awe, humility, hope and a few other things I might notice

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A thief in the garden

I have detected a thief in the garden. At first it was merely a suspicion combined with a generous amount of honest carefree forgetfulness. Did I have another few ears of corn on those plants? Was there another watermelon in that patch? I must have miscounted the amount of butternut squash.

Then I began to see empty patches where a watermelon had once lain. From the beginning I knew this was no squirrel or other standard variety furry garden bandit. Nor had I discovered a vegetable vanishing virus, although the thought crossed my mind. I just couldn’t conceive of an entire zucchini dissolving into mush without a trace in one day.

No, I have a human thief, rather educated as to the ripeness of things, and quite stealthy except for the small yet distinctly muddy trampled area their footprints leave behind. This human cuts with a knife and was slowly snatching away my delightfully colorful sugar pumpkins until I feared I would have none at all. I had to bring them all in, the corn, the pumpkins, the butternut, the not quite ripe watermelon.

I have been giving food away this year, a basket of lettuce to the food bank, to the neighbors, to people walking by, I even put a sign out for a day for free organic lettuce (with only 1 taker as far as I could tell). We gave away cucumbers and beets, daikon and tomatoes, and much more. But I knew I was donating these things, gifting them to friends and neighbors in need. I gave away what I had to give, what was ready, what was abundant, what was unmanageably plentiful.

So why do I feel so bothered and angry about a few missing pieces of produce in this prolific year? Why do I want to keep watch at night and set trip wires and sling shot traps of rotten tomatoes? Do I have that much attachment to my pumpkins? Am I struggling with the act of giving to those who may be questionably deserving?

A messier thief would have just been a nuisance. A drunken tromp over the zucchini could have been forgiven. A thief connoisseur, however, has me caught up in their web of treachery and I am plotting rows of cellophane covered paint, cayenne pepper bombs and even layers of thistle barbed diversions. I check my traps often. I anticipate the yelp of revelation as the thief becomes caught in my ambush. I wait no longer thief. I will not sit quietly as you steal my precious produce.

I don’t care who the thief is. I don’t care much about the watermelon. I probably have enough pumpkin and even butternut squash, although a few more would help through the winter. I reason that perhaps it is my larger security that is in question, and most of all, my victim hood. I don’t want to be the prey of anyone. An easy target for garden thievery might make me an easy target for a home break in and my idleness may communicate a vulnerability I do not wish to have broadcast. I don’t really relish the idea of a thistle stung and limping thief covered in rotting tomato flesh, but I do want to be able to stop looking over my shoulder to count my blessings.


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A Passion for Plants

It may sound odd, but I think my passion for gardening touches on the sanctity of life, extended to the plant world. 

This spring I nursed kale seedlings so ragged and leggy that only a mother could love them. In June I wrapped cardboard casts around wind bent sunflower stems (and one who had a scrape with the hoe) until they were strong enough to stand tall. So, it should have been no surprise to me that when early blight struck my most productive tomato plants I felt the panic and frustration of a young emergency physician working triage.

It took me a while to realize that word, triage, could explain my feelings of the past few weeks. When my mind stumbled upon it as I was cutting up tomatoes into tiny fragments, sloughing off sections of brown mush, I immediately felt a burden lifted from me. Before then I had been in a state of plant emergency that my husband could not understand. When he asked for me for some potatoes, I looked at him as if he had said something absurd. Potato, a plant so obviously fine to be left in the ground a while longer, was last on my priority list. Harvesting a potato at that time would have been a kind of luxurious wastefulness that I associate with the likes of Donald Trump. There were beets growing overlong, lettuce going to seed, kale waiting in the cool sides of the garden like an elderly person at a bus stop, but most of all it was the 50 kilos of green tomatoes turning to deeper and deeper states of mush by the minute that made me most outraged by his request. I had to save the tomatoes. They were my patient in dire need,

and most able to be saved despite their disease.       IMG_0476

I have had similar outbursts of feeling about plants before; the unexpectedly loud shout to garden visitors about not stepping on plants, my dark thoughts about killing squirrels, the rush outdoors to cover some seedlings from rain or frost, tucking them in to say goodnight.  In this instance finding the right word was enough to make me feel less like I needed to control the situation and I could go about my task, still urgent, but unburdened by the weight of emotion.

How many times in our lives has finding the right word released us from its encumbrance?

The the power of a word revealed my passion for plants. Then I could harvest some potatoes for my husband, after all, he just wanted to make a dish with green tomatoes and potatoes. It was delicious.

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Garden Yoga Elaboration

For those unfamiliar with the garden yoga poses previously posted I will elaborate. It took me so long to find a way to be able to post those figures that I thought I might actually achieve nirvana first. I am not the most savvy with online posting, so I intuited my way into thinking in pictures. I found PNG, whatever that is, but it is not a ping, which may be something like sending the bees from my garden over to yours, and not to be confused with pinterest- a path to exponential self-imitating replication. Or maybe I have those backwards. Ultimately, I manifested all my creative powers and finally a few stick figures could appear in multiple virtual realities.

Back to the yoga.

yoga 1

Vegetable salutations– self-explanatory for any conscientious gardener. Salutations and their accompanying inspections are conducted on a regular basis and involve gazing at all vegetable matter from far and then close-up, then far again. We don’t know exactly what we are looking for, but we will know it when we see it. Entire mornings can pass by in this meditative asana. Breathe normally, eyes focused on the green things. Chant: hmmm.


yoga 2

Reaching into blackberries warrior 3– Using all the thigh strength you can muster, balance danger and potential rewards, stretching mentally and physically. Long deep breathing. Eyes are focused on the berries and the thorny branches centimeters from your face. Chant- I think I can, I think I can.


yoga  3

Weeding squats– Move down your garden rows stooping and crawling crab-like while yanking at stubborn green things you have decided you don’t want, even though they grow stronger through your intentional neglect and inner anger.
Chant: laugh at yourself occasionally to confirm to the neighbors that you are crazy.
Breath: don’t stop breathing, even when you are pulling really hard. When your fingers cramp up, move on.

yoga 4

Training pole bean vine pose– Sometimes confused with caging tomato pose, however, caging tomato pose has the arms spread wide in disbelief.

For training pole bean vine pose (aka training pea pose) find your balance while taking shallow breaths of hope and wonder as you gently twist string or string thick shoots that will later hold a five pound plant vertically suspended for 3 months.

And, exhale.

If you succeed, your kundalini has awakened.


yoga 5-1

Distributing compost kriya– one of the best full body work-outs (fetching compost not pictured, but is certainly part of the exercise). Position your body as a scalene triangle (so as not to disturb the plants of course) while scratching in the dirt and depositing handfuls of dark rich matter that is neither chocolate nor coffee, but nonetheless makes you deliriously happy. Eyes- everywhere, the weeds, the plants, the compost, but place your awareness on the coffee waiting for you when you finish.

yoga 6

Removing Japanese Beetle series– can be combined with vegetable salutations.

An obscure series of positions that few outside of garden yoga understand. Removing Japanese Beetle series begins with forward bends, then twists the neck under and around leaves, followed by a powerful exhale as you squash or step on small insects whose zen-like consciousness endows them with the ability to distinguish between the plants you call weeds as sour and distasteful, and the plants you want as delicious and in need of some filigree work. Bless them for they are just trying to help you realize the principle of non-attachment. Listen to the Japanese beetles chant “Let it Be”.


Please comment and add your favorite poses. Really. It’s just me and the plants.

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Garden Yoga

yoga 1      Vegetable salutations


yoga 2Reaching into blackberries warrior 3


yoga  3                           Weeding squats

yoga 4                          Training pole bean vine pose


yoga 5-1                     Distributing compost kriya


yoga 6         Removing Japanese Beetle series





Femmephobia, Tutus and the P Word

It has come to my attention that people are wearing tutus while running and that femmephobia might somehow be involved. A thoroughly intelligent discussion ensued and I was intrigued. Unfamiliar with the term, I initially thought femmephobia might describe my fear of pink feather boas being placed on me at workplace special occasions. I was confronted with this fear many times when I worked at an organization where the women outnumbered the men 8 to 1 and the managers were struggling for team-building activities. I sometimes enjoy wearing more romantic than utilitarian styles and smile at the occasional costume as motivator but a pink feather boa may as well be a meat dress on my very vegetarian shoulders.

Femmephobia has been described as the devaluation, fear and hatred of the feminine. I don’t think it is femmephobist to not want to be surrounded by costumes and pink everything. There are individuals who don the pretty party with the most sincere intentions, but most companies and media coverage distort the image in a way that is demeaning to the wearer and their cause by highlighting the sartorial sensationalism rather than the reason for wearing it. We have all read countless articles about people doing something out-of-the-ordinary for a charity from cutting their hair to fasting, to wearing every kind of accessory possible during an athletic event (all of which are rather too close for comfort on the misogynist sadistic side for my taste) with precious little article space dedicated to the actual social, medical or other problem this act was trying to benefit. So, while the tutu might inspire the crowd to cheer for you, are they cheering for you or for the tutu? The tutus and the pink also hint of consumerist fad, and we know that national chains and social media companies profit more than charity from that. Meat dress and the once salmon colored ribbon as cases in point.

Essentially the media follows the entertainment value and often I suspect, so do the participants. What’s more, hyper-feminizing anything does not disentangle us from the misogyny against our fundamental femaleness. Instead, media coverage tends to utilize jujutsu techniques to throw the feminine and many actual women once more into the ditch, and soon enough people will toss their tutus and their feather boas into the back of the closet and forget why they ever bought them in the first place.

Watch Pink Ribbons Inc. – trailer at

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Blame it on cabin fever

This is just about the most fun I have had in a while. Blame it on cabin fever- the fact that I haven’t been having much play type of fun and that this little game was too much for me to resist. See The Daily Show March 24 for details.

I love Free to Be You and Me and still find it wonderful in its charming and hokey way, so no offense intended.

Have a look and listen and hopefully, a big laugh.


Mitch McConnell Free to Be You and Me

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Hope, Spring from Wizened Old Men


It is another frigid day today, topping out at about 5F degrees with 25mph winds plus gusts. It basically feels like Antarctica. I somewhat enjoy listening to the wind, but do not cherish the thought of having to go out in it. I thought about building a snow fort and am surprised not to see some around town. I think I could just dig a hole in one of the piles of snow on the side of the driveway at this point, no construction required. An instant igloo.

Despite or perhaps because of the cold what is mainly on my mind these days is gardening. It is my hope carved out of the winter grey. My dreams before sleeping.  I am reading and watching videos and courses about permaculture. Permaculture is primarily a design system, but most people incorporate organic growing and many are interested in interdependence and community development as well. The Permaculture Research Institute defines it this way:

Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture studies and applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.

The succession of nature is simply not tolerated in our modern landscapes and it is amazing to read stories of how nature recovers and builds from disturbed areas if allowed to while being moderately managed or harvested instead of controlled and chemically attacked. Toby Hemenway’s story of the Bullock brothers in “Gaia’s Garden” reads like a fairy tale of growth that could have been more like the story of the woman who swallowed the worm to catch the spider. Instead it tells a story of a destroyed wetland that, when intelligently and sparingly managed, grew cattails that brought in muskrats that over time restored balance and biodiversity. It reminds me of the collapsing outdoor pool I lived near that was much lamented by its former human swimmers. The collapse allowed duckweed to grow, then ducks came to visit, then a muskrat or two and then the crown jewel of a great blue heron would often grace its smooth surface.

One of the things that is so hopeful about permaculture as a philosophy is that it is fundamentally regenerative. Rather than ranting about the evils of excess, greed and destruction, permaculture begins where we are now, not where we could be if things were ideal. We have long and wide stretches of highways and parking lots. We have suburbs and small plots with big houses. It is not necessary to bulldoze it all and try to begin anew. We can build gardens on parking lots, we can paint intersections and have neighborhood farm stands on road corners to build community, we can raise vegetables and useful plants in small spaces using all of our vertical and horizontal space and big houses with extra rooms can become storage areas or plant nurseries. The possibilities abound, and all the more so because we begin where we are standing, with already existing walls, ditches and shady places and we build on them instead of against them.

My heart beats warmly for ideas about neighborhood farm stands and sharing fruit and having little frog ponds even in my current farmburb. Listening to leaders like Bill Mollison, Will Hooker  and Joe Hollis is an uplifting experience with generous doses of knowledge, humor and enlightened sarcasm. Not only that, but I somehow feel like I am listening to my grandfather when I hear them speak.

My grandfather grew up on a farm and continued to do large backyard gardening and raise chickens well into his elder age. My grandmother managed the harvest with baking, canning and pickling. She even had a root cellar that ironically is a point of yearning for me now. I only wish they had more time to teach me what they knew. Maybe it is just their echoes that I hear in the voices of wizened old men.

But late winter is exactly the right time for dreaming in the grey light, listening to the wind blow. I plot my garden chart over and over, refining it all the while knowing that once my hands get in the soil or grab a tool that my charts will be carried off by the breeze. That breeze will be a warm and welcome one.

The hope for Spring is also the longing for connection and a chance to re-start our life. Joe Hollis speaks of how we are trying to define our selves through our status, our possessions, our jobs, and to meet our needs outside of ourselves; our food from the grocery store, our exercise from the gym, our inspiration from the church, our creativity from somewhere else. In the paradise of gardens our identity is found within and all our needs are met in the work and harvest along the way.

May we all dream of gardens before sleeping.

I love this man. Joe Hollis and Paradise Garden