mindfulness of gratitude

“Soup” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Practicing mindfulness of gratitude consistently leads to a direct experience of being connected to life and the realization that there is a larger context in which your personal story is unfolding. Being relieved of the endless wants and worries of your life’s drama, even temporarily, is liberating. Cultivating thankfulness for being part of life blossoms into a feeling of being blessed, not in the sense of winning the lottery, but in a more refined appreciation for the interdependent nature of life. It also elicits feelings of generosity, which create further joy. Gratitude can soften a heart that has become too guarded, and it builds the capacity for forgiveness, which creates the clarity of mind that is ideal for spiritual development.
~ Phillip Moffitt
(Yoga Journal, July-August 2002)

Happy Thanksgiving!

deep in the woods

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

On Saturday afternoon my sister and I did some hiking in the uncultivated part of the Connecticut College Arboretum. It was like being in the woods we played in and rambled through as children. We encountered a doe along our path, she stopped short when she spotted us and then darted off sideways into the woods.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Nature — sometimes sears a Sapling —
Sometimes — scalps a Tree —
Her Green People recollect it
When they do not die —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #457)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ gypsy moth caterpillar, an invasive forest pest from Europe

When I was at the doctor for a check-up last week he said it seemed like he was treating nothing but rashes from these little villains. Why do people even touch them, I wondered? But they can dangle from invisible threads and I was startled when I walked right into one. No rash, so far…

Death is like the insect
Menacing the tree
Competent to kill it,
But decoyed may be.

Bait it with the balsam
Seek it with the saw,
Baffle, it cost you
Everything you are.

Then, if it have burrowed
Out of reach of skill —
Wring the tree and leave it.
‘Tis the vermin’s will.

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1783)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

For some reason I am drawn to trees that seem dead, but sculptural, and yet still have a few green leaves up near the crown. Sometimes dying is a very gradual process.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ this feels like a carefully composed still life to me

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
~ William Shakespeare
(As You Like It)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ roots

One will see roots while looking down (photo above), of course, but also when looking up (photo below). The tree below decided it could grow sticking out of a rock face, high above the ground. There must have been just enough soil between the layers of rock for it to sustain itself. Maybe it is strong enough to move the rock some to give the roots more space.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ tree growing out from between two layers of rock

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
~ William Wordsworth
(The Tables Turned)

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ ferns and mosses on the rock face

Ferns (above) with visible roots growing on the rock face. Plenty of moss to soften the surface, too.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

A tree (above) seems to have been blown over in a storm and left with a large cavity between its roots and the rock below. Stones and boulders, dumped by receding glaciers eons ago, are so ubiquitous in Connecticut and it seems the trees have no choice but to grow above, below, around and between them.

6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ two more of Emily’s “scalped” trees
6.10.17 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum ~ a stone benchmark?

I wondered if someone might have set this stone deliberately pointing up as a benchmark for future hiking adventures. It’s amazing to contemplate that these stone walls deep in the woods once surrounded fields and pastures in colonial days. Farmers used the stones cluttering their land to build the walls but in the end, growing crops was difficult. Many eventually abandoned their homes and headed west for better farmland. The woods slowly came back and claimed the landscape once again.

answers are not the point

“The Sunflower Galaxy from Hubble” by ESA/NASA/Hubble

We’ve all been on this spiritual path looking for answers, and the joke is that answers are not the point at all; the point is to have a blast with the questions. The point is not to hold back from the Mystery just because there is no final understanding. Along the way, incredible understandings come out of the Mystery, but the Mystery, itself, will remain a mystery.
~ Nirmala
(Nothing Personal: Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self)

a single evergreen sapling

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“Helga Ancher Sitting by the Christmas Tree” by Anna Ancher

Even though the use of evergreens dates back to the Greeks and Romans, the use of the holiday tree is said to have originated in the eighth century Germany. Legend has it that the Christian St. Boniface was trying to convert a group of Druids. Try as he might, though, he couldn’t convince them that the oak tree was neither sacred nor invincible. In desperation, he finally cut one down. When the tree fell, it crushed everything in its path but a single evergreen sapling. Boniface declared it a miracle, then proclaimed that the fir tree belonged to the Christ-child. After that, trees were brought into homes as holiday decorations. It wasn’t until the sixteenth century, however, that the Germans thought to decorate the branches. Some historians say that the first ornaments — fruit, nuts, and cookies — were used as offerings to thank the spirit of the tree.
~ Dorothy Morrison
(Yule: A Celebration of Light & Warmth)

hanging garden of bottle gourds

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

As we wandered around a corn maze on a perfect autumn day, we came upon an enchanting gourd tunnel.

Gourds are natural born climbers. They seek out anything they can reach to climb closer to the sun. They grow so quickly it can become a daily task to move the vines away from some places you don’t want them to climb on. And once a tendril gets itself wound around a hold nothing short of breaking the tendril off the vine will get the little curlicue to let go. Not even the death of the vine will loosen their grip much.
~ Karen Hundt-Brown
(American Gourd Society)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah’s gourd.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(Villette)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

Yet poetry, though the last and finest result, is a natural fruit. As naturally as the oak bears an acorn, and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

subtle energy

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“Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree” by John Constable

Trees are the largest and most spiritually advanced plants on Earth. They are constantly in meditation, and subtle energy is their natural language. As your understanding of this language grows, you can begin to develop a relationship with them. They can help you open your energy channels and cultivate calm, presence, and vitality. You can reciprocate by helping them with their own blockages and devitalized areas. It is a mutually beneficial relationship that needs cultivation.
~ Mantak Chia
(Chi Nei Tsang: Chi Massage for the Vital Organs)

butterflies

“Girl & Butterflies” by Frances MacDonald
“Girl & Butterflies” by Frances MacDonald

A child, her wayward pencil drew
On margins of her book
Garlands of flowers, dancing elves,
Bird, butterfly and brook.
Lessons undone, and play forgot
Seeking with hand and heart
The teacher whom she learned to love
Before she knew ‘t was Art.
~ Louisa May Alcott
(Louisa May Alcott: A Biography)

sweet saliva

"Elderly Woman" by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494) Italian Early Renaissance Painter
“Elderly Woman” by Domenico Ghirlandaio

The physical atoms that make up your body have been completely replaced in the past nine years. Yet you remain. You may feel the effects of age, but your spirit is always renewed in each and every moment. Remember this when you are tired or ill. Let each breath renew your spirit.
~ William Martin
(The Sage’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for the Second Half of Life)

What a long and strange month this has been.

It all started in North Carolina during a conversation with a nurse, a friend of Dima & Larisa’s, about the side effects of statin drugs. Suddenly I had a hunch that all the increasing pain in my muscles in recent years was probably not due to aging but was related to taking one of these drugs since 2011. I stopped taking it and within a week the pain was gone.

So my thoughts turned to another drug – amitriptyline. After years of suffering chronic migraine that only got worse when I reached perimenopause, I was sent to a neurologist, who gave me a prescription for a relatively high dose of amitriptyline as a preventative measure, coupled with a prescription for Zomig, to abort the headaches that broke through that first line of defense. That was in 2006 – nine years ago!

The side effects of amitriptyline are well-known to me. The dry mouth, constipation and weight gain – 50 lbs in 9 years! – were all nuisances worth putting up with to avoid a migraine. But now I started thinking, I’m well into menopause, perhaps I don’t need the amitriptyline so much any more. And so began my unpleasant journey through withdrawal symptoms. I cut my dose in half for a couple of weeks and then quit it completely. Perhaps this was too fast and a little too reckless.

The first thing I noticed was a blessing – saliva production! Oh what a precious gift to be able to moisturize my mouth naturally again! Talk about a feeling of restoration and renewal…

But the nausea, malaise and fatigue have been most unwelcome and difficult to live with. Still, I’m determined to continue and to make it through this miserable ordeal. I’ve been allowing myself extra sleep and long naps, with the idea of healing this body. Less than two weeks remain before our trip to Europe and I do finally seem to be feeling a little better each day. I’m not getting any more headaches than usual and the Zomig continues to take care of them, so that’s a relief. That result alone has made this experiment all worth it.

Last night while reading I came across the quote above. It made me smile at the mention of nine years because that’s how long my physical atoms have had to grow accustomed to amitriptyline. Also, it makes me happy to know that they will steadily be replaced with a new set of molecules over the next nine years. Lots of time for regeneration…