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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.

New Life

I’m grateful for the miracle of new life that abounds this season. I spied a brand new calf on a short drive this morning. An hour later on my return, mama and baby were lying in the sun in the middle of the field.

I’m so grateful today for friends who believe in me: two who’ve consented to be my students, giving me their attention for several hours a week, and bringing a willingness to learn what little I know more than they do; and one who inspires me in the garden more than any other, with her organizational skills, her sharing of seeds, and her joy and satisfaction in gardening. When my spirits flag, these friends give me new life.

Closer to home, I’m grateful for the new life emerging from thawed ground, my prize tulip patch.
I’m grateful for the first few giant crocuses to bloom.

Another Day

One tiny monarch crocus hard hit by the last storm, but more buds emerge.
The first grape hyacinths bloom in the blue bed

I’m grateful for oncoming spring in the garden, and for precipitation that keeps nourishing the tiny bulbs pushing their flowers up here and there. I’m grateful to see the first leaves emerging from the forest floor, though most of the green shoots are weeds; I’m not sure what this little red cluster will become. I’m grateful for another day walking with Stellar among ancient junipers sculpted by centuries of seasons and stressors. I’m grateful for another day sculpting myself by choosing where I place my attention.

Along the trail through the woods a little mystery emerges, about the size of a quarter. I can’t wait to see what this is!

I’m grateful for another chance to try my hand at orange sticky buns, which turned out just as well the second time. The dough seemed really wet and was hard to maneuver, and there was a little too much filling (as if!) ~ but they baked beautifully. Anyone who might happen to come to prune my fruit trees in the next couple of days, or to deliver groceries ~ and I’m grateful for anyone who might! ~ will surely go home with some sticky buns. I’m grateful every day for where I live, for so many reasons. I’m grateful for good neighbors of all species.

This Owl

I was texting with a friend just now who lives near Boulder. A friend in DC had texted me. We were all feeling sad for the world.

Is there a meditation for that? I wondered.

I woke this morning feeling as flat and grey as the sky, and that was ok: it was neutral. I accepted the internal clouds and gave myself over to a day off. I need one every week or two, the more the better, and it’s been a hard-pushing ten days. Just internally. Not like I’m out breaking rock. I felt sad for the world and everyone in it

(Except for me, suddenly. And for once, I didn’t feel altogether guilty; I felt grateful.)

Stellar rose from his bed.

Get up, I told myself. I turned my attention to what the night outside might hold: the waxing moon overhead, sky deep cerulean, an evening star, a soft shifting cloud palette of blues and greys. Stellar sometimes likes to linger by the door. I want him to walk with me for several reasons. I started around the south end of the house and heard a Great-horned Owl calling to the north. Suddenly energized, I stopped, listened, again, again, the same call, hoo-hoo hoohoooo… 

I first think to call the owl to stir Stellar’s jealousy and bring him to my side. He’s been known when I’ve talked with owls before to sidle up whining, throw himself on the ground, and roll. If I’m talking to an owl or a tree or anything else in the garden too intently, he used to do that. No more! Either he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t care, he knows it doesn’t matter, or… Still, I hope to bring him to my side, so I echo the owl’s call. Then I think, There’s no reason I can’t call him in, too.

I’ve always believed in Dr. Doolittle, assumed though that I could never really speak to the animals; but now, as I spend more uninterrupted time alone, I reconsider… I had phoebes practically landing on my shoulder last summer. The owl hoots again, after a pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… another pause. I call back. A pause. He calls again. A pause, then I call back. Then a long silence.

He soars in from the north woods, skimming juniper tops, dark and silent, big, wings outstretched he banks up, perches atop the tower roof. He turns his head and looks at me. I face him looking up, dumbstruck. For a full minute or two we observe one another. Listen, I caution myself, don’t speak. I open my chest and breathe, press my feet into the ground, looking up at his silhouette against the darkening blue sky. Breathe. Open.

I know how smart these owls are. Were I willing to feed him I could train him to come. Instead, I merely want to welcome him, assure him I’m a benevolent force in his world, offer him my home, shower him with my attention, awestruck. Only connect. This is my moment with the Divine. I stand silent, hands in pockets, opening my heart and life to him.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… In sync with the rhythm of his call he fluffs and twitches his tail upward, posturing, seeking, watching me. A pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo, I reply. He registers my response, then flies off to the south and disappears.

Did I answer right? I don’t know quite what I said to that owl, but I know it had to be nice. I could hear it in his voice as surely he could hear it in mine.

“You belong.”

The owl feels our pain, and sings his own loneliness.

Strong Women

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is sworn in before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior Secretary, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jim Watson/Pool via AP) from NPR

After learning great news about the state of renewable energy in Colorado last week, the Senate confirmation of Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary today was icing on the cake. I’m grateful that a Native American woman with a profoundly sensible land ethic has been put in charge of the public lands of this great nation. After years of vicious assaults on wilderness, National Parks and Monuments, and climate science, the US government is now poised to begin a brave new era of protection and conservation of the precious heritage of natural resources in this country: Haaland is a true conservative, an advocate for our most fundamental truth, the earth itself.

This news adds to the growing sense of peace and ease within me that began with the inauguration of a wiser, more compassionate president; bumped up last week when I was reassured by one-who-knows that renewable energy is an unstoppable economic success; and escalated with the relief of receiving my first Covid vaccine Friday. Speaking of which, Ranchergramma shared this picture on her blog the other day, along with her joy and gratitude about the role her family played in the Hotchkiss vaccination pod. I’m grateful to the Gallob clan for their integral role in the success of this event, as well as their overall multi-generational pillars-of-the-community contributions to life in our valley.

Most of the North Fork EMS team and volunteers (including multiple Gallobs) who put on the successful Covid-19 festival that vaccinated 892 people in less than eight hours. Photo by Doug Fritz, Hotchkiss Fire District.

Drag Queens

This won’t be the last time I express gratitude for drag queens. But this particular time I’ll mention only this one special episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 13: Corona Can’t Keep a Good Queen Down. In the thirteenth year of this warm-hearted, Emmy-winning show, the Drag Race team was one of the first TV series to film live during the pandemic. They thought ahead and took exceptional precautions to produce a stellar series, and the conditions of Covid have only given every joyful episode even more emotional charge and creative energy.

People sometimes ask me, “Why?” when I confess that my guilty pleasure is Drag Race. I’ve watched twelve years of episodes in two years, and become utterly immersed in this astonishing cultural phenomenon. I’m grateful that this wonderful, kind person, RuPaul Charles, walks the earth, and celebrates, elevates, the art of drag and the gentle souls who live it, bringing everyone else in the world both entertainment and perspective. More about that later. Meanwhile, this particular hourlong documentary gives those with an open heart and an open mind a lot of insight, not only into drag culture but into the ingenuity and mettle of RuPaul himself.

Drag Race took the pandemic seriously.
While the queens quarantined before and after arriving at the show, and could film without masks, staff and crew wore protective gear.
Hilarious! They’re looking at fake boobs as earnestly as they would at real ones!
Judges sit distanced with plexiglass partitions between them. That didn’t hinder their banter or dampen their wit.
Special guest Anne Hathaway appeared on screen instead of in person, and brought just as much excitement.

Open Doors

Today I was grateful to be able to open doors, without lighting the woodstove, at sixty degrees, letting in cool fresh breeze, letting in spring. 

What an amazing day! So many wonderful things happened. First I woke up, alive and well-rested, content with a relaxed morning routine. Relaxation is a skill I’m learning to cultivate. It starts with accepting things as they are; not just people, but everything. We get only suffering from seeking control over external conditions. (This insight brought to you by a recovering control freak!) And Stellar was alive, too! O frabjous day! On our first morning walk, we greeted Split-Ear Doe and her twins, almost yearlings now.

Summer’s babies all fluffed up after winter. Amazing they’ve both survived.
For comparison, here they were in August, and below, three weeks later in September, losing their spots.
Remember the fires? the smoke? how it colored everything?
Then, after an hour wrapping up the work week, Stellar and I walked up the driveway. The bluebird couple danced their little hopscotch up the fenceposts ahead of us, darting into the grass for bugs one at a time.

I shudder to think that I used to drive somewhere every two or three days. It was a big deal to get four days in a row that I didn’t have to leave home. What was that about? I don’t miss it at all. I can certainly limit my town trips going forward after vaccine to once or twice a month, even if I start buying my own groceries. In this quiet covid year I’ve learned to better budget my time, my attention. I can’t imagine returning to that fast-paced rat race! I’m so grateful that I work from home. I’m grateful I get to walk the driveway these days far more often than I’m obliged to drive it.

As we approached the top I could see some activity. Jake the puppy was watching from his field. There was a truck, a ladder, a girl walking from another driveway in a blue jacket. It was at last time for the great switcheroo. After months of patient neighborhood diplomacy, after 45 failed to return to power January 6, January 20, and March 4, enough was enough. We proud patriots, daughters of the American Revolution, reclaimed the flagpole at last. The offensive flag of the false narrative was removed, and Old Glory was returned to her post.

Stellar enthusiastically voices his approval of the transfer of power.

It wasn’t even noon! We came back home and sat outside in the garden for awhile, attentive to the melodic song of arriving house finches, alert for the buzz of the first bee, appreciating the play of light on shiny apricot limbs and melting snow, and so on, present to the magic of each moment. It was the warmest day of the year so far, and I opened the doors for hours ~ delightful! There was ample food to choose from for lunch ~ extravagant! Technology allowed cousins in seven different states to visit for an hour on one screen ~ amazing!

Then I got to play in the kitchen. At last the goldfish cracker cutter had arrived. The poison fish came to life. Amy sent a recipe for ‘poison fish’ months ago, which starts with a box of Pepperidge Farm goldfish, and one thing led to another. This was my third batch of homemade ‘goldfish crackers,’ but the first actually shaped like fish. The first batch I simply cut into diamonds with a knife, the second I used a small round cutter. Neither batch was quite the right texture, and I overcooked both through inattention. But today’s batch was perfection. I’m grateful for practice, in so many ways.

Crisp and addictive, homemade goldfish crackers with poison fish spice mixed into the dough.

Telesangha

Grateful also for deer along the driveway, watching Stellar trot down the hill to catch up with me, grateful that he is able to trot short distances. Grateful to have discerned that the light-bleed problem (see snow, above) with my phone camera is a function of the Lifeproof case and not in the camera lens itself. Grateful Lifeproof has a good warranty, and is sending me a replacement case. Now to figure out what caused it, so I can avoid a repeat with the new one.

I’m grateful today for this community of online/telephone meditators called Telesangha, and for our teacher Cynthia Wilcox. Cynthia has been leading this half-hour morning meditation virtually every weekday since September 6, 2016. We are in our fifth year doing this together. Just a couple of the meditators have been there since the beginning, and more have been there almost as long, and some are fairly recent in the past year. Altogether there are about 18 of us, coast to coast and two in London. It varies day to day how many of us are on the call; there were times in the first year or two when there might be only three or four of us.

You can get to know someone pretty well, and care about them pretty deeply, with just a few words every few days, consistently over several years. We’ve been through some milestones together, including one woman having her first baby, several deaths in various families, health crises, travels (including one fellow calling in at two a.m. from Australia), moves, accomplishments, and breakups. It’s a genuine community, with a lot of love and concern among us, even though most of us have never met in person, or even seen pictures. Just voices, and a committed intention to meditate daily.

(I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to gather from around the world in one virtual space, day after day. (How I’ve come to rely on the world wide web through the years!) I’m grateful for the electricity that allows me to turn on a computer every day and connect with the world in any way I wish to, and grateful to get my electricity from the sun, and grateful to have a computer, and…)

Cynthia teaches in the Insight tradition of Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, and also leads embodiment meditations in the style of Judith Blackstone. Certain days we have a recurring focus: Tuesday is Embodiment, Thursday is Central Channel, Friday is some kind of Heart meditation. Mondays and Wednesdays the meditation responds more or less to the checkins of participants. I am always grateful for the community (the sangha, on the telephone = Telesangha), and some days I’m especially grateful for the meditation, and for the kind, wise heart of our guide, whose articulate counsel this morning helped me skillfully navigate a fraught situation.

The Vaccines

Grateful again today to see the happy little crocuses blooming more and bigger than yesterday. Soon will be bees!

I haven’t gotten one yet – I’m too young! – but I know a lot of people who have. I hang out with older friends, alway have. I’m an old soul. Hee! Well, whatever the reason, a lot of my friends are over 65, over 70, over 75, and a lot of them have gotten their shot or shots. I signed up on the county waiting list yesterday. The group I’m assigned by age is supposed to start getting shots in the next week or two. I’m not chomping at the bit for it, but I’ll be glad to get it. It will be the first adult vaccination I remember taking. I’m not anti-vax, I got them all when I was young, and I turned out okay. Despite having the measles, Rubella, scarlet fever, and some other stuff. I was exposed to TB quite young, resulting in a permanent positive test and more chest x-rays than were good for me, until I put my foot down and said, No more! It’s just the way it is!

That might have been an early case of my accepting things the way they are: While I still fought most things I couldn’t control, I did accept that I would always test positive for TB, that I couldn’t donate blood because of that, that I couldn’t pursue a Hospice career, that my lungs would always be a little bit more vulnerable than most. Anyway, I’ve gotten my fair share of vaccinations: I remember eating sugar cubes for polio, and how we used to compare smallpox scars on our upper arms, for years, decades, after we got our smallpox inoculations, so much more than a simple stick in the arm! I don’t think I can see mine anymore, can you? But I have never gotten a flu shot, or yet a shingles vaccine. However, I’m getting in line for a Covid vaccination.

It won’t ameliorate my vigilance overnight, or likely ever, but it will give me a sense of some shielding when I have to go out in public. Hopefully I won’t get so stressed about going to the Crawford post office, or the idea of setting foot in Hotchkiss City Market, both notorious for maskless customers. Having the vaccine in me will allow me to relax more when someone comes over for some reason, and maybe let me host a cookout or two this summer, or even some retreats. A majority where I live don’t take it seriously. I do. And I’m grateful that most of my friends have gotten one or both of their shots and are safer, and that I’m next in line, and that science prevailed in last year’s battle of world views, so that finally vaccines are pouring into circulation, and most people I care about have the good sense to get them. I can only pray that our good choices on our own behalf are sufficient to stem the spread of Covid19 and save at least ourselves.

Sleeping In

Today’s mindfulness activity was to “do your best to give love to yourself so that you’ll have more of it to give to others. Pick a healthy attitude or activity that you would like to nourish and engage in it as much as possible today. Try to be mindful of how this impacts your feelings toward yourself and your interactions with others.” I read this minutes after getting up after sleeping in past nine am for the first time in months. Sleep, I thought. I’ll sleep as much as possible today. I didn’t sleep at all again til a few minutes from now, but I sure felt relaxed all day long. I’m grateful for every opportunity I had to connect with someone who matters to me, and for the relaxed comfort in my own skin that the extra sleep allowed me to feel. I’m grateful for the daily guidance from a wise and generous teacher, that reminds me I can choose to be the best version of myself in any moment. I’m grateful for all the pieces of this life in this moment, and for the privilege of sleeping in once in a while.