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Feeling Fine So Far

I was grateful this morning that Stellar and I walked to the canyon in beautiful early light, grateful for the conditions of my life, and his, that allow us to do this most mornings.
I was grateful this evening that my spooky cat let me hold her on my lap for awhile, down at the pond.
I was grateful in between for a healthy salad with chicken and ‘poison fish’ croutons.

And I was grateful in between morning walk and salad that the second vaccination went smoothly and efficiently, there and back again, and grateful, by the way, for the science and the scientists that prevailed in record time concocting a vaccine for this dreadful virus that continues unchecked in a global pandemic. Not so grateful for the county official and a few other volunteers at the vaccination event who wore their masks below their noses, as casually oblivious to the science as the maskless customers at the hardware store the other day. I’m grateful that I’m feeling fine so far, just a little arm twinge and a little brain fog; fine enough to make pizza for dinner and grateful for that too! I’m grateful for every little thing in this good day.

And I’m grateful that new spring bulbs keep blooming every few days.

Second Shot

When life gives you cold coffee, throw some vanilla ice cream into it and enjoy a whole different experience.

I’m grateful for having a freezer that runs off of solar power that I can keep ice cream in, as well as many other staples. I’m grateful for coffee beans from Brazil, roasted and ground in the next town over, and mailed monthly to the box at the top of my driveway, and grateful for all the people along the way from the coffee growers to the mail lady and everyone in between. I’m grateful for help in the garden, and my good dog and cat, and waking up each morning in a cozy bed. I’m especially grateful tonight that I’ll be getting my second Covid vaccine tomorrow morning, and grateful for all the people from start to finish who developed it so fast, tested it (and let it be tested on them), manufactured it, shipped it, stored it, and will operate the vaccine pod tomorrow. If I don’t show up for a few days, chalk it up to a vaccine after-effect, and I’ll be grateful that I’m able to lay low and let it go at whatever pace it takes.

I continue to be grateful for the lovely red tulips with their gorgeous green foliage that brighten every day they bloom in.

Old Age

I’m grateful for another morning walk to the canyon rim, and for the last vestiges of ice in Ice Canyon, its melting portending full on spring.

I’m grateful today for the love and empathy that’s come my way from people reading recent posts about Stellar. We saw the new vet today, and her report is that he’s in tip top shape – his blood work is perfect, “not even a liver enzyme out of place” – except that he is losing control of his back end. Which we knew. It’s just getting precipitously worse recently. We made it to the canyon again this morning, and I got him in and out of the car twice, and he loved the ride to the vet in Delta, and he loved visiting with the vet, and now he’s sleeping the sleep of the – well, of the 103-year old dog who’s had a big day. Yes, that’s his main issue, he’s about 103 years old. I’ll be grateful to make it to any number of Old Age.

I told the vet, “He’s directionally deaf,” and she said, “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.” I said, “He’s losing some vision,” and she said, “Of course he is at his age.” I’m grateful for this good news about my old dog: it relieves some anxiety, thinking now that I don’t have to be thinking of how soon I might have to put him down, but instead can just think about whether we’ll have to invest in a little cart to help him get along. As long as nothing else is wrong with his huge ancient body, and his heart, mind, and soul are healthy and happy, I can relax and enjoy his good company for as long as the most of him holds out. I told the vet today, as I’ve told many people, “This dog is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my whole life.” In so many ways, that’s the god’s honest truth.

Full circle: I walked here 29 years ago with a big male dog, and met this tree who encouraged me to stay. That dog is buried under the cairn in front of the Ancient One, as Stellar stands to her left, encouraging me to come on home and make his breakfast.
By popular demand, here’s the recipe I used for the Big Soft Ginger Cookies in yesterday’s post. I’m eternally grateful to neighbor Mary for sharing with me this indispensable comfort food. I LOVE how she annotated the recipe! I’m so grateful for good neighbors ♥️

Zoom Cooking with Amy: Waffles + Mochi

Tomato in Drag lip syncing for her life

Oh, please let this be the new Sesame Street, the new Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the new the rest of those zany educational children’s shows that hit the big time afterwards. Please let ‘Waffles + Mochi’ be the new culturally-defining kids’ show! Drag Race meets the Garden!

We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”

What even is mochi? Auto-correct wants it to say ‘mocha,’ but it’s not. Even after looking it up it doesn’t make sense in my world view – some kind of rice. But this is what this show’s about: expanding the world views of children everywhere; children of all ages. Fearful people might perceive it as a threat to some single thing they hold dear, like skin color, pizza recipes, or language. But anyone else, a person with compassion, curiosity, and wonder at the miracle of life on this planet, a gardener for example, couldn’t help but be charmed. This show brings together all my favorite values. Good food (food that is healthy for us and for the planet), color (a dense rainbow of colors), self-inquiry self-discovery self-acceptance, curiosity, compassion, tolerance, love, nourishment, reverence for Life… and gardening! The transformative power of knowing where your food comes from.

Chef Samin Nosrat teaches the puppets that tomatoes are fruits…

From a ridiculous premise – give it a few minutes – it develops into an utterly charming exploration of food and food as metaphor. Guest stars Samin Nosrat and Chef José Andres add expertise and enthusiasm to episode one, teaching the puppets and some real kids about what makes tomatoes a fruit and a vegetable, and how to know where they belong.

… and Chef José instructs the puppets on the uses of tomatoes as vegetables.

Amy and I aren’t actually cooking this weekend, what with one thing and another, but we did FaceTime happy hour this evening. She reminded me that I meant to watch this show I’d read about, so now I’m doing it. It’s camp, it’s creative, it’s comedic, it celebrates real food, from the POV of an odd-couple of frozen puppets who dream of becoming chefs. Along with these novices fresh out of the frozen foods section, we (children of all ages) learn all about tomatoes in the first episode, and a little bit about how to think of our own belonging. In the second episode we explore salts of the world.

I’m no social scientist or education specialist, but my evaluation is that eventually this show (along with decriminalizing marijuana) could actually facilitate world peace. This world’s new crop of humans, the children of the Covid generation, could, with the loving guidance of wise, open-hearted elders, change the paradigm and bring humanity back into harmony with the planet, through a healthier relationship with food. I’m grateful for this clever, heartwarming show and its message of interconnection, well disguised as a frolic through the world of foods.

I’m also grateful for this ancient juniper on the canyon rim, and for still having the agility to get down below it for a portrait.

Compost

It’s nothing fancy, but does make use of old palettes and works quite well for recycling waste scraps into dirt.

I’m grateful to be learning the art and science of composting. I still don’t put in the time and effort required to get multiple servings each year, but I always seem to get a good few cartloads of nutrient rich dirt for the simple effort of cycling all my food scraps and garden ‘waste’ through a series of three slapdash bins. This morning as Wilson was turning the contents of the two outer bins, in varying degrees of decay, into the center bin to start a new cycle, he found the ancient moose antler I’ve been wondering where it was. Before he closed the bin Stellar took a strong interest in it, but we all decided to leave it to further break down adding more minerals to the mix. I’m grateful to have help in the garden this spring, to do the physically challenging chores while I supervise and get to enjoy the lighter work, like raking spring cleanup clippings into piles to add to the compost bins.

The three bin system works really well. I put rough stuff in one, medium stuff in another, as I clip and cut back and prune and rake, and keep a third pile active adding kitchen scraps and fine material like rotted leaves, old potting soil, grass clippings, etc. When the active pile is full and has sat for awhile, we turn the top layers over into one of the other bins until we reach good compost in the lower part, and that second bin becomes the active pile. In this way, the active compost rotates through all three bins as it goes through its stages of decomposition, eventually leaving a deep layer of compost in the bottom of each bin. I’m no expert in compost – there are probably thousands of how-to websites and videos available – but the system I’ve evolved works just fine for me and my little garden. It’s so gratifying to dig down into a pile and find buckets of rich garden amendment, scraps transformed into dirt like magic, to nourish the garden beds. Healthy, living soil is the foundation of a good garden.

I’m also grateful for the grilled cheese sandwich I made after spending the morning working in the yard. I used provolone and havarti with mayo and pesto. The only thing better than mayonnaise on two sides of a sandwich is mayo on three sides! I’ve finally caved to the idea of spreading mayonnaise instead of butter on the outsides of the sandwich. On this one, I used a layer of pesto inside with the cheese, and spread a light layer on the outside of one piece of bread, then covered that with mayo. Then grilled it slowly in a small iron skillet over low heat until the cheese was melty and the pesto had crusted on the outside. So simple, so delicious! A good hot sandwich after a cold morning’s work outside.

Another Day

One tiny monarch crocus hard hit by the last storm, but more buds emerge.
The first grape hyacinths bloom in the blue bed

I’m grateful for oncoming spring in the garden, and for precipitation that keeps nourishing the tiny bulbs pushing their flowers up here and there. I’m grateful to see the first leaves emerging from the forest floor, though most of the green shoots are weeds; I’m not sure what this little red cluster will become. I’m grateful for another day walking with Stellar among ancient junipers sculpted by centuries of seasons and stressors. I’m grateful for another day sculpting myself by choosing where I place my attention.

Along the trail through the woods a little mystery emerges, about the size of a quarter. I can’t wait to see what this is!

I’m grateful for another chance to try my hand at orange sticky buns, which turned out just as well the second time. The dough seemed really wet and was hard to maneuver, and there was a little too much filling (as if!) ~ but they baked beautifully. Anyone who might happen to come to prune my fruit trees in the next couple of days, or to deliver groceries ~ and I’m grateful for anyone who might! ~ will surely go home with some sticky buns. I’m grateful every day for where I live, for so many reasons. I’m grateful for good neighbors of all species.

Resilience

Four inches of fresh snow this morning was mostly melted by midday. I’m grateful for spring snows, which bring lots of moisture, and very little stress compared to winter snows, knowing there’s no need to shovel or plow because it will melt soon enough. Grateful Stellar was able to walk this morning.

I’m grateful for resilience, his and mine. Stellar slid into another bout of inexplicable diarrhea that started yesterday morning but wasn’t conclusively an issue until after dark, as usual. Why does it always strike them at night?

I’m grateful that I remembered the potty pads I keep for Biko, and remembered my brilliant idea of a sheet path to the door in time to protect the rugs, and had a brand new case of paper towels on hand to line the path for the next run(s). I stayed up late monitoring the situation, then had to get up a few times in the night to let him out and clean up. I’m grateful I had Imodium in the medicine cabinet from the Shitstorm a year ago, grateful I remembered it was there, grateful it seems to have settled things by midday.

I’m grateful I had brown rice in the pantry, and a box of organic chicken broth, so I could fill his tummy and keep him hydrated.

I’m grateful for mindfulness practice every day, but especially today. Under the tender tutelage of Mindful Life Program founders Mark and Laura since last summer, I’ve been learning more about meditation, motivation, and meaning than I have in all my years of casual study and dedicated interest. I’ve begun to fully embody qualities like patience and compassion, which may come easily to some people but have taken me years of practice. I keep my attention trained, for the most part, on what matters, and don’t let my mind drag me off into what ifs or if onlys.

In this way, I was able to remain calm as the gravity of this episode sunk in, recognizing that it’s happened before, we got through it before, and he was just fine (as fine as possible with his bad back end) before; that it was likely it would resolve in a couple of days and we’d go back to our normal, peaceful routine. I was able to accept that this is how it is right now. Further, I had confidence that if all wasn’t well later, and his health took a dark turn, I could handle it. Resilience. So I didn’t fret, I got up when I had to, slept lightly, did what I could do to mitigate mess and cleaned up when necessary, all with unruffled patience and a heart full of unconditional love for my dear companion. I tended and rested through the day, and by evening, all does seem well, neither of us much worse for wear. I’m so grateful that I could hold this unfortunate event in perspective, respond appropriately, and still enjoy many aspects of a quiet, calm snowy Sunday.

While poor Stellar ate gruel, for example, I cooked myself a delicious huevo ranchero, including homemade tortilla, salsa, and hot sauce, and a Bad Dog Ranch happy chicken egg. Resilience allows me to rise to an unfortunate occasion and make the best of what’s left in a day.

Vaccination!

I’m beyond grateful today as Nurse Karen sticks me with the vaccination needle. Notice I’m not looking?

A year to the day from the last time I ventured willingly from my home, I got a Covid vaccination. On March 12 last year, I was reluctant to take Stellar to the vet in Montrose an hour away for his acupuncture appointment, but did so because it felt necessary, and I did my own grocery shopping for the last time before lockdown. We left the vet and drove to the south end of town to Natural Grocer, where half the energy in the store had an urgent edge, and the other half was blasé. Clerks, however, were wiping down the counter and the conveyor belt between each customer. There was no six foot rule yet, but some of us innately stood farther apart than normal. It felt very strange, new, superficial: these are the precautions we start taking today, now that we know this is for real. Already toilet paper shortages were beginning, and I loaded up on staples for Stellar and me: lots of grains, rice, quinoa, polenta; citrus for weeks; frozen meat; and chocolate, lots of good dark chocolate. I mean, forty dollars worth of chocolate, which felt extravagant, but turned out simply to be sensible.

This morning I approached the day with a sense of benign curiosity: what will it be like, today? From the moment I stepped out of bed, gratitude flowed. Stellar was fine, happy, and we walked the Breakfast Loop, ground still frozen but air barely cold, ideal Mud Season conditions. I led a meditation on Telesangha which people seemed to appreciate. When that was over, I gave Stellar a couple of Charlee Bear cookies and a second CBD chew and asked him to stay in bed, then set off for town. On the way out the yard I snapped the first cluster of Iris reticulata to open to spring. There was a redtail hawk on the Smith Fork nest, which thrilled my heart; a golden eagle soared insolently below a nagging songbird just above Hotchkiss.

I’m grateful for the volunteers and staff of the North Fork EMS, and all the support and comfort they’ve provided our valley during the pandemic. At Heritage Hall in the Fairgrounds, volunteers directed traffic to parking spots, and handed out paperwork to be completed in our cars…
…prior to entering the vaccination processing facility.
Vaccinator tables line the north wall of the building, and the crooked county commissioner welcomes each of us to the zig-zag line…
There is an oddly jubilant mood at the vaccination table: There is such benevolent warmth from the staffers, and plenty of smiles. There’s a palpable sense of relief, a subtle celebration, in the whole of the Hall.
A very thin needle and a slow injection ensure minimal discomfort going in, and after. Yes, my arm might be sore for a day or two afterwards, but the shot didn’t hurt a bit. Notice I’m not looking? Grateful Nurse Karen’s cohort across the table offered to take pictures for me.
Waiting at the back of the room. Nurse Karen sent me off with “Here’s your get out of jail free card, you can leave at 10:35,” with a sticker on the cardboard clipboard they sent me home with. I was grateful to be guided to the last seat at the back of the Hall, right by the open door. Grateful a couple of friends recognized me in my cap and mask and stopped to chat.
My vaccination card, clipped to my second shot appointment reminder, and paperwork to be filled out before I return.
Grateful to greet the crocus patch, welcoming me home after a fascinating journey to town. How they age, wither, and die, just as we do, and are reborn again each spring.

Tonight is Zoom Cooking with Amy. I slept most of the afternoon, slipping between naps, meditation, animal needs, and naps from one til five, thinking I might not have the energy for our date. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and felt compelled to lie down. It might have been ‘covid-shot fatigue,’ or the cessation of stress after a trip to town; it might have been the half-hour soapy hot shower when I returned, or the pure physical release of tension after a full year that the first vaccination afforded my mind. Any which way, I wanted to sleep til morning. But Amy, our plans, and Sarah’s peanut soup beckoned through the ethers. I’m grateful for Amy, and for the inspiration from Sarah for what is now in my recipe file as Sarah’s Peanut Soup.

The recipe calls for Red Curry Paste, but Sarah substituted Massaman. Philip couldn’t find Massaman at the grocery store, so I made some… toasted spices, roasted garlic, fresh sliced ginger, and a little coconut milk zapped in the food processor, et voila! Massaman Curry Paste. Turns out it’s like Garam Masala and other spice blends, there are almost as many recipes as there are households who make it. I mixed and matched three to get my version, based simply on what I had in the pantry. Shrimp paste is definitely going onto my shopping list. That may be the missing secret ingredient that gives Massaman its unique flavor. But my unique homemade blend worked just fine for seasoning Sarah’s Peanut Soup, and there’s plenty leftover for the next few culinary adventures.
Amyface toasting at the start of our meal. I’m grateful as usual for all the elements here: Amy, Zoom and its technological antecedents, peanuts and their controversial history in this country, the Victoria tortilla press I bought a few weeks ago and Bibi’s generous advice on how to use it for flour tortillas, random red wine and the friend who purchased it in Grand Junction months ago; grateful for Apple laptop and all it took to get here from the mainframes of the nineteen fifties; and grateful for the friendship of Rosie and Chris, and the beautiful handblown wineglass they gave me for my fiftieth birthday twelve years ago, which only comes out of the cupboard on special occasions, like Zoom Cooking with Amy.
I’m grateful for and dumbfounded by the fact that I can photograph Orion from my front porch with my effing telephone, down to the multiple star complex at the tip of his sword. I mean! In addition to this daily gratitude practice, I further commit to sitting or walking outside after full dark each night until the next spring equinox. I’ll take a few minutes out of my busy life each night to remind myself where I am in the universe; what is my exact location and my inexact insignificance.

It was a great day! So much happened, big and small, here in this little slice of the world I inhabit. I’m grateful for every minute of this day in which I got to be alive.

Chocolate

Have I mentioned recently that I’m grateful for chocolate? And not just any chocolate, though I’ll eat just about any chocolate as long as it’s dark enough. I’m grateful today for Equal Exchange chocolate, grateful that I could order a box online for less than it would cost me to drive to a store and buy some, grateful for UPS Tom who delivered it (and everything else I order online and always leaves a cookie for Stellar), grateful especially for a company that embraces an alternative economy with emphasis on empowering farmers, fair trade, and environmental protection. I’m grateful to have access to quality products from companies like this that are committed to building a better world. One silver lining to globalization.

Mud

I’m grateful for this thing

I’m grateful for mud, as I’ve mentioned before, because in the desert, mud=life. We’re in such an extreme drought cycle that we can’t afford to complain about mud season anymore, probably ever. Let’s surrender to gratitude: we need every drop of water the skies can deliver – we always have in this region, it’s just more apparent recently. Topaz is too young to understand this, and she prefers to avoid mud. I’m grateful to have this cat who walks with us like another dog; I’m grateful for all the cats who’ve happily walked with me like dogs in this forest.

Here’s another reason to be grateful for crusty snow. It gives an alternative path to ice or mud. Stellar enjoys it too. Stellar also enjoys mud. He enjoys walking anywhere, anytime. He’s always been such a happy boy.
Where now shine crocuses there was recently just … you guessed it, mud. I’m grateful for ants. For some ecological reasons, but also, when I bent down on elbows and knees to examine a few little specks rushing in and out and around the petals, I discovered to my surprise…
… that crocuses have a compelling fragrance. I don’t think I’ve ever stuck my nose close enough to notice before. Thanks, ants.
Soon the south border will fill with color. I’m grateful for the first one open of all the little naturalizing irises.
I’m grateful for her agility.
I’m grateful for lunch, chicken and rice with ginger-scallion sauce. So simple, so delicious!
I’m grateful for another beautiful day with Stellar, for sitting with him in peaceful silence under the apricot tree, for walking with him in the mud…
…and I’m also grateful for this thing. After our morning walk I pulled it out of the mudroom, filled it two-thirds full of warm water, and plunged each of Stellar’s mud-clad feet into it one at a time, lifting them gently up and down for a few swishes til they were -sort of- clean, before I let him back in the house. I’m grateful he’s patient and good enough to let me do this. I’m grateful to Suzi for sharing her exciting discovery of this ‘right tool for the job.’ It’s truly a remarkable mud season accessory for the high desert dog owner.