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 like routine. I like every day being more or less the same in its outline, with only the specifics varying: which birds do I see and hear more in the morning, which in the evening? what novel am I reading? which plants in the garden are drooping and which are losing leaves to the multitude of marauding grasshopper species? who will call today to chat? which mindfulness meeting am I attending or which meditation am I leading? what work will I do today? I live a peaceful and content life. I prefer that it doesn’t get interrupted.
But it does, sometimes, and then I’m grateful for Equanimity: Equanimity doesn’t mean that we don’t have preferences. It means that “we recognize that all our experiences, whether painful or pleasurable, offer us opportunities to grow and learn and that all our experiences are equally valuable.” Sigh. Topaz had to go to the vet in Delta today, a 45-minute drive one way. Here the high temperature was 98℉; in Delta it was 103.
I learned that from the Native American End-Days Christian man in the car next to me where I parked in the shade at Confluence Park to eat my Sonic cheddar poppers and drink my limeade in peace, while Wren enjoyed her ice water. We were spending a couple of hours waiting for Topaz to get her abscess drained at the vet. Of all days. The hottest day so far this year. He checked his in-car thermometer. But I’m not complaining. At least we’re not in a humid clime, or in southern Arizona, for example. I’m grateful I can afford vet care for my pets, and have a car with working AC to ferry them when needed.
She’s fine. It took me awhile to figure out the likely origin of the abscess, but as we drove home I remembered the knock-down drag-out fight between Topaz and Wren that I ended with a gentle kick when Wren had Topaz by the throat cornered in the sunroom. That was probably the wound that got infected, not a bite by the giant vole she was devouring on Saturday. I noticed a small-marble sized knot in her cheek yesterday morning, and am grateful that the vet could see her this afternoon.
Ronnie was a friendly guy, who said he usually plays his guitar in the park but it was too hot today; he was just getting out of the house this afternoon, sitting in his black car in the shade slowly drinking a gallon of iced tea. “Do you have God in your life?” he asked out of the blue, sort of but not quite shouting across the space between our cars as I crunched a Sonic popper. I thought about it a second. “Yes,” I said, thinking of all that I mean by God.
“That’s great!” he said. We talked through six poppers, and I listened with caring attention to his witnessing the power of the Lord in his life. It was a moving story. But then I had enough, and it was really hot, so I wished him well, blew him a kiss, rolled up the windows, and cranked the AC. I still had a couple of hours before I could pick up Topaz.
I headed back to wait in the air-conditioned waiting room of the vet, armed with limeade and Kindle. But then I took a detour. Time to spend (not kill), and the sign to Devil’s Thumb Golf Course caught my eye. I’ve lived in this valley 31 years and never been there. My old adventuresome spirit kicked in. So we turned right at the light. Gas, AC, cold beverage, time, a usually reliable vehicle, and an unknown road. Wren and I were off on an adventure!
Some interesting houses along the lane through town, and then the road left civilization and wound through the dobes, nothing in sight. I followed the few signs but missed one, and ended up at the small Delta airport, where I fantasized for half a second about skydiving. Backtracked, and took the narrow but well-maintained road toward the golf course in the desert. As is usual with unknown roads, the drive out, through barren hills with uncertain destination, felt long–I actually felt my body tense up with anxiety: what if I got a flat? what if there was no cell coverage? how far was the golf course? how far could it be? It was funny: my brain knew I could handle anything that came up, and that it couldn’t be far, and that surely people drove this way regularly; but that sense of the unknown set my body on high alert, and tension in some way separated my awareness.
Then, in the distance, there was the golf course.
The drive back to town was uneventful, and I laughed at myself the whole way.
I had vowed on the drive to the vet to stop on the way back at the Fruit Stand. I’ve also never been there in all my years here; the cows have always enticed me. I wanted more cherries. They had a few bags but not what I was looking for. I cheerfully greeted the man who finally came into the cavernous warehouse, and then hit the road for home.
So no, I didn’t skydive, but I drove far enough out of my comfort zone to practice some equanimity, to stretch my complacency, to practice bravery, calm, and loving-kindness. It was a splendid adventure! These days, an emergency trip to a distant vet on the hottest day of the year so far, a new road, and an unknown establishment, are all the adventure I need.
I’m grateful for a thought-provoking guest. A college friend stopped by on a cross-country drive, and I was grateful to be able to walk to the canyon with him, cook him a real dinner, and serve him cake and coffee in the morning back at the canyon before he resumed his travels. He is a kind, considerate, honest, caring man. We talked nonstop while he was here, reminiscing about our college years, asking each other about our present lives and the years between, covering deep topics of life and death and God and Buddha.
He asked me how I came to Buddhism, and I asked him how he came to be a born-again Baptist. Our world-views are quite different, and I was so grateful for the mindfulness practice that allowed me to keep an open heart and open mind as we talked, enabling me to listen deeply to his experience and beliefs without judgment, and deepen our connection. Our conversation has caused me to revisit some questions I’ve been coasting with for awhile: What exactly do I believe, and why do I believe it? He was an easy, open person long ago, comfortable to be around, and he remains so today. There were moments during our visit of teary tenderness, and moments of light laughter.
He recalled some things about our college years that I had forgotten, and vice versa. One memory he resurrected for me was how we used to tap on the wall between our rooms in freshman dorm to communicate. Sometimes it meant ‘meet outside,’ sometimes it summoned us to the windows where we made plans from our third story rooms. He was recently diagnosed with MS, and we talked a lot about the trajectory of his symptoms, and some strange symptoms I’ve been experiencing. He still works as a nurse, and encouraged me to see a neurologist. That’s been on my list anyway.
This spring has brought more opportunity than ever to surrender: to the lush green carpet of weeds through the yard and woods, to the bad grass I battled for years, to the prolific catmint I’ve tried to control; and to the process of my own physical aging and mortality. I’m grateful for equanimity and the relief of surrender.
This evening I got my first ever social media hate, on one of my instagram posts in support of a drag queen. It heightened my compassion. I’m grateful for the practice that allowed me to receive it with some equanimity, even though it felt like a slap in the face. And grateful that I didn’t feel compelled to respond to it. I imagined a potential spiral of consequences, if only as simple as another hateful reply back. I contemplated responding with something like, “I feel compassion for your suffering,” but concluded the wise choice was to forget about it. I just noticed it a few minutes ago–it wasn’t remotely how I intended to start this post. So I’m gonna forget about it now!
I’m grateful for waking up alive on this snowy, drizzly Sunday, for a few hours of sunlight, for the first spring bulb tips poking out of the mud, and for the leisure to enjoy listening to some dharma talks while finishing this exquisite Liberty puzzle, Monet’s Studio at Giverny. I’m grateful to our little puzzle club scattered coast to coast for increasing our puzzle options each season. This one only took two days of joyful puzzling between cleaning, baking, reading, and sharing meaningful conversations with friends and family.
It was kind of a rough week inside my monkey mind. I’m so grateful for all the beauty and love in my life, for the support of friends, and for the growing capacity I’m gaining to turn my attention to these gifts, instead of letting meager thoughts depress me for long.
And finally, I’m forever grateful to neighbor Mary for sharing this extraordinary recipe for Big Soft Ginger Cookies. This is the basic recipe, though I make them with Mary’s tweaks, including half brown sugar-half white, and of course butter instead of margarine. I also toss in a few chocolate chips. So simple, so delicious. It’s the kind of treat that fills up your senses so full you can’t be anything but ecstatic while it’s in your mouth.
I’m grateful that it’s been warm enough for the past few days to substantially melt the ice dam that melted the mudroom wall, and that Wilson had time to come break it up and knock it off with a shovel. He tried to move the chair, which I accidentally left open in the fall, so it wouldn’t get smashed by falling ice… but it had frozen to the ground, and we afraid it would break if we tried too hard.
We should have tried harder to move the chair! But he works in a furniture repair shop, and told me to keep all the pieces and he’ll put it back together again–I hope it’s not as badly smashed as Humpty Dumpty. At least we’ve got the roof clear before the next ten-day snowstorm due to start tomorrow, and I can climb up and brush off snow from this dangerous corner before it undergoes a melt-freeze-melt-freeze-melt cycle again.
It’s been cold and grey and windy for so long. And snowing off and on. I am grateful for the water, yes, and I am really looking forward to some spring color. Right before that first big snow a few weeks ago, the crocus leaves had pushed through the ground just a couple of millimeters. They’re drinking up snowmelt again and again under their late winter blanket. I really am grateful for that.
The does are hungry though. And my soul hungers for the sun. And it’s all fine, because each morning I wake grateful for a roof over my head, running water, coffee beans from foreign lands, fresh bread, cheese in the refrigerator. I cannot complain. And still, my soul hungers for the sun, snowmelt, green growing things outside and not just inside.
In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.’ A skillful life includes the ability to hold both sorrow and joy, pleasure and suffering, loss and gain, with equanimity. I’m grateful that this winter is giving me so much practice cultivating equanimity.
Also, in an act of shameless self-promotion, my podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts. It even showed up fifth in the search when I typed in ‘Suffer Less,’ which is a wonder for which I am also grateful. Please give it a listen there, or on Spotify or most other podcast platforms, and follow if you like it. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, ‘Fruits of the Practice,’ but I haven’t yet figured out how to link that to this blog, so just comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list if you want to receive that monthly. Yippee! I am making my dreams come true. This may be another gift of the long, grey winter.
I am continually frustrated with the load of ‘cordwood’ that I paid a lot of money for last fall, despite my best effort to let go. Every time I load wood into the trolley to bring it inside I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. Every time I load up the woodstove with half a dozen or more hand-sized ‘logs’ which happens about every hour or two, I get an opportunity to practice acceptance and equanimity. It’s not so much that I mind the extra work of having to fill the stove so very often: It’s keeping me warm, after all wood is wood. What I mind is having paid so very much money for such tiny scraps of wood. So very much of the wood is actually mill scrap. These were supposed to average 14″ long and 3-4″ diameter, that’s what I paid for.
But like my friend Peter used to say, “Oh well.” I can still practice gratitude, noting that I won’t run out of firewood this winter, that there is a kind helper who brings it down to the house for me, that I have a house, that I have a good stove and chimney. No matter what our challenges, if we are paying attention we can always find something to be grateful for. I have the added gratitude of a good recliner, and sufficient leisure in a day to spend some time in it reading, with a cozy blanket, and a sweet companion.
I’m grateful that there are people who read this blog and when it doesn’t show up they sometimes check on me to make sure I’m ok. For you, I want to let you know that I’m working on a big project for the next several weeks, and will be posting less often than usual. It doesn’t always take a lot of time to post, but I like to give it a hundred percent attention when I do it, and I won’t have that available at the end of every day for awhile. Thank you so much for your attention, responses, and affection. I’ll be here as much as I can this coming month, but not every day. I’m grateful for break time.
Wishing everyone peace and ease on this third anniversary of WHO’s declaration of Covid-19 as a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).” WHO reiterated that designation today, stating that the world “cannot afford to be complacent” at the same time they seem poised to succumb to the same ennui as most Americans. Oh well. Not my job.
Wren doing Arts & Crafts at doggie daycare yesterday. I’m grateful today that we both got to rest at home. I napped in the morning, I napped in the afternoon, I showered and rinsed my achy nose; I read, ate, read, talked with people; I rested all day and now it’s time for bed. I actively appreciated so much of what I did and didn’t do today. Namaste.
This was certainly not a disappointing way to wake up! I was lolling in bed when I saw this enormous white beast gobbling up the mountains at a fast clip. I could hardly jump up quick enough. I’m grateful for the fascinating sight, and all the moisture in the snow-sleet-rain storm that followed this throughout the day. I’ve checked the Cloud Appreciation Society library to try to identify this cloud but can’t quite fit it into any of the categories. They don’t have “Freight Train” listed, nor “Godzilla.”
I picked the sleetiest part of the day to drive the garbage up, but was rewarded with this soft scene on the way back down. Most of the day was not a disappointment. I’m grateful that my appointment in town was today and not tomorrow because at least the roads were warm and wet as I drove to deposit my ballot in the dropbox in one town, and then on to PT in the next town; I’m grateful for the ongoing education I’m getting about cardiopulmonary fitness and how to get there. I found myself in the right place at the right time, and with just the right hankering, to pick up some Thai food from a place that came highly recommended, so I stopped there for the first time. I ordered egg rolls, cheese rolls which I’d never heard of, and Pad Thai. I was surprised to find that this food ranked right up there with the worst Thai food I’ve ever eaten. The egg rolls had hardly any filling, and beneath the crispy exterior were doughy; same with the cheese rolls, though the cheese filling was the tastiest part of the whole meal. The dipping sauce was thin and vaguely fishy tasting. Regarding the Pad Thai, I would think a Mild described as “the least spicy” would at least have some flavor! Any flavor at all! The noodles were tough and chewy, and the toppings included a few pale shreds of something that could have been anything but certainly weren’t bean sprouts, while the quarter teaspoon of chopped peanuts were so finely ground they disappeared. Ah well!
I’m grateful for this disappointment. For one thing, I don’t have to pass the place again with my mouth watering, wondering, wanting to stop but not making time; for another, it proves the mindfulness point that reality is subjective and relational rather than intrinsic to any situation, event, encounter, or food outlet. I’d heard such good things; clearly some people like the food. Maybe it was just a bad day in the kitchen. Maybe the host was annoyed that I asked where the chicken came from and opted for tofu when told it was “just regular chicken, not organic or anything.” Maybe my taste buds and preferences have gotten spoiled after years of cooking gourmet food just the way I like it. I threw in a spoonful of Hoisin sauce to make half the dish palatable, and tossed the other half in the compost. It was worth the price for the lesson.
I’m grateful on this cold rainy day for the ingredients and ability to make chicken soup; for the stove and fuel to heat the burner and for the pot; for the fragrance wafting through the house; and for a friend to share the soup with.