The Daily Muse

A Garden Journal -- December 2005

Last Update: December  23

Big Tooth Maple leaves from our backyard.

December 6 - morning

I am slowly recovering from my work load of the past few months and am looking forward to the holidays. I am anxious to share a few thoughts but must rush off this morning to get to work. In the meantime, here are a few new pictures from our garden...

Still more maple leaves.

One of our amaryllis in full bloom.


In the morning light.


A garden montage with rocks, fossil, and leaves.


Minus the leaves.


Guadalupe of the Leaves.


Gathered leaves.

December 6 - evening

Amid the clatter of this year's holiday season, there is a  lot of right-wing chatter about the "war on Christmas." No, the radio talk-show front-men of the radical right are not complaining about the crass commercialization of sacred imagery, they are painting a much more lurid picture of "secular liberals" out to destroy the celebration of Christmas altogether. For those of you not in the conspiracy circle, this is the theme du jour for the paid apologists of the right wing media. Following months of terrible news for the radical right - with no way out of the Iraq debacle in sight,  treasonous actions of key administration officials being disclosed in the press, and indictments being passed out like Christmas cards, the dark side of the Republican Party is beginning to feel a bit panicked. Their response? "The liberals want to kill Santa, er, we mean Jesus!" The funny thing is the "ditto-heads" across the country are now repeating this spin as if it was straight out of the Gospels.

I do not claim to be a Christian, because I realize that I fail to live up to Jesus's ideals for human-kind, and also because I find truth and beauty outside of the Christian tradition (as well as some darkness within.)  And, I do not consider myself to be a "secular liberal," even though I would probably be labeled as such by the radicals who are close to over-throwing our democracy. However, I do have a deep reverence for both Christ and the Christmas story. I am not concerned about the nativity scenes people want to put up on town squares (I'm all for that as long as the folks who put them up are willing to tolerate a menorah or two!) What does bother me is the commercial orgy that lasts for months and encourages people to spend themselves into debt to celebrate the birth of a man who denounced material posessions and wealth as hindrances to salvation. Yes, there is a war on Christmas and it is being waged by the folks buying ads on Fox News!

I have loved the Christmas story since I was a child. I recognize in it a beauty that we can only pray is true... that God would be willing to shed his invincibillity and take the form of an infant born in the humblest of spaces amid  poor  workers and domestic animals sheltering for the night.... that he would do this to begin a journey that would end in his own sacrifice to  build a new covenant with his people, one built on a radical trust and love. It is the most beautiful of legends, something I would hope that would inspire people of any faith or belief.

No, I am not at "war on Christmas." That lie is a glittering disco ball-sized distraction, trying to steal the eyes of a frightened and worried nation away from the sight of thieves busily desecrating the temple from their darkened money-littered stalls.


Here is my Chistmas card to you, a poem I wote several years ago...


The Donkey and the Ox

for Sherry Smith


The donkey and the ox,

what a racket they must have made!

Munching on the straw

from the crib in the manger.


Such thick headed beasts!

How did our Savior survive

with all of His toes?

His swaddling free of slobber?


Imagine, if you will,

their warm grassy breath, forming

little clouds that were filled

with His radiance.


And pity poor Joseph,

asleep, off to the side , and Mary

completely exhausted.

For, while resting, they missed


what soft brown eyes sensed:

that before shepherd or angel

or wise man arrived, a feast

had been set for the taking.



December 22 - morning

It has been a quiet time in the garden- clear, cool, and DRY. I have spent the better part of the last few days cleaning up the frost burned perennials, some of the ornamental grasses, and raking leaves. To date, I have filled over twenty of those giant lawn and leaf recycling bags. It is tedious work but I enjoy it because I feel like the garden is being returned to me- that the disorder (read mess) that comes with the change of seasons is being righted. I love the way the garden looks in winter... the bare branches and leaf covered beds, it feels so open (at least after I am done with the clean up!). When I was in the middle of my pruning I tried to remember the words of Thich Nhat Hanh when he talks about breaking down the barriers between our spiritual practice and everyday life- I tried to whack back my frozen palm grass in a mindful kind of way, to be aware of each step of my work. It helped ease both the physical and mental demands of what most folks would consider a very tedious process. If I could sum up my spiritual aspirations right now, I'd use two words: "be present." Someone once told me that you could capture the core wisdom of Buddhism in three words... "this is it." I'd like to be present for it- as it happens.

Yesterday, I was reading Elaine Pagels book Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, when I came across the famous passage that is echoed in Luke:

The disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?" Jesus said, "It will not come if you look for it. Nor can you say, 'it is here' or 'it is there.' For the kingdom of the father is already spread our over the earth, but people don't see it."

Jesus seems to agree, this is it.

For Pagels, the Gospel of Thomas helped reconcile her as an intelligent thinking modern being with the ancient yet timeless spiritual knowledge dwelling within. In another passage from Thomas, Jesus points us to this reconciliation:

Jesus said, "If your teachers say to you, 'Look, the kingdom is in heaven,' then the birds will get there before you. But the kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you. If you know yourselves, then you will be known; and you will know that you are sons of the living Father."

I'd  like to think we share heaven with the birds at this very moment.

Speaking of birds and heaven- I am happy to announce that our Goldfinches (both American and Lesser) are back! This is a true sign of the season bringing much happiness to me and to the garden. This holiday season, my wish for you is that some small feathered, furred,  flowering, or smiling presence awakens the heaven within. Peace.

(The translations of the Gospel of Thomas above come from Stephen Mitchell's book The Enlightened Mind.)


An older picture that I just rescanned.

December 23- morning

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