I’m pretty confident that the bird in the top of the birch tree is a western bluebird, but I don’t know what the others are. All About Birds from Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that outside the breeding season, they flock in large numbers with several other species of birds, and the flock this morning was huge. They filled the trees and flew among them as Wren raced with delight below. I’m grateful for bluebirds and all the other little songbirds that live here year-round and those who migrate through. I’m happy these birds were enjoying the birch catkins. I hope they’re back tomorrow; I’ll try to get a better view and photos.
When a friend cut my hair the other week, she noticed a ‘birthmark’ on the back of my neck. I couldn’t believe I could have had a birthmark for 64 years and never known about it, but I asked my primary care provider today when I went in for a Medicare intake that was mistakenly scheduled since I have to wait til I’m 65 for that particular appointment. But it was good to see her, to hear that the weird bump on my finger was a benign cyst that is pressing on the nailbed making it grow crooked, but nothing to worry about; and that the strange red splotches underneath my shorn hair are what’s known as a ‘stork bite.’ This extremely common type of birthmark, found on nearly 30% of newborns, apparently remains in around half those people into adulthood. What a relief! With all the skin cancers I’ve dealt with through the years, I’m grateful to have a simple stork bite.
Stork bite! It’s a hilarious phrase and I can’t stop saying it. I’m glad I had something to laugh about, because when I went to the pharmacy after waiting an hour for a clinic appointment I didn’t really need, they once again said that Medicaid didn’t cover the new Covid vaccine. I got impatient with the tech, because after the same person told me the same thing last week I had called around, including my insurance provider, and been told it was covered; I’d called the store manager and she said there was a mistake and to come get it anytime. Well, I put my foot down this time and made them call the number on my card, but as the situation unfolded I felt like an ass for holding up the line behind me and being cranky to the helpless tech. Turns out it’s true, City Market won’t take Medicaid for the Covid shot; the store manager had double-checked flu shot coverage, not Covid.
As I waited, though, instead of fuming and getting more impatient, I called to mind that it wasn’t their fault, they work hard, I didn’t want to make anyone’s day worse, and I gradually surrendered to ‘this is how it is.’ The tech who had taken the brunt of my bad attitude had left the scene while the pharmacist was on the phone trying patiently to learn how they could give me the shot. When I heard her say, “So we need to get pre-authorization?” I called to her “If I can’t get it today I’ll just go to Safeway.” “Are you sure?” she said. “Yeah.” So she hung up and came over to apologize, and I apologized for getting cranky. But as I drove home I thought about the feelings of the other tech, who had taken a break. I put myself in her shoes: I’d have taken a break from me too. I felt awful for bringing discord into her day just because I was annoyed and inconvenienced.
Maybe she was already having a tough day. Maybe my attitude would make the rest of her shift more difficult, or maybe she’d go home and still feel bad about that interaction. The possible ripples and ramifications of my impatience plagued me, and I could really understand the truth of how we create our own suffering when our actions are out of alignment with our values. I value kindness and patience, and I had not been kind nor patient. Granted, I had not spiraled into a tizzy as I might have a few years ago before mindfulness practice, and I wasn’t stewing at her or the situation all the way home. So I’ve improved myself some. But not as much as I’d like to. Once I got home, I called the pharmacy and offered the tech a heartfelt apology, and she was grateful for it. So was I.
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.
You might be thinking, “OLD skin?! How can she be grateful for old skin? Doesn’t she wish her skin were still young, supple, and firm?” Well of course it would be nice to have the kind of skin that I formerly had, but what would be the point of wishing for it now? Why would I want my skin to be other than it is? It is, after all, the skin that has carried me through a lifetime of adventures and still holds my body tenderly the best that it is able. I’m grateful for my old skin, because to be otherwise would cause unnecessary mental and emotional distress, and without it life would be unbearable. I’m grateful for my old skin, despite its increasing fragility, its wrinkles, its crépey quality, its inclination to bruise and tear with the slightest provocation. I’m grateful for my old skin because as long as I can be aware of it, and tend to its scrapes and bruises, its basal cell carcinomas, its dry itches, it means that I’m still living.
Don’t look down if you’re squeamish. While I was harvesting, an apricot twig poked a dog scratch that hadn’t healed yet, and it looks worse than it felt. I’m grateful for my poor old skin, and for the compassion it gives me for my dear departed father, who got lots of bruises on his hands, and for all the elders with fragile skin who bruise and bleed easily and get by with equanimity and plenty of bandaids.
I’m grateful today that I got to help in an ironic rescue. My friend up the road had been dealing with in-house rodents for a few weeks and just gotten the problem under control, when she found a baby chipmunk in the bottom of a dry fountain. We had been planning to go for a walk, but instead I drove up with my ‘neonate care’ bag. The baby was weak and dehydrated. She’d been trying to give it sugar water-milk with a syringe but the bottle with tiny nipple I brought was much more successful. As she cradled the sleeping infant, I mixed up sugar water-almond milk, snapped a few pictures, and left her to her mission of mercy.
We are soft-hearted. We hold loving-kindness for all beings, and will drop everything to try to save a creature in distress. Not only us two, but this whole community. A dog who ran off last week (from the very campground we had planned to walk today) during fireworks was finally found safe after the community searched ceaselessly and the church prayed. I’m grateful to participate in any rescue, even of a spider drowning in the dishwater.
It’s a great year for the miniature lupines that I’ve only found in one patch along the trail. I was challenged to find information online about it, but then I was grateful to remember I have a book! So I turned to Weber’s Colorado Flora, and from there was able to locate it online as Lupinus lepidus. It was years before I even noticed this little flower, and the patch just keeps growing. When the seedpods burst they can shoot up to twenty feet. I’m definitely going to collect some seeds to sow in the yarden this summer.
It’s a sad truth that the smaller, more delicate, and more sparse plants on the forest floor are the natives, and the much more prolific, prickly or gaudy plants are invasive exotics, like this weedy alyssum below. Carpets of it all going to seed! Sure, it looks like a fairy land in the right light, but drop a match or catch an ember and it’s nothing but tinder. Everyone is thrilled about all the green everywhere, and though I’m not obsessing over it, I can’t help but think often about how as soon as summer dries it out we’ll have ten times the wildfire fuel on the ground as we did last year.
I AM grateful for all the green in the garden, though. Lettuce, arugula, and orach are bountiful now. I’m so glad I made time to plant arugula and lettuce under plastic hoops in late winter, and also that I let the orach go to seed last fall and it self-sowed.
Wren helps me read under the red umbrella this morning. I had turned the chair toward the house so that I could watch the most exciting development here at Mirador in a couple of years. The phoebes are nesting again under the deck!
They only just committed to it today. I’ve been seeing a solo phoebe flying in and out, singing from the top of the tower or the birch tree, occasionally for a couple of weeks, and was happy yesterday to see a pair flitting around the house a few times. This morning one of them flew up to the nest platform multiple times and flew off again, and then from inside the house I heard a long musical conversation, a gentle chirruping trill that went on and on as he sat on the cable swing, and she on the cat ladder, the nest platform above and between them. After that, there was steady traffic to the platform with fluff in beaks all day.
I kept my distance to give them time to get established in their apartment before settling into my outdoor living room. The old nests I had taken down when I reset the platform so it would have better protection for them, I had set in a pot on the edge of the patio. Several visits were made to pillage the old material for the new nest. I have been filled with joy and gratitude all day that these lovely, personable, flycatchers are back. Not only was I lonely in their absence the past two summers, having grown accustomed to their lively presence, I also missed their voracious appetites for flies and grasshoppers. I’m so grateful that the phoebes are back.
It’s been a long time since we had Boyz Lunch, and I’m grateful that we were finally able to get together this afternoon. I made the celery-white bean ragout that was so delicious awhile ago, and used green beans instead of zucchini. On the side I served the leftover asparagus salad, and a piece of buttered sourdough toast with cheddar cheese. Along with the obligatory iced vanilla lattes. It was a perfectly gorgeous day, sunny but not too hot, with a steady breeze. We were all a little giddy to be gathering again, and thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely visit. Dessert was raspberry cheesecake thumbprint cookies.
After a busy day, after gratitude for hosting an online evening meeting, Wren and I stepped out of the yard for the first time today. As we started up the driveway the familiar fragrance of Fremont holly assailed us, letting me know instantly that the giant bush next door was in bloom. So we made our first of our annual seasonal visits to hang out with it. I’m grateful for the cycle of seasonal surprises and joys.