Thursday, June 27, 2013

Are Bluebirds the Key?

I've mentioned often on these pages how joyous I find the sight of bluebirds in and around my yard. These were in my driveway not too long after I moved here. As the years (three plus)  have passed, I've seen more and more of them. This spring, my neighbor had two pairs of them nesting in boxes in her front yard -- one box actually attached to the front porch. Now, I often see one when I look out into my front  yard. Presumably these are the offspring of those two nests, poking around in the grass looking for munchies. That flash of blue never fails to bring a smile to my face and, perhaps more importantly, inside.

The point of all this is that I've been thinking for awhile now how nice it would be to put up my own nesting box and have them in my back yard. I'd intended to do this the first year, but then these two disappeared and I didn't see anymore until the following year. My thinking was negative -- oh, it's pointless to put a box out there, they'd never use it. My neighbor is proof that they will use it, and that it doesn't have to be out in a field someplace (although she's had those boxes out since before I moved here, and this is the first time bluebirds have occupied them). Bluebirds, like other species, apparently are adapting to life among humans. I now have babies who were born here and will likely either stay here, or return here when it's time to build nests. And there are at least two pairs who have already nested here and will likely return.

So back to this urge. Now that it seems unlikely that I'll become a nomad or live in a monastery, I have to figure out just what the next steps are. Wouldn't it be funny if it all hinged on bluebirds? Not forever, but at least for now.  I really want to put up a box and see it used, and right now I don't have a more compelling reason to go someplace else or to stay here. Perhaps this is as good as any.

I'm sort of nesting here again myself -- planted some basil over the weekend, thinking about planting some more veggies. Yesterday I weeded around the blueberries (badly needed, since the netting keeps the weed-whacker and lawnmower away) and around the rosemary. This isn't much, but it's a big step from the idea of total abandonment that's been in place for so long now.

Of course, so much of it comes back to money! Part and parcel of that is the question of the roof -- well past its reasonable lifespan and apt to leak at any given time. Replacing it is out of the question -- if it leaks, and the leaks are bad, abandonment will be the only alternative. A big part of me still wants to be proactive and not have to worry about that or any other maintenance expenses that might crop up.

But, nothing is written in stone here -- not even close. Merely thoughts leaking from my mind onto the page. I'm not even giving the future any serious thought -- just listening to what arises.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Garden gains -- and losses

Why is it that computers change things that don't need to be changed, with no explanation? I know, there will never be an answer to that question.  What's changed this time is how photos are downloaded from my camera -- in the span of a week or two of non-use, once I returned from Bhavana I noticed the process was different, different windows opened, but I didn't change any settings. I lost some of the Bhavana photos, and I lost a couple of photos I just took out in the yard -- easily replaced and somehow I got this one to save on the computer. Microsoft doesn't like the fact that I'm using my old Roxio photo software instead of Windows -- I think that's the basic problem.

But anyway..... I thought I'd show what's happening out in the back yard.

It's late in the day so it's shadowy, but the point is the greenery around the four raised beds. Greenery that used to be cedar mulch walkways, but is now weeds. I fought them last year, even over the winter, but finally admitted defeat when warmer weather and rains arrived. I just can't do it any more. I could use Roundup, but that grinds every nerve in my body. So the weeds grow and are cut when the grass is cut.

Remember this? Work in progress.
And this? "finished", more or less -- and before the rosemary took over the garden. But the curved metal is in place around the rosemary, as well as the front and left edges of the cleared areas. I never got around to the other two sides and that was my downfall, particularly along the rear where bermuda grass and weeds encroached faster than I could pull/cut them out. I hate the stuff -- it's relentless. It's nice to remember that it looked decent for awhile, anyway.

And this? The summer of black plastic that killed bermuda grass so I could add the two new concrete block planting beds?

And this? Cutting out the layout for the beds -- unevenly!

And this? Digging trenches on two sides of the planting area, as well as the curved area around the rosemary, to install that nice metal edging, to keep bermuda grass from rooting through?
In the ground, ready to be filled in and finished. Only took two days to do two sides. The curved area around the rosemary came later.

Is it any wonder that I'm disillusioned and wanting out of this house -- this is only one reason among many. Countless hours of work, lots of money, and it's all going back to weeds because I cannot keep them out any longer using organic methods, and I refuse to use anything else. The beds are mostly lying fallow now -- needing more black plastic on the empty ones to keep the weeds out -- I dig and dig but they encroach, regardless. I'm tired of the battle. And too old for the battle. So what's the point?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Does fat make you fat?

The first naturopath I saw, many years ago in Eugene, was a sveldt young woman who didn't appear to have an extra ounce of fat on her skinny body. She and I didn't last long as doctor/patient but I will always remember her insistence that dietary fat did not make one fat. "I", she said, "am a perfect example of that." Her diet included lots of fats.

Since then, I've heard the same theory in various places. The body needs a certain amount of fat in order to be healthy -- preferably in the form of healthy fats, of course.  In my own life, I've never noticed that more or less fat in my diet led to more or less fat on my body.

My recent week-long stays at two monasteries with vastly different dietary styles led to an interesting, if unintentional, experiment with this subject.

In Austin, the diet was traditional Burmese: various meats and veggies swimming in heavy sauces floating with oil, lots of white rice, rice noodles and other noodles. No fresh veggies or salads.

At Bhavana, absolutely no fat is allowed in any food, per instructions from the abbot's cardiologist. The rest of us might get scrambled eggs (dry-scrambled), but he would have only the white of a boiled egg. There were nut butters and margarine available on the table, but I had only a small amount of almond butter a couple of mornings, and bread only once. There were plenty of fresh veggies and always a salad. There were two days of delicious food dana (food offerings brought in from outside). The first was 'normal' American foods brought by a woman whose cooking I'd been lucky enough to taste before -- this time no fats or oils used. The second was traditional Sri Lankan food, but without coconut milk or oil of any kind. All of it was delicious without fat.

So where would you guess I'd lose weight, and where I'd gain?  I was certainly surprised! When I returned from Austin after 7 or so days of this delicious diet, I felt as if I must have gained weight -- but the scale said otherwise. I was down 2 or 3 pounds from 'average'. When I returned from 5 days of healthy, fat-free food at Bhavana, I was once more surprised -- up 2 or 3 pounds from 'average'. In between the two, my weight had returned to 'average' so both visits started at around the same figure.

More interestingly, I think I ate more in Austin, and I know I had really no exercise other than walking from place to place at the monastery. At Bhavana, I stood on my feet for 3 to 5 hours per day, working in the kitchen, washing up after meals, and doing another project assigned to me while I was there. And I didn't overeat.

I'm not sure what the conclusion is for this little experiment, other than that as I've noted in the past it doesn't seem to matter what I eat, how much I eat, or how much/little I exercise when it comes to gaining or losing weight. But this was certainly far more of a contrasting diet than any I would or could have devised at home. Make of it what  you will.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bhavana visit

I've never seen Bhavana more beautiful than on this visit -- but then, I've never been there in spring or early summer, either. Some of my photos were lost in the process of transferring from the camera, which has never happened before, but I'll show what survived.

I've never seen the lily pond in bloom before. On my first visit, it had just been cleaned out and was just a mud puddle without a lot of plants around it. I took better photos than this, but this is the only one that survived.   

The lily pond is just to the left of the bridge, the meditation hall behind it.

One of the beautiful lilys in the pond.

From near the columbarium -- such beautiful, green woods!

The columbarium, where people may choose to have their ashes interred. There is work planned for this area during the summer. My will stipulates that my own ashes be sent here.

So, that's what survived. As I suspected before I left, residency here will not be possible for me, except possibly during a summer. The work is difficult even now -- I was pretty well pooped out even during this short visit -- and their need is for 'strong young bodies'. Clearly, that is not me. I can, of course, attend as many retreats as I wish, and go for short visits or residencies, but not long term. As Bhante G said, we have to look at realities in these things, and even I know that the reality for me is that this is just too difficult for my aging body.

On the other hand, when I was there my heart felt that it was at home -- the place it wanted to be. The rest of me agrees. After a beautiful drive through the West Virginia and Virginia backroads, with tantalizing glimpses of the mountains and beautiful Shenandoah Valley in the early morning light, when I reached I-81 at Strasburg, VA there was great reluctance in the act of steering my car onto the on-ramp -- and a bit of dampness in the eyes. I really wasn't ready to leave.

So what does the future hold for me now that this isn't a possibility? I don't know yet, but I'm thinking about some way of living closer so I can visit more often. I feel that there is unfinished business for me there, and I want to honor that if I can. Right now, I'm still too tired to think about it too much.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Frustrations of old age -- and hitting the road again

I get to spend a week here -- almost. My favorite place to meditate.
I know many of us are familiar with that old age disease CRM -- can't remember shit!?

This morning, I'm packing for my trip to Bhavana tomorrow and I cannot find a pair of black pants that I want to wear. I've searched the obvious and less obvious parts of this house several times -- and it's not a big house. Nada.

I know I brought them back from Texas, so they have to be in this house somewhere. But where? I'm keeping my Buddhist calm about it -- so far -- but still racking my brain to figure out where they could be. At least my closet got rearranged in the process of looking. Guess that's good. I don't have a lot of clothes to begin with, so it's not easy to hide something like that. I've checked in the bags I packed this morning twice now, even though I knew they weren't in there. I find there's no such thing as 'know' any longer. :)

Other than that -- and actually putting things into the car -- I'm mostly ready to go and it's not even 10am yet. I've got this system down to a science, I must say. Certainly been enough practice so far this year. Now about all that's left is watching 'hawk TV' to catch the last Red Tailed Hawk leaving the nest. She's taken her own sweet time about it, but sure looks ready.

Tomorrow I'm finally meeting a wonderful woman from Corvallis, OR who has recently moved to  Asheville, NC. We've corresponded for years -- connected through a couple of sources -- but never met. I'm driving north through Asheville just to have lunch/tea with her. Her name is Dr. Mary Ann Iyer and she writes the blog Living in Harmony that's on my blog list to the right. She's just amazing -- so wise. I'm so looking forward to this.

So, that's my day. Wish me luck finding the missing black capri pants!