Category Archives: Peonies

Gratitude Friday

1. Avocados. Yup, I’m still obsessed with them, keep finding new ways to eat them, places to add them. They are one of those foods that as a kid I would have said “yuck,” and because of that just trusted I didn’t like them, but at some point tried them as an adult and thought, “what?! why didn’t anyone tell me of this deliciousness?!” The same thing happened with fresh tomatoes from my garden, spinach and brussel sprouts and oatmeal — love them now, hated them then.

2. Peonies. Yes, still. The season is just about over, and I have realized I need to get at least three or four more plants to put in my front yard to even begin to be satisfied next year.

remainders

3. A haircut and some highlights. It feels healthier, looks like summer.

4. Sitting in the backyard with Dexter and Sam on a day when it didn’t get to be as hot as predicted. I was feeling anxious and sad about a few things, felt like the world was just way too complicated for me and I needed a time out. Dexter wanted to play and Sam was guarding the yard from invisible squirrels. The birds and the butterflies, the blue sky and clouds, the shade of the trees and the soft green of the grass — I finally felt like I could breathe.

dexandsamlounging

5. The way Dexter came in last night to invite me outside, where Sam and Eric were already, gave me that look, that smile, that wag of the tail, and as soon as I agreed, he ran full speed, making circles around the yard like a mad man, butt tucked and ears back, big smile on his face, just like when he was a puppy.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. Even as our time together is clearly winding down (he has been having a bloody nose about every three days, sounds a bit stuffed up, and the top of his nose is looking a little swollen), he still does all the things he does with so much joy.

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Gratitude Friday

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1. Peonies.

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly
~Mary Oliver, Peonies

2. My office space. Clearing it out, cleaning and decluttering, the opportunity to get clear about what I’m doing here and how best to support and inspire that.

tinyaltar

3. Books. Oh how I love them. Susannah Conway is doing the most amazing giveaway.

bigbookgiveaway

4. Pie. Someone on Facebook this week asked me if I needed an intervention.

pie

5. Eric, the one who makes me pie.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. His nose is bleeding this morning and I cancelled another trip I had planned because I don’t want to leave him, but he was at my feet playing with his baby ram and oh so happy to go on a walk. Tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal.

dandbabyram

Something Good

For those of you who are new to my blog, here’s the story behind my Something Good posts: When I am feeling bad, I will often ask my husband Eric to “tell me something good.” When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad. When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me –”tell me something good.”

He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works. I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” almost 20 years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you? He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”

So on A Thousand Shades of Gray, Monday’s feature is: Something Good. I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things, so every Monday, I give you a list.

Here’s this week’s list:

1. 5 Plants You (Almost) Never Have to Water on House Logic.

2. Stunning Self-Portraits by a 14-year-old Photographer on Bored Panda.

3. Diana Fayt’s Painted Rocks (& Other Lovely Things) from Lisa Congdon.

4. Be Brave: A Poem-Film for Anyone Asking for Courage to Create from Jeffrey Davis.

5. Cute Pets in Windows from Bold Italics, originally shared by Rachel.

6. Reflections on Fearlessness and Best Links (May), a great list of good stuff from Sandra at Always Well Within, (confession: one of my posts is on the list).

7. Reason to Forgive | DubStep, video of a 12 year old who is an amazing dancer.

8. You’re not needy. You’re starving. from Rachel Cole. Amazing.

9. Out of the water from Lisa Bonchek Adams.

10. Patrick Stewart Speaks About His Childhood, Domestic Abuse and PTSD. The woman involved in this specific moment wrote about it on her blog as well, Let me tell you a thing, about an amazing man named Patrick Stewart.

11. This message from Brave Girls Club came just when I needed it,

Dear Sweet Girl,

You don’t have to have special permission to take a break, you know. You have done enough. When you are tired, and weary and feeling worn out, you need to be kind to yourself and take good care of your body and your spirit.

Please be good to yourself, beautiful friend . . . the world is not the same without the best of you. The people that you love the most have better lives because of you and the people you have not even met yet will have enriched lives because of you.

Your life will be better, happier, more effective, more efficient and more meaningful if you stop and take care of yourself. No more putting guilt trips on yourself or letting anyone else do it. No more working yourself so hard that you can’t even feel anymore . . . it’s time to REALLY nurture and take care of yourself. You are a gift to the world, please take care of YOU. Today’s a great day to start.

12. There’s Just No Time from Paul Jarvis, shared by Laura of Create as Folk.

13. Rijks Museum Free Hi-Res Art Downloads shared by Pugly Pixel.

14. Introducing Prancercise, just silly enough to be kind of awesome.

15. Be the Giver from Danielle LaPorte.

16. 9 Rules for a Simpler Day from Zen Habits.

17. What is Your Gift to the World? on Scoutie Girl.

18. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Tigers Above, Tigers Below: There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

19. 7 Things You Need to Stop Doing Every Day from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

20. Make Me: Fabric Gift Bags from Decor8.

21. Celebrate and Embrace Ventures and Adventures from Be More with Less.

22. Her Lilac Jacket on SouleMama. The sweetest pictures! This one is my favorite, (her little hand!).

23. Racists Very Upset Over Interracial Family in Cute Cheerios Commercial. The little girl in this commercial is super cute. Someone posted on Facebook last week about this and added, “Whomever has a problem with this better just go buy a white hood right now and be honest with yourself.” I couldn’t agree more.

24. it’s complicated from Sas Petherick. *sigh*

25. Inside the Paris apartment untouched for 70 years: Treasure trove finally revealed after owner locked up and fled at outbreak of WWII.

26. Your Daily Rock from Patti Digh: your daily rock : what would love do?, and your daily rock : just breathe, and your daily rock : you are enough.

27. Name-calling Has Its Place: BED is Now Named as a Distinct Eating Disorder. So what’s in it for you? from Drop it and Eat.

28. Another Origami Fox from How About Orange. I wish I was better at this. I’d be making some of these, (shared by Positively Present).

29. This quote, People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch

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30. Google Poetics, (shared by Positively Present). “This blog started collecting Google Poems on October 2012 and is run by its founder Sampsa Nuotio and curator Raisa Omaheimo. Google Poetics is born when Google autocomplete suggestions are viewed as poems.” I could get lost in this site for a very, very long time. For example,

pain is temporary
pain is weakness leaving the body
pain is inevitable suffering is optional
pain is love

Or,

I am a disco dancer
I am a dwarf and I’m digging a hole
I am a dynamic figure
I am a dreamer

Pure awesome.

31. Patti Smith, We all have a creative impulse, shared by Susannah on her Something for the Weekend list. The site where this video is posted, Channel Louisiana, has lots of other really cool stuff, if you want to get lost for a little while and haven’t already spent all your time on Google Poetics. Also on Susannah’s list this week was What’s Inside Our “Going Out” Bags.

32. Humans of New York. I’ve shared this site before, but it’s so good, I want to share it again in case you missed it the first time. You can also follow them on Facebook.

33. Issa Rae: Own Your Awkward on The Conversation.

34. From Rowdy Kittens’ Happy Links post: A Revolution of Contentment by Sandra Pawula on the Bridgemaker, and Chic Tiny House in Omaha Nebraska on Air BnB, (the loft beds in tiny houses always make me think of sleeping in a tree house — magic).

35. My Dentist Was Made To Believe I Was Dead And It Made Me Realize Why I Shouldn’t Kill Myself And You Shouldn’t Either on xojane.

36. This wisdom from Marianne Williamson, “The kind of rest you seek you will find not from sleeping but from waking.”

37. This Poster Might Just Change Your Life. by Nicole Duncan on Elephant Journal.

38. This wisdom from Lama Christie McNally, The Tibetan Book of Meditation,

Tibetans say we should do our meditation practice “as if our hair was on fire.” We should have the same urgency to get out of this pain filled place as someone who has just woken up in a burning, smoke filled house. But it’s hard- all the distractions of this life keep stealing away our time and our mind. We keep telling ourselves, “I’ll meditate later.” Then one day you look up and realize life has passed you by, the time is gone, and it’s too late.

39. This wisdom from Jen Lemen, “I don’t want to be famous or popular or known for anything other than that I was deep and wise and had a soul that was wildly beautiful, full of mercy and light.”

40. Amanda Palmer on Creativity as Connecting Dots and the Terrifying Joy of Sharing Your Art Online and Be All Your Selves: Joss Whedon’s 2013 Wesleyan Commencement Address on Embracing Our Inner Contradictions on Brain Pickings.

41. Quotes shared by Justine Musk, You cannot truly enjoy life through your mind…It’s through the heart + the body that we get to party,” (Kagiso Msimango), and “There’s nothing more powerful than a woman who has met the truth inside her. Nothing,” (Meggan Jane Watterson).

42. Are Children Natural Vegans? by Sara Crolick on Elephant Journal.

43. This quote from Cheryl Stayed, “That silence is such a beautiful thing. It’s like the stars at night in the great alone and you there beneath them, saying thank you.”

44. Karma and Smartphones: How to Use Technology From a Buddhist Perspective, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche on Huffington Post.

45. Dog People Problems, from Reddit.

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46. 2 year old problems: cinnamon rolls aren’t instant, from Reddit.

twoyearoldproblems

47. Wisdom from Chogyam Trungpa,

Meditation is not a matter of trying to achieve ecstasy, spiritual bliss, or tranquility, nor is it attempting to be a better person. It is simply the creation of a space in which we are able to expose and undo our neurotic games, our self-deceptions, our hidden fears and hopes.

48. Father and 2-year-old boy sing Beatles’ ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ in viral hit.

49. Let go … again, still, more from Lindsey on A Design So Vast.

50. The Pros and Cons (But Mostly Pros) of Adopting a Shelter Dog on Hello Giggles.

51. you are worthy. from Liz Lamoreux.

52. Feeding the Right Wolf, with Marianne Elliot on Sacred Circle.

53. The Big Book Giveaway! from Susannah Conway. This is a great set of books, some of my favorites! You should totally enter this, (but just know, I plan on winning the Book Bomb).

bigbookgiveaway

P.S. I think this might officially be the longest Something Good list e v e r.

Gratitude Friday

1. Rain. We’ve had a good amount of rain this spring, rain but not hail or big thunderstorms, and my garden and yard, the park and the river are all really happy about it.

2. Crowdfunding. In the past year or so, I have helped musicians get records made, writers publish books, documentaries get made, people without it get clean water, kids that might go without receive Christmas presents, and even cancer patients pay for their treatment. I love crowdfunding so much. I love us and our big hearts, our kindness and good intentions, our willingness to help. Here are two projects just recently completed, with rewards on their way to me, an album and a book.

3. Collaboration. I have a project I’m going to officially announce tomorrow in a post that will introduce it in more detail, Self-Compassion Saturday. There are an amazing group of wise and compassionate teachers, writers, healers, and artists who are going to help me consider some important questions I have about self-compassion. It is the most beautiful thing, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I am humbled by the ways these women are gracing me with their wisdom and kindness, their willingness to share, beginning with the simple act of saying yes.

4. Peonies. I planted three this year, but I am already thinking I’m going to need more. N e e d.

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch

springpeonies

5. Nature. How green everything is right now, how full and fast the river and blue the sky. How at an English Department retreat on Wednesday, we were visited first by a deer, then a pair of wild turkeys, and finally a baby deer — and when I say baby, I mean JUST born, still wobbling around on its shaky legs attempting to learn to walk. And there was a moment of sadness, that tender sadness present in everything, when we spooked his mom and she ran, but he was too unsteady to catch up to her, and I imagined his desperation, “Mom, wait!” *sob*

one of the turkeys in question

one of the turkeys in question

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. An extra special bonus was that he slept in bed with us two full nights in a row. He’d slept with us every night for seven years, but when we got Sam, Dexter “got his own apartment” and started sleeping in various other locations throughout the house. Sam has recently made some similar shift into adulthood, and begins each night by sleeping for a few hours in his crate, which is in another room. I’m thinking something about this makes Dexter feel more comfortable getting in with us. I don’t care why, I’ll take what I can get.

Big D, Little D, and Dexter’s tomato plant

Day of Rest

pinkpeonies

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?
~Mary Oliver, Peonies

Yesterday, I planted peonies, made a memorial garden of sorts. One Moonstone, “This heavenly-scented peony has large double white flowers with blush pink petals along the outer edges,” one Shirley Temple, “This early bloomer has double blush-white flowers with a hint of red. Pale pink fading to white, these medium-sized blossoms with petals arranged in whorls create a very delicate appearance,” and one Rachel, “This attractive perennial is prized for the amount of double blossoms. The late midseason blooming flowers are a bright crimson color and are held on strong sturdy stems above the clear bright green foliage.” I am completely and utterly in love with peonies, so lush and delicate, strong and soft.

At the nursery, the sign said peonies can live for 50-75 years. They live long, are “drought tolerant, deer resistant, and good for cutting.” My friend Susan, Kelly‘s mom, said she has one that her grandmother gave her for her wedding 45 years ago. I love that. Peonies were blooming at Kelly’s memorial service four years ago. Something about them soothed me, gave me comfort, even though looking at those blooms now breaks my heart all over again. Kelly was an avid gardener, and digging in the dirt, cultivating my garden makes me feel close to her.

peonies

I bought three to start. That number seems right — three for the three I’ve lost but still carry with me, (Heather, Obi, and Kelly), and three to represent all three of my dogs, (one I’ve already lost, one who is somewhere in between, and the one who will have been here for the grief of both losses, helping to heal me). I planted them in the mound where our cottonwood tree used to stand.

That tree was one of the main reasons we chose this house over the other options — that and the big yard, the location (close to Old Town and Lee Martinez Park, only a five minute commute to work for me), and the decorative plaster ceilings. In truth, at already almost 40 years old, the tree was a liability. It dropped a huge limb on our car once, causing $1500 worth of damage. I made a deal with her then that if she dropped another limb that big, we’d need to take her down (we live around the  corner from an elementary school and have lots of kids on our block, and that size limb was potentially lethal, even to an adult if it had fallen just right). A few years later, another came down, so we had to take her out.

she was massive

she was massive, and beautiful, and terrifying

Taking her down, losing her was traumatic. I still remember how it felt coming home and seeing her there, stripped of all her limbs, a man high in a bucket raising his chainsaw to start taking down the first section of trunk. I felt sick. I wanted to tell them to stop, but it was already too late. I hadn’t realized until she was gone that she’d provided more than shade. That she’d been more than a threat, she’d stood guard, somehow protecting us. Without her, without anything between us and the street, between us and the rest of the neighborhood, I felt exposed and vulnerable. It took almost six months for that feeling to go away.

Based on that, it might be surprising we didn’t simply plant another tree. We chose to put in flowers, vegetables and fruit instead, along with a spot set aside to remember everything we’ve loved and lost, with the intent of eventually getting rid of most of the grass. Eric was telling me that he heard a story on NPR the other day about the history of lawns, how people initially put them in as a status symbol, to show their prosperity — if they didn’t need that land for growing food or raising livestock, that meant they were well off. It reminds me of how at one point in history, having a tan marked you as lower class because it meant you had to work outdoors, but then later having a suntan became a symbol of affluence, showed that you had enough leisure time and money for travel that you could afford to spend your days lounging around in a lawn chair or by the pool or on a beach somewhere with nothing better to do.

So far we’ve put in three new raised beds for vegetables, made another bed for strawberries, filled in the front burm with irises and other flowers, created a spot for the peonies, and dug out other spots for various melons, squash, and cucumbers. I made sure to put a cherry tomato in the back yard for Dexter (we have three beds back there too), just in case he decides to stick around until there is fruit, (he loves them so much, I sometimes catch him picking them himself — if he gets a green one, he spits it out). This morning, he made it an offering of his Little D, so I think he approves.

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
~Mary Oliver, Peonies

Gratitude Friday

This post is a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Peonies. Can’t…get…enough…of…them.

2. Running. This is going to seem confusing to those of you who know how much I hate running. However, my friend Niight challenged a group of us to commit to 30 days of every other day either one mile of running or 20 minutes of yoga, and since I already do at least four yoga classes a week, and I’d wanted to start running again, this was a good opportunity to get some support for it. And it’s really working.

The plan is to run at least one mile on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday (the dogs are very supportive of this idea). We have a Facebook group where we post our progress (or complain, or whine, or bitch and moan–but maybe that’s just me?), and it makes a big difference knowing you’ll be checking in. I told them yesterday that “I was met by resistance, reluctance, revolt, refusal, and rage this morning…did…not…want…to…run. But I did, and then, just because I did, I ran some more, almost an extra mile. Why? Because I knew if I didn’t run, I’d have to come here and tell you that, and that might lead to stopping altogether.”

3. Corn on the cob. We had our first of barbeque season this week, and it was so good! Eaten over the sink, no waiting, just like it should be.

4. Hard goodbyes. I had to do one of these this week, but I am comforted in knowing that it was hard because we love each other so much, enjoy each others company, and are sad that we’ll be seeing each other much less now. When it’s hard to say goodbye, that’s a good thing, something to be grateful for, because it means there is love.

5. Vacation. Time off my paid work to spend time on my own work, time to relandscape the front yard, to nap, to hang out with Eric and the dogs, to clean and declutter (okay, so I haven’t done much of that yet), to sit in a lawn chair in the backyard with a book, to stay in my pjs for the whole day.

Bonus joy: I got a spot for Susannah Conway’s book event at Kelly Rae Robert’s Studio in July. There were only 35 spots, so this is precious. And it almost makes up for not being able to attend her event in Boston hosted by the adorable Susan Piver.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: You can’t do everything. For starters, you have a body that has real limits, edges and absolutes, a soft animal form that needs breaks for rest, nourishment, and maintenance. Your mind cannot insist this frame, this figure, this shape do more than it can do–that only invites illness and collapse. Your mind needs breaks too, to revive it’s creative energy, to day dream and play, to get quiet and still, even though it doesn’t like to admit it. And your heart, bless your heart–it will let you break it over and over again with your bullying and demands, it will forgive you for each and every abandonment, but the unhealed grief that comes from that process will one day knock you flat.

Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. ~Steve Jobs

2. Truth: It’s okay to stop, to rest, to say no. In fact, it’s more than okay–it’s essential. The good work you imagine, the love you long to manifest, will never be fully realized unless you take care of yourself, stop smashing yourself to bits. You will shred yourself, turn to ashes if you don’t lie down and let go, calm down, slow down, surrender.

The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. ~Anne Lamott

3. Truth: Enough. It’s enough. There is enough. You are enough. You are doing the best you can, can’t do or be any more than that. Even if you never do another thing, it’s enough. You are already light, you are already wise and kind, you are already loved. You are. There’s no test, no goal, no should or have to, no destination other than here–there is only breath, and only this moment. You are medicine, magic, love manifested, precious and brilliant.

We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. ~Anne Lamott

One wish: That we can all slow down, stop pushing so hard and insisting on so much, and that we, once and for all, finally know that we are enough, already and exactly as we are.

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
~Shel Silverstein