Archives

Sleeping Bees

I was grateful this morning to wander the woods without incident with my intrepid little companions. I knew there was a recent lion kill not far from the house. I smelled death after we left the gate, and last night I had seen turkey vultures perched in the trees just beyond. This morning there was another one airing its wings due east of the house.

We finally went in search of it this evening. Just before dusk I realized I hadn’t seen Biko at all yesterday or today, so we had to hunt for him. He was tucked into one of his usual spots under a large rabbitbrush down by the pond, which was a relief. We couldn’t find him last night before lightning and thunder drove us inside. I decided we’d brave the wilds too, just so I’d know if the kill was my old doe, who I haven’t seen for a few days either. It was not, but I’ll spare you the photo. It was a large fawn, maybe one of her twins, maybe someone else’s. But the proximity of death and the lion’s habit of returning to a kill for several days afterward might be deterring the old doe from her daily visits.

I was grateful again today for Marc at Montrose Sewing Machine Repair. He’s been my rock through this Pfaff pedal puzzle for the past few weeks. This guy doesn’t even know me, and he’s gone way out of his way to make sure I’m able to work on my tropical drapes. First, he located what he thought was the right part at an online store. Turns out it wasn’t exactly the right part, and for the past week we’ve been trying to troubleshoot how to solve this dilemma. Hours back and forth texting pictures, videos, part numbers, and suggestions. He has extended himself above and beyond what I can imagine anyone else doing, with patience and good cheer.

Today, after concluding that the correct part is apparently no longer being manufactured, we considered some other options. One of them involved me taking apart the old pedal to see if he could maybe fix that. His reply to the above photo was “Aww man, they hardwired it!” Another option he came up with was to buy an old one on eBay. I’ll muddle along with the wrong plug wedged in until he can get and vet the eBay buy, and then see if I can return the bad part to the online store. If not, I’ll make it work, and Marc will have the right part when the next hapless Pfaff maiden needs one. I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers.

I’m grateful today to see the first paprika pepper turning red; and for another harvest of string beans; and for the tiny purple jigsaw peppers.

I diced one this evening and cooked it in an impromptu eggplant casserole. I roasted thinly sliced eggplants and some garlic cloves in the oven, while sautéing onions, a Blot pepper, and a jigsaw pepper in bacon grease. When the onions were caramelized I added some plain tomato sauce from last year’s pantry stash, and cooked it down until it was a thick, deep red. Then I layered eggplant rounds, sauce, and cheese three times, and topped with cheese and buttery breadcrumbs before baking for 25 minutes. Grateful for this Amy-inspired creation. It was delicious!

I was grateful at twilight to spy this adorable bed of sleeping bees. There’s a native species specific to sunflowers, genus Svastra. I’ve photographed one or two at a time in daylight foraging on the native sunflowers, but this surprised me as I returned from the compost bin and noticed a strange texture at the bottom of the center disk. Closer inspection revealed this delightful “bee snuggle.” And now I’m going to take my own little busy bee up to bed and go to sleep, for which I’m also very grateful.

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.

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.

Finding Lost Things

The flip side of the medallion has the same bear claw design with a pink stone as the earring on the right. I wore this set a lot before I lost the special hooks. Coming across them the other day brought back warm memories of my mother, and I wanted to wear them again. I’m grateful for the memories that reside in material things.

I’m grateful today for one of those precious moments of finding lost things. I have these silver earrings that my mother bought me many years ago when we went to Canyon de Chelly. I chose them, along with a medallion, from a gorgeous selection offered by the Navajo artist on site. They’re reversible. I hadn’t worn them for a long time because I lost the special hooks that allowed easy (and secure) flipping. I put them away for years, but came across the box the other day and realized I could just put them on regular hooks and not reverse them. But I tried to be clever, and leave a little gap in the bottom loop, so I could flip them without needing pliers to open the loop. Within a few hours I had lost one. I’d been outside watering, folding laundry, in the bathroom cleaning, in the kitchen doing dishes, gardening… and glanced in the mirror as I washed my hands… I was grateful for equanimity.

This is why we can’t have nice things, I thought with a sad chuckle. I remained calm, and considered the most likely scenario where my ear could have gotten jostled enough to knock the ornament off the loop: When Wren leapt up in my lap and nuzzled my ears, as she does a dozen times a day. I carefully pulled the blanket off the recliner seat and shook it, then I bent to reach along the cushion, when my eye caught a glint in the seat back. There was the lost jewel wedged between the head and the back cushions! A lucky find.

Just for fun I made the mythical $250 cookie recipe again, this time with all the right ingredients. Grating a four ounce Hershey bar on a microplane was the most tedious part. Otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward chocolate chip cookie recipe. I sprinkled in a little cinnamon for good measure, and pulled out the Demerara sugar to press some into the tops before baking; but then I remembered Amy’s tip, and used flaky sea salt instead, dipping my fingers first into a small bowl of salt then pressing the cookies lightly to flatten a bit.

I was grateful I had one cup of coffee left to enjoy when the cookies came out of the oven. I gave most of them away today, but have some dough leftover to bake another batch for lunch tomorrow.

That apricot harvest? The whole single bowl full, minus the four or five that I ate… I turned it into a single pint of jam this afternoon. Not enough to even bother canning, but it should last into winter in the fridge if I indulge sparingly. It really puts things in perspective: there have been years that I’ve canned two dozen half pints, plenty to last me all year and give a bunch as Christmas presents. There were so many blossoms on the tree this spring, but three hard freezes in a row decimated the harvest. I’m grateful that the professional orchards didn’t get hit so hard.

Little dog napping on clean sheets before I had a chance to fold them.

Equanimity

I’m grateful for this embodied example of equanimity, my old scarred doe. She’s been browsing in my yarden for a month, and this is at least the fourth summer she’s done so. She has a fawn somewhere (or two). She is comfortable enough with me and the pets to lie down and rest inside the fence. She watched calmly as I turned on the outdoor spigot, and was still there an hour later when I turned it off. She is okay with what is.
I’m grateful for this slim apricot harvest, all I’m likely to get this year. There were twice as many on the tree, but when they finally looked ripe enough to pick (and they’re still not quite ripe) I was too late: at least this many more have already been pecked by birds or gnawed by someone else. I’ll leave those on the tree, and as they fall off the old doe or Biko will enjoy what’s left of them. Equanimity also means recognizing that all lives have equal value, and sharing garden bounty with an open heart.

I finally had the energy this afternoon to tackle a sewing project. I went upstairs to choose among several I’ve had lined up for years, and decided the best and easiest would be to make curtains out of this ancient dress. I’ve had it since 1979, and it was almost a hundred years old when I got it, pulled from a trunk of treasures that was left to my grandmother by a friend who died. I wore the dress once to a costume party in college, and never could bear to part with it, thinking (once I accepted that I’d never fit into it again) that one day I’d make the antique fabric into a modern dress. Recently, though, I decided to reverse Scarlett’s strategy and turn the gown into drapes. There are a few small tears in both layers of fabric, it is so old it’s quite friable. Thrilled with my resolve and motivation, I took the dress apart and cut the skirt into two pieces, lining and all, which was just enough to make curtains for two east and west windows upstairs. This heatwave has me wanting to cover all the windows during the day.

I had never noticed the interior bodice ribbon with the name and address on it. A quick online search revealed that there is still a high end clothier called Frame with stores from LA to Aspen to London, and of course in New York. The address 391 5th Avenue appears to be a real estate office now. Frame clothing today includes a lot of ripped denim garments selling for hundreds of dollars. I’m eager to trace the history and discover if it’s a straight line from this 1880-1890s gown to the current couture.

I pulled out my Pfaff sewing machine that I haven’t used in four years, dusted it off, set it up, plugged it in, turned it on, and… nothing. Thwarted! After a couple of hours of patient troubleshooting and a few phone calls, first to my sewing guru and then to her sewing guru, and then to Montrose Sewing Machine Repair in Montrose, Marc and I concluded that the problem must be the foot pedal.

“Could it have been dropped sometime?” he asked. Duh. Dropped, smushed, anything’s possible, and also jammed into a basket in a plastic bag–who could have guessed it was so fragile? He very kindly located a replacement pedal for me online, and even though it cost as much as my baguette baker, it was still far less expensive than a new machine, so I ordered it. I have many draperies to complete this summer! And perhaps a few dresses, as well. I’m grateful for the one friend and two strangers who generously offered advice, reminding me that I am not self-sufficient and am indeed interdependent with and dependent upon others. I’m grateful to have developed the mindfulness skill of Equanimity so that I could accept this situation without frustration and aggravation, gracefully relinquish attachment to making curtains today, wait patiently for the new pedal to arrive next week, and turn my attention to other things.

Reading

Little Wren occasionally interrupts my reading, but I don’t mind…

I just love reading. I’m grateful that I learned to read when I was three, and that I have loved to read ever since I could. I’m grateful for the SRA reading program I still remember from grade school; though I don’t remember much about it except that it was color-coded and I sped through it faster than any other kid in class. Remarkably, after fifty-five years I still remember its initials, though I probably never knew what they stood for until I just looked it up to fact-check myself. I’m grateful for the Bobbsey Twins and The Borrowers, for L. Frank Baum and all the Oz books, for Narnia; for Charles Dickens and The Three Musketeers and Anna Karenina, and for goddammit Thomas Hardy: I threw The Mayor of Casterbridge across the living room one time when I was home from college. I’m grateful for One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m grateful for Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich and Chinua Achebe and hundreds of other great novelists. I’m grateful for stories and the ability to read them.

“I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word.”

An Unnecessary Woman ~ Rabih Alameddine

I haven’t been reading as much the past couple of years as I used to all my life, but have found myself in recent months falling back in love with reading and devouring one story after another. I’m grateful for used book stores, library book sales, regular book stores, school book stores, Amazon, paperbacks, hardbacks, holiday book exchanges, mailing books we’ve read back and forth with Chris and sometimes other friends, and for my Kindle paperwhite. I’m grateful that I can check out tangible books from a library ten minutes away, or check out a library e-book online. What a world!

I love reading, especially fiction: I love stories. Loving stories is also why I’m grateful for streaming services and the gazillion options for visual fiction. If I could, I’d do nothing all day but immerse myself in stories. But I can’t so I won’t, and I’ll just be grateful all day every day that I know how to read, and have access to way more stories today than the most obsessed bibliophile could ever read in a dozen lifetimes. So many books, so little time.

Healthy Choices

Another thing that lifts my spirits is SEED TIME! Maybe, just maybe, I went a little overboard on peppers, but I’m really looking forward to growing enough to make plenty of wicked fermented hot sauce this fall, oh yeah.

Life is hard enough (even without the threat of a new World War) that we don’t need to be challenging each other on every opinion. I mentioned inflammatory comments on Facebook in yesterday’s post. They came after I posted this innocuous sentence: “I joined Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and other concerned global citizens in dropping Spotify in protest over Joe Rogan’s misinformation podcast.” My thought was, if the same number of people as have died from Covid in the US were to cancel their Spotify paid subscriptions, maybe Spotify would grow a pair and take a stand for truth. That was three weeks and roughly 100,000 needless deaths ago.

I unfriended the people who jumped all over me for ignorance and cancel culture. Life is too short. It really is, it’s just too short. I don’t bear them ill will, I just don’t have time for that shit. I do have time to enjoy the creative endeavors of other people of big heart and open mind, like the adorable Australian series “Please Like Me,” created, written by, and starring Josh Thomas (on Hulu). But I missed the easy access to a variety of music on Spotify, especially instrumental jazz, and while I love mountain grown public radio KVNF in Paonia, not all of their music shows are to my taste, and I can’t handle the interruption of unsought headlines these days.

So I have embarked upon an exploration of public radio stations around the world, in search of my kinds of jazz. I have checked out a number of stations I used to enjoy when I lived in their broadcast areas, like WTJU in Charlottesville, VA and WMNF in Tampa; and other stations I’ve enjoyed as I drove through their airwaves like KMUD in Garberville, CA. In my search for jazz I came upon WWOZ in New Orleans, which I’ve been listening to for a few weeks, and today I found Radio Swiss Jazz, which I think I’ll be listening to a lot for a very long time. I figure if I find twelve public radio stations I love around the world, and donate $10 each month to one of them, I’ll have done a lot more good in the world with my $120 than if I had kept on supporting commercial, profit-driven streaming services like Spotify. So that’s my plan!

Unnecessary moment of tender beauty

Thanks for the messages of comfort and encouragement after my gloomy post yesterday. I’m grateful for them. I woke this morning to news of Russia’s malevolent invasion of Ukraine, and set my intention for the day to let–or make–peace begin with me. There is literally nothing I can do about this new war. Other people get paid to take care of these global issues. I call and write my representatives to let them know my preferences. I voted a compassionate president into office. He’s done the best he can with what he has to work with. Not much else I can do there. But I can renew my commitment to practicing kindness, wisdom, and compassion as much as possible every precious remaining day of my short life.

Thanks to mindfulness practice, though I sometimes slide into the shadows, I no longer dwell there consistently as I did for much of my life. And when I do go dark inside, I let it be, resting in that sorrow: my friend Impermanence always comes through. Things always change, inside of me and out, and I’m grateful for the wisdom to know that, allowing myself to feel what I feel without judgement, and resting calmly with what is, until it changes. It does sometimes take an effort to make a healthy choice, like seeking out music and art that uplift me, and opening my heart with gratitude to connection offered by friends old and new. While I know that no one and nothing else can lift my spirits for me, healthy choices can certainly help shift the balance.

This Monk Wears Heels

Two top passions meet in this discovery, Drag and Dharma. It was inevitable. “Makeup is just color,” says Kodo. (Photo borrowed from Lion’s Roar)

What a wonderful thing it was to wake up alive yesterday, and to spend such a beautiful day as I did. All the love and kindness that flowed my way, the quiet fun of contentment, the luxuries of food, technology, and time to be mindful. A few pleasant surprises came up including this Lion’s Roar podcast in which Buddhist monk Kodo Nishimura discusses gender, authenticity, injustice, dharma, drag, and his new book, This Monk Wears Heels. I was enchanted.

Another pleasant surprise was finding my favorite necklace which disappeared a week ago. I wasn’t worried: I knew it was in the house, and I would find it eventually. I had the faintest recollection of watching it slide off of something and thinking ‘I’ll get it later.’ Over the week I checked behind every table, desk, bookshelf and counter I thought I might have set it on. Only when I started housecleaning yesterday and moved a pile of magazines on the coffee table did I find it. It had only slid off a short thing, a stack of books next to the stack of magazines. I remembered then that when I lay down on the couch for a nap, the chain broke, and I set it on the books and drifted off to sleep.

After a quietly productive day, it was time for Cousins’ Zoom Cooking, a new feature for me and My Favorite Cousin. She had never used puff pastry before. I haven’t done a lot with it, but just enough to know the only hard part is making the dough, so we bought frozen. Deb’s spanakopita the other day had inspired me, so we made an easy appetizer in less than an hour, Spanakopita Bites. The Fruitloop Gourmet Lending Kitchen came through with a mini muffin pan for me.

It was a delightful first run for my birthday apron, all the way from Peru via Dog World in Florida. MFC was wearing her special new apron from Ukraine. How funny that we both had been given handcrafted aprons from across the world, a grateful coincidence.

Spinach-herb-feta-egg filling all tucked into little pastry pockets, brushed with egg, and baked at 400 for 25 minutes. So simple, so delicious! MFC ate one of hers. I ate half of mine.

I was so pleased to wake up alive again today, and grateful for leftover spinach filling cooked with the leftover egg and some spices, rolled with bacon and sour cream into a couple of tortillas. Who says tortillas have to be reserved for Mexican food? They’re a great wrap for any kind of filling. Then, after a little more tidying up, I started one of two new puzzles which also came as a pleasant surprise yesterday, when a dear friend who’s moving soon dropped them off. It was just a regular weekend, but it felt like a festive holiday. I’m grateful for life’s simple pleasures this weekend, and grateful to the many people who made each of them possible.

Putting Away Christmas

Cousin Bill joked about how different it felt to put his Christmas decorations away at the end of January than at his habitual New Year’s ritual… It wasn’t too soon, or too late, it was just the right time. That’s how I feel. Even later, though, I’m putting away Christmas in the middle of February. It’s the longest I’ve gone. Much as I love the ancestral decorations (and a handful of new acquired over my lifeline) I’ve put away Christmas pretty late for years, grateful for implicit luxuries, but always by the end of January. At least that’s how I remember it.

I may not get very far tonight, I’m reminiscing, communing with my little things. Catherine Ingram counsels us to love who we love, and love our lives, and love our little things. Garden Buddy mentioned that very thing this afternoon in the context of what brings us joy. We sat in her garden of stone-rimmed beds and yard art, sharing a brief cloudy interlude in an otherwise balmy day. We are both growing weary of enforced hermitude, yet are not eager to relinquish it, skeptical of the alternatives.

Garden seeds arrived! A sigh of relief, winter’s end’s in sight. It’s been a strange one, as have most recent seasons. Case in point: The shower drain hasn’t come close to freezing this winter (a good thing), but this is the second scorpion who’s climbed up out of the tub drain. Itsy-bitsy spider only this time it’s scorpions the rain washes out. Spiders have free reign in my house, they do such good eating flies, and most of the widows stay outside. But this scorpion has to go right back where it came from, back to the leaf litter under the birch tree. It’s much milder outside this year, and also drier, than what used to be normal. Even as it’s been a colder winter inside, but longer sun in a rising arc warms the house earlier each day, and I have enough power now to run the floor heat while it’s sunny. So life’s gotten a little easier.

I’m grateful for this littler orange scraper, which has also makes life easier. It’s come in handy for a lot of things, but most of all for finally solving this kitchen dilemma. For years it mystified and aggravated me why the artisan who built the copper counter didn’t finish it with a rollover edge, instead crafting a lovely rim a half inch higher than the surface. This makes it impossible to sweep crumbs off into a hand or compost bucket. A similar glitch was built into the edge of the sunroom pond by a different artist, this an unchinked valley between the wall and the stone floor, leaving a ragged stripe of concrete foundation showing. I asked that fellow many years later why he’d done that, it makes it so hard to sweep or vacuum the dirt up.

“So you wouldn’t have to,” he said sparkling with logic, “because it would collect in the crack.” Had the cabinet maker brought similar reasoning to the raised counter rim? Both ‘solutions’ make it far more complicated to clean: a woman would never have designed these features.

Speaking of crumbs on the counter, these lemon shortbreads were worth the wait for butter for the glaze. So delicate and lightly tart and softly sweet. I’ve been grateful today for sharing them, too; and for kindnesses and compassions that have come my way, softening the rocky inward trail.

Movies

Just a bit of color in the indoor garden this winter.

I’ve been indulging in movies again recently. There was a time when I considered I might be a professional movie reviewer, another time I thought I might make movies or write one and get nominated for an Oscar, and then the time when I was falling in love with another movie buff and I imagined our life ahead enjoying movies together til we were old and grey. He chose someone else, and the other options didn’t pan out either, and all of that is okay. I couldn’t be more content with my life now.

One reason for the resurgence is that I’m not going to the theater occasionally for a specific movie, and now there are so many great new movies showing up on streaming services PDQ instead of having to wait a year til they play out the theater circuit. Last year I watched many of the Oscar nominations before the awards; this year I haven’t paid attention to those accolades, but have been following the recommendations of friends to choose my viewings a couple of times a week. Last night’s movie was a sure Oscar contender.

It is absolutely beautiful in every way possible. If you have a cat in your life, it’s a must see. Even if you don’t, it’s exquisitely worth your time. I’ll let the trailer speak for itself.

“The world is full of beauty… and it’s up to you to capture it, Louis, and to share it with as many people as you can.” So I’m sharing this bit of beauty with you. Thanks, Deborah, for sharing it with me. Here’s an interview with director Will Sharpe, but save it til after you’ve seen the movie.

Another visually stunning film I watched this week is “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” I found some of the dialog hard to understand more from the audio characteristics than from the language, and a little trouble keeping some of the characters straight because it’s been forty years since I studied the play; but, a worthwhile evening’s entertainment nonetheless. Thanks, Sarah, for recommending it.