This is my unruly garden. To be fair, it’s mostly unruly because I forget it. I get caught up writing/ cooking/ drinking tea/ just vegging (and not the garden kind), and the day is gone. And I actually quite like gardening.
Well, maybe that’s not totally true. Sometimes — like w/ exercise? — I like ‘having gardened.’ War on grapevine definitely fits in this category. I HATE grapevine, at least in my garden.
This obviously isn’t grapevine. But since I spent much of yesterday & today wrestling w/ the blasted parasite, there’s only torn up places to photograph. While this view — of clematis behaving nicely — is far more enjoyable.
Still, as I try to look at my entire life as a practice field, I’m learning to value things I can’t stand. Like pulling grapevine out of the walled garden. An aside: the garden is actually walled like an English garden — sigh — but it is up high, w/ fence on three sides, and wall on the other.
Grapevine will NOT die. I’m sure there’s some kind of important lesson to be learned from that, but all I get out of it is that I have to keep pulling it out. Digging hasn’t killed it, nor has chopping it, pulling it down, nor ignoring it (that REALLY didn’t work).
So I’m trying to see what lessons I can learn from these daily chores. Not (as I said), from the grapevine’s rampant growth, but from having to put my WHOLE WEIGHT into pulling on it. And no, I’m NOT kidding. I have grapevine (despite years of war between us) that’s 4 inches across!
This, I tell myself as I’m leaning into a hard pull, is blue zone activity. This is making me stronger. I’ll sleep better tonight. I still hate grapevine. But I’m beginning to learn its lessons, and every so often? I can see it as practice. These days, it ranks up there w/ my recumbent bicycle.
Tonight was supposed to be leftover roast chicken w/ salad. But I found cherry tomatoes at the market, and it seemed like a good day (grey, damp, gloomy) to pretend it was summer. Especially since it’s supposed to get down to 44˚ tonight!
So instead of salad & chicken, we’re having roast cherry tomatoes with garlic, fresh parmesan, & basil on linguini. Salad with croutons (leftover morning toast makes GREAT croutons!) for a side. Probably chocolate gelato for dessert. I probably should call it all attachment, but I don’t think it’s the dangerous kind…:)
Cooking is one of the most Buddhist of activities I know of, next only to writing, for me. And maybe tea. Because it’s about that fine line between focus (the recipe) and creativity, or flow, or whatever we call that impulse to do it better. Plus, it has to be done with love — we’re firm believers in hippie macrobiotics in my family: love in/ love out. And all the details matter: whether the food is sustainably grown, if it’s organic (important for us, but we have that luxury). Not toooo much meat (for me: the rest of my family would like roast daily!). So cooking turns into contemplative practice, the way I do it.
I’m happy with that. It reminds me that what we have to do is make everyday living our practice. Tonight? I’m contemplating a great dinner, and then a good book. The kind of practice anyone can get in to!
Writing is my practice. It took me a long time to recognise this, and even longer to accept it. It didn’t fit my (preconceived!) notions of what ‘practice’ looks like.
But over the years, I’ve come to realise that writing — which I do daily, and multiple times daily, at that — is not easy for others. In fact, it paralyses a lot of people. (and why is that??)
So: I write for those who can’t, don’t, won’t. I write to be a voice for others, as my beloved mentor poet Carolyn Forché said, a ‘witness.’ I write everything from letters of recommendation — an art form someone should acknowledge! — to blog posts. I write poetry, non-fiction, lesson plans, book reviews, eulogies, emails of consolation, thank-you notes and lists and political rants & manifestos. I write alot.
I write about women, mostly. But also men — after all, I’m happily married to one for decades, and the mother & aunt of several others. Not to mention dear friends, my father, my uncles. I write about all of us, our tattered beginner’s hearts.
I guess I write the way I try to breathe, when things hurt: in tonglen. Focus on what hurts, and breathe for those who share that pain. Make it easier, by sharing, taking to ourselves what is wrong, and trying to send out love.
It sounds sooo hokey! But that is why, I’ve come to realise, I write. Particularly this blog. I write for all of us who often can’t (including, paradoxically, my own self). When I have no words for what I’m feeling, I can write about someone else, or the birds outside the window, or today’s horrific battle w/ grapevine (I think it’s winning… ). And through that, I come to peace.
How cool is that? And isn’t that what practice is all about, anyway?
The azaleas, as noted, came from my mother’s home, before she moved in with my sister. They weren’t the colour I would have chosen — although I love the Hershey red, now — but they were Mother’s, and each spring they remind me of her. Of the gardening I learned from the women in my family. And also that when I transplanted these azaleas, I ended up with heat exhaustion. Seriously. Hot June weather, BIG azaleas (probably 8-10 years old, even then). Dumb gardener.
My life is sooo like that: tackle a project with great enthusiasm, and watch it (NOT me) triumph. I can’t remember how many times over the years I’ve jumped into something only to whack myself HARD uppaside of reality…
It doesn’t seem to have taught me much about jumping, although most times I do learn about whatever whacked me. As in: it’s probably a good idea to drink a LOT of water when you’re outside working hard, and it’s a 100˚ humid Okie day. Or, no; I’m not able to lay paving w/ only the help of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old. And don’t forget: there’s a LOT of sanding to get a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car ready for paint. And there’s the graphite that someone probably should have mentioned. I don’t think either boy ever won anything until their father returned from overseas! (Not to mention that most folks did NOT glue the weights to the top of the car.)
Still, I’d rather be a jumper than the kind of person who never tries. I think. I’m still prone to that leap of faith — and I guess, all things considered, it’s a faith in both the universe and myself. It’s probably not going away any time soon: it’s been my MO since I was a kid. Even though I was only 9 at the time, I remember taking a lamp apart, put it back together, and then plugging it in. It didn’t blow up. Later, I rented and drove a motorcycle. I did get terrible motorcycle burns, AND gravel rash from dumping it, but I survived. And still later? I gave it a tune-up from the manual. And then there’s the time I stuck my hand in a killer whale’s mouth…
That kind of (blind?) faith is still mine — although age has tamed it ever so slightly. Now it’s more agreeing to be on a board when I know nothing about boards, or how they operate. But I don’t think I want my faith domesticated, that wild urge to just do it! I’ve learned to accept the rolled eyes when I pass out from heat prostration, the quiet silence when I turn up with weights glued to the top of the car (they’re supposed to be underneath, just FYI). And even though I still hate having my learning curve public knowledge (as an old friend & mentor once teased me), I’m learned that learning is about failure, as much as success. As one of the board members told me just yesterday: it’s not screwing up, Britt; it’s learning.
If you don’t know how something works, ask. You learn that way, even if it’s unnerving to feel like the ignorant one in the room. Chances are, someone else doesn’t know it well, either. And my friendly board member also noted that sometimes new and ‘ignorant’ is good: you may have new perspectives, new ideas, that actually rejuvenate and make things better.
So I guess my faith isn’t blind so much as large. And that’s good, isn’t it? To have limitless faith? Even if sometimes it means you do it kind of…wrong? After all, the azaleas bloomed anyway. As they do every year. And that’s enough for today.