I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed before the first snow today at this elevation, which continues after dark lightly frosting every leaf and limb white prior to the first real freeze. I started a week ago, and have been whittling at it for a few hours each day. I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed after a thrilling season. The counter is loaded with the last ripe tomatoes, tomatillos are all put up in the pantry, heaps of parsley are distilled into pesto and frozen cubes; rattlesnake and runner bean pods dry in large paper bags; eggplants and carrots fill the fridge. I’m living the dream.
I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed with tips and tricks from gardeners online. I’ve hung tomato vines to ripen in the upstairs room, beside pepper plants with wrapped rootballs. Some gardeners advised misting the roots, while others just left them dry. I compromised with a quick twist of plastic bag to prevent them from instantly desiccating in this climate, maybe giving the peppers a bit more nourishment as they redden.
I’m grateful for another day with my little helper, covered in snow. Like in the movie Awakenings, he is transformed with drugs, and like those patients he will eventually relapse into inevitable decline. His resilience astounds me. He wants to be alive.
Yeah, I behaved poorly… Years in the making, layers of labels, resentments, dashed expectations, “different world views,” and a final cascade of events and emotions…. “It was justified.” Still, I behaved poorly, and I’m grateful that I can have compassion for my old sorry self who used to let her mental stories lead her way, and still takes me over, though it’s been a long time…. I’m grateful today that I can observe the processes of “my” mind as I reflect on all the layers of this event, and of how it came to be. Though I’m not clear yet, I’m grateful for mindfulness skills that can help me at least know the possibility of clarity, feel the grace of self-compassion, and aspire to forgiveness.
It’s hard not to think in terms of last: is this his last walk to the canyon? his last drink from the hose? his last night? his last day? I’m grateful for all this painful awareness, reminding me constantly of what a constant companion he has been for almost fourteen years. And he still is, though it’s so different. He would still fight to the death to protect me, if he could move fast enough. I’ve remained the ‘parent’ as he has gone from infant to elder before my eyes, in no time at all. The challenges of this, too, shall pass. Nothing lasts forever. Death is certain, time of death uncertain.
I might as easily have chosen to highlight my gratitude for the Bibiliofillies, but I am grateful today for letting go. I’m grateful for the capacity to quit reading a book, or watching a show, or otherwise removing my attention from one thing and turning it to another. This is the very essence of mindfulness, the ability and willingness to choose where we place our attention.
Tonight, the Bibliofillies met on zoom to discuss our month’s selection, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo, which we read awhile ago. The latter was a work of fiction; tonight’s subject, an academic analysis of numerous classic Russian short stories, and the arts of writing, and of reading. (I can’t tell you how many stories, because I didn’t get past the first chapter.) A few fillies loved it; some were almost neutral; the rest of us, well, to say we despised it would be an exaggeration, but needless to say the various opinions made for lively discussion. This is why I’m grateful, at least once a month, for the Bibiliofillies.
I bristled at the author’s (a middle-aged white man) initial assumption that he knew what I was thinking. From there it went downhill. Though I did find some redeeming features in what I read, I did not want to keep reading, one of Saunders’ essential criteria for a successful short story. My perspective aside, (for what does it matter anyway?), having this safe place to express it, laugh about it, adapt it, is… priceless.
It’s essential to adapting to be able to let go. There is so much to let go of every single day. I’m grateful that I can let go of attachment to ‘my’ point of view more and more often these days.
Life is so much easier now that I’m simply letting things be as they are, instead of trying to control them. I also used to bristle when people told me, “You think too much!” Turns out they were right, but for the wrong reasons. And if I didn’t hang onto an emotion, I couldn’t consider that it mattered. Letting go was never easy for me. So I clung to, among other things, my own judgements, expectations, mistakes; I harbored grudges, fed them with repetition. Michael was right: I did have a ‘victim mentality.’
Death is certain, time of death uncertain.
I’m so grateful that I’m learning to let go, of everything. Emotions can actually flow through, and that doesn’t make them less real or less valid. The faster I let go, the faster I learn the lesson. The lesson I learned this month was that I don’t have to finish reading every book, or watching every episode of every season of a show, or a movie to the end. I don’t always need to know what happens next: as in a bad dream, I can take my attention by the hand and walk away. I can choose where to spend my precious attention. I don’t know how much I have left. I’m grateful for letting go of things that don’t nurture me.
I’m grateful for sprinklers of many kinds, and for the water they use to make plants grow to provide for insects and birds.
I’m grateful for the friend who gave me the Max sunflowers who grow like a weed when I water them, for the sprinkler that brings the water, for the pipes and tunnels and machines and people involved with delivering the water, for the bees and other creatures that derive sustenance from these fall-blooming sunflowers.
I’m grateful for the tomatoes that grew from tiny seeds planted with care and nurtured into seedlings, watered and trimmed and tended into astonishing huge vines full of luscious fruit: Pizzutello, Brandywine, Maritza Rose, and Amish Paste.
I’m grateful to have had the best UPS driver ever for fifteen years, and since the new guy doesn’t bring cookies, I’m grateful for the inspiration that struck me this afternoon to put a cookie for Stellar on top of any packages left by the gate. He’s very confused as to why there are boxes sometimes but no more cookies, and he looks for them. He struggles up from bed if he hears the UPS truck, but no longer bothers to announce it, or even go see what’s happening; he doesn’t understand why his friend Tom isn’t leaving him a treat. Now, Stellar can still believe til his dying day, because now there’s Santa Tom!
Not only sourdough, but so many other things I’m grateful for today. However, sourdough was a good way to wrap up yesterday and begin today.
I started these sourdough cinnamon buns yesterday afternoon, making the dough from starter that Ruth gave me many years ago. I’m grateful for the gift of this ‘mother’ that has kept on giving for these many years, just as the friendship has. I’m grateful for friends who can go a year without speaking and pick up right where we left off. I’m grateful for this fermenting dough starter that Ruth shared with me, and I’ve kept alive in my refrigerator for… how many years? And grateful that I’ve been able to share it with other kitchens in the valley.
The dough was super sticky, and I added a lot of flour on the board as I pressed it out to the right size rectangle…
I let them rise overnight in the mudroom, which cooled down to around 60 degrees F. Then I brought them into the house and put them in the sun to warm up for a couple of hours before baking. They came out so light and fluffy, and doubled in size before I put them in the oven.
While they were rising, Stellar and I walked to the canyon rim. He was having a good morning. The cottonwoods nourished by the seep are starting to turn yellow, though it’s hard to see in this picture. Soon enough! I’m grateful that the Best Boy Ever has made it to another autumn!
I’m grateful for the work, the reading, and the correspondence that filled my day between breakfast and homesteading in the afternoon. I’m grateful even in receipt of unfortunate news from a dear friend, because he chose to deliver it to me himself, in a heart-touching phone call, rather than let it catch me by surprise on social media. I’m grateful for our adventures together through the years, our lasting connection, our special photographic bond; grateful that our friendship transcends the mundane challenges of space and time.
And then it was time to can a round of tomato sauce. Using a mix of Amish Paste and Pizzutello fruits, I roasted them just enough to loosen the skins so I could pinch them off, then mashed the tomatoes into sauce in the Dutch oven, with dried herbs and garlic granules.
Finally, at ten p.m., I hung up my apron and sat down to rest, listening to those gratifying pops, one lid… two… three, four… five… … … and finally six. Six sealed jars of garden fresh tomato sauce put up. The tip of the iceberg, with so much more to ripen in the next several weeks. I’m grateful, as always, for the rare and precious opportunity to experience joyful adventures in food: garden to table, fridge to oven, stovetop to pantry.
I’m grateful for the peppers ripening on their stalks. I planted four types this year, of which three are doing well. The Sirenevyi sweet peppers were overrun by butternut squash, and just didn’t get enough light. The Chimayo peppers above are doing well amongst some tomato vines. Thai Dragon peppers are ripening one by one, with dozens of green fruits standing straight up on their stems; and Koszoru paprikas, a slightly different shape, are turning red hanging down from their stems. The ripening is just beginning. I’ve started drying the paprikas as they come on, and have already put a mix into brine to ferment a couple of days ago, and feel confident that I’ll get enough to make some wonderful fermented hot sauce this year. I never much liked hot sauce until I made my own, in that way that working closely with a food invests oneself in the outcome in a different way than simply buying it.
I whipped up a quick little tomato sauce with two red Amish paste and two Pomodoro Pizzutello Di Paceco orange tomatoes, diced, and three cloves of minced garlic, cooked down in the bacon pan, with a bit of salt and pepper, and a handful of chopped basil tossed in at the end. I needed to cook the Boboli pizza crusts I bought last week. Topped with olive oil, shredded mozzarella and parmesan, leftover dog-pill ham that he wouldn’t eat anymore, some red onion, and the simple red sauce, I cooked a simple, rich dinner, with one leftover for tomorrow. I’m more grateful for food, every single day.
I knew it would be a good day when it started like this.
First thing after our sunrise walk was to pick squash blossoms, and a couple ripe paprika peppers. I sliced the peppers open to dry, and put the blossoms in water til I could get back in to stuff them. I’m grateful for the colors of the foods I harvest, for running water, and for the little honeypot I used as a vase.
Then the day got better! Pillsbury pop’n’fresh crescent dinner rolls are not just for dinner anymore. I love the way the spiraled tube pops open on its own at this altitude: it’s like a Christmas cracker, and it startles you when it pops open somewhere in there as you’re peeling the paper wrapper off the tube. Then, a few strategically placed chocolate chips…
So simple, so delicious! Yes, I’m attached to these sensory pleasures, all of them, but I’m aware of my attachment, and of the pleasures’ impermanence, and so I savor these quotidian delights all the more for knowing their transience: tomorrow could be an entirely different day.
Throughout the day there were more delights, ever time I stepped outside. An unexpected seedling…
… a dramatic view…
…the Best Boy Ever by my side…
…a bountiful mixed harvest…
…a second evening walk! And then back inside for supper, those squash blossoms that I stuffed when they were fresh-picked this morning, with a tiny slice of ham, chiffonade basil, and a bit of Laughing Cow cheese. I forgot to eat them for lunch, so whipped up a light batter this evening, dredged them in cornmeal, then fried in bacon grease and olive oil.
A simple dip of whisked mayo and Ume plum vinegar. I’m grateful for all the little pieces of this day, and grateful I chose to pay attention to them, rather than dwell in the land of helpless overwhelm.
So much to be grateful for today! We all woke up alive in my little family, and my extended family, my community. Stellar and I stepped out the gate to this sight on our morning walk just after sunrise. Extravagant rabbitbrush, shimmering winterfat, and the West Elk Mountains on the horizon. Thank you! We are so lucky to live where we do. Then I called the plumber.
He showed up around 2:30 with his power-snake, and unplugged the drain! I am grateful for pretty much everything in my little life today, including the kitchen sink, and especially its drain. I’m grateful for the metal shaped by someone or some program at some factory that makes the sink, grateful for the plumber who installed the sink and the few who have worked on it over the years, for the faucets with their advanced features that have adorned the sink in its 26 years here, for the know-how to clean out those pipes underneath the sink, and most of all, today I’m grateful for Plumber Shawn who finally unplugged the kitchen sink’s drain. I gratefully sent him home with a box of tomatoes, including one of those spectacular one-pound Brandywines.
I’m especially grateful for the kitchen sink today, and going forward this next couple of weeks, and for its unclogged drain, as each day I add to the buckets of produce on the counter that need to be preserved. After this week’s grocery run for onions and a few other things, I’ll make and put up tomatillo salsa, tomato salsa, marinara sauce, tomato soup, and tomato paste. I’m grateful for every single thing about this day. And I’m grateful for the mindful awareness to be grateful. More and more my ancient prayer rings true: Let me remember to be grateful every living moment of every day. In our life of opportunity and privilege nothing else rings true.
I’m grateful for today’s harvest, two baskets of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and three more hot peppers, a chimayo and two paprikas. I’m grateful for the comfort of patience, as the drain remains clogged and I hope for a plumber’s assistance tomorrow. With or without a kitchen drain I’ll have to start canning again in the next couple of days. I’m grateful for patience with myself as I plod through the clutter, dust, and disarray I’ve let accumulate this year having no one in my house but me and the animals. Gradually, surface by surface, inch by square inch, I’m getting a handle on the house, which I tend to neglect during summer, when my living room is the great outdoors. I’m grateful for good music, fresh air, cooler weather, fewer flies, coffee, and comfort food that help me through fall cleaning. I’m grateful for my good, sweet dog in his last days, and for the friends who gave him to me. I’m grateful for the last two good nights’ sleep, and another on the horizon as I head to my cozy bed now. I’m grateful for the patience that comes when I’ve run out, and the calm confidence that nothing stays the same.
I’m grateful today simply for being here. Here, as opposed to anywhere else I might have been on this date, this anniversary.
NPR reported today that a sizable number of people who witnessed the Twin Towers attack continue to suffer PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues. The report mentioned human resilience, also, but what struck me was the limited scope of the research, which surveyed only people in the vicinity of New York City. There must be millions more people across the country, and the world, who still suffer mental health impacts from witnessing that horror. Not to mention those millions suffering the global fallout of the forever wars that started that morning.
I reflected this morning, from the serenity of my garden, that so many of the choices I’ve made over the last twenty years are a direct result of being near the Pentagon on 9/11/01, and watching live both on TV and from the back porch, the explosive birth pangs of this new world disorder. I thought about how far I’ve come, how much I’ve changed, and how long it took afterwards to even begin to claw my way out of the despair that seized me on that day. There were a few hours that morning that I feared I could die there, and never see home again; an interlude of terror when no one knew what might happen next.
My parents lived next to an Army Air Base, and sometime that morning, even as I stood on their back patio watching smoke from the Pentagon darken the sky, the roar of jets and helicopters began just beyond beyond the woods, and continued nonstop 24-7 for the next week as I remained grounded there. I felt I had just experienced the beginning of World War III, or as it’s now more aptly referred to, ‘the Forever Wars.’ The ramifications also took a surprising turn into domestic discord as well. 9/11 is the trauma that keeps on triggering.
Eventually I made it home. I was numb for many years. Eventually, my life took a turn toward toward the mindfulness and gratitude I find myself practicing today, but it wasn’t easy and there were many detours along the way. In this place, on this day, I am keenly aware of how loss and suffering lay the groundwork for kindness and compassion. I am grateful for being here, now, and not anywhere else.