My friend and former neighbor Robert shared with me his great love and knowledge of tropical plants. When he was still living in DC, he’d call me up and ask me whether I wanted to make a pilgrimage to the now gone Kensington Orchids. The lush beauty took my breath away, especially on a cold, winter day. I have my tropical plants indoors from October/November to April. (I have a very protected, sunny back yard and danger of last frost can be weeks earlier for me than neighbors just outside the District limits. For some, the time outdoors would be shorter.) When I first bring them inside, I get a burst of the tropics right when it is truly showing signs of late fall/early winter. When it is time, in the Spring to start shifting from winter-hardy greens to early planting of seedlings for summer harvest, I bring out the tropicals. My garden, then, is already lush by late April. My garden’s small size is an advantage here; a dozen tropical plants completely transforms the whole garden. I then have room to do Spring cleaning.
Although I generally try to follow the seasons, the use of tropical plants does seem to assist me in weathering the external diminishment of light and warmth in winter.
Night-time temperatures forecast for the low 30sF next week. I’ll be eating some big salads in the meantime.
Of my friends on facebook, several reveled in staying inside because of the rain yesterday. Others complained about being unable to do things that would have been better on a dry day. Reporters and anchor persons seemed to think it newsworthy whether the rain will impact football or baseball games. How about telling us whether the rain we are getting is optimal for the native flora and fauna and how it is impacting the farmers? We seem as a society to have forgotten the relationship of the weather to food.
From late September through the first week when there either are two or more nights forecast to below 38F or one night below 35F, I assiduously watch the 15-day weather forecast to determine when to bring in my tropical plants (orchids, bromiliads, a night-blooming jasmine plant (now 8 years old), a bay tree in a 24 inch pot (now 12 years old)). I also bring in the lemon grass and lemon balm I have in containers so that they can be the perennials they would be in a warm climate; here, left outside, they are annuals.
When I first had a few orchids — over 10 years ago now — as soon as there was a hint of cold weather (below 45F) I rushed the plants inside, believing that if they were tropical, they needed to be inside. In one of the early years, the first night below 40F was in late September. The plants really suffered from a full seven months inside. I have since learned (by studying and personal observation) two things about my tropical plants. The first is that they are a lot happier outside than inside (when inside is not a properly humid, sunny greenhouse). The second is that they like cold weather as long as it is not near or below freezing. They especially like cold rains like we had the other weekend. The stress of a few weeks of nights in the 40sF, in fact, seem to help the orchids bloom. Now, by waiting until the last possible minute, and bringing them out as soon as it seems like the danger of last frost (for my backyard, which is very early) has passed, the orchids are outside at least seven months of the year.
Thinking about how the orchids flourish with the stress of some chill, but not too much, reminds me of what my teacher John Friend talks about in yoga practice of the difference between stress and distress. Some stress actually strengthens us. This is why one of the best ways to avoid or at least slow the process of osteoporous (according to the general medical literature to I’ve read) advocates weight-bearing exercise. Putting weight, i.e., stress, on our bones and muscles strengthens them. Too much, too fast, however, will injure our muscles and bones.
So, especially for those of us with injuries (prior or current) or physical challenges such as arthritis, it is optimal to exercise, to seek our edge, to put ourselves under stress, mindfully and intentionally. We need to be aware, though, of the subtlety of the edge between stress and distress so that we are strengthened not injured, just as exposing the orchids to some fall weather invites them to bloom, but actual freezing or near-freezing temperatures will harm or kill them.
When we are on our mats, being open to grace — the first Anusara alignment principle — includes being open to the teachings so that we can receive and act on them in a healing and loving way. Adding to that muscular energy by lovingly embracing skin to muscle to bone in a conscious embrace, drawing into our center to recognize our inner spirit, and drawing from periphery to the focal point brings us into optimal balance. This pulsation serves as a way off the mat to open, inspire, and engage us in progressively more intentional and uplifting ways of living.
Being open to inspiration from friends and about town, open to learning new ways to be kind to the earth and to ourselves, is a way of bring the principle of “opening to grace” off the mat. Actually keeping the intention and acting on it has the attentive embrace of muscular energy, which draws us onto our inner light in a loving embrace so that we can better serve.
I was thinking about Anusara principles off the mat, yesterday when I went visit a friend in NW one of whose roommates fosters cats. There is a community garden in the back and the house is warm and friendly. In the bathtub were two buckets filled with water leftover from showers. Instead of using fresh, potable water to flush the toilet, when it is time to flush (honoring the drought axiom about yellow mellowing, etc), the house residents fill the tank with the gray water from the shower.
Find it too complicated an idea to shower with a bucket in the bathtub with you? You can still save water by filling your watering can or bucket when you run the water to warm up enough to get into the shower. That will save a few gallons. Not up to using the water to flush the toilet? Use it to water houseplants or for cleaning floors, etc. Or take it outside to water potted plants.
First step is opening and witnessing the possibilities and understanding where you are ready to expand. The second step is to try to more consistently live your inspiration. I know when I see people living with such intention I take better care to move in that direction, even if I am not ready to go as far.
What splendid fall mornings we are having. The neighborhood dogs are frisking in the park and the fall colors are starting to show. It is time to make tomato sauce and pickled peppers with the last of the summer harvest and continue planting greens (containers are great if you don’t have much space) for some fresh eating through December. Now is also the time to start shifting to a more introspective practice, seeking inner illumation as the days get shorter and the nights get longer.
This Fall, classes will concentrate on refining the principles of alignment to more sweetly and deeply appreciate your own inner light.
Join us any Tuesday night on a drop-in basis at William Penn House — bring a friend for a delightful all levels experience.
It’s not too late to join the Willow Street Fall session — Saturdays at 8:30 level II or, if you need a gentler practice, including a therapeutic focus, try the noon Gentle/Therapeutics class. Drop-ins always welcome.
October Serenity Saturday (October 17th, 3-5pm) is just around the corner. Sign up early to get the Capitol Hill Yoga early bird discount!
Starting to plan the holidays? If you’ll be in town, make sure to plan to join me for the 7th Annual Thanksgiving Day Fundraiser for Oxfam, which will again be at Willow Street in Takoma Park Thanksgiving morning. It is a great way to start the day and bring a focus of gratitude to this day of abundance. As always, in or out of town guests, friends, and family welcome whatever their experience level.
For the Wednesday night practice, October’s charity will be the Whitman-Walker Clinic to honor its work in providing health care in some of DC’s neediest communities and to help send energy for universal health care. I’ve decided that I have so much fun with these practices that in addition to donating all the proceeds, I will donate to attend too!
As always, feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, or just to be in touch.
Info on all classes and workshops at www.rosegardenyoga.com.
Peace and light,
A co-worker of mine said today that he hated that everything we do gets criticized by someone. During part of the conversation, he also mentioned that once something written was made public and then questioned, an alternative meaning to the one meant (the alternative then necessitating clarification) often happens.
Writing, art, and other expressions do seem to have a life of their own. We need to do our best to be clear and then just go with the flow as what we say gets interpreted and passed on. An example, for me, was that until the change in administration, no one thought to ask me whether the name “rose garden” yoga had anything to do with Washington, DC. After the shift in January, a few people noticed how DC it could be and asked if my intent was to refer to the White House Rose Garden.
It was not my original intent to have that be one of the many things that came to mind when I chose the name, but I it works well enough if people think of the Rose Garden as one of the many possible referrents.
I just went to my little plot at the community garden, and the base of the brandywine tomatoes were blackened. No doubt what it was: the dreaded blight. So I removed the plant, carefully putting it in the trash instead of the garden compost. Not clear yet whether Mr. Stripey is infected. The grape tomatoes are fine.
I could think that this is a sign that I should start cutting down my nightshade vegetable intake to see if doing so will ease my arthritis, but it isn’t a sign. Even if it is not a sign, I can see whether being without the temptation of a luscious tomato crop makes it easier to shift my diet.
I am grateful that I got such a wonderful harvest at the beginning of the summer, and I am doubly grateful that I am not dependent on just my own garden (or even on just local produce) to eat well.
But for a few moments, I think I will just allow myself to be disappointed.