Acceptance

It’s a yawn, not a scream. For a split second it could have gone either way. Just as I was rolling over to get out of bed this morning, Topaz jumped up, almost on top of Wren’s head. Wren didn’t even flinch. The cat lay down with the dog, and there was nothing I could do but lie back and smile with a gentle hand on each of their tummies, grateful for acceptance, for peace in the kingdom, for a good excuse to stay in bed another twenty minutes.

Progress

It’s not the same thing to me as it is for those who adhere to the ‘business-as-usual’ paradigm. I’m grateful for progress in slow time. I’m grateful for a slow but steady weed-eater who munches the mallow, bindweed, and purslane at his own pace day after day all summer long, amazingly keeping it in check throughout the yarden.

I’m grateful for the slow progress of peppers, and all the other plants in the garden. They take their time growing roots and leaves, then slowly bring on blossoms and set fruit, and the fruits ripen incrementally day by day until suddenly there’s a flood of them ready to eat, freeze, can.

I’m grateful to return to a place that I have always felt the joy of flow, in front of a sewing machine with colors and textures at my fingertips. I’m grateful for the lovely Pfaff that my father bought me not long before he died, and for Karen who helped me choose it and make its acquaintance, and for finding time again to relearn its capabilities and my own. I’m grateful that I learned how to use the built-in needle threader!

I’m grateful for the slow progress of the tropical drapes, envisioned as a dream decades ago. I spent years collecting fabrics for them, all cotton, many shades and patterns of greens, a few browns, blues and other colors. I spent months creating the keystone appliqués for each panel… and then I boxed them all up after my mother died and I returned home to a house unlivable that took four months to disinfect. The brick floor was grouted with mouse shit; every flat surface in the house was covered in mouse shit, from the bottoms of the kitchen cabinets to the dresser drawers upstairs. But I digress: that’s another story. Suffice to say I didn’t pull out the drapes or any other creative endeavor for a long time after that, until the stench of Clorox was a distant memory, the brick floor replaced, the dresser burned, and so much more effort expended to reclaim my sacred space.

Even though the new plug falls out if it’s not propped in, I’m grateful for it since I can adapt while I wait for a replacement and still enjoy the hum of needle and thread and the feel of fabric flying through my fingers. I made great progress today zigzagging the swamp and all the vines onto the panel, so tomorrow I can place frogs, lizards, beetles, leaves… and then play with some flower designs and fill in the jungle.

Life careened onward, and every winter I thought I should get back to those drapes for the sunroom. But I never did, until finally this summer life’s demands slowed down a little bit and I looked to Biko for inspiration on how to move through my days: slow and steady, taking a little bite of this, a little bite of that, as I amble through the hours with peace and ease. Finally accepting my own tortoise pace, that’s what I call progress.

Patience

I’m waiting for a lot of things. I’m waiting for these Blot peppers to turn orange and purple instead of chartreuse and purple. I wrote to Baker Creek where I got the seeds to find out how long it takes them to change to their fully ripe color, and was told they will “appear to just sit for several weeks before making their final color change.” I feel like they’ve been sitting like this for more than several weeks. But I’m being patient. I’m waiting for the Sirenevyi sweet peppers also to change from their deep purple to their final ripe deep red, and that seed company rep told me she thinks it’s about three weeks after they color fully purple. But I swear this one pepper has been purple for at least that long. But I’m being patient.

I’m also waiting for Rise Broadband to get its act together and quit constantly dropping internet service here; and waiting for Boost Mobile to get its tower enhancement straightened out so I can get phone service in my house again, which has been out since July 2. I’m waiting for the Division of Vocational Rehab to get me scheduled for an intake session so I can get permanent hearing aids. After trying demos for two weeks, it’s clear to me how much benefit they’ll confer. I’m waiting for an appointment with the only local pulmonologist to try to get my O2 saturation situation figured out. I’ve pursued all these dangling diagnostics diligently as well as the pepper problems in the past few days, and I’m real grateful that I’ve learned to cultivate patience. Even as I wait for solutions, I can enjoy the quiet growth in the garden, the waxing moon rising, crickets singing, reading a good book, a delicious salad, conversations with friends, playing with Wren, a hot shower, and a long nap. It’s not what life throws at or withholds from you, but how you respond to it, that determines your happiness.

I’m grateful for a good salad, and for all the elements in it: bacon, Bad Dog lettuce, homemade bleu cheese dressing, pecans, and the second ripe tomato from the garden. And I’m grateful for all the hands that went into growing the local and non-local ingredients, and the hands that got them here, and when you dig down that turns out to be an awful lot of hands. The pecans alone: who planted the trees, who cultivated the land to plant the trees, who tended the trees, who dug the ditches and laid the irrigation pipes to water the trees, who built the dam to divert the irrigation water; who picked the pecans, who shelled them or built the machines to shell them, who packaged them, who made the plastic bag they were packed in, who drove them from wherever to City Market, who built and maintained the vehicles that delivered them, and the roads or rails those vehicles traveled… anything and everything I have depends on so many other beings. My contentment rests on the labors and the patience of countless others, and for recognizing this interdependence, I am grateful.

Opportunity

I had several opportunities today to be my best self. I took them all, gratefully! Living in solitude, I don’t get a chance every day to do something kind or helpful for someone else. So much of my mindfulness is all in my head. But today was a day full of happy, healthy connections. One of these was a Bonus Boyz Lunch. Yesterday’s savory squash blossoms cooked pretty well: I let them thaw for about an hour, but think it would have been better to fry them straight out of the freezer. I stuffed today’s blossoms with a surprise sweet mix: ricotta, confectioner sugar, and chopped basil. They complimented each other on the plate.

A cheese, bean, and chicken burrito anchored the lunch, with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream; squash blossoms; and beans sautéed with generous sprinklings of two Penzeys spice blends. We didn’t really need dessert, but I tried to make ‘dalgona,’ a whipped coffee that should have turned out like a pudding. It failed miserably, so I poured some into bowls and topped with chocolate ice cream, and they were happy. We were all happy. It was another opportunity, for equanimity, for making the best of a bad situation.

As I write, there is a grasshopper crawling around on the orchid in front of me. She’s a female ready to lay eggs. I just can’t bring myself to kill her, or throw her to Wren, nor can I toss her outside where I’m sure she’ll spawn dozens more. Without the Phoebe families of the past few years, the garden is dangerously deep in grasshoppers. I’ve noticed a dearth of birds of all kinds in recent weeks, and I’m not the only one in the area bemoaning the uncanny silence. Where have all the birds gone? Higher ground? When I use the new Sound ID feature of the wonderful Merlin Bird ID app, I record more overhead jets than bird calls. Mostly I’ve recorded magpies, jays, and the two common hummingbird species. I’m grateful for the opportunity this app gives me to identify and log birds in my pocket computer, and for the few new birds I’ve heard, including the Ash-throated Flycatcher, and the Western Wood Peewee.

Practice

I’m trying a new squash-blossom stuffing: ricotta, sautéed mushrooms, fresh basil, and Penzeys Arizona seasoning. There were four blossoms this morning, and if I’m lucky there will be at least four tomorrow. I stuffed today’s and froze them, hoping to have enough total for three for each of us at Boyz Lunch. They don’t keep well in the fridge for more than a few hours when stuffed with ricotta, the moisture leaks out of the cheese and gets the blossoms too wet. Practice makes perfect. We’ll know more later!

Little One can’t decide quite where she wants to sit.

And practice did finally make perfect, almost. This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve baked this sourdough sandwich bread recipe, and the first time the dough has risen above the pan before baking. The first couple of batches were baked in pans too large. I did a little research after the next batch in the right-sized pans still did not rise enough, and as I suspected, rise times are less at this altitude than the recipe calls for. Instead of four hours, I let the mixture rise for two hours before adding the remaining flour, oil, and salt. Then after kneading I let the dough rise for just over an hour instead of another two, before punching it down and splitting into loaf pans. That rise took about the designated time of “at least two more hours or until the dough rises above the top of the loaf pans.” Baking time of 40 minutes was just right–almost. Maybe a few more minutes next time. I’m grateful for the patience and persistence to practice, whether in cooking, baking, mindfulness, meditation, or any other aspect of life.

The Sky Above

I love waking up each morning with an imp in my bed.
I’m grateful for the infinitely variable sky above.
I got a little bit done in the kitchen today, notably roasting and freezing a pound of beans, using this Penzeys recipe. So simple. Didn’t actually taste them, since they came out of the oven right after I finished lunch and some coffee ice cream. But I froze them in three bags for quick dinners down the line, and I’m sure they’ll be delicious.
I’m grateful to have some time each afternoon to work on the Drapery Project. Today I got the vines and forest floor drafted and pinned. Tomorrow I hope to get all these elements appliquéd, and begin design of some floral elements.

Creative Mind

Another walk to the canyon this morning. She’s getting the hang of it.
And then with morning coffee, we all sat out in the shade of the apricot tree…
Wren, Topaz, Biko and me…
After lunch, while the others were resting, I set to work on the drapes in earnest. I chose the macaw panel to start to finish, and pulled out all the appliqués I’ve already cut, and the fabrics I cut them from to cut some more; then sorted them to split frogs and lizards evenly among the remaining panels. I got a few more butterflies and bugs cut out, and will finishing laying out this panel tomorrow, and begin sewing! I’m so grateful to finally have time to dig in to this project. I can’t believe it’s been packed away for so many years, years I thought I always had something more important to do…

This morning I dreamed again about art. Once again I was in a spacious gallery, surrounded by oversized artwork. It was Mary’s gallery, and most of the work was hers. I realized that I was supposed to have my art there to hang in the show that was opening in a couple of hours, but not only had I forgotten to bring it, I wasn’t close to finishing it. As I looked behind the scenes and saw racks and racks and walls full of Mary’s giant art, I insisted that we hang her work instead. Then ensued a couple of hours of frantic and fruitless efforts to select and hang her work, but I never got anything done except to wander in wonder among the beautiful paintings. One of these days I’m going to remember while I’m dreaming to save some of the amazing images that my subconscious conjures. I’m grateful for my creative mind and for all others. Where does creativity come from?

Closeup of the macaw, who’s been patiently waiting my attention for too long…
…and of this blue snake. It’s been so long since I made it that I don’t remember exactly which blue snake it is. There are more blue snakes in the world than you would imagine, from pythons to pit vipers, some naturally colored blue and others genetically engineered. Google it and see! My guess is this is a blue tree python, based on the shape of the head, and since I already have an eyelash viper (and this snake clearly lacks the telltale ‘eyelashes.’)
I’m grateful that the Aji crystal peppers are forming, and most of the other pepper varieties are finally coming on.
As I pruned some tomato plants this evening, I gasped in delight to see underneath the dense leaves I was trimming the first ripe tomato!
And I’m grateful that I have my work cut out for me tomorrow, cooking and freezing beans, and maybe making and eggplant parmigiana to have for dinner and freeze leftovers for deep winter.

Change

I think this little girl’s world has changed a lot since spring. I wish I knew more about where she came from and what her life was like before. I’ll probably never know more later, but I’m grateful that she is expanding her horizons, and I’m stretching along with her. She’s only been to the canyon a few times, but now I’m under doctor’s orders to walk there daily again. My habit of doing that changed last fall when Stellar could no longer make it that far, and then he was gone and it was winter, and cold and snowy, and I didn’t want to walk down there alone anyway. We live where lions live, which I’m also grateful for; but I don’t want to be walking alone among them. So Wren and I are girding our loins for the short hike down there daily. Even though she is small, she is alert and will let me know if there’s a big cat on the horizon.

I’m grateful for change. It’s wonderful to know that nothing stays the same. Everything uncomfortable will also go away, even as will everything lovely. I’m grateful that I’ve allowed my tastes to change over the years. When my mother made Bread & Butter pickles every year for the St. Alban’s church bazaar, it was fun to help. I was too young to slice, but I liked packing the sliced cucumbers in ice. One time the Colonel cut his finger slicing them and there was some concern about where the sliver of skin ended up… Maybe that’s why I never liked to eat them. Eew. I loved dill pickles but sugar and onions? Forget it. Now, they’re my favorite kind, but that may be only because I’m making them myself with cucumbers I’ve grown. This recipe I’ve used twice this summer is so simple, so delicious. The pickles are crisp, sweet, and spicy. Sometimes I load up a tiny bowl for a snack mid-afternoon, and sometimes I incorporate them into a meal. Today, I made the most delicious sandwich on a toasted croissant with avocado, Havarti, and pickles, with lots of mayonnaise of course. My love affair with mayo? That’s one thing that will never change.

Pain Relief

On top of or underneath her bed, Wren can sleep anywhere in any position.

I’m grateful that neither my car nor my house ever got egged–until now! And even so, that it wasn’t a malicious act by miscreant youth, but an unfortunate accident. I parked under–just barely under–a tree this morning when I went to see my favorite PT for a little body work. I’m grateful for her, for her kind, nonjudgmental attention to this challenging corpus, and her strong hands and wise mind; and grateful for the pain relief I get for a little while after seeing her. Also, I’m grateful that she lets me bring Wren to our sessions, and that Wren is a pretty good little girl while we’re there, settling eventually onto her bed–after she reassures herself that PT means me no harm. Anyway, we got in the car, and I noticed a yellow streak down the center of the windshield. At first It thought maybe it was sap, but realized that it was egg yolk–and there was a tiny smashed egg at the top. But it was too late, I was already driving home. I resisted the impulse to turn on the windshield wipers, anticipating that that would just make a worse mess. After I got home, I hosed off some of it, then scraped the hardened yolk, then scrubbed the residue with window cleaner. Now I have a shiny clean windshield. I’m grateful that my first thought was compassion for the birds who lost their egg, and that even as I cleaned it off I didn’t resent nature or anyone else for the trouble, just felt bad that a little bird won’t be born.

After returning home, I microwaved a home-frozen burrito and topped it with sour cream, homemade salsa and hot sauce, and avocado. I was grateful for this simple, delicious, nutritious lunch, as I am for every bite of food I have the luxury and luck to enjoy.

Just Being

I’m grateful that my grownup cat Topaz, whose nose has been out of joint since the kitten adventure, and not quite straight even after three months with Wren, finally jumped up on my lap this afternoon for no reason. She kneaded and purred, and curled up for a short visit as I picked weeds out of her thick fur. Wren got a little anxious about it, and came up to inquire; she and Topaz went nose to gentle nose for a few seconds with no tension. It was sweet. We all hung out for awhile in the shade of late afternoon on the east patio, doing nothing, content to just be. I love these peaceful breaks in the day, where I simply pause, take a time out from the busyness of correspondence, work, dishes, practice, anything, just being in open awareness for a few minutes.