Saturday, 17 April 2010

Eww! Weird tree growth

Does anyone have any idea what this rather disgusting looking thing might be?

At first I thought some sort of extraordinarily agile cat, or perhaps an inordinately large crow, had pooped on our Schubert Chokecherry tree, but this stuff is definitely not poop. Could it be some kind of fungus? The portion of the branch on either side of this thing is enlarged about 30-50% for about two inches. There are three of these things on our tree, which until now has been really healthy. And I'm sure these things weren't there in the Fall, but what kind of...uh, growth, grows over the Winter? We picked at it a bit and there are no eggs in there, it is just solid brown material all the way through.

I'm trying to decide if I should cut off the branches where these things are located, or try to pick it off as best I can, or what? Suggestions welcome!

Update: One of my twitter people quickly identified the problem as Black Knot Disease, which seems to be getting quite bad here in the prairies. Looks like I've got some surgical pruning to do...

Monday, 5 April 2010

Compassion is hard

When I sit on my meditation cushion and (try to) meditate, one of the types of meditation I seem drawn to the most is 'metta' meditation. During this type of meditation, you work at cultivating feelings of loving kindness and friendliness to all beings, including yourself. In your mind, you say something like, 'may all beings be safe, healthy, happy and at ease." You say this to yourself as well, and then work outwards to people you know and like, eventually including people that you find difficult and may not like very much at all.

When I'm sitting there, doing that, I seem to have no problem saying these kind words to people I dislike or find difficult. I can even say that I genuinely mean it when I'm saying it, because I know that if those people were feeling safe, happy, healthy and at ease (i.e., not suffering) they probably wouldn't be so difficult. I truly feel compassionate towards them, because I know they must be angry, hurting, defensive and confused, just like I am when I am difficult and unlikeable.

That's while I'm 'on the cushion.' It seems I have some work to do when it comes to real life. The good part is I've at least recognized that fact!

Here's what I mean. This past weekend a letter to the editor was printed in one of the local papers. In a nutshell, the couple writing the letter are opposed to a Habitat for Humanity project being considered for a neighborhood near theirs because they feel their hard-working family doesn't deserve to live near people of lower incomes who would bring crime and disorder into their upper-middle class community. Here is a quote from the letter , just to give you its flavor:
Like it or not, the children of St. Albert are high-standard children and have no place for low-income classmates. When we first moved to St. Albert our teen had a hard time fitting in because of money and it was hard on him. Now he is good, but it did not go away with just a loving hug — his status was accomplished once his friends saw our house and other possessions. It sounds cruel but that is how it is; ask your children, they will tell you.
The bigotry in the letter is quite astounding really, and it has generated a LOT of controversy, to the point that it was mentioned on the national news. If you read the comments that follow the letter, you'll see that most of them decry this couple's opinions, and some do so in very harsh terms. And I must say that my reaction was pretty much in line with theirs: my first instinct was a feeling of disgust and then many disparaging thoughts. I wanted to write a comment too, voicing these feelings and thoughts, and condemning the couple for their shallowness, snobishness and ignorance. Fortunately, in order to submit a comment I had to take the time to register on the newspaper's website first, and while deciding whether or not I wanted to do that, my urge to comment faded. Which was a good thing. I ended up donating to Habitat for Humanity instead, in the name of the couple in question. Nevertheless, I still took a lot of pleasure in other peoples' comments and their call for a boycott of the couple's business. Truth be told, I'm still taking pleasure in it, and I need to let that go.

Today I will do some metta meditation for this couple, to help me let go of it. Because it is true that if this couple could feel more safe, more healthy, more happy and more at ease, I'm sure they would soften at least a little towards the H4H development project. I will do some metta for myself as well, so I can extend to them more compassion and less judgement. And that will be good practice for the next time my old habit of judgment and derision jumps to the forefront.

Have any of you had a tough time being compassionate lately?