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Letting Go

Impermanence. My brand new martini glass. How the happiness of things never lasts. Less than two weeks old, a careless moment in the kitchen… Oh well! Though I’m grateful for shiny things, I’m more grateful for my growing capacity to let go. Anyway, there were two in the set. I’ll be more mindful with the last one. And when one day that glass also breaks, that will be ok too. I’m grateful for letting go.

Gifts

It’s been a year since this beautiful creature bit the dust. Look at him draping there languorously along the back of my office chair, which he and he alone clawed to tatters. He was a singular animal, as devoted, communicative and interactive as any dog, and as wily and unpredictable as any cat. He was a treasure and a joy to share the world with, and I miss him every day. There are moments when I remember so vividly finding his remains that I once again inhabit the numbness of the shock. As clear as it was in that moment, I am looking at a swath of his grey tummy fluff across the forest floor, holding his dear dead perfect head in my hands. I’m grateful to come across pictures of him like this one when I search my archives for some unrelated image, pictures of Ojo very much alive that convey his brazen personality, his solid vibrancy. It was a gift to have him live with us for six years, and it’s a gift to recall him now. It was a gift to find his remains rather than suffer uncertainty at his absence, and a gift to suffer the jolt of his impermanence.

A couple of the bonsais-in-training got potted down over the past few days, including this culinary sage. It grew in the garden for a few years until it got crowded out, and then it was in a regular pot a few more years, so it has a sturdy trunk base. I clipped off all the old growth to leave the miniature new leaves, trimmed the roots, and wired it into a new pot. I’m grateful for the gift of leisure to enjoy pursuing this longtime passion with new vigor.

The magic beanstalks have slowed production to just a handful of immature pods every couple of days, while many out-of-reach or simply missed in the foliage earlier outgrow this harvest season and wait to be picked dry for winter storage. The first heirloom Pizzutello tomatoes are ripening, as are tomatillos, and a few more cucumbers. I’m grateful for the gift of garden harvest, and the gift of another day in this glorious world.

Compassion Film Festival

Unrelated to the Film Festival, but a delightful example of interspecies cooperation: Biko heads for his food as Stellar drinks.

I’m grateful for the Compassion Film Festival out of Carbondale, CO, which just wrapped up a week of feature films, short films, and workshops. The past two years it’s been virtual, which has enabled anyone to partake of the wonderful films and workshops. The standout film for me this year was “The Shepherdess of the Glaciers,” an extraordinary documentary filmed over three years by the brother of Tsering, a woman who tends her flock of 300-400 sheep and goats in the high Himalayan Plateaus. The footage alone is stunning, but the heart in the film is magnetic. I couldn’t look away for a minute.

A total of 20 films, three features and 17 shorts, made this well worth the $25 ticket, and I’m grateful I could stream it into my living room. I sometimes take this technology for granted–but not often. I regret that I didn’t think to share this festival until it was over, but sign up now to get in on next year. I’m grateful for Aaron Taylor and the rest of the crew for curating this wonderful collection. I’m grateful I can travel the world at my own tortoise pace, from the comfort of my home, my own safe speckled shell.

A New Camera

Grateful for this beautiful boy, and the new camera that made this lovely portrait.

It arrived yesterday, just an hour too late to capture the newly fledged phoebes. After a busy day, I took it out to play this evening, just fooling around with the zoom, without even learning the thousand and one functions and settings. I’m grateful for the means to purchase this amazing camera, grateful for the technology that allows me to have far more ‘film’ than time so I can shoot to my heart’s content and throw away a thousand images to save one good one. I’m grateful for B&H Photo in NYC for their help and expertise whenever I need new camera gear, and grateful to JT for turning me on to them. Following the gratitude trail, I’m grateful for the countless individuals who designed, experimented, and constructed for many decades to create this camera, and for the materials, and for the countless people who mined and melted and melded those raw materials into this astounding piece of equipment; and for the FedEx lady who delivered it a scant 27 hours after I ordered it, and for all the human ingenuity and labor, and the transportation and infrastructure, that allowed that. It’s an amazing world, despite the tragedies perpetrated by our species.

I bought the camera with a 24-240mm zoom, not the best lens available but at a price I could afford: a pretty decent shot of the mountains at 240, so I’m optimistic about shooting hummingbirds with it tomorrow.
I’m grateful for the rainbow tonight and the rain it followed, though none landed here; grateful for the beautiful apricot tree and for neighbor Fred who manages its pruning and overall health; grateful for the last apricot shining in last light.
And finally, I’m grateful for the successful fledging yesterday of all four phoebe chicks in the second clutch. The first couple left the nest Thursday and went back in overnight. When I went out Friday morning, all four were snuggled together on the ladder, and by mid-afternoon (an hour before the camera arrived) they had all flown into the woods with their parents. This evening, I heard an adult back out on the east side of the house. I dursn’t hope…

Just This

Old painting, new life. I’m grateful my brother painted this fifty years ago, that I wouldn’t let it go when the old house sold; that I kept it rolled up in storage for decades, and unfurled it a couple of years ago thinking: better it hang somewhere, even outside, than spend the rest of its life in a tube and get thrown away whenever I die. It survived two years ignominiously screwed to the wall a little askew, but today it finally got framed and hung straight. I’m grateful to Wilson and his little helper for crafting the beautiful slab wood frame. Grateful for the mill down the road that sells its scraps so reasonably. Grateful I have a wall to hang it on. Now, looks like it’s time to finish the wall with a coat of smooth plaster: I’m grateful for how one thing leads to another, and we grow.

Looking back over that half century, I’m grateful that the oasis of wild joy and color in this vision from my childhood has come to vibrant life here at Mirador.

…and of course, I’m grateful for this.

Continuing Education

Just the simple fact that I keep on learning, something, every day, at least one thing; I’m grateful for continuing education. For example, no wonder my cookies turn out so flat, even when I follow the recipe to a T: I always let the butter get too soft. So chilling the dough in the fridge before I finish even mixing it turns out to be a prize-winning success.

I’m so grateful for the latté ritual that makes the Sundays of this pastoral life hold meaning: ok, not the only thing, but ‘my’ Sunday morning latté is definitely a ritual worth appreciating.

I’m grateful for the national celebration of the arts that is the Kennedy Center Honors; this year it was filmed all over the grounds in the leadup to the final production. I’m grateful to Mary and Chris for both alerting me to the broadcast; and I’m grateful for the technology I have learned to engage with to bring it into our lives. I’m grateful that I live in a rural community that has benefited from Midori’s initiative to bring music to the more random and isolated communities in the country. Our little Blue Sage Center for the Arts, which I’ve watched evolve since its inception into a place where, Cousin Jack was just asking me today, world-class musicians come to perform, grateful that Midori is one of these, grateful to learn more about artists I barely know, and those whose names I’ve known for most of my life. It’s a special place where I live, and I’m grateful for the palpable sense of community that enticed me to stay here, all those years ago.

It was a beautiful presentation that only kept getting better, until at last … well, I’ll leave it that the Garth Brooks segment, which was last, was also the most powerful for me. Grateful, especially, that I can enjoy and participate in this celebration without leaving the comfort of my living room.

Teeth

It was a beautiful morning, thwarted only by the promise of rain that never came.

One of the ideas that is used in the lineage of mindfulness training that I’m cultivating this year is that of mental hygiene. We spend at least five minutes a day attending to our dental hygiene, why do we not spent at least that amount of time attending to our mental hygiene? The idea has been bugging me for the past six months, as I’ve begun spending far more time on mind training than I have on physical training or fitness, never mind teeth. I tend to clench my jaws during sleep, funneling all the day’s anxiety into the night rather than dealing with it while the sun’s up. As a result, I found out today, the surfaces of some of my teeth are crazed like old china.

In Colorado, California, and Washington, dental hygienists are allowed to practice on their own unrelated to a dentist’s office.

But that didn’t really worry the dental hygienist I saw for the first time, with gritted teeth, a bit worried that they were in as bad shape as they felt. In fact, for not having been to a dentist in almost three years, my teeth are in great shape, and I was grateful again today, as yesterday, for the compassionate care of a qualified female medical professional. The only thing Jen was really worried about throughout the teeth cleaning was the “aggressive sound” of her instruments on my delicate dentition. She apologized several times for it, reassuring me that though it sounded bad it really wasn’t. In between jaw stretches, when she had her hand out of my mouth, I reassured her that it didn’t sound aggressive, it sounded like progress.

“You’re doing great,” she cheered me on several times. I felt safe again, from the moment I walked into her office. I used to be not fond of the smell of disinfectant, and normally might have gagged at the scent when I entered. However, in Covid times, I found the aroma comforting, and relaxed immediately after meeting her. No one else in the office the entire time, everything I encountered spic n span (until my muddy shoes touched the chair), and what seems like a solid protocol for both her and her patients’ well-being. It was the most fun I’ve ever had getting my teeth cleaned, and though I kept feeling my body tense up as she scraped gently away, I also kept being able to release, let go, relax. One thing that amazed me is how did she manage to put so much pressure on the scraper, or the floss, as the tartar resisted, and then not let the tool or the floss plunge into my gum when it finally released? I was impressed with her control, and surrendered to her capable hands and the general feeling that I’d chosen well to trust her. I’m so grateful to have finally found again a place I feel safe getting my teeth tended, and inspired to pay more attention to them myself. Her intake questionnaire asks, among many other things, Do you want to keep your own teeth? YES! I answered emphatically. Floss more, was essentially what she said.

I’m grateful for my teeth, that they’re in such good shape 62 years into this life, that they serve me so well, that I know now to be gentle in what I chew to protect their fragile enamel (No ice chewing, she advised), that regular brushing and occasional flossing has been enough to keep them stable for three years, that she accepts ACA insurance so I can go back more often; I’m grateful for my teeth for all they do for me daily, crunching into celery, tearing and chewing a lamb chop, lending emphasis and clarity to facial expressions. And for all they have done for me in the past. May these teeth keep on biting, tearing, chewing for several more decades!

Lynne Norton Anderson’s exquisite raku art hangs on the wall of my new favorite teeth cleaner’s office.
Late today I took the plastic off the potato bed to find the first five red potatoes sprouting through the soil surface. So grateful for this small success, and eager now to plant the rest of the potatoes this week.
I’m grateful for blooming tulips and growing garlic.
Another random juniper, unnoticed until this evening’s flat light.

Feeling Heard and Seen

Grateful to see the first wild phlox in bloom on our walk this morning.

My gratitude today began of course first thing in the morning when Stellar and I both woke up alive and able to take a nice long walk through the forest. But it really kicked in late morning when I met my new primary care provider at the clinic, a nurse practitioner who made me feel heard and seen in a way no doctor has since the great Adam Zerr left the valley. Christi Anderson heard everything, and then asked if there was more. There was. And then she asked if there was more. There was. And then she said, “I look forward to taking care of you.” All with lots of eye contact and genuine compassion and interest. I felt a lot healthier walking out of there, simply from feeling heard and seen completely. It’s so important, whether it’s with a healthcare provider, a partner, or a friend, to feel heard and seen for who you are.

Grateful for healthy garlic growing on the left, tulips budding on the right, and a new planting of romaine amidst the greens I may have planted too early this spring; grateful for the garden’s lessons in impermanence, patience, acceptance, and resilience.

And that might have been that for today’s post, except that tonight I attended the third and final webinar on a resilient ‘circular’ local economy, hosted by one of our environmental watchdog groups, Citizens for a Healthy Community. Another of the clinic’s doctors attended this workshop to speak about integrating healthcare proactively within the main focus of the series, the ‘nutrient dense’ agriculture of this amazing valley. I’ll not go into any recap of the series, which consisted of a total of almost 8 hours over three Mondays, but I’ll share the link to the recorded workshops, in which so many entrepreneurs, farmers, artists, and others explained their amazing passion projects.

Grateful to come home from the clinic today to risen pizza dough in the skillets, and plenty of yummy ingredients to top it with, from faraway smoked salmon and capers to extremely local tomato sauce.

I moved here almost thirty years ago because I found what I had been looking for without knowing it: a palpable sense of community. Though in the past decade I have retreated into my hermitage on the fringe, this community continues to sustain me in a very fundamental way, and there really are no words to express my gratitude for the gift of living here, among these generous people so deeply connected to the earth our mother. I have been uplifted and inspired by everyone who spoke in these three workshops, and was honored to attend simply to witness and learn the depth and breadth of interconnection among all these non-profits and individuals, from community elders like food activists Monica and Chrys, to relative newcomers, all dedicated to supporting the ecosystem of this beautiful agricultural valley which is also a progressive creative center in food and many other arts. One of the most exciting things I learned is that there is now a countywide Farm to School food garden/curriculum in the nine elementary schools.

I’ve often thought that I found in this valley a safe place to plant myself and flourish; a place where I could be heard and seen so that I could find my voice and my vision. I am grateful every single day that I chose to settle here in the North Fork Valley.

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Waffles + Mochi

Tomato in Drag lip syncing for her life

Oh, please let this be the new Sesame Street, the new Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the new the rest of those zany educational children’s shows that hit the big time afterwards. Please let ‘Waffles + Mochi’ be the new culturally-defining kids’ show! Drag Race meets the Garden!

We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

What even is mochi? Auto-correct wants it to say ‘mocha,’ but it’s not. Even after looking it up it doesn’t make sense in my world view – some kind of rice. But this is what this show’s about: expanding the world views of children everywhere; children of all ages. Fearful people might perceive it as a threat to some single thing they hold dear, like skin color, pizza recipes, or language. But anyone else, a person with compassion, curiosity, and wonder at the miracle of life on this planet, a gardener for example, couldn’t help but be charmed. This show brings together all my favorite values. Good food (food that is healthy for us and for the planet), color (a dense rainbow of colors), self-inquiry self-discovery self-acceptance, curiosity, compassion, tolerance, love, nourishment, reverence for Life… and gardening! The transformative power of knowing where your food comes from.

Chef Samin Nosrat teaches the puppets that tomatoes are fruits…

From a ridiculous premise – give it a few minutes – it develops into an utterly charming exploration of food and food as metaphor. Guest stars Samin Nosrat and Chef José Andres add expertise and enthusiasm to episode one, teaching the puppets and some real kids about what makes tomatoes a fruit and a vegetable, and how to know where they belong.

… and Chef José instructs the puppets on the uses of tomatoes as vegetables.

Amy and I aren’t actually cooking this weekend, what with one thing and another, but we did FaceTime happy hour this evening. She reminded me that I meant to watch this show I’d read about, so now I’m doing it. It’s camp, it’s creative, it’s comedic, it celebrates real food, from the POV of an odd-couple of frozen puppets who dream of becoming chefs. Along with these novices fresh out of the frozen foods section, we (children of all ages) learn all about tomatoes in the first episode, and a little bit about how to think of our own belonging. In the second episode we explore salts of the world.

I’m no social scientist or education specialist, but my evaluation is that eventually this show (along with decriminalizing marijuana) could actually facilitate world peace. This world’s new crop of humans, the children of the Covid generation, could, with the loving guidance of wise, open-hearted elders, change the paradigm and bring humanity back into harmony with the planet, through a healthier relationship with food. I’m grateful for this clever, heartwarming show and its message of interconnection, well disguised as a frolic through the world of foods.

I’m also grateful for this ancient juniper on the canyon rim, and for still having the agility to get down below it for a portrait.

Itty Bitty Kitchen Ants

The ants are too tiny for me to get a picture, so here’s a little needle-felted hedgehog that I just bought for Topaz from the Snow Leopard Trust. Topaz isn’t grateful yet for this new toy, but I am, and I’m also grateful for the good work the Trust does on behalf of this magical cat and its surroundings, including human communities.

These itty bitty ants are back in my kitchen, and this year I’m grateful for them. Last year when they first showed up around the cat bowl, I didn’t mind, I’d take the bowl outside and knock them off; but then they started showing up on the kitchen counters as well, and I got annoyed. I don’t like to kill anything, even little ants, but before long I was sweeping them up with a paper towel, and sometimes smushing them on purpose. They just kept coming! Once I’d vented my frustration on them sufficiently, I started to think about them differently. Then they tapered off and disappeared over winter.

Yesterday I noticed a couple of them. Today there were more. Well, I had left dirty dishes on the counter, what could I expect? I’m grateful to the little kitchen ants for providing me incentive to get back on track with keeping the dishes flowing through the sink daily, keeping the counters clean and empty ~ removing the ants’ incentive to invade my kitchen. Thanks, itty bitty kitchen ants!

Speaking of snow leopards, I’m also grateful for this remarkable artist, Steve Nowatzki, whose work I discovered at an art fair in Florida a lifetime ago, and who is still crafting exquisitely haunting etchings reflecting human assaults on the wild world. Above, Melting Snow II.
I’m also grateful for cocktails at the pond (and for the great company) for the first time since last fall. It was 63ºF this afternoon, and only slightly cooler by happy hour.