A to Z Challenge: B is for Bluets

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B is for bluets. These bluets are tiny, pale, four-lobed flowers that come up in the spring. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin tells us that these flowers grow in part shade in small patches, as these are. They are perennials, of the madder family, Rubiaceae. The Latin name is Houstonia caerulea, and they are also known as azure bluets and as Quaker ladies (it is thought because of their pale, purplish blue, reminiscent of the color of the hats Quaker ladies were often seen to wear).

Bluets bloom in spring and early summer in the US from Georgia to Maine and in eastern Canada. They can be sown by seed and cultivated, and are often featured in rock gardens. I found these tiny bluets in the grassy verge by the road to our lake in a patch of dappled sun. Their fragile beauty is a reminder of the nature of impermanence to which we are all subject. Savoring moments of joy in our day helps us stay in the now and have gratitude for the life force within us.

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I decided to take the A to Z Photo Challenge around my little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. We’ve had a home here for over 10 years, and taking this challenge is offering me the opportunity to get to know it even better than I have. I hope you will enjoy this photo journey as much as I do!

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 16

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The Sixteens above commemorate The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign: “A campaign in honour of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence while raising funds for the cause to end Violence Against Women.” Definitely worth it.

Ready for some diversion? Here’s what I’ve got for you this week. You’re worth it!

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Putting ourselves first is often wisest, especially when wishing to help others.  As we hear from a flight attendant on every airline flight, we must put the oxygen mask over our own nose and mouth before assisting our children or others around us. So when we neglect our own needs in the service of others, we will not be able to do it for long. We must refill our own cup if we wish to share generously with others. Here’s a good piece by Marc and Angel: An Open Letter to Those who Always Put Themselves Last. You’re worth it!

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Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane prefecture, Japan
日本語: 足立美術館。所在地は島根県安来市

One thing we must do for ourselves is cope as well as we can with stress. Avoiding stress is impossible, but drowning in it is usually avoidable. What can we do to minimize stress so it is less toxic and destructive to our lives and those who care about us and those who may need our help? We’re all worth it.

  • Breathe deeply and mindfully to reduce anxiety; it works!
  • Eat nutritiously and regularly; starvation is no virtue.
  • Sleep at least 6 hours every night, but no more than 8 is best.
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week and walk on the other days.
  • Practice your spiritual or religious beliefs sincerely and often.
  • Meditate, do yoga, pray or seek peace and beauty, as in the zen garden above.
  • Live your values, which means understanding what they are.
  • Give and receive love, affection and kindness freely.
  • Seek help for your own problems: therapy, medical treatment or expert advice.
  • Consider adopting a pet if your circumstances permit; they enrich our lives.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (most is), pick your battles and put down the bat.

Moses Sumney is a recent musical discovery of mine, thanks to a video in a GQ article about Brad Pitt. The article is good, and Moses Sumney is definely “Worth It.”

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 14

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On this, week 14, I’ve been on the move, literally. So I will just share the diversions as best I can.

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Detroit Michigan Map Art Print by The Mighty Mitten, themightymitten.com

 

As you no doubt are aware, the iconic birthplace of the US auto industry, Detroit, Michigan has suffered a drastic and prolonged economic downturn that has led to a real estate crash and outmigration. So this story from the Guardian really is good news!

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Spring is here and therefore it’s getting close to garden planting time up north. I still have a lot of the heirloom seeds I bought last year so I’m going to see how they do. Some people order seed catalogs and pore over them during the winter. Others think about tactics. If the idea of making trellises for tomatoes and beans and other climbers instead of buying tomato cages and bright green bamboo sticks from a big box store appeals to you, try this.

And here is your toe tapper for this week. It’s a doozie and I enjoyed it even more than the original Freddie Mercury composition we loved as Queen performed it.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 10

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A whirlwind week to be sure. Hearings, press conferences, tweets, accusations, retractions, awkward posturings, leader of the free world clowning in the cab of a semi like a ten-year-old kid, lies and obfuscations, more tortured logic, dead Russians, Russian guy thrown out a window and surviving, Russian guy poisoned (twice) and living to tell the tale, spy vs. spy, intel insanity, naïveté and contortive backstabbing. Whew!

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So to the diversions. First, is there a vacant lot that bugs you? Is your neighbor’s yard an eyesore? You need to learn how to be a guerilla gardener. It looks like a lot of fun and good for the planet besides. Like these nasturtiums. They could brighten that sorry corner.

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Sort of stressed about now? Maybe you need to meditate. You already do? Fantastic. Then hit that cushion and get your om on. My meditation practice has transformed my life in a good way. How else are we going to find our center in the midst of the circus? And remember, they ARE our monkeys. If you don’t have a sitting practice yet, Lion’s Roar has a meditation how-to to get you started.

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I enjoy cooking, and I collect cookbooks and I pin recipes I find online on Pinterest all the time. Now Mother Jones tells me I’m doing it all wrong. Curious?  Check this out.

And now for your musical reward for reading this blog today. Rock music! Neil Mendoza built a contraption that actually uses rocks to make music. You won’t believe it! Ok, maybe you will. “Here Comes the Sun!” Enjoy!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 3

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Photo by Shielagh

 

It’s been another week filled with disturbing news. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. My mother always said, “Consider the source,” when I worried about something mean or false someone had said to me.

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Yes, this post is meant to be a bit of diversion, but we aren’t ostriches, so here’s something relevant that may comfort you. Buddhists are speaking out about the controversial so called Muslim travel ban.

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And today when I opened a favorite app, Bloglovin’, I was greeted with this banner atop the page: “Stand up for civil rights. At Bloglovin’ we aim to give a platform to influencers of every nationality, race or religion, and to make everyone’s voice heard. Please join us in standing up for civil rights. Click here to make a donation to the ACLU.”

And by now you must be aware that the ban has been stayed by a Federal judge through a temporary restraining order. Naturally there have been angry responses from the new administration, including immature, indignant tweets. Look them up if you wish, but I will give them no forum here.

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Poster by Shielagh, also on @sonnische on Instagram

We’ve planned a beach day today here in Florida, a therapeutic bonding with nature as we walk in the sand, slosh in the surf and if it isn’t too cold, swim in the sea. We all need a regular dose of nature, and I urge every reader to go out and make contact with the natural world around you today, be it the sea, the desert, the mountains, the woods, the rivers or lakes, your window garden, or even a vestpocket city park. And remember, illegitimi non carborundum!

Update: Oh, how could I forget the toe tapping! Here’s Fitz and the Tantrums just for you.

Namasté

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Savoring the Bounty of Summer

This has been an interesting summer here on the Pocono Plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The first few weekends were washouts, dashing hopes for long awaited tennis events and swimming plans. The woods became more dense with lush leafy growth of shrubs and trees. I have read this is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide produced by warmer climate. In previous summers one could see through the trees in the back yard to streetlights beyond but not so this year.

Our garden Buddha sits atop the remains of an old stone foundation wall, and it has been necessary to cut back the berry canes and other shrubs around it several times this year.

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We also have seen no fireflies here or in New York this summer. I haven’t seen any news stories to address this in 2015, but apparently light pollution is a major factor. When the night is bright, fireflies fail to see one another in their usual mating courtship and therefore produce no offspring the following year.

In addition to the lush vegetation we see all around us, our small plot in the community garden is a tangle of tomato abundance and exuberant Italian parsley and fragrant basil. The parsley is an essential for summer green smoothies, offset nicely by ginger root, fruit and other healthy additions, depending on one’s tastes and what is available. We’ve made piña colada mojito smoothies, minus the spirits but tangy and delicious all the same.

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These Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are ready to pick when the bottom is purply-red and the top still green, and frequently cracked as well.

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Sliced, these Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are dark red with a purple tinge. They are delicious!

Savoring summer’s bounty has been a very happy experience this year, as has casting our meditative eyes on our lovely Buddha, surrounded by the lush woodsy growth, ferns, clover and the potted begonia that has flourished without any care as it celebrates its honored place.

A lotus for you,

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Spring in the Time of Climate Change

Summer Garden Bounty

Summer Garden Bounty

 

I’ve planted a small raised bed garden annually for the last 5 or 6 years in our rural northeastern Pennsylvania community where we spend half our week. The soil is organic and freshened every spring, and no herbicides or pesticides are allowed. The whole big garden is fenced and features a rainbird-type sprinkler system that waters it once a day, so dry spells aren’t a factor. We also have a hose for watering our plots ourselves as needed. The garden seems to be divided pretty equally between veggies and gorgeous flowers, mostly enormous Dinnerplate Dahlias climbing high with help from poles and trellises. We also have a community herb plot we can all use, and last summer it included curry, basil, oregano, spearmint, peppermint, and rosemary. I love heirloom tomatoes for their tangy flavor and great texture, so I go for Mortgage Lifter. As a pretty strict (but not perfect) vegan, I love my tomatoes! Sometime I put ripe tomato slices with coconut bacon in a BLT with Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise for an amazing treat.

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants, So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seeds and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage!

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants.
So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seedlings and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage

Dinnerplate Dahlia, getting the name from the size of the blooms, and the plants can grow to over 6′ tall.

I usually throw in a Big Boy or Big Girl tomato plant to get a nice variety. I usually have four tomato plants in my 4×4′ raised bed plot. I also plant Italian flat leaf parsley and enjoy it in my green smoothies all summer. It’s the last of my plants to get killed by frost in the fall. My plot is rounded out with basil, and marigolds are interspersed to discourage pests. Two years ago some critters got in and kept biting the ripening tomatoes on the vine, so I bought wildlife netting, but I didn’t need it last year.

So here we are at Memorial Day weekend, and I was planning to buy my seedlings and get the garden in the ground tomorrow. We are in the 5b hardiness zone, which means that the average minimum winter temperature is -15 to -10 F. Our garden chief told us that the garden plots were ready to plant a month ago but urged us to wait until Memorial Day to plant, because it’s not uncommon for us to get a killing frost in May. Last year I tempted fate and planted in mid-May, and thanks to a late frost, everything but the parsley died and I had to buy all new tomato and basil plants and try again.

So I thought this weekend would be safe. Wrong! Thank goodness I haven’t bought the plants yet because last night it went down into the 30s F and some blossoms on our deck took a hit. That’s two years running with later frosts than we had been having up here. Then there were the past two winters which really pummeled the northeastern US. We had more snow than we knew what to do with. Add to these the tornados and droughts and flooding rains in various places not accustomed to them, and it seems we are in for a bumpy ride in the years ahead.

But a few weeks ago, before the foliage of the shrubs, including blackberry canes, and trees began to fill in, the daffodil bulbs bloomed. We planted them years ago when my aunt brought them to me from Tennessee. Here’s a photo I took with my iPhone, as all my originals are these days!

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone in the US, as we remember our loved ones who have gone beyond, and all those who died serving our country. And May All Beings Be At Ease, everywhere.

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