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Contentment

I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.

I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.

I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.

Simplicity

I’m grateful for the simplest things. And even the simplest things rely upon countless unknown others to bring them into existence. Two slices of fried sourdough: the canola oil, the seeds, the harvesting and extracting machines and their fuel and the people who grew, harvested, extracted oil from the seeds and oil for the machines; the pan, the manufacturers and those who made those machines that smelted the metal and shaped it, those who invented the diamond-ceramic non-toxic nonstick surface, the cardboard it was shipped in and all the people involved in every step in between; the wheat and all the people it took to grow it, the mill, the bag, the paper, transportation all along the way to the store, the sourdough starter started years ago, and the teachers who taught me to bake. The spare time to fry two pieces of bread, the stove, the propane, and all those involved in those things getting into my house, the driver who pumps propane into the tank outside every now and then and the office people who let him know when to come, the truck and the hose, the county road crew, the federal bills that fund the roads… All that is before we start on the avocado… And then there’s Havarti, just imagine all the people it took to get a ripe avocado and a chunk of Havarti to my kitchen. There’s the plate and everyone involved in creating the plate… the Himalayan pink rock salt and everyone it took to get that here, and the tri-color peppercorns… sigh. Yes, I’m grateful for the simplest things, and grateful for the perspective.

Mission: Joy

I’m grateful for this amazing film about two of my favorite people ever, now available to stream for the next 36 hours through the Global Joy Summit with this invitation. I’m grateful for the inspiration these men have brought to my life and millions of others, for the work they’ve done to improve conditions for people around the world, for the hope they have brought to so many, and for the extraordinary joy and irrepressible laughter that characterizes their friendship. The documentary is well worth two hours of your time, whoever and wherever you are in the world and in your life. The summit and film are introduced at thirty minutes in, and the film itself begins about 38 minutes in. I just watched it, and will watch it again before the window closes. I laughed, I cried, I marveled; my heart cracked open.

FedEx

Grateful that one chair at the pond is the sunniest spot in the yard at 8 am, and to sit down there with a cup of coffee and two little dogs…

I’m grateful for FedEx Ground, which I learned a lot about yesterday when a package got delivered to my yard gate. I’d been trying to update my delivery preference by phone or online for a month, after a 50-pound bag of animal food got left at the dropbox at the top of my driveway. It’s a bitch for me to lift that much anymore, much less into my car from the ground and then out of it again into a wheelbarrow. The dropbox is there for when the driveways are impassable in winter, but somehow that specification got lost over the years. But I wasn’t successful with the online or phone intervention, so when drove out last week just behind the FedEx truck and saw him pulled over a mile later, I pulled up behind him. He was courteous and friendly, and happily agreed to deliver to my yard gate from now on.

So I walked out to thank him when the truck pulled in yesterday, but it was a different driver, and she said, “It said dropbox but I didn’t see one so I hope it’s ok to bring it down here.” I was delighted and grateful, and explained again that it was an obsolete instruction in their route notes. Then we fell into a delightful conversation in which I learned that she and her husband bought the route–who knew? It’s a FedEx Ground thing–and it’s now their family business, she is the mother-in-law of the regular driver, she wasn’t planning to drive but it’s hard to find a driver applicant who can pass a drug test or has a clean driving record, five of her family now drive the routes from Cedaredge to Somerset, and so on. We ended up talking about raising meat animals with non-GMO feed, ethical eating, the challenges of gardening in this arid climate, and more. She was in no rush, which was refreshing, and she ended our visit by thanking me for supporting her family with my business.

I’m grateful for this kind of random interaction that illustrates for me, lest I should forget, the value of being open to authentic connection with strangers, and recognizing the interconnectedness that permeates all our lives. Other recent examples of this potential for meaningful connection out of the blue include developing a virtual friendship with The Hungry Traveler, and meeting an online mindfulness friend in real life today.

In the vicinity from his home in California, a previously virtual-only friend stopped by for lunch and a walk to the rim. In the online Buddhist and mindfulness communities where I spend some time these days, a few minutes of conversation once a week or so can add up over months and years to a genuine friendship, made richer with the added dimension of in-person meeting. I was grateful he chose to use some of his time to visit me, and extra grateful that he lent some muscle to digging up another iris patch, and extricating a rootbound rosemary from her ceramic pot.
Grateful to notice (how had I missed this?) some dramatic erosion on the slope across the creek, from some of our literal gullywasher rains recently.

The Non-Toothache

Four potted pepper plants in the sunroom… Most of the outdoor peppers survived the 38℉ (or less) night, with a few wilted leaves. I’m grateful for another week or more of mild days and nights above freezing to get the last bit of action from the garden.
Yesterday’s emergency harvest of peppers just in case, and I’m glad I brought them in.

Today I pruned the bonsai-in-training French lilac, watered everything left growing, caught up in the kitchen a little, and began my new discipline of self-care with a half-hour pranayama practice, in addition to working at the computer for several hours. It’s been great to be relatively pain-free for the past week and have the energy I need for winterizing inside and out.

“When we’re having a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. Yet when we don’t have a toothache, we’re still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”

— Thich Nhat Hanh

Physical pain can consume our attention. I suffered a great deal of physical pain for the past couple of months with sciatica. Since chiropractic treatment finally brought some lasting relief last Wednesday, I have been keenly aware of the non-pain, and the energy and mobility the lack of pain has brought to me. I’m grateful for the past week to have awareness of the ‘non-toothache.’

Perspective

Smoke haze from wildfires far west of here mutes the mountains and clouds the canyon air. What was once an occasional occurrence is now the new normal for us here for at least part of every year. Today, the past few days, it’s been a mild haze. Grateful for each day that I can still breathe outside this summer; we’ve been more fortunate than many this year.

Thinking about time, today, in the context of “the rest of your life.” No matter how long that is, such a short time! How long did it take for this little canyon to take its present shape? Many many human lifetimes. How long has this Ancient One been growing on the canyon rim? Seventeen human generations at least, especially since in the first dozen or more of those generations human life expectancy was more or less forty years (mostly less). I’m grateful for this perspective, which helps me to appreciate the precious insignificance of my own uncertain lifetime. I’ve already lived longer than most humans for most of human history. I’ll be grateful for all the ups and downs, the gives and takes, that landed me here, in this old arid land, for the rest of my life. I’m grateful to be able to share this place with good companions along the way.

Equanimity

I’m grateful for equanimity. I’ll leave it at that today. I feel tired and uninspired after a lovely day, and that’s okay. There’s a lot undone in the kitchen and in the garden, several loads of laundry to put away, paperwork on the desk, tall drying grasses to be mowed, and it’s okay that I spent time today chatting with a couple of friends, reading, and practicing breathing, instead of getting anything else done. This is how it is right now.

I also enjoyed watching Wren watch the Old Doe’s fawn for awhile. The doe had parked her fawn in the tortoise round pen for a nap while she foraged out in the woods. We startled the fawn when we came outside to make a phone call, and it hopped out of the pen and wandered down toward the pond. Awhile later the Old Doe came back in the yard and the fawn joined her as they browsed on the wild butterfly bush. Wren and the fawn watched each other with friendly curiosity–another quality I’m grateful for wherever it shows up.

There’s a great essay in Lion’s Roar by Sharon Salzberg about equanimity, in which she says:

“The kind of balance I’m talking about is not a measurement of how much time you spend doing one thing and then another, trying to create equality between them. Instead, it has to do with having perspective on life, and the effort you’re putting out, and the changes you’re going through. We establish this sense of balance within. It demands of us wisdom, and it gives us a growing sense of peace.”

~ Sharon Salzberg

Every Breath I Take

The jigsaw peppers are starting to turn colors, making this charming plant even more delightful.

It was a sleepy, hot day. I’m grateful that it wasn’t as hot here as it was in other places in the west where people I love are suffering from the extreme heat wave; and where people I don’t know are suffering from the extreme heat wave. I’m grateful for the illusion of stability and peace that I dwell in these days, savoring the beauty and ease of this moment, knowing that nothing lasts, everything changes, what I’m grateful for today may not exist tomorrow. Meditating on the certainty of impermanence, reflecting on the precious gifts of this life I fell into and created with every choice I made along the way, takes my breath away sometimes. But mostly, these days, it makes me grateful for every breath I take.

Cloud Watching

I enjoyed a conversation with a friend this afternoon as I lay back on the chaise on the patio, and this one little cloud caught my attention because it looked like–well, I won’t say so that you can use your own imagination, but it looked like something mythical to me. It had already lost its precision in the few seconds it took me to open the camera app and snap its picture (top). Then, in the span of just a few minutes it shapeshifted into something else, and then it began to dissipate, and then it was gone… I’m grateful for cloud watching, for having the leisure and presence of mind to do it from time to time, and for how it brings me so vividly in touch with impermanence: the changing nature of everything.

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.