Tag Archive | friends and neighbors

Loving Friends

Had I not gotten violently ill last night, I would have posted my gratitude for Raven and Stellar, yet again. And for letting go, finally. Yesterday I took their faded photos off the food bins that I’d used for them and have been using recently for Wren and Topaz, and replaced them with their current owners. It was hard, even knowing those photos don’t hold their lives, to throw them away, but it was time to let go of the pull of their memories in that context.

I didn’t feel quite right so I went to bed early. I’d only been asleep for an hour when I woke up all kinds of sick, and remained so for about twelve hours. I’m grateful for my Cousin Nurse who talked me through accepting it, there wasn’t much I could do to stop vomiting, but to be sure and sip some liquids as I could. I was able to get out of bed around two this afternoon and sip some dilute ginger ale and water. Once I felt a little better I texted around to see if anyone had some orange Gatorade or some Pedialyte to replenish electrolytes.

I am so grateful for a supportive community: for loving friends who cooed their concern and made various offers to get me something, and for Garden Buddy and her husband who actually had exactly what I needed and made a special trip over to deliver it. They may not even have had it on hand; they were out and about and may have picked it up. Knowing them, they’d have gone to extra lengths to get me Orange! The only flavor Gatorade I can stand–but I would have been grateful for any flavor at that point.

I’m grateful I got so much housecleaning done yesterday, it made it easier to come downstairs this afternoon and rest in the recliner. The slight fever is down a bit, the Covid test was negative, a cool rain drizzles outside, Wren and Topaz have been extra sweet. The awful helpless feeling is gone and I’m just tired and a little queasy now. The fear that it would get worse and all the scenarios that flowed from that are gone. I almost want to eat a cracker now, but I’m heading back to bed. I am grateful that I will survive!

This Week…

The apricot tree is in full bloom… a gorgeous and melancholy sight, as temps are predicted to fall well below freezing tomorrow night…
Magpies are nurturing a nest right outside the kitchen window, which will provide entertainment for months.
Biko has been enjoying his days outside in his round pen, coming inside each evening with an assist from me.
The does are coming around less often as surrounding fields green up. This is Stripe, who has extra small ears for a mule deer, and a white stripe down the length of her nose, which is not quite visible here because of the sun.
How did I never think to fry a burrito in butter??? So simple, so delicious.
Sometimes an image just demands the camera.
The bonsai jasmine is finally blooming, and its intoxicating fragrance fills the kitchen each evening.
I cook a skillet of beans once a week or so for burritos or whatever. Yesterday I craved cheesy grits also, and plunked some on top of the black beans. So simple, so delicious!

It’s been quite a week, full of pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral events and perceptions. The days swirl by in a dance of mind with matter, and by the end of each day I’m too tired to post. In appreciation of those who have noticed my absence, I am sharing my simple gratitude today for another week alive, one precious day after another; without further ado, but with heartfelt thanks for the love and support of my community and friends across the country.

Focaccia

It was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve read focaccia horror stories: For a first effort this was a great success! Life’s simple pleasures. The joy that baking has given me over the past couple of years.

Having rested overnight, covered, in the cold mudroom, the dough formed a slight crust. I was worried it was too dry to dimple… but it worked just fine, and baked beautifully. Maybe it could have been a bit airier, but it was delicious warm out of the oven with unsalted butter… and just as good this evening. So simple, so delicious!
And the joy of being able to share the fruits of baking practice, sending chunks home with the Boyz for their families.

The joy of serving Boyz Lunch again, finally, outside on the patio! Scrub jays squawked in now and then to pluck a seed from the spent patio pots, as we sat in warm sun, shedding layers as we ate and talked about consciousness. They are so gratifying to feed! Everything is the best, how will I live up to the high bar I set in the first lunch of the season? It’ll be easy–they are easy to please. Today they enjoyed broccoli-cauliflower soup from the freezer, Judi Wolfe’s mac n cheese with the Secret Ingredient, and makeshift fajitas. I cooked fajita meat from the ranch down the road in an overnight marinade, and laid it in 12″ tomato tortillas, with grated cheese (Blarney Castle!), homemade salsa, and ripe avocados.

For dessert, a tiny pear galette also from the freezer. I’ve got to start eating down the freezer, as we are blessed to be able to say here. The last of last summer’s frozen produce has got to get going, so there will be room enough in a few months to start restocking with this year’s bounty. Neighbor Fred says the apricot tree is loaded with fruit buds this year–if only we don’t lose most of them again to late freezes as we did last year. It was inspiring and hopeful to plant pepper seeds this afternoon, twelve varieties: enough to share seedlings, and enough, I hope, to make plenty of fermented hot sauce to keep some and give some away.

Birthday Week

Just a few highlights from my birthday week. I’m grateful for another turn around the sun, and for all the loving good wishes that came my way. I worked through the whole weekend, but paused frequently to appreciate the uncanny, glorious days, and a handful of visitors who dropped by with cards and gifts. A gorgeous bouquet was delivered Friday, Saturday brought earrings, a lemon tart, and a plate of hors d’oeuvres ready to cook. Various balms, candles, candies, and other goodies arrived over the next days in the mail or in person. I feel truly blessed to be so cared for. “Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.”

I’ve been hoarding my Christmas grapefruit, but have been promised another shipment for my birthday, and so indulged in the last of them. Amy told me how to ‘supreme’ a grapefruit and it sounded like a lot of trouble and a waste of fruit, but I tried it, and (except for a little nick of a finger) it is by far the best way I’ve found to get the most fruit, juice and enjoyment out of a grapefruit.

Little cat, big cat, walking in the snow… I know I’ve mentioned before that I’m grateful to live where there are lions. It’s been a couple years since I’ve seen sign of one, so it was a thrill to come across a line of tracks.

Last night I went out to turn off the generator, and there was a huge moondog. As I stood marveling at it, I heard coyotes northeast of the house along the canyon. I haven’t heard them like that for years. There was a pack, singing like their little hearts were full. They would sing a round, then the dogs across the canyon would bark, and I’d hear the reverb of all those dogs roll up the canyon and stop when it hit the end. It was magnificent. It was just one grand thing after another all week long.

Leftovers

I’ve been grateful the past couple of days for Thanksgiving leftovers, with which to enhance cheese sandwiches. Yesterday, I toasted oat bread, then layered mayo, Swiss cheese, lettuce, bacon, and leftover turkey, and grilled it in bacon fat. So crunchy! So delicious. Other people love fancy cranberry sauces with orange pieces, grapes, nuts, and all manner of other bits in; but I only love Aunt Linda’s cranberry sauce, the ancestral recipe from my father’s side of the family. “It’s like canned,” said the hostess the other day. Well, I guess, but it was being made long before anyone thought to put cranberry sauce in a can. I didn’t make it this year, and so declined leftover cranberry sauce. When I set out to make yesterday’s sandwich, I really really wanted cranberry sauce on it, the right kind. It occurred to me to substitute chokecherry jelly, which is sweet, tart, and a little bitter, just like cranberry sauce. Which, our ancestral way, made only of stewing whole cranberries and sugar, is really just cranberry jelly. I’m grateful there was still some left from two summers ago, since there were no chokecherries this year.

Another Thanksgiving leftover, a delicious puffy yeast roll, provided today’s sandwich, cold this time, with mayo, chokecherry jelly, turkey, cheddar, and lettuce. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful that eating has become so much more to me than filling up with meaningless food. Eating is a gratitude practice in itself, holding in awareness the sources of all the ingredients, how they were grown or who made or provided them; remembering, with leftovers, their primary meals and who was involved in making and sharing those. I’m grateful to live in a community where hostesses remind me to bring containers to take home leftovers; and grateful that when I forget to, they are provided. As I remember Thursday’s dinner, I’m grateful all over for dining at last with friends again, and grateful there were leftovers.

Sleep

So much more to be grateful for today, and I have been writing bits down all afternoon. But right now I find myself with a budding headache and eyes still crying. I’m grateful to be heading to bed early, with a full heart though an empty house. Topaz is such a small person, and takes up so little psychic space. I’m grateful she went for a walk with me this evening, and came right inside afterward. Meanwhile, there is a gaping void in every corner of the house, and blessed sleep is the only thing that will relieve that in this moment. I’m grateful for a warm bed and a roof over my head. I’m grateful for all the words of love and condolence, and all the help from friends today, and for resilience.

Chuño

Today’s gratitude stretches back to the first week I moved to this valley in 1992. I saw a flyer for a dance class for women, and there I met several whom I still know today. Though I haven’t seen them much since those first few years, I am grateful for the warm welcome and sense of belonging they offered when I was new here, and grateful to remain connected with them through the web of community and common interests.

I’m grateful for community radio KVNF, and for their gardening show “As the Worm Turns,” and for an episode a couple of months ago when I called in with a potato question. Then Tara, one of those first friends from that dance class, called in with a potato answer. Tara and her husband have been adopted into a community on an island in Peru’s Lake Titicaca. Here is one of my favorite poems of hers about her Taquile family.

I had forgotten about that poem until Tara called into the Worm after I did, and told us about chuño again. Lance reported the next week on the show that he had made some, and I had by then harvested some tiny potatoes and frozen them. I didn’t have a huge potato crop, so I kept adding to the chuño bag in the freezer until I had finished harvesting and then left it until I had time to focus on it. With the garden largely put to bed, tomatillos all processed, and most of the tomatoes and peppers finished, I took out the chuño bag, let them thaw, and then smashed them with a heavy-bottomed glass on a plate.

After a few days in the drying pantry (which hangs in the living room not far from the woodstove from mid-summer through fall), the smashed potatoes were dry enough to put in a jar. Tara says she uses them in soups and other dishes throughout winter, and I look forward to enjoying their particular flavor/texture sensation this winter, maybe after I’ve eaten the last of the fresh potatoes. I’m grateful for living in community through time, for KVNF, for the Worms, for Jeffy the technical heart of KVNF, for Tara, for her cross-cultural horticultural wisdom and her good heart, for potatoes in general and specifically those that grew in my garden this summer, and I’m grateful for learning yet another way to preserve food: chuño.

Chuño dried and ready for the jar this afternoon, a mix of red, russet, and Yukon gold baby potatoes.

Practice

Stellar and his sister Moonshine at about ten days old, held in the loving arms of my dear friend Chris, their ‘birth’ mother.
Stellar at four, helping in the office.

It was a rough day. Stellar woke crying in the night, and I spent the rest of it in and out of sleep on the floor beside him. He wanted to go out in the morning but couldn’t walk. I spoke with his vet to get clear instructions about palliative dosages for his pills, and the cold reality of the ways mammals die colored the rest of the day. He got himself up late afternoon and went outside, begging for a walk. We tried, but his back legs just dragged in the sling, and he kept heading to the right, going in circles if he didn’t encounter an obstacle like a sagebrush or my leg. I could barely move him along, and found myself crossly impatient.

I’m grateful for the introspective skills I learned in mindfulness training, so I could observe my reaction with gentle curiosity. We were never far from the fenced yarden, yet the prospect of his falling down and not being able to get him back inside made me anxious; that and some other inconveniences, and being so tired… it was a rough day. But now he’s sleeping, and I’m sleepy, and off to bed. I’m grateful for friends who care and understand, and offered help with some errands this week. I’m grateful for perspective, support, the forgiveness of unconditional love, and another day tomorrow to practice.

Stellar and Raven romping in the high country on a hike with Rosie nine autumns ago.

The Best Neighbors

It’s been a loooong time since I’ve hosted a dinner here. Pre-Covid, there were dinners almost every week in our neighborhood, sometimes just a few people, often a crowd. Holidays, we took turns hosting potluck feasts for a dozen or more. It was lovely. It was exhausting. It’s been nice to have a break from the social whirl, but I wanted to show my gratitude for my closest neighbors, who contribute to my life in ongoing ways, as well as always being there if I need something: a tree diagnosed or pruned, a few teaspoons of cinnamon, a drain snake… I’ve been trying to make this dinner happen since spring, but between all of our schedules, some of their travels, my hand injuries, and other impediments, it took all summer for us to plan on this one evening.

Of all the Saturdays in this summer of drought for it to rain, it had to be this one! But we did get a break just long enough to sit outside and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, wine and dinner. My preparations began shortly after sunup, when I dug some Yukon gold potatoes, picked a couple of peppers and the second (and last) zucchini of the season, and snipped the only cilantro left along with some parsley. The rest of the day I spent in the kitchen.

Not only was there dinner to prepare, but I was a day behind on canning, so made a batch of salsa verde this morning.

I roasted the tomatillos, onions, garlic, and pepper. The recipe called for two Serranos, but I couldn’t find those I’m sure are deep in the freezer, so I looked up heat equivalency, and used a single Thai dragon instead. I’m grateful to have figured out that it’s easier to shuck the tomatillos after they’ve sat in a bowl of water for five or ten minutes because it’s a tedious process anyway.

Then I prepped the Tex Mex pot roast, with onion, tomatillos, tomatoes, garlic, and a couple of chopped Chimayo peppers, all but the onion from the garden. I’m grateful for a beautiful cast-iron Dutch oven, just what was called for to slow cook the meat for the afternoon. While the meat braised, I made dessert.

Whoever heard of black cocoa? These Faux-reos from King Arthur Baking were such fun to make, and a big hit after dinner. The filling called for vegetable shortening, but that also has been disappeared from the pantry by gremlins, or perhaps house elves, so I was forced to use butter. This required extra confectioners’ sugar to make the filling stiff enough not to squish out, so I ended up with a tennis ball size of leftover icing. I’m sure I’ll think of something to do with that!

And then it was time to turn my attention to the Sonoran-style potato, tomato, and cheese soup. Using potatoes, cherry tomatoes and herbs from the garden, Queso Blanco cheese and a couple of other ingredients from Farm Runners, I bubbled up a tasty and unusual soup; adding groups of ingredients at carefully timed intervals, and then ladling the final soup over cheese cubes in the bottom of each bowl.

I’m grateful for a full and meaningful Saturday, grateful for the rain that gave us the perfect window to sup together before coming down again; grateful for the bounty of the garden, and for exciting recipes a few clicks away in any moment. I’m grateful that when I served the Faux-reos, Fred called up the Oz monkey song and the rest of us all joined in–grateful for that harmonious moment of shared culture spontaneously expressed, even though it took some discussion to come to consensus that it was from Oz, and not Snow White or Lord of the Rings. I’m grateful for easy laughter and connection with beloveds. Stellar was beside himself with excitement to have dinner guests, including his little pal Rocky. We’re both grateful for the best neighbors in the world, and the opportunity to show a small measure of our gratitude through preparing and sharing food.

Stellar’s Last Days: a Stroke?

It was a beautiful morning. I’m grateful that Stellar and I got to enjoy a half-hour ramble off our usual trails, just for a change of pace. He’s doing really well considering he suffered some sort of neurological incident last weekend. You can tell by looking at his left eye, how both lids droop. It was just my best guess, until Karen asked Dr. Dave to check out this and a couple other pictures. His response was:

“The issue would appear to be a neurological one. The two most likely causes are stroke and a viral infection of the nerve supplying the eyelid. Other possibilities are a tumor near the nerve, or a traumatic incident to the nerve. Similar lesions in the brain can cause  signs as seen here. In any case palliative care is probably the treatment of choice as there are possibilities of recovery with no treatment.”

I am so grateful for the support and input from these friends, who despite such busy lives of their own took time to consider my concerns for my dear dog. I’m grateful for the bonds of community and friendship, that can lay dormant for a long time and wake when needed at a moment’s notice.

Meanwhile, we’re still contending with the hindquarter weakness, notably in his right leg, which tends to turn out and is often unable to straighten under him. But he’s a stoic, noble animal, and he keeps dragging himself up and out whenever I ask if he wants to go for a walk. Once he’s out the gate his nose takes over, and he joyfully sniffs his way through the woods, intermittently looking back for me and adjusting his course to mine. I’m grateful for his perseverance, his devoted companionship, and his unconditional love and acceptance.

I’m grateful for the beauty around me, whenever I take time to turn my attention to it. This evening, sun lighting the sprinkler caught my eye. Though the camera couldn’t quite capture the glitter of it.
I’m grateful for this and all the other trees I live among. I’m grateful for trees in general, and for all the new scientific insights and understandings currently arising about just how sentient and interconnected they are. As my heart breaks for all beings in the path of wildfires, I feel especially concerned for and attached to the idea of the giant sequoias now threatened by the Paradise Fire in Sequoia National Park. I’m grateful, though, that this little patch of trees where I live survived another day without burning up.