Tag Archive | friends and neighbors

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.

A New Camera

Grateful for this beautiful boy, and the new camera that made this lovely portrait.

It arrived yesterday, just an hour too late to capture the newly fledged phoebes. After a busy day, I took it out to play this evening, just fooling around with the zoom, without even learning the thousand and one functions and settings. I’m grateful for the means to purchase this amazing camera, grateful for the technology that allows me to have far more ‘film’ than time so I can shoot to my heart’s content and throw away a thousand images to save one good one. I’m grateful for B&H Photo in NYC for their help and expertise whenever I need new camera gear, and grateful to JT for turning me on to them. Following the gratitude trail, I’m grateful for the countless individuals who designed, experimented, and constructed for many decades to create this camera, and for the materials, and for the countless people who mined and melted and melded those raw materials into this astounding piece of equipment; and for the FedEx lady who delivered it a scant 27 hours after I ordered it, and for all the human ingenuity and labor, and the transportation and infrastructure, that allowed that. It’s an amazing world, despite the tragedies perpetrated by our species.

I bought the camera with a 24-240mm zoom, not the best lens available but at a price I could afford: a pretty decent shot of the mountains at 240, so I’m optimistic about shooting hummingbirds with it tomorrow.
I’m grateful for the rainbow tonight and the rain it followed, though none landed here; grateful for the beautiful apricot tree and for neighbor Fred who manages its pruning and overall health; grateful for the last apricot shining in last light.
And finally, I’m grateful for the successful fledging yesterday of all four phoebe chicks in the second clutch. The first couple left the nest Thursday and went back in overnight. When I went out Friday morning, all four were snuggled together on the ladder, and by mid-afternoon (an hour before the camera arrived) they had all flown into the woods with their parents. This evening, I heard an adult back out on the east side of the house. I dursn’t hope…

Reliability

Stellar has been the most reliable friend a girl could hope to have. I’m grateful for another good day with him, another long walk along the canyon rim, another day of dependable trust and companionship.
Is every town as grateful for their UPS man as we are? I’m grateful for the town’s sign, and for Tom’s cheerful reliability over the past twenty years. I intend to show my gratitude, when he delivers his last package to my house tomorrow, with a few farewell gifts: a box of Milk Bones, a big hunk of cake, and a fifth of Crown Royal. I hope everyone will shower him with their own gratitude. Since he probably won’t be stopping at everyone’s house tomorrow, I’ll happily include your name on my ‘thank you-best wishes’ card if you let me know by noon, or pass along a little something as a couple of people have already asked me to do.
It’s hard to say for how many thousands of years Say’s phoebes have been reliably reproducing in this area. I’ve spent half an hour trying to find out online. I can say, though, I’m grateful that the species has been reliably nesting under my deck for the past three years. Today, three chicks took their first flights, not going far, and I think they all returned to the nest at nightfall. More on their fledging tomorrow.

Resilience

The rain shower overnight resulted in .17 inches of measurable precipitation, leaving all the thirsty growing things refreshed.
In particular, mosses that were grey and crusty miraculously greened up by morning.
Mosses and lichens glowed in early morning light.
Dog and cat enjoyed a companionable ramble with me.
Tiny piñon trees climb from the duff while their parents die in shocking numbers from drought and beetles.
Even faded sagebrush is reinvigorated with just a bit of rain.
The notch-eared doe that has been mowing down my patio garden finally brought her twins to the edge of the yard. They’re too small to jump the fence, but she parked them outside and came on in to continue her feast, which will ultimately nourish them, so how can I possibly mind? I was so grateful to see the twins with their mother, after we spooked them in different directions the other evening.
And then, this afternoon, a veritable downpour from the east washed mud off the adobe walls…
…and made actual puddles. The ferocity of the storm, which dumped almost half an inch in half an hour, made me anxious for the phoebe nest under the deck, so after it was all over, I went outside to check the chicks.
I was delighted to find that their new nest location was the only dry space under the deck. The torrential rain must have stirred up terrestrial insects: for at least an hour, as I ‘napped’ on the couch inside just under the nest, an adult brought food every four to twenty seconds. This frequency, well beyond the normal four to five minute span, must have made up for that horrible day when twenty minutes elapsed between feedings and the chicks screamed the whole day. That was an anomaly for sure, and since that awful day (awful for me and for the chicks), feeding frequency has increased daily, reaching its peak in the hours after today’s rain. The babies have doubled in size.

Despite this climate-chaos induced exceptional drought, the indomitable will to live that permeates all plants and animals keeps us living to our utmost. I am grateful for the resilience of Life.

Grateful, too, for the love and laughter, the joie de vivre and resilience of dear friends, who gathered to celebrate some happy milestones; grateful for the elegant setting, and delicious local food so thoughtfully prepared and offered. Grateful, no matter what happens next, for these good times. Grateful above all for the gift of another exceptional day alive.