I’ve been feeling a little melancholy the past few days, despite so much to be grateful for. Been practicing turning my attention to what I want it to be on rather than the grumpy thoughts that are trying to claim it, and it’s working. Sometimes it’s an uphill slog, though. Mindfulness isn’t easy, but at least it helps make the mental afflictions less frequent, less intense, and less duration. Each challenge is an opportunity to practice, and practice eventually makes perfect, or close enough.
One thing I’m really thankful for is to have become reacquainted with an old college friend. For some years, I had been under the mistaken impression that he’d died, and was thrilled to stumble on his name when I was searching for another old friend. We’ve been emailing questions, answers, reminiscences… and he sent me this picture of us in his dorm room. I do remember this, but I do not remember how he or we exploded his beanbag chair. It was a great lesson for me in making the best of a bad situation, which I think became his mantra for life. I’m grateful for having this joyful image, and I’m more grateful for finding him alive and well.
I’m grateful for FedEx Ground, which I learned a lot about yesterday when a package got delivered to my yard gate. I’d been trying to update my delivery preference by phone or online for a month, after a 50-pound bag of animal food got left at the dropbox at the top of my driveway. It’s a bitch for me to lift that much anymore, much less into my car from the ground and then out of it again into a wheelbarrow. The dropbox is there for when the driveways are impassable in winter, but somehow that specification got lost over the years. But I wasn’t successful with the online or phone intervention, so when drove out last week just behind the FedEx truck and saw him pulled over a mile later, I pulled up behind him. He was courteous and friendly, and happily agreed to deliver to my yard gate from now on.
So I walked out to thank him when the truck pulled in yesterday, but it was a different driver, and she said, “It said dropbox but I didn’t see one so I hope it’s ok to bring it down here.” I was delighted and grateful, and explained again that it was an obsolete instruction in their route notes. Then we fell into a delightful conversation in which I learned that she and her husband bought the route–who knew? It’s a FedEx Ground thing–and it’s now their family business, she is the mother-in-law of the regular driver, she wasn’t planning to drive but it’s hard to find a driver applicant who can pass a drug test or has a clean driving record, five of her family now drive the routes from Cedaredge to Somerset, and so on. We ended up talking about raising meat animals with non-GMO feed, ethical eating, the challenges of gardening in this arid climate, and more. She was in no rush, which was refreshing, and she ended our visit by thanking me for supporting her family with my business.
I’m grateful for this kind of random interaction that illustrates for me, lest I should forget, the value of being open to authentic connection with strangers, and recognizing the interconnectedness that permeates all our lives. Other recent examples of this potential for meaningful connection out of the blue include developing a virtual friendship with The Hungry Traveler, and meeting an online mindfulness friend in real life today.
Little Wren was cold and uncertain this evening at the rim of the Black Canyon. We joined a few friends for cocktails at the canyon, each bringing our own beverages and some kind of snack to share. Black Canyon is one of the more dog-friendly national parks, and three of us brought our dogs to the overlook along with our picnics. After a couple of hours of warmer sunshine late afternoon, clouds rolled in again and the temperature dropped just about the time we arrived. As we gathered, we observed a massive wedge-shaped cloud over the south rim, which gradually moved closer. We are hardy souls and typically brave the elements when we’re enjoying where we are, but I called an abrupt end to the gathering when I watched one woman’s hair slowly rise until it was standing on end. Synapses fired in me that went something like this: static electricity>⚡️> leave now! I’m grateful for the time spent with friends, for the amazing Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, just a beautiful half-hour drive from home, and for coming home again.
Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.
I’m grateful for a new friend, Hillery McAllister, who came and sang for me and a couple of old friends this evening. Her lyrics reflect the wisdom of mindfulness (that I’ve worked so hard to attain) with a tender sensibility that seems inborn. Her song are by turns insightful, fun, moving, serious, and above all full of love. She’ll be playing at the Sage Alley in Paonia and the Creamery in Hotchkiss in the next few weeks, and I highly recommend catching her show if you can. I’m grateful for the sneak preview she shared with her new friends tonight.
While I am in general grateful for Mexican food, it would be pretentious to claim that’s what I make. I’m grateful for the hodgepodge meals I make that are inspired by Mexican cuisine. I’m grateful to finally be getting the hang of homemade tortillas. They’re a quick and easy base for almost any kind of toppings. Yesterday I had a hankering for something like huevos rancheros to try my homemade salsa verde on, but no tortillas; so I whipped up a batch with masa and warm water. But first I had to cook something like refried beans, so I mixed up an onion, garlic cloves and spices, a dried paprika pepper, and the last of the garden tomatoes with two cans of black beans, and cooked the mush down while I made corn tortillas.
Though I only had a supermarket egg and broke the yellow yolk trying the trendy method of cracking it flat on the counter instead of on the side of the pan, I approximated a semblance of classic huevos rancheros that satisfied my craving. The meal could have been improved only with a ripe avocado.
Philip delivered avocados, more sour cream, and a couple of other groceries this afternoon, and I enjoyed bean tacos for lunch. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful today for Philip’s kindness, the luxury of simple, hearty food, the treasure of avocados in winter, and homemade corn tortillas.
The Moon. This was two years ago in spring, March 20, 2019. A year before the world changed with the Covid-19 pandemic. People think it’s over, but it’s not. It’s a new normal, because we as a species have chosen not to change our behaviors. We are attached to having what we want, when we want it, and we’re not going to let go of that no matter what incentives get thrown in our way. Climate chaos? Let’s get what we can from the planet and the future be damned. Pandemic? Fuck limits, I’ll keep living my life the way I want to. Individual responsibility, right? I’m grateful for the steady rhythm of the moon.
I’m grateful to have woken up alive this morning, and gotten outside with Stellar before the sun was up, before even the moon went down, the Harvest Moon. It’s ‘the solstice,’ as the radio said this evening, though they meant the autumnal equinox. It was a spectacular day here in western Colorado. Bluebird sky, few clouds, very little climate crisis haze, bright sun, cool breeze, the perfect fall day. I heard the first sandhill cranes this evening, heading south along the east flank of Mendicant Ridge, where the highest aspen groves are just now turning golden.
My goal today was to get through it with no regrets. Not sure I managed that, due to my choices, but no lasting harm done I’m sure. It’s such a dance: just navigating a day can be exhausting. I took pretty good care of myself and my dependents, and sometimes that’s the best I can do. The low was 36℉ near the house; half the cantaloupe leaves died back, and a few other tenders took a hit in the garden, but it wasn’t a hard frost and we’ve got another few weeks of mild growing weather. Pesto was on the agenda but won’t happen until tomorrow–that’s a regret but I’m too tired to worry about it now. I’m grateful for authentic connection and shared joy, for friends who know me, for a genuine sense of belonging.
Well, it’s official. The end of an era. Stellar seemed to know. He was extra excited to see Tom today. I timed a package to arrive this afternoon, to be sure we’d get to say goodbye on Tom’s last day. He’s been delivering UPS packages here for fifteen years–I was wrong yesterday when I wrote twenty, but hey, not that big a difference at this point. I don’t remember who was the UPS driver before Tom; it’s almost as if there was no time before Tom. We have all come to love and depend upon him over the years.
I wrote a card and signed it from me, Stellar, the ghosts of all my past dogs, and the names of half a dozen other households, including the dogs: Popis and Phoebe, Badger and Hazel, Bear and Dugan, and of course Rocky. Tom gave all the dogs cookies, and had as good a relationship with the dogs on his route as he did the people. Tom and I had a special friendship. We argued about climate chaos, presidents, and other political hot potatoes, but we strove to stay civil and land on common ground. We shared adventure tales, and tender moments around life passages. He sometimes brought me elk steaks or venison when he hunted, and trout and Kokanee when he fished. I still have the last pack of filets in the freezer. I shared jam and salsa, cakes and cupcakes, and occasionally timed my baking to be sure the cookies were still warm when he arrived. He was a staple in my life, and at the beginning of the pandemic he was the only person I saw for some months.
One day a few years ago I was driving home and had just crested the hill when I saw a weird white rectangle on the side of the road. That wasn’t here when I left…what the hell is it? did someone just put up a metal shed? To my horror I realized as I neared that it was Tom’s truck, upside down. Just beyond was an open ambulance. I pulled over and was stopped by the EMT, whom I knew. “Is he okay?! Can I go see him?” She had to ask him before she let me. He sat in the back of the ambulance getting checked out. They let me in to hug him. Someone had run him off the road and sped off. He missed a day or two of work, but was mostly just shook up. Who wouldn’t have been?
Some years earlier, Tom was instrumental in reuniting me with Desmond Turtu after his unauthorized journey across Fruitland Mesa. He pulled up at a house a couple miles west of here and the little girl came running out calling, “Guess what we found?!” She showed him the tortoise that her mother had picked up crossing the road at the top of the canyon that morning. “I know that tortoise!” he said, “That’s Rita’s tortoise!” He told them how to reach me at work. They’d been leaving messages on my home phone all day. When I arrived after work to pick up Desmond, he (Desmond) was sitting in their white-tiled foyer eating watermelon.
I forgot to remind Tom of that escapade as we chatted this afternoon. As usual, we talked about a lot of things, but there was a poignant air today, knowing it was the last time. Oh, maybe we’ll run into each other somewhere down the line, but… I told him I’m never going to order anything ever again. I doubt any of us will cherish another UPS man as we did Tom, always ready with a smile or a laugh, easy-going, accommodating, reliable. Tom loved his job, loved the route and the people, and he will also love not having it. He’ll spend his time hunting, fishing, hiking and camping with his kids and grandkids, and pursuing his bucket list, which includes, next month, “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane” for the first time. May he sail through the rest of his life with ease and joy.
I’m grateful for another Boyz Lunch today, outside on the patio, hummingbirds flitting through, Stellar lying next to John, John’s hand on his head; grateful for these and other friends who accept me just the way I am, and through the years have supported me in my ongoing exploration of how that is, as it changes (like everything does, always, ineluctably); grateful for people who have loved me through my many incarnations in this lifetime; grateful for a safe habitat in which to spread my wings.
Oh, and watch for a bunch of canaries in the Pioneer Days Parade on Saturday! I’m grateful for Ellie, Mary, Suki, Brad, Danielle, Kim, Ana, Kathy, and everyone else who has chipped in energy, time, money, and creativity to create and support the countywide, non-partisan Canary Committee in their efforts to bring attention to the extraordinary drought affecting our particular habitat in Western Colorado, and the dire need to conserve water.
I’m grateful to finally harvest enough lettuce from my garden to feed friends, for Gosar’s sausages (available at Farm Runners), for Cousin Bill’s reminder of how delicious roasted cauliflower is, for Penzey’s Justice that Amy introduced me to, and for the ease of a salad made with canned beans: so simple, so delicious! I’m grateful for another day alive in this body aware of all the sensory pleasures life offers, and for learning the mindfulness skills that enable me to experience each day with gratitude and meaning.
I’m grateful that the juniper titmice have fledged, and that I was able to get a sort-of shot of the nest hole, after my mind played tricks on me this morning and I thought maybe they’d left behind a chick. So strong was the story I made up from my illusory senses that it took several close perusals of this image and some others to set my mind at ease, and now it seems so obvious. Ah, how we manage to delude ourselves.
Today I’m grateful to be alive, to have friends, to be part of a wonderful, interesting community. In fact, several of them, one in physical space and a couple in virtual space. Also, I’m grateful to live in the multi-species community that is my yarden, cultivating constant connection with Nature. At lunch today on the patio we were all enjoying the phoebes, and observed the chicks’ milestone of venturing beyond the nest onto the joist. THEN, we were astonished to realize that there are actually five chicks!
Today I’m grateful for connection. Through the magic of Zoom, I connected with cousins in five other states, and my eldest goddaughter in a sixth. It was windy most of the day and challenging to be outside, so it was a good day for zooming inside. There are those, I imagine, who are sick of Zoom and might feel it doesn’t offer real connection; but this digital platform has been a lifeline for me the past year of physical distancing, and brought miraculous opportunities to connect with real people in real ways once unthinkable and now taken for granted, bringing me back into connection with friends and family from my past, and creating new connections with people I never imagined.
I made a yummy omelette with Havarti and three fresh fat asparagus, mixed a Bloody Mary with last year’s homemade tomato juice from the pantry, and spent a couple of hours with my dear girl in Brooklyn. Later, the weekly cousins’ zoom brought connection with distant family, a recipe for Turketti which I can hardly wait to try, and a couple of cross-country bird reports of interest, including Bill’s sighting of a phaenopepla, a rare desert songbird who resembles a black cardinal. I’m grateful to have seen one many years ago, and today enjoyed empathetic gratitude for his seeing one though he had no idea how lucky he was. I’m grateful to have been reminded such a marvelous creature exists on this same planet. I’m also grateful for the sense of connection I felt with the food I ate, the water I drank throughout the day, and the earth those gifts came from.