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:

pastedGraphic.pngA Matter of States | The States Project Learn more about A Matter of States such as its mission, community impact, and how you can join or make a one-time online donation.

Thank you. Wishing you all peace and contentment in this holiday season. May you remember to notice and celebrate joy and ease in your own life wherever and whenever you find it.

The photos don’t really require captions at this point, they’re largely here to break up the text. However, I am grateful for the delicious eggnog made special for the Bibliofillies with Bob’s Secret Recipe, and delivered cheerfully around the neighborhood today so we could all enjoy our covid-safe holiday book club zoom with our pre-pandemic traditions of eggnog and a book exchange. I’m grateful for how the fillies enlarge and enrich my world.

Tuna Fish

Living inside the kaleidoscope: days after snow it lingers down below and covers the mountains.

I’m grateful for the simple comfort food of tuna fish. I don’t eat it often, but it was a lunch staple when I grew up. As with most purchased fish, it’s complicated to balance the nutritional value with ecological costs. After enjoying it for lunch on a salad, and then for dinner in a tuna melt sandwich, I chanced to read an article about the ‘desperate search for cod babies’ in the North Atlantic. Even the once-most bountiful fishes in the sea are in decline, another symptom of the systemic collapse of life on earth due to human pressures.

Enjoying the tuna, pondering the cod shortage, and contemplating adding more fish to my diet all converged today to make me look up how-to-fish videos on YouTube. I spent a little while imagining myself with a couple of poles, bait, and spinners fishing along the shore of the Crawford reservoir next summer, or some of the mountain lakes, stocking up the freezer for the year. Wren would be splashing along in the shallows or darting about on the beach. Then the kid on the video put a hook through a minnow’s nostril, and I started to doubt my capacity to handle live bait. For now, I think I’ll just stick to enjoying tuna fish. But who knows what summer will bring?

Last night’s full moon rising over the West Elk Wilderness, through the living room window.

Clean Air

I was ok without bread for a cheese sandwich yesterday, because I had leftover comfort food in the fridge. I had cooked a batch of grits and a creamy mushroom sauce the night before. Grits was just for breakfast when I was growing up, but I’ve learned recently that I like it more than rice or pasta as a base for many delicious sauces or toppings. Tonight I enjoyed more leftover grits topped with leftover mustard-parmesan cauliflower that I roasted last night, with grated cheddar and a splash of salsa: just a mashup of delicious. But I was grateful to have a fresh, perfect loaf of sourdough out of the oven this morning in time for lunch, another cheese sandwich: cheddar and a slice of roasted cauliflower. Mayo, of course. So simple, so delicious.

I’m grateful for another beautiful day as this mild autumn lingers despite the forecast for snow. Outside there’s the occasional waft of woodsmoke from someone’s fireplace or stove in the morning or evening, but even throughout winter with lots of people burning wood and some still using coal to heat their homes, the air at this altitude is generally clear and crisp. I read yesterday and then saw video on the news last night about the air quality crisis in Delhi, India. Air quality rating here tonight is 29. Last weekend, air quality in Delhi was rated around 218: 0-50 is considered good. After Diwali festival fireworks, Delhi’s AQI measured 850. ERs were crowded with children unable to breathe. I’m grateful for the miracle of clean air on this little mesa in a world where willful ignorance continues to foul the air that billions of human and other beings rely on.

Old Friends and Existential Threats

I’m grateful for Old Friends and Existential Threats. They both give me a healthy perspective on this fragile human life. And when the two come together it doesn’t get any better. A dear couple of friends from out of town visited yesterday morning, to enjoy a short visit, coffee, and cinnamon rolls. They are Dog People, and quickly made friends with Wren, who was delighted with their calm and soothing attention.

We were discussing Biko, who is now 23, and he asked about the tortoise’s life expectancy. “80,” I said, “ish.” We laughed as he said “You’ve gotta find someone young, then.” Then she asked, “Not to be gauche, but what are you gonna do with this place?” I laughed. “It’s only gauche to ask if you think I might be leaving it to you,” I said. I shared my thoughts on the matter, and they understood without further explanation. They are also Climate Realists. Then they left, and I came inside and opened the virtual newspapers, and read about this Supervocano in Italy. I’ve been well aware of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, but I had not realized there are more scattered around the world.

“Supervolcano is ‘a made-up word,’ said volcanologist Michael Poland, scientist in charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. ‘I think it’s misleading. I think it’s misapplied. I can’t stand that term…”  Of course it’s a made-up word. All our words in any language are made-up words.

Supervocano refers to only about 20 of the 1000+ known volcanos on earth, one that has already erupted with astonishing force, ejecting “a volume of around 1,000-cubic kilometers or more — about a thousand times bigger than Mount St. Helens.” Supposedly, just because one erupted thirty thousand or a couple of million years ago doesn’t mean it will erupt again. But it might! And while it might not result in human extinction, if one does erupt in our time it would create massive destruction and havoc across the globe. So the mere idea of an Existential Threat reminds me of the fragility of all life on earth, and of course my own; while a visit from Old Friends recalls the stability of enduring connection among our fragile human selves.

And speaking of perspective, we were all three grateful to hear the primeval call of migrating sandhill cranes, a bird that’s been around at least two million years, and then we felt doubly blessed when this beautiful V flew right overhead. Bearing witness to this antediluvian species puts our own into a healthy perspective that adds even more gratitude to my little life.

Last night I was grateful to prepare another delicious recipe I’ve been wanting to make for awhile, and finally had all the ingredients: Chickpea-Mushroom veggie burger. You’re supposed to freeze the patties for at least two hours but by the time I finished mixing everything I was too hungry to wait, so I fried one right away. It was really delicious! And I still had eight to freeze for later meals.

Today I was grateful for a lot of other things, including a good vacuum cleaner, Method cleaning products, a warmish sunny day, and a visit from a newer friend, mentor and teacher. She also, it turns out, is a Dog Person, and Wren recognized that right away. That, or Wren is just starting to realize that most people are dog people at heart, and no one is out to hurt her while she lives with me.

Other People

Obligatory Wren portrait, the little lady among her rumpled bedclothes, suggesting “Do we really have to get up already?”

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.

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.

Finding Balance

Even right in front of this sign in the vet’s exam room, I failed to pause. When Wren went all Cujo on the tech I was handing her to, I lost equanimity for a moment and yelled NO! and pulled her away. It all happened so fast… I heard the tech say calmly, “Don’t bite your mommy.” I don’t remember if she tried to bite me, I just reacted to a writhing biting dog in my hands and yelled and dropped her to the bench. The two techs said “We’ll be right back,” and hustled from the room, leaving us in stunned silence.

Wren was there for a routine checkup and nail trimming. When she saw the greased thermometer she tried to hide behind me. She was traumatized at a different vet last year, but she’s seen this vet several times since then and been fine. I don’t know what got into her. I did not find it humorous. Though I did appreciate this other little sign on the wall next to us.

They came back in awhile with a cute little fabric muzzle which I slipped over her tiny, ferocious mouth and buckled behind her head. We were able to get her tummy spots examined (the conclusion was freckles) and one nail clipped before she became unmanageable. I encouraged them to carry her off to their procedure room to finish her nails and the exam. She was returned to me calmer and seemingly chastened, and I removed the muzzle.

We stopped at Sonic on the way home. It was lunchtime, and I hankered for a fried fish sandwich. Turns out both Sonic and Wendy’s only serve fish sandwiches “in season,” which I learned from calling Wendy’s (before caving to a chicken sandwich at the Sonic where I was parked and hungry), is during Lent! I rarely eat fast food, and probably won’t be stopping at Sonic again. The chocolate shake was delicious, of course, but the fried chicken sandwich wasn’t worth the ethical violation, and the fries weren’t great either. The fry sauce was too thin and tasteless. I’m grateful for the reminder of my gustatory and ethicarian standards. Though I’m still craving a fried fish sandwich. Guess I’ll have to make it myself.

I think by her third french fry Wren had gotten over her veterinary trauma, but it took me awhile longer. I got home with my ears ringing. I put off my afternoon exercise and work plans and we strolled down to the canyon. The beauty soothed me, and the relative silence of the forest began to still the noise in my head. I barely noticed the occasional jets or construction sounds from afar.

I lay down on the ledge and let my body first and then my mind settle into the warm rock below. Sun beamed down on my face and I covered my eyes and cheeks with the hood of my jacket. I was grateful to know that Wren would stay by my side. She’s so good. Most of the time. I meditated there like that for almost an hour, finding balance, basking in peace and gratitude.

How I wish this were possible for everyone, for all humans and all non-human beings. Even in these moments of giving my unrest to the rocks there is a heartsick undercurrent coursing between us, me and the planet, that all is not right with the world; in fact, that so much is so wrong, and I fear the next global twist set in motion last weekend with the escalating atrocity of the new war…. Sometimes awareness that our next breath could be our last is more immediate than other times. For me the work is to let my heart open even more, breathing my way out of the frozen stasis it’s felt as protection for so long.

And in more cast iron news, I cooked this semi-Alfredo broccoli and chickpea dish tonight in my trusty iron skillet, and it was so simple, so delicious. Several readers shared their cast iron skillet interests in yesterday’s comments, including Tara who suggests flax oil for seasoning, and wrote, “I spread a very thin coat on the cast iron only when my skillet gets its seasoning burned off and especially if hints of rust. It fires hard and be sure to wipe off any excess. For daily seasoning I have a handy, oily cloth imbued with a bit of oil of whatever I’ve been cooking with, probably ghee and coconut and olive. Contrary to common advice, I wash my cast iron with dish soap if necessary. The flax seasoning can withstand that treatment.”

Amy sent some pictures of “the world’s largest cast iron skillet from the Lodge cast iron museum…. Because when you have the opportunity to see the world’s largest anything, I’m pretty sure it’s a life requirement to do so!” That’s my Amy! I’m grateful for her, and for everyone I know who loves life as much as she does.

Tiny, Fortunate Life

I haven’t been able to master the ‘smashed potato’ until possibly the other night. And I also haven’t been thrilled with most of the Instagram recipes I’ve tried, but this one that Amy shared a week ago actually turned out splendidly. I quartered large Yukon gold potatoes and boiled them til just fork tender, then rolled them in olive oil in a roasting pan, and smashed them with the bottom of a heavy glass. Previously I’d boiled them too long and they just mashed. I got the timing right on these so that they flattened without mushing. I roasted them for awhile til they were brown on the bottom and starting to crisp, and while they were in the oven, I (over) caramelized half a small onion I had open. Then I flipped the potatoes, layered some with the onions and sliced Havarti, and when I ran out of onions I left the remainder bare. They were delicious!

I accidentally ate all the onioned potatoes that night, but saved the rest, and reheated some of those the next night with grated parmesan and ‘bacon’ bits, and turned the rest into hash browns with a fried egg for tonight’s supper. I’m grateful to have potatoes, a kitchen to cook them in, and a small plot of peace in a crazy world.

Topaz purring on the bed last night…

It feels so dissonant to enjoy these small and gracious pleasures, the seemingly steady security of my little neighborhood, while people elsewhere are reeling from the tragedy of yet another war. How do we hold both the trauma of human aggression and the beauty of nature and life at the same time? This requires a longer, deeper practice of equanimity than I have mastered, and some profound wisdom I have only occasionally glimpsed. Suffice to say that though I cannot leave the topic of Israel’s 9.11 unmentioned, I also remain speechless.

My heart breaks for the innocent lives ended and upended in both Israel and Gaza, and for the terrified hostages; as well as for the non-human animals who are always ‘collateral damage’ in the explosive devastation of wars. My heart breaks for the planet as a whole as even more finite resources are wasted in another flagrant power struggle among humans who have more in common than different, while our species as a whole plunges willfully toward its own demise. As my heart breaks I hold even more dearly, with an almost desperate gratitude, the daily treasures of my own tiny, fortunate life.

A spider orchid blooming in morning sun in its new location…
A tiny dingo unperturbed by my yoga mat…
My friend’s gorgeous courtyard as we shared jasmine tea, beauty, and heartbreak this afternoon…
And the unexpected pleasure of picking a few apples off her trees to bring home…

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

Breakfast: the best way I know to eat strawberries. I’m only even eating breakfast so I can take some ibuprofen in the morning for the heel pain, going on three months now. I toughed it out for two months but was barely able to function. With winter coming, I need to be able to be on my feet more than off them and so, I’m grateful for making the best of a bad situation.

I’m grateful for wasp spray and diatomaceous earth, which also helped me make the best of a bad situation. Today we flipped over the kindling-cracking stump when I was pretty sure the wasps were all dead. No wonder it took so many attacks to end their assaults: The nest was massive. I stood by with spray ready as my garden helper turned the log over; even after all that I’d done, I saw one moving inside so sprayed it before he rolled it off the patio. Next time he’s here I’ll ask him to split up the rotten log, and then I’ll burn it outside. I’m so curious to see how the nest filled the cavity, and if it conformed inside the log as it did flat at the bottom.

Above, the carnage left below when he rolled the stump away. Lots of rotten wood, and a horrifying number of dead wasps. I feel so bad about causing so much death — and yet I could not live with them. The pill bugs are alive and well and scavenging, I suppose. I hope the diatomaceous earth doesn’t hurt them–and if it does, I guess that’s what you call collateral damage…. That was definitely a bad situation, and I will be more proactive next spring to keep the yellowjacket nests away from the house or anything else I need to go near; and this winter I’ll knock down all the old ones under the eaves.

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.