Community and Family

thoughts on how we fit into the web of community, family and society

Grandma Rose’s Philodendron

The other day, when I was in NY visiting,  I told my mother about the blog entry on Robert’s dendrobium. (Being physically present and discussing the blog entries is the low-tech way of getting comments).  She pointed to the philodendron and some cuttings she was rooting from it and said, “that philodendron was your grandmother Rose’s; it must be 70 years old.”   It might not be 70 years old, but it is at least 40 or 50, as my grandmother left her body in 1977, and I remember her having houseplants.  It is possible, even, that the plant originally came from a cutting from my other grandmother, as that was how we obtained and grew most of the family houseplants.

My mother offered the plant for me to take home.  I declined, but thought about taking a cutting.  By the next morning, I had forgotten, but I will take a cutting one day.  I did not need the cutting to enjoy thinking about bringing home a bit of life that had been living in my grandmother’s apartment and remembering both my grandmother and a space that I had loved.  That was delightful enough.

(ps — one of the many reasons for the name “rose garden yoga” is in honor of my grandmothers — for my grandmother Rose’s name and for the love of gardening I learned from my grandmother Ann).

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Rain (not quite enough)

It was wonderful to get some rain yesterday, but our area really has been way too dry, suffering from storms going to the north and west or to the south and east of us.  Here are a few ways for those of us staying on the grid to reduce water consumption:

1.  Short showers (under three minutes)

2.  Longer showers or baths only an occasional treat.

3.  If you have space (I don’t; though I keep thinking about how to work it) get a rain barrel or two for your garden.

4. Re-use water when you can.  For example, when changing a pet’s water dish, water plants instead of pouring out dish.  Soak pots without soap (needs longer soaking) and use soaking water for house plants.  Same for water from your hot water bottle (to stay warm while keeping the heat down).

5. Practice the old drought adage all the time (“if it’s yellow, let it mellow”).

6.  When it is time to replace a toilet or faucet, use a water efficient model.

7.  Turn off the water while brushing teeth, shaving, or lathering.

8.  For container plants in the garden, use “Soil Moist” or a similar product.

9.  Drink tap water (it takes about 60 ounces of water to bring you a 20 ounce bottle of water).  If you don’t like the taste, filter it.

10. Forget about washing your car (if you have one) except for keeping the windows clean enough so you can see out.

11.  Replace lawns and annual flowers with hardy, native perennials.

Please share your tips.  I’m always looking to learn.

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In the “ether”

Yesterday, I took the plunge and joined Facebook.  I’d read one too many articles in the New York Times about it without being able to really understand what I was reading.  What an interesting phenomenon — seeing images and reading words of friends and acquaintances through space (friends around the world) and time (friends from way back).

Tomorrow, I will be speaking on a webcast to more than a 1,000 people.

I’ve gotten thousands of hits on this blog.

This is a lot of shared energy without knowing most of those with whom one I am sharing. It is shifting space and time as I think about it.  In the computer world, we say or write about what we are thinking as we type or speak into the computer, and then our words and energies shift and take on their own power as they extend out instantly to anyone who chooses — intentionally or randomly — to receive them.

I think the more we are in the ethereal world, the more we need simultaneously to make certain we are grounded.

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Robert’s Dendrobium

roberts-dendrobium2A number of years ago, when he was moving from Capitol Hill to Denver, my friend and former neighbor Robert gave me this dendrobium orchid, which bloomed this year for me for the first time.  The dendrobium was just an extra.  If you know orchids, you can see that it is planted with a vanda.  These orchids came from Robert’s mother’s garden in Florida.  When she had to give up her place in Florida, Robert brought home some of the orchids, including the vanda.  If I know Robert, he just saw a baby dendrobium in the garden and stuck it in with the vanda when he carried it back north to Capitol Hill.  When Robert moved to Colorado, he left the vanda with me because he did not expect it to tolerate the Colorado climate.  Even here, the vanda is not likely to bloom.  Not enough heat, light, or humidity in DC (really!!!).  But after five or six years of steady care, the dendrobium flourished and finally bloomed.  Robert inspired my affection for orchids; he had a greenhouse and knew each one of his tropical plants intimately.  We would go to an orchid show or nursery, and he would look with love on each and every plant, cherishing their individual traits, no matter how small or large.  At the botanical gardens, he had different plants he visited and enjoyed.  Now his yard has cactii and peppers.  He has a few of his most faithful orchids, which are flourishing and which were delightful to visit, and I have this lovely reminder of a time when Robert was one of my local gardening buddies.  This, I think is one of the extra joys of gardening, especially with houseplants that come from cuttings.  They have a history with our family and friends that is passed on, cherished, and shared.  I also have a night-blooming cereus that was a baby from a plant that started as a baby of one in his mother’s garden.  The night mine first bloomed (just a single night in the year), the parent plant with Robert in Denver also bloomed.

Bonus love from this particular dendrobium; it is scented!

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Theater of the Absurd

Last night I went with a group of friends for dinner and to see “Hell Meets Henry Halfway” at the Woolly Mammoth.   We all had a most enjoyable time, although the play was pretty negative.  What could you expect, though, from a play based on a 1930s novel written by a Polish exile that was about declining monarchies and social depravity, etc?  What relieved the bleakness of the outlook was the slapstick playfulness of the acting and staging.  It was also a pleasure just to see beautiful technique, and acting was wonderful.

As the recession deepens, I have been trying to go to see more theater and dance, to support local theaters and restaurants that I care to have still in my world.  It would be easy to settle into a mindset of anti-consumption at this time.  Better I think, even if we are trying to shift the consumer orientation of our society, to become ever more mindful in our consumption, being especially mindful of those around us are struggling from the sudden shift.  The right action, I think,  for those who cannot help but recognize problems, or suffering, or even absurdity, is not only to seek change, but also to see the playfulness in everything to keep the spirit vital and to be able to accept the change that might not be realized despite our best efforts and intentions.

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Warm Feeling (from an unexpected place)

For the past hour or so, one of my neighbors has been shoveling the sidewalk.  He is a young teenager; for a while a younger girl was out with him, too.  They both had shovels and were working pretty vigorously.  I always wave and say hi to these neighbors, but have an uneasy relationship with them.  In the 19 years I have lived on the block, various members of the household (though not these particular kids) have broken into my house and threatened me and my neighbors.  People who live in the house and their visitors regularly throw litter into my yard, and other neighbors have reported that they have caught kids currently living in the house throwing stones at houses and cars.

The shoveling was going on for a long time and the sounds were getting closer.  Sure enough, this young man, perhaps because he was feeling trapped by being stuck in the house all day and was feeling full of energy, was shoveling the entire sidewalk, including the space in front of my house.  I am delighted and grateful.  I was not looking forward to going out and doing it myself.  I will make certain to thank him.  He has reminded me that I need always to be open to receiving the good from whatever source, however unexpected.

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Wintry Mix

As I write, big fat flakes of snow are falling against a pale gray sky that is struggling to turn to daylight.  It is too early to know how much of the storm will be snow or freezing rain or just plain rain, though all are both possible and probable.  If there is mostly snow or mostly rain, some of those I know will be sure to say the weather forecast is never right.  My experience is that the weather forecasters are usually quite accurate about pointing out the probabilities and then sometimes the probabilities at the far end of the spectrum are the ones that happen, which makes the forecast apparently off the mark.

I am always entranced with the anticipation of a storm.  It only takes the slightest shift in temperature in the atmosphere or a move of a degree or two of the pressure system for there to be a dramatic change in the outcome — a day of rain or a half an inch of ice or several inches of snow.  I think all relationships — to places, jobs, people, illnesses, our meditation practices are like that.  Just the subtlest shifts in atmosphere and attitude and the whole thing can seem completely different.  What I continue to work on is to open to the best path that results from the combination of factors.  If because of a less than optimal shift, there is an ice storm with power outages and downed wires and trees, then I try to learn why it happened, see the beauty, and try to shift in a better way.  It is hard, and I do not always succeed, but I continue to make the effort.

I remember my first big icestorm.  I was in high school and at a big party a few miles from my parents house.  We were teenagers and mostly oblivious.  We just thought it was raining and continued partying.  At some point, we realized that everything was coated with ice, and then we needed to start calling on help to get home.  It was disappointing to have the party end prematurely, but very exciting to have the wild and unusual weather.  And the next morning, when the temperature dropped and the sun came out, the whole world glittered.

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Buy a Coffee Mug (and never forget)

buy-a-coffee-mug-and-never-forgetI didn’t buy a coffee mug, but I did take the picture.  If only remembering was as easy as buying a souvenir.  Memory, though, it much more ephemeral.  I’ll remember this day.  Sometimes I will deliberately recall it.  Sometimes, images will come unbidden as something triggers a memory, just as the solicitation by a friend last week to support an orphanage in Peru brought back the thought of 9/11.  I had been in Peru at the retreat center that supports the orphanage when the planes hit the World Trade Center.  I hope for news tomorrow of the imminent closing of Guantanamo to start reshaping our relationship to 9/11.

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