I’m grateful I got to spend a lot of time outside today, sitting quietly in the yarden, mowing grass and weeds, reading, watering, attending to the little vegetables, walking the little animals through the woods and admiring the little wildflowers. As I was pondering what specific gratitude to express about today, though, I took a long drink of cold tap water.
Everybody chokes on their own saliva once in a while, or has a sip of something go down the wrong pipe, but I’ve been aspirating a lot lately, as often as once a day sometimes, and that’s got me a little concerned. As I poured the water into my mouth tonight and swallowed gulp after gulp, I thought about my mother, and other people with multi-system atrophy diseases, and how one of the systems that goes is swallowing. They have to drink thickened liquids after awhile which is pretty awful–I tried my mother’s thickened water once. And so as that clear thin water went down my throat cleanly I felt keenly aware of my gratitude for swallowing a glassful effortlessly.
I was grateful today to get a long talk with my cousin, who just returned from two weeks in Thailand. She noticed that the Thai people seemed invariably peaceful and kind, and mentioned that maybe it had something to do with the Buddha. I agreed that was a savvy surmise. I’m grateful that I was introduced to the Buddha, and to the idea of Buddha nature within all beings, more than forty years ago, even though it took another few decades before I really began to look into it, and even more years before I began to take Buddhist philosophy fully to heart. I’m grateful for all the wisdom and clarity that the Buddhist worldview has brought to my interdependent life.
I’m grateful for other Asian contributions to the world also, including Hoisin sauce and rice paper wrappers. Last night was my first foray into making crispy spring rolls. The first attempt at soaking the delicate wrappers was a colossal failure and wound up in the compost but I only lost one roll worth of filling. My second attempt yielded a reasonably successful ten rolls, which I opted to bake instead of fry. I enjoyed half of them for dinner, but they weren’t exactly crispy. To reheat the remainder for lunch today, I fried them, and they were much better. No recipe, I just looked up a few online and mixed up what I had, shredded cabbage, carrots and green onions, finely diced mushrooms, some mashed chickpeas, and some chopped bean noodles, with a splash of soy sauce, and rolled it up. Simple, once I got the hang of it, and delicious.
I love how tulips close up at night, and open with the sun. I was up and out early enough to catch these gorgeous tulips before they opened, and back out later to enjoy their sunny insides. Wish I could remember what variety they are, but maybe I’ll find the receipt for them one day.
I’m grateful for a full day of gratitude practice. For the nice internet repair guy who came and fixed my connection for real, finally; he said there’s still a lot of trouble since the lightning strike more than two weeks ago, but he thinks he got my system squared away. For the kind personnel at the clinic where I spent the early afternoon getting my second shingles shot (for shingles shots), and annual physical. For coming home to a good little dog who leapt and bounced for a few minutes then quickly calmed down. For a hot shower, and a talk and meditation with one of the Dalai Lama’s right hand monks, Thupten Jinpa: Connecting with Purpose & Joy in Everyday Life. For a wonderful zoom with a bunch of women exploring sustainable end-of-life options, hosted by Natural Transitions and featuring Mallory McDuff, author of Our Last Best Act discussing her reasons for and research into alternatives to standard burial.
And I’m grateful for a quiet evening savoring the sky, birdsong, and flowering trees. I got lucky with this shot of the clouds to the north, and this of the apricot sky south beyond the apricot tree.
It’s been cold and grey and windy for so long. And snowing off and on. I am grateful for the water, yes, and I am really looking forward to some spring color. Right before that first big snow a few weeks ago, the crocus leaves had pushed through the ground just a couple of millimeters. They’re drinking up snowmelt again and again under their late winter blanket. I really am grateful for that.
The does are hungry though. And my soul hungers for the sun. And it’s all fine, because each morning I wake grateful for a roof over my head, running water, coffee beans from foreign lands, fresh bread, cheese in the refrigerator. I cannot complain. And still, my soul hungers for the sun, snowmelt, green growing things outside and not just inside.
In Buddhism, there is the concept of ‘the ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows.’ A skillful life includes the ability to hold both sorrow and joy, pleasure and suffering, loss and gain, with equanimity. I’m grateful that this winter is giving me so much practice cultivating equanimity.
Also, in an act of shameless self-promotion, my podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts. It even showed up fifth in the search when I typed in ‘Suffer Less,’ which is a wonder for which I am also grateful. Please give it a listen there, or on Spotify or most other podcast platforms, and follow if you like it. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, ‘Fruits of the Practice,’ but I haven’t yet figured out how to link that to this blog, so just comment or email me and I’ll add you to the list if you want to receive that monthly. Yippee! I am making my dreams come true. This may be another gift of the long, grey winter.
I’m grateful to have gotten phone service back today after more than a week without; and to get a call from dermatology that it was a basal cell and it’s all gone; and to have had stamina and strength to start playing with a rough draft of the rock garden; and for the first iris to bloom, and the last tulips, and the first lilacs, and for the Fuji apple blossoms. I’m grateful that Stellar was happy today: happy to eat, happy to walk, happy to nap, happy just to hang out with me all day.
Today I’m grateful for green things, and not just the usual like lettuce, kale, spinach; spring leaves on the Amur maple or apple or crabapple tree, or any newly leafing tree; or fleetingly lush green fields; but the unusual, like the green pond goo that nearly camouflages the green and brown spotted back of a big fat lady northern leopard frog who hops into the pond when I startle her from the wet green grass at the edge – and the green on her back as well, and grateful that my choices provide habitat for this precious native amphibian.
I’m grateful for all the green of early May in the high desert, much of which will fade to brown or tan within a month or two in this extraordinary drought, and grateful that I ‘own’ water enough to keep this little oasis somewhat green and moist and fruitful enough to support a little ecosystem through the year.
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.
Today, I’m grateful for the fullness of Sunday morning, all this beauty and adventure in the first hour awake. I’m grateful the day unfolded in peaceful ease, a little yarden work here, a little homework there, some housework mixed in, and a couple of zoom visits, including cocktails with Miss Sarah Belle: I’m grateful that the universe threw us together by chance 32 years ago and that she opted to open her great heart and mind to me. And, I’m grateful that I finally saw the mama phoebe pop her head up out of their fortified nest after he sang to her from the top of the birch tree. Life’s simple pleasures.
One of the ideas that is used in the lineage of mindfulness training that I’m cultivating this year is that of mental hygiene. We spend at least five minutes a day attending to our dental hygiene, why do we not spent at least that amount of time attending to our mental hygiene? The idea has been bugging me for the past six months, as I’ve begun spending far more time on mind training than I have on physical training or fitness, never mind teeth. I tend to clench my jaws during sleep, funneling all the day’s anxiety into the night rather than dealing with it while the sun’s up. As a result, I found out today, the surfaces of some of my teeth are crazed like old china.
But that didn’t really worry the dental hygienist I saw for the first time, with gritted teeth, a bit worried that they were in as bad shape as they felt. In fact, for not having been to a dentist in almost three years, my teeth are in great shape, and I was grateful again today, as yesterday, for the compassionate care of a qualified female medical professional. The only thing Jen was really worried about throughout the teeth cleaning was the “aggressive sound” of her instruments on my delicate dentition. She apologized several times for it, reassuring me that though it sounded bad it really wasn’t. In between jaw stretches, when she had her hand out of my mouth, I reassured her that it didn’t sound aggressive, it sounded like progress.
“You’re doing great,” she cheered me on several times. I felt safe again, from the moment I walked into her office. I used to be not fond of the smell of disinfectant, and normally might have gagged at the scent when I entered. However, in Covid times, I found the aroma comforting, and relaxed immediately after meeting her. No one else in the office the entire time, everything I encountered spic n span (until my muddy shoes touched the chair), and what seems like a solid protocol for both her and her patients’ well-being. It was the most fun I’ve ever had getting my teeth cleaned, and though I kept feeling my body tense up as she scraped gently away, I also kept being able to release, let go, relax. One thing that amazed me is how did she manage to put so much pressure on the scraper, or the floss, as the tartar resisted, and then not let the tool or the floss plunge into my gum when it finally released? I was impressed with her control, and surrendered to her capable hands and the general feeling that I’d chosen well to trust her. I’m so grateful to have finally found again a place I feel safe getting my teeth tended, and inspired to pay more attention to them myself. Her intake questionnaire asks, among many other things, Do you want to keep your own teeth? YES! I answered emphatically. Floss more, was essentially what she said.
I’m grateful for my teeth, that they’re in such good shape 62 years into this life, that they serve me so well, that I know now to be gentle in what I chew to protect their fragile enamel (No ice chewing, she advised), that regular brushing and occasional flossing has been enough to keep them stable for three years, that she accepts ACA insurance so I can go back more often; I’m grateful for my teeth for all they do for me daily, crunching into celery, tearing and chewing a lamb chop, lending emphasis and clarity to facial expressions. And for all they have done for me in the past. May these teeth keep on biting, tearing, chewing for several more decades!