Grateful for a quiet day, for groceries, and for seeing this handsome buck in the yard. Looks like he’s dropped some of those awful growths, with only a couple remaining and not bad scars. I’m grateful for losing growths!
I’ve been pondering the value of Connection for a few days now. Both Covid and Mindfulness have changed my understanding of connection. As most people around me ‘move on’ with their lives or return to pre-Covid ways of being my sense of connection in my community has shifted. At the same time, mindfulness has expanded my sense of connection with people in general as I practice the Four Immeasurable attitudes, wishing happiness and well-being for all, and working to reduce suffering of others as I’m able. I feel less seen by a few nearby, and more understood by many afar. I’ve learned that meaningful online connections can be cultivated authentically with old friends and new, that I can make a positive change in people’s lives from a distance, and that all nourishing connections are worth sustaining. Of these, my connection to the natural world is bone-deep and paramount; and my connection with my innermost self is stronger than its ever been.
So many of the things in my home represent connections with dear people, past times, beloved places. Even a simple breakfast is loaded with connection. Setting aside the larger interdependence involved in the technology of a Kindle and all the humans and resources necessary for it to exist at my breakfast table, there’s the connection I feel occasionally to my sister-in-law when I remember that she influenced me to buy a Paperwhite: “I know you like to sit outside and read,” she said, “so that would be the best Kindle for you.” And what am I reading this morning on my Kindle Paperwhite? Foster, recommended by my most literary friend Sarahbelle, and so I feel connection with her as I open it up.
Acknowledging gratitude for all the interconnections that brought coffee beans into my home and enabled them to be ground and brewed, I feel special gratitude for the unique mug I drink from which symbolizes connection with two wonderful women in Florida, one who hand-built the mug and one who gave it to me. Those connections flare in awareness each time I use the mug. The connections among plants and humans that brought flour, salt, water and sugar into my house as ingredients in the toast and jam are many and far-flung: The sourdough itself traces back to one friend I haven’t seen for years but connect with in my heart every time I use the starter, and the sour cherry jam reinforces my connection with two dear friends the next mesa over. The plate is an anchor to Amy, whom I never fail to think of when I pull it from the handmade cupboard that links me to the Wood Monks who built my kitchen. I’m grateful for connection in all the ways it manifests in my little life.
I’m grateful that despite the feeling that spring would never come, it did! The little red tulips are starting to open, the first dandelions are blooming, and the air was almost balmy today as I worked outside tidying the patio for outdoor living again.
One project I’ve been contemplating was moving the phoebe platform and clearing off the old nests. I was so happy to see a phoebe fluttering around and checking it out a couple of weeks ago, and sad that no one moved in. I’m grateful I can still climb a ladder and wield a screw gun; even though I pre-drilled into the joists I still couldn’t get a couple of the screws all the way in, but it’s solid enough to hold a nest.
Here’s the side of the old nest that they used for three years, building it up each time. They like a particular kind of niche for their nest, where it’s protected above and on the sides, to prevent jays or magpies from getting to their chicks, which I think happened one time. I hope that moving the platform over so there is one wide and protected ledge will encourage them to try again. Meanwhile, someone else used their old tall nest for storage and maybe warmth over winter…
As usual, I was grateful for so many things today. I was grateful to spend a quiet morning outside, and then to come inside for a belly laugh and long-distance exercise session with my cousin. I was grateful for a cheese sandwich for lunch and for all the elements of it that came from across the hemisphere to coalesce in my little house in this moment in a delicious blend of homemade sourdough, mayonnaise, Havarti cheese, wild-caught Alaskan smoked salmon, organic romaine, and avocados from Mexico, seasoned with Penzeys Sandwich Sprinkle and who knows where all those spices came from.
I’m grateful for this beautiful handmade red wineglass I used to save for special occasions–until I realized that every evening I’m alive and cooking is a special occasion. Like so many things in my house, this glass holds not only what it’s designed for but the story of its provenance and some meaningful connection: in this case with the dear friend who gave it to me for my fiftieth birthday, at a party that’s a story in itself. Each moment interconnects with every other.
I’m grateful for a healthy dinner of kale and walnut pasta, with garlic, mushrooms, fresh lemon juice, and grated parmesan, seasoned with salt, pepper, and Penzeys Revolution blend. I’m grateful for Penzeys’ integrity and activism as well as their spice blends, which is one reason I mention them so often. They just concluded a 50% off sale on all spices starting with B and C, as well as $1 ‘Fox Point not Fox News’ special, in acknowledgement of the misogynistic work environment at a certain cable network. It takes real … nerve for a retail business to be as politically upfront as Penzeys.
I’m grateful for all the elements of my meals today, and for all the people and energy and resources it took to get the ingredients from the far-flung corners of the globe to the shelves of my refrigerator and pantry, from the unknown walnut and lemon growers to the Italian pasta makers to my patient personal shopper who works for cookies. I’m grateful for the friends I see in person and those I see online and those I haven’t met yet, as well as those I mostly see in the tangible recollections that populate my home.
Wren and I had quite an adventure today, and I’m glad we did because tomorrow it will probably be raining all day. And tomorrow is the day I’ve declared to be Wren’s Birthday! We don’t know exactly when she was born, but we do know she was born into her new life with me last year on April 25, and that she was allegedly two years old then. So tomorrow I’ll be grateful for one year with Wren…
Today, I’m grateful for many, many things, and perhaps chief among them is helping. After all the gratitudes of the day, late tonight I had the opportunity to help a friend in need, and that feels as good as or better than the big adventures and the sensory pleasures of the day.
We found a sad trail of beautiful feathers along the canyon rim, the drifted remains of a northern flicker. When I spotted the first feather I was delighted, a molted gift; finding the second feather I suspected foul play; at the third feather and beyond it was clear that the flicker had met its demise, and the only thing I can imagine spreading its feathers far and wide was a midair attack by a falcon or other raptor. All told we gathered a handful of feathers, and left a few below the rim.
And it was soothing to return home to the tamer pleasures of the yarden. I was also grateful to get my permanent crown, which happened to arrive at the dentist quickly and be ready to replace the broken temp, so Wren bravely stayed home alone while I dashed to town for the quick fix. I was grateful for the helping hands of the dentist and his kind and capable technician. I’ve chosen to spare you the sight of the crown in my mouth and trust you are grateful for that.
I am also grateful that I read about and ordered this nifty bug catcher-magnifier last week, so that when I went in to shower after the trip to town I was able to safely capture the scorpion who had crawled up the drain into the bathtub–and magnify her 5x–and then help her outside. This handy item is sold as a toy, but doubles as a humane tool to remove bugs from inappropriate places and return them to appropriate places, like, anywhere besides my bathtub. This is at least the fifth scorpion to climb into the bathtub this winter, which equals the total of all scorpions in the house in all the years I’ve lived here. A new normal?
I stumbled upon the GLAAD Media Awards show this evening on Hulu. I’d heard of GLAAD but not seen the award show nor known the extent of the work they do. The show was a celebration of acceptance and love, courage and resilience, and queer joy. I was delighted to have seen a few of the many films and shows nominated, and interested to see the breadth of media recognized including graphic novels and video games. I immediately looked up the full list of nominees so I can check out those available on the platforms I stream and broaden my entertainment palette. I’m grateful for GLAAD and for LGBTQ+ people I’ve known and loved, and lost, in my life.
If only pictures could capture scents. I love when I walk through the sunroom and a beautiful aroma stops me in my tracks, leads my nose to it. This morning it was this front orchid, whose name I’ve long lost. Like other fragrant orchids, it pulses its scent on its own schedule and always takes me by surprise.
I’m always grateful to learn a new kitchen trick. I saw on Instagram a hack to use up the last bit of peanut butter in the jar by adding soy sauce, honey, rice vinegar, minced garlic, sriracha, and some warm water to make a tasty peanut sauce. I’ve cleaned out two mayo jars since then in a similar way, adding to the last few tablespoons instead of trying to scrape them out. Today I threw in a tablespoon of Penzey’s Peppercorn dressing mix, some Greek yogurt, a bit of oil and vinegar, and a dollop of maple syrup, and shook til it was well blended. Then I doused this random mix of romaine, pickled iceberg, sauerkraut, almonds, bean sprouts, chopped white onion, and a few cubes of Havarti, for a delicious lunch salad.
Why didn’t I have another cheese sandwich? Ack. The Kitchen Ants ate holes in the bread bag. Most of that last beautiful loaf was full of ants… I had sliced it, and they were deep into every slice. I live in peace with the Kitchen Ants, who mostly lay low, but the past couple of weeks they’ve been marauding any crumb I leave on the counter or in the sink. So, as usual, I’m grateful to them for motivating me to keep up with the kitchen, and (as E.O. Wilson invites us to) I marvel at their super skills when they do show up. I thought I’d done a great job putting the kitchen to bed last night when I came in this morning and didn’t see any ants on the counter…
…but then I noticed some on the mottled granite and saw with horror their trail to the bread bag which I’d set on top of this cookie tin. It never occurred to me that they could make holes in the bag, but sure enough it was still zipped shut, and after I dumped it into the compost bin I saw some tiny holes in the bag that no one else could have made. Oh well. I imagine their regular food supply has been flooded out and they’re starving. I’m happy to share my crumbs with them, and I’ll figure out an ant-proof bread solution for the next loaf. I honestly hated to take the antfull bread a hundred ant miles away from their home, but didn’t want to leave it out closer to the house where Wren would have eaten it all.
It was too hard to not add another image in the missing mountains series. We got another eight inches of snow overnight and it kept falling off and on all day. This was the view this morning. All day long there were big and little puffs of scattering crystals as loaded tree boughs dropped their snow. There was a hint of sunshine just as it set but I never did see the far side of the canyon today. I’m grateful for community: knowing there are friends across the field, up the driveway, through the woods, and down the road, being able to text or talk with them, offer comfort or conversation, receive assistance. Even in this silent isolation we are all connected. Let us pray, though, for sunshine tomorrow!
I realize just now with dismay that not only did I not post last night, but neither did Robert Hubbell. I hope that readers of the world managed to start their days without benefit of either of our insights and wisdom! I rely on Hubbell to get me through the dishes each morning and start my day with a compassionate and wise view of the previous day’s news.
I tried to post last night and I just couldn’t do it. My own small gratitude practice couldn’t seem to bring enough light into the darkness. I felt petty feeling good about anything. The two mass shootings in a row in California cast such a pall over the days of so many Americans, between the unfathomable grief of those communities, and the trauma that revisits every survivor and victim’s family of the incalculable stream of mass shootings that has unspooled with burgeoning obdurance since Columbine.
But this morning I rallied and brought myself to this day with presence, gratitude, and loving kindness, with patience and even some joy. For what good does it do the world for me to dwell in sorrow and despair? We can each only do what we can do, and to greet each day with gratitude and the intention to make it meaningful through good works and right thinking has got to be enough. There is far more in this world that I cannot control than I can. The only thing I can control is the attitude and the action I bring to each day, each moment. I can be of more benefit in this fleeting life to myself and others with resilience and kindness than with grief and anger. I can bring light to my own small sphere of influence, and try to help others do the same, and our efforts will ripple out to reach even more people.
This is the principle underlying the Four Immeasurables: loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. When we fill our awareness with these, there is less room for their opposites: hatred, cruelty and ill-will, jealousy and envy, and attachment and aversion. This is my practice. May the fruits of my practice ripple out and be of benefit to all beings.
So many components of mindfulness practice help me to hold both the joys of living and the immense sadness of being human in my heart at the same time. Among these are self-compassion, and choosing where I place my attention, so that I do not deplete my energy over things that are beyond my control. Another component is awareness of how we are all interconnected. With this awareness we can understand that working together we can create positive change. The majority of Americans favor banning assault weapons, and reasonable gun control. The minority holds the country hostage and we are the worse for it. I’m grateful for the citizens working their hearts out to bring attention to ways we can hold our governments accountable. One of these is Jessica Craven, an amazing activist who publishes a newsletter five days a week with easy actions you can do in five minutes to make your voice heard–she even includes scripts. A Sunday bonus edition bundles the week’s good news into an uplifting quick read. She is truly a light amid darkness.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m grateful for Drag Queens. Over the past six or seven years they’ve taught me so much about compassion, kindness, authenticity, inclusivity, and shattered so many of the negative biases I was raised to believe. They’ve opened my heart, broadened my mind, and enriched my life immeasurably. My love affair with drag queens started when on a whim I decided to check out RuPaul’s Drag Race on Amazon Prime. For awhile it was an obsession, then merely an addiction, and for the past few years it’s been simply a joy.
The other day I tripped over another drag queen show unexpectedly, ‘We’re Here’ on HBO. I’ve only watched two episodes out of the three seasons currently available. The first was filmed in Grand Junction, Colorado, the closest big city to where I live, and the place I go to see the dermatologist, pick up visitors from the airport, the nearest Natural Grocer, and once upon a time a shopping or restaurant destination when I used to drive up there once a month or so for errands. Just before Covid hit the US, friends had plans to take me to a drag show up there for my birthday present. Oh well. This episode was a consolation prize. The other episode, which I watched tonight, was ‘Florida-Part I’. In the series, three drag queen stars, Shangela, Eureka, and Bob the Drag Queen, travel to small towns in the US mentoring queer people and putting on a drag show starring their mentees.
‘Florida-Part I’ was a fabulous representation of the ramifications of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill popular there now. The episode is culturally and politically relevant, inspiring, moving, and hopeful. The three queens mentor a ten-year-old trans girl whose mother is a schoolteacher now prohibited by law from mentioning ‘gay’ or ‘trans’, a 58-year-old gay man living in conservative bastion The Villages, a 75-year-old recently trans woman and her wife of 50 years, and a Pulse survivor who brought his celebratory party of twenty friends to the club that night where four of them were soon shot to death. Imagine living with that: it was your idea to move the party to the club, and four of your friends died as a result.
The intolerance, hatred, misrepresentation, and fear that perpetuate tragedies like Pulse, Club Q, and any other culture-wars mass shooting have got to stop. Obviously, me saying that won’t accomplish anything if governor after mayor after governor saying so hasn’t stopped it yet. But all of us saying it, time after time, in our homes, our communities, our churches, and our ballot boxes, can finally make it stop, or at least slow it way the hell down. LGBTQ people are people. We are all people. In my world view, deer, mountain lions, juniper trees, even skunks are people.
Why can’t we live and let live? We are all connected. Whoever you are, someone you love is gay or trans or differently gendered or sexually oriented than you think is ‘normal.’ Anyone who votes for ‘Don’t Say Gay’ legislation is hurting or killing someone they love. This isn’t the time or place to go into it, and also I don’t know enough to proclaim but the research is out there; I do know that throughout human history and across cultures, gender and sexuality have never been purely binary. Let’s learn from the drag queens, and just love each other how we are.
I’m grateful for this box of beautiful citrus that arrived today from a dear friend in Florida. Four grapefruits, three satsumas, and two Meyers lemons. And I’m grateful for the other box too, with even more. A few of those satsumas were smashed and leaking, but they had a long cold trip.
I’m grateful for these generous gifts and the causes and conditions that got them here. As I think about all the steps involved in their journey from seed to tree to fruit, from High Springs to here, how they made it through or before the ‘once-in-a-generation’ winter storm, I’m considering that roughly 60% of the US population is experiencing extreme cold tonight, including blizzards, and lethal windchill temperatures. I’m grateful I’m safe and warm. I’m sadly aware of those many humans and other people who are not. Wild animals of all kinds, those in captivity, neglected pets, stray dogs, feral cats, and many more are also at risk from this massive storm. It’s tough to think about. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg of suffering across this fragile planet. I’m grateful for people of all species everywhere who make time to be kind, to support and care for each other.