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 that it’s been warm enough for the past few days to substantially melt the ice dam that melted the mudroom wall, and that Wilson had time to come break it up and knock it off with a shovel. He tried to move the chair, which I accidentally left open in the fall, so it wouldn’t get smashed by falling ice… but it had frozen to the ground, and we afraid it would break if we tried too hard.
We should have tried harder to move the chair! But he works in a furniture repair shop, and told me to keep all the pieces and he’ll put it back together again–I hope it’s not as badly smashed as Humpty Dumpty. At least we’ve got the roof clear before the next ten-day snowstorm due to start tomorrow, and I can climb up and brush off snow from this dangerous corner before it undergoes a melt-freeze-melt-freeze-melt cycle again.
I’m grateful for where I live, and for neighbors who share certain values that reflect an understanding of our interdependence. We don’t agree on everything, and some of us barely agree on anything, but we do share a love of the land on which we live, and a willingness to help each other out when what we can offer is needed. Big thanks to neighbor Joe for all the plowing he’s done this winter, and for pulling my car out of the snowbank with his tractor this afternoon.
It’s possible that there is someone in the neighborhood who didn’t look outside this evening and marvel at the truly astonishing colors that permeated everything from sky to snow to winter junipers. But it’s not likely. One of the values we share is a reverence for the beauty of the place we live.
I’m grateful today for sunshine! The past two days have been gloriously springlike. Now that I’ve stopped the ice melting into the mudroom, it was time for me to get stuck in the driveway. We didn’t even have much snow, just ferocious wind for a whole day, and forty acres of snow blew over the banks and across my driveway.
I should have backed up the second I saw drifts, but it didn’t look too bad so I tried to punch through. A short way up I realized I’d never make it to the top, so I backed carefully down. But not carefully enough. Once the drifts gave out I was moving too fast and slid into a plowed bank. I left it and walked home for lunch. I’m grateful that it only took a text to a neighbor to get the drifts plowed–I figured once the drive was passable I could dig myself out and forge ahead.
He wasn’t able to plow til evening, and I was happy to wait til this morning to dig out. I was grateful to have the right tools for the job again. But sometimes even the right tools aren’t enough. An hour’s work with shovels, cardboard, and kitty litter, and I was a few inches deeper into the snowbank. I’m grateful for neighbors with tractors, trucks, and chains, and know someone will pull the car out eventually. Maybe tomorrow! I’m grateful for patience and good cheer.
I’m grateful for YouTube where I found a great hack for scanning old slides, which I took some time to do today. I simply held each slide up to the bright white screen of my laptop and took a picture with my phone. Not perfect, but not bad, considering they’re sixty years old or so. I’m grateful for the memories conjured by these old slides, and feelings of tenderness for my family.
Above, the little children are in Italy, I’m pretty sure, and below I think we’re in Holland, because that was my mother’s note on the envelope: slides – Holland, etc.
Full circle back to snow, here I am with mommy and likely my first snow. Who’d ever have imagined this little tyke would grow up to rely on snow so directly, deal with it so intimately, and be so sanguine about leaving her car stuck in it for days. I’m grateful for the practice that allows me to hold with equanimity and love all the feelings I’m having today.
I’m also having some feelings about Covid, which are clarified by this excerpt from Eric Topol’s newsletter today:
“First, we sit at a very high baseline of daily Covid hospitalizations and deaths in the United States, over 25,000 and about 400, respectively. This is far beyond (double) where we were in June 2021, pre-Delta, when we got down to close to 10,000 hospitalizations and ~200 deaths per day. There’s still circulating virus (currently XBB.1.5) getting people infected and some of the folks of advanced age and immunocompromised are the ones chiefly winding up with severe Covid. The virus is finding the vulnerable people more easily since their guard is let down, abandoning high-quality masks and other mitigations, and the low rate of keeping up with boosters in the last 6 months (the age 65+ rate is 40%). There are about 15% of Americans (more than what many people think or have been led to believe), based on all the serologic data available, who never had Covid and are relying on their vaccines/boosters to avoid their first infection. Reinfections among the 85% with prior Covid are not uncommon and not necessarily benign. No less, the pervasive attitude is the pandemic is over, life goes on. That’s helping the virus find new or repeat hosts.”
Thick homemade bread, local happy-hen eggs, whipping cream, cinnamon-sugar, butter, real organic Vermont maple syrup, all the people and effort and resources that went into getting all these ingredients into my kitchen just in time for me to make lunch today: I am grateful.
A rude awakening from a leisurely Saturday morning latté, when Wren looked at the door funny and I decided to bring in some firewood. The mudroom wall was melting all the way down. I tried to absorb the leak with some brown paper which lasted a short minute before it got pushed away. Scrambling around I dressed to climb the ladder again.
After whacking away some more glacial ice, this time wearing insulated leather gloves so I could scoop it out of the gutter without frostbite, I revealed a piece of flashing extending from the main roof to the mudroom roof, designed to prevent this kind of problem, I assume. But with more than a foot of exposed seam between that flashing and the first gutter the design failed in this long, cold, grey winter when deep snow finally came. I’m grateful for junk lying around! The kind of thing rural people keep because you just never know when it might come in handy. This piece of broken drain was quite handy because I left it lying where it broke off, so in case I needed I’d know right where it was. I jammed it up to the flashing and wedged it under the gutter, and have stopped the leak for now.
This would have still been melting the wall if it weren’t dripping off the edge of the roof. Fingers crossed this fix holds until it warms up enough for Wilson to flip the whole pile off. He came by today to shovel the paths, and scolded me. “You shouldn’t be climbing up here and doing this,” he said. And then he scolded another friend for climbing out on her roof to mess with ice dams without her phone. “I always have my phone on me,” I reassured him, and he said “I feel better about that.” I was grateful that he cared enough to scold me.
At last the arduous outdoor work was done, and I settled into the recliner for a short rest, where I took the time to enjoy this lovely little vignette in front of me. Now I see the cobwebs on the chili lights. Oh well! A task for another day. Not everybody wakes up alive every day. I’m grateful I did, and that I made it safely through another one.
It’s been cold and grey and windy for so long. And snowing off and on. I am grateful for the water, yes, and I am really looking forward to some spring color. Right before that first big snow a few weeks ago, the crocus leaves had pushed through the ground just a couple of millimeters. They’re drinking up snowmelt again and again under their late winter blanket. I really am grateful for that.
The does are hungry though. And my soul hungers for the sun. And it’s all fine, because each morning I wake grateful for a roof over my head, running water, coffee beans from foreign lands, fresh bread, cheese in the refrigerator. I cannot complain. And still, my soul hungers for the sun, snowmelt, green growing things outside and not just inside.
In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.’ A skillful life includes the ability to hold both sorrow and joy, pleasure and suffering, loss and gain, with equanimity. I’m grateful that this winter is giving me so much practice cultivating equanimity.
Also, in an act of shameless self-promotion, my podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts. It even showed up fifth in the search when I typed in ‘Suffer Less,’ which is a wonder for which I am also grateful. Please give it a listen there, or on Spotify or most other podcast platforms, and follow if you like it. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, ‘Fruits of the Practice,’ but I haven’t yet figured out how to link that to this blog, so just comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list if you want to receive that monthly. Yippee! I am making my dreams come true. This may be another gift of the long, grey winter.
Two more views of the virgin snow the other day, followed by the plowed driveway today. So grateful for friendly bartering for services and goods in the neighborhood.
Grateful for warmth, color, and comfort inside, as I’m grateful for winter water outside. Grateful as always for a roof over our heads. And grateful for a sweet summery puzzle to do on these dark days, a rainbow of color and texture. Grateful to be alive, and have meaningful work teaching, and have a quiet weekend.
I’ll be teaching the Introduction to Mindfulness course live on zoom starting March 2, from 2-3 pm Mountain Time, only $50 per person for the four-week class. Get it while this price lasts, as I realize I can’t sustain it and will have to raise it some. Check it out and register here.
It’s been a crazy couple of days of winter here, as it has in much of the country. I’m grateful when I wake on a morning like yesterday or today just to have a roof over my head, and a woodstove I can load with fuel to warm the house. And grateful for the luxuries of coffee, cinnamon rolls, and indoor plants. Snow blew so hard yesterday it stuck to windows it still hasn’t melted from.
The driveway drifted in dramatic waves so deep that I couldn’t make it past the trees in my boots, as it was still blowing and I hadn’t worn a scarf, and Wren was too short to get through the drifts once we passed the first few. I’m grateful as always for kind neighbors, and the feeling of connection that comes from knowing they’re just beyond the sea of snow if I need them.