My dear departed friend Michael had a postcard on his refrigerator that I coveted. It became my secret motto, and it looked something like this:
It’s hardly an appropriate mantra for a mindfulness teacher, so as my practice has developed I’ve modified my interpretation. Whether it’s ear-splitting music shattering the peace of a secluded beach or earth-shattering climate chaos, it’s the ignorant choices of some other people that ruin things. It’s not the polar bears or the giant redwoods ruining their own habitats, it’s people. It’s not the natural desert sucking the Rio Grande dry, or grazing bison depleting the Ogallala Aquifer, it’s people. These are just the tip of the melting iceberg, of course: Everyone has their own examples, from wars to weeds.
But while it’s true that most of the horrible things I lament in the world are the result of other people, it’s also true that other people are responsible for almost every good thing in my life. They’re certainly responsible for my survival from birth, the education, employment, and other opportunities that shaped me and enabled me to settle here, and my ongoing thriving in this wonderful community. And just like me, most other people are doing the best they can with what they have to live their own little lives without causing intentional distress for anyone else.
Other people are responsible in some way for everything on this table, from the copper watering can and ceramic bonsai pots to the coffee, its mug, the ingredients for the cookie and its plate, and the table itself. Other people created from natural materials all the construction elements of the sunroom where the table sits, from the adobe bricks to the window frames and the glass windows. All the art in my home (including photographs I made) came in some way from other people. Even the tiny percentage of food that I grow in the garden (that other people helped me create) relies on the efforts of other people for the seeds, water delivery, soil amendments, and help maintaining. It’s an infinite pool of reliance: I’d be nothing without other people. So I’m profoundly grateful for other people.
I’m grateful for leftovers: veggie enchilada with shredded romaine and fresh garden tomato for lunch today, the last of the cauliflower soup tonight. I’m grateful that I have enough to eat, and a roof over my head, and good friends around the valley and around the country, and everything I need to bake cupcakes tomorrow.
I’m grateful that Hurricane Idalia wasn’t quite as catastrophic as she could have been in terms of human fatalities; though she’ll result in plenty of long-term suffering for millions of Americans along her ongoing path. Supporting my plea argument yesterday, R. Hubbell wrote in Today’s Edition:
“The effects of human-caused climate change are manifesting themselves everywhere—as should be expected given the interdependence of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, land masses, and ecosystems. We can feel overwhelmed if we simply catalog the many ways in which climate change manifests itself. We cannot give in to helplessness. It is never too late to make changes that will benefit current and future generations. The most important thing we can do is to elect leaders who will prioritize the reduction of reliance on fossil fuels…. It is time for all Americans to put climate change at the top of their issues list when deciding how they will cast their vote. Remember that at the GOP debate last week, Vivek Ramaswamy declared that ‘Climate change is a hoax.’ The only hoax is politicians who refuse to address a problem that is an economic and national security emergency affecting the lives of every American.”
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.
What a joy to see the Phoebe chicks outgrowing their nest! I’m grateful on this Interdependence Day that I got to spend some time outside watching the feeding frenzy and catching a few good pictures. I am also grateful that I got some thoughts on interdependence out on my podcast, Suffer Less with Mindfulness, available wherever you get your podcasts, or on my website here. Wishing everyone a safe and mindful holiday week.
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.
I’m grateful for where I live, and for neighbors who share certain values that reflect an understanding of our interdependence. We don’t agree on everything, and some of us barely agree on anything, but we do share a love of the land on which we live, and a willingness to help each other out when what we can offer is needed. Big thanks to neighbor Joe for all the plowing he’s done this winter, and for pulling my car out of the snowbank with his tractor this afternoon.
It’s possible that there is someone in the neighborhood who didn’t look outside this evening and marvel at the truly astonishing colors that permeated everything from sky to snow to winter junipers. But it’s not likely. One of the values we share is a reverence for the beauty of the place we live.
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.
You saw this picture Wednesday night. This driveway is drifted a foot deep in places, after a two-inch snow accompanied by strong winds for hours. Because of its south-north orientation, and prevailing west winds, with no windbreak to the west, only a forty-acre field, it’s a perfect equation for drifts. I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe and learn first-hand about the powerful phenomenon of drifting snow. It’s amazing how wind packs and sculpts this delicate substance. I understand better than some when I hear weather reports about blizzards closing highways, or other snow drama. I’m even more grateful for the kindness of neighbors, and the first-hand experience of interdependence.
I couldn’t have lived here thirty years without the support, friendship, and cooperation of neighbors. Thirty years! I can’t believe it. This summer it will be thirty years at the end of this driveway. I’m grateful I’ve learned to open my heart and my mind, to communicate with and accept differences, and to focus on the shared values of the people I live among. One of those values is perseverance, demonstrated above by the truck tracks (subsequently drifted again in the west track along the fenceline) left by my courageous friends on Wednesday morning determined to get food to me. Food that I didn’t really need and I’m so glad they didn’t get stuck delivering a luxury.
Another value is cooperation, demonstrated below by the plow and tractor tracks made today by a neighbor whom I asked for help. We’re not close, but I’m grateful that he’s often willing to help when needed; as I know he’s grateful for access across my north forty, and its occasional use for his horses. I’ll bake some bread to show my appreciation. I’m grateful for the ideal of good neighbors, and for being surrounded by so many of them. I’m even more grateful that some of them are my dearest friends.
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.
Outside and in, inside and out, we had a cozy day. Wren surprises me with her enthusiasm for snow. But she just came in after midnight whiz and won’t stop licking her paws: from a high of 34℉ this afternoon the temperature has plunged to 7 at the moment and I don’t think she’s ever been out in snow that cold. I might have to buy her some pink booties…
Lunch was total comfort food with this creamy chickpea-spinach pasta with rosemary. It was so good I ate it again for dinner. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful for simply inhabiting this particular life at this moment. I appreciate how fortunate I am, among the 8 billion other humans, and I try to make each day meaningful by living in alignment with my values of gratitude, kindness, and being of benefit to at least one other person, human or otherwise.