Flathead Lake Cherry Orchard, Montana
On Tuesday I took a drive up north with my mom, stepson, and friend to the Flathead Lake area in order to do some cherry picking. We were gifted with an invitation from a friend of mine, a local orchard worker, to come up and pick as many cherries as we wanted. Around here many folks wait for the Flathead Cherry season to come into full swing. They are a local delicacy, and for good reason!
Similar to gardening cherry picking is a naturally mindful activity. It’s hard to pick cherries and not be fully present with the process. The four of us spent 2 hours picking and collected around 100 pounds of cherries! We had to pull ourselves away from the trees – it was just so easy and enjoyable picking away. The trees were chock full!
OK – so now we had 100 pounds of cherries right? Now what? Well, I got to work washing, de-stemming, and pitting cherries :)
After some great help from a couple of friends we have about 10 gallon sized ziplock bags full of pitted cherries in the freezer. There are a few bags we didn’t pit and the rest have either being given to friends, are in the dehydrator, have been juiced, frozen into popsicles, or turned into the delicious pies that my mom and I made last night using a crust recipe from my great grandmother. I think I’ve had more cherries in the past two days then I’ve had in my entire life! I’ve drank cherry juice, eaten fresh cherries, had cherry pie, and last night I had a cherry popsicle from fresh cherry juice. There are cherries all over the house :)
Today I went on an impromptu solo excursion to Redsun Labyrinth. Located about 40 miles from town in the Bitterroot Mountains the labyrinth sits on private land and is simply beautiful. It is easy to find and lovingly maintained. Luckily there are easy to follow signs guiding and welcoming you along the way to the labyrinth because with it inhabiting private land it’s a bit counterintuitive to simply park in a stranger’s driveway and walk in through their front gate past their house and over their lawn (which is what you have to do). The fact that the labyrinth is open to the public, sits on privately owned land, and simply operates on general trust and donations is pretty spectacular.
Last weekend, while walking two kiddos I was doing childcare for to a local park, we went past a house that had a small free library in a nice little window doored box on a post in their front yard (pictured above). It’s a simple concept that I phrase as: Wanna book? Take a book! Gotta book? Leave a book! Turns out that you can go to http://littlefreelibrary.org/ and learn all about these free libraries and even find out where there are ones in your community around the U.S.
Well, I was so drawn to this idea that I decided to make my own! You can buy a kit on the website above or simply make it a do-it-yourself project. So I went to our local home re-use center and found a $5 brown metal cabinet. After some light sanding, primer, and paint I was ready to go! I searched through my bookshelf for books to donate to kick it off and even threw in some DVD’s (I came up with 13 books, 9 dvd’s, and 3 kids books). And around 9:00am this morning I set it up out front of our house on the curb and now it’s open for business! My good friend Jennifer helped me to come up with names and my favorite was one of her suggestions: Books in the Hood :)
“…people in your life don’t get in the way of your spiritual practice; these people are your spiritual practice. Through each other we discover that if we have the heart – the willingness, the strength, the courage – we have the capacity to plant the seeds of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, seeds of laid-back humor, a sense of letting go. But your heart must be quicker than your mind. Trust me, that organ between your ears is always spoiling for a fight…But the real fight is taking place inside you, within the “dharma organ,” the heart, where the challenge is to unify and understand, where the seeds of love and compassion are struggling to lay roots, to gain ground. Lend this struggle an ear. Just pause for three seconds. One banana…two banana…three banana…Pause and listen. Pause and breathe. Pause and gather your scattered, wild energies, your shattered soul…before you fling that seed of hate into the wind. Mark my works, times are tough and the ground is fertile. That seed will grow.”
From Zen Confidential, Confessions of a Wayward Monk
by Shozan Jack Haubner
Hiawatha Bike Trail
If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere. ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Last night I went to a concert at a local bar downtown. Xavier Rudd, an Australian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, came to town. He played to a sold-out crowd of mostly 20-something-year-olds with his well known shoeless feet, laid-back surfer-esque nonchalance, and positive juju. Just to look at him he seemed to fit right in to our alternative friendly, progressive mountain town.
After the opening act finished his set and we were standing shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor up against the stage waiting for Xavier to come on I took some time to look around the crowd and absorb the scene with a lens of mindfulness. As I panned the bar all I saw were beautiful people. Each individually unique face, body type, style of dress, and flashing mannerism were simply beautiful. To clarify, I’m not talking about visually striking, classically beautiful, physically unflawed, perfectly symmetrical people. I’m speaking in a broader sense (or if you happen to understand buddhist terminology I’m speaking in terms of the ultimate dimension). Beauty is an inherent quality we all possess, like goodness. When our minds and hearts are open to it we can practice to see beauty in every precious moment we are afforded.
Today is my birthday :) I’m celebrating my 35th trip around the sun today. In our tradition, of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, we use the term Continuation Day in place of Birthday because of the nature of no birth and no death. Within the bounds of science (and buddhism) we know that nothing is born and nothing dies, matter cannot be created or destroyed it simply changes form. It’s more accurate to think in terms of continuation. Before I was born I existed inside of my mother and before that I existed within my mother and father and before that within my grandparents and onwards back within my ancestors. I am the continuation of an unfolding fabric.
My existence is due to many many causes and conditions coming together. I see my gratitude for my mom and dad. I see my gratitude for the earth that provides me with everything that I need. I see my gratitude for my community of friends and family. I see my gratitude for this practice, for my teachers, and for my worldwide sangha of brothers and sisters.