Archives

Leftovers

I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.

Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.

Nine Lives

I’m grateful that cats have nine lives. Ojo burned through his pretty fast, but at six-and-a-half, Topaz may have used up only three or four of hers. I’m grateful that she is almost back to normal after her catastrophic tumble a few weeks ago. The past couple of mornings she’s gone for a short walk with me in the woods, and I was thrilled to see her lay back her ears and run to catch up and keep on running past me. That’s when I knew she was… well, out of the woods. She’s still a little bit extra spooky, but more like herself each passing day.

Topaz relaxes at home a couple of days after her miraculous return.

She used up at least one of her lives when she got kidnapped right before the pandemic started. We figure she may have lost one or two more during the month she was missing, living all alone in late winter over in the wilds around Buckskin Pass, surviving on what she could catch and possibly stolen kibble from nearby farms.

Topaz helping me harvest apricots the summer before last; we were grateful for a mountainous crop that year.
Every girl loves a little bling. I’m grateful for this sweet necklace and the dear friend who gave it to me, and so is Topaz. I’m grateful for my one remaining little fur friend.

Wild Turkeys

Ocellated Turkey. Photo: Ray Wilson/Alamy, via Audubon

I’m grateful for wild turkeys. I now know of three kinds, after learning about this ocellated turkey endemic to only a few parts of Mexico and Central America. No wonder early Europeans who colonized North America thought our wild turkey was a type of peacock! They had probably seen this one first. I’m grateful that wild turkeys live here and I get to see them sometimes on the way to town, hens and chicks crossing the road, toms strutting their stuff down in the fields; grateful they’ve adapted well to human encroachment. I’m grateful that I once tested myself by bringing home a roadkill wild turkey that was hit by the car before me, and that I passed the test (that link is not for the faint of heart).

The third kind of wild turkey is the whiskey, of course, which I found in the back of my cupboard this morning while looking for bourbon to use in the Bourbon Pecan Pie I was baking for Thanksgiving dinner up the road. The pie was well-received, but it was a bit more trouble than it was worth, in the cook’s humble opinion. The crust included in the recipe, however, was so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful there are a few pieces left for breakfast this weekend; grateful for leftover domestic turkey for a sandwich, and for leftover mashed potatoes; and grateful for dinner with triple-vaxxed friends, my first indoor dinner party since winter 2020.

Art

Before I returned Sarah’s puzzle, “Matisse’s Studio” (from artwork by Damian Elwes), I wanted to do it again. My strategy on this round was to pull all the pieces easily identified as the paintings on the studio walls and quickly assemble as much as I could of those little gems.

Having only looked at the box lid once, using Seymour’s Rule, I couldn’t recall which paintings went where in the scheme of things. The flat edges of most of them are designed to trick the puzzler into sorting out more edge pieces than are really puzzle edges.

Having wrapped up the paintings and determined that they did include actual puzzle edges and two corners, I then assembled the sea, with its near beach and far city shore, followed by the balcony. These steps were pretty easy, with the distinctive color of the sea and two key whimsy pieces including a mermaid, and the balcony’s definitive railing.

Assembling the remaining components took more time. Colors and shapes are key, but in true Matisse fashion, Elwes splashed mixed up colors all over the place. Then the brilliant puzzle designer created intricate cuts with flimsy connections.

I persevered, soaking up the bright colors on a couple of grey days, delighting in the details that emerged as each little section revealed itself. So many separate little scenes!

And the precious edges, the flat-edged pieces providing only a skeletal framework, sitting in place awaiting the filler pieces which don’t look like edges at all. Then finally, the delight of completion. I like to save a special piece for last; in this case, a special multi-piece.

Naturally, after finishing the puzzle again, I had to explore more Matisse. He was one of my mom’s favorites, along with Cézanne, and I’m just beginning to understand why. It was fun to see where Elwes got his inspiration. And then to ponder how art evolves over time, from one artist finding inspiration in others, and whole trends, movements, schools, developing through time and space. I loved Art History in college. I’m grateful to have grown up with Art as a value and activity in our home; grateful to have lived near and frequently visited the world-class art museums of downtown Washington, DC, including the Smithsonian galleries; grateful to have seen, felt, absorbed in real life the magnificent works of Van Gogh, Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso, Rubens, Rembrandt, Munch–I’m kind of hating in this moment that the names which come readily to mind are all males, and am grateful to be learning recently of equally talented female artists who were shamefully underrepresented in the art lessons of my youth.

But setting aside that can of worms, here are some random paintings chosen from the many Matisse images available online, which may have been among those which influenced Elwes’ delightful rendering of “Matisse’s Studio.”

Then there was this absolutely irresistible cat, which I’d gladly hang on my wall.
Wallowing in all this Matisse reminded me that I have another Matisse puzzle to immerse myself in again, “Red Room.” It’s been a few years since I’ve done it. Perhaps I’ll pull it out on the next rainy day.

Citrus

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t get enough lemon. I don’t remember my first taste of this magical sour sweet fruit, but whenever there was lemon around I’d put it in my mouth and suck on it with glee. I still love lemon most of all the citrus fruits, but I’m also fond of limes, kumquats, and oranges. Years later, when I tended bar at a fancy sports club, I made all the drinks with fresh fruit. No sour mix for the Boar’s Head! At the end of my shift, I’d squeeze any lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange sections left over, pour the blend on ice, and shiver with delight as I drank it. I still make margaritas with fresh limes, and prefer a lemon wedge to olives in my martini.

I’m grateful to know the intoxicating scent of an orange orchard in bloom; grateful for homegrown grapefruits or kumquats sent from friends’ Florida yards; for limes from the Bad Dogs’ astonishingly prolific indoor tree; for plucking an orange on a sunrise walk at Dog World. I’m grateful for the luxury of buying any citrus I could want at the local grocery store, and the amazing ability to keep a stable supply of lemons and limes in my fridge at all times.

I’m grateful for all the people who enable these tropical fruits to get from their orchards across borders or oceans to my kitchen counter, including but not limited to the growers, pickers, packers, shippers, drivers, stackers, stockers, and the checkout clerks. I’m grateful for all the infrastructure involved along the way, including trucks, trains, planes, roads, railroads, and airports, cardboard boxes, terrible plastic mesh bags, and all the materials, engineers, builders, and maintenance personnel needed to create and sustain them. Consider any one thing you appreciate, and track its course from your hands backward through space and time to its source: you can increase your gratitude a thousand fold by reflecting on all the people and processes necessary to bring it from its point of origin to you here and now: all roads lead to interdependence.

Irony

I’m grateful today for the dried beans I harvested at the end of summer, just now all thoroughly desiccated and locked into storage. On the right are the rattlesnake pole beans, which I planted for their fresh (immature, they call them) string beans. On the left below are the scarlet runner beans, of which I grew only one plant, and only for the flowers for hummingbirds; the immature beanpods are not that tasty and they stick on you like a burr. And that little jar on top? That’s the only bean I planted with the intention of harvesting dry: the tepary beans.

I bought them elsewhere, but this native seed site offers a wide variety. I knew they were drought tolerant, but didn’t realize until I heard Lance talking about them on “As the Worm Turns” that they really prefer dryer soil. My mistake was giving them plenty of water. I’m grateful for the irony of overwatering beans in a drought year: I have learned a valuable lesson in water conservation. I’m optimistic that next season I’ll pick the right time and place to plant them, and be able to harvest more than just one bowl of chili’s worth.

I’m grateful for my little helper as I continued to put the garden to bed this afternoon; grateful to have time and energy on one of our last warm days to roll up some hoses and tuck storage tubs and tools under shed roofs before the snow flies.

Fantastic Fungi

Stuffed mushrooms for dinner tonight: so simple, so delicious.

I’m grateful for delicious mushrooms, and for having broadened my taste for them over years of living here, and knowing mushroom gatherers, and having gathered my own a few times. I’m grateful for a magical, memorable experience one time up on Black Mesa with the Willetts when we gathered abundant chanterelles. These are basic white mushrooms stuffed with a simple blend of soft butter, chopped fresh parsley, shallots, garlic, and panko breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, and baked at 425ºF for about fifteen minutes. I ate the whole bowl.

I’m grateful not only for mushrooms to eat, but for Fantastic Fungi of all kinds, in many ways the glue that holds our world together; and grateful for this marvelous movie, and how it’s opened the eyes and minds of a lot more people to the importance of fungi.

Last Bite

Yesterday, I woke up to a dream of Stellar, young and bouncy, standing outside the south windows, wagging his tail, and as he did at that stage of his life, his whole body. He was ready for a walk. I recognized that moment as a possible dream, and a possible visitation. I chose to close my eyes and roll over, rather than get up and take him for a walk at 25ºF. I’m grateful for the dream, the sense of his presence, regardless of the ‘truth’ of whatever it ‘was.’

Tonight’s dinner was Gochugaru salmon with crispy rice. It was delicious, but would have been better, I think, with B&B pickles rather than dill. But I finished those at lunchtime on my favorite-ever new sandwich, open-faced Swiss-pickle on a sourdough bun. I have one leftover filet to enjoy with a different pickle. But, I have no one to give the salmon skin to: no one with whom to share Last Bite.

Last Bite is a ritual at Mirador, one that’s been going on since before Mirador existed. When I first found the Knobbyheaded Dog, I taught him not to beg by promising him Last Bite of anything, everything, I ever ate. Since that time more than thirty years ago, every one of my now dead dogs learned to lie down and wait patiently during human meals, with confidence that they would get Last Bite. Everyone who ever ate here, and paid attention, recognized Last Bite as an important component of being a good guest. You save your last bite for whatever dog or dogs are present at the meal, whether or not they live at Mirador. Sometimes there have been as many as seven or eight dogs here at the end of a meal, and each of them has gotten at least one Last Bite, which have always (almost) been distributed equally among all dogs present.

Last Bite is over, for now. Topaz has no interest in human food of any kind, even salmon. Who will eat the salmon skin? I know, I could, and it’s probably delicious, but I have cultural conditioning that compels me to set it aside for last bi–… oh. No one to give it to.

Oh well. It will feed the compost. The dish was a success despite that I misperceived the key spice. I have Gochujara paste, and when I saved the recipe I read the title wrong. I was caught off guard when I got ready to cook tonight; so I looked up a substitute for Gochugaru pepper flakes, and found that Aleppo pepper is roughly equivalent in flavor and heat, and I was grateful to have that on hand.

I’m grateful for another gem from “On Being,” Stephen Batchelor on the Art of Solitude. He said of having plenty of solitude, “I find that having that groundedness, that sort of a basic sense of being OK, of being at home with myself, is the foundation from which I can then, as it were, really communicate more authentically and more directly with others. I’m not concerned about what they think about me or what they are going to say or what they want, but I have a resource within myself that is my own deeply earned truth, if you like, or integrity.”

This interview really speaks to my current investigation of solitude, and why I love it. With no one else to consider, no one to save last bite for or get up early for, I’ve entered a deeper solitude than ever before. Lying on my back on the floor (as medically directed for cervical nerve impingement) looking at the ceiling, I pondered this novel feeling of being so physically alone, suddenly sensing that it is this very spaciousness that liberates me from the tangle of thoughts and emotions so often cloud my perceptions and interactions with others. I’m grateful to have made several deep, authentic connections over the course of this day, all via the miracle of technology, and all, I think, made possible by the inner peace I find in physical solitude.

Joy and Sorrow

I was awakened this morning by a soft kangaroo kick in my face, two little furry-toed feet practically in my mouth as Topaz stretched out on her back alongside me. I’m grateful for the little purrball snuggling in the morning. She’s still not quite right in the head, and we may go get her eyes and ears examined next week in Montrose, as none of those seem to be functioning the way they should. But she’s otherwise almost back to normal, and I’m grateful for that.

So simple, so delicious: a homemade roll toasted, slathered with mayo and Swiss cheese and broiled briefly, then topped with homemade bread&butter pickles. I’m grateful for lunch, and especially for ‘the cheese sandwich.’

I’m grateful for the delightful diversion provided by this charming puzzle full of exquisite detail both in the artwork and in the laser cut. I used to enjoy doing these puzzles with other people sometimes, before the pandemic. It’s an intimate act to sit heads bent close over a puzzle table, singing along to music or chatting amiably, passing each other pieces that fit with the different sections we’re working, cheering each other on. I also used to enjoy doing them alone, so I’m grateful that my pleasure hasn’t been diminished with my cautious solitude.

I learned recently of several more Covid infections in vaccinated friends, so I’m even more grateful for getting the booster. I watched with deep emotion the trailer for the new documentary “The First Wave.” As a culture, perhaps as a species, we are about to drop all precautions and pretend that this ongoing pandemic isn’t happening, despite the evidence of what we see and know. Why? Because we’re tired of it; we want to get back to normal. Like that’s ever gonna happen. This stunning film chronicles four early months in 2020, and filmmaker Matthew Heineman told The Guardian, “One of the greatest tragedies of Covid is that we as a general public were so shielded from the realities of what was happening…. If it was easier for journalists and film-makers to get inside hospitals and to show the public how this was all actually going down, how people were dying and the horror of what was happening, I think it would have changed the narrative…. It saddens me that this issue that could have brought our country together further divided us, that truth and science became politicised.”

And for a refreshing change of pace, because we must also experience joy as well as outrage, check out the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards from NPR, guaranteed to put a smile on your face. My favorite is the “Majestic and Graceful Bald Eagle.” Maybe. I’m grateful for Kathleen for many reasons, including finding this in my inbox this morning.

Cosmic Time

I’m grateful today that I had no real ill effects from the booster; grateful that I slept long and well last night, and that everyone I love (that I know of) woke up alive this morning. Even though CC felt poopy after her booster shot yesterday, she was still alive and still had her sense of humor; even though S had a kidney removed last week, the cancer is gone and he’s recovering well; even though Topaz still isn’t quite right in the head, she’s getting better and she snuggled most of the night. And grateful there are many more people whom I love and who love me, and as far as I know they are all fine.

Grateful I’ve been able to spend a couple of hours throughout the day on this delightful puzzle, assembling tiny vignettes one at a time and then piecing them together and noticing even more brilliant details. And some subliminal influence must have been at work this morning, because I craved and made a bean and cheese burrito for lunch, on one of those delicious gigantic spinach tortillas from Farm Runners, with homemade fermented hot sauce. Grateful for groceries and for growing food.

I’m grateful that I can still walk to the canyon even without a dog, which I did for the first time today–I think for the first time ever. There was a lot more to notice since I wasn’t keeping at least one eye on a dog the whole way: various birds, silence, the feel of my own footsteps. As I sat in silence on the bench, pondering things, there was a sudden noise which I recognized as something crashing down in Ice Canyon–but there was hardly any ice. I got up to check it out, and just inside the curve visible above, there had been a rock slide. I got so lost in contemplation that I plumb forgot to take a picture of the aftermath. I’ll do that tomorrow. The next thing I did was call my friend who once upon a time took a photo of me standing under the tiny waterfall, where now there is a pile of boulders–right where I had been standing! In cosmic time, it was a near miss. I’m grateful for perspective, for humor, for true friends, and for more time to puzzle…

I’m also grateful for Krista Tippett and her podcast “On Being,” which I’ve been listening to during this puzzle. Yesterday I caught up with Katherine Hayhoe, chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy, and climate ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, talking with Krista about how we can still put the brakes on the climate crisis. “Talk about it,” is one of her main strategies, and she makes a strong case for that. Today I listened to Pico Iyer talking with Elizabeth Gilbert about solitude, gratitude, and mindfulness, three of my favorite things.