I am continually frustrated with the load of ‘cordwood’ that I paid a lot of money for last fall, despite my best effort to let go. Every time I load wood into the trolley to bring it inside I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. Every time I load up the woodstove with half a dozen or more hand-sized ‘logs’ which happens about every hour or two, I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. It’s not so much that I mind the extra work of having to fill the stove so very often: It’s keeping me warm, after all wood is wood. What I mind is having paid so very much money for such tiny scraps of wood. So very much of the wood is actually mill scrap. These were supposed to average 14″ long and 3-4″ diameter, that’s what I paid for.
But like my friend Peter used to say, “Oh well.” I can still practice gratitude, noting that I won’t run out of firewood this winter, that there is a kind helper who brings it down to the house for me, that I have a house, that I have a good stove and chimney. No matter what our challenges, if we are paying attention we can always find something to be grateful for. I have the added gratitude of a good recliner, and sufficient leisure in a day to spend some time in it reading, with a cozy blanket, and a sweet companion.
I’m grateful that there are people who read this blog and when it doesn’t show up they sometimes check on me to make sure I’m ok. For you, I want to let you know that I’m working on a big project for the next several weeks, and will be posting less often than usual. It doesn’t always take a lot of time to post, but I like to give it a hundred percent attention when I do it, and I won’t have that available at the end of every day for awhile. Thank you so much for your attention, responses, and affection. I’ll be here as much as I can this coming month, but not every day. I’m grateful for break time.
Wishing everyone peace and ease on this third anniversary of WHO’s declaration of Covid-19 as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).” WHO reiterated that designation today, stating that the world “cannot afford to be complacent” at the same time they seem poised to succumb to the same ennui as most Americans. Oh well. Not my job.
Wren doing Arts & Crafts at doggie daycare yesterday. I’m grateful today that we both got to rest at home. I napped in the morning, I napped in the afternoon, I showered and rinsed my achy nose; I read, ate, read, talked with people; I rested all day and now it’s time for bed. I actively appreciated so much of what I did and didn’t do today. Namaste.
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.
I am always grateful for Boyz Lunch. Today, the company of my dear lunch boys assuaged the melancholy left by the ghost of lamented potential; and also just the fleeting visit from an old friend. It was fun to plan the meal, use preserved tomatillo salsa from last summer’s harvest, soak and cook dried black beans from Rancho Gordo instead of opening the usual cans, and make enchiladas with corn tortillas from a regional tortilleria. Yellow rice is so much easier than I knew, just add turmeric. The meal took some thought and preparation but was ultimately so simple, so delicious.
I combined three recipes to make the most of what I had on hand, adding cream cheese and cheddar to the shredded chicken, (cooking rice in the leftover chicken water); mixing cream, sour cream, cumin, and more leftover chicken water in the blender with the salsa verde then pouring that over the filled and rolled tortillas in a 9″x13″ baking dish. I’m grateful, as always, to have a well-stocked spice rack, pantry, and refrigerator. I’m grateful for my ‘personal shoppers’ who continue to coddle me through covid. I’m grateful for every little piece of the puzzle that comes together to create, serve, and enjoy lunch weekly with an intimate club of three that’s been dining here for nearly six years. I’m grateful for the acceptance and gratitude we share for each other and for our precious, impermanent time together.
I’m so grateful for all the X-rays, sonograms, mammograms, echocardiograms, CT scans, MRIs, and other diagnostic imaging I’ve had in my life; grateful for the technicians who performed them, the radiologists who interpreted them, the medical schools and personnel who taught these people how to make these images and read them; the doctors and nurse practitioners who’ve shared my results with me. I’m grateful for the various machines, and all their tiny, complicated components, and the decades, centuries, of scientific investigation by thousands of humans whose names I’ll never know, that led to these machines being invented and improved.
And I’m grateful for the nameless lives of various creatures, maybe humans, lost ‘in the interest of science’ as these inventions evolved. This doesn’t mean that I condone testing on animals; simply that I accept that it has been done in the past (and there may be occasions when it’s still necessary, but certainly we’ve come far enough that most of it can be avoided), and I appreciate the sacrifices, willing or unwilling, that test ‘subjects’ have made through centuries. I can feel sorry that some things have happened, and still be grateful for the ramifications of the outcomes.
Anyway, back to the list: I’m grateful for the specific people that work in the Delta Hospital radiology department (and I know I’m not the only one) who consistently show such professionalism, efficiency, and compassion in their work. I’m grateful that my recent brain MRIs show only average signs of ‘aging.’ And I’m grateful that my cervical spine MRIs don’t show anything imminently life-threatening. I could whinge about the catastrophic evidence of: degeneration in the vertebral facets, “reversal of the normal cervical lordosis,” “moderate to severe left foraminal narrowing due to left-sided arthropathy and hypertrophy,” and “central canal stenosis with ventral cord flattening.” It doesn’t sound good, and certainly is enough words to explain this ongoing, worsening neck pain.
Oh well. It is what it is. Accepting this, now I can move forward taking into consideration options, making informed choices on the best ways to minimize physical and mental suffering, adapting my lifestyle with diet, appropriate postural adjustments, exercises, and therapies to improve my health. Yeah, it wasn’t great news, but it was more information than I had before, and reassuring in some respects: I don’t need surgery right now, for example, and there’s no cancer. While my brain may be a little older than the years allotted me so far, my spine might be fifty years older than that. One thing, though: my heart keeps getting lighter and younger every step of the way. Too bad they don’t yet have diagnostic imaging to evaluate consciousness; mine would show I’m getting better every day.
Yesterday was interesting. I was too tired to write about it last night, and probably won’t do it justice tonight, but want to express my gratitude to the imaging technicians at Delta Hospital. Everyone was so kind, from the receptionists on. There were some little glitches, at intake and with the MRIs, that would once have really frustrated me, but my growing capacity for accepting things as they are instead of thinking that they should be different served me well.
I may have never met a more tender, compassionate, and sweet tech than Toni, the woman who did the bone density scan. We were practically in tears of loving-kindness by the time she led me back to the waiting room. The MRI tech was very business-like, though also considerate and kind. I remembered Deb’s encouragement to ask for what I needed, so asked for extra pillows to support my knees to reduce sciatic strain; and when the classical music station wouldn’t play, I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb. Remarkably, the only stations that would play were country, and something called ‘soft rock,’ which was horrible. I experienced extreme aversion during the first MRI as the DJ blithered on and on, and when there was ‘music’ its beat clashed with the machine noises inside my head until, despite a concerted effort to remain focused on my breath, I was completely rattled. I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb again when anxiety rose to unbearable-verging-on-panic, and fortunately that was the end of the first session. I continued in blessed internal silence for the next three tests. It was a lengthy exercise in conscious relaxation, first my face, then abdomen, then shoulders, back to abdomen, back to face–as one area relaxed another tensed up, and I cycled through one after the other, consistently returning attention to the breath. Nothing like a long MRI to strengthen meditation practice.
During the whole second scan, there was a little lump in the pillow, which bored into my head. I breathed through that, but it got worse and worse. It was fascinating to watch my mind deal with all these sensational challenges. She wanted me to keep my head perfectly still when she pulled me out to inject the contrast dye, but I had to insist that she smooth the pillow. It wasn’t really a pillow, just a folded cloth. She was exasperated, and in a hurry. I said calmly, as she prepared my arm to stick a needle into it, “I need to not feel anxious, and I need to feel that you’re not in a hurry.” She softened instantly, apologized, and explained that there were two emergencies waiting and there was only this one machine, and one of her. This put things in a different perspective for me, and we both calmed way down. She thought to put a little lavender patch on my chest, which actually helped a lot. This experience, which was stressful and could have been really horrible, was transformed by my ability to accept things as they were each step of the way, do what I could to change them, and then accept again. And again, there was much tenderness and well-wishing between us as she walked me out.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I left the hospital, for the emotional skill with which I’d navigated the morning, and decided to treat myself to a deli sandwich. But there’s no deli near the hospital, so I stopped at Sonic to see what I could find. At the drive-up menu, I realized I couldn’t bring myself to order factory-farmed chicken or beef, so I left; but circled back and ordered three fried sides. I was glowing with acceptance when the little girl brought my limeade and a small bag, and was only mildly disappointed to find inside the bag just one little wrapped burger. I accepted the error with good cheer, and she said she’d be right back with my order. Way too long later, two more “Welcome to Sonic, may I take your order” queries, and finally my bag of sides, I almost lost it when I opened the bag to find they were small instead of medium, and there was no mayo. Acceptance out the window! Attachment in high gear: I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it NOW! But still, I managed not to be too grumpy. When the manager brought a double handful of condiments and apologized, she said “It’s just the two of us, people didn’t show up…” My perspective adjusted itself instantaneously, all frustration melted, and I assured her it was no problem. We smiled and laughed and wished each other happy holidays.
The food was a big disappointment. But I accepted that easily. Fast food is what it is. I drove home filled with compassion for the people who worked at the hospital, the patients who needed emergency MRIs, the harried staff at Sonic, and deeply grateful for the skill of acceptance.
I’m grateful for cactus blossoms indoors. I’m grateful that Topaz is alive after a complicated tumble, though she may have suffered a concussion. If it’s not one thing, it’s another… so went the joke while I was ‘growing up.’ Now, grown up, it doesn’t seem so funny, yet sometimes you just have to chuckle.
Yesterday evening she took a complicated spill from the sunroom table in her felt nest bed, and she hasn’t been quite right since. First, hiding upstairs. Not coming for treats. Staying way too still. Then, this morning, slow-motion creeping down the stairs one at a time, tiptoeing, as if feeling her way. It occurred to me she couldn’t see. Her eyes didn’t track the vet’s fingers, nor blink as I thought they should, nor her pupils contract with his flashlight. Yet when he put her on the floor and nudged her to walk, she leapt with certainty to the high silver table, landing like a feather. This impressed him and seemed diagnostic: to do that she must be fine. I thought, Maybe she’s not dying, but she could do that blindfolded. Her carrier was up there, the smell of it, the hard edge of the table. She could be less than blind and very compromised, and still make that leap.
Anyway, he let her go with a steroid shot and an oral antibiotic and instructions for me to give her pills for 3 days. That’ll be a trial. Or, at least, that’s my expectation. She could surprise me and be docile. Then the car battery was dead. There was someone there to give me a jump. I was grateful. Then I left the clinic, after waiting in the claustrophobic exam room for 45 minutes, in a pandemic, in the county in the state with the worst infection rate, in a state with the most increasing cases in the nation. The wise thing to do for myself and my cat was walk out unattended.
Then the car battery was dead. There was someone to give me a jump. I was grateful. I hightailed it home, surrendered. Grateful for a live cat, a live battery, getting home, kindling already split, a hot shower, soft pants, a warm fire, a zoom meeting, a single ice-cold martini. Accepting what is. Get me to my bed on time! If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Or so it seemed in that moment, that refractory period where emotions cloud perspective. Remember yesterday, and the cosmos? Chill out.
Garden Buddy brought over muffins and tortellini minestrone this morning; she and her guys were on their way to run errands, including a couple of mine. I let the soup thaw in the fridge for tomorrow. I needed to do something with the last eggplants before they disappeared in the back of the produce drawer and had to end up compost. I’ve been planning this dish for weeks, and trying to get it made for days. I’m grateful I had energy today to make this time-consuming but utterly worth it recipe.
We missed Amy, but I sure enjoyed a leisurely couple of hours meandering between the joy of cooking with a martini in the kitchen, and paying attention to Stellar in the living room. He watched me the whole time, and persuaded me to turn off the TV and turn on some soft instrumental jazz; then he tried out his howl just to see if I’d come, which I naturally did. I’m grateful for a relaxing evening home cooking with Stellar.
Everyone’s death is as uniquely their own as their lives are. He’s slowly going. I’m in no rush. The more I surrender to what is, settle into the moments that we have left, the less anxious I am about it. I’m grateful for these sweet evenings we’ve been sharing for months, now winding down; grateful for one more evening with him, knowing they’re running out.
I’m grateful for the awareness I had to be grateful every day for two happy, healthy dogs for most of their lives. Mr. Brick died of cancer when Stellar was nine months old, at the young age of ten. Over the next decade Stellar and Raven brought so much joy. Their sheer physical magnificence would have been ample, but their inseparable and enthusiastic relationship delighted me constantly.
I’m grateful that Stellar had a pretty easy day, therefore so did I. He never got up from his bed, and the last time he really tried was at two a.m., when he woke me with pitiful crying. I spent an hour getting him settled down, and he slept soundly til well after I and the sun were up. Perhaps he’s accepted his immobility, and he seemed comfortable all day, sleeping a lot but otherwise alert and engaged. He’s still a good watchdog, sounding the alarm when various friends stopped by with treats for me and necessities for him. I’m grateful for the TLC of people looking out for me, and grateful that I can also be helpful to others even during this challenging time. I’m grateful to finally begin to understand what it means to live with a joyful ease.
I’m grateful for the safe reception of an heirloom painting after some confusion about its delivery. When I picked it up from a cottage in town there was a joyful German wire-haired pointer on the deck who hugged and licked me all over. I told her person it would make Stellar’s day to get to smell her on me, and indeed it was the highlight of his otherwise uneventful day. We took a few short walks, he ate and drank a lot, I worked here and there, and spent time outside with him. I’m grateful for an uneventful day.