Funny how our expectations and standards change as our conditions change. Stellar had a really good day, and got a long walk to the canyon this morning, and a medium walk around the sunset loop this evening. Some years ago, this wouldn’t have seemed like a big deal to me, but after the past year with him, and especially the past few months, it’s momentous. I’m grateful that he had the mobility for two walks today.
And in between Stellar’s two walk, there was a lot more to be grateful for, including a little bit of actual rain. Not more than a couple of minutes, but rain nonetheless; again, changing standards. In this climate induced drought, even a trace of rain and a cool breeze is something to celebrate. There may have been a rainbow, or trace of one, but it was time for me to come inside for … Zoom Cooking with Amy!
Today’s lunch: a fried mash of black beans, garden onions, portobello mushrooms and one farm-fresh egg on corn tortillas, garnished with sour cream, homemade hot sauce, avocados, bacon, and garden cilantro. Oh, and of course cheese melted down there on the bottom. So simple, so delicious!
When I was growing up there were a few foods that were rarely if ever served in the house. One was beans. I ‘didn’t like’ beans for most of my life, or thought I didn’t. Once I was out of that house, I’d eat them occasionally when they were offered, and like many people, felt discomfort with the after-effects. But because nothing stays the same, including our food preferences, I eventually acquired a taste (and tolerance) for beans. It helped to learn how good they are for the body, all that fiber and protein. I’m grateful I learned to love beans, and I eat them a couple of times a week: black beans, garbanzo beans, bean salad, refried beans, anasazi beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, pinto beans, bean stew, bean chili, I even made beans on toast recently after reading someone who loved that. It was ok, I probably won’t do it again. But all the rest of those beans, I can’t get enough of them. I am grateful for beans!
I’m grateful for another Boyz Lunch today, outside on the patio, hummingbirds flitting through, Stellar lying next to John, John’s hand on his head; grateful for these and other friends who accept me just the way I am, and through the years have supported me in my ongoing exploration of how that is, as it changes (like everything does, always, ineluctably); grateful for people who have loved me through my many incarnations in this lifetime; grateful for a safe habitat in which to spread my wings.
Oh, and watch for a bunch of canaries in the Pioneer Days Parade on Saturday! I’m grateful for Ellie, Mary, Suki, Brad, Danielle, Kim, Ana, Kathy, and everyone else who has chipped in energy, time, money, and creativity to create and support the countywide, non-partisan Canary Committee in their efforts to bring attention to the extraordinary drought affecting our particular habitat in Western Colorado, and the dire need to conserve water.
I’m grateful to finally harvest enough lettuce from my garden to feed friends, for Gosar’s sausages (available at Farm Runners), for Cousin Bill’s reminder of how delicious roasted cauliflower is, for Penzey’s Justice that Amy introduced me to, and for the ease of a salad made with canned beans: so simple, so delicious! I’m grateful for another day alive in this body aware of all the sensory pleasures life offers, and for learning the mindfulness skills that enable me to experience each day with gratitude and meaning.
I’m grateful that just about the time I had depleted my savings account after paying over $500 a month on premiums for a health insurance policy with a six thousand dollar deductible, which I frequently met, the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed, and I became eligible for Medicaid. After paying my taxes into the system for forty years (and many tens of thousands of dollars in premiums and deductibles during that time), I felt no qualms or shame in taking advantage of the opportunity to sign up for Medicaid. One remarkable aspect of having accessible healthcare that I wasn’t expecting was the sense of relief: no more weighing dollars and sense when I needed medical attention, I was able to just go get it. Such a load off!
And, like many rural healthcare systems, ours in Delta County relies heavily on patients with public assistance such as Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA to keep its hospital and clinics afloat. Perhaps because of this, or because of their big hearts, I’ve never felt any stigma or shame at any of the facilities where I’ve been treated while on Medicaid, and I kind of thought I would. Furthermore, I’ve consistently received the best quality healthcare of my life during this time. And, I never could have afforded physical therapy in the past–I tried a few times, and just couldn’t pay $100-$200 for each half hour of PT, so never pursued it. And PT over the past five years has literally saved my life, or at least my quality of life.
I’m once again embarking on a course of PT to address the unpleasant limitations of degenerative spinal arthritis, in this case in my neck, which is causing nerve impingement that results in numbness and pain variously in my neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers, and which is beginning to seriously infringe on my daily activities, including working at the computer. Not to mention gardening, knitting, reading, sleeping, and more… So I’m really grateful for the TLC and help that I benefit from as a Medicaid recipient.
Sometimes I hear people (including my own family and friends) condemning perfectly decent people like me as freeloaders and leeches, and I know they have no idea that I’m one of those ‘losers’ who ‘take advantage of,’ or worse ‘steal,’ their tax dollars. I don’t respond, because let’s face it, there still is a stigma attached to government assistance. But we all get government assistance in some way, whether it’s public education, or highways, or police and fire protection; we are all interdependent upon each other, we all pay in to the system to the best of our ability, and we all deserve quality, affordable healthcare. As long as Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and Big Medicine continue to operate with profit as their highest value and motivation, there will continue to be people just like me who find themselves in need of a little compassion from our government. Let there be Medicare for All!
I stopped into Farm Runners last Saturday to pick up some mushrooms, they have lovely fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Nearby in the cooler were a few packs of quail eggs. Quail eggs! Never have I ever. So I grabbed (carefully) a package, knowing I’d come up with something to do with them for Boyz Lunch.
A dear friend ended up coming by on Monday so I made her a burrito with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and mushrooms, with fresh wild asparagus on the side, and tested the timing for a soft-boiled quail egg. I’m grateful that Farm Runners also offers these 12-inch tortillas (a foot wide!), that I had Bad Dog Ranch happy-chicken eggs, homemade hot sauce, and that neighbor Mary gave me a big bunch of wild asparagus when I passed her out picking on my way to town. I’m grateful that Nancy came for lunch and a walk and a heartfelt talk, and let me experiment on her palate.
So for Boyz Lunch today, I boiled the remaining quail eggs (for two minutes), then scooped them into ice water to stop the cooking. A couple of them floated on top, and I recalled that with chicken eggs that means they might be bad, so I pulled those out early, and later fed them to Stellar, shells and all, after cracking them open: they smelled fine, and he was almost as ecstatic as Philip and John were when I served them this starter plate.
Above and beyond the culinary delights of this day, I’m grateful for good friends old and new, for great neighbors, for all the opportunities, connections, and experiences in this singular day that will never come again; grateful to have waked up alive, made the most of the day, and be heading to my cozy, clean bed right now.
Grateful for another Wednesday, to wake in the morning, make meaningful connections throughout the day with people human and otherwise, and come to the end of it still alive, free of regret, filled with contentment for the simple joys of a regular Wednesday.
I’ve gone on about the cheese sandwich before, and I will again. It’s the ultimate lunch food in my humble opinion. Inspired by last week’s offering from Epicurious, I’ve been trying a new grilled cheese each day for the past few days. Today’s was especially good. I sautéed some onions, then tossed in the baby greens I’d just thinned from the garden; I added this mix to provolone and avocado in the cheese sandwich and grilled it.
Today, of the many things I’m grateful for, the perfect grilled cheese sandwich is right up there. Also grateful for more flowers blooming, more bees coming to them, and just the merest splash of a rain shower.
While I try to be ‘self-sufficient,’ at least as much as a human can be in this interconnected world, I still really appreciate help. This morning Mr. Wilson brought a helper, Juan, and together we all got a whole lot done in the yarden. We started out by trespassing on the land next door, to liberate an old juniper from a former fence. The poor tree had been tangled in barbed wire for so long it had grown around some of it. I’d already pulled some coils free of the bark but it took the young men to untangle the wires completely and cut them off where they’d been absorbed into the tree. We salvaged two vintage fenceposts from the mess to use in the next project.
Another salvage operation: the old old shed in the dog pen that was here when I moved in almost thirty years ago, but was badly leaning with a rotten roof by now. They took off the old roof, straightened the shed, and braced it with numerous old posts, and will finish the job next time. I’ll have a shade structure for more garden work and storage, and Stellar and any future dogs will have a safe shed over the old old dog house, which was already old when Thelma gave it to me in 1994 – but so well constructed it’s still perfectly sound. The cardboard boxes will carpet the ground under wood chips as a ‘natural’ weed barrier.
I couldn’t do any of these things I’ve done today without the help of other people. I like to think of myself as self-sufficient, but when I really pause to examine everything good in my life it all comes back to education or assistance from other human beings. I don’t know about you, but I really am interconnected with everyone else. I rely on help from others for everything from the luxury of yard work to the fundamentals of feeding myself. I’m grateful to recognize this truth, and it motivates me to want the first question I ask in any situation to be How can I help?
Of the numerous things I’m grateful for today, including wise teachers and more tulips, I’m grateful for Boyz Lunch. I didn’t raise a family or even marry. There was never anyone I always had to cook for. Without cooking for children (the hasty routine breakfasts day after day, the packed lunches, the weeknight dinners week after week after week for years), I never got in the habit of three meals a day. I’ve just recently learned to cook for myself consistently. But I’ve always loved to cook for other people.
For about five years I’ve been cooking lunch for two friends, older gentlemen, or as they would say, geezers. They were meeting at a restaurant once a week; things changed, I started cooking, and enjoying the meal with them. The last time we dined together without masks was March 11 last year, the day before the country shut down. We put it on hold for a few months as things settled out, and in June we resumed lunches at a distance outside. At our first lunch back, our dear friend Michael was supposed to come too, but he’d been by then two days in the hospital; our next lunch we spent processing the news that he’d died that morning.
We met the rest of the summer two or three times a month and into the early fall while we could still eat outside. But then the big freeze came, killing so many fruit trees in the valley (as we learned this spring) and Boyz Lunch ceased for winter. What a difference a year makes: Many of our trees are dead from that fluke October freeze, including my almond tree. Some of our friends are dead. Many of my beloveds are dead. So much has changed, and I think, I hope, in a beneficial way. We need to learn to live more lightly on the planet, and this novel coronavirus woke many people up to that truth.
We zoomed sometimes through the winter just to stay in touch, and today I am so grateful that we finally got to gather again outside, around the table, without masks, all of us with some supposed level of immunity. Recently our zoom conversations have focused on drought, and we circled back to that again today. Where would we choose to move if we had to leave here because of no water? John said, “I don’t have to think about it because I’ll be dead.” Philip and I concluded there’s really nowhere on earth we’d rather be. Where will the climate refugees go when it starts being the US southwest? They’ll go northwest, or northeast, north for sure where there will still be water. But we’ll stay here because it’s home, and take our chances. Then we started talking about The Water Knife…
I’m grateful we still have water. I’m grateful that we all made it through Covid – thus far. I’m grateful for the conversation, which is always interesting, and reassuring to me in an odd way. I’m grateful for the friendship, support, and help with firewood. And as much as anything about these lunches, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make delicious food and serve it to people I love who thoroughly enjoy it.