Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hazards of old age

I didn't realize until this morning how long it had been since I posted anything.

Happy to say that I have not expired either from dill pickles or hazardous air. Or anything else.

The awful air only lasted about 4 days, then gradually cleared up to the beautiful clear skies we usually have this time of year. Ma Nature even threw in a little rain to make us feel better. First rain all summer, which is not normal for Oregon. Now, everything is beautiful. Clear blue skies, cooler weather, cool nights once again, breezes. The smell of autumn is in the air and I think we are all ready for it.

So. Yesterday I opened the freezer for some reason and saw a container that I didn't remember putting there. It wasn't old -- right on top of other stuff. This is a hazard of old age -- forgetting the simplest of things. Since I'm in a using-up-leftovers mode, I took it out, thawed it. Looked to be something from chicken -- I could see little bits of it, plus there were a couple of bones. And lots of onions. Otherwise, just a thick concoction that I decided to eat for lunch today, along with some beans and rice from yesterday. So far, so good. But I was still wondering what it was and when I'd made it.

Sat down to eat, wasn't finding much chicken, mostly onions. It was tasty, but strong. I ate a few bites, with the beans/rice, still wondering. Then it hit me. I'd roasted a chicken last weekend, and this was the condensed remains of the onions/lemons underneath the chicken plus a lot of chicken fat! I'd saved it to use as a base for some chicken stock I want to make soon, with all the leftover bones I've been freezing for months now.

I like to think we've all done similar things, but perhaps not.

I didn't eat it. It was too concentrated even with the rice/beans. Would have been a wonderful addition to the stock but it ended up in the garbage. Alas. I really need to start labeling things, since I clearly can't rely on memory all the time. Now, some of the actual roasted chicken is in the oven, thawing and heating up for lunch.

Monday, September 4, 2017


The air in Eugene yesterday. Worst yet, with fires encroaching from the east and smoke from fires all over Oregon and Washington combined with a heat spell and little wind. I went outside briefly, and it was brutal, so I've stayed inside with the AC going, day and night. This morning I opened the blinds in my bedroom and could smell the smoke coming in around the closed window! I immediately engaged the lock, which closes out more air, and closed the little vents at the top of both windows.

Maybe this will illustrate it better. This was yesterday afternoon in the surrounding area. Of the three towns, you can see that Eugene was the worst, literally at the top of the scale.

Somehow that's surprising, since the fires are approaching Oakridge, to the east. I'd think they'd have more smoke, but not according to this.

Today should be the last day of the heat wave and hopefully, some winds will come along with the cooler air and blow some of this away.

I'm grateful that I have AC, and a place to live where I can escape the smoke. Not everyone is so fortunate -- people living in homes without AC, particularly those with already-existing breathing difficulties -- must find this very difficult.

I need to go out this morning long enough to be sure my plants are watered for another 100 degree day, but that doesn't take long.

Aside from the unhealthy and unpleasant air, I personally hate the idea of so much of the northwest's beautiful forests burning, perishing into blackened stumps.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kat dancing

Around here, this is known as the 'vacuum cleaner side-step'. Hard to get a pic of the full experience, since I can't move the machine and hold the camera at the same time. Moving the machine towards her is what brings on the dance. But this is close enough. Always brings a chuckle to the chore.

And oh, by the way, I'm still alive and well!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dill pickle perfection amid smokey skies

Eight quarts from eight pounds of cukes. Just put into jars, cloudy sediment may or may not settle, but is harmless in any event. Mere byproducts of fermentation.

Despite a lot of doubt about the edibility of these over the last couple of weeks, I ate two small ones today and have to say they were the absolute best I've made yet. Now, if I'm still alive and healthy this time tomorrow, I can safely say all those doubts were for nought.

Doubts? Yes -- because this was by far the stinkiest batch I've made yet. First, there was only the smell of freshly-fermenting dills, which was expected. After a week or so, the smell got really strong and really funky, making me wonder what the hell was going on. Last week I dumped the crocks into bowls, strained off the oak leaves, dill, spices and such to throw away, then put the pickles and brine back into the crocks to continue fermenting. I like to let them ferment for 3 full weeks, as it supposedly takes that long for all the good strains of lactobacillus get a chance to develop and grow. And while they taste delicious, the main purpose for me is the probiotic benefit.

I'd reached out to the folks at the Wild Fermentation support forum, but not one person responded to my plea for help and answers. Maybe they were afraid they'd be held liable if they told me this was normal and then I died, or got really sick. Mind you, I'm not completely crazy. The smell was never rotten or repulsive, merely really, really strong with something I couldn't place. At any rate -- today was the 3 week mark so I opened up the crocks again, unloaded the garlic and pickles into jars, filled the jars about half-way with brine from the crocks then added fresh brine to the top.

I generally don't do that if I have enough brine for all the jars, but something in me wanted to thin out the smell, which was actually barely noticeable by then. My semi-educated guess is that because this batch started fermenting strong and fast and kept it up for a week, there was simply more yeast byproduct, and that was what I was smelling. Over the last week, I'd decided that the funky smell had a yeasty character to it.

In the meantime, air quality in Eugene has been horrid for the last few days, as shown in these photos by my ever-favorite local photog, Brian Davies. The sun has been blood red every morning when it rises, and the moon has been about the same. Someone told me much of the smoke is coming from a big fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness near Brookings, which I find heartbreaking. I won't guarantee the spelling on that -- but it's close and I'm too lazy to look it up.

So that's that. Don't worry about me if I don't check in tomorrow -- doesn't mean death by dill pickles, just that there'll be nothing to write about.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Moon over Oregon

So -- this is what it looked like 30 miles or so north of Eugene this morning. By my usual favorite photog, Brian Davies.

And, while it was cool to watch it through the little glasses, I have to say that the small orange sphere I watched wasn't nearly as interesting as what Brian watched through his telephoto lens. That's a pretty damned awesome shot.

Other than that, pretty dull day.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gorgeous Dahlia

This beauty has been slowly opening up out in the garden area for days now, and it is always intriguing. It's huge, which isn't really obvious in the photos. Maybe 8 or more inches across.

It's 'owner' says that this dahlia has won many prizes for lots of people. She has also won prizes with it. She has her 'show' dahlias somewhere else, but brought a few new ones into the garden this year, including this one.

It's not quite fully open yet, as you can see. It's tall, so to get this I had to hold the camera up as high as my arms would stretch. She said that on Monday, tomorrow, she is going to cut it and float it in a bowl in the building entryway for all to enjoy. Harder to get photos in there.

Other than that -- just another utterly beautiful day here in the Willamette Valley.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New toy in the kitchen

Latest addition to my kitchen -- been wanting this for a long time. Some of that stuff was in the hall closet, some on top of the fridge, and the rest in lower cabinets.

I like having the things I use often, as well as all the appliances (big KitchenAid mixer under the plastic) out where I don't have to dig to find them.

Went to Home Depot this morning checking on a little garden item, saw this on sale. Went back after lunch to get one. A little taller than I really wanted or needed, but in my research I really didn't find any the size I wanted, and this was a good price. I just had to move the artwork up a little higher on the wall.

Meanwhile, the world as I've known it for 75 years is falling down around all of us.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Late summer in the garden

Not much left in the garden this misty morning. The squash is clearly going gangbusters, there is one eggplant, a few leaves of chard, and all the herbs.

This one eggplant is apparently the only one I'm going to get from this plant. There have been plenty of other blossoms, but they all dropped, for some reason.

After all the hot, dry weather, it's lovely to see mist gathering on the squash leaves. Felt good on my face, too!

It's getting to be dahlia season, too, though barely. These have seen better days, but more plants are starting to bloom and one bud is so huge it looks like it'll be the size of a dinner plate!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What a difference a couple of days make

Hasn't been 48 hours, but this is what the crocks look like this morning. Don't be alarmed -- it's normal!

All that yucky stuff is not mold, it's foam generated by the fermentation process, which creates lots of air bubbles. Sometimes large ones bubble up with a burp, just as often it's bunches of small ones, which make the foam.

Still, I can't stop thinking and wondering if in my fogginess I really added enough salt. Salt keeps the bad bugs, including mold, from growing, although the desirable lacto bacillus that do the fermenting also do a good job with this. They multiply so fast that they simply crowd the bad bugs out. Maybe they eat them, too. I don't remember that tidbit but that's what the salt is for, anyway.

As I understand it, more salt is needed in warmer temps, as all bugs will multiply faster. No need to speed up the fermentation, either, because these will sit a full 3 weeks to allow for best probiotic development. So I've read, anyway.

Thinking thus, I skimmed the scum off, removed about a cup of liquid from each, and added back a more concentrated salt brine, just to be sure and so I'll feel better. I also moved the weight from the left crock and added it to the other. I only have one saucer, and that will hold the pickles below the surface of the brine by itself. A few were trying to float to the top, and one small one had fully escaped. So -- both weights will keep them under control. And keep the mold away.

They're starting to smell good, like old-fashioned dill pickles, which is just what they are. Yum.

Second day of a cooling trend, which is wonderful. Didn't even have to use the AC yesterday, and certainly won't need to use it for the next few days. I love having the windows open, night and day, so I'm a happy camper.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dill pickle processing

I haven't made dill pickles since last summer, and 'tis the season.

Fresh cukes at the farmer's market yesterday. Fresh (new crop) garlic at a store today. Some big oak leaves from the tree in the front yard. And the usual suspects: fresh dill fronds, and dill seeds, along with pickling spices.

I decided to do it big while I am doing it, and am using both crocks, making double the amount of delicious dill pickles.

It wasn't the easiest of processes -- my brain is not at its most organized today -- but it all got done.

There were eight full heads of garlic that had to be peeled before I could do anything. In the bowl at the back.

At some point I realized I didn't have enough of one of the basics: unchlorinated water, was also short on pickling spices, which were from last year anyway, and probably didn't have enough sea salt to make the brine.

So, I put the stuff in both crocks, had enough water to mix a brine for one, put the brine in the crock, put it away. Then, I took a look at the pan the oak leaves had soaked in, and saw how much traffic soot had settled to the bottom of the pan. That kind of panicked me, because I don't want petroleum crap in my pickles. So -- I poured off the brine quickly, removed the oak leaves, put them in fresh water to soak and made sure I washed, rinsed and dried both sides of every leaf and no more black stuff came off on my white dishtowel. I didn't see any further soot, so it probably all came off in the initial washing, but I needed to be sure.

Then, off to the market for water and the other things. Whew!

Eight pounds of lovely, organic, freshly-picked pickling cukes, in their crocks.

When I redid the brine I made it a bit less salty. I was following Sandor Katz' recipe and instructions from Wild Fermentation, the bible of such things. For past batches I'd used a good bit more salt, but decided Sandor knows best.

Back to the uncooperative brain, which is tired and hasn't been fed a lot today. That's my only excuse.

So will the brine be salty enough for the warm weather, to keep the bad bugs at bay? I hope so. Keep wondering if I should make up a very dense batch of brine, mostly salt, and add to the crocks. We'll see.

Now, I think it's time to feed the brain and hope it decides to be a bit more responsive.

Getting old sucks!

Monday, August 7, 2017

One month down

Full moon rising over the bay at Jenner, CA. From a kayak.
Today's full moon marks the end of the first month of Vassa, and I find myself among the skeptics who thought I'd never last the month with my minor efforts. But I did.

Surprisingly, it wasn't all that hard. I still get an occasional thought to play a computer game, but only when I'm passing time, waiting for some appointment or some reason when it's not reasonable to start something new.

I've only missed one meditation session, an evening a couple of days ago when fatigue from lack of sleep interfered. I knew I could not even sit on the cushion for those 20 minutes.

What is surprising is how much good the month has done me. Inside, where it counts, I can really feel the difference. Simple observances, but knowing I've made the Vassa pledge seems to give my mind much more reason to stick to all of it and even add a bit more.

With this success behind me, I'll avoid one more thing that's bad for me beginning with this full moon and which, like the computer games, is an obsession. Sugar! This one really needs to happen and will be harder than the games. But, I started a couple of days ago, casually, and today it stops. For the next two months. You can trust me when I say this is going to be tough. I can avoid it easily at home, but if I'm somewhere that it's put in front of me in the form of some delicious food --- that's when it'll be hard. But hard is good, and I'll do it.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The great fire drill escapade

I think the cat has forgiven me. Possibly. At least partially. But it took a good 24 hours. Felines have very long memories and hold grudges as much as some humans do.

But, she hasn't forgiven her short-lived new friend, the cat carrier. Every time she walks near it, she gives it an uncertain look as if daring it to attack her. I've also seen her lie down on the carpet and stretch out to her fullest so her front paws are almost touching it. And I've seen her approach the thing, sniffing, trying to figure out what happened.

It might all have gone better, but when I asked the manager about time on Thursday, all she could say was that it wouldn't happen before 10am but that it could be as late as 5:30pm. The usual fire drills generally come a bit after 10am, so about a quarter til ten I picked the cat up and encouraged her into the carrier, where she went quite willingly. She wasn't quite so happy once I closed the door. Confused.

I gathered the other items (my bag, including my kindle so I could read while I waited), opened the door and went into the hallway where a white paper memo waited at everyone's door. We get lots of these, mostly throw-away, but I always read the subject line and this one was the fire drill. Turns out, the tech had told them it wouldn't happen until 3:30pm! Alas.

Back into the house, where I unlatched the carrier door. Kat tore out with her ears back and ran off to hide somewhere for a moment. For the rest of the day, she watched my every move with suspicion, giving me evil side-eyes anytime I moved, even if she was curled up 'sleeping'. Because I felt bad, I served up her 'dinner' at 2pm -- a yummy, pasty, fish and meat canned food that she loves.

Around 3:15, I picked her up and took her to the carrier -- but she was smarter, now. No way was she walking into that thing, nor could I shove her into it. I had to resort to a trick I used with my last cat. Up-ended the carrier so the door was on top, grabbed the cat by the nape of the neck and lowered her tail first into it. Needless to say, they are never amused at this treatment. But she was in there and the door was closed. Out we went.

Off to the tables under the big oak tree near the garden area, where it was somewhat shady. Temps were around 100F at that point. I put the carrier on a table and sat in front of it, where she could see me. Other people arrived, including another cat in a cool pet 'stroller' and a bird in a cage. The management kindly brought out cold bottled water and cookies for the few of us who hadn't escaped altogether or braved the noise and stayed inside. The test kept being delayed, but Kat stayed wonderfully calm, really. No noise, no panic. At one point I saw her panting, mouth open, so put some water into a little container and dared to open the door and put it inside. She sniffed, but never drank any.

The test kept being delayed, but once it went off it didn't last all that long. Inside with the tech were two staff members. Their plan was to literally run down the hallways, presumably with one staff person unlocking each door and moving on, the tech running inside to check the lights, and the other staff person locking the door behind them. Three floors of this! And somehow, they pulled it off. Not sure how long it lasted, but I was back inside a touch after 4pm, which was perfect.

Kat ran out of the carrier again, and was decidedly miffed at me and very wary of the carrier for the rest of the day. All is more or less forgiven now. I think. By this evening, she was even tentatively playing around the door of the carrier with some favorite toys. But not inside!

Thursday, August 3, 2017


This would be a good day (week!) to be on the coast with a little fog and a good, cool ocean breeze.

107F yesterday, same due today. 90s for the next 10 days. Fun.

I am grateful for air conditioning, as much as I actually hate AC. I don't like cold air blowing on me, and the thermostat here doesn't seem to be too accurate, but this apartment would be unbearable without it. I'm good with the 90s, but when it hits triple figures, not so much.

Yesterday I dozed off in the afternoon with the AC on, turned as low as I could manage to get the thermostat to cycle on/off. After an hour or so I woke up because it was so cold. I don't know if the AC had been on the entire time, but the house was cold. I turned it off and even with the heat outside, the house didn't reach a temp where I turned it on again for several hours.

Other than that -- life is quiet and a little dull. I've decided that I need to go for a long walk early this morning, before the heat hits. Exercise has been minimal lately -- the gym had gotten so hot for several weeks that I found it pretty unbearable, sometimes feeling woozy from it. Complaints to management didn't help. So I haven't been for awhile. Nor have I been walking. Gotta get out there again.

Tomorrow an hour-long fire drill -- or longer. Whatever it is, not only do I have to vacate the premises, I have to take the cat, because the alarm will be going off the entire time and it would not be fair to her to leave her inside. It's really, really, loud and even during the regular fire drills she freaks out. It's an assault to my ears, and cats have much better/more sensitive hearing than humans.

Preparing for this, I bought a used carrier at Goodwill, put it on the floor so she'd get used to it. Surprisingly, she loves it! Sometimes goes in and just chills, watching me from inside. Uses her toys to play around it, and leave them there. Will that make it easier to catch her and put her inside with the alarm going off? Probably not. If they'll give me an approximate time, I'll try to get her out before it starts.

Photo of her food dish this morning -- more toys clustered around it than I've seen yet. She brings all her toys in here when playing with them. Often there are 2 or 3 inside the dish. Crossing my fingers that she's lost interest in putting them into the water dish, because that got old. Haven't seen her do that for a day or so, but probably a temporary lull. A little google research told me that cats have safe places, that they tend to put favorite things in the safe places, and that for a cat, food is a primary life concern and thus a safe place. Particularly so with a cat who has ever lived on the streets without regular meals, as this cat did for an unknown time before being taken to the shelter. So, I'll put the toys back in the 'toy box' in the living room, and she'll move them again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Getting ready for the big event

No mystery about what this is. Eugene is just a tad south of the full totality path, so we should get most of it. Picked up my glasses today.

The best news is that I can watch it from my living room window if I want to, though there will be a group gathering outside in a good viewing spot, so I may go down there and have some company.

I have never seen an eclipse, as far as I remember. Partial moon eclipses, but never a sun eclipse, or if there was one, I wasn't close enough to really see anything, or remember it.

Hot weather is upon us -- 90 degree days, but cooler nights, of course. Thankfully, this apartment is easy to keep cool, as it faces east and misses the hot sun of the day. In this building there's a real trade-off for that, because we also face the street and get tons of street noise. Not sure which I'd really rather have, but I do like the east window.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


I'm beginning to like what I'm calling 'pantry/fridge clean-out days.'  Somehow, all that good stuff tossed into one dish makes for some pretty tasty results.

Today, I had a little leftover arborio rice from when I made paella back in April. Thought to toss it, but then -- decided to keep it until I had some white wine open, and try some risotto. No recipe, though I did check the steps and process to be sure I did it right. I wish I'd managed to skim some of the fat off the broth, but I was too lazy. Tastes good, but is a bit rich.

Also in the fridge, along with a really small, but adequate amount of leftover chardonnay, was some leftover rotisserie chicken and a few cherry tomatoes. Garlic and onion are pantry staples, and I cut some rosemary from the garden. Yesterday I made some fresh chicken stock from some of the chicken bones. And that was that.

I'm no risotto expert, but to me it's pretty darned tasty. It's creamy, which is what the experts say is the desired state. I've had risotto cooked by others that was kind of sticky and gummy and not the least bit creamy, so this was a real goal. Creamy, perfectly cooked to the perfect state of al dente, if I may say so. It's a good thing, too, because I used every last drop of the stock I'd made and was wondering if I'd need some hot water before it was over.

Went for a walk down to the ponds early this morning for blackberries. Came home with 3 cups, which is adequate. I got 4 cups on Sunday, and I'm sure others are helping themselves as much as I am. Main thing is the briers are loaded with black fruit that's just not quite ripe enough to fall into my hands with a gentle tug. There's plenty more to come.

Not sure what to do with this bounty. Sunday I made a cobbler and put some of the berries into the fridge for the next day's smoothie. Right now, my tummy is full and the berries are not calling to me, but I suspect that will change as the day goes on. I only use a drizzle of honey over the berries, and a tiny amount of sugar (a teaspoon or two) in the biscuit dough that tops it. It could be worse.

Time to go clean up the kitchen, but it was worth it....

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Only two weeks in....

All of two weeks into this Vassa thing, and I'm already chafing at the restrictions I placed upon myself. I sometimes resist the need to meditate, and more and more feel the urge for 'just one computer game'. But -- for the time being, at least, I ignore both, sit on the cushion as scheduled, and don't click on the games icons.

I think for the first time this is actually giving me a small look inside the discipline every person, male or female, has to have when they ordain as a monastic, and at how much they have to give up. The men live by over 300 rules that affect every aspect of their lives, and the women (who are presumably temptations for the men and must avoid that) live by over 600, if I'm remembering my numbers correctly. They relinquish pretty much everything from their layperson lives, including money and possessions.

I've given up things when I've stayed at a monastery, whether for a week or several months, but most of it never bothered me because about all that really frustrated me was lack of entertainment (TV, radio) and lack of occasional wine or beer. I didn't eat dinner, but for some reason that's something that has never really been difficult for me. And I've mostly had my computer for the entertainment value that provides.

Observing all this within my mind is fascinating. I'm forced to make choices, reaffirm my intentions, on a daily basis, and this forces me to look deeper, think more about what I'm observing of my own mind. One thing most Buddhist meditators can agree upon is that the human mind is never boring, if you really watch how it works. It can be frustrating, but not boring. Training it is not easy, but the rewards are great and worth the effort, because the effort to not give in to either craving (playing computer games) or aversion (not wanting to meditate) does train the mind to let go of both those unwholesome actions. Craving and aversion are at the heart of what, in Buddhist philosophy, causes unhappiness in our lives, and the more we can let go of them, the happier we are. I can attest to that, certainly.

So, I continue, discovering in the smallest possible way just what my monastic friends experience every day of their lives, to a much higher degree. It's a worthy experiment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Summer in the ponds

It's been awhile since I walked around the ponds. I got tired of seeing the same thing, and then I got sick. Today I went to town on the bus to pick up a library book and hit the farmer's market, and on the way home noticed how low the water is, so I thought I'd check out the change of scenery. That little family of ducks was adorable to watch, if hard to focus on. They were moving fast! More photos of them further down.

Back in the winter, water rushed under these bridges barely missing the walkway. Now, this one is just a pile of rocks and the one below isn't much better.

A yellow waterlily about to burst open here -- need to come back in a few days to check it out.

Wild sweet peas are just one of the many things I love about an Oregon summer.

Hard to tell what these are -- puffy purple balls, basically, in speckled light. Lots of wildflowers blooming today, though very little wildlife other than lots of beautiful dragonflies.

Much of the ponds are covered or nearly-covered in these lilipads. I wonder if they will bloom? More to check on later!

Obviously, I had fun watching these ducks!

To the uninitiated, this looks pretty boring. But that left bank, all the way along the ponds and further, is Oregon black gold. Wild blackberries! They are just coming into season and I expect to head out there more than a few mornings once the serious ripening starts. I get a little crazy for blackberry cobbler. I found a few today that were ripe and sweet.

Pretty and peaceful in the noon-day sunshine.

The state of the garden, at the moment. The squash plant is going bananas, the chard is still out-producing my ability to eat it. The nasturtiums are bright, and the rosemary loves the heat. I had to pull the parsley plants a few days ago because they were going to seed, not producing anymore leaves. I planted some seeds and hope to have more soon enough.

Looking close at the other end, the eggplant has a purple blossom opening and inside the red cage the pickling cucumber -- stunted by snails -- is also blossoming.

Spent $4 for a small container of fresh figs at the farmer's market this morning. I was thinking of fig season a couple of days ago, and while it was pricey, I was willing to pay it. Yum! I can eat lots of fresh figs when I get the chance.

And in the manner of small victories, I attached the swivel plastic door to the cat's enclosed litter box this morning and she didn't even hesitate to go through and back out. When I bought this box, several months ago, I wasn't brave enough to attach the door until she grew accustomed to the newness of the box. It's never wise to give a cat any reason to be uncomfortable with its litter box! Time passed and we both got used to the box the way it is, but I remembered the door today and it seems to work for both of us.

As I said. Small victories.

Monday, July 17, 2017


In case anybody wonders -- and I seriously doubt that anybody does -- I'm still keeping the vassa pledges I made a week or so ago. Wearing white is easy. Meditating twice a day has been easy too, surprisingly, and even not playing computer games is not overly difficult, though there are times when I long to reach for those icons, to pass the time.

The cat was confused about me sitting on 'her' meditation cushion for a few days, walking all around me, meowing, insisting upon climbing my body so I'd hold her, and generally being a sweet pest. But she eventually gave it up and got used to it. So I'm left in peace, from the feline at least.

I'm also a little surprised at how much good the meditation seems to be doing for me. Since it's only 20 minutes at a time, I expected little other than the discipline of doing it. Then I started up a healing meditation I learned a few years ago from my favorite teacher, even listening to her guided meditation one evening. She is Asian, of Chinese ancestry though Malaysian-born. This meditation leads the mind in sending loving thoughts to the body, superficially at first, then deeper to include the various organs -- brain, heart, lungs, liver, intestines, etc -- as well as every body part. She says that sending these loving thoughts sends the good 'chi', or energy, to that part and heals whatever needs healing. Something is working -- certainly in my neck/spine area where I had a bad whiplash back in 1993 leaving my spine looking something like a pretzel in that area. This had been inflamed lately, but since I've been doing this meditation daily, the inflammation seems to be gone. No more pain, at any rate. There was a second area that I cannot even remember at this moment, also gone. She also addresses the mind, as well as the body, and when I'm through with 20 or 30 minutes of this I'm kind of a happy, limp noodle.

I think what I like about these pledges most, however, is simply the successful discipline that comes with following them. They cause not one bit of difficulty or trouble in my life, other than offering a tad more discipline in a couple of areas.

I still don't know if I'll make it until the full moon in early October, but for now it's all good.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another rant about doctors

What is it with doctors?

Over the years I've mentioned to several doctors that I often get 'itchy, tingly, crawly sensations under my skin' that come and go and are very unpleasant. I've often wondered if it was some kind of mis-firing in my nervous system, or a reaction to something I've eaten. Not ONE doctor has ever offered up a suggestion, most merely give me a blank look, or shrug.

So today I googled it, and to no surprise these are anxiety symptoms. Known and clear. Why couldn't one of these doctors simply understand this, and tell me what was going on? I swear they are useless!

It's no secret that I don't like medical doctors or frankly, the modern idea of medicine, where rather than find a cause for a problem they simply use a pharmaceutical to treat the symptom. Possibly they all ignored it because they don't like prescribing anti-anxiety meds like Xanax. Best to just ignore me, pretend ignorance. I would never take it anyway, on a treatment-level basis which calls for taking some every 4 hours.

I did that once, many years ago when Xanax was new and my doctor (a high-level psychiatric expert who eventually rose high in the California state mental hospital system) told me that it was new and non-addictive. Didn't take me long to realize he was wrong, as after a few days I noticed the body wanting the pill before the 4 hours would be up. At that point, I said no thanks. I take it on occasion, mostly for helping me sleep once or twice a week. But would never again take it routinely. Or even daily.

I know I'm anxious -- something that's gotten worse as I've gotten older. Anybody in this country who isn't anxious these days isn't paying attention. Especially poor people and old people. I try to use natural methods to alleviate it, and am prone to craving sugary stuff which has just the opposite effect.

It's good to know what is causing the skin tingles, though. Not sure what I'll do about it, but at least I know it's not some dire physical issue.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Vassa, and life

So -- today  is the first day of a season/tradition called Vassa, when Buddhist monastics, at least those of the Theravadan tradition, tend to stay in one place for three months, rather than going out into the world to teach. The tradition stems from the days of ancient India, when this was the rainy season and travel was difficult for the monks. Twenty-five hundred years later, the tradition is still observed, though rain or shine travel is much easier.

Teaching still happens, of course. But more 'in house' I guess you'd say, rather than roaming from place to place. Not all that many monastics actually roam these days. Most are connected to a monastery somewhere as a home base, even if they travel to teach. But, I know of one at least who has been traveling the world for years now, staying with friends or at monasteries. He always observes Vassa, wherever he is.

I've spent time in monasteries during Vassa, but never really noticed anything much different other than that often bikkhuni's from over the world might come and join the others for the three months. I never thought about observing it myself, on my own, in any way, until a week or so ago. There was a Google Groups message from an Indian man whose family is offering much financial support to Dhammadharini during this time. He suggested various ways lay people could participate: come to the monastery, wear white and serve the monastics, meditate, and such. I was invited to spend time with them this summer, and wanted to, but in the end gave in to the reality that I just didn't have the energy for the drive down there, among other things.

But then -- light bulb! -- he mentioned that Vassa was sometimes called the Buddhist Lent, which I'd never heard before, and that lay people could observe it in their own homes by doing something that was good for them, giving up something that was bad for them, and spending more time in meditation. This sounded like something I could and wanted to do, though I admit that I had some reservations over the last few days. But, here I am.

Wearing white every day, meditating twice a day as something 'good for me', and not playing computer games serves as giving up something 'bad for me'. Those games were and are a terrible habit, and are bad for my eyes as well as my right arm which has an annoyance something like carpal tunnel syndrome, though not in the wrist, and has had for years. Comes from the same idea -- repetitive motion.

Other than these easy things, life goes on as normal but since the mind is always aware of the need to avoid the games and to remember to meditate, it's also more aware than usual of the general Buddhist philosophies and the wish to live by them perhaps more strongly than normal. Now, I'm as skeptical about me actually doing this for 3 months as anybody else, so we'll see. But that's the goal.

Hard to catch the cat in the window long enough to take a picture, but I managed. She's grown -- not so much bigger, but sturdier and heavier. Not fat, just solid. She's a sweetie, tries so hard to be the perfect cat. A great companion that I'm glad to have with me.

This morning I awoke to some beautifully risen (over-risen, unfortunately) sourdough bread I'd started yesterday. I baked it anyway, and it rose but not as much as if I'd baked it sooner. I tried something different this time: added rosemary and greek olives and black pepper to the dough, guessing at quantities from a non-sourdough recipe I really like. Fortunately, the idea was a good one, but there is too much black pepper, certainly, and maybe too much rosemary. However, I made a half recipe and it's not inedible, so not much is lost.

The garden is doing well, though snails decapitated a couple of pickling cucumber seedlings, three bean seedlings, and some of the stem of an eggplant. I don't know if the eggplant will produce any fruit -- sure hasn't been growing, but looks healthy otherwise. One bean bush has maybe 3-4 beans on it, but the other seedlings are shot. Squash is doing great, Swiss chard and everything else are doing great.

Friday, June 23, 2017

I got plenty of nuttin'

Happy summer everyone. It's hitting full speed in Eugene this weekend, hovering near or over 100F. My apartment started the morning cool, thanks to a big fan pulling in 51F night air inside, but as soon as the sun started to touch the windows they were closed, blinds down, AC on. I don't like AC, and generally keep the place cool enough without it, but with 3 days, I didn't want to take the chance. Hard to sleep when it's hot.

I know you've all been waiting to hear this, but my cat finally has a name. It's one I considered and then discarded when I first got her, but a few days ago it just popped into my mind when I wasn't even thinking about naming the cat, so I guess it was meant to be. She earned it. The name is Madu, which means honey in Pali, and she's certainly sweet as honey. There's a cat at the Bhavana Society with that name, which is how I know the word.

Other than that -- and the garden growing and doing well -- I got nuttin', people.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Spring to Summer in the Garden

Out with the peas and lettuce.....

....and in with the summer veggies

Eggplant in the lower corner, pickling cukes in the red cage, pattypan squash in the yellow cage. And a few purple french beans mixed in with the carrots. I ate snow peas until I couldn't face any more and until there were none left, nor signs of more to come.  The romaine started to bolt, so I shared some with a friend, put the rest in my fridge.

While I was out there with the camera, I decided to take a look at what other folks are doing out there and how pretty it is right now.

Sun shining through my own swiss chard.

One smart person has a permanent bed of luscious Oregon strawberries!

This photo leaves out several boxes behind me, but all in all, it's a very pleasant place to be.