I’m as grateful for a sunny day as for a cloudy day. I’m grateful for any day I wake up alive, especially if I get to enjoy it without much pain, as I did today. I’m grateful for a zoom meeting with graduates of the Mindfulness Foundations Course I teach, where we meditated together and then talked about what challenges and successes we’ve had recently in our practice of living with more awareness, a more open heart, and a healthier perspective on our lives; in short, each of us expressing gratitude for how the practice of mindfulness has helped us experience less mental and emotional suffering, and even made physical pain more bearable. Next course starts January 5, enroll now or tell a friend!
I’m grateful as always for Zoom Cooking with Amy. Tonight we made an extremely simple onion tart she found on Instagram. Roll and cut the puff pastry into six rectangles poke it all over with a fork. Slice a red onion in quarter-inch slices, and place them on a parchment sprayed with cooking oil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with the docked puff pastry. Bake at 375℉ for 20 minutes.
When they’re golden, flip with a spatula onto a serving dish, add thinly sliced Cambozola (I used Gorgonzola because it’s what I had, Amy used Brie), and as it melts onto the hot tart, drizzle with hot honey. Hot both ways: microwave the honey for 15-20 seconds to loosen it, then add pepper. I made the recipe with a quarter cup honey and half a teaspoon of Aleppo pepper. Next time I’ll add more heat. I’m grateful for another day well lived.
I’m grateful for Indivisible: the national grassroots organization that arose from the righteous anger of former Congressional aides after the 2016 presidential election put our country in the hands of the least patriotic, most corrupt, cruelest, and stupidest person in 228 years of presidents. I’m grateful for grassroots activists across the country for crawling, scrambling, and bursting out of the woodwork since that cataclysmic election.
I’m grateful to Ellie for catalyzing our local Indivisible chapter in the valley in February of 2017, and for the years of sanity and community that it has provided for me and dozens of others; and for the loads of fun we’ve managed to share in parades, potlucks, and community festivals. I’m grateful for the ongoing monthly zoom gatherings with our die-hard defenders of liberty and democracy, and for each of their efforts to influence elections in the direction of human rights, dignity, basic freedoms, and compassion. I’m grateful to be welcomed back with open arms after taking a year’s sabbatical, and for the meaningful work of facilitating and recapping some of the meetings.
Because our mission and our message is so important, I’m taking this opportunity to share yesterday’s meeting recap with everyone who reads Morning Rounds. Everything below is relevant to every American. Please step up if you already haven’t, and get involved in whatever way you are able, to protect our “Freedom to vote, freedom to love who you want, freedom to start a family when or if you want, freedom to be safe from gun violence, freedom to read what you want…” (to quote R. Hubbell) “…these are things everyone understands, and no one wants to lose.”
AMPLIFY OUR IMPACT: This became the theme of the meeting. Our overall motivation was reiterated in various ways throughout the meeting: Prevent a second Trump term. If you’re not already, GET INVOLVED. The stakes are simply too high to leave it to chance, or leave it to other voters.
Some ways we can increase our influence among friends and family are suggesting links like those included here, sharing articles, books, and ways to donate or take direct action.
Jessica Craven’s daily newsletter provides easy, quick actions for every day, and a good news recap each weekend of things that are going right in the world legislatively, politically, and otherwise.
Robert Hubbell’s daily newsletter offers a sane and hopeful perspective on each day’s news, as well as shout outs to grassroots action groups and numerous opportunities for reader engagement.
How many of us used to rely on Dan Rather to be the voice of reason bringing us world events? I did. He has a weekly to occasional newsletter called Steady that can help inspire and ground us.
For ongoing inspiration and action opportunities, we can always turn to national and state Indivisible websites and email subscriptions. We at CAI don’t have time to reinvent the wheel. Here’s the national Indivisible link, and here is Colorado Indivisible.
Please check out these links, and consider subscribing to some of the newsletters, and sharing them widely.
Several articles were discussed that we invite everyone to read.
In The Atlantic, 24 journalists on what a second Trump term would actually look like, a series of articles some of which may be free if you start at this link.
In The Washington Post, a profile in courage of the rape victim behind the abortion ad that helped Gov. Andy Beshear win reelection in Kentucky this fall. A moving and important story about women and girls’ rights, and the power of one person’s voice to amplify the voices of thousands. This link is free to all, no paywall.
In The New York Times, an in-depth story about local Silverton, CO, a town bitterly divided by politics at the beginning of the pandemic, and now well on its way to healing the rift. How did they do it? Also free to all, no paywall.
Finally, we all remember (don’t we?) how media coverage of Trump’s circus in 2016 propelled him to victory. The same thing is in danger of happening again, if we don’t make our voices heard to the mainstream media. The narrative of the polls that “Biden is too old” and “Trump is pulling ahead” in a contest that is NOT your average horse race is destructive and directly threatens our freedoms. The press must be held accountable while they still have a chance. A second Trump term will attempt to strip first amendment rights from the very media who refuse to take the potential seriously.
Hubbell wrote yesterday that “If the media narrative shifts, we should amplify it in every way we can. We have suffered through a year of bad press and survived. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity—and urge media outlets to continue their narrative by praising articles that highlight the threat posed by Trump–without telling us that all is lost.”
Please watch the media and read articles that are starting to shed the ‘infotainment’ angle of presidential campaign coverage to tell it like it is. Then send letters to the source praising them for finally getting on the right track with their journalism after leading us so treacherously down a similar muddied path as that which led to the first Trumptastrophe. And spread the news!
GRATITUDE: Ana sends thanks to everyone who has contributed to the States Project giving circle. They’ve raised $1200 of the $4000 goal, mostly through donations from CAI individuals. We can amplify the impact of this giving circle by talking about it with friends who wish they could do something, and sharing it widely with friends and family through our emails and social media. Here’s the link:
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 was leaning on the raised bed, talking with John who leaned on another bed facing me, and I didn’t notice right away who had jumped up behind me and started rolling in the garlic bed. Heaven! For her.
I was grateful for a perfect day to spend outside with friends. After I spent the morning slaving over a hot oven, I was delighted to sit out on this utterly balmy fall day first serving Boyz Lunch, and then later with another friend for tea before she leaves the country for awhile. I baked perfect hamburger buns, recipe finally adjusted for altitude and salvaged from misreading the warm water amount, to serve mushroom-chickpea burgers with all the trimmings, and smashed roasted potatoes.
I knew I was going to need room in the freezer when I make another batch of dog food tomorrow, so I wanted to use up some peaches; and also, peach shortcakes sounded like the perfect dessert for today. I simply adapted the strawberry shortcakes recipe I had and substituted peaches as suggested. To thaw them just enough to peel and slice, I zapped a bowl of them in the microwave for just a minute, and the skins slipped right off as soon as I cut them in half. Then I tossed them with a little sugar and let them sit until it was time to assemble dessert.
Although the day was perfect, nothing about the food was. I forgot to put cheese on the burgers, the potatoes were undercooked, and somehow the whipped cream was just a little bitter. But the Boyz didn’t seem to notice or care, and the precious time together was perfect.
My dear departed friend Michael had a postcard on his refrigerator that I coveted. It became my secret motto, and it looked something like this:
It’s hardly an appropriate mantra for a mindfulness teacher, so as my practice has developed I’ve modified my interpretation. Whether it’s ear-splitting music shattering the peace of a secluded beach or earth-shattering climate chaos, it’s the ignorant choices of some other people that ruin things. It’s not the polar bears or the giant redwoods ruining their own habitats, it’s people. It’s not the natural desert sucking the Rio Grande dry, or grazing bison depleting the Ogallala Aquifer, it’s people. These are just the tip of the melting iceberg, of course: Everyone has their own examples, from wars to weeds.
But while it’s true that most of the horrible things I lament in the world are the result of other people, it’s also true that other people are responsible for almost every good thing in my life. They’re certainly responsible for my survival from birth, the education, employment, and other opportunities that shaped me and enabled me to settle here, and my ongoing thriving in this wonderful community. And just like me, most other people are doing the best they can with what they have to live their own little lives without causing intentional distress for anyone else.
Other people are responsible in some way for everything on this table, from the copper watering can and ceramic bonsai pots to the coffee, its mug, the ingredients for the cookie and its plate, and the table itself. Other people created from natural materials all the construction elements of the sunroom where the table sits, from the adobe bricks to the window frames and the glass windows. All the art in my home (including photographs I made) came in some way from other people. Even the tiny percentage of food that I grow in the garden (that other people helped me create) relies on the efforts of other people for the seeds, water delivery, soil amendments, and help maintaining. It’s an infinite pool of reliance: I’d be nothing without other people. So I’m profoundly grateful for other people.
I’m grateful today for all the support from friends and professionals as I had another basal cell carcinoma removed from my face by Mohs surgery. There were neighbors ready and willing to come check on Wren throughout what was a long day that might have been even longer. There was the friend who offered to chauffeur me and invited Wren to come along with us. There were messages of love and well wishes from friends throughout the day. There were people I could share photos of my Bride of Frankenstein forehead with, but I’ll spare the general public that image. There was Dr. Weber and his assistant Molly at Mountain West Dermatology, who do a superb job with this delicate and precise surgery; and there were the office staff who are always cheerful and friendly with a bonus today that many wore Halloween costumes. And there was my best little dog Wren, who was calm while she waited in the car with Auntie Rosie and excited when I reappeared, and who was up for anything including a stroll down Main Street.
I was so grateful today for Rosie’s cheerful, tender care of me and little Wren. After I was released from surgery, she drove us downtown so I could buy lunch. We were diverted off-course from our walk to the bagel place by this gleaming market-deli across the street, The Hog and The Hen, which predictably offered a lot of pork and chicken sandwich varieties, as well as possibly every kind of candy in the US. We ordered and ate outside in the sun. Grand Junction downtown celebrates sculpture in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere. All along Main Street are whimsical, dramatic, poignant, or beautiful sculptures, and the ambience has only improved since the last time I strolled it years ago. This adorable Pigano in front of the market tempted many passersby to plunk its functional keys. I’m grateful that what could have been a distressing day was as companionable, pleasant, easy, and fun as it could have been.
I probably eat too much of it. But I think I’d die without it. I’m grateful for another cheese sandwich today, using fromage fort, crunchy romaine, and Sandra’s tomato chutney on sourdough toast. So simple, so delicious! I’m grateful for so much today, including the chutney, the opportunity to help a dear teacher with a technical challenge, time to work on my own podcast, and a sense of security knowing I have a generous friend driving me to another Mohs surgery tomorrow and a community that steps up to support me. And I’m also grateful for cheese in all its many flavors and forms. There will be a Brie-and-Butter spread coming soon in my kitchen!
I was grateful to wake this morning to a few inches of snow, especially knowing it means a lot of snow in the mountain reservoir: an auspicious beginning to our essential snowpack. The deer were grateful for leaves lowered within browsing range by heavy snow. Morning coffee was naturally enjoyed indoors, with a little beggar hoping for a nut from my trail mix cookie. Even Topaz didn’t want to go outside.
I was grateful to see that the dough I let rise overnight formed into a perfect ball when I took it out of the bowl to proof it. I was even more grateful to see the perfect loaf that baked in the cast iron dutch oven. While the bread rose and baked, I was grateful for some loving connection with friends and family over phone and zoom, cozy in my warm home with the little animals and the fire in the woodstove, the scent of baking bread…
The zoom call with Catherine Ingram was especially comforting, finding commonality with others around the globe who are all heartsick over the conditions of power, war, violence, and cruelty rising like a brewing storm. Catherine quoted Kierkegaard in cautioning us to not be ‘tranquilized by the trivial,’ and advised that sometimes the most we can do is simply to “be a light in our own lives – and that starts with being a light in yourself.” There was so much more, and I’ll share the link to the podcast when the conversation is edited and published.
This might be the most beautiful loaf ever! And certainly it was delicious. Naturally I had bread for lunch: the warm heel with butter and some fromage fort that I whipped up with the last bits of some cheddar, havarti, smoked gouda, and mozzarella. So simple, so delicious! For dessert, not surprisingly, I enjoyed a piece of toast with apricot jam. So decadent!
Much of the snow melted during the afternoon, and evening brought a partial clearing of the skies. Then in the span of half an hour the view of Needle Rock went from this…
to this, as setting sun cast its apricot glow on another shower:
I’m grateful for noticing the slight shift in light this morning, just as I rose to come inside after a coffee break on the patio. It’s starting! I realized, and then I played with the ‘croissant eclipse’ we got to enjoy on the Western Slope just a bit east of the annular eclipse path across the western US. I first photographed the sunflowers and aspen I had shot earlier in the morning, noticing the orange cast to the pink gravel, and the general burnished feel to the atmosphere.
Then I dashed inside to get a couple of eclipse watching tools, either not having proper eyewear or not remembering where they might be. I poked a hole in the center of a clean cardboard pizza plate, and grabbed my favorite perforated kitchen tool.
As the eclipse diminished, it was time to head inside for a Mindful Conversation Zoom, where we talked about the importance of and means to cultivating the skills of resilience, courage, and calm, so that we can act beneficially in this increasingly distressing world.
Then it was back outside for lunch, making the most of these precious fall days of waning warmth. I took a bowl of leftover broccoli Alfredo down to the pond and was happy to see a couple of leopard frogs also enjoying the sunshine. Wren rolled in the warm rushes, and Topaz jumped up on the table to keep us company. Soon it was time to go inside for another meeting, and then more time outside, in and out until dark.
After dark I baked the bread that had been proofing all day, even as I watched the Bread episode of the new Great British Baking Show. I gave myself Star Baker for this loaf, finally achieving the rise I’ve been after for the last several months of sad, flat loaves.
I’ve been pondering how to enjoy a BLT without the bacon, and am grateful that it finally occurred to me to order some vegetarian bacon bits and see if that could work. And more grateful that it did! Nothing equals bacon. But I haven’t been able to eat it for the past year; I simply lost my taste for eating pig. I’ve only eaten meat a couple of times this year, though I will continue to slowly cook up the few pieces that remain in my freezer, or eat meat if it’s served to me. It’s hard even to serve it to my cat and dog, though I will because I believe it’s the best option for them.
Meanwhile, I’ll explore substitutes like soy-based bacon bits and other options, as well as eat more legumes and pulses, and all the other vegetarian proteins available. I’m grateful I got some bacon bits in time to make some semi-BLTs with the last few garden tomatoes.
I’m grateful for mindfulness practice, and for the Mindful Life Program where I trained to be a mindfulness teacher. Their latest yearlong cohort graduates tomorrow, and I’ve participated in some sessions of their final online retreat this weekend. One of the sessions for teachers involved some outdoor mindfulness exercises, including a ‘mindful photography’ piece option: to take pictures representing the Four Keys of Living Mindfully. These are Attention, Values, Wisdom, and an Open Heart. For attention, I captured this lovely moth on a Maximilian sunflower, representing attention to detail, or to nature, or to beauty, your choice.
For Values, I shot my clothesline, representing my value of living lightly on the planet: off the grid, entirely solar powered, my home doesn’t have a dryer. I’ve been enjoying drying clothes on this Irish-made Breezecatcher clothesline for many years. Clothes, and in this case, kitchen linens, the dish towels I use in abundance to reduce paper towel use, and the dish cloths I knitted for several years until arthritis stilled my knitting needles for awhile. I hope to get back to knitting more this winter. What a relief to knit long-lasting cotton wash-squares that clean as well as any disposable sponge and last for years with frequent hot water washes.
The last two keys, Wisdom and an Open Heart, are represented in the Contemplation Tree in the yarden, where skulls, antlers, horns and various other found artifacts of wild life surrender slowly to Impermanence. The tree itself, a skeleton of an old juniper, honors Impermanence. As I may have mentioned once or twice before, comprehending the truth of Impermanence is fundamental to Wisdom. The barbed wire heart, which has been hanging there for nearly thirty years, was something I hadn’t noticed in a long time and a perfect surprise representation of Open Heart.