I’m so grateful today for the happily nesting phoebes. She’s been sitting for three days. I haven’t wanted to aim the big camera at her because of its noise, and the phone camera won’t capture her in the shadows under the deck. So I sat outside reading for a few hours today to acclimate them to my presence, and every now and then fired off a few shots with the husband-camera aimed elsewhere, before sneaking a few of her. By the time their chicks hatch in a couple of weeks (or less!) mom and pop won’t even blink at this paparazzo, and the chicks will grow up preening for the lens.
I’m grateful to be immersed in a new puzzle for the holiday week. More to come on this delight.
I’ve not been a fan of stuffing in turkeys, or outside of turkeys, at holidays; nor have I stuffed a lot of things. But I have been stuffing the occasional mushroom since the Colonel first introduced me to the idea of popping a little blob of bleu cheese and a dab of butter into a button mushroom and broiling it for a few minutes. What a great appetizer! So simple, so delicious. And in recent years I’ve been grateful for stuffing larger mushrooms, usually portobellos. When I was searching stuffed pepper recipes a few weeks ago I ran across one which used riced cauliflower instead of regular rice. I couldn’t find it again when I went to stuff these gorgeous portobellos for lunch today. But I riced some cauliflower, sautéed some kale, grated some Mexican cheese, chopped a Chimayo pepper, a Sirenevyi sweet pepper, and the first ripe tiny Tabasco pepper, and the last fennel bulb, and mixed them all together with one beaten egg. Oh, and some spices. I scooped some of the flesh from the center of each mushroom and stuck it in the freezer for stock later, then plunked the stuffing into the mushrooms, topped with grated mozzarella, and roasted them at 400℉ for fifteen minutes. To serve, I topped them with a roasted tomato and some crumbled bacon (the fat of which I’d used to sauté the kale). Not so simple, but not so hard either, and so delicious.
I roasted a bunch of ripe and extra-ripe tomatoes this morning, and when they cooled slipped them into a freezer bag. There are so many green tomatoes left on the vine, and I worry they won’t ripen before the first freeze. Already I’m bringing in Biko, as when the weather forecast says 46 it’s been 38 overnight, and the past two nights it’s predicted 42. Can’t take the risk of freezing the tortoise. He can stay out to about 40 degrees but can’t handle much time at anything much lower. And I wonder about the green tomatoes and peppers, whether with these abruptly cold nights they have just stopped ripening. We’ll know more later. Anyway, I’m grateful for stuffing. This one was low-cal and fulfilling.
And in other news… A friend’s sister and her family lost everything in two homes in Ft. Myers in Florida during Hurricane Ian. Storm surge to the ceilings. As climate chaos continues to fuel more destructive storms, fires, heat waves, etc., all of us will be touched from three or two degrees of separation to no separation at all. Sherry visited here a few years ago, a lovely woman and a fine artist. Her life’s work, not to mention her husband’s shop and her daughter’s home also, gone. We so often feel helpless when tragedy strikes. This feels like a good way to contribute my little bit to the herculean recovery efforts underway in Florida and the US southeast coast, donating directly to a family and knowing they will get every penny. If you feel so moved, please join me, and share this link:
I was grateful this morning to wander the woods without incident with my intrepid little companions. I knew there was a recent lion kill not far from the house. I smelled death after we left the gate, and last night I had seen turkey vultures perched in the trees just beyond. This morning there was another one airing its wings due east of the house.
We finally went in search of it this evening. Just before dusk I realized I hadn’t seen Biko at all yesterday or today, so we had to hunt for him. He was tucked into one of his usual spots under a large rabbitbrush down by the pond, which was a relief. We couldn’t find him last night before lightning and thunder drove us inside. I decided we’d brave the wilds too, just so I’d know if the kill was my old doe, who I haven’t seen for a few days either. It was not, but I’ll spare you the photo. It was a large fawn, maybe one of her twins, maybe someone else’s. But the proximity of death and the lion’s habit of returning to a kill for several days afterward might be deterring the old doe from her daily visits.
I was grateful again today for Marc at Montrose Sewing Machine Repair. He’s been my rock through this Pfaff pedal puzzle for the past few weeks. This guy doesn’t even know me, and he’s gone way out of his way to make sure I’m able to work on my tropical drapes. First, he located what he thought was the right part at an online store. Turns out it wasn’t exactly the right part, and for the past week we’ve been trying to troubleshoot how to solve this dilemma. Hours back and forth texting pictures, videos, part numbers, and suggestions. He has extended himself above and beyond what I can imagine anyone else doing, with patience and good cheer.
Today, after concluding that the correct part is apparently no longer being manufactured, we considered some other options. One of them involved me taking apart the old pedal to see if he could maybe fix that. His reply to the above photo was “Aww man, they hardwired it!” Another option he came up with was to buy an old one on eBay. I’ll muddle along with the wrong plug wedged in until he can get and vet the eBay buy, and then see if I can return the bad part to the online store. If not, I’ll make it work, and Marc will have the right part when the next hapless Pfaff maiden needs one. I’m grateful for the kindness of strangers.
I’m grateful today to see the first paprika pepper turning red; and for another harvest of string beans; and for the tiny purple jigsaw peppers.
I diced one this evening and cooked it in an impromptu eggplant casserole. I roasted thinly sliced eggplants and some garlic cloves in the oven, while sautéing onions, a Blot pepper, and a jigsaw pepper in bacon grease. When the onions were caramelized I added some plain tomato sauce from last year’s pantry stash, and cooked it down until it was a thick, deep red. Then I layered eggplant rounds, sauce, and cheese three times, and topped with cheese and buttery breadcrumbs before baking for 25 minutes. Grateful for this Amy-inspired creation. It was delicious!
I was grateful at twilight to spy this adorable bed of sleeping bees. There’s a native species specific to sunflowers, genus Svastra. I’ve photographed one or two at a time in daylight foraging on the native sunflowers, but this surprised me as I returned from the compost bin and noticed a strange texture at the bottom of the center disk. Closer inspection revealed this delightful “bee snuggle.” And now I’m going to take my own little busy bee up to bed and go to sleep, for which I’m also very grateful.
I’m waiting for a lot of things. I’m waiting for these Blot peppers to turn orange and purple instead of chartreuse and purple. I wrote to Baker Creek where I got the seeds to find out how long it takes them to change to their fully ripe color, and was told they will “appear to just sit for several weeks before making their final color change.” I feel like they’ve been sitting like this for more than several weeks. But I’m being patient. I’m waiting for the Sirenevyi sweet peppers also to change from their deep purple to their final ripe deep red, and that seed company rep told me she thinks it’s about three weeks after they color fully purple. But I swear this one pepper has been purple for at least that long. But I’m being patient.
I’m also waiting for Rise Broadband to get its act together and quit constantly dropping internet service here; and waiting for Boost Mobile to get its tower enhancement straightened out so I can get phone service in my house again, which has been out since July 2. I’m waiting for the Division of Vocational Rehab to get me scheduled for an intake session so I can get permanent hearing aids. After trying demos for two weeks, it’s clear to me how much benefit they’ll confer. I’m waiting for an appointment with the only local pulmonologist to try to get my O2 saturation situation figured out. I’ve pursued all these dangling diagnostics diligently as well as the pepper problems in the past few days, and I’m real grateful that I’ve learned to cultivate patience. Even as I wait for solutions, I can enjoy the quiet growth in the garden, the waxing moon rising, crickets singing, reading a good book, a delicious salad, conversations with friends, playing with Wren, a hot shower, and a long nap. It’s not what life throws at or withholds from you, but how you respond to it, that determines your happiness.
I’m grateful to Sandra for being curious about my dream, and spurring me to analyze it a little more rather than just forget it. The live mammals that so horrified me were a rare (imaginary) catlike species from Africa who had been caught by a local hunter I know; they were essentially skinned white, their flattened heads and strongly slanted eyes even more noticeable without their fur. This speaks to me of a couple of undercurrent sorrows I hold at bay most of the time with gratitude for the moments in this precious life, since there’s not much else I can do. (Don’t misinterpret: I do what I can, but it’s not much.) Honoring our pain for the world means recognizing this Sixth Extinction we are in the midst of, as a headline today highlights; and also holding awareness that as we exploit species for food or whatever else our greed desires, we will continue to unleash more and more spillover infections like the current pandemic.
Meanwhile, on the home front, there is so much to be grateful for. I woke up alive, for one thing. The house had cooled overnight and I shut all the windows to keep the cool in all day as the temperature rose to 95℉ outside. I’m grateful for a meaningful meeting with graduates of the Mindfulness Foundations Course that I’ve been teaching, and for right livelihood. I’m grateful there’s water for the peach tree. And for me. I’m grateful for bright spots in the kitchen like this new little pot for a single serving of soup, or for melting butter; grateful for popcorn. And for a frozen banana bread scone which heated up beautifully in just ten minutes in the oven this morning…
…and grateful for the perfect scone-sized plate which I chose because it makes me so happy, no matter what I serve on it, to get to the bottom and see the little wedge of Brie. Who designed this plate, and why? What possessed anyone to think that this simple illustration would sell a plate? But it did, to Amy, for me, and it delighted me when I opened the gift, and delights me to this day years later, just to see that little brie and think of Amy, and of all the evenings over five decades when we sat together once in a blue moon eating Brie and bread. I’m grateful for this simple symbol of friendship so loaded with meaning, especially when it’s empty.
And I’m grateful there wasn’t more fallout from an intimate predator/prey interaction this evening, right after the hour I spent practicing patience and equanimity on tech support, and before our soothing walk to watch the sun set. Wren was minding her own business, nosing about in a flower bed, when Topaz got up and stalked her. How cute, I thought, she finally wants to play. She lunged, Wren ran, she lunged again, Wren ran farther, and then Topaz went after her in earnest. It looked a lot like this. Or this. But really more like the first one: she grabbed Wren’s flanks just like a lion would, and left a hole on each hip before I broke it up. There was hissing, screaming, growling. It’s not like dogs, I think, where you let them sort it out a bit and only break it up if you need to. Wren was outmatched in terms of weapons, or might have killed Topaz if she’d really fought back. I wasn’t willing to risk it. So…maybe they won’t end up cuddling in front of the woodstove this winter. But there’s still time! Hope springs eternal. I’ll get a squirt bottle loaded just in case.
Yesterday was interesting. I was too tired to write about it last night, and probably won’t do it justice tonight, but want to express my gratitude to the imaging technicians at Delta Hospital. Everyone was so kind, from the receptionists on. There were some little glitches, at intake and with the MRIs, that would once have really frustrated me, but my growing capacity for accepting things as they are instead of thinking that they should be different served me well.
I may have never met a more tender, compassionate, and sweet tech than Toni, the woman who did the bone density scan. We were practically in tears of loving-kindness by the time she led me back to the waiting room. The MRI tech was very business-like, though also considerate and kind. I remembered Deb’s encouragement to ask for what I needed, so asked for extra pillows to support my knees to reduce sciatic strain; and when the classical music station wouldn’t play, I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb. Remarkably, the only stations that would play were country, and something called ‘soft rock,’ which was horrible. I experienced extreme aversion during the first MRI as the DJ blithered on and on, and when there was ‘music’ its beat clashed with the machine noises inside my head until, despite a concerted effort to remain focused on my breath, I was completely rattled. I squeezed the ‘stop’ bulb again when anxiety rose to unbearable-verging-on-panic, and fortunately that was the end of the first session. I continued in blessed internal silence for the next three tests. It was a lengthy exercise in conscious relaxation, first my face, then abdomen, then shoulders, back to abdomen, back to face–as one area relaxed another tensed up, and I cycled through one after the other, consistently returning attention to the breath. Nothing like a long MRI to strengthen meditation practice.
During the whole second scan, there was a little lump in the pillow, which bored into my head. I breathed through that, but it got worse and worse. It was fascinating to watch my mind deal with all these sensational challenges. She wanted me to keep my head perfectly still when she pulled me out to inject the contrast dye, but I had to insist that she smooth the pillow. It wasn’t really a pillow, just a folded cloth. She was exasperated, and in a hurry. I said calmly, as she prepared my arm to stick a needle into it, “I need to not feel anxious, and I need to feel that you’re not in a hurry.” She softened instantly, apologized, and explained that there were two emergencies waiting and there was only this one machine, and one of her. This put things in a different perspective for me, and we both calmed way down. She thought to put a little lavender patch on my chest, which actually helped a lot. This experience, which was stressful and could have been really horrible, was transformed by my ability to accept things as they were each step of the way, do what I could to change them, and then accept again. And again, there was much tenderness and well-wishing between us as she walked me out.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself as I left the hospital, for the emotional skill with which I’d navigated the morning, and decided to treat myself to a deli sandwich. But there’s no deli near the hospital, so I stopped at Sonic to see what I could find. At the drive-up menu, I realized I couldn’t bring myself to order factory-farmed chicken or beef, so I left; but circled back and ordered three fried sides. I was glowing with acceptance when the little girl brought my limeade and a small bag, and was only mildly disappointed to find inside the bag just one little wrapped burger. I accepted the error with good cheer, and she said she’d be right back with my order. Way too long later, two more “Welcome to Sonic, may I take your order” queries, and finally my bag of sides, I almost lost it when I opened the bag to find they were small instead of medium, and there was no mayo. Acceptance out the window! Attachment in high gear: I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it NOW! But still, I managed not to be too grumpy. When the manager brought a double handful of condiments and apologized, she said “It’s just the two of us, people didn’t show up…” My perspective adjusted itself instantaneously, all frustration melted, and I assured her it was no problem. We smiled and laughed and wished each other happy holidays.
The food was a big disappointment. But I accepted that easily. Fast food is what it is. I drove home filled with compassion for the people who worked at the hospital, the patients who needed emergency MRIs, the harried staff at Sonic, and deeply grateful for the skill of acceptance.
Oh Topaz. I know right where she is, or where she was just after dark: east of the fence, lying in wait beside a scrap wood pile for some unsuspecting or terrified rodent. If she’s not in by bedtime, it’s another layer of surrender for me. It’s been one layer of surrender after another for the past few weeks, and less dramatically for months.
The last cat who was allowed to go where and when she pleased day or night was Dia, the Psycho Calico. Her name is short for Aradia, Daughter of the Queen of the Witches, but not many people ever knew that. It was my Wiccan phase. She made life so unbearable if she didn’t get what she wanted, including outside at night, that the house motto became Dia gets what Dia wants. I’m afraid it will end up thus for Topaz, especially if she survives lions, coyotes, owls, etc., tonight and lives to be an only pet.
Meanwhile, Stellar had a very exciting day, and I learned how to surrender another layer: of thinking there’s some fateful timeline, of clinging to some shred of a sense of control. I’m grateful today for resilience, Stellar’s too but especially mine. He keeps on surprising. It would be easier if his downward trajectory were more direct, however slow. This repeated rebounding, this resilience, aggravates my second-guessing habit, which is not a habit I wish to cultivate; I’d prefer it to atrophy.
Today was an online meditation retreat with my teachers’ teacher, B. Alan Wallace, “Shamatha in the Dzogchen Tradition.” Shamatha is the meditation style also referred to as Calm Abiding. The first session looked promising. Stellar slept through the night, I was reasonably well-rested, and I’d given him water, pills, and food. He went back to sleep. I listened raptly to the first talk, and settled in for the first 20-minute meditation. Stellar had woken and was alert, panting a little. I realized a few minutes into the meditation that he probably wanted more water. I figured he could wait another 18 minutes. Nope.
My eyes were closed. He stood up and stepped over me, walked a few feet before collapsing on the floor. Ok, I surrender. I slipped the sling under him and hefted his back end as he made his way out the front door, and around the south end of the house to his water bucket, where he drank copiously. What I got for not interrupting the meditation three minutes in for a minute was no meditation at all. Oh well. Nonattachment to outcome. He settled down for the next hour.
At the midday break, Rosie came by with more pain meds from the pharmacy for him–Dr. TLC didn’t anticipate him lasting this long, I think, and had to call in a special request refill. At her arrival he went bonkers barking from his bed, and she came in to visit him. He struggled to get up again, so we took him outside for an assisted wobble. Then again, right after the next session began, he got up on his own and wobbled to the door. By that time already drained for the day, I let him out unattended. He managed about ten minutes in the yarden before collapsing comfortably (appropriately) under the Contemplation Tree, where he rested another ten until I saw him trying to get up. I slung him in, and he’s been in bed since, though wide awake until just recently.
Topaz finally came in, and Stellar is asleep, so I am relaxing at last, after a long, full day. With Alan’s guidance, I sustained a meditative state throughout, and deepened my capacity for letting go, for surrender to the changing conditions of each moment. I’m grateful for calm abiding.
I’m grateful today for Topaz. She hasn’t gotten her fair share of attention in recent weeks. Today I took her alone for a short walk around the Breakfast Loop. Neither of us has gotten enough exercise without Stellar to lead us on walks, and we both needed a silent stroll in the fresh air. There were a couple of brief interludes today when he slept soundly; otherwise he has been agitated all day. Partly discomfort, I think, but during the day there was certainly frustration at not being able to get up and go outside. I hate to limit him, but I just can’t haul him around anymore since he can’t help at all with his back legs. It’s the equivalent of carrying a fifty pound feed sack with one hand and steering a canoe with the other.
I’m grateful for my job teaching mindfulness, grateful for community support, grateful for a beautiful fall day. I’m grateful for the sweet moments of connection with Topaz, and the hours of respite with Stellar calm or asleep. I’m grateful even in difficulty for another day with him in which to cultivate patience, compassion, and unconditional love, developing my understanding and capacity. I’m hopeful for an easier day tomorrow.
I’m grateful for the awareness I had to be grateful every day for two happy, healthy dogs for most of their lives. Mr. Brick died of cancer when Stellar was nine months old, at the young age of ten. Over the next decade Stellar and Raven brought so much joy. Their sheer physical magnificence would have been ample, but their inseparable and enthusiastic relationship delighted me constantly.
I’m grateful that Stellar had a pretty easy day, therefore so did I. He never got up from his bed, and the last time he really tried was at two a.m., when he woke me with pitiful crying. I spent an hour getting him settled down, and he slept soundly til well after I and the sun were up. Perhaps he’s accepted his immobility, and he seemed comfortable all day, sleeping a lot but otherwise alert and engaged. He’s still a good watchdog, sounding the alarm when various friends stopped by with treats for me and necessities for him. I’m grateful for the TLC of people looking out for me, and grateful that I can also be helpful to others even during this challenging time. I’m grateful to finally begin to understand what it means to live with a joyful ease.