Aspen forests begin to turn gold on the slopes of Mendicant Ridge. I’m grateful to have enjoyed another full day of life today, three full seasons into this gratitude practice. And grateful, as always, to have spent this day in the company of this sweet old dog, and these ancient junipers.
The Moon. This was two years ago in spring, March 20, 2019. A year before the world changed with the Covid-19 pandemic. People think it’s over, but it’s not. It’s a new normal, because we as a species have chosen not to change our behaviors. We are attached to having what we want, when we want it, and we’re not going to let go of that no matter what incentives get thrown in our way. Climate chaos? Let’s get what we can from the planet and the future be damned. Pandemic? Fuck limits, I’ll keep living my life the way I want to. Individual responsibility, right? I’m grateful for the steady rhythm of the moon.
I’m grateful to have woken up alive this morning, and gotten outside with Stellar before the sun was up, before even the moon went down, the Harvest Moon. It’s ‘the solstice,’ as the radio said this evening, though they meant the autumnal equinox. It was a spectacular day here in western Colorado. Bluebird sky, few clouds, very little climate crisis haze, bright sun, cool breeze, the perfect fall day. I heard the first sandhill cranes this evening, heading south along the east flank of Mendicant Ridge, where the highest aspen groves are just now turning golden.
My goal today was to get through it with no regrets. Not sure I managed that, due to my choices, but no lasting harm done I’m sure. It’s such a dance: just navigating a day can be exhausting. I took pretty good care of myself and my dependents, and sometimes that’s the best I can do. The low was 36℉ near the house; half the cantaloupe leaves died back, and a few other tenders took a hit in the garden, but it wasn’t a hard frost and we’ve got another few weeks of mild growing weather. Pesto was on the agenda but won’t happen until tomorrow–that’s a regret but I’m too tired to worry about it now. I’m grateful for authentic connection and shared joy, for friends who know me, for a genuine sense of belonging.
I’m grateful for this smart, beautiful, sociable (some might call them noisy) Corvid. At least one pair nested in the yarden this year, using an old magpie nest in the juniper just north of the house. They stayed pretty far from the patio while the phoebes were nesting, but now that that family is gone, the jays are getting bolder. I welcome them drinking at the bee bowl, and enjoy watching and listening to them eat the acorns in the Gambel Oak, and flit around the patio pots in hopes of scavenging something, perhaps a few stray dog kibbles, or a treat from the compost bucket. I’m grateful for Western Scrub Jays, whatever variety it is that lives here.
I’m also grateful, as always, for hummingbirds, a dozen or so still zipping around all hours of the day among feeders and flowers; mostly juveniles and females, though I saw but couldn’t capture an adult male broadtail.
I’m grateful that the two old men dogs were both eager and able to walk to the canyon this morning. It was a beautiful cool time, with sun beaming below encroaching rainclouds. And then eventually it rained off and on for a few hours. I am grateful for ongoing hand therapy, and grocery shopping, and new glasses lenses even if they’re not perfect. I made someone feel bad this afternoon, and I feel bad about that, and I’m grateful that the recognition arose in me once again that it feels even better sometimes to be kind than to be right. Now I can work on that tendency.
I’m grateful for the baking accoutrements I’ve acquired over the years, and also for the skills I’ve acquired through learning and practice. Both in baking, and in how I treat myself and other people. But it does take practice. It might only take two or three crusts to master this lattice roller, but it seems to take lesson after lesson, year after year, to learn to bite my tongue and be kind when I feel annoyed or put upon.
I’m grateful for apples in the freezer from last year’s harvest, pre-mixed with sugar and cinnamon, ready to go in the crust; and grateful that I’ve learned to mix pastry in the cuisinart instead of with the old-fangled pastry cutter or my hands. Pie is so much easier!
I’m really grateful that animals are so easy to love and experience compassion for, no cultivation needed; it just comes naturally to me. Grateful for all the time in my life that I’ve been able to spend with animals, wild and tame; grateful for how whole and open my heart feels with them. I’m grateful for the insight that softens my heart daily: We’re all gonna die. I’m grateful for old dogs.
I’m grateful for berries. These bright berries on the blueleaf honeysuckle, Lonicera korolkowii provide food for birds from now throughout winter, ripe or dried in situ. This gorgeous bush is native to ‘The Mountains of Central Asia,’ which I just learned is a very specific geographical ecosystem, also home to half the world’s wild snow leopards. The Mountains of Central Asia is a biodiversity hotspot consisting of two major mountain ranges which extend among six countries, including Afghanistan. I’m grateful that this plant thrives in our climate and is a beneficial habitat shrub and not an invasive species.
Little purple berries on New Mexico Foresteria also feed birds, in particular the Townsend’s solitaire which I have seen yearly in this shrub. Not technically berries, but I’m not being technical. They look like berries, they feed like berries–but they taste pretty awful to me. Anyway, the flowers are full of tiny native bees in spring, and abundant berries in late summer also provide bounty for wildlife. I’m grateful to have this buffet in my landscape.
Some limbs on some of the junipers are laden with ripe juniper berries. Again, pseudo-berries, but berries is what we call them. Most of my dogs have nibbled them off the ground when they’re plentiful, with gusto; they were a food fad a few years ago; they feed wildlife; they are purported to have health benefits and healing properties; and they flavor gin. I’m grateful for juniper berries in the yarden.
I’m grateful for raspberries! I’m grateful that I savored and saved last summer’s gift of a gallon raspberries, and still have some left this summer, since the crop was paltry in this drought. Nurturing a new cluster of water kefir grains, I splurged and put a few frozen raspberries in to flavor yesterday’s decanted batch. Tomorrow, I’ll be grateful for a healthy, fermented raspberry soda. Actual berries or illusory facsimiles, I’m grateful for berries: fruits of the labors of bees and bushes.
I’ve been fascinated by the art of Bonsai since I was a child. I’m grateful that my mother brought awareness of this art, as she did many other arts, into my life. Most of my adult life I’ve kept a variety of trees and shrubs, mostly jades, in miniature, but never really learned the skills of Bonsai. The attraction has intensified in the past few years, and I’ve started several bonsais in training, including a couple of French lilacs, a pink honeysuckle, lemon geranium, culinary sage, and my pride and joy, a redwood. After hearing a friend in Australia wax eloquent about the fragrance of the jasmine hedge outside her house, I ordered a jasmine bonsai which arrived yesterday. I’ve always loved the scent of jasmine, too, and long intended to have one potted in the house. It’s not blooming at the moment, of course, and arrived dry but not desperate. It seemed like the perfect splurge.
I’m grateful to know about Bonsai, to have seen several astounding Bonsai shows and collections through the years, to have the facility and leisure to pursue this interest; grateful for the whisper of mortality to motivate me to get on with it already, and ramp up my focus on this pastime. Pastime. Pass time. Past time. No time like the present. Passing time, not killing, wasting, or spending it. Choosing to pass my time among yet more living beings, with the art of miniature trees. Why not? I’m grateful for choice, internet ordering, transport services, and other people with similar interests; grateful to live in a world where, all other things being as they are, I’m able to derive some small pleasure and satisfaction from a few little potted trees that conditions have allowed to take root in my house. I think Jasmine will be very happy here. I look forward to potting down some of the trainees this fall, and setting up a dedicated bonsai table in the sunroom for winter.
I hate to admit that I’ve been taking ‘outside’ for granted recently. Or at least, I haven’t been spending as much time in it as I ‘should.’ There is this sense of clinging to the natural world on this refuge, of imminent loss, exacerbated by smoky skies; a sense of foreboding. My spatial consciousness contracts and expands according to my capacity to hold all things in awareness: moments of tenderness and beauty, of brief connection with other souls human and non-human, of empathy and compassion, of color and life, and at the same time this clutching void of mortal uncertainty. I am perpetually aghast, with a thick sugar coating of delight. Holding it all together in desperate equanimity. Growing pains.
I’m grateful every single night when I go upstairs to bed and see that the new neighbors across the canyon haven’t installed a giant ‘security’ light on their house. I leave the drapes open to the darkness of night: a spotlight shining in on my bed would infringe on my freedom! Not to mention the wasted energy and disruption to wildlife. I’m grateful for the nearly primal darkness of night where I live.
I’m grateful for the astonishing bounty of my garden! I’m grateful for the water, the soil, the raised beds, the seeds and sets, the years of learning, adapting to, and exploring the infinite lessons of gardening, the main one of which is making friends with impermanence. I’m grateful for squash blossom time! The first blooms of many squash are all male flowers, which are expendable, and it’s even beneficial to harvest them until some female, fruit-making flowers arrive. Can’t let ’em go to waste! This morning’s harvest included four big squash blossoms, three winter and one zucchini.
I’m grateful for silence: for the privilege to live in a place where there are occasional moments of true silence, with barely a murmur from nature and nothing manmade. I once knew a deeper silence, before the ringing in my ears. Now, almost always when there is no external sound, and the songs and thoughts in my head are taking a brief rest, there remains a tone between my ears. Its exact nature varies but it’s always there. Except for very rare moments when it disappears, and suddenly a clear, open silence spreads through and over me, and everything else. I’m grateful for these fleeting moments of true silence, and for all the other times in my days where all I hear is the hum of life around me, soothing the buzz within.