Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Meeting again on the myriad paths of life

For my father Charlie who passed through the door 29 years ago tonight, but who is ever with me.

"If you ask the cloud, "How old are you? Can you give me your date of birth?" you can listen deeply and you may hear a reply.

You can imagine the cloud being born. Before being born it was the water on the ocean's surface. Or it was in the river and then it became vapour. It was also the sun because the sun makes the vapour. The wind is there too, helping the water to become a cloud.

The cloud does not come from nothing; there has been only a change in form. It is not a birth of something out of nothing. Sooner or later, the cloud will change into rain or snow or ice. If you look deeply into the rain, you can see the cloud. The cloud is not lost; it is transformed into rain, and the rain is transformed into grass and the grass into cows and then to milk and then into the ice cream you eat.

Today if you eat an ice cream, give yourself time to look at the ice cream and say: "Hello, cloud! I recognize you.”

“I suffered for more than one year after the passing away of my mother. But one night, in the highlands of Vietnam, I was sleeping in the hut in my hermitage. I dreamed of my mother. I saw myself sitting with her, and we were having a wonderful talk. She looked young and beautiful, her hair flowing down. It was so pleasant to sit there and talk to her as if she had never died.

When I woke up it was about two in the morning, and I felt very strongly that I had never lost my mother. The impression that my mother was still with me was very clear. I understood then that the idea of having lost my mother was just an idea. It was obvious in that moment that my mother is always alive in me.

I opened the door and went outside. The entire hillside was bathed in moonlight. It was a hill covered with tea plants, and my hut was set behind the temple halfway up. Walking slowly in the moonlight through the rows of tea plants, I noticed my mother was still with me. She was the moonlight caressing me as she had done so often, very tender, very sweet... wonderful!

Each time my feet touched the earth I knew my mother was there with me. I knew this body was not mine but a living continuation of my mother and my father and my grandparents and great-grandparents. Of all my ancestors. Those feet that I saw as "my" feet were actually "our" feet. Together my mother and I were leaving footprints in the damp soil.

From that moment on, the idea that I had lost my mother no longer existed. All I had to do was look at the palm of my hand, feel the breeze on my face or the earth under my feet to remember that my mother is always with me, available at any time.” “This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died.

Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies all manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek.

So smile at me and take my hand and wave good-bye. Tomorrow we shall meet again or even before. We shall always be meeting again at the true source, Always meeting again on the myriad paths of life.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, in his book No Death, No Fear
   Zen Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist.
   Plum Village Monastery

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The End of Suffering


In the middle of all the running there comes a time for absolute stillness. When it's necessary to stop and clear your mind of all the questions you've been asked, all the street signs you've followed, all the nights you've been too tired to sleep and mornings you've been too stiff to move.

There are layers of what we call "suffering". What we've been doing this month is "hurting", not suffering. It's a layer of pain laid over a fatigue deep enough to make us weep at times, but it is not suffering. Suffering is pain of the soul, the kind that comes at the loss of a spouse, a child, a loved one, or even the realization that the justice and fairness you took for granted as a child were never available to everyone, and are less and less available now to anyone. Suffering is being hungry, homeless and helpless to do anything about it. No jobs "to get", nowhere to turn and a compassion deficit in every direction.

Being unable to do anything about this lack of compassion for those suffering deprivation and want is what causes me to suffer, not my own minimal aches and pains. I can subdue my physical discomfort with a pain pill and some meditation. I need something more powerful for my suffering; thus The Great Bell Chant; also known as The End of Suffering, though I admit it brings me to tears as well.



If you don't see the embedded video click here: http://youtu.http://youtu.be/ja20ib2PljI 
Narration by Zen Teacher  Thích Nhất Hạnh, chant by brother Phat Niem, music composed by Gary Malkin.  Absolutely beautiful photography and vocals. 

Teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thầy), who is 88 and has been frail for the last two years, suffered a severe brain hemorrhage on 11 November and is a semi-conscious state in hospital in Plum Village monastery and mindfulness practice center in France. The Plum Village Sangha ask for prayers for Thầy's recovery. 

Namaste

Friday, November 21, 2014

Dem Bones, Dem Bones...


This way to the Sling Museum
The last month has been incredibly wearing, physically and emotionally. Thankfully three months ago I had the great fortune of being able to access a medication I took successfully years ago, but which was pulled from the market, leaving me with a less effective and side-effect riddled substitute. My strength has improved substantially, for which I am profoundly grateful, or I'd be a puddle rather than a noodle.

At the same time, the fall I suffered a year last July seems to have triggered more growth on the bone spurs that are pressing against my spinal cord in my neck. I can't lift or carry anything, reach above my head, or exert any force with my hands without provoking hours of paresthesia in my arms and hands. I feel as if I'm holding a live electric wire and can't let go. It's affecting my fine motor skills, buttoning buttons, lining up zippers, gripping knives in the kitchen. What a nuisance! 

In mid-October we both caught the crud that was going around. It was just a few days of a sore throat and a runny nose for me, but for Tony, with his asthma, it headed straight for his chest and he developed a wheeze and cough. He was tired but never ran a fever or felt much worse than he usually does. Halloween night he was standing in the kitchen talking to me and he coughed. When he coughed he lost consciousness and went over backwards, hitting his head on the fridge door as he went. 

I grabbed the phone off the counter as I ran to him, and helped him sit up, as he was regaining consciousness by the time I reached him.

"What… how …What am I doing here?" he asked, looking around in a daze.  

I couldn't see any cuts on his head, though he had a walloping great red welt. I asked if he was okay. He answered yes, but he hesitated and then said his arm was broken. I dialed 911, and the nice EMTs arrived in a few minutes. 

We spent the entire night in the Emergency Department at the nearby hospital, where he had excellent care. Seeing that he has fainted, fallen and broken bones three times in the last twenty-six months the ER Physician put him on the urgent referral list to see an Internal Medicine Specialist. We had an appt in three days and since then we have had either a doctor's appt or a medical test almost every other day and we are just wrung out. 

I don't know what we would have done without elder son Ian. Tony needs the wheelchair - these hospitals are enormous - and I can't load the chair in the car or take it out again, and I can't push Tony, who outweighs me by 60 pounds, very far. The doctor's offices have been miles across the city and we've driven home after dark (which comes early this far north) and I do not see well after dark because of my cataracts. So !hooray! for helpful children who button father's shirt and zip mother's coat because we seem to be descending rapidly into childhood again. 

Sitting in the cardiology lab this week, we saw six or seven adult child/parent pairs, so I didn't feel quite so bad that Ian had taken the day off work to take Tony for his cardiology tests. But geez, I do wish I could zip up my own coat.  I did Tony's buttons in the cubicle, or tried, with grudging "help" from the impatient technician. They were done askew, and his shirt was hiked up to his shoulder blades on one side and wrapped around his sling  and I couldn't do a thing about it. Thank goodness his coat covered it. 

At the moment, crossing our fingers that no one calls with a new appt, we are open until the 28th. We have to organize a flu shot in there somewhere. Oh, the chest X-ray they did showed he had pneumonia, which neither of us suspected. Ten days on antibiotics and he has quit barking, but he is still black and blue all over, especially his right arm, which he broke just below the ball of his shoulder. Too close to the shoulder to cast, and with his medical complications they were reluctant to do surgery on him unless it's life or death, so he's dealing with a sling again. We now have a collection. We could open a museum! 

I'll put that museum idea off until tomorrow, right now I am going to just go to bed. No buttons on the pjs. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November KIVA Loan

November's KIVA loan goes to Guillermina, a 63 year old single woman in Santa Cruz Bolivia who has no children. Her business is selling empanadas and fruit drinks in the streets. She is enterprising, independent, dependable, active, responsible and hard-working. She has lived her adult life alone and lives in her own house made of brick which has water and electricity.

Her desire to improve her life led her to form a group of people with businesses like: plaster handicrafts, selling soft drinks, selling clothing, the selling fruit, selling tomatoes, a bookstore and cosmetic sales, to request a loan to improve their commercial activities. (She is seated in the photo)

Guillermina is dark skinned, has long black hair and medium stature. Her native tongue is Quechua and she speaks Spanish for her business. Her business is selling empanadas: which are a light pastry with a salty or sweet filling and either baked in the oven or fried, depending on the filling. The filling might be beef, chicken, fish, vegetables or fruit. The pastry is generally made of wheat flour, although she also uses corn flour and other grains. They are often eaten with a traditional fruit drink like mocochinchi (dried peach boiled with cinnamon and sugar), which is very sought after on the very hot summer days that come in Santa Cruz.

Guillermina walks with a basket filled with empanadas on one arm and a large thermos and a packet of plastic cups in the other. This under a burning sun that gets to 88-90 F degrees each day. She walks along the busiest streets of Santa Cruz.

This is her first loan with the institute in the five years since she started her business. Her dream is to have a snack bar. At the age of 63, having worked at hard physical labour for many years walking all day carrying a a heavy load is hard for her to do, and she needs a less strenuous way of making a living.

For these reasons Guillermina is requesting a loan to buy tables and chairs to expand her business so she can sell her empanadas and fruit drinks from a snack bar, rather than having to carry them through the streets all day. 

The KIVA partner in Bolivia is Emprender. Emprender has been working in Bolivia since 1999 and is dedicated to the development of its clients and the improvement of their quality of life. Emprender offers both urban and rural clients the opportunity to obtain financial products tailored to fit their needs and businesses. This include housing loans, salary loans, “opportunity” (short-term) loans, and student loans allowing young people to go on to obtain a college education. Emprender also offers free medical consultations and health classes given by trained doctors.

This is a Group Loan.  In a group loan, each member of the group receives an individual loan but is part of a larger group of individuals. The group is there to provide support to the members and to provide a system of peer pressure, but groups may or may not be formally bound by a group guarantee. In cases where there is a group guarantee, members of the group are responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members in the case of delinquency or default.

While the group's description features Guillermina and her business the other members of the group will each receive an equal share of the loan's total $3,250 to use to invest in their own business. As you can see from the photo, most are young people, some have very young children, but all are eager and will work hard to improve their family's lives. Please consider visiting KIVA and lending $25.00 to help a hard-working person in the Third World today.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

October KIVA Loan



October's KIVA loan goes to the five women who make up the Danaya Group. All five women are married, average 38 years old and have three children. They live in the traditional polygamous families in the Djalakorodji district of Bamako, Mali. They know one another through neighbourhood ties, family and business. They have a variety of businesses. Sitan sells second-hand clothing, Maïmouna sells incense, Mariam sells hair extensions, Fatoumata sells spices and Aïché sells vegetables in the market.

Sitan, Mariam, Fatoumata, Maïmouna, Aïché
Sitan (sitting on the far left in the photo) is well-known in the community for selling second-hand clothing. She plans to use her loan to buy two large bales of clothing from Médine. She will then go house-to-house on foot selling the clothing, mainly to women in their homes.

Sitan expects to earn a monthly profit of about $55.00 USD, which will be used to pay for health care for her children. She hopes to increase the size of her business through having a larger selection of clothing to offer to her customers.  All the group members hope to increase the size and profitability of their businesses by improving their selection of merchandise. 

The group is working with KIVA's field partner, Soro Yiriwaso. This will be their second group loan. Soro Yiriwaso is a partner of Save the Children. Soro Yiriwaso's mission is to increase the economic opportunities of Malian entrepreneurs, especially women. Soro is a microfinance institution started by the Sahel field office of American non-governmental organization Save the Children. Soro lends solidarity-based credit to poorer borrowers, and was officially registered by the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Malian Government in 2003. 

As a rurally-focused microfinance institution, Soro’s product portfolio is focused on two sectors: agriculture and commercial business. Agriculture loans include seasonal loans for groups of female farmers and individual loans for buying, stocking and commercializing agricultural products. 

The organization’s commercial loans include loans for entrepreneurs running small-to-medium sized enterprises who need working capital or additional equipment to grow and generate more income. Group loans are also available to support women involved in small business.  

We have extended loans to about 10 women's borrowing groups in Mali and found they are very conscientious in repaying their debts on time, and in every case they report the loan has enabled them to improve their business and financial stability through hard work and careful management. We're so happy to be able to partner with these dedicated women and help them, in our own modest way, to reach their goals of providing better lives for themselves and their families.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Terrorist in Training



Oh my heart is heavy, down in my boots today.

Our condo building is on the "ethnic" side of town. It's filled with people from everywhere in the world. The building is now 10 years old, has four floors, 186 units and is Y shaped. Beautiful landscaping, community garden. Totally mixed community, singles to young families to people in their 80s, and every race, religion, nationality and culture. Every neighbour I meet smiles and greets me, many have a hug for me. But every barrel seems to have at least one rotten apple, and this morning the stink was overwhelming.  

We woke up about 3:00 this morning smelling gasoline, but we couldn't tell where the smell was coming from. It seemed to be from both inside and outside. Tony checked the hallway and while it seemed somewhat stronger there we weren't certain. We debated about calling 911 to report it but it was so nebulous we didn't know what we'd even say. The air intake for the building is on the roof and if the wind is right it can pull in diesel fumes from trucks waiting at the nearby light at the intersection, or smoke from someone's fireplace. There's a convenience store just down the block, I thought maybe they were filling their gas tank and we were getting the fumes. 

We woke up to firetrucks and a hazmat truck in the parking lot and then police banging on the door. Some knuckle-dragging sociopath had gone around between 1:00 and 2:00 am and poured gasoline on the carpet in front of the doors of our Muslim residents, including the man across the hall from us. The hazmat team treated the gasoline so it won't burn, and we now have these ginormous fans in the halls vaporizing gasoline into the air. 

But the sickening part is that anyone would do such a stupid, evil thing to their own neighbours. Because the police say it had to be an inside job. Our building has a state-of-the-art security system. The doors are fobbed, each entry and exit is recorded, and the security cameras record no one entering last night carrying anything that could conceal a jerry can. Also someone would have to know the who our Muslim residents are and where they live in order to target them specifically. 

You know, assuming this malicious act was a response to the barbaric actions of ISIS in the Middle East, you have to ask, what logical argument could any sane person make for putting the lives of approximately 300 people who have absolutely nothing to do with ISIS at risk? One lit cigarette, one spark, and this building, salted with gasoline on every floor, hallways saturated with gasoline vapours, would have gone up like a box of fireworks. 

In such a fire the loss of life would have been catastrophic. There would have been no way we, or most residents could have escaped a firestorm in the hallways. 

The police are calling it a hate crime, but it's terrorism plain and simple. You, trogloydyte with the gas can. You are a terrorist. If you think burning people to death (including our neighbour's nine month old son) is not as brutal as beheading or shooting you've never worked in a burn unit. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tis a tale of two fridges

I have a house which looks like a hoarder's den. There are tools everywhere, sawdust in every corner, furniture out of place and the cats are having a ball with cardboard bits and rediscovered felt mice. All this because we got up Friday morning last week to a dead refrigerator. (The freezer compartment was still working, thankfully.) I went out and bought ice to help keep the fridge compartment cold. 

We measured the space and I sat down with the web to shop for a new fridge. I quickly discovered that in the ten years since this building was built fridges have grown. I could only find two which fit in the space I have. One was really cheap, less than $500, and when I went searching for reviews they were uniformly terrible. Not one recommendation. So, though I didn't necessarily want a side by side fridge/freezer, it was the only other fridge I found that fit the space (or so the dimensions on the site said.) 

I went out Friday afternoon and bought a new fridge, lightening my pocketbook by $1100. They arrived with it at 6:00 Tuesday evening and while I thought for the $90.00 we paid to have it delivered that they would at least unpack it and plug it in, they wheeled it in and left it sitting unpacked in the middle of my tiny kitchen floor.  I had paid for them to take the old fridge away, which they were a bit disgruntled by, but grudgingly did, when I waved the receipt under their nose and insisted. 

Never ever let anyone tell you expanded polystyrene is not strong. The doors were secured by an i-beam of polystyrene. It took us an hour to dig it out with the business end of a closed pair of scissors. I was sweating like a Dallas Cowboy by the end. It took us another hour to peel off the adhesive film it was shrink wrapped in, rather like skinning a bison, with less blood and more swearing. 

Larger than advertised
So we unwrapped this King Tut's mummy of a fridge and went to roll it into place. We'd already decided that plumbing the water line for the ice maker and filtered water could be done later, but wait - it wouldn't go in. Oh, I had forgotten. We had to remove the skirting board which is sort of a fancy profiled molding along the floor which projects 3/4's of an inch into the room, including the corner where the fridge sits. 

So I got down on my knees with a chisel and hammer and pulled off the skirting board. That should do it. We rolled the fridge back. No. It still wouldn't go. Now what? The wall looks straight, but when compared to the fridge it's clear it bows inward, and the fridge catches on the bow.

On the other side the immoveable object is a 30" stove. (Very poor design - what dimwit puts a refrigerator adjacent to the cookstove?) The fridge and stove had discovered each other and instantly fallen in love. The corners were kissing, and would not give up this new-found intimacy.   

We stood back and surveyed the situation. The formica top on the lower cabinets projects about an inch beyond the cabinets, leaving a useless gap between the stove and the cupboard along the wall. You can't get a broom or any cleaning instrument in there. If we could cut that projecting bit of formica off, we could move the stove over that inch and Bob's your mother's sister's husband. (I say "we" meaning Ian of course.) I place a call for rescue.  

Ian, who learned these skills at his father's knee some 35-40 years ago, arrived at the door about dinner time, armed with dinner and a power saw with a diamond-tipped blade.  The first cut, which took off an inch, was not enough, for while the store's website gave the fridge's width as 80.3 cm (31.6") it measures 83 cm (32.7").  The evening ended when the building's mandatory 10:00 pm "quiet time" kicked in, and the fridge was still sitting in the middle of the floor. 

I woke up in the middle of the night with the sick realization that while we could move the stove over there is absolutely no way to move the range hood over. It is connected to exterior ducting, and while it is angled at the front six inches, it widens out to span the stove width after that. I shot off a quick e-mail to Ian and went back to bed. 

I began figuring how we were going to have to sell this fridge at a considerable loss, buy the one which had received terrible reviews and cross our fingers that it wasn't as bad as everyone said it was. I used to carry a tape measure in my purse. Why did I quit doing that? 

I had a medical appointment shortly after noon which took several hours, then I went grocery shopping. When I returned home at 4:30 I was delighted to find my fellas had figured out how to get the fridge in. Ian removed the entire blind end of the cabinet and countertop, and the fridge squeaked in. But it went in only because the range hood is an imperceptible inch shorter than the stove on each side. If it had been as wide as the stove we would have been hooped. 

Lesson learned byes and gurls: Tyke yer type measure to the shop wi ye and measure the ting yerself. Don' go trustin' no website ner salesclerk wi' dollar signs a shinin' in his lovely brown eyes when ye asks him, "Are ye sure enuff now this tis is only thirty one and a half inches wide bye? Looks bigger to me now I sees it up close." 

Because he'll be tellin' ye anything tuh get that fridge out the door, and cause it's on the sale now ye won't be bringing it back and all.  And what does he care thet you'll be spendin' two days sweatin' bullets and rippin' up yer kitchen. And them two nights you'll be havin' the nightmare about walkin' around that fridge sittin' in the middle of the floor of yer wee kitchen for the rest of yer nacherul life. 

Ah, but 'tis a fine fridge, and has two grand doors side by side, fridge on one side, freezer on t'other.  And it uses less of the electrics than the old 40 watt bulbs. Even me mother would be impressed, and she was a hard un to please, was mother.       

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

There is no escape


“It is always the same with mountains. Once you have lived with them for any length of time, you belong to them. There is no escape.” ~ Ruskin Bond

It's true. We lived in a tiny house on the final slope of the Rockies in the mid-70s, one of the happiest periods of my life. I have always longed to return.
                                            ----------------------------------------

They lie on the western horizon, grey and lowering like storm clouds. As you drive toward them they seem to rise up from the earth. We turned off Highway Number One and drove down Highway 40, into Bow Valley Provincial Park between two towering rows of mountains with mile after mile of dense coniferous forest. Trees which have grown so closely together that their trunks are bare rough posts for the first six meters (20 feet) with green topknots casting a deep gloom below.

It is a perfect day. A week ago we had 35 cm (14 inches) of snow. Today it is 24 C (75 F) and we don't even need a jacket. The sky is so blue you could fall up into to it, and breathe in the effervescent mist of one of the clouds which pass by.   

Mt Kidd
The magnitude of the forces which created these mountains is unimaginable. The Canadian Rockies are made up of sedimentary rock, limestone, dolomite and shale, which was laid down in layers kilometres thick when western North America lay beneath a shallow sea. 

In most places the Rockies are formed of pieces of continental crust that are over a billion years old thrust up as two tectonic plates collided. As one plate was forced beneath the other it shattered the layers of sedimentary rock above it pushing them into broken rows of jagged and tortured peaks. 

And then the ice came. Again and again the ice crushed and gouged and milled cliffs off boulders and boulders to dust. It carried boulders as big as houses down these valleys and out  onto the prairies like your mother carried a roll of quarters in her pocketbook to the laundromat.  

Mt Sparrowhawk
Some mountains look like a horrified baker just dropped her layer cake to the floor on its side. The layers of another were at a 90 degree angle to the ground, and looked exactly like an enormous petrified tree trunk which had been broken off by the wind. One appeared to be a medieval castle with battlements, another a stone hawk hunched against the wind, its wings poised to fly. The snow glistening from ridges and slopes accentuate the fantastic shapes. 

As we drove Ian pointed out the many peaks he'd climbed. I may complain about his climbing, but I understand it. The Mountain may be a fickle lover, and a dangerous one, but to embrace her is enthralling.   

Barrier Lake
The glacial lakes that dot the valley floor like a string of beads are indigo in the shadows, milky turquoise and radiant Caribbean green in the sun, depending on depth. We stopped at Barrier Lake to take pictures. The air is rich and crisp with the scent of pine sap and aspen resin. A few miles father along we stopped and walked up a trail at Wasootch Creek.  We stopped to buy a soft drink at the only service station in 100 miles of road, then turned to make our way across to the next valley over, where we found more mountains, more trees, and a washboard gravel road. 


Wasootch Tower
I had a very fine time teasing Ian that my teeth were being rattled out of my head, begging him to drive more slowly, and all-in-all giving him a good-natured hard time. These are the roads we used to drive when he was four and five when we rough camped out here, before any of the campgrounds were developed.  I love spending time with my oldest son. 

At a rest stop we saw the only wildlife spotted on the trip, a chunky little chipmunk who kept his distance. And in due time we arrived in Canmore where we had dinner and helped one of Ian's friend's celebrate his 50th birthday.   

There is a deep solid peace which I glean from those mountains. They speak to  me in a language I hear nowhere else on earth. As evidence of their power I slept that night without pain medication, the first time I've been able to do that in several years.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

September Surprise

It's a good thing I took the pictures I posted last Friday because by this Wednesday we had 35 cm (14 inches) of wet, heavy glue-like snow on everything. The trees haven't even begun to put on fall colours yet, everything is still green and in full leaf, so the snow settled on branches and leaves not designed to carry such loads. There are branches, limbs and entire trees down all over town, and many people were left without power because falling trees took down power lines. 

The lower branches of the crabapple and plum trees outside were weighed down right to the ground. The shrubs and flowers went higgeldy-piggeldy in all directions, laid flat by the snow. 

There's a slender tree, about seven and a half meters (25 feet) tall, a volunteer of indeterminate parentage, right in the corner at the entrance.  Looking out the window I could see it was bent almost in half by the weight. When the wind came I could see that tree was going to snap, so I quickly threw on my jacket and gloves, grabbed the broom and went downstairs. I used the broom to knock as much snow off the lower branches as possible, getting a lot of snow down the back of my neck in the process. But I couldn't reach the upper branches, so I grabbed the trunk, which is only about the size of a round metal fencepost in a chain link fence, and I shook it. I definitely got snowed on! But the tree returned to its upright position. 

I then went over and knocked the snow off the worst of the crabapples branches, and having done in my arms, came up for my morning coffee. 


The trees look none the worse for wear thankfully. I haven't even seen any broken branches. But my echinacea are fallen warriors. The Ligularia is broken in half, but the hostas have sprung back and a little mini rose bloomed under the snow and since the snow has now melted it is smiling like nothing even happened. You couldn't go wrong emulating that little rose. It takes a kicking and keeps on blooming. 

Friday, September 05, 2014

September Song


After several days of rather cool and wet weather; it actually snowed a couple of inches day before yesterday a few miles south of us; the sun graced us today and it was warm and lovely outside. 

I was able to finally grab my camera and go out to the garden to get pictures of the flower beds in their last flush of late summer glory. We have snow in the forecast for the start of the work week, so my flowers may soon be a memory if I don't preserve them with my camera. 

The Ligularia put up a magnificent bloom spike with a half dozen large sunflower-like  flowers. However the recent wind and rain beat them to tatters so I didn't bother taking a picture. The veronica is so eager to grow it has worked its way over the sidewalk. I will try to get down and trim it back tomorrow. But I'm very happy that the shredded bark mulch has kept the weeds at bay and there are very few weeds. 

Now for the good part. The crabapple trees are hanging with red jewel-like crabapples. I think they need just a few more days to get ripe, but I didn't try one. I may do that tomorrow. They are just slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball but they make good eating, if you like a tart apple. I'd like to pick a bag-full before the frost gets to them. A half cupful is a great snack, and you can't get any healthier or environmentally friendly. It's the 100 foot diet, or as the crow flies, the 25 foot diet.  



Moving down the bed the sage is four feet tall and blooming at the last foot of the stems. It looks rather disorganized and untidy, but the bees love it, so I've left it. 

Here you can see the lavender stems sprawling in all directions, and further down the row the echinacea blossoms, the bright red geraniums at ground level and small but bright yellow blossoms of the yellow potentilla that stands at the back of this bed. 




And here, a closeup of the echinaceas or coneflowers, which have just outdone themselves this year. The stems are just over three feet (one meter) tall, each plant has about half a dozen blossoms and each blossom would be saucer sized if it were flattened. I will look for some of the coloured ones next spring. They come in an astonishing range of colours but despite being expensive seem to fly off the shelves as quickly as they arrive. And it takes them two seasons to acclimate. These bloomed half-heartedly last year and half of those I planted died.  

The roses, both red and yellow, have bloomed all season, despite my fears that they both might have been winter killed. I didn't get pictures of them today, but both have about eight or ten blossoms in various stages, from opening bud to fully open flower. 

In the bed at the outside edge of the walkway the wolf willows have done well this year, after being shaped and pruned last year. The oxeye daisy that I thought might have been drowned during our spring thaw, when that bed was underwater for two weeks, came out none the worse for wear and is putting on a cheerfully spectacular display. This is from a single plant I stuck in the ground two springs ago. 


Turning around and walking back up the sidewalk the late-blooming pink potentilla is lovely, and the cornus alba (red osier dogwood) has grown to a height of eight feet (2.4 meters) since it was planted as a 3 foot (.9 meter) stick last May. 

Otherwise most of the shaded garden is not much to write home about. The slugs have been snacking on the hostas. The astilbes and coral bells have bloomed and gone to sleep. Only the fern and bergenia look perky. 


In the Zen garden the sedums around the standing stone continue their march through a seasonal flourish of colour. 

And soon a blanket of snow will cover it all. I am a gardner who follows the "Leave the stems and seed heads in the garden over winter" philosophy. When we first came here the only birds we saw were pigeons and seagulls. 

With the garden, small birds come to feed on the insects and the seed heads. Warblers, wax-wings, chickadees, sparrows, robins. Slugs may eat holes in my hostas, but in turn they make a fine meal for a bird. I cured the out-of-control aphid problem by taking out the plants which were not getting enough light to thrive (and thus were unhealthy) and replaced them with plants which like deep shade, and we have no aphid problem now. 


Anyway, thank you for touring my garden with me. It is one of my great pleasures.   

One fish One hook

This is the tale of two partners. Partner A is anxious and while A finds completing a certain task too anxiety-provoking to do, is also anxious that it be done, so reminds Partner B multiple times that it needs doing, and offers to bring materials to B so B can do the task.  Partner A grows anxious and increasingly insistent. 

Partner B on the other hand is psychologically resistant to being pushed to do the task, which is scheduled for later in the day and grows increasingly aggravated at being interrupted while working on another task. 

In the end, Partner B stops work on the task in progress and does the task Partner A is anxious about, but a few cross words ensure between the two of them. Shenpa at work.  

Partner A comments; Anxious Buddha; Grumpy Buddha    

In Buddhism shenpa is the word used to describe the physical or emotional hook that triggers our habitual tendency to close down, strike out, worry or nag. We get hooked into that habitual pattern we use to gain relief from that anxiety.

Our goal is to begin to recognizing that moment when shenpa kicks in and learn to relax, rather than react to it.

We can train ourselves to spot shenpa. For example, when we say something to another person and the expression on their face, or their response, triggers shenpa, and we feel that tensing in the gut, that feeling of resistance. Rather than get caught up in a story line about how right or wrong we (or they) are, we stop and pay attention to our response/ anxiety/ anger itself. We notice that while our response may be somewhat uncomfortable, it actually poses no threat. It is simply an emotional response which triggers physical symptoms which are not harmful. They do not require that you act upon them, and if you observe them dispassionately, they soon subside. 

Oh, and it helps to remember there are no right or wrong in trivial domestic disputes, and we are almost always more comfortable when we choose peace over power.