Real Food

Blessed rain came after midnight, dressing the high country in snow. It’s rained down here off and on all day, deepening snow cover in the mountains all the while.

I indulged in a decaf vanilla latté with French toast made from the heel of the last sourdough loaf, topped with yogurt, apricot jam, and pure maple syrup. I’m grateful for real food, even if some of it is sugar. But that’s not foaming milk above, that’s how I clean the milk frother after frothing milk: a small squirt of dish soap and warm water and press go. Then just shake and rinse, air dry, and it’s ready for the next time.

The maple syrup jug slipped a little as I poured it on…

I’ve waited awhile for this syrup. I usually buy a gallon at a time and it lasts me around a year, I think, though I haven’t really kept track. Neighbor Mary turned me onto this wonderful Vermont company and I’ve been buying maple syrup from them for years now. I like to wait til it’s on sale, but this summer I’d run out and they offered a ‘Generosity Bottle‘ to benefit people who suffered losses during torrential floods in the state last July. One hundred percent of profits from these bottles go to flood relief. I hope it’s enough to tide me over until their winter sale. Today was my first taste in months.

I did some work after breakfast and before I knew it it was time for lunch. I mixed the glaze from last night with a little mayo and dolloped it onto the remaining six salmon cupcakes. What a delicious, nutritious, and filling lunch!

After lunch it hailed outside briefly, before going back to rain. I worked some more, read a little, built a small fire in the woodstove, mixed some Trail Mix cookies, and started a new loaf of bread. I’m grateful to have enjoyed a cold, rainy Saturday. Next thing I knew it was time for dinner. I tossed a healthy salad and garnished it with my share of the cauliflower harvest.

When I posted the other day about the dangers of highly processed food-not-food to individual, societal, and planetary health, the irony wasn’t lost on me that my plate contained processed cheese puffs and a commercially baked bun, as well as numerous dyes on the M&Ms. It got me thinking about cleaning up my own eating habits, which are already better than many, living in this valley of abundant organic fresh produce and ethically raised animals for meat, supplemented by my own garden. I’m grateful for Real Food, which is a value I’m going to pay more attention to going forward.

Above the Ground

Wren enjoys the cauliflower harvest… one for her, and one for me! (double click the image to start video)
…as though I’m about to steal it from her!

In a meditation group yesterday, the introductory inquiry was to share one thing about our bodies that we appreciate or are grateful for (this inquiry was followed by an ‘affectionate body scan’ meditation). Responses included among others the ability to see, hear, move around; to taste, breathe, stretch, and heal. I’m grateful for all those aspects of this living, breathing, largely functional body that I both am and inhabit: In short, I’m grateful my body is above the ground.

We all know there are infinite and unfathomable threats to the health and well-being of our precious physical bodies out there in the world, and also hiding quietly within our very selves. I am frequently astonished to learn of a new way some unanticipated internal event can potentially kill me. I remember to this day the first time I heard of an aneurysm when I was an early teen. I heard of a new way our bodies can betray us just the other day, but fortunately cannot remember what it was. So I’ve been thinking about health the past couple of days more than usual, and want to share two links that came to my inbox that made an impression.

I wanted to capture the last of the flowers and fruits before the deep freeze expected this weekend… Note the last of the prolific yellow pear tomatoes on the vine.

The first is an interview by Eric Topol, cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine, speaking with Chris Van Tulleken, an infectious disease physician-scientist in the UK’s National Health Service, about his staggering research into ultra-processed food (that isn’t food), its global health ramifications, and the political machinations that keep increasing its pernicious influence. It’s well worth the 47 minute listen.

Note the absence of yellow pear tomatoes after I gathered them all, pitching a few for Wren in the process.

The second is an article reporting compelling research that having Covid-19 increases CV risk, which is the risk of having heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease. The virus “directly infects atherosclerotic plaques in the coronary arteries, producing a persistent inflammatory response.” This is big news, and another excellent reason to take this virus seriously and make a concerted effort to not get it.

Speaking of heart attacks, I really should take a break from the cheese sandwiches. Today I had to make an emergency veggie Philly cheesesteak. It’s my first ever and I didn’t have time to do it right, so I melted the cheese on the bottom half of the bun while I finished up sautéing onion, pepper, and mushrooms, and slathered the top bun with ranch dressing. It was delicious!

And we were blessed with another mild day and just enough sunshine to eat another lunch outside. I’m taking advantage of every opportunity. The sun shone on us as clouds rolled in to the south and darkened to the north. While I mourn the loss of lives in all the tragedies large and small across the globe today, I remain grateful for the thoughts, feelings, and sensations of another day above the ground for this body.


Wren and I went to town today for PT. I’m grateful to be learning about the nervous system, and how to help heal a long-ago yoga injury in my low back from the bottom up with some nerve ‘flossing’ exercises, and from the top down with some neck exercises. While we were in town, we stopped to bring a little love to a friend who gets out even less than I do. She hadn’t met Wren before, but I was not surprised at how quickly they took to one another. We sat together outside, and between Wren cuddles, I read her poetry to her from the four wonderful chapbooks we made over the years, years ago. I was moved all over again by the beauty of her words, which I hadn’t read or heard for a long time; and I was moved by her vivid response as she completed lines with me, laughed in recollection, and appreciated our connection. I’m grateful for this time with her, and the perspective it gave to both of our lives.

A Morning Stroll

I’m grateful to be getting back into a good habit after too long away from it: a morning stroll in the woods. Today I strolled with my two little companions, aimless on various trails. We took a couple of breaks to sit on some logs, and I got reacquainted with some tree friends. It’s so different without big dogs, but I’m getting used to it.

Wren watches Topaz watching something.

Losing Growths

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!

Wren’s Fun Day

Miss Mary takes the early shift. I left Wren under the covers before sunrise, and Mary stopped by to let her out not long after it came up… [all photos by babysitters]

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.

Honey Badger takes second shift…

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.

…and even though he can’t persuade Wren to get in his lap, Fred manages the near impossible: to pick up Topaz!

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.


I’m grateful for a no-wasp-bite-or-sting day, though one continuously hovered around during Boyz Lunch outside. I’m grateful I had the enchiladas already made and only had to defrost and reheat them, and that I had saved some of the apricot gelato that Honey Badger made with apricots from my tree, and that I found a simple, delicious recipe for peach pound cake. And I’m grateful that I am finally learning all the adaptations necessary for high altitude baking, including the surprising fact that at this altitude of 6800′ above sea level, when a recipe calls for a teaspoon of baking powder, I need only use a quarter teaspoon.

I’m grateful for friends who picked up more wasp spray and fresh Benadryl on their ways to my house, and that even though my hand has been intermittently on fire all day, the Benadryl and creams and ice have given me long spells of relief. And I’m grateful that little Wren is totally back to normal and was snapping at wasps all through lunch, and that after dark I emptied half the new can of wasp spray into four more nests. As I pondered the wasp problem this morning, reluctant to kill more of them, I also considered the Mohs surgeries I’ll be undergoing over the next seven weeks to remove potentially dangerous cancerous spots on my face. It occurred to me that the wasp nests are like tumors in the body of my home, and all I’m doing when I spray them is excising potential (and actual) dangers from the matrix of my life.

A Productive Morning

I’m grateful I had a productive morning, because I lost the afternoon to the aftermath of a wasp attack. It was a grilled cheese kind of a day: chilly and grey outside, and cold in the house. Smoked gouda with avocado and garden tomato, yum! It kept getting cooler, so I decided to build a little fire in the freshly-cleaned woodstove. There was no kindling split yet for the season, so we stepped outside to crack a few sticks from a well-dried aspen log set on top of the two stumps I’ve been using as a kindling-cracking pedestal for many years.

Crack! one stick. Crack! two sticks, and a wasp on my wrist cuff, and then another, latched onto the fabric, and suddenly I realized I’d disturbed a nest in one of the stumps and they were streaming out angry and determined. I also noticed poor little Wren running around snapping at her tail end, so I hurried to the other side of the house calling her after me. One stung my right index finger and I pulled out the pumping stinger. I swept my arms gently, not frantically, to keep them away, and they kept following. So we kept hurrying away. By the time I got to the back gate there were only a few left but they were persistent. We went out the gate and I pulled off my sweatshirt and swung it slowly in a circle above my head to keep them at bay, but one had gotten up my loose shirt and bit my belly. I dropped the sweatshirt and we kept hurrying away, Wren spinning to bite her back end and me sweeping my limbs to clear the air.

We walked the whole Breakfast Loop and came around to the front gate, grabbing the can of wasp spray from the back of the Mothership where I’d set it after spraying a nest in the side door the other week. I don’t like to kill them. By and large I let them live as they like, and just avoid areas where they nest, but as I was working on the Mothership and needed access, I had to kill that nest. I didn’t mind that one wasp snuck up my sweater sleeve last week and got my thumb pad when it felt trapped, even though it itched and hurt for days afterward. But I felt inclined toward vengeance after this all-out attack, especially since they hurt Wren.

But first things first. She was still hurting when we got inside, and so was I, so I poured some liquid baby Benadryl into her bowl which she lapped up, and I took the Therapik to my injuries to laser the venom enzymes. Maybe it helped, maybe not. By then my finger had swollen stiff and gone numb, and my whole had was turning red, so I popped a couple Benadryl tablets and squeezed on some cortisone cream. Then I looked out the window and watched where they were entering the stump. I waited until near dark so they’d all return to their nest before spraying the crack. The can quickly emptied, but there seemed enough to do the job, as no wasps flew out.

I’m grateful for Cousin Nurse who suggested a topical anesthetic, which reminded me I have Aspercreme with Lidocaine, so I’ve been slathering that on liberally. Wren calmed down and we both went to sleep for the afternoon. She seems now to have recovered completely, though I have not. I popped another couple Benadryls just now and am trying to type with an ice-pack on my hand which isn’t very effective–kind of like the Benadryl tablets, which are pretty old. Time for lights out, grateful for surviving another day in Paradise.

No Pain

Where’s Wren? In the windowsill watching an early afternoon rain in the mountains…

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 the Mindfulness Foundations Course, we include an Evening Review in the daily practice. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a Constant Review, looking at how I’ve behaved, choices I’ve made, habits and patterns that keep repeating despite my best intentions. I’m grateful for Introspection, even when it’s painful. I’m grateful for complex relationships, even when they’re uncomfortable: we can learn from every person, every situation, every relationship and every moment in our days. It can be exhausting. But the we take a break, take a walk, watch a Drag Race, curl up in a little ball, eat a heel of bread with cream cheese and jam, whatever self-soothing works in the moment. And then we return with resilience, and take on the next moment, the next day, the next challenging interaction or condition. I’m grateful for grace, forgiveness, and love from others when I find myself struggling in a mental morass of my own making.

I’m grateful for stretching beyond habits. Today I baked a different kind of sourdough. While it didn’t rise as well as I’d hoped, it still sliced well and tasted delicious. I used a locally milled ‘Rouge de Bordeaux’ flour that I’m grateful was given to me to try, mixed 50/50 with King Arthur organic all-purpose flour. I think the dough was too dry, and maybe I over proofed it. It seemed to collapse in on itself in the first half of baking when it should have steamed and risen. It made a tasty toast. Don’t know yet how it will hold a cheese sandwich, but my intention for tomorrow is to find out! I’m grateful in the midst of mental suffering for the simple sensory pleasures that make our larger failures bearable.