Today I’m grateful for this tree, on our usual path through the woods. These ancient junipers frequently remind me how short my own lifespan is compared to theirs, and how much shorter the lifespans of the dear companion animals we love. I’m grateful that I woke up alive this morning, and Stellar woke up ambulatory, and we got to walk to the canyon rim again today, right past this tree that’s been my friend for almost thirty years. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to do that again together.
By sunset, poor Stellar walked like a reeling drunk, and sat down twice on a short loop. Not on purpose. His back legs just collapsed under him, the way they did that one time last winter in deep snow. This evening he was able to get up on his own and hobble forward. But in these last days of his (how many more?) how will we go on if he can’t walk? I’m grateful that I can contemplate this possibility with some degree of equanimity. Every day of the past three months since he made it to 13 has been gravy; every day of the past couple of years since his decline began has been a bonus. I’m grateful that I’ve had the wherewithal to tend him with such devotion, that he’s had the devotion to keep going with me, that we’ve had almost a year together since we lost Raven. My heart breaks at the prospect of waking tomorrow – or the next day, or the next week, or month – and finding him unable to move from his bed. I don’t know what I’ll do. But for now, I’ll go back and snuggle him a bit longer before I head upstairs to sleep. We’ll know more later.
Oh, please let this be the new Sesame Street, the new Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, the new the rest of those zany educational children’s shows that hit the big time afterwards. Please let ‘Waffles + Mochi’ be the new culturally-defining kids’ show! Drag Race meets the Garden!
“We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”
What even is mochi? Auto-correct wants it to say ‘mocha,’ but it’s not. Even after looking it up it doesn’t make sense in my world view – some kind of rice. But this is what this show’s about: expanding the world views of children everywhere; children of all ages. Fearful people might perceive it as a threat to some single thing they hold dear, like skin color, pizza recipes, or language. But anyone else, a person with compassion, curiosity, and wonder at the miracle of life on this planet, a gardener for example, couldn’t help but be charmed. This show brings together all my favorite values. Good food (food that is healthy for us and for the planet), color (a dense rainbow of colors), self-inquiry self-discovery self-acceptance, curiosity, compassion, tolerance, love, nourishment, reverence for Life… and gardening! The transformative power of knowing where your food comes from.
From a ridiculous premise – give it a few minutes – it develops into an utterly charming exploration of food and food as metaphor. Guest stars Samin Nosrat and Chef José Andres add expertise and enthusiasm to episode one, teaching the puppets and some real kids about what makes tomatoes a fruit and a vegetable, and how to know where they belong.
Amy and I aren’t actually cooking this weekend, what with one thing and another, but we did FaceTime happy hour this evening. She reminded me that I meant to watch this show I’d read about, so now I’m doing it. It’s camp, it’s creative, it’s comedic, it celebrates real food, from the POV of an odd-couple of frozen puppets who dream of becoming chefs. Along with these novices fresh out of the frozen foods section, we (children of all ages) learn all about tomatoes in the first episode, and a little bit about how to think of our own belonging. In the second episode we explore salts of the world.
I’m no social scientist or education specialist, but my evaluation is that eventually this show (along with decriminalizing marijuana) could actually facilitate world peace. This world’s new crop of humans, the children of the Covid generation, could, with the loving guidance of wise, open-hearted elders, change the paradigm and bring humanity back into harmony with the planet, through a healthier relationship with food. I’m grateful for this clever, heartwarming show and its message of interconnection, well disguised as a frolic through the world of foods.
I’m grateful for oncoming spring in the garden, and for precipitation that keeps nourishing the tiny bulbs pushing their flowers up here and there. I’m grateful to see the first leaves emerging from the forest floor, though most of the green shoots are weeds; I’m not sure what this little red cluster will become. I’m grateful for another day walking with Stellar among ancient junipers sculpted by centuries of seasons and stressors. I’m grateful for another day sculpting myself by choosing where I place my attention.
I’m grateful for another chance to try my hand at orange sticky buns, which turned out just as well the second time. The dough seemed really wet and was hard to maneuver, and there was a little too much filling (as if!) ~ but they baked beautifully. Anyone who might happen to come to prune my fruit trees in the next couple of days, or to deliver groceries ~ and I’m grateful for anyone who might! ~ will surely go home with some sticky buns. I’m grateful every day for where I live, for so many reasons. I’m grateful for good neighbors of all species.
Today I’m grateful for crusty snow, allowing a different type of walk through the woods than usual. I skirt the trees, off trail, walking an uneven path along drip lines, where shallow crusty snow meets frozen juniper duff, picking my way carefully to avoid punching through unsupportive crust over deeper snow, aimlessly following the dog’s nose; the cat Topaz both follows and leads, intermittently running up trees. I’m always eyeing these trees: which can go altogether, and which can simply be trimmed, an ongoing fire mitigation and path pruning exercise.
Stepping along atop snow crust has its own peculiar charms, or there would rarely be reason to do it. The simplest way to explain it is to say it’s fun! How well can I gauge the crust’s strength step by step? How far can I walk without punching through with an uncomfortable jolt that sends snow down into the sides of my shoes? It’s a game of chance, and carries a similar allure to any other gamble; though the satisfaction is purely mental, and the risk of injury is real.
We explored until I was too hungry to continue then turned home, a well-earned hour of reality after a morning at the desk, a quotidian adventure with cat and dog, discovering new trees to climb and photograph, lifting our legs high to step over sticks and sagebrush, giving our hips and thighs good exercise.
I’m grateful when I remember to do the things that bring home to me why I chose this place to be home.
I knew a guy named Tom, once, who lived with a progressive friend. Tom put a shapely tree trunk in his bedroom that fit perfectly from floor to ceiling. He also converted part of the back deck into an orchid room. Some orchid connoisseurs go to great lengths to provide optimum humidity and other climatic particulars, and Tom was one of them. We lived in north Florida at the time. I was impressed with his collection; though they were the first living orchids I’d ever seen (outside of decapitated corsages) so I was no expert, there were a lot of them on many shelves, of different colors, foliages, growth habits. He impressed upon me what great lengths one had to go to to keep them thriving; he assured me it was difficult. He knew the scientific names and cultivars of all of them. It was greek to me. He was smart, and cute; I think he found me wanting. I was cautious and constrained, and thought him too short; he moved on. I’m grateful, though, that he introduced me to orchids.
It took decades before I got my first orchid, but after that I collected one a month during a difficult year, and gained a reputation as an orchid whisperer. Since then, all of ‘my’ new orchids are rescued or rehomed. When Connie, who had even more orchids than I, moved away she gave me her collection of ten or so. They’re mostly still alive and blooming, along with most of my originals or spawn of from 15 years ago, and a few more gifts and adoptions. It turns out, they’re not that difficult at all, at least the most common grocery-store variety of genus Phalaenopsis. I’m grateful for all the orchids that have come my way, for the beauty and the lessons they’ve brought. (Caveat: I’m sure there are good ecological reasons not to support the orchid ‘industry.’)
I confess, I haven’t learned the genera of all the orchids I have. I did know more of them at one time, but have forgotten for lack of use. They all seem to do just as well in my dry house in western Colorado as any of Tom’s did, or any of the other orchid collector’s I’ve met, who sold them for a nursery, and had a good-size greenhouse in her suburban DC backyard. Her collection was suffering some fungal plague or other pestilence, and looked over-crowded and overly humid. I simply watch for what they need: if their leaves grow very dark green, they might want less light; if they get pale, they need more. Don’t let them dry out completely, feed them now and then, clip off bloom stalks a third of the way back. Keep them in a saucer, water with tepid from the top, mist them when I can or rinse leaves under a soft stream or spray of tepid tapwater; repot them now and then.
Most of them get indirect southern exposure most of the year; I rotate a few blooming ones out of the sunroom into the kitchen or living room just so I can enjoy their flowers. When they fade I trade them back into the sunroom; all year long there are usually at least two or three in bloom, and it seems to keep them all happy. The Phalaenopsis I call Cynthia has bloomed non-stop for more than three years since she gave it to me to babysit for awhile. I am grateful for this orchid, and for the one called Fred which he gave me on my birthday a couple years ago, and for the one called Jere from which I’ve shared several offspring; for Shawn (because that was the name on the pot when Connie gave it to me), which I just divided for the first time last month, and for all the Connies including a couple of exotic varieties; and for the two newest Christys, who are still acclimating in the east windowsill and haven’t settled on a spot yet. And for all the others.
My very first orchid, Lava Glow, still grows though reduced to a core of just a few new leaves. Others have been divided and shared through the years. I count at this time – I just counted, to be sure, and have more than I thought, twenty-three orchids, of which six are in bloom and several more budding. I am grateful that there are always orchid flowers in my house. I’m grateful for moderation in orchids as in all things, grateful to be able to nurture a few beautiful creatures in exchange for their contribution to this house, grateful to be alive in the same world with orchids.
This morning I’m grateful for New Dimensions, a weekly, one-hour radio program more than forty years old, that I have been listening to for almost thirty. Today’s interview with Richard Louv is just one of many that I find profoundly moving. Some of the shows are a bit too… esoteric for my taste, but that’s just personal preference.
“It is only through a change in human consciousness that the world will be transformed. The personal and the planetary are connected. As we expand our awareness of mind, body, psyche, and spirit, and bring that awareness actively into the world, so also will the world be changed. This is our quest, as we explore New Dimensions.”
Each interview brings a unique perspective to some inquiry that inevitably relates to mindfulness. Richard Louv’s latest book, and the topic of Justine Willis Toms’ interview with him in episode #3716, is Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives – and Save Theirs. Gosh, hasn’t this been my calling all along? Among many other things, he talks about the plague of loneliness, derived in large measure from our disconnection from Nature, that ranks with diabetes and obesity as a US human health hazard. He talks about how urban planning for wildlife (such as grasslands on factory rooftops), and home habitat gardens, can fortify migratory bird corridors, and help restore endangered species. One office building he describes raises endangered butterflies on their all-glass first-floor, so not only is there a plenitude of natural light to lift people’s spirits, when you enter the building you’re likely to have a butterfly alight on your shoulder.
“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and softly sits on your shoulder.” I had a poster in my childhood bedroom with this quote that’s resonated with me ever since.
Louv also discusses the idea of habitat of the heart, a habitat as important to the preservation of Nature as natural habitat, and how we must cultivate this habitat from childhood on, as each generation’s ‘new normal’ becomes acclimatized to less and less wild nature in their lives. I remember climbing the birch tree in the backyard woods when I was in the single digits of my life, sitting in the top branches of its gently swaying slender trunk, just sitting, being part of the woods. Do you have a childhood memory of being with nature in that way? Do your children? I hope so.
Gratitude practice today starts with New Dimensions, ripples out to include KVNF which introduced me to this show and has expanded my horizons in so many other ways since I moved to this valley, and leads to gratitude for all the conditions of my life that led me to settle here in 1992. Grateful that a deep sense of missing something, in my twenties, led me to trust and rely upon my profound inborn reverence for Nature, and to create this little sanctuary for the Wild, in which loneliness never enters my mind. Ok, sometimes, but not often!