Garden Inventory, July 13

Asparagus – 2 beds, gone to seed
Basil – Teeny and yellowish. They didn’t get off to a healthy start.
Beets – Ready to pick. Will anyone eat the greens?
Black flies – Gone. Phew!
Broccoli – Wants to produce. Need to review harvesting tips.
Brussel sprouts – If we keep bringing them water, we will have sprouts through Thanksgiving.
Cantaloupe – It doesn’t look like this will be the year.
Corn – 4 feet tall, robust
Cucumbers – 4 fruits on 3 plants, all stunted. Will they grow bigger if we bring them more water?
Delicata Squash – small plants, blossoms beginning
Fennel – One delicious bulb eaten in stir fry. Three more waiting to be picked.
Flowers – Zinnias, calendula, cornflower, and strawflower scattered throughout. Currently blue, orange, pink, yellow and purple beauty! A mystery plant almost ready to bloom.
Horseflies – Aggressive!!
Kale – Abundant – keep picking!
Lettuce – 4 more heads ready to harvest. Salad anyone?
Snap peas – Juicy, swollen, sweet. I wish we had planted more.
Mosquitos – Nowhere in sight.
Potatoes – Past flowering. Robust plants. No potato bugs!
Tomatoes – bushy plants, green fruit, over-crowded bed again
Water – Two wheelbarrows full of buckets and watering cans will keep the plants alive. Is it enough to  keep them healthy?
Watermelon – It doesn’t look like this will be the year for watermelon either.
Zucchini – None planted this year. None will be wasted.

Of all the miracles happening in the garden, I want to spotlight three of them here: the milkweed, the horsefly, and the asparagus.

The horsefly wants something from me. It has attempted to bite the front and back of my right knee, left thigh, left ankle. Each time he lands, I swat him away. I try an experiment. Let him land and have a solid bite. Perhaps it will satiate him long enough that I can linger a little longer. I am seeking a common ground for the horsefly’s need for the physical sustenance of my body and my need for the spiritual sustenance of the garden.

The asparagus had arrived in May to announce to me that gardening season had begun. Before I had added compost or turned any of the other beds, the first spears had poked through the soil. As usual, I had been watching and waiting for several weeks, but that anticipation does not dull the surprise and joy that I felt when we spotted that first spear. The asparagus beds fed us (and neighbors and friends) for over a month and now we have left them to rest. We stopped cutting while the spears were still coming up strong. The tall fronds that bloom now are feeding the root systems below and, next May, those roots will again feed us.

The “Tea Bed” has a bumper crop but, this year, it won’t become tea. The bed holds perennial chamomile, mint, and lavender and, as an experiment, I left a few stalks of milkweed when I was weeding early in the season. The milkweed is now taking up more than half of the bed. It just bloomed and it smells heavenly, warm and sweet. Among the dozens of flying beings on the blossoms, I count 1 hummingbird, 3 different butterflies, 4 different bees, and more than a handful of insects I don’t know how to classify. As I gaze into the cacophony of life in the milkweed today, I celebrate the interrelationship of many beings.

I am grateful to be both a witness and a full participant in Creation’s co-mingling. With renewed attention, I step anew into the opportunity and the responsibility of the dance.

May I show up to each new day like the pollinators, ready to feed life as well as be fed by it.

Open to the World

The paddle board offers access to a whole new world, the watery domain of loon, heron, eagle. I try to be a good guest.

Standup paddle board

Carries me to a new realm.

I am humbled, stunned, 

Amidst the watery depths,

Heron, loon, eagle

Are fishing, swimming, flying.

morning reverie.

I paddle more and

more slowly until I stop.

How can I go on?

Here, in the middle of the lake, suspended between the vast sky above, and the watery depths below, I interrupt the stillness of the lake. I simply cannot move without creating a ripple. Water skimmers dance across the surface of the lake, creating a v-shaped wake behind them. I too am creating a wake. 

As I glide silently under the pine tree where a mature bald eagle is roosted, it flies away. I notice an immature eagle and another mature eagle that have remained situated, slightly higher and farther away from the shore. I linger for a moment, staring up to take in their size, their stillness, their majestic stature. Then, worried that I might cause them to fly too, I paddle on. 

I spot the sharp, pointed head of a great blue heron rising above a stand of reeds. She is slowly walking through the watery vegetation near the shore. I am in the middle of the lake channel, but studying closely as she stalks her breakfast. Then, suddenly, she flies. Perhaps I’ve come too close. I’ve certainly given her more attention than she cares to carry on her skinny shoulders.

As is often the case, we hear the loons before we see them. Their loud echoing call fills the air with mystery and my heart swells with awe. A loon call is haunting — and promising. Loons are an indicator species and the presence of nesting loons indicates that the water and shore conditions are sufficiently healthy for raising babies. As we approach, I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Lead” in which she invokes the loon’s story to invite our hearts to “break open and never close again to the rest of the world.”

As our paths cross, the loons dive, wary of a passing stranger. They are wise. I’d be wary of me too. Despite the ways in which I try to be “one of the good ones”, humans are making a mess. We are not to be trusted. And, sometimes, despite my good intentions, I make a mess too.

I have been paddling slowly, quietly, gently so as not to disrupt the others. And still, my presence has had an impact. I have interrupted breakfasts, mating, and morning meditation. Participating in the human family at this time in this culture creates an impact. I strive to make that impact as positive as possible when I can — and I have a lot to learn.

As we continue to paddle, people who reside in the camps, cabins, and houses along the lakeshore are waking up. There are moms and boys fishing, dads and toddlers building in the sand along the shore, a woman in a rowboat, a family in a fishing boat, elders watching the lake wake up from their lazy boys behind the picture window.

What would be the impact, if we all started from the Hippocratic oath premise of “do no harm” ?

Better yet, what if we all started from the Leave No Trace ethic of “leave it better than you found it”?

What if “it” referred not only to the human family, but also to the heron, the eagle, the loon, the lake?

I am as glad as anyone to have a 3-day weekend but, in the interest of aligning my intent with the positive impact that I hope to have, I am tending an Independence Day that matches my values.

I will work for independence from the systems and beliefs that perpetuate violence and harm to others.

I will honor bodily autonomy for all ~ no matter the gender, skin color, sexual orientation, or species. 

I will lean into the interdependence of individuals, species, and ecosystems.

I will celebrate both you and me and the beauty of our connectivity. 

What will you celebrate today? And tomorrow? And the day after that?

Together, we are co-creating a new way of being human in the world.

(Read other musings about independence and interdependence here and here.)

Beltane Brilliance

dew on grassLast weekend, we celebrated Beltane, the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. A phoebe outside the window has been trying to wake me up earlier and earlier the last few days.

Today, I responded to the invitation to rise earlier. Stepping into the glistening world, I was brought to tears by the brilliance of the sun reflecting on and through drops of moisture on each blade of grass. Everywhere I looked, life teemed with freshness, possibility, and newness ~ and I recognized myself as an undeniable part of this whole. The recognition arises in my body and my heart – a knowing beyond language or belief. I am invited. Indeed, my full participation is required in the rising evolving Creation, holy one and sacred all.

On each blade of grass

Drops of life light converge

As a new day dawns

Each dew drop calls out

“You belong. Welcome back home.

You are one of us.”

As I fall into

their glistening liquid spell

I re-member truth.

I am Creation

Light and Life, Singular and

Collective, whole and complete

Born anew each day.

dew on grass

Supersaturated

Winter’s ice and snow are melting. The dripping has felt constant for a week. Even after the roof had melted, I could still hear drips. They seemed to come from above and below. As the hard earth began to thaw, it became pillowy and spongy.  Each step on this super-saturated ground caused bubbles and moisture to rise next to my feet. The water displaced by the weight of my body needed somewhere else to go. While I could see the water that rose to the surface, finding room in the spaces above, I imagined that other droplets were  pressed deeper into the earth.

Yesterday was foggy. The air, like the earth, felt super-saturated. I waited for it to lift just enough that I would still be able to see Karma as she ran ahead of me. It was my first morning walk in the field since foot surgery in January and I felt like I was reconnecting with old friends as I walked slowly through the orchard and along the line of oak trees to the north. I was caught somewhere between laughter and tears; I had forgotten how much I had missed this morning ritual.

Plop!

A drop of condensation fell from a high oak and into my coffee cup, making a delightful, robust sound and a big clear bubble on the surface of my black coffee. What are the chances? I gave into the laughter and spoke a greeting to the oak, grateful for the playful welcome back.

Later that morning, I gave into my own super-saturation in a conversation with a friend. We meet bi-weekly as spiritual companions to one another, intentionally carving out time and space to take turns listening deeply to one another, a simple practice with profound impact. As I began to speak, it quickly became clear that I, like the earth, was super-saturated. I didn’t have the capacity to hold any more frustration, hurt, sadness, or overwhelm, and the tears and words flowed freely. Thirty minutes later, I was a sponge that had been wrung out — weary, relieved, and ready to absorb again. But before we parted ways, my friend asked some thought-provoking questions.

When was the last time you played?

How are you going to take care of yourself?

Her questions helped me notice that, in that moment, though I had felt some capacity returning, I was still depleted and would bring myself right back to the brink in minutes if I did not pay attention. I was stuck in a pattern of allowing too much in, and of holding it too closely for too long. In my desire to be of service to others, I had forgotten to be of service to myself. I needed to bring renewed intention and energy to caring for my own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. 

That afternoon, I took a walk in the forest and let it all sink in. I now had room  to let in the healing energy that my overwhelmed body and mind had inadvertently been keeping out. I took longer, deeper breaths. Time expanded. The sights, sounds, and smells of spring rushed into my awareness. Renewal was all around me and within me. Dipping my hands in the creek, I anointed my hands, head, and heart, setting an intention to ensure that, along with the rest of Creation, I too shall be renewed in this season.

This weekend, we celebrate the Vernal Equinox. In the northern hemisphere, the balance between light and dark and the rising temperatures will usher in an extended period of growth – eventually. In the little corner of Maine where I live, there is still plenty of thawing and drying out to do first. This is the slow, subtle preparation phase of the growing season – and today we will get a rainstorm. The puddles will fill, the creek will rise and I will go to the forest to accompany the overflow and release. I will give thanks for cycles, for movement, for healing waters, and for human and non-human companions.

May the turning toward the light at this equinox be a movement towards balance in our hearts and in our lives, that we may be a blessing to others.

There’s No Place Like Home

For the last two months, my colleagues and I have been spending 10-15 minutes in play at each staff meeting. Every other week, someone facilitates an “ice-breaker,” a simple game or puzzle intended to help us get to know each other and build a sense of cohesion. At our last meeting, someone brought the question, “If your house was on fire, all of your loved ones were safe, and you could get 5 things safely out of the house, what would you take?”

Coming up with a way to answer the questions gave us each an opportunity to consider what is important. Sharing it with our colleagues gave us a chance to explain why those items are important. In explaining her choices, one woman acknowledged,“ I might not think this clearly if there were really a fire.” We all had to agree that the choices we had shared that morning were an interesting thought exercise but not really practical. Who knows what would happen in an emergency?

Two weeks later, I am hearing news reports of Ukrainians fleeing their homes. Did they have time to grab anything as they fled their homes? They certainly didn’t have assurance that their loved ones were safe. Do they anticipate going back to their homes “after the fire is out”? Is it even possible to mourn your losses when they just keep accumulating?

In an emergency, adrenaline and the will to live will keep people moving and making decisions. The images coming out of Ukraine are full of people who appear afraid, but they also appear to have great strength and courage. For a long time, I gazed at a picture from NPR of an older man seeking medical care on the street, a bombed building behind him, resolve on his face. He has seen a lot in his lifetime. His face shows it: there has already been so much war, so much struggle, so much pain. Why must there be more now? Will he live long enough to know peace?

Observing this emergency from a distance, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I am safe enough to wallow in my sadness but that is not helpful or satisfying. Urged on by my need to do something (anything!) I began to clean the house yesterday morning. It didn’t take long to figure out that tending to my home was a balm for my weary heart and a manifestation of an earnest desire to extend comfort to those who were being displaced from their homes.

As I brought order and beauty to the little spaces of chaos in my house, I prayed for order and beauty in the wider world.

As I polished the tarnished silver bowl that had been in my grandmother’s house, I remembered my grandmother’s story of traveling with her newborn daughter on a boat from Hawaii to the mainland after Pearl Harbor was bombed. The boat traveled without lights to avoid detection. I prayed for the elders in Ukraine, the lives they have yet to live, and the stories they will pass on. I prayed for the women and children leaving their partners behind to fight as they seek safety elsewhere.

As I walked up the stairs to clean the bathroom that had not been cleaned since my foot surgery 5 weeks ago, I gave thanks for my own strength and mobility and I thought again of the women and children making voyages by foot, car, bus, and train to the borders of Poland and Romania. I gave thanks for the compassionate governments receiving them and the volunteers offering food, shelter, clothing and support. I prayed for the leadership of our own country, that we might learn to welcome people arriving at our borders.

As I watered houseplants and pruned their dead and dying leaves, I prayed for the earth, air, and water that will suffer from war’s toxicity. I gave thanks for Mother Earth’s resilience and the persistence of Creation.

As I sat down and put up my foot, I gave thanks for my own home, for the refuge that it provides and the safety and comfort that I enjoy. I do not – will not – take it for granted. I am resolved that all beings should have spaces of refuge and I am aware that we have a long way to go to make that vision a reality.

One cleaner corner, one movement, and one memory at a time, I gained some strength for holding the enormity of war a little closer yesterday.

As I write today, I give thanks for awareness and pray that I may continue to be strong enough to face humanity’s hardships with compassion and that I may lend my heart and actions to healing and wholeness in whatever ways I can. Sometimes it will just be within the walls of my own house and, sometimes, that will be just enough.

May the prayers that flow from my hands join

with yours

and with millions of others.

May our collective action generate peace

in our hearts

in our homes

in our world

in our lifetime.

Between Here and There

We did a little remodel on our house last summer. What had originally been a wide open entryway is now a smaller, insulated hallway between the entry door and the door that leads into the kitchen and the rest of the house. The entry is a storage place for coats, hats, boots, etc… and a transition zone between the outside and the inside. In a perfect world, it would keep the elements (snow, rain, mud, leaves…) outside and the heat inside.

Well. You can probably guess how that’s going.

The world is perfectly imperfect and our tidy plan to keep the outer mess from mingling with the inner mess has not really worked.

The renovations were complete last spring, but it was late October before I noticed that when you go out of the kitchen door, close it behind you and then open the outside door, the kitchen door pops open again. You then have to take a step back and close the kitchen door again before you can slip through the outer door, trying to close it without disrupting the inner door. As the temperatures dropped, this inconvenience became increasingly obvious. The entryway is not heated and the double bursts of cold air into the kitchen whenever someone left or entered the house alternated between frustrating and humorous. After several weeks of increasing attention to this “problem”, I finally realized that there was some sort of message beyond the doors and their faulty handles that I was supposed to be paying attention to. I paused and asked myself. “What’s the teaching for me here?”

As soon as I asked this question, my attention to these partnered doorways became curiosity rather than frustration. I began to think about thresholds and the nature of transitions. The common saying “when one door closes, another opens” was literally true in my home. Now I was considering how it was true in other aspects of my life. Was there some wisdom here that could support me in the transitions that are constantly arriving in my life?

Could I be more intentional about both the opening and the closing of those doors? 

Can I turn to face the door closing behind me with gratitude and acknowledgement of an ending?

Can I face a newly opened door, or even an unopened door, with curiosity and courage?

How could I best support others in walking through doors that had opened for them or closed firmly behind them? 

I began to notice that life is full of thresholds both big and small. In the program that I manage, a student announced she was leaving. A non-profit where I have served as a board member has decided to fold. A colleague announced her departure and a recruitment process began. My son, a high school senior, got news of being rejected from his first choice college one evening. A few hours later, he received news of acceptance to two other wonderful options.

As we greet a new year, I am weary. It has taken a lot of energy to face the constant uncertainty of the last few years. I have often thought about the way in which one threshold leads directly to another and another…you can read an old poem about that here.

But I am also renewed and refreshed by this new perspective, this invitation to pay attention to the quality of my presence at the threshold.

As I step into 2022, I will endeavor to acknowledge the closing doors with gratitude for lessons offered and gifts received. And I will aspire to greet each opening door with curiosity, patience, and kindness.

May the threshold of this new year offer you a moment to pause too – a moment in which you may glance back at the closing doors with gratitude, forgiveness, and peace and look ahead toward all that awaits with loving intention, ease, and hope.