Tag Archives: sustainability

Adopt. Cats. Meditate.

Taken moments after the Oprah and Deepak 21-day meditation series, day 15. The theme: Being in the flow is effortless. Sanskrit: Sat Chit Ananda-Life is absolute bliss consciousness

I went out and got two cats the other day. I looked online at the local shelter and though the goal was one, I chose two. They did not know each other.

One radiated sweet, the other appeared cute and playful. After we got home, one was naughty, one was nice. The cute and playful one became moody and distant.

I saw her walking away a lot. At home, she was an emotional mystery prone to getting upset quickly. As in, don’t touch me, don’t pick me up. DON’T!

Neither cat actually behaved badly. I just had to get to know them.

She was a mystery, her personality and story taking form each day

I AM cute, yes, and thank you for noticing!

The sweet cat is the orange boy cat.

Lord Byron

After a couple days of being scared of a new place, he set his loving gaze upon me.

He approves of me. It’s a done deal.

How do you suddenly have two grown cats? Who don’t know each other? You follow the directions. The shelter offers tips and instructions on how to gradually introduce. The cats did great and I was committed. It took my attention. It’s not a “let ’em work it out” thing I remember hearing people say years ago. As the tribe leader, the human in the house needs to keep things respectfully organized and safe so the kitties can feel cared for in their new surroundings.

I learned to meet the cats where they were. I’m still doing that, about a month later. All this is a lot like getting to know anyone, even people. Time, space, place, boundaries, bonding, habits, preferences- these have meaning for all creatures.

Meditation turned out to be the best bonding activity, even equal to play. Spice Girl, named for personality and her hues of cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili, and ginger, likes meditation. She isn’t moody, she just needs stillness. She would rather sit in peace with you than bite and scratch, given the option. Really.

She wanted to connect but didn’t know how.

So, we learned.

The other arrived with peace and love, this was his truest nature.

Lordy

If their nature is not peace and love, that is o.k. This invites close attention! Observation.

Lesson #1, don’t do what they don’t like. When cat says no; not that; not here; not there; not this; oh hell no!….. listen. Because next they will tell you what they do like.

Yes, I like that toy! Yes! Yes! I like that touch! There, under my chin! By my ears! Yes! I like sweet talk directed at ME! Yes, I love the food you offer! Yes, I love the meditation when I sit with you and you don’t pet me but we are touching! Yes! Thank you! Yes, that purr is for YOU! O.k., I have to go now!

Cats have a great ability to relax if they think everything is basically o.k. It’s a good enough reason to keep a habit of creating a basically o.k. environment.

Big thanks to my loyal dog, Lily. She is an unlikely zen master with cats. Seriously, she diffused all feelings of worry and angst when introduced. It’s not that she particularly likes cats. It’s just a non-issue for her. She adapts to adoption. She was once adopted herself.

Lily likes leaves.

We are at one month now, and everyone is getting along well. There is still an occasional hiss, but it’s more of a warning than an aggressive act. More often I hear chripy recognition hello meows with a purr follow-up. Our daily meditation brings a contented silence, which naturally spills into regular non-meditation time. It’s great to share peace with all creatures!

 

The editorial board

What is mental health?

We went from headaches to mental health fairly quickly. I asked him what he did for his own mental health? His answer: “I don’t know what it is.” Fair enough. An honest answer! A few beats passed and he asked, what do YOU do for your mental health? Touché!

I told him that for my mental health, I exercise, hang out with uplifting people, do arty stuff, meditate.

He perked up about the meditation. He said he tried it but it didn’t work. He had done it twice, each time for 2 hours. I told him that was very ambitious! How about shorter, like 10-15 minutes a day?

He asked how does it feel, when you are in the zone of meditation? This is a good question and I wasn’t sure how to answer. English was not his first language so when I used words like peaceful, it didn’t fly. So, I motioned like I was unscrewing the top of my head, and said, “it’s like if you took the top of your head off and poured fresh water through it; rinsed it out with water and light.

His eyes lit up and he said, “oh!”

He left with a new approach to meditation.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Albany, Oregon

What is good mental health?

Here is a list of eight things I was told in school (Oregon college of Oriental Medicine, Portland, Oregon).

Signs of good mental health could be the ability to:

  1. Develop emotionally, creatively, and spiritually.
  2. Initiate, develop, and sustain healthy relationships.
  3. Face problems, resolve them, learn from them.
  4. Be confident and assertive.
  5. Have awareness of others, ability to empathize with them.
  6. Use and enjoy solitude.
  7. Play and have fun.
  8. Laugh at yourself and at the world (takes tremendous amount of self esteem and inner strength to laugh at oneself).

*We need enough life force to initiate and develop ourselves. Always look for and find ways to cultivate your life force.

The above list came from an academic course, which was directed toward working with addiction and mental health.

© Mary Ann Petersen

These are guidelines, points of reference. I think we need to identify in writing some concepts of good mental health. It’s time to be concrete rather than vague.

Why don’t more people have answers for good mental health? Why does it seem slippery? Lately, I see a need for solid footing in this subject. Let’s start somewhere. And go beyond, “see a counselor.” Some won’t get there, so what are common sense concepts in the meantime? As in, let’s get some movement on the ground floor, within our reach and not make supporting general mental health too confusing.

© Mary Ann Petersen. Dublin, Ireland.

My point is, we all need to bring this care into our own lives, even if we are not in the middle of a mental health crisis. If we wait for that, it’s a harder place to set up aid and self care.

© Mary Ann Petersen. The temple.

The next list is from a Quaker group I attended, so it has a spiritual leaning. The topic was Universal Spiritual Elements.

Universal Spiritual Elements

  1. Awareness of the “other.” What is valued or sacred? What do you value over yourself?

2. Sense of responsibility. How am I responsible for the world around me? How do treat my space, surroundings, people, pets?

3. Sense of vocation. What is my reason for being? What gives meaning or purpose?

4. Sense of community. Is there a sense of caring and being cared for? Who are my people? Who do I trust?

5. Sense of repentance. What is my capacity for reconciliation with self and others. Mistakes are entry points for healing forgiveness.

6. Ability to be present. Is my focus past, present, or future oriented. Soul lives in present. Past: ego. Future: ego.

7. Faith. What is the relationship between my small story fitting into the bigger story. To connect to a sense of the transcendent, what do you relate to?

Having trouble figuring out how to integrate all this into your life? That’s o.k., pick one thing and start there. Remember to have fun. Practice, practice, practice.

In my view, we should be having conversations and taking action everyday toward cultivating good head and heart space.

Leave a comment to say which or what called to you.

Back to meditation, if you want a great kickstart, go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/experience.
It’s a great 21-day simple guided meditation. It fits into any schedule! It starts Monday the 30th. The theme is Making Every Moment Matter.

Flowers wave at the traffic going by

I practiced 20 different introductions as I walked toward the Flower Garden of Mystery. This is a large plot of sunflowers and nasturtiums on the corner of Hilyard and E. 25th.

“Hi, my name is Mary Ann and I love your garden and I wondered if I could interview you for my blog, which has very few readers….”

“Hi, I’m Mary Ann, your neighbor, and I write about stuff, and I like your stuff, wanna chat?”

I walked up to the door and knocked twice to no answer. I felt hopeful as I looked at gnomes, a small plastic draft horse, and other fun odds and ends in the flower bed off the porch. As I walked away on the sidewalk, a woman opened the door and called to me. She said she is often hesitant to answer her door, but she saw me and decided to open it. It wasn’t her garden. She said it was her landlady’s plot. “Bonnie just turned 80. She is sort of a legend around here, I think she’d love to talk to you.” I was directed to walk two houses over, to Bonnie’s house.

Turns out, this booming flower garden is entirely volunteer. Nothing was planted. By now, it blooms by habit. It’s 50 years old. “I love the feel of dirt and the fairly amazing concept that a little piece of nothing turns into something magnificent,” said Bonnie Brunken, the one behind the garden. She moved into the neighborhood in 1949. At that time, the land was swampy and cheap; flooding was a regular thing.

Zinnias are her favorite flower. Next, she likes nasturtiums and sunflowers because “they want to live!” My faves too.
Several years ago, I was inspired to have the audacity to plant a huge zinna patch by yet another 80+ year-old neighbor!

Bonnie said she learned to grow things through mentors. “I was mentored by Wilma Crowe, who is in her 90s now.” Wilma and her mother, Mrs. Zahn, taught her about “moon planting and all kinds of things.”

The big patch of flowers cycles like this: tons of mulched leaves from her  Carolina Poplar trees are piled high on the bed in the winter. They are tilled into the soil in the spring. Next, she adds straw as the top layer. With some warmth and water, the soil pops to hundreds of flowers. After they are done, it all begins again.

What I like the most about the flower patch is its sole purpose is to be enjoyed. The flowers aren’t sold or eaten. They’re just there. The profit is in the eyes of those who notice.

Back to moon planting. Mrs. Zahn came by one day and checked in with Bonnie who had planted carrots about two weeks before. Mrs. Zahn gave her more carrot seeds and said, “plant these about 6″ out from yours, in the next row.” Bonnie said, sure, but why? “Because today is the right moon day to plant carrots.” In no time, the moon planted carrots grew stronger, faster, larger and didn’t have as much problems with bugs. Bonnie said, “I was a convert after that.”

Her mentors were organic farmers. She also read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s. Carson stands out as one who brought forth awareness about the harm caused by pesticides. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. At 56 and dying of breast cancer, she testified in front of the senate, “our heedless and destructive acts enter the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.”

Upon this read, Bonnie said, “o.k, I’m not going to add to the problem.”

Besides seeing the results of moon planting, she saw a study done about 25 years ago by the University of Iowa. The final analysis ended up being about 500 pages with the conclusion: we understand a little bit about it; we don’t understand most of it; we just know that it works.

Sometime before this study, Pliny, the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist stated that the moon “replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies; while when she recedes, she empties them.”

Moon planting is also referred to as agricultural astrology as it relates to moon phases and astrological signs.

Bonnie has two great dogs: Dandelion, the Parson Russel terrier, and Sage, the very soft beagle. Before I left, she wanted to show me the third pet, who lives in the back yard.

Perched in a patch of dragon lilies, snap dragons, daises, and other grasses and flowers, was a huge metal dragon! Bonnie named it, “Joyful.”

Joyful

For more about organic and biodynamic farming, check out my article featuring draft horses:
http://ezine.takerootmagazine.com/HTML5/Duhn-Associates-TAKE-ROOT-Magazine-Fall-2016?pageNum=18

Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.

Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.

Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.

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St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.

Zoöpolis Is Where It’s At

ZOO1

A thriving coexistence: cultivating Zoöpolis.

Zoöpolis is a new word for me. Maybe you already know it? It has a z and an umlaut, so I already liked it, before I knew what it meant. Jennifer Wolch, a geographer coined this term.

Definition: The place where the polis meets the zoo, an overlap of human and animal geographies. A zoöpolis happens when we create landscapes in which humans and animals coexist, or even thrive alongside each other. I saw this word in Crow Planet, Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

IMG_2445

I like to make signs. So it came to be: zoöpolis holds its place in my homemade trellis. It was there for one day when I saw a pair of crows carefully choosing old dry plant skeletons for their nest build. They looked like a couple at home depot choosing fence boards. Did they read my sign? I mean, they ARE smart. I’ve seen crows in my yard before, picking at things, strolling about. But, with the sign blessing their presence, everything looked different, more unified, more alive and thriving.

Resources are meant to be shared. I suggest making a yard that provides offerings, both for human and animal. For me, this means plants for pleasure, and harvest. Many options provide both, for example, patches of sunflowers are visually sensational, while serving as pollinators. Bees buzz over them in the warm sun, heavy with thick pollen panniers. After a few weeks, the dried sunflowers become feeding stations to chickadee, golden finch, and squirrels.

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You must throw in some art somewhere. I have twig structures. They are great to hang bird feeders from. People also like points of interest that move. I have a palomino. It is not a real horse, but a small replica. It is in a constant grazing pose. Every few days, when I’m out working in the yard, I’ll move it around. People are wild for this, often commenting that they enjoy looking for it. This little horse has stolen the show, and it’s the least amount of work for me to maintain.

Nest material can be fluffed with little effort. Crows mate for life and both the male and female collect nest materials and put it together. They look for pieces of straw, twigs, stripped bark, and feathers. If you want to offer some additional materials, put out yarn, brushed out animal fur, or bits of twine. Don’t put out dryer lint. It’s soft but can be an irritant to young birds.

Zoöpolis: It’s got something for everyone.