As I age, I find myself drawn to older people who can serve as role models in the aging process. I met a woman in Amritapuri whom I think of in that way. She lives a life of adventure even though she is well into her 70’s. The woman in this video is a very different kind of role model. I don’t see myself following in her footsteps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the video. I hope you do too.
My contribution to The Seeker’s Dungeon “From Darkness to Light” event went live today. You can read it at:
In 1989 or 1990, a friend wrote a poem for me. It was written soon after I met Amma, but prior to the time I asked Amma for a name. So at that time my name was Carol. That name seems so unfamiliar to me now.
Her poem came into my mind the other day; for the first time in decades. I was able to find the booklet it was published in.
THE COURAGE TO BELIEVE, FOR CAROL POOLE
The pot looked empty. It was a clay pot, orange and cracked from the rain. On Mondays people came to fill it and the water, somewhat yellowed, seeped out at the bottom.
At first I wondered why they didn’t patch it. But looking closely, I saw their need to bend slightly to the right. Some called it agility, but really they were trying to keep their hands on the hole.
Now you choose a jug, and songs arise from its clay. And in the rhythms of drums from inside, the moon-roundness of it takes on the form of a woman with the courage to believe.
The jug is round and smooth, and the water is always full.
Thank you Shelley. Your poem means as much to me today as it did the first time I read it. I hope our paths cross again some time in the future.
Last week, I wrote a post about an intriguing mystery that happened after a recent Greenbelt work party. While I experienced a myriad of emotions at that time, it was primarily a positive experience.
There were several other mysteries in process at that time. They were different than the one I had written about in that I was very irritated by each of them.
Soon after I came home from India in mid-January, I found that someone had cut down a large tree somewhere and then dumped it in a part of the Greenbelt that we had cleared. I believed it was done by a “professional” company because all the debris had been sorted by size and much of it had been banded before it was dumped.
(Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)
A week later, I noticed that someone had pruned a cedar tree and dumped the branches in front of the first stack. The new debris was neither sorted nor banded, so I assumed that this illegal dump was done by a different person than the previous one.
Shortly before our January 21 work party, I noticed that all of our buckets were missing from the site. Most of them were 5 gallon buckets. Many were bright orange or bright blue. How in the world had someone taken 30 buckets without being noticed? And why? We had used the buckets to hold wood chips, trash, glass and weeds.
Seattle Parks Department removed most of the dump and replaced most of the buckets. The buckets are now chained to the job box that holds our tools. I also placed three Another Future Healthy Forest signs in hopes that it would prevent people from dumping in the reforestation space.
The roads were finally clear and dry yesterday so I drove for the first time since the snow began last Sunday. When I passed the area where I put the three signs, I noticed that one of them was gone.
Grrrr. I guess these are all opportunities to practice equanimity and “putting in the effort and letting go of the results”, but I’m not there.
I have a list of posts waiting to be written. This will be a busy weekend for me but now seems like a good time to start!
I left Amritapuri on the afternoon of January 12, the day before my international flight. If I had stayed in the ashram, I would have probably gone to bed late, slept poorly, arisen at 3 am, finished last minute tasks and then started the two-hour taxi ride to the airport sometime between 4:30 and 5 am. By spending the night in Kovalam, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and leave for the airport at 6:40 am. That trip took about 20 minutes.
Once there, the Emirates agent asked if I would like to have an upgrade to Business Class for $150. I was ecstatic. My excitement was short-lived however. I soon realized that the $150 fee was too good to be true and that he was talking about the leg of the trip between Trivandrum and Dubai. I wasn’t going to spend $150 for a four hour flight, especially since I had spent the previous night in a hotel, and would be spending the night in another hotel once I was in Dubai.
When I arrived in Dubai, I was met by a hotel staff member and taken to the Dubai International Airport Hotel. I was there for 19 hours, which allowed me to rest throughout the day and get another solid night’s sleep before the long journey back to Seattle. I love staying in that hotel. From the time you get into the elevator and the time you leave it, you are immersed in silence.
I can’t sleep on airplanes, so nothing can make the 14-hour leg of the journey easy, but having two nights of restful sleep helps. I watched two good documentaries. I don’t remember the first one at this point, but the second one was called Drowning in Plastic. If I remember right, it was a BBC production. Since I’ve been focusing on the world-wide plastic problem being able to see the documentary seemed synchronistic.
Eventually, I was in Seattle. The immigration and customs process was speedy and I even got my baggage quicker than normal. I ordered a Lyft “taxi” and was soon on my way to Seattle. Before long, I was in my house!
Challenge after challenge
The last time I stayed two nights in hotels on my way home, my reentry was much easier than it has been in the past. Amritapuri is 13 ½ hours ahead of Seattle, so nothing can make the transition easy but the time in the hotels at least helped. If it helped this time, it wasn’t obvious. I’ve been back for 12 days and sleeping has been an ongoing problem. I slept almost 7 hours last night though, so maybe that problem is almost over.
The other thing that has been different this time is that I’ve experienced challenge after challenge. They started almost immediately. The ones I’m remembering now are:
- When I drove my car for the first time, there was a several inch crack in the windshield. It immediately grew to 9 inches.
- When I drove my car for the second time, the crack grew to 5 feet.
- The lights and fan in my bathroom went out soon after I got home. The circuit breaker hadn’t tripped. The electric company I chose had a diagnostic fee that was around $250. When the electrician came, he went to the downstairs bathroom and pushed the reset button. It reset the upstairs system as well. I knew the button would work if the problem was downstairs, but I had no idea that it would work in another room. I was frustrated that the company didn’t troubleshoot with potential customers over the phone.
- I discovered that the 30 buckets we have in our forest restoration site were stolen.
- Someone dumped all of the debris from cutting down a tree into an area of our restoration site that we had cleared. It had to have been a professional company because the debris was sorted and banded.
- Someone dumped disgusting garbage along the street on the edge of the Greenbelt. The garbage was further scattered by rodents or animals. I reported it and then eventually picked it up.
- My bathroom scale doesn’t work.
- The physical therapy appointment I had made before my trip was canceled, and I had to wait a week to get another one.
There were more challenges but that is all I remember at the moment. I would guess my list is complete enough for you to get a sense of what my reentry has been like. Lack of sleep has been the hardest part of it.
Everything hasn’t been a downer though. There has been a lot of good.
- Since the electrician was in my house, I decided to spend a little more money and have him install an outlet in my kitchen that has two USB ports in it. I have wanted to do that for a long time.
- I have been dealing with a carpet problem for about a year; carpet that was put in three years ago unraveled. That type of carpet was no longer available, so the company couldn’t patch it. That meant that they had to replace all of the carpet in the living room and dining room. The carpet was installed three days ago and it’s beautiful.
- I hired a friend to move the furniture out of the area where the carpet was going to be installed. That gave me a chance to sort through the books in the book case and give away any I didn’t really want. He also cleaned and organized the big storage area under the stairs. (I’ve worked on that area from time to time, but wanted to do a deeper level of cleaning.) Many items went to Goodwill or the trash and the storage room looks beautiful.
- There is a big maple tree in my back yard that has grown so big that it was covering part of my back deck. It also covered part of my neighbor’s house. I have worried that if a branch broke off, it would damage my neighbor’s roof. I had not done anything to that tree in the 45+ years I’ve lived here. That tree was pruned two days after my return. I received validation that it is a healthy tree and it now looks even more beautiful than ever.
- We had a wonderful work party on Monday, the Martin Luther King National Day of Service, and many of the volunteers who participated want to come back! It was the first time we had opened one of our work parties up to children and that was a good experience too.
- I’ve had numerous chances to work in the Greenbelt myself. Most of the plants are beginning to bud. I am so eager to see what the land looks like in Spring.
- Replacing the car’s windshield was easy.
- The Seattle Parks Department is going to take away the 10′ x 10’x 6′ pile of tree debris that was dumped into our restoration site. They will also replace the missing buckets.
- I’ve almost finished the part of the February PNW GreenFriends newsletter that I am responsible for.
- I went to Seattle Satsang last Saturday and will be going to satsang activities today and tomorrow. One of my goals for this year is to once again get more involved with this group. I’m off to a good start.
- I had a physical therapy appointment yesterday. While I still am having problems related to shoulder, neck and ribs, I was pleased to discover I had made progress during the time I was in India.
There have been more good experiences too, but that is enough for now. So, to summarize, it has been a difficult reentry, but all is well.
Photo Credits: Pixabay.com
Yesterday was a day of transitions, major transitions. At the hub of it all was the fact that I turned 70 yesterday. While it could have been a day when I reflected on the past, it was not that for me. Instead, my reflection was about the fact that, from my perspective, I’m in the last stage of my life.
I have long been aware that tomorrow is not promised, that today is where I should put my attention. That sense is even more heightened now. I have no way of knowing whether my last day on this earth will be two days, two years or two decades from now. It could be shorter, or it could be longer. It is important that I make every day count and not put off to tomorrow the things that are important to me.
That momentous birthday was not the only transition that occurred yesterday. My birthday each year, is the date by which I have to renew my R.N. (Registered Nurse) license. And every two years, I also have to renew my ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) license by that day. Both license renewals were due yesterday and I did not renew them; I had decided this was the year to let them both expire.
I have loved being a Clinical Specialist in Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, or, in short, a nurse psychotherapist. I have loved accompanying hundreds of clients on their healing journeys. I will miss the clients I have worked with in the past, and miss the ones I would have met had I chosen to continue to do that work. But I believe that that time in my life is over.
Yesterday was a quiet day. I talked to my grown children, Sreejit and Chaitanya and had breakfast and watched the Seahawks game with Al, my ex-husband. Later in the day, I answered the Happy Birthday messages from my friends who saw the birthday notice on Facebook or already knew that it was my birthday. I talked with one of my past co-therapists on the phone and worked for a while getting ready for the upcoming Greenbelt planting work parties.
I usually don’t do anything in the evening, because I am tired by then, but yesterday, during the late afternoon, I remembered that a friend was leading a kirtan at a place in Greenlake. (A kirtan is a group experience of devotional singing done in a call and response format. Many of the songs are in Sanskrit.) I have wanted to go to one of her kirtans for a long time but have never done it. In that moment, I knew that this was the day for me to go.
Before long, I drove to Greenlake and soon thereafter was sitting on the floor of the studio listening to and singing the glorious music. I have longed for that experience… and now I was having it. My “monkey” mind was more silent than it has been for a long time. I sensed that this was yet another transition point.
Another highlight of that experience was that the song that was sung before the closing chants was one that has been important to me since the mid-eighties. It was part of my own healing journey and I have shared it with clients at some therapy intensives and on this blog. My heart soared as I sang it once again.
Yesterday was a day of transitions. I look forward to experiencing what this stage of my life holds. I know it won’t always be easy but I believe it will all be important.
During the first quarter of 2016, I created a series of 12 Challenge for Growth prompts. At that time, the challenges were published one week at a time.
Yesterday, it occurred to me that many readers were not following my blog back then. I have decided to publish a post that includes a list of all 12 of the personal growth prompts.
Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges start with “Today, I focus on…….” While I believe you will get the most benefit from a challenge if you focus on it for an entire week…. or longer…. it will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— even one or two days during a week will have value.
If you decide to take on these challenges, consider sharing your experiences in the comment section of this post. I’d love to hear about them.
You can, of course, begin or stop the challenge process at any time.
Challenge for Growth Prompts
Week 1: “Today I focus on my needs rather than my wants.”
The nature of the mind is that as soon as one desire is met, it is off to the next one, often without taking any time to appreciate the desire that was just realized. An endless stream of wants leads to the experience of scarcity; we never feel full, we never think we have or are enough.
One way to create a sense of abundance in our lives is to decrease the number of our desires. We can do that by putting our primary focus on meeting our needs and then prioritizing our wants.
The first step for many people is to learn to differentiate their needs from their wants. Some examples: We need water – We want a soda; We need food – We want a big restaurant meal; We need shelter – We want a new house.
This week practice identifying which of your desires are needs and which are wants. When looking at your list of wants, decide which are the most important to you. This week give priority to meeting your needs. If you put energy into obtaining any of your wants, be sure they are ones you have identified as priority wants.
Week 2: “Today I look for the good qualities in others.”
When we are in a bad mood, we may find ourselves focusing on someone else’s faults. When we focus on the negative, we are likely to see negativity all around us. Remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
People often get triggered into negative thinking when they are with someone who reminds them of a person who hurt them in the past. In the psychotherapy model I use, we refer to that as “putting someone else’s face” on the present day person. That process is also referred to as projection.
Clients in therapy frequently project their parents’ faces on their therapists. I remember a time in the mid 90’s when a client was always angry with the male co-therapist in one of my therapy groups. He knew that the therapist reminded him of his father, but he was having a hard time “getting his dad’s face” off of the therapist.
This therapist had some unusual characteristics so I said to the client, “Did your dad ever wear an earring?” and “Did your dad sometimes wear red toenail polish?” The client started laughing. His father would NEVER have considered doing either of those things. Seeing the differences really helped him separate the therapist from his father.
This week focus on looking for the good in others. If you have trouble finding anything positive about a person, consider whose face you might have on them. If you decide it is a parent, or a boss, or someone else from your past, identify ways the current day person is different from the one in your past. Then “de-role” the present day person by saying to yourself, “You are not (insert the name or role of person from the past), you are (insert the name or role of the person in the present).” After you de-role the current day person, you may be better able to identify some of their good qualities.
Also consider making lists of the positive qualities of anyone you have negative thoughts about, whether they be from your past or present.
Week 3: “Today when there is nothing to be done I will do nothing.”
In our over-doing world, many of us have lost the ability to simply BE. Our days are filled with doing things and our minds are filled with thinking. We may be bombarded with electronic stimulation such as radio, television, emails, texts, video games, internet surfing, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, etc.
Too often when we are not over-doing, we are over-thinking. We rarely have new thoughts; usually we are just recycling the same thoughts over and over.
It may be that when we are quiet, we are uncomfortable with the feelings and thoughts that surface. We try to shove them down by potentially addictive behaviors like over-doing, substance abuse, obsessive thinking, and over-eating. We can learn to see those uncomfortable feelings and thoughts as indications that there are changes we need to make in our lives.
Most of life’s peak experiences happen when we least expect them. In addition, bliss is unlikely to come when we are thinking or over-doing.
This week take some time to focus on being rather than doing. If there is nothing that NEEDS to be done, don’t do anything. Take the time as an opportunity to simply BE. Watch the internal messages and impulses that come up when you do that. Note them, but don’t act on them. Allow yourself to continue being.
Consider making a commitment that during your being time you will not use the phone or computer and will not have any electronic music, television or radio going on in the background. If taking being time sounds impossible to you consider starting with five minutes- or ten minutes- or fifteen minutes a day. You can build up your being time slowly if you need to.
Week 4: “Today I take time to think before I say Yes or No.”
While some people have trouble saying Yes and others say No to every request, I believe it is much more common for people to struggle with saying No. This struggle often stems from childhood experiences. It may not have been okay, or even safe, to say No in our families of origin. Many of us were taught/programmed to please others by doing what others wanted them to do. As an adult, we may say Yes to things we don’t want to do; say Yes but then not follow through on our commitments; or say Yes reflexively without taking any time to think about the request.
I once heard a joke that addresses this issue. “What happens when a codependent dies?” Answer: Someone else’s life flashes before his eyes.” While it is a funny joke, it is also a sad situation and it may be true. You cannot live your own life and do everything everyone else wants you to do.
The first step in looking at this issue may be to observe struggles you have in saying either Yes or No. At the same time, start pausing to think before you reply to a request. You may need 15 seconds or you may need 48 hours or more to get clear. It is perfectly appropriate to respond, “I will think about it and get back to you.”
This week focus on thinking before you say Yes or No.
Week 5: “Today I repeat the affirmation ‘I am Love’.”
Occasionally I ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think if they overheard someone talking to a child the way they talk to themselves. They often respond that they would think the child was being abused. I believe when we direct endless criticism towards ourselves, it is as if we are abusing a child, but in this case it is the child within us.
One of the tools I have found helpful in stopping negative self-talk is to flood one’s mind with a single affirmation. I’m not talking about saying the affirmation 10 times in the morning while looking in the mirror. I ask clients to say their affirmations a minimum of 1,000 times a day for 21 days. Actually, I prefer that they say it 10,000 times a day or more, or better yet, anytime their minds aren’t being used for something else!
When we flood our minds with an affirmation over a period of time, it may start flowing automatically during the day, and sometimes during the night as well. Imagine what it would be like to have something positive going through your mind day and night, instead of all of the negative messages.
This week internally repeat the affirmation “I Am Love.” I suggest you say it at least 1,000 times a day. (It takes 15-20 minutes to say it 1,000 times.) It will help you to stay focused if you use a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as Counter +. If you find yourself engaged in negative thinking during the day, start saying the affirmation again. Be gentle with yourself no matter how many times you repeat it. There is no right or wrong way to do this challenge.
Week 6: “Today I listen attentively.”
Sometimes when we are listening to another person, we may find our minds wandering to problems at work or home, or to future plans. At other times, rather than paying close attention to the person’s words, we may start thinking about how we are going to respond to them. Or we may reflect on advice we want to give them when they stop talking. If the person is angry, instead of listening to them, we may start planning our defense. These communication patterns often leave people feeling unheard, discounted and/or disrespected.
This week practice giving people your full attention when they are talking to you.
Week 7: “Today I unplug.”
Don’t panic. I’m not talking about totally unplugging. But think of how much time during the day you spend engaged with emails, texting, instant messages, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In, Twitter, Snapshot, surfing the Internet, playing video games, watching television, online shopping, talking on the phone, etc. What would you think and feel if you no longer had access to a phone, computer, television or any other electronic device? Does the thought of not having those things bring you a sense of relief, panic or something else?
This week commit to unplugging for some period of time each day. Pick a time of day when you normally use those devices and then set an amount of time to unplug that would challenge you, but not set you up for failure.
Week 8: “Today I stop my repetitive thinking.”
So few of our thoughts are actually new; we recycle most of them again and again as we ruminate about past traumas, feel indignant over ways we were slighted, or obsess about possible future problems. Overthinking keeps us trapped in our heads, rather than living from our hearts. It also leads to depression and anxiety.
We may believe if we think about a problem long enough, we will figure out what to do about it. The reality is that inspiration is much more likely to come when our minds are silent than when we are in a never-ending cycle of analyzing.
This week commit to stopping your repetitive thoughts. One way to do that is to say “Stop…..Be here now” to yourself and then focus solely on the present moment whenever you find yourself in unhelpful thinking processes. Distracting activities such as working in the garden, exercising, reading, writing, walking, etc. may also be helpful. If there is a problem you actually need to think about, set a beginning and ending time for doing that, rather than letting it take over your day.
Week 9: “Today I say something to a child that I wish had been said to me when I was young.”
Did you hear the things that you needed to hear during your formative years? Were you given enough guidance, enough love, enough validation? Are there words that you wish you had heard from your parents or other adults during your childhood or teenage years?
This week give children or teenagers messages that you wish had been said to you when you were young.
Week 10: “Today I do not waste food.”
In 2012, the National Resources Defense Council of the U.S. concluded that Americans waste 40% of their food. Food is wasted at the farm level, between harvest and sale, during processing, during distribution, in grocery stores, in restaurants and in our homes. The study also reported that American’s throw out 25% of the food and beverages they buy. You can learn more about these statistics at: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. As I searched for more recent statistics for this post, I read that American households throw out 150,000 tons of food each day.
Many children in my generation grew up with parents who demanded that they eat their food because of the starving kids in China. As a result, many of us learned to tune out that message and disregard the fact that there is some truth to that way of thinking. I believe it is important for us to become responsible citizens of the world.
That does not mean we should force ourselves or our children to eat when we/they aren’t hungry. It is also not about shaming people into cleaning their plates. Instead, I think we should focus on how much food we buy, how much we cook, and how much we put on our plates. Children will be more likely to finish eating their food if they are given small portions. They can always ask for more if they are still hungry after they finish the original serving. That is true for adults as well.
While these are U.S. statistics and may be higher than those in other countries, I doubt we are the only country with the problem. This week focus on not wasting food.
Week 11: “Today I do something I’ve been resisting.”
A co-therapist I used to work with often told clients that it may take 75% of the time one is in therapy to do 25% of the work that needs to be done. The remaining work is likely to be completed much faster. I also remember hearing Amma, my spiritual teacher, say that we ask her to clean us up, but then we won’t hold still for the bath. The common factor in these two circumstances is resistance.
Resistance isn’t all bad. It would be unhealthy to walk into a new situation and turn ourselves over to the whim of other people. Blind faith can be dangerous. It also takes time to determine a correct course of action. However, when we know that there are changes we need to make, holding on to resistance often results in us holding on to, or creating, pain for ourselves. It may also stifle our growth.
This week do things you’ve been resisting doing.
Week 12: “Today I eat and drink food and beverages that honor my body.”
Most of us know which foods and beverages are healthy for us to eat and drink. However, when fast food restaurants, sodas, desserts and junk snacks call out to us, we succumb, much like an alcoholic giving in to the call of alcohol.
As alcoholics in recovery know, unhealthy habits are changed one day at a time. This week eat and drink only food and beverages that honor your body. Treat your body as if it is a temple, a temple worthy of great respect.
Preparing for and leading the July 25 work party was a perfect opportunity to practice flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and a host of other values that I haven’t yet identified. At times, the challenges seemed endless.
Perhaps the first challenge occurred two weeks before the event when I fell while working in the Greenbelt. I found myself dealing with bruised ribs… again. I’ve done my best to stay conscious of my feet while walking on the sloped, uneven land but clearly I wasn’t staying conscious enough. As the work party approached, I purchased a walking stick, something I’d considered doing for a long time, and bought a good pair of hiking shoes. I also threw away the very old tennis shoes that I had been wearing the day I fell. I had known they didn’t give my feet enough support but they were so comfortable and easy to slip on. It felt good to take care of myself by discarding them.
Based on past experience, I expected we would have around 15 students from the UW Introduction to Environmental Science class. I felt very grateful when two of our regular volunteers agreed to be team leaders. Then, I was told that someone I had met in the past had moved to Washington. I discovered that he has lots of experience doing this kind of work. When I told him about the event, he was very interested in helping. So, counting me, we had four staff. Hooray!
That changed when one team leader got sick and it became obvious he wasn’t going to be able to come and another let me know she couldn’t participate. Then the third had a conflict and would only be able to come for part of the time. That left me as the only leader that would be present the whole time.
The day before the work party, we only had two students registered. Another registered that evening. I was surprised that we were going to have such a small work party, but with such a limited number of staff I knew it was for the better. Besides it is fun to have a tiny group from time to time.
Another challenge that we would have to deal with was hot weather. I’m used to having work parties planned out in great detail. When I discovered it would be in the high 80’s or low 90’s that day, I realized I would have to be prepared to let go of my “plans” and instead to practice flexibility and letting go. We would have to work wherever there was shade as it would be too hot to work in the sun. (Most of the work I had planned would have been in direct sunlight.)
Since this work party would be from 1 to 4 pm, I waited until the morning of the event to buy food for snack time. When I got into my car, I used the handle to shut the door and it broke off. I went back in the house to ponder the situation. When I returned to the car, I discovered that in addition to the broken handle, the driver’s door was locked and wouldn’t open. Because of my injured ribs, I couldn’t move into the driver’s seat from the back seat or from the passenger seat. I couldn’t believe it. I decided snack time would have to consist of what I already had in the house, uninteresting as it might be.
Several hours before the beginning of the work party, I set out directional signs on 25th Avenue South, on the Hanford Stairs and on Cheasty Boulevard. As I walked down the stairs going towards Cheasty, I noticed there was a police car parked nearby. And to the north of it, there was yellow tape blocking the road.
Since that was the way the students who took the light rail would be arriving, I walked down the stairs to get a closer look. Once there, I learned that a big tree had fallen during the night and it had knocked down power lines. I told the policewoman that people would be coming to a work party in a few hours and would be walking along that road. She told me that the repair work would take most of the day but assured me that the students would be allowed to walk through. I was still concerned. What if the students saw the tape stretched across the road and didn’t know what to do. Would they turn around and go home? I walked back to my house and sent out notices by voicemail and email.
Shortly before the work party was to begin, I walked towards the stairs again. I could hear, and soon could see, that there were students sitting on the stairs. I thought they might be the UW students I was expecting. As I got closer to them, I could see that they were smoking. When they saw me, they ran away. I realized they were not here for the work party and that they were probably students from a nearby high school who were on their lunch break . They probably ran away because they were caught smoking, but I also laughed to myself when I thought how weird it must have seemed to have an older woman who was wearing a sun hat and an orange safety vest and holding a long walking stick come out of the forest.
Finally, it was almost time for the work party to begin. One of the students came early, so he helped me bring the rest of the supplies into the site. Then the other team leader and the rest of the students arrived… and then a surprise… a fourth person, who had seen the work party on an event calendar joined us. I had wondered if there would be participants who would decide not to come because of the heat. Not only did everyone who had signed up show up but we had an additional person!
We started working in areas that had already been planted, removing wood chips that were touching the stems of the plants as well as digging out invasive blackberries, ivy and bindweed that was sprouting. (We put wood chips throughout the planting areas to hold in moisture and reduce weed growth. The wood chips are not supposed to touch the plant however, so we attempt to keep the space around the plant cleaned out. We refer to that empty space as a “donut hole”. ) As we finished one area, we moved to another, following the shade as much as possible. Every planting area looked so much better after we finished taking out the invasive blackberries and bindweed, and cleaning out the donut holes.
I didn’t remember to take photos during the first part of the work party, but this is what some of the planting areas looked like after we worked on them.
And these photos were taken later.
After the break, we all moved to the Greenbelt site that is north of our main site. We started by moving a drying rack that had accidentally been constructed in the place where future wood chip piles would go. I was amazed to see that the blackberry canes and other invasive plant cuttings that had been placed on it were already dry. We used that dried debris in constructing the new rack.
[Note: We place the blackberry canes, blackberry root balls, ivy and bindweed on drying racks so that they don’t touch the ground and re-root. The increased airflow that results from having them off of the ground also speeds up the drying process.]
We will be removing a lot more blackberry vines and root balls from this area. It is good to have a new rack ready to receive them.
There was a truck parked in the area I had planned to clear next, but the sun was also there, so we moved further into the Greenbelt instead. It was still hot there, but there was a lot of shade, and a slight breeze.
We cleared an area of blackberries so that we could build another rack there. Once that rack was complete, the students continued digging out blackberries. We also started pulling out ivy. All of the cuttings were placed on the new rack.
Ten to fifteen years ago, many evergreen trees were planted in this part of the Greenbelt. I have been very eager to start freeing them from the invasive vines that had grown over them since then. We began working on one of those trees at this work party. There is much more to do before the tree is fully free, but we made considerable progress. (If you click the gallery to enlarge the photos…. and look closely…. you may be able to see that there is less ivy under and going up the tree!)
Even though the area was shady, we were all tired from working in the heat so stopped a bit sooner than we would have under normal conditions. After putting the tools and other supplies away, we gathered on the stairs to celebrate our achievements and to take a group photo.
Once again, we had accomplished so much in a short period of time. It was another big step in returning this land to the healthy forest it once was.
Not only did I enjoy leading another work party, but I had also survived a myriad of challenges and had had an abundance of opportunity to practice flexibility, letting go, non-attachment, staying in the moment, equanimity, persistence and more. While I know that these experiences will help me grow, I hope the frequency of the challenges will slow down for a while!
Any of you who have read my blog for a while will know that I love Nimo Patel’s music. This morning, I was notified that he had just released a new music video.
With so much that is negative and demoralizing going on in my country, it can be difficult to maintain a sense of hope. Watching and listening to Nimo’s new video was what I needed in this moment. I’m crying … and feeling gratitude… from the depth of my heart.
To learn more about Nimo Patel click here.
To watch Nimo’s other music videos click here.
To download the Empty Hands Music album for free click here.