There was color shining between the houses with clouds higher up, always a promising sign. So I grabbed my camera, knowing there was no time to waste.
I had to wonder do those living by Robins Farm Park ever take the time to stop and really take in the wonders visible through their windows? Still, there is something to be said about being out in it – right there with the squirrels and birds in the dark as the day starts.
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 may share additional examples below.
With so little rain this past summer, I did not expect to find the amazing mushrooms that had sprung up in Menotomy Rocks Park last fall. But my timing was good to capture a number of images of these colorful chicken of the woods fruiting bodies before they were taken by eager foragers.
The series below follows the central protrusion as it evolved before someone cut parts of it and what remained deteriorated.
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.
The Japanese tea garden or roji may appear to be a natural woodland path, but it is actually a designed transition to the tranquil world of Japanese tea ceremony. Tea gardens induce a spirit of openness by bringing the tea ceremony values of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility to nature’s asymmetrical design.
To tend even a very small tea garden is to place oneself into nature’s rhythms. That provides a certain solace even in this summer of unusual heat. I water the moss, and watch it puff up and turn a deeper green. That feels as if I were the one becoming fuller and deeper.
I remember how, after I cleaned and filled the water basin and sprinkled water on the stepping stones as a sign of welcome, the cicadas began their evening song, as if they too, wanted to welcome my guests.
Arlington Heights, Massachusetts, USA where I live, like Boulder Colorado, and a number of other places, has rocks in all sizes. In fact, a major reason I bought the house where I live is because the turtle-shaped top of a large glacier-scraped granite outcrop was visible through the kitchen window.
Once I found the courage to climb to the top of an outcrop in Menotomy Rocks Park, looking down I could see Hills pond through the trees. The contours of this secluded high up spot, with blueberry bushes and natural rock arrangements scattered here and there made it feel quite magical.
Any number of these rock arrangements could be the highlight of a Japanese garden, or for that matter, arranged in a bowl of sand for indoor viewing.