No-Buy November

I’m grateful for the first real snow of the season, which started last night and has continued throughout the day. We woke to a couple of inches this morning, and at bedtime tonight it’s up to five or six. So it’s been slow and easy all day. The first snow of the year always reminds me of Conrad Aiken’s short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” and brings that muffled sense of peace and isolation he captured so intimately. Wren knows nothing about that story, dwelling in the moment with a snowball on the deck. Seconds after we came inside a snow shelf slid off the roof that would have buried her.

Any money I saved (and there was plenty) by not buying things I don’t need with money I don’t have was instantly offset by the new starter for the Honda. Otherwise, No-Buy November was a smashing success. I’m grateful for the mindful practice of not being a consumer for most of last month, except of groceries and an essential car repair. It’s reset my spendometer to zero and I intend to creep along at a much slower pace going forward. In fact, I’m planning on a Junk-free January, where not only do I not buy anything I don’t need including junk food, but I’ll work hard on getting rid of things I don’t need or that don’t spark joy.

Obviously, because of the joy they spark and the mental exercise, I won’t be relinquishing any Liberty puzzles. I’m grateful to have a couple of new puzzles from our Maryland satellite library, and started a lovely one today after wrapping up the week’s work.

There’s a floral theme, and I started with the easy part, the garden stool. I love, as usual, how the pieces align with the image, as in the bird piece above landing on the bird image. Another trick in this puzzle which is rare in these masterpieces, is at least one piece that fits where it doesn’t belong. I’ve seen this a few times, and know it’s an intentional mind game from the puzzle master, which adds to the delight.

Wrong piece above, and right piece below.

I’m grateful for the luxury of having more than I need, and the wisdom to recognize it. I’m grateful for the lessons of No-Buy November and the motivation to pare down and simplify.

Feeling Useful

Wren likes a belly rub first thing in the morning…

I am grateful for feeling useful today. I got a lot of things done, taking care of myself in several important ways from completing important paperwork to cooking a delicious (adapted) wild rice soup, with several short walks outside in between; getting some work done to meet a deadline; helping others in some meaningful ways…

… and finishing a spontaneous knit hat I started a few days ago when I ran out of Sugar and Cream scrap yarn for dish cloths. I used up some other lovely yarn ends, including a sage chenille and two gorgeous handspun wools. I was able to keep going all day for two reasons I can think of, besides being useful: I enjoyed oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast, and I threw in some full caff beans with my decaf coffee. It’s hard to know (and it doesn’t matter) whether any one of these factors was more important than others: together, they contributed to a very fulfilling day. So simple, so satisfactory: Feeling useful, just being me.

Things That Last

I’m grateful for things that last. My little Honda, for example. I’m grateful for numerous offers from neighbors to give me a lift to pick her up, and for the one whose timing worked out today; I’m grateful that Ray got her done quickly once he received the new starter required to get her running again. The cost was staggering, but much better than having to replace the engine or the entire vehicle. I’d been thinking about a new car, but I really like this little old Honda I’ve had for seventeen years this month. Ray was impressed with what great shape she’s in, and amazed that she’s only been in his shop one time many years ago. I’m impressed with how long she’s been running, and grateful for how long she is lasting.

I’m grateful for the sixty-plus-year-old potato masher that Auntie gave me. I’m grateful for ancestral lamps with ancient wires, and old tintype photographs of some of those ancestors. I’m grateful for the carbon steel paring knife my father gave me when I left home for college, which I use every day and remains my favorite knife. I’m grateful for many things that last. I just scooped some kitty litter from the bin into the box using an old square Tupperware that I’ve been using for this purpose longer than I can remember. I do recall that it was my mother’s container and she also used it for many years before she died, which was nineteen years ago this month. I must have packed something in it to bring home safely after her demise, and used it until I lost the lid. Because it had lasted so long, and was so sturdy, I turned it into a kitty litter scoop. Show me a plastic container made today that will function for thirty or forty years: Oh, I’m sure they’ll last, in landfills and oceans, but would they actually still function?

There aren’t that many things that last, anymore. Just when we needed to start conserving resources and energy and manufacturing things that last, companies got the bright idea of planned obsolescence. I was horrified when I learned of this strategy years ago, and I’m still angry about it. I’m grateful for this eloquent diatribe from pioneering rock-climber and outdoors-outfitter Yvon Chouinard, where he pleads for corporate responsibility to return to making things that last. He discusses planned obsolescence and introduces the latest insidious profit-grabbing, planet-destroying strategy, quality fade. This involves “slowly downgrading materials to save money and duping customers into buying something a little bit worse each time even if the label stays the same. As a result, products that could have been made to last a lifetime — or even generations — end up in landfills.”

It’s a great read, and short. I enjoyed learning about how Chouinard developed his quality-driven product ethic from his climbing gear origins, which brought to mind memories of dating a climber in the early 80s who revered Chouinard, and his gear. I’m grateful for some sweet memories that last from that time. And I’m grateful for Patagonia, the company that Chouinard founded, which turns fifty this year. Another thing that’s lasted. And just last year, Patagonia made Earth their only shareholder, a revolutionary corporate approach to conservation.


I’m grateful that we got a little snow overnight. And so winter begins, and brings with it indoor pastimes.

For a few years I knitted a lot of dishcloths, simple squares of knit knit knit, that took little attention and resulted in lovely sustainable dishwashing utensils that I am still using. I knitted enough to increase my supply year by year, and to give as gifts to others who equally appreciated their unique satisfactoriness in the bewildering and often dissatisfying world of dishwashing products, largely throwaway plastics. I was grateful for that hobby which allowed my mind to rest while my hands were productive; until a series of wrist and thumb injuries stopped my knitting career.

I’m grateful that physical therapy and time and life healed my joints enough that I can knit again. I’d been thinking for a few weeks about getting back to the dishcloth habit, and was inspired to finally do so after a conversation with a dear friend led to her buying the dishcloth yarn and sharing her grandmother’s instructions. I didn’t read them because I had mine in my head, but I did sort my yarns and needles into order and started knitting tonight. I texted her the above picture to thank her for her inspiration, and we ended up on the phone trying to figure out where she’d gone wrong with grandmother’s pattern.

We got it squared away, literally, and she started over. I finished my basic square and decided to try the fancier pattern, which had sounded complicated but was actually simple once we understood it. So while she knitted away in Oregon, I knitted here, and later we exchanged photos of our success. I’m grateful for an old friend turning into a new knitting buddy!

I’m grateful for my other little buddy who fits right under the needles while I work. I’m grateful for my friend and her grandmother; and for the little old lady in the eye surgeon’s office years ago who showed me the simple dishcloth she was knitting and recommended Sugar and Cream yarn when I expressed an interest in emulating her. And my knitting buddy and I were both tickled pink when she first found her grandmother’s handwritten instruction page and it called for Sugar and Cream! I’m grateful to be part of a generations-long tradition of thousands of women using this sweet cotton yarn to knit dishcloths, and for all the multiple thousands of people through the years who have grown the cotton, processed the cotton into yarn, the yarn into skeins, and sent the yarn to the shelves. I’m grateful for knitting.


Topaz is finally becoming a semi-sociable cat. I still grieve the untimely death of her brother three years ago: He was so connected to me from the beginning, while she was always aloof in the way of so many female cats, the hunters, the providers. But she’s eight and a half now, and she’s finally accepted Wren, and she wants to be more involved in our lives. To the unfortunate point of exploring places she doesn’t belong. I’m grateful for her attention, and that she’s graceful enough that she didn’t crash through the open top of the light stand.

I’m grateful for the freedom of non-attachment that gardening cultivates. I had some leftover seeds from the past couple of years that I planted this afternoon in soil I’d kept soft and warm(ish) under cover for the past few weeks. In anticipation of this weekend’s snow, I planted a bunch of rows and left them to receive the moisture. At bedtime, there’s a light dusting of snow glowing under the overcast, waxing moon. I’ll figure out the cover strategy after the storm dumps all it’s going to and skies clear again. Will I cover then until spring? Or will I cover and uncover until the deep freeze and then leave the beds exposed to collect all the winter’s moisture… and then cover to begin warming in earliest spring? Or, will I think of something else somewhere along the way? Not attached to whether these seeds germinate, but enjoying experimenting, knowing that no matter what I do now I don’t know what will happen later. Grateful to be alive, comfortable with uncertainty.

I’m grateful today for leftovers, but not the usual Thanksgiving spread. Just another chickpea-mushroom burger and homemade bun from the freezer. I’m grateful to have sufficient food that I can frequently save some for the next day, or the next month; and that I have the appliances to do so safely; and that I have electric power from the sun to run the fridge and freezer. I’m grateful for these things every single day.

Local Businesses

I bought this recliner almost five years ago, though it seems much longer, from the furniture store in Delta, Lily and Rose. I’m grateful for this family-owned local business that’s given great service to the region for four generations. It was effortless to call up on Monday and say, “I bought a chair there a few years ago, I can’t remember how many, and it needs some help,” and he said, “Okay, no problem.” He said it might be a couple of weeks but they’d get someone out next time they came this way. Cody the driver called the next day and said they were in the area and would come see what they could do. He and Joey came in courteously masked at my request, and cheerfully gave the chair its suspension back and fixed the footrest so it stays up.

This morning I went out about fifteen minutes early to make sure the car would start, because it’s whined a little before turning over the past couple of times I’ve started it, despite the solar-powered trickle charger I have hooked up to the battery. I wanted to make sure I had time to jump it if it wouldn’t start. It didn’t, so I pulled the Mothership around and hooked up the cables. Nothing. For the next half-hour I left the van running and tried a different set of cables, and still nothing. I called the Service Station where I was expected for my hard-won eleven a.m. appointment that I hated to cancel. First he asked me, “What did you leave on?” I had to laugh. “Nothing!” He asked if the lights worked. Yes they did. He said maybe it was the starter, and assured me he didn’t have another oil-change spot available until mid-December. Okay.

Then I made calls to cancel PT, and visiting my friend, and dropping off something for a neighbor. I tried to start the car again, still nothing. So I wrapped up that operation, then called my local State Farm agent Kevin’s office and was grateful to confirm that I have Roadside Assistance. I asked who to call for a tow and she named some local options. Then I called Ray down at Hotchkiss Automotive to see if he could fit my car in after the holiday, and he said sure, have Phil’s tow it in. Then I called Phil and told him I needed a tow to Ray’s, and I have insurance with Kevin, and he said, “Sure, no problem,” and filled out the paperwork. “I live next door to Kevin, you know,” he said. “Oh, yes, of course!” I said, recalling the neighborhood. “I think I can send someone up there this afternoon,” he said.

Young Trae arrived an hour later. Wren was initially skeptical of him as she is of most men, but as soon as he got on the ground in front of her car she dashed right over to help. And then I bid farewell to my little Honda car for the holiday weekend. What could have been another irritating hassle of a day was instead a seamless flow of cheerful support from local businesses, some of whom I’ve had a relationship with for decades. I’m so grateful for the kindness and dependability of all these people; and, I’ve decided that Patience will be my Wednesday practice going forward.

The Cheese Sandwich

I was grateful to see this beautiful couple in the yarden when I woke this morning, and not troubled that he was scratching his head on the wild plum tree. And I was grateful to see the moisture still dripping from the trees after a light rain overnight.

I’m even more grateful than usual for the Cheese Sandwich. I realized today as I was making a simple havarti, lettuce, and pickle iteration just how much stress I’ve shed since surrendering to my obsession and delight in eating a cheese sandwich almost every day for lunch. As long as there’s bread in the box and cheese in the fridge, I no longer have to think, wonder, or worry about what to have for lunch. I am grateful to walk into the kitchen at lunchtime day after day and pull a delectable assortment of supporting ingredients together with cheese, bread, and mayonnaise to create a delicious, nourishing and often unique cheese sandwich. For most of my life meals were a twice-a-day struggle I was rarely prepared for. This has been another gift of the quiet solo time these past few years, settling into simple food routines that allow more peace and ease. As always, I’m profoundly grateful for the luxury of sufficient food.

I’m grateful for the bright little tabasco pepper that’s thriving in the sunroom and almost ready to harvest.

And finally, Wren is grateful that I made her another batch of Dog Fud. She watched the whole time I chopped and added ingredients, then devoured her dinner. This batch contained quinoa, ground turkey, black beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes, along with wax beans and zucchini from the freezer. Later, she watched hopefully as I packed the cooled food into containers, and was rewarded by getting to lick to pot clean. Another simplifying routine becoming habitual.


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.

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.