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Moving On with My Life

Today I’m grateful for all the usual things: waking up alive, a morning with a festival of clouds, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips for lunch–so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful that I know how to make bread, and learned to let it cool overnight before slicing–these were pretty thick! It was too soft still warm to slice thinner. Grateful that I know how to make jam, which couldn’t be easier. I’m also grateful today for meaningful interactions with many people.

Kudos to Kelli at the clinic for giving me an absolutely painless injection, and she was kind enough to come out to my car to do it, though I was planning to go inside. I’m grateful I brought an attitude of ease and interest rather than fear or resistance; it led to a good conversation about the local Covid surge, and us each giving just a bit more kindness and attention to the other than two strangers needed to. I dropped off some cookies with friends I haven’t seen in person for awhile, and enjoyed a cautious stroll in the sun. We also talked about Covid, as well as efforts to save our local library, an essential community resource. There were some text and phone connections, and I’m grateful to have spent a couple hours in mindful conversation with my Foundations class that’s about to graduate next week. The day wrapped up with a spontaneous zoom cocktail with Amy, always a warm fuzzy.

Throughout the day, though, there was something niggling in my mind. A number of people have told me recently, in talking about Covid, “We’re moving on with our lives.” There’s a very subtle perspective in there, an implication I’m inferring, that disturbs me a little bit, and I’ve been trying to tease out what that’s about. Whether I read it in an article, hear it in an interview, or hear it face to face (usually prefaced by “I respect your precautions, but…”), there’s an implied judgment, an unflattering comparison. As though I, and people like me who are still taking Covid precautions seriously, are stuck–as though we are not ‘moving on with our lives’ but frozen in time, frozen in fear, frozen in some lesser state than those who proclaim that Covid is over for them.

It seems to me that many of them are not moving on in any way, but have simply gone backwards to living the same way they did in their pre-pandemic lives. No shade intended… but also there’s no need to be smug about it, or think it’s a superior way to live to those of us who have made substantial changes in our lives. In many ways my life is more satisfying than it’s ever been; in some ways more limited. It’s complicated. But I’ve definitely been moving on with my life these past few years in a positive direction. Lots of people reassessed during the pandemic and chose to move on with their lives in meaningful ways: to leave unfulfilling jobs, to work from home or to move, to simplify their lives; chose to explore other aspects of life’s many riches besides ‘business as usual,’ the paradigm btw that got us into the climate crisis in the first place. For awhile there, the Earth itself enjoyed a reprieve from the impacts of our collective human lifestyle, although that, too, is complicated. Ironically, the 8 billionth human was added to the current global population this week. The minority of humans, those of us who suffer largely from ‘First World problems,’ really do need to figure out a new way to move forward–as this pandemic proceeds, as climate chaos increases, as our interconnectedness simultaneously deepens and frays–rather than simply going back to business as usual.

Plagiarism: Special Election Day Bulletin

   Maybe no political party is as virtuous as it wants to claim. But there was a time when the Republican party could at least bill itself as the party of financial responsibility, small government, defending democracy, supporting the troops, paying your bills, family values and even telling the truth. These values are now gone from the Republican party. And they didn’t fall, they were pushed.

Maybe until now you’ve stayed with the Republicans hoping once Donald Trump was gone the Republican party of old would re-emerge. But two years later it’s clear even his sizable loss didn’t open the door to the party returning to its values but instead somehow managed to only accelerate the decline.

Every political party through history has had its more extreme elements, but few have allowed the extremes to seize power and control the agenda. You saw with your own eyes what they did to Liz Cheney for keeping her word and honoring her oath to uphold the Constitution. This isn’t just not your father’s Republican party anymore, this isn’t your Republican party either.It’s been said elections have their consequences. Part of this is who gets elected, but equally important is how our votes define who we are as people. Who are you? What do you stand for? Do you really want children to have to carry their rapist’s children? Do you really want no exception for abortion to save the life of the mother? Do you really want gay friends and family members to fear for their marriages? Do you really want birth control to be a conversation between a woman, her doctor, and her local politician? No, of course not.

So maybe this is the day you stop voting for all these things you don’t believe. Maybe today’s the day you stop waiting for a miracle and simply admit you are done with the nonsense, done with the cruelty and that you really just aren’t a Republican anymore.

So what next? If you are in a spot where you feel safe to do it, I’ve heard from customers making the leap and telling the world the Republican party is no longer for you can be quite freeing. People will be excited to have you on our side.

For those of you living more complex lives in less liberal communities with all the scary bits about what Republicans have become, there’s something to be said for starting out with a slightly stealthier approach. Maybe borrowing a page from the LGBTQ+ rural teen handbook and living a double life for a while is your safest bet. Ultimately this is more about who you are than about who others see you to be. Today who you vote for is far more important than who people think you voted for.

I know this isn’t easy, but I think you may be surprised just how many of your old values have found a new home in the Democratic party. At the heart of conservatism is the belief in passing on an at least as good of a world to future generations as the one we inherited. To achieve this we must preserve the environment, education, and equal rights. To think, the Republican party was started to end slavery. Times change.

Please don’t let yourself be locked into continuing to vote for what you don’t believe in. Both our nation and our planet face serious issues that can’t wait another decade to be addressed. You being among kindred spirits where you no longer have to hide your empathy and compassion just to fit in is the first step toward preserving what’s good about this world. Come join in. You are welcome. Plus, our side has the tastier treats 🙂

Thanks for giving this some thought,
Bill

bill@penzeys.com P.S. Please forward this to everyone you know of who is far more kind than those you think they will be voting for. Thanks!       Penzeys Spices12001 W. Capitol Drive | Wauwatosa, WI | 53222 USview this email in your browser
 

With all the encouraging words out there from so many compassionate and wise leaders, this mini-essay from Penzeys exec Bill struck me as the one I wish I had written. Everything changes, all the time. The Republican Party has changed, dramatically, from the one I was raised to believe in. And I have changed. I’m not the same person I was yesterday, much less five, twenty, forty years ago. It’s no only OKAY to recognize the changes in ourselves, our beliefs, our perceptions, our needs, it is essential to our growth and maturing as a sentient being. If you haven’t already, please vote for women’s rights, human rights, and the rights of all those beings without human language who are being decimated by loss of habitat through destruction, poisoning, and other effects of human greed. Recognize our interdependence with each other and all beings, and vote for a real future: vote for love.

“If Republicans Win, You Lose…”

I’m grateful for yet another day of beautiful, mild fall weather which Wren and I could spend outside puttering in the garden, tidying up the yarden, before another winter storm blows in overnight. Already clouds are massing above, obscuring the waxing moon; there’s moisture in the dark air. I’m grateful to have some of the firewood stacked dry under the shed roof,

I’m grateful that the green tomatoes I brought in weeks ago are ripening so well! I pulled them out of the brown bags to finish on the counter before turning them into sauce. After a hard day’s work inside and out, Wren is grateful to rest with me.

I’m grateful for the steady wisdom of Robert Hubbell weekdays in my inbox: for his optimism, criticism, research, references, compassion, and wisdom. I can’t recommend his newsletter highly enough for all Americans who believe in democracy, equality, and true freedom. I also admire and am inspired by and grateful for pastor John Pavlovitz who promotes true Christian values of kindness and inclusion. And I’m grateful for Jessica Craven, Heather Cox Richardson, Dan Rather, the J6 Committee, and so many other voices on the national stage speaking truth in the face of corruption and lies; and for the thousands of door-knocking, phone-calling, postcard-sending activists in my community and yours who are putting their precious time and energy into spreading the news that if Republicans win next week, we all lose. If you follow this blog and you are not an advertising troll, you probably care about many of the same things I do. Please trust me on this: it is imperative that every one of you votes. It’s going to be a close election, and there will be nasty fallout with Republicans across the board refusing to honor the results if they lose. We have every reason to be hopeful, as Hubbell says often, and no reason to be complacent.

Improvisation

I’m grateful for improvisation in the kitchen. Yesterday, I boiled some butternut squash gnocchi from the freezer, which I made a few weeks ago with last year’s squash purée from the freezer, and topped it with a quick sauce of sautéed onion, mushroom, and garlic, and the last of this year’s arugula, which I blended Bello style with a splash of milk and some pasta water then tossed back into the skillet with the gnocchi and some parmesan to heat through. It was so simple, so delicious! I tried to post last night but was thwarted.

And I got a second meal out of it as a cold salad today, with a splash of mayonnaise and some chopped chives–still green outside despite ongoing winter weather.

In the meantime, as though I needed to eat even more, I tossed together the last of the shredded chicken with a can of Great Northern beans and one of Cannelinni, some onion, one orange jalapeño, chili powder, garlic, cumin, frozen corn, and Penzey’s Arizona seasoning. It was also simple and delicious. I’m sure grateful for eating so well, and as I’ve mentioned before, for finally settling into comfort and competence in the kitchen so that each meal isn’t a challenge of What? When? How?

And I’m grateful that little Wren has been able to settle into comfort, too–do you think she could relax just a little bit more?

I’m also grateful for the hard work so many citizens (including my friend Gina, a hundred postcards above) are doing these last few weeks before the US midterm election. This is a crucial election: Our democracy hangs by a thread, and it’s up to thinking, compassionate Americans to preserve it. If Maga Republicans win the precarious balance in the Senate or takeover the House, we will return to the Dark Ages where rabid religious zealots will determine who has basic human rights (white people, mostly rich) and who no longer has basic human rights (women of all colors, men of color, LGBTQ+ people, children discovering their authentic identities); who lives and who dies by shuttering social security, Medicare and Medicaid and silencing scientific research; who gets educated and who does the educating based on one single religion–wait a minute, isn’t that what even Republicans were pissed off about with the Taliban? And what’s up with the Putin worship, anyway? My old white male relatives, Colonels and Generals in the US Army before they died in the past decade, were as staunchly anti-Russia as every other Republican in their generation.

We are literally in a battle for the future of the planet (politics aside). But if you love anybody gay, anybody trans, anybody who has a uterus and the potential to become pregnant, if you love Nature, wild animals, clean water, reading what you want to read, science, the earth, you better Vote Democratic this November. Better yet, vote early! If you have children or grandchildren, you better take a good hard look HERE at the difference between what Republicans did over their last four years in the presidency, and what Biden has done in just the past two years, and be honest about which party really has your best interest at heart. If you agree with my point of view, will you please commit to reminding at least three people you know to vote Democratic in next week’s midterm election? With gratitude.

Courage

I hear the Cowardly Lion sputtering it. It takes courage to live this life, no matter what our challenges are. I’m grateful today for the courage to meet the challenges of my day, and for the lessons I learned about myself in doing so. They weren’t big, were basic first world challenges; challenges being relative, we all have some.

I had to drive 80 miles (in my car that I own though it’s 16 years old) after a snowy morning (an unexpected three inches) to see the dermatologist (which insurance pays for except a measly $2), and get a couple of centimeters frozen off my face as well as a biopsy sliced off the bridge of my nose which has precious little flesh to spare. I’m so grateful for the awareness to observe physical changes so I knew to go see the doctor, for his friendly efficiency (it took three times as long to numb my nose as it did to carve the biopsy), and for the financial assistance to get potential skin cancer identified and taken care of (thanks, Affordable Care Act); grateful for the long-lasting anesthetic he shot into my nose to get me that 80 miles back home painfree, and that I didn’t freak out driving home when I noticed that my nose was bleeding and in fact bled the whole way home. Even though I felt a little queasy after awhile.

I’m grateful for the gorgeous drive from here to there and back again, and grateful that I had other options though I decided to take little Wren with me. This was another act of courage, choosing to trust humanity not to mess with her while she waited in the car for me while I was under the knife (and freezer gun). I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe the extent of anxiety that rose in me because I know that she has separation anxiety when I leave her at home. How do I know? The way she greets me on my return panting like she’s run a marathon in summer and jumping to my shoulder. She was a perfect angel on the drive, waited quietly in the car (for all I know) and I know it wasn’t too hot today, and she slept the whole way home. Such a good little girl! She’s given plenty of gentle huggies since we got home, and is patiently waiting for bedtime.

“How are you?” asked the doctor when he entered the office. I’ve been seeing him a long time and he sort of knows me. “I’m anxious!” I replied a little too emphatically. As I told him about Wren in the car, I felt all these other anxieties bubbling up. “I’m anxious about a lot of other things, too!” I almost challenged him to ask, so I didn’t make him. “I’m anxious about politics,” I confessed, and about climate chaos, I thought, and in that moment I realized that I had channeled a lot of sublimated anxieties into the one I’d been focused on for days, What to do about Wren while I’m gone for four hours? I’ve been ignoring anxieties about the rabid right wing threat to democracy and the most basic rights of most Americans; I’ve been cultivating anxiety about Covid, long Covid, and living alone; and about this COPD diagnosis, and what the future will bring, and whether I’ll ever choose to spend time around people again. I could feel the seeds of agoraphobia taking root; I could feel empathy. I was able to recognize what was arising in me, and be with it with calm awareness even though it wasn’t comfortable, sit still for the procedures, and then follow the steps to get home to (relative) safety. My attachment to the outcome of this day was different than it would have been a dozen years ago. Instead of worrying about biopsy results, I only cared that I made it home safely with Wren, and once that happened I was able to relax again.

In mindfulness practice we consider relaxation to be a skill. It was only by pushing well beyond my comfort zone into overt psychological discomfort that I was able to recognize how far I’ve come in relaxing: It amazed me to realize that I used to spend much of every day enmeshed in this same level of anxiety that assailed me this afternoon. What a relief! It’s no longer a steady state for me, but only an occasional trait.

Equanimity

The first Tabasco pepper ripens. I’m optimistic that most of the remaining peppers will ripen before the first frost, but it’s getting dicey.

It’s a bit challenging to be grateful that my friends and family seem to have escaped the worst of Hurricane Ian, though the fate of my brother’s house in Naples remains to be determined, and Charleston cousins await the second landfall. Of course I’m grateful for the safety of my beloveds, but this catastrophe really hammers home our interconnectedness on this planet: the destruction of so much habitat, humans’ and other species alike, affects us all. As I experience relief, many thousands of others grieve their losses; and many non-human sentient beings have lost their lives or homes as well. This is a spiritual conundrum that requires strength, courage, and equanimity to be able to hold awareness of both the horrors and losses, as well as gratitude for the joys and blessings, of life in the Anthropocene.

In this peaceable kingdom, in this peaceful moment, all is well in this moment.
Both ends of a rainbow that disappeared in dense clouds above…
…with aspens on Mendicant Ridge all gloried up.

Helpers

I’m grateful for helpers of all kinds. Grateful for friends who bring me groceries, for bodyworkers who work my bones and muscles toward healing, and the bodies of friends, and all the healers who work all the bodies and souls toward healing. Grateful for the road builders and flag people and pilot car drivers who keep the roads in shape, and for all people who work hard or tedious but necessary jobs to keep the transportation arteries of the world healthy and flowing.

I’m grateful for weather forecasters and reporters, whether or not they get it just right but especially when they do; grateful for the men and women who step out into hurricanes to bring us updates, and especially for those across Florida across channels all day today. Grateful for the technology that allows anchors in the studio to talk onscreen with reporters standing in the eye of the storm, and then beams their stories into my living room. Grateful for the relative security and comfort I’ve enjoyed today compared to the terror and uncertainty so many experience worldwide, especially in catastrophic weather events like Hurricane Ian. Grateful that as far as I know so far, my friends and family have fared okay through the day, and hoping they make it through the night.

Feeling intense compassion for the suffering of all those people who didn’t make it out, didn’t survive, or will find tomorrow that they lost homes or loved ones; and for the dolphins breaking surface behind one of the reporters on the beach, and all the creatures that were sucked out of bays on the north side of the eye and those smashed onto land with storm surge; and for the land mammals, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians who lost their homes or their lives in this storm and will in days to come to the floods it fuels. Feeling intense compassion for a planet pushed to the breaking point: as a dog tormented will finally turn and bite, so our earth displays her natural reaction to the torture we’ve visited upon her as our human population and its incessant demands escalate. It’s certainly not her fault.

I’m grateful for my capacity to feel empathy and compassion for those who are suffering, and to feel gratitude for the helpers of all kinds; those simply doing their quotidian jobs on a calm fall day, and those rising to remarkable occasions, as so many will tomorrow across the Florida peninsula cleaning up debris that was once treasure, restoring power, rescuing people and animals from untenable situations, feeding the foodless, repairing homes and habitats. On and on it goes.

Eating Colors

This little yellowjacket didn’t want to budge from the base of a chimayo pepper, so I let her stay, happy to share sustenance. She won’t eat much, the pepper will ripen and soon join the harvest basket. Just a handful of yellow beans, jalapeños and a few other peppers this morning, but enough new arugula to make another batch of pesto. There are still loads of green tomatoes and unripe peppers to come, but with this cool spell everything has slowed down. I’m grateful for a rainy day predicted tomorrow. I’m through teaching on Thursdays for awhile, and love the prospect of an empty day in front of me to catch up in the kitchen, and hopefully to start a pet project on the computer that I’ve been procrastinating on for years. We’ll know more later!

A few jigsaw peppers and three small onions will go into the next batch of salsa tomorrow, along with a few super hot peppers and another nine pounds of tomatoes.

I’ve read about cabbage steaks and finally decided to try some. I had a couple old pieces of sourdough bread, and plenty of chickpeas on hand, so I made this, and wow! Next time I’ll use less salt, but otherwise this was a delicious and healthy dinner. I burned most of the croutons but that was just as well, who needs the carbs. Chickpeas roasted to perfection, and the mild seasoning with cumin and coriander went well with the lemony mayo dressing. I chopped up the leftover roasted cabbage, grated a carrot into it, and put in the fridge for coleslaw for the week.

For dessert, a fat scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with raspberry syrup, my favorite thing today. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for eating colors.
I’m grateful for a cloudy day, for mist over the mountains, rabbitbrush suddenly in full bloom, and a soft trail into the woods.The 1.5 inches of rain predicted a few days ago had diminished to half that by midday and keeps falling each time I check the forecast. We’ll be lucky to get a half inch out of this ‘storm.’ But some moisture is better than no moisture in this dire drought.

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.

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.