An Anniversary Celebration, and Some Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna

The weekend is almost here, yay! My husband announced last night that he’s taking us to the place we first met five years ago, for an ‘anniversary’ dinner and some reenactments of our first date activities. I’m really looking forward to it. The place where we first saw each other has remained very special for both of us.

By the time we first met, we had both already spent our lives giving much more than we received. We had aligned ourselves with clingy people who drained our resources and energies, childish people with vanishingly small intellects, controlling people who canceled out our ambitions and dreams, angry people whose minds are in wreckage. When we finally met, we fell in love fast, knowing that the search for peace, love, and loyalty was over. I’m thankful every day.

Back to gardening. I found a cold-hardy palm tree with a price tag of $42 and a hefty shipping fee, but I think that, come this spring, I’m going to order two or three. This variety is designed to survive in our Zone 6. No doubt it will require substantial care to thrive. But if it works, it’s worth it. A grove of palm trees in Connecticut. Yes.

I ordered a large Black Pearl amaryllis online. I’ve heard about the Black Pearl and have seen photos of it. For many years, I’ve thought about getting one, and this turned out to be the year. It’s the deepest red imaginable; a really beautiful hybrid.

This will be one bulb that I will cultivate for its pollen, not its seed. I’d rather not deplete the bulb by forcing it though its entire reproductive cycle, but I would love to pollinate it to another variety and see what the result is. So, I also ordered some pollen tubes (12 for $1, can’t go wrong): pollen can be gathered, sealed in these vials, and kept for months in the freezer.

I’ve not yet seen a double Black Pearl, but I have a double pink bulb about to be potted up, and I think I’ll try pollinating the Black Pearl to the double. You never know what you’ll get, but the anticipation is always fun. It will take at least 3 years for the resulting seed to reach bloom size, but the wait is worth it.

I was listening to some of the teachings of Terence McKenna this morning. McKenna was a powerful social activist and botanist with a profound respect for the natural world. He roamed the Amazon jungles looking for cultivars of all kinds. Later in life, he lived in Hawaii full-time, where he cultivated many interesting plants, always marveling at their diversity. He had this to say about them:

“Plants have souls. The carry within them the morphogenetic field of thousands of years. When you take a plant in your hand, it also takes you. Its inner riches are incomparable. It has a soul. It has a story.”

That’s the truest truth. Any dedicated gardener, seed saver, or botanist knows this. There’s a universe inside of every seed. Infused with tens of thousands of years of genetic coding, a tiny seed carries all the potential of the present and future within it. A miraculous spark of life resides there. All new generations are waiting to be born of it. If you’re looking for miracles, for the finger of God, there it is. How can you not be thrilled with it?

Live in peace.

Waxed Amaryllis: Bad News Bulbs

The waxed Amaryllis bulb: a catastrophically ugly and wasteful indoor gardening trend.

Like everything else, gardening has its trendy trends. Like all trends, some are benign, but many are stupid and silly and wasteful.

A big trend this season is the waxed Amaryllis bulb. A waxed Amaryllis bulb is exactly that - a healthy, years-old, ready-to-go Amaryllis bulb that has been coated with a thick layer of wax, trapping within the bulb just enough moisture and nutrients to allow it to germinate and bloom without any care at all – no water, no soil, no attention, no connection, and no love. 

A waxed Amaryllis bulb is a bulb that has been embalmed. While the waxed bulb will bloom, it will do so only once, but the stress of such a lonely, disconnected life leaves the bulb completely depleted, and it then must be thrown away.

I have a few big problems with waxed Amaryllis bulbs.

A waxed bulb has just received a death sentence. This amazing, viable, intelligent, complete living system, once smothered in wax, will die very soon. Once done blooming, it’s spent, and gets tossed into the waste stream. I just hate that.

Why would we want to dumb down gardening to such an extreme that absolutely nothing must be done to make our gardens grow? No nurturing. No care. No connection. That makes me sad.

Waxed Amaryllis bulbs are ugly. If you haven’t seen one yet, check them out online. Ewww. They are usually sold with small metal stands that hold them upright. A bulb smothered in wax, speared onto a metal platform, sitting naked on a table. Yuk.

Gardening is about connecting. Every gardener takes pride in his or her efforts with plants, the successes and failures, perfecting strategies, propagating, and repeating growing cycles year after year. Half the pleasure of indoor gardening is lovingly watering and feeding our plants, plucking off dead roots and shoots, welcoming new growth, polishing leaves, checking for disease, and just visiting with our plants.

To be attentive to a developing plant is insanely satisfying. I couldn’t imagine wanting to garden without spending each day caring for the plants we’ve brought into our home.
Give me a pot of soil – earthy smelling and crumbly – to dig my fingers into. Give me the guesswork of watering enough, but not too much, feeding the right nutrients, providing life-giving light, and being responsible for making a plant happy and productive.

Don’t we know that gardening is about kinship? Contact with the world of the living? There’s where the greatest joy of gardening is found - in love and connection.

Live in peace.

Tiny Banana Sprout

The first Thailand Black Stem banana tree has sprouted! Only a plant geek like me can get so excited about a banana tree pup.

We have liftoff! The first of the Thailand Black Stem banana tree seeds has germinated, and a second one is right behind it. That’s two so far out of the eight seeds planted.

I spotted it last night, and celebrated by giving it a dose of water-soluble nitrogen. It shot up overnight, and is already nearly three inches tall.

We have the Musa bananas (including the Basjoo variety) from September putting out leaves the size of dinner plates already. They arrived as tiny pups, and have been spreading like wildfire. What I’ve learned about banana trees so far: they grow FAST, they drink and eat a lot, and they’re lovely. It’s very satisfying when a plant develops so quickly. I’m loving banana tree cultivation.

On a sadder note, we lost the last mango tree. It’s becoming clear that mangos don’t like life indoors. But another pit has germinated, so we’re pressing on. But I think if this one dies too, I’m going to call the mango tree experiment a failure, and move on.

We have a big pot of fresh Genovese basil thriving under the grow lights. This pot started as seed in September. It’s doing great. Also, an avocado pit has sprouted in soil. I’m crossing my fingers for successful growth. I miss have a big, sprawling avocado tree.

It’s 48 degrees today, but sunny. All gardening, except for our potted parsley, is now officially indoors until next spring. The long winter begins.

Live in peace

Indoor Winter Gardening

A huge, healthy hippeastrum (amaryllis) bulb that survived the cycle of dormancy was potted up this weekend for Christmas bloom. This variety is called ‘Picotee’, a beautiful, graceful white with slight pink rimming. I love it when a hippeastrum reboots year after year. I also potted a new hippeastrum bulb, ‘Christmas White’. White hippeastrum are my faves.

A few baby succulents took up residence in some coconut shell cups I had. They’ll bring some life to our winter kitchen.

I had my eye on this glass and wood terrarium all summer. It finally went on sale at 50 percent off, and I bought it Saturday, along with some small succulents to plant inside.

Paperwhite bulbs are inexpensive and easy growing. I always water force them. Here’s the first one of the season.

Winter gardening haul: Two large hippeastrums, a bag of paperwhites, a gorgeous glass and wood terrarium, a variety of succulents, cactus mix, pebbles, moss, nutrients, and containers.

The winter indoor gardening bug bit hard this weekend. Not only did I spend my allowance for the next 50 years on bulbs, containers, potting mix, pebbles, succulents, soil cover, nutrients, etc., but I spent whatever free time I had potting up new bulbs and old, creating a new garden terrarium, planting mango pits, going through last year’s bulbs and tossing the ones that died in storage, moving some outdoor arugula, planting succulents in coconut shells, and harvesting rose seeds from the garden rosehips.

The reward is having this cluster of potted and water-suspended bulbs spring to life as the snow falls, and a small, green ecosystem living in an amazing glass terrarium. These are the things that keep me sane until next summer. These are the things that matter.

It’s the time of year for hippeastrum (mistakenly called ‘amaryllis’, and yet referred to as ‘amaryllis' everywhere I go). You can buy great, huge, healthy bulbs at a good nursery for about $15, or so-so ones at Wal-Mart for about $5. If you’re not a huge enthusiast, there’s nothing wrong with going with Wal-Mart.

Basic procedure: pot up the bulb in a freely draining potting mix in a pot with a drainage hole at the bottom. Make sure the pot is heavy enough to keep the top-heavy, blooming bulb from tipping over. But the pot shouldn’t be much larger than the bulb. Hippeastrum love to be root bound.

Water and let all water drain from the pot. Place the potted bulb in a warm spot in the house, not in direct sun. Warmth and water will wake up the bulb and send a signal to start putting out roots. But if the potted bulb is in a sunny window, the bulb will send up scapes and leaves, reaching for the sun, before a good root system has developed. So give it warmth, but avoid bright sun. An East or North facing window is good.

Don’t water the bulb again until it shows signs of growth. Then, keep it moist but not wet, and keep it in a bright spot. Within 6 to 8 weeks, it will be in bloom.

After blooming, and if you want to keep it alive and have it bloom next Christmas, remove the scape with the dead flower, and treat the bulb like a houseplant. Keep it moist but not wet, and feed it once a month with a balanced fertilizer.

Come summer, place it outdoors where it will get partial sun at first, then full sun. It needs to acclimate to sunshine. Treat it like any other outdoor potted plant. Water when needed, and feed monthly.

On August 1, stop watering and feeding the potted bulb. Place it is an area where it’s sheltered from rain, and let it dry completely. Wait a week. Cut off the leaves to about an inch above the bulb. Keep it in its pot. Place the pot in a cool basement or root cellar. Now, it will go dormant.

Leave it in your root cellar or basement for about 3 months. Now, it rests. After its rest, remove the bulb from its old pot, trim the roots flush with the bottom of the bulb, remove any cruddy, dead material from the top and sides of the bulb, and repot it in fresh soil.
Then, start all over from step 1.

It sounds like work, but if you love hippeastrum, it’s all good. I love the process. Seeing the same bulb wake up and flower so beautifully, then go to sleep, then wake up again, bigger and better than the year before, year after year, is pure amazement to me.

Live in peace.

‘Good Hope’ Clivia

The stork arrived: the ‘Good Hope’ Clivia was delivered yesterday, in good condition, with a little leaf tip browning, but otherwise sound. I’m so stoked.

I started Dr. Jill Bolte’s Taylor’s ‘My Stroke of Insight’ last night. This looks like it’s going to be a good read.

I might have mentioned this about a million times before: the South Africa native, tuberous, perennial Clivia Miniata is probably my favorite flowering plant in the universe. But after a long obsession with it, I let it fall away. Recently, I’m feeling starved for Clivia again, and since I’ve moved away from the shoreline, where all good things reside, I haven’t had access to a good nursery that sells them.

So last week, my husband gave me his debit card to order a Clivia from Hirt’s, one of my favorite online garden suppliers. And yesterday, my new ‘Good Hope’ yellow Clivia arrived!
You can see in the photo that there’s a little leaf tip browning, but other than that, and the fact that it was squished in the shipping box, it’s in good condition. Yellow Clivias are rarer and hence, more expensive than the orange. But the prices on yellows has gone down since the days of my addiction, and this plant cost only $18.99 plus $5 shipping. Back in the day, this plant would have cost $50 or more.

It’s root system is damp, so I placed it in a bright window last night in order to dry out for a week or so. Then, believe it or not, it goes into our basement to sit in stasis with no water, food, warmth, or light for 8 weeks. At the 8-week mark, I’ll bring it out of hibernation, place it in a bright window, water it deeply, and give it a thorough feeding.

If all goes well, a fat scape will emerge from its base, and following that, it will flower. I’ll pollinate stamens to stigmas, and after the blooms fade, collect its seeds, and cultivate clones of this parent plant. To say that I’m excited for this is an understatement. I’m feeling all the wonder and anticipation that drew me to this exotic plant years ago. There can be no doubt that I’m a plant geek.

Last night, I started a new book that I’m very excited about. Dr. Jill Bolte’s Taylor’s ‘My Stroke of Insight’ is a personal account of this young, brilliant brain scientist’s experience with a massive stroke at the age of 36. In it, she relates the usual fear and pain associated with such an illness, but also her discovery of the workings of the brain in the wake of such an event. 

Taylor discovered that when the analytic, logical and reasoning part of her brain shut down as a result of this left hemisphere hemorrhage, and she could no longer speak, move, or walk, after she lost all of her memories of life before the stroke, she experienced something amazing. The “brain chatter” went quiet. The illusion of individuality – the ego – that everyone clings to as ‘I’, disappeared. Consciousness without thought. Peace, expansion, and ease. A life-changing awakening.

It took eight years for her to recover from the stroke. The book she wrote tells the story of this stroke and subsequent awakening from a scientist’s, analyst’s, and realist’s perspective. It tells a story of a state of consciousness. An extraordinary circumstance. It explores the architecture of the human brain. I’ve heard great things about this book. I’m looking forward to getting deeper into it this weekend.

Live in peace.

Carob Brownies, Maca Chai, a Cold Day on the Boat, and the Gorgeous Clivia Miniata

These are the last of our garden flowers, gathered yesterday as we broke down the flower bed for winter.

Our garden sage and rosemary, simmering in water, made a healthful Ayurveda hair rinse.

We collected the last of the heirloom red morning glory seeds this weekend. They’re now all bagged and ready for next season’s planting.

Homemade chocolate, maca, coconut hemp milk chai really chased the chill from my bones yesterday. October is not time to be taking the boat out on Long Island Sound.

This is what a Clivia Miniata looks like in bloom. It’s positively gorgeous.

A super busy weekend in the garden. I think it’s safe to announce that we’ve finished, once and for all, the garden chores for this season.

Seeds were gathered from the annual flowers, including our heirloom morning glories, cosmos, impatiens, and sunflowers. I was able to grab one last bouquet before we cleaned everything away. All the potted geraniums were removed and composted, and the pots stored in the shed. Perennials were pruned, and the morning glory and clematis vines were removed from the arbor.

We gathered up the last of the garden sage and rosemary – I wish you could have experienced the fragrance of it – and I simmered it all in water overnight to make an Ayurveda hair rinse. I also made a few sage smudge sticks for cleaning the house in mid-winter.

So now, all efforts turn to indoor gardening. I rearranged the light banks to accommodate the growing banana trees, but it won’t be long until they’ve doubled in size, and a new plan must be hatched. I planted the mango pits that germinated in paper towels in small clay pots and placed them under the grow lights. I composted three of the Thailand banana seeds that rotted instead of germinating.

The big news is that a Clivia Miniata is on its way to us from Ohio! Well, this is big news to me. Clivia Miniata is a South Africa native lily that has always been my favorite house plant. I haven’t had one in years. I used to grow several varieties, harvest the seeds, and cultivate more. I had several varieties and several colors and sizes. An entire room in my old house was dedicated to Clivia cultivation. Pretty much I was obsessed.

Looking back, I now know that I was killing them with kindness. A Clivia will do best when it’s soundly neglected. Overwatering and overfeeding will lay a Clivia to waste. I was forever struggling with root rot. Eventually, I gave up. But recently, I’ve been getting fired up again, and yesterday, when I was pouting that I need a Clivia but am broke, my husband handed me his debit card (I’m SO grateful for him), and told me to order a gallon-size, classic orange Clivia from Hirt’s. The order was placed in five minutes. I’m a lucky girl.

Can’t wait to give the South African Clivia another try. Hirt’s is also selling inexpensive, 4-inch pots of a rarer yellow variety, which I plan to order soon. I envision a pot of yellow clivia at my desk. This time, I’ll plant Clivia in a very loose, well-draining potting mixture, and water infrequently. I’ll control the urge to nurture it to death. Clivia is a low-light plant. It’s perfectly happy never to feel the sun on its face.

Winter is the time to renew old indoor gardening interests. It keeps me somewhere on the spectrum of sanity until summer is back.

This was also a weekend of kitchen firsts. I made from-scratch carob brownies: my husband hogged them, then took two with him to work this morning. We took the boat out on Long Island Sound for a few hours yesterday morning, and came home chilled and sniffling in the afternoon. So I made a pot of chai, then was inspired to add carob and maca to it before frothing up coconut hemp milk and creating an amazing, frothy, creamy hot chai latte that chased the chill out of my bones.

October is not the time to be boating. We were freezing out there, and the water was dark and choppy. When we got home, my husband turned up the pellet stove, we wrapped ourselves in blankets, and I drank hot chai for hours.

Having said that, we agreed that we may take the boat out one more time in October or November before winterizing it. Because we’re completely crazy.

I’m just going to wait for that Clivia now.

Live in peace.

Tamara Jal in Ayurveda

My kalash – a vessel for storing water for tamara jal (copper water)

I’m pretty certain I mentioned a while back that I had started drinking copper water, which in Ayurveda is called ‘tamara jal’. Water that’s been infused with copper is an old Ayurveda practice that adherents believe boosts healing, stimulates the brain and promotes clear thinking, regulates the function of the thyroid gland, and help alleviate anemia. It’s reported benefits in battling anemia – which I’ve grappled with my whole life – are what drew me to it.

I haven’t had a blood test in over a year, but my last check showed moderate anemia that had worsened since the prior test 2 years before. Anemia is tough to live with. Like my mother, I inherited a body that blocks iron absorption and sometimes feels weak and burned-out, and a brain that is sometimes dazed. Symptoms always worsen during my period and for days after it has ended. Feeling faint or actually fainting after standing up is not unusual.

I’ve done the Feosol thing, the sublingual B12 thing: I’ve not yet taken injections. I’m still hoping that I’ll happen upon something that will help absorb the iron that’s present in my body that won’t require me to go to a clinic once a week. Copper is a mineral that is said to do that.

Ayurveda experts also say that tamara jal helps with weight maintenance, wound healing, and melanin production. Some enthusiasts say tamara jal fights cancer.

I’ve never been a fan of wonder cures. I doubt that tamara jal can do anything to slow down a beast like cancer. I also don’t believe it will clear plaque from arteries and lower cholesterol (you CAN easily do that, though, by eliminating animal products from your food choices). I do know that copper is a vital mineral necessary for many body processes. The next time I have my blood checked, we’ll see if tamara jal has been at all helpful.

I had my kalash sent from an Ayurveda supplier in Jaipur, India. If you decide to try tamara jal, make sure to get a pure copper vessel, not copper mixed with other metals. One way to tell is to know that copper is a very soft metal and difficult to bend into shapes.

So if your kalash is intricately carved, it’s probably not pure copper. My kalash in the photo above is nicely hammered, but otherwise simply shaped. I also have a thermos kalash that is very simple in design.

The water (I use spring, not tap) should be in the kalash at least 8 hours before you drink it. Copper leaches into the water very slowly. I drink one to two cups a day. It’s said that you should not drink more than three cups of tamara jal a day.

In (indoor) garden news, the banana plants are getting awfully big. They’re exceeding my expectations in development, but now there’s a new problem: where do I put them? They’ve been thriving under the grow lights, but they’re getting too big to fit underneath. I love having this problem, but I better get a plan in place. The banana trees are taking over.

While surfing the Internet this morning, I came across a retail advertisement for a holographic lamp that projects the head of the Buddha, in blue light, from its base. The ad read something like, “The perfect gift for all your Buddhist friends”.

Buddhism has become big business. A lot of money is being made on items that we can surround ourselves with that holler Buddhism. Clothes and art, lamps and furniture, jewelry and incense burners, coffee mugs and dog collars, meditation ‘supplies’ and tattoos, bumper stickers and phone cases, and on and on.

But here’s the thing: Buddhists are not supposed to groove on material things. That advertisement made me sad. A life-sized, holographic Buddha head? Oh, ick.

Tell you what: take the money that might have been spent on something as purposeless as a holographic Buddha, and put it toward a meditation retreat at a local temple. Donate it to the monks. Or register for a class. Or give it to someone who isn’t as blessed as we are. They may need to pay a bill, or get some food.

Live in peace.

Greenpeace and Early Days as an Activist

Just saw a great documentary called ‘How to Change the World’. It follows the birth and early development of Greenpeace, the activist group known for some pretty ballsy interventions, including members placing themselves between whaler’s harpoons and whales that have been targeted for slaughter and painting baby seals green so their fur is worthless to their killers.

Those incipient Greenpeace activists looked like a motley crew, but they in fact set the environmental/animal rights movements in motion back in the 1970s. They bickered a lot, there were power struggles, mistakes made, and a lot of cluelessness going on. They hardly knew how to operate their first boat, understood nothing about publicity or financial management, and smoked a lot of weed. But they got things done.

If we’re going to be honest, the Greenpeace of 2016 is probably not the kind of organization that these pioneer activists wanted to create. There’s some real criticism about Greenpeace out there. I see corruption in its European branches more than the American chapters. And like most corruption, it lives at the top of the pyramid of power.

I did activist work for Greenpeace’s New Haven, Connecticut, chapter when I was in college. But I gave it up in less than a year. It was pure instinct that told me that there was something ignoble about the New Haven group. And while I never used the experience to condemn Greenpeace as a whole, I’ll never forget the feeling that eventually overcame me and forced my decision to leave.

But without a doubt, Greenpeace has been a force for good. Its youngest members have all the fire of the young, and they can be seen acting radically, like the group that dangled from an Oregon bridge in 2015 to protest Arctic drilling.

In 2014, nine Greenpeace activists broke into Cincinnati’s Proctor & Gamble headquarters, zip lined between the headquarters’ towers, and hung banners in protest of P&G’s palm oil supplier. Recently, they were charged with piracy by the Russian government for their ongoing efforts to halt the destruction of the oceans through overfishing.

I think this is the great, brave, high-profile work of environmentalism. Yes, consciousness raising and bearing witness are legit, but nothing gets things done like some radical activism. I love, love, love the energy of young activists. They’re fearless and bold. They’re angry and they haven’t yet been programmed by society to play it safe. They make the news; they get people to stop and think. Some people roll their eyes, but at least they’re aware.

This documentary brought back to me the sparkle of my youth, the vitality I had as a college student battling with the mainstream and trying to make the world a saner, kinder place. It doesn’t take much to start my engine these days either, but admittedly, zip lining across towers is not on my to-do list anymore.

I wish it was. I wonder if it could be again. There’s a powerful brother/sisterhood among activists. There’s an understanding among us that getting off of your ass and doing something about what you talk about relentlessly is required. And if I’m going to be honest, you have to have a personality that likes living dangerously.

As a young activist, I was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors in connection with an animal cruelty protest. Those charges will be on my record the rest of my life. But I wear them like a badge of honor. No matter what problems a criminal record may give me, I regret none of it. It was one of the best days of my life. I’d do it again for sure.

I still do tabling and political phone banking, and write all the time, but it’s not the same. It kind of feels like I’ve copped out, drank the Kool-Aid, married, bought a house, got a job, and lost my incandescence.

And you know what? My husband feels the same. We often talk about breaking out, leaving our lives, and blazing new, unorthodox trails. I wonder what’s possible for us now. I wonder what we’re still brave enough to do.

I recommend this documentary, but beware. If there is still a flicker of a fire in your belly, this film might ignite it all over again. Which would be amazing.

Live in peace.

Seed Saving, Thrive Market, Mango Oil, a Bouquet of Late Cosmos, and Soymilk Chai All Day Long

 Mango oil for skin and hair: I decided to try this – since I love anything with the word ‘mango’ in front of it – and I love it. Last night, before bed, I slicked some in my hair. This morning, I washed it out and my hair is soft and shiny. But it’s best to only use the raw, unfiltered, organic mango oil. Anything processed has been ruined.

We offered the last of our garden flowers to the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma, Sangha – at our home shrine.

 I think these are the last of our garden cosmos, but I said that a couple of weeks ago, and more blooms came in. These were picked last night.

 Morning Glory seeds harvested from our heirloom vines last night.

So our ancient coffee percolator makes excellent soymilk chai. You don’t know until you try.

New arrival: another mango pit has germinated.

It was a fun, busy weekend. Torrential rain yesterday didn’t keep us from doing some seed saving. We pretty much only scratched the surface, but came away with a bowl of morning glory seeds from our heirloom vines. I plan to collect the rest of the seeds this week. We’ll have plenty to give away next spring. It’s cool to know that someone’s morning glory vines are the offspring of the parent vines from our garden. Connection.

Indoor gardening report: another mango pit has germinated. The banana trees are getting too big for the light bank, and I have to figure out a new plan. This is a good problem to have. The Meyer lemon and Mexican lime trees are not dropping leaves as fast now. (There was an almighty and pretty shocking drop of leaves the first two weeks after they came indoors.)

Even the lemons on the lemon tree are getting bigger. As long as spider mites stay away, they may survive indoors until summer. The Thailand Black Stem banana seeds have not germinated yet. I planted some papaya seeds from a yummy papaya we had a week ago. Papaya trees = very cool.

The basil I started from seed is holding its own under the light bank, and getting bigger. Our sole surviving mango tree is also keeping it together. The last pineapple top I tried to germinate rotted under the soil and was composted. Our other pineapple plant is doing great, and the baby pineapple is gaining size. I potted up the lemongrass (roots were begging for space).

It was interesting to learn that our old coffee percolator makes amazing chai that stays hot all day. Add tea leaves as you would coffee. Yesterday, I went back for three cups of hot chai throughout the day. A little whipped soymilk and a dash of extra chai spice on top. I enjoy having access to hot chai all day without having to brew tea over and over.

I discovered mango oil this weekend. Also called mango butter or mango manna, it is the oily extract of the mango kernel. It’s super dense and richly moisturizing. Last night, before bed, I slicked some through my hair and tied my hair into a bun. I also applied it to my face and body. I shampooed out the oil in the shower this morning, and my hair feels soft and looks shiny. If you’re thinking of trying it, be sure to use only the raw, unprocessed, cold pressed, organic mango oil. A pound of it is about $16.

Another huge discovery this weekend – Thrive Market. TM is an online, organic health food store that stocks most of what you’d find at Whole Foods, but at wildly reduced prices, and free shipping over orders of $49. And you’ll always exceed $49 if you’re clever and realize that there’s a lot of money to be saved with TM.

I heard someone talking about TM last week, and decided to take a look, not expecting much. I was totally wrong. For example, the Thai red curry paste that I pay $4.99 for at my favorite health food store is $2.65 on TM. I found Dr. Bronner’s peppermint hair cream on TM for $5.65: that would be an easy $9.99 or more at my local store.

There is massive grocery, health, vegan, paleo, vitamins, hygiene, beauty, bath, therapeutic, Ayurveda, stuff for babies and kids, housewares (including salt lamps) and kitchenware, cleaning supplies, coffee, tea, yoga clothes, other clothes (including gorgeous kimonos), organic & GMO-free garden seeds, protein powders, other supplements, intimate items, humane mouse and insect traps, and many other nice things that don’t fit into these categories.

I found the sublingual B12 I was looking for on TM, at a price much better than Amazon’s for the same brand. I’m hooked. My first delivery is coming Wednesday.

I’m not getting any kickback from TM for this praise. I just like to share good things when I find them. I appreciate it when folks do the same for me.

Nights are getting cold now. Down into the 40s mostly, and in a few days, it looks like it’s going to descend into the 30s for one night. Last night, after dark, my husband and I took a long walk outdoors. After about 20 minutes, I said to him, “I don’t think we’re going to see anymore summery nights this year.” He nodded. Yes, I think we’re definitely moving away from the sun, and bound to a long winter ahead. I’ll gather as many seeds as I can.

Live in peace.

MC Yogi, Final Garden Chores, and #SquadGoals

MC Yogi and Ghandi

It may be October, but we have some gardening chores to do this weekend. Last night, my husband tilled the food garden patch. This weekend, we’ll apply compost and lime. The flower beds have to be cleared of dried stems and leaves. Flower seeds will be gathered for next year’s flowers.

The last of the potted geraniums will be composted. I’ll hang the second bird feeder at the shed. Morning glory vines will be taken off the arch trellis. The big pot of parsley will be put in the ground, where it will grow until the first frost. The pot needs to go into the shed. I’ll leave the arugula pot out, though. It’s still coming in nicely. I added a big handful to some penne last night.

That will wrap up the chores once and for all for the season. Today is October 7.

My family member mentioned in a blog post above said yes to lunch this weekend! Her favorite place is an awesome Italian restaurant called Red Rose in Springfield, Massachusetts. And my husband announced last night that he wants to join us. I’m so glad we’ll all have a day and some great food together before she starts her chemotherapy next week.

I’ve discovered this awesome band called MC Yogi. The sound is a fusion of Hindustani music and contemporary rap. A very hip merging of sitar and poetry. It’s great. My favorite tunes so far are ‘Rock on Hanuman’ and ‘Ganesh is Fresh’. Ram Das is sometimes featured in MC Yogi’s music. My husband, the dogs, the hamster, and I were dancing to ‘Rock on Hanuman’ in the kitchen last night.


Live in peace.

Mango Run

There is no such thing as too many mangos. Nah-uh.

I’m going to slap myself pretty hard later today for writing this, but it’s the truth: I’m actually getting a bit into this autumn thing.

Today, my husband and I set a date for our drive to Vermont, and I started thinking about a steamy, frothy maple soymilk at Moon Dog Café. Then I considered visits to the Vermont Zen Center or the Milarepa Center. I dwelled for a minute on the awesome new purple vegan beanie I bought off season, which keeps my head warm and feels super soft on my ears. And it looks very cool.

Then I remembered fresh apples and Vermont dark amber maple syrup. I slowly started to feel cozy and drowsy and warm. A feeling of pleasure. Pleasure at the thought of cool weather. Yikes.

In an effort to shake this disturbing feeling, I’m heading to the local organic grocery in a few to get the week’s supply of mangoes. I think the market owners see me coming every time. Carrying at least three or four large hemp string bags, every week I raid the mangos and leave the store with anywhere between 10 and 20, depending on their price.

I also grab a couple of handsful of bananas and a pineapple. Fruit. That’s about it. I usually wipe out their mango supply. I keep asking them to get coconut cream mangoes, a sweet, creamy, no-fiber variety I had in Jamaica that was out of this world. Although flying back to Jamaica to eat them once again doesn’t sound like a bad option to me.


It's the next day, actually. I didn’t finish up yesterday’s post. Mangos were calling. I picked up a lot of them (on sale, 2 for $3), a couple of bunches of bananas, a gorgeous pineapple, a fat honeydew melon, and these amazing, tri-color grated carrots. 

Last night, I made an awesome carrot/coconut/raisin/pecan salad and we had a dinner of all vegetables. My husband had steamed Brussels sprouts and corn, and I had carrot/coconut salad and Brussels sprouts. I love all-veggie meals and mono-mealing it.

So that thing I wrote yesterday, about starting to enjoy autumn. Is it too late to take it back? Woke up this morning to 40-degree weather, cursing and shivering as I made tea. I have no idea where that statement came from. I take it back: I take it all back.

Live in peace.

Bhakti Practice, Krishna Consciousness, God Realization

In college, when my interest in spiritualism was at full bore, I learned of the Bhakti Movement. There is not enough room here to go into a meaningful tutorial on Bhakti practice and living as a Bhakta, and I’m not a Bhakti teacher, so I’ll (over)simplify it like this:

Bhakti is the yoga of devotion; a practice of having a personal relationship with Spirit (God, Yahweh, Krishna, Jesus, the Infinite, Loving Mother, Bearded Father, Friend – all the images that are just the different faces of the One), a spiritual practice whose occupation is devotion and whose goal is a union of soul with God.

The goal of union/oneness is achieved through direct experience, through some kind of practice. It may be singing to God (called ‘Kirtan’ in Bhakti), ceaseless prayer, devotional reading, even offering your food to the Beloved before eating.

Bhakti is heart-centered. It’s a practical tool that brings what Bhaktas call ‘God Realization’, which is exactly what it sounds like – a gradual communion with the divine through devotion and meditation.

It’s also called Bhakti yoga, and is yoga in its true form – not our Westernized version of yoga that devotes itself to exercise and fitness (and now, pricey yoga clothes and vain accessories). Bhakti takes yoga back to its roots, to something beyond a fitness program.

There is no right or wrong Bhakti. Practicing Bhakti while doing Jnana asanas or washing your hair is right and effective Bhakti. No matter how we do it, Bhakti gets us somewhere, and that somewhere is an honest and direct connection to the source of all life. 

I’ve long been a follower of Sadhguru, a teacher and sage who has led millions in the practice of Bhakti. Sadhguru leads devotees in the practice of Ishakriya. Ishakriya is part of a movement that strives to offer drops of spirituality to every single sentient being on the planet.

This is achieved in part through training in meditation. It’s a simple process, but a powerful tool for God Realization. It brings joy, healing, wisdom, and contentment to ourselves and others. It dispels fears and doubts. Children, with their innocent love, are amazing Bhaktas.

Reading the Gita, or ecstatic poetry, singing to God while gardening, offering some of your meal to a god or goddess, or attending a Kirtan event are all ways to do Bhakti. But for a much better explanation of Bhakti, visit the Isha Foundation website at

So why am I talking about Bhakti today? Five days ago, yet another loved one of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our friend River died September 30, and the next day, another beloved is given a death sentence. Sadness comes in waves, and this is definitely a sad time.

I don’t know for certain what I’ll do when my time comes. Will I embrace the end of this life, or run from it? I hope I have joy to the end. I believe that through Bhakti, I will. For now, I am despairing to see so much sadness surrounding this person’s diagnosis. Everyone has become very, very grim. Voices are lowered around her. There are no smiles. Talk is negative. There are tears.

I solemnly believe that there is joy and comfort available every day, despite our life’s course. Burying ourselves in intellectualism doesn’t work. Organized religion has failed. The material goods of this world are a proven disappointment. Even love, which is like a flower – beautiful and fragrant, but when bad weather rolls in, quickly wilts – is not the answer.

Unlike a flower, Bhakti is like a tree. No matter what’s happening above ground, below, the roots are stable and strong. In Bhakti, in ceaseless devotion to the Infinite, we find truth, calm, and wisdom. I’ve seen it time and time again.

So I just invited this person to lunch this weekend. She starts chemotherapy next week, and I proposed that we both enjoy a beautiful meal before her treatment is underway. Once she begins chemo, she’ll lose her appetite and energy. Let’s go live for a few hours, I said. Offer our food to God, and then take the gift to ourselves.

She hasn’t said yes or no yet. I’m waiting for her answer. I hope she shrugs off all the despair around her, and says yes. I want to touch her and talk of the joy of the present, life’s possibilities, our eternal selves, and great food. 

There is joy and comfort available every minute. Bhakti is joy. No matter what’s happening above ground, below, the roots can be stable and strong. God Realization is within our grasp.

Live in peace.