Posts Tagged ‘plants’

Reflections on Change

January 13, 2020

No excuses being offered for my long absence from posting. And no assurances being offered that this post will be followed by regular new ones going forward. 

My current challenge is to adapt to changed daily routines, and the recognition that I have up to now mostly lived my life being “of service to” others, fitting my own interests into the bits of time left over. A not unfamiliar condition of women everywhere. 

Now I have blocks of time ‘just for me’ that were not available before – or that I did not create for myself before. 

Now I am confronted with the somewhat challenging question of how and with what to fill them?

Fortuitously a piano became available just as this shift in family routines initiated. I last played one when I was 12. I subsequently played recorder extensively, and learned guitar basics, but have not actively engaged as a performer of music now for many years. The piano was moved in over the holidays, and just recently. I have discovered that I can correctly finger scales one hand at a time, but coordinating the two, with proper fingering, is a skill to be relearned. I can still pick out melodies by ear, and can read notes thought not complex chords. So lots to learn/relearn as I decide what type of music I want to become able to play.

My stack of books to be read grows steadily higher even though I read daily, whenever I have a pause, including while standing in check out lines. Long ago, in a workshop on addiction for people not themselves addicts, the leader asked us to identify something that, were it absent from our lives, would make us anxious, upset, afraid, churlish, or otherwise “not your usual productive self.” My answer was immediate – not having a pile of books waiting for me to turn to after finishing the one I was reading. I should plaster over the entry to my home the sign I saw yesterday on a carrier bag in my local gift/book store, “It’s not hoarding when it’s books.” So far, the overflowing shelves seem to contribute to, rather than detract from, the sense of welcome and comfort in my home. At least, visitors tend to respond with positive comments when they come in for the first time. 

But maybe that’s despite the books and because of the plants? Really rather a lot of them that have managed to survive the fluctuations of wood heat (did you know that flowering cactus and poinsettias don’t flower readily when temperatures go up and down) and our super dry weather. I’m planning a comprehensive re-potting and re-positioning of them, giving them the attention they deserve for the pleasure the give so any. Especially the ivy in the bathroom which will be 40 years old come February. I call it my riot plant, not for how riotously it grows, but because it was a baby single shoot in my office at the NM Penitentiary on February 2 1980, day of the infamous prison riot. But that event marks a very different turn to my life, one I may revisit at some point in writing, but not today.

I have also identified numerous corners of the house where things are stacked that need to be sorted through, and either reorganized and condensed, or tossed. Always one of those tasks I procrastinate about, but one I know have time to complete, bit by bit. Ah, but do I have the motivation? Hmmmmm.

Make no mistake, I still have family commitments and partnered time, but differently shaped and structured. Yet another phase/change in the progress of shared life. Yet another opportunity to learn and grow and introspect if I choose to do so. Biggest lesson so early into this shift is how insidiously past negative experience can influence and color perception of the present very different one. This morning I am deeply grateful to have seen this error quickly, talked it over and banished it from the future. It cost me a weekend of stress-triggered symptoms, but not the many weeks that might have occurred in the past. Progress.

This morning the wind is howling and so is my dog, who remains safely on the porch, under her warm light, letting the world know she is on guard though not exposed. Rather how I intend to address this week, alert and prepared but sheltered in the comfort of knowing all is well within.

Baraka bashad, may the Blessings be.

Small Packages

February 3, 2015

Good things come in small packages could be the motto for the meals at Curious Kumquat restaurant in Silver City. Good things in small packages may also be the motto for my week of vacation, of which a meal at the Curious Kumquat was one experience.

Two J’s in Silver City

My friend and shared-birthday mate Jane treated us to the tasting menu at the small restaurant our first night out, at the start of our trek to California. The menu bade us choose our entree; the chef then served six various delights in small “taste” portions, all freshly made with local ingredients and served as beautiful works of art. We had a pumpkin-based soup, and my main course was rabbit, with dessert a chocolate flan bottom with white chocolate whip on top. I can’t repeat all the appetizers and side dishes; I should have written them down. There was a grain-based pudding-textured treat, with both berries and glazed vegetables as garnish. The service was flawless, elegant and yet comfortable. An absolutely perfect first night of vacation.

Sentinel in the Sun

Sentinel in the Sun

Good things in small packages continued, as we drove the long hours and miles across Arizona and California to San Diego. Saguaro let themselves be photographed. A rest stop at Gila Bend included colorful critters made of painted pottery from Mexico. The wind farms on the CA-AZ border are, to my mind, beautiful. Tall white towers stand out against their dull brown mountain background, sentinels of a future, protectors of the clear blue sky in that area. Quite a contrast to the layer of yellowish smog to be seen once we crossed over the mountains and began the descent back down to sea level.

Passing By

Passing By

With only one day to sight see, we mostly walked – through the old Chinese area and a museum recording the history of Chinese settlement in San Diego. Around the harbor and downtown area, enjoying views of boats and waves and gulls. We did also ride – on a combination open bus that becomes a flat-bottomed boat, to view the harbor from the water. Sea lions and a variety of birds made the whole trip memorable.

Standing Proudly

Standing Proudly

Aah, a Good Stretch

Aah, a Good Stretch

Keeping Company

Keeping Company


The primary purpose of the trip was to attend MasterPath seminar… a wonderful thing in a not-so-little package, if one counts the number of participants (well over 1000) in the room. The Path being a singularly individual experience, however, a better perspective is of a room full of one thousand small packages, each one specially tailored to the person receiving it.

A Petite Beauty

A Petite Beauty

As we do with our unique meal in Silver City, the recipient of each MasterPath package will savor and remember it, and re-experience it afresh with each remembering.

Two to Enjoy

Two to Enjoy

No two alike, each a gift from the Divine. We are blessed.

New Leaves

June 22, 2014

A friend recently suggested that feelings may be primarily transient, and not very useful as indicators of the progress of our lives. I responded with a short essay that I’m now turning into my post for this week.

Before I present that reflection, however, I want to review the insight which came to me during a morning meditation. I found myself considering what purpose is being served by my strict adherence to a weekly posting schedule. (Yes, I know, I missed last week. I was preoccupied with an important personal event which took precedence over everything else in my life.)

My contemplation this morning encompassed the vivid presence of Divine Spirit in the posts of a fellow student of MasterPath (Lesley King – The Inner Adventure) and my unanswered inquiry into the extent to which that presence shows in my own writing. What I received in lieu of an answer was another question – why do I continue to demand of myself a weekly post?

When I started this blog a year ago, my motivation was to demonstrate a commitment to writing that might be relevant to finding an agent and/or publisher for my then recently completed novel. Six months later I started a far-more-than-fulltime job which continues to occupy most of my days. And then a delightful but attention-demanding new relationship bloomed in my life, leaving even less time to focus on writing. Nonetheless, I’ve written something thoughtful – and I hope of general interest – weekly for a year. My circumstances have changed far more dramatically than I could possibly have envisioned a year ago. My relationship to this blog has, I now realize, also been transformed.

Meeting the demands of my ”day” job makes ample use of my mental and interpersonal, outer-directed skills. Building my new relationship stretches, embellishes, transforms, beautifies all aspects of me, but particularly my physical and emotional bodies. I know that I would not have been gifted with this delightful and rich blessing of commitment had I not already achieved a strong relationship to my Divine inner Teacher. I also recognize that I am now being nudged, once again, to preserve time and attention for the next step that Teacher will be asking me to take. Rather than pushing myself to put words down – I started to say on paper, but really it’s only on screen – I realize I need a break from words, a break from busy-ness, and instead, more mental silence.

So I will be continuing to post, when those silent periods allow Spirit to reveal to me material that seeks expression. I’m curious to see what schedule of posts results from freeing myself of the obligation to write weekly!


I do want to share the gist of my response to my friend about transient feelings, and their relevance, or lack thereof, to the meaning of our lives.

“Would you grant that the feeling tone of a life can change, can also be positive or negative, loving or constrained – or sad, or calm, or impatient – and that this tone has an expanse across time, and breadth across activities? Rather than saying I am feeling happy these days, should I have said that the tone of my life has altered from practicing containment and patience, to active flowering in a variety of ways?

“I planted an avocado pit about 8 months ago, that had cracked open and put forth a small shoot as it sat in water on my kitchen window. In its pot of earth in the living room, it slowly grew, putting out a single leaf, sometimes two, which would drop off before new ones emerged. This pattern went on month after month. The plant became taller, more mature, but never fuller until just last month when it began producing new leaves without losing the original ones. Now it is both taller again, and sporting a head of 15 leaves. It is still a young avocado tree but it is nonetheless quite a different plant than it was 4 weeks ago.


“Months of patient, repetitive experience (in my case years of it) have given way to a different look, a more fulfilled form, changed and more expressive energy, a happy presentation of what it is to be an avocado tree me… My energy level has escalated such that my daily being is much more productive. Next, unanswered, question – is happiness the result of that increased productivity, or the energizer which makes the productivity possible – or both?

“I’m pretty sure I won’t be puzzling over the answer any time soon. I prefer to focus on putting out more leaves.”

Leaves which I will share as they manifest.


The Colors of Sedona

May 18, 2014

In Honor of Khin and Clyde

Driving the long miles across New Mexico and Arizona, from Albuquerque to Flagstaff, the relatively flat and very dry and dusty landscape easily reminded me of the dustbowl years when what is now I-40 was Highway 66. Only as we arrived at Flagstaff did the landscape change to forested hills and high mountains masking the depth of Grand Canyon and other beautiful canyons, down one of which we descended, and descended and twisted to Sedona.

Western New Mexico has red rock terrain, but little or no green. Sedona has awesome red rock sculptures rising into blue sky, lit by a glowing yellow sun, footed in all tones of green. All the primary colors laid one over another. Yes, I know green isn’t primary to artists, being a mix of yellow and blue – but it is one of the four basic colors used for photography and screen printing, and the one least available to me in my usual world, so I insist on giving it an honored place here.

All the Primary Colors

All the Primary Colors

The town of Sedona and its appendages, extensions, and neighboring communities are laid out along twisting roads up and down notable hills, with homes tucked away under trees, behind a screen of brush or otherwise barely visible by day and showing as points of light at night. The main streets are clustered with shops, tastefully similar in style, with wide sidewalks that encourage walking – and climbing the sets of steps necessitated by the hilly terrain. Good exercise to walk off the temptations of hand-made chocolate or original flavors of ice cream.

The wedding I’m here to attend is to take place in one of the campground parks on the southern outskirts of town, a place attractive to the couple, who engaged in many outdoor activities during their courtship. It is scheduled for five in the evening, when the lowering sun promises to make the colors of the environment that much more beautiful. My camera is ready!

Red rock Tower

Red Rock Tower


The site of the wedding is a stretch of flat rock creased with crevices, a small stream flowing nearby. To get there we walked about five minutes along the side of that stream, beneath forested green, enjoying the ripple of water and an area where visitors have, over time, created a rock garden of small piles of stones. The effect was of a temple garden, each cairn a tribute to someone’s wish, or hope or plan. Perfect for the approach to a wedding site.

Along the Shaded Walk

Along the Shaded Walk

Primary colors shone forth once more for the ceremony – light golden yellow in the bride’s dress, red and blue in the groom’s uniform – and green for the backdrop around their red stone meeting place. From these four colors, all others are mixed in photography. From these four colors, all life is given depth and variety. How suitable for the surroundings of a marriage.




May we each, separately and together, find inner harmony and the unique expression of the blending of the colors of our lives.

One of a Kind

November 2, 2013

It’s a gorgeous, sunny, crisp yet warm autumn afternoon. I’m driving down from my home at 7500 feet towards Albuquerque. Down as in south, down as in descending to the city’s 5000 foot altitude. I pass from full-color glory of cottonwoods in deep gold, dotted here and there along arroyos which occasionally run but are now dry, to clusters of trees beside small streams which show a mixed blend of yellow tones. Here and there on hillsides I see an occasional, rare in the desert, sprinkling of red leaves where scrub oak is doing its part to show off. Wishing I had time to stop and take pictures at each of the scattered sites, I slow down and drink in the brilliant color enhanced as it is by a bright sun and a postcard-perfect clear blue sky.

An Arc of Gold

An Arc of Gold

Much of the land is once again brown, grasses dried and earth showing little sign of the week of heavy rain that caused flooding in New Mexico as well as Colorado. Oh, you didn’t know that we had floods? Not surprising. When it comes to national reporting, New Mexico doesn’t exist. Our flooding was not mentioned; our drought is equally overlooked, although we have officially been the driest state in the nation. Only when Los Alamos lay in the path of wildfire, and last year when the biggest wildfire raging in the country ate tens of thousands of acres southwest of Santa Fe, did New Mexico make the news. “Listen my children, and you will hear…” stories like those handed out to tourists in a booklet entitled “One of Our Fifty is Missing”  –  but that is the subject of another posting.

On the Prairie

On the Prairie

The rain is gone. One week in August, then a torrential week in September that dumped more than the land could absorb – now we’re once again living with drought, seeing long stretches of dun and tan prairie grasses, and encountering bears on the edges of our communities, some even making their way into the center of large cities in search of food. Acres of monochrome are suddenly interrupted by a line of golden cottonwoods. Looking out across the prairie, those trees beckon with the promise of a water course. Many of these small rivulets are dry, their banks eroded by the flash floods which accompanied that week of September rain, sometimes to the point that tree roots are exposed. Tree roots reaching down deeply, to what little is left of moisture; tree roots anchored in brown to give life to riotous gold.

A Survivor

A Survivor

I pass yet another cluster of trees about ten miles south of Santa Fe, and see cars pulled off the side of the road. Looking more closely, I spy a group of artists, easels lined up, some standing, others on camp stools, each of them trying to capture autumn glory. I wish I could stop and join them! Instead I continue down the highway, across dry flat lands, then down one last hill. Spread out before me is the bosque of the Rio Grande, a wide and many-miles-long swath of cottonwoods, in every possible shade of yellow. It is almost too much to take in – acres of dancing golden tones sating the eye to the point that I must look away, watch the highway and the traffic, overfull.

As I enter Albuquerque, I find myself searching out the occasional red of an intentionally-planted maple (they are not native here) and wonder if the householder responsible for the tree is, like me, originally from the East Coast. I delight in the rare splashes of red in equal measure as I responded to the occasional golden cottonwoods earlier in my trip.

Rosy red

Rosy red

I remember autumn in New England, red upon orange upon grape upon wine, each color seeming to stand out and be enhanced by its subtle differences from its neighbors. I never tired of those shades of red in the way that today I ceased to be drawn to the yellows in the bosque.



I perceive that, because there were so many different types of trees producing multi-hued woodlands, autumn in the East, with its continuous experience of changing colors, did not become “too much” in the way that miles of yellow upon yellow have exhausted my ability to be inspired. I ask myself how much variety is enough to keep me from becoming sated? Is it actually variety that is important, or uniqueness? A clump of cottonwoods in a landscape of tan grasses is unique. A brilliant red maple stands out against an orange-toned oak whereas, in an acre of similarly colored trees, each cottonwood loses its distinction.

Do we not all strive to find our own unique color, to stand out from those around us?

Some of us are more strident, others quite subtle, but all of us seem internally driven to find a way to express individuality. Undoubtedly one of you readers will have objected that the acres of yellow in the bosque, the totality of which I found to be ‘too much’, would have delighted you with its abundance. The open, empty plains that I find soothing were frightening to my mother. On her one visit to New Mexico she felt unpleasantly vulnerable, as though naked and exposed. I, by contrast, feel invaded, almost assaulted, by the intensity of human activity in urban areas.

Standing Out

Standing Out

Going out for a walk after orientation class has ended, I find a patch of grass littered with slim, deep red leaves. I don’t know what sort of tree they have dropped from – I’m not an educated botanist. I do know that I’ll keep the handful I collected on my desk in the training room, until they turn brown and brittle. And to have them longer, I’ll photograph them to upload to my screen saver, along with pictures of cottonwood and of maple branches lit by late afternoon sun.

Red Delight

Red Delight

I may feel sated in the bosque; I will delight in retaining reminders of this colorful day, replete with images that speak to my soul while teaching lessons about the value of individual differences.

A Good Day

August 23, 2013

It seems to be perversely part of human nature to never be satisfied.

Through months becoming years of drought, we in the northeastern New Mexico high-mountain desert worried about the lack of rain. Our brown grasslands, swirling dust devils, raging fires and smoke-poisoned air were prominent in every conversation.

Until just a month ago, when suddenly, for some of us, things changed.

Water began to come out of the sky, in thick sheets, on almost a daily basis. Not everywhere, not for long periods of time, but enough where it did appear – including where I live – to turn the prairie green and yellow – green weeds shooting to chest height, yellow wildflowers making wide swaths of color especially where run-off water has pooled.

Rain Gate

Now I hear complaints of pollen-allergies, and worries about the burrs and needle-like seeds that will permeate everything – especially the fur of four-legged pets – as soon as the short-lived grasses and flowers dry out this autumn. People hustle to find mowers and weed eaters, to chop down the lush growth, the absence of which was so recently bewailed.

Today, the sun is shining, there’s a cooling breeze, hummingbirds are hovering over the purple thistle flowers, and a dove is pecking seed from beneath my bird feeder. A few puffs of cloud float in a dust-free postcard blue sky. I’ve had to use the snips designed for nipping small limbs from trees, to cut down the largest red-root weeds blocking the steps to my home. A friend has promised to come mow, before I have company over Labor Day weekend. Not all my acres, just the area immediately around the house, so I can get to the bird feeder and the outside water hydrant without wading through chest-high weeds. So my guests can get into the cottage door without scratches to their legs and prickers in their clothes.

Nothing I can do will prevent the forthcoming torment to dogs and cat. Daily brushing, sessions of picking out burrs, even a close shearing of coats (canine at least) can reduce but not eliminate the pending assault by things that stick and sting and burrow into skin and paws. It’s been so long since we’ve had rain, and weeds, in summer that none of the current crew of pets has experienced what is in store for them. They are all too young.

Green Pastures

I am not too young. I remember, ten years ago, the last time we had summer rains and weeds and wildflowers and enough grass for horse hay to be a reasonable price. I remember the quill-like needles that result from those pretty yellow wildflowers dropping their petals, drying and disseminating their seed. I remember the cockleburs, brown and clawing, so sharp they pierce the leather of my shoes as I walk by them; so sharp they even caused my horses to limp until the spines were picked out of their hooves.

I remember, but today I will not complain. Today I enjoy the sun and the cool breeze and the green vistas and the dancing yellow flowers. Today I am grateful that we have had rain, and a respite from dust and fire and smoke. Today is a good day to Be.

Laughing in the Rain

June 18, 2013

I’m told, and I acknowledge, that I tend to be too serious. I do have a sense of humor, but it’s of the subdued rather than the rowdy kind. Word play (though not necessarily puns) can get me laughing until the tears flow, and I chuckle readily at Maxine’s wise pronouncements. None of which has anything really to do with the topic of this post – or does it? I’ve written about the drought, about living with wildfire, and now I want to write about the visible effects of the one hour of rain and hail that came down at my place last week.
Pasturn runoff
Just a short time ago, on the United World College campus nearby, the students put on a show to entertain their parents and friends the evening before graduation. A brief but strong shower began just as the show was ending, and the audience came out of the auditorium to a covered patio overlooking lawns and the parking area. We locals ran out into the rain, laughing and dancing, delighted to get wet, while the visitors stood in huddles and worried about the plans for an outdoor graduation the next morning. We were right to reassure them; the graduation proceeded under sunny skies.
Now as I write, I am looking out my window at pasture land, still mostly brown but streaked here and there with green. New shoots that never made it up in the spring are showing themselves just in time for the summer solstice. There are thunderclouds overhead and storm warnings being broadcast on the evening news.
Meanwhile, on my kitchen windowsill, a small pot contains a sprouting avocado pit whose shoot is growing almost visibly. Each morning the small plant is an inch or more taller. I set three pits in water several months ago, hoping that I’d get one to grow. If you’ve tried to start an avocado, you know it’s not easy to get one to take root. In 1992 I succeeded, ending eventually with a tree that reached to my 8 foot ceiling. About two years ago, the tree succumbed to root rot and died. Now I’m trying again. An optimist, I see my started plant put out its daily inches, and I cheer it on to become a worthy successor to the old tree.
What does growing an avocado tree have to do with humor? The optimism of setting a seed to sprout, knowing maybe one in ten will do so; the optimism of watching for green shoots in a barren landscape after a single hour of rain; and the optimism of expecting blue skies for a graduation all reveal the kind of humor I find funny. Lighthearted commentary on the foibles of nature (human and otherwise), I find funny – like a joke my spiritual teacher told at a seminar. Apparently an older student complained of suffering from furniture disease. My teacher hadn’t heard of such an illness and asked about its symptoms. “That’s when your chest falls into your drawers.”
What I don’t find funny – but apparently many people do – is put-down humor, such as made Don Rickles famous. When I taught inside the New Mexico Penitentiary, I learned a verbal sparring the men called capping – a sort of focused one-upping that depends on witty use of words and images. Like teasing, it is funny so long as it doesn’t cross a line and become mean-spirited. The challenge is to know where that line lies. It moves. It has no more substance than a line in the sand in a windstorm.
There’s a line between drought and wetness. We certainly haven’t crossed it, barely even taken a half step in that direction, although in the last week we’ve received as much moisture as in the past eight months combined. Enough to put us on target for maybe six inches total for the year. Definitely not the end to a drought. There are people who, as soon as we get a rain, are convinced a turning point has arrived. They want to start washing their cars and watering lawns, demanding that water restrictions be lifted. I think of them standing firmly on the wrong side the common sense line. Though why we call good sense common, when it’s as rare as rain in the desert, I’ll never understand.
Some of the experts currently prognosticating are saying we are not in a drought at all but rather returning, after fifty years of abnormally wet weather, to the more usual level of rain and snow fall in this region. They get their information from tree rings and other natural sources. They were already providing this explanation a few years ago, when the pinyon trees around Santa Fe were attacked and destroyed by bark beetle. The trees had moved into lower altitudes than they have historically been found, apparently because of the wetter conditions, and now are subject to stress and attack in the renewed cycle of dryness. I recall the explanation being offered. I don’t recall many people listening. I do have amusing visions of pinyon trees as an army moving across a moonlit terrain, an inch each night so as not to be noticed, until they arrived at those lower altitudes where they set up camp. Sadly, they were not able to retreat back to safety in the same stealthy manner. Their dead copses still litter the landscape.
It isn’t funny to live without water, although such a situation provides ample material for jokes. In Saigon, in my childhood, we had running water for only an hour a day, during which we stored what we’d need in large vats. A shower (of which several were needed daily due to the steamy heat) consisted of pouring a bucket of water over oneself, soaping up, then pouring another bucket to rinse. Unless it was the rainy season. Then we could easily take the soap, strip and go stand in the garden to get a lovely soaking and cleansing. Visitors hearing about a garden shower might ask, “baby or bridal?” Locals (we were kids, remember) would giggle as we replied, “neither.”
I’m convinced a sense of humor is essential to living – with climate extremes, with other people, within society. Without humor, who would have the patience to start ten avocado pits and see only one take root? Who would continue to vote, expecting the next batch of politicians to somehow be different? Who would dance in the rain?
Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Ima who?
Ima doing my best to make you smile.

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