Pleasant Surprises

I turned on the soaker hose in the bean bed, and this little sagebrush lizard instantly darted out from the edge of the bed, directly to a drop on the hose, where it stayed for several minutes. A startling, pleasant surprise, this little lizard, as it sprang from nowhere toward the water, spontaneous opportunist.
I’m grateful for new neighbors ,new friends who could pick up a prescription in town and drop it off as they picked up the last of the orphan vegetable starts. I’m grateful the babies I propagated now have a good garden home and chance of survival, fruition. The bag I expected to hold only one bottle of pills instead was stuffed like a concert swag bag. I’m grateful to Kroger’s for taking the pandemic seriously, and doing their part to convince the American public by giving away free masks and disinfectants; a pleasant surprise that says to me they understand, This thing is real: just deal with it..
This blue ephedra, planted years ago and now starting to spread a bit: It’s lived here for years and I’ve never seen it fruit like it has this extraordinary drought year. So unspectacular in bloom they are I didn’t even notice the flowers: I turned around yesterday and suddenly noticed the fruits, glowing red in the sunlight. A pleasant surprise!

I’m grateful for most surprises these days, as I can experience them as neutral at worst most of the time, and good, fascinating, or delightful at best in almost every case. I can imagine some surprises that would be distressing, but why? Why would I want to make myself suffer even more than everyday life itself demands?

I was just about to call It is what it is on the desert willow, when I walked past it this evening and noticed the first tiny bit of new green growth. It’s just a hint, but I think all I’ll have to do will be way cut back the dead limbs and give it some TLC before we see if it can make it with a new resource allocator in town.

Animals

I am so grateful to live among animals, wild and domestic, large and small, feathered and furred. They give me belonging.

My tiny dog–he has seemed as big as a horse sometimes, but these days he feels smaller.
Hanging out in the shade for morning coffee.

Two Walks

Funny how our expectations and standards change as our conditions change. Stellar had a really good day, and got a long walk to the canyon this morning, and a medium walk around the sunset loop this evening. Some years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal to me, but after the past year with him, and especially the past few months, it’s momentous. I’m grateful that he had the mobility for two walks today.

And in between Stellar’s two walk, there was a lot more to be grateful for, including a little bit of actual rain. Not more than a couple of minutes, but rain nonetheless; again, changing standards. In this climate induced drought, even a trace of rain and a cool breeze is something to celebrate. There may have been a rainbow, or trace of one, but it was time for me to come inside for … Zoom Cooking with Amy!

Tonight we cracked open the Gin Mayo she sent awhile ago, and put some in a spontaneous pimento-cheese. The main event was Bacon Jam. I never did hear tell of such a thing! We each made a different type of burger to try it on. She made a chicken burger, and I made a burger burrito because I didn’t have bread or buns. I formed the burger into a bratwurst shape and rolled it up inside a tortilla slathered with pimento cheese, bacon jam, and a handful of lettuce.

Spontaneity

I shook up my morning routine for the first time in a very long while today. Up early and, after a short walk with Stellar, out the door to town. I had a 7:45 PT appointment. On the way home, I made a spontaneous stop at Farm Runners to pick up ice cream, and as usual walked out with more than I intended to–the best kind of good intention gone awry. I’m grateful for being forced out of my comfort zone and stretching my wings, splurging on a homemade blueberry poptart and my first coffee out since Covid. Driving with a go-cup and pastry evoked nostalgia for countless cross-country mornings: waking early, packing up camp, and stopping at the closest gas station or market for a cup of coffee and a doughnut, breakfast of the open road. Now, I am content with a much smaller range.

It’s taken a couple of months and a dozen trips to feel some semblance of the way it was before, when, though I was always eager to head home after appointments or errands, I often added value to outings with extra stops. During this lull in the pandemic, when I’ve had to go out, it’s been with a git-r-done attitude: go, git-er-done, and git home, no lollygaggin. So it was notable that this morning I felt relaxed enough to interrupt that homeward momentum. I’m grateful to be letting go, just a little bit, of the vigilance that has ruled the past fifteen months; allowing for and enjoying spontaneity.

I was grateful to see that the last lone redtail baby has left the river nest. Unlike the phoebes, who fledged all within hours of each other, redtails and other raptors usually hatch several days apart, and consequently leave the nest in sequence a few days apart as their bodies and skills develop. When the eldest chick leaves the nest the youngest is still not fully feathered. The parents, of course, continue to return to the nest and tend remaining chicks until the last one flies.
Though I enjoyed the morning out, I couldn’t be more grateful for a cool, quiet evening in the garden. Clouds rolled in and the breeze picked up, creating ideal conditions to finally get some work done after a week of paralyzing heat.

Simple Delights

I’m grateful today that Stellar had strength and stamina to walk all the way to the canyon this morning; that he has survived to see the cottonwoods leaf out again; that even though he’s lame and deaf and got cataracts, his sniffer still works great; and that he had such a good day we could take another walk this evening.

I’m grateful for a couple of quick cool showers, the first after I worked all morning in the yarden in brutal heat, and the second at the end of the day; I’m grateful I set up my shower so that the water flows directly out to the base of the birch tree and from there along a row of chokecherry and mountain ash, so I can shower without guilt even during drought; indeed, if I were to curtail showers I’d threaten the health of the ecosystem. I’m grateful for the water itself that flows from the high mountains, for the infrastructure to channel and hold and transport it and for the people through the years who made this possible.

I’m grateful the clouds moved in late afternoon and cooled off the yard and house, even though there was no rain; grateful that tomorrow’s high is forecast to be a temperate 90º instead of today’s 98º in the shade. Grateful also, of course, for nutritious food, including morning glory muffins that Garden Buddy brought the other day, and for cardamom cake that Deb couldn’t eat, for lettuce and peas from the garden, avocados and mushrooms from the store, and for a cheese sandwich at lunch, among other gustatory delights. And I’m grateful for other simple delights as well, such as Doe’s reactions to Biko, who stalked her a bit like he stalks the dog, and made her jump and leap a couple of times, which made me laugh when I recovered from being startled. I just love watching the expressions of the deer as they watch me and my pets move through our mutual yard.

I’m also grateful tonight that I noticed the dog food still cooking on the stove an hour after I meant to turn it off, that I didn’t go to bed with it still cooking, and that remarkably it wasn’t burnt. Through a particular lens, there is always something to be grateful for in any situation: it could always be worse.

X-Rays

I’m grateful to have all the little tenders out of their hot black pots and safely tucked into their dirt this week, with our third day pushing a hundred, and a couple more still to come before we fall back to a more tolerable low 90s. Still no rain.

I’m grateful that today’s trip to radiology was uneventful, and that my hand does not appear to be broken. I dropped a heavy metal bar on it a couple of weeks ago while I was assembling an inversion table, and screamed. Since then it’s only gotten marginally better: there’s a low level pain most of the time, and when I do certain things with it the pain spikes to that level that causes your gut to jump. The pain’s over in a flash when I back out of the movement, but that’s meant I’ve almost dropped a few things. I was worried that there was something seriously wrong that normal daily activities might be exacerbating. Whew! Though I’m not sure the news that it’s ‘advanced degenerative change at the base of the thumb’ is any better: just more arthritis. My skeleton is letting me down (but I’m still grateful to have a largely functional skeleton).

I am grateful for the X-ray, and the fortuitous accident that led to its discovery. I’ve had several recently, and many over the course of my life, and though the radiation can be dangerous, the information garnered has been worth the risk, in my experience. I’m grateful for the various X-ray technicians that have captured those images, for the radiologists who have read them (and for all the conditions of their lives that led them to those careers, etc…). Another fascinating discovery in today’s X-ray was ‘a small metal density foreign body in the tip of the middle finger.’ You just never know! Perhaps it’s the microchip that came in the vaccine.

Photo and all you need to know about thumb arthritis here.

I regret that I didn’t take a picture of the X-ray when they let me look at it, but I was in that purely functional state I get into under duress and didn’t think creatively. Oh well! But I imagine it looks something like this. Ouch!

Letting Go: Judgement

I’m grateful for patience, which is another way of saying letting go of expectations. I’m grateful to be making progress on the rock garden. I’m thrilled that at least one of the phoebes is back nesting again. I’m grateful for “plants and birds and rocks and things…”

I’m grateful I’m learning to let go of judgement. I’ve missed out on so much during my life, from judging. At the same time, I’ve made so many mistakes by not discerning: not trusting my inner wisdom, not living in accordance with my strongest values. It’s been a challenging balancing act, simultaneously judging harshly and failing to discern; but like a funambulist I’m grateful I’ve found some stability.

Judgment is inherently hierarchical: it creates a caste system. A bunch of individuals with similar judgements about something, anything, find each other (especially in this global social media whirl), and coalesce inevitably into a self-proclaimed upper caste, judging all others beneath them. I was born into hierarchy, but my true nature has always seen all beings as equal. For this, in my family, I was scorned. Oh well!

I’m grateful for every experience in my life that has brought me consequences from judging, and every situation that has fostered empathy and compassion. I allow myself to be a learner, still learning life’s lessons.

Beans

Today’s lunch: a fried mash of black beans, garden onions, portobello mushrooms and one farm-fresh egg on corn tortillas, garnished with sour cream, homemade hot sauce, avocados, bacon, and garden cilantro. Oh, and of course cheese melted down there on the bottom. So simple, so delicious!

When I was growing up there were a few foods that were rarely if ever served in the house. One was beans. I ‘didn’t like’ beans for most of my life, or thought I didn’t. Once I was out of that house, I’d eat them occasionally when they were offered, and like many people, felt discomfort with the after-effects. But because nothing stays the same, including our food preferences, I eventually acquired a taste (and tolerance) for beans. It helped to learn how good they are for the body, all that fiber and protein. I’m grateful I learned to love beans, and I eat them a couple of times a week: black beans, garbanzo beans, bean salad, refried beans, anasazi beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, bean stew, bean chili, I even made beans on toast recently after reading someone who loved that. It was ok, I probably won’t do it again. But all the rest of those beans, I can’t get enough of them. I am grateful for beans!

Each Day

Some days make me feel just as wide-eyed as these little dogs; in fact, most days do, practicing gratitude. I’m grateful today for the opportunity to do chihuahua for a little while; for clearing the air despite the smoke; for getting my hands on some chicks that are all named Dinner; for perspective on some of my less healthy habits; for connection with family and friends; and for the courage to open and play my dusty piano again after years.

I’m grateful that last night’s fireworks over the reservoir didn’t go rogue and cause a blaze, and that no one was stupid enough to celebrate Pioneer Days with home pyrotechnics; I’m grateful that wildfire smoke remains distant and we can still breathe here, albeit with extra sneezing, coughing, and just a hint of nose blood. I’m grateful for each day with breathable air, knowing that fire is certain this summer and location of fire uncertain. A new fire south of Salt Lake has consumed more than ten thousand acres in less than a day, and another four-day old fire near Moab exploded today. Seeing a sky like this evening’s reminds me not only of last summer’s horrendous smoke, but of the tragic summer of 1994, when the Wake Fire in our valley burnt three thousand acres in a couple of days; its impact was quickly eclipsed on its third day by the Storm King fire near Glenwood Springs that blew up and killed fourteen firefighters. Everything we hold dear is so tenuous.

Not only because of wildfire, of course, or the slow-moving catastrophe that is climate chaos, but because impermanence is the nature of all things. Our evening walk was especially poignant in the coppery glow of the smoky sunset: Not only from the oppressive weight of the big picture, but the looming loss of the very personal was readily apparent in dear Stellar’s feeble gait. We turned around before the first gate and he hobbled back in to his comfy bed for the night. I’m grateful for each day that we both wake up alive, and I don’t have to make that horrible decision to call his time. I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that allows me to enjoy our remaining time together, to recognize that one bad day is often followed by a few good ones, and to accept the inevitable end of both our lives. I’m grateful for the inspiration and motivation that comes from knowing that “Death is certain, time of death uncertain.”

Fun

Fun is different for everyone, but I think everyone on the Canary Committee had some kind of fun today walking in the Pioneer Days Parade. I’m grateful for the strong women and two men who made our showing an effective message. As I returned to my car afterward, a porch sitter nearby said, “Y’all sure did a lot of chirping out there!”

“I think we got our message across, don’t you?” I replied. “Oh yeah!” he and his companions agreed. That was one of the more straightforward comments I heard after the parade. Others carried a tinge of drought denial that confused me. We are so clearly in dire straits here on the western slope, in an area that has already increased 4ºF in the past hundred years, the area in the continental US most affected by the global warming of climate chaos. Extraordinary drought is only one of the symptoms. So it felt antagonistic to me when a woman on the Republican float called out to us, “Then don’t take a bath tonight!”

And while it was kind of clever, it also seemed supremely ignorant when a Mennonite man came up to me and asked, “Are you a canary or Chicken Little?” I’m grateful for the equanimity that mindfulness practice has generated in me. I was able to smile and say, “Oh, but this is real.” He laughed and said, “I’m just kidding.” I hope so, but I wasn’t sure. I hope that the other canaries received more supportive comments, but I didn’t stick around to find out. After being out in the largest crowd I’ve seen in a couple of years, I headed for the serenity of home.

I’m grateful the tender seedlings I transplanted last evening survived the blistering dry heat of their first day in the ground. The worst is over for them, I hope. I’m grateful I can provide some dietary diversity in my yard for this gravid doe, though I did eventually shoo her away from the columbine blossoms she was happily plucking. She stepped off a couple of yards and ate a few honeysuckle buds before meandering back toward the pond.

I’m grateful for the fence around the food garden, or I wouldn’t have anything to harvest! I’m grateful for another handful of radishes and half today’s snap peas on their way to the fridge. The other half of today’s peas I tossed into a skillet with the last of the oyster mushrooms and some chopped scallions (those perennial onions) for my evening snack. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful to be eating food I’ve grown at the end of a full Saturday that included connection with community and nature, a long talk with my soul sister, sweet time with my beloved animal companions, and a nice long nap: My kind of fun.