Archives

Dominoes

I’m thankful today that maybe the first domino has fallen… I’m thankful for Crawford Area Indivisible, the community that bolstered my spirits and energy in the darkest time, and continues to give me hope today. And I’m thankful for all the activists in all the communities in all the states who have risen to the occasion and worked to bolster the democracy that five generations of true patriots in my family fought at home and abroad to protect.

Cloudspotting

This volutus, or roll cloud, forms over open water or ahead of a storm front. I saw one of these rolling toward me across the desert when I was driving west across Arizona on I-10 a hundred years ago. It’s an impressive sight. I could feel the excitement and awe of the people who witnessed this one in 2016 over Lake Michigan.

I’m grateful again today for the Cloud Appreciation Society, and the many thousands of cloudspotters who make up their community — our community. I’m member #58,480 and joined a year ago. I just renewed my membership for $34 and each morning, rain or shine, a cloud photo comes to my inbox from somewhere in the world. I’m dazzled by some of the images, touched by some of the stories or interpretations of the clouds, and always feel a moment of gratitude that there are so many people across the planet who are looking up. They send an occasional newsletter which included a feature today about the Volutus species of cloud. Here’s a link to a podcast they’re featured in. I haven’t listened yet but will tomorrow. I’m grateful that I’ve been cloudspotting since I was a kid, and still enjoy looking up every day, and most nights.

Wren’s DNA: Spitz

We know that in some species, genetic expression (epigenetics) can be influenced by events twelve generations back. It’s a helpful perspective in working with ancestral trauma in humans: A simple extrapolation confirms how relevant ancestral genetics can be in comprehending inherited canine traits and behaviors. Today I saw in Wren her heritage from the powerful spitz-type sled dogs of the Arctic, coming from both her Pomeranian and American Eskimo components.

Wren is made of seven breeds. I am still excited and grateful to know this, and have been dipping into deeper research on each of them, and into the origins of those breeds. This gives me a map, of sorts, of the world of dogs, dogs of the world, and learning their histories gives me deeper understanding of the each breed. I’m grateful for a glimpse into Wren’s DNA, the fascinating web of interbreeding it reflects, and the technology at my fingertips to explore the implications.

AKC has short, delightfully informative, videos on many of Wren’s breeds including Pomeranian, which I looked up first, since it makes up nearly half of her DNA. Then I looked up Australian Cattle Dog, twenty percent of her DNA and much of her behavior. Altogether, these seven breeds, and their progenitors, contribute to her physical traits, behavioral character, personality, or d) all of the above. Through exploring them, I gain deeper understanding of all the facets of this charismatic, energetic, perfectly agreeable, eloquently communicative little creature who loves routine as much as I do.

Patience

My breakfast table has been taken over by potted plants! Now that I’m using the cactus shelf of the light stand to grow seedlings, they had to join the bonsais on the sunroom table. I don’t know where I’ll put the orchids when I need the top shelf also. I’ve got three trays started including leeks, onions, snapdragons and some other flowers, eggplant, and a few types of peppers. I’m grateful for patience, which today helped me to dust the sunroom from ceiling to window frames, since it’s still too cold to do much outside–at the end of March! Seems like an extra long winter…

Wren’s prescription for a happy life is to be as cute as possible.

Wren and I listened to a short TED talk this evening by Shankar Vedantam, journalist and host of the podcast “Hidden Brain,” in which he explains how we create our future selves, and advises we take charge of the process: This is a fundamental principle of mindfulness practice. His prescription is to stay curious, practice humility and be brave. I’m grateful that there are so many wise teachers out there in the world that find their way to my living room, including those I know personally.

This was one of the most delicious quick meals I’ve ever made: Almost Alfredo Garbanzo Beans. I saw the recipe this morning, and happened to have everything in the fridge, freezer and pantry. A half batch took about half an hour to cook up and could not have been more satisfying. Oh my, so simple, so delicious.

DNA

The verdict is in, and it makes so much sense. We knew Wren was part Pomeranian, but wondered about the rest. One of her vets guessed miniature Aussie and came darn close. The Australian cattle dog explains both her speckled feet and propensity to herd the cat, and the deer, and me. I can really see that breed in her. I don’t know much about miniature pinschers but find that part interesting.

As for the Supermutt percentage, I’m grateful I finally have the pit bull I’ve long wanted, as well as the poodle. And I’m not surprised there’s a little chihuahua in her, as that’s what her other half was billed as; nor am I surprised that it’s only a small percentage of her genetic material. She’s never really struck me as much chihuahua.

I’m grateful for the science and the top-rated doggie DNA company Embark that made it possible for me to know more about the little mystery dog that came into my life last year.

Local Seeds

The first mini irises have been up for a few days. I’m so grateful to see them!
I’m always grateful for a simple cheese sandwich.
…and always grateful for a little hug.

I made it to town finally to buy peas. I’m grateful that our local store, the Hitching Post, carries local seeds from the fabulous High Desert Seed & Gardens. “We’re done with Burpee,” said Sherri, “they don’t care where you live.”

High Desert seeds are tested and grown for high altitude and dry conditions right down the highway in Paonia now, after starting a few years ago outside Montrose. During a mild break in a day of chaotic skies, I got the pea trellis assembled and a whole package of Magnolia Blossom snap peas planted, just in time for more moisture to soak them into their bed.

And after a cold and busy day, a bowl of warming cod with butternut squash sauce was the perfect comfort food. Mine doesn’t look like the recipe, because I started with puréed squash and the fish fell apart, but it was so simple, so delicious.

Clean Sheets

I frequently mention that I’m grateful for my cozy bed. It’s nothing special. No sleep number scientific mattress, no fancy duvet cover, no frills. It took me a long time to acknowledge and develop preferences with regard to fabrics and textures. But I finally allowed myself luxury in my bed.

Part of it was my mother in her last year of life saying sadly that she’d only ever slept on white sheets. We instantly bought her some gold satin sheets, and a hot pink cotton set as well.

I’m grateful for lilac-colored eucalyptus sheets, a long body pillow in a cotton case, and a silk pillowcase, on a soft mattress, in a safe room, in a solid house. I’m grateful that most nights I fall asleep easily and sleep well through the night, and sometimes enjoy a vivid dream life. I’m grateful for my bed. I’m grateful for climbing in between those freshly line-dried clean sheets, and no, I don’t iron them.

The Journey

“When I got a review back for a paper in Science, one of the reviewers wrote “it’s at the 6th grade level.” I sent that review on to Alan [Alda] and he wrote back that it was the nicest compliment I’ve ever received. For my presentations, I give the same talk and show the same slides whether it’s a lay public audience or a science/medicine group of attendees.” ~ Eric Topol, Ground Truths, March 13, 2023

When I read this, I experienced a flash into an alternate universe, where instead of spending my nest egg on 35 acres of relatively wild forest, I used it to attend the science writing grad program at UCSC where I had been accepted. That was 31 years ago. 

In this flash vision, I had graduated from that program with the credentials to follow one of my passions, understanding and communicating developments in science to the general public. In that universe, I had an exciting career that took me from the panda nurseries in China to the Australian outback and Great Barrier Reef, from the shrinking glaciers of Greenland to the drying Great Salt Lake in Utah. I had interviewed some of my idols including Anthony Fauci, and when the pandemic struck I had become a meaningful voice in translating its rapid public health implications for lay consumption, just like Eric Topol. 

Oh well. The flash was over in an instant, washed away by a wave of reassuring recognition that I’ve lived a good life, and come to a place of contentment with internal balance, loving friendships, and meaningful work. Things could have been different, but they weren’t. My choices, along with conditions I had nothing to do with, led me to this place, and I’m grateful for the journey of discovery, continuing to pursue the question I’ve been asking since I settled on this beautiful wild land: Who am I, and how did I come to be here?

Greening

Wren goes to the bank. Treats ensue.

It feels so good to spend a little time in the garden. Not much, it barely broke freezing today, and I had to shovel a path to get inside the raised beds. But when I pulled the heavy plastic off the wire cage I’d set up to pre-warm soil for spring, I was thrilled to see lots of little green weeds sprouting inside. It’s time to plant carrots and peas, maybe garlic, frost hardy crops that can get a head start in the heat cage. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned about gardening, all the teachers locally and in books and online, and for the greening of the land that’s beginning again.

Citizen Science

Overnight, rain, ice, then a light snow frosted the apricot tree.
Life’s simple pleasures: the cheese sandwich

I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate in a citizen science project with the Michael J. Fox Foundation, by signing up for the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative. There are enough categories that anyone can do it. I registered in ‘a certain age’ group with no symptoms or diagnosis; my brother who’s been recently diagnosed registered in the ‘anyone 18+’ group. He’s doing great with medication. There’s also a category for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s but not yet taking medication. There appears to be a link between loss of smell and certain degenerative brain diseases.

This study involves a ‘smell identification test’ which they mail to you, along with a pencil. You get four booklets with ten scratch n’ sniff patches in each book, use the pencil to scratch the patch, and then identify the smell to the best of your ability. Some of these were easy and a lot of them were hard. Kind of smelled like one thing, kind of like another, sometimes not like any of the options. But you have to fill them all in, so you take your best guess.

It was really fun, but awareness of chemical scent residue lingered in my nose for hours, even after a brisk walk up the driveway in driving wind. I was glad it was trash day, and pitched the booklets in the garbage can once I had entered the data online. It was very thorough, leaving no room for error, going through each page of each booklet one at a time, and then checking your answers at the end of each booklet. It felt good to contribute to this research to try “to learn more about how brain disease starts and changes and how to stop it.”

I won’t ever see the results of my test, so I won’t know whether that one patch was supposed to smell like watermelon or motor oil, cloves or apple. But I do think that my sniffer is in pretty good shape, as almost all of the patches smelled like something that was on the multiple choice list. I encourage you to check it out, have some fun, and contribute to this admirable effort sponsored by an admirable foundation started by an admirable and courageous man.