A quiet, snowy Saturday, sleeping late and enjoying a latté and a puzzle: I couldn’t be more grateful for these delights, and I know that it is only through the grace of my birth and the conditions that led to this moment that it is what it is. I did nearly nothing of importance today, just relaxed and enjoyed the simple pleasures of food, water, shelter, and space: the essential ingredients of any animal life.
Come ON! How fantastic is this? Garden clippers that actually ‘clip’! So grateful for the genius of the Liberty Puzzle puzzle master.
For supper, just a snack of miso-maple toasted walnuts. So simple, so delicious. Grateful to watch the finale of the 2023 Great British Baking Show, and inspired, though I’m trying to quit.
I’m glad I left in plenty of time to drive to PT this morning. I’m grateful that I’ve been cultivating patience for the past thirty years. And I’m really grateful that with mindfulness practice the past few years I have expanded my understanding of and capacity for patience. Patience is an opportunity to inhabit the present moment.
After several startling surprises this morning, I set out for town with an open heart. At the Smith Fork bridge I encountered a bleating blockade. I drove slowly to meet them, and then put the car in park as they flowed around me. I smiled, breathed, let go of my timeline, and enjoyed the inevitable pause of the sheep drive. I’m glad I learned years ago to just sit back and let go: everyone around here excuses tardiness when they hear the words “cattle drive” or “sheep drive.”
I enjoyed watching the Basque shepherd and his dogs move the sheep out of the way so I could creep along, but honestly would have been fine just waiting for them to pass. As I crept a little too close to the guardrail the car scraped lightly against it, and patience allowed me to shrug it off rather than react with irritation: it was my fault not theirs, and no harm done to the car even if it left a new little scratch on the old crackling paint.
There was another delay in town where the aftermath of a fire still blocked the main intersection with first responders, a fire truck, hoses across the highway, and EMS and sheriff’s vehicles forcing a detour through town, but I couldn’t ascertain what had burned. I’d seen a plume of black smoke an hour earlier from the house and could tell the fire was out before I left.
I made good time through the dobies, enjoying the sere landscape and lovely clouds, and then encountered another opportunity for patience as a coal train blocked the road to Paonia for a few minutes. I smiled, slowed down, and enjoyed the view.
After PT, I dropped by a friend’s but she was napping so I was happy to move toward home. I finally girded my loins to stop in at the Service Station to schedule an oil change, and the dear grumpy owner was just as grumpy as ever, ‘hope you’re not in a hurry, I’m booked for three weeks,’ but patience again came to my rescue. I was totally agreeable, and by the time we finished negotiating, he told me to come at eleven next Wednesday and he’d hold the bay open. I smiled sweetly as I thanked him, and I’d almost swear he smiled back with a hint of mischief. At last, I was on my way back home!
I had to laugh as I rounded the corner just as this pulled out in front of me. There was quickly no turning back, with steep banks on either side and another car behind. I took my foot off the gas, embraced my morning companion Patience, and together we slowly followed the wet paint for a mile until we’d gathered a parade behind us and came to the next intersection, where there was a break in the paint just big enough for each of us to cut through and get ahead of the maintenance ensemble. I laughed all the way home. I’m so grateful that patience has taught me to let go of the ‘my needs first’ attitude I used to have and recognize the importance of everyone else’s needs too.
I’m grateful I woke today with no pain — or at least, so little as to feel like none at all. It’s important to be grateful for the absence of certain things as well as for the presence of others. As Thich Nhat Hanh said:
“When we’re having a toothache, we know that not having a toothache is a wonderful thing. Yet when we don’t have a toothache, we’re still not happy. A non-toothache is very pleasant.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice
Having a non-heelache and non-sciatica pain this morning gave me more energy than I’ve had in a long while, to attend to many things in the house and yarden. Then for lunch I got to make a Furikake tomato sandwich, or at least my version of it with avocado on Rouge de Bordeaux bread. It was interesting, and tasty in a sesame-seaweed way, but I probably won’t make it again. So few tomatoes this year, so little time to enjoy a classic tomato sandwich. Sure looked pretty though.
After lunch I got to sort the peach harvest, laying them all out on parchment paper on the counter, less ripe to more ripe, with those that needed immediate processing because of bruising or bird dings in the basket at the far end. I’m grateful for this elegant 2-in-1 harvest and wash basket. I cleaned, peeled and sliced the slightly damaged peaches and froze them in two 2-cup parcels. Then I froze a couple dozen whole peaches on a baking pan for four hours before bagging them. I’m grateful to Suzi for teaching me this method. A few seconds in the microwave or under hot running water makes them easy to peel and then slice and use as needed. I’ll freeze a few more batches whole and sliced; still not sure what I’ll do with the rest of them. Peach jam doesn’t seem to last as well as apricot; maybe I’ll just can them in light syrup, hmmm…
I’m grateful for a full afternoon in the kitchen. After the peaches, I made a pint batch of salsa to use up a few split tomatoes and a jalapeño, then used a couple more tomatoes and peppers in a batch of refried black beans to fill the last spinach tortillas, along with half a dozen eggs scrambled and some grated cheddar. I froze five of them and enjoyed the last for supper when I finally sat down after a full day on my feet. And just in the nick of time, as the heel pain came creeping back.
In between Zoom Buddha School sessions today, I was grateful to zoom cook with my dear friend Cindy who lives not too far from our hometown back east. We’ve been talking for months about doing this, to support each other in preparing some healthy food for the week ahead. So we spent a couple hours this afternoon cooking enchiladas, and prepping for a creamy cauliflower soup. By the time we finished the enchiladas and sat down to eat one we were both too tired of being on our feet to make the soup, but I made it later this evening and it was SO simple, so delicious!
I’m happy to share the enchilada recipe we started from, which her friend Mary gave her. But I can’t possibly share the version I made, because I did just about everything differently than this recipe. First, I used up an assortment of garden vegetables from the freezer (instead of ground beef), including spiralized zucchini, snap peas, and sliced harissa sweet potatoes; plus a can of black beans from the pantry. I used half tomato sauce and half tomatillo sauce, added tomato paste, and used spinach-wheat tortillas. It didn’t matter. They were still delicious! I did add the grated cheddar and sour cream to the filling, which I could have eaten with a spoon except there was none left.
Once they were done baking, we sat down and ate together, and then got back to our busy days. It was fun to relax and play in our separate kitchens. I’m grateful for zoom cooking with Cindy, being able to get and to give support in an effort to bolster our health.
I follow an entomologist on Instagram who posted yesterday about micro-moths, tiny beautiful creatures. When I let Wren out for midnight whiz last night and checked the high-low thermometer I spotted a micro-moth and took a picture. Nothing fancy, but tiny, and precious in its own lepidopteran way.
This morning a friend brought to mind the simple joys of an ordinary day, mentioning “pretty flowers blooming, colors that are harmonious together, birds singing.” It turned my day around. I had been lying in bed late, curled up tight like a pill bug, not wanting to get out of bed, not because I was overtly depressed, just that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Following Debi’s checkin, others mentioned a range of things that give them joy, from animal companions to functional limbs, and the brief virtual discussion stayed with me all day.
I’m grateful for the simple joys of being alive in any given moment. Today those included reading a novel, my work, a couple of meaningful conversations with family and friends, exercising, stretching, meditating, groceries, a light rain shower, Biko walking through the door and tucking himself inside as the storm approached, Buddha School, watching ‘Modern Family,’ and baking this amazingbroccoli forest loaf. So simple, so delicious! And for once, my result resembles the online photo!
Tonight, I’m grateful for my martini-buddy Connie who taught me how to can, for Chrissie Lou who suggested cream cheese with my warm jam on toast, for Ruthie who started me on my sourdough journey all those years ago, for Neighbor Fred who prunes the apricot tree, and for the bounty this precious tree has provided this year. I’ve frozen ten cups of halves already, given away bags and boxes, and today canned five pints of jam, with a seemingly endless supply of fruit left on the tree. I can spend only a few hours a day on my feet currently because of plantar fasciitis and sciatica, and so am alternating daily between picking and processing apricots among other standup obligations. I’m grateful to remember that I’m not the only one suffering, and that even with consistently limiting physical pain, I’m able to balance and enjoy every good thing my little life has to offer; including remembering that just like me, there are thousands or millions of others around the world experiencing similar pains and limitations. I wish that they also might find joy, pleasure, and meaning in the simplest elements of their days.
What a joy to see the Phoebe chicks outgrowing their nest! I’m grateful on this Interdependence Day that I got to spend some time outside watching the feeding frenzy and catching a few good pictures. I am also grateful that I got some thoughts on interdependence out on my podcast, Suffer Less with Mindfulness, available wherever you get your podcasts, or on my website here. Wishing everyone a safe and mindful holiday week.
I’m grateful to have hosted today the first live event at my little retreat since 2019. The vision collapsed with the Covid lockdown and beyond, and is testing its wings this summer as it morphs into whatever it will become. Speaking of wings, because there were going to be six extra people here all afternoon, I cordoned off a Phoebe Zone to protect the nestlings but mostly to reassure their spooky mother who flees when anyone other than I walks under the nest. It was effective in reassuring her as she continued to fly in and out even as we filled plates with goodies and glasses with iced beverages from the buffet just beyond the ‘police tape,’ then walked the long way around to the shady seating in the fairy grove.
“Touching the truth of our finite lives in community,” was the theme of the three-hour workshop facilitated by Meg O’Shaughnessy, which included sharing thoughts and experiences, some short writing exercises, a few poems, and a provocative card game, as well as The Three Thoughts meditation which I was grateful to lead. The Three Thoughts, which can be a valuable daily practice upon waking, can be distilled into three words: Gratitude, Impermanence, and Meaning.
Some of the questions discussed by the seven women present included among other topics: why we came to this event, aging and diminishment, how we feel about deaths we have attended, how we would least and most prefer to die (while understanding we have very little control in most cases), where we are in end-of-life planning, advance medical directive and DNR, death with dignity, and all our STUFF!
Our last exercise of the afternoon, which we spent braving ninety-degree heat in 20 mph winds, was a game of Go Wish. Meg dealt each of us a hand of five cards, and we chose which we wanted to keep and which didn’t speak to us, and passed those to the person to our right. After several rounds, some snickering and bickering, the passing ended and we each shared one or more of the cards we had kept, sometimes elaborating on why and how these things mattered to us. Above is the hand I ended up choosing to keep: things that I think at this moment would matter at the end of my life.
I’m grateful to have had this time connecting with friends old and new, in this meaningful conversation about the inevitable trajectory of our human lives; indeed of the lives of all beings on this fragile, spinning globe.
I’m grateful for a thought-provoking guest. A college friend stopped by on a cross-country drive, and I was grateful to be able to walk to the canyon with him, cook him a real dinner, and serve him cake and coffee in the morning back at the canyon before he resumed his travels. He is a kind, considerate, honest, caring man. We talked nonstop while he was here, reminiscing about our college years, asking each other about our present lives and the years between, covering deep topics of life and death and God and Buddha.
He asked me how I came to Buddhism, and I asked him how he came to be a born-again Baptist. Our world-views are quite different, and I was so grateful for the mindfulness practice that allowed me to keep an open heart and open mind as we talked, enabling me to listen deeply to his experience and beliefs without judgment, and deepen our connection. Our conversation has caused me to revisit some questions I’ve been coasting with for awhile: What exactly do I believe, and why do I believe it? He was an easy, open person long ago, comfortable to be around, and he remains so today. There were moments during our visit of teary tenderness, and moments of light laughter.
He recalled some things about our college years that I had forgotten, and vice versa. One memory he resurrected for me was how we used to tap on the wall between our rooms in freshman dorm to communicate. Sometimes it meant ‘meet outside,’ sometimes it summoned us to the windows where we made plans from our third story rooms. He was recently diagnosed with MS, and we talked a lot about the trajectory of his symptoms, and some strange symptoms I’ve been experiencing. He still works as a nurse, and encouraged me to see a neurologist. That’s been on my list anyway.
This spring has brought more opportunity than ever to surrender: to the lush green carpet of weeds through the yard and woods, to the bad grass I battled for years, to the prolific catmint I’ve tried to control; and to the process of my own physical aging and mortality. I’m grateful for equanimity and the relief of surrender.
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.