I’m grateful today for all the support from friends and professionals as I had another basal cell carcinoma removed from my face by Mohs surgery. There were neighbors ready and willing to come check on Wren throughout what was a long day that might have been even longer. There was the friend who offered to chauffeur me and invited Wren to come along with us. There were messages of love and well wishes from friends throughout the day. There were people I could share photos of my Bride of Frankenstein forehead with, but I’ll spare the general public that image. There was Dr. Weber and his assistant Molly at Mountain West Dermatology, who do a superb job with this delicate and precise surgery; and there were the office staff who are always cheerful and friendly with a bonus today that many wore Halloween costumes. And there was my best little dog Wren, who was calm while she waited in the car with Auntie Rosie and excited when I reappeared, and who was up for anything including a stroll down Main Street.
I was so grateful today for Rosie’s cheerful, tender care of me and little Wren. After I was released from surgery, she drove us downtown so I could buy lunch. We were diverted off-course from our walk to the bagel place by this gleaming market-deli across the street, The Hog and The Hen, which predictably offered a lot of pork and chicken sandwich varieties, as well as possibly every kind of candy in the US. We ordered and ate outside in the sun. Grand Junction downtown celebrates sculpture in a way I’ve not seen elsewhere. All along Main Street are whimsical, dramatic, poignant, or beautiful sculptures, and the ambience has only improved since the last time I strolled it years ago. This adorable Pigano in front of the market tempted many passersby to plunk its functional keys. I’m grateful that what could have been a distressing day was as companionable, pleasant, easy, and fun as it could have been.
I’m grateful today to have finally accomplished a project I started dreaming more than a year ago, after getting ‘wall envy’ from seeing the blue wall in my cousins’ house on family zooms. The tired, quiet green I’ve had on my one painted wall for almost twenty years was ready for a change and so was I. I bought the paint last fall but winter came before I could open it, and then one thing after another… Procrastination is one of my growth edges… This week, after some encouragement from a good friend, and feeling no pain in my shoulders for a month, and a narrow window of ideal weather for it, I took the plunge.
The 48-hour forecast was perfect: highs around 80, lows in the high 40s, and clear skies. I could keep doors and windows open all day and close half of them overnight, to keep fresh air flowing in the whole time. First I cleared off (i.e. boxed to tackle later) the stuff on the desk and dresser that stood next to the wall, and pulled the furniture away.
Then I photographed the artwork so I’d know where to put it back later, and left those nails and hooks in place. I pulled the C-hooks and plugged their holes with long brads, hoping that I could roll over them and then pull them out after the paint dried to replace the hooks. (I pulled a few small nails where there were studs and tried to plug those holes with smaller nails but that didn’t work: the roller pulled them out right away.)
I called the hardware store in our little town to ask if they had a mechanical paint shaker. “Yes,” she said, “but we’ve had to draw the line at shaking other people’s paint. If it’s not completely sealed shut it makes an awful mess.”
“I haven’t even opened this!” I exclaimed with hope, “but I certainly understand if you can’t do it.” She was happy to shake my unopened paint can and would not take compensation. I was grateful for her generosity. I remembered to buy a jar of spackle while I was there, and filled in the empty holes in the wall. Then I taped off the perimeter, thermostat, switch, and outlet.
It’s been hard to adjust the photos to reflect accurate colors as the light kept shifting throughout the day. This morning I spread out the alleged ‘heavy-duty’ plastic dropcloth I’d purchased at the same time as the paint, brushes, and roller setup. While everything else was better than I could have hoped, the dropcloth was about as heavy-duty as I am! Amazon will hear about this deception. Then I started rolling on the paint.
After four hours dry-time, I repeated the cutting-in and rolled on the second coat. I could not be happier with the result!
I only let it dry a couple of hours after the second coat before pulling the tape and hanging the first two pieces back on the wall before the light faded. Yes, I missed a spot with the spackle, oh well. And as I watched the paint dry, I realized I wanted to swap out a few art pieces, so I pulled my mother’s pastel portrait of her Aunt Gretchen from the shadows where it has lived for years, and returned it to the same place it held even longer ago, when the green wall first replaced the original peach wall from the housebuilding in 1995. I look forward to playing with the rest of the wall art tomorrow!
Somewhere in there, I also accomplished another masterpiece cheese sandwich, with smoked gouda, shredded romaine, and garden tomato.
Though I knew some basics, including taping off edges and spackling, I was so grateful for the tips on rolling and some other aspects in this wonderful book from the Trans Handy Ma’am. I’m delighted to support her work empowering trans people, and making the world of home repairs more friendly and accessible to introverts like me. Her motto is “You’re worth the time it takes to learn a new skill!” Thanks, Trans Handy Ma’am, for helping motivate me toward a real sense of accomplishment.
It’s not my town, I don’t own it or even live in it, but it’s the closest town to where I live. At one point in history it was a thriving center for people moving from various points east to colonize these river valleys, and has been settled by immigrants since the late 1800s after booting out the native Ute peoples. I’m sad about the brutal history. And, I can’t take responsibility for it; but I can point out that all the white folks who live here now are descended from immigrants from foreign countries, and I hope that they remember that.
Anyhoo… I moved here thirty years ago from my roots in centuries of Irish-English immigrants back east, and I was seeking the leading edge of peace in some ways just as they may have been. The oppressions I fled were different from theirs, indeed of their making, but perhaps my motivation was similar. I wanted space and freedom, and because this is America I was able to find that. To some extent.
It’s taken a decades long practice of meditation and mindfulness to fully realize how completely the true heart of peace comes from within each of us, not from external circumstances. I’m grateful for recognizing and beginning to live in this truth before I give up the ghost one day. And I’m grateful for my little town that provides almost every amenity I need to enjoy my share of inner and outer peace.
First, there’s community. Like me, most of my ‘clan’ live outside of town, but we all live around its nucleus. There are also gas, essential groceries, a bank, post office, coffee shop, and a rotation of various gift and souvenir shops; and then there’s the Hitching Post. This morning, I had some errands to run, including bank, post office, and buying a high quality soil amendment to beef up the remaining unplanted garden beds.
I thought I was going to have to drive twenty miles to one of the ‘big’ towns that make up our triangle of villages, but stopped in at the little farm store that ever since I’ve lived here always seems to have at least one of whatever I need in a pinch. Sure enough, they carry Ocean Forest organic soil amendment. So I loaded up the trunk with that and some steer manure compost, and gratefully drove the four miles home before the afternoon squall rolled in. I look forward to a productive and peaceful day in the garden tomorrow.
I’m grateful today for the impromptu party that happened in my driveway this afternoon when the Bad Dogs stopped by with a delivery from the Asian Market and the Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, at the same time the Honey Badger dropped off this takeout meal from Best Slope Culinary that dear Mary had picked up in town. It takes a village! Once again and as always, I feel so grateful for this kind community.
Chef Brant’s Baharat (7 Spiced) Roasted Squash with Crispy Chickpeas, Hot Honey and Yogurt was almost too spicy for me, but delicious for an early supper. The garlic hummus and soft bread was a great snack after a meeting, and I split the Blue Sky lemon tart for a dessert after each mini-meal. There’s enough leftover for some of each tomorrow. This chef grew up in the neighborhood, went out into the world for awhile and acquired mad culinary skills, and returned to the valley a few years ago, where he’s since made a fine name for himself. If you live around here or are passing through, take advantage of his changing weekly menu, and occasional popup restaurant.
I’m grateful today for MOHS surgery, and for Dr. Weber at Mountain West Dermatology who has performed several of these procedures to remove skin cancer from my face and head. Too much sun when I was a child and even our parents were ignorant of the consequences. I’ve lost count of how many MOHS’s I’ve had in the past 25 year. I’m grateful that my terror level has dropped from 10+ before the first one to <1 for this latest iteration. For one thing, Dr. Weber’s precision cuts on me have all resulted in minimal to invisible scarring, and he’s just a super nice guy. Everyone at the office is kind and compassionate.
What anxiety I did have about it revolved around the weather–would it be snowing? would my car get out my driveway? –and around little Wren, who’s not been separated from me for more than four hours since she arrived six months ago. I’m so grateful for friends and community who rallied around, one prepared to blade the driveway if needed (it wasn’t); GB and the Super eager to drive me up to GJ and run some errands of their own while I waited in limbo between cuts; and Rocky’s mom eager to babysit Wren for the day. Beyond that, lots of love and encouragement sent my way before, during and after, including a baked goody at my doorstep. Who could ask for more? Oh, and there was that one Ativan I popped right before setting off this morning, that helped lower the anxiety immensely.
The first cut was done by about 10:30 am, but the tissue has to go off to pathology to determine if they got clean margins. They did! First cut! But it took three hours to find that out, and then the time-consuming plastics-style suturing, and layers of bandaging. When it was all done it was way past lunchtime, so the Super asked what I wanted, and steered us to the best chocolate milkshake, which I enjoyed with a side of cheddar poppers and fry sauce. They each ordered their faves, and we sat in the Sonic corral and enjoyed our meals. I’m so grateful for friends who aren’t old enough to be my parents, but are old enough to care for me like a little sister. There was something so nostalgic about him asking what I wanted to eat, then making it happen. I felt so very cared for. My heart runneth over for them, and for everyone who contributed to making what could have been a grueling day into a joyful day: including my own mindfulness practice.
I’m grateful to be all tucked in at home before dark with a cozy fire going. Little Wren seemed to have a fun day at doggie-day-care with her buddy Rocky and the camp counselor. She was too excited to see me to tell me all the details of everything they did, but I know there were some naps, some treats, some snow-watching. I look forward to hearing a full report from the counselor tomorrow. I’m grateful for a safe and happy place to be able to leave her should I need to in the future, a place where she’ll be loved and pampered, and won’t come back to me with some new neurosis. Such a feeling of peace, contentment, gratitude, and love will carry me off to a deep sleep tonight.
I’m grateful I went to bed early enough last night to finally see sunrise this morning. It’s been a long time! I woke from an endless fever dream about grocery shopping of all things, which opened with me realizing I wasn’t masked and proceeded through greeting or avoiding many people, delighting in choosing cheeses, and finally wound up with a horrific discovery that City Market was selling live wild animals for both food and pets.
I struggled to get my camera to open and then to work right to photograph the three glass front cages before me, first filled with tragic mammals but then the reptiles in the background began to fill the scene, eventually including some small dinosaurs. I can place almost every element in the dream to a corresponding piece of yesterday’s reality, but what a colorful subconscious interpretation! I’m grateful for dreams, and for waking up from them.
Just like in the movie, I mean dream, the camera failed to open at first when I stepped out onto the deck at sunrise. I’m grateful it did in time to catch the daily spectacle that I all too often take for granted: its beauty, and that I’ll live to see it.
Had I not gotten violently ill last night, I would have posted my gratitude for Raven and Stellar, yet again. And for letting go, finally. Yesterday I took their faded photos off the food bins that I’d used for them and have been using recently for Wren and Topaz, and replaced them with their current owners. It was hard, even knowing those photos don’t hold their lives, to throw them away, but it was time to let go of the pull of their memories in that context.
I didn’t feel quite right so I went to bed early. I’d only been asleep for an hour when I woke up all kinds of sick, and remained so for about twelve hours. I’m grateful for my Cousin Nurse who talked me through accepting it, there wasn’t much I could do to stop vomiting, but to be sure and sip some liquids as I could. I was able to get out of bed around two this afternoon and sip some dilute ginger ale and water. Once I felt a little better I texted around to see if anyone had some orange Gatorade or some Pedialyte to replenish electrolytes.
I am so grateful for a supportive community: for loving friends who cooed their concern and made various offers to get me something, and for Garden Buddy and her husband who actually had exactly what I needed and made a special trip over to deliver it. They may not even have had it on hand; they were out and about and may have picked it up. Knowing them, they’d have gone to extra lengths to get me Orange! The only flavor Gatorade I can stand–but I would have been grateful for any flavor at that point.
I’m grateful I got so much housecleaning done yesterday, it made it easier to come downstairs this afternoon and rest in the recliner. The slight fever is down a bit, the Covid test was negative, a cool rain drizzles outside, Wren and Topaz have been extra sweet. The awful helpless feeling is gone and I’m just tired and a little queasy now. The fear that it would get worse and all the scenarios that flowed from that are gone. I almost want to eat a cracker now, but I’m heading back to bed. I am grateful that I will survive!
Today I am grateful for community, above all. I’m also grateful for flexibility and strength, my own and others’. I didn’t expect to have to euthanize Stellar, and hoped not to; but that was ultimately the right choice. After toodling along at his own pace, with occasional expressions of discomfort and frustration, but plenty of seeming ease and happy interaction, eager to remain engaged with life, there was a sudden change about ten p.m. Thursday night. Thus ensued a night of horrible suffering for him, and utter helplessness for me. There’s a great disparity between what’s available for hospice care for a person v. what’s available for hospice care for a dog. The meds in my arsenal simply couldn’t touch his pain for several hours. My knowledge of what to do was also lacking. By around 4 a.m. I was finally able to get him drugged enough to relax. We drifted in and out of sleep together on the floor.
A wee-hour email to a friend resulted in an informal vet consult and kind advice at sunup (thank you, K&D). A text to Dr. Tam at 5 led to a short whispered phone call at six, and by the time offices opened at 8, I was making calls trying to find a vet to come here, without success. Several of Stellar’s and my friends rallied around, and converged here at 9:15. Four of us carried him on his blanket out to the van, and settled him on a soft bed. I crawled in and lay curled around him. He never opened his eyes or raised his head. Garden Buddy and Uncle Bill drove me to Houseweart Vet in magnanimous silence. Deb and Rosie set to deepening and lengthening the grave Stellar had been working on for years, under his favorite tree.
When we crossed the river, Stellar raised his head. He knew exactly where we were. There’s a pullover where we used to park and let him run down along the river any time we drove that way. Even though it’s been a year since we’ve done that, wow, those dogs never forget. From then on, he occasionally raised his head and laid it on the console, as he would for any other car ride, any other journey. It was a beautiful thing to see, his calm, his interest, his acceptance, ok, we’re going for a ride! The rest of the time he laid his sweet head down beside mine, peaceful.
At the vet, it couldn’t have gone better. He lifted his head for one last pet from GB, then turned and pressed his forehead against mine in a profoundly moving gesture of connection. Then he settled back into our spoon where he remained calmly through the procedure. Dr. H said, “He’s going to need a BIG hole!” I said, “There are a couple of girls back home digging one now.” He said, “I mean a backhoe hole!”
I cried all the way home. When I paused from crying over Stellar, I looked into the front seats and wept again at the enormous kindness of my staunch, wise, compassionate friends, who took this time out of their day to help us. And they didn’t say a word all the way home; they simply let me grieve in peace within the comforting support of their noble silence, as if knowing that I couldn’t stand to hear a word of condolence.
I pulled myself together when we got home. My gravediggers suggested I take a look to be sure it was right before we carried him down there. I walked to the favorite tree and was staggered by the size of the hole my two lady friends of a certain age had managed to dig, and the enormous mound of dirt beside it. I burst into tears again. I was not alone in that. Rosie said it best: “He was a very good boy.”
There are millions of acts of kindness and compassion every day around the world, which we tend to forget because we never hear about them in the ‘news.’ Yesterday I was overwhelmed with keen awareness of the kindness of others. And the texts, voice messages, emails, and gifts dropped off since yesterday noon have kept my heart buoyed in a sea of love. Stellar loved everyone. He was the epitome of loving-kindness: he brought a sincere intention of friendliness to everyone he met. Many people loved Stellar in their own ways, and his life and death touched them deeply. I’m grateful that I got to be steward of a dog with such a big heart and extensive loving influence.
I’m grateful that a new, unknown friend in Australia shared an excerpt from this poem for me, after I told the story of Stellar’s demise in our monthly zoom meeting; an excerpt in which his mother had switched pronouns and sent him in a card a couple of weeks ago after his own dear dog Oscar had been run over and killed.
Her Grave by Mary Oliver
She would come back, dripping thick water, from the green bog. She would fall at my feet, she would draw the black skin from her gums, in a hideous and wonderful smile—– and I would rub my hands over her pricked ears and her cunning elbows, and I would hug the barrel of her body, amazed at the unassuming perfect arch of her neck.
It took four of us to carry her into the woods. We did not think of music, but, anyway, it began to rain slowly.
Her wolfish, invitational, half-pounce.
Her great and lordly satisfaction at having chased something.
My great and lordly satisfaction at her splash of happiness as she barged through the pitch pines swiping my face with her wild, slightly mossy tongue.
Does the hummingbird think he himself invented his crimson throat? He is wiser than that, I think.
A dog lives fifteen years, if you’re lucky.
Do the cranes crying out in the high clouds think it is all their own music?
A dog comes to you and lives with you in your own house, but you do not therefore own her, as you do not own the rain, or the trees, or the laws which pertain to them.
Does the bear wandering in the autumn up the side of the hill think all by herself she has imagined the refuge and the refreshment of her long slumber?
A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.
Does the water snake with his backbone of diamonds think the black tunnel on the bank of the pond is a palace of his own making?
She roved ahead of me through the fields, yet would come back, or wait for me, or be somewhere.
Now she is buried under the pines.
Nor will I argue it, or pray for anything but modesty, and not to be angry.
Through the trees is the sound of the wind, palavering
The smell of the pine needles, what is it but a taste of the infallible energies?
How strong was her dark body!
How apt is her grave place.
How beautiful is her unshakable sleep.
Finally, the slick mountains of love break over us.
After a twelve hour sleep last night, I am strong and stable in my grief today. There is emptiness everywhere I turn; and also, there is his presence in the space around me, and in the space within. I woke feeling skinless and raw. I’m grateful for the opportunity to grow into a new skin of unknown qualities. I hope to bring Stellar’s boundless heart into the person I become without him.
So much more to be grateful for today, and I have been writing bits down all afternoon. But right now I find myself with a budding headache and eyes still crying. I’m grateful to be heading to bed early, with a full heart though an empty house. Topaz is such a small person, and takes up so little psychic space. I’m grateful she went for a walk with me this evening, and came right inside afterward. Meanwhile, there is a gaping void in every corner of the house, and blessed sleep is the only thing that will relieve that in this moment. I’m grateful for a warm bed and a roof over my head. I’m grateful for all the words of love and condolence, and all the help from friends today, and for resilience.
Today I’m grateful for community. It’s not just that I don’t mind what happens, but that I feel safe, connected… protected. I feel part of a whole. I’m grateful for Joseph with his solar expertise talking me through a power crisis; grateful for the safety net around me if my house loses power altogether; grateful for mind training that lets me breathe through that possibility. The tribulations of others give me such perspective that I can truly count my blessings and be grateful for every day that doesn’t end in disaster, or disastrous regret. Even a day with householder crises or disappointment in myself is better than what most people on the planet have to get through.
The general human condition of suffering, resistance, denial and delusion aside, so many individuals I know, or know of, are suffering. A neighbor experienced a terrible accident. He’s lucky to be alive, lucky his home didn’t burn down with his ‘son’ inside. Another friend set up a donation page. Friends shared with friends this link, and by day’s end the initial goal was met. But why stop there? We all know the cost of living is high (as the church sign down the road says), “yet it remains popular.” We rally to support each other. None of us is alone. I’m grateful for community.
It’s why I moved here thirty years ago, and has turned out to be so much more and deeper than Grand Avenue connections, than small tribes of like interests, than geography. Community in this valley extends four dimensionally, maybe five, through time and space, and the complex fields of emotional connections.
“You live in such a beautiful place,” my friends said today when they visited, and that’s only what they could see with their eyes–without the perspective of time, without the texture of ups and downs, of challenges, joys, successes; heartbreaks, losses, conflicts; redemption, aspiration, compassion, unity, and support for one another. I’m grateful for the warm tapestry of community. I’m grateful for virtual friends suddenly brought to life in four dimensions!
I’m grateful for this beautiful day for a picnic, for the hardiness and adaptability of us humans, and of dear Stellar; grateful for another day spent with this unique sentient being, experiencing his Buddha-nature, and the skillful clarity of his trans-species communication.