Since many abalone are rapidly disappearing from their rocky coastal homes, I was lucky that lovely shells from all over the world were still available online. Originally, I wanted to take closeups of the iridescent interiors. I did not anticipate that the other side would also be worthy of careful study.
For a particular species, the shape seemed fairly consistent but the colors and patterns could vary all over the place. While the interiors could be mysterious and speak of the tides and the sea, the spiraling exteriors could seem like expressions of pure joy.
In a photo of my spring garden taken many years ago, the young Katsura maple glows yellow by the fence.
That maple would grow large to anchor the corner opposite the tea hut.
One learns with one’s hands and heart through the daily tending. A change might be required to retain balance and flow in a garden’s design. Some things should be left well enough alone.
Even as weather patterns shift, becoming more extreme and unpredictable, and nature makes changes, the basics should remain pretty much the same. As always, there should be joy in attending and responding not from outside, but from within – as part of the continuing dance of life.
There was color shining between the houses with clouds higher up, always a promising sign. I grabbed my camera, as there was no time to waste.
I had to wonder, do those living by Robins Farm Park ever get up before dawn to take in the wonders that can appear through their windows at this time of year? That would certainly seem a luxury with coffee in hand.
Still, I think I prefer being right there, out with the squirrels and robins as the dark recedes and the day begins.
I was glad of the unusual weather conditions on this gray day. Mist rising from Hills pond never seemed to last very long. It had begun to disperse by the time I made my way around the small body of water.
The enveloping hush seemed just right for this pause between holiday celebrations and the start of a new year, a year that will no doubt bring its own share of challenges.
I was working in my upstairs office when I heard a loud cracking sound. Large branches passed by my window on their way down followed by a thump. Top sections of two large trees had landed in my tea garden.
A tree company came out early the next morning with what they called a “spider.” This bright red machine seemed perfectly designed to do minimal damage to my neighbor’s yard as it raised a man up to cut sections that were secured with ropes and carefully lowered to the ground. The logs were then taken to a chipper, and the chips loaded into a truck to be hauled away.
After all of the noise, drama, and removal of a great deal of biomass, there was surprisingly little damage – just an easily-fixed bent corner gutter. The crushed ground cover would recover. So would the moss with a bit more water while it got used to having more light in the afternoon.
The fall colors were brighter in my garden after that. In fact, two plants put on a spectacular show as if to say, it’s about time someone noticed that we like more sun.
Periods of walking meditation alternated with silent seated practice during a silent 7-day women’s retreat. Christina Feldman suggested that we might find it easier to sustain concentration during walking meditation as that was closer to our experience in the West. But, for some reason, I did not expect that to apply to me.
At first I walked all over the place to familiarize myself with the layout of the corridors and buildings of the retreat center. When I came across some stairs leading down to the laundry facilities, I decided I might as well get some exercise. Then I remembered – walking meditation is not supposed to be goal-oriented.
I noticed women walking back and forth in a lovely light-filled “walking meditation room” with many windows and lovely polished wood floors. I joined them walking in my lane by a large potted plant.
Suddenly, it was as if somebody turned up a dial; the newly felt intimacy with moment to moment experience had a quality like floating through space and time. Perhaps this was what Goldstein meant in describing an awareness that was “inwardly steadied, composed and unified. This is … concentration that is calm and refined, achieving increasing levels of mental purification” (page 276, Mindfulness; A practical guide to awakening).
As I walked to the meditation hall for the next period of silent sitting, it occurred to me that it might be possible to simply let go. Later I shared my dawning awareness that, “All we need to do is let go into the present moment” with one of the retreat teachers. Pointing a finger at me, she said “That’s it! It is simple but not so easy, as we all know.” Goldstein notes, “liberation is not about becoming or getting, not about holding on or craving or clinging, but about letting go and letting be” (p. 306).
Although I often get lost in planning and dreaming during my nightly sitting meditation, it is clear that this way to weed my “garden” has benefits that show up in daily life – greater openness, softness, and acceptance as well as appreciation and gratitude. I find it easier to sustain attention during more active relational mindfulness practices such as Insight Dialogue. And there is something special about bringing all the “let go” awareness I can muster to my daily walks in a nearby woodsy park where I find wonder in how much we can relate to other life forms and for that matter, to whole ecosystems, which have their own valuable lessons to teach us.
A cloudy sky can make the colors pop. Rain can highlight the patterns in a single leaf, or add jeweled beads. Dreamy scenes enveloped by fog can provide a moment of respite in this troubled world. Mystery can catch us by surprise.
This year the rains have started again after a prolonged draught. I came across yellow and orange Chicken of the woods brackets where I found them last year. And there were a few other interesting fungi, mostly in shades of white, tan and brown. As the season is not yet over, I will add additional examples below.
I am told that besides tasting rather like lemony chicken with a great deal of protein, chicken of the woods also has many health benefits. Although hard to miss and relatively easy to identify, as with all mushrooms growing in the wild, it is best to seek expert guidance on which are safe to eat and to prepare them carefully.
With so little rain last summer, I did not expect an abundance of amazing mushrooms like I came across last fall in Menotomy Rocks Park. But, I came across this colorful cluster the day before it was taken by eager foragers.
The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained dried out.
It has been dry where I live. That means there may be a particularly colorful fall. But these days it seems impossible to predict what will happen. After all the rain last summer, colorful mushrooms sprang up everywhere.
In 2010, bright leaf colors sometimes created stained glass patterns where the light shown through overlapping leaves. We can be thankful such glory is still here to marvel at even as things become more unpredictable.