Monthly Archives: October 2010

Nature’s Reverie

Some pink and yellow roses are blooming still. Their delicate petals contrast poignantly with the robust red and orange berries peeking boldly out of shrubs. At midday the air is warm enough to invite the shedding of jackets. The light is pale gold.

Amidst the slowly drifting leaves, the staccato tapping of acorns, two cardinals chase each other, chirping and tweeting like mad. This afternoon it seems that all sorts of birds are flitting about noisily in the multicolored foliage: starlings, crows, sparrows, bluejays. It is thrilling to hear the sounds of spring in mid-October, although the excited twittering is a mystery. Are the birds settling in for a few more weeks–or making noisy preparations to leave?

Today, with seasons on display side by side, it feels as if nature is having a moment of nostalgia, or perhaps a dream of the rebirth to come when these days are a memory. It is magical, comforting.

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Posted by on October 18, 2010 in Fall, Meditations on Nature


Stolen Flowers…And Other Red Flags

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about how to detect a date who’s “Not That Into YOU”.

What about routing out a Romeo whom “YOU Should Not Be Into” ?

We don’t hear as much about that.

Can you decipher the dinging of bad-date warning bells? How about a bunch of red banners flapping wildly before your eyes?

To help you out, here are Ten Toro-genic Flaming Flags from my very own Lousy Love Life archives. I ignored every single one of them. I hope you won’t do the same with your romantic radar.


1)Brought me flowers stolen from my neighbors’ gardens.

2)Said he was “expecting a blonde.”

3)Referred in an email to “tying me up.”

4)Told me lots of interesting stuff about his wife.

5)Walked in carrying a guitar, sat down, closed his eyes and sang horribly to himself.

6)Took me to hear a female rock star and then attempted to put the moves on her.

7)Was always deep in his cups.

8)Was unbearable unless I was deeper in my cups.

9)Frightened me to death with:

A)His Driving

B)His Temper

C)His Drinking

D)His Bad Tempered Drunk Driving

10)Invited me, and his steady girlfriend, to the same club on the same night, while lying to both of us about each other. I wondered why his “colleague” was wearing a hoochie mama dress and why he said he was suffering from a “rare and painful neurological disorder” that made it impossible for us to hold hands or even stand close to one another.

I wondered but I never spotted the flag. Or the bull.

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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Essays, Oops I Dated Again


The Jaipur Mali

I was backing out of my driveway on a recent afternoon, late for an appointment, when I felt something crunching under my wheels. Sighing the heavy sigh of a spoiled suburbanite who has encountered an obstacle in her perfect world, I climbed out of my car.

The object blocking my egress turned out to be a rather picturesque green and yellow bundle of bamboo, tied together with a red string. It had been left there by the Nepalese gardener whom I had hired to trim my overgrown stand. He had executed the task with a rusty machete, then cut the stalks into even pieces and arranged them artfully into equal bundles for disposal.

As I looked at his handiwork my anger melted into admiration for the lovely orderliness with which he had performed his task. It brought to mind all the remarkable cargo I had seen in my days of traveling to India and Nepal.

I don’t recall ever observing a junk pile on the back of a donkey, villager, or pedal rickshaw, no matter what was being transported. Each bundle of goods, whether telephones or twigs, appeared to have been assembled with a great deal of care. Perhaps this dedication to task derived from religious teachings: the Hindu concept of dharma, or duty; the Buddhist doctrine of mindfulness.

Whatever the source, the aesthetic with which the Himalayan gardener had cut down the bamboo and bundled it into  a pretty package was a rare sight in my neighborhood, where the usual style of yard work is a rushed and ragged ritual known as “mow, blow and go.”

It was in India where I learned, really learned, how to garden

My teacher was the grounds keeper at the Hotel Arya Niwas, an impeccably kept $10-a-night hostel at the heart of colorful, edgy Jaipur, where I lived for three months in the spring of 1989. With its cool marble floors, wide verandah and lovely gardens where peacocks called out in surprisingly human voices, the Arya Niwas was an oasis amidst diesel fumes, loud Bollywood music and noisy bands of young men who liked to grope Western girls.

I never learned the grounds keeper’s name. He was known simply as “the mali,” which is Hindi for “gardener.” He belonged to the Hindu caste known as Sudras, the servants.

The mali, who was tall and very thin, tended his flower beds more lovingly and patiently than anyone I have ever observed. Sitting or squatting, he would spend hours weeding with his strong slender fingers. As the weather grew hotter in late April and May, he removed each dry leaf with meticulous attention. Even when the plants were shorn, they looked beautiful, thanks to his ministrations. Outside of a pair of pruning shears he used only his hands. I do not recall all the flowers, although some were brilliant red roses, I am fairly sure he grew marigolds, and certainly there were bougainvillea. His only protection against the incinerating sun was a turban. Nothing distracted him.

That admirable focus was his gift.  The mali showed by example that caring for plants requires total attention. One must surrender physically and spiritually to the task. Position onese on the level of grass and dirt. Put one’s hands, bare hands, in the soil and feel. Learn to let one’s fingers and eyes read the needs of the plants. Afterwards, restore order. Sweep, gather up the clippings into neat piles. Return tools to the shed.

Then take a moment, as I did in my driveway, to stand back and admire the beauty of mindful gardening.

Note: The photograph at the top of this post is of a mali at the United States Ambassador’s Residence in New Delhi. He is tending his flowers while perched in a planter suspended from the roof of the verandah.

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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Garden, Meditations on Nature


Muffin Top, Bottom Price

My life is in transition. The economy is dodgy. I’ve decided it’s time for a rummage sale.

I’ve been combing through my closets, browsing in my basement and watching back-to-back episodes of  “Hoarders” for inspiration.

I’ve also been thinking about some things I would love to sell if there were a market for them. Here are my top ten choices:

1)My love handles and muffin top.

2)I have an exquisite collection of complaints, suitable for framing.

3)Childhood baggage in every shape, size and color.

4)Snappy comebacks for all occasions. I’d rather sell them than say them.

5) My over-active imagination. I have plenty to spare.

6)Sobriety must be worth something. Could I sell space on my wagon?

7)Overblown hopes and expectations. It’s time to pass those down to someone younger.

8)My manifesto, complete or in parts, on what would happen If I Ruled the World.

9)The companion manifesto containing all of my wild and crazy ideas for businesses, products, religions, fashion crazes, political systems, criminal justice solutions, and personal advice for celebrities.

10)The complete unabridged never before seen compendium of all of my unwanted opinions, unsolicited advice, dubious theories, neurotic assumptions, paranoid resentments, bad decisions, evil thoughts, vanity and jealousy, dreams of stardom, selfishness, and all the other negative character traits that I am waiting for my Higher Power to remove. Forget selling. I will GIVE those away.