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Each Day

Some days make me feel just as wide-eyed as these little dogs; in fact, most days do, practicing gratitude. I’m grateful today for the opportunity to do chihuahua for a little while; for clearing the air despite the smoke; for getting my hands on some chicks that are all named Dinner; for perspective on some of my less healthy habits; for connection with family and friends; and for the courage to open and play my dusty piano again after years.

I’m grateful that last night’s fireworks over the reservoir didn’t go rogue and cause a blaze, and that no one was stupid enough to celebrate Pioneer Days with home pyrotechnics; I’m grateful that wildfire smoke remains distant and we can still breathe here, albeit with extra sneezing, coughing, and just a hint of nose blood. I’m grateful for each day with breathable air, knowing that fire is certain this summer and location of fire uncertain. A new fire south of Salt Lake has consumed more than ten thousand acres in less than a day, and another four-day old fire near Moab exploded today. Seeing a sky like this evening’s reminds me not only of last summer’s horrendous smoke, but of the tragic summer of 1994, when the Wake Fire in our valley burnt three thousand acres in a couple of days; its impact was quickly eclipsed on its third day by the Storm King fire near Glenwood Springs that blew up and killed fourteen firefighters. Everything we hold dear is so tenuous.

Not only because of wildfire, of course, or the slow-moving catastrophe that is climate chaos, but because impermanence is the nature of all things. Our evening walk was especially poignant in the coppery glow of the smoky sunset: Not only from the oppressive weight of the big picture, but the looming loss of the very personal was readily apparent in dear Stellar’s feeble gait. We turned around before the first gate and he hobbled back in to his comfy bed for the night. I’m grateful for each day that we both wake up alive, and I don’t have to make that horrible decision to call his time. I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that allows me to enjoy our remaining time together, to recognize that one bad day is often followed by a few good ones, and to accept the inevitable end of both our lives. I’m grateful for the inspiration and motivation that comes from knowing that “Death is certain, time of death uncertain.”

Connection

Boyz Lunch today was fried Sesame Tofu with Coconut-Lime Dressing and Spinach, a light fare on the first really hot day of summer.

I’m grateful that the juniper titmice have fledged, and that I was able to get a sort-of shot of the nest hole, after my mind played tricks on me this morning and I thought maybe they’d left behind a chick. So strong was the story I made up from my illusory senses that it took several close perusals of this image and some others to set my mind at ease, and now it seems so obvious. Ah, how we manage to delude ourselves.

Today I’m grateful to be alive, to have friends, to be part of a wonderful, interesting community. In fact, several of them, one in physical space and a couple in virtual space. Also, I’m grateful to live in the multi-species community that is my yarden, cultivating constant connection with Nature. At lunch today on the patio we were all enjoying the phoebes, and observed the chicks’ milestone of venturing beyond the nest onto the joist. THEN, we were astonished to realize that there are actually five chicks!

Say

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.

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.

Aprés Retreat

Cream cheese thumbprint cookies with apricot jam, ready for the oven Friday night; grateful to Amy for the recipe.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend two days in silent retreat, grateful for the teachers and the teachings that guided me through this unusual adventure, and, grateful to be done with it! And, I still want to do it again once or twice a month, though maybe for only 36 hours the next time. I stocked up on necessities in the days ahead of the retreat, preparing snacks, sweets, and meals, to minimize distractions. Everything went according to schedule on Saturday, spent in frequent meditation and constant deep reflection. Sunday got a little off kilter by mid-afternoon, and by dinnertime I was exhausted. It was as if I had glimpsed myself in the near future, close to the shore of another sea change, and I chose not to go there yet. I cut short the introspection, uncomfortable somehow with the intensity of it.

The Ancient One

Saturday was so mild that we walked all the way to the rim, knowing there was a storm coming that might keep us home for a few days. Indeed, Sunday morning saw the biggest snow yet this winter (if I remember correctly!). Stellar did great on the first morning walk around the Breakfast Loop.

Stellar’s Last Days: Valentine’s ~ he’s unlikely to see another one. Not that Valentine’s Day matters anymore to me, really, but it’s hard to shake a lifetime of association. There was a wistful edge to it this year I hadn’t expected, but a few well-timed gestures from friends softened that.

As snow kept falling, we walked again later, up the driveway. He was full of spunk, trotting ahead, eating snow, coming back to get me. The snow brought utter peace into my silence, first, for its primal beauty and its own pervasive silence; second, for the comfort of moisture to this parched land. Grateful, as always in the desert, for precipitation. Grateful for the dog’s good energy and mobility.

This was shortly before his back feet turned under, and he couldn’t get them to work at all. He walked halfway home on the tops of his back feet, hips dropped low, practically dragging his back legs. I kept pulling his hips up and setting his feet right but another step or two and they flipped over again. After a few tries I realized it was futile and we had a long way to go yet, so I slung my scarf in front of his thighs and limped him the rest of the way home, essentially carrying his back end. It was good I was in silence: kept me from talking myself into a state. I figured if I could get him home and rested he’d be fine, as long as we stayed out of the deep snow. This proved to be the case. He’s walked up and down the plowed driveway several times since without incident. I think his feet turned under and seized up, or just got too cold to function, from being ankle deep in very cold snow for too long. I’m grateful this wasn’t a ‘new normal,’ not yet.

I’m grateful for the little Topaz cat, usually in and out multiple times a day, for contributing serenity on Sunday. She took one look outside in the morning, used her litter box, and never even approached the door all day. With no rodents to hunt, she unearthed an old toy to toss around for her midday romp, and spent the rest of the day in one of her several cozy beds.

I’m grateful to Philip for going out of his way Friday to deliver the coconut milk I required for this exquisite dish, which I indulged in making Sunday night, baked tofu with coconut lime rice. Unexpectedly one of the most delicious meals of the year; I’m grateful for the good sense to clip and try the recipe. I’m grateful that my days of silent solitude were flanked by gifts of friendship, grateful for loving Valentine messages from friends who didn’t know I was on retreat, and for silence from friends who did. I’m grateful for this web of life that supports me on an unconventional path, and grateful for each step no matter how challenging or painful.

Honey Badger of the North stopped by to deliver a Valentine’s treat this evening.

Friends I’ve Never Met

This little girl lives across the country. I’ve never met her, nor her mother, in person. But her mother is one of a number of friends I’ve made virtually along the mindfulness path I embarked upon in earnest five years ago. She and I have met almost monthly with a small sangha on zoom for that whole time – even pre-Coronaverse, a new world in which I’ve become friends with a number of other people on the path this past year. I’m grateful for all of these dear people who’ve come into my life online, and hope to meet some of them in person eventually.

Little R will be three in June. Her mom texted me this picture with the caption, Look what R found in her drawer and wanted to wear. Still fits!! She’s wearing a bunting I knitted for her ‘welcome to the world’ present, which she received when she probably could have fit inside one sleeve. I’m grateful my hours of knitting are still keeping this little girl warm, that she wanted to wear it, and I’m grateful her mom made my day with this surprise picture. My joy in this simple text and all it conveys brings tears to my eyes.

I’m grateful again today, as always, for waking up alive, and finding my dear Stellar alive downstairs in his bed. It still breaks my heart that he can no longer climb the stairs to sleep with me, but he seems content in his own bed. And I’m grateful that he feels so good these days that he eagerly strays from the trail. For most of last year, he was so feeble that he could only plod along ahead of me, head down. Nowadays, he’s always following his nose out into the trees, and sometimes gets so far ahead of me I can’t see him. I’m grateful that he always stops and waits for me. From our walk this morning – he’s blurry in most of them, that’s how well he’s moving!