The Annual Thanksgiving Post: Full of Respair

Here we go. This horrible year, 2020, I am thankful for…

…being able to feel thankful. (Will that become the new meaning of “2020 hindsight”?)

…a friend who sent me the link to the podcast, “A Way With Words,” where I learned, just in time, of the word “respair,” which means to have hope again. Seriously!!!! Yes.

…flowers.

…mushrooms taking the place of flowers when flowers are not available. (Could there be a lesson here?)

Beautiful local veggies also filling that flower-role, and way tastier.

…Zoom (can I get an Amen?).

Say “Happy Birthday, Dad!”

Beauty close to home.

Thanksgiving dinner made of leftovers, and no pie, because–the Mate’s birthday cake is the queen of all!

Happy Birthday, babe.

Togetherness in any form, even masked. Health. Democracy. Music. Things I will never, ever, ever take for granted again.

As always, I would love to hear some of the things floating to the top of your list! Still standing? Let’s give thanks.

What’s Your Position on Positions?

Note: this post is NOT intended to elicit sympathy toward the author. If you notice any indications to the contrary, please feel free to slap her, remotely (there must be an emoji for that)–or just close the page.

These past couple of weeks I’ve been forced to think quite a bit about positions. Not political ones; I mean physical: lying down, sitting, and standing. Injuries acquired in the service of democracy* have me no longer taking these simple options for granted.

*turns out when you spend hours and hours and hours writing letters and making phone calls to voters, sitting at a table which is just SLIGHTLY the wrong height, your back takes its revenge.

Still worth it. I think.

Before my back started hurting, I was all about sitting. Like many jobs, working as a baker is about 98% bipedal, but I took every 2% chance I got to set my butt down, between rounds of butterhorns. (That doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean.)

OK, these are not actually butterhorns…but gooey enough to be close. (photo courtesy Holly B’s Bakery)

Now? Sitting is the enemy. Even perching makes me pay a price. So what the heck. Let’s celebrate some of the gifts of the other positions, shall we?

LYING DOWN. Good for:

Sleeping–duh. And sex. And reading–like my latest recommendation, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. If you’re looking for short, lyrical pieces that fill you with the desire to go sit (or lie) in your favorite woods, and bring those woods to you if you’re stuck somewhere un-woodsy–this is your book. Get two copies, one for yourself and one for someone you care about.

Bad for:

Zoom. I really, really dislike seeing my future, double-chinned self staring back at me when I Zoom horizontally.

Not my favorite look.

STANDING. Good for:

When someone hands you a puppy.

Though in fairness, I would also have accepted this gift sitting down.

Appreciating sunsets.

Ditto.

Locomoting–which brings you to places where people might hand you a puppy, or to places of extra beauty. (It’s not impossible to locomote from a horizontal or sitting position–just harder.)

Pictured: place of extra beauty.

Bad for:

Knees. Also dizziness induced by drugs taken for back pain.

Which brings us back to…

SITTING. Good for:

Knees. (At least mine.)

All social situations where lying down isn’t quite appropriate (even if you wish it were).

Just sayin’–burgers while reclining could end…badly.

Bad for:

Me, right now. Which is why I’ve written this all on my back (not literally; now THAT would take some dexterity).

But–that fact, above? It’s actually a “good for,” because…well, look. What better time than a global pandemic to start appreciating things as basic as Sitting, Standing, and Lying Down?

Which is YOUR favorite? Tell me why.

Time, Tide and Salmonberries: Blessed Be the Regular

Like probably most people in the world right now, my sense of the calendar has gone all wonky. I’m frequently not sure what month it is, let alone the date. Day of the week? Forget it. 

Fortunately or unfortunately, I know all too well what year it is.

The arrival of fresh cherries and strawberries at a fruit stand took me by surprise. Wait–it’s Solstice already? Since then, I’ve been trying to pay more attention. Salmonberries have helped. 

Salmonberries  are a huge thing around western Washington. Whether battling them as ferociously scratchy pests around our yards or admiring their bright pink flowers in Spring, we probably spend more time thinking about them than we even realize. And then they make berries!

If looks could taste…

I used to make fun of salmonberries for being so un-delicious: The only reason anyone even thinks about eating you is because blackberries aren’t ripe yet.  

But (again, like a lot of folks) I’ve been walking even more than I usually do, and trying to pay even more attention to things besides the global pandemics of COVID and racism. So I’ve been nibbling salmonberries again, as part of my noticing–and guess what? Turns out if you wait to eat them till they’re so ripe they’re juuuuust about to fall off their thorny ol’ bushes, they’re actually pretty tasty.

So what else merits my noticing, and my thanks?

The tide. Twice a day. EVERY day. Talk about essential work!

I know this isn’t exactly a glam shot, Tide–but this is you your work attire.

And some of the humblest of flowers–look at these ones here, engaging in a socially-distanced Easter bouquet!

C’mon, guys, it’s June, not April. Shouldn’t you be decorating for wedding season?

That’s more like it.

What basic, REGULAR things are you feeling grateful for right now? Postal carriers? Baby birds? Marshmallows on display shelves? Let’s celebrate the regular where we can find it!

Mortality and Thanksgiving: Why Cemeteries Are Good Spots on Turkey Day

On Thanksgiving morning I found myself walking through a cemetery, thinking about aging and mortality.

Not, initially, because of the tombs. No, I was feeling old because this cemetery, huge and scenic, used to be a favorite run of mine when visiting my Bay Area cousins. And lately I’ve been struggling with a knee injury and have pretty much given up running while I let my meniscus heal. And I slipped on a steep driveway and whammed the hell out of my tailbone. And I turned 56 and found a bunch of grey hairs nesting in the under-layer at my temples.

OK, that last one doesn’t count as an injury. Or even an insult. I don’t MIND the idea of aging…as long as it stays an idea. The reality, I’m discovering, is not quite as easy-peasy.

And that’s what I was thinking about on Thanksgiving as I walked through the cemetery. Which is why these fallen leaves brought me so much joy. “Look!” I could imagine the leaves saying. “Color! Let’s celebrate our impending demise!”

Goodbye cruel world!

Is that not the best defense against inevitable decay: celebration? Color? Suddenly I was seeing it everywhere, like these petals on the sidewalk.

So much was I appreciating my own personal discovery of the “when I am old I will wear purple” approach, that I nearly walked by this startling tombstone:

Well, hello there!

Wing, you see, is not a common last name. In fact it’s quite rare. And it’s certainly not Jewish! So seeing this stone with its Hebrew letters in the Jewish section of the cemetery (anyone else find denominational cemeteries ridiculous?), well…it gave me pause.

And then, like the colored leaves and petals, it gave me joy.

Because I’m mortal, I appreciate the beauty and the time and the health that still remains for me. If I weren’t, I’d take it all for granted. I’d walk right by those leaves and petals. I would forget to cherish the non-splendid, ordinary  moments that are the equivalent of leaves in a sidewalk.

You know what I mean: those thanksgiving moments—with a small “t.” The ones that count the most.

Happy those.

 

Road Trip VII, Days 29-31: Down ‘n’ Out in Estes Park, Colorado–NOT

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick on vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park? That’s a bit harder to sound-byte.

Pretty sweet spot for a town, right?

On the one hand, I couldn’t do my usual racing-around-seeing-things stuff. Hiking? Noooo.  Biking? Also a no, thanks. Shopping–nope. And it’s hard to get excited about discovering restaurants when you’ve lost your appetite.

But on the other: I’m on VACATION. I get to lie around and not feel pressured about all the work I’m not getting done! What could be more fitting?

Even better, attitude-wise: getting sick when you’re vacationing with a friend with a scary heart condition.

The one hike I did manage, at 9,000-ft. altitude, had me gasping for breath and walking in slo-mo. Which is exactly what our friend does ANY day he hikes at altitude.

Pretending I don’t feel like curling up for a nap

So, Gretchen’s pity-party was swiftly cancelled. I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up scenery from the car or the window of our rented cabin, and soaking up friendship.

Long’s Peak–a LONG way away, thanks to the miracle of telephoto

Rocky Mountain hiiiiigh….from my car window….

Oh, and that friendship that was in danger of being tested by sports fanaticism? The sports gods were kind to me: our friends’ UCLA Bruins lost on Friday while our beloved North Carolina Tarheels won, so we all cheered together on Sunday as the Heels advanced to the Final Four. Just so you know. 🙂

Thanks, Nature. I needed that.

It’s a lesson I can’t seem to learn too often: compassion and gratitude beat back self-pity every time.

That Annual Thanksgiving List We All Love to Write

Pretend you’re in third grade. It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and your teacher just gave you That Assignment.

Now pretend it was your idea all along. With me? Let’s do this. Here’s mine:

This year I am thankful for…

…the good health of my family, myself, and most of my loved ones.

…the communal strength, love and support that continues to go out to those in need of it.

…the power of Nature’s everyday beauty that she keeps surprising me with (Spiderweb! Lichen! Wing of thrush!)

…really DARK chocolate

…the way gardening and eating local food is re-awakening in America

…my amazing amalgam of work, which allows me to get my hands sticky, get paid, interact with lovely people, and still retire to the quiet of my writing bench

…those hard-working folks still teaching and nursing and fixing pipes FULL TIME (y’all know who you are; I am so grateful to you–please let me make you pie!)

…friends who push me to improve my Spanish and my guitar-playing.

…mis hijos. Los dos.

…my Mate. Always. Always. But somehow, after 37 years–increasingly.

So...freakin...grateful!!!!!

So…freakin…grateful!!!!!

Know what? I could do this all day. How ’bout you? What’s at the top of your gratitude list? HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

PS–don’t forget to #optoutside this Black Friday!