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Insects

I’m grateful for insects of all stripes and sizes, from the tiniest kitchen ants to the fattest bumblebee, the most dramatic dragonflies to the most humble butterflies, like the juniper hairstreak–which I’ve seen none of this summer. I miss them. Nor was there a single Mourning Cloak. Ironic. There haven’t been as many moths at night, either. Nor bumblebees, nor honeybees, and the very few dragonflies I’ve seen have been in the phoebes’ beaks. Come to think of it, there haven’t been as many spiders in the house as usual, just the same annoying black flies. And even the flies, those massive hatches that used to happen certain seasons, I’ve not seen for a few years.

I’m grateful that we’ve never had a huge mosquito problem here, and that I’ve never gotten a tick bite at Mirador. Grateful that fleas have never plagued my pets as they used to in Florida. But this recent dearth of insects has me horrified. I’ve mentioned a few times in past years that bees have come later than they used to, in fewer numbers. But with my all-too-human capacity for denial, I’ve noticed, mourned, and moved on to the next soothing delight. Flowers; what bees there are; chocolate…

I’m grateful that I’ve spent a year intensively cultivating equanimity, coming to terms with the future I’ve known my entire life was inescapable. I saw it in dreams when I was still in single digits. I’m grateful that since I was a child, I’ve been friends with most insects, saving spiders and flies from my mother’s swatter, carrying them gently outside; avoiding stepping on ants; refusing to pin butterflies. I’m grateful that through the years I’ve paid attention to insects, noticed and cared about them. I grieve the insect apocalypse for so many reasons. I weep for the wild world, large and small.

Mindfulness

While I can’t remember for sure who gave me this folding straw, I’m grateful for it. I was early for OT and decided to dash across the road for a chocolate milkshake at the Coaltrain Coffeehouse. I’m grateful for chocolate, and for milk, and for blenders that shake them both together. I’m grateful that as I stood there while the blender growled, and thought about the plastic straw problem, I remembered that I had the folding straw in my purse. As a mentor said the other day, mindfulness is really all about remembering.

A little dust never hurt anyone. I haven’t had occasion to think of the straw for at least a couple of years, and dug in the purse not even sure it was there.

Support

I am grateful for the first okra harvested this season, and hope my three plants will give me more.
I am grateful for the gifts my father gave me, his interests in gardening and cameras.

Above all, I am grateful today for the support of my friend who came to help me pack my old cameras and accessories, to ship to B&H Photo in New York. They take trade-ins of certain models, it turns out, and not just any old thing. I’m grateful that the sorting queen lives down the road, and she came to help me pack these trade-ins. It was a lengthy and complicated process, during which we enjoyed coffee and conversation, but finally she had the box packed perfectly. Every single camera I owned from the past 80 years or more was securely bubble-wrapped and precisely fitted into a large cardboard box. With the last of the packing tape, we sealed it and she hauled it to my car, for me to drop off at the PackShak in town.

Stellar helped, of course. And then I went online and shopped for the new camera system. I called to talk about my order and the trade-ins, and learned to my dismay that they only take certain models, not any old thing. And so I have to unpack the perfectly packed box, sort again into acceptable and not acceptable trade-ins, then re-pack a smaller box. But that’s OK!

She said when I told her, “It doesn’t diminish my satisfaction at having packed it perfectly at all that you have to unpack it.” And I said, “It doesn’t diminish my gratitude at your packing it, at all, that I have to repack it.” Despite the fact that it needs to be undone, it’s already half done; and I’m grateful for her cheerful, generous, efficient support.

And finally today, I am grateful for a 10th of an inch of rain.

Sunrise

Grateful to wake up to this view from my bed.

Literally (I don’t see enough of them, as a night owl) and metaphorically: sunrise on the next phase of this unpredictable journey through life. I’m grateful for another amazing day of retreat, and for the accomplishment of certification as a mindfulness teacher. So much gratitude!

And always grateful for the big Stardog, and the glory of the garden.

Sleep

I’m grateful the new little dog down the road has finally accepted me.

I’ve been so tired today. I’m so tired now. Some days are just like this. There were crazy drivers on the road this morning, and this afternoon. A large calf was running loose on the highway as I drove home from a Delta doctor appointment (all is well) with all the US50 detour traffic; and a huge flatbed truck that shouldn’t have been allowed on our little road came within an inch of scraping me into the ditch at the hairpin curve. For all the mindfulness training, I was frazzled when I got home, and I slept for three hours after lunch. Ever since I woke up I’ve thought of nothing but more sleep. Ok, that’s hyperbole, but it’s all I’m thinking about now.

I am so grateful that I am usually able to sleep through the night once I go to bed. I know so many people who can’t: who either just wake up way too early or wake up multiple times a night to pee, or can’t get to sleep for a long time, or never get to sleep. I’m grateful for sleep, for six, or seven, sometimes even eight hours of it, for the physical and mental restoration it bestows. I’m grateful I have a good bed in a sturdy house, and that I have the relative peace of mind to be able to close my eyes and rest my head and all the busyness within it for at least a good part of the night–and sometimes a good part of the day. I wish you good sleep. And if you have trouble sleeping, I suggest a Jennifer Piercy yoga nidra on Insight Timer to help you relax body and mind sufficiently to rest easy.

Awareness of Death

I’m grateful today and every day for awareness of death. The mindfulness program I’m getting certified to teach in encourages us to consider three thoughts upon waking each morning:

  1. We have an incredible life with opportunities and leisure that many others do not have.
  2. Life is impermanent – death is certain and the time of death uncertain.
  3. What is meaningful to you now, and at the time of death, what will be important to you? Is it all the things in your life, or is it how you responded to life?

Much of my life has been both hampered and motivated by fear of my own death, which has kept me from doing some things and colored my perceptions of others. Yet it’s also occasionally moved me to make courageous and fulfilling choices, knowing that life is short and I could die any minute. Between the wisdom of age and the Mindful Life Program I now have a healthier relationship with death. The knowledge that I’ll die someday, as will everyone I love, as will we all, death being an ineluctable feature of living, is no longer a motivation solely for big decisions like should I choose this school, should I move from this town, leave this job, should I buy this land, take this trip…. Awareness of death now shapes my values and informs my daily decisions, helping me choose wisely where to place my attention moment to moment.

I’m grateful for the teachers and students who have helped me explore the three thoughts over the past year, and for the delightful mug that was given to me today to remind me with every sip of morning coffee that death can be a friend and ally rather than a foe.

Letting Go: Judgement

I’m grateful for patience, which is another way of saying letting go of expectations. I’m grateful to be making progress on the rock garden. I’m thrilled that at least one of the phoebes is back nesting again. I’m grateful for “plants and birds and rocks and things…”

I’m grateful I’m learning to let go of judgement. I’ve missed out on so much during my life, from judging. At the same time, I’ve made so many mistakes by not discerning: not trusting my inner wisdom, not living in accordance with my strongest values. It’s been a challenging balancing act, simultaneously judging harshly and failing to discern; but like a funambulist I’m grateful I’ve found some stability.

Judgment is inherently hierarchical: it creates a caste system. A bunch of individuals with similar judgements about something, anything, find each other (especially in this global social media whirl), and coalesce inevitably into a self-proclaimed upper caste, judging all others beneath them. I was born into hierarchy, but my true nature has always seen all beings as equal. For this, in my family, I was scorned. Oh well!

I’m grateful for every experience in my life that has brought me consequences from judging, and every situation that has fostered empathy and compassion. I allow myself to be a learner, still learning life’s lessons.

People Who Let Me Be Myself

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.

Fledging

It was a big day here. I’m so exhausted you’d think I were fledging. I came downstairs shortly after sunrise to let Stellar out after hearing his nails click on the floor. I was horrified to see a Phoebe fall from the nest – but wait, it hadn’t fallen, it had flown. I couldn’t miss this, so I didn’t even go back upstairs for the camera phone. I grabbed the big camera and went outside.

There were three phoebes already out of the nest, squatting all over the patio.

They could barely fly, with their brand new wings and their stubby little tails, yet they kept fluttering from one surface to another.

Once they discovered the cat ladder, the real fun began. Back and forth, back and forth. Topaz, however, had by now been locked inside for the first hour of the day, given up, and gone back upstairs to bed. Not a peep from her the rest of the day. More hours went by, well-spent as far as I was concerned. I’d been waiting for this day since May 19, when the chicks first hatched. In the previous week, the speed of their growth astonished me.

From the ladder, back and forth to the old cable wire that I leave hanging just for this reason, to the old insulation hole in the adobe double-wall, to the ladder, to eventually, hours later, the honeysuckle and the rose bush beyond the patio. Mama and Papa continued to take turns feeding the babies, but how could they tell who was who? I noticed that sometimes they’d feed the same chick three or four times in a row, until it just wouldn’t open its mouth again, then they’d take their bug to another. Their instincts came through though: when any of them approached another, well, they just kept opening their mouths to receive food, even if it was just another chick coming in for a landing. Sometimes they got lucky.

Even after being fed they squawk.

Everything went really well. Four chicks out of the nest, each getting its turn getting fed, but the fifth chick just would not leave the nest. Even as the others explored sensations of flight, tested their quickly growing limits, I swear even their tail feathers seemed to grow before my eyes, stretched their wings, the fifth chick simply wouldn’t leave.

Mama continued to feed it, teasing with the insect and making the chick reach for it again and again before relinquishing it, and once actually got on top of the chick, I think urging it to leave the nest. I began to despair of it leaving ever, as the first four chicks flew from the ladder one by one, out into the trees east or north of the house.

The last chick flexed its wings a few times, but remained alone in the nest for more than an hour, before finally joining a few remaining nest mates on the ladder. But they, too, flew off, leaving the last little bird alone on the ladder for a long time. I couldn’t leave. I pretended to read, time marched relentlessly on, it was getting close to noon, I could hear the rest of the family chirping from around the north side of the house, and still the last little bird lingered on the ladder.

Some other things happened.

I was grateful that I had no firm commitments on my calendar until evening, when I had a group to lead online. I could bide my time outside. I had started the morning rapt with joy, completely immersed in the huge little drama unfolding with the Phoebe family. By eleven, as I sat anxiously watching the last little fledgeling sleeping on a rung of the ladder, anxiety assailed me: what if they left it there? what if no one came back for it? what would I do? how would I save it? I observed these thoughts arise, only mildly disturbed by them. Even as my mind raised anxieties, a more detached awareness simply watched it all unfold, waiting patiently, reassuring the rest of me that it would all be okay no matter how it went down, and more specifically, calmly insisting that they would never have invested that much energy into bring the chick to this point in its life only to abandon it. Finally, I saw a parent approach it with food, trying to entice it off the rung. It took another hour, but eventually, the last chick flew to the rosebush, then to the maple, then on around beyond the house. I went inside. By then it was hot, and I was exhausted from my irresistible seven-hour vigil. I went inside to meditate and nap.

Come evening, cooled down, I went outside again to water the vegetable beds; stepping around the north end of the house to turn on the hose, I saw them all stacked up along a shelf support in the tool area. Before dark, they had dispersed to several other perches. I kept thinking they’d return to the nest overnight, as last year’s clutch did for a few days after hatching, but didn’t see that before I went in at dusk. I’m grateful for an absolutely perfect day watching the greatest show on earth, a participant observer in the thrilling action of a special day in the life of a single bird family. May they all live through the night, and the summer, and the next few years.

Medicaid

I’m grateful when Stellar’s youthful senses of hearing and smell perk up at something wild, alerting me to potential delight or danger.

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!

And let there be mushroom sandwiches for all, as well. First time ever eating a Lions’ Mane mushroom, and realized today that I needed to eat it asap before it went mushy; looked up recipes, and first thing saw a ‘recipe’ for a sandwich. So simple, so delicious!