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Equanimity

I’m grateful today for sunshine! The past two days have been gloriously springlike. Now that I’ve stopped the ice melting into the mudroom, it was time for me to get stuck in the driveway. We didn’t even have much snow, just ferocious wind for a whole day, and forty acres of snow blew over the banks and across my driveway.

I should have backed up the second I saw drifts, but it didn’t look too bad so I tried to punch through. A short way up I realized I’d never make it to the top, so I backed carefully down. But not carefully enough. Once the drifts gave out I was moving too fast and slid into a plowed bank. I left it and walked home for lunch. I’m grateful that it only took a text to a neighbor to get the drifts plowed–I figured once the drive was passable I could dig myself out and forge ahead.

He wasn’t able to plow til evening, and I was happy to wait til this morning to dig out. I was grateful to have the right tools for the job again. But sometimes even the right tools aren’t enough. An hour’s work with shovels, cardboard, and kitty litter, and I was a few inches deeper into the snowbank. I’m grateful for neighbors with tractors, trucks, and chains, and know someone will pull the car out eventually. Maybe tomorrow! I’m grateful for patience and good cheer.

I’m grateful for YouTube where I found a great hack for scanning old slides, which I took some time to do today. I simply held each slide up to the bright white screen of my laptop and took a picture with my phone. Not perfect, but not bad, considering they’re sixty years old or so. I’m grateful for the memories conjured by these old slides, and feelings of tenderness for my family.

Above, the little children are in Italy, I’m pretty sure, and below I think we’re in Holland, because that was my mother’s note on the envelope: slides – Holland, etc.

This might be the most pensive little boy ever eating ice cream.
And here, through the magic of film degeneration, we are immersed in an autumn wonderland somewhere in Central Europe.

Full circle back to snow, here I am with mommy and likely my first snow. Who’d ever have imagined this little tyke would grow up to rely on snow so directly, deal with it so intimately, and be so sanguine about leaving her car stuck in it for days. I’m grateful for the practice that allows me to hold with equanimity and love all the feelings I’m having today.

I’m also having some feelings about Covid, which are clarified by this excerpt from Eric Topol’s newsletter today:

“First, we sit at a very high baseline of daily Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the United States, over 25,000 and about 400, respectively. This is far beyond (double) where we were in June 2021, pre-Delta, when we got down to close to 10,000 hospitalizations and ~200 deaths per day. There’s still circulating virus (currently XBB.1.5) getting people infected and some of the folks of advanced age and immunocompromised are the ones chiefly winding up with severe Covid. The virus is finding the vulnerable people more easily since their guard is let down, abandoning high-quality masks and other mitigations, and the low rate of keeping up with boosters in the last 6 months (the age 65+ rate is 40%). There are about 15% of Americans (more than what many people think or have been led to believe), based on all the serologic data available, who never had Covid and are relying on their vaccines/boosters to avoid their first infection. Reinfections among the 85% with prior Covid are not uncommon and not necessarily benign. No less, the pervasive attitude is the pandemic is over, life goes on. That’s helping the virus find new or repeat hosts.”

Eric Topol, March 8, Ground Truths

French Toast

Thick homemade bread, local happy-hen eggs, whipping cream, cinnamon-sugar, butter, real organic Vermont maple syrup, all the people and effort and resources that went into getting all these ingredients into my kitchen just in time for me to make lunch today: I am grateful.

Junk Lying Around

A rude awakening from a leisurely Saturday morning latté, when Wren looked at the door funny and I decided to bring in some firewood. The mudroom wall was melting all the way down. I tried to absorb the leak with some brown paper which lasted a short minute before it got pushed away. Scrambling around I dressed to climb the ladder again.

After whacking away some more glacial ice, this time wearing insulated leather gloves so I could scoop it out of the gutter without frostbite, I revealed a piece of flashing extending from the main roof to the mudroom roof, designed to prevent this kind of problem, I assume. But with more than a foot of exposed seam between that flashing and the first gutter the design failed in this long, cold, grey winter when deep snow finally came. I’m grateful for junk lying around! The kind of thing rural people keep because you just never know when it might come in handy. This piece of broken drain was quite handy because I left it lying where it broke off, so in case I needed I’d know right where it was. I jammed it up to the flashing and wedged it under the gutter, and have stopped the leak for now.

This would have still been melting the wall if it weren’t dripping off the edge of the roof. Fingers crossed this fix holds until it warms up enough for Wilson to flip the whole pile off. He came by today to shovel the paths, and scolded me. “You shouldn’t be climbing up here and doing this,” he said. And then he scolded another friend for climbing out on her roof to mess with ice dams without her phone. “I always have my phone on me,” I reassured him, and he said “I feel better about that.” I was grateful that he cared enough to scold me.

At last the arduous outdoor work was done, and I settled into the recliner for a short rest, where I took the time to enjoy this lovely little vignette in front of me. Now I see the cobwebs on the chili lights. Oh well! A task for another day. Not everybody wakes up alive every day. I’m grateful I did, and that I made it safely through another one.

The Right Tools for the Job: Ice Dam Edition

A beautiful scene in the sunroom
An ugly scene in the mudroom… I noticed this leak yesterday. No wonder it smelled damp in the house. The original damage was done in a rainstorm during home construction in 1995, but I never patched the mud, just as a reminder of impermanence. I don’t look up enough, I guess! I didn’t notice the problem til there was water on the floor…
I’m grateful for the right tools for the job–or at least adequate. I should have taken a picture before I started working on it: there was a thick ice overhang of about six inches along the whole roof.
After some precarious balancing on the ladder and whacking with the maul and scraping with the shovel, I liberated the ice dam where I think the leak was coming through, right at the angle where the left gutter starts. We’ll know more later! And that was all I could manage. I’m grateful I still have the physical wherewithal to tackle a project like this.
After a hot shower (always grateful for that!) it was time for a snack and some computer work. I am grateful for retrospect: Once upon a time these jalapeño cheese puffs tasted hot to me. They tasted so bland today that I had to double check the bag to make sure. I’ve made progress on my ‘getting-into-the-hotness’ project over the years since I started trying to understand peppers.
While I wasn’t thrilled to see more snow falling this afternoon, it sure was pretty.

Deliveries

Midday Shangri-la

I’m grateful today for the impromptu party that happened in my driveway this afternoon when the Bad Dogs stopped by with a delivery from the Asian Market and the Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, at the same time the Honey Badger dropped off this takeout meal from Best Slope Culinary that dear Mary had picked up in town. It takes a village! Once again and as always, I feel so grateful for this kind community.

Chef Brant’s Baharat (7 Spiced) Roasted Squash with Crispy Chickpeas, Hot Honey and Yogurt was almost too spicy for me, but delicious for an early supper. The garlic hummus and soft bread was a great snack after a meeting, and I split the Blue Sky lemon tart for a dessert after each mini-meal. There’s enough leftover for some of each tomorrow. This chef grew up in the neighborhood, went out into the world for awhile and acquired mad culinary skills, and returned to the valley a few years ago, where he’s since made a fine name for himself. If you live around here or are passing through, take advantage of his changing weekly menu, and occasional popup restaurant.

An evening vignette between meals. Grateful for nourishing deliveries from friends and from Mother Nature.

the Long, Grey Winter

because we can all use some spring color about now…

It’s been cold and grey and windy for so long. And snowing off and on. I am grateful for the water, yes, and I am really looking forward to some spring color. Right before that first big snow a few weeks ago, the crocus leaves had pushed through the ground just a couple of millimeters. They’re drinking up snowmelt again and again under their late winter blanket. I really am grateful for that.

The does are hungry though. And my soul hungers for the sun. And it’s all fine, because each morning I wake grateful for a roof over my head, running water, coffee beans from foreign lands, fresh bread, cheese in the refrigerator. I cannot complain. And still, my soul hungers for the sun, snowmelt, green growing things outside and not just inside.

In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.’ A skillful life includes the ability to hold both sorrow and joy, pleasure and suffering, loss and gain, with equanimity. I’m grateful that this winter is giving me so much practice cultivating equanimity.

Also, in an act of shameless self-promotion, my podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts. It even showed up fifth in the search when I typed in ‘Suffer Less,’ which is a wonder for which I am also grateful. Please give it a listen there, or on Spotify or most other podcast platforms, and follow if you like it. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, ‘Fruits of the Practice,’ but I haven’t yet figured out how to link that to this blog, so just comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list if you want to receive that monthly. Yippee! I am making my dreams come true. This may be another gift of the long, grey winter.

Inside Outside

Two more views of the virgin snow the other day, followed by the plowed driveway today. So grateful for friendly bartering for services and goods in the neighborhood.

Grateful for warmth, color, and comfort inside, as I’m grateful for winter water outside. Grateful as always for a roof over our heads. And grateful for a sweet summery puzzle to do on these dark days, a rainbow of color and texture. Grateful to be alive, and have meaningful work teaching, and have a quiet weekend.

I’ll be teaching the Introduction to Mindfulness course live on zoom starting March 2, from 2-3 pm Mountain Time, only $50 per person for the four-week class. Get it while this price lasts, as I realize I can’t sustain it and will have to raise it some. Check it out and register here.

Snow Drama

It’s been a crazy couple of days of winter here, as it has in much of the country. I’m grateful when I wake on a morning like yesterday or today just to have a roof over my head, and a woodstove I can load with fuel to warm the house. And grateful for the luxuries of coffee, cinnamon rolls, and indoor plants. Snow blew so hard yesterday it stuck to windows it still hasn’t melted from.

The driveway drifted in dramatic waves so deep that I couldn’t make it past the trees in my boots, as it was still blowing and I hadn’t worn a scarf, and Wren was too short to get through the drifts once we passed the first few. I’m grateful as always for kind neighbors, and the feeling of connection that comes from knowing they’re just beyond the sea of snow if I need them.

Wren considers going outside in the midst of the storm and thinks better of it.

Teachers

For years I’ve had this idea of photographing this view every day and building a series called “Living Inside the Kaleidoscope.” I have taken dozens of shots through the years, but only in the last few weeks have settled on this framing and started sharing them. It feels good to finally be intentional, accidentally, with this project.

Another project I’ve been working on is a podcast about mindfulness. It’s not that I think I’m an expert or anything. It’s just that this practice has made such a positive difference in the quality of my life that I want to share it with others who, just like me, suffer from unhelpful or even destructive thoughts and emotions that derail our best efforts at living our best life. I’ve got the time, and a little more knowledge and experience than a lot of people, and so that’s the direction I’m turning my creative energy at this point in my life. I’m grateful for the teachers who have helped me reach this state of contentment, and there are so many.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been an inspiration for most of my life. When I consider that he fled his homeland into permanent exile in the year that I was born, it feels like he’s been with me my whole life. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is another lifelong inspiration. The movie of their last few years of friendship before the Archbishop’s death is now available on Netflix. Other teachers along the way include Mrs. Perucci, Mrs. Hanabury, Mrs. French, Dottie Olin, and so many other school teachers through the years, and then those whom I started learning from later, like Cynthia Wilcox, Catherine Ingram, Laura Bartels and Mark Molony with the Mindful Life Program, John Bruna with the Way of Compassion Dharma Center, Kristen Neff, Pema Chodron, and many others. All that I know except my own experience I have learned from these teachers.

I’m grateful to be able to share insights and observation, and examples of transformation in my life, here on this blog, and grateful for readers who enjoy, benefit from, and comment on it. I’m grateful to offer experiences and understanding in this new podcast as well, including a guided meditation with each episode. If you’re interested, here are some links where you can find it. Here is the RSS, whatever that means, which some people can open readily and some people need a special app for. You can also listen on Spotify, Google podcasts, a nice Indian website that was among the first to upload it, and on my retreat website, and it should be available on whatever podcast platform you use within the next few days, including Apple and Amazon Music. It’s called “Suffer Less… with Mindfulness,” from Mirador Eco-Retreat. Enjoy, and feel free to ask questions or offer feedback.

A Simple Repast

I was surprised by how delicious this simple meal was. Two cans of white beans rinsed and drained, four celery ribs sliced thinly, some chopped shallots and spiralized zucchini from the freezer, and a quick vegetable broth simmered from saved odds and ends in the freezer. Sautéed the celery in some olive oil first, tossed in the zuke, shallots and stock with some Penzeys Justice and Mural of Flavor, salt and pepper, a splash of Umi plum vinegar and stewed for about five minutes, then added the beans and cooked for another five or ten. It’s a NYT recipe that I both simplified and spiced up, then served with a pop of paprika on top, and a quick flatbread improvised from sourdough discard yesterday. It was definitely the most healthful thing I ate today.

It also gave me a good laugh! Talk about perspective. I was facilitating a meeting online from six to seven, wearing my hearing aids, for which I’m immeasurably grateful, and which sync with the computer really enhancing the auditory experience. At one point I heard Topaz growling/moaning in the background as she does before she throws a hairball, or when she sees another cat, and it was a little distracting but I kept on with the meeting without fretting. She came over for a head rub and lay down by my chair. Then I heard the sound again, still faint, and thought it came from outside. It almost sounded like a chainsaw whining in the far distance. Or a stray cat outside moaning and wailing. After awhile it went away and I didn’t think about it again until later, when I was off the computer and heard it closer this time. It was my own gut hissing and rumbling!

I’m grateful for the Monday Mindfulness in Life meeting where people come to meditate together, and to share some of their successes, insights, and challenges on the path. And I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to continue on with the meeting with equanimity, instead of jumping up to look for the source of the disturbance outside myself. With a little patience and awareness, the truth revealed itself, as is so often the case.