Thinking about time, today, in the context of “the rest of your life.” No matter how long that is, such a short time! How long did it take for this little canyon to take its present shape? Many many human lifetimes. How long has this Ancient One been growing on the canyon rim? Seventeen human generations at least, especially since in the first dozen or more of those generations human life expectancy was more or less forty years (mostly less). I’m grateful for this perspective, which helps me to appreciate the precious insignificance of my own uncertain lifetime. I’ve already lived longer than most humans for most of human history. I’ll be grateful for all the ups and downs, the gives and takes, that landed me here, in this old arid land, for the rest of my life. I’m grateful to be able to share this place with good companions along the way.
It only took thirty years, but I’m grateful to finally understand that relaxation is a skill that requires cultivation and practice. My particular upbringing (and our culture), for all its privileges, left me midlife in a steady state of constant vigilance and anxiety. Meditation helped open my eyes to a different way to be, and the practice of mindfulness has opened my life to a level of contentment, acceptance, and ease I only dreamed of when I moved here thirty years ago. I still get anxious, but it doesn’t bother me as much; I still feel inclined to control things but I’m not attached to outcomes. Relaxation is so much more complicated than taking a day off and putting up my feet; however, that’s what I did today, and I really enjoyed it.
I’m grateful today, especially, and every day, for a roof over my head, and four walls; windows and doors I can open or close at will; a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping loft, and some other sort of rooms: I am profoundly grateful to live in a house. Especially today, when many people have lost their houses to wildfires ravaging the American West, the Mediterranean, Europe, and other parts of the globe; and when many have lost their houses due to evictions, and other manmade catastrophes. I’m grateful that after our smoky walk this morning, we were able to retreat into the relative safety of our little mud hut, close up all the windows and doors, turn on the new swamp cooler (for which I’m also deeply grateful), remaining cool, comfortable, and safe, and breathe fairly clean air all day.
I’m grateful that it cooled down a lot today, and tonight well after dark the stars are out in a clear sky, smoke having settled or blown through. My throat is sore, my nose itches and runs, my eyes are scratchy; Stellar wheezed and panted all day but sleeps quietly at the moment. What about the hummingbirds? Their minuscule lungs! How do they manage in this smoke? And we’ve got it easy. Farther west, closer to the fires, in the fires… it boggles the mind and breaks the heart, the hardship and suffering of humans and all the wild creatures. I’m grateful for the temporary luxury of shutting it all out, closing my eyes, and sleeping between soft, clean sheets for one more night at a time.
Little trees, big trees, baby trees, mother trees…
I’m grateful for another full day of life on this marvelous planet. Grateful to wake up and walk with my big old dog, grateful for a productive morning at home, grateful to make it out of the dermatologist’s office with only six freezes on my face and one biopsy that he thinks is a superficial basal cell and not melanoma (but god, why did he even have to mention that word?) He didn’t seem worried so I won’t. I’m grateful for a good relationship with a kind and competent dermatologist and his assistant. Glad I didn’t fall asleep on that long drive up there, and plenty of sensation to keep me awake on the drive home. And then, I was grateful for a long hot shower and a martini at the pond.
I’m so grateful every time I come home after being away, even for just a few hours. Anything can happen out there. Of course, anything can happen here too, but it just feels better to be home than out on the highway, especially with all the extra traffic detoured from the US 50 closure. Once I’d rinsed the city trip off and out of me, we took our evening walk.
I’m grateful today for the love and empathy that’s come my way from people reading recent posts about Stellar. We saw the new vet today, and her report is that he’s in tip top shape – his blood work is perfect, “not even a liver enzyme out of place” – except that he is losing control of his back end. Which we knew. It’s just getting precipitously worse recently. We made it to the canyon again this morning, and I got him in and out of the car twice, and he loved the ride to the vet in Delta, and he loved visiting with the vet, and now he’s sleeping the sleep of the – well, of the 103-year old dog who’s had a big day. Yes, that’s his main issue, he’s about 103 years old. I’ll be grateful to make it to any number of Old Age.
I told the vet, “He’s directionally deaf,” and she said, “I’d be surprised if he wasn’t.” I said, “He’s losing some vision,” and she said, “Of course he is at his age.” I’m grateful for this good news about my old dog: it relieves some anxiety, thinking now that I don’t have to be thinking of how soon I might have to put him down, but instead can just think about whether we’ll have to invest in a little cart to help him get along. As long as nothing else is wrong with his huge ancient body, and his heart, mind, and soul are healthy and happy, I can relax and enjoy his good company for as long as the most of him holds out. I told the vet today, as I’ve told many people, “This dog is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my whole life.” In so many ways, that’s the god’s honest truth.
This morning I’m grateful for New Dimensions, a weekly, one-hour radio program more than forty years old, that I have been listening to for almost thirty. Today’s interview with Richard Louv is just one of many that I find profoundly moving. Some of the shows are a bit too… esoteric for my taste, but that’s just personal preference.
“It is only through a change in human consciousness that the world will be transformed. The personal and the planetary are connected. As we expand our awareness of mind, body, psyche, and spirit, and bring that awareness actively into the world, so also will the world be changed. This is our quest, as we explore New Dimensions.”
Each interview brings a unique perspective to some inquiry that inevitably relates to mindfulness. Richard Louv’s latest book, and the topic of Justine Willis Toms’ interview with him in episode #3716, is Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives – and Save Theirs. Gosh, hasn’t this been my calling all along? Among many other things, he talks about the plague of loneliness, derived in large measure from our disconnection from Nature, that ranks with diabetes and obesity as a US human health hazard. He talks about how urban planning for wildlife (such as grasslands on factory rooftops), and home habitat gardens, can fortify migratory bird corridors, and help restore endangered species. One office building he describes raises endangered butterflies on their all-glass first-floor, so not only is there a plenitude of natural light to lift people’s spirits, when you enter the building you’re likely to have a butterfly alight on your shoulder.
“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes and softly sits on your shoulder.” I had a poster in my childhood bedroom with this quote that’s resonated with me ever since.
Louv also discusses the idea of habitat of the heart, a habitat as important to the preservation of Nature as natural habitat, and how we must cultivate this habitat from childhood on, as each generation’s ‘new normal’ becomes acclimatized to less and less wild nature in their lives. I remember climbing the birch tree in the backyard woods when I was in the single digits of my life, sitting in the top branches of its gently swaying slender trunk, just sitting, being part of the woods. Do you have a childhood memory of being with nature in that way? Do your children? I hope so.
Gratitude practice today starts with New Dimensions, ripples out to include KVNF which introduced me to this show and has expanded my horizons in so many other ways since I moved to this valley, and leads to gratitude for all the conditions of my life that led me to settle here in 1992. Grateful that a deep sense of missing something, in my twenties, led me to trust and rely upon my profound inborn reverence for Nature, and to create this little sanctuary for the Wild, in which loneliness never enters my mind. Ok, sometimes, but not often!