Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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A Year of Mindfulness: Becoming Aware of Food

Bless us oh Lord and these, thine gifts, which we are about to receive….

And so went the daily prayer my family would say each night before digging into dinner. A prayer over our food.

For the most part these were just rote words I learned as a child. Words that were to remind me to thank God (or the Universe, or Buddha, or Allah, or whatever deity you might believe in) for the food on my plate.

I was reminded of these very words because this week’s mindfulness practice asks us to look deeply into food. That is, to consider where our food or drink came from; the people who harvested the food, the driver who transported the food, the farmer who grew the food, and so on.

When I was a child, my family grew some of our food in a small urban garden. Mainly tomatoes and corn which were the easiest to grow. As an adult, I carried this trait with me and have had a vegetable garden for many years.

But for many in society, there is no opportunity to grow food. And the further away we are from the source of our food, the easier it is to forget all that is involved in bringing food to our table. This lack of awareness was the basis for some localvore movements.

Yet beyond the understanding of where our food comes from and all the people (and animals) involved in bringing it to us, when we become aware of food, we awaken to our complete dependence upon the life energy of many other people. This awareness gives new meaning to the idea of having communion with others. That is, each time we eat or drink, we come into union with countless beings.

This week as you eat or drink, look more deeply into your food. Become aware of the source of your food and all those countless beings who contributed to bringing these items to you.

Reflection: The life energy of many beings flows into us as we eat. -Dr. Jan Chozen Bays

Bean seedling - Version 2


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Gardening: A Practice in Acceptance

Within 72 hours or so of posting about gardening as a spiritual practice, I learned that gardening is also a practice in acceptance when Eric commented “Someone has been eating our hostas.”

Sure enough, a young female deer had foraged through the garden bed closest to the house and did serious damage to the once large hosta plants. I thought of my friend Carol who recently moved into a house that is much closer to wildlife. Carol commented (to paraphrase) what is it about deer? Do they pick and choose what they eat? Do they skip a plant because they’re full? I mean, they eat a little here, a little there, don’t touch that plant over there.

Such is the irony of deer and so it was with our hostas. This deer de-nuded a couple hostas and left some leaves attached to others. My first reaction was “hummph” and I silently berated myself for not spraying the deer repellent on the hostas.

The next evening Pippin spotted our now named “Lady Hosta” deer. Again she was munching the hosta. I banged on the window, which got her attention and caused her to look at me quizzically. So there we were, me in the house telling Lady Hosta through the window glass that I did not appreciate her eating my hosta and that I’d like her to leave the garden, and Lady Hosta staring at me with those doe eyes glancing at the nearby sedums with their newly formed buds, and looking like she wasn’t quite sure which way to move.

A few more pounds on the window and the front door and Lady Hosta took the hint and off she ran through the front yard into the woods.

This is not our first encounter with the neighborhood deer. We’ve been acquainted with them for several seasons, throughout the year. I think I’ve counted up to six at one time in various positions around the house. Usually we have mom and the yearlings. Once I kept Eric from leaving the house because mom and baby were wandering through a large bed at the end of our property. The fawn was nosing and nibbling through the bed and mom was standing guard. It was too precious of a scene to disturb.

Another time mom and a couple kids were sauntering through the yard. The young male decided to inspect the vinca near the house. I happened to look out the family room window and there was the little guy. I must’ve said something that attracted his attention because his head popped up from the plants. It was then that I noticed his tiny antler buds and said “Oh you’ve got little antlers” while raising my hands to my head (imitating the antlers). The hand movements must’ve scared him because he bolted straight out of the garden bed. Or he was completely insulted by my antler imitation and he ran to his mom to tell her of the strange human on the other side of the glass.

We knew that once we planted our gardens we were likely to attract wildlife. In some ways that was our intent. We wanted the bumble bees, the hummingbirds, and the dragonflies, the goldfinches and robins and butterflies. Eventually the call must’ve gone out; “these guys have a salad bar here and it is open 24/7.”

I love my garden and I love the animals it attracts, the birds, the deer, the rabbits, the chipmunks and snakes, and mice, and insects. I’m not always happy with the damage that they inflict and it is up to me to put down the preventatives or put up a barrier or put out a trap or to surround those plants the deer like with plants that are less to their liking. Sometimes I’m lazy about it and don’t act until after-the-fact.

Some people I know get angry about the deer and other wildlife. Personally, I don’t think that accomplishes very much. After all, we’re the ones who have moved into their neighborhoods here in the rural areas and countryside. I believe accepting that this is their habitat and living in co-existence is a better approach; at least that works for me.

For me gardening is not just a spiritual practice reinforcing our connection to the earth, it is teaching me acceptance as well.

On Friday, 6/20, NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook had a wonderful interview with author and professor Robert Pogue Harrison on The Gardening Art, a history of our love affair with gardening. Read more about it and listen here


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Gardening As A Spiritual Practice

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from which you came, and to which you shall return.

I remember a feeling of fear as a child whenever I heard those words during mass at the Catholic Church. I didn’t want to turn into a pile of ashes. I didn’t want to become dust blowing around on the ground. And just what did you mean, calling me a pile of ashes?

As is all too common, I heard those words as a child and had not a clue as to what they meant and didn’t question it either. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to understand that we, as humans, come from the earth; we are part of the earth. John O’Donohue puts it well

Your body is as ancient as the clay of the universe from which it is made;
and your feet on the ground are a constant connection with the earth.
Your feet bring your private clay in touch with the ancient, mother clay from which you first emerged.

I love to garden, both vegetable and perennial. We always had a garden when I was growing up, whether it was in Detroit or in the suburbs of Michigan. I have fond memories of my dad going out to the garden, salt shaker in hand, where he would pick a tomato from the vine, sprinkle it with some salt, and take a bite. Is there any better way to enjoy a tomato? And somewhere in a photo album is a picture of me as a little girl sniffing the flowers.

So it seems natural that gardening runs in my blood. I’m not always successful at it and some seasons weeds are my best friend. And for whatever reason, as I planted seedlings in the vegetable beds this year, I began to think of our connection to the earth, to the dirt that I was digging and pushing around.

I don’t always have the time I’d like to devote to my gardens (hence the acceptance of weeds as my friends). And it was knowing that I don’t have as much time that I started to think of gardening as a spiritual practice. During this time, the garden becomes my sole focus, my intent, my presence. The phone stays in the house. I don’t wear an iPod. It is just me, the gardening gloves and tools.

In making my gardening a spiritual practice, whether I spend 15 minutes or an hour, the time spent becomes a richer experience. Bird songs seem louder. Bees seem to buzz with greater intensity. It is as if the world becomes more vibrant.

In making gardening a spiritual practice, I now understand even better our connection to the earth. I have a better appreciation of John O’Donohue’s words, that we are part of the “mother clay.”

As we nurture the earth, so will it nurture us both physically and spiritually.

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