Tuesday, April 22, 2014

some advice on how to grow tomatoes

Right now is the best time where I live to put in tomato plants. There is no danger of frost overnight and the days are warmer. I buy my seedlings (impatient) but I do one thing that ensures really strong healthy plants. I cut off all the leaves except the ones at the very top (the large ones at the crown) and then plant my seedling almost all the way up to those leaves. All the nodules at the base will develop roots to bring in moisture and nourish the baby plant.

When I water the plants I water them deeply and regularly--not superficially so the moisture just stays on the surface to evaporate in the sun. The water goes down to those deep developing roots and sustains the plant despite baking heat that drys the surface out.

When the seedling takes off it grows tall, bushes out and immediately starts to put out blossoms. I pluck these initial blossoms off for the first couple of weeks until I know the night won't drop below a certain temperature. At this point I stake the plants. Only then do I allow blossoms to develop. When fruit begins to form I then carefully begin a process of removing secondary leaves. I only leave on a few per branch allowing the most nutrition to flow to the developing fruit. As a result, I get far more giant beefsteak tomatoes in a season than I can use. I enjoy giving these colorful, meaty fruits away to my family and close friends.

None of these actions take much time but they have a huge impact on the quality of my tomato crop.

There is nothing magical about my process. It's all about paying attention and doing things that I know will make a difference. I don't spend every minute of every day but I give my plants consistent care. From the outside people may look at my tomato plants and think I have a special talent or other advantage. Nope, just practice. I look forward to seeing to seeing my crop develop and I look forward to sharing the results with others. It's a multi layered process. Additionally I've chosen to not grow other things so this one crop does well. What I don't do is as important as what I do do.

Everything else in life is like this. Taking up a language, a musical instrument, trying out a new hobby, learning skills for your career, writing a book--energy flows where attention goes. What seems small and underdeveloped to you right now has great potential to grow and thrive if you care for it. The DNA of every pursuit has written within it a roadmap for its success. Your job is to enable that growth with attention and by cutting out the things that impede it.

What do you wish to grow today?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

pay attention to everything

Last night, a dear old friend came by for one of our occasional dinners. Keri and I made dinner and I set out a bottle of prosecco to enjoy.

Our friend arrived, hugs were exchanged and prosecco poured. DOF produced a bottle of excellent red wine that quite literally wouldn't last another day--prosecco gone we uncorked that one and poured. Eventually food, wine and conversation all dwindled and it was time to call it a night. More hugs and DOF was off to her home for a sound night's sleep.

Sleep came quickly for me but at 3:30AM my body woke me up to give me its opinion on single-handedly killing a bottle of wine. I dutifully wandered into the kitchen for a big glass of water all the while musing how my constitution had failed me. When did I become such a light weight? I drank some more water and brought a glass to my bedside to sip until I fell back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 6AM my body still was very willing to share its opinion about my choices of the night prior. Ugh.

This morning I had to be honest with myself. I wasn't very kind to my good and faithful servant--my body. Just the night before DOF and I lamented how our Russian livers weren't doing their jobs as well. Of course we said that as we refilled our glasses (the wine was VERY good).

Ah the silly things we do.


Since I took up Feng Shui, I start every day by sweeping our entryway and walking our yards--pulling a weed here and there and noticing what needs water, what needs a trim etc. I do the same to the inside of the house--noticing everything that needs attention or that would be better placed if I moved it around. In this way I have created flow in our home and by extension have greater pleasure and ease in my house than ever before.

Clearly, my body would like that same kind of attention.

While I enjoy the pleasures of the table and glass, my body isn't an infinite resource in dealing with the consequences of those pleasures. Pretending it is because of my mythical heritage based constitution is just setting me up for an crisis down the line. Unlike cleaning up a dark corner of my yard or emptying a stuffed closet, care the the body is better done in advance--before stagnation sets in.

Rituals to care for the body need not be lengthy or involved--just consistent. You start by making one small manageable change at a time. Sometimes the best first step is just noticing how things make you feel and doing something different that feels better.

I know DOF won't mind if I slow down on refilling my glass the next time we visit just as I don't mind that she doesn't care for sour cream or mushrooms. Ultimately we both want to feel good which is why we make the choices we do in the first place. The left over wine will have to wait another day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A change in the sea

Right now my world seems so still. There is a place I want to get to but the wind isn't blowing.
When the wind isn't blowing you clean the decks, inventory your holds and watch the horizon for signs. You do the sensible things and you try to listen for whatever the gods are telling you to make the wind blow.

Only the gods aren't talking. I tried all the sensible things. It's time to employ the senseless.

Armed with a shovel, heavy gloves and safety glasses I attacked the final unloved corner of my home--the side yard. I discovered two pairs of rotten boots and garden supplies spoiled by the elements. The shade cloth was hanging in tatters and the corner was full of dead leaves and dirt blown in from the yard. There were buckets filled with stagnant water but alive with mosquito larvae. I dumped the water. and pulled every thing out. I picked through everything and made a pile for the dump and a pile to give away. I tested the tools, swept the deck and replaced the shade cloth.  I walked my yard and brought in all tools that were laying about. With each pass through I moved things about until I felt a sense of order and that I could finally stop.

I went into the house utterly exhausted and flopped in my chair. The dump pile looked enormous and it stank from all the neglected decomposing items collected there--its nature's way to decompose but the stink--it surely had a life of its own outside my attention.

As I rested I reflected on a coffee date I had with someone I met at a networking event. It was a casual meeting--just to get to know each other. She seemed very open and it felt easy talking to her. She listened to my stories and asked really good questions before saying anything about herself. She shared about her own life and eventually started talking about her personal reasons for being in her own business. As I listened to her I noted to myself how completely natural she was--she believed in her offerings and was looking for kindred spirits. I liked her--she was a genuine person in every sense of the word.

No matter how positive I felt about my new friend, our meeting left me feeling very unsettled--like I was missing something that she had. Not that I wanted WHAT she had but something in her essence. She knew what she was doing and was completely unconflicted about it. By contrast I felt I didn't know what I was doing and felt at a deep level something was off. What was it?

The sensible way I was going about business wasn't working. One dank, festering area of my personal belief structure was holding sway in how I was creating my new world. A belief so at odds with everything I teach that it couldn't be hidden behind an acceptable, easy to digest fa├žade.

Its the same belief that would have had me thinking I would never find a job on my own, have love in my life or have people laugh at my jokes. A belief that I'm not acceptable just as I am.

Wouldn't it be sensible to play it safe and be more acceptable? Easier to digest? Less weird?

Well, honestly, no. In fact it didn't work at all.

The good news is that its really easy to discard sensible things when they don't work.

The next morning I folded down all the seats in my tiny car, laid down a tarp and shoveled all the rotting, forgotten things that I pulled from the yard. I worried that my car would stink like trash or that I would puncture a tire but I went anyway. My trash filled car didn't stink and I didn't pop a tire--somehow overnight my garbage pile stopped smelling like rot and started smelling like damp earth. Even the dump (which usually smells like a garbage can) had the comforting smell of compost.

Airing out my festering corner brought in light and air and a sense of relief--I'm breathing again. I don't plan to do anything too quickly but when I do take action it will be from a place of truth and probably not very sensible.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

NaPoWriMo 2014--Day 3


The good idea I had
Didn't come from
the little itch above my eyebrow

In fact I don't know where it came from exactly

Sometime when either the warm water was running
or I was running the sander back and forth
it came to me
when I forgot to think

and damned if I can make it happen again

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Hero's Journey--the Hero is YOU

It feels like I'm sitting at campfires lately with my friends. Each of us telling tales to bolster our courage but also tales of the monster that lurks as well (the monster makes it exciting!).

Gentle reader I've been thinking about you. Yes you. I know that somewhere in the arc of your life you are up against unbearable odds. That you don't feel strong enough. That you want to go home and cover yourself up with a warm blanket and sip a cup of cocoa by the fire.

But there is no going back. Not until your mission is complete.

I've been giving a lot of thought to the Hero's Journey lately. It comes up all the time in conversations with my friends and haunts my dreams. It's made me think about all the people I know right now that are giving up something reliable (if boring/frustrating/unsatisfying) for something brighter, bigger, more inspiring.

Sometimes we leave on a spring day with the sun shining and it seems like a cheerful outing, the destination never in doubt--what could go wrong?

Sometimes we leave because we must. The fortress is in flames and there is no way but forward--out into a night that vision cannot penetrate. You find you can't read your maps because it's dark, or you lost them or they were the wrong maps in the first place. You have some dim idea of where you are supposed to end up but how to get there is a big mystery.

In either scenario there will come a time when the journey will look utterly impossible. The sunny day will be replaced by night. You will feel small, inadequate and destined to fail. The thing you thought would be a fun lark turned out to be a wild ride on a dragon plunging fast through ink dark waters. Why are you doing this in the first place?

Why indeed?

The difference between a hero and anyone else caught in the rain is that the hero knows there is no going back. The thing called home no longer exists as it was because the very act of taking the journey changes a body and by extension changes the world.

You have to go forward.

The other key difference between a hero and anyone else is that the hero is striving on behalf of something far greater than themselves. Heroes act in service to something they know matters  and that only they can do. This isn't a fucking hobby! Heroes may wish they could abandon this purpose but they cannot. It haunts and reminds them to get back on the path--that it all depends on them. And the hero chooses to go on.

Moving forward with your art, your work, your Wildly Improbable Goal is every bit as perilous as the quest for the Grail. The urge to quit, to go home and to try to forget what you set out to do is always there waving a warm blanket like a flag.

Navy SEAL training is famously tough (an understatement). The trainers kick sand in your food and torture recruits with drills in the cold Pacific waters followed by beach sprints, loaded pushups and exhausting repetition meant to break the mind down. Always in the distance the recruits can see a little wagon that has hot coffee, donuts and blankets. Recuits that ring the bell, signalling that they  quit get to go to that little wagon in full view of all the others. They get kindness there. They are told they are ok and that it was hard and that many fail.

The donut eaters get a moment's warmth but they aren't SEALs.

(its so tempting to be a donut eater)

Yours was not meant to be a common life. That is why you are facing the things you face today.

Despite the dragons, dark nights and sandy food, keep this in mind. No matter how hard this seems YOU AREN'T ALONE.

Carrying forward gets the attention of the Gods, Muses as well as helpful angels and spirits. The magic shield, the singing sword, the inextinguishable candle, the stroke of luck or a lighting bolt of inspiration comes from commitment to the path. Luck follows courage and purpose.

Expect providence to find you when you least expect it and most need it. Be clear about your purpose--the why and who you are undertaking your journey for--expand it so your light is shining on the largest crowd you can imagine. Keep them in your mind as you take your next step.

No one can do this but you. Go!

NaPoWriMo 2014--Day 2


Night snuck up on me
but I always knew
I could start a fire

except this time

all the tinders
seemed to be wet
and my matches were
very few

Tears sprung to my eyes
because the one thing
I thought I could do
failed me
when failure wasn't an option

you found me
and somehow found a light switch
and flooded the room with bright light
and kicked on the heat
from a large furnace
I had no idea was there

you tucked me in
brought me warm milk sweetened with a spoon of sugar
and crawled in beside me
I rested my head on your chest
frightened tears subsiding

deadly illusion dispelled
replaced by confusion

my clear sight
traded for gratitude
of just how wrong I can be

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NaPoWriMo 2014--Day 1

Story Time

Do you remember the movie
Being John Malkovich
and the many Malkovich scene?

you must have

listening to you I get the idea you are looking out of a Malkovich head
at a sea of mismatched Malkovich heads

its not a pretty sight
(and from where I sit it doesn't sound any better either)

if I could slide away
face first into the dark
out of your many headed Malkovich vision
I would
but it's not my slide to take
and you seem to be
at home