I slept til eight. I’m grateful for generally good sleep most nights, even though I’m a night owl, and grateful for a late wakeup some weekend mornings. And grateful to wake up to a bright late September morning, a cup of coffee, a chocolate croissant, and apricot jam, on a patio I built, with a spectacular view.
I got to take my time arranging art on the blue wall, interspersed with some housecleaning, some good listening to Radio Swiss Jazz, the Buddhist Wisdom for Life Summit hosted by Tricycle, and the Collective Trauma Summit. It’s downright amazing to have the world at my fingertips in my remote little mud hut. I’m grateful for the beautiful and meaningful artwork I got to hang on the wall.
I’m grateful for the blooming Maximillian sunflowers, which are the definitive herald of autumn, and for my Garden Buddy who gave them to me. And I’m grateful for a simple and delicious vegetarian dinner of Roasted Cauliflower with Sweet Chermoula and Yogurt. I didn’t know what chermoula was until I ran across this recipe, and it is a delicious sauce! I didn’t have sweet paprika so looked up (world at my fingertips) a good substitute, and ended up using half as much ground Aleppo pepper plus a squeeze of tomato paste to approximate the taste. I also didn’t have cilantro, and precious little parsley, so subbed dried parsley. With olive oil, honey, lemon juice, and some other spices, it was so yummy I could have eaten the whole recipe but disciplined myself to save some for tomorrow. I’m grateful for a delightful Saturday, and for the presence of mind to appreciate an easy, joyful day.
I’m grateful today to have finally accomplished a project I started dreaming more than a year ago, after getting ‘wall envy’ from seeing the blue wall in my cousins’ house on family zooms. The tired, quiet green I’ve had on my one painted wall for almost twenty years was ready for a change and so was I. I bought the paint last fall but winter came before I could open it, and then one thing after another… Procrastination is one of my growth edges… This week, after some encouragement from a good friend, and feeling no pain in my shoulders for a month, and a narrow window of ideal weather for it, I took the plunge.
The 48-hour forecast was perfect: highs around 80, lows in the high 40s, and clear skies. I could keep doors and windows open all day and close half of them overnight, to keep fresh air flowing in the whole time. First I cleared off (i.e. boxed to tackle later) the stuff on the desk and dresser that stood next to the wall, and pulled the furniture away.
Then I photographed the artwork so I’d know where to put it back later, and left those nails and hooks in place. I pulled the C-hooks and plugged their holes with long brads, hoping that I could roll over them and then pull them out after the paint dried to replace the hooks. (I pulled a few small nails where there were studs and tried to plug those holes with smaller nails but that didn’t work: the roller pulled them out right away.)
I called the hardware store in our little town to ask if they had a mechanical paint shaker. “Yes,” she said, “but we’ve had to draw the line at shaking other people’s paint. If it’s not completely sealed shut it makes an awful mess.”
“I haven’t even opened this!” I exclaimed with hope, “but I certainly understand if you can’t do it.” She was happy to shake my unopened paint can and would not take compensation. I was grateful for her generosity. I remembered to buy a jar of spackle while I was there, and filled in the empty holes in the wall. Then I taped off the perimeter, thermostat, switch, and outlet.
It’s been hard to adjust the photos to reflect accurate colors as the light kept shifting throughout the day. This morning I spread out the alleged ‘heavy-duty’ plastic dropcloth I’d purchased at the same time as the paint, brushes, and roller setup. While everything else was better than I could have hoped, the dropcloth was about as heavy-duty as I am! Amazon will hear about this deception. Then I started rolling on the paint.
After four hours dry-time, I repeated the cutting-in and rolled on the second coat. I could not be happier with the result!
I only let it dry a couple of hours after the second coat before pulling the tape and hanging the first two pieces back on the wall before the light faded. Yes, I missed a spot with the spackle, oh well. And as I watched the paint dry, I realized I wanted to swap out a few art pieces, so I pulled my mother’s pastel portrait of her Aunt Gretchen from the shadows where it has lived for years, and returned it to the same place it held even longer ago, when the green wall first replaced the original peach wall from the housebuilding in 1995. I look forward to playing with the rest of the wall art tomorrow!
Somewhere in there, I also accomplished another masterpiece cheese sandwich, with smoked gouda, shredded romaine, and garden tomato.
Though I knew some basics, including taping off edges and spackling, I was so grateful for the tips on rolling and some other aspects in this wonderful book from the Trans Handy Ma’am. I’m delighted to support her work empowering trans people, and making the world of home repairs more friendly and accessible to introverts like me. Her motto is “You’re worth the time it takes to learn a new skill!” Thanks, Trans Handy Ma’am, for helping motivate me toward a real sense of accomplishment.
Yesterday I stopped to visit an old friend I had not seen since before the pandemic began. Besides the risk of contagion there were a couple of other reasons I hadn’t seen her for so long, but as soon as I sat down with her I regretted my long absence. “It’s so wonderful to see you!” she exclaimed. “I love you so much!”
“Your face is so beautiful,” she went on. She patted her forehead, “Your head, with the beautiful mind, and your eyes, and your beautiful mouth! To make words!” as she rubbed her fingers around her lips. I laughed and said, “It’s wonderful to see you, too, and I love you so much.”
“We’ve been friends for a very long time,” she said, “since we were just little girls,” and she held her hands child-high above the deck where we sat. “It’s been a long time, for sure,” I said, “maybe not as long as all that.” I reminded her how and when we had met.
“It’s so wonderful to see you!” she exclaimed. “I love you so much!” I echoed her words back to her. “You’re so beautiful,” she said, “your hair, and your earrings look so good on your ears, and your pretty hat.” My heart was breaking. I moved my chair around to sit next to her and held her hand. She had quite the strong grip for someone over ninety, though she had moved ponderously and seemed quite frail when she stepped outside to sit with me.
The propane truck arrived just then to fill the house tank, with its engine and pump cacophony, and so we sat quietly, taking in the fall colors in the trees and shrubs around us, smiling at one another and making occasional hand signs and mouthing “I love you,” until they were done and left. Quiet thundered down.
“God bless us and keep us safe from all harm, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” she said. In thirty years I had never once heard her pray. “It’s so wonderful to see you! You look lovely. We’ve been friends for such a long time, since we were just little girls, and here we still are. We took to each other right away.”
That was true. “Like ducks to water,” I said, and she laughed.
“We’ve been friends for ever so long,” she said, “and look at us now, still friends!”
“Yes,” I said, “two little old ladies sitting on the porch, still friends after all these years,” and she said, “Will we be friends forever?”
“We’ll be friends forever,” I said. “We’ll be friends in the next life too, and I’m sure we were in our past lives.” She laughed again. It felt so good to make her laugh. The Alzheimers that began attacking her beautiful mind so many years ago had advanced dramatically since the last time I’d seen her. Though I’d called every month or so for the past few years, I had not seen the change, and the conversations had followed the same repetitive pattern though with a different theme: How are you, what have you been up to, how are you, what have you been doing, how are you… Her seeing me in person added a new element. Each time she told me how beautiful I am and how much she loves me, my heart cracked open a little bit more.
I sat with her for about half an hour and could tell when she closed one eye that she was beginning to tire, so I tapped on the door and her partner came out to help her back inside. I told them I’ll come back next week. “You promise?” she said. “I promise.”
“God bless us and keep us safe from all harm, in Jesus’ name, Amen,” she said as I left. I’m grateful for the heartbreak that made me softer.
I was grateful for the serene beauty along the road home, and the quiet time it afforded me to metabolize the emotions moving through me. I was grateful to return home and find the internet still out, and grateful it remained out until after I went to bed. None of my usual entertainments (read, ‘distractions’) were available to me, and so I nursed the heartbreak quietly, letting it soften more and more the hard edges of my prolonged voluntary solitude.
Into the softness of the heartbreak I let flow the joy of finishing the puzzle. Another pair of dancers, as my friend had danced the last time before this that I’d seen her. The precious tiny star in the dancer’s hand, and the simple pleasure of spotting the piece that fit it across the board and knowing exactly where it went.
That moment that comes late in almost every puzzle, where you’re sure, you are certain, there’s a piece missing because you’ve looked all over for it — and then, suddenly, it’s right in front of you and has been all along.
And then that sense that there’s not enough room for all the pieces you have left, especially the big groups — where can they possibly fit?
And then you find where they go, and the rest of the pieces flow into place smoothly one right after another…
… and then the puzzle is complete, put back together, and so is your heart.
I’m so grateful for colors! My life is full of them. No blank white walls in this house. Everywhere I look, inside and out, colors and more colors. I’m grateful for my friend who introduced me to a new word when she described herself as ‘a colorist’ — and I’m grateful for her wonderful blog where she shares the colors of the world when she travels.
Continuing to enjoy the puzzle ‘Canoe of Fate’ today in between work work, housework, and yard work. Here are some more details of whimsy pieces and images. Note the deer pieces making up the wolf image, and the wolf whimsy piece upside down right above it.
Six feathers above, and one of them in place in the feather headdress below.
More whimsy in the garden, and the birch tree turning yellow with pendulous catkins, flowers that will hang on until they open in spring and release their pollen. As I sat outside for a few minutes this afternoon, soaking in all the colors, I thought of a painter I admire whom I haven’t spoken with in a long time, so I looked up her number and called her out of the blue. “What a lovely surprise!” she exclaimed, and I was grateful to have an easy, happy phone call reconnecting with her.
Liberty Puzzle’s designer had to have had Peter Pan in mind when he drew this lovely little piece. As for what Roy de Forest had in mind with the faces below, who knows?
I saved these two figures for near the end because I love the color bubbles in them, and it was fun to find their hands touching in dance when they fit together.
They ended up fitting into the top edge and so hang upside down in their dance. I really enjoy that moment when two large sections I’ve been working independently suddenly show how they connect, when they’ve been building right next to each other for hours. The star below brings together the dancers and the canoeist.
Aren’t we all paddling along in a canoe of fate? I don’t know. But I’m grateful for this puzzle, from a painting by mid-20th century American painter Roy de Forest. I hadn’t heard of him, but was charmed by the image and chose it as my puzzle for this season.
The brick pattern was the easiest to distinguish and assemble, and these were the first few pieces I put together: charming. Using Seymour’s rules I only looked at the lid once (for a long time) before beginning the puzzle, so I knew that this was part of the lower left edge.
Like the image itself, the pieces are extra whimsical. I haven’t found the head of the Yeti in the lower right (above), nor fit in the unicorn, but worked on the canoe which is the centerpiece… and soon had a good start.
Where once the whimsy pieces were all a single cut, the latest Liberty puzzles have evolved so that many, like the faun and the buck above, and the mystery shape below, are comprised of multiple pieces.
I’m grateful for a worthwhile day’s work, followed by a late afternoon starting the puzzle, and an evening stroll with my little pets.
Back at the house after an evening meeting, I resumed play on the puzzle, finding the missing tails of the dragon and griffon. With the peaceful accompaniment of Radio Swiss Jazz, I puzzled into the night, resting my emotions and thoughts in the meditative attention to the lovely challenge before me. I thought of Favorite Auntie, who introduced me to these wooden jigsaw puzzles a decade ago, and felt myself back in her house in Kilmarnock, and later her apartment in DC, sitting in loving companionship across the green felt on her card table, puzzling. She would have loved this one. Magic.
My little town. My neighborhood. Teaching. Scavenging. I couldn’t decide until I realized the umbrella they all fit under is finding what I need. I’m grateful for finding what I need today.
Feeling on a bit of a rocky plateau in mindfulness practice, I was grateful for finding camaraderie and meaning in a meditation and meeting I led this morning, with some wonderful graduates of the Foundations Course I teach; and then in the afternoon, finding common ground and ease with some wonderful new acquaintances in a course I’ve just started taking. Later, resting in the comfort of a zoom chat with Amy.
I’m grateful for finding what I needed at the Hitching Post in town, the little store that has one of everything you could almost ever need. I needed a couple more cans of wasp spray. I hate to use it, but we’re not able to spend more than a few minutes outside near the house, or even sit still as far from the house as the pond, without being threatened by an aggressive wasp. I don’t think it’s the same wasp every time (but it could be); I think they have guards stationed all around the yarden to drive me inside. But it’s simply too lovely, in this most beautiful season, to be imprisoned by fear of wasps. They continue to rise from the stump, and I found another huge nest under the deck just outside the east door, and another in a decorative pot on the patio corner.
I’m grateful for finding the time to take the scenic loop to town and home again, driving around the reservoir to enjoy the first fall colors turning up on Mendicant Ridge, and the plenitude of all that community water still behind the dam.
After dark, I dusted the stump with diatomaceous earth, grateful to find that in my garden supply drawer; unfortunately, that roused the wasps quickly, and I was stung again on the tender skin inside my forearm. It wasn’t as bad as fast as the last one, but continues to swell so I’ve taken another Benadryl: grateful for finding what I need in the medicine drawer.
After all that poisoning, I wanted a hot shower but it was already down to 40℉ outside and all the windows and doors were open. So I shut most of them, and found enough small pieces of wood to kindle a fire in the woodstove. Grateful for finding what I need without having to split kindling, since the kindling cracking pedestal is still out of commission. And I could go on: finding hot water at my fingertips, noticing how dry my hands are and finding lotion on my desk, finding Biko quickly before dark so I could bring him in for another cold night. Extremely grateful for having enough conveniences and luxuries so that I almost always find what I need without having to look too far or hard.
I’m grateful for time in my day to prepare simple, delicious meals like a tomato sandwich, or a twice-baked potato, and to put up the last of the peaches with another mini-batch of peach salsa. I’m grateful for time to exercise, and to garden, to read, write, and meet online or by phone with friends and colleagues. I’m grateful that I’ve streamlined my life so that I have time to work as well as to relax, and that I’m beginning to whittle down the distractions that claim my attention. I’m grateful above all that even during a full and busy day, I am able to find time to rest with awareness in the present moment.
Grateful for a quiet day, for groceries, and for seeing this handsome buck in the yard. Looks like he’s dropped some of those awful growths, with only a couple remaining and not bad scars. I’m grateful for losing growths!
So much gratitude today! Grateful for Wren’s babysitters who checked in on her throughout the morning while I spent it traveling and undergoing a Mohs surgery. I’m grateful for neighbor-friends who happily supported me and my little family during an anxious time. I’m grateful to my dear chauffeur who drove me there and back even with her own concerns, and for the meaningful conversations both ways.
I’m grateful to the skilled surgeon who explained everything lucidly and managed to get all the basal cell carcinoma off me in one cut. Even after multiple Mohs procedures on my face and head over the past twenty-plus years, I learned a new piece about the process today. Dr. Weber explained how he marks the tissue so he can follow the cancer’s direction, and furthermore that he is the actual pathologist in the process. I knew he was trained to excise the cancer in layers, and to skillfully repair the wound, but I hadn’t realized that he is also the one who dissects the tissue to see where the cancer margins are. He told me, “If someone says they’re doing Mohs but they’re sending the tissue out to a lab and not examining it themselves, they are not doing Mohs!” I found this really reassuring.
Around the time Honey Badger came by, I was waiting in the chair in the dark with a garish patch over my eye after the first incision, for Dr. Weber to determine if he needed to remove more. The wait was longer than I expected, two hours, but I was so relieved when he came in and said we were done, and he didn’t even have to stitch the wound. They cleaned and cauterized it, and left my eyelid largely unmarred. I’m grateful he has a sense of humor and we could joke about him including an optional blepharoplasty to lift my droopy lid.
By the third neighborly visit, I was almost out of the office with a few less eyelashes and a simple bandaid. I admit I had a hard time going to sleep last night. I’d done all the right things: meditating, breathing, accepting, allowing, surrendering, and still my heart pounded and my mind wrestled with worst-case scenarios. Then I remembered a suggestion I heard recently to think on the best-case scenario instead of catastrophizing. This skill of being able to choose one thought over another comes with meditation and mindfulness practice, cultivating one’s capacity to choose where to place attention and to hold it there.
And so I finally fell asleep after choosing to visualize all the aspects of a best-case scenario: just one small cut, quick in and out, easy repair, Wren safe and cared for, pleasant companionship on the road, and home in time for lunch. I’m grateful for the wisdom that allowed me to rest in that possibility, and for the success and validation of that thought-choice. I’m grateful, too, for the many well-wishes that came to me via texts, emails, and messages from friends around the neighborhood and across the country. I’m grateful for everything about Wren’s fun day.
In my recent mostly-vegetarianism, I’m grateful for tofu, and specifically for the trick I recently learned of tossing it in cornstarch before frying it to make it extra crispy. This delicious recipe from Bon Appetit for Sesame Tofu with Broccoli made a simple dinner tonight, with leftovers for tomorrow. It was super tasty and filling, and I almost didn’t need a slice of peach pound cake for dessert, but I had one anyway, because why not. I had forgotten to get a scallion from the garden so went without that, and was so eager to eat it that I didn’t notice the toasted sesame seed part of the recipe, and still it was really yummy.
The sauce which included sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and more simmered just long enough to thicken before adding the sautéed broccoli and tofu back in and tossing to coat. So simple, so delicious!