Gardening -Like a Gangster!

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I love what “Renegade Gardener” Ron Finley is doing!

He’s planting curbside gardens in South Central L.A. in order to bring healthy food to the ‘hood, which was, until recently, a bonafide food desert.

I first heard about Ron via his fantastic (and wildly popular) TEDx talk and then also really enjoyed Shiva Rose’s interview with him last week on her blog.

Every time I listen to him talk about growing food, I get inspired to get out in my yard. Most recently, in the hubbub of the end of another school quarter and exams, I had neglected my gardening duty and the weeds were getting out of hand. But I watched an interview with Ron, took a study break and got my butt out into the yard, tidied things up a bit and planted some packets of seeds I had been meaning to get into the ground for weeks. It was good exercise and felt so grounding -not surprising, since I had to dig in the dirt! I also picked up a few more starts at a local organic nursery. It took a few weeks, but they are really taking off now!

Here are some pictures of my July garden, with Ron’s quotes interspersed (the last bed is planted with seeds of malabar spinach, cilantro and cumin. I can’t wait until they emerge):

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“Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus, you get strawberries.”

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“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

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“If kids grow kale, kids eat kale. If they grow tomatoes, they eat tomatoes.”

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“We gotta flip the script on what a gangsta’ is — if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t gangsta.”

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Grow some sh*t!”

(Ron Finley photo credit: RickettSones)

Magic Carpet Ride: When the Rug Gets Pulled Out from Under Us

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Last week I had a rather embarrassing and unpleasant experience. I found out that I had been very mistaken about something that I was quite sure of. It certainly wasn’t the first (or last) time I will be totally wrong,  but this experience was resoundingly shocking to my sense of equilibrium. What happened was that I had spent the previous three weeks of a new student clinic shift operating under the assumption that the shift officially started at 6:30pm when, in fact, it actually started at 6:15. This only became clear to me at the end of the shift last week when the supervisor was trying to get me to pull needles so she could take off and I told her I was pretty sure I still had 20 minutes left with my client. It turned out I didn’t.

Of course I was totally embarrassed for having made my patients (and supervisor) wait on me, but what was more disturbing, and what I found so hard to come to grips with, was that for three weeks I had been under the assumption that I was right on time when, in fact, I had been living in a 15 minute “time warp”.

As I lay sleepless that night, I kept churning over the details of how I could have come to such an utterly erroneous assumption. I felt a sense of total disorientation: If I had been so mistaken about this one little thing, what else was I totally mistaken about? What if everything I thought about myself and reality was ever-so-slightly, but profoundly, different?

What this experience reminded me of is the Break-through Koan” practice from Zen Buddhism which attempts to “shock” the student/practitioner into a state of openness in which Buddhist concepts like “Emptiness” or the “Nature of Mind” can be experienced. While I certainly do not have the hubris or ignorance to liken my confusion to a moment of “Satori”, I can definitely report that I had a momentary glimpse into the instability of Reality!

I was also reminded, and comforted, by this great quote from Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart:

“The only time we ever know what’s really going on is when the rug’s been pulled out and we can’t find anywhere to land.”

Sense Medicine

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Yesterday I was talking with a good friend about the little things we can do to try to get grounded and relaxed when we feel like our lives are getting too crazy. We talked about things like cooking simple meals, taking walks, disconnecting from the computer/internet.

But this morning I realized that I forgot to mention the one thing that REALLY helps me to feel more, well, human: harvesting medicinal herbs from my small garden. This can be as simple as picking mint or lemonbalm to make a fresh infusion. It can also certainly include harvesting greens for cooking (I’m about to try get some dandelion going -sadly there are none of these ubiquitous super weeds in my own yard). But my very favorite herb to harvest is rose petals!

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I have a number of rose bushes of various kinds and sizes in my back yard: I have a Cecil Bruner that only flowers (gloriously) once a year. I also have an Iceberg rose that is pretty much a spring-only bloomer. Then I also have a Marie Pavier (a very happy accidental purchase) that blooms almost all summer and a number of ultra hardy, ever-blooming Martha Gonzalez roses.

Morning is the best time to harvest the rose petals. I place them in a thin layer in a paper grocery bag and hang them in the kitchen to dry. It takes about 3-4 days. I then put them into a glass jar for storage. They will last for many months and really retain their great flavor/aroma.

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Roses (Sanskrit: Shatapatri) are especially good for cooling the heat and irritation associated with over-active Pitta Dosha. Just the sight and smell of roses can instantly help relieve a Pitta blow-out on a hot summer day! In Chinese medicine, roses (pinyin: Mei Gui Hua) are considered a Qi and Blood mover (blood being very closely associated with Pitta dosha and stagnant Qi being a major contributor to creating pathogenic Heat in the body). In Chinese herbal medicine, roses buds especially promote the proper movement of women’s blood (don’t use if pregnant!), while the rose hips (Jin Ying Zi) actually help to stabilize and bind women’s “Essense/Jing” in cases where there is too much downward movement in female reproductive system.

The next time you feel like life has gotten too complicated, try taking a few minutes to commune with nature by harvesting some of her bounty. We’ve been doing this simple act from time immemorial. In fact, harvesting plants is probably one of the things we’ve been doing since before we were even Homo sapiens! Connect to your “roots” (and buds) and see if it doesn’t bring a little glimpse of Peace!

SXSW Picks: Kid Congo Powers Will Rock You!

I’ve been  captivated by guitarist Kid Congo Powers ever since the first time I saw him playing with Knoxville Girls at the Crocodile in Seattle about 13 years ago. I think it was actually one of the first Seattle rock shows I ever went to -maybe that’s why I’ve had a fond feeling for him ever since! I’ve seen him at various shows over the years and you can imagine my surprise and delight when it turned out that his bass player (Kiki Solis) lives right here in Austin and we have mutual friends! I got to meet Kid last during last year’s SXSW and he is really quite lovely and gracious -and a fan of Chinese Medicine!

Last year we went to his Sunday night SXSW closing show and even though the crowd was tapped out from partying all week, Kid brought the house down with an amazing set! Kid puts on a GREAT show (the whole band always wears matching outfits -one year is was crazy toreador suits, last year is was  jeans and striped shirts). The band is super tight and Kid really seems to function more as a channel or conduit through which the great Rockin’ Roll Spirit of the Universe transmits -if you need a Rockin’ Roll injection, this is your chance! I’ve posted one of his youtube videos below…

Here are some of the SXSW shows he’s playing:

Friday at 2pm @ Side Bar

Friday 4:30 @ Jackalope

Saturday 12am @ Maggie Mae’s

Spring Has Sprung! Nurturing the Wood Element

cc by-nc-nd Bruno Monginoux www.photo-paysage.com & www.landscape-photo.net
Timely advice from the Nei Jing, translated by the incomparable Dr. Edward Neal:
“The three months of springtime are called ‘emerge and display’ (春三月此謂發陳). All things between heaven and earth begin their existence (天地俱生). The ten thousand things display their glory (萬物以榮). Retire when the night comes and arise early in the morning (夜臥早起). Stroll around the courtyard with long steps (廣步於庭). Loosen the hair and relax the body to align the will with what is newly emerging (被髮緩形以使志生). Support life, refrain from killing (生而勿殺). Be gentle and do not force your way (予而勿奪). Act with benevolence, do not bring accusations (賞而勿罰). In this way live in accordance with the qi (of Spring) (此春氣之應). This is the way of nourishing life (養生之道也). If one goes against (these principles) the liver will be harmed (逆之則傷肝). In summer there will be cold and the ability of things to grow is diminished (夏為寒變奉長者少).”

Suwen, Chapter 2
四氣調神大論
Siqi Tiaoshen Lun
‘Great Treatise on the Four Seasons and the Regulation of Shen (神)’
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