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.

A Mug Shot

I’m grateful for a cool, cloudy, drizzly day; grateful for a mug shot finally though I can’t bear to look at it again; grateful for a wonderful class this afternoon; and grateful for another great cheese sandwich today! I spent some intervals outside basking in humidity with a curly mop of hair to show for it when I came in to teach Session #7, Mindfulness in Relationships and Cultivating an Open Heart. Focusing on the Four Immeasurable Attitudes of Equanimity, Loving-Kindness, Compassion, and Empathetic Joy helped me forget, for awhile, the distressing yet somehow gratifying image in the headlines this morning. Turning my attention to what is deeply good in me and in most of humanity helps me withstand the sensory and emotional assault of the coming election year.

As Robert Hubbell says, “You can affect the outcome of the election but can’t affect the outcome of the trials. By letting go of worry over external events you cannot control, you will be more effective (and calmer) in helping Democrats win in 2024.” He also references the mug shot in Today’s Edition: “Against the deeply unsettling MAGA mugshot, Democrats will feature the kindly face of Joe Biden as he reaches to pet a rescue dog or hug a survivor of the Hawaii wildfires. Joe Biden may be older than some would like, but his face exhibits kindness and wisdom. We should not underestimate visceral reactions to human decency—or lack thereof—in our leaders.”

Yup, I put cheese and tomato on the broccoli-cheese-olive bread, and it was gourmet delicious.
I’ve stayed away from the pond for awhile because it’s the one part of the yarden that still reminds me how much there is undone that I need to do… I’m exhausted just looking at it: It’s so overgrown with the cute curly rush that I planted in a few pots around the edge years ago that there’s almost no room for the lilies. But I was grateful to see one blooming, despite the invasive rushes and the mint, and Wren was intrigued with some bubbles from underneath.


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.

Coming home we spied a sleeping sunflower bee, genus Svastra, waiting to warm up before flying.

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!

Meanwhile, Wren and Biko ate a little more healthy fare with some chopped romaine.
Wren enjoyed cocktails at the rim of the Black Canyon with the rest of us, and wore just the right coat to match her new best friend Tatiana.

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.

After the drama and adventure of the evening, I was grateful to drive home in my energy-efficient little old car, through pastoral landscape, with a glimpse of sunset in the rearview mirror. I contend daily with the conundrum of how to live lightly on this fragile planet while also relying on the very source of its greatest threat.

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 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.


I’m grateful I got to spend a lot of time outside today, sitting quietly in the yarden, mowing grass and weeds, reading, watering, attending to the little vegetables, walking the little animals through the woods and admiring the little wildflowers. As I was pondering what specific gratitude to express about today, though, I took a long drink of cold tap water.

Everybody chokes on their own saliva once in a while, or has a sip of something go down the wrong pipe, but I’ve been aspirating a lot lately, as often as once a day sometimes, and that’s got me a little concerned. As I poured the water into my mouth tonight and swallowed gulp after gulp, I thought about my mother, and other people with multi-system atrophy diseases, and how one of the systems that goes is swallowing. They have to drink thickened liquids after awhile which is pretty awful–I tried my mother’s thickened water once. And so as that clear thin water went down my throat cleanly I felt keenly aware of my gratitude for swallowing a glassful effortlessly.

A delight to see snow still on the mountains this late in May


Recovery means different things to different people in various contexts. Today, I’m grateful for recovery in the context of after-effects from the second shingles vaccine. It was important to get it. I’ve known too many people who have suffered horribly from shingles, a viral infection that causes an excruciating rash, potential blisters and long-lasting pain even after the virus has cleared. I’ve known people to have it on their back, side, even in their eye. If you’ve had chickenpox, that same virus lingers in your nervous system for life, and can manifest in later years as shingles. Ack. So at the gentle insistence of some people who love me, I finally gave in and got the first shot in December, and the second on Tuesday.

Wednesday I stayed in bed all day except for a short lunch break, and a short evening zoom break for a couple of meetings, where I attended in silence and with my camera off. It was, as my friend Chuck used to say, a very heavy gravity day. I could barely move, ate almost nothing, and choked down just a few glasses of water. I’m grateful that I felt much better when I woke alive this morning, and grateful for renewed motivation to catch up on a lot of work I missed during the first half of the week.

While I enjoyed a small helping of eggplant parmesan from the freezer for lunch, I’m grateful I felt energetic and creative enough this evening to prepare fish cheesos with a small tilapia filet I thawed in the afternoon. I made the shells by melting quarter-cup piles of grated cheddar at 400℉ for about eight minutes and draped them over wooden spoons to cool; then filled them with shredded romaine, sliced avocado, diced red onion, and fish drenched in lime juice then dredged in flour and fried. Topped with an avocado-spicy-mayo and squeeze of fresh lime, they were finger-lickin delicious. I’m grateful for eating and drinking today, including lots of cool, clean tap water.


I’m thankful today that maybe the first domino has fallen… I’m thankful for Crawford Area Indivisible, the community that bolstered my spirits and energy in the darkest time, and continues to give me hope today. And I’m thankful for all the activists in all the communities in all the states who have risen to the occasion and worked to bolster the democracy that five generations of true patriots in my family fought at home and abroad to protect.

Another Day

I’m grateful for the little dog, who is grateful for gifts from her cousin Yaz, and grateful for Yaz’s girl my cousin Amanda.

Just another day. Another day like no day before, and no day after it. I’m grateful for another day of curiosity, compassion, contentment. I’m grateful that almost three days after the earthquake across the world survivors are still being rescued. I’m grateful for a solid home and water, more food than I need, and space.

I’m grateful I have all that an animal needs, food, water, shelter, space, and that I’m able to provide the same to a small wild community. I’m grateful to witness another sunrise and another sunset on another day.


Pet Peeve of the day. I asked my Personal Shopper for candy canes last week, and he dutifully brought them. It took me until today, when I contemplated starting the peppermint chocolate bark project, to notice that they are CHERRY flavored candy canes. Have you ever heard of such an abomination?

Wren has made her rug choice. After two days of pondering and observing the swatches in various lights and various positions on the floor, I have to concur. I wasn’t planning on a wool rug, I really thought I’d choose cotton. But I’m grateful that I opened my mind beyond my preconceptions and tried a couple of wool swatches. I ruled out some based on their uniform lightness–in this house, a bright light rug will only show dirt and stains more readily. I keep a reasonably clean house, but it’s not an HGTV or Architectural Digest quality clean where a white rug would work. Between pet hairs, mud seasons, and who knows what else might happen, I need a mottled rug, so I’m glad that Wren chose the one she did. Of the three wool swatches I checked out, this was the middle in terms of foot comfort, but first in color and camouflage. I ordered a 5’x8′ rug and a natural rubber pad to hold it in place.

I’m also grateful for opening my mind to fermentation. There was a time when I thought it was beyond my capabilities, something best left to professionals. Pickling and making hot sauce over the past few years has given me some confidence in the process and the safety of the finished product; enough to try sauerkraut for the first time. And since my Personal Shopper (grateful!) brought me a gigantic red cabbage larger than my head (the average adult human head weighs around eight pounds), and I don’t want to waste food, I chose to pickle a big portion of it to preserve it through the winter. It will last up to six months in the refrigerator, though it’s recommended to eat it within three months. I was delighted (and grateful) to see a recipe call for juniper berries, since there’s an abundance right outside the door. Wren and I walked up to the driveway in the misty dark night and picked a handful; and I had caraway seeds in the spice rack. This half-gallon of sauerkraut came together quickly and easily. Three days in the pantry and five days in the fridge til I can taste it. And there’s still half a cabbage left! Coleslaw here I come.