Last summer, I purchased my first echinacea plants. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching this one grow. It gets more sun than the other two and the difference is remarkable. One attribute that I find fascinating is that it has blossoms in so many stages of development at the same time. I am also enjoying the fact that the plant has at least four times the number of flowers-in-the-making than it did last year.
None of these flowers are fully developed yet. I look forward to showing you what it becomes. I also am anticipating looking at the flowers under the microscope. The shots I took last year were spectacular.
Last week, I went to Amma’s programs in Chicago and Atlanta. I had been enjoying eating the strawberries from my garden for about two weeks beforehand. When I returned home, I was surprised to see there were still strawberries available, and ripe blueberries as well. In fact, there were more blueberries than there has ever been on that little bush. Together they made a perfect snack.
I’ve been so involved in the Greenbelt restoration work that I’ve given my front yard garden very little attention. I’m loving how Mother Nature filled in the gap and made it beautiful in her own way.
For the last few years I have planted five or six pansies in the garden. Occasionally one has come back after the winter. This year, though, pansies of all colors have sprung up throughout the garden. There are so many of them! It seems so strange since that has never happened before.
Many of the blooms are withering but the combination of colors are still beautiful.
I had an early bloom on one of the squash plants……..
…. but so far there isn’t any squash. The plants seem healthy but I haven’t seen both male and female blooms on any variety and I haven’t seen any bees. I will hand fertilize when that becomes possible.
The Lazy Susan plant and the Echinacea plants have buds. I look forward to seeing their flowers.
There is a seemingly endless supply of lemon balm and peppermint.
Thank you Mother Nature for all that you do for me, and for the world. You are a paragon of compassion and an artist that has no equal.
I planted red clover as a cover crop in my garden last October. I’ve done that before and just turned the plants over in the spring. This year, a friend told me she always lets it grow because she loves the red flowers it produces. I decided to find out what those flowers were like. I was not disappointed.
The bumble bees love it and I’ve seen one honey bee gathering nectar there as well. I look forward to examining one of the flowers under the microscope next week. What a fun way to provide nutrients to my garden soil.
Every time I thought about “A Good Match,” my mind went back to a 2013 photo. I felt a sense of fascination when I first saw this tromboncino squash…. and I am still fascinated by it. To me it is the epitome of a good match.
Tromboncino squash are considered summer squash and are used in the same way as zucchini.
What I find most interesting about this form of squash, though, is that if you allow it to continue to grow, it will turn into a winter squash. In that process, it changes color and the skin becomes hard. The inside becomes sweet and reminds me of acorn squash. I really love eating it at that point.
I also love how big the squash grows. This one was five feet long!
(I took the photo above by taking a picture of myself in a mirror. My arms weren’t long enough to take it facing me. Besides, in 2013, I probably didn’t even know what a selfie was!)
I’ve been wanting to provide updates on subjects I’ve written about in the past, so I decided to publish a This and That post.
Those of you who followed my recent journey to Amma’s ashram in Amritapuri, India may remember that in January I was wondering why these “caterpillars” didn’t eat the Saraswati Garden plants. I’m used to seeing caterpillars demolish plants.
Two readers informed that the creatures weren’t caterpillars; they were centipedes. I had never considered that possibility. As I look closely at the photo above, I can see all of the legs, but I sure didn’t see them at the time.
I saw a centipede in Amritapuri two years ago. I remember it moved so fast that it left me speechless.
That one was more like centipedes I’ve seen in the United States. I had no idea that centipedes could be brightly colored. Those readers also told me that centipedes don’t eat plants; they are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of insects and spiders.
While I was in Amritapuri, crosswalks were painted on the street down the beach road. I saw about a mile of them, so I suspect they go the whole length of the peninsula. At the time, I wondered what crosswalks meant in India. I still don’t know what they mean.
I don’t believe that the crosswalks give pedestrians right-of-way, or if they do, that fact is being completely ignored. I didn’t see any change in driving patterns. I suspect a policeman or policewoman would have to stand there before the drivers would stop.
When I wrote my Women’s March on Seattle post, I was not able to get the video I took of a group of drummers turned from vertical to horizontal. I have recently accomplished that feat, thanks to some advice from a friend. You can see a clip of the performance in the video above, and I also added it to the post.
I had edited the post once before so I could include two addendum. One of them contains beautiful Women’s March photos from around the world. I cried as I scrolled down that article. If you would like to see the added content click here.
In January of 2015, I spent the night in the Dubai airport hotel. I was mystified when I walked into the bathroom. What was that on the left? Was it a man’s urinal? That didn’t make sense but neither did anything else.
There wasn’t even a flush on it. It was more like a bath tub. A bath for your dirty butt? I couldn’t get myself to try it that year or even the next. By then, I had been told that it was a bidet, and that you wash yourself some before you use it. The idea still seemed gross to me. It sure wasn’t like any bidet I’d ever seen.
This year I got brave and tried it out. Not bad. It was a bidet that had better aim than the kind I was familiar with.
I never found my lost iPhone, so have not been able to recover the photos I took on my last days in Amritapuri. I was able to find the Work With Nature YouTube channel that Lokeshwar, the man who organized the Amritapuri seed-saving garden, created. I just looked at that channel for the first time. There is SO much information there.
I also watched some of the videos. Lokeshwar’s Amritapuri garden has three of the plastic hives that you will see in the video below. They are for tiny sting-less bees. My understanding is that 50,000 bees can be housed in each of these bee hives and that the bees will always come back to that hive. (Lokeshwar is the man on the right.)
There are so many videos on his site. I look forward to exploring more of them in the future.
I slept 7 hours last night. Hallelujah! I know better than to assume my jet lag is over, but I can still hope! Sleeping only three hours at a time is exhausting.
I think this is the end of my updates, at least for now!
On January 8th, I visited one of the oldest gardens in Amritapuri. While it is known as Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field, it has become so much more.
In the early years, growing tulasi was the main focus. Then, the volunteers who worked at the farm discovered that Rudraksha trees were scattered around the property. Rudraksha seeds are considered sacred in India so they started harvesting the seeds and planting more of the trees. They also began growing vegetables and other plants.
Farming on that property has been such a struggle over the years. Among the problems they faced were lack of water, poor soil, and bugs. When I visited the farm last year, what I saw took my breath away. It had turned into paradise. (To see photos of last year’s visit, click here.)
When I went there this year, I was amazed by all the new projects that were underway. The first thing I noticed was an irrigation system that was under construction. I thought about all the years they have watered using small hoses. What a difference the irrigation system will make.
Then I noticed all of the raised beds. I was told that when there are heavy rains, the farm floods. With raised beds, the plants will be higher than the water. Several swales have been constructed to drain off the flood waters, but the photos I took of those ended up looking like flat ground, so I didn’t use them.
There is a big pond on the property. The plants that are growing in the pond are used for mulching. I saw, and talked to, volunteers who were constructing stairs that will go into the pond to make harvesting those plants easier.
There are rudraksha trees on several parts of the property. They are easy to spot because their trunks have all been painted white. Next year I will ask why they do that!
The numerous tulasi fields are thriving.
Many fruits and vegetables grow on the property.
I was surprised by the many varieties of eggplant. Later, I saw a bright yellow eggplant at Saraswati Garden but it was on the phone I lost on my last day at the ashram so you will have to use your imagination to see that one. I was particularly fascinated by the eggplant that looked like an egg!
The plant below is called Lakshmi Taru, The Paradise Tree, The Tree of Heaven, Simarouba or Simaroubaceae. It is a medicinal tree that has been used to treat dysentery, malaria, cardiac palpitations, asthma and epilepsy. It may have a role in cancer treatment.
I was intrigued by this flower.
Later, I learned it is a Sita Ashoka flower. Ashoka means “without sorrow”. Hindus believe that Sita, wife of Lord Rama, sat in a grove of Ashoka trees after she was abducted by the evil Ravana. Buddhists believe that Lord Buddha was born under an Ashoka tree.
I found this photo of an Ashoka tree on Wikimedia.
I will leave you with some final images of Amma’s wonderful Vrindavan Tulasi Field.
Monday, January 9 was another full and rewarding day. My main goal was to visit Vrindavan Farm, which is located in a part of Vallikavu that is south of the Amrita Ayurvedic College. I wasn’t sure how to get there so I decided to go by rickshaw and then walk back to the ashram when I was finished.
I will be writing a whole post about that farm later, but will share some photos, including the one above, with you now so that you can get a sense of what it was like.
A sevite (volunteer worker) offered to take photos of me. Normally I would say no, but I decided to let her do it. I enjoyed seeing the shots she took. I had no idea how much my hat protected me from the hot sun!
While I was at the farm, I talked with one of the other sevites. I discovered that he works at the Amrita Serve Garden in addition to Vrindavan Farm. I have been trying to find out the location of that garden so was excited that I had met someone who knew the answer to that question. He was willing to take me there later in the week, but our schedules didn’t line up very well. I asked him for directions so I could go on my own.
He said it might be hard for me to find it, since I had to locate a particular foot path. I decided to try. If nothing else, my Fitbit would record a lot of extra steps!
On the way, I walked by a building that I have thought was a new supermarket. I had seen the supermarket sign, but the store it was on looked so small, I didn’t bother to check it out. When I walked by the sign this time, I noticed it was just an advertisement. The supermarket itself was located off the road behind the small store. I was astounded. I’d guess it is nearly ten times the size of the other “super” market in town. There is no other shop in Vallikavu that is anywhere near that size.
I continued walking, passing by the supermarket and a new temple that was under construction. I saw two foot paths. I started down one path, but in a short time decided it was the wrong one, so I turned around and came back to the main road and took the other path. On that path I saw these:
After some time on the new path, I reached a paved road. I was clearly on the wrong path so I again walked back to where I had started and re-took the original path. After some time, I saw the garden I had been looking for.
No one was present to show me around, so I just wandered. Before I leave Amritapuri, I’m going to meet up with the man that gave me directions so I can learn more about that garden. I will pass on the information he gives me when I write the main post about the Amrita Serve garden. For now, here is a glimpse of some of the plants. [Update: I met with the sevite on 1/12. When he looked at the photos he told me that wasn’t the Amrita Serve garden. I apparently was on a private farm that grows tapioca, coconuts and bananas! There aren’t signs on either property and there are private houses on both so I had never considered that option. I had been told that it was after a purple house. There was a purple house just before this one too. I’m going to see the Amrita Serve garden this morning, 1/13.]
When it was time for me to walk back to the ashram, I decided to take the canoe rather than walk over the bridge. It the first time I had done that since the bridge was built, eight years ago.
I felt so peaceful floating on the water, and the ride to the peninsula only cost 10 rupees (about 15 cents). I may never walk over the bridge again.
In addition to having a wonderful morning exploring the gardens, I had walked more than 13,000 steps!
To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.
Grace is Flowing
I have felt graced many times lately. The ones I’m remembering in the moment are:
-I wear a Fitbit that serves both as a pedometer and as a watch. For some unknown reason, the Fitbit hasn’t synced for the last six weeks, so I’ve had to add 1 ½ hours every time I looked at the watch. That has been a nuisance. One day this week, I looked at my watch and the time was correct. It felt surreal.
-Last week I made an appointment for a massage. (Various forms of body work and classes are available here. The proceeds help fund Amma’s humanitarian projects.) When I arrived at the session, the massage therapist asked if I wanted a Swedish massage or Reflexology. I said “Both!” That wasn’t an option so I got the massage.
When I was in Tai Chi class on Thursday, I started feeling the nerve pain I get in my toes when my low back muscles are too tight. Towards the end of the class, a friend who was on a break from the Reflexology class she was teaching, walked up to me and asked if I wanted to have a Reflexology treatment in a half hour. She had an uneven number of people in her class, and needed to have someone receive a treatment when the students paired up and worked on each other. I, of course, was delighted to serve in that way!
-Amma held darshan in the temple again on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. That felt like such a gift. Being in the temple brings back so many memories for me plus it feels more intimate than being in the big auditorium.
-I’d been feeling down for awhile and hadn’t been able to shake it. On Wednesday, the crowd was small so I decided to go for darshan and ask Amma, internally, to help me lighten up. When I entered the darshan line, I learned that the man next to me was from the UK but had been living in a Buddhist monastery for many years. He was on his way back to the UK, where he plans to start an intentional living community focused on mindfulness and sustainability. He had never met Amma before. I loved talking to him while we proceeded through the darshan line. When I reached Amma, she held me for what seemed like a very long time. I feel so blessed to have her in my life.
-Someone asked me a few days ago if I would be willing to be the first person to hand Amma prasad this coming Sunday. They always like to have an experienced person do that job at the beginning. Needless to say, I didn’t have to think twice before I said yes to that!
– Amma comes to the beach for meditation and a question and answer period on Monday and Friday evenings. I didn’t go on Monday, but I heard afterwards that instead of being next to the Ayurvedic building, sandbags had been put on the beach and the meditation was held there. I felt sad that I had missed that experience so I made sure I went yesterday. It was wonderful to be there although I was sitting on the side and much lower than most of the people so I could see Amma but not much else. I had no idea what a big area our group covered until I saw this photo on Amma’s Facebook Page. I will go earlier on Monday!
-Tonight Swami Amritasvarupananda sang a song that used to take me into such a deep state of meditation. I haven’t had that experience for many, many years, but it happened again tonight. I am feeling so much gratitude.
Saraswati Garden and Eco Textile Work Center
I’ve continued to work an hour or two in the Saraswati Garden and Work Center most days. On Wednesday, we harvested the rest of the turmeric. Yesterday it was boiled and today another devotee and I sliced it. It will then be dried and ground into powder for use in dying fabric. After two hours of slicing, my hands were even yellower than when I did it for the first time. I know from experience that I will be yellow for days.
I’ve seen big lizards in the garden several times on this trip, but they always move so fast that a photo is out of the question. Two days ago, one scooted in front of me and then up the side of a wall. It then stayed in one place while I took out my camera. As soon as I snapped the shot, it sped off.
The garden has lots of caterpillars. I turned over a coconut shell yesterday and it was filled with caterpillars. I walked back to the house to get mye camera. There were still a lot of them in the shell when I returned. I associate caterpillars with destroying gardens and trees but I don’t see any evidence that these are hurting the plants in any way. I wonder what they are eating.
A week from today I will be in Dubai waiting for my flight back to Seattle. I’m starting to sort through my belongings and pack. Before long I will be cleaning my room in preparation for the next person that stays here.
Even though I’m starting my ending process, I know my trip is not over yet. I have almost a week of experiences still ahead of me. On Monday, I’m going to Vrindavan Gardens, the oldest of the tulasi gardens. I’ve heard new things are happening there and I’m eager to find out what they are!
To see all of the posts in this Amritapuri series, click here.
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