Shifting Perspectives

Speaking of dogs, I’m grateful for a visit from tiny dogs today.

I’m grateful for the ability to stretch enough to shift a perspective now and then. “The Power of the Dog” turned out to be more fascinating than fearful. Based on the horse punching, and a few reviews that seemed to emphasize intimidation and manipulation (all three emotional triggers for me) I was turned off. If it had been promoted differently, I’d have probably not resisted as much. If, say, it had been advertised as a sensitive LGBTQ period New Zealand western with a twist, I’d have been all over it. I’m grateful that Michele’s analysis and Deborah’s reassurance gave me the resolve to finish watching it, and it turns out the horse punching was actually the hardest scene for me. Yeah, he drove poor Rose to drink, but he didn’t really torment her all that much. Who among us hasn’t been bullied? Why did the buzz focus on his mean behavior instead of his vulnerability? The film was so much more than that.

We get entrenched in our views about things, people, points of view, and often it’s hard to let go: of preconceptions, resentments, grudges, judgements, personal emotional wounds. I’m grateful my heart cracked open a little more today, though it wasn’t easy to face my own intransigence. I’m grateful for shifting perspectives.

I’m also grateful for homemade sweet and sour sauce. The only thing missing with the egg rolls the other day was sweet and sour sauce. Hoisin was good, but no substitute. The mustard was really a bust with the particular brand of powder I had. So I picked the easiest, quickest S&S recipe that came up, with five ingredients on hand, and was delighted with the result. In ten minutes I had the perfect sauce to balance the rich Hoisin and salty filling.

30 Rock

Take Joe Biden, for example…

I’ve recommended this show to several friends recently. I’m winding up my second time watching the series, neither of which occurred when the show was live from 2006 to 2013. A few years ago before I shot my DISH, I watched the whole series in reruns, and really enjoyed it then. I’m even more grateful for this scathing, hilarious socio-political satire this second time around.

For one thing, most of the societal ills this brilliant show highlights have not changed much in fifteen years. For another, the spotlights that the show trains on issues including racism, sexism, capitalism, climate chaos, corruption, power and influence, and ways these all interrelate, are more necessary now than ever. I’m grateful for Tina Fey’s creative genius, which tackles our assumptions, judgments, and biases about virtually everything at every turn.

Tracy Morgan plays Romney’s running mate, blowhard Governor Bob Dunston, here debating VP candidate Joe Biden, in Season 7 Episode 2.

And, it’s fascinating to compare certain characters in that time–I mean actual people–with their roles in our current political and cultural spheres. Take Joe Biden, for example. In the episode I just watched from October 12, 2012, appearances include Biden, Mitt Romney, and Paul Ryan. Matthew Broderick, Bryan Cranston, Jimmy Fallon, and Catherine O’Hara also play cameo roles. The stellar ensemble cast share comedic and affectionate chemistry so there’s no anxiety sparked by the show; it’s comforting to watch, and makes me laugh out loud, as well as think and stretch my mind. I’m grateful for 30 Rock.

How Many Things

I’m grateful for learning new things about familiar technology. This video shows up like it should, in a horizontal format, but in this rare instance I shot it vertically. Frustrated at its abbreviated appearance, I clicked around on the icons at the bottom, and discovered if you click the open box in the lower right it will play the video full screen and you can see it as shot. If you click on 1x, you can speed it up or slow it down, which is kind of fun. Escape key will bring you back to this page. Most of all, I’m grateful that my kitty is back to normal!

How many things am I grateful for today? Waking up alive to a mild sunny day: though I pine for moisture like all living things in this high desert, it gave me an opportunity to do more outdoor chores, like digging some baby bull thistles I discovered beyond the pond, and cutting back spent rabbitbrush blooms by the laundry line, so I could hang sheets without them collecting seeds. Grateful for sheets! And a bed, and a washing machine, and water.

I’m grateful for Garden Buddy bringing sweet ‘permanent’ flowers, and a tender moment with her setting them on Stellar’s grave; grateful all over again for her kindness on the day he died exactly one month ago. I’m grateful that the pain abates a little bit more each day. I’m grateful for a relatively painless body, too, these past few days after a rough few months. Grateful for meditation, Telesangha, mindfulness, friends, laughter, and good food.

For lunch I used the last of Stellar’s ground turkey from the freezer, cabbage, a shallot, ginger, and a garden carrot to make filling for egg rolls, then deep fried them, and served them to myself with Hoisin sauce and mustard. I’m grateful they held together and tasted pretty good for my first attempt. For dinner I roasted a garden butternut squash, opened a can of last year’s tomatoes, chopped an onion and some mushrooms, threw in garlic, ginger, spices, and a jar of stock I froze after cooking the last chicken, to make a hearty one-of-a-kind soup.

And finally, I’m grateful for an astonishing assortment of movies available to stream right into my living room. I’m grateful that after reading a friend’s review of “The Power of the Dog,” I tried the movie and had the good sense to quit watching when Benedict Cumberbatch started punching a horse in the face. I’m grateful I was encouraged to watch “The Starling” last night, and that tonight I took time to explore several previews until I settled upon this adorable Swedish gem, “Dancing Queens.”

Opportunity

Opportunity knocked, and I opened the door. I accepted the invitation to create an online Introduction to Mindfulness course for a large group of educators. It will be a cursory overview, a tip of the tip of the iceberg, that may entice people to try meditation and some basic mindfulness practices. My hope is that it will give teachers who opt to take it a glimpse of the possibilities that meditation and mindfulness practice offer to find mental and emotional balance in a complicated and stressful work environment. During this pandemic educators, like health workers, face increasing anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout due to short-staffing, higher workload, traumatized students, and conservative pushback against the science of masks and vaccines.

Mindfulness changed my life. I’m grateful for the opportunity I stumbled upon early in the pandemic to learn simple and effective skills to manage my own anxiety, fear, and depression, and transform my life into one of gratitude and contentment. I’m grateful for a decade of meditation practice, a year of intense mindfulness training, and the opportunity to teach these skills online, helping people explore their own potential for less mental suffering and more genuine happiness. I’m grateful for the decades of adventure I’ve had exploring fun, creative, interesting, and varied ways of making a living; for all the lessons, influences, and conditions that led me to discover my true calling and right livelihood at long last. I’m grateful for opportunities to share the gifts of meditation and mindfulness with this new custom course for Oregon educators; and with anyone who is interested in a more thorough exploration, through the Mindful Life Program’s Foundations Course offered online quarterly, with the next class starting in January.

Homemade Tortillas

While I am in general grateful for Mexican food, it would be pretentious to claim that’s what I make. I’m grateful for the hodgepodge meals I make that are inspired by Mexican cuisine. I’m grateful to finally be getting the hang of homemade tortillas. They’re a quick and easy base for almost any kind of toppings. Yesterday I had a hankering for something like huevos rancheros to try my homemade salsa verde on, but no tortillas; so I whipped up a batch with masa and warm water. But first I had to cook something like refried beans, so I mixed up an onion, garlic cloves and spices, a dried paprika pepper, and the last of the garden tomatoes with two cans of black beans, and cooked the mush down while I made corn tortillas.

Though I only had a supermarket egg and broke the yellow yolk trying the trendy method of cracking it flat on the counter instead of on the side of the pan, I approximated a semblance of classic huevos rancheros that satisfied my craving. The meal could have been improved only with a ripe avocado.

Philip delivered avocados, more sour cream, and a couple of other groceries this afternoon, and I enjoyed bean tacos for lunch. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful today for Philip’s kindness, the luxury of simple, hearty food, the treasure of avocados in winter, and homemade corn tortillas.

Sweet Dreams

Today I’m grateful for sweet dreams of Stellar. I’ve had a few. They make him feel not quite so gone. This morning’s was the sweetest so far. We lived in suburbs much like where I grew up, houses with backyards connecting, streets that meandered in neighborhoods. Stellar was gimpy but okay and we went for a walk to a little park nearby. Across the street and up the hill a guy came out of his house with a greyhound on a leash. Stellar took off running to see the new dog, and I followed, assuring the guy that it was okay. I was delighted to see him moving so well. He got there and greeted the greyhound and then wagged and pranced around as another dog came out. As the neighbor and I stood talking, Stellar got excited about something and ran over to a tall tree.

For a moment there was both Stellar on the ground and a bald eagle leaping into the tree. The eagle was gimpy too, so he had to hop up the birch tree from branch to branch. Higher up there was a hawk, and the two of them danced around from limb to limb for a few minutes cordially assessing one another. Then Stellar hopped up farther to the hawk’s nest. I worried there might be chicks in the nest and he might eat them, but he poked his white head into the nest and sniffed, then stepped away.

A few minutes later a little hawk chick stuck its grey spiky head out. Then it fledged, and another chick fledged–they were bigger by then–and Stellar approached the larger chick and put his beak on the chick’s neck. I worried he might grab it and shake it, but he simply touched it gently with his bill and looked down at me. He had that same look in his eagle eyes as he does above. We stood below and marveled at the four raptors in the tree.

It was time to head home, so I stood beneath the tree and patted my outstretched arm. “Come on down, baby, time to go home.” Eagle Stellar hopped down branch to branch and landed softly on my arm, and we turned to leave. He was still happy and rambunctious after his adventure in the tree, and of course he couldn’t fly because of his gimpy wing, so I cradled him in my arms as we crossed through back yards on our way home. “Gooood boy,” I crooned, “I’m so proud of you…”

Then the damn alarm went off, jolting me out of the dream. But I woke with a smile, and the sweet sensation that Stellar is out there in his bardo trying on potential new identities, thinking he might like to come back as an eagle in his next life.

Every Living Moment

Today I’m grateful for every living moment of this day. Not for the first time, I’m grateful to have woken up alive, with a soft cat stretched out beside me, after a pretty good night of sleep with not too much pain. I’m grateful for the fullness of this day with sunshine, coffee, meditation, conversation, introspection, a cheese sandwich, ice cream, entertainment, meaningful work, and a sense of belonging. And that’s just the beginning. And now the day is over, I’m tired in a healthy way, and I’m grateful for a bed in which to rest my sleepy head. I’m grateful to have been aware of all these things in the moment, grateful to be a conscious participant in my own life. It’s that simple.

Propane

I was going to write about gratitude for propane, a natural gas/petroleum derivative that I hate having to use to live on solar power but have relied on for thirty years to fuel my backup generator during cloudy stretches in winter. I’ve also been using it for my cooking stove, and for about fifteen years for my refrigerator, until I bought a high-efficiency Sunfrost. This winter I have to use the generator almost every night to keep the batteries charged until morning; they are on their last legs, but the new batteries on order have been delayed for months because of ubiquitous supply chain issues. Now they won’t arrive til “after the first of the year.” That could mean May, as far as I know. So I am grateful for propane, which is currently giving the sun a big assist in electrifying my house, enabling the refrigerator, freezer, water pump, lights, TV, radio, etc., to function in the manner to which I have become accustomed. And I’m grateful to have been getting my power mostly from the sun for the past thirty years.

So, I was going to research propane and write about it. But when I opened Photos to search for a relevant image, for some random cosmic reason this one showed up, mama Raven and her baby brother Stellar shortly after he arrived here almost fourteen years ago. And that melted my heart and rendered me useless for the rest of the night. I am so grateful to have had these two remarkable, beautiful, brilliant dogs as my companions for the most recent quarter of my life; I’m grateful that I recognized and celebrated that gratitude almost every day of their presence in it.

Leftovers

I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.

Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.

Nine Lives

I’m grateful that cats have nine lives. Ojo burned through his pretty fast, but at six-and-a-half, Topaz may have used up only three or four of hers. I’m grateful that she is almost back to normal after her catastrophic tumble a few weeks ago. The past couple of mornings she’s gone for a short walk with me in the woods, and I was thrilled to see her lay back her ears and run to catch up and keep on running past me. That’s when I knew she was… well, out of the woods. She’s still a little bit extra spooky, but more like herself each passing day.

Topaz relaxes at home a couple of days after her miraculous return.

She used up at least one of her lives when she got kidnapped right before the pandemic started. We figure she may have lost one or two more during the month she was missing, living all alone in late winter over in the wilds around Buckskin Pass, surviving on what she could catch and possibly stolen kibble from nearby farms.

Topaz helping me harvest apricots the summer before last; we were grateful for a mountainous crop that year.
Every girl loves a little bling. I’m grateful for this sweet necklace and the dear friend who gave it to me, and so is Topaz. I’m grateful for my one remaining little fur friend.