Well, it took cropping and posting this picture to finally locate the missing match I dropped before lighting this fire 😂 I’m grateful for a sweet, quiet, rainy Sunday.
I was ok without bread for a cheese sandwich yesterday, because I had leftover comfort food in the fridge. I had cooked a batch of grits and a creamy mushroom sauce the night before. Grits was just for breakfast when I was growing up, but I’ve learned recently that I like it more than rice or pasta as a base for many delicious sauces or toppings. Tonight I enjoyed more leftover grits topped with leftover mustard-parmesan cauliflower that I roasted last night, with grated cheddar and a splash of salsa: just a mashup of delicious. But I was grateful to have a fresh, perfect loaf of sourdough out of the oven this morning in time for lunch, another cheese sandwich: cheddar and a slice of roasted cauliflower. Mayo, of course. So simple, so delicious.
I’m grateful for another beautiful day as this mild autumn lingers despite the forecast for snow. Outside there’s the occasional waft of woodsmoke from someone’s fireplace or stove in the morning or evening, but even throughout winter with lots of people burning wood and some still using coal to heat their homes, the air at this altitude is generally clear and crisp. I read yesterday and then saw video on the news last night about the air quality crisis in Delhi, India. Air quality rating here tonight is 29. Last weekend, air quality in Delhi was rated around 218: 0-50 is considered good. After Diwali festival fireworks, Delhi’s AQI measured 850. ERs were crowded with children unable to breathe. I’m grateful for the miracle of clean air on this little mesa in a world where willful ignorance continues to foul the air that billions of human and other beings rely on.
I was grateful to see this beautiful couple in the yarden when I woke this morning, and not troubled that he was scratching his head on the wild plum tree. And I was grateful to see the moisture still dripping from the trees after a light rain overnight.
I’m even more grateful than usual for the Cheese Sandwich. I realized today as I was making a simple havarti, lettuce, and pickle iteration just how much stress I’ve shed since surrendering to my obsession and delight in eating a cheese sandwich almost every day for lunch. As long as there’s bread in the box and cheese in the fridge, I no longer have to think, wonder, or worry about what to have for lunch. I am grateful to walk into the kitchen at lunchtime day after day and pull a delectable assortment of supporting ingredients together with cheese, bread, and mayonnaise to create a delicious, nourishing and often unique cheese sandwich. For most of my life meals were a twice-a-day struggle I was rarely prepared for. This has been another gift of the quiet solo time these past few years, settling into simple food routines that allow more peace and ease. As always, I’m profoundly grateful for the luxury of sufficient food.
And finally, Wren is grateful that I made her another batch of Dog Fud. She watched the whole time I chopped and added ingredients, then devoured her dinner. This batch contained quinoa, ground turkey, black beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and tomatoes, along with wax beans and zucchini from the freezer. Later, she watched hopefully as I packed the cooled food into containers, and was rewarded by getting to lick to pot clean. Another simplifying routine becoming habitual.
I was leaning on the raised bed, talking with John who leaned on another bed facing me, and I didn’t notice right away who had jumped up behind me and started rolling in the garlic bed. Heaven! For her.
I was grateful for a perfect day to spend outside with friends. After I spent the morning slaving over a hot oven, I was delighted to sit out on this utterly balmy fall day first serving Boyz Lunch, and then later with another friend for tea before she leaves the country for awhile. I baked perfect hamburger buns, recipe finally adjusted for altitude and salvaged from misreading the warm water amount, to serve mushroom-chickpea burgers with all the trimmings, and smashed roasted potatoes.
I knew I was going to need room in the freezer when I make another batch of dog food tomorrow, so I wanted to use up some peaches; and also, peach shortcakes sounded like the perfect dessert for today. I simply adapted the strawberry shortcakes recipe I had and substituted peaches as suggested. To thaw them just enough to peel and slice, I zapped a bowl of them in the microwave for just a minute, and the skins slipped right off as soon as I cut them in half. Then I tossed them with a little sugar and let them sit until it was time to assemble dessert.
Although the day was perfect, nothing about the food was. I forgot to put cheese on the burgers, the potatoes were undercooked, and somehow the whipped cream was just a little bitter. But the Boyz didn’t seem to notice or care, and the precious time together was perfect.
I’m grateful to have spent a pretty healthy day. I exercised in the morning with some PT and stretches, and then made a salad including romaine, broccoli, pecans and homemade croutons using up an older sourdough heel — instead of turning into French toast! That felt like a healthy choice.
After working awhile at the computer, I chose to take Wren for a walk down to the reservoir instead of taking a nap — a healthy choice for both of us! I am embarrassed to admit that I have never walked the Indian Fire loop on the west side of the reservoir. I don’t even know how long that nature trail has been there. But with my new pass, I’m exploring my own backyard State Park for the first time since I worked there for a few seasons many years ago.
The trail is about half a mile, looping low then high along the steep slope, which was just a hillside above the confluence of a few streams a hundred an fifty years ago when it was inhabited by Native Americans. I’m grateful that the synopsis the park offers of the events preceding the reservoir’s construction is told with some sensitivity in the trail guide.
I am grateful for the perspective that this reminder gave me. I’d heard about the fire as the Utes were driven away from the area, but I’d forgotten. This history sheds new light on some of the burn-scarred ancient junipers in ‘my’ own piece of the mesa: I’d always assumed they were lightning strikes, but it seemed like a lot. Now I’ve revised my interpretation of these old trees, half-burned yet still living like those noted along the park trail.
Little Wren enjoyed trotting along through fallen cottonwood leaves, while I enjoyed the views. I’m grateful all over again today for the reassuring volume of water in the reservoir going into winter.
The upper half of the trail includes a panoramic overlook and some stone benches, where we caught our breath for a few minutes before heading for home. And that was the end of the healthy part of our day.
For my evening snack, I sliced thin the remaining heels of sourdough and baked them to make melba-like toasts, to go with the double decadence of Brie-butter spread. Why make Brie any more buttery than it already is? Well, why not? So simple, so delicious: shave the skin off some Brie (while it’s cold), and let it come to room temperature along with an equal amount of butter, then just whip them together until blended. Beyond indulgent.
I’m grateful for Old Friends and Existential Threats. They both give me a healthy perspective on this fragile human life. And when the two come together it doesn’t get any better. A dear couple of friends from out of town visited yesterday morning, to enjoy a short visit, coffee, and cinnamon rolls. They are Dog People, and quickly made friends with Wren, who was delighted with their calm and soothing attention.
We were discussing Biko, who is now 23, and he asked about the tortoise’s life expectancy. “80,” I said, “ish.” We laughed as he said “You’ve gotta find someone young, then.” Then she asked, “Not to be gauche, but what are you gonna do with this place?” I laughed. “It’s only gauche to ask if you think I might be leaving it to you,” I said. I shared my thoughts on the matter, and they understood without further explanation. They are also Climate Realists. Then they left, and I came inside and opened the virtual newspapers, and read about this Supervocano in Italy. I’ve been well aware of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, but I had not realized there are more scattered around the world.
“Supervolcano is ‘a made-up word,’ said volcanologist Michael Poland, scientist in charge at the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. ‘I think it’s misleading. I think it’s misapplied. I can’t stand that term…” Of course it’s a made-up word. All our words in any language are made-up words.
Supervocano refers to only about 20 of the 1000+ known volcanos on earth, one that has already erupted with astonishing force, ejecting “a volume of around 1,000-cubic kilometers or more — about a thousand times bigger than Mount St. Helens.” Supposedly, just because one erupted thirty thousand or a couple of million years ago doesn’t mean it will erupt again. But it might! And while it might not result in human extinction, if one does erupt in our time it would create massive destruction and havoc across the globe. So the mere idea of an Existential Threat reminds me of the fragility of all life on earth, and of course my own; while a visit from Old Friends recalls the stability of enduring connection among our fragile human selves.
And speaking of perspective, we were all three grateful to hear the primeval call of migrating sandhill cranes, a bird that’s been around at least two million years, and then we felt doubly blessed when this beautiful V flew right overhead. Bearing witness to this antediluvian species puts our own into a healthy perspective that adds even more gratitude to my little life.
Last night I was grateful to prepare another delicious recipe I’ve been wanting to make for awhile, and finally had all the ingredients: Chickpea-Mushroom veggie burger. You’re supposed to freeze the patties for at least two hours but by the time I finished mixing everything I was too hungry to wait, so I fried one right away. It was really delicious! And I still had eight to freeze for later meals.
Today I was grateful for a lot of other things, including a good vacuum cleaner, Method cleaning products, a warmish sunny day, and a visit from a newer friend, mentor and teacher. She also, it turns out, is a Dog Person, and Wren recognized that right away. That, or Wren is just starting to realize that most people are dog people at heart, and no one is out to hurt her while she lives with me.
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.
Wren and food, Wren and food… the themes may get old to some, but they don’t to me. I am always grateful for this surprising little bundle of cuteness and laughter that found her way to me when I needed her, and I’m always grateful for delicious food. I’m grateful that at my age I have finally settled into a comfortable, efficient flow of providing myself (and now Wren) with mostly healthy food without the old stress and struggle that used to accompany eating.
There were many years during which I ate only because I had to to keep going; I didn’t pay much attention to what I ate, and often found myself just shoving some sort of food in my face at the last minute, often junk food. Ok, yes, I still eat a bit of junk food, like these ‘natural’ cheetos and goldfish amended with poison fish spices, and usually a small bowl of dark chocolate M&Ms after lunch; but otherwise, I eat pretty well in general. This is a pretty big accomplishment for me, but no need to go into all the reasons that’s so. And the main reason I’ve been able to learn how to feed myself is slowing down with mindfulness practice, and discerning where to place my attention.
I’m grateful for my little bonsai-lunch table in the sunroom. I intended to have a dining table in there for many years before I finally managed to arrange the space to accommodate one. I still only get a small wedge of it to myself but it’s sufficient to my needs: placemat, plate, glass, and kindle. It’s a joy to eat breakfast or lunch in there among the plants and colors in cold or windy weather, whether or not the sun is shining. Today’s cheese sandwich included cheddar, lettuce, dill pickle relish, mayo and tomato chutney.
And tonight’s snack was leftover deep-fried cauliflower with a quick Hoisin-based dipping sauce. Last night, with leftover oil in the fryer from the artichoke hearts, I made crispy cauliflower with honey and hot pepper, drizzling it with delicious Tupelo honey sent to me by a dear friend in Florida with a secret source, and sprinkled the fried florets with homemade paprika. As sometimes happens, I ate it too fast to take a picture. My life is simple these days, and I am content: I’m grateful every day for Wren and food.
I’ve camped in a lot of state parks across the country over the years, and found them to be reliably clean, safe, and interesting; sometimes surprising and gorgeous. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see so many natural gems in so many states. And I’m grateful that one of Colorado’s state parks is just a ten minute drive from my house.
I’m grateful to have known the man whose vision led to the first trail in this park, John Barcus. He worked hard as a volunteer to get the first leg of the trail built. The most recent leg is still under construction, but in the past few years the trail has been extended from the main parking lot on the peninsula, through both campgrounds, and all the way around the south end to join the west shore day use area.
Wren and I got our Colorado State Parks pass yesterday and took our first walk on the trail, from the Peninsula to Clear Fork Campground and back, close to a mile altogether. We’d been meaning to do it all year! But finally the time was right. I’m grateful to the state for offering an amazing deal on a parks pass: When you renew your car registration online, you get the option to purchase a Keep Colorado Wild pass for $29 instead of the regular parks pass for $80.
We were greeted at the entrance window by a cheerful neighbor who first gave Wren some cookies, then put the registration in a little red envelope to set in the window for access to any state park, no decal necessary. What a deal! Then we set off down the trail. It was a perfect, mild fall day. I had to stop every ten feet the whole way so Wren could sniff and pee.
I was grateful for the level, easy trail; for the views of the lake, the dam, the mountains, and a gaggle of Canada geese; and I was grateful for the little bench under the tiny juniper. I was grateful to see so much water left in the reservoir at the end of the irrigation season. In recent years it’s been nearly dry by this time of year.
It felt so good to walk an easy trail out in the sun that we went back today, and walked another bit from Iron Creek campground around the south end until we hit thick, untamped gravel that I didn’t want to wobble through. I was ready to turn back anyway.
At the very south end of the trail we crossed a bridge strong enough to contain a herd of bison, which seemed like a bit of overkill, but I’m sure they had their reasons.. The railing was as tall as my forehead and I had to rest my phone on top to get a picture.
The views from the west side are even more beautiful than those on the east side, with the West Elk Mountains beyond burnished grasses, rushes, thickets, and spent milkweed pods. I’m grateful for easy, affordable access to the new trail around Crawford State Park.
I’m grateful for a lot today, including the beautiful healing of my Franken-forehead, my morning Telesangha meditation community, the meaningful work I get to do to support teachers and students of mindfulness, the animals wild and domestic who share my life and land, heartfelt conversations with friends about important things, a washing machine in my home that has worked without a hitch for almost twenty years and a Honda car that’s nearly as old with a similar record… I’m grateful that I’ve forgotten a lot of the heartaches that I’ve learned from in my life but hopefully not the lessons. I’m grateful for the cutest little dog who tries but just can’t be any cuter.
And I’m grateful for variations on a theme: the Cheese Sandwich. Today’s was grilled in olive oil and butter, with cheddar, spicy dill pickles, and tomato chutney, on homemade sourdough. I’m grateful that I’ve learned to play with my food in the best possible way. And that I’ve learned to put up the harvest of my garden, trade with others, and freeze and store enough food that I hope I won’t need to buy groceries for this entire month. I set myself a challenge to buy nothing this month, in order to get a clear picture of what I actually need v. what I simply want, as I continue to deepen my effort to simplify. I’m grateful for the trial of No-Buy November.