I’m grateful for this box of beautiful citrus that arrived today from a dear friend in Florida. Four grapefruits, three satsumas, and two Meyers lemons. And I’m grateful for the other box too, with even more. A few of those satsumas were smashed and leaking, but they had a long cold trip.
I’m grateful for these generous gifts and the causes and conditions that got them here. As I think about all the steps involved in their journey from seed to tree to fruit, from High Springs to here, how they made it through or before the ‘once-in-a-generation’ winter storm, I’m considering that roughly 60% of the US population is experiencing extreme cold tonight, including blizzards, and lethal windchill temperatures. I’m grateful I’m safe and warm. I’m sadly aware of those many humans and other people who are not. Wild animals of all kinds, those in captivity, neglected pets, stray dogs, feral cats, and many more are also at risk from this massive storm. It’s tough to think about. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg of suffering across this fragile planet. I’m grateful for people of all species everywhere who make time to be kind, to support and care for each other.
I’m grateful for improvisation in the kitchen. Yesterday, I boiled some butternut squash gnocchi from the freezer, which I made a few weeks ago with last year’s squash purée from the freezer, and topped it with a quick sauce of sautéed onion, mushroom, and garlic, and the last of this year’s arugula, which I blended Bello style with a splash of milk and some pasta water then tossed back into the skillet with the gnocchi and some parmesan to heat through. It was so simple, so delicious! I tried to post last night but was thwarted.
And I got a second meal out of it as a cold salad today, with a splash of mayonnaise and some chopped chives–still green outside despite ongoing winter weather.
In the meantime, as though I needed to eat even more, I tossed together the last of the shredded chicken with a can of Great Northern beans and one of Cannelinni, some onion, one orange jalapeño, chili powder, garlic, cumin, frozen corn, and Penzey’s Arizona seasoning. It was also simple and delicious. I’m sure grateful for eating so well, and as I’ve mentioned before, for finally settling into comfort and competence in the kitchen so that each meal isn’t a challenge of What? When? How?
And I’m grateful that little Wren has been able to settle into comfort, too–do you think she could relax just a little bit more?
I’m also grateful for the hard work so many citizens (including my friend Gina, a hundred postcards above) are doing these last few weeks before the US midterm election. This is a crucial election: Our democracy hangs by a thread, and it’s up to thinking, compassionate Americans to preserve it. If Maga Republicans win the precarious balance in the Senate or takeover the House, we will return to the Dark Ages where rabid religious zealots will determine who has basic human rights (white people, mostly rich) and who no longer has basic human rights (women of all colors, men of color, LGBTQ+ people, children discovering their authentic identities); who lives and who dies by shuttering social security, Medicare and Medicaid and silencing scientific research; who gets educated and who does the educating based on one single religion–wait a minute, isn’t that what even Republicans were pissed off about with the Taliban? And what’s up with the Putin worship, anyway? My old white male relatives, Colonels and Generals in the US Army before they died in the past decade, were as staunchly anti-Russia as every other Republican in their generation.
We are literally in a battle for the future of the planet (politics aside). But if you love anybody gay, anybody trans, anybody who has a uterus and the potential to become pregnant, if you love Nature, wild animals, clean water, reading what you want to read, science, the earth, you better Vote Democratic this November. Better yet, vote early! If you have children or grandchildren, you better take a good hard look HERE at the difference between what Republicans did over their last four years in the presidency, and what Biden has done in just the past two years, and be honest about which party really has your best interest at heart. If you agree with my point of view, will you please commit to reminding at least three people you know to vote Democratic in next week’s midterm election? With gratitude.
It was a sleepy, hot day. I’m grateful that it wasn’t as hot here as it was in other places in the west where people I love are suffering from the extreme heat wave; and where people I don’t know are suffering from the extreme heat wave. I’m grateful for the illusion of stability and peace that I dwell in these days, savoring the beauty and ease of this moment, knowing that nothing lasts, everything changes, what I’m grateful for today may not exist tomorrow. Meditating on the certainty of impermanence, reflecting on the precious gifts of this life I fell into and created with every choice I made along the way, takes my breath away sometimes. But mostly, these days, it makes me grateful for every breath I take.
I’m grateful for erosion. Without it, we wouldn’t have canyons. Imagine that. None of the drama, beauty, adventure; no more of the unique habitats, microclimates, and endemic creatures of canyons… like the adorable canyon wren with its unmistakable song (be sure to click ‘Listen’ in the link). No Grand Canyon, no Black Canyon of the Gunnison (pictured above), none of the other fabulous canyons around the world. Not that I’m a huge fan, and not that it will be feasible for much longer, but no hydropower dams which admittedly provide electricity and irrigation water to a lot of humans… Besides forming landscapes, erosion can also benefit the planet by distributing nutrients…
I realize that I’m in over my head, because as I search the internets for benefits of erosion, I find a 10:1 ratio of articles about “why erosion is bad and benefits of erosion control”: Not many specifics about why it’s good. It depends on your point of view, I guess. For certain, erosion doesn’t play nice with human efforts to control the environment, and the more intensely we have tried to shape the planet to our will, the more we have decided that erosion is a problem to be reckoned with rather than accepting it as a natural force of evolution. So I’m gonna be grateful for it anyway, because of canyons.
I am grateful for the deluge that blessed us this afternoon in the valley, on the mesa. It poured for a good forty minutes, nourishing the drought-stricken land. Both patios were underwater and pathways were streams. I’m not the only one who stopped what I was doing (reading) and gawked at the downpour. I’m grateful to live among people who appreciate this gift from the storm gods; to know that my friends and neighbors also paused in their everyday lives to marvel at the glory of this rain.
It wasn’t quite a Hundred Year Flood like they got in Moab last weekend, a desert town a few hours west of here; nor was it like the five Thousand-Year Floods that have occurred in the US this past month. And maybe this particular rainstorm wasn’t a direct effect of climate chaos like the record-breaking floods in Dallas, Kentucky, St. Louis, Illinois, and Death Valley since July 26. Maybe our storm was just an extra heavy monsoon rain, but it was definitely unusual for this area in recent years, and most welcome. I’m grateful it didn’t last much longer, because it actually could have overflowed the patio into the front door. As it was, and rarely happens, wind and rain came from the east for part of the storm, melting adobe down the living room window. I’m grateful that all the other sides of my house got stuccoed years ago. I’m grateful I had the presence of mind this time to go outside and squeegee the window while it was still wet, so tomorrow I’ll only have a few streaks to wash off instead of a curtain of dried grit.
After the storm I wandered around the yard assessing erosion, and hunting for Biko. I was kind of worried he might have gotten caught in a puddle and drowned. As cold as it got so suddenly, he might not have been able to move if he’d been tucked in somewhere water was flowing, which happened to be most of the yarden. There are half a dozen places he tucks in for the night this time of year; he could have been anywhere else, too. I started my search in the dog pen where he hides in the dogloo or the dog house when he senses rough weather coming. But the ferocity of this storm caught us all off guard. I circled the yard checking his other hidey-holes, and found him under the lavender-cotton by the top gate.
I’m grateful for some time with my husband camera over the past weekend, and for the flowers blooming in the yarden. Not so many nor so profusely as in past years, but still plenty for the birds and bees that are here. It is alarming that I haven’t seen several species of native bees that were common a couple of years ago. But I’m grateful for the few bumblebees and honeybees I see, and for the sunflower bees. And for this red-bellied wasp. Too tired tonight to look her up, and can’t remember if I know her name. We all know how that is.
I’m grateful that the new pedal for the sewing machine works! It’s not perfect: it doesn’t want to stay plugged into the back of the machine. But I braced it to stay put, and got some projects finished yesterday. The fifth and last panel for the sunroom curtains (which I started twenty years ago) is together, the one on the left with the eyelash viper appliqué. Only one curtain is actually assembled and hanging, and now I have four left to finish decorating and sew onto the Warm Window lining. Originally I planned these to insulate the five sunroom windows from winter cold, but as our winters became increasingly mild (along with some major distractions) I kept putting it off. Now I’m motivated to finish them, and another shade for the landing window, to insulate the house from summer sun and increasingly uncomfortable heatwaves. I’m very grateful that I’m fortunate enough to have an adobe house whose temperature remains relatively stable season to season, year to year; knowing full well there are millions of people who don’t have this kind of protection as our climate becomes increasingly unstable.
I’m grateful to have these old photos to prompt memories of fun times and special people. But I’m thinking about digitizing just a few special images and throwing all the rest–all the loose photos in boxes, all the albums from childhood, from generations of ancestors before me, from the Colonel’s Army days, from my mother’s last year–just throwing them all away. They take up so much space. And after I’m gone, who will want them? Do I even want them? There’s a certain discomfort in looking at them now, especially those that cover my life. I’m no longer that person. I no longer know Brian, or almost anyone else from my past. I found in looking through the album that contained these two pictures, in looking at these two pictures, that much more than happy memories comes up: memories of embarrassing moments, emotional wounds, longings unsatisfied, choices made, chances missed, a melancholy retrospective. I don’t want to look backward at what and how my life was. I don’t want to think about that girl or her angst. For every fun or happy moment, there were hours of anxiety and dissatisfaction. I didn’t know who I was or what really mattered to me. And none of that past matters now, when there is so little future left.
I want to look forward, not backward. Who am I today? Who do I want to be tomorrow, if I get there? I’ve found contentment in the simple life I lead, close to the land and the wild, growing food, listening to birds, watching clouds; cherishing each day on this beautiful planet even as I witness its unraveling. Finding gratitude and joy in the smallest things:
Tonight I’m grateful for science. I’m grateful for science all the time. Can you imagine the quality of our lives without science? You wouldn’t be reading this blog, for one thing. You wouldn’t be pulling a cold beer out of the fridge or a pint of Häagen-Dazs from the freezer without science. Without science, we’d all have died of Covid by now, OR the pandemic wouldn’t have even happened because there wouldn’t have been air travel from China. Wait, I’ve just given myself an argument against science. But aside from all the down sides of science and technology, we do live a pretty good life because of science, and I didn’t die of scarlet fever in third grade because of science. So, I’m grateful for science. And I’m especially grateful for science when I look to the night sky and grasp an inkling of perspective that is brought home with a big bang as I marvel at the stunning first images from the James Webb Telescope. I am always grateful to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things I’m nothing, in a good way.
Growing up, yellow was my favorite color. I had a yellow bedspread, yellow ruffled curtains, a yellow abstract painting that I commissioned from the artist, Ed Duggan, when I was around twelve. He was a friend of my mom’s at the Art League who painted through the years increasingly finer and more intricate renditions of topo maps, which might be hard to visualize if you’ve never seen a topo map. Just the elevation lines, in various color schemes. I had no idea what a topo map was at the time, but was transfixed with the harmonious images. I wonder where that painting ended up. I’m grateful that simply thinking just now about the color yellow and my childhood bedroom brought to mind that painting. Somewhere along the way I gave up on having a favorite color: I love them all equally (and there’s some equanimity! Now, if I could only expand that to love all humans equally). Anyway, I’m grateful today for yellow, and especially for this spectacular cluster of giant yellow columbines that accidentally ended up in the vegetable garden and is now one of its highlights. I actually took the time the other day to snip off all the seedheads, in order to encourage more new blooms. So little is blooming in the garden this year that I’m going to nurse this beauty for as long as I can.
There is so much not to laugh about today. So much extra, unnecessary misery has just been catalyzed by the self-righteous right wing wingnuts on the Supreme Court. So much extra, unnecessary misery has been generated by human greed and ideology since the Industrial Revolution. So much suffering has occurred globally for all species and will continue to occur for all species including, of course, human beings, due to climate chaos and our species’ staggering capacity for denial, our devastating refusal to face this slow moving catastrophe. There is so little any one human can do about it.
This is where mindfulness skills* have literally saved my sanity. Cultivating the wisdom to accept things as they are, and from there determine how I can help; the ability to choose where I place my attention and hold it there; to practice gratitude and compassion with every breath that I can remember to–these are the gifts of mindfulness for me. With these skills, I am sometimes able, even on a day with such dreadful planetary and political news, to laugh til my sides ache.
My cousin and I play Wordle every day, and share our results. First we each share, in our own time, the blank tile tally that we’re given the option to share once we complete the word game. Then we share a screenshot of our guesses. I love seeing her process, and learning from it, and noting how some days it is so different from mine, and some days so similar. Spoiler Alert: Today, the solution was SMITE. After we texted our solutions, this happened…
I could not stop laughing at my own spontaneous cleverness, largely because I knew how hard she’d be laughing at my reply. I called her, and we sat together on the phone, half a country apart, laughing til we cried without saying a word for several minutes, before catching our breath and chatting for awhile. I am so grateful for laughing out loud long and hard with my cousin, for laughing with my friends, for laughing alone sometimes, just because it really is the best remedy. (Just. Just for you, dear 😂) May we each find laughter where we can in each day, no matter the challenges it presents. May we laugh together on the same page as we fight to protect one another. May we remember how good laughter is for our bodies and our souls.
*I start teaching a new 8-week Mindfulness Foundations Course online on July 1. If you’re interested, check it out here, and let me know.