Tag Archive | Topaz

Gifts from Far and Near

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.

So simple, so delicious: making time to make breakfast special.

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.

Pink Flowers

I’m grateful that everyone in my household woke up alive this morning, and we got to enjoy coffee in the garden before getting to work. Topaz doesn’t often consent to a lap, so it was special to have her relax on mine for awhile as I sat among the raised beds where I planted onions and some leeks last night.

After coffee we walked the Breakfast Loop, feeling gratitude for abundant May wildflowers, and especially the wild pink phlox. It’s a good year for the wildflowers, even though it’s also a good year for the weeds.

The little yellow flowers are weeds, but the pink ones are natives, astragalus in the foreground and phlox in the middle.

And I’m making sure to spend some time each day with the crabapple tree, bursting with gorgeous pink flowers attended by bees. I’m grateful for pink flowers.


I’m grateful I got to spend a lot of time outside today, sitting quietly in the yarden, mowing grass and weeds, reading, watering, attending to the little vegetables, walking the little animals through the woods and admiring the little wildflowers. As I was pondering what specific gratitude to express about today, though, I took a long drink of cold tap water.

Everybody chokes on their own saliva once in a while, or has a sip of something go down the wrong pipe, but I’ve been aspirating a lot lately, as often as once a day sometimes, and that’s got me a little concerned. As I poured the water into my mouth tonight and swallowed gulp after gulp, I thought about my mother, and other people with multi-system atrophy diseases, and how one of the systems that goes is swallowing. They have to drink thickened liquids after awhile which is pretty awful–I tried my mother’s thickened water once. And so as that clear thin water went down my throat cleanly I felt keenly aware of my gratitude for swallowing a glassful effortlessly.

A delight to see snow still on the mountains this late in May

Spring Flowers

I’m grateful for spring flowers, in the garden and in the forest. Like clockwork, I heard the first hummingbird yesterday, only a day later than usual, and this afternoon saw the first paintbrush bloom which must have opened yesterday: the two events invariably synchronize.

I’m grateful for all the green resulting from the banner winter water… but only in the fields. This lush green carpet is entirely made of two noxious weeds: bur buttercup, the lighter green; and weedy alyssum. The alyssum is annoying when it goes to seed, while the bur buttercup is downright hostile. Soon Wren won’t be able to stand on it, when those precious tiny blossoms turn to hard round stickers.

In the meantime, we rested on a bench under the Ancient One, and then strolled home. I’m grateful for her happy ignorance; we both enjoyed the balm for the eyes when I could shelve my awareness of what this forest floor will become in the hot dry summer. At least some native grasses will have a good year.

And in the yard? Oh my. Again, it’s pretty now, but in a week or so I’ll be mowing daily until I get these weeds under control. So though I’m grateful for many things today, green is not one of them, not really. In fact, looking at these weeds makes a little sense out of the nightmare I woke from this morning, where I had spent hours crawling through one obstacle after another trying to find clear sky.

Topaz doesn’t give a damn. She’s just happy, and so am I, that we can go sit down by the pond again at last, and listen to the frogs.

I’m grateful for another day alive, and grateful I was patient with a handful of quotidian frustrations; grateful for a wonderful MIR meeting despite skippy internet and thankful for the warm support and acceptance of the group. And I was glad to wrap up the day with a delicious spontaneous ginger-ice cream sandwich to take the edge off the melancholy that has dogged me since that disconcerting dream, and hit hard this evening when I came across some photos of Stellar in his last spring.

Present Moment Awareness

Inside the Kaleidoscope this morning, waking to another light snow

I set an intention this morning to fully inhabit the present moment as often as possible today. The alarm had jolted me awake from a dream feeling a certain type of way, and my first impulse was to try to go back into the dream–into the past–and I experienced a moment of clarity to let it go and simply be present in this moment, hearing snowmelt dripping from the tower roof onto the metal roof overhead, feeling the light of morning, the soft sheets, the warm little dog. I was able to inhabit that experience of the present moment, and appreciate it as pleasant, without thinking of the past or the future. I’m grateful for the practice of present moment awareness.

I enjoyed making these marinated lentils to use in salads for the coming week, and sautéed some kale and garlic for a bed, dressed it with Pad Thai sauce I made the other day to have on hand for quick stir fries this week, and garnished with pickled red onions leftover from the fancy sandwich I tried out last week. Here’s a picture of that since I couldn’t share it at the time because no internets.

Fancy sandwich I used to ‘soothe and distract’ from frustrations last week… Butternut squash and cheddar cheese with pickled red onions and garlic herb mayo. I threw in some sprouts as well.
I savored the scent of this bonsai jasmine vine for awhile this afternoon, after it lured me in as I passed by. I stopped and enjoyed a little snack after teaching class. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share mindfulness skills with others, and for the friendships that develop as we learn from each other.

I’m grateful that the little naturalizing tulips, Tulipa tarda, finally burst into bloom after the clouds cleared this afternoon, and that I made the time to be with and appreciate them. Topaz seemed pleased to see them as well.

And I was fully present in the moment with my snack, daffodil cake and vanilla ice cream, in the sunroom, with the jasmine, and the ancestral jade lion, the bonsai lemon verbena, and all the other growing flowering beings in that room. I’m grateful for all these sensory delights, and also for the deeper meaning they signify, of my devotion and gratitude to Mother Earth for her unstinting generosity to the greediest of species as well as to the most gentle and unassuming. I do my best to honor and protect her, and to deserve her bounty. Happy Earth Day.

Letting Topaz Lead

It’s been many awhile since I strolled through the woods without an agenda. It was so relaxing this morning to let Topaz lead the way. She doesn’t stay on the main paths, and often goes under, over or up into places I can’t follow, but I’m content to more or less trail her along a nearby deer track.

The first spring flowers are up in the woods, the little native buckwheats. It’s heartening to see some natives among the dazzling green carpet under the trees, most of which is invasive weeds. There will be plenty of dry fuel this summer. We can only hope the planetary winds settle down soon.

In addition to little treasures off the main trail, there were some hazards.
But nothing fazed our fearless leader.
Letting Topaz lead is a new concept for Wren, but she seemed to enjoy it.

After another busy day grateful for being alive, Wren took a little nap on my lap before bedtime.

Alchemy of Dough

Requisite cuteness
What a sight to wake up to… I’m grateful for the alchemy of dough. Overnight rise.
Ninety minutes later…
Another hour later…

I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. With temperatures above 50℉ the past two days, it was time to get into the garden. I needed some of the wire cages to protect the tulips poking up through mud, before the does destroyed them. The cages were stored in the back shed, so I had to brave a snow field to get to them.

The first few steps were easy: snow crusty enough to hold my weight. Then I punched through. Little Wren danced around on top of the crust the whole time. So did Topaz. It was a long way to the shed and it was rough on my knees and my back. I found a shorter way out, after dropping the cages over the back fence where I could get to them easily from outside. Then I crawled over the crust for twenty feet til I got up next to the raised beds, where reflected heat had melted a narrow path. It was fun, crawling over the snow, and doubled as icing on my knees.

More cuteness at lunchtime, Wren rolling and wrestling with the rug swatch toy I stitched together for her.
And gratitude and delight in the crocus patch now in full bloom. Lots of flies have hatched, but I haven’t seen a single bee yet. Fingers crossed.

Gratitude Practice

I’m grateful today for sunshine, the proximity of cat and dog, flowers in winter, potted herbs, bonsai, and the resilience to just hang on sometimes. I’m grateful for the opportunity to give away bread to some friends who needed its comfort and cheer more than I did today. I’m grateful for living inside the kaleidoscope with the coming of spring. Gratitude is a conscious choice that is sometimes more difficult than others, but is always available and always takes the edge off. I’m grateful for gratitude practice.

A Simple Repast

I was surprised by how delicious this simple meal was. Two cans of white beans rinsed and drained, four celery ribs sliced thinly, some chopped shallots and spiralized zucchini from the freezer, and a quick vegetable broth simmered from saved odds and ends in the freezer. Sautéed the celery in some olive oil first, tossed in the zuke, shallots and stock with some Penzeys Justice and Mural of Flavor, salt and pepper, a splash of Umi plum vinegar and stewed for about five minutes, then added the beans and cooked for another five or ten. It’s a NYT recipe that I both simplified and spiced up, then served with a pop of paprika on top, and a quick flatbread improvised from sourdough discard yesterday. It was definitely the most healthful thing I ate today.

It also gave me a good laugh! Talk about perspective. I was facilitating a meeting online from six to seven, wearing my hearing aids, for which I’m immeasurably grateful, and which sync with the computer really enhancing the auditory experience. At one point I heard Topaz growling/moaning in the background as she does before she throws a hairball, or when she sees another cat, and it was a little distracting but I kept on with the meeting without fretting. She came over for a head rub and lay down by my chair. Then I heard the sound again, still faint, and thought it came from outside. It almost sounded like a chainsaw whining in the far distance. Or a stray cat outside moaning and wailing. After awhile it went away and I didn’t think about it again until later, when I was off the computer and heard it closer this time. It was my own gut hissing and rumbling!

I’m grateful for the Monday Mindfulness in Life meeting where people come to meditate together, and to share some of their successes, insights, and challenges on the path. And I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to continue on with the meeting with equanimity, instead of jumping up to look for the source of the disturbance outside myself. With a little patience and awareness, the truth revealed itself, as is so often the case.


Many years ago, I was singing along with a Kate Wolf cassette as my boyfriend drove me to my new life in Utah. I never sang in front of anyone. I was raised with horror tales of how our family couldn’t sing, and mockery when I inadvertently sang out loud in the house. One reason I loved going to church was because we had to sing, and in the chorus of the entire congregation I could sing as loud as I wanted and I seemed to blend in. So we’re cruising along Hwy 40 across Colorado in April, windows down, and I’m unconsciously singing along, not thinking for a minute that he’d be listening, and he says with a big grin, “You’re a perfect fifth!” I clammed up immediately. I didn’t know what he meant but I knew it couldn’t be good. A long time later I realized it had been a compliment, and that I’d been singing harmony. It was a hard lesson: to have not asked a simple question, and suffered for years afterward because of it. What if I had said, “What do you mean?”

A couple of decades later, a neighbor invited me to sing “Amazing Grace” with her and the choir at Miss Joanie’s funeral, and I demurred. She insisted, and I learned the song, and I stood up there in the Methodist church at the funeral of our mutual friend and sang six verses of “Amazing Grace.” Probably not harmony, but not badly either. I’m so grateful to Millie for encouraging me to sing and supporting me up there, and I wish I hadn’t lost that auction certificate for a free voice lesson before Karen Mills moved out of town. But oh well. I still sing along happily with anything that comes along, just yesterday belting out “American Pie” in perfect harmony with Don McLean, alone of course except for my little dog and cat, now restored to a delicate harmony of their own.