Tag Archive | gratitude practice

Sour Cherries

I didn’t grow up cherishing the ‘whoopie pie,’ in fact I’m not sure I ever ate one. But for some reason this recipe caught my attention, and I had everything I needed except the oatmeal. My Personal Shopper picked up a carton of ‘traditional old-fashioned’ oats, and neither of us was sure if that fit the bill for ‘rolled oats.’ I’m pleased to announce that it did! I searched it and found a site assuring me that there’s absolutely no difference between rolled and old-fashioned oats, and was grateful to confirm that when I opened the can to bake this evening. (I also did not grow up eating oatmeal, or I might have known this.)

The recipe calls for dried cranberries to go in the basic cinnamon oatmeal cookies, and for canned whole cranberry sauce for the filling. I guess I could have bought both of those ingredients also, but decided instead to use up the last of the dried sour cherries, handpicked by John, that were given to me a couple months ago. Was it that long ago? Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. I’d been nibbling on them, and used them as a martini garnish, but had enough left to bake these delicious cookies. Instead of the cranberry sauce in the filling, which was otherwise just a basic cream cheese-buttercream frosting, I used a few cherries and a tablespoon of the raspberry syrup I made earlier this fall. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for the gift of sour cherries, grown with attention, picked with love, and given with generosity.

Self-Compassion

Maybe the best sourdough bread yet, at least it looked like it to Wren. And it couldn’t have been simpler! Mix together four ingredients, wait awhile, fold it a bit, wait some more, and bake in a cast iron dutch oven. I’ll definitely practice this recipe again soon.

Then I whipped up some crispy fried tofu with homemade sweet n sour sauce for dinner. I didn’t have potato starch so used corn starch, so it doesn’t look quite as good as the picture in the NYT. But it was definitely crispy. I used up the last of the apricot jam in the sauce, what a great idea, and some homemade paprika. I’ll make this recipe again too. I’m grateful for this abundance of simple good food.

And now I have a perplexing story to share. I noticed a couple nights ago that the globe lights on the tree outside my front door weren’t lit up, and assumed the catmint had overgrown their solar panel. Today I checked the panel, and saw the cord had unplugged from the panel. When I looked for the cord, I realized that it was gone. I was baffled as I searched the tree and saw that the whole string of lights had disappeared. Nowhere to be seen in the tree or anywhere around. Wind? Then I wondered if someone had pranked me. Then I noticed a few twigs on the ground where I knew I’d raked pruning. And then I saw some fresh scars on the limb where the twigs had been torn away. And then a horrible scenario arose in my imagination. I still can’t make sense of it.

The bucks are no longer in velvet, so I don’t know why one would be rubbing antlers on this limb, but they are in hot pursuit of does all over the yarden. So that was my first guess, a buck–and then his antlers tangled in the light string and he pulled the whole thing off the tree in his frenzy to escape, and ran off trailing a string of 3″- globe lights. I looked all around the yard at that point, hoping to find them, but nothing. As I searched, an even worse image came to mind: a doe had been nibbling and caught the line around her neck, and run off tangled up in the lights. But there wasn’t much to nibble except some thorny twigs. I feel pretty sick about it. If someone did prank me, all is forgiven and you can keep the lights, if you just let me know!

I wish that’s what happened but I don’t really think so. Bucks have been seen around here with big pieces of field fence wrapped in their antlers; a doe was spotted crossing a field with a five-gallon white bucket hanging around her neck. One of the worst moments in my garden happened a few years ago when a doe got her head stuck in the fence around the Fuji apple tree. After much thrashing, she wrenched herself free and I immediately removed the fence and rolled it up out of the way. We inadvertently create wildlife traps when we humanize our landscapes. I’ll never again string lights in an outdoor tree. I pray that whatever animal ran off with this string managed to shake it off and escape uninjured. I hope one day soon I’ll find those lights out in the woods on the ground so I know for sure. I feel a terrible compassion for any suffering that might have happened to another creature, but I’m truly grateful for the ability to feel some self-compassion for my own suffering of imagination and guilt.

Orange

I was going to post about orange food today. I finished some leftover roasted tomato soup for lunch, and couldn’t resist some goldfish on top. I ate that along with pimento-cheese on toast. It would have been more orange except that I used sharp white cheddar instead of the orange-dyed cheese. Red pimentos, a pinch of paprika, and some Dijon mustard added color, while garlic and onion powders and some lemon pepper and lemon juice enhanced the flavor. And of course, mayo. It’s a secret family recipe, I’m not allowed to share it!

So I was just going to say I’m grateful for Orange Food, but then there was sunset. So I’m grateful today for the color Orange, wherever it shows up.

Mission: Joy

I’m grateful for this amazing film about two of my favorite people ever, now available to stream for the next 36 hours through the Global Joy Summit with this invitation. I’m grateful for the inspiration these men have brought to my life and millions of others, for the work they’ve done to improve conditions for people around the world, for the hope they have brought to so many, and for the extraordinary joy and irrepressible laughter that characterizes their friendship. The documentary is well worth two hours of your time, whoever and wherever you are in the world and in your life. The summit and film are introduced at thirty minutes in, and the film itself begins about 38 minutes in. I just watched it, and will watch it again before the window closes. I laughed, I cried, I marveled; my heart cracked open.

Scientists

I’m grateful for all the doctors and other scientists who continue to research the many facets of Covid-19. This diagram is from Eric Topol’s newsletter a week ago, delineating the number of new variants as of November 3 that have multiple convergent mutations. Note that at least ten of these variant families are resistant to prophylactic Evusheld, and/or monoclonal antibodies currently used to treat Covid. Some days Topol, who is among other things a professor of Molecular Medicine at The Scripps Research Institute, offers good news in his daily Covid update, and some days not so good news. In one report this week he cites research suggesting that Paxlovid treatment for acute Covid significantly reduces the incidence of subsequent Long Covid. On the flip side, he cites another study indicating that “a 2nd or 3rd infection is associated with worse acute and post-acute (Long Covid) outcomes than not having a reinfection.” I don’t pretend to understand the statistics, charts, and graphs he cites, but I do understand the plain English of his interpretations.

I’m grateful that the top scientists in the world continue to take seriously the threats to public health from this virus. Most authorities on the subject concur that this pandemic is far from over. I’m saddened to see so many in my community sickened with Covid right now, and disillusioned to see almost everyone I know dropping precautions right and left. When I share my concerns with friends in explaining my ongoing vigilance, they offer polite but insubstantial sympathy. I’ve been crystal clear since March 2020 that I have no intention of getting Covid and absolutely do not want to be exposed to it. I’ve shared with my close friends that I already suffer chronic pain (most likely from a previous infection of an unknown virus thirty years ago); that another virus laid me low for nearly two years after an acute attack of vertigo that prevented normal functioning for six months; that I already have enough trouble breathing (even before the COPD diagnosis and being on night oxygen). My life is already hard enough. I don’t bitch about it here, or much anywhere. Instead I celebrate the good and the beautiful that helps me enjoy this one life, one precious day at a time. But I’m laying it on the line tonight.

For almost three years, I’ve asked people to respect my precautions and accept my protective isolation, and for the most part they’ve been willing and supportive. Some have been kind enough to do my grocery shopping regularly this whole time. I had a heartwarming conversation with a friend on Tuesday morning in which she assured me that people would be happy to honor any guidelines I might lay out before connecting with me. I pointed out that a) I’ve already been clear about my guidelines, and b) I don’t have any right to ask people to change their behaviors just to come near me. But I do have the right to protect myself by limiting my potential exposure with ‘informed consent.’ It’s like avoiding an STD: just let me know where you’ve been and with whom, and then I can decide how close I want to get to you. Ironically, at the time of that conversation, I had no idea that I’d been potentially exposed the day before.

I sense my friends are getting tired of me–I’m an extremist, an outlier. I sense my community, like much of the world, has decided they’re over Covid even if it’s not through with them–we’re in a hyper-local mini-surge here these days: everyone I talk to knows someone who has Covid right now–as one by one they drop their previous precautions like masking in the grocery store, or refraining from large gatherings, or traveling, or so many more. Perhaps they’ve surrendered to the inevitability of catching it, or the presumption of immunity. Or they’ve had it and “it wasn’t that bad.” Or they assume that because people they know who’ve gotten Covid have said “It’s like the flu,” that they’ll be sick for a few days and then be fine. But not everybody is fine: Covid still kills nearly 400 Americans everyday and they’re not all old and riddled with co-morbidities. And the parallel pandemic of Long Covid is revealing horrifying neurological and other systemic breakdowns occurring in millions of people, including an appalling rate of suicides by people whose brains just quit working. Check out this video featuring Yale Immunobiology Professor Akiko Iwasaki.

Or read this article in Time about neurological symptoms in Long Covid sufferers. While I’ve been super cautious, I’ve chosen to take a few risks during these pandemic years, largely to get healthcare for me or my pets. I can’t control everything: I need surgery for skin cancer next month. I’ll be in a closed building with plenty of other people with no mask requirements for hours under the knife. In this case the risk of cancer spreading outweighs the risk of the virus. Tough choices. I’ve figured (another naive assumption) that if I survived acute Covid, and ended up with Long Covid, at least I’d have the skills to handle prolonged fatigue, chronic pain, brain fog, and the other symptoms I’d read about–I’ve had plenty of experience with those already, plus now I’ve got mindfulness. Then I learned of a particular suicide that raised the question of the limits of the practice, and opened the door to deeper understanding of the dire realities of Long Covid. My budding complacency was shattered. Any temptation to lower my risk threshold evaporated. I’m grateful I enjoy being a hermit.

Living with Animals

My neighbors and I frequently remark on how lucky we are to live with animals. Sometimes we are referring to mountain lions, bobcats, foxes, coyotes, or bears. Sometimes we are referring to elk or the deer that wander through our yards. Sometimes we are talking about our little dogs! I’m grateful for living with animals.

Practice

I’m grateful that I finally followed through on my intention to burn this yard waste. After a year of watching the grass grow up around it I just made myself up and do it, and it only took about three hours to git r done done. I tried to burn some old journals too, but started reading them, and so only burned a few pages. Even the most fortunate of us struggle with the agitations of our minds. I’ve wasted so many years suffering needlessly from the power of my thoughts, I’m so grateful for the practice of mindfulness which allows me at least, in the hardest times, to discern what is actual and what I layer on top of reality to exacerbate any situation. I’m struggling to gain a healthy perspective today on an unfortunate incident this week which has me reeling inside my head with the agonies of ego, anxiety, disillusionment, disappointment, projection, exaggeration, and so much more. I’m grateful to have some tools to manage these afflictive mental states, so that I can at least make progress in a few areas of my day, clearing out the dross of quotidian living. The fire yesterday was a great metaphor to reflect on today. May I carry forward the clarity I have in this moment, and not let the weeds take over.

I was grateful this evening for the self-soothing distraction of a new kitchen gadget, a cheese baker that was given to me. Plunk in a round of cheese–it came with a recipe for French or English, and I had a small round of Brie so I chose the French version–stick some garlic slices into it, a tablespoon of dry vermouth, and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, and bake for 20 minutes… until ‘molten.’ Then, of course, spread it on carb of choice–I had no baguettes so used Ritz crackers. Not sure that I don’t prefer regular room temp Brie, but it was a tasty treat.

Choosing

I’m grateful today (and every day) for choosing where I place my attention. I didn’t used to have this capacity. I used to let my thoughts drag me around. I used to “think too much,” as many people told me and I resented them for saying that. You don’t think nearly enough! I would think in response. It’s true, too many people don’t think nearly enough, or as a friend pointed out today, don’t have the capacity for critical thinking, i.e., discerning truth clearly. But thinking too much is a different beast. I’m grateful to mindfulness practice for allowing me to release the mental agitation caused by believing my every thought, identifying with or attaching to the things I think. I still think horrible things could happen tomorrow if unthinking Americans vote narrow-minded, self-righteous, power-hungry, greedy, ignorant people into power… but I’m not attached to the outcome. No matter how awful it might be, it’s beyond my control now.

I’ve donated more $ in the past six months to political causes and campaigns than ever in my whole life put together. I’ve voted, written, and conversed, and tried to influence people to vote for their true best interests, and against corporate greed, fascism, and ‘alternative facts.’ I’ve done what I can in my own small way. No matter what happens when the ashes of this election settle, there will still be people, animals, and a planet who need my help and compassion, and that’s where I’ll continue to turn my attention. And in the meantime, I’ll choose to pay attention to what I can control, which is how I show up for myself and for others moment by moment, day by day.

One way I strengthen resilience and hope is to take care of myself, so that I can be more present and helpful for others. One way I take care of myself is to give myself little gifts, moments of joy, throughout the day; choosing to be mindfully aware of what is good, true, and beautiful in this life. One way I do that is with simple but delicious food treats. For example… croissants from City Market cost $1.12 each… add some homemade raspberry jam and a quarter of a chocolate bar, bake for eight minutes, and this delectable breakfast cost less than $2 and fifteen minutes. So simple, so delicious. Taking another ten or fifteen minutes to savor the flavors and textures, along with a cup of coffee, and I can honestly say it was a half-hour well spent. Yes, life is hard: millions of sentient beings suffer every day; all the material blessings of my life could disappear tomorrow in some natural or man-made catastrophe; death is certain, time of death uncertain. There is nothing more that I can do about any of those true things than what I’ve already done: and in this moment, in this breath, all is well, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Tomorrow come what may, let me live this day choosing to focus my attention on gratitude and joy, wherever I can find them.

Looking Up in Wonder

As Wren and I were out on our afternoon walk, everything in front of us looking much the same as usual, the ground, sagebrush, trees, green mosses, and soft dry mud, I chanced to turn and look over my shoulder, and “ah, bright wings!” We followed the marvel through the woods until, as everything always does, it shifted, dispersed, dissipated. I’m so grateful for those moments when I am stopped in my tracks by looking up in wonder.

I’m grateful for the single Tabasco pepper I grew this summer, for its precious little hot peppers, and for it hanging on long enough after I potted it up and brought it inside to load up with ripe or ripening fruits. When I went to water it today I noticed an aphid infestation, and I’m grateful I had a plan for such an eventuality. Having observed in previous years that outside food plants brought in, peppers or herbs, often succumb to aphids, I was on the lookout, and had steeled myself for the necessary: I cut off all the peppers and put the plant and aphids outside to freeze gently to death; trying to control them has always failed and resulted in more houseplants becoming infested. I’m grateful I had “the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.”

Heat

Today started with me massively over-sleeping, and of course I’m grateful for the ability to oversleep when I know so many people who can’t sleep through the night. I’m grateful that my first zoom of the day friend was gracious and understanding when I was half an hour late. I’m grateful for ample firewood so I don’t feel the need to scrimp on a chilly grey morning, and Wren is grateful for a thick cotton rug on the hearth. Today is the first time she’s stretched out in front of the woodstove, and I’m grateful she’s comfortable to do so. I’m grateful for a quiet Saturday to rest, read, and catch up in the kitchen.

I’m grateful that my strategies for salvaging the two Datil pepper plants worked, and I was able to harvest enough ripe Datil peppers to make this delicious hot sauce recipe from Chili Pepper Madness, with homemade tomato sauce and paprika, honey, garlic powder, and apple cider vinegar. It was crazy to choose to grow Datil peppers–they’re a St. Augustine, FL, specialty, and I might have known they’d need far longer to mature than the growing season here. I may not try to grow them again for that reason, but I sure am glad I tried them this year. After simmering the ingredients for about 25 minutes, I blended them and got two squeeze bottles full of a fruity spicy sauce, with a touch of sweetness. I’m grateful for shedding the label I gave myself decades ago of ‘can’t handle the heat.’ I can handle a little bit more heat today than yesterday, and more yesterday than the week before. And it’s been fun and fascinating to grow all these different hot peppers this summer, and play with how to use or preserve them.