Tag Archive | Topaz


Topaz is finally becoming a semi-sociable cat. I still grieve the untimely death of her brother three years ago: He was so connected to me from the beginning, while she was always aloof in the way of so many female cats, the hunters, the providers. But she’s eight and a half now, and she’s finally accepted Wren, and she wants to be more involved in our lives. To the unfortunate point of exploring places she doesn’t belong. I’m grateful for her attention, and that she’s graceful enough that she didn’t crash through the open top of the light stand.

I’m grateful for the freedom of non-attachment that gardening cultivates. I had some leftover seeds from the past couple of years that I planted this afternoon in soil I’d kept soft and warm(ish) under cover for the past few weeks. In anticipation of this weekend’s snow, I planted a bunch of rows and left them to receive the moisture. At bedtime, there’s a light dusting of snow glowing under the overcast, waxing moon. I’ll figure out the cover strategy after the storm dumps all it’s going to and skies clear again. Will I cover then until spring? Or will I cover and uncover until the deep freeze and then leave the beds exposed to collect all the winter’s moisture… and then cover to begin warming in earliest spring? Or, will I think of something else somewhere along the way? Not attached to whether these seeds germinate, but enjoying experimenting, knowing that no matter what I do now I don’t know what will happen later. Grateful to be alive, comfortable with uncertainty.

I’m grateful today for leftovers, but not the usual Thanksgiving spread. Just another chickpea-mushroom burger and homemade bun from the freezer. I’m grateful to have sufficient food that I can frequently save some for the next day, or the next month; and that I have the appliances to do so safely; and that I have electric power from the sun to run the fridge and freezer. I’m grateful for these things every single day.

Right Tools for the Job

It’s only taken a year and a half, and finally these two can stand at the door at the same time in the morning waiting to be let out.

And it only took me three more birdstrikes today to finally hang my last-resort bird deterrent over the east window. I thought I had solved it with the plant stand blocking the center of the window, and the prayer flags across the top. But this morning two birds hit almost simultaneously, a male and a female junco. He flew off, but she fell. I’m grateful she wasn’t killed, but she was knocked out. I picked her up and put her in a small box for about ten minutes, then opened the box to the sun. About twenty minutes after that, she had left the box and was warming herself perched on a rock on the patio table, a tiny spot of blood at the base of her beak. A few minutes later she had flown away.

Okay, I thought, it’s time to pull out those icicle lights and obscure my view, but if it will save even one more bird it’s worth it. But I didn’t do it right then, I got sidetracked. A few hours later, as the temperature dropped, another junco smacked into the window. I jumped up, grabbed the lights, hammer, some nails, and the stepladder, and set to it. I was grateful to have the right tools for the job, especially the lights, which I bought last winter but couldn’t find the right place to hang–because I didn’t want to obscure my view, and after long consideration I had realized there was really no other appropriate space.

So I strung them outside, in hopes that they’ll be sufficient indication of a no-fly zone. Based on advice from friends and research, these meet four out of five criteria, and I’m optimistic. This has been an anomalous past month for bird strikes, and I still think there’s something strange going on with the juncos.

Meanwhile, in the standard gratitude categories, Wren and food, I made spice sticky buns tonight for special guests coming for coffee tomorrow morning, and others for tea on Saturday afternoon. The new cinnamon still hasn’t arrived, so I used old cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves again, and added Craisins. I’m really optimistic about this batch, even though I forgot to add an egg to the dough. They’ve been rising nicely in the pan this evening, and I’m leaving it overnight in the cold mudroom, anticipating they’ll be perfect in time to bake in the morning. I’m grateful for the right tools for this job, too: a silicone rolling mat, an old-style wooden rolling pin, and a reliable 9×13 pyrex baking dish.

Living Inside the Kaleidoscope

I was grateful to wake this morning to a few inches of snow, especially knowing it means a lot of snow in the mountain reservoir: an auspicious beginning to our essential snowpack. The deer were grateful for leaves lowered within browsing range by heavy snow. Morning coffee was naturally enjoyed indoors, with a little beggar hoping for a nut from my trail mix cookie. Even Topaz didn’t want to go outside.

I was grateful to see that the dough I let rise overnight formed into a perfect ball when I took it out of the bowl to proof it. I was even more grateful to see the perfect loaf that baked in the cast iron dutch oven. While the bread rose and baked, I was grateful for some loving connection with friends and family over phone and zoom, cozy in my warm home with the little animals and the fire in the woodstove, the scent of baking bread…

The zoom call with Catherine Ingram was especially comforting, finding commonality with others around the globe who are all heartsick over the conditions of power, war, violence, and cruelty rising like a brewing storm. Catherine quoted Kierkegaard in cautioning us to not be ‘tranquilized by the trivial,’ and advised that sometimes the most we can do is simply to “be a light in our own lives – and that starts with being a light in yourself.” There was so much more, and I’ll share the link to the podcast when the conversation is edited and published.

This might be the most beautiful loaf ever! And certainly it was delicious. Naturally I had bread for lunch: the warm heel with butter and some fromage fort that I whipped up with the last bits of some cheddar, havarti, smoked gouda, and mozzarella. So simple, so delicious! For dessert, not surprisingly, I enjoyed a piece of toast with apricot jam. So decadent!

Much of the snow melted during the afternoon, and evening brought a partial clearing of the skies. Then in the span of half an hour the view of Needle Rock went from this…

to this, as setting sun cast its apricot glow on another shower:

I’m grateful for living inside the kaleidoscope.

A Morning Stroll

I’m grateful to be getting back into a good habit after too long away from it: a morning stroll in the woods. Today I strolled with my two little companions, aimless on various trails. We took a couple of breaks to sit on some logs, and I got reacquainted with some tree friends. It’s so different without big dogs, but I’m getting used to it.

Wren watches Topaz watching something.


I’m grateful for noticing the slight shift in light this morning, just as I rose to come inside after a coffee break on the patio. It’s starting! I realized, and then I played with the ‘croissant eclipse’ we got to enjoy on the Western Slope just a bit east of the annular eclipse path across the western US. I first photographed the sunflowers and aspen I had shot earlier in the morning, noticing the orange cast to the pink gravel, and the general burnished feel to the atmosphere.

Then I dashed inside to get a couple of eclipse watching tools, either not having proper eyewear or not remembering where they might be. I poked a hole in the center of a clean cardboard pizza plate, and grabbed my favorite perforated kitchen tool.

I discovered during the last eclipse that a simple colander provides endless eclipse entertainment.

As the eclipse diminished, it was time to head inside for a Mindful Conversation Zoom, where we talked about the importance of and means to cultivating the skills of resilience, courage, and calm, so that we can act beneficially in this increasingly distressing world.

Then it was back outside for lunch, making the most of these precious fall days of waning warmth. I took a bowl of leftover broccoli Alfredo down to the pond and was happy to see a couple of leopard frogs also enjoying the sunshine. Wren rolled in the warm rushes, and Topaz jumped up on the table to keep us company. Soon it was time to go inside for another meeting, and then more time outside, in and out until dark.

After dark I baked the bread that had been proofing all day, even as I watched the Bread episode of the new Great British Baking Show. I gave myself Star Baker for this loaf, finally achieving the rise I’ve been after for the last several months of sad, flat loaves.

Tiny, Fortunate Life

I haven’t been able to master the ‘smashed potato’ until possibly the other night. And I also haven’t been thrilled with most of the Instagram recipes I’ve tried, but this one that Amy shared a week ago actually turned out splendidly. I quartered large Yukon gold potatoes and boiled them til just fork tender, then rolled them in olive oil in a roasting pan, and smashed them with the bottom of a heavy glass. Previously I’d boiled them too long and they just mashed. I got the timing right on these so that they flattened without mushing. I roasted them for awhile til they were brown on the bottom and starting to crisp, and while they were in the oven, I (over) caramelized half a small onion I had open. Then I flipped the potatoes, layered some with the onions and sliced Havarti, and when I ran out of onions I left the remainder bare. They were delicious!

I accidentally ate all the onioned potatoes that night, but saved the rest, and reheated some of those the next night with grated parmesan and ‘bacon’ bits, and turned the rest into hash browns with a fried egg for tonight’s supper. I’m grateful to have potatoes, a kitchen to cook them in, and a small plot of peace in a crazy world.

Topaz purring on the bed last night…

It feels so dissonant to enjoy these small and gracious pleasures, the seemingly steady security of my little neighborhood, while people elsewhere are reeling from the tragedy of yet another war. How do we hold both the trauma of human aggression and the beauty of nature and life at the same time? This requires a longer, deeper practice of equanimity than I have mastered, and some profound wisdom I have only occasionally glimpsed. Suffice to say that though I cannot leave the topic of Israel’s 9.11 unmentioned, I also remain speechless.

My heart breaks for the innocent lives ended and upended in both Israel and Gaza, and for the terrified hostages; as well as for the non-human animals who are always ‘collateral damage’ in the explosive devastation of wars. My heart breaks for the planet as a whole as even more finite resources are wasted in another flagrant power struggle among humans who have more in common than different, while our species as a whole plunges willfully toward its own demise. As my heart breaks I hold even more dearly, with an almost desperate gratitude, the daily treasures of my own tiny, fortunate life.

A spider orchid blooming in morning sun in its new location…
A tiny dingo unperturbed by my yoga mat…
My friend’s gorgeous courtyard as we shared jasmine tea, beauty, and heartbreak this afternoon…
And the unexpected pleasure of picking a few apples off her trees to bring home…

Fall Day

I’m grateful for waking up alive on another beautiful fall day, savoring coffee on the patio as potential days to do so decrease.

I’m grateful for two days worth of harvest putting the garden to bed; it could freeze tonight or come too close for comfort for the peppers, so I brought them all in: two types of paprika peppers, Fresnos, jalapeños, and the last little blot pepper.

Where’s Wren?

And grateful after a busy day for a lovely walk up the driveway with Wren and Topaz, in the golden grasses and rabbitbrush, with decorative clouds, and a mountain bluebird hopping fenceposts ahead of us. We heard our first sandhill cranes overhead on the way back downhill.

Canoe of Fate

Aren’t we all paddling along in a canoe of fate? I don’t know. But I’m grateful for this puzzle, from a painting by mid-20th century American painter Roy de Forest. I hadn’t heard of him, but was charmed by the image and chose it as my puzzle for this season.

The brick pattern was the easiest to distinguish and assemble, and these were the first few pieces I put together: charming. Using Seymour’s rules I only looked at the lid once (for a long time) before beginning the puzzle, so I knew that this was part of the lower left edge.

Like the image itself, the pieces are extra whimsical. I haven’t found the head of the Yeti in the lower right (above), nor fit in the unicorn, but worked on the canoe which is the centerpiece… and soon had a good start.

Where once the whimsy pieces were all a single cut, the latest Liberty puzzles have evolved so that many, like the faun and the buck above, and the mystery shape below, are comprised of multiple pieces.

I’m grateful for a worthwhile day’s work, followed by a late afternoon starting the puzzle, and an evening stroll with my little pets.

One of my favorite views any time of year, but especially in autumn. Aspens on Mendicant Ridge just started turning this past week. “Who am I,” I still wonder, “and how did I come to be here?”
Topaz blends in beautifully with the autumn colors on the trail.
Where’s Wren?

Back at the house after an evening meeting, I resumed play on the puzzle, finding the missing tails of the dragon and griffon. With the peaceful accompaniment of Radio Swiss Jazz, I puzzled into the night, resting my emotions and thoughts in the meditative attention to the lovely challenge before me. I thought of Favorite Auntie, who introduced me to these wooden jigsaw puzzles a decade ago, and felt myself back in her house in Kilmarnock, and later her apartment in DC, sitting in loving companionship across the green felt on her card table, puzzling. She would have loved this one. Magic.

Finding What I Need

Finding a moment of peace down at the pond, before wasp harassment drove us back inside

My little town. My neighborhood. Teaching. Scavenging. I couldn’t decide until I realized the umbrella they all fit under is finding what I need. I’m grateful for finding what I need today.

Feeling on a bit of a rocky plateau in mindfulness practice, I was grateful for finding camaraderie and meaning in a meditation and meeting I led this morning, with some wonderful graduates of the Foundations Course I teach; and then in the afternoon, finding common ground and ease with some wonderful new acquaintances in a course I’ve just started taking. Later, resting in the comfort of a zoom chat with Amy.

Grateful for finding what I need for a delicious sandwich for lunch between zooms

I’m grateful for finding what I needed at the Hitching Post in town, the little store that has one of everything you could almost ever need. I needed a couple more cans of wasp spray. I hate to use it, but we’re not able to spend more than a few minutes outside near the house, or even sit still as far from the house as the pond, without being threatened by an aggressive wasp. I don’t think it’s the same wasp every time (but it could be); I think they have guards stationed all around the yarden to drive me inside. But it’s simply too lovely, in this most beautiful season, to be imprisoned by fear of wasps. They continue to rise from the stump, and I found another huge nest under the deck just outside the east door, and another in a decorative pot on the patio corner.

I’m grateful for finding the time to take the scenic loop to town and home again, driving around the reservoir to enjoy the first fall colors turning up on Mendicant Ridge, and the plenitude of all that community water still behind the dam.

Grateful for finding salad greens to meet the needs of Biko and myself this evening

After dark, I dusted the stump with diatomaceous earth, grateful to find that in my garden supply drawer; unfortunately, that roused the wasps quickly, and I was stung again on the tender skin inside my forearm. It wasn’t as bad as fast as the last one, but continues to swell so I’ve taken another Benadryl: grateful for finding what I need in the medicine drawer.

After all that poisoning, I wanted a hot shower but it was already down to 40℉ outside and all the windows and doors were open. So I shut most of them, and found enough small pieces of wood to kindle a fire in the woodstove. Grateful for finding what I need without having to split kindling, since the kindling cracking pedestal is still out of commission. And I could go on: finding hot water at my fingertips, noticing how dry my hands are and finding lotion on my desk, finding Biko quickly before dark so I could bring him in for another cold night. Extremely grateful for having enough conveniences and luxuries so that I almost always find what I need without having to look too far or hard.

Grateful for finding the canine companion I need just in the nick of time…