Archive for November, 2012

November 14, 2012

Dream or Reality?

Have you ever stopped to think, what makes something a dream versus a reality?  What if our dreams and reality are intertwined?  Where is the line?

But before I go any further, let me first say, “No, I’m not under the influence of anything other than a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee.”

And now to my story.  A couple of months ago I started reading the book, “Start Where You Are – A Guide to Compassionate Living” by Pema Chödrön.  I picked-up the book, read a little and thought a lot.  Then I got sidetracked.  I started reading other things simultaneously and dust started to collect on her book.  This morning I dusted it off, looked at my bookmark and realized that I have no recollection of much of anything past chapter one, so I backed-up, way-up, to chapter two.  That’s where the concept of dream vs reality came into my mind.

In this chapter, Pema is setting the stage for meditation.  She describes bodhichitta (our awakened heart) and explains how to not take ourselves so seriously.  (Something I’m guilty of quite frequently.)

“Regard all dharmas as dreams.”  More simply, regard everything as a dream.  Life is a dream.  Death is also a dream, for that matter; waking is a dream and sleeping is a dream.  Another way to put this is, “Every situation is a passing memory.”

Wait, what?  That’s a lot to think about.  My initial reaction was that it’s not possible.  Thankfully, Pema gives a lot of examples to strengthen this concept:

We went for a walk this morning, but now it is a memory.  Every situation is a passing memory.  As we live our lives, there is a lot of repetition – so many mornings greeted, so many meals eaten, so many drives to work and drives home, so many times spent with our friends and family, again and again, over and over.  All of these situations bring up irritation, lust, anger, sadness, all kinds of things about people with whom we work or live or stand in line or fight traffic.  It’s all an excellent opportunity to connect with this sense of each situation being like a memory.

Just a few moments ago, you were standing in the hall, and now it is a memory.  But then it was so real.  Now I’m talking, and what I have just said has already passed.

Huh…  Most of us wouldn’t argue that something that happened in the past is now a memory.  But to think of things as they are happening as a future memory, as a dream, is a little tougher to grasp, at least for me.  I love the concept though.  Just think of the stress that could be eliminated if we could all pause and think that whatever good, bad or ugly thing is taking place right here, right now, will be a memory in just a few minutes.

If I could do this it sure would be an easy way to let things go.  But that’s where I struggle.  I want to hang onto some things.  I want to hang onto the good times, don’t I?  I want to feel those times, experience them over and over, right?  But I have this nagging feeling, knowing that I can’t, or shouldn’t.  If I’m hanging onto one moment, then I’m not experiencing the next one.  Whew, this is tough.  I don’t want to think of the good times as dreams or memories.  I want them to be a “reality”.   I just want the bad stuff to go away, to become a memory, can I do that?

At the same time, it seems that this concept of thinking of every situation as a passing memory, is an incredible way to connect with those who have died because it would allow us to experience memories of years gone past just as we do the memories of this morning, yesterday or last week.  And when we dream of a person, whether it is a friend or a loved one, that dream could have the same presence in our life, in our heart, as the memories of what we actually experienced.

My Grandfather passed away when I was in fourth grade.  I adored my Grandpa.  Quite honestly I can’t even tell you exactly why.  He and I just connected.  There was something in his eyes that sparkled, a life beyond what he lived everyday.  I loved spending time with my Grandpa.  I could run errands with him, be his shadow while he was working on something, it really didn’t matter what we did, I just enjoyed the time we had together.  When he died, I was devastated.  It was the first time in my life that I felt pain in my heart. And his death changed everything.  I used to go to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house after school.  After Grandpa died that stopped.  Grandma moved away and my Mom and Dad and I cleaned out my grandparents house.  My routine changed.  My Grandma changed.  My life changed.  No more afternoons running errands, no more trips to Sears and stopping off at their candy counter for Swedish Fish.  No more projects, no more sparkle in his eyes.

But then, I started dreaming.  I dreamt of my Grandpa.  I was elated!  He would talk to me.  His voice was so clear.  I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him.  And in my dreams he was so real I could almost touch him.  In my dreams he taught me to float.  Not in the water, but on air.  He taught me to lean back and relax, to trust.  I could feel his hands beneath my back supporting me.  Then, much like being in water, I would lift my feet off the ground and float.  We would float along the side of my house and around to the front yard.  We could go fast and I would giggle or go slow and I would just soak up the opportunity to hear his voice and be with him again.  These dreams, these moments of being with my Grandpa happened more than once.  I couldn’t make them happen, but when they did they were the happiest nights.  It was so great to have him back!  Sadly, I would wake up the next morning to find that Grandpa was still gone.  And even though that hurt, I found comfort in knowing that occasionally I would still get to be with him in my dreams.

As I got older those dreams stopped happening at night but the feeling, the connection, still stayed.  After reading this part of “Start Where You Are”, I felt extreme comfort in the concept of regarding everything as a dream.  I realized that while it may make some of the things we think of as reality now, seem more distant, it can also make the distant memories of loved ones who have died, or just happy moments gone by, closer to us.

Pema explains that it is with our minds that we make a big deal out of ourselves, our problems and our pain, but if we were to regard everything as a dream, it would help us all to lighten up.  I think she might be onto something.


November 13, 2012

Facing Our Fears Part II: Chickens

As you probably already know, I have been contemplating getting chickens for a while.  Then, when I decided that chickens might be a good idea I planted the seed with my son (easy target) and husband (surprisingly easy target).  I expected at least a little resistance, I got nothing.  Then came the chicken class… a success!  I wanted to get started right away.  Then reality set in and I realized that next spring would be better.  That would give us enough time to select a coop design, get the parts and pieces, build it, wire it, critter-proof it.  We could ask for chicken stuff (lights, waterers, heaters, etc.) as gifts for birthdays and Christmas and finally, next spring, we could bring in baby chicks.

Then a curve ball.  A friend-of-a-friend of my Dad’s has chickens needing a home.  He asked if we’d be interested.  Sure, why not?  (I’m a sucker for taking in animals that need a home.)  We went and met the chickens.  They were cool. We saw their current coop and knew that while the coop worked great in their current location, it wouldn’t work so well in our yard.  Backing up to the nature center means everything short of lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!).  So, after going on the Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour and scouring the web for coop designs we decided on this one, except ours will be blue and a mirror image (so we can see the chickens from the house) and got to building.  That, was a month ago.  We’re still building.  Speaking of which, did you know that you can end a drought by simply building a chicken coop?  It’s true!  We literally were in a drought.  Hadn’t had a drop of rain for months… until the day we started building the coop.  Then the sky opened up and the rain started coming.  And, it hasn’t stopped since.  Okay, actually it has, on the days we are not building the coop.  That aside, we’re getting there.  And hopefully very soon (I don’t want to say when for fear of jinxing us again) we will actually have the chickens.

Back to my fears.   As you may or may not have read in the first installment, Facing Our Fears, my first fear to face was writing.  Now that I’ve worked through that, my fear is chickens.  I outlined a few of my chicken fears in U is for Urban Farm (a.k.a. Contemplating Chickens), but there’s more.  So why on earth would I want to build a chicken coop and get chickens?  Well, okay, it’s not the chickens I fear.  It’s the stuff that goes along with chickens.

I hate winter.  Period.  I love the snow.  I think it’s beautiful.  Beyond that, I avoid going outside on cold days.  I hate cold fingers, cold toes, cold ears, cold noses… Although it is kind of cool when it’s so cold out, that when you sniff, your nostrils stick together.  Oh, that and frosty eyelashes are kind of cool too… but other than that I hate cold bodies, cold cars and cold seats (car and toilet)!  So what better plan to get over hating winter than to get chickens, right?  Yea, I know.  I’m not sure about that either, but I’m hoping it will help.  If I have someone or in this case, chickens, to care for, I’m hoping I will come to ignore the rain, snow, sleet and cold and just enjoy the chickens.  At least I’ll get to hold a warm egg in my hands, right?

Bird poop.  I hate bird poop.  I fear bird poop.  As a kid, while in Seattle visiting my Aunts and Uncles, I was sitting with my feet up, stretched across to another chair and a flock of sea gulls, or was it pigeons, flew overhead and a moment later, I felt the warm splattering gush of goo in-between my toes.  Um, yea, I cried.  And then, one morning at the bus stop,  a couple of years ago, I was chatting with a couple of other Mom’s on the block.  It was a clear morning, not a cloud or a bird in the sky, we were busy chatting when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a huge blast of bird poop hit my arm.  It splattered not only all over my entire forearm, but my clothes and all over my friends too.  Talk about gross!  We all scrambled, checking our pockets for a napkin, Kleenex, anything, to wipe it up.  A friend of mine found a receipt in her pocket.  I’ve never been so grateful for a receipt, ever.  That, and my second shower of the morning.  Anyway, I’ve got this fear of bird poop.  So, you might ask, why would I even consider chickens? After all, they are poop factories, right?  Right!  But their poop is good stuff!  Their poop will be combined with my compost, making my compost cook faster and make my garden soil even richer!  So I’m hoping to get past my fear of bird poop for the good of the garden.

My other chicken fears?  Chicken death.  Chicken death-by-dog, death-by-fox, death-by-raccoon, death-by-hawk, death-by-eagle, death-by-owl and death-by-weasel.  Until recently I wasn’t afraid of death-by-weasel, but my nephew just told me of chickens getting killed by weasels.  I don’t even know if we have weasels here because I’ve never seen one, but I added death-by-weasel to the list because now it’s in the back of my mind.  Thanks, Jeff. 😉  Hopefully our coop design will fend off all of these death-by-critter fears, and I will no longer need to fear chicken death, but time will tell.

Death-by-weather.  Living in Minnesota you can’t help but worry about how the chickens are going to hold up in the cold.  We are going to be getting cold-hardy chickens (I know, I didn’t know there was such a thing as cold hardy chickens either) so hopefully any mistakes we make will be offset by their hardy genes.  Cold weather means making sure their drinking water doesn’t freeze, making sure they don’t freeze and did you know if they roost on too narrow of a board they can get frost bite on their feet!?  I think I’ll make them recycled sweater mittens for their feet.  Recycled sweater chicken booties. 🙂 Oh, and then there’s the heat.  When it’s not too cold, it’s too hot and chickens don’t sweat.  Like dogs, if they get too hot, they pant.  Panting = chicken death.  Not good.  If anyone has a Barbie window a/c unit about 4 inches by 4 inches, let me know.  We’re getting a Thermo Cube too, which is a temperature controlled outlet, so hopefully that will take some of the thinking and worry out of the of the death-by-weather scenarios.

Okay, all my fears aside, I’m hoping for a bond.  The chickens we’ll be getting are over a year old, already producing eggs (bonus!).  They haven’t been handled a lot, so I’m hoping my wanting to hold them won’t be offensive.  I’ve heard that chickens LOVE kids.  I’ve heard that they will follow them around and treat them like their own (which should be humorous).  I’ve heard of them snuggling and watching TV, although we WON’T be having chickens inside the house.  At least not yet. 😉  I’ve heard chickens are guaranteed entertainment.  I’ve heard that you can train them to do tricks and that they like to be petted.  I’ve heard that even on our worst days just watching them can make us laugh and smile.

Long term, I’m hoping to love the chickens.  I love that they’ll be eating our kitchen scraps and converting it to good stuff for the garden.  I’m looking forward to having fresh eggs and making custard pies.  I’m looking forward to the challenges and fun the chickens will bring.

I’m also looking for a pair of rubber boots to wear in the coop.


November 12, 2012

I’m Dreaming… of an Urban Farm

Have you ever had something make you take notice but then once you realized what you are looking at, you disregarded it, only to find later that the information actually applied to you?

Take for example my wedding dress.  When I first got engaged, years ago, I would flip through wedding magazines trying on dresses in my mind, picturing how they would look on me.  I remember running across one dress, thinking to myself, “Wow!  That’s really pretty… on the right person…” and then continued flipping pages.  Later, after I purchased my dress, I found myself flipping through the same magazine, again stopping on the same page.  I looked at the picture and thought,  “Wow.  That’s a pretty dress.” and then started laughing.  That was a pretty dress.  That was my dress.  The dress I bought.  Funny, I didn’t even remember the dress when I went out shopping because I had disregarded it so quickly as something that I “couldn’t wear”. Yet here I was, flipping through the bridal magazine, stopping on the same page and realizing that was the dress I ended up buying.  Apparently I shouldn’t have disregarded it so quickly!

Well, a similar thing has happened again.  A number of months ago while hanging out in Egg|Plant I found myself perusing their magazines.  I grabbed a copy of Urban Farm magazine.  I kind of scoffed at the concept of an Urban Farm.  I was thinking about how people keep coming up with these names, titles, buckets for everything.  New names for the same stuff.  “Urban Farm is just a new name for gardening”, I thought to myself, but I bought the magazine anyway “because it had some cool articles”.  A couple of months later I found myself back at Egg|Plant buying yet another copy of the magazine, still not thinking of myself as an “Urban Farmer”.  Well, sometimes life has a funny way of working out.  This morning, as I awoke to a white dusting of snow in the yard and heard reports of icy roads, I stood under the warm water of the shower trying to calm my nerves for my interview at the Permaculture Research Institute (PRI) to get into the Urban Farming Certification program.  If someone had told me a year ago that I’d be doing this, I would have laughed.  Yet today, as I made my way over to the interview, on icy roads, I could hardly contain my excitement.

The interview went great and yes, I was accepted into the program.  (Woo hoo!)  I think it will be a perfect fit for me and for what I want to do going forward.  Plus, the people I met with were great!  The next step is registration.  Then the holidays and then I’ll be off and running.  I’m so excited to get started!  Actually, the only way I could be any more excited is if it started tomorrow!  But alas, I must wait until January, January 5th to be exact.  So, while some of you may be dreaming of a white Christmas and Jack Frost nipping at your nose, I’ll be dreaming of the new year and my future Urban Farm.


November 6, 2012

The Stars Are Aligning

Do you love what you do?  Do you do what you love?  Do you wake-up excited to start your day?

I got a lot of sleep last night.  The most I can remember in ages, nearly ten and a half hours, which is unheard of for me, lately anyway.  And me feeling rested, really rested, is much like Magda on speed in the movie There’s Something About Mary.

In any case, the sleep did me well.  And today, I woke up, surfing through my thoughts.  Anxious for the chicken coop to be done so that the trio of hens can join us soon.  And my next thought was relief.  I applied for the Urban Farm Certification Program last week and then I got a response from the program director, letting me know that she received my application.  She had a St Louis area code.  Uh, oh.  Maybe my dream is a pipe dream.  I can’t go to St Louis for a year to learn about Urban Farming!  But alas, I got another email yesterday which showed two sites that completed the certification last year… in the Twin Cities… Whew!  Okay, back on track.

So I’ve been thinking.  When I started Walnuts n Pears, the blog, it was phase one to my dream business of having everything for living a healthy life,  mind, body and soul, all under one roof.  And my plan this year was to start teaching some classes, of which I did a handful, but now, I’m thinking maybe this concept could become a reality even sooner.  If I take the certification course, if I start teaching classes, if I turn my yard, garden and home into a classroom, then perhaps this thing, this dream, could become a reality.  Maybe I could offer the parts and pieces (a small store) to go along with the classes… I’m thinking out loud, or on paper, or well, virtual paper anyway, as a way to get my thoughts out there.  As a way to have you and the universe give me a little feedback.

Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply is one of my favorite stores.  I love their concept and they are a great resource, but they are in St. Paul.  What if there was something similar, yet different, in the Minneapolis side of the world?  Would you come?  The owners of Egg|Plant are great, I wouldn’t want to hurt their business, I would like to add to it.  Feed off each other, maybe?

This concept excites me.  Urban Farming excites me.  Plants and animals excite me.  Meditation calms me. 😉

It’s funny, I saw a link on my Facebook page today for Urban Farm Magazine.  I love that magazine.  I love growing things and I love teaching others how they can do the same.  I’m always anxious to learn more.  I think if you stop learning, if you think you know it all, then you truly stop living.  I hunger for more.  I love learning new things, whether it’s better ways to do what I’m already doing or something brand new.

So this might be it.  The stars just might be aligning.  The “What do you want to do when you grow up?” might be coming to fruition.  The funny part is, I have never really known what I wanted to do when I grew up.  As a child I wanted to be a teacher.  I guess that part of me is still there, but just not in the traditional sense.  I come from a family of teachers on my Mom’s side.  All of my Mom’s sisters either were or are teachers and while my Mom wasn’t a teacher for her career, she’s a tutor now that she’s retired and she absolutely loves it.  It makes sense that I too would want to teach, right?  But not always, not day in and day out.  But occasionally, yes!  I have too many other ideas and too much bottled-up creativity that I need to be able to use as well.  So what better way than turning Walnuts n Pears into the place I want to go.

Walnuts n Pears – Living today for tomorrow’s generation.  A place to come, learn and share ideas and resources for today, tomorrow and the days that follow. A little gardening, a little planning, a little planting, a little crafting, a little cooking, a little meditation, a little of this and a little of that, all fun stuff that is centered around living a mindful and sustainable life.

Obviously, I have to do a little more in the planning and prep and see what I can and cannot do on my own turf, but what do ya think?  Any ideas?  Thoughts?  Feedback?  Pros and cons?  Would you come?  What would you like to see?  What would you like to do?

I’m excited about the possibilities.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Here’s to making subconscious dreams come to fruition!