Archives

Finding Lost Things

I’m grateful we got to start out the day with a nice walk to the canyon, greeting our old tree friends, and taking stock of more erosion deeper into the woods.
Most of our trails to the rim experienced some transformation, this one with a new rill snaking quite a long way down the center.

What happens when I get a burst of inspiration to tidy up or reorganize is that I always lose something. Awhile ago I did a kitchen project in which I bought a few new shelf and drawer accessories, and really got the pantry and cabinets in order. Not long after that I was searching for the J&M granulated garlic refill that my neighbors produce for their marvelous garlic grinder. I was sure that I had a packet somewhere, but scoured my spice racks and drawers and couldn’t find it. Some weeks after that, I was searching for the Chaat Masala that my cousin had sent me last winter, and I knew that I had done something sensible with it when I reorganized, but it had vanished. It was reminiscent of Breadgate, but I didn’t get quite so attached to finding it. And a week after that–this morning–I opened a little flat drawer in a lower cabinet looking for something else, and voila! There were the missing spices. I had quite logically put the flat spice bags in there instead of trying to cram them into the racks with the bottles and boxes. I’m grateful for finding lost things, and for being able to laugh about it.

In other food news, all the string beans are tapering off production, while the paprika peppers continue to ripen. Lunch was a simple BLT wrap. Wren and Biko each got a green bean, but Biko turned up his beak and Wren ate them both.

And I’m grateful that we got to end this precious day that will never come again with a stroll to the west fence, and view this surprising cloud configuration.

Erosion

Little erosion…
Medium erosion…
Big erosion…

I’m grateful for erosion. Without it, we wouldn’t have canyons. Imagine that. None of the drama, beauty, adventure; no more of the unique habitats, microclimates, and endemic creatures of canyons… like the adorable canyon wren with its unmistakable song (be sure to click ‘Listen’ in the link). No Grand Canyon, no Black Canyon of the Gunnison (pictured above), none of the other fabulous canyons around the world. Not that I’m a huge fan, and not that it will be feasible for much longer, but no hydropower dams which admittedly provide electricity and irrigation water to a lot of humans… Besides forming landscapes, erosion can also benefit the planet by distributing nutrients…

I realize that I’m in over my head, because as I search the internets for benefits of erosion, I find a 10:1 ratio of articles about “why erosion is bad and benefits of erosion control”: Not many specifics about why it’s good. It depends on your point of view, I guess. For certain, erosion doesn’t play nice with human efforts to control the environment, and the more intensely we have tried to shape the planet to our will, the more we have decided that erosion is a problem to be reckoned with rather than accepting it as a natural force of evolution. So I’m gonna be grateful for it anyway, because of canyons.

A peppertastrophe today as a result of yesterday’s deluge, perhaps. The main trunk of the huge, healthy scorpion pepper broke! None of the peppers have entered their final ripening stage, and they won’t ripen off the plant until a certain trigger point is reached with the perfect combination of daylight and temperature. I’m grateful for equanimity and ingenuity. I was disappointed but shattered as I might have been a few years ago, and immediately set about trying to salvage what I could.
After a few efforts to stabilize the plant in water I was grateful to find the perfect rock to hold it in a bowl. I’ll figure out something more stable and permanent tomorrow if it doesn’t drop dead, and try to limp it along hydroponically for a few more weeks until the peppers start to turn yellow.
And in kitchen successes, yesterday’s dilly beans above, and today’s bread and butter pickles below. I’m grateful for another precious day alive in this beautiful world.

Right Livelihood

I’m grateful for another relaxing day, and for being able to start it with a lovely latté.
I’m grateful for the ancient junipers and the clouds above…
…and for the little dog on the ground below.

How am I different from that girl who first walked these woods thirty years ago when I discovered the leading edge of peace? I don’t feel so different. I feel the same, but more subdued, less eager. I feel well within the bounds of peace now, though not yet at the center. How is the land different? How are these woods different? More limbs down, more trees down, more down trees decomposing. Far fewer birds, and bugs. The mosses still green, cactus still spiny. Three paths diverged in the woods and I, I chose to stay in shade. Sun climbing as morning rain dissipates. The scant scent of damp sage, juniper oils rising, soft wet dirt underfoot. I’m grateful for taking time to wander aimlessly until I find myself among unfamiliar trees; and the for finding my way home. This seems as fruitful a way as any to spend an hour this late August day.

I’m grateful for the copious eggplant harvest I’m getting from three little bushes. I sliced yesterday’s four, each about six inches long, into three-eighth inch thick slices, salted them for about an hour, patted dry, breaded, and baked them.

The recipe uses only melted butter instead of egg to dip them in before dredging in a breadcrumb/spice/parmesan mix, then calls for baking rather than frying. It was so simple! As they baked, I made a quick sauce with canned tomatoes from last year, red onion from yesterday, a tiny purple pepper, and fresh basil and oregano. I mix and matched a couple of eggplant parmesan recipes, and essentially made up my own.

Once the sauce was reduced and the eggplant disks baked, I layered them with fresh mozzarella and sauce, topped with parmesan and leftover breadcrumbs, and baked. It was perfect! And I cut it up into portions and froze every bit of it, only tasting the pan scrapings. There are so many eggplants ripening that I’ll make another panful in a couple of weeks and eat at least some of it right away. My strategy is to load up the freezer with plenty of ready to heat meals for when the garden is spent, so I can enjoy and be grateful for summer’s flavors all winter long.

Tonight I whipped up this simple olive oil poundcake, but can’t touch it for another half hour until it’s cooled enough to tip out of the pan. I’ve not seen this trick before: after spraying the pan, dusting it with sugar instead of flour.

I’m grateful for all the conditions, choices, and help along the way that have led me to a path of Right Livelihood. I’m grateful for the teachers, mentors, and students that have helped me to be able to make my living teaching meditation and mindfulness. I’m grateful for the practices that bring peace and contentment to my life in these troubled times. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share these skills with others as we navigate the accelerating personal, local, and global challenges of the Anthropocene; and grateful to be offering a four-part online course in Meditation Basics starting this Thursday. Email me if you’d like to participate, at dukkaqueen@skybeam.com, with ‘meditation’ in the subject line.

Relaxation

Another new friend enjoys a perch in the Ancient One

It only took thirty years, but I’m grateful to finally understand that relaxation is a skill that requires cultivation and practice. My particular upbringing (and our culture), for all its privileges, left me midlife in a steady state of constant vigilance and anxiety. Meditation helped open my eyes to a different way to be, and the practice of mindfulness has opened my life to a level of contentment, acceptance, and ease I only dreamed of when I moved here thirty years ago. I still get anxious, but it doesn’t bother me as much; I still feel inclined to control things but I’m not attached to outcomes. Relaxation is so much more complicated than taking a day off and putting up my feet; however, that’s what I did today, and I really enjoyed it.

Garden Buddy brought visiting family over this morning for a short walk to the canyon, and Biko delighted them with a show eating a split tomato.
Afternoon brought cool winds and thick clouds but only a few splatters of rain. Wren and I picked beans, and I consulted with my onion mentor. I was grateful to learn that I can leave these beautiful yellow onions growing in the ground til winter, and the bulbs will keep getting bigger for awhile. I’m sure I’ll use them up before the snow flies, but I’m grateful I don’t have to figure out now how or where to store them.
These red onions are a rare Italian heirloom variety that will also probably keep growing their ‘torpedo’ shape for awhile longer. I pulled three of them today whose tops had bent over, thinking they’re done growing, and will use them in the first batch of salsa this weekend.
I’m going to have to start picking tomatoes before they’re ripe to stay ahead of the birds, and whatever varmint ate half of the perfect tomato I was waiting just one more day to pick. It’s ok. I threw the other half over the fence for the old doe: I was so grateful to see her return to the yarden after a few days away.
I’m grateful for the bounty of color, beauty, taste, and nutrition coming on daily.

Friends

A lovely flower in my garden this evening.

Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.

Brownies

I’m grateful for a new friend, Hillery McAllister, who came and sang for me and a couple of old friends this evening. Her lyrics reflect the wisdom of mindfulness (that I’ve worked so hard to attain) with a tender sensibility that seems inborn. Her song are by turns insightful, fun, moving, serious, and above all full of love. She’ll be playing at the Sage Alley in Paonia and the Creamery in Hotchkiss in the next few weeks, and I highly recommend catching her show if you can. I’m grateful for the sneak preview she shared with her new friends tonight.

Honesty

…couldn’t resist…
A surprise morning glory in the bean bed!
I sliced two tiny slivers off the dried jigsaw pepper that burned my mouth, minced them finely, and mixed in with my chicken salad for lunch. It was a minuscule amount, and I didn’t notice it was there until a pepper flake showed up in a bite: and then the flavor was remarkable. It was hot, yes, but also had a distinctly smoky flavor. I could have used even more–but not much!
So I concluded finally that the way I’ll use these peppers is to dry and grind them as I will the paprika, and keep a tiny jar of tiny hot purple pepper flakes for just the right occasion. Maybe I’ll have enough to share.
It’s so gratifying to see the Leutschauer paprikas coming on red in mid-August. Five years ago when I first grew them I didn’t plant early enough, and had to pick them green or lose them to frost. So I roasted and then dried them green. It was still tasty, but not the beautiful red paprika I’ve come to rely on each year.
Gratuitious cute puppy pic, helping clean up.

A friend was supposed to come visit tomorrow, and I’ve been really looking forward to it, tidying up the patio and everything. I was so sad when she called today to let me know she’d been potentially exposed to Covid, and tomorrow will be too soon to know whether she’s gotten infected. We had an open-hearted conversation about details and timeline, about risks and possibilities, and all with good cheer and understanding, we concluded it would be best if she doesn’t come. Better safe than sorry! We’ll visit another time, when there are no heavy questions hanging overhead. I am so very grateful for her honesty and integrity in broaching this uncomfortable issue. There are people I know who, given the uncertainties involved, might well have simply made a decision to come anyway without giving me all the information. Where Covid is concerned (as well as with just about any other scenario I can imagine) honesty is the best policy for me. I am always grateful for honesty, even if it means I’m disappointed.

I was definitely not disappointed in sunset beyond the garden this evening. And definitely grateful to be out picking peppers in the beauty of it.

Mixed Pickins

Cold coffee, another Instagram recipe from Amy: one cup milk, 2 tsp instant coffee, 1-2 Tbsp sugar, and some ice cubes in a blender; blend til frothy and thick. Oh my, so simple, so delicious! And a quick way to get caffeine on a hot morning!
Jamato heirloom tomatoes, described as ‘pinkish with green shoulders.’ After I read that, I gave these a little squeeze and they were softish, so I picked them. Only to find that they had already split on the far side. I don’t know what’s happening: at least three of my tomato plants, in three different beds, are splitting fruit, and another one is experiencing blossom end rot. I must remember to call in to As the Worm Turns on Tuesday on KVNF and ask the experts what’s going wrong.
I’m grateful that at least the Leutschauer paprikas are thriving and ripening at last!
…and this zucchini literally doubled in size overnight. It’s time to break out the chocolate zucchini cake recipe, zucchini pancakes, and other recipes.
Pizzutello tomatoes are doing great on one plant, and splitting before they ripen on the other. Both plants, one in a tub and one in a raised bed, in different soil blends, are puny compared to the monstrous, endless vines and prolific fruits they produced last year in a different raised bed. I am truly perplexed about tomato health this summer.
This Roma plant is producing lovely striped fruit, but the only references I can find to Romas do not show any stripes. And this is one that’s suffering some blossom end rot. I curbed it on an earlier outbreak on a different plant in the same bed with extra bone&blood meal, as it’s a sign of insufficient calcium uptake by the roots. But here it is again! Oh woe is me! This is the most problematic tomato crop I’ve had in years. I’m grateful I have patience and ingenuity to mitigate the damage, and have access to reams of research and resource.
Little Wren likes her vegetables! She watched me pick these and followed me begging.
A small and challenged harvest this evening, but I’m grateful even for mixed pickins.

Acceptance

It’s a yawn, not a scream. For a split second it could have gone either way. Just as I was rolling over to get out of bed this morning, Topaz jumped up, almost on top of Wren’s head. Wren didn’t even flinch. The cat lay down with the dog, and there was nothing I could do but lie back and smile with a gentle hand on each of their tummies, grateful for acceptance, for peace in the kingdom, for a good excuse to stay in bed another twenty minutes.

Progress

It’s not the same thing to me as it is for those who adhere to the ‘business-as-usual’ paradigm. I’m grateful for progress in slow time. I’m grateful for a slow but steady weed-eater who munches the mallow, bindweed, and purslane at his own pace day after day all summer long, amazingly keeping it in check throughout the yarden.

I’m grateful for the slow progress of peppers, and all the other plants in the garden. They take their time growing roots and leaves, then slowly bring on blossoms and set fruit, and the fruits ripen incrementally day by day until suddenly there’s a flood of them ready to eat, freeze, can.

I’m grateful to return to a place that I have always felt the joy of flow, in front of a sewing machine with colors and textures at my fingertips. I’m grateful for the lovely Pfaff that my father bought me not long before he died, and for Karen who helped me choose it and make its acquaintance, and for finding time again to relearn its capabilities and my own. I’m grateful that I learned how to use the built-in needle threader!

I’m grateful for the slow progress of the tropical drapes, envisioned as a dream decades ago. I spent years collecting fabrics for them, all cotton, many shades and patterns of greens, a few browns, blues and other colors. I spent months creating the keystone appliqués for each panel… and then I boxed them all up after my mother died and I returned home to a house unlivable that took four months to disinfect. The brick floor was grouted with mouse shit; every flat surface in the house was covered in mouse shit, from the bottoms of the kitchen cabinets to the dresser drawers upstairs. But I digress: that’s another story. Suffice to say I didn’t pull out the drapes or any other creative endeavor for a long time after that, until the stench of Clorox was a distant memory, the brick floor replaced, the dresser burned, and so much more effort expended to reclaim my sacred space.

Even though the new plug falls out if it’s not propped in, I’m grateful for it since I can adapt while I wait for a replacement and still enjoy the hum of needle and thread and the feel of fabric flying through my fingers. I made great progress today zigzagging the swamp and all the vines onto the panel, so tomorrow I can place frogs, lizards, beetles, leaves… and then play with some flower designs and fill in the jungle.

Life careened onward, and every winter I thought I should get back to those drapes for the sunroom. But I never did, until finally this summer life’s demands slowed down a little bit and I looked to Biko for inspiration on how to move through my days: slow and steady, taking a little bite of this, a little bite of that, as I amble through the hours with peace and ease. Finally accepting my own tortoise pace, that’s what I call progress.

Patience

I’m waiting for a lot of things. I’m waiting for these Blot peppers to turn orange and purple instead of chartreuse and purple. I wrote to Baker Creek where I got the seeds to find out how long it takes them to change to their fully ripe color, and was told they will “appear to just sit for several weeks before making their final color change.” I feel like they’ve been sitting like this for more than several weeks. But I’m being patient. I’m waiting for the Sirenevyi sweet peppers also to change from their deep purple to their final ripe deep red, and that seed company rep told me she thinks it’s about three weeks after they color fully purple. But I swear this one pepper has been purple for at least that long. But I’m being patient.

I’m also waiting for Rise Broadband to get its act together and quit constantly dropping internet service here; and waiting for Boost Mobile to get its tower enhancement straightened out so I can get phone service in my house again, which has been out since July 2. I’m waiting for the Division of Vocational Rehab to get me scheduled for an intake session so I can get permanent hearing aids. After trying demos for two weeks, it’s clear to me how much benefit they’ll confer. I’m waiting for an appointment with the only local pulmonologist to try to get my O2 saturation situation figured out. I’ve pursued all these dangling diagnostics diligently as well as the pepper problems in the past few days, and I’m real grateful that I’ve learned to cultivate patience. Even as I wait for solutions, I can enjoy the quiet growth in the garden, the waxing moon rising, crickets singing, reading a good book, a delicious salad, conversations with friends, playing with Wren, a hot shower, and a long nap. It’s not what life throws at or withholds from you, but how you respond to it, that determines your happiness.

I’m grateful for a good salad, and for all the elements in it: bacon, Bad Dog lettuce, homemade bleu cheese dressing, pecans, and the second ripe tomato from the garden. And I’m grateful for all the hands that went into growing the local and non-local ingredients, and the hands that got them here, and when you dig down that turns out to be an awful lot of hands. The pecans alone: who planted the trees, who cultivated the land to plant the trees, who tended the trees, who dug the ditches and laid the irrigation pipes to water the trees, who built the dam to divert the irrigation water; who picked the pecans, who shelled them or built the machines to shell them, who packaged them, who made the plastic bag they were packed in, who drove them from wherever to City Market, who built and maintained the vehicles that delivered them, and the roads or rails those vehicles traveled… anything and everything I have depends on so many other beings. My contentment rests on the labors and the patience of countless others, and for recognizing this interdependence, I am grateful.