Beauty in the Greenbelt: Wildlife

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

I have been excited to see the wildlife in our restoration site increase. During a break in one of the April work parties, a student and I sat quietly on a recently-built platform. In addition to gazing at the trees, shrubs and ground covers in the planting area in front of us, I heard and saw many birds. I felt so much peace as I took in the sights and sounds.

We spent part of that work party building wood chip rings around plants. (Those rings will help keep the ground moist during the dry summer months.) In the process of building the rings, we used up the wood chips in two wood chip piles that were located on the site. At one point, when I sat on the ground near one of those areas, I noticed insects (gnats?) coming out of the remains of the woodchips. As I watched, four robins flew to the area and started feasting on them. They didn’t seem to care that I was sitting so close to them.

When I walked into the Greenbelt in mid-May, the first thing I saw was a hummingbird. Many of the shrubs we’ve planted are supposed to draw hummingbirds, but this was the first one I’d seen. In addition to the robins and the hummingbird, I’ve seen lots of sparrows, chickadees, crows, flickers, and a few blue jays.

Later that day, as I was getting ready to leave the Greenbelt, I saw a small rabbit and baby bunny in front of me. To the right of them were two robins looking for food and to the left two squirrels were scurrying around. Again, I felt a sense of peace and was very grateful to be able to witness this scene.

Single yellow swallowtail butterflies, like the one in the photo at the beginning of this post, have flown through the site for two years, but one day last month I had a quick glimpse of an orange one. I’ve also seen bumblebees, honey bees, mason bees and wasps.   

Last week there was a dead mole on one of the paths. I felt sad to see it. I don’t know how it died but was thankful that the person who was with me buried it. I know there are raccoons on the property, because I’ve seen their droppings, so maybe that is what caught and killed it.

I’ve seen rabbits several times recently. They have usually been munching on a particular type of weed. I decided to leave a patch of them for a while hoping they would stick to that diet rather than munch on the shrubs and ground covers we’ve planted. I haven’t seen any rabbits for the last week though, so maybe the weeds have gotten too tough for their taste.

A few days after I took the photo above, I saw ladybugs on the weeds. Then I noticed there were aphids. Someone recently had seen an aphid on a plant and told me that ladybugs would show up soon, because lady bugs eat aphids. I also noticed that there were three types of ladybugs on the plants. I wondered if these were actually the same type of ladybug but were at three different stages of development; i.e., baby, youngster, mature.

I’ve tried to take photos of the rabbits, birds and squirrels, but they almost always take off before I can get a shot. Probably if I sat down and quietly waited, I would be able to take more photos, but when I sit down, I usually see weeds that need to be removed so continue with that never-ending task.

Yesterday I saw the bug in the photo below, a large dark black beetle and a dark black centipede. Several days before, I had seen an unfamiliar winged insect.

I love watching the many forms of wildlife. I hope my descriptions give you a taste of the excitement and the peace I feel as I witness them moving into our Greenbelt site.

Amma is Coming!

Amma will be starting her 2017 Summer Tour in the Seattle area on Saturday, May 27. She will be holding programs at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.

Amma is known as a humanitarian and a spiritual leader, teaching and modeling a message of love and service to the poor. She offers a motherly hug to those who come to meet her.

May 27, All Day Program:11 am
May 28 Morning: 10:00am Evening: 7:30pm,
May 29, Morning: 10:00am, Evening 7:00pm (Includes a ceremony for world peace)

(Lines for tokens for Amma’s embrace will start forming 90 minutes before each program. The number of tokens may be limited due to time constraints so it is best to come early if you want a hug.)

All programs are free. For more detailed information about each event click here.

After Amma leaves the Seattle area she will go to San Ramon, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Washington DC and Toronto. To watch a movie about Amma’s darshan (hugs) and her innumerable humanitarian and charitable activities go to: embracingtheworld.org/news-etw-movie/

 

Song Lyric Sunday: Imagine

Helen’s prompt for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is “Healing.” The song that came to my mind when I read the prompt was John Lennon’s Imagine. Its tune and lyrics have touched me from the first time I heard it.  I believe that only healing would lead us to the world that he so powerfully describes. May his dream become a reality some day.

Imagine was written and sung by John Lennon in 1971.

Lyrics

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah… 

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You… 

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
I
magine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

 

Song Lyric Sunday: Give Me Love

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Helen’s direction for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is to share a song about love.  Yesterday, I watched Across the Universe with my friend Kathie from Chosen Perspectives. All of the songs in that musical were Beatles songs. The song I have chosen, Give Me Love, was not part of that movie, but watching the movie sure put the Beatles on my mind!

Give Me Love was written by George Harrison sometime in 1971-1972. During that period of his life, he was helping refugees of the Bangladesh Liberation War. George said this about the song:

This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it

I believe this prayer is in the hearts of many of us today. I have felt comforted as I listened to it and hope you do too.

Lyrics

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul

Om m m m m m m m m m m m m m
M m m my lord. ..

Please take hold of my hand, that
I might understand you

Won’t you please
Oh won’t you

Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth
Give me light
Give me life
Keep me free from birth
Give me hope
Help me cope, with this heavy load
Trying to, touch and reach you with,
Heart and soul

Om m m m m m m m m m m m m m
M m m my lord. ..

Song Lyric Sunday: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

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Helen’s direction for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday:

Our theme for Song Lyric Sunday is to celebrate the sun.  You can interpret it any way you’d like through music, meaning you can even post a song that only has the word “sun” in it, or really any other way you can fathom.

Helen mentioned that she felt gloomy this week. I can relate to that. For Song Lyric Sunday, I decided to take the one word option and pick a familiar song that would help me in this moment. I’m going to visualize Sitting on the Dock of the Bay and watching my fear, anger and sadness, and the fear, anger and sadness of so many others, roll away with the tide.

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay was written by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper. It was recorded in 1968, three days before Otis Redding died in a plane crash.

Lyrics

Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia
Headed for the ‘Frisco bay
‘Cause I’ve had nothing to live for
And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change
Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes

Sittin’ here resting my bones
And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

(whistle)

Is My Path Taking a Turn?

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My favorite joke, and the only one I ever remember, is: Q: Do you know how to make God laugh? A: Tell him your plans for your life.

I think that is so true. There have been many turns in my life that I would have never predicted. If someone had told me those changes were coming, I would have said they were crazy. The most notable example is my relationship with Amma

At the time I met her, I had described myself as being somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist for 20 years. In those days, even hearing the word God made me feel sick to my stomach. I was a very logical, head based person and had no interest in spirituality or spiritually minded people.

In 1989, a new friend told me there was a woman saint coming to Seattle soon and invited me to attend her programs. My mind said NO but what came out of my mouth was OK.

My whole life changed the night I met Amma. Six weeks later, I was at her New Hampshire retreat and six months later I was in India. I have gone to India 26 times since that first visit. I have had other life plans change in unexpected ways since then, but none were as remarkable as that one.

On May 31 of 2017, I “plan” to retire. That is the time of year that Amma begins her annual North American tour so I have “planned” to attend some of those programs and then go to Amritapuri from mid-August until mid-January. I don’t remember when I developed this “plan”, but I think it has been firmly ingrained in my mind since I was in India this time last year.

One day in August of this year, though, I woke up thinking that I wasn’t going to watch another tree in the lot behind my house die. Al,  my former husband, and I had bought that property in 1973. I sold it in the mid-80’s and it changed hands again about ten years later. When Seattle formed the Cheasty Greenbelt, that owner sold it to the city.

The property was originally beautiful but none of the subsequent owners did anything with it, so blackberries, ivy, morning glories and bamboo took over. Smothered by the invasive plants, many trees died.

After I had that early morning thought, I grabbed my shears and started to work. I enlisted my friend, Ramana, to help clear some of the land. While Ramana worked on the major clearing, I focused on freeing specific trees.

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I found so many beautiful and fascinating things on the land and know that there are many more buried under the remaining blackberries.

One day, it occurred to me that we could make this project a GreenFriends project. (GreenFriends is the environmental arm of Embracing the World, Amma’s network of humanitarian projects.) I called the people in our satsang who have coordinated our tree planting and habitat restoration work in the past. They were very interested in being involved. In October and November, they spent some time working on the lot with me.

We also talked with the Green Seattle Partnership about becoming one of their volunteer groups. In March, we will take the Green Seattle Partnership Forest Steward orientation. Once we do that, we will be able to host larger work parties.

Our project will be supervised by the Seattle Parks Department and the city will provide the saplings and other greenery that we will eventually plant there. The Park Department will do any work that requires power tools. If there is enough interest in the project, we may decide to clear all four lots that are in that strip of Greenbelt!

I feel a great deal of passion about this work and it has been on my mind since I’ve been in Amritapuri. Even before I left Seattle, it occurred to me that August and September would be prime time for working on that land and if I was in Amritapuri, I wouldn’t be available to organize the work.

I have an ever growing sense that I won’t be going to Amritapuri in August and that my path is taking a turn that gives working with nature more priority than spending extra time in India.

Starting last week, I found another thought creeping into my mind. I have kept close track of world events via CNN throughout this trip. I’m beginning to wonder if I will even make it to India next year. It seems like there is so much potential for war.

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My years with Amma have taught me a lot about staying in the moment and not holding on to  plans. They have also taught me that Amma will hold me close to her no matter what comes my way. I trust that my life will unfold as it is supposed to and acknowledge that I have no idea what that will look like. What I do expect is that I will be participating in at least part of the Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu chant for world peace that will be held in the Amritapuri temple from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on January 1.

Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world be happy.
Peace, Peace, Peace

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

Finding Peace in the Middle of Chaos

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It is not uncommon for my mind to be chaotic even when I am in a peaceful setting. I long to get to the point where my mind is at peace regardless of how much chaos is around me. I have a long way to go to meet that goal.

I am getting plenty of opportunity to work on that issue in my Amritapuri Tai Chi class. Tai Chi, by its nature, is meditative. It slows down my mind and body more than anything else I have ever done.

I would guess that most Tai Chi classes are held in peaceful settings with soft music playing or silence in the background. The place where our class meets in Amritapuri is gorgeous. There are palm trees, views of the beach and the Arabian Sea, eagles flying overhead, etc. As I’ve mentioned before, though, there are also trucks, bicycles, buses and cars that occasionally go through the space where we meet.

With most of life’s lessons, it seems like once you have adjusted to one level, another dimension is added. This year has definitely demonstrated that process. During my first class, I was stung by a red ant. It is amazing how much a bite by a tiny ant can hurt. In fact, the bite was still stinging hours after the class finished.

Soon thereafter, a red ant hill showed up at the perimeter of the space we use for the class, so it has been important for me to stay conscious of that danger, and to make sure new students are made aware of it. (I have stepped on a red ant nest twice in the 27 years I’ve been coming to India, once in the daylight and once at night. It is an unforgettable experience; one I hope never to repeat.)

Starting with our second class, students taking a silent meditation retreat have done a walking meditation in front of us during part of our class. They don’t disturb us but I’m tempted to watch them instead of staying focused on my own work.

In last week’s post Be Like a Bird Perched on a Dry Twig, I talked about the third class when there were even more vehicles in the area than normal. Midway through the class, a truck pulled into “our” space and parked. The workers got out of the truck and started carrying their supplies to the nearby construction site. Since their work had priority, we had  to move to a smaller area, one that was bordered by 8 ashram cows lounging in the shade!

Tai Chi is so powerful that it was reasonably easy for me to find that place of peace and contentment even in these circumstances, although I certainly didn’t have single minded focus.

On my fourth class, another set of challenges were added to those that I have already described. (BTW, the cows have not returned to the beach, at least a that time of day, since the third class.) The fourth class was held on a weekend, the first weekend since Amma returned from her European and U.S. tour. The crowds coming for darshan (hugs) were very big that day. At one point, there were 14 vehicles parked on the beach.

Then something new happened. At first, one or two village men started removing carts of sand from the beach to somewhere in the village. Next, two women started a chain. One woman would carry a big pan of sand on her head and walk to a spot next to our class. She would then shift the pan to the head of a second woman who would carry it out to the main road. We often had to divert our path to stay out of their way.

Fifteen minutes before that class was over, a cement mixer started making its piercing noise in the construction area near to us. By that time, the whole situation had become funny.

During the fifth class, a third woman was added to the chain of sand carriers. On the sixth, there were all of the previous challenges, except the cows. In addition, a new layer of sand had been added to our area 0f the beach. The sand was beautiful and felt good on my feet, but it hadn’t been compacted yet, so there was no smooth or level ground to walk on. That made doing the Tai Chi moves much more difficult.

As you can see, doing Tai Chi on the beach in Amritapuri is definitely an opportunity for me to find peace in the midst of chaos. It is also an opportunity to see the humor in the situations that arise in life.

To look at previous posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.

 

Song Lyric Sunday: Everyday People

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Helen’s direction for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday is to “post a song that deals with judgment or the opposite- getting rid of judgment and being more accepting of everyone.”

I love how this weekly challenge gives me the opportunity to re-connect with music that has been important to me in the past. The song I chose for this week is Sly and the Family Stone’s Everyday People.

Everyday People was written by Sly Stone and was released in 1968. It was the first single by his band to reach #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Wikipedia reports that Everyday People was “one of Sly Stone’s pleas for peace and equality between differing races and social groups, a major theme and focus for the band.” It also stated that the band was “the first major integrated band in rock history.”

Lyrics

Sometimes I’m right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I’m in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

Oh sha sha we got to live together

I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah

There is a long hair that doesn’t like the short hair
For bein’ such a rich one that will not help the poor one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

Oh sha sha we got to live together

There is a yellow one that won’t accept the black one
That won’t accept the red one that won’t accept the white one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo

I am everyday people

Seeking to Live in Harmony with Slugs

I have been reading a book by an urban farmer that I have been thoroughly enjoying, until last night. Just before I went to bed I read how she killed slugs in the most horrific way I can imagine. This morning I decided to re-read a post I wrote last year… and share it with you. (Be sure to also read the 2016 addendum.)

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2015 post

Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

I imagine slugs are a problem for most gardeners, they sure have been for me. It is so discouraging to go to the garden in the morning and see only the stalks left on bean plants and other vegetable seedlings. In the “old” days I used to use powdered slug bait to get rid of them. Later on, I used beer to bait them.

I have become increasingly uncomfortable with killing the slugs. Early this year it seemed I had more than ever; especially in my two worm bins. Believe me, good compost and free food can raise some BIG slugs. During the early part of the summer, I relocated them to other parts of the yard and hoped they didn’t make their way back to my garden. Occasionally, when I found them in the worm bins, I just left them there.

Then one day I decided to see if there was any information on the internet about the relationship between worms and slugs. I was very dismayed to discover that slugs EAT worms! I even found videos that showed that happening.

Eating my vegetable starts was one thing, but getting plump from eating my worms was completely unacceptable. From then on I took the slugs to the bottom of the empty lot behind my house, about 250 feet away from my garden and my worm bins. That area is full of blackberries vines but I pulled up a lot of morning glory plants and made the slugs a soft bed of edibles.

Next year I will make a home for them that is more hospitable, but still far away from things I hold dear.

I will also experiment with other ways to protect my seedlings. For example, I like the gutter planters that my friend Saroja created this year. She didn’t put her seedlings into the garden until the plants were big enough to be of no interest to the slugs.

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I am happy that I have found ways to protect my garden and worm bins without killing the slugs. I hope to be even more successful in that venture next year.  If you have found peaceful ways to deal with the slugs in your garden, I would love to hear about them!

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I found the information in the following articles very interesting:
Fascinating Slug Facts
Slimy Summer Invasion
Earthworms protect against slugs

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2016 Addendum: What I have found interesting this is year is that I have not needed to follow through on my 2015 plan. Other than losing two green bean seedlings at the beginning of the season, I have had NO problem with slugs in my garden or yard this year. There have been a few in my worm bins, and they were big and fat before they came into view, but I have just set them free outside of the worm bins. I don’t know where they go but I do know that all of the plants in my yard have been spared!

Just before hitting publish on this current post, I decided to read the article I mentioned above “Earthworms protect against slugs.” It reported about a study that showed that slugs damage 60% less leaves if earthworms are present. I know my yard has more earthworms than ever before so maybe that is the reason I’ve had no problem this year. I don’t know the “why”, but I definitely appreciate the reprieve and hope it continues.

The Black Doves Came To Me!

black_peace_dove-svgI just had the most amazing dream. It was filled with so many snipets. Some were joyful and some were uncomfortable. Some could have happened in the present or might happen in the future, but others brought in elements of the past. One snipet felt mystical, like being in a magical kingdom. Continue reading “The Black Doves Came To Me!”