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

 

Cardinal Inspiration

The color red symbolizes steadfast faith.  Some Christians believe it represents Christ’s blood.  But the cardinal inspiration I’m talking about isn’t from the Catholic church — it’s  from those eye-catching red birds that perk up winter’s indeterminate grey, like a spark of hope in darkness.

When faced with challenges like enduring the winter cold, the cardinal bird chooses to sing a lovely song.  It stays strong and positive, exhibiting persistence and grace.

I am increasingly convinced that Mother Nature guides us by offering her own Divine space to us as a spiritual well.  We simply need to open our eyes to see, accept, and contemplate her generosity. 

Such is the case with the red cardinal.

  • Some believe the cardinal encourages us to “find our life song,” to create new ways to love our life and show our gratitude for it.” 
  • Others say the cardinal warns us to be mindful of our thoughts and what we are creating.  Are we continually replaying past hurts, thereby deepening the groove of misery (and setting the stage for more to come), or are we choosing to be at peace in the present moment?  It may be helpful to visualize that red stop sign when these negative thoughts occur.
  • Many cultures believe cardinals are messengers from someone who has passed. 

Five years ago on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my dear friend Mary died from breast cancer.  A lover of nature and all animals, Mary encircled her home in the woods with numerous bird feeders.  On the day of her memorial a red cardinal held vigil at the window to the room where Mary passed in her home.  We believed it was telling us that Mary’s spirit lives on. 

Others have had similar experiencesHow ’bout you?  Do you have your own story of a symbolic message a cardinal carried into your life?

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The cardinal is said to represent kindness and goodwill.

May it inspire us to carry its message into the world.


 

 

 

 

Some (not so) Squirrelly Advice for Pleasant Holidays

Mixed Nuts
What do you think about when you think about squirrels?  Ravaged bird feeders?  Acrobatic acts?  Rabies?  The park?  Nuts?  Well, yes, nuts.  That also comes to mind when I think about the December holidays.

vincent-van-zalinge-438227-unsplash nut
Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

Not just the type of nuts we eat — like roasted chestnuts, walnuts on that sumptuous apple pie, or honey coated peanuts in the snack dish, but nuts as in gathering frantically like a squirrel, and nuts as in foolishly excessive holiday behaviors.   It’s a bountiful season for sure, but will it fill us up or leave us feeling exhausted, robbed and empty?

Filling Up More than Stockings
Each of us can choose to step back and celebrate in simpler, more meaningful ways.  You can create a holiday celebration of choice and one that enriches, rather than depletes, you or loved ones — physically, emotionally, and financially.  Take time to think about what Christmas really means to you.

  • Is it that important to try and create the perfect Christmas of yesterday, or a happier one now?  If so, dig deeper and ask yourself why.
  • Will taking on additional activities amidst an already crammed schedule affect your ability to give others your undivided, in-the-moment attention…or leave you feeling distracted, tired and resentful?
  • Is it worth it to over-spend, searching for an ideal gift when expectations and disappointments often cancel out efforts of holiday goodwill?
  • Are your actions obligatory or from the heart?  Compulsory sentiments and gifts noticeably lack holiday cheer for both the giver and receiver.
  • Will you honor your self-care with adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise, asking for help, and being financially responsible?  Or will you set yourself up to sour your holiday mood?

Do your actions make sense?  Do they seem a little nuts to you?  Be honest.

Enlist Creativity
If you own a bird feeder, you’ve witnessed a squirrel’s analytical creativity accessing it — including those supposedly “squirrel proof” feeders.  Be as innovative.

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Photo by Anthony Intraversato on Unsplash

If others are involved, ask each person to select the one thing about the holidays that makes their heart sing.  Avoid the inner critic’s beleaguering to add just one more thing then another because you’ll be right back to the overload you tried to lighten.  Determine what is absolutely necessary then sew those pieces together to broaden smiling faces around a more joyful holiday.   You may be pleasantly surprised to discover it’s not a holiday of lack but one of overflowing abundance from the spirit within.


Apply Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s sentiment to the holidays… “Once you identify your deepest intention, you have a chance to be true to yourself, to celebrate the kind of holiday you’d like to have, and to be the kind of person you’d like to be.”


Trudging through Tradition
Several years ago I happily exchanged some traditional activities for what means most to me.  Quieter gatherings, tuning in to nature and the gifts she generously offers day in and out, gladden my spirit.  (This is not to say I don’t host or attend holiday parties.  But I keep them manageable, not falling prey to Madison Avenue’s message that I must decorate my house with a thousand lights, bake cookies, and overextend my bank account purchasing lavish gifts.)

A friend, looking frazzled and slumped in her chair, told me yesterday how overwhelmed she felt filling out 300 Christmas cards!  Three hundred cards?  Who wouldn’t feel overwhelmed?  But, was it really necessary?  It’s important to connect with others and tell them how much they mean to us but if it adds a layer of stress it doesn’t make sense to me — it’s nuts.

remi-skatulski-101224-unsplash-stressed red squirrel
Photo by remi-skatulski on Unsplash

All in a Nutshell
Make the holidays what you want them to be and create cherished memories.  Don’t worry or fret.  Otherwise you may become like the red squirrel whose coat turned grey from stress.   🙂

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Photo by Arthur Rachbauer on Unsplash

Paradox of Winter

December often conjures up complaints about the cold, snow shoveling, and dangers of falling on ice, but just as often I am awestruck by winter’s beauty contrasted against a backdrop of barren starkness. And so is life. One is necessary for the other.

So, rather than more of the usual holiday hype for this month, I’m focusing instead on Mother Nature’s vivid gifts.  What comes to your mind this season…?

 

 

Nature’s wRest

Gold Leaf Landing

Everything

needs

a place

to

land.

 

 


grav·i·ty
/ˈɡravədē/
noun
The force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth,
or toward any other physical body having mass.

And a time to rest.

The frozen pond

bare branches

and ice encrusted grass.

Nature’s Circle of Comfort

Seeing these rounded hay bales in expansive green fields began to stir something deep within a few years ago that felt strangely comforting. 11-2-18 004 hay bales

I hadn’t observed this prior to practicing Qigong where I first felt a gentle, circular energy flowing between my hands.  The movements soon enriched my gardening activities and evolved my thinking about continued life which led me to the Tao and a spiraled understanding of nature and our connectivity to the universe.images

Yin-yang‘s circular energy symbolizes life’s continuum and oneness; that nothing is 100% black or white, right or wrong; we need one to have the other.  Hours accelerate around the clock transforming day to night through the calendar of winter to spring, summer to autumn, season to season, year to year, era after era, wrinkled newborn to withered senior.  This energy of oneness incorporates ourselves, others and the universe.

It is said that with Qigong (or Tai Chi) practice, you begin to view all of life as part of this circle. I have and am grateful for it.  I see the circular trees, the ever lasting round sun and moon, the flowers that know to return year after year, the rounded hay bales at harvest.  I use to fear death as a finality of life.  But Qigong, gardening, and being in nature have taught me otherwise.  This freedom from despair over my eventual death or that of loved ones is healing.  Perhaps that is why the hay bales are like Mother Nature’s hugs, offering a soothing kinship with nature and all that is around me.

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Seasons Fading Like Leaves

It’s an off season

but natural in its own right.

There’s no familiar summer, winter, spring or fall anymore

except for dates on a calendar.

Can we explain it away,

simply say the weather is as diverse as people, places, life —

that to live, to be alive, is to change?

Reduce. Recycle. Reuse they say.

But the seasons?

I am a child of four seasons

picking springtime bouquets

chasing summer fireflies

rolling in leaves

and sledding til numb.

As I matured, adult responsibilities pushed childhood activities to the recesses of my mind.  But, I never dreamed the four seasons of my youth would become a distant memory, something to read about in history books of a time that once was.

As a child, leaves fell in September.

A few years ago they began in August.

This year, my yard was covered in July.

Thunderstorms previously endured in June and humidity that marked August are now daily occurrences commandeering the summer I use to know.  Look forward to.  Love.

The seasons have faded like leaves…

Is it a natural progression of time

the human disregard for the natural order of things

or Mother Nature’s retribution?

Spring and Autumn have silently been waving good-bye

but we were too busy, too greedy, too self-centered to notice.

Reduce.  Recycle.  Reuse.

Two seasons:  hot and cold.

two

Hot and cold.