I’m grateful for any kind of harvest, and maybe more grateful this summer for a slow and gentle harvest without any urgency to put up the fruits of the garden. Some years I’ve been grateful for a hectic and abundant harvest of tomatoes, or cucumbers, or peppers, or any combination. This year I’m grateful for a tame and easy harvest.
I’m grateful for leftovers: veggie enchilada with shredded romaine and fresh garden tomato for lunch today, the last of the cauliflower soup tonight. I’m grateful that I have enough to eat, and a roof over my head, and good friends around the valley and around the country, and everything I need to bake cupcakes tomorrow.
I’m grateful that Hurricane Idalia wasn’t quite as catastrophic as she could have been in terms of human fatalities; though she’ll result in plenty of long-term suffering for millions of Americans along her ongoing path. Supporting my plea argument yesterday, R. Hubbell wrote in Today’s Edition:
“The effects of human-caused climate change are manifesting themselves everywhere—as should be expected given the interdependence of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land masses, and ecosystems. We can feel overwhelmed if we simply catalog the many ways in which climate change manifests itself. We cannot give in to helplessness. It is never too late to make changes that will benefit current and future generations. The most important thing we can do is to elect leaders who will prioritize the reduction of reliance on fossil fuels…. It is time for all Americans to put climate change at the top of their issues list when deciding how they will cast their vote. Remember that at the GOP debate last week, Vivek Ramaswamy declared that ‘Climate change is a hoax.’ The only hoax is politicians who refuse to address a problem that is an economic and national security emergency affecting the lives of every American.”Robert Hubbell, Todays Edition, August 30, 2023
As climate chaos delivers yet another unprecedented disaster, this time to Florida with a cat 4 hurricane expected to land early morning, I find myself once again suffused with that strange mix of agitated fascination, helpless anxiety, and scattered compassion.
People have got to wake up and stop saying, “You just never think it will happen here,” or “Oh, I’ve been through hurricanes before, I’m not gonna leave.” As one newscaster said, “This area isn’t heavily populated, but for the folks who live here this will be a life-altering event.” There will be fatalities, including a lot of wild and domestic animals. Crystal River is predicted to receive historic storm surge; because of its unique geology and warm spring-fed waters it is manatee central on Florida’s gulf coast. I worry that some of these endangered, gentle creatures will get pushed inland and stranded. As I write, about 100 of the 700+ residents of Cedar Key, a town I hold nostalgia for, have chosen to ride it out: the entire town could be under water by noon tomorrow. Many of my beloveds live in the path or fringe of the storm, from south of Tampa through the Big Bend and on up through Charleston, SC. Of course I worry about them too, but I’m grateful that my friends and family are largely sensible people.
I feel the coming suffering on an energetic level, and I want to help: this is compassion, though it is challenging to feel like this is enough. But as I tell students, even if we can’t help in a given situation, there is always someone closer to home on whose behalf we can engage in compassionate action. And we can all, each and every one of us over the age of 18, vote for local, state, and national representatives who take climate chaos seriously and will commit to shifting the course of humanity’s hurricane of greed and stupidity into a less catastrophic trajectory.
I’m also grateful for the delicious pizza I picked up from Chef Brandt yesterday since I had to run to town anyway, the Mush-Love; and for leftover pizza today with a few extra toppings from the kitchen. I’m grateful for the efforts of Chef Brandt to make international cuisine affordable and convenient in his home valley after honing his culinary skills and winning awards in Seattle.
Feeding Biko chopped romaine is a new thing. I used to give him whole leaves, and I’d toss one to Wren to keep her busy. She wouldn’t come close enough to steal from him. But now, with a scatter of chopped, she sneaks in to steal a crunchy piece from the edge and runs off with it. And she loves it so much she’s getting bolder.
My tragic garlic harvest proves that despite a promising start, planting in the spring doesn’t work. I was happy to get a few decent heads, mostly small ones, and those whose greens died back earliest and completely turned out to be nice fat single bulbs–though I will have to cut into each one and smell it to be sure it’s actually garlic. Don’t know what else it could be given where I dug them up, but don’t want to eat a lily bulb or something by mistake. I’m grateful for the harvest anyway: despite its paucity, it’s still more garlic than the sixteen individual cloves I planted in March, and I learned some things about what works and what doesn’t.
I’m grateful for Amy-inspired lemon ricotta pancakes which I finally made tonight to use up leftover ricotta from our gnocchi zoom. After burning the first few as usual, I got the hang of it. They were delicious. I used a NYT recipe but there are dozens available online that all look delicious. Since my frozen blueberries are buried under frozen apricots, I just broke up a few of the last fresh apricots and then doused the pancakes in real maple syrup. I cooked the whole batch, and froze leftovers in bags of two. Amy said they reheat well. I can imagine popping them in the toaster.
I live each hour, each conversation, each delicious meal, each page I read, physically aware of the climate chaos that rages all around. In this moment, in this place, all is well. In Canada and the Pacific Northwest wildfires rage out of control emptying whole cities; in Hawaii an entire city demolished by fire and thousands of lives lost, human and otherwise. California desert towns are flooding overnight, and maybe some larger cities as well. Another aggressive heat dome locks the central US in record high temperatures. Newscasters naively refer to some of these as “a once-in-a-lifetime event,” which enrages me.
In this moment, in this place, all is well, for the moment. At any moment wildfire could rip through the precious woods where I live. If it does, may I be ready to flee. May I have time to gather my animals and a few treasures, and escape alive. May my neighbors also be so fortunate. May all in the path of climate chaos be saved, I want to pray, knowing it simply is not possible. This keenly felt awareness both paralyzes me, and fills me with gratitude for every living moment of every day.
Holding the unfolding tragedy of Lahaina in mind and heart, I encourage readers to donate as you can to one of the reputable efforts to support survivors. World Central Kitchen is on the ground feeding people, and Maui Humane Society is trying to help thousands of pets who need medical attention, food, and to be reunited with their families.
With this perspective, I’m grateful that the local wildfires are limited and crews are gaining ground. Three fires are burning in a 60 mile or less radius, one east, one north, and the Little Mesa Fire to the west, which has been holding steady for the past few days at around 3500 acres. Now 30% contained, its smoke still colors the horizon in this evening’s photograph above. The low plume blends with rain toward the left between the two clusters of trees, and blows north across the horizon til it turns orange toward the right edge.
I’m grateful for firefighters the world over.
I’m grateful for rain overnight which left the high desert refreshed, and gave morning light an extra vibrant quality. As we headed for the gate, I was tickled to watch a gnat-nado; we saw a few more of these swirling columns of insects rising as we walked through the woods.
It was a big day. A fulfilling class in the afternoon followed by a rare outing planned with friends and their visiting family. So the morning involved baking little apricot cakes as my contribution to the snack spread. I adapted the recipe for high altitude, and also added an element from the next apricot bake, an upside down cake, with a dollop of brown sugar in an apricot half underneath the batter. Naturally, I had to test them before I could share, so I had one for dessert after my cheese sandwich! Today’s was open face cream cheese on toast, slathered with apricot jam. Yes it’s a sandwich!
We could see smoke, we guessed from the Little Mesa Fire SSW of Delta, which fortunately has grown slowly to only 450 acres in a wild area. As I drove to the canyon, I listened to The Pen and the Sword on KVNF, which featured an interview with John Vaillant, author of Fire Weather: A True Story from a Hotter World. The book is about the 2016 apocalyptic wildfire that consumed the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, the chief supplier of oil imports to the US. Ironically, the fire was unquestionably driven by fossil-fuel induced climate chaos, as Vaillant demonstrates, and “was not a unique event, but a shocking preview of what we must prepare for in a hotter, more flammable world.” It was chilling to listen to this interview after watching news of the catastrophic Maui fires this afternoon: precisely the scenario Vaillant cautioned about in his book that came out this summer. (I hope the interview will appear on KVNF archives shortly.)
I’m grateful for perspective, which reminds me that we humans and our follies are just a gnat-nado in the context of geological time, the kind of time that created these 1.8 billion-year-old metamorphic rocks, and the millions of years of uplift and erosion that formed this spectacular gorge.
I hope the clouds part overnight this weekend so I can rest in the reassuring perspective of the Perseid meteor shower. If pondering geology gives momentary respite, contemplating our place in the vast mystery of outer space provides an even deeper peace.
I was so grateful this morning to see the first praying mantis this summer, a young European mantis, according to iNaturalist. I accidentally swept it off a pepper plant with the watering wand as I dislodged some grasshoppers. Hope I didn’t interrupt its meal or its hunt, but I’ve no worries for its future as there are a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand hoppers for every mantis.
I’m grateful, with a hearty laugh at myself, that Jimbo the Drag Clown from Canada won RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars Season 8. Her final competitor at the end was one for whom I experience an irrational and totally subjective aversion.
The Earth’s climate is rapidly approaching or has already arrived at Tipping Point; political chicanery and corruption are at an all-time high in this country, and white nationalism is on the rise around the world; everyone suffers from something, and most of us are suffering right now with anything from heatstroke to war to plantar fasciitis. And I’m grateful for a TV show that gives my attention a vacation once a week, an escape into an alternate reality, where I can appreciate human creativity and laugh at myself.
I feel so sad when I see this beautiful buck with awful growths hanging off of him. He’s been around the yarden along with the old doe; maybe he’s one of her youngsters from a few years ago, or maybe her baby-daddy. Today she had two spotted fawns running around outside the fence while she came inside to forage. When I took this shot of the buck north of the house, she was browsing on the peach tree to the east. I feel for the wild creatures, especially in this heat. I’m grateful I can provide them with some food, and a pond to drink from. And I’m grateful for the skill of equanimity so that my feelings for them can arise, exist for a time, and pass away; so that I can value their being without clinging to the outcome of their wild lives.
I’m grateful to see healthy tomatoes growing on some of the vines already, and eager for fruit; and I’m grateful for equanimity so that I’m not attached to the outcome of my harvest, knowing that the grasshopper infestation may demolish it all.
I’m grateful for the app Seek from iNaturalist which identified this native two-striped grasshopper for me, one of numerous species or varieties plaguing the yarden this summer. I guess grasshoppers are pretty interesting… apparently they are among “the most ancient living group of chewing herbivorous insects, dating back to the early Triassic around 250 million years ago,” according to Wikipedia. So it was wise of me to give up trying to get the best of them this intense year. They’ll get what they get of what I grow, and I’ll get the rest. Equanimity. Anything else I need, I’m grateful for local farmers’ markets.
And I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this lovely image in my archives as I was searching cloud photos for the newsletter. I took some time to enjoy memories of Hughlett Point in eastern Virginia, remembering my dear departed beloveds Auntie, Raven, and Stellar with a calm though aching heart.
Me, skydiving in Delta? Who’da thunkit?
Of course I didn’t go skydiving.
I like routine. I like every day being more or less the same in its outline, with only the specifics varying: which birds do I see and hear more in the morning, which in the evening? what novel am I reading? which plants in the garden are drooping and which are losing leaves to the multitude of marauding grasshopper species? who will call today to chat? which mindfulness meeting am I attending or which meditation am I leading? what work will I do today? I live a peaceful and content life. I prefer that it doesn’t get interrupted.
But it does, sometimes, and then I’m grateful for Equanimity: Equanimity doesn’t mean that we don’t have preferences. It means that “we recognize that all our experiences, whether painful or pleasurable, offer us opportunities to grow and learn and that all our experiences are equally valuable.” Sigh. Topaz had to go to the vet in Delta today, a 45-minute drive one way. Here the high temperature was 98℉; in Delta it was 103.
I learned that from the Native American End-Days Christian man in the car next to me where I parked in the shade at Confluence Park to eat my Sonic cheddar poppers and drink my limeade in peace, while Wren enjoyed her ice water. We were spending a couple of hours waiting for Topaz to get her abscess drained at the vet. Of all days. The hottest day so far this year. He checked his in-car thermometer. But I’m not complaining. At least we’re not in a humid clime, or in southern Arizona, for example. I’m grateful I can afford vet care for my pets, and have a car with working AC to ferry them when needed.
She’s fine. It took me awhile to figure out the likely origin of the abscess, but as we drove home I remembered the knock-down drag-out fight between Topaz and Wren that I ended with a gentle kick when Wren had Topaz by the throat cornered in the sunroom. That was probably the wound that got infected, not a bite by the giant vole she was devouring on Saturday. I noticed a small-marble sized knot in her cheek yesterday morning, and am grateful that the vet could see her this afternoon.
Ronnie was a friendly guy, who said he usually plays his guitar in the park but it was too hot today; he was just getting out of the house this afternoon, sitting in his black car in the shade slowly drinking a gallon of iced tea. “Do you have God in your life?” he asked out of the blue, sort of but not quite shouting across the space between our cars as I crunched a Sonic popper. I thought about it a second. “Yes,” I said, thinking of all that I mean by God.
“That’s great!” he said. We talked through six poppers, and I listened with caring attention to his witnessing the power of the Lord in his life. It was a moving story. But then I had enough, and it was really hot, so I wished him well, blew him a kiss, rolled up the windows, and cranked the AC. I still had a couple of hours before I could pick up Topaz.
I headed back to wait in the air-conditioned waiting room of the vet, armed with limeade and Kindle. But then I took a detour. Time to spend (not kill), and the sign to Devil’s Thumb Golf Course caught my eye. I’ve lived in this valley 31 years and never been there. My old adventuresome spirit kicked in. So we turned right at the light. Gas, AC, cold beverage, time, a usually reliable vehicle, and an unknown road. Wren and I were off on an adventure!
Some interesting houses along the lane through town, and then the road left civilization and wound through the dobes, nothing in sight. I followed the few signs but missed one, and ended up at the small Delta airport, where I fantasized for half a second about skydiving. Backtracked, and took the narrow but well-maintained road toward the golf course in the desert. As is usual with unknown roads, the drive out, through barren hills with uncertain destination, felt long–I actually felt my body tense up with anxiety: what if I got a flat? what if there was no cell coverage? how far was the golf course? how far could it be? It was funny: my brain knew I could handle anything that came up, and that it couldn’t be far, and that surely people drove this way regularly; but that sense of the unknown set my body on high alert, and tension in some way separated my awareness.
Then, in the distance, there was the golf course.
The drive back to town was uneventful, and I laughed at myself the whole way.
I had vowed on the drive to the vet to stop on the way back at the Fruit Stand. I’ve also never been there in all my years here; the cows have always enticed me. I wanted more cherries. They had a few bags but not what I was looking for. I cheerfully greeted the man who finally came into the cavernous warehouse, and then hit the road for home.
So no, I didn’t skydive, but I drove far enough out of my comfort zone to practice some equanimity, to stretch my complacency, to practice bravery, calm, and loving-kindness. It was a splendid adventure! These days, an emergency trip to a distant vet on the hottest day of the year so far, a new road, and an unknown establishment, are all the adventure I need.
It’s ironic that it wasn’t winter but summer that finally lit a fire under me to get back to the ‘warm windows’ drapery project. Twenty years ago when I conceived and began this creative endeavor, it was to cover the sunroom windows in winter to keep the house warm. Climate chaos has shifted my motivation to finish these insulated shades in order to keep the house cooler in summer.
The light was so blinding I had to wear sunglasses as I worked feverishly this morning to measure and cut the insulation for part of two panels, pin the fabric on, and tack them to the window frames. It’s been getting hot inside earlier every day this week, not surprisingly. By Monday we’ll experience highs around 100℉ (which is nearly 38℃ for my foreign friends). Without air conditioning, we rely on opening all the windows for a cool overnight breeze, then shutting up the house during the day to keep a comfortable indoor temperature.
I thought I had finished the appliqués on the Scarlet Macaw panel, until I hung it up. I realized it needs a few pops of warm color lower down, maybe some bright pink or yellow blossoms at the tips of the macaw’s vine, or a big frog in the lower leaves. Other than that, this one is ready for assembly. The heat relief was instantly palpable when it went up.
Next up was the Iguana panel, which needs a lot of decoration with leaves, insects, and flowers. The sunroom temperature dropped another couple of degrees as soon as I tacked this one up. But then it was time for lunch, and then class. So I didn’t get the fourth panel up until evening.
The eyelash viper, a small arboreal snake native to Central and South America, comes in several astounding colors, including vibrant yellow, orange, and green. Back in my wild days I had several friends who captive bred this beautiful species, so had to include it in my tropical project.
With one window fully insulated (the Toucan), and three mostly insulated, I think I’m in good shape for the peak of this heat wave. I can’t bring myself to cover the fifth window until I have at least one other shade functional so that I can let in light when I need it. Also, the fifth window shines onto my breakfast table where I have several bonsais living, and they need the light. I’m grateful to have these ‘warm windows’ cooled off, and also to have the panels hanging so I can stay inspired to continue piecing them and eventually wrap up this unexpectedly lengthy creative effort. There’s another quilted drape to be made for the landing window!