Archives

Mindfulness

Look at all those ripening scorpion peppers!

I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that has transformed my life over the past couple of years. In January 2020 when I decided to get certified to teach meditation I had very little understanding of mindfulness. I just knew I was being called to something. I’m grateful that circumstances unfolded in such a way that I immersed myself in the study of mindfulness and came out of a yearlong training qualified to share its benefits with others.

I’m grateful to be participating in a mindfulness retreat this weekend celebrating this year’s graduating class of certified teachers in the Mindful Life Program, and grateful for deepening relationships with mentors and colleagues.

Perspective

Smoke haze from wildfires far west of here mutes the mountains and clouds the canyon air. What was once an occasional occurrence is now the new normal for us here for at least part of every year. Today, the past few days, it’s been a mild haze. Grateful for each day that I can still breathe outside this summer; we’ve been more fortunate than many this year.

Thinking about time, today, in the context of “the rest of your life.” No matter how long that is, such a short time! How long did it take for this little canyon to take its present shape? Many many human lifetimes. How long has this Ancient One been growing on the canyon rim? Seventeen human generations at least, especially since in the first dozen or more of those generations human life expectancy was more or less forty years (mostly less). I’m grateful for this perspective, which helps me to appreciate the precious insignificance of my own uncertain lifetime. I’ve already lived longer than most humans for most of human history. I’ll be grateful for all the ups and downs, the gives and takes, that landed me here, in this old arid land, for the rest of my life. I’m grateful to be able to share this place with good companions along the way.

Birgitt

Truly the best poundcake ever.

I’ve done it: I’ve reached my limit. I can’t upload anymore photographs without either deleting some older posts, or upgrading to a more expensive plan. I cannot make a decision about that now, and maybe not tomorrow, or even the next day. We’ll know more later.

What I do know today is that I’m grateful for Birgitt, the Nurse Practitioner at Delta Health Pulmonary. She spent well over an hour with me this afternoon, listening attentively, exploring options, and explaining what might be going on and what steps to take next. I have been diagnosed with moderate COPD, without much further explanation. How did I get this? Was it from being raised in a home filled with second-hand smoke from birth til eighteen? Was it from forty years of light pot smoking? Was it from living with particulates from thirty years of woodstove heating? Was it chronic bronchitis for a few years when I lived in Florida? Who knows? Maybe we’ll know more later.

Birgitt said she prefers not to do too many tests to examine the potential causes, but to look forward to investigate potential treatments and mitigations. My paraphrase. I’m on some sample inhalers to see if that improves things, and she drew blood for a CBC, and had a cheek swab to check for a genetic type of COPD. My neck was measured for an overnight sleep test at the hospital–I didn’t even wanna ask what that was about! And referrals were sent for the sleep test, and to a different oxygen company to see if we can finally get me night oxygen. I’m grateful for her kind and deep attention, and to finally have a short answer, and another advocate committed to helping my breath improve. I know that I need to be my best advocate, and get more exercise, and step up the daily pranayama practice. Time to knuckle down and take my health seriously again.

“Get your head out of the clouds,” as my mother would have said. How she laughed when my old friend Thelma told her I had such great common sense. I’m grateful that I’ve had the common sense to avoid Covid so far, knowing intuitively and physically that my lungs can’t afford that kind of infection. I’m grateful I have supportive friends who understand this, and now that I have this diagnosis, maybe a few more of them will finally get it that I just can’t get it. I’m grateful this arduous day is over and I can go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. Wishing you a good night’s sleep as well, and happy breathing.

Change

I think this little girl’s world has changed a lot since spring. I wish I knew more about where she came from and what her life was like before. I’ll probably never know more later, but I’m grateful that she is expanding her horizons, and I’m stretching along with her. She’s only been to the canyon a few times, but now I’m under doctor’s orders to walk there daily again. My habit of doing that changed last fall when Stellar could no longer make it that far, and then he was gone and it was winter, and cold and snowy, and I didn’t want to walk down there alone anyway. We live where lions live, which I’m also grateful for; but I don’t want to be walking alone among them. So Wren and I are girding our loins for the short hike down there daily. Even though she is small, she is alert and will let me know if there’s a big cat on the horizon.

I’m grateful for change. It’s wonderful to know that nothing stays the same. Everything uncomfortable will also go away, even as will everything lovely. I’m grateful that I’ve allowed my tastes to change over the years. When my mother made Bread & Butter pickles every year for the St. Alban’s church bazaar, it was fun to help. I was too young to slice, but I liked packing the sliced cucumbers in ice. One time the Colonel cut his finger slicing them and there was some concern about where the sliver of skin ended up… Maybe that’s why I never liked to eat them. Eew. I loved dill pickles but sugar and onions? Forget it. Now, they’re my favorite kind, but that may be only because I’m making them myself with cucumbers I’ve grown. This recipe I’ve used twice this summer is so simple, so delicious. The pickles are crisp, sweet, and spicy. Sometimes I load up a tiny bowl for a snack mid-afternoon, and sometimes I incorporate them into a meal. Today, I made the most delicious sandwich on a toasted croissant with avocado, Havarti, and pickles, with lots of mayonnaise of course. My love affair with mayo? That’s one thing that will never change.

Pain Relief

On top of or underneath her bed, Wren can sleep anywhere in any position.

I’m grateful that neither my car nor my house ever got egged–until now! And even so, that it wasn’t a malicious act by miscreant youth, but an unfortunate accident. I parked under–just barely under–a tree this morning when I went to see my favorite PT for a little body work. I’m grateful for her, for her kind, nonjudgmental attention to this challenging corpus, and her strong hands and wise mind; and grateful for the pain relief I get for a little while after seeing her. Also, I’m grateful that she lets me bring Wren to our sessions, and that Wren is a pretty good little girl while we’re there, settling eventually onto her bed–after she reassures herself that PT means me no harm. Anyway, we got in the car, and I noticed a yellow streak down the center of the windshield. At first It thought maybe it was sap, but realized that it was egg yolk–and there was a tiny smashed egg at the top. But it was too late, I was already driving home. I resisted the impulse to turn on the windshield wipers, anticipating that that would just make a worse mess. After I got home, I hosed off some of it, then scraped the hardened yolk, then scrubbed the residue with window cleaner. Now I have a shiny clean windshield. I’m grateful that my first thought was compassion for the birds who lost their egg, and that even as I cleaned it off I didn’t resent nature or anyone else for the trouble, just felt bad that a little bird won’t be born.

After returning home, I microwaved a home-frozen burrito and topped it with sour cream, homemade salsa and hot sauce, and avocado. I was grateful for this simple, delicious, nutritious lunch, as I am for every bite of food I have the luxury and luck to enjoy.

Planting Seeds

Here I’ve tipped over and pinned the arugula stalks, in order to open sun space over the carrots beyond, and to allow self-sowing of any little rockets that pop out of the drying seedheads. In between I planted rows of flowers I failed to get started this spring. If they make it, great; if they don’t come up, oh well.

I’m grateful that the monsoons are truly upon us, even though there’s been precious little moisture on this mesa. The foothills are getting some rain, and we a bit farther west are getting humidity and clouds. This helps the plants and ground (and our skin) retain some moisture, and keeps the temperature down in the 80s and even 70s for much of the day, a welcome respite. Wren helped me plant some seeds this morning, anticipating a midday shower though none came. I resorted to a watering can to set flowers, lettuces, cilantro, and two varieties of carrot seeds into the soil, grateful for a forecast of moderate temperatures and increasing chance of precipitation over the next two weeks. I’m grateful for planting seeds both in the garden, and in my heart and mind: seeds of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and equanimity. What we water grows.

I’m grateful for this beautiful Sirenevyi sweet pepper harvested this morning. I used half of it along with some red onion, basil, oregano, and ricotta cheese to make stuffing for the four blossoms the zucchinis offered up. After sautéing diced pepper and onion and chopping the fresh herbs with the herb scissors I mixed them up with a pinch of salt and pepper, stuffed the flowers, and put them in the fridge for later.

Then we did some other things for awhile.

And then it was time for a late lunch. I had awoken achy and queasy, and optimistic for rain, so I cancelled Boyz Lunch. It was a hard call. It turned out to be for the best, though it never did rain. I was forced to eat the fried blossoms by myself. No shortcuts this time! I made the batter with one egg, a third cup of flour, and a quarter cup of 7-Up. The recipe calls for beer, but what it wants is the bubble action, and the soda worked fine. The smooth thick batter clung beautifully to the flowers and fried to a golden light crisp.

I mixed a dip with some mayo and sour cream, and a splash of Penzeys Arizona seasoning. I added some chopped celery and mayo to leftover cold pesto pasta, garnished with some sliced avocado, and enjoyed another simple, virtuous lunch. It brings me great pleasure to prepare simple, delicious meals, even just for myself. Like many single people, I used to think it wasn’t worth cooking for one. It’s been a long road to learn that I deserve my love and compassion as much as anyone else does. And it’s been a joyful journey learning how to make the most of simple ingredients and techniques, leftovers, and effortless aesthetic touches. I’m grateful I’m finally learning to care for myself.

Reading

Little Wren occasionally interrupts my reading, but I don’t mind…

I just love reading. I’m grateful that I learned to read when I was three, and that I have loved to read ever since I could. I’m grateful for the SRA reading program I still remember from grade school; though I don’t remember much about it except that it was color-coded and I sped through it faster than any other kid in class. Remarkably, after fifty-five years I still remember its initials, though I probably never knew what they stood for until I just looked it up to fact-check myself. I’m grateful for the Bobbsey Twins and The Borrowers, for L. Frank Baum and all the Oz books, for Narnia; for Charles Dickens and The Three Musketeers and Anna Karenina, and for goddammit Thomas Hardy: I threw The Mayor of Casterbridge across the living room one time when I was home from college. I’m grateful for One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’m grateful for Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich and Chinua Achebe and hundreds of other great novelists. I’m grateful for stories and the ability to read them.

“I long ago abandoned myself to a blind lust for the written word.”

An Unnecessary Woman ~ Rabih Alameddine

I haven’t been reading as much the past couple of years as I used to all my life, but have found myself in recent months falling back in love with reading and devouring one story after another. I’m grateful for used book stores, library book sales, regular book stores, school book stores, Amazon, paperbacks, hardbacks, holiday book exchanges, mailing books we’ve read back and forth with Chris and sometimes other friends, and for my Kindle paperwhite. I’m grateful that I can check out tangible books from a library ten minutes away, or check out a library e-book online. What a world!

I love reading, especially fiction: I love stories. Loving stories is also why I’m grateful for streaming services and the gazillion options for visual fiction. If I could, I’d do nothing all day but immerse myself in stories. But I can’t so I won’t, and I’ll just be grateful all day every day that I know how to read, and have access to way more stories today than the most obsessed bibliophile could ever read in a dozen lifetimes. So many books, so little time.

Sunset

Another evening walk to the west fence, on top of a full and restful day. I’m grateful for this sunset, and hope to savor many more with my little friend. What a dazzling array of clouds and colors. I’m grateful for the support expressed by several readers in response to my post yesterday, one of whom shared a lead to this column about BA.5, the latest Covid variant sweeping the nation. Feeling less alone in my cautious solitude today, thank you! I’m grateful for other ways to connect than in person, and grateful for the vast, magnificent sky and its reassuring perspective.

Friends and Neighbors

What kind of pie is this?
It’s not a pie! It’s banana bread scones, made in the new scone pan. It wasn’t the best recipe to inaugurate this pan, because the instructions to cut and bake on an open tray allowed for crisping all around the edges of each scone. But I didn’t figure that out til the pan was filled and the scones baked. They were delicious anyway: a cross between a drier, crunchier scone and a cake-like banana bread. I was grateful to share them with friends-and-neighbors at vespers over the holiday weekend.
And what a spread they put on! A cornucopia of snack foods, cheeses, crackers, fruits, meats, chips, and individual bowls of salsa for each of us. They respected my precautions though they are over the idea of Covid themselves, just done with it as are so many people I know, despite the fact that the virus is far from done with the human species.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that my Covid release is lagging far behind that of my friends and neighbors. Most people I know have gone back to their business as usual lives, sometimes wearing masks for certain activities, but largely letting go of pandemic precautions. Even those who have been infected with it once, or those who are at high risk because of immune deficiencies or other conditions, have extended their activities out in the world far beyond my comfort zone. As a result, many people I know who avoided infection during the first two years have gotten sick in the past few months. Most of them have been vaccinated and boosted, and have gotten so-called mild cases, though quite a few of them were sick for weeks even so, and many have lingering long-covid effects from low-energy to brain fog and skeletomuscular aches and pains.

This creates some complicated emotions in me, and I’m slowly sorting those out. I’m grateful that I enjoy solitude, and have many years of practice choosing it over extroverted engagements, so being alone comes naturally to me. And all the causes and conditions in my life preceding the pandemic led to me being well set up to survive and indulge my penchant for solitude, in this beautiful homestead sanctuary, with plenty of community support. I’m grateful for all of this.

And I find myself bristling or cringing–judging or twinging with envy–when I hear the extent to which the few people I trust are safe enough for me to be around are in fact regularly exposing themselves to potential infection from Covid or even just colds or flu. I’m grateful that (except for that possible food poisoning a couple weeks ago) I have not been sick since the pandemic began. That tells me that masking when I must go out, and as much solitude as I’m able, are healthy for me. I can accept the choices of my friends and neighbors, and choose my own exposure to them accordingly. I’m grateful for this equanimity and wisdom, but it’s getting harder to hold onto as the ‘business as usual’ paradigm becomes a widespread new normal, and I start to question and judge my self-protective instincts. Complicated emotions.

I’m grateful that the network of interdependent co-arising that over decades and perhaps lifetimes has woven the safety net I live in right now holds me within a comfortable illusion of security. I’m grateful, too, that I know nothing lasts forever. This allows me to make the most of the precious, beautiful moments of each day, without fretting about what comes next. I’m a different person than I was five or 25 years ago; I was always seeking this sense of peace and contentment, and mindfulness practice has allowed it to arise and stabilize in me to a great extent, no matter the external circumstances.

Grateful for a gorgeous summer day and a walk to the rim with Wren’s brand new very best friend Phoebe and her person. She loved having a friend her own size to dance with. She was so excited to show her distant cousin around and ran multiple laps of zoomies through the woods on the way to the canyon. There, her little friend walked boldly to the edge, showing Wren how it’s done, so she stepped out of her comfort zone a little bit too, venturing close to the edge and even starting down below before I stopped her.

Pranayama

This picture has absolutely nothing to do with Pranayama, but it’s too cute not to share. I’m grateful Wren feels so comfortable here.

I mentioned pranayama the other day, and I’m grateful for it again today. Another wonderful class this afternoon on focused, intentional breathing to raise chi in the body. I definitely feel more energetic after doing this practice. I’ve been forgetful about adding it into my daily mindfulness routine, but hope to do better this coming week. I’m grateful that my dear yoga teacher came for a visit after class, and we sat outside and talked about pranayama, meditation, the January 6 hearings, and many other things. I told her about The Good Liars and their subtle/not subtle satire at the NRA convention a couple weeks ago. I’m grateful for intelligent comedians, and their refreshing perspectives, a breath of fresh air if you will, in congested times.

Little Wren definitely picks and chooses her friends. My DYT didn’t even have treats in her pocket, and Wren took an immediate liking to her.