You saw this picture Wednesday night. This driveway is drifted a foot deep in places, after a two-inch snow accompanied by strong winds for hours. Because of its south-north orientation, and prevailing west winds, with no windbreak to the west, only a forty-acre field, it’s a perfect equation for drifts. I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe and learn first-hand about the powerful phenomenon of drifting snow. It’s amazing how wind packs and sculpts this delicate substance. I understand better than some when I hear weather reports about blizzards closing highways, or other snow drama. I’m even more grateful for the kindness of neighbors, and the first-hand experience of interdependence.
I couldn’t have lived here thirty years without the support, friendship, and cooperation of neighbors. Thirty years! I can’t believe it. This summer it will be thirty years at the end of this driveway. I’m grateful I’ve learned to open my heart and my mind, to communicate with and accept differences, and to focus on the shared values of the people I live among. One of those values is perseverance, demonstrated above by the truck tracks (subsequently drifted again in the west track along the fenceline) left by my courageous friends on Wednesday morning determined to get food to me. Food that I didn’t really need and I’m so glad they didn’t get stuck delivering a luxury.
Another value is cooperation, demonstrated below by the plow and tractor tracks made today by a neighbor whom I asked for help. We’re not close, but I’m grateful that he’s often willing to help when needed; as I know he’s grateful for access across my north forty, and its occasional use for his horses. I’ll bake some bread to show my appreciation. I’m grateful for the ideal of good neighbors, and for being surrounded by so many of them. I’m even more grateful that some of them are my dearest friends.
I led a meditation this morning that began with inviting everyone to share a ‘first world problem,’ and ended with some time to ponder gratitude, impermanence, and perspective. The theme occurred to me as I was telling a friend before the meditation started that I had to drink tea instead of coffee because I was out of decaf. Three days in a row I’ve enjoyed full-strength coffee, but this body can’t handle it, so I brewed a weak pot of Earl Grey. Even that gave me indigestion, but that’s beside the point. I laughed as I ‘complained’ about this, and said “First world problems,” then told her about the first time I heard that phrase.
It was in Moonrise Espresso a hundred years ago, a cozy neighborhood coffee shop. I walked in and was complaining to someone about something inconsequential, and a guy I’d never seen before looked up from his laptop and said, “First world problem, huh?” I was speechless, then laughed out loud. I understood instantly what he meant, and it was a moment of awakening. Perspective! But it took awhile for that insight to really sink in, and inform my entire way of being. Practicing mindfulness, one of the first things we learn is to be grateful for the many blessings in our lives. I wake each day in a bed with a roof over my head, turn on a tap to get water, and have a choice between coffee and tea, both of which come from faraway lands. I’m in reasonably good health, and am content with my life. In the context of starvation, climate displacement, war, and countless other desperate human conditions, I really have nothing to complain about.
This doesn’t mean that everything is always peachy and I have no right to complain, or be unhappy or scared if real trouble arises, or wish things to be other than they are. It simply means that I can keep things in perspective, and not waste energy fretting the small stuff. It means that a momentary frustration is just that, momentary, and losing the internet for a couple hours, or a clogged drain, or any other inconvenience, isn’t going to ruin my day or even my mood. It also means that I’m aware of great suffering in the world, holding compassion for those suffering and wanting to help where I can. And it means that I can bring compassion to myself also, recognizing when things are really hard and not just annoying, and be more supportive and caring for myself and others, and more resilient in challenging situations. I’m grateful for the perspective of ‘first world problems.’
Getting snowed in at the end of a quarter mile driveway could also be seen as a first world problem. That I even have a driveway that long is an enormous privilege, for which I’m immensely grateful. That I even have a driveway. I’m grateful for friends with big trucks! I didn’t get back out to take a picture after the Bad Dogs dropped off groceries, but am sure grateful they were able to punch through the drifts to get down here.
Little Tiny loves the snow, but not when it’s up to her shoulders. It’s the first time we’ve been out that she has jumped on me to pick her up and carry her home. I’m also grateful to be making progress on the puzzle, enjoying the warm sunny view while the fire warms and lights the house inside, even as clouds and wind blow outside.
Most days I’m just grateful for so much. This morning, it was sunshine after a couple of grey days, and a brush long enough to reach the top of the solar panels after a five-inch snowfall overnight. How did I go thirty years before buying a telescoping brush at long last last winter? And grateful for the snowfall!
Grateful for a Bad Dog saying she was ‘going outside to play in the snow,’ which reminded me that I haven’t gone outside to play in the snow for a very long time. I’ve been forgetting to play! Though I’m sure she meant she was going outside to work in the snow on the ranch, I went just to play.
Wren had never made a snowman, as far as I know, so we had fun building one together. And by that I mean, I built the snowman, and every time she charged at the snow I was rolling, I threw a snowball for her to chase. Even though the snow was pretty wet, it didn’t hold together as I rolled, so after being bent over for twenty feet rolling the first ball, I decided to make a Wren-sized snowman.
I’m grateful she chose to eat the vegetables first, red cabbage lips and a carrot nose, so I could eat the M&Ms.
I’m grateful for warmth and safety as the atmospheric river makes its way over western Colorado. Grateful for the moisture that fell as rain since yesterday evening, for the fog that nourished all the growing things, and for the snow that finally started falling this evening. We’ve gotten around four inches so far and it’s pouring down, a gentler storm here so far than the terrible blizzard that’s been wreaking such havoc and tragedy in the east. I’m grateful to have sufficient food supplies for me and the pets to ride out a long spell, and plenty of wood stacked close to the house, and the mental and emotional wherewithal to not only survive but to thrive in a solo retreat over the new year’s weekend.
I’m filled with hope tonight, and grateful for all the hard work that went into the runoff election in Georgia: those campaign workers on the ground in the state, those making calls and texting to get out the vote, and the many thousands of us who donated to Rev. Raphael Warnock’s campaign.
I’m also grateful that I braved the snow-covered driveway this afternoon to go get the mail. I was expecting another batch of course materials for the Mindfulness Foundations Course I start teaching in January, and didn’t want them sitting up there in the weather. Between snows, clouds lay low in the valley, a rare and beautiful sight. And the doe in flight. Consider this an invitation to check out the course, and pass along the course information to anyone you think might be interested in learning to live a more meaningful life, with more inner peace and less mental and emotional suffering; with, even genuine happiness. Learning to live mindfully is transformative. It’s simple, but it’s not easy: It, also, is hard work that we do internally, and it benefits ourselves and the world around us.
I’m going to tell you a horrible story, about a young man who sings on the subway to supplement his income. I know it’s true because I heard it from the relative he told it to. He makes a meager wage at a day job, and he’s talented. So he’s been singing on the subway for a few years. He tested positive for Covid the other day, and he kept on singing on the train.
“On the platform?” I asked, “or on the train?” As if one were better. Which it might be.
“On the train–in the cars!” she shrieked. My first thought was, You should turn him in! She went on to say that she told him, “That’s unconscionable! You should be arrested!”
And I went on to think, with snap judgment and barely a shred of equanimity (but notably, with some compassion): No wonder New York City cases have exploded. Because that one naive young man, pursuing his dreams oblivious to the stark reality of this ongoing pandemic, probably infected dozens if not hundreds of innocent subway riders, many of whom may have infected 3 or more others. Our busker was a super-spreader event all by himself. Like potentially thousands, or millions, of other people across the country, either oblivious to the truth or arrogantly “done with Covid,” as my cousin proclaimed he would be once ski season started.
Ski season started, and a week later he found himself symptomatic, awaiting results of a PCR test. Did he have it, or was it just a cold? (That’s another thorny existential worry these days, for another day.) I’ll probably never know; I doubt he’d admit it. And there’s fuckall I can do about any of this ignorance.
So that’s my rant for the day. Sleazeweasel wants me to give outrage and gratitude “equal consideration.” He worried when I seemed stuck in gratitude for a whole year. I don’t think he’s been paying attention! Brilliant though he is, he seems to have missed the essence of my personal gratitude challenge: I was mired in outrage and despair for most of my adult life. My personal gratitude epiphany saved me, gave me back the joy and meaning of my youth, when everything that happened was a new gift. Now I understand what Brother Steindl-Rast was talking about. Having practiced focusing on gratitude instead of humanity’s dark side, immersing myself in gratitude for an entire year, I brought some balance to my perceptions, gaining the capacity to hold light as well as dark, to see reality through a less distorted lens. Gratitude has helped me achieve the equanimity I’ve been seeking for decades.
Meanwhile, I’m grateful for SNOW! More than we’ve seen at one time in a couple of years, I think. I was grateful to wake up alive, and find deep snow at last; grateful to see sweet does bedded down under the junipers just beyond the patio. Grateful for good neighbors of any species, and greeting one gliding by on skis in the drifted driveway.
And finally, I’m grateful today for Queer Eye, a ‘season interrupted,’ now back on Netflix. The first episode was shot in March 2020, and lockdown prevented the final act, so that was filmed in May 2021. The featured mother’s father had died, as well as her daughter’s husband. (In a weird way, the pandemic has presented a global ‘Compassion Challenge’–let that take off on social media!)
The transformation of Terri was profound and complete. The Fab 5 had given the family tools to heal relationships and weather their own brutal challenges just in the nick of time. Yet another feel-good series from the loving heart of gay culture to lift everyone’s spirits. I’m grateful for satire, laughter, gay men, snow, compassion, equanimity, and seeing truth clearly, among many other things in this new year.
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 putting the garden to bed before the first snow today at this elevation, which continues after dark lightly frosting every leaf and limb white prior to the first real freeze. I started a week ago, and have been whittling at it for a few hours each day. I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed after a thrilling season. The counter is loaded with the last ripe tomatoes, tomatillos are all put up in the pantry, heaps of parsley are distilled into pesto and frozen cubes; rattlesnake and runner bean pods dry in large paper bags; eggplants and carrots fill the fridge. I’m living the dream.
I’m grateful for putting the garden to bed with tips and tricks from gardeners online. I’ve hung tomato vines to ripen in the upstairs room, beside pepper plants with wrapped rootballs. Some gardeners advised misting the roots, while others just left them dry. I compromised with a quick twist of plastic bag to prevent them from instantly desiccating in this climate, maybe giving the peppers a bit more nourishment as they redden.
I’m grateful for another day with my little helper, covered in snow. Like in the movie Awakenings, he is transformed with drugs, and like those patients he will eventually relapse into inevitable decline. His resilience astounds me. He wants to be alive.