How cool the moon

Can’t sleep in all the recent heat, perhaps there is an opportunity to consider the moon, that cool light can calm or excite delight but also offers insight. A refreshing spectacle, a considered reflection, a potent participation. How cool is tonight’s moon? Take a look for yourself.

The phases or cycle of the moon echo birth, death and reincarnation, just like the life cycle of a seed: it grows, blooms, then it dies leaving a seed to continue on. This may remind of the endless wheel of life but it is also an opportunity to ponder impermanence, to ponder continuity, to ponder the nature of nature and the nature of perseverance.

The moon in any phase is a lantern to contemplation. Here is the symbolism of each phase;

A new moon signifies new beginnings – with the Moon and Sun sharing the same ecliptic longitude (rising and setting together) for this phase, the moon is not visible. Its invisibility, the not-there-ness, is a potent sign of change, of transformation, of clearing, of emptying and reenergising.  The hidden presence also a potent contemplation.

A waxing crescent moon signifies new intentions – it is the beginning of growth of the moon toward becoming a full disc again, that thin sliver of light in the crescent, similar in shape to several seeds of important crops – here it can be the seed of intention. A crescent moon can allow visibility of the rest of the moon as a dim disk and the effect is that bright crescent beams evocative of a smile. A powerful transmission.

A first quarter moon signifies decision making – at the point when half of the Moon is illuminated and half is shadowed. Half way between new moon and full moon. The perfect 50/50, the balanced scales, equal consideration, yes or no – now choose. it can also signify equanimity and poised emotions – mastery of right choices. A balancing before further growth.

A waxing gibbous moon signifies refinement/fine-tuning – the continued ‘waxing’ means that illumination is growing – the ‘Gibbous’ or swelling portion, means that more than half of the moon is revealed  – the mirror is taking the polish.  The orbit is refining toward more and more daily illumination. The intention has momentum. The natural order is motivating. Becoming is a part of being.

A full moon signifies enlightenment, yes, but also whole-heartedness, a full approach to living, a full and bright participation with the ultimate reality. Now as the alignments allow the Sun to illuminate the entire moon.   The full reflection may allow deeper contemplation.  This full moon is also known as the harvest moon and festivals make the moment of reaping the rewards of previous effort.  Rejoice, bring in the bounty but note it too is transitory. After enlightenment there is still water to be carried and a wood pile to be chopped. the continual continues – that’s the full beauty of it.

A waning gibbous moon generally signifies gratitude or acceptance. Gratitude for the continual, for the process ongoing, for the cycle, for the nowness of each moment, the moment to moment-ness of it all. Acceptance; of the continual, of the changes in the moment to moment, in the unfolding, ever transpiring nature of reality – of the waning being as important as the waxing. Going with the flow, being the flow, the flow in being.

A third quarter moon signifies possibility or potential – all the poise of a first quarter moon but now it is the exact halfway point between the rewards of the Full Moon and the promising of a New Moon. There is the opportunity here to reorientate, to rededicate, to find some self-compassion, to express some loving kindness, to make plans or to stick with the course. to preserver either way. To own the shadow too. To see the realities of this phase.

A waning crescent moon signifies inevitability – the acceptance of inevitability, the concurrence with unavoidability. The ongoing ‘waning’ is not the diminishing of the integrity of the moon, it is still whole, still fully itself, just it’s orbit with the earth reveals a different aspect, a lesser portion in scale, yes, but even that facet shines, we can witness light even in the thinnest sliver of crescent. The decline is also part of the cyclical nature. The gone-over flower produces the seed. The possible is in the potential. The full potential not impossible. This ending phase is the making of the next.

The New Moon – The great wheel turns, the cycle begins again.

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Dealing with dehydration

Dehydration is what happens when your body loses more fluid than you take in. It is an ever present threat when under the influence of gardening activities. Even on days not forecast as heat wave. You can perspire just as easily mowing the lawn or digging a bed over on a cool day as you can mid-July or midway through a heat wave.

Dehydration is more than a strong thirst, though that is one of the presenting symptoms alongside tiredness, lightheadedness and dark, odourful urine.  Dehydration is a disrupting of the body’s natural balance. Water makes up over two-thirds of a normal healthily functioning human body, it is intrinsic on a cellular level to all organs and their functions but when the natural water balance of the body is reduced it also disrupts the delicate balance of electrolyte salts (especially sodium and potassium) and blood sugars (glucose), which further disrupts functions including the capacity to thing clear.  

If left untreated dehydration soon becomes severe dehydration and leads to seizures, brain damage and even death.

First response: Drink plenty of fluids – water, diluted squash and fruit juice are all recommended but it is best to avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks and caffeine. If symptoms persist or you manifest rapid heartbeat, strong fatigue, inability to pass urine after rehydrating or are feeling quite unwell then medical supervision is required.

Garden response: Get to shade, spritz/splash some hose water on face and neck. Pinch some mint or lemon balm for a quick rejuvenating inhale and to drop into a glass with some ice and water. Sip back to a better fluid balance.

Quick fix isotonic drink

Isotonic drinks are designed to quickly replace the fluids which are lost by exertion and perspiration. They beat water by having a supply of carbohydrates/sugars to replenish energy. The trick is in the salt – as sodium is the electrolyte most readily lost in perspiration and also the salt makes the fluid more isosmotic meaning that it brings the drink closer to the same concentration of solutes as the blood and so more readily absorbed into the bloodstream- perfect to offset the physiological reactions to dehydration. But they don’t have to be store bought. I prefer mine to be homemade.

Juicy versions – in a jug mix and stir the following

  • 500ml fruit juice (whatever you have handy)
  • 500ml still water
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of sugar or dot of honey
  • Ice – optional

Squish Squash version– in a jug mix and stir the following

  • 200ml concentrate fruit squash (often high in glucose)
  • 800ml still water
  • A squeeze of some fresh lime, lemon or orange
  • A pinch of salt
  • Ice optional
For more tips on how the gardener can stay safe and well. All good bookstores and online retailers.

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Heatwave coolers

We gardeners are great at watering the plants and forgetting to water ourselves. The steady loss of water and salt through excessive perspiration on hot days can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is no laughing matter — it is not just a strong thirst it’s the loss of electrolytes that control our muscles and some brain function.

So if you have been feeling a little wobbly, easily tired, poorly concentrated and even achy or cramping in this recent strong heat then its definitely time for a sip of something refreshing. Not all beverages are the same so consider your options.

Caffeinated and fizzy drinks are not great to rehydrate you and may in fact make symptoms worse. Alcohol is not a good choice either as it tends to both dehydrate and make you pee out fluids.

A cool glass of water will cool the system and add hydration. Iced is nice but if you fear you might be teetering on heat exhaustion then skip the ice as too swift a temperature drop is not helpful. Similarly with iced tea.

Fruit juice will hydrate and contains vitamins and phytonutrients to help the body replenish itself when under heat stress – cautious note on sugar rushes, drink in moderation or dilute.

A good sip to have on hand is coconut water – it contains all five electrolytes so rehydrates and balances in quick time. It is also a perfect base for a beat the heat smoothie.

Beat the heat smoothie: Simply add 200ml chilled unsweetened fruit juice of your choice (or whatever is in the fridge) to 150ml chilled water/coconut water to 1 ripe banana or half a cup of strawberries. Place all ingredients in a blender and blitz. Decant into a glass. Find some shade. Sit back, relax and sip away.

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Help with Heat Exhaustion and Heat stroke

Heat Exhaustion is a form of shock principally triggered in gardeners by a combination of dehydration and sustained gardening activity. It manifests as heavy sweating or clammy skin sometimes with body/core temperature near normal but the feeling of not quite right.

Heat exhaustion can also occur without heavy activity when the core temperature (the temperature inside the body) rises above the normal 37°C (98.6°F) towards 38-39°C (100-102°F) or higher.

Pupils may dilate (widen), headache and nausea may arise leading to dizziness and potentially vomiting.  It can reverse upon following first response advice but it can be serious and develop further into a major medical incident.

First response: Retire casualty to a cooler location (shade of a tree or interior with air conditioning). Remove some layers of clothing if overdressed.  Direct cooling air onto the casualty with a fan or improvised fan (newspaper). It is ok to sip cool but not ice cold water. 

An isotonic drink would be helpful but not any energy drinks or caffeinated beverages. A spritz of cool water on face and exposed skin is beneficial. A damp towel or cool compress for the head, neck or face is relieving and reassuring.

Generally these methods should make the casualty feel much better within fifteen minutes to half an hour and without any further long-term complications but if no improvement seems to be happening then place the casualty in the shock position (lying flat on their back with feet raised) call an ambulance and continue to fan.

Without treatment or abatement upon first aid, heat exhaustion could easily develop into heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a much more serious condition than heat exhaustion. It occurs in a gardening context when heavy work on hot days combined with inadequate rest breaks and insufficient fluid intake – forcing the body into a stress reaction where it can no longer sweat or cool itself and so keeps on overheating.

With heatstroke core temperature can elevate above 40°C (104°F) at which point the cells inside the body start to break down and internal organs can commence to shut down. 

The symptoms of heatstroke can include a mixture of the following- hot and bothered, elevated body temperature, rapid heartbeat, rapid and shallow breathing, feeling dizzy, mental confusion, headache, nausea, cessation of sweating, loss of consciousness. Untreated it can lead to organ failure, coma, brain damage and death.

A key diagnostic is that heat stroke can cause pupils to shrink small – become pinned. Help cool and calm/focus the casualty. Medical assistance will be required.

First response: Heatstroke is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Call for help and dial emergency services to request an ambulance.

While awaiting ambulance- move casualty to a cool location (shade of a tree or indoors to air-conditioned room). Remove layers of clothing if overdressed.  Direct cooling air onto the casualty with a fan or improvised fan (newspaper).

It is ok to sip cool but not ice cold water.  A spritz of cool water on face and exposed skin is beneficial. Wrapping in a cool damp bed sheet will help to cool quickly but not too rapidly to cause additional stresses/complications.

If casualty starts to have a seizure (fit), move nearby objects out of their way to prevent further injury. Post-fit or if the person becomes unconscious or commences vomiting, move them into the recovery position and keep airway clear. Continue to fan until ambulance arrives.

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To consciously tend a border

To tend a border requires not just creative expression or a visual eye for what looks good together but horticultural understanding of the plants you grow. To put a plant in the wrong place or wrong soil type can be its early demise- so ‘life or death’ is on the line. To tend a border requires aptitude.

To tend a border requires understanding of the needs of the plants in your care – how often to water, how deep or shallow its roots might go, how hungry a feeder it may or may not be – it requires commitment to care. Not just engaging your nurturing self but your attentive self. You must be present and aware when tending a border or you may miss the first signs of rust or mildew or other potential calamities. You must be vigilant to pests and also to techniques that deliver the best outcomes for your plants – deadheading, pruning, division, feeding, watering.

It is commitment of your life time; you will share your living with the gardens living, your live with it. There is a union of interaction and interdependence. You both thrive for the experience. It will require patients, a little sacrifice, a lot of hard work and also moments of pure joy.

To tend a border is an intimate engagement with life – to do it mindful is to live to the fullest.

To explore more ways of developing a mindful and full connection life within the garden and the rest of your life, check out my book SEEDS OF MINDFULNESS (IXIA PRESS)

– All good bookstores and direct from https://store.doverpublications.com/0486845389.html

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Go get grounded

Mindful gardening is becoming not only a trending activity but a true wellbeing tool. Here are two ways to step straight in and reap some psychological and physical rewards.

Go get grounded.   To stop a moment and stand still is a great way to just slow the pace, catch your breath – even follow your breath and find some inner peace. A standing meditation is as powerful as a sitting meditation.

Gardeners know silence, we often know true peace but we may be less used to stillness – there is always something to be done, but in doing for yourself, stillness is rejuvenating. Stillness is recharging the spiritual and mindful batteries. It is pure being. Be it from time to time.

Standing still, feel your feet on the floor surface. Notice the solidity of your legs as they push the weight of your body onto your feet – as the earth takes that weight and supports up. You are firm and present, feel your presence – it is strong, solid, and actual. There is life here. There is connectedness to the solidity of the ground beneath you. You can be a might oak in this moment, you can be a resilient gardener in this moment, you can be a human taking a moment. In the moment to moment of it, feel your standing strength. Stillness is energy. Stillness is energizing. Stillness is.

A barefoot connection. There are other potent advantages to standing still, especially if you slip off those shoes and socks.    A barefoot connection to the earth is even more rejuvenating, feeling the texture of the grass, or soil or paving is coming to your senses combined with the energy of stillness.  Being barefoot is being free, unburdened, natural. That is psychologically rewarding – that is also spiritually uplifting.

Standing still while barefoot is a way to divest ourselves of not just psychological tensions but of static electricity and physical tension.   Walking around all day in shoes and socks and even wellies creates electrical friction and builds up static electricity in our bodies which can interfere with bodily functions and our sense of energy, capability and alertness. 

Standing barefoot on your lawn for just three-five minutes (take longer if you can) is an ionic detox for your body   – that improves the function of your organs and immune system as well as better neuron and synaptic firing. When we connect barefoot to the earth we allow the earth to change our electrical charge – to earth us again.  With the static dissipated we then absorb ample quantities of powerfully antioxidant and anti-inflammatory free electrons directly through the soles of our feet. Not just energizing – health conferring.

Getting barefoot from time to time is a good grounding in building health and an extra sensory experience to entering the now. It doesn’t have to be all standing still, barefoot tai chi or yoga on the lawn works a treat too.

For more prompts to mindfulness and wellbeing gardening check out the bestselling book –

link to purchasehttps://store.doverpublications.com/0486845389.html

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Go mow the lawn

Mowing the lawn does not have to be a chore – it can be an active meditation. With singularity of purpose you can mow like a Zen monk or simply be a more mindful gardener. So bring your full attention to the task at hand, do it and do it well.  Be present to it. Be diligent in it. No sleep walking it – come alive to the task.

A job well done is its own reward but some jobs have hidden rewards. Mowing the lawn is a treat to the amygdala and the hippocampus – the regions of the brain responsible for emotional recognition/response and memory/attentiveness.  How? Well, the smell of freshly cut grass, those (Z)-3-hexenol and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate molecules released from the grass, actually stimulate a sense of wellbeing and relaxation by deactivating the body’s stress chemistry and suppressing brain stress receptors. Yeah – mowing the lawn cuts your stress down too.

Mowing the lawn should never be a stressful chore, and even if it begins as such it ends differently. The task alters your mood. Mowing the lawn is an opportunity to match brain chemistry to intent – to be well and grounded and to fully embrace the now of well-being and serenity. 

So love the lawn you care for. It loves you back.

If you want to explore more mindful gardening concepts check out my book SEEDS OF MINDFULNESS – IXIA Press, available in all good bookstores.

click to purchase https://www.bookdepository.com/Seeds-Mindfulness-101-Mindful-Moments-Garden-Fiann-Onuallain/9780486845388?ref=grid-view&qid=1618592197304&sr=1-1

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Calming lotion for rashes and hives

Rashes and hives can manifest anytime but for many they appear in Spring. In about 90 per cent of outbreaks there is no apparent or definitive cause of the rash but the rash is due to histamine production which indicates an allergic response. Pollen, plant sap, spores, insects, dander, some chemicals, soaps and a large range of garden encountered substances can trigger histamine to be released by cells in skin causing blood vessels to dilate and leak fluid out into the skin surface, this oedema is the basis of the red rash or the hives that appear like a nettle sting hence the medical name of urticaria.

Nettle rash usually resolves within 24 hours. Longer lasting bouts are considered chronic urticaria and require antihistamines and a care regime. 

The cure of old was Calamine lotion which is zinc base. Zinc is antipruritic (stops itching). Heres a version of calming lotion based on zinc and chamomile that you can try at home.

Fiann’s natural calming lotion – All the ingredients work to reduce the skin inflammation and neutralize the histamine or defence reaction caused by nettle rash, nettle sting, heat rash, sunburn and other irritations.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon zinc ointment
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • A strong cup of chamomile tea to supply enough fluid to form an applicable lotion of all the other ingredients combined.

Method:  In a cup or bowl, combine the first 4 ingredients and stir. Then add 4 teaspoons of the chamomile tea as a start and mix, the water and fats of the ointment make take a good stirring to mix and dilute to lotion consistency – keeping adding small quantities of the tea until you have a consistency that you are happy to apply to the affected area of skin.

Keep refrigerated and use with three days of making.

for more helpful remedy-recipes check out the book FIRST AID FROM THE GARDEN

all good bookstores, online retail and local libraries.

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Go Hug a tree

There are many benefits to hugging a tree; decreased static electricity, increased cognitive functioning, decreased stress, increased endorphin release, anti-inflammatory and immune system enhancement, a chance to reconnect with nature and find some gratitude and loving kindness.

To explore more health benefits visit Why you should go hug a tree (irishexaminer.com)

How to hug a tree –

If you haven’t a mature tree in your garden go visit the local park or the botanic gardens or hike the closest woodlands or Forrest trail. Find a tree that speaks to you or is impressive in its stature. Go give it a hug. Get over your fear of embarrassment – break your rigidity. So what if passers-by sneer. The hug you give is not just to the tree but to yourself and your spirit.

As you hug, extend from you heart gratitude to the tree for being the lungs of the world, it gifts us oxygen and it absorbs carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gasses. Inhale the goodness it exhales – exhale that gratitude that it will feed upon. Feel its solidity – its stature and strength. It was once a seed. What an accomplishment. Inhale its inspiration, exhale your appreciation – cherish the moment a while. Then go enjoy the rest of your day.

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Go plant a tree

This weekend is the ideal time to plant a tree – A brilliant addition to any garden, a support to our planet and local wildlife plus a great outdoor activity that is improving your physical and mental wellness in the bargain.

Here’s how https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tw77dWJYHPM&t=59s

Trees produce oxygen: We learn in school that trees are the lungs of the world, how through the process of photosynthesis they produce oxygen. Well a single garden tree will over an average 50-year lifetime, generate almost €25,000 worth of oxygen and will replenish the atmosphere with enough good 02 to support two human beings for a year.

Trees act as Carbon sinks: Another Part of the process of photosynthesis is the intake of Co2 to make food. So trees remove excess Co2 from the atmosphere but we don’t need a forest in the backyard to make a contribution. A single garden tree over an average 50-year lifetime or the equivalent of a fast-growing forest tree in a community garden or park, can potentially absorb up to 48 pounds of Co2 over a single year; approximately ten tons per acre of urban wooded park – that is enough to offset the Co2 output produced by driving a car 33796 kilometres. The equatorial circumference of the earth is 40075km. So planting some trees does offset the footprint of the road trip of your life.

Trees clean atmospheric pollution: Tree foliage intercepts airborne particulates, from dust to soot and pollen, thus cleaning the physical content of air but further, trees absorb along with carbon dioxide during photosynthesis other atmospheric gases, many the by-products of exhaust fumes and industrial processes. Amongst the atmospheric pollutants that trees absorb are carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

It is estimated that a single garden tree, over an average 50-year lifetime, can deliver in excess of €48k worth of air pollution control. Different trees perform differently – If you live on a busy road just think that a single Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) will remove in a single growing season 5200mg lead, 60mg cadmium, 140mg chromium and 820mg nickel from the environment. While our native Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) is one of the best trees at removing harmful particulates from the atmosphere.

Poor air quality and in particular particulate content is linked to respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, neurological side effects and an increase in chemical sensitivity and allergies.

discover more at the 10 good reasons to plant a tree post below.

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