I’m grateful for a lot today. All the usual things, like waking up alive, hot water, good neighbors, and biscotti… And also some occasional things, like my first shingles vaccine at the clinic. I’m grateful that a couple of friends cared enough to twist my arm to go get it, and grateful it didn’t hurt more than it did. It’s left me by darkfall feeling extremely tired and a little bit weak, but that’s a small price to pay to avoid the lengthy torture of the virus.
I’m grateful for respiratory therapy with a compassionate, fun, holistic OT, who has served so many needs over the past few months, including today my craving for a sandwich made by someone other than me. She sent me to Sweetgrass down the street. I’m grateful for her recommendation of the Hal sandwich, which came with homemade potato chips. I brought it home to enjoy and saved enough turkey for another sandwich I’ll make here, after I make some bread. I’m grateful for stretching my boundaries enough to step into the cafe and wait for the till to clear to pick up the order, despite the unmasked crowd. It did put me in a slight dissociative state where I’m on high alert. I’m grateful for the awareness, and grateful after this full day to have my cozy bed waiting for me and the cat and the dog, who have now settled into a regular sleeping pattern one on each side of me. It’s my happy place. And that’s ok.
Outside and in, inside and out, we had a cozy day. Wren surprises me with her enthusiasm for snow. But she just came in after midnight whiz and won’t stop licking her paws: from a high of 34℉ this afternoon the temperature has plunged to 7 at the moment and I don’t think she’s ever been out in snow that cold. I might have to buy her some pink booties…
Lunch was total comfort food with this creamy chickpea-spinach pasta with rosemary. It was so good I ate it again for dinner. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for simply inhabiting this particular life at this moment. I appreciate how fortunate I am, among the 8 billion other humans, and I try to make each day meaningful by living in alignment with my values of gratitude, kindness, and being of benefit to at least one other person, human or otherwise.
I’m grateful that I found the glasses! Last night, immediately after I posted, I walked into the pantry, turned on the light, looked to the shelf just below my left elbow, and saw them wedged between the box of Kosher salt and a bag of flour. I knew I had put them somewhere precarious with a mental note to remember. I burst out laughing. I didn’t consciously remember where they were, I just decided to check the pantry one more time. And in that subconscious way we often find things, I went right to them. There they were, in the very last place I looked…
In a way I’m even more grateful for the capacity to laugh at myself. It may have sounded like I obsessed over the glasses for the 24 hours previous, but I didn’t really; at least, not the way I would have before. For one thing, I didn’t beat myself up for losing them. Pre-mindfulness, I would have really cussed myself out and mentally beat my head against the wall. I did sing a tender little ditty about my stupidity as I swept the snow paths, but I was gentle with myself and laughing even as I did that. I also didn’t panic. I knew they were in the house or the yard, and was calmly confident they’d most likely turn up safe and sound, instead of broken outside after snowmelt in spring. I enjoyed a fruitful day filled with other activities in between the occasional search forays. I’m so grateful for the letting go that mindfulness affords me.
One of the mindfulness exercises I’ve learned is to pause a few times a day and notice something blue, red, green, yellow, and white in sequence; and taking the few seconds required to mentally note what I see. This exercise can help you become more mindful of your environment and ground you in the present moment. I live amidst a riot of color and texture inside my house, and most of the year outside as well, so the exercise is usually easy for me. Yesterday was a day full of color; oddly, a lot of red white and blue showed up in my pictures. Today was cloudy with a fresh light snow cover.
This made it difficult to search for my bifocals, which went missing sometime yesterday afternoon. I feel like I set them down somewhere precarious with a mental note to remember where; but I also recall putting them in a pocket at some point. They’re in no pockets I’ve checked so far, and nowhere else I’ve looked multiple times. After scouring the house last night and again this morning, I broke down and started looking outside, backtracking everywhere I walked in the yard yesterday: to the compost and laundry line, to the generator, to where I picked up the last hose and where I coiled and hung it, into Biko’s round pen since it was so balmy he got to spend a few hours outside yesterday. I swept the snow lightly with a broom the second time I retraced my steps. If the glasses were blue, red, green, yellow, or white they might have showed easily, but they’re not: they’re the color of snow–not white, which is an illusion of snow, but translucent. If they’re out there, they’ve disappeared, and there’s more snow coming tomorrow night. I’ll have a short window midday when some snow may have melted, and after that they’ll be buried for winter. But they’ll probably turn up inside eventually. The lid to the martini shaker rolled out this morning when I vacuumed under a cabinet where I’d already looked for it weeks ago. Now just waiting for the small kitchen tongs and the globe lights to reappear.
I’m grateful to see Ice Canyon forming up, and to be able to walk there with my little dog. I’m grateful for the vast, tremendous sky and all that happens in it day to day, moment to moment. I’m grateful for my life just as it is on this day of giving thanks, for where I live and how, for teachers and students, for friends and community, for a sense, in this moment, of safety and ease. I’m grateful for knowing any of this can change in any moment, which inspires me to appreciate all of it every moment as much as possible.
I’m grateful for a tidy stack of wood in the shed, protected from the elements, and for the helpers who stacked it. I’m grateful for the simple meal I made for my Thanksgiving dinner, cheesy samosa puffs, and for the jar of last year’s salsa verde I pulled from the pantry to dip them in. It was a delicious early dinner.
I’m grateful for eggs, flour, sugar, cocoa, and vanilla extract, cream cheese and butter, and the knowledge to turn them into a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. It’s not exactly like the Sarah Lee cakes I grew up with, but pretty good nonetheless! I did substitute cream cheese for some of the butter in the frosting because I could and plain butter cream is too–well, buttery–for my taste. I’m grateful that two dear neighbors wanted to share their Thanksgiving dinners with me, and that I was able to share this cake with them. And so glad that I’ll have plenty of turkey, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and more to enjoy for the next few days. I’m grateful for leftovers! I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the leisure and opportunity to cultivate contentment in my life.
…Narrowly averted! Not life or death this time, but potentially even more uncomfortable. I’m grateful that Wren is such a well-behaved little dog. We went out for midnight whiz just now, and I was grateful to have a new headlamp with a super powerful beam, and grateful that she has a reflective collar for nighttime. I was playing with the headlamp settings and found to my delight that even on the red setting her collar glows–red! While we were in that stargazing mode, she uttered a long low growl, the first I’ve heard from her, and trotted a few steps toward the fence.
I whistled, and grateful that my lips weren’t too dry or cold, actually made a sound, which stopped her. At the same time, I switched the lamp to high beam to scan for trouble. My first thought, given all the recent visitations in the vicinity, was of course a mountain lion, which could have meant death for her.
She trotted another few steps and I whistled again, she paused, and I swung my head toward the gate in time to see a fat striped skunk waddling out through the gap. Whew! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with a skunked dog. I’ve done it often enough, and have supplies handy just in case, but at bedtime on a cold winter night would be just about my last choice for that olfactory disaster to happen. Wren came on the next whistle, clearly also not interested in the consequences of a close encounter, and we strolled to the other side of the house, where she finished her business under a clear, quiet, starlit sky. I’m grateful for everything about that little adventure, and especially for the peaceful outcome.
Today I am really grateful that I woke up alive. I might not have, more than usual.
Yesterday I came in after being outside for a couple hours, and noticed an unpleasant smell that I didn’t recognize. I wondered if it had come in on Wren, who had rolled in something; or with the load of wood I had just rolled in. I took out the compost and the garbage in case it was in there, and after a little while it seemed to have dissipated. So I went on with my evening, and went to bed, and went to sleep…
In the morning, traces of the smell remained. I thought Getting coffee going will get rid of it… As I stood in the kitchen it dawned on me slowly that maybe it was propane. I looked down at the stovetop and indeed one of the burner knobs was a fraction left of straight up. All evening, all night long, we’d been breathing propane. Fortunately the house is not hermetically sealed, in fact there’s a window upstairs with a permanent one inch gap. And I had not yet lighted a fire in the woodstove, and coffee was brewing in the electric maker: I’m grateful that this morning I chose not to light a burner for the kettle or espresso pot. Whew! Disaster narrowly averted, and purely by chance.
What frightens me the most about the whole thing is that Ididn’t recognize the smell. It’s happened a few times in the past that a burner was on, or the outdoor tank had a leaky valve, or long ago the trailer heater had a bad pilot light; so I know the smell of loose propane. But this time I did not recognize it. That calls into question my cognition, a little more sharply than the usual mindless mishaps of misplacing glasses, keys, forgetting why I stepped into the pantry. Those are all normal artifacts of a busy life. But smelling a rank aroma, deluding myself about its origin and then just letting it slide, well… that’s a slippery slope. Let’s hope it’s a one-off. I’m just really grateful I figured it out when I did; grateful it was a relatively mild day and I could open both doors and a downstairs window and let the house air for a few hours. Grateful I lived another good day so I can go back to sleep tonight.
I’m grateful for the simplest things. And even the simplest things rely upon countless unknown others to bring them into existence. Two slices of fried sourdough: the canola oil, the seeds, the harvesting and extracting machines and their fuel and the people who grew, harvested, extracted oil from the seeds and oil for the machines; the pan, the manufacturers and those who made those machines that smelted the metal and shaped it, those who invented the diamond-ceramic non-toxic nonstick surface, the cardboard it was shipped in and all the people involved in every step in between; the wheat and all the people it took to grow it, the mill, the bag, the paper, transportation all along the way to the store, the sourdough starter started years ago, and the teachers who taught me to bake. The spare time to fry two pieces of bread, the stove, the propane, and all those involved in those things getting into my house, the driver who pumps propane into the tank outside every now and then and the office people who let him know when to come, the truck and the hose, the county road crew, the federal bills that fund the roads… All that is before we start on the avocado… And then there’s Havarti, just imagine all the people it took to get a ripe avocado and a chunk of Havarti to my kitchen. There’s the plate and everyone involved in creating the plate… the Himalayan pink rock salt and everyone it took to get that here, and the tri-color peppercorns… sigh. Yes, I’m grateful for the simplest things, and grateful for the perspective.
Today I’m grateful for all the usual things: waking up alive, a morning with a festival of clouds, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips for lunch–so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful that I know how to make bread, and learned to let it cool overnight before slicing–these were pretty thick! It was too soft still warm to slice thinner. Grateful that I know how to make jam, which couldn’t be easier. I’m also grateful today for meaningful interactions with many people.
Kudos to Kelli at the clinic for giving me an absolutely painless injection, and she was kind enough to come out to my car to do it, though I was planning to go inside. I’m grateful I brought an attitude of ease and interest rather than fear or resistance; it led to a good conversation about the local Covid surge, and us each giving just a bit more kindness and attention to the other than two strangers needed to. I dropped off some cookies with friends I haven’t seen in person for awhile, and enjoyed a cautious stroll in the sun. We also talked about Covid, as well as efforts to save our local library, an essential community resource. There were some text and phone connections, and I’m grateful to have spent a couple hours in mindful conversation with my Foundations class that’s about to graduate next week. The day wrapped up with a spontaneous zoom cocktail with Amy, always a warm fuzzy.
Throughout the day, though, there was something niggling in my mind. A number of people have told me recently, in talking about Covid, “We’re moving on with our lives.” There’s a very subtle perspective in there, an implication I’m inferring, that disturbs me a little bit, and I’ve been trying to tease out what that’s about. Whether I read it in an article, hear it in an interview, or hear it face to face (usually prefaced by “I respect your precautions, but…”), there’s an implied judgment, an unflattering comparison. As though I, and people like me who are still taking Covid precautions seriously, are stuck–as though we are not ‘moving on with our lives’ but frozen in time, frozen in fear, frozen in some lesser state than those who proclaim that Covid is over for them.
It seems to me that many of them are not moving on in any way, but have simply gone backwards to living the same way they did in their pre-pandemic lives. No shade intended… but also there’s no need to be smug about it, or think it’s a superior way to live to those of us who have made substantial changes in our lives. In many ways my life is more satisfying than it’s ever been; in some ways more limited. It’s complicated. But I’ve definitely been moving on with my life these past few years in a positive direction. Lots of people reassessed during the pandemic and chose to move on with their lives in meaningful ways: to leave unfulfilling jobs, to work from home or to move, to simplify their lives; chose to explore other aspects of life’s many riches besides ‘business as usual,’ the paradigm btw that got us into the climate crisis in the first place. For awhile there, the Earth itself enjoyed a reprieve from the impacts of our collective human lifestyle, although that, too, is complicated. Ironically, the 8 billionth human was added to the current global population this week. The minority of humans, those of us who suffer largely from ‘First World problems,’ really do need to figure out a new way to move forward–as this pandemic proceeds, as climate chaos increases, as our interconnectedness simultaneously deepens and frays–rather than simply going back to business as usual.