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La Luna

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.

Harvest moon through junipers on morning walk

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.

Still grateful for fire, which I lit again this cold, fresh morning…
Grateful for the last strawberries, the ancient plate, the stale croissant enhanced with melted chocolate.

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.

Outside

I’m grateful that Stellar hasn’t fallen off the cliff! He gives me more and more thrills at the edge these days.

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 as always for these two faithful walking companions.
A carder bee on the mini zinnias. Grateful for color and light. Grateful to have been able to order a new bee lens, after receiving a generous credit at B&H for all my old photographic equipment. More better bee pics coming, if the lens arrives before the bees are gone.
There is so much in this simple image that I’m grateful for, including the camera that took it, and the implications for future photography. I’m grateful for the dark sky, for the moon that tethers us, for gravity. I’m grateful that the clouds parted and smoke cleared enough to see into space tonight, as the Perseids peak. I’m grateful I’m still awake at 1 am, and I’m heading outside now to see what I can see. I’m grateful to be able to go outside any time I want to, day or night, and participate instantly in the world of nature.

Darkness

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.

This Owl

I was texting with a friend just now who lives near Boulder. A friend in DC had texted me. We were all feeling sad for the world.

Is there a meditation for that? I wondered.

I woke this morning feeling as flat and grey as the sky, and that was ok: it was neutral. I accepted the internal clouds and gave myself over to a day off. I need one every week or two, the more the better, and it’s been a hard-pushing ten days. Just internally. Not like I’m out breaking rock. I felt sad for the world and everyone in it

(Except for me, suddenly. And for once, I didn’t feel altogether guilty; I felt grateful.)

Stellar rose from his bed.

Get up, I told myself. I turned my attention to what the night outside might hold: the waxing moon overhead, sky deep cerulean, an evening star, a soft shifting cloud palette of blues and greys. Stellar sometimes likes to linger by the door. I want him to walk with me for several reasons. I started around the south end of the house and heard a Great-horned Owl calling to the north. Suddenly energized, I stopped, listened, again, again, the same call, hoo-hoo hoohoooo… 

I first think to call the owl to stir Stellar’s jealousy and bring him to my side. He’s been known when I’ve talked with owls before to sidle up whining, throw himself on the ground, and roll. If I’m talking to an owl or a tree or anything else in the garden too intently, he used to do that. No more! Either he doesn’t hear, he doesn’t care, he knows it doesn’t matter, or… Still, I hope to bring him to my side, so I echo the owl’s call. Then I think, There’s no reason I can’t call him in, too.

I’ve always believed in Dr. Doolittle, assumed though that I could never really speak to the animals; but now, as I spend more uninterrupted time alone, I reconsider… I had phoebes practically landing on my shoulder last summer. The owl hoots again, after a pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… another pause. I call back. A pause. He calls again. A pause, then I call back. Then a long silence.

He soars in from the north woods, skimming juniper tops, dark and silent, big, wings outstretched he banks up, perches atop the tower roof. He turns his head and looks at me. I face him looking up, dumbstruck. For a full minute or two we observe one another. Listen, I caution myself, don’t speak. I open my chest and breathe, press my feet into the ground, looking up at his silhouette against the darkening blue sky. Breathe. Open.

I know how smart these owls are. Were I willing to feed him I could train him to come. Instead, I merely want to welcome him, assure him I’m a benevolent force in his world, offer him my home, shower him with my attention, awestruck. Only connect. This is my moment with the Divine. I stand silent, hands in pockets, opening my heart and life to him.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo… In sync with the rhythm of his call he fluffs and twitches his tail upward, posturing, seeking, watching me. A pause.

Hoo-hoo hoohooooo, I reply. He registers my response, then flies off to the south and disappears.

Did I answer right? I don’t know quite what I said to that owl, but I know it had to be nice. I could hear it in his voice as surely he could hear it in mine.

“You belong.”

The owl feels our pain, and sings his own loneliness.

Vaccination!

I’m beyond grateful today as Nurse Karen sticks me with the vaccination needle. Notice I’m not looking?

A year to the day from the last time I ventured willingly from my home, I got a Covid vaccination. On March 12 last year, I was reluctant to take Stellar to the vet in Montrose an hour away for his acupuncture appointment, but did so because it felt necessary, and I did my own grocery shopping for the last time before lockdown. We left the vet and drove to the south end of town to Natural Grocer, where half the energy in the store had an urgent edge, and the other half was blasé. Clerks, however, were wiping down the counter and the conveyor belt between each customer. There was no six foot rule yet, but some of us innately stood farther apart than normal. It felt very strange, new, superficial: these are the precautions we start taking today, now that we know this is for real. Already toilet paper shortages were beginning, and I loaded up on staples for Stellar and me: lots of grains, rice, quinoa, polenta; citrus for weeks; frozen meat; and chocolate, lots of good dark chocolate. I mean, forty dollars worth of chocolate, which felt extravagant, but turned out simply to be sensible.

This morning I approached the day with a sense of benign curiosity: what will it be like, today? From the moment I stepped out of bed, gratitude flowed. Stellar was fine, happy, and we walked the Breakfast Loop, ground still frozen but air barely cold, ideal Mud Season conditions. I led a meditation on Telesangha which people seemed to appreciate. When that was over, I gave Stellar a couple of Charlee Bear cookies and a second CBD chew and asked him to stay in bed, then set off for town. On the way out the yard I snapped the first cluster of Iris reticulata to open to spring. There was a redtail hawk on the Smith Fork nest, which thrilled my heart; a golden eagle soared insolently below a nagging songbird just above Hotchkiss.

I’m grateful for the volunteers and staff of the North Fork EMS, and all the support and comfort they’ve provided our valley during the pandemic. At Heritage Hall in the Fairgrounds, volunteers directed traffic to parking spots, and handed out paperwork to be completed in our cars…
…prior to entering the vaccination processing facility.
Vaccinator tables line the north wall of the building, and the crooked county commissioner welcomes each of us to the zig-zag line…
There is an oddly jubilant mood at the vaccination table: There is such benevolent warmth from the staffers, and plenty of smiles. There’s a palpable sense of relief, a subtle celebration, in the whole of the Hall.
A very thin needle and a slow injection ensure minimal discomfort going in, and after. Yes, my arm might be sore for a day or two afterwards, but the shot didn’t hurt a bit. Notice I’m not looking? Grateful Nurse Karen’s cohort across the table offered to take pictures for me.
Waiting at the back of the room. Nurse Karen sent me off with “Here’s your get out of jail free card, you can leave at 10:35,” with a sticker on the cardboard clipboard they sent me home with. I was grateful to be guided to the last seat at the back of the Hall, right by the open door. Grateful a couple of friends recognized me in my cap and mask and stopped to chat.
My vaccination card, clipped to my second shot appointment reminder, and paperwork to be filled out before I return.
Grateful to greet the crocus patch, welcoming me home after a fascinating journey to town. How they age, wither, and die, just as we do, and are reborn again each spring.

Tonight is Zoom Cooking with Amy. I slept most of the afternoon, slipping between naps, meditation, animal needs, and naps from one til five, thinking I might not have the energy for our date. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and felt compelled to lie down. It might have been ‘covid-shot fatigue,’ or the cessation of stress after a trip to town; it might have been the half-hour soapy hot shower when I returned, or the pure physical release of tension after a full year that the first vaccination afforded my mind. Any which way, I wanted to sleep til morning. But Amy, our plans, and Sarah’s peanut soup beckoned through the ethers. I’m grateful for Amy, and for the inspiration from Sarah for what is now in my recipe file as Sarah’s Peanut Soup.

The recipe calls for Red Curry Paste, but Sarah substituted Massaman. Philip couldn’t find Massaman at the grocery store, so I made some… toasted spices, roasted garlic, fresh sliced ginger, and a little coconut milk zapped in the food processor, et voila! Massaman Curry Paste. Turns out it’s like Garam Masala and other spice blends, there are almost as many recipes as there are households who make it. I mixed and matched three to get my version, based simply on what I had in the pantry. Shrimp paste is definitely going onto my shopping list. That may be the missing secret ingredient that gives Massaman its unique flavor. But my unique homemade blend worked just fine for seasoning Sarah’s Peanut Soup, and there’s plenty leftover for the next few culinary adventures.
Amyface toasting at the start of our meal. I’m grateful as usual for all the elements here: Amy, Zoom and its technological antecedents, peanuts and their controversial history in this country, the Victoria tortilla press I bought a few weeks ago and Bibi’s generous advice on how to use it for flour tortillas, random red wine and the friend who purchased it in Grand Junction months ago; grateful for Apple laptop and all it took to get here from the mainframes of the nineteen fifties; and grateful for the friendship of Rosie and Chris, and the beautiful handblown wineglass they gave me for my fiftieth birthday twelve years ago, which only comes out of the cupboard on special occasions, like Zoom Cooking with Amy.
I’m grateful for and dumbfounded by the fact that I can photograph Orion from my front porch with my effing telephone, down to the multiple star complex at the tip of his sword. I mean! In addition to this daily gratitude practice, I further commit to sitting or walking outside after full dark each night until the next spring equinox. I’ll take a few minutes out of my busy life each night to remind myself where I am in the universe; what is my exact location and my inexact insignificance.

It was a great day! So much happened, big and small, here in this little slice of the world I inhabit. I’m grateful for every minute of this day in which I got to be alive.