Saturday, March 31, 2018

Wonder-full season

All week long I've been checking the dirt for signs of the blood root, hoping it would be poking up through the earth. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I expected it might not be returning after it was trampled by a fallen limb but still checking daily for signs of growth.

Friday morning I was certain of the worst and planning to visit a native plant nursery, and then Friday afternoon Rob said he saw it emerging. It returns another year.

And the crocus!

And tulips on the way....

Spring is wonder full.

Spring is like a perhaps hand

(which comes carefully

out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

From "Spring is like a perhaps hand" by e. e. cummings

Full Paschal Moon - March 2018

Two Blue Moons over just 60 days - the next blue moon won't be around until 2020.

This is also the first full moon of spring, so it's designated as the Paschal Moon. The first Sunday after the Paschal Moon is usually designated as Easter Sunday, as will indeed be the case on the very next day, April 1.

But when did we have a case similar to this year, a Blue Paschal Moon on March 31, followed the very next day by Easter Sunday?

In 1714, the full moon was on March 31 at 3:17 Universal Time, followed the next day by Easter Sunday. But that was valid only for Europe and the Eastern Hemisphere. For the Western Hemisphere, the full moon occurred the day before (on March 30). For North America, we must go back to the year 1646 to have a case that replicates this month: a Blue Paschal Moon on Saturday, March 31, which was followed by Easter Sunday the very next day. 

Driving early this morning, with the moon dancing in and out of shadows.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Spring Sadhana 2018

After 30 years the Yoga Centre Toronto lease expired and the building is being torn down so condos can be built. Having done several years of sadhana here I really wanted to partake in the last one at the Yonge and Eglinton location. After missing both the spring and fall session in 2017, I return a prodigal sādhakā.

There is a full house - more than 35 people showing up in the mornings to begin each day, for 30 days, with a 90 minute practise.

I appreciate the spring sadhana, daylight hours lengthening and the promise of growth in the air. I can feel the earth awakening and keep looking at photos of my garden from last year. It will be green again.

Energy flowing, the miracle of spring and the gift of Being.


We are reading selections from BKS about his own sadhana. Different questions arising: how sight may help you perceive something but you can't see yourself entirely in a pose, so how to conceive what you don't physically see? how can the shape of the knee in tadasana be maintained in all asanas? how can you consolidate and integrate what is learned from one day to the next? From one year to the next? Of course these questions are meant to provoke similar thoughts "off the mat"...

Day 1, the first day, Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose),  two of my favourites. I felt I was coming home.

Day 5, and we are working on headstand.  The first two days we didn't even approach one, and now we are deconstructing our pose and going back to 'beginner' props such as benches and bricks to help with alignment. On the practical side, one of the biggest challenges so far is actually finding reasonably priced parking. The first day I found a free spot - it cost $30 at the end of the day, with the 'permit parking only' sign well-obscured by tree limbs. Ah, the price of enlightenment.

Day 7,  clocks spring forward and when we get out at 7:30 in the morning, the day is dawning!

Day 11, we reflect on the nature of Iyengar practise and the journey inward: mobility, stability, strength, alignment, assimilation, integration, penetration, consolidation.

Day 13, without expectation we enjoy a fully restorative class. Many delighted sighs can be heard as we gather the props.

Day 14, 15, 16, travelling on business so made do in the hotel room with minimal props, incorporating backbends (standing, seated and supported). Nice to be able to end the practise and start the day with a jump in the pool.

Day 22, 23, 24    Twists... I find them so agitating when they are so intense. I have to remember to take a few extra asanas afterward (full arm balance or forward bends) to help me reset.

Day 26, driving early in the morning with the full moon peeking in and out of the clouds. We visited the YCT new space after class, light streaming in through the windows. Unvarnished and waiting for the build; no running water, no washrooms yet. We should be practicing here by late June, early July.

Day 28, Focus on pranayama. Ending the class by counting 20 breaths, which takes people in the room 7 - 10 minutes. Marlene reminds us if we can make this part of our daily practice it can change our lives from reacting to responding. I read BKS instructions, to practice, with the core of your being, and if you succeed with just a single breath, that is still success. Attempt again the next day to sustain longer success, and again the next day after.

Day 29, Today we started with uttanasana and standing twists, moving to standing splits. 29 days in I was able to do a far better version than in the first week. We also did headstand (ten minutes with variations) and shoulder stand (fifteen minutes with variations).  The length of holdings evidence that repeated practice does make a difference, physically and spiritually.

Day 30, The last day of sadhana. Feeling renewed and ready for new beginnings. BKS was once asked, how long could be the practice of a very busy man, and his reply was 20 to 30 minutes.

Day 1 - The first day of practice at home. How do I feel this morning? How much time do I have? How do I want to feel at the end of my practice? Begin again.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Full Sap Moon: March

It may be known as a worm moon elsewhere, but as there are no crocus or snowdrops yet to be seen I can't imagine worms yet wriggling.

So full sap moon. Buckets on maple trees. Slow drops.

Bright moonlight woke me last night, coming through the skylight, so I sat up to enjoy the view. Safe and warm and under the covers, and all I had to do was open my eyes. What a gift!

illustration: Ketha Newman

The Know Maintenance Approach to Perennial Plant Gardens

Great talk at the Toronto Botanical Gardens with the author Roy Diblik. Know Maintenance was first published in 2014, which is probably why Diblik didn't dwell too much on the book itself. Still, I was quite disappointed when I went to purchase the book just after the talk, and all the copies were sold out. I arrived less than a minute too late, someone triumphantly holding up the last copy. Kind of funny, actually, the stampede to the store following the talk of anti-consumerism.

Roy talked about the industry built up around selling plants, chemicals, mulch, and how so much is truly unnecessary, if not out-right counter-productive. Wood chip mulch kills a lot of the nutrients and organisms in the soil, but many home gardeners are addicted to the looks of it, conditioned by magazines. Plants fall in and out of style, fuelled by trends and popularity - but well chosen and well placed, there is no reason not to use and favour the tried and true. The Northwind Perennial Farm lists16 of Roy's perennial favourites which he insists can be arranged in thousands of different combinations.

I enjoyed his sensibility about "coming to know plants" and observing how certain plantings thrive as social communities; natives and non-natives together. Diversity key.

Block out on grid paper plantings not just for their height and time of bloom, but choose companion plantings for growth rate.

Plants are like people, Diblik insists, so plant a garden community. Avoid including "aggressive bullies" who have a tendency to take everything over, or high-maintenance prima donnas who rely too heavily on chemicals for survival.  Take plants out of their pots and plant more closely together, so they can touch each other. (Planting in this way also helps avoid unwanted weeds).

For shade: sedges!

Alex and Penny have a garden that is opposite of mine: sunny and sandy. And they are happy to have me help create something in their backyard.  I'm inspired to try monarda, coreopsis, salvia, geranium, echinacia, allium, a "hydrangea meadow"...

These plantings are in the style of Piet Oudolf, a perennialist with an international following known for making meadows in public spaces like the U.K., U.S. (Battery Park, High Line) and Netherlands. Most of the successful plantings I've seen are larger in scale however I'm certain principles can be adapted for smaller backyards.