Monday, March 20, 2017

Growing Wisdom

Perennial - Lasting for an indefinitely long time; persistent; enduring; regularly repeated or renewed

I discovered a passion for gardening late in life, in my late 40s and early 50s. I had always loved being outside in nature, communing with the birds and squirrels, helping my mother pick roses and lilacs from the yard and arranging them in vases, and marveling at how no matter what happened during the course of the year, from frigid winters to baking summers, these beautiful flowers always came back.

The best piece of gardening advice that I ever received was to make perennials the backbone of the garden, adding annuals, shrubs and foliage for variety and change. Perennials, I was told, were enduring, just like their advice. Gardening wisdom comes from years and years of trial and error, along with back-breaking and sometimes heart-breaking work. It isn't something that you can grow over night. You have to plant the seeds and see what comes back and what doesn't. You have to be persistent if you want to be renewed.

Wisdom is also something that has to grow over the years through trial and error, sunshine as well a storms, and lots and lots of experience. Remember when we heard our parents say things like: "Wait until you grow up and then you'll understand," or, "wait until you have children of your own and then you'll know what I'm talking about." And wait we did, often not patiently, but in the end that was the only way to see what worked and what didn't, what was true for us and what wasn't, and what endured. With persistence and the ability to tear out what wasn't growing and replace it with those things that would endure, we grew in wisdom and, just like the garden, we were regularly renewed.

One piece of wisdom that has recently blossomed in my wisdom garden is that there are things I have come to understand about my life that I could not possibility have understood or accepted until I had moved into my Third Age, my wisdom years. I had to keep walking up and down the paths, planting and pulling weeds, until the pattern of my life emerged and I saw the Big Picture. Do I wish I had known what I know now when I was younger? Sure. Would I have understood it the way that I do now? Not likely. I had to live it, and live it I did.

As our 3 feet of snow starts to melt, I say a little prayer each morning to those beautiful perennials that lay sleeping underneath it all, asking them to hold on just a little longer and rely on their inner wisdom to tell them when to push through to the top. That's how they endure, by knowing when it's time to be who they are meant to be. I think that's true for all of us, don't you?

And so it is.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Blanket, A Pot of Soup, and Clear Water

Image result for free image of a pot of soup on the stove

I give up! I am throwing up my hands and giving up! I would wave a white flag of surrender, but it would probably blow away!

After a week of wind storms with downed trees, power lines and flying trash cans, followed by record-breaking, bitter cold in the single digits with below zero wind chills, the icing on the cake (or on us, as it were) is coming tonight and for the next 48 hours in the form of a real nor'easter, promising at least a foot of snow and 40 mph wind gusts. Oh, joy! So I surrender, and I am here to tell you that despite what you may have been taught, surrender is not always a bad thing.

Surrender does not always mean that you lose and the other guy wins. It doesn't mean that you are weak, or a failure, or not enough. Sometimes surrender means accepting the present moment for what it is, understanding that we do not control everything in life, let alone the whole world, and that there are times when it is wiser and more courageous to wait until, as Lao Tzu tells us: "...your mud settles and the water is clear?" I don't have any control over the weather. It is March in the Northeast section of the country which means anything from 70 degrees and sunny to minus 4 temperatures and snow storms. It is what it is. Instead of wailing about it and wishing for spring, it better serves me and my well being to let my mud settle until my water is clear. In other words, spring will get here when it gets here.

The same holds true of surrendering to other things we have no control over, like the actions of another person. Ranting and raving, and pointing fingers, does nothing to change that person, and it does not allow us to see things clearly. By surrendering to what is and giving ourselves the room to let our water clear, we can see the bigger picture and make our plans for new and better times ahead. All we need to do is be willing to let go.

So today I will fight the crowds at the store to pick up some milk and other items "just in case," and then retire to my old rocking chair with a warm blanket, a pot of soup on the stove, and the big, fat novel I picked up at the library book sale last week. Let the winds blow, the snow come down and winter, hopefully, finally, blow itself out. When my mud settles and my water clears, I'll get back out there again!

And so it is.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Starting From Seed

Image result for free image of planting seeds
I am inside today recovering from a brutal day yesterday of frigid temperatures in the teens, high wind warnings and a wind chill of -2! The wind has finally subsided but we woke to 10 degrees this morning with a promise of "maybe" 30 by afternoon. So what does any hardy woman born and raised in the northeast do on such a day? She puts up a pot of soup ... and starts planting seeds!

Yes, you heard right: Planting Seeds. No, not outside, of course. I doubt highly that I could even get a hoe or a spade into the frozen ground right now. I'm talking about getting my little peat pots and cartons laid out and ready to fill with luscious, organic soil from a bag into which I will either poke a hole and insert one seed, or sprinkle the really tiny ones over the top and lightly cover with a thin layer of soil. A little misting to wet them in, pop them on a sunny window sill or under a light and, Voila!"  In a few weeks, little green sprouts will start to poke up through the soil. By the time the ground warms up enough to receive them, my little plants will be a few inches tall and hardy enough to establish themselves in the new garden which, this year, will be at my daughter's house. My new apartment is way too little with no porch or balcony to house even a container garden, and my daughter's yard is in dire need of help (alas, she did not inherit her mother's green thumb ... more like a black one ... but thankfully both of her daughters did). I get to create a whole new garden and I get free labor to boot! How awesome is that?

Growing a garden from seed is not for everyone. It takes a lot of work, lots of planning, as many wins as there are loses, and, above all, faith and patience. Anyone can go buy an already established plant from a store and pop it in the ground, but you miss out on the beautiful experience of watching the birth of life from its beginnings. Just like humans, a plant starts from a seed, and with love and patience it grows, sometimes painfully slow and not without its setbacks and disappointments.

No one comes into this world knowing everything and knowing how to do everything. You can't go to a human store and buy an already established person to plop down in your home who will know how best to run your life and the lives of your family. It would be nice, but it has been my experience that the best way to learn something is by starting small, starting simply, and taking my time. Yes, I will make mistakes. Yes, I will sometimes have to rip it out and start over, but I will be all the wiser for having done so. It is in our setbacks and supposed failures that real growth takes root.

I know that starting a brand new garden in a brand new place will be a challenge. I have no idea what the soil is like, what kind of drainage it has and how the sun moves across the plot from sunrise to sundown. These are all things I will have to learn. Some things may have to be grown in large pots or raised beds until the soil has been amended and I know what will grow best there. Just like in life, we won't know if we can do something until we try, and then try again; but we'll never know unless we're willing to dig in and get our hands dirty.

As for me, I'm starting small, with herbs, lettuces, beans and the easy stuff. We'll see what Mother Nature has in store for me as the season progresses. For now, it's enough to start from seed and see what blossoms.

And so it is.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Flying Through The Rain

Image result for free images of crows flying

The feature that sold me on my new apartment was the large window right where my desk was destined to go. It gives me a lovely view of the row of houses on this sweet little block as well as trees galore and the rolling hills in the distance. Even more spectacular than that is the huge vista of sky that opens up in endless wonder. There is a regional airport a few blocks down for small aircraft only. Every day I get to see private aircraft, both planes with props and helicopters, land and take off, making great, sweeping turns before me. However, it is not the miracle of man-made flight that captures my heart. It is the endless performances of Mother Nature's natural pilots, the birds, that fascinates me the most.

Day after day, in all sorts of weather, I see the parade of my winged relations going about their lives. I see them play, hunt for food, perform aerial ballet, and often make me wish I could be up there with them. I think the one thing that amazes me the most about them, however, is to watch them when the weather turns from sun and open sky to rain and wind. While the planes down the road are grounded, these creatures, some of them weighing hardly more than a few ounces or a pound at the most, put their heads down and fly into the storm. They have somewhere to be, and something to do, and in most cases their lives or the lives of their little ones depends on them. I saw such a display the other day. The rain was coming down in sheets and the wind was howling ... and a very determined crow was flapping for all he was worth, making his way across the sky to what ever destination was calling to him. It was the most impressive act of grit and courage I have seen in quite some time.

How many of us would have that kind of courage? I don't necessarily mean going out into a literal storm. I am referring to flying through the storms of our lives. When our personal storms are howling all around us, how many of us can say that we can put our heads down and fly into the eye of the storm to get to where we need to be? What calls to us to perform this kind of spiritual feat? It is the knowledge that, if we can just hang on and make it through to the other side, sunshine awaits us. On the other side of the storms of our lives is the peace that we desire. If we have faith that even in nature, no storm can last forever, we can put out our wings and ride the wind to a new day and a new beginning. Believe in yourself and in the power of your spiritual "Co-Pilot." Even if your wings grow tired, your Co-Pilot can carry you the rest of the way.

This morning I am watching a battle between a big crow and a little squirrel over a piece of stale, discarded bread. As much as I love squirrels, my money is on the crow!

And so it is.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Even Squirrels Have A Little Drama In Their Lives

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows my strange obsession with assigning names and personal histories to the local critters who live in my neighborhood. What can I say? It feeds my imagination and allows me to let my playful side out (Who knows? There could be a book in this!). Since I moved here in November, I have become acquainted with a couple of squirrels that live in the roof of the house across the driveway. I refer to them as Gus and Mrs. Gus. Stay with me, there's a lesson that is going to come out of all of this.

Gus is a very adventurous guy. Every day he scampers out from his entrance under the porch roof, which is  hidden behind the rain spout, makes for the top most point of the house and across to the giant pine tree beside it. I don't know how tall this tree is, but I live in a three story building and this tree is way taller than that. The tree is full of pine cones and I assume it is for this reason that Gus makes his daily trip up and over to the other side of the house. Other times, it seems as if he just wants to get out of the house, get some air and stretch his paws. Mrs. Gus, on the other hand, is very hesitant and frightens easily. She has trouble deciding if she wants to come and out, once there, which way she wants to go. She doesn't come out unless her hubby does, and if she loses sight of him, she is in quite a panic. She obviously has dependency issues.

The other day I saw Mrs. Gus come flying over the top of the roof and make for home as if she were being chased. No sooner was she inside her hole than Gus also came scampering from the same direction and ... right behind him were two other squirrels. I wasn't sure if they were playing or if they intended something more sinister. Instead of running for his front door, Gus led them away to the other end of the roof and then disappeared into the pine tree. The other two squirrels kept sniffing and searching but did not manage to find the entrance that Mrs. Gus had dived into. After a while, they gave up and took off. About 10 minutes later, Gus appeared and, making sure the coast was clear, went home. Gus had bravely and successfully led the two marauders away from his den and his lady. Go Gus!

After watching this little scene that was worthy of a segment on Animal Planet, it occurred to me that even the animals have to put up with some drama every now and then. In their case, however, it often ends up being a real life-or-death scenario. How small our mostly self-created human dramas seem to be compared to theirs. I'm not talking about really serious issues that people go through, like illness, death and disasters. I'm talking about the ones we create ourselves: what others think of us, the job we hate, how we'll never find our soul mate, how awful/ugly/fat/dumb, etc., we are. I don't think Mrs. Gus worries about what the other girls think of how she's wearing her tail this season, or how much baby weight she put on. I think she's more worried about not becoming some one's lunch!

Super Coach Michael Neil tells us: "We're not afraid of what we think we're afraid of; we're afraid of what we think." So when a new "drama" surfaces in our thoughts, how much easier it is to simply accept that it's only a thought, refuse to be drawn into the drama, and reach for a better feeling thought. Somewhere out there is the job of our dreams, the partner of our dreams, and the life of our dreams. The only one chasing us is us. We're only a thought away from making our dreams become reality ... and we won't end up being any one's main course, either! Once we acknowledge that we have the power to end the drama in our lives, there is nothing we cannot achieve!

And so it is.

Monday, February 13, 2017

A Packet of Dreams

Image result for free image of seed catalog

February is tough month if you're a gardener. On the one hand, we are half-way through winter and spring is only a few weeks away - if we are to believe the calendar rather than the weather man. On the other hand, our hands have been out of the dirt for several months causing us great anxiety and a longing non-gardeners may not understand. Enter the saving grace of February - the arrival of the seed catalogs.

I've always thought of seed catalogs as Dream Catalogs. Going over the beautiful, colorful pictures of juicy, ripe veggies, tall spires of sunflowers and waves of every plant known to humankind, one feels very much like the viewer who has been watching the first part of the Wizard of Oz in black and white, only to have Dorothy open the door to see the whole world reborn. Each page would plant a picture in my mind of changes I wanted to make, new ideas for boarders, introducing new plants into the garden, and maybe increasing my kitchen herb garden just a bit. And, oh, what joy when the package arrived in the mail ... small white packets of dreams to come.

Wouldn't life be wonderful if, when we are feeling lost and yearning for something more, we could open our mail boxes to find a catalog of dreams. It would have sections for love, career, finances, travel, family, just about any variety you could think of. Then, all we'd have to do is place our order and in a few weeks, sweet little packets of dreams would arrive, all ready for us to start in our indoor seedling trays. Soon, after careful attention is paid to their daily feeding, watering and care, the first shoots of our new lives would begin to peek through to the surface. Dreams start to grow. Before we know it, they are ready to be transplanted out into the world to breathe the clean, fresh air and grow in the sunlight.

Well, I'm here to tell you that you can do just that. All the seeds for all of your dreams are out there, just waiting for you to call them to you. Prayer, meditation, journaling, and taking small, baby steps in the direction of your dreams will, with patience and love, reap a harvest more bountiful than you can imagine. Never, ever let anyone tell you that you can't grow a dream where you are. Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are, and bloom away. Just as spring always comes again, regardless of how endless the winter seems, you can always begin again to plant the seeds of your life and start a brand new garden.

I wish you all gardens that grow and flourish throughout the seasons of your lives.

And so it is.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Weaving The Threads Of Intention: Binding It All Together

For the last five weeks, we've been looking at the five "sutras," or, "threads" that we can use to weave our intentions into reality. They are: patience, acceptance, defenselessness, compassion and abundance." However, without a solid thread woven around the outside to bind it all together, our intentions could very easily begin to unravel. So this week we tie it all together with the final thread: Love.

The Beatles told us repeatedly in song: "All You Need Is Love." Is that really true? Let's look at that idea as it applies to each of the five threads:

Patience: When we bring love to a person or situation, we have the patience to work towards a solution or common goal. The same is true of how we treat ourselves. When we love ourselves, we are more patient with ourselves when we falter, make difficult decisions or try something new, like learning a sport or craft.

Acceptance: When we love someone, we accept them just as they are. We don't sit there and find fault with them. Again, the same is true of loving ourselves. When we learn self love, we automatically have self-acceptance.

Defenselessness: Love does not need to be defended. Love needs no defense. When we choose love over fear, or hatred, we need not explain our reasoning or try to convince others of our choice. Our love is our strength.

Compassion: Where there is love, there is also compassion. We feel for the loved one with every fiber of our being. Be it a partner, a parent, a child, an animal, or the world at large, love and compassion go hand in hand.

Abundance: There is no limit on love. It is everywhere for the asking, everywhere for the taking. There is never a shortage, and the more we give out, the more we receive. Often, when it seems as if the world has lost it's collective mind and is filled with hatred and distrust, currents of love will flow through from every corner of the universe and drown out the hatred. Love is always available.

So now we have woven our beautiful intentions and bound our threads together with love. We can wear our creation proudly, carry it with us wherever we go, and let the magic in those threads weave us a beautiful and fulfilled life.

And so it is.