When I first stumbled into this Buddhist path I now call home, my greatest surprise was an instruction to "live in joy." I already knew about the Buddhist teaching that life is difficult. (Perhaps you've noticed.) But joy? Someone had to be kidding. I was too busy.
As a result, I ignored the teaching as long as I could, choosing to busy myself with parenting, teaching, earning a living, and when there was time, sleeping. Later, when burn-out raised its massive head, I remembered the teaching and promised myself to find a way to have fun, figuring that fun would lead to feelings of joy. It did.
The discovery? Treating myself to random learning experiences. It started with random road trips. Living in the Midwest, when I felt a melt-down coming on, I'd check the weather channel and then early the next morning start driving in the direction of the most pleasant weather promised that day. From Detroit, two tanks of gas could get me to Cincinnati's art museum, Indiana's Amish Country or Traverse City's historic lighthouse. I'd spend the day visiting places I'd never imagined existed — the world's largest plastic factory in the middle of cornfields in Ohio, Annie Oakley's childhood swing set — and come home filled with energy and good will. Random explorations can do that to a person.
In this, the season of gardening seminars and events, rather than making a list and checking it twice, I'm clicking onto nursery sites, heading for the events page, closing my eyes and pointing. The event closest to my finger wins. I've never been disappointed with this completely unscientific technique for choosing how to have a fun-filled day. As just one example, it led me to the single most educational and hilariously entertaining gardening-related event ever — a class on pruning trees taught by a woman who should be doing stand-up comedy. She was that funny. I loved it, learned tons, and came home feeling like I had spent a day at a spa. And I didn't even have any trees. Actually, at the time I didn't even have any plants.
As we move into 'The garden is planted, now what?' part of the summer, I invite you to try a random event or class. If you don't know where to start and live in the Seattle area, you could head for Molbaks to learn how to use herb-based cooking rubs for barbeques or how to layer orchids in natural elements like sand and rocks for surprising and beautiful arrangements. Or Swanson's nursery promises to help all takers "find inner peace and tranquility through gardening" with events like its Gallery in the Garden art sale and classes on pruning Japanese maples and developing hummingbird gardens.
Live closer to Portland? You could learn about cactus and succulents at the Cactus and Succulent Society sale or how to start small container water gardens at Portland Nursery. At the end of the month I'm planning to head to the nursery for a bamboo class myself, since that's where my finger landed. Joy triggers all.
If you want more, there's always the lavender festival in Sequim. For three days, the Olympic Peninsula community is transformed by a celebration of lavender. Eight farms in the Sequim-Dungeness Valley participate. Their growers promise to share their techniques for cultivating, drying, and using lavender. There is also a street fair, concerts, dances, and theater. If you make it to the festival, I dare you not to grin ear-to-ear surrounded by the bright white to deep purple lavenders, happy lavender lovers and oh, that smell.