I’m grateful all five phoebe babies made it through their first 24 hours. I spooked them several times this morning walking around the west side of the house; they scattered each time from a different roost on the ground, then perched on anything convenient like this string of prayer flags. A strange light filtered through a sudden smoke bank that rolled in from the southwest, eventually obscuring the mountains and carrying that chilling scent of wildfire. That surreal color suffused everything for a couple of hours. I’m grateful the fires aren’t closer.
Grateful for yet another new claret cup cactus in bloom. Such a great year for them!
I’m grateful for the first harvest of radishes. I wasn’t crazy about radishes, but they’re fulfilling to grow. And this variety is crisp and light, spicy but not too hot. I’m grateful for being open to changing my taste, my habits and attitudes toward food and everything else.
We ambled along deer trails this morning, enjoying new trees and views and some angles we haven’t seen recently. Stellar picked his way zigging one direction then zagging another on the amazing network of narrow trails that criss-cross the forest floor, as I followed amiably. I heard a little buzz from the tree just ahead on the right and knew instantly there was a hummingbird nest nearby. While Stellar investigated smells on the ground, I tiptoed around the tree intently examining limbs but could find nothing. The hummingbird flew to the next tree south, and I knew she was keeping an eye on me. I continued my stealthy inspection around an intertwined tree, then stepped back onto the deer trail. The hummingbird buzzed closer, and I realized I was getting warmer.
The nest was in the tree across the trail from the first I suspected, just above eye level. Mama zoomed past again. I took a quick step close to snap a second shot and then left her in peace. Reaching the camera above the nest blind without getting too close, I didn’t know what I’d get. I was grateful to get this image.
But I was grateful for the thrill of discovery even before I saw the picture. Just knowing that a certain sound in a certain context signifies these tiny treasures nearby brings a sense of joyful satisfaction. Even if I hadn’t located the nest I would have hummed happily the rest of the day, just from knowing I knew there was a nest in one of those trees: I marvel at my good fortune to live here and know these woods so well.
The walk continued to reveal surprise treasures. It’s a very good spring for the claret cups. Their scarlet blossoms, backlit by early morning sun, sparkled like jewels scattered on the forest floor in numbers I’ve not seen before.
Our lovely Sunday morning continued back at the house, where we sat on the patio, I with a latté and a book, Stellar with a big smile, enjoying the flowers, the phoebes’ feeding flights, and the hummingbirds’ frenzy at the new feeder.
After a full day of yarden work, cousins’ zoom, meditation, and coursework, it was time for Zoom Cooking with Amy! Tonight we made an easy smoked salmon taco, following the recipe in this video that Amy sent last week. We both had flour and corn tortillas, and tried one of each. A quick slaw of carrot, celery, and Granny Smith apple, with a basic sauce of mayo, mustard, lemon juice, cumin and salt, some flaked salmon, and a bit of lettuce on top. So simple, so delicious!
After dinner it was still light, and Stellar had the strength to go for another walk, so we strolled again into the woods. We came upon one of the same cacti from a different perspective, and it was new again to both of us.
Then a white glint through the trees caught my eye, a strangely symmetrical shape, and I walked over to examine it. Another treasure: a reminder of impermanence, making all the treasures this day held even more precious in retrospect.
I’m grateful today for witnessing so many facets of the miracle of life. The phoebe babies are big enough to peek over the edge of the nest, and I was stunned to see four yellow mouths instead of three. I watched off and on today as their parents flew more or less nonstop back and forth bringing bugs. The chicks would wake squeaking until one was fed, then their fragile little forms would droop back into sleep, their heads sometimes draped over the edge like the one in back. The central chick is stretching its delicate feathering wing.
Stellar and I are both grateful today for an unexpected visit from the tiny dogs and their person. He hasn’t seen his main girlfriend Popis for a very long time, and she brought her new adopted sister Phoebe Snow Reno. (Her name is too big for her body.) He was beside himself with excitement, and now he’s unwakeably asleep. But even before that interlude, we were grateful for a good walk to the canyon on an early spring morning, greening trees, flowering shrubs, birdsong, and strong enough legs. Then we were grateful for a thrilling sensory discovery when we took an untried shortcut: a mammoth Fremont holly, far taller than I and at least twenty feet across. The flash of yellow caught my attention, but then the scent arrested my footsteps. I turned immediately toward it, inhaling deeply.
After a good morning rest for Stellar, and a few hours of work for me, the tiny dogs stopped by and gave us a break from our exertions. Stellar wore himself out, utterly distracted by and unable to focus with two of them to pay attention to. It was quite the interlude.
Remarkably, after another several-hours rest while I worked, Stellar had the stamina for a third walk. As we meandered home we discovered another natural treasure, a huge, perfectly circular, claret cup cactus that we’ve never passed before, the first in bloom I’ve seen this season. I’m grateful for all these quotidian wonders in a single day, not the least of which is that this old dog keeps on ticking. Also I’m grateful that this old body I inhabit can keep up with him: we are perfectly matched in pace these days, and equally easy to please.
This morning brought the promise of rain, which ultimately manifested as only a few misty sprinkles between hours of cool sunshine. Stellar and Topaz walked with me through the woods, I baked some cinnamon buns and enjoyed the sugary treat outside with coffee on the patio as phoebes flitted and titmice tittered, and I finished reading a pretty good novel. Then I attended to my lesson plan and taught the first of eight classes to a second pair of students, embarking on the last practice session before I get certified to teach mindfulness. After that, we walked again, to the canyon in evening sun, and then I made dinner and watched some shows. It was a mundane, simple Saturday, the kind I love, and I’m grateful for every living moment of this day spent in contentment.
I only checked the news headlines a couple of times, and each time I felt discontent, frustrated, angry, and sad. People can be disappointing. Human nature has an evil streak, try as we might to deny it. Greed, hatred, and delusion are the three poisons of mind that cause the most suffering in the world. The Buddha recognized them 2500 years ago: They were with us then, and they remain today; they may have evolved along with our other, better qualities as we became the human species, and there may have been an adaptive advantage then, but there isn’t now. I truly don’t see any hope for eradicating them in general, but I can sure do my best to diminish them in my own mind. By choosing to turn my attention away from the so-called ‘news’ that is full of them, and toward the living, breathing planet under my feet, I’m able to water the seeds of gratitude, compassion, kindness and joy. This brings a pure, deep contentment to each day.
I’m grateful that I have lived long enough to find contentment, after a lifetime of chasing illusory ideals of happiness. I’m grateful for every step that led me here (though I think I could have done without several-many of the more painful lessons along the way), for each right step, and for each wrong step that taught me something, offered an insight, invited a course correction. I’m grateful that I survived my poor decisions, and finally understand the power of choosing where I place my attention.