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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.

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 ♥️

But Still…

Today I’m tired, and I’m sad about Stellar, and I’m disappointed in myself for not finishing an assignment. But still, I’m grateful. Grateful for another day with my dear old wobbly dog, grateful for the red tulips and the white grape hyacinths, and the rare conditions of my life that allow me to have time to meditate; grateful for the teachers who inspire me in every sense of the word, literally reminding me to be grateful for each breath.

I’m grateful that yesterday was not the last time we got to walk to the canyon together. We both hobbled down there this afternoon, and he did pretty well considering how weak he was last evening. He seems pretty strong in the morning, but as the day wears on his back legs seem to wear out. Each day is another opportunity to practice equanimity, to release attachment to the inevitable outcome.

This Tree

Today I’m grateful for this tree, on our usual path through the woods. These ancient junipers frequently remind me how short my own lifespan is compared to theirs, and how much shorter the lifespans of the dear companion animals we love. I’m grateful that I woke up alive this morning, and Stellar woke up ambulatory, and we got to walk to the canyon rim again today, right past this tree that’s been my friend for almost thirty years. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to do that again together.

By sunset, poor Stellar walked like a reeling drunk, and sat down twice on a short loop. Not on purpose. His back legs just collapsed under him, the way they did that one time last winter in deep snow. This evening he was able to get up on his own and hobble forward. But in these last days of his (how many more?) how will we go on if he can’t walk? I’m grateful that I can contemplate this possibility with some degree of equanimity. Every day of the past three months since he made it to 13 has been gravy; every day of the past couple of years since his decline began has been a bonus. I’m grateful that I’ve had the wherewithal to tend him with such devotion, that he’s had the devotion to keep going with me, that we’ve had almost a year together since we lost Raven. My heart breaks at the prospect of waking tomorrow – or the next day, or the next week, or month – and finding him unable to move from his bed. I don’t know what I’ll do. But for now, I’ll go back and snuggle him a bit longer before I head upstairs to sleep. We’ll know more later.

Stellar a few days ago at the edge of the pond.

Water

Stellar is grateful that it’s hose time again. He loves drinking from the garden wand, and I’m grateful he’s here with me to enjoy it again this spring.

Have I mentioned water? I can’t mention it too often, nor can I be too grateful for the clean cold water that flows from the West Elk Mountains hither and yon and eventually into my cistern.

Today I watered all the raised beds, only a few segments of which have any seeds in them yet. It’s time to attend to watering daily, to make sure carrots and greens germinate, and to ‘prolong snowmelt’ on the borders and bulb beds. Some of my garden beds thrive in spring with ‘artificial snow,’ so different from what ski areas make. In this case, simply watering as though snow were continuing to melt, from the actual last snow (possibly last week) into June, enables these beds to thrive. Then, come July, I can ignore them for a month at a time, until fall, when I begin the snow season early for them. These are the beds where spring bulbs grow, and then hardy summer perennials well adapted to the harsh dry conditions here. More about them later.

I watered these spring beds, and a couple of other beds, as well as the raised beds. If I don’t keep water on these garden beds from now on, they’ll desiccate in no time. So I’m grateful for water, to have a steady supply for the moment at the twist of a knob, as much as I and my garden need for now. I’m also grateful for finding lost things. Today, I set my glasses in a pot while I was working in the shade, and only missed them for a couple of hours. Yesterday, I found them face down in the pink gravel path. It’s time to start cultivating mindfulness in the garden, as well as bulbs and seeds.

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.

This Owl

I was texting with a friend just now who lives near Boulder. A friend in DC had texted me. We were all feeling sad for the world.

Is there a meditation for that? I wondered.

I woke this morning feeling as flat and grey as the sky, and that was ok: it was neutral. I accepted the internal clouds and gave myself over to a day off. I need one every week or two, the more the better, and it’s been a hard-pushing ten days. Just internally. Not like I’m out breaking rock. I felt sad for the world and everyone in it

(Except for me, suddenly. And for once, I didn’t feel altogether guilty; I felt grateful.)

Stellar rose from his bed.

Get up, I told myself. I turned my attention to what the night outside might hold: the waxing moon overhead, sky deep cerulean, an evening star, a soft shifting cloud palette of blues and greys. Stellar sometimes likes to linger by the door. I want him to walk with me for several reasons. I started around the south end of the house and heard a Great-horned Owl calling to the north. Suddenly energized, I stopped, listened, again, again, the same call, hoo-hoo hoohoooo… 

I first think to call the owl to stir Stellar’s jealousy and bring him to my side. He’s been known when I’ve talked with owls before to sidle up whining, throw himself on the ground, and roll. If I’m talking to an owl or a tree or anything else in the garden too intently, he used to do that. No more! Either he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t care, he knows it doesn’t matter, or… Still, I hope to bring him to my side, so I echo the owl’s call. Then I think, There’s no reason I can’t call him in, too.

I’ve always believed in Dr. Doolittle, assumed though that I could never really speak to the animals; but now, as I spend more uninterrupted time alone, I reconsider… I had phoebes practically landing on my shoulder last summer. The owl hoots again, after a pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… another pause. I call back. A pause. He calls again. A pause, then I call back. Then a long silence.

He soars in from the north woods, skimming juniper tops, dark and silent, big, wings outstretched he banks up, perches atop the tower roof. He turns his head and looks at me. I face him looking up, dumbstruck. For a full minute or two we observe one another. Listen, I caution myself, don’t speak. I open my chest and breathe, press my feet into the ground, looking up at his silhouette against the darkening blue sky. Breathe. Open.

I know how smart these owls are. Were I willing to feed him I could train him to come. Instead, I merely want to welcome him, assure him I’m a benevolent force in his world, offer him my home, shower him with my attention, awestruck. Only connect. This is my moment with the Divine. I stand silent, hands in pockets, opening my heart and life to him.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… In sync with the rhythm of his call he fluffs and twitches his tail upward, posturing, seeking, watching me. A pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo, I reply. He registers my response, then flies off to the south and disappears.

Did I answer right? I don’t know quite what I said to that owl, but I know it had to be nice. I could hear it in his voice as surely he could hear it in mine.

“You belong.”

The owl feels our pain, and sings his own loneliness.

Cousins

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese buttercream frosting, shared virtually today with Cousin Jack for his birthday. I’m grateful for this cousin who has been unfailingly kind to me since we were little kids, and he was pitching a softball I couldn’t possibly hit, so he rolled it to me, and I actually ran a base because everyone watched stunned when I actually knocked it back past him. When he rolled that ball, it didn’t matter that everyone else was laughing at me ~ there was no judgment in his eyes, only kindness, in his an unorthodox effort to help me play the game rather than hang my head in shame.

Today I’m grateful, as I have been most Sundays since last summer, for my newfound, longlost cousins on my mother’s side. Cousin Jack initiated a weekly zoom call among his siblings and their mother, and kindly included me, Auntie, and Auntie’s daughter in his invitation. It’s been heart-filling to be back in touch with these four boys and two girls with whom I spent many special occasions through our growing up years. Sometimes my brother shows up, sometimes some of their grown children show up, and even young grandchildren. In each session, their mother Clara is there at 93 with tech assistance from granddaughter Amanda or one of her visiting children. In the first couple of months, Auntie Rita was able to attend also, even though for half of those times she struggled with the effects of her stroke.

But she was there fully for a few sessions before the stroke diminished her capabilities, and it was delightful to observe her and Aunt Clara speak together, sharing their thoughts and lives, their concern for each other, much as they had for around seventy years as sisters-in-law. Remarkably, these two women were born on the same day of the same year. And it was wonderful that Auntie was able to see many of her nieces, nephews, and grand-nieces and -nephews a few times before she died, and they her. For me, it’s been a real gift to feel connected to family again as I haven’t since my mother died. And I hadn’t felt connected to these grown cousins for decades before that, as we all went our separate grownup ways, and because I’d been branded a black sheep by their father, my Uncle the General: for my radically compassionate philosophy he considered me a communist, and said so, which is how I know.

Oh well! We don’t all ~ or even many of us ~ share the same political views, which has been a little challenging for me. But the camaraderie, the teasing, the humor and affection that we shared as children chasing each other around the grounds of the Distaff Hall, playing hide and seek in the Knoll House, sharing holiday dinners at one another’s homes, feels stronger than it ever did as we have all lived through enough of life to be tender and accepting with one another. The three siblings ~ a father and two mothers ~ that bind us as family have all died; only Clara remains, one mother among us, and they are kind enough to share. I’m protective of my time these days, but our Cousins’ Zoom is an event I prioritize each weekend, because it brings me such joy, and a feeling of connection I realize I have longed for since long before The Time of the Virus.

Also bringing me joy, on a daily basis, the health of the dog of my heart, Stellar the Stardog Son of Sundog, continues to stabilize after his episode last weekend, and he’s as excited and ready as ever when he hears the word walk.
Unrelated to this photo of a splayed old juniper (for which I’m grateful), I’m grateful for seeing the first American Robin of the spring this afternoon, hunting in the damp earth of the south yard.

Spring Equinox

Topaz after launching herself into a juniper during our walk this morning.

I’m grateful for cosmic equanimity on this day of equal light and dark. The harshest of winter is behind us and the harshest of summer unimaginable yet. Today begins the official sweet spot between extremes, a great place to dwell.

Most of the snow has melted with temperatures in the sixties the past couple of days. A good chance for a little precipitation almost daily over the next two weeks should keep the ground damp; grateful I won’t have to start laying out hoses til April.
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Just when the trail has started to dry! I’m grateful we got in some walks to the canyon during these few days between too-deep-snow-or-too-wet-mud, and more rain. Grateful for more rain ~ look how fast that mud is cracking.
I’m grateful for a surprise in the mail today. I finally admitted that I was never going to get around to making anything with the ancestral linens and laces I’d been saving for many years, and during my winter purge I shipped them off to a friend who creates clothing with such vintage pieces. She returned a couple of them transformed! Thanks, Gaythapie! I can hardly wait til it’s warm enough to wear it out. Except of course I can. No point in rushing ~ soon enough it will be hot and dry ~ Summer Solstice is almost upon us!

Itty Bitty Kitchen Ants

The ants are too tiny for me to get a picture, so here’s a little needle-felted hedgehog that I just bought for Topaz from the Snow Leopard Trust. Topaz isn’t grateful yet for this new toy, but I am, and I’m also grateful for the good work the Trust does on behalf of this magical cat and its surroundings, including human communities.

These itty bitty ants are back in my kitchen, and this year I’m grateful for them. Last year when they first showed up around the cat bowl, I didn’t mind, I’d take the bowl outside and knock them off; but then they started showing up on the kitchen counters as well, and I got annoyed. I don’t like to kill anything, even little ants, but before long I was sweeping them up with a paper towel, and sometimes smushing them on purpose. They just kept coming! Once I’d vented my frustration on them sufficiently, I started to think about them differently. Then they tapered off and disappeared over winter.

Yesterday I noticed a couple of them. Today there were more. Well, I had left dirty dishes on the counter, what could I expect? I’m grateful to the little kitchen ants for providing me incentive to get back on track with keeping the dishes flowing through the sink daily, keeping the counters clean and empty ~ removing the ants’ incentive to invade my kitchen. Thanks, itty bitty kitchen ants!

Speaking of snow leopards, I’m also grateful for this remarkable artist, Steve Nowatzki, whose work I discovered at an art fair in Florida a lifetime ago, and who is still crafting exquisitely haunting etchings reflecting human assaults on the wild world. Above, Melting Snow II.
I’m also grateful for cocktails at the pond (and for the great company) for the first time since last fall. It was 63ºF this afternoon, and only slightly cooler by happy hour.