Nature Teacher: Challenges

Shovel caked with clay on top of pile of stones next to work boots, work gloves and a large tree

Digging through clay caked soil to plant something somewhere in my yard I usually hear that familiar clang. It’s my shovel hitting rock. I work it loose, sometimes easily freeing it, sometimes needing other tools or adjusting my approach. Soon after I often hear another clang or scrape and then another, and usually more — depending on the size of hole needed. Some rocks are larger, some smaller, some pebble size like the tiny annoyances in a day.

I work around colossal rocks, accepting that the tree I wanted in that particular spot is not going to thrive in that particular spot. I move on. Shift my focus to another area, a solution.

Usually, about half-way through clearing rocks, I’m chuckling at Nature’s metaphor for life’s challenges.

 

 

Original feature photo by 15299 on Pixabay

It IS the little things

Living consciously — paying attention and appreciating what is around me — feels like living in sync with the Universe. More easily I see, understand, and feel grateful for what comes my way. It’s not luxurious, expensive gifts that make my heart smile, it’s the little things.

Just this week…

I looked into the veggie garden to see a colorful garden spinner turning in the wind. While it’s actually a tuxedo cat riding a bicycle with a cardinal in a flower pot, it’s black/white form and silliness reminds me of my border collie Bess and gives my heart a lift. Each time I look out the window, I smile because it feels like Bess is still there.

While digging holes to transplant mums, I discovered several dozen bulbs. I forgot about these beauties, so it was a gratifying surprise because they obviously needed dividing too. The bulbs, what sweet treasure like finding rubies in my garden.

Spring flower bulb gems

Chuckling to myself I thanked the Universe for both of these small but meaningful gifts that bring the greatest joys.

I’ve read about gratitude at various times and in various ways. It all seems true…


Gratuity for Gratitude

The more I am the grateful, the more I will have to be grateful for.
When gratitude becomes an essential foundation in our lives, miracles start to appear everywhere.” Emmanuel Dalgher
“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Neale Donald Walsch
“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” Deepak Chopra
“Gratitude, like faith, is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it grows, and the more power you have to use it on your behalf. If you do not practice gratefulness, its benefaction will go unnoticed, and your capacity to draw on its gifts will be diminished. To be grateful is to find blessings in everything. This is the most powerful attitude to adopt, for there are blessings in everything.” Alan Cohen

What are the seemingly small joys in your life?  What does gratitude mean to you?

 

Constancy is Unnatural…

Tornado touching land from storm clouds above

…and will change. At some point.

Dark skies with objects hurling in the air and a collapsing house from a cyclone
Photo by Jonny Lindner on Pixabay

This summer of exhaustive change whirled like a tornado snatching dear ones from my path. In three months I’ve experienced rapid and complete loss from news of 14 deaths — nine of them close to me. Barely catching my breath, we’ve also just lost the healing space where we’ve hand drummed for over 15 years.

I admit, change often feels like a blustery, cold wind in my life rather than a soothing, summer breeze. Raised in a dysfunctional home, I became an ACOA and HSP — frazzled by chaos and discord, and craving stability and harmony.

If I continually resist change, though, the Universe sweeps in, eliminating any more chances or choices to get on board. Suddenly, (at least it feels that way, even if I’ve dilly-dallied for ages) I’m hurled with hurricane force into new situations — whether desired or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I feel courageous or not. So, instead of latching on tightly and refusing to let go, I’m more inclined now to accept and release. Note:  it’s not always immediate and it doesn’t mean I always like it.


Change is welcomed when we are the ones initiating it.

 But, when it’s thrown upon us, our response is often quite different.


The calendar indicates when I can reasonably expect to see leaves falling, snow flying, buds blooming. Even if it isn’t exactly on schedule, I feel comfortable knowing that the next season is around the corner, hence, what to expect next. It’s the unanticipated adversity —  like tornadoes, Nor’easters (and precipitous deaths) that jolt me.

Rocks Jutting through the Water
Photo by Frank Winkler on Pixabay

Still, I’m learning like everyone else on this journey called life. My headstrong adolescence pressed through storms, and my unguided young adulthood blindly maneuvered rocky, melodramatic situations. In mid-adulthood, the fog began lifting, offering clearer, smoother sailing — but only through a widened perspective and attitude of enhanced acceptance.

My Five Stages of Acceptance

By that I mean growing out of questioning, “Why me, or us or this?” to lamenting disappointment, to bemoaning perplexity, to the sighing resignation of “It is what it is,” to realizing the changing nature of the seasons is the flow of life. Change is the perfectly natural progression. For it to be anything otherwise equals stagnation and death.


As my perspective changes, so does my life.


ishant-mishra-K8hLK2M1ZBw-unsplash
Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

So now, when immense change occurs, I endeavor to exchange fear or disappointment with faith and acceptance that everything is working out exactly as it’s meant to be. While intellectually understanding death as transformation eases the loss, it doesn’t completely erase my feelings. For other changes, I remind myself that space is being created for something better…and that the gift may not always appear how I envision it — another reason for due diligence in living consciously and welcoming doors of opportunity.


Each of us processes life and change differently, and at different times in our life.


While still feeling an emptiness from losing Bess and other friends this summer, my heart slowly mends by shifting focus from loss to fulfillment. Having more leeway to be away from home now I’ve planned two bucket list journeys for 2020 — Turks & Caicos and Cotswolds, England.

A close friend processed her loss quite differently when her dog suddenly died this summer. (He was panting at 7PM and dead by 10PM.)  Feeling so distraught, she brought home brother and sister puppies a week later. While they are adorable, she forgot how much work they are and is now so tied to home, she cannot leave even for day trips. Change comes in all sizes, just like pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters…

How do you process change? Has it been the same throughout your life, or evolved one way or the other? Do you welcome change or close your eyes and shut the door on it, only to have it forced open later?

 

 

Tomato Companions

Well, they may not be very mannerly — inviting themselves along — but they can be cheery company.

I didn’t plant tomatoes this year and had no intentions of doing so — either before or after my early June trip to Scotland. My gardening enthusiasm this season was lost with Bess, knowing she would no longer be with me. For the last 14 years, we cherished our outdoor turf together — she bringing her Frisbee to me while I tended the gardens. Being outside now felt too empty without her.

But, Mother Nature had other ideas. When I returned to discover tomato seedlings all over the asparagus patch — undoubtedly from seeds hiding in the compost, those unsought tomato plants beckoned me. After replanting the strongest ones in their own section I thought That’s it. If they can thrive on their own they will. I’m not going to spend much more time out here this summer…

Soon though, I mixed up Epsom salt fertilizer for a few weekly treatments and let Nature take its course. Sufficient summer rainfall eliminated my need for watering every day. As the plants grew taller and taller, I got the stakes and ties out. In a few more weeks, the green fruit gladdened a little part of me. Basil went in next as a companion plant and also for the makings of bruschetta, caprese salad, and a tasty pasta dish (although I’d cut way down on carbs, at least before Scotland).

Baskets and trays of cherery, grape and plum tomatoes
This week’s tomato harvest…and there’s still more.

For the last month I’ve been inundated with tomatoes.  Cherry tomatoes. Grape tomatoes. Half dollar size tomatoes that I don’t recall planting in previous years.  Some plum tomatoes and a few beefsteaks also appeared. I’ve given away baskets, bags and trays full and still have more on my counter, in the freezer, and on the vine. I never intended to grow tomatoes this season but they apparently intended to accompany me.

There’s something to be said for nature’s curative energy. Whether it’s the thrill of getting my hands in the dirt after the spring thaw, or the excitement of watching something grow, or the serene feeling of sunlight and fresh air, the only dialogue from bees and birds in the quiet of the day. In mourning Bess, I turned away from the solace of the gardens, disremembering it is their natural nurturing that made me a gardener in the first place. And when there’s a bountiful harvest? Well, the joy of giving brings about a smile — for the receiver and for me.


Featured image by Lukas Bieri from Pixabay

Ms. fortune

Blemished red beefsteak tomato on broken stem with baby green tomato

Have you ever…

  • Looked forward to something that resulted in something vastly different?
  • Expended effort that did not produce fruition?
  • Gotten involved in an activity that became incompatable?

Sometimes life just is.


Tomatoe on vine with insect damage and inset photos of basket full of good cherry tomatoes vs some bad tomatoes in a collander

 

Nothing is as nothing is

to both you and me.

Fortune and misfortune are neighbors

Sai Ong Loses Horse.

 

 

Plants need sun to flourish

but rain too.

Mother Nature can’t be told

what and when to do.

Natural stone wall with yellow flowers and green plants growing out and over it
Photo by Jon Sailer on Unsplash

One left eye and one right,

Two sides of the same coin.

The charming stone wall beckons

a flux of flowers

but wasps and snakes find home here too.

 

Appreciating a plentiful crop

dwindles garden blemishes.

“If only they didn’t destroy the plants…

but there’s really more than enough.

Green basil leaf partially eaten by insect

 

“They didn’t eat much anyway.”

A gardener’s small loss; an insect‘s joy.

Misfortune is what fortune depends on.

Fortune is where misfortune hides beneath.— Tao Te Ching

 

The Good Weather Church

Blue sky with white puffy clouds over a rural church with autumn leaves in the fore band backgrounds

Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profound spirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.


“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”

“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.”                   — William James


Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.

I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.

Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.

For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir.  Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.

Feature photo by Damian Markutt on Unsplash

 

Nature Teacher: We may be One but We are Not the Same

Red ripened and green beefsteak tomatoes on the vine

Gardening teaches me so much about living life. Besides providing quiet time to regenerate, and avoid constant interruptions of marketing ploys or messages that can wait, gardening offers opportunities to look more deeply into life.

tomatoes 8-9-19 015Stepping into the tomato patch today, I notice some are ripened red, some still green, some are somewhere along the way. Brighter, faster, bigger, smaller, slower — each is on its own natural path. Some are still hanging on, some have fallen, others have reached their potential, or are late bloomers. Each embodies the same components — vine, skin, flesh, seeds, juice — but they are not exactly the same. I do not understand why current culture insists humans must have the same thoughts, feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, that to be one we cannot be unalike.

We are a universe of red, white, brown, tan, black, tall, short, thin, plump beings, with indigenous dialects and languages, who think diverse thoughts, eat different foods, live in disparate climates, etc., etc., etc. Yet the Thought Police want to neutralize our inherent differences, insisting we cannot think independently, that our beliefs, words and opinions must all conform.  Consider this:

Yellow and green cocktail tomatoes on the vine
Photo by satynek from Pixabay

An unripened tomato is not the same as a ripened one, not in color, size, taste or maturity. Similarly, a beefsteak tomato is not a cocktail tomato or a plum tomato or cherry tomato or tomato of any other name. I cannot force it to be what it is not. Some are blemished, some appear perfect on the surface, some may be rotten inside but I accept and work with each as is.

Instead of denigrating others for being who they are, or demanding an unrealistic homegeneity, a more equitable approach is through mutual respect — something greatly overshadowed anymore by stratospheric sensitivities. Now I am an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but I honor individuality. Can culture shift its caliginous restraints on our genuine differences?

Various stages of ripened and unripened cherry tomatoes
Photo by jggrz from Pixabay

Over 15,000 varieties of tomatoes exist throughout our world in every shade of red, burgundy, pink, purple, orange, yellow, green, almost black, even streaked and striped. Numerous flavors range from tasty sweet to tart or well-balanced. I think it’s safe to say some prefer one type over another. There is nothing wrong with that. Each has its own comfort zone for thriving, and some are more versatile than others. Distinct qualities are refreshing. As with the human race. I don’t want to have just cherry tomatoes. Do you?

Varieties of tomatoes - red beefsteak, heirloom, yellow cherry, purple, green, striped and blemished
Photo by jggrz from Pixabay

 

Getting to Know You(r Self)

intuition

“Have you heard from Maria lately?” I asked another participant in Tai Chi class this week. “I’ve phoned a few times but hadn’t heard back.”

“Oh. I thought I saw something in the newspaper this past weekend. I think Maria passed away.”

I felt stunned. Barely able to concentrate, I wanted to run out of class and check the obituaries. Call another mutual friend.

Before it’s Too Late

Have you ever had a nagging sensation where a person keeps reappearing in your thoughts? Not because you are obsessing over them but feeling a need to contact them, see how they are.

This happened to me last December. My accountant, I knew was battling cancer but this was ongoing for nearly 10 years. Still, he kept reappearing in my mind. I brushed it off, thinking it due to the approaching tax season. He died before the end of January.

The year before, my tailor kept popping into my thoughts. He and his wife were a lovely older couple and when sending them my annual thanks giving greeting I learned he passed away in October.

My friend, Maria, would have been 96 this year. I can still hear our “Oohs” and “Ahs” over the splendor of blooming ornamental trees and giant rhododendrons while driving her around country roads this spring. We planned a similar outing for autumn’s vibrant foliage but…it didn’t come about.

Nagging Sensations

Maria absorbed my thoughts while driving to Tai Chi this week. I planned on phoning her after class that afternoon. Only now am I beginning to understand why Maria occupied my mind. She was buried at 11AM that morning.


intuition/ (in-too-ishuh n) /noun
  • knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception
  • instinctive knowledge or belief
  • a hunch or unjustified belief

Original photo on Pixabay (no author)

A Voice with Many Names

My yoga teacher’s ability to accurately see from the inside amazes me. Just as the physical body communicates in the only language it knows — a headache, a pain, sleeplessness, an itch — the brain communicates through an inner vision, a nondescript sense of nonconscious emotional information. Derived from deep within, some call these diaphanous sensations a “gut feeling,” “inner voice,” “intuition,” “sixth sense,” “instinctual feeling,” “hunch,” or even God.

internal light
Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels

The Answers are Deep Within

Struggling to solve problems on my own for years I could not comprehend “the answers are within.” The incessant mental chatter, like current TV commentators, blocked out any truth. And when that sense of knowing without really knowing did appear, I discredited it as irrational or dismissed it as unfounded fear. I didn’t recognize the guiding light.

I now see that when my inner voice speaks to me, I need to take notice and probably some action. Here’s what I’m doing to develop a more intimate relationship with my inner voice. You can befriend yours too.

5 Tips for Tapping Into Intuition

1. Get quiet. Intuition speaks softly. The answers may be subtle and only heard through quiet. If seeking guidance for a problem, engage in a relaxing activity like meditation, walking, music, or anything to stop the mental chatter. Then close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and ask your sixth sense to dialogue with you.

If I think of my inner voice as shy, it is more easily coaxed to speak up when I am peaceful. I must listen closely. It may be only a whisper. At first.

2. Pay Attention. When ideas, insights and impressions come out of nowhere, grasp them. Be aware that the brain, aka sixth sense, is communicating to you.

3. Respond to Your Inner Voice. When the brain says call or visit this person now, do it. You may not get the chance later.

4. Record Your Gut Feeling. This helps determine the accuracy of that sixth sense once you have chosen to either ignore or act on the insight given.

Logging in my recent experiences makes me less likely to brush off similar future occurrences.

5. Get to Know Your Self. Make friends with your intuition. Develop that bond of trust.  Thank it for its accuracy. As you listen and honor your sixth sense, it will become a valuable part of who you are and a useful guide for decision making.


“It’s all about learning to use unconscious information in your brain… Just as people can become more comfortable making decisions when they apply logic and reasoning, they may also become more adept at trusting their intuition when they use it more frequently over time.” — Live Science 

Have you experienced a sixth sense?  Do you act on it?

 

Seeing through Obscurity

 

Scotland June 8 2019 598C

Photos of Scotland appear like subdued, opalescent paintings to me. Yet, when viewing these strikingly beautiful landscapes in person, they are just as dream-like.

Scotland June 9 2019 Portree 657C

Visiting Scotland a few weeks ago felt just as surreal in that I was finally fulfilling a lifelong dream…but learned early on that my beloved Ceilidh’s Bess passed. As I explored the western coast to the Isle of Skye then through the northwest Geopark, Scotland’s sweeping misty lens rendered surprising transparency into my own life.

Pay attention to how you feel in any given place. The words came back to me. Is the energy uplifting or downcast? Spirit-filled or draining? Am I feeling joy? Fear?††

Scotland June 8 2019 536C

Wrapped among impassioned layers of enchanted forests and glens, glacier sculpted landscapes, pristine waters, and steep majestic mountains that hold thousands of years of stories untold, my spirit felt at home in the Highlands. Similarly, but on a wee scale, my northeastern American residence is sheltered in a mountainside of woodland lushness and sparking streams. I know now that north is true for me.

Scotland June 12 2019 Strathnaver Museum 1446C
Strathnaver Museum, Farr Bay, Scotland UK

Learning about the Scottish Clearances and feeling the feelings of my long ago homeland illuminated my ken. I knew truth stood before me.

Scotland June 12 2019 Strathnaver Museum Burning House 1415C
photo of burning house from an exhibit in Strathnaver Museum

In the Clearances, inhabitants were ordered off their land then watched as their houses were burned.

from an exhibit in the Strathnaver Museum
Scotland's opalescent landscape of storm clouds through blue skies overlooking lush hillsides en route from Ullapool to Farr Bay via northwest Geopark June 2019

 

 

Fighting the natural gas pipeline is my personal, modern day experience of the Clearances. I understand powerlessness when forced against one’s will. I know the heartbreak of loss.

Scotland June 12, 2019 Strathnaver Museum Clearances-Ceilidhs 1427

 

The Ups and Downs of Life

raindrops on pink rose buds
Image by silviarita from Pixabay

 

Rain clouds

help flowers grow.

Why should life experiences be any different?

 

Learning through Grief
I began this post before the untimely loss of my best friend — Bess my beloved 14 1/3 year old border collie.  Acceptance soothes my broken heart when acknowledging this will happen to each and everyone of us and everyone we love, that this behest of time is a transformation of life. I continue learning through my loss of Bess…such as doing what I can then letting go, and the power of thought and perspective. I anticipate sharing more from time to time on insights gained through this experience…


“All of life’s experiences are to be either enjoyed or learned from.”

— Alan Cohen

Bess gave me both.


I am curious to know how you process grief. A sage shared this short (18 minute) video with me. Hopefully, you will benefit as well — not just in a time of need.


In Loving Memory of Bess-1