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.
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:
As we wend our way toward winter solstice and the end of this daily gratitude blog, I begin to consider the many things I haven’t yet mentioned. So many! I’m grateful for a room with a view. When I wake each morning, grateful to be alive, this is the view that greets me. Today, I’m grateful it contains snow, and sunshine, juniper trees and mountains, distant neighbors and lots of space. I’m grateful for the familiarity and beauty of the view, and for the simplicity and comfort of the home from which I see the view. I’m grateful for the sense of stability and security these things impart to my little life, and for intermittent awareness that these seemingly solid elements are fleeting; in the grand scheme of things, as transient as this body I inhabit. I’m grateful for all the causes and conditions in my own life, and the lives of my ancestors, that led to my waking up day after day in this room, with this view.
Speaking of ancestors, I’m grateful for my dear sweet mother, gone these seventeen years; for how she loved and supported me, and how she remains in my life. Instead of guesstimating to slice the cinnamon rolls tonight, I dug into the desk drawer for a ruler, and pulled out this one, which I’m guessing is roughly eighty years old from her name inscribed on it. I haven’t seen this ruler for years, and its sudden appearance as a baking tool startled me into considering her as a schoolgirl, and then marveling that she kept this simple implement all her life, and that I kept it after she died. I’m grateful for the simple things in life and the grand.
I’m grateful for a quiet Sunday, as I often am. Life outside the house went on as usual, with the handsome buck who’s been grazing around for a few days visiting the apricot tree, sandhill cranes narrating overhead their migration south, high clouds providing light cover; magpies flocking through the yarden, and thousands of tiny lives being lived under the ground, in bark, in leaves, in trees, in grasses. Late morning Stellar gathered energy and we walked him out to his favorite tree. He lay around for awhile as I gathered seeds from marigolds, lettuce, calendula, fennel, radishes, and more, to save for late winter and spring planting. We both enjoyed time outside. When he was ready, we came back inside and went about our day, he resting and watching as I worked, wrote, laundered, tidied, cleaned, made food for us, napped beside him, did the crossword, read. I’m grateful for adapting to the flow of circumstance, dwelling deeply in the present. I’m grateful for a quiet Sunday much like any other in our years together, now winding down toward bedtime. Simple pleasures, no expectations, no regrets.
I picked two cucumbers, one way ahead of any others, and one more for enough, and made a quick half-pint of refrigerator pickles, with a perennial onion, dill, and coriander from the garden, some kosher salt, and the leftover brine from yesterday’s dilly beans. I’m grateful for food from the garden, as it begins to come into the kitchen daily at the beginning of this harvest season.
I’m grateful for food in general. I don’t take for granted that there’s always enough in the house to feed me and the animals; I know for many people that isn’t the case. I’m grateful for the conditions of my life that, for the time being, ensure that we have food; knowing that this could change with a moment’s misfortune. I’m grateful that I can buy avocados, bacon, croissants, and mayonnaise at the store. What a remarkable time and place to live in, where all these foods are delivered from near and far to a nearby supermarket, filling aisles with choices. I know there are many places in the world where this isn’t so.
I mixed up these store-bought foods with the first cherry tomatoes and some late lettuce from the garden, and created a gourmet sandwich that filled me for the day. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful for my own appreciation of food, a simple yet essential pleasure, and to live in a community that values food. I’m grateful to know where most of my food comes from, and to think about where the rest of it comes from, knowing that the food I enjoy relies upon the efforts of many people to make it onto my table. I’m grateful for the root sources of food, the plants and animals, and all the plants and animals and other living things that their lives depend upon. I’m grateful for the food chain, the food web, that results in food on my table.
Some days make me feel just as wide-eyed as these little dogs; in fact, most days do, practicing gratitude. I’m grateful today for the opportunity to do chihuahua for a little while; for clearing the air despite the smoke; for getting my hands on some chicks that are all named Dinner; for perspective on some of my less healthy habits; for connection with family and friends; and for the courage to open and play my dusty piano again after years.
I’m grateful that last night’s fireworks over the reservoir didn’t go rogue and cause a blaze, and that no one was stupid enough to celebrate Pioneer Days with home pyrotechnics; I’m grateful that wildfire smoke remains distant and we can still breathe here, albeit with extra sneezing, coughing, and just a hint of nose blood. I’m grateful for each day with breathable air, knowing that fire is certain this summer and location of fire uncertain. A new fire south of Salt Lake has consumed more than ten thousand acres in less than a day, and another four-day old fire near Moab exploded today. Seeing a sky like this evening’s reminds me not only of last summer’s horrendous smoke, but of the tragic summer of 1994, when the Wake Fire in our valley burnt three thousand acres in a couple of days; its impact was quickly eclipsed on its third day by the Storm King fire near Glenwood Springs that blew up and killed fourteen firefighters. Everything we hold dear is so tenuous.
Not only because of wildfire, of course, or the slow-moving catastrophe that is climate chaos, but because impermanence is the nature of all things. Our evening walk was especially poignant in the coppery glow of the smoky sunset: Not only from the oppressive weight of the big picture, but the looming loss of the very personal was readily apparent in dear Stellar’s feeble gait. We turned around before the first gate and he hobbled back in to his comfy bed for the night. I’m grateful for each day that we both wake up alive, and I don’t have to make that horrible decision to call his time. I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that allows me to enjoy our remaining time together, to recognize that one bad day is often followed by a few good ones, and to accept the inevitable end of both our lives. I’m grateful for the inspiration and motivation that comes from knowing that “Death is certain, time of death uncertain.”