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Sunshine

I’m grateful today for another day of sunshine warming the house, charging the batteries, inviting me to take a couple of cat walks morning and afternoon. I’m grateful that Topaz trotted around beside me, and when I went farther than she wanted she simply voiced her objections loudly until I turned around. Her brother used to attack the back of my leg when I went too far for his taste. I’m grateful I can remember that with laughter now, instead of the dull ache of his absence. His was such a strong personality. Hers has always been more reserved, inscrutable… but we’re beginning to understand each other better now that we’re the only two mammals left in the house.

I’m grateful for the warmth of the sunroom these sunny days, so I can bask in there while enjoying morning coffee, writing, reading, or zoom meeting: The rest of the house is so cold without functioning floor heat, and I’m trying to conserve firewood, which is costlier and harder to come by than one might think, so I try not to build a fire until late afternoon. I’m especially grateful that Topaz has leapt the last hurdle in recovery from her catcussion. Six weeks to the day from her tumble, she has finally gotten back on the sunroom table. After she got up today I returned her favorite flat bed to its usual spot there, where she napped until sunset. The round felt bed she fell in will stay on the floor from now on. A couple of weeks ago I started tossing treats in there and she’ll dive halfway in to retrieve them, but she has yet to go completely inside, much less curl up in it.

What a long strange trip it’s been, for her after that bizarre injury, and for me, for all of us perhaps, in another revolution around the sun. Tomorrow is the shortest day of the year. I’ll be grateful Wednesday, when we’ll have six seconds more of sunshine than we did today. Thursday, we’re expecting snow for a few days, a white Christmas, and I’ll be grateful for that too.

Tracks in the Snow

I woke this morning after another dream in which Stellar (and Raven, too, this time) were eager for me to go for a walk. So I took Topaz out into the clear cold morning, whistled for the dogs, and set off into the woods traipsing over a light crust of snow. We skirted the does browsing around the house and went out the lion gate, then turned south where the snow was thinner. Neither of us had on the right shoes to go north. I’m grateful for a dream which motivates me to go for a walk, and for a cat who will accompany me.

Fox and fawn, I think…

There were lots of deer prints and trails through the shallow snow, a significant number of little cat tracks, and one stretch where a fox and a fawn followed the same course at different times. Lost in thought, I stepped through the tracks before noticing them, but stopped in time to take them in. In that pause, out in the quiet woods, a sudden sense of belonging swept through me. I wasn’t alone; there were many other creatures living here with me. I’m grateful for tracks in the snow, for the busy, hidden world of animal action they show happening all around and unconcerned with me.

Sweet Dreams

Today I’m grateful for sweet dreams of Stellar. I’ve had a few. They make him feel not quite so gone. This morning’s was the sweetest so far. We lived in suburbs much like where I grew up, houses with backyards connecting, streets that meandered in neighborhoods. Stellar was gimpy but okay and we went for a walk to a little park nearby. Across the street and up the hill a guy came out of his house with a greyhound on a leash. Stellar took off running to see the new dog, and I followed, assuring the guy that it was okay. I was delighted to see him moving so well. He got there and greeted the greyhound and then wagged and pranced around as another dog came out. As the neighbor and I stood talking, Stellar got excited about something and ran over to a tall tree.

For a moment there was both Stellar on the ground and a bald eagle leaping into the tree. The eagle was gimpy too, so he had to hop up the birch tree from branch to branch. Higher up there was a hawk, and the two of them danced around from limb to limb for a few minutes cordially assessing one another. Then Stellar hopped up farther to the hawk’s nest. I worried there might be chicks in the nest and he might eat them, but he poked his white head into the nest and sniffed, then stepped away.

A few minutes later a little hawk chick stuck its grey spiky head out. Then it fledged, and another chick fledged–they were bigger by then–and Stellar approached the larger chick and put his beak on the chick’s neck. I worried he might grab it and shake it, but he simply touched it gently with his bill and looked down at me. He had that same look in his eagle eyes as he does above. We stood below and marveled at the four raptors in the tree.

It was time to head home, so I stood beneath the tree and patted my outstretched arm. “Come on down, baby, time to go home.” Eagle Stellar hopped down branch to branch and landed softly on my arm, and we turned to leave. He was still happy and rambunctious after his adventure in the tree, and of course he couldn’t fly because of his gimpy wing, so I cradled him in my arms as we crossed through back yards on our way home. “Gooood boy,” I crooned, “I’m so proud of you…”

Then the damn alarm went off, jolting me out of the dream. But I woke with a smile, and the sweet sensation that Stellar is out there in his bardo trying on potential new identities, thinking he might like to come back as an eagle in his next life.

Wild Turkeys

Ocellated Turkey. Photo: Ray Wilson/Alamy, via Audubon

I’m grateful for wild turkeys. I now know of three kinds, after learning about this ocellated turkey endemic to only a few parts of Mexico and Central America. No wonder early Europeans who colonized North America thought our wild turkey was a type of peacock! They had probably seen this one first. I’m grateful that wild turkeys live here and I get to see them sometimes on the way to town, hens and chicks crossing the road, toms strutting their stuff down in the fields; grateful they’ve adapted well to human encroachment. I’m grateful that I once tested myself by bringing home a roadkill wild turkey that was hit by the car before me, and that I passed the test (that link is not for the faint of heart).

The third kind of wild turkey is the whiskey, of course, which I found in the back of my cupboard this morning while looking for bourbon to use in the Bourbon Pecan Pie I was baking for Thanksgiving dinner up the road. The pie was well-received, but it was a bit more trouble than it was worth, in the cook’s humble opinion. The crust included in the recipe, however, was so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful there are a few pieces left for breakfast this weekend; grateful for leftover domestic turkey for a sandwich, and for leftover mashed potatoes; and grateful for dinner with triple-vaxxed friends, my first indoor dinner party since winter 2020.

Fantastic Fungi

Stuffed mushrooms for dinner tonight: so simple, so delicious.

I’m grateful for delicious mushrooms, and for having broadened my taste for them over years of living here, and knowing mushroom gatherers, and having gathered my own a few times. I’m grateful for a magical, memorable experience one time up on Black Mesa with the Willetts when we gathered abundant chanterelles. These are basic white mushrooms stuffed with a simple blend of soft butter, chopped fresh parsley, shallots, garlic, and panko breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, and baked at 425ºF for about fifteen minutes. I ate the whole bowl.

I’m grateful not only for mushrooms to eat, but for Fantastic Fungi of all kinds, in many ways the glue that holds our world together; and grateful for this marvelous movie, and how it’s opened the eyes and minds of a lot more people to the importance of fungi.

Harmony

The bucks are out strutting today, stalking after one another or does. Magnificent creatures. They show no fear as I walk up to open the driveway gate. I’m grateful to live in harmony with wild animals.

I’m grateful to have the ingredients, the recipe, and the skills to bake crusty sourdough rolls in lieu of buying them, saving me a trip into the grocery store, where pretty much everyone has decided there’s no more pandemic, if there ever was one. I’m grateful to see truth clearly.

Fall

I’m grateful for another beautiful fall day. The brief brutal cold of ‘pre-winter’ has passed. Nights are mild in the twenties and thirties, and days warm up thirty degrees or more. The moon has filled and slowly wanes, days are bright with sun in bluebird skies. (I never understood the ‘bluebird sky’ until I saw a mountain bluebird male.) It’s perfect weather. I’m grateful the old dog is still alive to enjoy a few short wobbles through the woods with Topaz tagging along. Grateful to be learning from him just how much gentleness I possess, and how much more I can stand to grow.

I’m grateful for the golden beauty of my imperfect little aspen tree, its symmetry twisted by a heavy snow years ago. Like me, the tree is flawed but doing its best. I’m grateful for awareness and humility. I’m grateful for the winding down that comes with fall, a welcome transition between the rollicking thrill of garden season and the respite of winter’s hibernation.

I’m grateful too, for the first ever two-part Zoom Cooking with Amy. Tonight we snacked with cocktails, then whipped up a sweet, soft dough for morning. After the dough rests in the fridge overnight, we’ll reconvene with coffee to bake…to be continued!

This Life

I’m grateful that I made choices along the way that led me to be in this life, right now, right here. I could have done so much worse for myself. I could hardly have done better. I’m grateful for so many things in this life, friends, this community, this place. I’m grateful for all the amenities I’ve mentioned before, for the ancient forest around me, the animals both tame and wild who’ve shared my world. I’m grateful for the teachers, the ancestors, the fruits of their labors and of my practice. I’m grateful for this life in which I can make time to lie in the garden with my old dog for hours as he finds his way out of this life. I’m grateful for this life in which I have come to know patience, acceptance, surrender, and joy in the face of suffering.

I’m grateful we made it through another sweet, tender day together.

Autumn Equinox

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.