I’m grateful to Cousin Melinda for thinking of me as she traveled to the rose capital of France, and brought me back a jar of rose petal jam. It seemed the perfect complement to a lilac blossom scone, and so I took half an hour to make and eat an extremely special breakfast including a vanilla latté on this cold, damp morning. Every step of the way, I practiced gratitude for each element, each gift from far and near.
More gifts on this one precious day that will never come again, the first scarlet gilia blooming in the woods, along with other wildflowers. And then a short rest on a bench with a small dog looming over me…
… and time in the garden this evening with arugula, peas, onions, and scarlet salvia, appreciating fresh snowfall on the mountains, a cat in the lettuce, and a dinner harvest. I am truly grateful for the simple gifts of the simple life I’ve created, and for all the support from generations of known and unknown people who helped me make it.
It’s a great year for the miniature lupines that I’ve only found in one patch along the trail. I was challenged to find information online about it, but then I was grateful to remember I have a book! So I turned to Weber’s Colorado Flora, and from there was able to locate it online as Lupinus lepidus. It was years before I even noticed this little flower, and the patch just keeps growing. When the seedpods burst they can shoot up to twenty feet. I’m definitely going to collect some seeds to sow in the yarden this summer.
It’s a sad truth that the smaller, more delicate, and more sparse plants on the forest floor are the natives, and the much more prolific, prickly or gaudy plants are invasive exotics, like this weedy alyssum below. Carpets of it all going to seed! Sure, it looks like a fairy land in the right light, but drop a match or catch an ember and it’s nothing but tinder. Everyone is thrilled about all the green everywhere, and though I’m not obsessing over it, I can’t help but think often about how as soon as summer dries it out we’ll have ten times the wildfire fuel on the ground as we did last year.
I AM grateful for all the green in the garden, though. Lettuce, arugula, and orach are bountiful now. I’m so glad I made time to plant arugula and lettuce under plastic hoops in late winter, and also that I let the orach go to seed last fall and it self-sowed.
I was grateful today to get a long talk with my cousin, who just returned from two weeks in Thailand. She noticed that the Thai people seemed invariably peaceful and kind, and mentioned that maybe it had something to do with the Buddha. I agreed that was a savvy surmise. I’m grateful that I was introduced to the Buddha, and to the idea of Buddha nature within all beings, more than forty years ago, even though it took another few decades before I really began to look into it, and even more years before I began to take Buddhist philosophy fully to heart. I’m grateful for all the wisdom and clarity that the Buddhist worldview has brought to my interdependent life.
I’m grateful for other Asian contributions to the world also, including Hoisin sauce and rice paper wrappers. Last night was my first foray into making crispy spring rolls. The first attempt at soaking the delicate wrappers was a colossal failure and wound up in the compost but I only lost one roll worth of filling. My second attempt yielded a reasonably successful ten rolls, which I opted to bake instead of fry. I enjoyed half of them for dinner, but they weren’t exactly crispy. To reheat the remainder for lunch today, I fried them, and they were much better. No recipe, I just looked up a few online and mixed up what I had, shredded cabbage, carrots and green onions, finely diced mushrooms, some mashed chickpeas, and some chopped bean noodles, with a splash of soy sauce, and rolled it up. Simple, once I got the hang of it, and delicious.
Recovery means different things to different people in various contexts. Today, I’m grateful for recovery in the context of after-effects from the second shingles vaccine. It was important to get it. I’ve known too many people who have suffered horribly from shingles, a viral infection that causes an excruciating rash, potential blisters and long-lasting pain even after the virus has cleared. I’ve known people to have it on their back, side, even in their eye. If you’ve had chickenpox, that same virus lingers in your nervous system for life, and can manifest in later years as shingles. Ack. So at the gentle insistence of some people who love me, I finally gave in and got the first shot in December, and the second on Tuesday.
Wednesday I stayed in bed all day except for a short lunch break, and a short evening zoom break for a couple of meetings, where I attended in silence and with my camera off. It was, as my friend Chuck used to say, a very heavy gravity day. I could barely move, ate almost nothing, and choked down just a few glasses of water. I’m grateful that I felt much better when I woke alive this morning, and grateful for renewed motivation to catch up on a lot of work I missed during the first half of the week.
While I enjoyed a small helping of eggplant parmesan from the freezer for lunch, I’m grateful I felt energetic and creative enough this evening to prepare fish cheesos with a small tilapia filet I thawed in the afternoon. I made the shells by melting quarter-cup piles of grated cheddar at 400℉ for about eight minutes and draped them over wooden spoons to cool; then filled them with shredded romaine, sliced avocado, diced red onion, and fish drenched in lime juice then dredged in flour and fried. Topped with an avocado-spicy-mayo and squeeze of fresh lime, they were finger-lickin delicious. I’m grateful for eating and drinking today, including lots of cool, clean tap water.
I’m grateful to own a piano. It was one of the last gifts my father gave me before he lost his mind. He told me to find the piano I wanted and he’d pay for it. I understood that he didn’t mean a Yamaha baby grand, and I shopped for a used upright, which I found in Grand Junction from a private seller.
I played assiduously for a few years after I bought it, and then it’s been in fits and starts. I hadn’t played for years when I tickled the ivories a few weeks ago, and decided it was time to pay the piper. Look at all those apothegms! Of course it needed tuning, so I called The Man.
A visit from the piano tuner of choice on the Western Slope is always fun. Despite my covid precautions I didn’t ask him to mask. I had opened both doors and several windows. “I’ve had all my shots,” he said, “here’s my tag.” I wanted to see his face, so I masked instead.
He grumbled and groaned when I asked if I could film him, but really he was flattered. I promised I wouldn’t put it all over the internet so I’ve limited myself to one still photo. If you recognize him, don’t tell him!
He appreciates my sense of humor and has great laugh lines. Each request I made of him he upped the price, but not really. Like Dr. Vincent he threatens to retire, but after two hand surgeries in recent years he’s good to go for another decade.
When he’s here, I wish I were my piano. I’m grateful for his skill and his way of being. Wren only barked a little, and he did exactly the right thing: ignored her until she was comfortable with his presence. I’m grateful for my piano and the joy its tuning brings me. It’s my aspiration to start playing regularly again.
I’m grateful that despite the feeling that spring would never come, it did! The little red tulips are starting to open, the first dandelions are blooming, and the air was almost balmy today as I worked outside tidying the patio for outdoor living again.
One project I’ve been contemplating was moving the phoebe platform and clearing off the old nests. I was so happy to see a phoebe fluttering around and checking it out a couple of weeks ago, and sad that no one moved in. I’m grateful I can still climb a ladder and wield a screw gun; even though I pre-drilled into the joists I still couldn’t get a couple of the screws all the way in, but it’s solid enough to hold a nest.
Here’s the side of the old nest that they used for three years, building it up each time. They like a particular kind of niche for their nest, where it’s protected above and on the sides, to prevent jays or magpies from getting to their chicks, which I think happened one time. I hope that moving the platform over so there is one wide and protected ledge will encourage them to try again. Meanwhile, someone else used their old tall nest for storage and maybe warmth over winter…
As usual, I was grateful for so many things today. I was grateful to spend a quiet morning outside, and then to come inside for a belly laugh and long-distance exercise session with my cousin. I was grateful for a cheese sandwich for lunch and for all the elements of it that came from across the hemisphere to coalesce in my little house in this moment in a delicious blend of homemade sourdough, mayonnaise, Havarti cheese, wild-caught Alaskan smoked salmon, organic romaine, and avocados from Mexico, seasoned with Penzeys Sandwich Sprinkle and who knows where all those spices came from.
I’m grateful for this beautiful handmade red wineglass I used to save for special occasions–until I realized that every evening I’m alive and cooking is a special occasion. Like so many things in my house, this glass holds not only what it’s designed for but the story of its provenance and some meaningful connection: in this case with the dear friend who gave it to me for my fiftieth birthday, at a party that’s a story in itself. Each moment interconnects with every other.
I’m grateful for a healthy dinner of kale and walnut pasta, with garlic, mushrooms, fresh lemon juice, and grated parmesan, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Penzeys Revolution blend. I’m grateful for Penzeys’ integrity and activism as well as their spice blends, which is one reason I mention them so often. They just concluded a 50% off sale on all spices starting with B and C, as well as $1 ‘Fox Point not Fox News’ special, in acknowledgement of the misogynistic work environment at a certain cable network. It takes real … nerve for a retail business to be as politically upfront as Penzeys.
I’m grateful for all the elements of my meals today, and for all the people and energy and resources it took to get the ingredients from the far-flung corners of the globe to the shelves of my refrigerator and pantry, from the unknown walnut and lemon growers to the Italian pasta makers to my patient personal shopper who works for cookies. I’m grateful for the friends I see in person and those I see online and those I haven’t met yet, as well as those I mostly see in the tangible recollections that populate my home.
I’m trying hard to eat better these days, incorporating more vegetables and fewer sweets. I’m halfway there! Lots more greens have made their way into my diet, but I still bake too much and am addicted to dark chocolate M&Ms. I saw the idea for a ‘Spring Roll Bowl’ the other day, and so whipped one up for lunch. The idea is simple: throw everything you’d want in a spring roll together in a wok and then put it in a bowl.
I started by coating firm tofu cubes in cornstarch and browning them, then added a shallot and Chimayo pepper from the freezer. After a couple minutes I tossed in celery, garlic, and shredded cabbage, along with a splash of the Pad Thai sauce mentioned yesterday. After that was cooked down a bit I added carrots and radish.
I topped the bowl with bean sprouts and peanuts for extra crunch. So simple, so delicious!
Wren got a little antsy while I was eating lunch and had a romp with her pony.
Later we spent some time outside where the yellow tulips are bringing joy to all.
Awhile after that it was nap time. And now it’s bedtime. I’m grateful for waking up alive, spring flowers, and eating well. I’m also grateful for sharing cake and dog stories in a quick visit from Marla. Our conversation turned to housecleaning or lack thereof, and we both raved about the same New Yorker article by Ann Patchett, about preparing for our eventual demise by clearing clutter. We had both listened to it, and I recommend that option to anyone who has started thinking about dealing with all their stuff…
My breakfast table has been taken over by potted plants! Now that I’m using the cactus shelf of the light stand to grow seedlings, they had to join the bonsais on the sunroom table. I don’t know where I’ll put the orchids when I need the top shelf also. I’ve got three trays started including leeks, onions, snapdragons and some other flowers, eggplant, and a few types of peppers. I’m grateful for patience, which today helped me to dust the sunroom from ceiling to window frames, since it’s still too cold to do much outside–at the end of March! Seems like an extra long winter…
Wren and I listened to a short TED talk this evening by Shankar Vedantam, journalist and host of the podcast “Hidden Brain,” in which he explains how we create our future selves, and advises we take charge of the process: This is a fundamental principle of mindfulness practice. His prescription is to stay curious, practice humility and be brave. I’m grateful that there are so many wise teachers out there in the world that find their way to my living room, including those I know personally.
This was one of the most delicious quick meals I’ve ever made: Almost Alfredo Garbanzo Beans. I saw the recipe this morning, and happened to have everything in the fridge, freezer and pantry. A half batch took about half an hour to cook up and could not have been more satisfying. Oh my, so simple, so delicious.
I made it to town finally to buy peas. I’m grateful that our local store, the Hitching Post, carries local seeds from the fabulous High Desert Seed & Gardens. “We’re done with Burpee,” said Sherri, “they don’t care where you live.”
High Desert seeds are tested and grown for high altitude and dry conditions right down the highway in Paonia now, after starting a few years ago outside Montrose. During a mild break in a day of chaotic skies, I got the pea trellis assembled and a whole package of Magnolia Blossom snap peas planted, just in time for more moisture to soak them into their bed.
This evening I got my first ever social media hate, on one of my instagram posts in support of a drag queen. It heightened my compassion. I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to receive it with some equanimity, even though it felt like a slap in the face. And grateful that I didn’t feel compelled to respond to it. I imagined a potential spiral of consequences, if only as simple as another hateful reply back. I contemplated responding with something like, “I feel compassion for your suffering,” but concluded the wise choice was to forget about it. I just noticed it a few minutes ago–it wasn’t remotely how I intended to start this post. So I’m gonna forget about it now!
I’m grateful for waking up alive on this snowy, drizzly Sunday, for a few hours of sunlight, for the first spring bulb tips poking out of the mud, and for the leisure to enjoy listening to some dharma talks while finishing this exquisite Liberty puzzle, Monet’s Studio at Giverny. I’m grateful to our little puzzle club scattered coast to coast for increasing our puzzle options each season. This one only took two days of joyful puzzling between cleaning, baking, reading, and sharing meaningful conversations with friends and family.
It was kind of a rough week inside my monkey mind. I’m so grateful for all the beauty and love in my life, for the support of friends, and for the growing capacity I’m gaining to turn my attention to these gifts, instead of letting meager thoughts depress me for long.
And finally, I’m forever grateful to neighbor Mary for sharing this extraordinary recipe for Big Soft Ginger Cookies. This is the basic recipe, though I make them with Mary’s tweaks, including half brown sugar-half white, and of course butter instead of margarine. I also toss in a few chocolate chips. So simple, so delicious. It’s the kind of treat that fills up your senses so full you can’t be anything but ecstatic while it’s in your mouth.