Tag Archive | mindfulness practice

Just Being

I’m grateful that my grownup cat Topaz, whose nose has been out of joint since the kitten adventure, and not quite straight even after three months with Wren, finally jumped up on my lap this afternoon for no reason. She kneaded and purred, and curled up for a short visit as I picked weeds out of her thick fur. Wren got a little anxious about it, and came up to inquire; she and Topaz went nose to gentle nose for a few seconds with no tension. It was sweet. We all hung out for awhile in the shade of late afternoon on the east patio, doing nothing, content to just be. I love these peaceful breaks in the day, where I simply pause, take a time out from the busyness of correspondence, work, dishes, practice, anything, just being in open awareness for a few minutes.

The Pedal

I’m grateful that the new pedal for the sewing machine works! It’s not perfect: it doesn’t want to stay plugged into the back of the machine. But I braced it to stay put, and got some projects finished yesterday. The fifth and last panel for the sunroom curtains (which I started twenty years ago) is together, the one on the left with the eyelash viper appliqué. Only one curtain is actually assembled and hanging, and now I have four left to finish decorating and sew onto the Warm Window lining. Originally I planned these to insulate the five sunroom windows from winter cold, but as our winters became increasingly mild (along with some major distractions) I kept putting it off. Now I’m motivated to finish them, and another shade for the landing window, to insulate the house from summer sun and increasingly uncomfortable heatwaves. I’m very grateful that I’m fortunate enough to have an adobe house whose temperature remains relatively stable season to season, year to year; knowing full well there are millions of people who don’t have this kind of protection as our climate becomes increasingly unstable.

The first thing I sewed with the new pedal was the gown-curtains. They’re not fancy or fussy, with some rips and raw edges here and there, but they’ll do the trick of mitigating hot sun in the east and west windows in summer, and tempering the cold in winter. And finally making something out of that gown? A priceless feeling of accomplishment.
Here I am in the gown in college, on the way to a costume party with my page, Brian. It was only fair that he was my servant this year, since I was his slave the year before that…

I’m grateful to have these old photos to prompt memories of fun times and special people. But I’m thinking about digitizing just a few special images and throwing all the rest–all the loose photos in boxes, all the albums from childhood, from generations of ancestors before me, from the Colonel’s Army days, from my mother’s last year–just throwing them all away. They take up so much space. And after I’m gone, who will want them? Do I even want them? There’s a certain discomfort in looking at them now, especially those that cover my life. I’m no longer that person. I no longer know Brian, or almost anyone else from my past. I found in looking through the album that contained these two pictures, in looking at these two pictures, that much more than happy memories comes up: memories of embarrassing moments, emotional wounds, longings unsatisfied, choices made, chances missed, a melancholy retrospective. I don’t want to look backward at what and how my life was. I don’t want to think about that girl or her angst. For every fun or happy moment, there were hours of anxiety and dissatisfaction. I didn’t know who I was or what really mattered to me. And none of that past matters now, when there is so little future left.

I want to look forward, not backward. Who am I today? Who do I want to be tomorrow, if I get there? I’ve found contentment in the simple life I lead, close to the land and the wild, growing food, listening to birds, watching clouds; cherishing each day on this beautiful planet even as I witness its unraveling. Finding gratitude and joy in the smallest things:

Baking Aunt Clara’s biscuit recipe, and eating one warm out of the oven with the first taste of apricot jam…
Serving an amuse bouche of blue cheese-stuffed portobellos for Boyz Lunch…
…trying a new recipe with eggplants from the garden, stuffed with a peanut-spice mixture and then steamed in a pot of same…
… serving the Boyz eggplant, stuffed squash blossoms, and a bowl of garden zucchini and orach with créme fraîche and parmesan, along with biscuits, and chocolate chip cookies… enjoying their enjoyment of the food and our time together, and deriving deep satisfaction from serving a meal grown mostly in my garden.
And, of course, I’m grateful for and find meaning in giving a good life to this dear, comical little creature.

Planting Seeds

Here I’ve tipped over and pinned the arugula stalks, in order to open sun space over the carrots beyond, and to allow self-sowing of any little rockets that pop out of the drying seedheads. In between I planted rows of flowers I failed to get started this spring. If they make it, great; if they don’t come up, oh well.

I’m grateful that the monsoons are truly upon us, even though there’s been precious little moisture on this mesa. The foothills are getting some rain, and we a bit farther west are getting humidity and clouds. This helps the plants and ground (and our skin) retain some moisture, and keeps the temperature down in the 80s and even 70s for much of the day, a welcome respite. Wren helped me plant some seeds this morning, anticipating a midday shower though none came. I resorted to a watering can to set flowers, lettuces, cilantro, and two varieties of carrot seeds into the soil, grateful for a forecast of moderate temperatures and increasing chance of precipitation over the next two weeks. I’m grateful for planting seeds both in the garden, and in my heart and mind: seeds of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and equanimity. What we water grows.

I’m grateful for this beautiful Sirenevyi sweet pepper harvested this morning. I used half of it along with some red onion, basil, oregano, and ricotta cheese to make stuffing for the four blossoms the zucchinis offered up. After sautéing diced pepper and onion and chopping the fresh herbs with the herb scissors I mixed them up with a pinch of salt and pepper, stuffed the flowers, and put them in the fridge for later.

Then we did some other things for awhile.

And then it was time for a late lunch. I had awoken achy and queasy, and optimistic for rain, so I cancelled Boyz Lunch. It was a hard call. It turned out to be for the best, though it never did rain. I was forced to eat the fried blossoms by myself. No shortcuts this time! I made the batter with one egg, a third cup of flour, and a quarter cup of 7-Up. The recipe calls for beer, but what it wants is the bubble action, and the soda worked fine. The smooth thick batter clung beautifully to the flowers and fried to a golden light crisp.

I mixed a dip with some mayo and sour cream, and a splash of Penzeys Arizona seasoning. I added some chopped celery and mayo to leftover cold pesto pasta, garnished with some sliced avocado, and enjoyed another simple, virtuous lunch. It brings me great pleasure to prepare simple, delicious meals, even just for myself. Like many single people, I used to think it wasn’t worth cooking for one. It’s been a long road to learn that I deserve my love and compassion as much as anyone else does. And it’s been a joyful journey learning how to make the most of simple ingredients and techniques, leftovers, and effortless aesthetic touches. I’m grateful I’m finally learning to care for myself.

A Chest Freezer

Blanching the beurre du Rocquencourt beans…

Years ago, when I had a very small solar power system, I had to rent freezer space in town at the meat processing establishment. For awhile I shared a locker with a friend; we were both buying large quantities of local meat, like splitting half a pig, or large amounts of fruit. One time I froze most of a butchered deer there. I was so grateful to be able to finally buy my own chest freezer once I added another solar array and some larger batteries. Home storage capacity really enabled me to step up my garden game.

I’ve never had more than a two cubic foot freezer in any refrigerator I’ve had here, first a tiny propane refrigerator/freezer, then a replacement. I was grateful when I could finally afford the price and the power of a Sunfrost. The Sunfrost was designed specifically for homes using solar power: it has four inch thick insulated walls and uses a minute amount of electricity compared to even the highest rated EnergyStar commercial appliance. But the tiny freezer doesn’t hold much; certainly not half a pig. I no longer eat that much meat, but what meat I do choose to eat I purchase from local ranchers in bulk. I also process a lot of garden produce over the summer. I’m grateful to have a chest freezer to hold green beans, snow peas, tomatoes, bulk-baked lasagna, burritos, apricots, peaches, pesto, you name it. Plus of course enough ice cream.

For lunch I enjoyed a chicken-cheese-bean burrito from the chest freezer, with last summer’s salsa from the pantry, and this summer’s pickles from the Sunfrost.
I also froze a half-pint of pesto this afternoon, using up the first basil harvest and the last of the pecans in the fridge, plus some garlic and parmesan.

It was a full day in the kitchen. In addition to blanching and freezing beans, and making pesto, I needed to feed the sourdough, so I wanted to find a recipe to use up some discard to make space. These spicy cheesy crackers were just the ticket. I didn’t bake them quite long enough–the edge crackers were perfect but the center ones are a little caky. Next time, thinner roll overall and a lower longer bake. They were delicious, nonetheless, with some Boursin for an evening snack.

Wren enjoys her crackers, too, and I use her treats to train her for various things. Now that car training is over (she leaps right in every time), and crate training is underway, we’re working on letting me hold her paws and clip one nail every few days. Today we took a break from that as I checked out her willingness to put on a little pink sweater. Even though she arrived here in April, there were some chilly mornings that she shivered miserably on our walks. She has got to get prepared now–winter is coming! It was so easy to get the sweater over her head that I think she must have worn one before. But with her foot sensitivity, I think it’s wise to get her used to me putting her feet through the arm holes before we have to.

I left it on her just long enough to make sure she was comfortable in it. I’m grateful for another quiet, gentle day.

This Gentle Day

Grateful this morning for another bean harvest, mostly Beurre du Rocquencourt wax beans, but the first few rattlesnake pole beans are also coming on. I’ll blanch and freeze the wax beans. I can tell I’ll get a ton more this summer. The rattlesnake beans I chopped up and sautéed to go in another virtuous lunch.
This time I did use an egg for the batter, with a little cream, then rolled the squash blossoms in a flour-corn meal-cornstarch dredge; after stuffing them with a simple block of Havarti. I scrambled the leftover egg mixture and garnished the salad with some of it, fed the rest to Wren on top of her dinner kibble. I don’t think the cornmeal is working out for the delicate blossoms. Next time it will be a pure tempura batter.

And then I had a pretty healthy dinner, too. My personal shopper brought me smoked blue cheese crumbles the other day. I can’t be picky when I’m not shopping for myself, and am grateful that there’s someone who will do his best to get me what I want and take creative chances when the store is out of my specific requests. “Smoked is always a good thing,” he said. I wasn’t sure I agreed: I’m not a fan of fake smoke flavoring, but Amy told me how to tell if the cheese was actually smoked: It will look browned on the outside. I was pleased to see a brown rind on the crumbles, and it tasted delicious.

Amy says: “Mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, finely diced onion, that blue cheese—the best blue cheese dressing ever.” But I had a different plan for some of it tonight. We made mushroom toast last night to go with our zoom cocktails, and I had some extra shiitakes. I mashed up some soft butter, smoked blue cheese, Italian breadcrumbs, and one finely chopped date, stuffed the caps, sprinkled with more breadcrumbs, and baked at 400℉ for 15 minutes. Delicious! I’m grateful for this gentle day, with plenty of time tending the garden, a light cool cloud cover, simple gourmet meals, a long meditation, and kind, mindful observation of my thoughts and actions. Self-nourishing is an act of kindness for others. “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?!” ~ RuPaul

Equanimity

I’m grateful for this embodied example of equanimity, my old scarred doe. She’s been browsing in my yarden for a month, and this is at least the fourth summer she’s done so. She has a fawn somewhere (or two). She is comfortable enough with me and the pets to lie down and rest inside the fence. She watched calmly as I turned on the outdoor spigot, and was still there an hour later when I turned it off. She is okay with what is.
I’m grateful for this slim apricot harvest, all I’m likely to get this year. There were twice as many on the tree, but when they finally looked ripe enough to pick (and they’re still not quite ripe) I was too late: at least this many more have already been pecked by birds or gnawed by someone else. I’ll leave those on the tree, and as they fall off the old doe or Biko will enjoy what’s left of them. Equanimity also means recognizing that all lives have equal value, and sharing garden bounty with an open heart.

I finally had the energy this afternoon to tackle a sewing project. I went upstairs to choose among several I’ve had lined up for years, and decided the best and easiest would be to make curtains out of this ancient dress. I’ve had it since 1979, and it was almost a hundred years old when I got it, pulled from a trunk of treasures that was left to my grandmother by a friend who died. I wore the dress once to a costume party in college, and never could bear to part with it, thinking (once I accepted that I’d never fit into it again) that one day I’d make the antique fabric into a modern dress. Recently, though, I decided to reverse Scarlett’s strategy and turn the gown into drapes. There are a few small tears in both layers of fabric, it is so old it’s quite friable. Thrilled with my resolve and motivation, I took the dress apart and cut the skirt into two pieces, lining and all, which was just enough to make curtains for two east and west windows upstairs. This heatwave has me wanting to cover all the windows during the day.

I had never noticed the interior bodice ribbon with the name and address on it. A quick online search revealed that there is still a high end clothier called Frame with stores from LA to Aspen to London, and of course in New York. The address 391 5th Avenue appears to be a real estate office now. Frame clothing today includes a lot of ripped denim garments selling for hundreds of dollars. I’m eager to trace the history and discover if it’s a straight line from this 1880-1890s gown to the current couture.

I pulled out my Pfaff sewing machine that I haven’t used in four years, dusted it off, set it up, plugged it in, turned it on, and… nothing. Thwarted! After a couple of hours of patient troubleshooting and a few phone calls, first to my sewing guru and then to her sewing guru, and then to Montrose Sewing Machine Repair in Montrose, Marc and I concluded that the problem must be the foot pedal.

“Could it have been dropped sometime?” he asked. Duh. Dropped, smushed, anything’s possible, and also jammed into a basket in a plastic bag–who could have guessed it was so fragile? He very kindly located a replacement pedal for me online, and even though it cost as much as my baguette baker, it was still far less expensive than a new machine, so I ordered it. I have many draperies to complete this summer! And perhaps a few dresses, as well. I’m grateful for the one friend and two strangers who generously offered advice, reminding me that I am not self-sufficient and am indeed interdependent with and dependent upon others. I’m grateful to have developed the mindfulness skill of Equanimity so that I could accept this situation without frustration and aggravation, gracefully relinquish attachment to making curtains today, wait patiently for the new pedal to arrive next week, and turn my attention to other things.

Atmosphere

Last night’s beans for lunch, sautéed in oil and butter with a few good shakes of some Penzey’s spices. So simple, so delicious!
Yesterday’s cucumbers transformed into bread and butter pickles…
…and the leftover pickling syrup poured over lettuce, feta, red onions, and cashews for dinner salad.
Amazing clouds at sunset in all directions: North…
… South…
…and West…

I’m grateful for another full day of mindfulness, considering my values and trying to put them into action. One of my deepest values is gratitude, of course; another is savoring wholesome food and making the most of the gifts I’m given; yet another is witnessing the beauty of this fragile planet. I’m grateful for its atmosphere, what I can experience of it anyway: the clouds above, aridity and humidity, heat and cool as they fluctuate with day and night; and each breath inhaling air here as pure as anywhere. I’m grateful for a friend to spend these precious days with, and the atmosphere of playful joy she brings to everything we do.

Monsoon Season

Grateful for leftovers, as always: a tuna melt on a leftover bun, and the salad is even better the second day now that the flavors have blended.

I’m grateful I remembered to go out and close my car windows when the thunder started. I’m grateful for monsoon season, as half-hearted as it is so far this year. At least we are getting some clouds in the afternoon to cool things down, some breezes, and a minuscule amount of rain each afternoon. And so far, no lightning strikes nearby, no wild fires. Fingers crossed!

Mon Dieu!

Speculoos breakfast cake for dessert

I fell asleep watching Drag Race France, even after a nap this afternoon. This oxygen thing is taking a toll. I’ll be grateful when it’s resolved and I have more energy in a day. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for Drag Race France, and for Boyz Lunch, and for all the fun I had in the kitchen this morning. Mon Dieu! It was 95 degrees outside and I slaved over a hot oven all morning, baking first that Speculoos breakfast cake at last, and then homemade hot dog buns. Both were delicious.

Lunch underway, a kitchen whirlwind this morning
I’m grateful for these herb scissors: boy, do I love having the right tool for the job! The Herby 3 Bean Salad recipe calls for ¾ cup fresh herbs, and this tool made short work of chopping the dill, fennel leaf, parsley, basil, and rosemary from the garden.
Herby Three Bean Salad, with garden fennel, last summer’s green beans, and fresh herbs, plus some canned beans, store-bought red onions, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
I’m grateful, as always, for the technology to find the right recipe for the job. I found hotdogs in the freezer this morning and decided that’s what’s for lunch, but had no buns. I searched ‘quick hotdog bun recipe,’ and pretty quickly found Bonnie’s 30-minute bun recipe. Amazing!
The last of the Homestead all-beef hotdogs from the freezer, saved after they weren’t needed at Michael’s memorial party almost exactly a year ago. I’m grateful for a chest freezer filled with wholesome local meats and garden produce, and also for this new Staub grill pan/lid that just happened to arrive yesterday with its cocotte bottom.
A perfect July luncheon.
And a restful nap afterwards for the chef and the tiny sous-chef.

Science

Dazzling image from NASA, naturally

Tonight I’m grateful for science. I’m grateful for science all the time. Can you imagine the quality of our lives without science? You wouldn’t be reading this blog, for one thing. You wouldn’t be pulling a cold beer out of the fridge or a pint of Häagen-Dazs from the freezer without science. Without science, we’d all have died of Covid by now, OR the pandemic wouldn’t have even happened because there wouldn’t have been air travel from China. Wait, I’ve just given myself an argument against science. But aside from all the down sides of science and technology, we do live a pretty good life because of science, and I didn’t die of scarlet fever in third grade because of science. So, I’m grateful for science. And I’m especially grateful for science when I look to the night sky and grasp an inkling of perspective that is brought home with a big bang as I marvel at the stunning first images from the James Webb Telescope. I am always grateful to be reminded that in the grand scheme of things I’m nothing, in a good way.