The Moon. This was two years ago in spring, March 20, 2019. A year before the world changed with the Covid-19 pandemic. People think it’s over, but it’s not. It’s a new normal, because we as a species have chosen not to change our behaviors. We are attached to having what we want, when we want it, and we’re not going to let go of that no matter what incentives get thrown in our way. Climate chaos? Let’s get what we can from the planet and the future be damned. Pandemic? Fuck limits, I’ll keep living my life the way I want to. Individual responsibility, right? I’m grateful for the steady rhythm of the moon.
I’m grateful to have woken up alive this morning, and gotten outside with Stellar before the sun was up, before even the moon went down, the Harvest Moon. It’s ‘the solstice,’ as the radio said this evening, though they meant the autumnal equinox. It was a spectacular day here in western Colorado. Bluebird sky, few clouds, very little climate crisis haze, bright sun, cool breeze, the perfect fall day. I heard the first sandhill cranes this evening, heading south along the east flank of Mendicant Ridge, where the highest aspen groves are just now turning golden.
My goal today was to get through it with no regrets. Not sure I managed that, due to my choices, but no lasting harm done I’m sure. It’s such a dance: just navigating a day can be exhausting. I took pretty good care of myself and my dependents, and sometimes that’s the best I can do. The low was 36℉ near the house; half the cantaloupe leaves died back, and a few other tenders took a hit in the garden, but it wasn’t a hard frost and we’ve got another few weeks of mild growing weather. Pesto was on the agenda but won’t happen until tomorrow–that’s a regret but I’m too tired to worry about it now. I’m grateful for authentic connection and shared joy, for friends who know me, for a genuine sense of belonging.
It’s been a loooong time since I’ve hosted a dinner here. Pre-Covid, there were dinners almost every week in our neighborhood, sometimes just a few people, often a crowd. Holidays, we took turns hosting potluck feasts for a dozen or more. It was lovely. It was exhausting. It’s been nice to have a break from the social whirl, but I wanted to show my gratitude for my closest neighbors, who contribute to my life in ongoing ways, as well as always being there if I need something: a tree diagnosed or pruned, a few teaspoons of cinnamon, a drain snake… I’ve been trying to make this dinner happen since spring, but between all of our schedules, some of their travels, my hand injuries, and other impediments, it took all summer for us to plan on this one evening.
Of all the Saturdays in this summer of drought for it to rain, it had to be this one! But we did get a break just long enough to sit outside and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, wine and dinner. My preparations began shortly after sunup, when I dug some Yukon gold potatoes, picked a couple of peppers and the second (and last) zucchini of the season, and snipped the only cilantro left along with some parsley. The rest of the day I spent in the kitchen.
Not only was there dinner to prepare, but I was a day behind on canning, so made a batch of salsa verde this morning.
I roasted the tomatillos, onions, garlic, and pepper. The recipe called for two Serranos, but I couldn’t find those I’m sure are deep in the freezer, so I looked up heat equivalency, and used a single Thai dragon instead. I’m grateful to have figured out that it’s easier to shuck the tomatillos after they’ve sat in a bowl of water for five or ten minutes because it’s a tedious process anyway.
Then I prepped the Tex Mex pot roast, with onion, tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, and a couple of chopped Chimayo peppers, all but the onion from the garden. I’m grateful for a beautiful cast-iron Dutch oven, just what was called for to slow cook the meat for the afternoon. While the meat braised, I made dessert.
Whoever heard of black cocoa? These Faux-reos from King Arthur Baking were such fun to make, and a big hit after dinner. The filling called for vegetable shortening, but that also has been disappeared from the pantry by gremlins, or perhaps house elves, so I was forced to use butter. This required extra confectioners’ sugar to make the filling stiff enough not to squish out, so I ended up with a tennis ball size of leftover icing. I’m sure I’ll think of something to do with that!
And then it was time to turn my attention to the Sonoran-style potato, tomato, and cheese soup. Using potatoes, cherry tomatoes and herbs from the garden, Queso Blanco cheese and a couple of other ingredients from Farm Runners, I bubbled up a tasty and unusual soup; adding groups of ingredients at carefully timed intervals, and then ladling the final soup over cheese cubes in the bottom of each bowl.
I’m grateful for a full and meaningful Saturday, grateful for the rain that gave us the perfect window to sup together before coming down again; grateful for the bounty of the garden, and for exciting recipes a few clicks away in any moment. I’m grateful that when I served the Faux-reos, Fred called up the Oz monkey song and the rest of us all joined in–grateful for that harmonious moment of shared culture spontaneously expressed, even though it took some discussion to come to consensus that it was from Oz, and not Snow White or Lord of the Rings. I’m grateful for easy laughter and connection with beloveds. Stellar was beside himself with excitement to have dinner guests, including his little pal Rocky. We’re both grateful for the best neighbors in the world, and the opportunity to show a small measure of our gratitude through preparing and sharing food.
It was a beautiful morning. I’m grateful that Stellar and I got to enjoy a half-hour ramble off our usual trails, just for a change of pace. He’s doing really well considering he suffered some sort of neurological incident last weekend. You can tell by looking at his left eye, how both lids droop. It was just my best guess, until Karen asked Dr. Dave to check out this and a couple other pictures. His response was:
“The issue would appear to be a neurological one. The two most likely causes are stroke and a viral infection of the nerve supplying the eyelid. Other possibilities are a tumor near the nerve, or a traumatic incident to the nerve. Similar lesions in the brain can cause signs as seen here. In any case palliative care is probably the treatment of choice as there are possibilities of recovery with no treatment.”
I am so grateful for the support and input from these friends, who despite such busy lives of their own took time to consider my concerns for my dear dog. I’m grateful for the bonds of community and friendship, that can lay dormant for a long time and wake when needed at a moment’s notice.
Meanwhile, we’re still contending with the hindquarter weakness, notably in his right leg, which tends to turn out and is often unable to straighten under him. But he’s a stoic, noble animal, and he keeps dragging himself up and out whenever I ask if he wants to go for a walk. Once he’s out the gate his nose takes over, and he joyfully sniffs his way through the woods, intermittently looking back for me and adjusting his course to mine. I’m grateful for his perseverance, his devoted companionship, and his unconditional love and acceptance.
So much to be grateful for today! We all woke up alive in my little family, and my extended family, my community. Stellar and I stepped out the gate to this sight on our morning walk just after sunrise. Extravagant rabbitbrush, shimmering winterfat, and the West Elk Mountains on the horizon. Thank you! We are so lucky to live where we do. Then I called the plumber.
He showed up around 2:30 with his power-snake, and unplugged the drain! I am grateful for pretty much everything in my little life today, including the kitchen sink, and especially its drain. I’m grateful for the metal shaped by someone or some program at some factory that makes the sink, grateful for the plumber who installed the sink and the few who have worked on it over the years, for the faucets with their advanced features that have adorned the sink in its 26 years here, for the know-how to clean out those pipes underneath the sink, and most of all, today I’m grateful for Plumber Shawn who finally unplugged the kitchen sink’s drain. I gratefully sent him home with a box of tomatoes, including one of those spectacular one-pound Brandywines.
I’m especially grateful for the kitchen sink today, and going forward this next couple of weeks, and for its unclogged drain, as each day I add to the buckets of produce on the counter that need to be preserved. After this week’s grocery run for onions and a few other things, I’ll make and put up tomatillo salsa, tomato salsa, marinara sauce, tomato soup, and tomato paste. I’m grateful for every single thing about this day. And I’m grateful for the mindful awareness to be grateful. More and more my ancient prayer rings true: Let me remember to be grateful every living moment of every day. In our life of opportunity and privilege nothing else rings true.
Among many other things today, I’m grateful for community radio. In particular at the moment, KVNF in Paonia. This evening, Cookin with Jazz was dj’d by The Hurricane, who put together a thoughtful retrospective on Charlie Watts. I learned more than I ever knew about The Rolling Stones’ drummer, and heard some wonderful music. It reminded me of the time I spent as a nomad, driving around the country camping in my Subaru wagon with my first catahoula.
We were camped in northern California among redwoods, cozied up in the back of the car, listening to KMUD out of Garberville. They were playing a Joni Mitchell retrospective. Something about the soft, moist night air, insect symphony blending with Joni’s songs, snuggled into my sleeping bag, cuddling that good dog… I’ll never forget it, deeply touched by the magic of radio. I was grateful for community radio then, and I’m still grateful thirty-two years later, tucked into my little mud hut in the juniper forest, crickets outside, Charlie Watts conversing softly over the airwaves, lying on a yoga mat on the floor beside my old best dog ever. Something very similar about these two far apart evenings, emotionally linked through the power of community public radio.
I’m grateful for the lettuce-leaf basil, and for Amy’s suggestion to use it on a BLT… with, gratefully, a fresh garden tomato.
I’m grateful today for how the efforts I’ve made have paid off. I don’t have a lot of the things that people value, but I value all the things I have: I have enough. I have more than enough. I’m grateful that the choices I’ve made over the past forty years or more have led me to this life, this community, these friends, this place with its home and garden. I’m most immediately grateful today for the food rolling in from the garden. I’m grateful every day for the food that finds its way to my plate from all the places it originates; I’m grateful to have any food, especially grateful to have enough food, all the food I could want, in a world of want.
I’m grateful for tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, garlic from the garden, and for this great recipe for layered enchiladas. I’ve made it a few times, but one has to be rich in tomatillos, which this summer I am! Also I used mostly parsley because there is a dearth of cilantro in the garden this year. Funny how that goes, one year you have more of something than you can use and the next year it just doesn’t take.
I’m rich in cucumbers, too, and made another batch of pickles this afternoon. I’ve got a couple of jars of lacto-fermented dill pickles in the fridge already, a couple of vinegar-dill jars preserved, and today processed three pints of bread&butter pickles, and a scant pint of fermented dill slices. We’ll know more later if that last one will keep on the shelf, but it’s worth a try. I’m grateful that after a few years, I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable pickling and preserving; it no longer has to be a huge deal that takes a whole day’s focus. I’m grateful for the fruits of my labors in the garden and in the kitchen.
I’m grateful for so many things today, but mostly for the fact that I came to the end of it still alive. I’m grateful for walking after rain with Stellar and Topaz, for their sweet friendship, for golden September light.
There was no particularly extra danger to my life today, except that I drove twenty miles to town and back, and went into the post office and the grocery store. Even pre-Covid I’d have been aware of the slight uptick in risk that entails: anyone can get killed in a car wreck a quarter mile from home. But since Covid, these minor everyday risks we all take without giving them much conscious headspace feel magnified a hundred times. Just going into the grocery store for half an hour feels like sticking my neck out way beyond comfort. There’s a somber air in the aisles these days, a fraught undertone. I’m not defiant like those who put us all at risk, but I feel equally defensive. The public fisticuffs of last fall lurk just beneath the surface in the silence as strangers pass without smiles. A sense of relief when you recognize and connect with someone you know.
So I was glad to get home this evening, and walk again in the woods, again after rain; grateful for another few tenths of an inch in a lovely intermittent drizzle over the past twenty-four hours. Grateful for no dramatic thunderstorm with lightning’s fires. Grateful that out of all possible random misfortunes that can befall a human life, my good fortune and my body held up for another day. My heart kept ticking, my lungs kept breathing, and beauty continued to stream past me. I’m grateful for this precious day.
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.
I can’t fix Afghanistan. I can’t fix Haiti. I can’t fix climate chaos. It can be discouraging. But I can be kind and cheerful with the new UPS man. I can grow flowers for the bees and vegetables. I can meditate with loving-kindness on man’s inhumanity to man, and abuse of women. I can hold the horror in one hand and the beauty in the other, the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows, and bring them to some symmetry. I can express gratitude for the random distribution of conditions in my life, that let me live in relative peace and ease compared to the rest of the world.
Comparisons are odious. I heard this from a poet in the context of writing; but lately I’ve begun to wonder. It seems to me that comparisons, through the appropriate lens, are often excellent reminders of just how great our lives are, if we don’t live in a war zone, and we do have running water and electricity in our homes, get to choose what we eat, grow our own food, read what we like, choose our thoughts, and so much more. Americans take liberty for granted.
While Rome burns, I turn my attention to a gift bun from the local popup bakery. Gratitude. After coffee from across the equator, and the sticky bun flavored with the Asian native cardamom, I turn my attention to the rattlesnake pole beans, growing so tall that I a) finally get the Bean Stalk story, and b) needed a step-stool to pick them. I can barely keep up, and was grateful to learn that they also make good dried beans. I might stop harvesting the ‘immature pods,’ any day now, and let the rest mature and dry, for soups or chili and some to plant next year.
Grateful also for two new cucumbers to add to the weekend’s harvest, enough now to make some pickles. Real pickles. I’m grateful to accept the benefits of fermentation, and for the means and knowledge to make real pickled pickles, not only the quick kind with vinegar.
Cucumbers, garlic cloves, ripe dill florets, and a horseradish leaf (all from the garden) in each jar; bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns, mustard seeds and allspice sprinkled into the quart jar, and a single tiny hot pepper added to the pint jar. How beautifully they packed! Then glass weights on top of brine, a pickling lid, and into the pantry til the weekend. I’m grateful for the morning light on junipers and that big old dog, for sweet treats, pole beans, and pickles. I’m grateful every day for the roof over my head, water in the pipes, the power of the sun, the love and support I get and give, and the courage to know that nothing lasts. I am grateful for equanimity.
I’m grateful to have experienced today the joy of being helped. After visiting on Thursday, Hilary offered to come help me clean up the pond. I’ve been waiting three years for the right day and the right person to help with this overwhelming task. Today it all came together. It was cool enough to work pulling and cutting around the pond, yet hot enough to then get into the pond to work. The two little dogs found shade under the garden cart. Stellar mostly stayed inside, where it was cooler, on his soft bed.
Hilary pulled mint and chopped cattails, while I worked the Worx weedwhacker on weeds and grasses. After that we tackled the pond, clearing a huge biomass of rushes, roots, mint, muck, and a few accidental lilies. She did all the really hard work, cutting, chopping, loading the garden cart, hauling to the compost pile. While I got to wade in cool water, gently nudging, cajoling, and pulling up soft roots. I was careful with my hands, and it felt great to be doing something, however little, after all this time. Still, yes, I overdid, and am paying for it with extra pain this evening. What a gift her cheerful energy was, and how her mindful attention allowed me to trust her with the means and the goal: what plants to ‘harvest,’ which to leave, and the overall vision of simply liberating the free flow of water.
All the hours of hard work barely scratched the surface of the pond congestion after three years of letting it go wild. But it was a perfect project for an August afternoon, a great start. And I experienced the unusual sensation of letting someone help me who wanted to authentically enough, that by being helped I was giving her gratification also.
What was almost entirely overgrown now has lanes of clear water through it, a clean outlet, and water lilies that can breathe. Much more to clear eventually, but having made a good start with help and support, having overcome the inertia of that first step, I am grateful to know I can take a cooling dip once in a while, and nibble away at this elephant one bite at a time. I am grateful for help, and for the reverse gift of accepting help from one who wants to give it.