Outside and in, inside and out, we had a cozy day. Wren surprises me with her enthusiasm for snow. But she just came in after midnight whiz and won’t stop licking her paws: from a high of 34℉ this afternoon the temperature has plunged to 7 at the moment and I don’t think she’s ever been out in snow that cold. I might have to buy her some pink booties…
Lunch was total comfort food with this creamy chickpea-spinach pasta with rosemary. It was so good I ate it again for dinner. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for simply inhabiting this particular life at this moment. I appreciate how fortunate I am, among the 8 billion other humans, and I try to make each day meaningful by living in alignment with my values of gratitude, kindness, and being of benefit to at least one other person, human or otherwise.
Today I’m grateful for all the usual things: waking up alive, a morning with a festival of clouds, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips for lunch–so simple, so delicious. I’m grateful that I know how to make bread, and learned to let it cool overnight before slicing–these were pretty thick! It was too soft still warm to slice thinner. Grateful that I know how to make jam, which couldn’t be easier. I’m also grateful today for meaningful interactions with many people.
Kudos to Kelli at the clinic for giving me an absolutely painless injection, and she was kind enough to come out to my car to do it, though I was planning to go inside. I’m grateful I brought an attitude of ease and interest rather than fear or resistance; it led to a good conversation about the local Covid surge, and us each giving just a bit more kindness and attention to the other than two strangers needed to. I dropped off some cookies with friends I haven’t seen in person for awhile, and enjoyed a cautious stroll in the sun. We also talked about Covid, as well as efforts to save our local library, an essential community resource. There were some text and phone connections, and I’m grateful to have spent a couple hours in mindful conversation with my Foundations class that’s about to graduate next week. The day wrapped up with a spontaneous zoom cocktail with Amy, always a warm fuzzy.
Throughout the day, though, there was something niggling in my mind. A number of people have told me recently, in talking about Covid, “We’re moving on with our lives.” There’s a very subtle perspective in there, an implication I’m inferring, that disturbs me a little bit, and I’ve been trying to tease out what that’s about. Whether I read it in an article, hear it in an interview, or hear it face to face (usually prefaced by “I respect your precautions, but…”), there’s an implied judgment, an unflattering comparison. As though I, and people like me who are still taking Covid precautions seriously, are stuck–as though we are not ‘moving on with our lives’ but frozen in time, frozen in fear, frozen in some lesser state than those who proclaim that Covid is over for them.
It seems to me that many of them are not moving on in any way, but have simply gone backwards to living the same way they did in their pre-pandemic lives. No shade intended… but also there’s no need to be smug about it, or think it’s a superior way to live to those of us who have made substantial changes in our lives. In many ways my life is more satisfying than it’s ever been; in some ways more limited. It’s complicated. But I’ve definitely been moving on with my life these past few years in a positive direction. Lots of people reassessed during the pandemic and chose to move on with their lives in meaningful ways: to leave unfulfilling jobs, to work from home or to move, to simplify their lives; chose to explore other aspects of life’s many riches besides ‘business as usual,’ the paradigm btw that got us into the climate crisis in the first place. For awhile there, the Earth itself enjoyed a reprieve from the impacts of our collective human lifestyle, although that, too, is complicated. Ironically, the 8 billionth human was added to the current global population this week. The minority of humans, those of us who suffer largely from ‘First World problems,’ really do need to figure out a new way to move forward–as this pandemic proceeds, as climate chaos increases, as our interconnectedness simultaneously deepens and frays–rather than simply going back to business as usual.
Maybe the best sourdough bread yet, at least it looked like it to Wren. And it couldn’t have been simpler! Mix together four ingredients, wait awhile, fold it a bit, wait some more, and bake in a cast iron dutch oven. I’ll definitely practice this recipe again soon.
Then I whipped up some crispy fried tofu with homemade sweet n sour sauce for dinner. I didn’t have potato starch so used corn starch, so it doesn’t look quite as good as the picture in the NYT. But it was definitely crispy. I used up the last of the apricot jam in the sauce, what a great idea, and some homemade paprika. I’ll make this recipe again too. I’m grateful for this abundance of simple good food.
And now I have a perplexing story to share. I noticed a couple nights ago that the globe lights on the tree outside my front door weren’t lit up, and assumed the catmint had overgrown their solar panel. Today I checked the panel, and saw the cord had unplugged from the panel. When I looked for the cord, I realized that it was gone. I was baffled as I searched the tree and saw that the whole string of lights had disappeared. Nowhere to be seen in the tree or anywhere around. Wind? Then I wondered if someone had pranked me. Then I noticed a few twigs on the ground where I knew I’d raked pruning. And then I saw some fresh scars on the limb where the twigs had been torn away. And then a horrible scenario arose in my imagination. I still can’t make sense of it.
The bucks are no longer in velvet, so I don’t know why one would be rubbing antlers on this limb, but they are in hot pursuit of does all over the yarden. So that was my first guess, a buck–and then his antlers tangled in the light string and he pulled the whole thing off the tree in his frenzy to escape, and ran off trailing a string of 3″- globe lights. I looked all around the yard at that point, hoping to find them, but nothing. As I searched, an even worse image came to mind: a doe had been nibbling and caught the line around her neck, and run off tangled up in the lights. But there wasn’t much to nibble except some thorny twigs. I feel pretty sick about it. If someone did prank me, all is forgiven and you can keep the lights, if you just let me know!
I wish that’s what happened but I don’t really think so. Bucks have been seen around here with big pieces of field fence wrapped in their antlers; a doe was spotted crossing a field with a five-gallon white bucket hanging around her neck. One of the worst moments in my garden happened a few years ago when a doe got her head stuck in the fence around the Fuji apple tree. After much thrashing, she wrenched herself free and I immediately removed the fence and rolled it up out of the way. We inadvertently create wildlife traps when we humanize our landscapes. I’ll never again string lights in an outdoor tree. I pray that whatever animal ran off with this string managed to shake it off and escape uninjured. I hope one day soon I’ll find those lights out in the woods on the ground so I know for sure. I feel a terrible compassion for any suffering that might have happened to another creature, but I’m truly grateful for the ability to feel some self-compassion for my own suffering of imagination and guilt.
I’m grateful today (and every day) for choosing where I place my attention. I didn’t used to have this capacity. I used to let my thoughts drag me around. I used to “think too much,” as many people told me and I resented them for saying that. You don’t think nearly enough! I would think in response. It’s true, too many people don’t think nearly enough, or as a friend pointed out today, don’t have the capacity for critical thinking, i.e., discerning truth clearly. But thinking too much is a different beast. I’m grateful to mindfulness practice for allowing me to release the mental agitation caused by believing my every thought, identifying with or attaching to the things I think. I still think horrible things could happen tomorrow if unthinking Americans vote narrow-minded, self-righteous, power-hungry, greedy, ignorant people into power… but I’m not attached to the outcome. No matter how awful it might be, it’s beyond my control now.
I’ve donated more $ in the past six months to political causes and campaigns than ever in my whole life put together. I’ve voted, written, and conversed, and tried to influence people to vote for their true best interests, and against corporate greed, fascism, and ‘alternative facts.’ I’ve done what I can in my own small way. No matter what happens when the ashes of this election settle, there will still be people, animals, and a planet who need my help and compassion, and that’s where I’ll continue to turn my attention. And in the meantime, I’ll choose to pay attention to what I can control, which is how I show up for myself and for others moment by moment, day by day.
One way I strengthen resilience and hope is to take care of myself, so that I can be more present and helpful for others. One way I take care of myself is to give myself little gifts, moments of joy, throughout the day; choosing to be mindfully aware of what is good, true, and beautiful in this life. One way I do that is with simple but delicious food treats. For example… croissants from City Market cost $1.12 each… add some homemade raspberry jam and a quarter of a chocolate bar, bake for eight minutes, and this delectable breakfast cost less than $2 and fifteen minutes. So simple, so delicious. Taking another ten or fifteen minutes to savor the flavors and textures, along with a cup of coffee, and I can honestly say it was a half-hour well spent. Yes, life is hard: millions of sentient beings suffer every day; all the material blessings of my life could disappear tomorrow in some natural or man-made catastrophe; death is certain, time of death uncertain. There is nothing more that I can do about any of those true things than what I’ve already done: and in this moment, in this breath, all is well, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Tomorrow come what may, let me live this day choosing to focus my attention on gratitude and joy, wherever I can find them.
Wren got to meet our new chiropractor Dr. Leigh this morning, way too early. It was 25℉ when we had to get up and I didn’t make time for coffee before we left. But it was a lovely session for me providing much relief from sciatic discomfort, and Dr. Leigh delighted in her little assistant who followed her around until settling down on her bed when she was sure everything was in order. I’m grateful she gets to go with me. I’m also grateful for gravity. I mention it sometimes when I lead a meditation, suggesting we relax into the warm embrace of gravity or something similar. As I lay on the table with sacral blocks stabilizing my off-kilter pelvis and needles in my legs and hands, I was delighted to hear Dr. Leigh say as she encouraged me to relax, “We live on a planet with gravity, might as well make the most of it.”
I’ve been wanting to photograph this mural for months, maybe years. As I drove by one time I saw the young woman artist just finishing it up but I didn’t have time to stop. I don’t get out much anymore, and don’t make time to stop when I do, but this morning town was empty as I headed home, and more importantly the new coffee shop next door to this building was empty but open, so I turned around and parked along the curb, went in and ordered a delicious vanilla latté, and made the most of being parked beside the mural. I’m grateful to live in a valley that values art, and allows artists to paint the buildings. I hope this mural will be here for decades to come.
On the way out of town I was grateful to be stopped for road construction so that I could snap this extraordinary sky both west and east. The flagmen seemed oblivious to the splendor above them, and I hope that my getting out and looking up may have influenced them and the drivers stopped behind me to also look up and enjoy the celestial view. Though we are held to earth by gravity, the clouds are not, and only succumb to it when they are heavy with rain or snow. As I drove the twenty minutes home I watched these cloud from many angles as they slowly dissipated into nothingness just as I reached my driveway.
It was a busy afternoon and evening, and when all was done all I wanted to do was sit with a bowl of popcorn and watch some TV. But not just any popcorn. An epicurious recipe had popped into my inbox the other day which I was excited to try: Maple pecan popcorn. OMG. So… simple, so delicious! It really was simple, just time consuming, and I was grateful for a clip-on candy thermometer. Pop a bunch of corn. Chop and toast some pecans. Melt butter and bring to a boil with maple syrup (real maple syrup, of course) and a pinch of salt, and let it boil for a long time (at this altitude) until it reaches 287℉ (altitude correction for 300℉), then pour over and quickly stir with the popcorn/pecans, and spread into a baking pan until it cools. Break it up into bits and pieces and enjoy! I could hardly stop eating it, but it made a LOT, and I’m grateful it keeps for up to a week–if it lasts that long.
Grateful as always for Zoom cooking with Amy, spontaneously this evening. A simple snack of Baked Cheese and Onion Dip to go with our adult beverages and easy conversation. Despite the deep freeze nights there were still a few green chives in the garden, and I had a jar of pickled jalapeños in the fridge for zesty garnish. A sweet garden onion from the pantry, some staples of cheese and mayonnaise, and dinner was made. I was horrified to discover NO Ritz! But dug through some old bags of mostly stale tail ends of fancy crackers til I found a serviceable variety, and tossed the old ones in the compost.
What a morning to wake up to alive! 22℉ overnight, snow on the mountains and in the yarden. And cozy inside once the sun rose after a small fire in the woodstove last evening.
Despite fierce winds last night, the aspen and other deciduous trees kept most of their leaves, glowing in a frozen landscape. Marigolds, salvias, agastaches, and all the other remaining flowers wilted.
Meanwhile, inside, the Tabasco pepper thrives in the sunroom with ripening fruits even as tiny blooms proliferate at the tips of new growth. A couple of orchids continue to bloom before their winter rest.
For dinner, I stuffed a pear. I was amazed at how beautifully the cookie scoop cleaned out the core, and grateful to Amy for giving me not only the scoop some years ago, but for sharing the recipe a few days ago on Instagram. Not all Instagram recipes turn out as well as they look, but this one did. I preheated the oven to 400℉ while I scooped, then stuffed the pear with Gorgonzola and topped with crumbled walnuts, a sprinkle of thyme, and some cracked pepper.
While the pear halves baked for about 18 minutes, I heated some honey. Next time, I’ll use more cheese, and bake a little lower so the walnuts don’t burn. Drizzled with hot honey, it was a gourmet taste treat–so simple, so delicious!
I’m grateful on this cold rainy day for the ingredients and ability to make chicken soup; for the stove and fuel to heat the burner and for the pot; for the fragrance wafting through the house; and for a friend to share the soup with.