Simple Pleasures

Where does a little bad dog hide when she’s rolled in deer poop? It didn’t do her much good. I brought her in for a forced bath, oh she looks pathetic under the tub faucet, but once I get her in there she stays and lets me wash her.
So simple, so delicious. Soft tacos for lunch with seared snap peas, scrambled eggs, cheddar, and avocado.

I’m grateful Wren is doing well in all three of her classes today. She’s still reluctant with crate training and car training, but is more enthusiastic about tortoise training. Today’s the first day she found him all on her own as we circled the yard searching. Life’s simple pleasures.

What is it? Is it a party hat? Is it a dog toy? No, it’s a phone stand, and it worked great in its inaugural FaceTime this evening. Thanks, Kay!

Laughter

Cheering up a friend last night I sent her this snap of a cartoon from The New Yorker. Then I ate some ice cream.

There is so much not to laugh about today. So much extra, unnecessary misery has just been catalyzed by the self-righteous right wing wingnuts on the Supreme Court. So much extra, unnecessary misery has been generated by human greed and ideology since the Industrial Revolution. So much suffering has occurred globally for all species and will continue to occur for all species including, of course, human beings, due to climate chaos and our species’ staggering capacity for denial, our devastating refusal to face this slow moving catastrophe. There is so little any one human can do about it.

This is where mindfulness skills* have literally saved my sanity. Cultivating the wisdom to accept things as they are, and from there determine how I can help; the ability to choose where I place my attention and hold it there; to practice gratitude and compassion with every breath that I can remember to–these are the gifts of mindfulness for me. With these skills, I am sometimes able, even on a day with such dreadful planetary and political news, to laugh til my sides ache.

Wren and I sat on the deck for awhile this afternoon as I laughed til I cried with my dear cousin over the phone.

My cousin and I play Wordle every day, and share our results. First we each share, in our own time, the blank tile tally that we’re given the option to share once we complete the word game. Then we share a screenshot of our guesses. I love seeing her process, and learning from it, and noting how some days it is so different from mine, and some days so similar. Spoiler Alert: Today, the solution was SMITE. After we texted our solutions, this happened…

I could not stop laughing at my own spontaneous cleverness, largely because I knew how hard she’d be laughing at my reply. I called her, and we sat together on the phone, half a country apart, laughing til we cried without saying a word for several minutes, before catching our breath and chatting for awhile. I am so grateful for laughing out loud long and hard with my cousin, for laughing with my friends, for laughing alone sometimes, just because it really is the best remedy. (Just. Just for you, dear 😂) May we each find laughter where we can in each day, no matter the challenges it presents. May we laugh together on the same page as we fight to protect one another. May we remember how good laughter is for our bodies and our souls.

*I start teaching a new 8-week Mindfulness Foundations Course online on July 1. If you’re interested, check it out here, and let me know.

Chocolate Mousse

Probably I’ve expressed gratitude for chocolate before. Why wouldn’t I have? Today I’m grateful for chocolate mousse, in particular in these no-bake ‘bars.’ I made them last night for Boyz Lunch today, and they were quite well received. Some graham crackers, butter, sugar and a pinch of salt for the ‘crust,’ so to speak, and a essentially a bunch of whipping cream and chocolate chips for the mousse, with a splash of vanilla and some espresso powder. Heavenly. I’m grateful that chocolate is still readily available, that for the time being, this luxury bean is still able to be cultivated in warmer, wetter parts of the world, and transported far from its native climes. I don’t expect this will always be the case.

I was also grateful for a cool, cloudy day, or they’d have been even messier to eat than they were. We finished lunch just in time before the predicted deluge, which dumped about a fraction of a tenth of an inch of rain over a few minutes before moving on. We are all grateful for even a splash of rain at this point, and the humidity got up to a whopping 49% while the sun shone, for awhile. In a remarkable turn of events, at bedtime the temperature is two points away from the humidity, at 58º and 56% respectively. The remaining mousse bars are safely stored in the fridge and the freezer for later, and much later. I’m grateful for a fridge and freezer, and the solar electricity to power them.

I’m grateful to crawl into a cozy bed after a day of natural beauty and fellowship in this peaceful little pocket of the planet, on this one precious day that will never come again.

Breath

I’ve expressed my gratitude for breath before: “Oxygen is the real drug; breathing, the ultimate high.” Quoting myself! I’ve thought about breath a lot over the past decades, more since I began meditating, which curiously coincided with the end of a couple year asthma phase. My precious teacher told me at the time that sometimes people with breathing difficulties do better meditating with a different anchor than the breath. Did I take that as a challenge, or was I simply drawn to the breath because I had been all along? Either way, I’m grateful for how the past twelve years of meditation have increased familiarity with my breath.

I had a grade school understanding of how our lungs work, but until today I didn’t really comprehend how blood gets oxygenated. I’m grateful my NP sent me for pulmonary functions tests today, and grateful for the kind and focused attention of the respiratory therapist Melissa who gave me a quick lesson on lung anatomy, asthma, oxygen saturation, and why altitude matters. Yes, I suffered second-hand smoke from in utero until I left for college at 18; yes, my alveoli are functioning ever so slightly below normal; yes, I have what could be described as mild bronchial obstruction (asthma) that did not improve with an inhaler; but, unfortunately, her tests didn’t seem to reveal the reason behind my chronically low oxygen saturation. We’ll know more after the pulmonologist reviews the results, but in the meantime she concurs with NP that the next step is to get me onto night oxygen. She doesn’t think I should move to the coast of Maine, as the pressure gradient in humid sea level climes often exacerbates breathing difficulty, so there goes that fantasy.

There are complications to be worked out with the night oxygen, primary being that living on solar power I simply don’t have the electricity to run an oxygen concentrator. Period. I’m researching options. More will be revealed. Meanwhile, this whole exploration reminds me how grateful I am for each breath, and for the impaired but nevertheless miraculous lungs that diffuse oxygen into my blood and pull carbon dioxide out.

And in that perfect timing sort of way, a new avenue of respiratory therapy has opened up synchronistically. My dear teacher at the Hotchkiss Yoga Tree now offers a Pranayama class that can be taken via Zoom. I joined for the first time yesterday, and am excited and grateful to add this Tuesday class to my calendar, and incorporate the magic of Pranayama into my daily practice. Wishing you all Happy Breathing!

Spotted Fawns

I’m grateful I was able to spend most of the morning in the garden, replenishing tattered prayer flags, potting up some seedlings, pulling a few weeds, and generally appreciating the beauty of the growing things. I am thrilled with the progress of the bulbing fennel, which grows more lush by the day. In the midst of this joy I took a short break for a phone call, and sat where I could see the south woods. A doe strolled by beyond the yarden fence, and a few seconds later I spotted a quick small creature well behind her. Coyote! I thought, but then came context: another doe followed by two tiny twins. I watched them cross the whole expanse of the south woods from the driveway until they disappeared behind the garden fence, trailing the first doe at a distance. I’m grateful for this minutes-long look at the first spotted fawns of the season. It’s rare to catch more than a fleeting glimpse: Once their mothers spot you the spotted fawns vanish.

We call them ‘spotted fawns’, I guess, because we still call them fawns their first year long after their spots have blended into their lightening coats. When they are newborn and for a month or so after, they have darker brown fur with white spots which makes them disappear into the forest floor like dappled light.

Wren did well with car training again this evening. Her new harness arrived, so even after tightening her strap, even if she could manage to dangle again, it would be by her shoulder girdle and not by her precious neck. With the aid of treats, we moved more quickly from the lap to the seat to driving, and she was a little more relaxed…

Still, when we returned from the mailbox, she was trembling to get out of the car, and let her relief be known with a happy yodel…

After car training, we took a mocktail and some cheese and crackers down to the pond. Wren pointed a doe outside the fence, and I whispered her over to sit beside me for a cheese treat. As we sat quietly, the doe jumped the fence and came to drink at the pond. I could see that she’s nursing. Maybe she is the mother of the twins. I’m grateful to have a water system that makes this pond possible to provide habitat, food, and water to wildlife in this high desert oasis. The deer, I know, are also grateful for this flowing fresh water.

A second doe soon joined the first. Note her swollen teats: she clearly also has a fawn or fawns laying low outside the fence somewhere. Perhaps she is the mother of the twins.
Like the does, I’m grateful for fresh flowing water. I came in for a shower and took a moment to appreciate the beauty of this hot cascade backlit by the setting sun. I am always and deeply grateful for hot running water, for a home with a shower, and a bed to sleep in afterward.

This Precious Day

I’m grateful today for the capacity to participate fully in this life. From our early morning amble through our own trees to a late snack of sweet potato fries while exploring the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park with Barack Obama, I thoroughly enjoyed this one precious day that will never come again.

A late morning phone call gave me an opportunity to sit in the car again until Wren came and joined me. I’m grateful for the conversation, and for how well car training went though you’d never know it from her expression. After about twenty minutes I urged her off my lap into her seat, snapped her in, rolled up the windows halfway, and drove all the way to the mailbox and back. She was a little tense and showed it with a few big yawns, but she stayed calm. Back at the house, she leapt from the car and danced for joy. That was enough for one day.

Still feeling trepidation about food and cooking, I made another cheese sandwich for lunch. I tried out the cilantro salt but won’t do that again, even a tiny bit was way too salty for a little sandwich. I got a few projects done outside and in before crashing at three o’clock and napping til five. I’m grateful I have that option. I’m grateful for the Mindful Life Community I meet with on Monday night zooms, and for watching “Love on the Spectrum” while FaceTiming with my Kiki on the west coast. I’m grateful for having technology in my little mud hut that brings the world to me. And I’m grateful for the world of living beings that I have the opportunity to nurture inside and outside my hut every day.

I’m grateful for the first peppers now appearing on the Leutschauer paprika plants. The other pepper varieties, though smaller, are not far behind in flowering. After plucking the first few tomato flowers I’m letting them grow now too: though tomorrow is officially the first day of summer, the growing season here feels almost half over already.

Plenty of Food

Three beauties: Penstemon pseudospectabilis, Indian ricegrass, and little Wren.

I’m grateful that I have learned a few things about relating with dogs over the years. This little one is super smart, communicative, and skittish. I don’t want to damage our relationship by forcing her to do things. This evening when I drove up to get mail and meet a friend for a handoff, Wren wouldn’t get in the car. She used to jump right in the car and into her seat. Tonight she ran far away. She did not enjoy her adventure to the Black Canyon last week, and is still, I think, reeling from hanging herself out the window. So I took her back inside and tossed some treats into her crate and shut her in for the twenty minutes I’d be gone.

A couple hours later, after puttering in the garden, I went back out and just sat in the car with the door open. Wren ran far away again. I read a magazine. She approached but then ran far away on the other side of the car and sat and watched me some more. After awhile I didn’t see her, so I called. She came running and jumped up into my lap. She smelled like Russian sage. She had snuck back through the gate and rolled in and chewed on it. There are a few worse things she could have rolled in and eaten, but the smell is antagonistic to me and it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was. We sat there together for about ten minutes, then I ushered her off my lap, rolled up the windows, and we came inside. I’m grateful I know to take time to desensitize her to the car, and hope that one day soon she’ll be excited to go for a ride again.

I’m grateful for the easy early harvests of Ukrainian radishes, golden snow peas, and cilantro, and for knowing how to preserve at least two of them. I popped the snow peas right into the freezer without blanching, they are so fragile I think that will be ok. I’m not sure what to do with the radishes except wash and refrigerate them, and eat them pretty quickly. Friday for lunch I sliced one up in a stir fry with snow peas, arugula, orach, rice, and an egg. It was delicious, but today the thought leaves me cold.

I’ve preserved cilantro before in herb butter, which is in the freezer and I keep forgetting to use. Today I tried cilantro salt: finely chop 1 cup cilantro and mix with ¼ cup kosher salt. It’s supposed to keep in the fridge for a year! I’m grateful that the row of cilantro I planted did so well, and that I bothered to cut it back and preserve it for later before it went to coriander. There are plenty of stray cilantros going to seed in other beds. I never seem to have it when a recipe calls for it, but now I will.

I’m grateful that I felt like eating something, anyway, today, even if cooking and vegetables didn’t appeal. I tried a piece of buttered toast around noon. About three I made a simple cheese sandwich with some cilantro scraps, Havarti, and mayo. And when we came in from car training, I turned to my old foolproof hangover remedy which I haven’t had occasion to use in many years: orange Gatorade and potato chips. I’m grateful to have both of them in the house; grateful to have plenty of food, even if I don’t want it right now. Tomorrow is another day.

But wait! I couldn’t stand it. I’m grateful for the technology at my fingertips to learn how to preserve radishes. It took about fifteen minutes: went out into the night garden to snip some dill, sliced the washed radishes and a carrot, layered them into a clean pint mason jar, mixed a brine of two cups distilled water and one tablespoon kosher salt… in a few days I’ll have lacto-fermented radish pickles! They will allegedly last a couple of months in the fridge. There were other options including freezing and drying, but this seemed easiest and tastiest.

Loving Friends

Had I not gotten violently ill last night, I would have posted my gratitude for Raven and Stellar, yet again. And for letting go, finally. Yesterday I took their faded photos off the food bins that I’d used for them and have been using recently for Wren and Topaz, and replaced them with their current owners. It was hard, even knowing those photos don’t hold their lives, to throw them away, but it was time to let go of the pull of their memories in that context.

I didn’t feel quite right so I went to bed early. I’d only been asleep for an hour when I woke up all kinds of sick, and remained so for about twelve hours. I’m grateful for my Cousin Nurse who talked me through accepting it, there wasn’t much I could do to stop vomiting, but to be sure and sip some liquids as I could. I was able to get out of bed around two this afternoon and sip some dilute ginger ale and water. Once I felt a little better I texted around to see if anyone had some orange Gatorade or some Pedialyte to replenish electrolytes.

I am so grateful for a supportive community: for loving friends who cooed their concern and made various offers to get me something, and for Garden Buddy and her husband who actually had exactly what I needed and made a special trip over to deliver it. They may not even have had it on hand; they were out and about and may have picked it up. Knowing them, they’d have gone to extra lengths to get me Orange! The only flavor Gatorade I can stand–but I would have been grateful for any flavor at that point.

I’m grateful I got so much housecleaning done yesterday, it made it easier to come downstairs this afternoon and rest in the recliner. The slight fever is down a bit, the Covid test was negative, a cool rain drizzles outside, Wren and Topaz have been extra sweet. The awful helpless feeling is gone and I’m just tired and a little queasy now. The fear that it would get worse and all the scenarios that flowed from that are gone. I almost want to eat a cracker now, but I’m heading back to bed. I am grateful that I will survive!

Boyz Lunch

I am always grateful for Boyz Lunch. Today, the company of my dear lunch boys assuaged the melancholy left by the ghost of lamented potential; and also just the fleeting visit from an old friend. It was fun to plan the meal, use preserved tomatillo salsa from last summer’s harvest, soak and cook dried black beans from Rancho Gordo instead of opening the usual cans, and make enchiladas with corn tortillas from a regional tortilleria. Yellow rice is so much easier than I knew, just add turmeric. The meal took some thought and preparation but was ultimately so simple, so delicious.

I combined three recipes to make the most of what I had on hand, adding cream cheese and cheddar to the shredded chicken, (cooking rice in the leftover chicken water); mixing cream, sour cream, cumin, and more leftover chicken water in the blender with the salsa verde then pouring that over the filled and rolled tortillas in a 9″x13″ baking dish. I’m grateful, as always, to have a well-stocked spice rack, pantry, and refrigerator. I’m grateful for my ‘personal shoppers’ who continue to coddle me through covid. I’m grateful for every little piece of the puzzle that comes together to create, serve, and enjoy lunch weekly with an intimate club of three that’s been dining here for nearly six years. I’m grateful for the acceptance and gratitude we share for each other and for our precious, impermanent time together.

Melancholy of Caring

Twisted piñon on the rim of the Black Canyon
A silvered juniper skeleton serves as a fence to keep people away from the precipitous edge of a sheer cliff.

I’m grateful to live so close to one of the most spectacular canyons in this country, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, protected as a National Park. I’m grateful to live near the North Rim, by far the less visited part of the park. Usually on a summer Wednesday morning there might have been one or two cars parked at the ranger station, a couple of tents in the campground, and no one else on the rim drive overlooks. I guess with Yellowstone closed for flooding everyone decided to come here. I’ve never seen so many cars at the ranger station, a dozen at least, and four or five at the nature trail parking pullout. There were people everywhere!

The Painted Wall, the highest cliff in Colorado

I’m grateful for the sweet melancholy of caring enough to miss someone I barely know when he’s gone… enough to grieve the wild world, the ancient trees and fragile lives in this park, for the state that the human species has brought this planet to… enough to wish the best for all beings, even humans, even so… I think I prefer this to not caring.