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Everything

If ever there was a ‘Catahoula look,’ it’s this one: What? You talkin’ to ME?

Tired. Grateful I get to go to bed. Grateful for just about everything today! Grateful this morning for snow!

Grateful for gorgeous rose hips, and hoping I get time to harvest some to make jelly. If not, oh well! Grateful to feed the deer.

Grateful for the garden Buddha, and grateful for the teachings passed down for millennia from this humble sage.

Community

I’m grateful for garden carrots, sugar, flour, butter, piping tips, and time.

Today I’m grateful for community. It’s not just that I don’t mind what happens, but that I feel safe, connected… protected. I feel part of a whole. I’m grateful for Joseph with his solar expertise talking me through a power crisis; grateful for the safety net around me if my house loses power altogether; grateful for mind training that lets me breathe through that possibility. The tribulations of others give me such perspective that I can truly count my blessings and be grateful for every day that doesn’t end in disaster, or disastrous regret. Even a day with householder crises or disappointment in myself is better than what most people on the planet have to get through.

The general human condition of suffering, resistance, denial and delusion aside, so many individuals I know, or know of, are suffering. A neighbor experienced a terrible accident. He’s lucky to be alive, lucky his home didn’t burn down with his ‘son’ inside. Another friend set up a donation page. Friends shared with friends this link, and by day’s end the initial goal was met. But why stop there? We all know the cost of living is high (as the church sign down the road says), “yet it remains popular.” We rally to support each other. None of us is alone. I’m grateful for community.

It’s why I moved here thirty years ago, and has turned out to be so much more and deeper than Grand Avenue connections, than small tribes of like interests, than geography. Community in this valley extends four dimensionally, maybe five, through time and space, and the complex fields of emotional connections.

“You live in such a beautiful place,” my friends said today when they visited, and that’s only what they could see with their eyes–without the perspective of time, without the texture of ups and downs, of challenges, joys, successes; heartbreaks, losses, conflicts; redemption, aspiration, compassion, unity, and support for one another. I’m grateful for the warm tapestry of community. I’m grateful for virtual friends suddenly brought to life in four dimensions!

I’m grateful for this beautiful day for a picnic, for the hardiness and adaptability of us humans, and of dear Stellar; grateful for another day spent with this unique sentient being, experiencing his Buddha-nature, and the skillful clarity of his trans-species communication.

Putting the Garden to Bed

I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed before the first snow today at this elevation, which continues after dark lightly frosting every leaf and limb white prior to the first real freeze. I started a week ago, and have been whittling at it for a few hours each day. I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed after a thrilling season. The counter is loaded with the last ripe tomatoes, tomatillos are all put up in the pantry, heaps of parsley are distilled into pesto and frozen cubes; rattlesnake and runner bean pods dry in large paper bags; eggplants and carrots fill the fridge. I’m living the dream.

I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed with tips and tricks from gardeners online. I’ve hung tomato vines to ripen in the upstairs room, beside pepper plants with wrapped rootballs. Some gardeners advised misting the roots, while others just left them dry. I compromised with a quick twist of plastic bag to prevent them from instantly desiccating in this climate, maybe giving the peppers a bit more nourishment as they redden.

I’m grateful for another day with my little helper, covered in snow. Like in the movie Awakenings, he is transformed with drugs, and like those patients he will eventually relapse into inevitable decline. His resilience astounds me. He wants to be alive.

Scarlet Runner Beans

All summer they provided nectar for hummingbirds. I planted them for the flowers, and they’ve never produced many beans in previous years.

But this year, though they began to bloom late, they did make a lot of flowers, and eventually a lot of big beans.

Today I pulled them all off, prior to the coming freeze. I read that pole beans should be harvested before a hard freeze, and most of them were already mature, though not dry on the vine. I do NOT remember the beans being this scrumptious berry color. I’ll dry them on a tray until the pods are tan and the beans rattle in them, then spread the beans out to dry further before storing in a jar. I pulled all the pod beans today, including the last prolific rattlesnake pole beans. I’m grateful for a day spent putting the garden to bed, another day with an enthusiastic dog, another precious day in contemplation, and I’m especially grateful today for scarlet runner beans.

This Sweater

I’m grateful for this sweater that I’ve had for so long I don’t even remember where or when I got it. Decades ago, for sure. It’s soft old cashmere, and feels like a hug. When new, it was for dress up. It’s got a few small holes, and always slips off my right shoulder; now I can only wear it at home alone. Every now and then I put it in a pile to give away, but I always pull it out to wear before I get that pile packed off somewhere, and decide again to keep it.

I’m grateful for this old dog I’ve had for so long he’s falling apart, too. But remarkably, though his incontinence continues unabated, his spirit and strength have improved with the magic of prednisone. He once again has a good walk in the morning pretty consistently, though he fades by evening. Back from the brink! How long this rebound will continue is, of course, uncertain; like everything else in life. We seize the day, each day.

Self-Compassion

Grateful that Stellar made it to the canyon rim another time… wondering if this ‘dying’ story is all in my head… knowing it isn’t, and patience is essential. Choosing to place my attention on the joyful times we share in a day, rather than the ongoing signs of decline.

Yeah, I behaved poorly… Years in the making, layers of labels, resentments, dashed expectations, “different world views,” and a final cascade of events and emotions…. “It was justified.” Still, I behaved poorly, and I’m grateful that I can have compassion for my old sorry self who used to let her mental stories lead her way, and still takes me over, though it’s been a long time…. I’m grateful today that I can observe the processes of “my” mind as I reflect on all the layers of this event, and of how it came to be. Though I’m not clear yet, I’m grateful for mindfulness skills that can help me at least know the possibility of clarity, feel the grace of self-compassion, and aspire to forgiveness.

Grateful for this happy place, this garden, and for living at the edge of these mountains, inside the kaleidoscope.
Grateful for the ongoing gift of rattlesnake pole beans…
…For knowing, finally, how to tell when these weird little cantaloups are ripe: a yellowness comes over the rind when they’re ready.
Grateful that Stellar once again made it to the canyon rim this morning…
…that he made it home again, through the day again, to help me water the marigolds, and inspect the harvest.

It’s hard not to think in terms of last: is this his last walk to the canyon? his last drink from the hose? his last night? his last day? I’m grateful for all this painful awareness, reminding me constantly of what a constant companion he has been for almost fourteen years. And he still is, though it’s so different. He would still fight to the death to protect me, if he could move fast enough. I’ve remained the ‘parent’ as he has gone from infant to elder before my eyes, in no time at all. The challenges of this, too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. Death is certain, time of death uncertain.

Grateful to bring in the last of the harvest today, save a few hardy greens that will come in before the hard freeze mid-week: The threat recedes in both intensity and time. Paltry zucchini, ample green tomatoes, the last few okras and rattlesnake beans, and the single solitary purple pepper that grew this year. Grateful that nothing ever stays the same, and that I’m learning to trust and be kind to myself as I surf the sea of impermanence.

Angry Monk

This monk is pissed off! Bottled water in Tibet these days: He’s tying together plastic, pollution, greed, and climate chaos, with his personal experience growing up in Tibet in the 70s and 80s, when you could dig fifteen feet underground almost anywhere and be rewarded with pure, fresh water. Tibetans would have laughed at the idea of paying money for water! These days, he gesticulates, bottled water everywhere. The best thing you can do for the planet is stop buying bottled water. It’s heartbreaking, inspiring, delightful–miraculous, actually…

I’m grateful that I can be watching an actual Tibetan Buddhist master (who is 7500 miles from the roots of his tradition, and is actually present at the Yoga Tree down the road), from the comfort of my recliner twenty miles away, on the screen of a foldup super-computer. I’m grateful for the Yoga Tree and the Creamery, and all the other people in this valley and everywhere who make it possible for these monks from Gaden Shartse Monastery to travel to small towns with their ancient wisdom. It’s amazing that I am receiving profound teachings from a representative of a lineage going back to Gautama Buddha 2600 years ago. It’s technology, among many other things, that enables this astonishing connection. And it is technology, and our insatiable desire for more and better of everything, that has led to climate chaos.

“We all have responsibilities to be more content with our life and try to protect Nature as much as we can,” he continued, after explicating the six primary delusions of attachment, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt, and wrong view. We need to do the inner work to understand these issues, he taught, and from our balance will flow more balance for the world. A couple of people pointed out that we need to do something now, we don’t have time to rely on doing inner work.

“Recognize interdependence. When self-cherishing is reduced, cherishing of others will grow…. Start from yourself and then teaching your family, friends, near and dear ones,” he explained, “and one becomes ten becomes a hundred… like the coronavirus, this too will spread,” he said. It was a hopeful image, this goodwill for the planet and commitment to the well-being of all creatures great and small spreading exponentially like a virus, until, in my imagination, even our governments, our policies and laws, entire cultures across the globe begin to truly reflect the interdependence of all life on earth.

He concluded the lesson with this pearl: “Die without remorse, and your next journey will be great and fortunate.” I just wonder, where do we come back to in our next life if we’ve destroyed our species and much of the planet? Meanwhile, I’m just grateful when I can live one day without regret.

Mind Training

I’m grateful this morning that I didn’t get myself into a bigger snit this week, over a cascade of events that I experienced as aggravating and stressful. I lost my temper–but only a little bit–with the person I felt had put me in a no-win situation. I’m grateful for mindfulness practice for tempering my reactions throughout the experience, helping me keep a compassionate and friendly perspective, and for enabling me to let go once it was all resolved satisfactorily.

I’m grateful for the mind training I’ve engaged in this past year, which allowed me to recognize these worries as projections of mind rather than reality, thereby keeping rampant emotions in perspective. Frustration and resentment simply buzzed around my head like an angry bee from time to time, rather than dominating the field of love and serenity that Stellar and I have been cultivating during these last precious days together. (How many now? Ten? One? Another month?)

I can’t imagine what a mess I would have been two years ago in the same situation. Actually, I can imagine, and this clear awareness is so much easier; this letting go so much healthier. The angry bee has flown, ravens chat nearby, a sweet fall breeze stirs leaves and flowerheads. Stellar lies on his bed in shade beside the patio table where I write, resting comfortably after two short wobbles around the breakfast loop earlier. I’m grateful for the new regime of comfort meds that have given us both more physical ease, and therefore peace. Perhaps these palliative measures may extend his life a little longer, I don’t know; but the important thing is that they are giving him a better quality of life, whatever its duration.

I’m also grateful for an impressive carrot harvest. Time to bake some carrot muffins!

Letting Go

I might as easily have chosen to highlight my gratitude for the Bibiliofillies, but I am grateful today for letting go. I’m grateful for the capacity to quit reading a book, or watching a show, or otherwise removing my attention from one thing and turning it to another. This is the very essence of mindfulness, the ability and willingness to choose where we place our attention.

Tonight, the Bibliofillies met on zoom to discuss our month’s selection, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, which we read awhile ago. The latter was a work of fiction; tonight’s subject, an academic analysis of numerous classic Russian short stories, and the arts of writing, and of reading. (I can’t tell you how many stories, because I didn’t get past the first chapter.) A few fillies loved it; some were almost neutral; the rest of us, well, to say we despised it would be an exaggeration, but needless to say the various opinions made for lively discussion. This is why I’m grateful, at least once a month, for the Bibiliofillies.

I bristled at the author’s (a middle-aged white man) initial assumption that he knew what I was thinking. From there it went downhill. Though I did find some redeeming features in what I read, I did not want to keep reading, one of Saunders’ essential criteria for a successful short story. My perspective aside, (for what does it matter anyway?), having this safe place to express it, laugh about it, adapt it, is… priceless.

It’s essential to adapting to be able to let go. There is so much to let go of every single day. I’m grateful that I can let go of attachment to ‘my’ point of view more and more often these days.

Life is so much easier now that I’m simply letting things be as they are, instead of trying to control them. I also used to bristle when people told me, “You think too much!” Turns out they were right, but for the wrong reasons. And if I didn’t hang onto an emotion, I couldn’t consider that it mattered. Letting go was never easy for me. So I clung to, among other things, my own judgements, expectations, mistakes; I harbored grudges, fed them with repetition. Michael was right: I did have a ‘victim mentality.’

Death is certain, time of death uncertain.

I’m so grateful that I’m learning to let go, of everything. Emotions can actually flow through, and that doesn’t make them less real or less valid. The faster I let go, the faster I learn the lesson. The lesson I learned this month was that I don’t have to finish reading every book, or watching every episode of every season of a show, or a movie to the end. I don’t always need to know what happens next: as in a bad dream, I can take my attention by the hand and walk away. I can choose where to spend my precious attention. I don’t know how much I have left. I’m grateful for letting go of things that don’t nurture me.

I’m grateful for the salutary effects of prednisone, which have given Stellar new strength to walk to the canyon. Today may have been the last time; or maybe not. Living in this strenuous uncertainty requires focus almost as complete as blowing glass: anything you drop could be catastrophic.
Stellar was excited to see his buddies at Boyz Lunch today, as they were to see him looking so lively. I’m grateful for the option of gently, comfortably, letting go of this magnificent life that has graced my own for nearly fourteen years. And grateful for the geezers, too.
I’m grateful for endless cherry tomatoes from the garden this summer; grateful to still have the stoneware bowl my mother made fifty years ago that holds them; grateful even so to know that if the bowl one day breaks I can easily let it go; and grateful for the imminent relief of letting go of garden maintenance, as we approach a hard freeze six nights away from now.