Mother Nature Blesses Us….. Twice

My neighbor John and I had plans to pull ivy, blackberries and other weeds in the Greenbelt for a couple hours today. Problem was, the weather forecast was for rain, and neither of us were interested in working in the rain.

We planned to start weeding at 11:30. When it began to rain at 11:00, I felt doubtful that we would be able to work. At 11:30, the rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun came out and we got busy. Before long it was so warm that I took off my coat. The weather change was remarkable.

After two hours, we decided we had done enough for that session. As soon as John left, I noticed that it was getting dark. It seemed like dusk, even though it was only 2:45 in the afternoon. By the time I finished picking up my tools and putting the weeds I had pulled on the racks to dry, it started to rain.

I felt as if Mother Nature had blessed us twice- when we were given sun and warmth while we worked and when the rain started as soon as we finished, showering the plants we love with much needed water.

Thank you Mother for taking care of all of your children, whether they be insects, animals, plants or people.

Practice in Letting Go

This past summer, during Amma’s Chicago programs, ideas for how to design one of the planting areas in our Seattle forest restoration site started coming into my mind. The next day, I walked to the children’s program room, borrowed colored pencils and graph paper, and drew that design.

When I returned to Seattle, I transferred the design onto the ground as best as I could. It took hours and hours to accomplish that task as I was trying to lay it out perfectly. When I finally finished, I started laughing at myself. It had taken me that long to create placement for 12 plants. We had ordered more than 300 shrubs and ground covers. Clearly, that was not how I was going to maketo make planting plans for the whole site.

I enjoyed having “my area” though and dreamed of what it would look like in the future. This fall, I started noticing  how often branches from nearby trees fell into “my area”.  I also noticed that I was only seeing them in “my area”.

A few weeks ago we had a wind storm. In the photo below you can see some of the branches I took out of “my area” after the storm.

On November 15, we had the big planting work party. It was wonderful to finally have the native plants in “my area”. I day-dreamed about what the area would look like in the Spring.

Then I had a horrifying thought: “Those falling branches could kill ‘my plants’!” I’ve been resisting the apparent fact that in forestry 50% of what we plant may not survive. In fact, I haven’t dealt with it at all because I believe “our” plants will be different. And I hadn’t even considered the possibility that any of the plants in “my area” would die.”

At that point, I took a good look at the terrain surrounding “my area”.

The trees are really tall, they are old, and “my area” is closest to them.

As I reflected on this situation, I had many thoughts.

  • These plants, and all of the plants in the restoration site, are not “mine,” they belong to Mother Nature. I can be an instrument and do my best to take care of them, but what lives and what dies is not in my hands.
  • I knew that we would likely lose some plants in the summer since we now have long stretches with no rain, but it hadn’t occurred to me before that some plants are likely to die during the winter.
  • I remembered the Tibetan monks who spend many hours making a sand mandala and then ritualistically take it apart as a way of acknowledging that life is transient, in a constant state of flux.
  • While I will not purposely dismantle the area I have been thinking of it as “my area”, I am clearly getting an opportunity to let go and surrender. My job is to put in the effort and let go of the results.
  • It is time for me to stop thinking about that area as “my area”. I am an instrument, I am not an owner. That area is no more important than any other area.

As I was writing this post, I thought about the title that the Green Seattle Partnership gave those of us whom they trained to lead forest restoration work parties. We are called Forest Stewards. I decided to look up steward to see exactly what the word means. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines steward as “a person hired to perform household or personal services.” It gives these words as synonyms: “domestic, flunky, lackey, menial, retainer, slavey, servant”.  That’s it. I am not an owner, I am a servant of the forest.

I am a Forest Steward.

Greenbelt Restoration Work Party: Tree Planting Day!

For many years, Amma has been encouraging us to plant trees as a way of healing the Earth. This year, devotees in the Pacific Northwest decided to honor Amma’s 64th birthday by planting trees. We asked everyone to let us know how many trees they would plant and to complete the planting by November 5th. We were hoping at least 64 trees would be pledged. At the time I am writing this post, the pledge count is up to 211!

Seattle Parks Department gave us 37 trees to plant in our Greenbelt site. That work party was held last Sunday, October 22nd. Thirty-two GreenFriends members participated. Many of them had never seen the site before and others hadn’t been there for a long time. I enjoyed seeing and hearing their reactions to the work we’ve done over the last year.

The work party began with an orientation to the site…

and then Pujarini Meera conducted a series of rituals asking Mother Earth for permission to plant the trees and to nurture and protect them after they are planted. I thought it was a beautiful ceremony. (Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

After the rituals were over, Ananya and I gave planting instructions…

and then came the fun of planting the trees.

Amma’s birthday project will be over on November 5, but our work in the restoring this Greenbelt site will, of course, continue. We will finish preparing nine planting areas at a work party on November 11 and then will plant 360 shrubs in those areas on November 15!

The Magnificence and Wonder of Nature

When I attended Amma’s programs at MA Center Chicago last summer, I walked to their big echinacea field. I found the flowers fascinating. I loved how unusual they looked at each stage of development and was particularly intrigued by the spikes in the center of the flower.

Soon after returning to Seattle, I decided to purchase some echinacea plants for my own garden… and a microscope. When I looked at the flower under the microscope, I gasped; my eyes beheld the magnificence and wonder of nature. (Click on the galleries to enlarge the photos.)

Daily Post: Spike

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest

Throughout Seattle, there are groups of people working to remove blackberry vines, morning glories and ivy from parks and Greenbelts. The empty lot that is behind my house is in of one of the Greenbelts. During the last three decades, the invasive plants have completely taken over the once beautiful land. So many trees have died.

There have been times in the past where I cleared parts of the lot, but since I can’t take out all of the roots, they, of course, always come back. Lately removing the blackberry vines and other invasives from the lot has become a passion for me. A friend and I have worked many hours cutting them down.

This is my favorite tree on that property. (It is actually two different trees, and each one of them split into two trunks so there are actually four trunks, but I still see them all as one tree.)

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One of my first priorities was to remove the blackberry vines and ivy from that tree. I have done that enough times over the years that was a fairly easy goal for me to accomplish. For the first time, however, I noticed that there was a branch on the north side of the tree that was so long that it disappeared into the blackberries. I resolved to free the branch.

But how would I even get to it? There was no easy course.

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I planned my route to the buried branch and committed to free it the next day.

Early Sunday morning, I set out to accomplish my goal. First, I went to the storage shed to pick up the tools I needed.

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As I started to open the shed door, I walked face first into a big spider web. Yuck. I backed up to see where the spider was. What I saw was a yard spider that was bigger than any I’ve ever seen before.

I had been looking for a subject for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Quest. The moment I came face to face with that spider was the moment that I knew I had my subject for the photo story. Freeing this tree branch was indeed going to be a Quest.

I picked up my tools and then headed towards the stairs that go to the lower lot.

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Shortly thereafter, I again walked into an unseen spider.

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Okay, it is time for me to get conscious.

  • Pay attention to what I’m doing.
  • Carry the hedge shears downward.
  • Watch where I’m walking so I don’t slide on the uneven ground as I walk down the hill.
  • Don’t step in a hole.
  • Make sure I have my phone safely stored in case I need help.

I inched my way down the hill, drawing ever closer to the tree. As I descended, I appreciated how much clearing we have already done.

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Cutting a path through the blackberry vines, I drew closer and closer to my destination. It wasn’t just a matter of cutting down the upper layer of blackberries. If I opened a hole in the mass, I could see that many of the old ones were in layers three feet deep. I had to be careful not to accidentally put my foot into a drop off.

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Finally, I got close enough to the branch that I could begin cutting the vines that were holding it down.

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I worked diligently, oblivious of the time.

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I was excited to see that there were many signs of life on the smaller branches that were offshoots of the larger one.

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When I thought I had freed it, I discovered that there was still one part was still trapped. I couldn’t even see where it ended. It occurred to me that none of the other branches on the tree were anywhere near that long, so I decided to cut it just under the areas of growth.

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When I made the cut, the branch rose ten to twelve feet into the air.

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Free, free at last!

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Mission accomplished. As I started to leave the area, I saw so many other trees that need to be liberated from the blackberries. I recommitted to come back and do more of that work, but this quest was enough for one day.

Time to go home.

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Before I knew it, I was nearing my back deck.

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My quest was complete and it was time for me to have a well deserved rest.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

Most of my photos are of some aspect of nature.  These two remain my favorites:

When I saw this week’s challenge, I also thought of a Sanskrit prayer that many children in India chant before they get up in the morning, prior to their feet touching the ground. Here is the English translation:

 

O! Mother Earth

who has the ocean as clothes

and mountains and forests on her body

who is the wife of Lord Vishnu.

I bow to you.

Please forgive me for touching you with my feet.

 

May we all develop such devotion and humility.

 

Written for Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

My Early Morning Walk (February)

When I walked out my front door this morning, the first thing I saw was the garbage and left over food someone had thrown onto the street in front of my house.  I picked up most of it before starting my morning walk.  A few blocks from my house I saw more trash; this time it was four beer cans, a paper bag and other forms of litter.  I decided to pick up at least some of it on my way back home.

I took a route that I had never taken before.  I was startled when I walked by a house that had bamboo stalks bigger than any I had ever seen.  In fact, they were much taller than the three story house.  A fence hampered my ability to take good photographs, but these will at least give you an idea of what they looked like.

I continued walking for awhile and then headed back home.  The garbage was still waiting for me.

As I got ready to pick it up, some very tiny flowers caught my eye.  I decided to photograph those.

After gathering the trash, I continued on my way home.  As I walked, I reflected on the litter, the bamboo and the flowers.  I’ve continued to think about them throughout the day.

Several years ago, picking up litter was a major focus in my daily life but that has not been true for awhile.  It is time for me to find my litter grabber and to once again support Mother Nature in that way.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature (Acrostic)

Nature

From birth to death and beyond
Offering beauty and protection
Rendering love unconditional
Creator, sustainer, destroyer
Energy that has no bounds
Sharing all that she has to offer

Only “the times they are a-changin”
Feeling our neglect, our abuse

Nature’s crying, can’t save us from ourselves
Another earthquake, people dying
Temperatures rising, ice caps melting
Upon us come floods, superbugs, disease
Realization is dawning, but is it too late
Eager earnest effort is essential

(Note:  The quote is the title of a Bob Dylin song)

Written for Weekly Photo Challenge: Forces of Nature

Twenty Pounds of Cigarette Butts

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This past Saturday, thirteen members of the Seattle area part of the PNW Litter Project made it possible to keep 20 pounds of cigarette butts out of landfills, waterways and stomachs of birds and other forms of wildlife.

Cigarette butts are way more toxic than you might think. They are NOT made of cotton, they are made of cellulose acetate tow and they can take decades to degrade. Investigators in a San Diego State University study once discovered that if you put fathead minnows and top smelt in a liter of water that also contains a single cigarette butt, half of the fish will die.

We have been picking up cigarette butts for the last three years. This particular work party was held in the International District of Seattle and was in honor of Kick Butts Day, an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use. The event is organized by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and sponsored by the United Health Foundation.

The weather forecast for Saturday was dismal, one inch of rain was predicted. Nature graced us however. While it was cold and windy and everything was wet due to the rain that had fallen the previous night, there was no rainfall during the 1 ½ to 2 hours we worked.

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I like to believe that Mother Nature was pleased with us because after we finished, the wind died down and it was sunny for a good part of the day!

Tomorrow I will be packing up the 20 pounds of cigarette butts and mailing them to TerraCycle where they will be turned into plastic pallets!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward

This morning, I walked while chanting the Sri Lalita Sahasranama.  This is a sacred text that I ideally would be chanting daily.  As I walked, I was pulled by the desire to be focusing on the beauty around me rather than reciting the chant.  I have felt that pull many times before, but it was particularly strong today.

Then the question “Isn’t focusing on the beauty of Mother Nature a spiritual practice too?” came into my mind.  Of course it is; about that I had no doubt.  I realized what wanted to be doing was to immerse myself in nature, taking photographs to share on my blog and in the GreenFriends newsletter I organize monthly.

For the rest of my walk, I continued my chant, but if I felt called to stop and look at something and/or take a picture, I did.  Sometimes I felt literally “called” in that it seemed like a song bird or crow was calling out to me.

I felt “rewarded” for being flexible in my definition of spiritual practice by capturing several beautiful photographs.

I suspect that tomorrow morning I will be going on a nature walk!

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Written for Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward