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All the Little Pieces of this Day

I knew it would be a good day when it started like this.

First thing after our sunrise walk was to pick squash blossoms, and a couple ripe paprika peppers. I sliced the peppers open to dry, and put the blossoms in water til I could get back in to stuff them. I’m grateful for the colors of the foods I harvest, for running water, and for the little honeypot I used as a vase.

Then the day got better! Pillsbury pop’n’fresh crescent dinner rolls are not just for dinner anymore. I love the way the spiraled tube pops open on its own at this altitude: it’s like a Christmas cracker, and it startles you when it pops open somewhere in there as you’re peeling the paper wrapper off the tube. Then, a few strategically placed chocolate chips…

So simple, so delicious! Yes, I’m attached to these sensory pleasures, all of them, but I’m aware of my attachment, and of the pleasures’ impermanence, and so I savor these quotidian delights all the more for knowing their transience: tomorrow could be an entirely different day.

Throughout the day there were more delights, ever time I stepped outside. An unexpected seedling…

… a dramatic view…

…the Best Boy Ever by my side…

…a bountiful mixed harvest…

…a second evening walk! And then back inside for supper, those squash blossoms that I stuffed when they were fresh-picked this morning, with a tiny slice of ham, chiffonade basil, and a bit of Laughing Cow cheese. I forgot to eat them for lunch, so whipped up a light batter this evening, dredged them in cornmeal, then fried in bacon grease and olive oil.

A simple dip of whisked mayo and Ume plum vinegar. I’m grateful for all the little pieces of this day, and grateful I chose to pay attention to them, rather than dwell in the land of helpless overwhelm.

…the Kitchen Sink

So much to be grateful for today! We all woke up alive in my little family, and my extended family, my community. Stellar and I stepped out the gate to this sight on our morning walk just after sunrise. Extravagant rabbitbrush, shimmering winterfat, and the West Elk Mountains on the horizon. Thank you! We are so lucky to live where we do. Then I called the plumber.

He showed up around 2:30 with his power-snake, and unplugged the drain! I am grateful for pretty much everything in my little life today, including the kitchen sink, and especially its drain. I’m grateful for the metal shaped by someone or some program at some factory that makes the sink, grateful for the plumber who installed the sink and the few who have worked on it over the years, for the faucets with their advanced features that have adorned the sink in its 26 years here, for the know-how to clean out those pipes underneath the sink, and most of all, today I’m grateful for Plumber Shawn who finally unplugged the kitchen sink’s drain. I gratefully sent him home with a box of tomatoes, including one of those spectacular one-pound Brandywines.

I’m especially grateful for the kitchen sink today, and going forward this next couple of weeks, and for its unclogged drain, as each day I add to the buckets of produce on the counter that need to be preserved. After this week’s grocery run for onions and a few other things, I’ll make and put up tomatillo salsa, tomato salsa, marinara sauce, tomato soup, and tomato paste. I’m grateful for every single thing about this day. And I’m grateful for the mindful awareness to be grateful. More and more my ancient prayer rings true: Let me remember to be grateful every living moment of every day. In our life of opportunity and privilege nothing else rings true.

Patience

I’m grateful for today’s harvest, two baskets of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and three more hot peppers, a chimayo and two paprikas. I’m grateful for the comfort of patience, as the drain remains clogged and I hope for a plumber’s assistance tomorrow. With or without a kitchen drain I’ll have to start canning again in the next couple of days. I’m grateful for patience with myself as I plod through the clutter, dust, and disarray I’ve let accumulate this year having no one in my house but me and the animals. Gradually, surface by surface, inch by square inch, I’m getting a handle on the house, which I tend to neglect during summer, when my living room is the great outdoors. I’m grateful for good music, fresh air, cooler weather, fewer flies, coffee, and comfort food that help me through fall cleaning. I’m grateful for my good, sweet dog in his last days, and for the friends who gave him to me. I’m grateful for the last two good nights’ sleep, and another on the horizon as I head to my cozy bed now. I’m grateful for the patience that comes when I’ve run out, and the calm confidence that nothing stays the same.

One Pound Tomato

One of the butternut squash vines grew through the fence and twined in with a tomatillo, each supporting the other.

The first tomato seedling to be planted this spring is producing the most amazing fruit. I finally plucked this Brandywine this evening because its splits were getting too big; it weighed in at one pound 2.5 ounces. I’m grateful for this hefty tomato, which makes me think of my father, whose ideal tomato would give at least one perfect half-inch slice to fill a sandwich. I’m grateful to have inherited my father’s passion for growing tomatoes, and grateful whenever I can bring tender thoughts of him to mind.

I’m grateful for curiosity and a sense of humor, both of which provided a healthy perspective on this sight this morning, and this evening. I left the gnawed tomato on the vine to see if the critter came back, which clearly it did, but I didn’t catch it in the act. Still, better it keeps wrecking one fruit than I pick that and it attacks another.

Grateful to discover another ‘new way’: to warm Stellar’s pill-delivery cheese to make it pliable enough to wrap his meds, and cool the troubled wrist at the same time. He gets four sets of pills a day and two injections. It seems completely random how he cycles through good spells and bad spells, which he’s in right now: I’ve picked him up three or four times today from stumbles, as he walks like a drunken sailor. Just a few days ago he was doing so well, and nothing really has changed. Eventually will come a point of diminishing returns for him, and I may have to discern when that is. Every pet person’s nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, I had a doozie this morning, after waking at 5 to let him out, and forcing myself to sleep for a couple of more hours. Somewhere in that last hour, oh I don’t even wanna describe it, but in short, he was dying in my arms as people passed around us in the busy lobby of the place we lived, one in a hundred offering some simple comfort or help like a single paper towel–though I kept asking for someone to help me get him back to our apartment. I finally realized it was a dream and I could wake up and leave it behind. I’m grateful for the capacity to recognize a dream and leave it when it’s ugly.

Grateful to have the right tools for the job.

A New Way

I’m always alert for a new way to do something, and read this morning about a better way to peel tomatoes for canning. Still contending with the kitchen sink drain, I was looking for a shortcut, and searched “do I have to peel tomatoes before canning.” Answers were heavily weighted toward “you’ll be happier if you do,” and one of them included this new way: broil them first, then set a towel over them as they cool to steam the skins loose. My broiler doesn’t allow the six inch distance called for, so I simply roasted them for fifteen minutes on a tray lightly greased with olive oil, then covered, and then plucked those skins right off.

A new and easier way to prepare tomatoes for canning! With far less mess to clean up, ergo far less water ‘down the drain,’ or in this case, into the red bucket. I didn’t count, but know that I carried that two-gallon bucket outside more than two dozen times today, dumping water on various shrubs and beds just beyond the front door. Anything to save on that labor! Waiting on a professional solution to the drain clog, and patiently abiding until that manifests, continuing to pour enzymes down the drain each night in hopes of a natural dissolution. We’ll know more later. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for patience, for perseverance, for running water, and for the red bucket. And very grateful for a new way to peel tomatoes.

I’m also grateful for the bountiful tomatillo crop. I soft-boiled, pureed, and then canned six pints, while the tomatoes were roasting and cooling. Ten pints of produce put up this afternoon!

And in between morning work and afternoon canning, another lovely BLT with lettuce-leaf basil. What a great idea! Thanks again, Amy. Served with one of the first lacto-fermented dill pickles this season. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful not only for the first BLT of the season, but for every BLT of the season. Why limit grateful? Savor every mouthful.

Mindfulness Practice

Fruits of my labors today included not only abundant garden produce, but calm, compassion, and other mindfulness skills I’m learning to practice. When the contrary chimney sweep came today, I was determined to meet him with compassion in my heart, no matter how he triggered me. It was hard. He arrived more than an hour early, and when I answered the door wearing a mask, he whined like a teenage boy, “Do I really have to wear a mask?” From there it went downhill. In the next few minutes I couldn’t say a thing without him challenging me. I parried a few attacks with good cheer, but before long offered him the opportunity to leave if he’d rather not be here. Eventually I said with an even, pleasant tone, “I’m curious why you’re so contrary.”

After that he calmed down. I went into the bathroom to breathe, I went into the pantry to breathe. I offered him some fresh tomatoes to take home. Eventually, I sat on the stairs and chatted with him as he cleaned the stove. He actually chuckled. It was a successful application of meeting a challenging person with compassion and curiosity, instead of resisting his demeanor and shutting down from the triggered trauma of being baited. Even when he cheered the killing of wolves, I simply sat quietly looking at my hands until he went back up on the roof. All in all, it was a very successful harvest of the fruits of my mindfulness practice, for which I am supremely grateful.

Tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and basil dominated the top layer of the harvest basket, while the second layer revealed the dwindling harvest of cucumbers and green beans as well as more cherry tomatoes. I still can’t use the sink, and the day was filled with other obligations anyway, but tomorrow will bring another canning session, with or without a drain: the harvest can’t wait.

The rattlesnake pole beans are starting to mature. I pulled the first few dry pods off the vine this morning, along with the last few ‘green beans.’ I’m so grateful for this delightful, surprising, prolific plant, which has pulled down one of the three support poles with its vigor. Beautifully speckled even to the end.

One of the brandywines, sliced for a sandwich, along with lettuce-leaf basil, bacon, and mayo. Have I mentioned that I’m grateful for mayonnaise?

Obstacles in Stride

Morning smoke haze, the new normal in the gathering storm. Visually beautiful in its own way. One obstacle to joy can be an overarching awareness of the planet’s dire state; and yet, to me, that makes experiencing joy in all the tenuous elements of being alive all the more urgent.

An unforeseen obstacle on the path this morning threw me for a few seconds: wait, where’s the path? Did I get off the trail? No, just a down dead piñon tree. With equanimity, I stepped around it, knowing I’ll return and remove it when I have the right tools for the job, gloves and a rope. And maybe wait a bit til my hand is better. No hurry! Sometimes simply avoiding an obstacle for awhile is the wise choice.

I’m grateful for our long, leisurely walk this morning, a holiday stroll. Stellar is feeling good these days, which inspires him to bark for me in the morning and bounce on his front legs, eager for his walk; and makes him move faster, a bit too fast. His back feet trip over each other more when he’s feeling good, but he has strength to correct and doesn’t stumble as much as when he moves slower, when he’s weaker, and falls down. Fingers crossed for a long streak of this mobility and his obvious joy in his morning walks.

After a self-satisfied shelving of the first preserved jars, I turned my attention to today’s major obstacle, the plugged drain that is causing kitchen sink water to burble up from the sunroom pond drain. I was optimistic. I’d borrowed a drain snake, and started to work after morning coffee. I had the right tool for the job, which I’m always grateful for having, and a spirit of joyful effort.

Three hours later, I had seemingly cleared the clog, dismantled and thoroughly cleaned out all the pieces of undersink pipe, perhaps irrevocably kinked the snake, and managed one load of dishes, before the pond gurgled full again and I surrendered to whatever tomorrow brings: effective enzyme action, or a call to the plumber. I went on with the day, detouring around the obstacle after giving it my best shot, practicing patience, and grateful that it isn’t worse: the toilet and bathroom sink still drain, and the shower flows straight outside. Fresh water, for which I’m always grateful, still runs from the faucets, I’ve got a bucket to wash dishes in, and a yarden right outside the front door that will welcome the dishwater.

I served up a leftover burrito with chopped tomato and the last half of avocado, ate a late lunch outside on the patio, took Stellar for another stroll, and enjoyed the rest of my Labor Day holiday. I’m grateful for the mindfulness skills and practice that have enabled me to take obstacles in stride, with patience and equanimity, knowing these are not big deals in the grand scheme of things. Trees in the trail, clogs in the drain, smoke in the sky, and even Stellar’s lameness are all simply transient conditions, while gratitude, contentment, compassion and calm are states I can cultivate and come to depend upon.

Late in his full day of adventures, naps, dreams, and watchdog duties, Stellar’s stand resembled a half-sit, but that doesn’t dampen his lust for life as he sniffs the wind currents. I aspire to live like this dog, so completely present in each moment.

Fruits of My Labors

I’m grateful for the lettuce-leaf basil, and for Amy’s suggestion to use it on a BLT… with, gratefully, a fresh garden tomato.

I’m grateful today for how the efforts I’ve made have paid off. I don’t have a lot of the things that people value, but I value all the things I have: I have enough. I have more than enough. I’m grateful that the choices I’ve made over the past forty years or more have led me to this life, this community, these friends, this place with its home and garden. I’m most immediately grateful today for the food rolling in from the garden. I’m grateful every day for the food that finds its way to my plate from all the places it originates; I’m grateful to have any food, especially grateful to have enough food, all the food I could want, in a world of want.

I’m grateful for tomatillos, parsley, cilantro, garlic from the garden, and for this great recipe for layered enchiladas. I’ve made it a few times, but one has to be rich in tomatillos, which this summer I am! Also I used mostly parsley because there is a dearth of cilantro in the garden this year. Funny how that goes, one year you have more of something than you can use and the next year it just doesn’t take.

I’m rich in cucumbers, too, and made another batch of pickles this afternoon. I’ve got a couple of jars of lacto-fermented dill pickles in the fridge already, a couple of vinegar-dill jars preserved, and today processed three pints of bread&butter pickles, and a scant pint of fermented dill slices. We’ll know more later if that last one will keep on the shelf, but it’s worth a try. I’m grateful that after a few years, I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable pickling and preserving; it no longer has to be a huge deal that takes a whole day’s focus. I’m grateful for the fruits of my labors in the garden and in the kitchen.

And naturally, I’m grateful for another day with this wonderful dog, who had energy to walk to the canyon this evening. Panting all the way, but happy and eager, and mostly without stumbles. What a teacher he is for me! Patience, acceptance, impermanence… above all, pure love.

Scarlet Runner Beans

I was grateful first thing this morning, and pretty much all the rest of the day. Stellar was excited to walk to the rim, barking his intention as he waited for me outside. Aprés walk, we enjoyed a chocolate croissant.

I’m grateful the scarlet runner bean vine is finally taking off. Hammered hard by deer outside the fence, they struggled to gain many blooms. Once the wild sunflowers grew up they provided a barrier to the voracious does, and the vine was able to blossom. I planted eight seeds: only one of them sprouted. Look at her now!

I planted it for the hummingbirds, and finally was in the right place at the right time today to catch a few enjoying the nectar. The first one checked me out before feeding on the flowers. Thereafter they ignored me. I am grateful for intrepid little hummingbirds.

I’m grateful for scarlet runner beans, and grateful I had some time today to sit with and appreciate them in their flourishing glory. I’m grateful for the gentleness of this day just passed, mild ambient temperature, flowers all around, abundant harvest of tomatoes and tomatillos, joyful energy expended in the kitchen canning and cleaning. I’m grateful for finding support this evening in being with the excruciating awareness of life’s vivid, finite beauty.

Finding What I Lost

A silver commemorative coin in the series honoring “Famous Families of Ukraine,” an irreplaceable heirloom.

I am SO grateful today that I found something important which I thought I had lost. It was inconceivable to me that I’d have thrown it out, but… anything can happen. I had done some work for a friend who moved away rather hastily, and I was left with a precious family heirloom and a stack of scanned images, foreign currency, and historical documents. I kept thinking I’d hear from her when she got settled, but that didn’t happen. Time marched on, the precious packet got moved from one place to another and another, I tried to track her down a couple of times, I let it go (the dark side of letting go: its illusory facsimile ‘letting slip’)…. When she finally surfaced six years later (my, how time flies!) looking for these things, I was horrified that I couldn’t find them.

My friend is descended from Ukrainian nobility. One of the worst things I’ve ever had to do, right up there near telling a friend his mother had been killed in a car wreck, was to tell this dear woman that I had lost her treasures.

So imagine the thrill that coursed through me today when I was looking for something else, and stumbled upon this large envelope–I knew instantly by the feel of it what I had found. I called and left her a message right away, and await receipt of her mailing address to get them home to her asap. Whew! A psychic load off, a good deed done, a loose end tied up. I am beyond grateful for finding what I lost.

Why is American currency so boring? is what I always think when I look at foreign notes like these from the lost stash. It was a big deal to me when the US $20 got some colors other than green back in 2003. Have you looked at cash lately? While double-checking the date on that milestone, I stumbled upon this fascinating guide to US bills, and pulled out a couple denominations to examine. So though the US was late to the dance, I’m grateful for colors in money, for the good fortune to have a little cash in my wallet, and for finding out just how layered is its design.