

How does home smell? Indescribable, yet so familiar.

When we come home to our heart of hearts, the feeling is indescribable. And so familiar.  Take a few tries at describing the indescribable. Calm. Peaceful. At ease. Safe. This is one description of love.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Hawk Watching


 A hawk perches on a tree overlooking our bird feeders. The little birds come and go--chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, woodpeckers. A few bold ones flit in the same tree the hawk sits in.

Finally, we hear a thud on the deck. The little birds carry on eating at the bird feeder as if nothing has happened.

When death strikes an acquaintance, we carry on in our own lives, going about our business.

This morning Death was perched in a tree. Some flitted around it. Death strikes. Life goes on.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Snowdrops in the Snow

Snowdrops are blooming. Where there was snow yesterday, there are snowdrops today.

Change runs rampant. Notice that every noun is a slow-moving verb. Snow--here today, gone tomorrow. So many different kinds of snow. Each snowflake different than any other, so what does "snowflake" mean anyway?

Snowdrops arise. They are beautiful. You know what comes next. Keep your eye closely attuned to the process, the processes. The process of snowdrop-ing.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

First Day of Spring

By the time you read this, spring will already have sprung--at 5:37 a.m. Eastern. Good-bye winter. 

Dare i start waving good-bye to the pandemic? 26% of the people in our state have received at least their first shot.

The Buddha frames the teaching of the 4 Ennobling Tasks as a doctor might.

Dx--our diagnosis--Suffering (dissatisfaction, discontent, lack) exists.

Hx--the history--Craving causes suffering.

Px--our prognosis--Cessation: suffering can come to an end.

Rx--our remedy--the 8-fold Ennobling Path

The diagnosis of COVID on our planet can come to an end if we take the remedy--one or two jabs of a vaccine.

Welcome Spring!

Friday, March 19, 2021

It's Time to Sow Poppy Seeds

It's time to sow poppy seeds on whatever remains of the snow. Another three weeks, and it will be too late. If you want some annual poppy seeds, PM me now.

Would you like this wonderful watermelon color? Or purple?

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Chickadee Grief

I am grieving a crippled chickadee, whom I last saw on Monday, March 8. Her wings were fluttering that day, as if she had lost even more mobility in her legs and toes. For a month, she had been skooching on the deck or railing like a double amputee in India sitting on cardboard and propelling himself with his hands.

That Monday morning, she was hanging upside down by her toes. In previous days, I had seen her grip a branch or wire with both toes and slowly slide backwards until she was upside down. She would flutter her wings to bring herself back to upright. She repeated these chin-ups five or ten times. She was panting; I could see her back wing feathers move up and down two or three times a second.

That last morning, I put sunflower seeds in the coffee grinder and ground them finely. She didn't seem to have the leverage to peck a sunflower seed to bits. Usually a chickadee holds a sunflower seed between her two feet and pecks and pecks at it. Chickadee beaks are very small. Other birds swallow sunflower hearts whole, but the chickadee breaks it into bits and eats the bits.

Her handicap enabled me to distinguish one chickadee from the dozen that visit our birdfeeder, distinguish her from the two or three chickadees that eat out of my hand.

I knew the end was near. I didn't see her the rest of that day. I kept looking for her all week. Then I had to admit she was gone. Gone.

The next day the weather was warm. Oh, if only she could have lived to feel warm weather. Had her feet frozen one zero degree night? I would never know.

I try to assuage my grief with various stories. Already she has returned to earth somewhere. Already some creature has eaten her corpse. Already she has been incorporated into owl or possum. The life cycle has moved, and I am stuck in missing her.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Flower Chaplain

 The pots of tulips i planted in December were shooting green, so i brought some of them indoors to bud. 

My sweetie and i are making a jail break next week-- flying to Florida. So i delivered 3 pots of budding tulips last evening--one to a grieving widow, one to a cancer survivor, one to an always-helpful friend. Call me the Flower Chaplain.

A handful of my friends are chaplains, and i've wondered whether i could be one. But i don't have quite the right personality type. No matter. 

I can offer the hope of spring to those who are ill, the message of change to those who are grieving.


Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Chipmunks Awake!

Chipmunks have awoken from their long winter's nap. They don't hibernate; they are dormant, asleep in their dens. As such, they are at the mercy of any burrowing predator. But one (so far) has survived the frozen earth and is running around searching for food.

When we wake up enough to realize we've been sort of sleepwalking through our lives, where do we go for sustenance?

A spiritual path, of whatever stripe, answers the deeper calling within, which has been buried by career, marriage, children, and all sorts of other distractions. What about your hunger? The one you can't quite name. The one you can't quite put your finger on.

Come home. Come home to the here and the now.



Monday, March 15, 2021

Lake Ontario is Snowing On Me

According to the weather map, a snow storm, which begins south of Lake Ontario, is now snowing on us. Kind of fun to think about the lake evaporating, rising skyward, being blown 300 miles east by the wind, and falling as snowflakes on my lawn and gardens. Lake Ontario is snowing on me.

Lake Ontario water is obviously not me. The Lake Ontario snowflakes melt, percolate through the ground, and enter the water table. Then water comes up from my well. I drink this water. The water in the glass is not me.

Eventually, the water rains out of my body into a toilet. That's not "me" either, though i may claim it as "mine." But is it?

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Baffling the Mind


My neighbor sends me a photo of a squirrel in her new suet feeder. Oh, yes. Those inventive, incorrigible squirrels.

I use a seltzer water bottle as a baffle for my suet feeder. At first i used a regular seltzer bottle, but it turns out those bottles are exactly as long as a squirrel.

I found an extra-long (extra tall) seltzer Saratoga Springs water bottle and cut off the bottom. The squirrels do monkey around on the hanger, and, if i don't have the suet feeder chain fastened tightly, they will knock the suet off the hanger, and good-bye suet.

We need to put baffles around our minds to prevent the monkey mind from wandering off to do too much monkey business. My favorite baffles are

  • no news
  • no TV
  • no novels

What baffles do you use to protect your mind?


Friday, March 12, 2021

Ralph, the Squirrel

My sweetie complains about the speed with which i eat dinner. Then he remembers going out to lunch with my father, who finished his lunch at the Chinese restaurant in 10 minutes.

"Ralph had 9 siblings," i say. "During the Great Depression. There were no second helpings." 

I never realized that i also eat fast, until my sweetie pointed it out to me. It's a habit that i haven't tried to break.

For most of my adult life, i thought i was my habits. I am a person who.... Eventually i glimpsed awareness, and for a second, saw the lack of self. Habits do not make a self, it turns out.

I lay sunflower seeds on the railing of the deck for the birds, and when I am not looking, a squirrel sneaks up on the railing and gobbles. He sees me coming. He eats faster. I open the door. He eats faster. I open the storm door, he starts to run. "Get out of here, Ralph!" i say to the squirrel who is scampering across the snow.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cat Reads The Noble Eightfold Path


 At the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies some years ago, we looked out the windows in the meditation hall to see a moose meandering among young chestnut trees. "Oh, look," someone said. "The moose wants to hear the Dharma."

At another retreat center, where a bhikkhuni (nun) lived, a deer looked in the window while she was giving a Dharma talk. The bhikkhuni told us of a mother deer giving birth under her clothesline. The deer knew it was a safe place.

Now a student emails me a photo of his cat sleeping with Bhikkhu Bodhi's book--The Noble Eightfold Path. That's one way to get your Dharma--by osmosis, while sleeping. Or perhaps, when we weren't looking, the cat fell asleep while reading?

Monks in Asia tell incredible stories of meditating in a cave and a white tiger walks in and lies down. After the Buddha's enlightenment, a cobra coiled around him.

Animals recognize the good stuff. Do we?

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Flower Clouds

 Flower Clouds is a 1905 painting by Odilon Redon. Two women are on a spiritual journey.

If you could take one person with you on your spiritual journey, who would that be? 

If you could accompany one person on their spiritual journey, who would that be?

Monday, March 8, 2021

Red Osier Dogwood

The stems of red osier dogwood are so, well, red. A delight to see against a white background of snow. The young stems are red, and the old stems turn brown with age. In order to keep the red stems growing, cut back the old stems.

Prune the old junk out of your life. Prune off toxic relationships. Each moment is new and bright. Make room for the new. Notice it and love it.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Yellow Willow

 Weeping willows are turning yellow--an early, early sign of spring. There are still weeks to go before we see green leaves, but in this white and dark and pine landscape, i see yellow as a change, something different. Color!

A few friends have fled snow country for the sunny South because the weeping winter blues are just too depressing. 

Willow trees are sending a message:
Change. Change is happening every day. Change is flowing through our life. Simply notice.

Come home friends. Come join the quickening parade of change.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Sinking Snow

 

The snow on the septic tank is sinking like a grave because the heat of its contents--the effluent from toilets and sinks--heats up the ground. 

The Buddha enumerates the effluents (asavas) of our mind as
  • sensual pleasures
  • craving for existence and
  • ignorance.
These effluents keep the wheel of samsara turning. The friction of samsara keeps dukkha heating up the world.

The best place to start is simply noticing, being mindful, of sensual pleasure. Notice when the self stakes its claim, but also notice when the self seems to drift away for a moment. Notice when you are on automatic pilot and ignor-ing the Buddha's teachings on ignor-ance.

Ever so slowly, you can cut down the effluents, and enjoy the calm and wisdom of self-less-ness.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Crippled Chickadee Does Her Physical Therapy



Our crippled chickadee can now hang from a branch with both feet, though her right leg is still wonky and sticks out at an odd angle when she eats sunflower seeds on the railing. 

She likes to perch on the wire surrounding our deck. She perches. She slowly slides backward to upside down. She rights herself with a little flutter of wings. Yesterday afternoon, i saw her doing a dozen pull-ups, strengthening both her legs. She inspired me to get serious about my own physical therapy exercises. After all, if she doesn't strengthen her legs, she's a dead duck. Her goose is cooked.

There's no one to help this chickadee--no one to go to the grocery store for her, no doctor for her to consult. She has to do everything for herself.

You are the only one who can walk your unique spiritual path. No one else can walk it for you. If you don't do your meditation exercises, it's your own lookout.

Take heart from the handicapped chickadee. Nowadays, she is singing "Sweetheart. Sweetheart." Sweetheart, sit down and meditate.


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bluebirds are Back

Bluebirds are here! It's time to clean out your bluebird boxes so that Mama and Papa Bluebird can choose a house to raise their babies in.

If you want to bluebirds of happiness to nest in your mind, then you have to clean out last year's detritus. Replace regrets and resentments with kindness and patience--toward yourself, of course.

Let those old thoughts come. Tell them "Thank you for coming. I don't need you any more. You can go now." Yes, be kind even toward those negative thoughts that traipse around in your mind.

Notice the quiet incubation of calm.

The bluebirds of happiness will be hatching soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

March Roars In

March came in like a lamb--all quiet and a little bit muddy here on our dirt road. By sundown, a lion of a cold front was blowing in. The wind sounded like a freight train. Did i hear a roar of thunder? 

The electricity went out. A tree fell down on our neighbor's line and blew the transformer. It sounded like a bomb exploding. The electricity came on and went off again. I went to sleep in the pitch black.

Dukkha--suffering, dissatisfaction, discontent--blows into our lives with unexpected force, sometimes leaving us in the darkness of depression--large or small. Dukkha is the impetus that drives us on to a spiritual path.

We learn not to respond to dukkha by roaring, but by feeling tender toward ourselves. Come on, little lamb, have a good cry if you need to. Then give yourself a hug.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Onion Seedlings


I ordered onion seedlings online last year because my usual local sources were sold out. This year, i have already ordered on-line onion seedlings--slated to arrive the third week of April.

Where is the center of an onion? Where is the center of the so-called self that we say we are "centering"?

We have layers and layers of habit patterns. Oh, those habits are hard to see, let alone peel away. Some of those thought habit patterns bring us to tears. That's how we know we are on the right track to uncovering them.

Today, i am looking at the thought pattern "I'm right." I've nicknamed it I.M. Wright. Ms. I.M. Wright is sometimes wrong. Sometimes, the price Ms. Wright pays for being right is disconnection from friends--she's that insistent of being right. 

Ms. I.M. Wright is closely connected to the thought habit of you-don't-understand-me--UDUM, for short. When those two get together, i just want to cry with frustration.

I watch them pal up during meditation. I listen to each one, over and over. And then they each fall silent.

The mind relaxes. The body relaxes. No one is right. No one is wrong. Life is, and that is all.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Fat Tree Buds

 


Buds on trees are fattening, looking pregnant with the possibility of spring.

Snow is still on the ground, coated with ice. Freezing, melting. All is in flux. Nothing stands still.

Cool, warm, freezing.

Sunny, rainy.

Windy, breezy, still.

Your breath flies away on the wind.

Your life flies away with each breath.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Pepe Le Pew


Skunks are mating. I can smell that spring is near because the scent of skunk is in the air. It's an unmistakable nighttime fragrance. The unpleasant olfactory sensation (skunk!) becomes a pleasant mental sensation (i.e., thought = almost spring!).

If you don't want to be skunked by your distracted mind during meditation, set your intention before you begin to meditate. Then, be diligent. Diligence requires effort. Keep applying effort, gently but firmly.

I use the Dismissing Technique: Thank you (thought) for coming. I don't need you right now. You can go now. Often, i say this repeatedly during meditation.

Otherwise the mind runs off over hill and dale, and you will be skunked in your effort to find a moment of calm.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Speaking of Foxes

Yesterday morning the turkeys walked across our snow-covered lawn. This morning, a fox.

Seconds before, our deck had been full of squirrels scavenging for sunflower seeds. They disappeared. I walked into the kitchen just in time to shout "Fox!" to Bill at the kitchen table.

The fox was in no hurry, so i fumbled with my smartphone-camera and snapped a couple of photos before the fox disappeared into the shadows of the forest.

If we are foxy in our meditation, we can catch those dagnabbit distractions before they lead us into completely forgetting our meditation object.

One possibility is to open the lens of awareness wide. The squirrels who disappeared had wide-open awareness, which told them to skedaddle because danger was afoot.

With wide-open awareness, we can catch the distraction before it catches us. Otherwise, our mind goes trotting off into the woods.


Friday, February 26, 2021

Turkeys Trudging through the Snow

Back in December, we had 30 turkeys walking through our yard every day. But where did they go after the first heavy snowfall?

One neighbor saw 7 of them. Another neighbor saw a lot of fox tracks. Oh-oh, the neighbors thought.

I've seen a fox catch a chicken in mid-air. Stunning. But a full-grown turkey seems a bit large for a fox to wrestle with.

This morning we saw 20 turkeys walking single file through the snow on the paths near our house. That means 10 are missing in action. Sigh.

Many years ago, a 74-year-old woman told me, "I feel like i'm on a battlefield. All around me, people are dropping. I don't know why i'm still standing."

I've reached the time of life where a friend dies every month or so.

The turkeys form a procession as they trudge through the snow.



Thursday, February 25, 2021

Seed Shortage

When i tried to order seeds from my favorite purveyor, the website said that they only take online orders on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. One friend said she couldn't order seeds from her usual two sources because they were only selling to wholesalers. 

It's only February, and there's a seed shortage already.

I looked at my collection of seeds left over from previous years and determined what i needed. I went to the farm & garden store where I was able to buy almost (but not quite) everything on my list. Whew!

In these polarized political times, we might say there's a shortage of kindness. Yet when emergencies strike, neighbors do show kindness to neighbors.

No matter the outer conditions, we want to plant seeds of kindness--even in situations where another person is not kind to us. Striking out to defend ourselves is not good for our tender souls. The best defense is kindness. And yes, sometimes kindness is big and strong.






Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sugar on Snow

Due to COVID, there's no Winter Carnival this year. No ski jumping contest in town. But more importantly, no Sugar on Snow.

In New England, Sugar on Snow means packing a bowl with snow and pouring boiling maple syrup on top. The syrup hardens and forms taffy. Chewy and sweet.

As so often during this past year, i decided to DIY--make my own.

Boil the maple syrup to 235 degree (soft ball stage on a candy thermometer).

Pack a bowl with snow. Last night's snow was light and fluffy. This morning's snow is heavy and wet. Heavy is good.

Pour the hot syrup over the snow.

Spiritual practice is another DIY thing. No one else can do it for you. You already know the recipe.

Meditate or pray. 20" a day is a good start. Use a timer.

Read a spiritual book.

Meet with your spiritual friends at least once a week and meditate together.

The heart softens, and practicing kindness becomes easier and easier.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Baby Polka Dots

This morning i noticed tiny polka dot seedlings growing in the pots of various houseplants. Even though i shook the polka dot seed stems over some flowerpots a couple of months ago, i'm sure i didn't sprinkle any in the pots where they are showing up. Oh, the mystery of tiny seeds.

This is the reason we need to pay attention to our ethical conduct. Not because there is a divine judge. But because you are judging your own actions. 

The seeds of our speech, our actions, and our behavior fly off in who-knows-what direction. Will we harvest a weed from that mean word? We never know the repercussions of our words.

Plant seeds of kindness wherever you are. You may be surprised by little polka dots of happiness 




Monday, February 22, 2021

Pink Thunbergia


Pink thunbergia is blooming in one of the front step flowerpots i brought indoors in October. Thunbergia is a vine, usually with a yellow flower. When i saw this pink flowered variety, i splurged.

Although the plant's name honors a Swedish scientist, we can think of it as honoring another Swede--Greta Thunberg, who, at the age of 15, became a world-known climate activist.

Due to climate catastrophe, hundreds of plant varieties are being lost forever every year. Hundreds of creatures go extinct every year.

Yes, change happens, but fatalism is not the answer. We do what we are moved to do. 15-year-old Greta was moved to call a school strike in Sweden. What are you moved to do?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Diamond Frost

I'm taking cuttings of Diamond Frost euphorbia. This airy annual looks beautiful in a flower pot on the front step. It's lovely as a houseplant. And it's an ever-blooming edging for a flowerbed.

The cuttings root very easily. I always prefer free to paying $5.95 at the garden store for a single plant.

The Buddha offered his teachings freely because the Dharma is priceless. The Dharma is more valuable than diamonds.

Every blog i write is just a single cutting from the ever-present, abundant Dharma. I offer this sprig, and every sprig, in the hopes that the Dharma may take root and grow in your own life.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Handicapped Black Cap Chickadee

A chickadee with a useless leg visits our bird feeder. A couple of days ago, i was happy to see her, all alone, nestled on the deck railing pecking sunflower seeds. A handicapped bird is unlikely to live very long.

She flies funny. She does a lot of flapping as she comes in for a landing. Will she be able to gather enough food to sustain herself?  She uses a lot of extra calories with all that extra flapping.

Since there's nothing i can do, i have to let Nature take its course. I have to accept life as it is, even if it means this particular chickadee's life is short.

According to my Advance Directives, i'm all in favor of letting Nature take its course.But it’s hard to watch how Nature is treating this little bird.

I offer what i can to this sweet little chickadee.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Snowy Sun

The sun is shining while the snow is falling, giving a hazy bright orb in the sky. The elements seem all mixed up--sun and snow, cloudy and clear. These cold days, we are at the mercy of the elements.

We can feel the elements outdoors--cold and warm, hard ice and soft snow, breezy or still, wet or dry.

The Buddha instructs us to notice the elements in our body. The hard--bones, finger nails, teeth--the so-called earth element. The wet--blood, sweat, tears, and saliva--the water element. The hot or cool--the so-called fire element. And the breath or passing gas--the air element.

We take a drink of water and swallow. We know the water goes down a tube, through various ponds (e.g., the stomach and bladder), and then down a long canal (the intestine), and an even smaller canal (the urethra), before water pours out of our torsos.

That water wasn't "me" before it entered my body. And it wasn't "me" when it exited. Was that water "element" ever me? How is "our" inner water different from outer water?

The elements are playing with us. Today the sun shines through the snow.


 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Path of the Squirrels

The squirrels have worn a path in the snow. When i catch them eating sunflower seeds, i open the door to the deck. They gobble a few more seeds. When i open the storm door, they scramble down a post, and hightail it to safety.

Where do we head to for safety?

Every morning i take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. I seek sanctuary with my community of Dharma friends. I look for wisdom in the Dharma--the teachings of the Buddha. My intention is to take the high road and wake up to what i am doing, wake up to the effects of my actions.

I sit still, and the squirrel makes a run for it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Gourmet Shrubs for the Deer


My neighbor, David, who cross-country skis our neighborhood's 90 acres, tells me that my yard has the most deer tracks. That's because i run a gourmet restaurant for the deer.

True, i call it a garden, but deer don't know the word "garden." They know food, even if they don't know the word for it.

The deer walk through the snow and sample my wide variety of shrubbery. In recent years, i've planted native shrubs, but the deer like some of those too. Hopefully, the natives are able to withstand the deer browsing their leaves and tips of their branches.

The PJM rhododendrons aren't native, but they can grow tall enough to have a tiara of flowers. The star magnolias have a narrow waist, which the deer have nibbled, and a buxom crown.

Thoughts nibble their way into our meditation. Thoughts nibble our peace and quiet. Thoughts are stressful. All thoughts are stressful--even pleasant thoughts.

Thinking of the deer could be stressful, but if i accept life as it is, then my mind is as cool as snow.



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Deer Eating My Shrubs

Well, well, well. Look who came to visit this morning in between my 6:00 meditation and my 7:00 sit. Four deer, all decked out in their heavy winter coats, were taste-testing my shrubs.

Daintily, one nibbled the leaves off the PJM rhododendron. Another one tried the leaves of the swamp azalea, whose pink flowers smell so deeply of cinnamon in June. Another one munched on the fuzzy buds of the star magnolia, and someone else tried the twig ends of hobblebush.

When i went out to the deck to take a picture of the cute Bambis, they fled.

A beautiful meditation state can nibble our body. Oh, look! At which point, it runs off into the woods and disappears. 

Patience my dear. Patience if you are stealthily stalking the beautiful mind. And patience if you want to see the cute deer.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sunflower Seeds from Bulgaria

The farm and garden store didn't have my usual brand of sunflower hearts for the birds, so i bought 50 pounds of "Valley's Finest" sunflower chips--whatever those may be. When i got home, i read the tag which said "Product of Bulgaria." 

My local birds are eating non-local sunflower seeds. I try ever so hard to locavore my diet, but the wild birds around here are eating Bulgarian sunflower seeds. Bulgaria is the largest exporter of sunflower seeds in the world.

Hmmm. I wonder where the sunflower seeds i use to make granola come from. Maybe i'm not as locavore as i would like to think.

Today, i express my gratitude to unknown farmers in Bulgaria for sending sunflower seeds to my home. My birds couldn't live without them. In fact, we need everyone in the world in order for our own lives to continue.

Contrary to the beliefs of the individualistic culture of our Western society, no one is a self-made man or woman. We all require the support of invisible millions of people. People who are not simply our minions.

The farmers who grew these sunflower seeds suffer and love just as we do. We are all inter-being together.




Sunday, February 14, 2021

Boot Full of Seeds

 


I was getting ready to go cross-country skiing this afternoon. There was something in my ski boot. I shook it. A pile of sunflower seeds fell out. A big pile of sunflower seeds. Somebody had been using my boot as their pantry. What a stash!

What are we stashing away for future use? Clothes--if only i lost ten pounds. Money--just in case. Stuff, junk--some of it full of nostalgia. However, the memory lives in me, not in that item.

The time is coming when it--whatever "it" is--will all be given away. I give away as much as possible right now, and that feels very, very good.

I went skiing with a light foot.


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Banana Ketchup

 


When we were in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean, a few years ago, i bought a bottle of banana ketchup. I like to try local food. 

However, doubt is my worthy opponent--What would banana ketchup taste like? It took me a year or two to actually open the bottle. I don't use ketchup that often.

Delicious! Banana ketchup tastes great!

But now my banana ketchup is gone. Gone. 

And if i pay attention, i notice that doubt is also gone.