Hard Work

I’m filled with hope tonight, and grateful for all the hard work that went into the runoff election in Georgia: those campaign workers on the ground in the state, those making calls and texting to get out the vote, and the many thousands of us who donated to Rev. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.

I’m also grateful that I braved the snow-covered driveway this afternoon to go get the mail. I was expecting another batch of course materials for the Mindfulness Foundations Course I start teaching in January, and didn’t want them sitting up there in the weather. Between snows, clouds lay low in the valley, a rare and beautiful sight. And the doe in flight. Consider this an invitation to check out the course, and pass along the course information to anyone you think might be interested in learning to live a more meaningful life, with more inner peace and less mental and emotional suffering; with, even genuine happiness. Learning to live mindfully is transformative. It’s simple, but it’s not easy: It, also, is hard work that we do internally, and it benefits ourselves and the world around us.

It’s All Alive

I’m grateful for this beautiful distraction sitting on my shoulder when I lay down to take a nap. I had big aspirations today to get a lot of packages mailed, but I got distracted by a sudden need to fill the house with Christmas spirit. I turned on some music and went under the stairs to pull out Christmas decorations. To do that, of course, I needed to vacuum and dust and tidy some surfaces first, and there was lots of bending, lifting, stepladder climbing, and walking around. I definitely needed a nap by late afternoon.

It’s been seven years since I put out all the Christmas decorations. Ever since Kittens! I started putting out a few a couple years ago, and a few more last year, but some of my favorites were too precious to risk. Topaz is old enough to have lost interest now, I think, and Wren well behaved enough that I don’t need to worry. I set up the Cathedral Creche on top of the piano. This manger scene is almost as old as I am; it was bought at the National Cathedral gift shop almost sixty years ago, and I can’t even remember why it’s so special–something about its maker–just that it always was. I added a couple of animals to it in later years, but all the people and most of the animals, and the angel, came with the manger. It was always my favorite decoration to set up when I was a child; they were all alive to me.

I’m grateful I finally found a place to display Auntie’s Christmas tree skirt! This is also ancient. She made one for herself and each of her siblings before I was born. It was always the last element of our family Christmas to come out, once the tree was fully trimmed. There was always a debate about which scene should go in front, and it was always confusing: the skirt is slit in the back, and you never wanted the slit in the front of the tree, but then you could never get either of the skirt trees in the front of the real tree. Draping the TV with it allows both trees to shine! But I’m not going to leave it here long. I’ve already lost two ornaments just gently pulling it off in order to watch TV. I’m grateful to finally give it some air for the first time in decades. There hasn’t been a full-sized tree in my house since I built it. It’s lived here with me since my mother died, maybe she gave it to me a few years before when they stopped having a tree. I’ve felt wistful every time I pull it out of the Christmas trunk and put it back in unopened. I think it’s time to pass it on to someone else in the family… but to whom? There aren’t many left who would value it, and I can’t think of anyone outside the family who would treasure it the way it deserves. I’m grateful for all the ancestral stuff I have, but it’s also a burden–because it’s all alive to me.

Zoom Cooking with Amy

I spent the day cooking. I’m grateful for the strength and energy to cook all day. I cooked down black beans with roasted tomatoes and onions left from the garden, and some oregano from the sunroom. Then rolled up a bean and cheese burrito with sour cream and fermented hot sauce for lunch. For dinner, Amy and I made Bello’s cheesy potato bread, and loaded sweet potatoes.

While the sweet potatoes were baking, we chopped red cabbage, drained garbanzo beans, tossed in some spices, then roasted that mix too. Toward the end of cooking we mixed in some chopped pecans. I forgot the dried cranberries! They were sitting on the counter but I glanced right past them. A tahini dressing with balsamic, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and garlic powder topped the plate. Pretty easy. So delicious. A successful Instagram recipe. And lots of leftovers!

But the day began and ended with bread. This sourdough is so simple, so delicious! Mix a shaggy dough first thing in the morning, let it rise an hour, fold it four times, let it rise eight-ten hours, then four-fold it again and shape into loaves. Another hour and a half rise under a flour-dusted tea towel, and into the oven at 450℉. I’m grateful for all the delicious food I concocted today, for the kitchen, tools, fuel, and time to do so; and for Amy and our time together. I’m grateful for the contentment that settles over me more completely as time goes by: for the dawning recognition that I am enough, just the way I am. It’s taken a long, long time to get here. Some people are just born with it, but for others of us it takes a lifetime of letting go to finally arrive at peace with who we are.

Shingles Vaccine

I’m grateful for a lot today. All the usual things, like waking up alive, hot water, good neighbors, and biscotti… And also some occasional things, like my first shingles vaccine at the clinic. I’m grateful that a couple of friends cared enough to twist my arm to go get it, and grateful it didn’t hurt more than it did. It’s left me by darkfall feeling extremely tired and a little bit weak, but that’s a small price to pay to avoid the lengthy torture of the virus.

I’m grateful for respiratory therapy with a compassionate, fun, holistic OT, who has served so many needs over the past few months, including today my craving for a sandwich made by someone other than me. She sent me to Sweetgrass down the street. I’m grateful for her recommendation of the Hal sandwich, which came with homemade potato chips. I brought it home to enjoy and saved enough turkey for another sandwich I’ll make here, after I make some bread. I’m grateful for stretching my boundaries enough to step into the cafe and wait for the till to clear to pick up the order, despite the unmasked crowd. It did put me in a slight dissociative state where I’m on high alert. I’m grateful for the awareness, and grateful after this full day to have my cozy bed waiting for me and the cat and the dog, who have now settled into a regular sleeping pattern one on each side of me. It’s my happy place. And that’s ok.

Cozy Day

Outside and in, inside and out, we had a cozy day. Wren surprises me with her enthusiasm for snow. But she just came in after midnight whiz and won’t stop licking her paws: from a high of 34℉ this afternoon the temperature has plunged to 7 at the moment and I don’t think she’s ever been out in snow that cold. I might have to buy her some pink booties…

Lunch was total comfort food with this creamy chickpea-spinach pasta with rosemary. It was so good I ate it again for dinner. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for simply inhabiting this particular life at this moment. I appreciate how fortunate I am, among the 8 billion other humans, and I try to make each day meaningful by living in alignment with my values of gratitude, kindness, and being of benefit to at least one other person, human or otherwise.

Letting Go

I’m grateful that I found the glasses! Last night, immediately after I posted, I walked into the pantry, turned on the light, looked to the shelf just below my left elbow, and saw them wedged between the box of Kosher salt and a bag of flour. I knew I had put them somewhere precarious with a mental note to remember. I burst out laughing. I didn’t consciously remember where they were, I just decided to check the pantry one more time. And in that subconscious way we often find things, I went right to them. There they were, in the very last place I looked…

In a way I’m even more grateful for the capacity to laugh at myself. It may have sounded like I obsessed over the glasses for the 24 hours previous, but I didn’t really; at least, not the way I would have before. For one thing, I didn’t beat myself up for losing them. Pre-mindfulness, I would have really cussed myself out and mentally beat my head against the wall. I did sing a tender little ditty about my stupidity as I swept the snow paths, but I was gentle with myself and laughing even as I did that. I also didn’t panic. I knew they were in the house or the yard, and was calmly confident they’d most likely turn up safe and sound, instead of broken outside after snowmelt in spring. I enjoyed a fruitful day filled with other activities in between the occasional search forays. I’m so grateful for the letting go that mindfulness affords me.

Colors

I’ve never seen Wren sleep with her nose wrapped in her hands until yesterday, when she slept on her kitchen bed like this twice.
An altocumulus skyscape delighted me while I was hanging laundry.
Breakfast this morning: a fresh biscuit with butter and raspberry jam.

One of the mindfulness exercises I’ve learned is to pause a few times a day and notice something blue, red, green, yellow, and white in sequence; and taking the few seconds required to mentally note what I see. This exercise can help you become more mindful of your environment and ground you in the present moment. I live amidst a riot of color and texture inside my house, and most of the year outside as well, so the exercise is usually easy for me. Yesterday was a day full of color; oddly, a lot of red white and blue showed up in my pictures. Today was cloudy with a fresh light snow cover.

This made it difficult to search for my bifocals, which went missing sometime yesterday afternoon. I feel like I set them down somewhere precarious with a mental note to remember where; but I also recall putting them in a pocket at some point. They’re in no pockets I’ve checked so far, and nowhere else I’ve looked multiple times. After scouring the house last night and again this morning, I broke down and started looking outside, backtracking everywhere I walked in the yard yesterday: to the compost and laundry line, to the generator, to where I picked up the last hose and where I coiled and hung it, into Biko’s round pen since it was so balmy he got to spend a few hours outside yesterday. I swept the snow lightly with a broom the second time I retraced my steps. If the glasses were blue, red, green, yellow, or white they might have showed easily, but they’re not: they’re the color of snow–not white, which is an illusion of snow, but translucent. If they’re out there, they’ve disappeared, and there’s more snow coming tomorrow night. I’ll have a short window midday when some snow may have melted, and after that they’ll be buried for winter. But they’ll probably turn up inside eventually. The lid to the martini shaker rolled out this morning when I vacuumed under a cabinet where I’d already looked for it weeks ago. Now just waiting for the small kitchen tongs and the globe lights to reappear.

Creative Leftovers

Winner of the Fruitland Mesa All-Breed National Thanksgiving Day Dog Show! Best in a Pink Sweater!

I’m grateful, as you know, for leftovers. Lacking bread today, and craving a turkey sandwich with mayo and cranberry sauce, I improvised. So simple, so delicious!

Contentment

I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.

I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.

I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.

Another Disaster…

…Narrowly averted! Not life or death this time, but potentially even more uncomfortable. I’m grateful that Wren is such a well-behaved little dog. We went out for midnight whiz just now, and I was grateful to have a new headlamp with a super powerful beam, and grateful that she has a reflective collar for nighttime. I was playing with the headlamp settings and found to my delight that even on the red setting her collar glows–red! While we were in that stargazing mode, she uttered a long low growl, the first I’ve heard from her, and trotted a few steps toward the fence.

I whistled, and grateful that my lips weren’t too dry or cold, actually made a sound, which stopped her. At the same time, I switched the lamp to high beam to scan for trouble. My first thought, given all the recent visitations in the vicinity, was of course a mountain lion, which could have meant death for her.

She trotted another few steps and I whistled again, she paused, and I swung my head toward the gate in time to see a fat striped skunk waddling out through the gap. Whew! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with a skunked dog. I’ve done it often enough, and have supplies handy just in case, but at bedtime on a cold winter night would be just about my last choice for that olfactory disaster to happen. Wren came on the next whistle, clearly also not interested in the consequences of a close encounter, and we strolled to the other side of the house, where she finished her business under a clear, quiet, starlit sky. I’m grateful for everything about that little adventure, and especially for the peaceful outcome.