Tag Archive | non attachment to outcome

Calm Abiding

Stellar enjoys cleaning my latté mug this morning.

Oh Topaz. I know right where she is, or where she was just after dark: east of the fence, lying in wait beside a scrap wood pile for some unsuspecting or terrified rodent. If she’s not in by bedtime, it’s another layer of surrender for me. It’s been one layer of surrender after another for the past few weeks, and less dramatically for months.

The last cat who was allowed to go where and when she pleased day or night was Dia, the Psycho Calico. Her name is short for Aradia, Daughter of the Queen of the Witches, but not many people ever knew that. It was my Wiccan phase. She made life so unbearable if she didn’t get what she wanted, including outside at night, that the house motto became Dia gets what Dia wants. I’m afraid it will end up thus for Topaz, especially if she survives lions, coyotes, owls, etc., tonight and lives to be an only pet.

Just because. Because I and Stellar are not the center of the universe, and life goes on as usual outside our little nest. I’m grateful for another gorgeous fall day full of wild wonder. I heard a large flock of sandhill cranes overhead when I stepped out to make a phone call.

Meanwhile, Stellar had a very exciting day, and I learned how to surrender another layer: of thinking there’s some fateful timeline, of clinging to some shred of a sense of control. I’m grateful today for resilience, Stellar’s too but especially mine. He keeps on surprising. It would be easier if his downward trajectory were more direct, however slow. This repeated rebounding, this resilience, aggravates my second-guessing habit, which is not a habit I wish to cultivate; I’d prefer it to atrophy.

Today was an online meditation retreat with my teachers’ teacher, B. Alan Wallace, “Shamatha in the Dzogchen Tradition.” Shamatha is the meditation style also referred to as Calm Abiding. The first session looked promising. Stellar slept through the night, I was reasonably well-rested, and I’d given him water, pills, and food. He went back to sleep. I listened raptly to the first talk, and settled in for the first 20-minute meditation. Stellar had woken and was alert, panting a little. I realized a few minutes into the meditation that he probably wanted more water. I figured he could wait another 18 minutes. Nope.

My eyes were closed. He stood up and stepped over me, walked a few feet before collapsing on the floor. Ok, I surrender. I slipped the sling under him and hefted his back end as he made his way out the front door, and around the south end of the house to his water bucket, where he drank copiously. What I got for not interrupting the meditation three minutes in for a minute was no meditation at all. Oh well. Nonattachment to outcome. He settled down for the next hour.

At the midday break, Rosie came by with more pain meds from the pharmacy for him–Dr. TLC didn’t anticipate him lasting this long, I think, and had to call in a special request refill. At her arrival he went bonkers barking from his bed, and she came in to visit him. He struggled to get up again, so we took him outside for an assisted wobble. Then again, right after the next session began, he got up on his own and wobbled to the door. By that time already drained for the day, I let him out unattended. He managed about ten minutes in the yarden before collapsing comfortably (appropriately) under the Contemplation Tree, where he rested another ten until I saw him trying to get up. I slung him in, and he’s been in bed since, though wide awake until just recently.

Topaz finally came in, and Stellar is asleep, so I am relaxing at last, after a long, full day. With Alan’s guidance, I sustained a meditative state throughout, and deepened my capacity for letting go, for surrender to the changing conditions of each moment. I’m grateful for calm abiding.

Day Two: Beignets

I’m grateful for Day Two of Zoom Cooking with Amy. After making the dough last night, this morning we rolled it and cut it and fried and sugared it, for our first attempt at classic New Orleans beignets.

As usual it was fun, but we were both a bit dissatisfied with the quality of the beignets, though neither of us was sure exactly what they were supposed to be like. We felt that they were more doughy than they should be. She said hers were chewy. Mine were, frankly, an abject failure, overcooked outside and underdone inside. We agreed they wouldn’t pass muster with Paul Hollywood. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned in the effort. First, they should have been rolled thinner. Second, they browned much too fast. I surmised, too late, that the oil temperature should be lower than stated, since water boils at a lower temperature at this altitude. Indeed, when I looked it up afterward, I found this:

Deep-Fat Frying: The lower boiling point of water in foods requires lowering the temperature of the fat to prevent food from over browning on the outside while being undercooked on the inside. Decrease the frying temperature about 3°F (1°C) for every 1,000 ft (300 meters) increase in elevation.

Kim Allison, ThermoBlog

But since beignets or doughnuts or pretty much any fried pastry is simply a vehicle for sugar, we both ate plenty of them with our coffee, and laughed about it.

I composted the first batch, rolled the remaining squares thinner, cut them in half, and fried up some more beignet logs. I learned a third lesson here, the reason they are cut square (balanced) and not rectangular: some of them wouldn’t flip over in the oil, kept rolling back onto their first side so I had to hold them over.

A few of them turned out the way I think they’re meant to be, airy in the middle, though even then they were more trouble than they were worth, in my estimation. I’m grateful we did this for the delight of cooking and spending time together, rather than with any attachment to outcome.